One practice we made early on in our homeschooling routine was to have our children read at least one non-fiction and one biography each week. We do not pick these books on their behalf, they are free to explore for themselves, but one of each they must get.
Having to read non-fiction opens their minds to areas of learning we have yet to explore and/or solidifies topics already discussed. It helps them experience more about the wonderful world in which they live and exposes them to cultures different from their own.
Reading biographies inspires and provokes them to do more with their own lives. Through biographies they are learning a multitude of subjects (history, science, geography, social studies, etc.) and character building skills (perseverance, diligence, patience, kindness, and more).
Through the reading of just these two books every week, our children’s knowledge has grown incredibly.
In addition to the non-fiction and biography reads each week, mommy doles out a special reading assignment for each one. These reads are based on their capabilities, but are focused on a specific time period.
This year, “T” is focusing on Medieval-Early Renaissance Literature (400-600A.D.). Her reading list for the year has included (but is not limited to) Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, and Dante’s Divine Comedy.
In most cases, original versions of the stories were found. In others, mainly The Canterbury Tales, I was able to find a comic book version (go figure!) for her to read. So far she has enjoyed every single read! (Whew!) Although, she will confess she thought The Divine Comedy was going to be hard, she ended up breezing through it in about two weeks.
“Little Miss”, my middle daughter, is reading through Modern Literature (1850’s to Present). So far she has read a few books from Robert Lewis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Heidi. She too is liking her reads, although at first she had to be convinced that Doyle was good reading.
“Mouse” is focusing her attention on the ancients (5000 B.C. to 400A.D.). Her list has included books about Greek mythology, worldwide folk tales, and Aesop’s fables. Her current read is Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean. She is slowly making her way through it, but has decided it is getting pretty good.
“Little man” is a bit too young to focus on anything other than his reading skills at the moment. So, we make sure he picks up some beginning readers each week. We also pick up plenty of picture books. For each book he reads to me, I read four back to him. This way he learns to not only read on his own, but to follow along and help mommy (or pop).
While the library has vast lists on which books might be of interest to our children and which levels of books would be most appropriate, I prefer to choose my children’s books for myself.
There is one resource, however, to which I do refer. I very much appreciate The Well Trained Mind – A Guide to Practical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.
I am very eclectic in how I educate my children, not fitting any one specific method. However, I highly value this book’s belief that children should be well read. I admire the detail and thoughtfulness that has gone into each area of study, challenging us to reach new limits.
It is from The Well Trained Mind that our assigned reading lists have been derived. Each grade level is accompanied by a comprehensive list of reads. Each year will focus on a different time span, taking them from the ancients all the way to the modern, within a four-year period of time. Every four years, the children begin the process again, with a more in-depth and complex selection of literature.
We are truly enjoying all of the suggested reading from this helpful book. I like that my children are being challenged and becoming well read. My children are enjoying new worlds in which to explore.
Through their reading of non-fiction, biographies, and required reads, our kiddos’ knowledge is increasing by leaps and bounds. Oh, how we adore books!
Do your children have required reading assignments?