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My daughter’s Classical Conversation’s homeschool group had professional pictures taken this year for the yearbook. In them, my 7-year-old sits primly at a desk, a neat stack of books at her side. This exact pose was repeated for all of those in her age group. The result of this was a collection of photos showing the most adorable little bunch of academics you ever saw. I’m glad to have the cute photo, and the yearbook, as a record of her co-op shenanigans this year. However, as I stood by watching the photoshoot, I giggled with my fellow homeschool moms over the formality of the background. Why? Because this is, by and large, is not how our homeschoolers read.
This got me thinking; for all the homeschoolers I know (and I know a lot of them), reading is a huge part of the homeschool lifestyle. However, homeschooled reading rarely matches this formal image of “reading for school.” In fact, I’d argue that you can spot a homeschooler by some of the very quirky (even weird and unsocialized) ways that homeschoolers read! In my series on How to Spot a Homeschooler, we’ve talked about: How to Spot a Homeschooler by Things We Find in Our Houses, How to Spot Homeschoolers by Our Friendships, How to Spot a Homeschooler by How We Dress, How to Spot a Homeschooler by the Things We Say, and even How to Spot a Homeschooler by How We Say Hello. Today, we’re going to discuss (have you guessed yet??) how you can spot a homeschooler by how we read!
Unlike in public school, a majority of homeschoolers do not follow a cookie-cutter path for learning to read. Some start earlier than kindergarten, if they show an interest. However, many start a little bit later.
My daughter started reading 3 years ago (at age 4) because Covid meant we were home a lot, and I decided to work with her on it. She was interested in it, and it seems to be one of her academic strengths, so we went for it. However, I know several incredibly bright children who – at 6 or 7- are still working on letter sounds, but who excel far above “grade level” in another area of academia. Non-homeschool families may not “get” this. They may even see a 6- or 7-year-old “non-reader” as being “behind” (even if they’re “ahead” in other ways!)
The reason for this is that many homeschooling parents don’t try to force reading at a very young age if it’s not coming naturally. Instead, many take it slowly and steadily, with the focus on growing readers who will come to enjoy reading one one day. Homeschool parents approach reading in the same way that they do everything else: by focusing on learning for mastery (taking it at the individual child’s pace), and by striving to create as many positive associations with reading as possible. This means encouraging kids to read what they like, reading aloud together, and creating unit studies around fun, fictional reads! In short, you can spot a homeschooler because we read when we are good and ready to start reading.
Here’s a homeschooling stereotype that seems (from my experience at least) to hold true: homeschoolers read because we actually LIKE reading! We don’t just read for school (or because we have to); we also read because we really want to! You’ll often see homeschoolers reading even when not being forced to against their will. This means that you’ll find homeschoolers reading on vacation, at the beach, and sneaking novels to co-ops and appointments in case of downtime.
As a Millennial homeschool alumnus, I group myself in with this. I have a deep love of reading, and I can confirm that being the only person in waiting room with a novel in my hand instead of my iPhone makes me “weird” among my peers. However, I’ve also seen Gen Z (current) homeschoolers toting books for fun, so I can confirm that trend lives on for the upcoming group of homeschoolers! Because the percentage of people who read for fun has decreased drastically over the past few decades, this aspect of homeschooled readers gives me some hope for the future.
Homeschooling families read together! Parents read to children. Older siblings read to younger siblings. Series are enjoyed as a family and are often followed by movie marathons. Classic literature is consumed on road trips. Is it school? Is it family fun? Who can tell? (Not homeschoolers.) Speaking of audiobooks, many homeschooling families DO count them as reading, and there are many good reasons to do so! (Here is an article on 10 Reasons You Should Use Audiobooks in Your Homeschool, by the way).
Reading for pleasure is often seen as a solo endeavor. For homeschooling families, however, reading is often a communal experience. This is because, as with many aspects of the homeschool lifestyle, reading isn’t just a part of school. It’s also a central aspect of home, and maybe that’s a big reason that reading holds such a special place in our hearts.
Let’s hop back to that homeschool photo-op for a moment, and the real reason that all of us homeschooling moms were giggling. By and large, you’re simply not likely to catch homeschoolers primly reading at their desks. (Most of us will not be confined!)
Instead, here are a few places (and positions) you’re much more likely to spot a homeschooler reading:
Are you homeschooling a reader? What are some of the things that makes your homeschooler(s)’ experience with reading unique? Drop a comment and let us know!
Katie Gustafson has been a member of the world of “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers” for a long time–first as an alumnus and now as a homeschooling mom to a fiercely fun little girl! She’s very into anything creative, especially writing, dancing, and painting. She’s also particularly passionate about literature and owns more books than she will probably ever be able to read. However, she reassures herself with the belief that, in the event of a digital apocalypse, she’s cultivating a much-needed physical library for future generations. Katie is happy to contribute articles to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Hip Homeschool Moms and Sparketh. She also has a personal blog on writewhereuare.com.
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