One of the struggles we hear about often here at the Your Morning Basket podcast is how do you do Morning Time with boys — especially resistant boys. To answer that question we brought in an expert. Kathy Weitz has five boys all of whom are in their teens or older.
She knows what it is like to do Shakespeare, poetry, and literature with a passel of males and come out on the other side able to tell the tales. We are fortunate that she is sharing those stories and tips with us today.
Links and resources from today’s show:
- SPONSOR: Maestro Classics Website (Use the code PAM for 17% off!)
- Cottage Press Curriculum by Kathy Weitz
- The Reading Mother Blog
- The Mother Culture Community
- The Long Winter
- Old Mother West Wind
- Treasure Island
- The First Four Years
- Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers
- The Adventures of Peter Cottontail
- Where the Red Fern Grows
- The Goops
- The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- Thornton Burgess’ Animal Stories
- The Princess and The Goblin
- The Princess and Curdie
- My Book House Complete Set
- Fifty Famous Stories Retold
- A Picturesque Tale of Progress Complete Set, Volumes 1-9
- The Wind in the Willows
- The Hobbit
- Robin Hood
- The Bronze Bow
- The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow
- The Red Keep
- The Odyssey
- Plutarch’s Lives
- David Copperfield
- Great Expectations
- A Christmas Carol
- The Space Trilogy
- The Divine Comedy
- The Greek Myths
The Long Winter (Little House)Old Mother West Wind (Dover Children’s Thrift Classics)Treasure IslandKidnapped (Bantam Classics)The First Four Years (Little House)Little Britches: Father and I Were RanchersThe Adventures of Peter Cottontail (Dover Children’s Thrift Classics)Where the Red Fern GrowsJabberwocky and Other Poems (Dover Thrift Editions)Goops and How to Be Them (Timeless Classics)The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy (Dover Children’s Classics)The Chronicles of NarniaFavorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set (Sets) by Burgess, Thornton W. (1993) PaperbackThe Adventures of PinocchioThe Princess And The Goblin: By George MacDonald – IllustratedThe Princess and CurdieMy Book House Complete Set of Rainbow Edition, Volumes 1-12Fifty Famous Stories RetoldThe Wind in the Willows (Sterling Illustrated Classics)The HobbitThe Bronze BowThe Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow (Living History Library)The Red Keep (Adventure Library)The OdysseyPlutarch’s Lives Volume 1 (Modern Library Classics)David Copperfield (Penguin Classics)Great ExpectationsA Christmas CarolThe Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) by C.S. Lewis (2011) PaperbackThe Divine ComedyThe Adventures of Robin Hood (Puffin Classics) by Green Roger Lancelyn (2010-03-18) PaperbackThe Greek Myths (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Pam: This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness and beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone, and welcome to episode 28 of the Your Morning Basket Podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I’m so happy you’re joining me here today. Well, many times when we have families who are interested in starting a new Morning Time habit, they might struggle a little bit with getting everyone on board and some of the most reluctant characters to Morning Time might be those boys in your house. So my guest today is Kathy Weitz and Kathy is the mom of six, five of whom were boys, and we’re going to be talking a little bit about how you might entice those boys to join in on Morning Time. We’re going to talk about a ton of great literature selections for boys and girls and we even discuss things like what to do with the little guys and how to work around the noise and the wiggles. I think you’re really going to enjoy today’s episode; so let’s get right to it.
This episode of the Your Morning Basket podcast is brought to you by Maestro Classics. Would you like to bring classical music into your children's lives? You can add classical music to your Morning Time today with Maestro Classics. These award winning CDs and MP3s feature story tellers Yadu and Jim Weiss, accompanied by the world famous London Philharmonic Orchestra. Choose from a dozen titles including Peter and the Wolf, The Nutcracker, and one of the Barnhill family favorites The Story of Swan Lake. What makes maestro classics CDs so special is that each CD and MP3 contains a 24 page activity book with illustrations, puzzles, games, and fun facts for kids. You can download free curriculum guides that combine classical music with science, math, geography, and other subjects. All CD and MP3 sets include tracks which explain to your children how music was made, who the composer was, the history and story behind the music, the instruments used by the orchestra, and most importantly how to open your ears and really listen. Listening is a learned art and Maestro Classics guarantees that these recordings will explain and develop listening skills in your children. Visit MaestroClassics.com for free shipping on all CDs and MP3s. They start at just $9.98. As a Your Morning Basket listener, you can receive 17% off your order by using coupon code Pam at checkout. Go to www.MaestroClassics.com, where the best classical music curriculum awaits your homeschool. And now, on with the podcast.
