Archives For Reading Out Loud

The read and discuss summer edition was something I aimed at putting together, it just never eventuated. So, I’m skipping right to an autumn post.

One of the chief reasons for this is that we’ve been carefully treading through Paul’s letter to the Romans. The letter itself represents the most significant theological outworking from the Apostle to the Gentiles, in the New Testament. As I recently heard said, Romans is the closest thing to a systematic theology from Paul.

Reading through Romans is something every Christian should take the time to do. For our journey we employed the services of John Calvin, Karl Barth and Charles Spurgeon.

Calvin for the direct reformed theological exegetical exchange, Spurgeon for a straight forward word about the text that comes directly from a Pastor’s heart and Barth for a closer to our times, look at how Marxist language, politics, psychology and Romans meet.

I should add that due to the intensity of its structure and content, my use of {Uncle} Barth’s, Der Römerbrief (Epistle to the Romans) was selective.

Our Autumn reading list for Homeschool:

1.‘Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference, 1988(hyperlinked) & ‘Post-IRA Assassination Attempt – Brighton Bombing Speech, 1984(hyperlinked) (Margaret Thatcher):

On one of our walls we have a number of photos of key historical figures surrounded by the words ‘Thinkers & Doers’. From this list, my youngest daughter chose to read up on and research conservative British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The material we found was so good, that I made the call to expand this into a unit for our read and discuss group activities.

After introducing Thatcher via YouTube, I asked each of our homeschool high schoolers to tell me, based on the footage, what kind of person they think Margaret Thatcher was. Following on from that we jumped into reading through both speeches. Like every speech, we looked at applying Aristotle’s modes of persuasion; hunting down: pathos, ethos and logos.

Once we reached the end of the speech given in 1988, I asked each of our homeschoolers to pick out a quote which stood out to them. Each quote was passionately chosen and reasons for why it was chosen were discussed among the small group.  Each quote chosen reflected the personality of each one of our kids who participated.

I was surprised by how relevant some of the content of Thatcher’s speeches are, and I was encouraged by how passionately our daughters worked to complete this homemade unit. Be sure to check out the amazing, Margaret Thatcher.org

2. Settlement & Convict history

Second on our list are two books. The first is from Karin Cox, the second from Nicolas Brasch. Each book provides a balanced retelling about the discovery and later arrival of Europeans in Australia. These books also helped pad our Latin vocabulary.  For example: Terra Australis (land south – South Land).  Both Cox and Brasch were a welcome addition to our Australian history studies.

3. A Confession (Tolstoy)

I read Tolstoy’s, ‘A Confession’ a few years back and will be forever thankful for having done so. I picked this up again to help buttress our eldest daughter’s year 11 study material with a primary document for her history work, which is focusing on 19th Century Russia. This work includes reading up on the ‘’intelligentsia’’, which was something Tolstoy was swept up in. ‘A Confession’  is a testimony from someone who is raised in Christian culture, only later to reject Christianity. This leads Tolstoy to an epic existential crisis, from which he describes his long journey back to the cross. I’m pretty excited to have this added to our list.

4. Esio Trot (Roald Dahl)

For our youngest, we’ve once more embarked on the journey through this quaint story. This will be last ever study we do on Dahl’s small tale of Mr. Hoppy and his scheme to woo Mrs. Silver. Every chapter has a worksheet and we’ll add some open discussion in there for good measure.

5. I Am David (Ann Holm)

One of the most cherished books we own is Ann Holm’s 1963 novel, I am David. The story follows a young boy as he escapes from a concentration camp, runs from Nazis, is befriended by a dog and meets people along the way.  With permission, our 5th grade homeschooler has decided to pick this up early. Given the content we’ll open this up for discussion. It also allows for us to begin our units on World War Two, beginning with a focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer & Corrie Ten Boom.

What I’m currently reading:

African-American civil rights activist, John M. Perkins’ 2017 book, ‘Dream With Me’, Eric Mason’s 2014, ‘Beat God to The Punch’ & ‘Manhood Restored:How The Gospel Makes Men Whole’; along with Karl Barth’s III/1, Ebherhard’s Biography of Bonhoeffer and Hollywood & Hitler. In addition to this, I’m also prepping for next term’s journey through the Book of Numbers.

