If Only One Thing (Grace for Homeschooling the Early Years)

If you're in the early years with multiple littles underfoot, the idea of homeschooling, by which many assume means following a curriculum, can be overwhelming. What should you do? What is best for your child? How will you survive?

Take heart.

Homeschool, like the life through which it winds, has seasons. And if you're in the thick of little-kid-dom, you know what I'm talking about.

You're in the season of night-wakings, toilet-training, and you-must-eat-at-least-three-peas-and-no-you-won't-die rulings. On the best of days, your routine involves a successful transition from one episode of chaos to the next. On most days, your routine is not.

So, knowing this, put that adorable 396-page Kindergarten curriculum down, and do this instead:


Read, read, and read some more. Let books cover up the school-room shelves and spill onto the floor. Great Scott! Gadzooks! Half children's lives should be reading books!” (Many thanks to Ronald Dahl.)

If there is only one thing you can manage each day, it is this: READ.

Many studies have been produced to verify the benefits a rich literature experience bestows on young children. I won't repeat them, here, as they speak for themselves. What I will mention, is a phenomenon somewhat less quantifiable.

There is something magical that happens when the pages of a book are opened. It is the invitation to step into another world, to taste, touch, see, and feel another time, or place, or perspective.

No parental lecture on gentleness can communicate quite as effectively to a toddler as a picture-book where a frightened, over-squeezed kitten flees her youthful owner and shivers in the cold until rescued (by a now-wiser, now-calmer youth).

No history text can relay the experience of a young immigrant quite so intricately as a story which weaves her journey of hopes and fears alongside the delicate lace embroidery with which she uses to bring hope to others.

I could go on. (And I do, in my booklists, which you really should check out.)

Experience, so the wise saying goes, is the best teacher, and the next best thing to live experience is a story which immerses readers (or listeners) into a world from which they gather the lessons for themselves.

Such things...adventure, knowledge and wisdom. But these things do not come easily. You have to pursue them...You must chase these things through the pages of a book!” (Polacco, The Bee Tree)

So, on the days when you can't hack the “curriculum”, don't. When you can't get off the couch after nursing the newborn, don't! Call your 3-year-old who's still adjusting to older-sibling-hood to come snuggle next to you. Have your 6-year-old with a high touch need snuggle on your other side. Pour the box of toy cars on the floor for the antsy 2-year-old.

Then, scoot that stack of magic over to your perch and read.

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2 thoughts on “If Only One Thing (Grace for Homeschooling the Early Years)”

  1. LOVE this. Beautifully stated. Your littles are very fortunate to have such a wise Mommy. Can’t wait to see your “50+” list! I vividly remember my white-haired second grade teacher reading aloud to us “The Cricket in Times Square.” She would sit on the couch and two lucky students could sit next to her (they’d get to see the illustrations first) while the rest of us listened from the carpet on the floor. This was in the 1980s, but I don’t remember any misbehavior. We ALL wanted to hear.

    I am blessed by a wonderful mother and grandmother (and even great-grandmother!) who valued books, but I think it was this elementary experience that inspired my read-aloud obsession today. Are you familiar with Read-Aloud Revival? I love their picture book lists by month for ideas for seasonal selections.

    I have also made so many friends through literature (The March sisters, Polly Pepper, Heidi, Jane the Middle Moffat, Rebecca of York, Jane Eyre…) and am richer for what I’ve learned from each of them. Thanks for letting me reminisce. : )

    1. Thanks, Sarah! You are too sweet! I think my book list has grown to over 100, and you reminded me of several more I need to add! Yay! P.S. You’re welcome to reminisce anytime. 🙂

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