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Don't Tell the Children: Homeschoolers' Best-Kept Secret
The Horn Book Magazine ^ | September, 2008 | Sherry Early

Posted on 02/16/2011 9:54:12 AM PST by Fiji Hill

Don’t Tell the Children: Homeschoolers’ Best-Kept Secret

BY SHERRY EARLY

Homeschoolers are a rather independent lot, almost cantankerously so. So to say that all homeschoolers do, well, anything, would be a mistake. However, I would venture to say that most homeschoolers love books. For most, books are the primary educational resource, although computers are running a close second these days.

But don’t tell the children.

You see, my homeschooled children and those of my homeschooling friends haven’t been let in on the secret that Books Are School. They sort of think our house is furnished with wall-to-wall books just because we like to read. In fact, they think most everybody likes to spend their free time reading. They think school is math problems and writing sentences and reading aloud maybe, but reading to oneself is pure pleasure.

I do know the occasional homeschooled kid who doesn’t read much, maybe because of reading issues such as dyslexia or as a result of an overdeveloped need to explore the great outdoors. But even those few have been exposed to lots of great children’s literature, because all the homeschoolers I know read aloud copiously and (usually) daily. A homeschooling mom can read a lot of books out loud by the time a child is “too big” for read-alouds at twelve or fourteen or, for some, even eighteen. My twenty-six-year-old friend Hannah, homeschooled all her life, was reminiscing just a few days ago about all the books her mother read to her and her twelve (yes, thirteen of them in all) brothers and sisters. Dickens, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Jane Austen were a few of the authors she remembers listening to when she was in middle school.

And studies support the claim that those young adults who were homeschooled and read aloud to continue to read for information and for enjoyment. In 2003, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute did a study in which he surveyed over seventy-three hundred adults who had been homeschooled. Of the respondents, 98.5 percent said they had read at least one book in the past six months, and 100 percent said that they read one or more magazines regularly. Compare those numbers to the recent (November 2007) National Endowment for the Arts report that among the general population of eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds, 48 percent had not read a book not required for school or work in the past year.

So what are all these homeschooled youngsters and graduates reading? The youngest ones are more read to than reading. One week last January my six-year-old and I read a few picture books: Paul Galdone’s version of “Puss in Boots” and several Berenstain Bears books. Then at bedtime, joined by my eight-year-old, we also read the new edition of Pippi Longstocking illustrated by Lauren Child, a classic in a new package. Most homeschooled youngsters hear all the classic picture books, then graduate to books such as Winnie-the-Pooh and Little House in the Big Woods and Andrew Lang’s Orange Fairy Book. As they begin to read for themselves, Dr. Seuss is perennially popular. And my six-year-old’s favorite books are the Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

Some homeschoolers who are a little older develop a taste for historical fiction because they hear a lot of it read aloud for school. So my teenage girls are great fans of Ann Rinaldi’s American historicals with female protagonists. The younger set read a lot of series books: American Girls, American Diaries, Magic Tree House, and Time Warp Trio. Other favorite historical fiction authors, classic and not-so-classic, include Gloria Whelan, Rosemary Sutcliff, Barbara Willard, Carolyn Meyer, Laurence Yep, and the ever-popular Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Other homeschoolers tend to gravitate toward well-written fantasy after being exposed to lots of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. When I asked some middle school–aged homeschoolers what they were reading, many of them talked about Harry Potter or Christopher Paolini’s Eragon or Gail Carson Levine’s restructured fairy tales such as Ella Enchanted. Almost all of them had read or listened to the Chronicles of Narnia and were looking forward to the Prince Caspian movie.

Homeschoolers also learn early on to read for information. If a homeschooled student asks a question for which Mom has no answer, he or she is likely to be referred either to Dad or to a book. When my ten-year-old son wanted to design a website, he found and read half a dozen books on web design at the library (including Web Design for Dummies). My eight-year-old just checked out several books about dance and ballet because, you guessed it, she’s taking ballet classes and is interested in broadening her knowledge of the world of dance. Art books, science and engineering books, history books, Bible study guides, how-to manuals, you name it — they all find a place on our bookshelves and in our daily lives, and although we’re learning all the time, we seldom think of this kind of reading as school, either.

