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Home Education Magazine

May-June 2002 - Articles and Columns

Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon

Homeschooling in a Remote Area and Rekindling a Love for Reading Aloud

Homeschooling in a Remote Area

"We are moving to a remote area of Alaska in the next few months. We homeschool the two children still at home, ages 10 and 14. I don't know how we will fill their time without libraries, museums, theaters and other enrichments. Any suggestions?" -- Emma

? "You are about to have the most incredible adventure! We used to live in a national forest in North Georgia. The opportunities are endless and basically free. Walking through the forest provides hands-on science -- discuss flora, fauna, life webs, climate, soil, growing cycles, weather patterns, etc. Art supplies are plentiful: How many types of materials can you weave baskets with? Where would you go to get clay for pots? How are they fired? Native children's games would be fun to explore. Try natural skills like raising a few chickens, bartering eggs for butter, and finding food in the wild.

You may never want to go back. Your bodies will be strong, connection to the wonder of natural abundance increased and your family will be knit tighter than ever." -- Mamazu

? "Search the library for children's fiction based in Alaska. When we moved to Mexico for a year, it really helped my daughter envision what life is like for children who live there. Also encourage your children to look into Scouts -- I believe you can have your own Scout troop if there are no other children nearby. Many Scout badges emphasize outdoor skills and individual efforts. Finally, make sure you have an Internet connection so they can stay in touch with their friends and research their interests without having to trek to the library in the snow." -- Liliana, Maine

? "I live in Alaska and homeschool my kids. Although I currently live in a big town, I have spent years in the bush, and can tell you that even though you won't find the same kinds or as many kinds of enrichment, you will find some and can make others. Also, if it is a village you are moving to, ask the Community Health Aid for activities that may be paid for with public funds. Many villages sponsor Cold Water Survival courses, EMT courses, have a lending library (albeit usually tiny), movie nights, or 100 mile clubs for runners. Some have a local public radio station that is always open to any volunteers for filling a disc jockey hour or two. Most towns have community computer labs paid for with grant money. If the town is large enough to have them, be sure to ask the local grocery store clerk, Village Police Officer, or post office clerk about possibilities. If you are moving to an area without a town, you might try online movie rental places for classics or new releases." -- Karen

? "We, too, live in a remote area of Alaska. For many years my children thought Christmas presents came from the post office. The U.S. mail may be your lifeline, whether you have delivery once a day or once a week or less. Many hours in the bush are taken up with basic needs. Cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking firewood; hauling water; hunting, cutting up and wrapping meat; shoveling snow; or summer gardening. You may want to take advantage of any 'survival' courses offered in your area. My kids have enjoyed courses offered by AMSEA, Forest Service, Science Centers and local emergency volunteers. Apprenticeships with local artists and shop owners are fun too. Bush 'culture' is a class of its own and you may be pleasantly surprised by the local talent and creativity." -- Linda

? "I, too, live in a remote area, although not a frontier like Alaska. We've had to create our own methods of learning. My children surely have more fun inventing activities than going to soccer practice or taking lessons as their suburban counterparts do. We make costumes and props, develop a story line and use our camcorder to film our 'theatrical' productions. We make copies of our tapes and send them to tolerant relatives. This surely is language arts and theater.

We have built a shed, fenced a field and paved a path with materials we harvested from our woods. We figure this involves arithmetic, shop and gym. We paint murals on walls -- after much discussion and preliminary sketching. Our barn features scenes from Roald Dahl's books and caricatures of family members. Fortunately we don't have neighbors nearby. We call this art.

We can our own jam, sauerkraut, applesauce and other staples. In addition to household jobs and gardening this surely is home economics. We have pen pals, watch lots of educational TV, use our telescope when the kids need an excuse to stay up past bedtime and read all the time. I could go on, but you get the idea. A creative, fun approach makes learning worthwhile no matter where you live." -- Leslie Anderson

Rekindling a Love for Reading Aloud

"There was a time in our home when 'Let's read!' meant I had about two seconds before 10+ books landed on the bed in front of me. We couldn't get enough of reading. Sometimes the only way I could stop reading was if I fell asleep, at which time the eight-year-old (now 10) would pick up reading where I left off. During a very hectic year and a half of moving three times we lost our insatiable reading times together, and now that we are finally settled in a new town and new home I want them back again. But, alas, those times seem to be gone forever. Our children don't want to read anymore, nor listen to me read. I don't and can't force them to sit and listen to me read but I feel they are really missing out, especially the younger one, age six. Will he love books and stories like his brother if he doesn't get the exposure that his older brother received? How can we get back into reading together or have I lost my read-aloud job forever? " -- Kandi