Pam: Kathy Weitz is a mother of six, including five boys, a grandmother, a long-time homeschooler and the author of the Cottage Press Curriculum offerings which include language arts instructions centered around great literature and seat in the liberal arts tradition. At her blog, The Reading Mother, Kathy shares about her own pursuit of the life well read with posts about classic books, poetry, the discipline of keeping a commonplace book and more. Through The Reading Mother, Kathy hosts the mother culture community, an online group for woman wishing to dive into the great books and great ideas of western civilization for themselves. Kathy has more than two decades under her belt of sharing a daily feast of reading aloud and recitation with her own children and she joins us today to share a bit about what she has learned along the way particularly when it comes to doing Morning Time with boys. Kathy, welcome to the program?
Kathy: Thank you, Pam. I'm glad to be here.
Pam: Well, although you didn't call it Morning Time, you have included a daily reading time as part of your routine since your children were very, very young. Can you describe what this time looked like early on and maybe how it's changed over the years?
Kathy: Sure. Well, in the beginning I had my twin boys and it was five and a half years before their younger brother came along and so for the first couple of years of homeschooling I had them and a couple of little infants and it was pretty easy to do reading we called it Reading Time, mostly, to do that while baby slept. And then all of a sudden I had four children in seven years; four younger children in seven years and it got a lot more interesting. So in the beginning when it was just Josh and Caleb, my twins, we would sit on the sofa and read and do Bible memory and things like that for really, literally hours and apart from that, the only other school we really did on a regular basis was phonics and math. So that was kind of how we were in the beginning. Now as they got older, of course, we added a few other things but then fast forward a few years and I have a baby all the way up to a 13 years old and trying to balance all those needs was challenging. And so there were a couple of little different ways that we did things but there were a few things that pretty much stayed the same; we almost always did it first thing in the morning. That was right after breakfast and chores. And usually my husband would do devotions before he would leave for work because he didn’t have to be at work super early. And then we would do our chores and get right to our Reading Time. So that was one thing that was pretty constant though all the years. When I had really little ones, sometimes we had to move to right after lunch or we'd do part in the morning and part right after lunch just because we couldn't finish everything and keep everybody happy. So that was basically what we did. But our time always consisted of some kind of memory work, usually Scripture, Catechism, poem- my children were always memorizing some poem or another. And then we would usually sing a hymn or two if we hadn't done that with dad and then we would just usually read aloud. We read literature, we read history, we read science books, we read all kinds of stuff and then the other thing we would do as the kids got older and they had more things that we needed to memorize we would add things like Latin chants and phonic drills and math facts and things like that. I tried to group as much as I could during that time and then obviously I had to work one on one with my kids later in the day but as much as I could I tried to group the things we could group that would be review for my older kids and would help the younger kids learn what they needed to learn as well.
Pam: Yeah this is a great message because so often we think about Morning Time as a time to add on the extra things and it's really great for that but I think a lot times we need to think about Morning Time as a time to group together those things that kind of need to be done anyway.
Pam: And use it to do some of that stuff and so that's a really good message to send and so when you say that with your little guys you were doing math, phonics, and Morning Time or your Read Aloud Time but you were reading a really wide variety of stuff with those boys. You were hitting science and history and picture books and fairy tales and all kinds of things; weren't you?
Kathy: We were. And honestly there was no other science / history / geography curriculum. That was it, that was what we did. Really, aside from what with the boys read on their own, mostly interest led, that was our entire humanities curriculum up until probably middle school.
Kathy: So this was not something tacked on. This was the main deal. This was our daily feast. It really was the main thing we did.
Pam: Right. I love that so much that you weren't doing this and then going out trying to do five or six different subjects separate from this. You know, this had a place of importance at the heart of what you were doing.
Pam: So as your children have got older what fruit have you seen from this practice of Read Aloud Time or Morning Time?
