Keeping it Real

My twins do not like to read. They also despise history. There, I said it.

BuddytheElf-historyThis has been difficult for me to accept. I’m as enthusiastic as Buddy the Elf when it comes to history, pass the maple syrup!

And books? I am what you may consider a book hoarder. I have loved reading since I was 4 years old and I can’t fathom a life without reading. I’ve been lucky that my eldest takes after me – she is a voracious reader and history is her favorite subject. I hope that my youngest will be the same – for now anyways, she loves to be read to.

So, what am I to do with these alien non-reader children? Well, I need to tread lightly. If I force them to read for hours and spend lots of time studying history, they will grow to hate it even more and I’ll lose them forever.

Instead, I enforce a 30 min. reading rule. I try to steer them to books I think they’ll enjoy, but otherwise, they are free to choose whatever they want to read. Sometimes they go with my suggestion, but often, they might just flip through a guitar or drum magazine for that 30 min. Whatever. As long as they are taking in the printed word, I’m mostly happy.

I do continue to read to them aloud, and I am mostly in charge of that book selection. The goal has always been exposure, I want to show them that books can be exciting. We’re working our way through the Harry Potter series at the moment, and I can honestly say that this is one of the first times I’ve ever seen them excited about a book. Is it great literature? Probably not. I consider it “good” literature. But it’s a book, with literary elements and they are interested. It’s a start.

What about history?

This is where I’ve really struggled. I have always tried to give my children a solid grounding in history. Personally, I had an abysmal education as far as history goes – I never even studied world history in all of my public schooling! I wanted better for them, so I put a lot of focus on history. Unfortunately, my twins find it terribly boring. So, rather then force them through lessons that are going in one ear and out the other, I’ve tried to be creative. We were really into the Titanic a year or so ago. One of the twins found a book about it at the library, then we discovered a few picture books that I already owned and they devoured those. Giddy with excitement, I found him documentaries, we watched Titanic (with some editing), we drew pictures, added it to our timeline… it was really fun. Eventually, the interest waned, but it was exciting while it lasted.

Flexibility has become a way of life – and I think it’s why homeschooling works so well. Education is not one-size-fits-all. Some children don’t like to read, some practically breathe literature. Some children are brilliant at math and science, some are more artsy or musical (my twins, for example)… Everyone is different and sometimes, even in our own homeschools, we have to use different methods with each child.

It takes some trial and error. If we really focus on our children’s talents, in the end we can help them succeed and give them a tailor-made education.


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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2 Responses to Keeping it Real

  1. Tiffany P says:

    My twin girls are still young and enjoy having books read to them often, so it is hard to tell if they will turn up with a great love for reading. I consider books like the Harry Potter series to be great literature, not because of the insightfulness or breathtaking prose, but for its ability to suck the reader in and make non-readers into readers.

    Weaving a story and leaving one dying to know what happens next or genuinely sad when the book comes to an end (a book hangover) is a great literary talent, especially when it comes to a youth literature author. I will more than support these kinds of books with my girls. I will encourage them if they are what offer my daughters a place in the wonderful world of books!

    Whether it is a masterpiece or not, it allows you an escape into another world where you can live an adventure that reality does not afford us. It ignites a spark that might not have been there before. If Harry Potter turns your boys into readers, then it is great literature. It did something the classics could not.

  2. admin says:

    You are absolutely right. It is true that any book that can transport us to another place and keep us there long after we’ve finished reading must be ranked as great literature.

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