Homeschooling can feel incredibly overwhelming. As a homeschooling mom, my time is at a premium. After all, I’ve got a passel of kids to educate, dinner to make, laundry spilling into the hallway, and…
…I don’t want to mess this up!
It’s the most important work of my life, and I’m willing to bet you’d say the same.
Reading aloud is my favorite way to connect with my kids—especially when life is harried and overly full. It helps them thrive academically while also developing their sense of empathy and inspiring them to live with heroic virtue. Even better, it forms an incredible bond between us.
That’s why I’m looking forward to the celebratory event I’m hosting with author S.D. Smith at the Great Homeschool Conventions in 2018.
At every convention, S.D. Smith and I will be recording a special episode of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast live in front of a studio audience (you!).
We’ll also have our brand-new books there. His much-anticipated third installment in The Green Ember series is called Ember Rising—and this series is one of my very favorites to read aloud with my kids (or to have my kids read and re-read on their own, late at night under the covers!).
The new book I wrote is The Read-Aloud Family, and it’s all about how you can make meaningful and lasting connections with your kids—even when you’re short on time and overwhelmed by the demands of your busy homeschooling life.
Most days I am overwhelmed by the demands of raising a family. There are endless tasks—laundry, dinner, doctor appointments, sibling squabbles. I’m disciplining, cleaning, organizing, planning, listening, and doling out advice, instructions, and reminders. When the days are long and my energy (not to mention my patience) is running low, I don’t have a lot of extra to give.
But isn’t extra what I need? Extra—so I can make those meaningful and lasting connections with my kids that will stand the test of time. Extra—so that I can lean over and notice the ant skittering across the sidewalk.
It is on days like these when the power of reading aloud really shines. It requires so very little of me other than sitting down and reading words on a page. The book does the work for me. Whether we are visiting Podo’s garden in Aerwiar, a snowy hovel in Narnia, or Ramona Quimby’s cellar on Klickitat Street, a little spark is lit. We all know it only takes a spark to start a wildfire. When my heart longs to connect with my kids but my energy reserves are depleted, a spark is exactly what I need.
In our house, whenever anyone says the word fascinating, someone else will interject (in the nerdiest voice they can muster), “Fascinating! Simply fascinating!” This comes from Kate DiCamillo’s hilarious Mercy Watson series, and every time it happens, it catches us a little off guard and makes everyone laugh. It’s a single word that triggers a family joke. I hope when my kids are grown, they’ll hear the word “fascinating” and that fond memory will rise to the surface to warm them, wherever they may be.
If you’re visiting my house, and you need something to write with, you can ask for a pen, but you may as well ask for a frindle. I’ve done this countless times during tense moments of helping a child with a difficult school assignment, and it never fails to draw out a delightful smirk from my kids. You would smirk, too, if you had read about Nick Allen causing a ruckus (and driving one of his teachers up the wall) in Andrew Clements’s middle-grade novel, Frindle.
And when one of my young children hollers from their bed, needing one more drink of water or one more snuggle, I quietly recite a page from Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama: “Little Llama, don’t you know Mama Llama loves you so? Mama Llama’s always near, even if she’s not right here.” And they remember, without my saying it, that when they have a hard time falling asleep, everything is just fine—even in the dark.
The stories we read together act as a bridge when we can’t seem to find another way to connect. They are our currency, our language, our family culture. The words and stories we share become a part of our family identity.
This is exactly what happened in the family of Clay and Sally Clarkson. Clay and Sally have dedicated their lives to encouraging and equipping Christian parents to raise God-loving kids through their nonprofit organization, Whole Heart Ministries. They have written several books about how they raised their four children in a home filled with stories and read-alouds. Now, those four kids are all grown and have moved on to their own lives.
“We were all together for Christmas recently,” the Clarksons’ oldest daughter Sarah said, “and the number of references to stories…it’s just a part of the way we speak about life with each other. We share stories. It’s what we do. Those stories created a deep friendship between us.”1
Of all the things I want most for my children, true friendship with one another is one of my greatest desires. Sibling arguments can be a painful and tiring experience for everyone involved—and they can make a mother in the thick of parenting wonder if her children will ever learn to get along.
My prayer is that despite the inevitable sibling squabbles, my kids will share so many good memories that they’ll look back on their childhood and see that it was full of notice-the-ant moments. Full of thwaps and laughter and little memories they shared with each other as they first discovered Aerwiar, first climbed through the wardrobe to Narnia, took the first bite of every apple in Ramona Quimby’s cellar.
I hope that some of their best memories will be the times we were astonished at what we saw, what we read, and who we met. Astonished at the magic we experienced. Astonished at the big, beautiful world and the amazing people we share it with.
Taken from The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie. Copyright © 2018 by Sarah Mackenzie. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.
We’d love to have you join us for our live event on Thursday evening at all five Great Homeschool Conventions.
Both Ember Rising: The Green Ember Book III and The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids will be available to purchase and be signed at these special events.
Register here for a Great Homeschool Convention near you.