The Practice of Oral Reading


I’m sure we all encourage our children to read. Silently. But, how much time is spent on reading aloud? Oral fluency seems to be necessary for good comprehension and an enjoyable reading experience.¹ If we aren’t already doing so, adding oral reading to our homeschooling routine might be of benefit.

Since their births, we have tried to instill a love of reading in our kids. Even before they could understand, we would read to them or read in front of them. However, reading to them isn’t enough. I want to make sure that as my children are growing, they are also reading to me.

There are some great ways to encourage oral reading. We can model how to read; ideally with us reading fluently to our children. We can read often; every day I make time to read with each child and have them read to me. We can read as a group; our family could memorize a poem and say it together.

What makes a good reader? One indication they are doing well, is that they are reading with expression; they will sound happy when it is called for and sad when necessary. Another pointer is that they are reading without struggling.

If you are looking for a great way to incorporate oral reading into your homeschool learning day, look no further than your book basket! If you care to find something a little more formal, I would highly recommend McGuffey’s Eclectic ReadersThe key is to read at least once a day, preferably reading the same passage throughout the week. This might seem boring at first, but the repetition is important. Reading the same words over and over, builds fluency and helps your child become comfortable with the text. After a day or so, your child will be less anxious about the words; focusing more on expression and delivery.

When children read out loud, we can better detect their struggles and offer them positive feedback; helping them complete their learning goals. This is especially important for children who are already struggling with reading, giving them the help they need to be stronger readers. Our children’s education will flourish when they are fluent readers. Fluency may seem out of reach, but it can be achieved. With consistent practice and constant encouragement, our children will ultimately reach their goal.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

~ Joshua 1:8

 We’d love to know… Does oral fluency play a part in your homeschooling day? How do you find ways to encourage your child to read aloud?

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The Best Coaster in Town!

Best Roller CoasterWe’ve mentioned all the fun we’re having during Our Morning Basket time. Good literature, Bible time, tea, and worship always make for a beautiful start to our day. After sharing our family’s take on this lovely portion of our routine, a few readers had questions about our addition of The Story Coaster. What exactly is a ‘Story Coaster’? Great question!

What is a Story Coaster? The story coaster is a fun way of taking our children through basic elements of literature: exposition, rising action, climax, denouement, and critical reaction. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss ideas such as suspended disbelief, plot holes, and (our personal favorite) the tunnel of badly written love. The Story Coaster is a clever drawing created by Grant Snider, featured in the NY Times Book Review and available for purchase in poster form.

How do we use the Story Coaster? In our homeschooling routine, we use The Story Coaster at the finish of every fictional read completed during our morning basket time. I generally lead with the exposition. “This is what started our literary adventure!” Then, I prompt the kiddos to continue on by tossing out other basic elements. “What was our rising action?” “Who spotted the climax?” “Was the falling action a little too quick for your taste, or did you find it drawn out?” Denouement is a breeze, while Critical Reaction often takes a few moments to thoroughly digest and discuss. For added fun, we then point out other spots we enjoyed along the way. Sometimes the deep back story was intriguing, while suspended disbelief and (as I mentioned a moment ago) the tunnel of badly written love are always pointed out. At times there is an unresolved plot or a red herring. Extraneous scenery and unreliable narrators are entirely frustrating. But, jarring twists make it all worth while!


Why do we use the Story Coaster? Instead of merely asking my children if they liked the story and getting a one word answer, I am loving the story coaster. Not only do I discover what my children enjoyed about the book – and what they didn’t – I also have the opportunity to ensure they fully understood the author’s message. As an added bonus, my children are learning key literary terms such as exposition and denouement (love that word!). They are being instructed in the key points to any good story, and how to become better writers.

Just another wonderful resource I wish we had found years ago, The Story Coaster is now a favorite in our morning basket. I don’t have to push my kids to ‘ride’ the coaster and share plot points. Instead, we eagerly jump on and laugh our way through the adventure.

We can’t wait to start our January reads!

