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Children Independently Reading and Parents Prereading Materials

Heart of Dakota - Dear Carrie
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Dear Carrie

What is the philosophy behind the increase in children independently reading, and will I then have to preread the materials?

This is my first year homeschooling, and my oldest is using Little Hearts for His Glory (which we love)! Now I am trying to research the future years in Heart of Dakota. I wanted to ask about the philosophy behind the increasingly independent work. By high school, I know working independently will be a necessary skill. I can see it is good to work towards that. However, which parts are independent? And how do I stay involved in those parts? I guess I just want to be reassured about this road to independence. One follow-up question I have is, do you then preread/preview the books they are reading independently? Prereading seems like a daunting task. I guess until I am comfortable with not reading the content, we may need to read it together for awhile. How have you handled this? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Explain Independently Reading and Whether I Have to Preread Materials”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Independently Reading and Whether I Have to Preread Materials,”

I remember feeling the way that you do when my oldest son was as young as your oldest kiddos. When my children were young, I did preread everything that they read. As they grew older, and became avid readers, it became nearly impossible for me to preread everything before my kiddos read it. I then realized I had to begin relying more on booklists and publishers that I trusted.

Around third grade is when kiddos begin to prefer to read their material independently to themselves.

Around third grade is usually the point at which this begins. This is when your kiddos really begin to out-read you on a daily basis. This is also, hopefully, the time when they have found great joy in reading and no longer want to be made to read aloud to you. Instead, they begin to prefer to read their material silently to themselves around this same age (as Charlotte Mason so wisely mentioned – around age 9). Moving toward independence is honestly a stage in reading. It is one that comes after the child has emerged as a reader and is a joy to behold!

Our goal is to train children to read their own books independently with moral discernment.

At Heart of Dakota (HOD), our goal is train children to learn to read their own books but to read them independently with moral discernment. This is a goal that is necessary lifelong, as we know as parents we will not always be with our children as they choose what to read, and our children will need to grow in discerning for themselves how what they are reading is lining up with the standards God sets forth in His Word. Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHR) is based upon this. This is also why we wrote DITHR to work with any books. So, this leaves you in the driver’s seat in this important area, if you are wanting to be there. Otherwise, we have done our best to choose our favorite books within our DITHR book packs.

Details Regarding Parents Reading Aloud Through Creation to Christ

At HOD, we do read aloud the history spines to our children all the way through Preparing Hearts. We read aloud all of the science material in the guides up through Bigger Hearts. Each of our guides to follow continue to have many areas of interaction for both parent and child. For example, in Creation to Christ we are able to do a thorough Genesis study and a Geography Study of the Bible Lands (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, Write with the Best, and reading aloud Storytime). We see or hear about every other part of the guide, through the kiddos’ notebooks and narrations.

Details Regarding Parents Reading Aloud Through Revival to Revolution

In RTR, we are able to spend time doing a purity study, study higher level poetry like Emily Dickinson’s, and do picture study (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, and reading aloud Storytime). In the Revival to Revolution, we do a worldview study Who Is God? and also do a composer study (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, The Wonderful World of Creative Writing, and reading aloud Storytime). We continue to see or hear about every part of each guide through the daily assignments. I could continue, but in these listings, you can see that at HOD we hold back a variety of important things for our interactions between parent and child and allow the child to do the parts independently on their own that they are ready and trained to do well.

We train our children to read well but also to love what they are reading and to discern how it fits with God’s Word.

Imagine that on top of all the things I’ve shared above that you were still reading aloud all of the history and science each day and guiding every activity. Would you truly have time to get done the wonderful studies that I’ve mentioned above? Or, would they quickly fall by the wayside in the overburdening of being the sole reader and the sole purveyor of information? It is evident that God desired for our children to read for themselves, or He would not have written His Book to our children and to us. Understanding and making sense of the written word is an integral part of education. This is why through HOD, we train our children to read well independently and to comprehend what they are reading, but also to love what they are reading and discern how it fits with God’s Word.

Encouraging Children to Gradually Move Forward in Their Reading Independently

After our children have had years of very focused teaching attention, they are ready to move forward a bit more on their own independently, and we encourage this growth. This happens very gradually about the time of Preparing Hearts, but only in two subject areas (both of which are quite short)! In the guides which follow Preparing Hearts, I cannot imagine my older boys (6th and 9th grade) waiting on me every day to read their material to them, nor of me reading aloud the same history and science material to all of my children (from aged 15 down to 4).

Our children have a thirst for their school books, and they do not need me to get in between them and their school material.

While I do truly love reading aloud everything to my 4 year old and 2nd grader right now, they still need me to do it! But, there is so much difference in my children’s maturity at their various ages (and will likely be for your kiddos too), so there should be a difference in what I expect from them. It’s so important to recognize that difference and to award children with independence accordingly. Right now, all of my boys love books, and my older three boys read avidly independently. I am glad they out-read me! They have a thirst for their school books that I never had, and they do not need me to get in between them and their school material (as CM would say). Instead, it is our desire for them to develop their own relationship with the reading.

Our goal is to incrementally train children how to learn independently, so they become lifelong learners.

I do preread the books we use in our guides very carefully, and I write the key ideas to give parents a great look into what is being read too. The narrations both oral and written are another window into the readings, and I always have the book in hand when my child is narrating to skim over. Since you are the parent, you can be as involved as you choose to be. It is your children’s education. Our goal is not to “hand off” the child’s education to them, but rather to incrementally train them how to learn so that they become lifelong learners.

In Closing

In closing, I leave you with this thought to ponder: If our children, as they mature, see their schoolbooks as only being mine to read to them, when will they ever make the leap into learning for their own sake? I agree that it is a new stage in the child’s learning, but one that is important to take or the child’s learning will forever be dependent on us.


P.S. Carrie’s children were ages 4 to 15 years old at the time of her answering this question, so this is a vintage ‘Dear Carrie’ response!


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