Kathy: Well that I could talk about forever. One thing I'll say right up front is I became a better reader. And I'm going to start with me because I think that's an important thing for moms to think about. It not only benefits your kids (and it does in great ways which I'm going to talk about) but it benefits you. You will become a better reader. You may find it a little awkward to read aloud when you first start and hard and you'll trip over the words but you'll get better and you'll get good and then you'll get really good at it and then it's fun. It's fun to be really good at something. So that's one thing. The other personal thing that I've got out of it is my own education. When I began home schooling my kids, I had a college degree. I had gone to a reasonably good public school but my literary education was very poor. I did have an aunt and a cousin who took me aside and took my reading taste in hand when I was a teenager and it helped there greatly but I was very deficient in history and geography and a lot of those things and so the Reading Aloud Time taught me and put me in a position where I was ready to take on the classics at a later time, a few years after we began homeschooling. So I'm starting with that because I want moms to realize this is your education too. I always tell everyone that our Reading Times, our times that we spent reading aloud together, were the very best thing that we did. It was the thing that kept us homeschooling, it kept me homeschooling. Any time I would get fed up and know that I was doing a terrible job ensure that my children were going to turn out to be psychiatric messes because I was such a mess, I would consider the fact that I would not be able to read for several hours a day to my children and those thoughts went right back on the shelf. So it was a sanity keeper for me in a way. Another thing just to think about all those years, this is a lot of years I’ve read aloud to my children, I'm still reading aloud to my 16 year old, Little Drops of Water and Little Grains of Sand that was one of the first poems that my kids ever memorized. Really and truly makes the mighty ocean and the sand. I mean, it's truly amazing how this little, tiny investment adds up. You have a shared culture with your children. You have quotes, you have characters, you have things that happen during Reading Time that you still tell family stories about. We had a beautiful red fox and a blue heron that would show up in our backyard almost every day when we were reading aloud. And we still talk about that. The year that I was reading Little House to my kids and we were reading about Laura's first four years of marriage and how she made rhubarb pie and left the sugar out, actually my husband was reading that, I actually made pumpkin pie and did not do this on purpose, but I left the sugar out. Pumpkin pie without sugar is not good.
Pam: I would imagine that it's not.
Kathy: And also with The Long Winter, we read that, my husband read that aloud to my kids in 1997, that year as he was reading it, we got 14 inches of snow in Virginia which is not normal. He read it aloud again in 2010, we got 48 inches of snow while he was reading it aloud. Now, that's a banned book. We don't read that book in our house anymore.
Pam: I bet you don't. I bet you don't.
Kathy: We have so many little stories like that. Another real beautiful benefit for homeschool moms who have a lot of children is that as you're reading to your older kids, as you're doing memory work with your older kids, you are previewing for your younger kids what's coming up and they learn - it's amazing how much they actually pick up and remember the things that you think are over their head. So you're making your load, the work that you're going to have do later, you're making it lighter.
Pam: Right, because they're getting a taste of it ahead of time.
Kathy: That's right.
Pam: And it really is amazing how much those little brains will soak up and you don't even realize that they're doing it.
Kathy: That's so true. That is so true. Another thing, Pam, is it freed up our day. If we did not get anything done that day besides our Reading Time, it was okay. I never really worried about it. It also meant that we weren't doing school all day long because we were grouping so many things together. My kids spent tons and tons of hours outside playing because we were finished. And that gave me time to read, to do stuff in the house, to just have a little bit more sanity time too. So that was a big benefit for me. For all of us really.
Pam: So it sounds like you weren't doing a lot of busy work and did you find that their retention and understanding was really good despite the fact that they probably were just listening to you read? And were you having them narrate? Was there some kind of processing that you were doing or were they just listening to you read and maybe having discussion? Was it enough?
Kathy: We did do quite a bit of narration; probably not as much as we should have, looking back, and when I listen to the podcast and presentations on narration, I think, ‘Oh, I wish I’d done more.’ But honestly, I think it was enough. You know what the interesting thing was? We would discuss what we'd read and we did sometimes discuss it at dinner with dad, not all the time, but what I noticed is that whatever we read that day, my kids played later in the day, over and over and over again I saw how their imaginations were formed by what we'd read. So they were reviewing it and rehearsing it not just necessarily in a school-ish way. They were reviewing it and rehearsing with one another and if you told them that they were doing school, they would have stopped.
Pam: So you were sure not to tell them that.
Kathy: I never told them that, I never let on what they were actually doing. One more thing I do want to say about the fruit, I can probably name 10 more things, but this is really important because I have language arts curriculum you know this is important to me but they really did not need tons of prompting when it came to writing. They knew the kinds of things to say. They knew how sentences should be put together. They had really beautiful patterns of speech, even their talking when talking with one another, I would hear it come out. But when they sat down to write between the copy work that we did and the reading aloud, they understood how English worked and how it was supposed to sound. We did do extensive grammar study when they got older but they understood how English was supposed to sound.
