Reading, ‘Rithmatic, and Ripening (aka What Works Well)


I’ve been having the best conversations after posting my “to do” list with my dear blogging buddies—on their blogs.   First, I had to laugh at Karen’s “Huh?” comment; of all my blogging friends, she reminds me most of me, including the fact that she teaches part time and loves the NFL.    Sick-o that I am, just writing the list energized me to get more done!    Sadly enough, now that it’s Thursday, it occurs to me that I’m not going to hit my stretch goals unless a miracle happens.   Still, it was a great dream when I typed it out on Tuesday.


The other conversation I’ve had with Carol has been an exchange about reading during our “break,” which would seem like we aren’t on much of a break at all.   (By the way, she’s the featured homeschooler on Heart of the Matter online,, this week, and well worthy of such honor, so be sure to check her out).    The truth is that our kids have always loved reading, and especially times when Mom (or Dad) reads aloud.   This was our first exposure to homeschooling way before the terms ‘classical,’ ‘eclectic,’ or ‘delight-directed’ were parts of my vocabulary.    We started with the little bit I understood of Charlotte Mason’s approach at the time—short passages of reading followed by oral narration (the oldest would shush her then 5-year-old brother so that she could concentrate (the shape of things to come)—“Quiet!  We might have ‘comprehension’!”(the term more familiar to her from her days in private school).     They would often ask for more, but I chose to go the route of the celebrity and leave them wanting more.   Even now, I love a good cliffhanger.   When I close the book right before the action and state those three famous words, “What happened today?”  to our son (I always begin with the youngest), he says with a slow whine, ”MOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!”   Our oldest will say, “You can read some more if you like,” which was my late, great mom’s way of letting you know that you should do something.   (Isn’t it weird the way that parents seem to “come back” through your kids?)


Anyway, as I posted to Carol, we aren’t doing oral narrations this week, but we’re reading 1) Dragonwings by Laurence Yep. This is on our "school read aloud" list, but I’m trying to get from 1905 to modern-day with 10 weeks left, so it’s one way to fit the reading in. This particular story is dated around 1903 San Francisco, and American history is told from an Asian perspective. We read another book in this series (the Golden Mountain Chronicles), and the kids wanted to stay with it for a while. We’re also continuing 2) the Ralph Moody series with The Home Ranch. These books have been great, and I’m glad that there is a Laura Ingalls Wilder-like equivalent that features a boy for our son’s sake, although the girls have equally enjoyed this series. We’ll probably stop after this one and perhaps pick up again in the summer.


When I begin to think about next year, though it will probably kill me to read through three separate sets of plans to three children, this is one aspect of our homeschool that I really want to keep in place.    It’s been a source of great bonding for us through the years (even a big kid doesn’t mind snuggling over a good book), and kids really can grasp a book that might be out of their reading level with an adult sharing it with them.   I’ve seen the value of role modeling for them how to read a book in a way that sparks enthusiasm and encourages curiosity.   As adults, we know what parts of the book to emphasize, and what other insights might be gleaned from the reading.


There are other tools that have worked exceptionally well:

The Bible

Perhaps since we began to homeschool, I always wondered whether I should use something to enhance our Bible studies.   When we began, I unfortunately looked at teaching the Bible (notice the verbiage—as if you can really teach someone what only the Holy Spirit can reveal) very academically.  Determined to be the Charlotte Mason purist, I would read from my Bible and ask the kids for a basic oral narration.  I shudder at times, thinking of my early days and the richness and the fun that I squashed in trying to put a school-like stamp on everything the kids fed their minds.  Thank God that one day the kids decided on their own to bring their Bibles and share in the reading.   It changed our Bible studies by light years, and this year covering the last days has been amazing.   I think the fact that we’re finishing the Bible this year after years of study feels like an accomplishment in and of itself.   I once heard at a children’s workshop that the average person who considers him/herself a Christian has never read the entire Bible once.    It occurs to me why we are sometimes so easily persuaded to embrace other religions that supposedly pick up where the Bible left off.   Yeah, right.   Anyway, lesson learned, this year and forever more.   The Bible is the only Bible curriculum I need.


