Organizing Our Days: Inside Our Read Aloud Basket

Last month I wrote about the part-reading plays in our homeschool. This month, I am excited to share the inside scoop on what we call our Read Aloud Basket. It’s basically a drop box for our read aloud subjects which I keep centrally located on our dining room buffet. We often read at the table while coloring or on the couch, but we have also grabbed a book to read on the trampoline outside, or in the car while running errands (my oldest reads during those times).
My Read Aloud Basket is similar to what many have coined a Morning Basket, but we use ours throughout the day. It’s a place to store our subjects that are important to me and that we cover collectively as a family.

That being said, it’s important to me to regularly expose my children to poetry, and this is the first book I’ll cover in our basket. I’ve grown to love the challenge reading poetry requires. Our ears and minds learn to hear what the author is saying, and we have enjoyed trying to express ourselves through rhymes. The poems we are currently enjoying are Lessons from Nature: Poems for Boys and Girls, by John Bunyan, the same author as Pilgrims Progress. We read one or two at the dinner table, after a meal, while waiting for the last child to finish eating.

Another table reader we often read during breakfast is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley (every meal we have some that take longer than others and I like to stay seated til everyone’s done). This book is great fun, and we practice our manners right there at the table. It’s a great way to start our days with our best foot forward before we ever leave the breakfast table.

Another important topic I like to cover together is health. There are so many resources for health, and currently we are reading the First Book in Physiology and Hygiene, by J.H. Kellogg. It contains short lessons with questions to answer, and we do this while dinner is heating up, along with review our Scripture verses or character goals that we’ve chosen with our character trait of the week.

I keep our family prayer journal in our Read Aloud Basket along with our family Bible lessons we use each morning for family worship. It’s a simple spiral bound notebook and we also write our goals for the week in there to pray over each day. We use the family Bible lessons for evening worship in review. I also keep an Uncle Arthur’s Bible Stories book to read sometime during the week with my little ones as it helps cement our Bible lesson each week for them.

A favorite in our Read Aloud Basket is our chapter books! These mostly consist of missionary stories, but at present we are rereading Stories of the Pilgrims, by Margaret B. Pumphrey. We usually have one going, but we currently have a second chapter book that we read only when Daddy is available. These chapter books we read in the evening after everyone is ready for bed and evening chores are done. We have evening worship and finish our day with as many chapters as we can squeeze in before lights out!

Other books I’ve thrown in our Read Aloud Basket but that we don’t cover daily include What We Believe for Kids, by Jerry D. Thomas, and Guide’s Greatest Sabbath Stories or Sabbath Readings for the Home. These are books we enjoy for early Friday evenings as we welcome the Sabbath.

Lastly, I want to share my family worship binder which I keep in our Read Aloud Basket to help me stay on track throughout the day…

It’s a simple one-inch, three-ring binder with dividers in it for our worship topics. The topics consist of scheduling (our daily time log), Scriptures (a list of our quarterly memory verses), character (our Character First lesson), hymns/songs, and resources (loose papers I want to read the children)/future reading List. This binder is so essential to keeping me together and helping our day start right and stay on track. I can’t emphasize enough how important a schedule and family worship are to the success of our day.

Reading aloud has become a big success in covering topics that were not otherwise regularly implemented in our home. I hope this peek into how our Read Aloud Basket weaves important subjects throughout our day has inspired you. I’d love to hear about the subjects that are important to your family and how you tackle them collectively, whether through reading or another venue.

Blessings, Allison

Organizing Our Days: The Part Reading Plays


Fall is my favorite time of year. The changing colors, a cozy sweater, a good book, a warm cup of tea: These things make me happy! So naturally, I am excited to share my love of reading with my children, and this season is the perfect time to spend more time reading together.

I started reading to my oldest right out of the womb. You could say I was reading to him before he was even born, since it has been proven our children hear our voices while they are still in utero. In the first few months of his life, I would read my own books out loud. Usually these were devotional or parenting books that I was squeezing in now that I held this precious bundle in my arms with so little experience under my belt.

I don’t remember how old he was when we started reading picture books to him, but I do remember that as time progressed he was able to sit for longer periods of time as I read more to him. Now he is one of the readers in our home, and reading is a big part of our family’s day.

I spent a lot of time praying over our schedule and working the layout to be one that enabled us to teach each other throughout the day. This means my oldest spends up to 30 minutes reading and teaching his younger brother, and then my middle son has the opportunity to instruct and work with his little sister. These are fun and hands-on learning opportunities! I am learning from my children throughout the day, and I see them eager to learn as they have opportunities to learn from and teach each other.