Pam: That was the fruit of all of that reading aloud that you did to them- those English patterns being engrained into their minds.
Kathy: I think so. And I think because it was in all of my kids and they all have different abilities, and different levels that they do things, so it was across the board with all of them even with their different learning styles and their different ways of doing things.
Pam: Right. Well, some people might predict that it would be more difficult to draw boys into the humanities with subjects like poetry and art appreciation. In your experience is this accurate?
Kathy: Yes and no. I think it can be. If you start doing this early enough they're not going to know any better. They're not going to know they're not supposed to like it. So that's one thing. But if you didn't and let's say, you have a 10 year old and you're just starting now and he's already decided he doesn't like this stuff, it's for girls, then think you kind of just have to be humorous about it. See the humor in it but persevere and just say, “This just is what we're going to do.” And I think eventually they will come around. My boys did not push back against Reading Time. All of them wanted to go play; they were very interested in getting outside to go play football or building forts or doing whatever it was that they were going to do that day. But they really valued and treasured our Reading Time as well and honestly, the classic books that we read because they had lots of action and battle and all those kinds of things in them and most of the best children's books really are like that, I think they're naturally suited to boys. Especially the classic children's stories and classic stories retold for children, if they're well done.
Pam: Well, let's talk about this for a few minutes. If I am sitting here and I'm staring at this 10 year old across the table from me and he's kind of rolling his eyes at me, are there some particular works that you found your boys more drawn to over the years?
Kathy: Yes, definitely. We just read a lot of children's classics. But think about some of the children's classics. Of course, we read Little House, Narnia, Little Britches. Little Britches, that's a boy book.
Kathy: My boys loved that book. Even for a little guy the Thornton Burgess, like Peter Cottontail, Mother West Wind, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, all those books- they're friendly to both boys and girls. Fairy tales can be very princess-y but there are plenty with lots of action and battles. And battles seem to be a good thing that boys like. And lots of good literature has that action, adventure kind of feel. Think of Treasure Island or Kidnapped, books like that. And then, even some more modern books like Where the Red Fern Grows, which is about a boy and a dog.
Pam: Well, what about boys and poetry, Kathy? How should we approach the task of choosing poems whether for memorization or recitation or just reading and sharing aloud? Are there certain styles, subjects, or themes that tend to appeal more to boys?
Kathy: Well, I polled my boys; I sent them a Facebook message last night in our Facebook family group and said, "Guys, help out." So here's what they told me: every boy must memorize Jabberwocky. That was unanimous. We had a poem, a little book by Gelett Burgess, I don't know if you've ever heard of him, he's kind of an older, kind of humor writer and he wrote a poem called The Goops.
Pam: Oh, yes.
Kathy: The Goops they lick their fingers. My kids loved that poem. And he also wrote a couple of other funny poems that they memorized. So humorous poems I think are good and also again action poems. Robert Burns, March to Bannockburn, my boys adore that poem. As a matter of fact, my 16 year old is going to be reciting that for our scholè group in a couple of weeks. So, I don't think I can get him to do the Scottish accent but …
Pam: It would be cool.
Kathy: It would be cool. Old Ironsides is one that one of my boys mentioned. And I will say they all said, "But no Emily Dickinson, mom." Which we have this running feud about Emily Dickinson because I really love her and they are all totally offended that she uses slant rhymes and the rhyme that you expect doesn't show up in most of her poems every now and then. But I told them that it's okay, I won anyway because they know what a slant rhyme is.
Pam: That's right.
Kathy: They know who Emily Dickinson is. They've memorized a good bit of her poetry, like A Book in Autumn and so I look at it as overall win.
Pam: Yeah, despite that they don't necessarily want to recommend her for boys they really do have a good familiarity with her.
Kathy: They do.
Pam: Now, did you show them the trick where they can sing any Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas because that probably would have won them over?
Kathy: Or Gilligan's Island.
Kathy: Or Amazing Grace. I think we did that one once or twice.
Pam: OK, I love those suggestions. And those are actually some of our favorites as well. So you really think that humor is one of the really big themes that would appeal mostly to boys and then once again going back to that excitement and adventure and hero stories. A lot of times in children's literature there are heroes and I think heroes really do appeal to boys. What do you think about that?
Kathy: They do. They appeal to all of us really because the hero of heroes is Jesus. And we're attracted to that; and so I think definitely all of us are attracted to heroes but boys identify in a special way with heroes. And that's what I saw in my boys in the way that they were enamored of certain heroes that we read about.