Then, too, homeschoolers, like any other kids, check out what’s popular: movie tie-ins such as Star Wars books; manga and other graphic novels; romances and mysteries. Some homeschooling parents are careful to monitor what their children, especially younger children, are reading, while others allow just about anything as long as they’re reading. I tend toward the latter camp, although I do like to talk with my kids about books that might be controversial and/or might contradict our family’s moral values. I recently read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series after my sixteen- and eighteen-year-old daughters read and recommended them. I thought they were fascinating, in a train-wreck kind of way, and I could see why adolescent girls get caught up in the tense romantic saga of a vampire and a lovesick girl.

I read lots of children’s and young adult books with my kids, not usually because I’m monitoring their reading but because I’m enjoying the books. My middle-school daughter and I read many of Caroline Cooney’s and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s books last year after a homeschooling friend recommended those authors. And I get to read the “boy books,” too, with my sixth-grade son. Last week he and I enjoyed The Gollywhopper Games, a new book by Jody Feldman. My school-age children average at least two or three books a week, and to keep up with them, I have to average the same amount of reading or more.

As they get older, homeschoolers begin reading adult books. As I already mentioned, they feel free to read whatever informational books they need to learn what they want to learn, whether those books are shelved in the adult section of the library or bookstore or in the children’s section. Many homeschooled kids also start reading adult fiction at a relatively young age since there’s no one to tell them what grade level a certain book is meant for, or which books are adult books and which are written for children. (In fact, lots of homeschooled kids can’t tell you what grade they’re in anyway since grade levels are rather meaningless and fluid in this world of learning-as-you-go.) So, my middle school–aged daughter reads both Agatha Christie and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, unconcerned about whether the books are intended for her age level. My older teenagers read young adult fiction and fantasy and murder mysteries and biographies and anything else they want. The eight-year-old tends to stick closer to her grade level since she’s still working on the mechanics of reading, but even she’s not afraid to pick up an enticing but thick book to try it out and see if she can manage it.

Finally, there are the graduates; I have three of them in my house, ages twenty-two, twenty, and eighteen. And they’re still reading. My oldest daughter reads incessantly: fiction, nonfiction, French, English, intellectually stimulating and mind candy alike. Lately she’s been reading Kierkegaard and Simone Weil, but she certainly doesn’t mind taking a tour through Anne of Green Gables for old times’ sake, or reading A Series of Unfortunate Events aloud to her little sister. The twenty-year-old is busy catching up on contemporary fiction such as that of Nick Hornby and Michael Chabon, although lately he’s been disturbingly interested in reading about the sixties and the drug culture: Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, and Aldous Huxley. The eighteen-year-old reads mostly YA fiction: the aforementioned vampire romances by Stephenie Meyer, Sarah Dessen’s contemporary teen fiction, chick lit by various authors. She’s entering college this fall, so she’s reading all the light stuff now while she can.

And so we all keep reading, for information, for pleasure, even for school. And in our family, books have become a second language; shorthand references to favorite characters and episodes abound in our conversation. Once when I was reading Elizabeth George Speare’s The Sign of the Beaver to my children, they kept asking me to read “just one more chapter.” Finally, I said, “I will read one more chapter. And at the end of that chapter, even if Attean is hanging off the edge of a cliff by his fingernails, I will not read any more tonight!” They agreed, and now whenever we need a finishing point to any project, we all say, “even if Attean is hanging off the edge of a cliff by his fingernails.” Homeschool is where education and home become inextricably entwined, where you really can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. Books in a homeschool are sort of like that, too. They become a part of your education but also part of your family.

Sherry Early is a former elementary school librarian and a twenty-year veteran homeschooler. She continues to homeschool the five of her eight children who have not yet graduated from high school, and she reads a lot. She also blogs at www.semicolonblog.com. Sherry and her family live in Houston, Texas.

From the September/October 2008 issue of The Horn Book Magazine



TOPICS: Books/Literature; Education
KEYWORDS: books; education; homeschooling; learning; literature; pages; reading; schools; teaching
This article is an eye-opener. Although it dates from 2008, it remains timely.
1 posted on 02/16/2011 9:54:22 AM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: Fiji Hill
The greatest gift ever given to me, besides salvation, was my mother teaching me to read at age 4.