We clock in more than three hours of purposeful reading on a daily basis! It’s lovely and not forced at all. The children all have personal devotions in the morning (15-20 minutes).  During our morning family worship, we take turns singing hymns and reading Scripture (20-40 minutes). In the late morning we begin school with cookbook reading (dinner preparations), applied math concepts, and character stories (30 minutes). We continue this pattern during our nature walk as we bring along a blanket and our nature lesson for the day (15 minutes). After our walk, we curl up on the couch and my son reads from his third grade True Education reader (15 minutes), then I follow with something from our Read Aloud Basket (15 minutes). We follow this with quiet time, and my older two can look at books or read/color during this time (15 minutes). In the evenings, we read from our Read Aloud Basket again for the longest period of read aloud time (30-45 minutes). This has become my favorite time of day, which says a lot because I’m a morning person and I have really struggled to find joy in the evenings when my energy is waning.

I hope this post encourages you to incorporate more time reading into your day in ways that can nurture a love for good books in your children. My next post I will be sharing more of an inside look to our Read Aloud Basket.

In the meantime, here is my favorite inspiration as we developed our Read Aloud Basket which we use throughout the day: http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/search?q=Morning+basket

How often do you read with your children throughout the day? Please share your favorite read-alouds that your family could read again and again in the comments below.

Blessings,

Allison

 

Organizing Our Days: Beautiful Benefits of Scheduling

I shared last month my excitement to persevere as we broke the summer mold with our new schedule for the school year. My family was excited by this challenge as well, because, as I was planning and praying over our activity worksheets in preparation for the new schedule, I was sharing all the benefits we were going to reap from said schedule. Our schedule was to be our personal assistant and would give us a time for everything “under the sun” which God is requiring of us and we hope/want/need to accomplish. It was important for me to help them see the joys of scheduling, which enabled them to endure as we jumped into a new schedule with both feet!

We chose to mostly schedule in half-hour blocks, and I’m taking an approach to our days by dividing them up into three larger blocks of learning with breaks in between to be outdoors, to move our bodies after sitting, and to rest our bodies as well as our minds. I also chose the half-blocks because we have young children in our homeschool, and they benefited from a change in focus after 30 minutes. What fun and active days we are having! And, with our schedule posted for all to see, I don’t get lost but accomplish so much on a regular basis. That’s worth sharing about!


I want to preface with what a schedule is not! This helped me in my development of a balanced day. A schedule is not a burden or a taskmaster, but rather a schedule is a friend and our personal assistant. When you tie activities to specific times, you won’t waste precious time. This makes a schedule a recipe for your day, a recipe for success!

Benefits of Scheduling:

  • Children have purpose throughout their days, which means less time for finding themselves in trouble (doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing) or bickering.
  • A schedule that the family learns and carries out regularly covers for us when Mom is sick or away for the day. The children learn how to carry out the day, and thus don’t always rely on Mom alone to be told what to do.
  • This brings me to the aspect of a schedule being a stress relief to Mom. How many times when you’ve functioned on routine or rhythm in your days have you had little ones asking, “What are we doing next?” “Mama can I play now?” or “What are we doing now?” When we keep a mental flow to our day, our mind is always working to assess what needs to be done now or next and what is most important. The schedule lays it out for you so you can point the children there and encourage them to persevere until their scheduled “free” time. Soon they stop asking because they already know! I tell you, this was my biggest relief in scheduling.
  • Lastly, I want to share that a schedule helps us accomplish our priorities. When we have a schedule, we have prayed over and allotted time for the things God is asking of us. We can say no with confidence to those things that come up that we feel we might need to squeeze in but don’t know where. I have allotted time in my day as well to do things I’ve always wanted to do, like sew! We are doing sewing one to two days a week this school year, because we hoped to last year but never were able to accomplish that priority. A schedule gives us the allotment of time to accomplish our priorities, because we give time to each task and thus don’t waste time we can be using for these exact priorities.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I love verses 9-11: “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Remember God’s burden is the one that we want, not our own. And, the Bible has something awesome to say about His burden, which is “light.” It says in the above verses that God has made this requirement beautiful! A schedule for your family that you allow God to design will bring your family many benefits!

What do you experience as a benefit for scheduling in your homeschool?

Pray for beauty in our home schools this year as we schedule our lives after God’s plan!

Blessings,
Allison

 

Summer Reading Program and a BookList!


We really enjoyed this school year and I feel like I’m just starting to get the hang of this homeschooling lifestyle. We love taking a “one-room schoolhouse” approach and have enjoyed learning together with a range of ages this year, from two years old to almost eight.