Pam: Thinking back, you told me at one point you had a 13 year old down to a newborn, and then knowing that you had so many boys, a large number of those little bitty kids had to have been boys. So what wisdom can you share with a mom who's struggling to keep Morning Time going with a bunch of little boys who are maybe a bit noisy and wiggly and even interrupting to the point of just total distraction and frustration for the mother?
Kathy: I had those days. So anything that I'm saying here I probably learned mostly by my failures. Little drops of water, little grains of sand; even if you only get a little bit in each day for a season, it's okay. Also, the principle of short lessons can be helpful. We definitely had two sessions a day when we had a lot of little ones, and we took advantage of nap time for reading. I'm a fan of playpens, and I'm a fan of baby gates, and we used those. There were times when I made little tapes for my little ones with me reciting poems and catechism questions and phonics rules and all kinds of random things, my husband and I both did, and I would put the little ones in their bedrooms, in a safe place, in a play pen or in their cribs with the tape going, not to sleep but to listen and then I would take that time to read with my older kids. So there were lots of creative ways like that that I managed and there were a lot of days when it was horrible. It was just not good and we put it all away and did something else.
Pam: Now, I'm assuming that as you were reading to this audience of boys, they were not sitting perfectly still on their hands?
Kathy: My boys still don't sit perfect, none of them. I have 29 year olds who don't sit still Work with the wiggle. I forget who I co opted that from some homeschool guru. I don't remember who it was. Work with the wiggle. But you can't expect them to sit perfectly still while you're reading. They need to move and that's a good thing and you have to see that as they're not trying to irritate you. They're just doing what they do but on the other hand they do need to learn to sit quietly sometimes. I found that because we had our kids with us in church most of time those two things kind of reinforced each other. They learned to sit still for a sermon at a relatively young age. It was always a learning process and there was always battles that went on to make it happen. But that would reinforce the Reading Time and the Reading Time would reinforce the being able to sit still for a sermon. So I think it's kind of important that you work on it but that you don't expect perfection, really ever.
Pam: Right. So maybe staring with a very small amount of time and trying to grow that time as they get a little older.
Kathy: I used to tell my kids when we would do Reading Time and they would find 40 different ways to mount a sofa; they would have legs up in the air, they would have legs over the edge, whatever, we just had rules about not touching each other, pretty much but however they wanted to sit, however they wanted their head dangling or their feet dangling, I didn't worry too much about. Another thing that I did as they got a little older and I had toddlers and up, I would allow quiet toys. So if they could play quietly with Legos or play quietly with Playmobil without grabbing their brother's Playmobil or Legos - if they could do those things quietly, play with their little cars, I would allow that. They couldn't make noises but they were allowed to have things in their hands. And then the other thing that we did as they got a little bit older was I give them a sketch book. I'd write the date and the books we were reading and poems we were reading and then I would give them a two page sketch book spread and say, “OK, you can draw anything you want on these two pages.” And I gave them Prismacolors and they would color. And actually those are kind of precious keepsakes now.
Pam: Oh, I bet. Now, were they drawing what things that you were reading about or were they just allowed to draw anything?
Kathy: The little ones could draw anything, I would allow my elementary age kids to do it as well and so they were required to draw something that we were reading about.
Pam: OK. So this was kind of a narration based on what you were reading?
Kathy: Yeah, it really was.
Pam: Well, you said, Kathy that you know your boys started young with this and they did it all the way up through school. Did you ever kind of hit a wall with any of your boys (and we won't tell which one it was if you did) maybe in their teen years where they were just completely resistant to participating in this activity?
Kathy: When my older boys were in high school then I had this huge age span. I did enroll my older children in online classes for great books and they had so much reading to do for that, that I had to excuse them from a large part of our Morning Time. They usually had to stay around for at least the memory work or maybe one short thing that we would read. It's certainly poetry, we always read poetry together. But then they would go off to do their own thing but what I would find is they would kind of sneak back in. So they would pick something that they needed to do that they didn't have to think too hard about like making Latin flashcards or doing some kind of math review and they'd sit at the kitchen table while I was in the living room with the younger siblings if it was something they wanted to listen to. But obviously it was just too much to ask them to do all that they needed to do for high school and also sit in on our prolonged Reading Times. But apart from that there were times when they would rather have been doing something else and there were times when I got angry about it but overall it was just sort of what we did and because we had done it for so long they didn't really think about objecting too much.
Pam: What was it that made you really push through against any resistance that you met?
