One of the things people constantly warn me about when they find out we’re unschooling is that our children won’t be exposed to enough of the world. How can they learn about anything outside of the four walls of their house?
Firstly, we do venture outside, so take the worry down a notch. I haven’t locked the kids up inside the house! Unschooling is about experiencing more of life, not less.
Secondly, even within the walls of our home, it seems quite impossible not to learn anything, and not to gain knowledge of the wonders of the outside world! We own a TV, we have access to the internet, we have lots and lots of books on many topics. Information is at our fingertips! And children are free to explore any topic they like. There are no time constraints, no forced learning, no sticking to a curriculum.
Now we’ve addressed the myth of the isolated homeschooler who’ll never learn anything, what I really wanted to talk about today was books! In our home books are very important. I try to read aloud to the girls every day. Why? For the very reason we talked about above! I want them to be exposed to a range of different topics, ideas, and information. As an unschooling parent, it’s my job to show them the possibilities and their job to follow their interests. A chunk of our day is spent reading a variety of different books.
Read aloud time in our house is one of our favourite times of the day, and one of the most important. It’s where we have deep discussions, where inspiration often strikes, where we learn about topics like history and biology, where we practice debate, where we enter magical fantasy lands, and so much more!
It can be quite overwhelming knowing where to start with homeschooling, and I really believe that read-aloud time might just be the perfect place to begin.
What is read aloud time?
Maybe you’re thinking, ‘of course I read books to my kids!’ Valid point. Yes! Hopefully everyone is already reading to the children in their lives. When I talk about read-aloud time what I mean is a dedicated time that happens every day where the whole family can sit down together and listen and chat about what we’re reading.
How it works in our house is that we have a basket full of our current read alouds. This is made up of the majority non-fiction books on different topics. These may be things the girls are currently interested in, or random books I thought that looked great and they would probably like. Then we usually have a couple of fiction books on the go, one aimed at the older girls and one for the younger girls. We also have a couple of magazines we subscribe to in there, and maybe a couple of picture books for the younger girls too.
Each morning over breakfast we get out the basket and I read a page, or a chapter, of 4-5 books from the basket.
We stop to chat about things, google for more info, ask questions, and go off on tangents. It’s a super valuable part of our learning and one of the main things that makes up our days.
Benefits of Read Aloud Time
Connecting start to the day
Firstly, it’s just a lovely connecting way to start the day. We all sit around the table and eat breakfast together while I read. This means we always start the day together, chatting and connecting, and often finding things to laugh about. Their morning is filled with curiosity and questions and often this also leads to further exploration afterwards too. It can really set the tone for the day.
That’s not to say you have to do it in the morning! It can also be a great way to connect in the middle of the day or transition from one thing to another.
Cover multiple topics
It can feel like there are just so many things you want to share with your children and that there is not enough time to fit it all in! The awesome thing about read aloud time is that you can cover so much. You end up learning about things that may not come up any other way.
We have the most interesting conversations at this time! Whether it’s just marvelling at facts, discussing different beliefs, or formulating an argument and having a friendly debate. There are so many opportunities to practice talking about different topics, expressing an opinion, thinking critically, hearing and respecting others’ points of view, and more. This is super valuable.
Works with mixed ages
If you have multiple children of varying ages, this is something you can all do together! Most of our books have a pretty big age range and everyone is happy to listen. If you have younger children who aren’t likely to stay and listen for as long, start with books aimed at them, and finish with ones that suit the older kids best.
Sparking new interests
Reading from a variety of books on different topics is a great way to explore new ideas and spark new interests. You never know what you might come across that suddenly ignites that curiosity. I add books that I know my children will love but I also add ones that I am interested in too, or things we’ve never heard of! If we don’t like it we can always stop but it’s a great way to introduce new things. My kids are usually happy to listen to anything.
You don’t have to ‘just’ read
Lots of people get frustrated when they try to read a book to their kids and they don’t seem to be listening. Maybe they’re playing with toys, moving around, seem to be concentrating on something else. But, just because they’re doing something else, doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. In fact, occupying their hands might actually mean they can listen better! It’s hard to sit still and concentrate on one thing! You might find if there’s something to ‘do’ then read aloud time goes more smoothly. Here are some ideas…
Have art journals specifically for this time, and art materials available. Kids can draw or write about interesting things they hear while you read.
Enjoy read aloud time over a meal! We start reading over breakfast. It’s a time when we’re all together anyway.
Some quiet sensory play like play dough is a good one! Or even blocks, etc.
We went through a stage of doing embroidery while listening to books and feeling very Anne of Green Gables. There are lots of handcrafts you can do while listening because they’re repetitive.
Share the reading
Take turns reading! Often my older two children will read a page of one of the books each.
The only must-have for read aloud time is great books! We have a lot of fabulous books. You can see my past book recommendations posts HERE. I think it’s about time I wrote another one, so stay tuned. You can also find more books we are reading in my ‘books’ highlight over on Instagram, and in my book list on Amazon.
As you might be able to tell, we LOVE books! What are your favourites?
Books pictured in this post (top to bottom):
Eye Spy: Wild Ways Animals See the World
Vincent’s Starry Night
Philosophy for Beginners
The Forest in the Tree: How Fungi Shape the Earth
Australian Sea Life
The Travel Book