The plan over the next few months will be a re-read through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. My hope is to integrate this into topics from our Wednesday news and presentations taken from The Australian.

‘Children need to be taught traditional moral values and to understand our religious [Judeo-Christian] heritage. We can’t leave them to discover for themselves what is right and wrong.’
(Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference, Margaret Thatcher, 1988.)

Tandem Reading _GVLExcluding ‘The Floating City,’ ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ is our second Jules Verne classic utilising a tandem reading out loud strategy.

For our first tandem reader our 3rd and 5th grade homeschoolers, journeyed through ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Seas.’ Each took turns at reading a page, stopping at key points to investigate significant historical events, including geography and marine biology.

This came about because I had decided to revise our reading out loud time after a time management crisis; I was trying to fit a lot of exciting themes and educational opportunities into such a small timeframe. The individual reading of different books out loud, at different times during the day, was not as effective as I’d hoped it would be.

Reading Verne out loud and in tandem offered me a way to implement a more rounded reading routine. The aim was to deal with a large amount of new information in small, fun and interesting pieces. A primary part of this process was journaling about each chapter, focusing on the action (verbs).

I was then able to monitor the progress of reading and comprehension more closely. By creating opportunities for discussion about the current status of the characters and where they think the storyline is headed, I’ve also been able to partake in the joy of the adventure without adding more pressure to the workload.

The added bonus here is that Verne was French. As a well-travelled French novelist his perspective is broad and insightful. It meant that when we sat down to watch the American movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, our homeschoolers were able to discern the cultural and literary differences. For example: the screenwriters wrote for an American audience, whereas Verne’s audience was primarily European.

Our kids pointed out that Ned Land’s behaviour, dialogue and character in the novel is more humorous. Whereas the Disney movie presents a more serious and restless character. They came to their own conclusions about the differences between film and book, taking serious issue with some scenes and the ending of the movie.

Rather than buy duel copies of each book, we’re utilising e-readers. For this job the Kindle readers have served us well. The benefits of the Kindle outweigh its drawbacks. The benefits being an inbuilt dictionary, Kindle for P.C., highlighting for future reference and cost. The drawbacks are battery life, location numbers and the loss of that book-in-hand experience. As for the location numbers they are sometimes matched against actual page numbers, but I’m probably not alone in wishing that Amazon would just drop the former and stick with the latter.

Adding to the benefits of reading these 19th Century classics out loud is the language. Each book has its own unique set of verbs, adjectives and nouns. So much so that they are great for vocab building. Not only are our homeschoolers spelling the words and working with definitions, but they are reading them in a firm historical context.

This said, our journey hasn’t been without its struggles. Being over 120 years old, Verne’s use of vernacular and the depth of his vocabulary shows it’s age. So, the progress can be slow going. When this happens it’s up to me to make an extra effort so that these hard parts are as much fun to get through as seeing what happens in the story next.

In order for this to work well I’ve had to make sure that I am clear with our homeschoolers about what I expect and don’t expect. For instance it’s not vital for them to retain things like the Latin names of categories that Verne throws our way.

The outcomes so far have been some improved reading, comprehension and further familiarity with scientific concepts. If I’m forgiven for being bold enough, I’d even follow this up with increased appreciation for teamwork, communication and the benefit of being introduced to historical events otherwise overlooked in some history curriculums.

Tandem reading out loud is new for us. The teaming up of a more advanced reader with a less advanced reader has helped both. It’s a learning technique that we’re still exploring.

As much as I like it, we won’t being using this technique with any and every book.The format seems to best fit big adventures and older style writing. For us, Jules Verne has been a good fit, preparing us for a time when they’re more than ready to tackle something like John Bunyan’s, 1678, ‘Pilgrims Progress.’


Related posts:

Brunel, Verne & The Great Eastern

Flying Cohesion

God’s Grace, Jules Verne & The World That Revolves On The In-Between