Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reading Night

Last night Marian paused from chasing her buddies as she turned the corner into the living to tell me, mid panting, “I am having so... much... fun.” Isaiah was so wrapped up in excitement he didn’t have time to stop to tell me anything.
It was a great night. Five kids, most with their parents, came for our first reading night. We’re super grateful for Du Laoshi (Teacher Du) who came to help prep me and the kids with some of the specific vocab from the story that I still need to learn and then she read aloud for our friends....She did great. Such a blessing! And we read aloud a super story... starting at the very beginning of the very best book in the world. Creation, Genesis 1-3. After a fun half hour of reading, play!
This reading night is kind of an extension of what we are doing to teach our kids in our home. It will help us continue to learn Chinese and give our kids a great place to learn with their buddies. And of course it’s an opportunity to share not only this best of best Literature with these neighbor kids but also this way to sharpen and train us all to use our brains as well.
Didn’t God make our minds, our brains to learn, to be stretched and exercised excellently for his glory? Wouldn't it be a blessing for kids to learn to use their brains to learn to work hard to study and know the world... and the Maker of it!?
We will begin homeschooling in about a year but already we love these tools from Charlotte Mason that we are trying to incorporate into our reading, playing, learning together.
Here’s the simple influence we’re applying from her educational philosophy:
1- We’re trying to select only the best literature for our kids to read (not only for reading night.) We have a great CD of audio books that our kids love to listen to and there are some great stories on there- with a plot, virtue demonstrated, characters learning lessons- and then also there’s the song of, “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” If this is your favorite, I’m sorry. But we have decided finally that this is absolutely not the kind of stuff we want our kids meditating on (cause that’s what they do with these audio books that they can listen to on “repeat” for half hour at a time.) It’s not that it’s evil it’s just dumb. Feed them excellence, truth, virtue, beauty, substance, greatness.... that’s the goal.
2- Help the kids learn the story by reading it aloud once and then asking them good questions like 1) Can you tell me the story in your own words? 2) What did you learn from the story? 3) What did you learn about ____ (name a character in the story)? 4) What was your favorite picture.... and why?
Gone are the days of one word, thoughtless answers.
On Monday night, my favorite question was #3 above. There are so many great points we can learn about God- even knowing NOTHING, never having heard anything about him before that story. And there are a zillion more questions we could ask.... this page at Simply Charlotte Mason has some great suggestions.
This way of learning is really exciting for me to think of offering my kids because it’s exactly the education that I cheated myself from receiving. As our tests in America check reading comprehension, all you have to do is read the questions and then scan the texts for the answers. Who cares about reading the dull as anything paragraphs provided and who really comprehends the passages at all? I never did, but I still did well enough to get a full tuition scholarship my freshman year simply based on my SAT score. They didn’t know how unexercised my brain was! I want to help my kids learn more, learn better, and love to study the world that God has made. Psalm 111:2
We’re so excited to have Reading Night as a part of our lifestyle of learning!
If anyone is interested in more about Charlotte Mason, this is the book, For the Children's Sake, by Susan Scaheffer Macaulay, that has delighted me this summer.

And here are some excellent web sites:
http://amblesideonline.org/CM/20Principles.html (be sure to read the right hand side!)

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