Kathy: I'm pretty hard headed. I knew the value. I could see the value, especially the language arts value of it; so there was that practical part that I knew was really important. And just cherishing the family time made me say, “This is important and it's something we're going to do as a family.”
Kathy: And I knew the years were flying by when I had these 15 year olds and babies at the same time or toddlers, I realized this is going to be over in the blink of an eye.
Pam: Well, you talked about all of the different classics that you guys have read together as a family and how it really has shaped your family culture. Are there ways in which exposure to the classics in a group or a family setting such as Morning Time is more conducive to the formation of virtue than say, if I just assigned something to my child to read something on their own?
Kathy: I think so because I think it gives you, again, that common culture, the common language to talk about things and we certainly did that. I will say and just one thing that I blamed early on from Charlotte Mason is, you know, she had a real dislike for what she called moralizing. She did not like moralistic stories. So in other words she would say tell the story and get out of the way and let the story do it's magic. And so we didn’t really do separate virtue or character training but I saw my kids applying lessons that they had learned from different characters that we read about. And the other thing I would say about that as a family, in addition to Reading Time, we went to church, and we sat under the preaching of God's word; so they already knew what virtue looked liked because they knew what Jesus looked like, they knew the hero of heroes but we didn’t have extended discussions trying to show exactly how Achilles was like and unlike Jesus, we didn't do that kind of thing. It was more that those conversations would come up naturally at dinner; you'd talk of the rage of Achilles in an incidental way almost. Or you would talk about Odysseus's trickery, things like that, in kind of an incidental way not necessarily strictly saying, “OK, now we're going to talk about virtue and character.”
Pam: So these weren't object lessons you were presenting? The literature really spoke for itself and because, I love the way you put that, because they knew the hero of heroes and because you sat under those church teachings, they really did know right from wrong as they were exposed to right and wrong and heroes, flawed heroes in these stories they really could pick out the good and the bad because they had come to that virtue earlier.
Kathy: Yes. That's right and you want to trust them to do that. And the classics are so great for that because they're so filled with those obvious lessons that you don't even have to point out. And that nobody has to say, “This is good, this is bad” because it's clear.
Pam: Right it's very clear. I guess that just goes back to making sure that you're dealing with young kids with a very clear black and white, right and wrong kinds of thing and then wait until that's really established in them before you get into those grayer areas as they get older.
Kathy: I suppose I wouldn't say that I consciously did that. Literature that appeals to younger children probably is more black and white, so taking those things into consideration is definitely, definitely worthwhile. When I had a bunch of little children we weren't necessarily reading the actual Iliad or Odyssey aloud because I couldn't, I just didn't have time. I have done that now with my youngest boys, we read the classics. That's what we read aloud now. We read the Iliad and The Odyssey and Virgil, and I'm reading Dante right now with my 16 year old. So yes, I suppose that's true that most of what we read in the earlier years was more black and white.
Pam: I haven't really given a whole lot of thought until we started having this conversation but you said the things that appeal to children are things that are black and white; so it's almost like it was designed that way that what appeals to them are the things that they can grapple with and understand at the level they can grapple with and understand it.
Pam: And so the grayer things don't appeal to them and maybe there's a reason for that.
Kathy: Right. One other little thing that Dr. Perrin said last night in a little meeting I was in for scholè groups was he talked about the idea of loving something before you criticize it. And I was thinking about that today as I was thinking about this idea of virtue formation. I think what we want to do, for example, the retellings for younger children of the Greek epics, The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum doesn’t get too much into some of the more gray areas like you talked about but it does teach you to love some of those characters; you can't help but love Hector, you can't help but love Odysseus and Penelope who was a terrific hero. So you love them and then when you come to them again, when you meet them again in high school, you might be a little bit more ready to be a little more critical. But I think it is important that our children have a love for the characters, even the flawed characters, and don't be too quick to rush to judgment but to see the fallenness of man in some of those things and be empathetic. That's another thing that literature does for us. It makes us empathetic instead of being judgmental because that's a virtue also.
Pam: Yeah that's very true. And I love that “loving before you become critical.” So it almost goes back to that Charlotte Mason idea of synthesis before analysis.
Pam: Where you take in the whole picture and we really didn't mean for this discussion to be a, "Oh, do we read adaptations before we read the classics?" But I really love where that's gone, it's given me something to chew on and think about as to whether or not maybe we should read those adaptations before we read the actual classics, it's not such a bad thing.