🔔Time to Chime In: Share your favorite ‘tunnel of badly written love’. There are some doozies!

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Work Hard, Play Harder: The Read-a-thon

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecc. 3:1) Join us as we explore a season of fun and family! Help us discover new ways to enjoy family time and build lasting memories.


Summer_work-playI am an avid reader. Everyone in my immediate family is; from the man, all the way down to the little man. Us in a bookstore is a dangerous thing, my friend. One way our family enjoys having fun is through our local library, participating in the summer reading program.

Now, I understand that reading it not fun for everyone. For those who do not enjoy, I am truly sorry. There is an entire world you are missing.

As parents, one way we can inspire our children to read, is to read ourselves! Whenever a parent shares their struggle in getting a child to read, the first question I ask is how often they, as parents, read. Often, the answer is, “hardly ever”. We cannot expect our children to do that which we do not model for them. If you want your children to enjoy reading, you must be excited about reading yourself.

Back to the point at hand… One way to encourage a love of reading in the entire family, is the summer reading program! Everyone, from pop down to the little people, are free to join in. (Disclaimer: I should specify that our local library has a program for everyone; no matter the age. I understand not all libraries do this.)

During the summer reading program, we turn in weekly reading logs to earn prizes for our hard work. At the end of summer, there are special prizes awarded to those with the most reading tickets! Our kids walk away each week with a cute, little prize. I usually walk away with raffle tickets towards the bigger prizes.

At the end of summer, the library hosts a huge end of summer party. For completing the reading program, you get tickets for free ice cream, face painting, balloon animals, and more!

Paws to Read

So, what do you do if your library doesn’t host a summer reading program? If you have the time, I would highly recommend organizing a committee to get a program started! Offer to help out at the library or find out how to bring such a program to your area. Lacking in time? (Aren’t we all?) Consider hosting your own ‘family reading program’! Set a goal for each member of your family and announce prizes for each week’s goal. At the end of the summer, have a party to celebrate all your hard work and remember all the fun books you’ve read.

Our library picks a theme each year. In fact, I think the entire state of California is using this current theme. This year, we are focusing on “Paws to Read”. Get it? We are using an animal theme to help children get excited about reading. We are welcome to read any book in the library, but we get extra credit for reading books about animals; fiction or non.

Reading is loads of fun! (At least for us.) I cannot imagine summer time without the summer reading program. For our family, the reading program also means lots of fun and tons of memories.

Time to Chime In: What is your fondest memory from a summer reading experience?

Required Reading, Part II

The first half of the year under our belt, it was time to take stock of where we stood and discover if we were ‘on track’ with the year’s reading plans. Would our routine within stand the scrutiny or need to be revamped?

(sigh of relief) Okay, it looks like we are doing just fine! Two of my kiddos are zooming through their reading lists; one of them all done, but for her Bible reading. My little one doesn’t have a required list quite yet, but he too is doing just fine with his reading. So, it looks like our yearly plan is panning out so far.

Having required reads is definitely a plus for all of us. I don’t have to remember to pass out assignments each week and the kids get to choose which books they read on their own, in whichever order they prefer.

The downside… getting the kids to remember to look at their lists. Occasionally I will look in their binders and remind them to get busy on them, but usually they are pretty good at taking care of business on their own.

Third Grade

The biggest struggle is when you have a read that just doesn’t interest them at all. While I would like nothing better than to let it sit by the wayside, this just doesn’t sit right with me. Not everything in life is going to be fun and enjoyable; I think this is one of those areas I need to push. Good literature is never a bad idea, whether or not we think we’ll ‘like it’.

Thankfully, most of their reads are enjoyable. We’ve had lots of fun discussing, critiquing, and recommending various books over the first half of our year. A few of them have movies as well; we watch those whenever possible as well.

Now, let’s hope the second half of the year is as successful as the first!

How do you handle reads which don’t interest your child? Do you make them read anyway or wait until they express a desire to dive in?

