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:

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.




Fall Semester: Building Blocks

When I began homeschooling my seven-year-old last year, it was a slow start. We attempted a few methods before finally landing on what worked well. At the end of winter, Mickey should have been completing kindergarten. Instead of reading like a first-grader, he read at a .03 reading level. For those who may not know, that number means he was reading as if in the third month of kindergarten. Now, I’m no stranger to changes mid-game, and this was another time when I had to stop, assess, and reroute our homeschooling journey.

New Plan
We planned to school year-round, but as my son still struggled so with letters, phonics, and penmanship, my husband and I discussed our upcoming plans. Since Mickey was excelling in math and science, we decided to only work on reading for the summer. He has been working on his daily challenges and assigned lessons three days per week through the summer, and he has exploded with excitement, reading road signs, subtitles, and books (unassigned). As his excitement has grown, so has mine. I saw him experience a whole new world that I remember discovering, and still love: the world of reading.

Progress Report
I haven’t kept a close eye on Mickey’s grades this summer, mainly because teaching my kids to read has always been a point of serious anxiety for me. I know Philippians 4:13, though — and I claim it, and I think it, and sometimes I may shout it: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Because of my anxiety over it, we didn’t monitor his progress through the summer. When I began to plan for Mickey to begin first grade, I had him take the reading assessment offered by the academic program we use. He tested at a 1.08 reading level (almost second grade). This was a shock to me. Even though we read together, even though he reads everything, and even though he writes stories and letters and cards, it was a shock that he improved so much so fast. It was a shock, even though I’ve prayed over it and fretted over it, and God has given me the tools to teach my children.

Building Blocks
It turns out that since Mickey’s reading has improved, he is able to excel in the other subjects. He doesn’t have to ask me to read the questions every two minutes. He doesn’t have to click on the little microphone that prompts the computer to read to him. He can read, sound out, and understand everything I put in front of him!

It was hard for me to admit that I couldn’t teach my son to read, when I love to read and have always been a reader. Reading is the the first building block for the rest of first grade in our house. Now that he can read, the possibilities seem endless.

And, now that I remember that God answers prayers, the possibilities are endless.

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.


Pilgrims Progress (great for longer road trips)

Christian Heroes Then and Now series


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


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

Teaching Reading

It is vitally important that children be taught to read, and to read well. There is shocking evidence that 60 million individuals in the United States, or one-third of the entire population, cannot read. This high rate of illiteracy prevents individuals from reaching their full potential in life and in the job market. It is a frightening reality, especially for parents of school-age children. As a home educator, the teacher-parent may find that teaching reading is one of the most daunting tasks that takes place in a homeschool. It takes time to give children the building blocks necessary to teach them to read. For most children the ability to read does not happen overnight, but rather is a process that takes place in stages as they are offered tools for learning and time to internalize and apply what they have learned. This ability is the foundation of all future learning. It is possible that children can read and read extremely well!

It becomes the responsibility of the parent to teach their children to read. Some key elements in teaching reading:

