There was a time when a man spoke very impatiently to my father. He had seen a copy of the Iliad lying on the table. “You are reading this?” he asked.
“I have read it many times. Now I read it to my son.”
“But he is too young!” The man protested, almost angry.
“Is he? Who is to say? How young is too young to begin to discover the power and the beauty of words? Perhaps he will not understand, but there is a clash of shields and a call of trumpets in those lines. One cannot begin too young nor linger too long with learning.”
My father was a tall man, and now he stood up. “My friend,” he said, “I do not know what else I shall leave my son, but if I have left him a love of language, of literature, a taste for Homer, for the poets, the people who have told our story–and by ‘our’ I mean the story of mankind–then he will have legacy enough.”
Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141-142
Though our homeschool has changed a bit here and there over the years, one thing has been constant pretty much from the beginning – we wanted to make sure we read to our children, read often, read good books, and gave them a love of reading. Honestly, you could say this began on our oldest’s first night home from the hospital. He had his nights and days very mixed up, so after he nursed, my husband took him and hung out with him until it was time to feed him again. Starting that very first night, my husband read to him. If I remember correctly, it was Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You Will Go! It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand a word of the story. What mattered is that he knew his daddy’s voice, heard the rhythm and cadence that comes with spoken language, and knew that daddy was with him.
That practice has continued throughout our children’s lives. Even now, I still read to them in the mornings during the school year, my husband reads to them most nights at bedtime, and we often have a family audio book going. Reading – together, alone – has become part of our culture as a family.
I still remember something my principal told a group of us when I was still teaching. His two sons were older – one in college and one in high school – but he said they still read aloud as a family. They often took turns, sharing books they loved with each other. They also would listen to books in the car as they drove places. To realize that once my children were able to read to themselves it was still a good thing to read to them made a huge impact on me. My firstborn, that little boy who heard his first story the night he came home from the hospital, still loves to listen to his father and me read to him and his siblings. Truth be told, they all still love to listen to the early pictures books being read to the youngest two.
“Who knows how much he will remember? Who knows how deep the intellect? In some year yet unborn he may hear those words again, or read them, and find in them something hauntingly familiar, as of something long ago heard and only half-remembered.”
Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141
Being raised in a literature-rich home is having its effect on our daughter with special needs as well. She loves books. From the time she was able to crawl around and make mischief, she has been pulling books off the shelves to “read” them. Over the years she has amassed quite a collection of her favorites. She still has us read what some would consider “babyish” books – board books with little print on each page. But those books are sinking in. She is beginning to recite them with us. She sits with those books and reads them to herself. She brings them to the dinner table and takes her turn at “recitation” by “reading” them to the family. She also loves longer books – books that, given that she has Down syndrome, some would say she wouldn’t have the attention or comprehension to sit through. But I know she does. And I attribute so much of her love for language and literature to it being a strong part of our family culture.
We may not have monetary riches to leave our children. At this point in our lives, with my oldest nearing the end of his homeschooling career, I’m just hoping we have riches enough to help with college for five children. But we can leave them a few things money can never buy – a love for language, a love for literature, a friendship with some of the greatest writers who wrote some of the greatest works.
Image courtesy Freeimages.com
Brit and her husband are living this beautiful, crazy life with their four sons and one daughter in sunny California. They made the decision to homeschool when their eldest was a baby after realizing how much afterschooling they would do if they sent him to school. Brit describes their homeschooling as eclectic, literature-rich, Catholic, classical-wanna-be.