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August 29, 2016
Reading: A Superior Education

 This is not a pro- or con- Common Core article. But I do want to start with a statement that is on a “what parents should know” page on a website about Common Core: “The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.” While I am not impressed with how Common Core goes about this--this is definitely a goal I can get behind.

 

However, from what I hear about the changes in literature, Common Core seems to be going about this all wrong. We as homeschoolers, however, can pursue this goal the right way—a way that I have seen the fruit of in my children’s lives. God is the foundation of all we do, and we begin every morning reading and discussing the Bible together. He is the one who has guided us throughout homeschooling, and in every area of our lives.

 

Do you want to develop your child’s ability to think critically, solve problems and be skilled at analyzing? First and foremost, read. Read unabridged. Read deeply, read widely and talk about it all.

 

From the earliest ages, our family read. A lot. Our living room shelves are filled with books. Our shelves in our bedrooms are filled with books. Our basement is filled with books. Our cars are filled with books.

 

While we read the typical Dr. Seuss, Peter Rabbit books, the Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie the Pooh, Arthur, Clifford the Big Red Dog…I could go on and on, we also read chapter books from the earliest ages. We were always reading books that were well above our sons’ reading abilities, but not their comprehension levels. They would look on our bookshelves and make choices that were pretty surprising at first. They choose Beowulf for a bedtime story, as well as The Canon of Scripture, Pilgrim’s Progress, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Wrinkle in Time, and Josephus. We listened to quality audiobooks in the car: Shakespeare, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, Focus on the Family adaptations. On one vacation, as we drove 1,000 miles, I read fiction about “the butterfly effect” from a short story collection.

 

We were always prepared to stop if it got over their heads or just didn’t interest them anymore. I don’t recall that happening, but I’m sure it did.

 

In sixth grade, one son read The Red Badge of Courage. In 7th grade, Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, and Plato’s Republic. His brother, who is three grades younger, was always along for the ride. And we talked. And talked. And talked. Talked about worldviews expressed through actions and presuppositions. Talked about literary devices and plot structures. Talked about ways the plot or characters were the same or different from other books, the Bible, everyday life. And, of course, talked about what we found funny, sad, confusing (hello, Plato’s cave?).

 

Later, in high school, there were The Canterbury Tales, Augustine’s City of God, Dante’s Inferno, Paine’s Common Sense, parts of The Federalist Papers, and so much more.

 

Both of my sons had vision and handwriting issues when they were young, so I didn’t require a lot of writing—although they would spend hours dictating stories to me as I typed. So talking was my main way of gauging comprehension. Later, without a huge effort on his part, one son wrote well enough to earn an A in a college writing class when he was in 11th grade.

 

And that’s really the point of this post. My sons used math curriculums, and used history and science spines to organize their studies. But our homeschooling was, to the largest extent, just reading and talking. Going to the library and taking out all the books they had on that week’s interest: astronomy, Romans, fishing, race cars, some fiction.

 

But it really wasn’t just reading. It was the natural introducing of tougher concepts and the freedom to just stop and talk for a while, that helped their analytical skills, and their critical reading and problem-solving abilities. They have a wide range of interests and are able to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics. Undergirding everything is their love of God and His Word, and their knowledge and wisdom from that. And I know it is not the be all and end all, but both sons have done very well on standardized testing. My oldest was accepted into every college to which he applied, and received substantial scholarship offers. He took college classes in high school and one AP exam—doing well in all. His younger brother, in high school, is following in his footsteps in taking on academic challenges. Following the path God showed us, our sons have reaped tremendous rewards.

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