Kathy: I think there are some that are definitely worth reading. I would be careful because there are some very poor retellings but there’s a handful that are just great and you can count on. You can count on Padraic Colum. You can count on the D'Aulaires for their Greek myths. You can count on James Baldwin's retellings for younger children. You can count on Alfred Church, his retellings are good. What do all of these have in common? They were all written before 1950. Something about that 1950 time slot.
Pam: That's just where everything went wrong. No, I'm kidding. But there really was this kind of golden age of children's literature and a lot of it did happen before that point.
Kathy: Yes. So, seek those out. I do think it's worth being familiar with the stories - it's going to be make things go a lot easier for your kids when they get to high school and read the classics. Also, I will say this, as someone, I mentioned that my education happened as I was educating my children. To this day when there's a history subject that I don't know much about, when there's a classic that I have never read before, my first, my default will be, is there a good children's author that's handled it? And I will read that first. I will read the story in history first so that I have a mental picture and hooks to hang the big picture on when I'm working with a book that maybe a little more difficult to read.
Pam: I never tackle a new Shakespeare play that I haven't read before without at first reading some kind of really good synopsis of it, and the ones written for children are usually really, really good.
Kathy: Right. Yeah, they are.
Pam: So the very least you can know who everyone is.
Kathy: Right. That's helpful.
Pam: Well, in your experience, let's kind of go through little boys up through the ages and let's start with really little boys first. What were some of your favorite read alouds? Or maybe you asked your boys this for little boys.
Kathy: OK. Little boys, same as little girls, Little House, Narnia, none of these are going to be a surprise. I mentioned Little Britches and Thornton Burgess. Oh, George Macdonald's Princess and Curdie, Princess and the Goblin. The kids love those and so did I. Aesop's Fables, the My Book House anthologies are excellent. Also history stories like James Baldwin, I mentioned those; Fifty Famous Stories is wonderful and then he's got a couple others in that same series. Picturesque Tale of Progress, which is out of print but oh so wonderful, worth getting, worth paying the $80 bucks or whatever it is to get the whole set. Those are some of our favorites.
Pam: Middle age boys and when I say middle aged, I don't mean 40, I mean middle school age.
Kathy: Well, they better be good for 40 too. You know what Lewis said, no book is worth reading at 10 if it's not equally worth rereading at 50.
Pam: Very true.
Kathy: Pinocchio, Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Hobbit, Robin Hood, The Bronze Bow- that was one that several of my kids mentioned, they loved The Bronze Bow. Also there's a whole series of books called Living History books. I don't know if you're familiar with them. But they are wonderful. They're also pre-1950, I think all of them. There's Rolf and the Viking Bow and The Red Keep, and there's like a whole bunch. I think there's seven or eight of them- Exodus Books has those. They're really good. Holling C. Holling's books, those are more like science, geography books but those are really, really fun to read aloud.
Pam: OK, and then what about for the teenagers?
Kathy: Well, basically, then you just get into, I think, reading the classics, Pilgrims Progress and we read it in the King James English and that was actually starting in my elementary school kids I read that to them. The Odyssey in 7th or 8th grade, The Iliad, The Aeneid, Plutarch, Shakespeare of course, Dickens, my specific ones the boys mentioned were David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol, of course everyone loves that. History, there were some history books too. Dorothy Mill's history books. I think Memoria Press sells those. Those are really good. We read King Arthur, in old English. Not old English but, you know, King James type English which it was written by Sir James Knowles and it was adapted from Malory's Morte - that was really good and the kids mentioned that one too as they really liked that as middle school and teenagers and then we read C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy last year and as I mentioned, I'm reading the Divine Comedy with my 16 year old. And I will also say that today I picked up and I am reading to him The Wind in the Willows because he's at that stage, he's a history buff and he's kind of in a surly just the facts man stage and so I decided that he needed a little fiction in his life. So moms get to decide those things. And so he's happy with it.
Pam: Well, let me ask you a question that really we hadn't talked about before but has kind of come up through this; so if I am a mom and I have a 10 or 11 year old, even a house full of children where maybe they're in an older elementary age range and I've never read this kind of literature to them before. So they're a little older than the whole Little House thing but even something like Pinocchio and Wind in the Willows to a child who is not used to that kind of language, the level of language, the structure of language like that, it can be a little daunting to try to read that to a child. Do you have any tips for how to start introducing those more complex and even archaic language patterns to an older elementary kid who's really been fed on a diet of not such complex language patterns?
