When my little son turned 5 or 6 I could see that he would not enjoy sitting down to seat work and hand writing like his older sisters had. I had read enough about the development of little boys to agree with others who had observed that the traditional way of teaching the early elementary years of school is stacked against boys. Their fine motor skills are often more immature than those of their female peers. It is more difficult for them to sit still. This can lead to over diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and other learning troubles.
I did not in anyway want to make education distasteful to him. Around this time I started to really think about my philosophy of education. What are my goals in providing my kids with an education? With babies and preschoolers, as well as school aged children to care for I need to use all of my resources wisely. Every amount of energy, time and attention I invest must be with the best of my ability in shaping their soul and character.
The end result of this searching and wondering was a total reshaping of our homeschool. “As a stream can rise no higher than it’s source, so it is probable that no educational effort can rise higher than the whole scheme of thought which gives it birth….” (Charlotte Mason) And what are the thoughts and lofty aspirations that are giving birth to the education of my precious children?
Upon the wall of our home I have written a quote by James Stephen which reads, “I have learned, that the head does not hear anything until the heart has listened, and what the heart understands today the head will know tomorrow.” I believe this is true. And what better way to reach the heart of my boy than through books?
Wonderful, beautiful books, full of adventure and good, noble characters! Books who’s authors can help to teach and shape the souls of my kids. Whole and living books, written with passion, about every subject imaginable! In this way I can put my kids under the teaching of great minds of men and women from the past and present. What a shame when the early formative years of children’s lives are allowed to be wasted with foolish and violent media! Parents, carefully guard the hearts and minds of your young children! What we feed into our hearts and minds is what will come out! What a charge God has given us in protecting these precious ones!
I had read of a school of thought that says that given the ideal atmosphere and proper foundation children will learn to read just like they learn to talk and walk. Without much stress or effort on their part, it will naturally happen. Prayerfully and purposefully I set out to try to create that atmosphere in my home.
From the time my kids are very young I will put my finger under the words as I read them a story. I teach them that letters make sounds and that the sounds blended together make words. (And I let them watch The Letter Factory, a lot!) I tell them how wonderful and important it is to be able to read. I tell them how God chose to communicate himself to us through the written word. It is through reading that we can be sure not to be fooled by the erroneous teachings of men, by “studying the scriptures daily to see whether these things are so”, like they did in the early church.
We have read so many books! Most importantly, the Book of Books, the Bible. The source of all goodness and truth. We like the Arthur Maxwell Bible Story series. They are not “dumbed down” like some we have tried. He is an excellent story teller. We use the King James Version Bible. I think it is good for the minds of kids to read the Old English writing. Ours have had no problem reading through short verses even with their earliest reading skills.
After a lot of study and prayer I felt that the best way to engage my son in “the gentle art of learning” would be to set some things on the back burner for a few years. Things like grammar, spelling, and hand writing. Instead I wanted to capture his heart and mind.
Our family has sat spell bound and breathless, we have had tears in our eyes and on our cheeks, we have laughed until our tummies hurt reading stories, real and fictional, about people in far away times and places. People in all sorts of situations, who were strong and brave and good. People who had such faith that many beautiful stories have come out of horrible darkness. They will never forget these historical things because they have felt them in their hearts.
My oldest son is nine and a half. I have wondered sometimes if I have been doing the right thing. Even earlier this winter he was still sounding out a lot of words and not really reading silently very often for his own pleasure. But, lo, and behold! Along comes The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (in an abridged version, 200 pages). He has seen the Christian Youth Theater performance and loved it. He can’t convince me to read the book right then, and literally, over night my son turns into a book worm!
He finishes Robin Hood in a couple of days and is on to Ivanhoe (abridged as well). But this book actually has him teary eyed and then jubilant, when he finds out his hero craftily escaped the fire! I now know the story line of Ivanhoe. He has been coming to me for one book after another. Right now he is reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry.
I am so happy that everything has come full circle and he is laughing and crying over his books. It was a little long in coming but it has been completely stress free on his part as well as mine. His little brother told me the other day,”He is kind of boring now, all he wants to do is read!”
A couple of weeks ago our oldest son also told his Dad that all the other kids in his Sunday School class know how to write in cursive and he would like to learn too. Sure, Son! Out come the cursive hand writing books and he is diligently practicing his hand writing on his own accord.
I don’t regret for a minute the relaxed approach that we have taken. Read more about this in Homeschooling Boys Part 3, Of a Puppy Dog and the Great Outdoors, which I will be posting sometime soon.
There are too many good books to list but here are some that our family, and specifically our boys, have found to be the cream of the crop!
Beautiful Feet Books Early American History, this is a fabulous literature, notebooking based curriculum, I just cannot even say enough good about it! All of the books that they have chosen are wonderful.
Treasures of the Snow and The Star of Light by Patricia St.John
The Little Pilgrim’s Progress adapted from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
The Laura Ingalls Wilder books
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne
Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachian
The Sign of the Beaver, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
The Butterfly, Pink and Say, January’s Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
Number the Stars by Lois Lowery