As I end my homeschooling career so many things start to come into focus.
Here is what I do know, what I am willing to share with you:
There are three things that cover a multitude of sins: reading, reading aloud, and written narration.
Reading is the most obvious. I hope you and your children are readers. I hope you read books, and listen to audiobooks, and recite poetry, and study history, and revel in novels. I hope you have a library card. I hope you read books for you and not just for your children. I hope you read the Bible.
And if you are pregnant or nursing, I hope you won’t feel guilty when you can’t read. There are a few seasons in life when reading must quietly wait her turn. Don’t make her wait too long, though. I loved to read while nursing my babies, at least until they started batting at the book trying to get my full attention. Babies are better than books.
When life got so busy that I didn’t have time to read to myself anymore, I began reading aloud to my children. It has been the chief joy of my life, superseded only, perhaps, by the joy I felt when my son came home talking about reading The Princess and the Goblin to his little girls, and I got to pull Little House in the Big Woods off the shelf and say, “I think they are ready for this.” The Princess and the Goblin AND Little House in the Big Woods. Can there be a world with so much joy?
Although Charlotte Mason was not a fan of children’s picture books, I am- proving I can think for myself sometimes. When Timothy was five, he started coming with me to library sales, and we amassed the best in children’s literature, most of which I learned about from Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart. It was my field guide to books.
I read these picture books we collected over and over again until I had memorized many of them. They became the voices in my head. The characters in these books became our friends. When the grandbabies were born and their parents starting trying to find those same books for their family libraries, I was gratified.
Deep inside I believe that reading aloud covers a multitude of sins. It is a grace. When we cannot escape ourselves, we can escape to other worlds together.My husband has many regrets about the times he, tired from working long hours, was exacting on the children, but he doesn’t regret the hot summer nights sitting in the back yard reading Treasure Island aloud.
I may be too serious and way too philosophical; I may have over-spiritualized and preached when I should have kept quiet, but I laughed my head off at the antics of a boy named Penrod. You could say Penrod saved me from me.
When you spend years and years reading aloud, especially when your life is absent from other distractions, the places and the people in books become family friends. You talk about them like you know them.
But characters often seem like our friends, don’t they?
Christopher was a funny little fellow who loved to read. He was always asking questions like, “Were you alive in Jesus’s time?” Our life was so literary in those days, and Christopher had been in Morning Time since he was a week old, so I guess his imagination had not worked out who was who for most events. To make matters worse, I was always saying we lived in a house where George Washington could have visited.
One day, Chris asked me if George Washington was still alive. In disbelief, I answered, “No, Christopher, he died a long time ago.”
He looked at me so sincerely and said, “All my friends are dead.”
I read to the children, yes, but I also read for my own education and enjoyment.
About fifteen or twenty years ago I read the books of Helene Hanff. 84, Charing Cross Road details her correspondence with British Bookseller, Frank Doel, who worked for Marks & Co. Doel helped Helene buy and read great British literature. After twenty years of letters, she longed to meet him in person and to see the bookshop.
While reading Hanff’s books I closely identified with her story of a woman pursuing self-education, and I dreamed that, like her, I would one day have a literary vacation in England.
For long years, I carried a deep yearning in my heart to see the places I had read about.
On Easter Sunday, 2016, I boarded a flight to London.
One of the women I was traveling with said, “You seem to know so much about the places we are visiting.”
I answered, “I have been studying for this my whole life.”
As I walked along the road surrounding Lake Coniston and sailed on Lake Windermere, I wasn’t looking out across the lake at the Swallows and Amazonchildren sailing, I was looking back across the years to some other children who were sitting on the couch listening to stories.
They had been here already and so had I.