  • Talk to the child a lot from birth and as they develop and grow. This provides the foundation of linguistic information. By listening, a child absorbs the language, accent, and grammar of those who surround him.
  • Preparation for reading starts at a very young age. Sensory stimulation is important. Whether it be in the form of a red, black, and white mobile that hangs over a child’s crib, or something as simple as turning a light off and on to stimulate the pupillary reflex, activities that encourage development assist in developing overall intelligence and ability. Geometric shapes and the contrast of black and white are some of the first visual items that an infant recognizes. Studies also show that crawling is very important for babies. An infant should be allowed to be on his stomach, on the floor, as much as possible. Crawling helps a child develop neurologically, and it is instrumental in the development of visual pathways to the brain. As children grow, other forms of physical activity, like swinging, climbing, bouncing, jumping, rolling, and gymnastics also assist in neurological development. The development of gross motor skills is vital for youngsters. Strong neural pathways assist the child in becoming a good reader.
  • Make sure that words are visible to children of all ages. Small words on a book are not always easy for a developing youngster, so care should be taken to provide opportunity for children to see words in large print and in bright colors. Expose children to written words in their daily life at an early age, just as you surround them with verbal information. Point out signs, words on cereal boxes, notes on the fridge, and so on. Make them aware that words exist and that they are a valuable part of life.
  • Read to your child, starting from infancy. Books can be either commercial or those that you write yourself (large, colorful words). Make reading a daily routine. This establishes value and importance on the task. This example teaches your child what books are for. Read to them with enthusiasm, changing your voice to express the personality of each character in the book. Use your finger to underline the words as you read out loud, as this teaches the child that words flow in a certain pattern, going from left to right, and from top to bottom of the page. Read frequently and for as long as you keep a child’s attention. Reading is one of the foundations of an intelligent individual. Reading to your child is a key component in creating a good reader.
  • Tie together the importance of sounds (language) and reading (words) by teaching children phonics. Instead of teaching the alphabet, skip that task and instead teach the child the letter sounds. You can go with the same sequence of A, B, C. But, instead of saying the name of the letters, model the sounds of the words instead. If a letter has more than one sound, give them both in sequence. For example, say the sound for soft-sound A then long-sound A, then the sound for the letter B, and sound for soft-sound C and then long-sound C.  Continue through the alphabet. This is an activity that can be set to the music of a favorite song and it should be a routine that is established daily and from a young age. As children grow and you prepare them for more formal reading, the phonetic foundation will have been established. After the alphabet sounds are learned, move on to the more advanced phonograms and teach them with their phonics rules.
  • Encourage initial reading experiences using books that are phonetically based and have been written so that the child recognizes the phonograms learned. A phonics reading program such as this free, online reading resource helps the child flow naturally into putting sounds together into words, sentences, and paragraphs. Reading becomes a natural process with this approach.
  • Give the child opportunities each day to read out loud to you! Short periods of time throughout the day will be more productive than one longer period of time. For the best in productive learning, always quit the activity before your child is ready to quit! Diminished interest on the child’s part is never productive. The key to a pleasurable reading experience is to keep the child motivated and eager. Taking turns with the parent in reading a story is a great way to teach a child to read.
  • Pace the learning experience according to your child’s needs. If a child was interested in learning, and then you see a diminished interest, it is a cue that the child is experiencing boredom and that it is time to quicken the pace and teach him new concepts. Boredom can indicate that the child already knows the information. But, be aware that there are other reasons for boredom, making it clear that you need to keep in tune with your child and their needs. Boredom can also result when a child doesn’t understand the information being presented. It can also mean that your child sees no useful application for the information being taught. Thus, it is important to clarify concepts as you go along and to help the child see their importance and how it applies to daily life. Interest in a subject goes a long way in helping a child focus their attention.
  • Remember that all words a child is being taught to read should have meaning to him. If a child doesn’t know that Istanbul is the name of a city in Turkey, it will have no meaning to him. Explain the meaning of words they may not understand. Make reading meaningful. Start out with familiar words and move on from their. Words don’t have to be simple to be meaningful and read at an early age. If the child has a dog named Liberated, that becomes a good reading word even though it is not generally a word the beginning reader uses, because the child can associate the word with something that is meaningful to him. Introduce new words at a pace that prevents boredom but that does not overwhelm.
  • Games and drills can be fun for a child learning to read! Phonogram flashcards can be laid flat on a counter top with pennies, nickles, quarters, and dimes underneath. Take turns with the child in selecting a card and verbalizing the sound of the letter or letters being presented. If the sound given is correct, the child gets to keep the coin below the card. See who can collect the most money (teacher-parent, child, or sibling). If you don’t want to use actual money, school tokens could be made instead. Other games like Go-Fish, flashcard games, or pocket games can all be used in teaching phonics and/or sight-see words.  Reading game ideas can be found online if you have trouble coming up with ideas on your own.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Reading aloud to your child is as important as having your child read back to you. Read throughout the day, not just from books but from signs, packages, posters, and more. Make reading fun for both you and your child. Make reading a delight! Not only will you be creating happy memories with your child, but you will be establishing a foundation of learning that will serve your child well for years to come.