Math programs: Teaching Textbooks and Horizons

The oldest struggled with math and needed a lot of repeating/ encouraging/ hand-holding. This curriculum is great because it also has CD’s of the lectures and sample problems to accompany the text, and a separate set of CDs with every problem solved. Mom is no longer frustrated at being asked the same question every three weeks. Now I can sweetly say while popping in the CD, "Let’s review, shall we?" (smile)    Actually, after saying this a few times, she’s picked up that Mom is looking to have her take more ownership of her learning, and it’s worked.   She was reluctant to admit it, but I know her self confidence with math has improved because she is able to use these tools and in that way take command of her own proficiency with math.    We had a similar experience with science once we found Donna Young’s website.   Cathy Duffy says that it would have been one of her 100 top picks, but it wasn’t published at the time


The youngest uses Horizons Mathematics.   I believe Horizons is a part of Alpha Omega’s publications. It uses a spiral approach (several concepts at one time, introduced in several different lessons) rather than introducing one concept and then working toward mastery. Its beautifully illustrated pages capture a child’s attention and interest.  This product, however, stops at the middle school level, so if I spend the significant amount of money to purchase Teaching Textbooks for the older two, that’s what she’ll use as an older child.


The classical cycle for studying history:

In the earliest days, I struggled with understanding Charlotte Mason as a classical curriculum.   I’m sure now that this was in part because modern experts introduce them as two completely separate approaches, and there are some differences, but at the core, Charlotte Mason is a classical approach to learning.   Having said that, this is the older children’s second exposure to American history, and I love how they’re putting the pieces together.   If I mention a time period at any point during the day, they will often launch into a discussion about what significant events were occurring during the time, or who was President.   They are making real connections with the past and using that knowledge to understand the present.   Isn’t that what we want–sound wisdom that leads to responsible citizenship?  


Reading more difficult books together:


My oldest might disagree that this was a success, but I see ripe, plump fruit.   Rather than risk redundancy and extend this post any longer, I’ll simply link to this previous post.


Anyway, I’m hoping that some of you will join me in a “What Works Well” post on your blogs.   This is the season when many parents are making decisions about homeschooling; others are revisiting their decision and wondering whether to continue.   You never know who you might bless with your word of encouragement and your testimony.   If I can get some help, I’ll post the links to other blog entries from here—it will be an unsophisticated Mr. Linky type of experience.   If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay, too.   I just want to be a blessing in my own way in case anyone can use our testimony.

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7 thoughts on “Reading, ‘Rithmatic, and Ripening (aka What Works Well)

  1. I love that – when your kids beg to read more. You are probably meaner than me, mine get me to read more all too often. I hope my kids are well read like yours are when they are older.


  2. …my hat goes off to you and your devotion to the classical education of your children. Your children surely will be among the most read and most intelligent of their peers. When people love learning and know how to attain knowledge, not much can hold them back in life. Way to go!

  3. It does sound a little sick to get energized & motivated from a list, but I, too, suffer the same disease! ¢¾

    I hadn't been by to visit lately, so I wanted to remedy that. I love that snow picture on your header!

  4. Thanks for the comment you left on my blog. I popped over to see you and found this post. We are using TT with our 7th graders this year and they love it. I'm leaning toward TT for the youngest who will be in 5th grade next year, but read a negative comment about the curriculum being way too easy and not strong enough on geometry. Of course this is only one person's opinion, but it was discouraging to read it. Our youngest has had a difficult time with math and we've never found a curriculum that we could stick with. What we chose this year was good, but she's frustrated with it and I'm not sure which direction to go. What grade levels of TT have you used and how would you rate it – strong or weak in any areas?

  5. Hello, my name is Kristi Gesink and I work for the homeschooling company Alpha Omega Publications. We would like to say a big thank you for mentioning in your blog that you use our Horizons Math curriculum to teach your child. We would also appreciate it very much if you would please post a link from your blog to our site at that way if readers and friends want to check out that curriculum all they need to do is click on your link!

    If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me at

    Have a fantastic day!
    Kristi Gesink

    PS Love your comments about reading to your kids, I agree what great bonding time to snuggle up with a book!

  6. You must not stop with The Home Ranch. I just finished Mary Emma and Company, and I think it was my favorite one! Maybe. What a heart-warming story. (I have to admire a woman who can put up with a furnace that blows soot all over her house without complaining. See my swamp cooler story.) :o( What resourceful kids those Moodys were.

I'd love to hear your two cents!!