Kathy: I would start with some shorter stories. Like the James Baldwin Fifty Famous Stories. Get them familiar with some of the characters they're going to come across. The D'Aulaires Greek myths and the Norse myths, those are written at a lower level but they're still very engaging, they're still very interesting. And I would give them little doses of the harder stuff. Start reading King James Bible. That's one way, especially read familiar passages from the King James, passages that they might be familiar with in another translation, a more modern translation. That's one thing you can do and have them memorize it. That will help to start getting those language patterns into their heads. And again, reading those adaptations, or the retellings. Actually I call them retellings, not so much adaptations because they really are retellings of the stories and they try to imitate certain features of the actual stories. But so read Padraic Colum's Children's Homer or something like that. That's just a little bit easier than the actual poem itself.
Pam: Right. OK, so I love those ideas. So start with stories that they're familiar with but read them in a new language like with the King James Version. And you also mentioned earlier that moms when they start out reading, read aloud okay, but they get better at it. So is there a place in a situation like this for maybe audio books with a professional narrator might help everybody understand a little better?
Kathy: Well, we certainly did a lot of that. We mostly did it in the car and I think that's a great alternative but it's going to slow down mom learning to read.
Pam: That's true.
Kathy: So you got to balance those two things.
Pam: That's true. Well, Kathy, thank you so much for coming on and just you've been a wealth of information and I think moms of boys and girls are really going to enjoy the podcast. Can you tell everybody where they can find you online?
Kathy: Yes. You can find me at TheReadingMother.net, that's my personal blog and my curriculum publishing company is Cottagepress.net.
Pam: And there you offer literature selections for elementary all the way through high school?
Kathy: Right, it's language arts mostly. There are links to literature selections there but my curriculum there is language arts, it's kind of a complete language arts program that includes the literature, grammar, literature analysis, poetry it's all, all mixed in.
Pam: Writing and everything?
Kathy: And composition, yeah.
Pam: Perfect. Well, we really appreciate you coming on to chat with us today.
Kathy: Thank you so much, Pam.
Pam: And there you have it. Now, for today's Basket Bonus, we have pulled all of Kathy's great recommendations of books for you and made you a printable library list. You can print this out, stick it in the front of your Morning Time binder or take it with you to the library and check off those wonderful books as you read them with your family. Some of those books that your boys and girls might be interested in. And you can find that at the Show Notes for this episode. That is at PamBarnhill.com/YMB28. We link to all of those books there for you as well as the other resources that Kathy and I talked about and you can download the printable book list there. We'll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great podcast interview. If you would like to leave a rating or review for the Your Morning Basket podcast, we show you how to do that on the Show Notes as well. We give you a little link to the podcast page that you can follow to leave us a review. We really appreciate when you do that because it helps us get word out about the podcast to new listeners. So we'll see you again in a couple of weeks and until then keep seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.
Key Ideas about Morning Time with Boys
- Morning Time need not be a time to add extra work to our days. We can take many of the items need to get done in our homeschool each day (e.g. math facts, Latin chants, etc.), and group them together to be accomplished during Morning Time.
- Mom learns alongside her children when reading aloud. With time and practice, we become better and better at reading, we grow to be more well-read ourselves, and we begin to fill in the gaps of our own educations.
- Children often process what they learn through play. As valuable as narration and discussion can be, it is also critical to allow our children enough time to play, and in playing to act out what they have learned.
- Learning to sit quietly takes time and practice. We need to “work with the wiggles,” not expecting perfection, but giving our children opportunities to gradually increase their capacity for sitting and listening
Find what you want to hear:
- 4:17 Kathy’s daily Reading Time over the years
- 6:36 using Morning Time to get done the things that need to get done
- 8:23 how Kathy became a better reader and more well-read through reading to her kids
- 12:01 how a mixed-age Morning Time helps preview material younger children will learn later
- 13:35 children process what they learn through play
- 17:19 some of Kathy’s top-picks of children’s classics
- 18:23 Kathy’s sons’ favorite poems
- 21:45 dealing with noise and wiggles
- 25:00 using sketchbooks during read-aloud
- 28:17 training in virtue; avoiding moralizing
- 32:05 how retellings for children help us fall in love with classic stories and characters
- 35:55 more of Kathy’s kids’ favorite read-alouds
- 39:00 getting started with the classics with older kids
- Teaching Kids to Use Tech in Your Homeschool - September 8, 2023
- Your Questions About Sibling Dynamics in Homeschooling - August 25, 2023
- A Mindset Shift in Homeschooling Subjects - August 11, 2023
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