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The Benefits of Using Quality Books
in Your Homeschool

by Daniel Mills

Every homeschooling parent wants to give their children an excellent education, and incorporating quality books into your homeschool is a wonderful way to accomplish this. Capable readers who love to read good books are benefited in their entire education. Here are just some of the ways they can benefit:

Writing: There are many good resources available to help your children learn to write, however, when your children have been immersed in quality reading, they will more naturally write at a higher level, using more varied and interesting sentence structures. Obviously they will still need much mentoring and guidance to fully develop their writing abilities, but they will be building on a strong foundation.

Vocabulary: While vocabulary lessons may have a place, they are not the way that your children originally learned to speak. Learning new words in context, by reading literature with a progressively more challenging vocabulary, is one of the best ways to expand your children’s vocabulary. Both traditional “classics” and many older books with their rich vocabulary are perfect for accomplishing this.

History: Historical fiction will bring your children’s studies of history alive. It turns history from a list of names and dates into living, breathing people who faced struggles not so different from what we face today. Long after a textbook is forgotten, your children will remember the history in the stories they have read.

Geography: In a similar way, books can enliven your studies of geography. From the stories of famous explorers and missionaries, to stories that take place in other countries and foreign folktales, books can help your child to better understand and appreciate other lands and cultures.

Science: Science can easily seem like a lot of facts to remember, but when your children read about the great scientists and inventors and how they made their discoveries, science comes alive. Similarly, a well-written book on a particular science subject, even at a picture book level, can present information in a much more engaging and memorable way than a textbook can.

So, how can you experience these benefits in your homeschool? How can you build capable readers who love to read good books? Here are five suggested reading DOs and DON’Ts:

Don’t... push your children to read before they are ready. Comparisons to other children, or to some arbitrary grade level expectation, can cause your children to become discouraged and avoid an activity where they feel like a failure.

Do... be patient, sensitive and encouraging as you teach your children to read. After all, one of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility of working at each child’s pace. Keeping the process enjoyable will go a long way toward building confident and eager readers.

Don’t... turn every book into a big assignment. Study questions and book reports are fine in their place, but be careful not to turn reading into a chore! If children have to write a report or answer questions about every book they read, they may quickly come to the conclusion that the fewer books they read, the less work they will have to do.

Do... cultivate a love of reading. Reading good books aloud to your children, starting at a young age, helps them to develop a love of reading and a taste for quality literature. Continuing to read aloud, even after your children have learned to read independently, will continue to build these positive associations.

Don’t... assign too many books as required reading. Nothing can ruin an enjoyable activity faster than being required to do it.

Do... help your children choose books that will complement their studies and their interests. Well-written books can help to bring their learning alive, and including your children in the process of selecting their books can help them want to read.

Don’t... assume that all reading is good. Sometimes parents think “at least they’re reading” but this is similar to thinking “at least they’re eating” about a child who eats only potato chips all day long! Just as there is junk food for the body, there is junk food for the mind, and a steady diet of either would be harmful.

Do... use discernment in what you allow your children to read. Often parents pull their children out of school to get them away from bad influences. Make sure that the characters and situations in the books that they read will be positive influences on their lives.

Don’t... assume that a book is fine just because your children’s friends are reading it or the local library is promoting it. Too many current books seek to undermine traditional biblical values and promote false worldviews.

Do... pay attention to the books your children are reading. You as the parents are responsible for setting the standards for your family’s reading. Take the time to talk with your children about what they are reading and help them to evaluate the author’s worldview.

Enjoying the benefits of quality books does take work, but the results are well worth the effort and will help prepare your children to be enthusiastic, lifelong learners. There are so many ways that you can use quality books to enrich your homeschooling and help your children learn, so why not grab a good book and start today!

(This two-part article was featured in our April and June 2009 Newsletters)

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