by Misty Krasawski
Foundations. They are arguably the most important part of any building project. Whether you’re talking about a physical house, a relationship, your spiritual walk, or a new business, the foundation you develop determines the potential of the structure.
In homeschooling our children, we endeavor to search out and strengthen all the possibilities the Lord has placed within them, to give them everything they need to fulfill the calling he’s placed on their lives. And we often find this assignment to be a very daunting one—as well we should.
Taking our homeschools seriously is a clue that we’re valuing them correctly.
The Importance of the Spoken Word
What we need most of all is a tool in our own hands, a multifaceted tool—a Swiss Army Knife of education, if you will. If that tool existed and could be used anytime, anywhere, with one child or with multiple children together, it would earn a gold star and a place of prominence in our day planners.
Yes, Virginia, there is such a tool!
The spoken word is one instrument in our hands which can be used to achieve a long list of goals—many of which do not appear at first glance, when we consider how simple a thing it really is. Let’s look at three ways we can use words out loud to inspire greatness, improve understanding, and encourage a love of learning in our children.
Reading aloud as a family is time incredibly well-spent for a multitude of reasons.
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably spent some time with a child on your lap, looking through picture books. Little ones delight in pictures and the sound of words—especially words read by mama or daddy. The surprising, wonderful thing is that often, our older children delight in listening, too. And well they should, considering the benefits that can be gleaned from that time.
When the Commission on Reading was formed in 1983 to study the effect of reading on children, they took it very seriously. They combed 10,000 research projects done on the topic, and at the end, drew this conclusion: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
When our little ones listen to us read, they internalize the cadences, patterns, and the sounds of words themselves. Children who have been read to are, in most cases, quick to want to learn to read for themselves and have an easier time doing so. Many recent studies highlight the fact that the more books in a home, the higher the level of learning a child will attain.
But there’s much more at stake than practical matters here. Gathering our children of various ages together to share beautiful words at the close of the day is also a wonderful way to build family memories.
My family has spent many hours together with Peter Pan, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Frodo. Together we’ve read tales of adventure and bravery, mistakes and selfishness, creativity and travel. The stories we’ve read become part of our family culture. We’ll see a lion carved on the side of a building and someone will say, “Oh! Doesn’t that look like Aslan?” The children who have grown and don’t have time for stories anymore often comment, “I remember when we read that book; isn’t that the one where _______?” when they notice the latest offering on the counter.
Spending time with Tom Sawyer can inspire a love of adventure—and offer priceless opportunities for character study as we see the consequences of his actions. Reading about Gladys Aylward and her missionary activities in China stirs a child’s vision to serve God and others around the world. There are a myriad of lessons available in the pages of books. By sharing together in someone else’s story, we can learn those lessons without the danger inherent in having such adventures ourselves!
We can also give our children true heroes, sadly lacking in today’s celebrity culture—real examples of people willing to go to great lengths to expand God’s kingdom in our world. Be careful or you might just become challenged and inspired right along with your children!
The spoken word offers another great tool for us as parents and educators: narration.
In narration, we ask our child to repeat to us the story or portion of material we’ve just read. It can be practiced with a history or science text as well as fictional stories. This idea of recapping a recently told tale was highlighted by Charlotte Mason in The Original Homeschool Series and is promoted by many in the home education movement today.
But you don’t have to consider yourself a Charlotte Mason-style homeschooler to benefit from this habit. Children naturally love to tell you all about what they’ve just seen or done, whether in their own backyard or at the zoo. There are many benefits to this free, always-accessible learning exercise:
- Children pay greater attention when they know they’ll be asked to repeat what they’ve heard.
- You can check the child’s comprehension by listening to how they interpret the story or information.
- They learn to single out the most important parts of a story in order to retell it.
- Often, they’ll repeat the sentence structure and vocabulary of the story, expanding their own repertoire of usable language.
- While early narration is done verbally, it paves the way for better writing as the child’s skills expand and improve.
- It can be used by all ages!
When your family is gathered together and everyone takes turns narrating, the younger are able to benefit from the example of the older ones in choice of repeated events, vocabulary, and attention to detail.
A final gift we can find in the spoken word is the one acquired through memorization of great passages.
Worthy words, well-written and committed to memory, often remain with us forever. In order to memorize, of course, a child must read a passage over and over, paying close attention to it. Repeating it aloud multiple times assures its permanency in the brain, as the rhythm and sounds create pathways there. As Andrew Pudewa states in his online article, “One Myth, Two Truths,”
Although rote memorization and recitation went out of vogue when the great god of Creativity began to dominate ideology in the Schools of Education, it has stood for centuries, even millennia, as the most powerful way to teach, to learn, to develop skills, and to preserve knowledge. By memorizing and reciting, you practically fuse neurons into permanent language storage patterns. Those patterns are then ready to be used, combined, adapted, and applied to express ideas in a myriad of ways.
From “The Caterpillar” to Psalm 23 to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and, of course, selections from our friends Shakespeare, Frost, and Longfellow, a wide range of beautiful words is out there just waiting to be committed to memory. Chosen carefully and shared liberally, such passages are a true treasure given to a child who is encouraged and helped to tuck them into her heart from a young age.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the great responsibility you’ve been given to educate your blessings, take a deep breath, put on a pot of tea, head to your bookshelf, gather the family, and take an adventure together. You’ll have a multifaceted tool in your hands, and the time spent will be well worth it.
Misty Krasawski is hopelessly flawed but eternally optimistic, because God has promised to be the Author and Finisher of her faith! She is also wife to Rob, mama to eight precious children and one beautiful daughter-in-law, and spends all her free time trying to avoid the laundry by reading classic books, painting with watercolors, lighting too many candles, baking copious amounts of cookies, and studying as much theology as she can lay her hands on. She’s currently pursuing a degree through Colorado Christian University, and is a regular contributor to both The Better Mom and For the Family. She pours her heart out at mistykrasawski.com. She loves encouraging people to chase the dreams God has placed in their hearts, preferably over steaming cups of tea and coffee and probably something chocolate.
Reprinted with permission. This article was originally published in Family Magazine and at http://hedua.com