By the time I had Timothy, my oldest in 1984, I had already spent three years reading about homeschooling so when he turned four I was chafing to get started.
We were already using the morning to review his Awana verses and read nursery rhymes and picture books, but I was anxious to start reading longer books—chapter books. So I picked up a Signature Biography I had on hand from a library sale and began reading a chapter. He listened, then asked for another. I read another and another and by the end of the year we had read thirty-eight chapter books—"read-alouds" we call them now.
Looking back I knew that we had read many books that year, but I would never have guessed the total could have been thirty-eight until recently I found the paper where I recorded them. Looking over the titles my mind returns to those happy days and those happy stories, and I bet Timothy’s does too on occasion.
That year always stands out in my memory as my best year of homeschooling. The year before things got serious and stressed. Perhaps it was the year I taught from a state of rest—reading aloud, fishing at lunch, and looking at pretty pictures.
From 1989 to 1990 here is what Timothy and I read.
From the Signature Collection:
- The Story of Mark Twain by Joan Howard
- The Story of Winston Churchill by Alida Sims Malkus
- The Story of Dan Beard by Robert N. Webb
- The Story of Davy Crockett by Enid LaMonte Meadowcraft
- The Story of William Penn by Barbara Somervil
- The Story of Leif Ericsson by William O. Steele
- The Story of Theodore Roosevelt by Winthrop Neilson
- The Story of Clara Barton by Olive Price
- The Story of George Washington by Enid LaMonte Meadowcraft
The Signature series of books are harder than the Childhood of Famous Americans (COFA) books, a little bit denser, but very well written. The publisher chose the best American authors of the time to write this series. This time period could be considered a golden period of American children’s literature with many publishers paying the very best authors to contribute.
Another popular series of that time period is the We Were There series produced by Grosset and Dunlap in the 1950s. That idyllic year we read two of those:
- We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo by Margaret Cousins
- We were There at the Battle of Gettysburg by Alida Sims Malkus
At this time we added our very first Landmark Book: The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daughterty, another of those classic series of the time period.
In fiction we read:
- King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
- Charlotte’s Web by E B White
- Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
- The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
- The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
And then the happy day came when I picked up Little House in the Big Woods for the first time. We would go on to read the Little House books four times over the years but in the winter of 1989 we read them for the first time.
- Little House in the Big Woods
- Little House on the Prairie
- On the Banks of Plum Creek
- By the Shores of Silver Lake
- The Long Winter
- Little Town on the Prairie
- These Happy Golden Years
- And Farmer Boy.
All by that beacon of American prose Laura Ingalls Wilder.
If that wasn’t enough my husband Tim read aloud what was destined to be a family favorite: Farmer Giles of Ham by JRR Tolkien followed by Smith of Wootton Major.
In other fiction we read:
- Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- A not so classic or memorable The Secret of the Hermit’s Peak by Dan Scott
- Followed by Fence Across the Train by Elsa which my mother read aloud to the oldest three boys during the birth of our fourth son.
After I had convalesced (or rather while I did) we added:
- Justin Morgan had a Horse by Marguerite Henry
- Indian Captive by Lois Lenski
- America’s Paul Revere by Esther Forbes
- Theobold the Iron-Hearted by E Thomas Baird
- Jared’s Island by Marguerite De Angeli
- and finally Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
Our first year of homeschooling and already we had read some of the very best books available then and now.
Life would go on to get complicated and certainly ‘school’ would too, but I can’t help but believe that that first year covered a multitude of sins (and "programs") at least for Timothy and certainly for me. If this was "Kindergarten" then I was in it too and so were the littler fellows.