Thanks, mom.

/johnny

2 posted on 02/16/2011 10:09:44 AM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Fiji Hill
Those who have children should give them a copy of “Websters Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language” and a copy of the Holy Bible.

Neither of my copies appear to have ISBN numbers on them, but they are easily available.

Books and reading are the key that turn civilization and understanding. The Bible and the dictionary are perquisites to understanding the rest of what manifests.

Books will matter more when the lights go off.

3 posted on 02/16/2011 10:10:05 AM PST by mmercier
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To: mmercier

[ Books will matter more when the lights go off. ]

And Homeschooled kids will fare far better than their urban union institutional learning system drones.


4 posted on 02/16/2011 10:19:15 AM PST by GraceG
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To: mmercier
Those who have children should give them a copy of “Websters Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language” and a copy of the Holy Bible. Neither of my copies appear to have ISBN numbers on them, but they are easily available.

The ISBN for the dictionary is 13: 9781571456915. On the Barnes and Noble website, you can find the ISBN of the Bible of your choice.

5 posted on 02/16/2011 10:20:59 AM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: GraceG
Nature works through a scattershot mechanism.

Those who fare best are randomly distributed throughout.

Not because I say so, just because that is the way nature works.

6 posted on 02/16/2011 10:27:48 AM PST by mmercier
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To: Fiji Hill

Our homeschooled daughter entered college at the age of 16 and had an eye-opener the first full day of lecture classes. She came home and shared with us that, “They just stand up there and tell you what you need to know! They just tell you!” She had never taken part in a lecture class and was used to doing all her own learning via books. She was dumbfounded to say the least. We just laughed at her.


7 posted on 02/16/2011 10:31:24 AM PST by Pure Country (“I’ve noticed that every person that is for abortion has already been born.” -Ronald Reagan)
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To: Fiji Hill

Going to be some good sales on books as all the book stores start closing down. Get em while you can.


8 posted on 02/16/2011 10:45:16 AM PST by Cold Heart
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To: Fiji Hill
Good article. I have two homeschool kids: the youngest (daughter) loves to read (and write), and the oldest (my son) does not like to read. I read to my son more than my daughter, although I read to both quite a lot. My son does have dyslexia, but so does my daughter, to a lesser degree. Son is 18 now. He will read when he has to (car repair manuals), and has good reading comprehension, but just doesn't like to read.

Any ideas? Do you think he will read more when he gets older? He spends a lot of time chasing girls and cars (well, one particular of each) these days.

9 posted on 02/16/2011 11:06:56 AM PST by backwoods-engineer (Any politician who holds that the state accords rights is an oathbreaker and an "enemy... domestic.")
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To: backwoods-engineer

A book has a difficult time competing with a pretty girl...or a fast car, for that matter, at least until you are too old for the girl or the car ;-)


10 posted on 02/16/2011 11:26:18 AM PST by achilles2000 ("I'll agree to save the whales as long as we can deport the liberals")
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To: Fiji Hill

I agree that learning to read and then reading for enjoyment and learning is the most essential component to an education.

Now that my daughter is in kindergarten, the thing I miss most is the hours we used to sit and read together.

On a different topic, I wish there was some research on homeschoolers that was NOT done by Brian Ray. I feel like it is not totally impartial when a big homeschool proponent seems to provide 90% of the research on the topic.


11 posted on 02/16/2011 11:27:08 AM PST by elisabeth
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To: backwoods-engineer
My son does have dyslexia, but so does my daughter, to a lesser degree. Son is 18 now. He will read when he has to (car repair manuals), and has good reading comprehension, but just doesn't like to read. Any ideas? Do you think he will read more when he gets older? He spends a lot of time chasing girls and cars (well, one particular of each) these days.

Here are some sites that might be helpful:

Books that might helpful include:

These books were written for librarians and may be difficult to locate, but you can find them in your nearest library by using Worldcat (http://www.worldcat.org)
12 posted on 02/16/2011 1:00:46 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: elisabeth
I wish there was some research on homeschoolers that was NOT done by Brian Ray. I feel like it is not totally impartial when a big homeschool proponent seems to provide 90% of the research on the topic.