? "Adjusting to a new community involves a lot of active exploration. This can be such excitement for a child, nothing else seems to compare. Your children just need some time to settle in. Soon you can subtly remind them of the vast exploration available through books. I suggest starting with your youngest. Choose a few family favorites and read to him. It doesn't need to be a family affair as it once was. Begin with one or two titles at each sitting. Before long you'll be up to more, and may notice some 'lurkers.' Whenever I start reading aloud it doesn't take long for an audience of all ages to form. It'll all come back!" -- Amy Fales

? "My kids are 13, 17, and 22, and they still like to listen to me read aloud. (Even my husband does!) I'm wondering what kinds of books you are choosing to read. We read mostly adventure, suspense, or sci-fi novels, choosing ones with good moral tone. (With the Lord of the Rings movies coming out, you might let them hear the original stories from the books.) I've always picked books that are ahead of their own reading level, at least, until their reading level caught up to mine. Another thought I had is that you have to pick a strategic time and place to re-introduce reading aloud. Consider what your kids are doing when they refuse to listen to you read aloud. Is the TV stealing them away? Video games? Playing with friends? Once you've identified what keeps them from you, pick a time and place when those things are NOT available.

Here are two times and places that work for us:

1. In the car on long trips, when my husband (or my 17 year old son) is driving. I read until my voice gives out -- they won't let me stop till then.

2. Just before bedtime. We all gather in one room and read a chapter or two, then we pray and go to bed. There is no competition for attention in either of those places. -- Kim O'Hara, Olympia, WA

? "I feel the same way. I used to read for at least an hour before 'nap time,' about 8-10 books everyday when my kids were 6 months, 3 and 4. I have gotten away from that now that we are schooling at home, going to Tae Kwon Do classes, having friends over, watching movies, etc.

I have learned that it's never too late to read to your kids again, though maybe not for an hour, and not so many books. My husband and I began taking turns reading a series to the kids, like the Winnie the Pooh books, E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte's Web and this year, The Hobbit.. We will incorporate their reading some chapters as well, when they can handle the language of the book. Our reading times together have been maintained through out the years, though, because of our family's devotional time. Reading the Bible together gives everyone a good story, plus a family value to talk about, as well as an opened door to what they are thinking about lately, or struggling with. Language usage and vocabulary skills are put into high gear, though, so it's not something to read at 10 o'clock at night and have a heavy discussion over, but it can be geared to however much you want to put into it.

I encourage you to keep reading together, even if it's just a short something that someone thinks is neat or funny. My husband might read a piece from Readers Digest because he thought it was funny and wants us all to have a laugh over it. With all the news stories coming out about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there is almost too much to get through in one day, so we pick out something we didn't know or that moved us emotionally and share that after supper. Whatever your family does, make it important and make time for any little reading, no matter how small." -- M. Mischel, Wisconsin

? "It is splendid that you want to continue to read to your children. I believe reading aloud to your children, no matter their age, can be an important part of your relationship. Reading brings us together for a quiet time, even if the day is otherwise hectic. I have always read aloud our history and another book. I believe reading aloud history and stories that support that area of history, is what makes it come alive. I also read, to my son, a book that I have chosen. We have spent the last four years reading Ralph Moody's Little Britches series and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Sharing these stories at the same time binds us together through the journey. How can you get back into reading aloud? Make it a nonnegotiable part of your school day. After a few weeks your children will look forward to the reading time and the next book. After finishing a book we usually take a few days off. Also, I pepper our reading with a fun or short book in between. Reading during the summer break keeps us connected to learning. Reading is the key to a life time of continued education no matter which path a person takes in life. What memories my son will have of the special times and books his mother read to him!" -- Cheryl, Broken Arrow, OK

? "We have 'snack time' twice a day and while my children (ages 11 and 12) are eating their snacks I read to them. Of course I read at other times during the day, but they look forward everyday to snack time and a book. Maybe trying something like that will get them back into the 'Let's Read' fun again." -- Kathy

2002 Home Education Magazine


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May-June 2002 - Articles and Columns

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