We are getting ready to move this summer, and so I have been struggling to keep up with my best efforts on homeschooling regularly. We do more of a relaxed year-round schedule, but I am a person of regularity and I definitely am struggling in this area at present. I was brainstorming what to do as a focusing theme for the summer to keep us going, and all my children have really been enjoying our read-aloud times, so I decided to make that our “school program” as we move into summer. I want my oldest to read 20 minutes/five times a week with me, and that way we will have focused one-on-one time as well as be learning and keeping our reading skills up! I plan to continue to read to my youngest in her room before naps. I also plan to move to reading with my middle son after that. My middle child often jumps in on both read-alouds with brother and nap time stories with sister, but I am looking for opportunities to read to him one-on-one as well. (The challenges of being a middle child!)

We sat down and made a list of things my oldest wanted to read about or specific books we have yet to read around the house. I’d like to work this list for my middle child as well. We also have taken a habit of evening family reading time, which motivates us to be home and ready for bed on time more regularly during the longer summer days. And, for those days we are in the car in the evening house hunting or heading home from a fun outing with family or friends, we have our audio books so we don’t miss out on that special time to read as a family.

I would love to hear what others are reading with their young readers that deepens your time together and their thirst for knowledge as they grow in their understanding of Christ.

Here’s some of our favorites so far, as well as wishful reads for this coming summer.

AUDIOS:

Pilgrims Progress (great for longer road trips)

Christian Heroes Then and Now series

READ-ALOUDS:

True Education Reader (we bought the third-grade set)

Singer in the Sand (mission family story)

Stories Worth Rereading (highly recommended by a friend)

Cabin Boy

Brave Men to the Battle

Waldenses

Old-Fashioned Camp Meeting

Wilderness: an Interactive Atlas of Animals (Costco find!)

other books on animals…

Hope you are encouraged to pick up a book with your child this summer to keep their interest in learning a positive one. We are always eager when August rolls around to get out our math manipulatives and start back into our other subjects. Praying your time spent with your children in your summer adventures is blessed, and I hope to hear what other families are doing to keep the love of learning alive while they take their summer break…

Blessings, Allison

Ending Our Day With Joy

I would call myself a morning person. This post is for those of us who find ourselves quickly deflating as we enter the evening hours…or perhaps find we do not have the same energy throughout the day, and need some brainstorming about how to spread the Joy.

In the morning it is easy for me to naturally have Joy. I mean, there’s so much to be joyful about in the morning! I’m excited to see the sun rise, a fresh beginning, and those quiet moments in the morning. My children wake up well rested (usually), and they also are bright-eyed and cheery.

After three o’clock rolls around, it often seems I find myself losing steam. This is when we have finished our last meal, helped Mama clean up, and now are transitioning to the children’s free time before our evening routine starts.  I decided to write this post because I recently realized that evenings have become such a chore for me. I was analyzing the difference between our morning routine and our evening routine so I might discover why I enjoyed one so much, but found an increasing amount of stress in the other. Our family’s better times are in the morning, but if you find mornings are more difficult at your house, you might use this approach in the same way, modeling after your afternoon hours instead. I’m eager to hear what others think and how they find Joy throughout the ups and downs of their day!

So, what is it about mornings at our house that make them so great? Part of it is that I have a plan — a plan that we have executed on a regular basis, and all family members participate so the morning runs smoothly, which makes it more enjoyable for this mama and everyone else too!

I believe the biggest contributing factor is that we start our mornings with personal quiet time and before we eat breakfast we come together as a family for family worship where everyone participates.

As I looked at our morning routine and compared it to our afternoon routine, I realized our afternoon really didn’t have much routine. So, when it’s time to get ready for bed, it often becomes rushed while not always having the opportunity and focus for a devotional experience to close our day. Out of this was born my desire for a more regular evening routine, so I might have the energy for an evening worship experience that blesses each member and prepares them for a better night’s rest.

I also realize that I cannot have a giant to-do list that is waiting to be done once the children are asleep. This causes anxiety for me because I want to be heading the same direction when I snuggle each of my little people and pray over them again individually.

I decided I must move my to-do list to a different part of the day, and what doesn’t get done before the children’s bedtime moves to tomorrow’s to-do list. This way I can enjoy my time with each child, one-on-one tucking them into bed, without the uncompleted list looming over my thoughts. I do keep my to-do list short and have three most important tasks each day I strive to accomplish. My other to-do’s are secondary and can be deferred.

I also include my children in helping me with as much as they can of “our” to-do list. Now before moving to free time in the afternoon, we evaluate what needs to get done or picked up or set up for the next day. We do our day together, and these steps are helping me to find Joy in ending our day together!

I hope this post encourages you to evaluate the times of your day where you find yourself in a lull, and maybe transplant some of that greatness from the other times of the day, or move challenges to a time of day when you have more energy and resources to tackle them. Praying we continue to seek ways to find more Joy in our homeschools!

Blessings, Allison