Try the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) at http://www.eric.ed.gov/. This is a prestigious and a very user-friendly site. I typed "homeschooling" into the search box and retrieved nearly 200 hits.

13 posted on 02/16/2011 1:09:11 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: Fiji Hill

I figured out when I was about 4 1/2...if you can read...all information is available to you.


14 posted on 02/16/2011 1:16:25 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (We kneel to no prince but the Prince of Peace)
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To: JRandomFreeper

I learned to read, and got waterproofed at about that same age. Those are two of the greatest things a parent can do for their child, you are right.


15 posted on 02/16/2011 1:25:50 PM PST by ichabod1 (Hail Mary Full of Grace, The Lord Is With Thee...)
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To: Fiji Hill

Thanks for the resources! I’ll check them out.


16 posted on 02/16/2011 1:57:36 PM PST by backwoods-engineer (Any politician who holds that the state accords rights is an oathbreaker and an "enemy... domestic.")
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To: backwoods-engineer
Have you considered magazines, like car magazines? I would assume his difficulty reading is what puts him off, so perhaps shorter stories/articles might help.

Another idea is to watch a movie produced from a great book, then he might be interested enough to read the book and pick up more of the characters and story line. We all know movies rarely capture the entirety of a good book.

17 posted on 02/16/2011 9:36:39 PM PST by WhyisaTexasgirlinPA (Green Bay Packers - SuperBowl 45 champs)
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To: backwoods-engineer

My daughters didn’t like to read either due to a confusing mix of phonics and whole word when they were young. You have to find something they are really interested in to get them to read. For my daughters it turned out to be romance fiction and Harry Potter. (Hey, whatever it took! Even period romance fiction has words that need to be sounded out and/or researched.) Now they’ve expanded their topics of interest, which include a love of learning about all types of history, and have gotten better and spelling and comprehension in the process.


18 posted on 02/17/2011 5:04:30 AM PST by My hearts in London - Everett (You will try to nudge commies toward the truth, while they try to nudge you toward the cattle cars.)
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To: Fiji Hill

Great suggestion! Thank you.


19 posted on 02/17/2011 11:05:10 AM PST by elisabeth
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To: My hearts in London - Everett
My daughters didn’t like to read either due to a confusing mix of phonics and whole word when they were young. You have to find something they are really interested in to get them to read. For my daughters it turned out to be romance fiction and Harry Potter. (Hey, whatever it took! Even period romance fiction has words that need to be sounded out and/or researched.) Now they’ve expanded their topics of interest, which include a love of learning about all types of history, and have gotten better and spelling and comprehension in the process.

I had a similar experience. I was taught to read through the look-say method, begining with Dick and Jane books and then more advanced primers such as Through the Gate by Elizabeth H. Bennett (New York: Silver Burdett, 1945) and Down the Road by Nila B. Smith (New York: Silver Burdett, 1946). However, I enjoyed reading comic books. My parents didn't approve of them, but I am thankful that they allowed me to read them, because they inspired me to start reading on my own. I later graduated to mystery stories, beginning with The Secret Under the Sea by Gordon Dickson (New York: Scholastic, 1960) and series fiction, such as the Hardy Boys, churned out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

By the time I was a teenager, I had developed weird literary tastes, and was reading Way of a Fighter (New York: Putnam, 1949), the memoirs of 14th Air Force commander Clair L. Chennault, the fictional The Great Pacific War: a History of the American-Japanese Conflict of 1931- 33 (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1925), and Up Ship! by C. E. Rosendahl (New York: Dodd Mead, 1931), on the US Navy's airship program. Today, these books are collector's items, worth beaucoup bucks.

20 posted on 02/17/2011 1:57:46 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; ColdOne; Convert from ECUSA; Delacon; ...
...my homeschooled children and those of my homeschooling friends haven’t been let in on the secret that Books Are School. They sort of think our house is furnished with wall-to-wall books just because we like to read.
Thanks Fiji Hill.


21 posted on 02/18/2011 1:18:27 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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