The Power of a Mother’s Words

Yesterday morning, a discreet email came addressed to my inbox. A young gentleman who was homeschooled along with his four sisters has recently completed a short film called “What She Taught Me”.

I found his film encouraging and heartfelt. It was a subtle reminder of the importance of what we do.

To explore more of Shaun Lichti’s work, please visit his website HERE

Dante Revisited

Dante Revisited #1Last year, the family embarked on a new adventure in our learning: alter egos. Were we all going crazy? Perhaps all those rumors about homeschoolers are true! Calm your nerves… we were simply exploring the fun world of creative writing, along with some help from Dante’s Wardrobe.

We enjoyed our adventure so well we thought we’d give it another whirl. We have updated our personalities, received new mailboxes (well, some of us), and begun a new chapter in our literary adventure.

So… who are we this timeAllow me to introduce our latest cast of characters:

  • Calaena (Me) – I am a French mademoiselle who travels with a famous circus. I train cats, not the small ones mind you, but the large kitties. I adore all who adore my cats and treat them with the utmost respect and care. I very much enjoy traveling the world and adding to my collection of tea cups.
  • Jake Brodie (hubby) – A classic noir detective who solves the most baffling of riddles. His latest caper: Trying to discover who stole the cookies from the cookie jar.
  • Bess Hay (Trinity) – Time traveler extraordinaire; she searches through time looking for new adventures and mysteries to solve. She likes all things steam punk.
  • Chloe (Noel) – The owner of an amazing menagerie of creatures; each more fantastical than the next. Looking for a flying hippogriff? She’s got it!
  • Emma (Angelina) – An animal fairy; she guards all her little creatures and experiments with fun recipes to offer her furry friends.
  • Red Bird (JAG) – Charging through our universe with the intent of ridding the world of evil pigs; Red Bird likes attacking tall buildings and is attempting to become the first Jedi bird.

As you can see, we have quite a range of characters in our little “club”. There is nothing too far-fetched and nothing that can’t be done.

Dante Revisited #2

Our goal: One contribution to a mailbox per week. We usually go well beyond this though; sometimes it’s hard to keep up with six people exchanging letters all week. My mailbox is full minutes after I empty it!

Many thanks to Judith Jablonski over at Dante’s Wardrobe. Her ideas are fantastic; truly an inspiration. (To read all about how we started our adventure in creative writing, take a look at our series, DANTE’S WARDROBE, for details and ideas.)

Dante Revisited #3Now for additional fun… How would you like to participate? Pick an alter ego and “build your character”, then send me a private message about wanting to join in the fun. Our people will get in contact with your people.

The Bare Essentials

My children really enjoy writing. I think this is a natural phenomena in children who read a lot. Add learning at home on top and the creativity just begins to flow. Rather than hand our children a stack of paper (although we have been known to do that), we have found a special way to encourage their writing endeavors… bare books!

I can imagine what you are thinking, “What in the world is a bare book?” Wonder no longer; I am here to enlighten you. (laughing)

Bare BooksHard covered books filled with blank pages, bare books are available in several sizes. They come with covers in ready to be colored designs or with a blank cover for your own creativity. Have a youngster who isn’t quite ready for paper yet? They have board books too! For those of us who haven’t mastered the writing process, helpful line guides are available for purchase.

So, what do we do with bare books? Well; write, of course!

When our children were much younger, they had a hard time “plotting out” their stories. How many words should be on each page? What happens if I run out of room or, heaven forbid, have left over pages? To make things easier on them, we used to sit at the computer and type out their stories. Once they were typed out, we would configure how to break down the sentences to the many pages that filled our books; this taught them spacial awareness and layout. Formatting complete, we would print the pages and glue them into our bare book. The only thing that remained was for the kids to illustrate their wonderful story.

For the past several years, we have taken out the typing process and the children do the writing on their own. This not only encourages them to improve their penmanship (after all, these book are being kept), but allows us to have a memory of their progress and handwriting.

While creative writing has always been encouraged and, on occasion, a mandatory part of our routine, bare books have always been left as an optional activity. We buy them by the box (usually twenty at a time) and keep them readily available for all who wish to try their hand.

