Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Read a Novel With Your Teen

Last week I wrote about Honey for a Teen's Heart and I've been enjoying it so much. I can't believe I've just now come across it, and I can't stop talking about it and sharing it. In my reading last night, something occurred to me.

As a student, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a para in the junior high, not ONCE have I ever heard of a teacher or school encouraging a parent to read a novel with a child.

I'm not talking about the little ten page books that teachers send home with first graders to prove to the parents that their child can read. I'm talking about fourth grade and up, when the books are thicker and concepts about world views, and not so much silly kid stuff anymore. Most parents have no clue what their children are reading at school. They might see books that a child brings home, but what about the books assigned to the entire class?

Think about it...they send home plenty of math homework, don't they? Why don't they send home a book and require reading ten pages aloud each night with a parent? This would allow a bonding time with parent and child, discussions over characters and plots (and another viewpoint aside from the teacher's), and the parent will actually know what is being taught through the child's literature program at school.

What values come with literature, and do they match your own? Literature can be interpreted many ways. Do you want your child's literature interpreted only by his or her teacher? What if you don't agree with the teacher's world view? I don't even feel that you can trust a fellow Christian's world view if you are a Christian. There are plenty of disagreements within the Church, some minor and others huge. If you are pretty well educated and awake, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Back to the school...do you even know what books your child is assigned? During my year as a para, I was assigned to a "language arts" class where the teacher chose to read out loud to seventh graders. One thing that bothered me was that there was no open discussion between classmates. There were worksheets that had questions, and you either got the "right" answer or didn't. The bigger problem for me was the novel that was chosen. The worst was White Fang. I'm a sensitive female and animal lover. I cringed through most of the reading. What if there were students just like me? Did they have a choice? If I were a student in the class, I would have failed all the worksheets because I could not stay focused on the reading. I literally fought tuning it out, and I'm an a adult! It was simply to violent for me. If the teacher had allowed discussion about the novel, she may have discovered that some in the class may have needed a different option. But their voices were insignificant, which destroys the whole purpose of reading literature, doesn't it?

The school also had a separate "reading" class which was a time for kids to read their choice for about 45 minutes or so. I don't understand why this reading couldn't have been required at home with a parent or guardian. This reading was for "fun" and there was no testing to make sure the kids understood what they read or if they even read it at all. Why not allow them to read with the parent, encouraging them to bond at home over literature and the discussions that would follow? That allows more time for math to be done in class...math that kids aren't getting during the normal hour. This will take care of the kids going home with math homework and having no clue how to do it. I saw this as well. The math teacher was AMAZING, but kids came to class every day having done homework that they got ALL wrong. They just needed a little more time and instruction, but instead were reading books (or were they?)

If you are a parent of a tween or teen, start asking these questions. And get Honey for a Teen's Heart so you can really get what I'm talking about. If you think reading out loud with your young adults is a waste of time, don't wonder why you don't understand them down the road. If you don't want to stay connected, neither will they. And the best way to stay connected is through sharing literature and the ideas that come from it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reading Together with Teens

In a quest to develop a "middle school" literature curriculum for my children next year, I came across a book suggestion. I had never heard of Honey for a Teen's Heart and now that I know about it, I must urge you to get a copy for yourself! After reading the introduction, I was so inspired that I wanted to sit down with my 10 and "almost" 12 year old and start a novel. I am not much of a reader anymore. I have to admit that I got turned off from reading in college, when I was forced to read something I wasn't interested in and we had WAY too many pages to read each night, and after four years of this, I didn't pick up a novel for at least a decade. But Honey for a Teen's Heart reminds parents of the bonding affect of reading together. I won't even try to put it as eloquently as authors Gladys Hunt and Barbara Hampton put it. Just hop over to Amazon and read the sample and you will see what I mean! This book is a must-have for your collection, especially if you are looking to develop a reading list for your literature curriculum.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Hardest Job in the World

I remember reading an article many years ago about whether or not the statement, "Being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world," was accurate. Of course, there is no definite answer. It depends on many factors and there is no cut and dry quantifier to determine the subjectivity of what is "hard" or "harder" to accomplish. There are pros and cons to both being a stay at home mom as well as a mom who works outside of the home. No question, being a mom is hard work. That is, if you work hard at it.

There are "moms" who sit at home all day and do absolutely nothing except watch TV and yell at her kids. That's not the "mom" I'm speaking of.  I'm speaking of the mom who makes sacrifices when necessary, to provide the best life possible for her child(ren). She also disciplines and corrects when necessary, loving and teaching her child to grow and become independent. This is the mom I strive to be.

For many years, people have marveled at what I do. They gasp when they ask, "How do you do all that? You must be exhausted!" And then I realize I am.

It has finally hit me that what I'm doing can only go on so long. Lucky for me, my kids are hitting the ages where my collapsing from exhaustion will not harm them, and they are very independent in their care and schooling.

I am a work at home mom. I also homeschool my two children. Did I mention also that I'm a single mom? I have no family near, and the kids' dad is around "some." Thankfully, we have great neighbors and the kids have friends on our street. I get lots of breaks. But when I do rest, there is always a feeling of guilt. I should be spending the time with the kids....or doing laundry...or growing my business...or cutting the grass...or grocery shopping. Oh, I forgot to mention...I'm also a health freak and super conscious about food. I don't feed them chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs every night. We actually cook here! But I feel guilty for not making my own bread... I guess there's always something. Anyway, the thing about what I do is that it's not physically exhausting. It's mentally exhausting.

There always seems to be decisions that need to be made, a schedule to keep up with, children to listen to, questions to answer... ALL DAY LONG. Yes, I'm exhausted. Yes, it is hard work. But as I crash periodically, I go down thinking it is all worth it. I love my life and I love the freedom to do what we want and to choose not to do something if necessary. I don't have a set work schedule, I don't have to deal with ignorant co-workers and their egos, and I don't have to be told what to do and when. This freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Is being a stay at home mom harder than a mom who works outside the home? I don't know anything about that. But I know we each need to do what we are capable of to make our children's lives fulfilling, fun, and educational. The better job we do, the quicker they can take care of us in the future. And that future for me is coming fast...

Tom Woods