Bare Book Collection

What started out as a one time project, has turned into a mini library! Our oldest daughter, “T”,  has written about twenty all on her own.

Our girls have taken to using them as gifts. When prepping for Christmas (yes, my kids prep; they learned it from their crazy mom), they start digging into the box and writing stories to use as presents. If a friend or family member has a birthday, it warrants a book!

Being the organized person that she is, “T” has decided to take things to the limit. She not only writes lovely stories and illustrates them herself, she goes the extra mile. Back covers are cleverly filled with “reviews” from noted newspapers and magazines. On the inside, front cover you will find her “publishing logo” and copyright information. What this girl won’t think of!

We have been so blessed to come across these neat little books. They have added so much to our learning and creativity. It has been such a blessing to see them pouring over them, learning so much in the process. These have been one of the best investments we have ever made.

So, the next time your children ask to do some creative writing, consider pulling out one of these and see where it leads. You just might not go back!

Decisions, Decisions

Seventh Grade

“T’s” list for the year.

While the kids are taking a few days of much-needed R&R, mommy thought she would get a head start on final prep for this coming school year. I probably ought to use some of the time so that I too can relax, but I don’t mind mixing in a little prep here and there.

Last night a brilliant idea came to mind. (Okay, I give God the credit for filling my brain.) I have decided to alter the way my children approach their “required reading” for the year. Instead of me handing out their assignments for the following week, every Friday; they will now have a master list to refer to all year-long!

Making a master list of requirements for the year, takes quite a bit of pressure off all of us! I no longer have to make sure they are aware of next week’s read and they have a lot more freedom.

With this list, the children will now be able to check off items in any order they like. They are welcome to start at the bottom of the list, the middle of the list, or bounce around in any which way they choose.

This should also provide them the opportunity to learn responsibility. They will need to take the initiative to see what read comes next, find the item for themselves at our local library, and be faithful to complete the task. Once the read has been finished, mommy needs to initial the item to show the goal has been accomplished. Third Grade

As before, our lists come from The Well-Trained Mind and they are based on a methodical reading pattern. Two of my kiddos are back reading the ancients, one in renaissance, and the other in modern.

I think this will be a happy compromise for all of us! Mommy is still able to keep track of reading, but the kids have the ability to make some decisions for themselves. Hopefully this will prevent burnout on their behalf and relieve some of the responsibility from my shoulders.

Now, which book will they start with? Decisions, decisions….

Does your homeschool routine include required reading?


The Squire & The Scroll

The Squire & The ScrollBeing the OCD maniac I am (I did mention I was OCD, right?), I couldn’t very well purchase a lovely book (The Princess & The Kiss) for my girls and not get something for my guy, now could I?

Thankfully, Warner Press knew there were ladies like me in the world. Ladies who wished to help their sons overcome temptation and live righteously. So, with us in mind, they gladly published The Squire & The Scroll

In The Squire & The Scroll a young squire must overcome obstacles and enticement in order to seek out a stolen treasure belonging to his kingdom. He does so by using a scroll given to him by his parents, which guides him on his journey.

Little man really likes reading this story and hearing about the evil creature who stole the treasured item. He also likes the important role the scroll plays in defeating the enemy.

Mommy likes this story because it encourages my guy to be faithful to a commitment and to not waver in his decisions. It teaches wisdom, prudence, and humility.

Like The Princess & The KissThe Squire & The Scroll has a Life Lessons Booklet to help our son gain a better grasp of the underlying themes in the book. While our son is a bit young to work through it at this point, I have his tucked away with additional homeschooling materials we have yet to crack open.

There is a pretty neat certificate once the Life Lessons have been completed. At one time there was a watch to commemorate the lessons learned. (I am currently having a hard time finding the watch, it seems they are no longer making them?)

I would be interested to know if any of your children have finished the Life Lessons. Did they enjoy the lessons? Were they of benefit?

Required Reading

The Well Trained Mind

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?