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How to survive a really good idea

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I want to say at the outset that this post is not just for homeschoolers. I’m a homeschooling mom who is writing about a homeschooling mom that has a podcast. But this is in no way, shape, or form does this pertain only to homeschoolers. What I’m saying pertains to parents with kids living at home, be they wee tiny infants or college grads hanging out in the basement. In fact, it might benefit those families the most. (Maybe. Just a thought.)

Anyway, the inspiration for this post comes from a wonderful podcast called The Read-Aloud Revival. It’s a podcast about creating a culture of reading aloud for your family. You might think that you might feasibly find enough material for one or two shows about reading aloud, but certainly not an entire podcast centered on that concept. Oh how very wrong you’d be, you poor, wrong person. The host, Sarah Mackenzie, interviews authors, teachers, and other moms to provide all kinds of information reading aloud. She covers everything from what types of books to read, how to read aloud (in a two-part interview with one of our favorite narrators and storytellers, Jim Weiss), how to talk about the books you’ve read, and more.

The only negative I can think of about this podcast is that your checkbook will really feel it. Because although the podcast is free, she links to books and other resources that cry out to be purchased. So listen, but visit the show notes only after your steel yourself against temptation.

Actually, there is another negative, although it’s not inherent in the podcast. Rather it’s a burden I think a lot of parents might assume for themselves. With our overly busy lives, it seems impossible to fit reading aloud into our already packed schedules. And frankly, at the end of the day, we’re too tired to think straight, much less develop two dozen distinct character voices and remember how they all sounded from page to page. Reading aloud sounds good in theory, but 2 hours of homework and ferrying to various practices, lessons, and other obligations doesn’t allow time for anything so slow-paced as sitting on a couch, surrounded by attentive little ones (Ha!), reading Charlotte’s Web or what have you.

Let’s just admit it: We feel judged by this lady and her unnaturally calm child. Most toddlers would have ripped at least one page in half and be eating it.

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Parents, I, April Thompson, with all the authority invested by my own dang self, give you permission to adopt the spirit of the law on this one. I give you permission trade off reading duties between mom and dad, thereby making sure there is absolutely no continuity in character voices. I give you permission to not even try to do character voices. I give you permission to read a chapter of your favorite childhood book once a week and take four months to finish it.  (I’d tell you how long it’s taking us to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but I’m a little embarrassed.) I give you permission to delegate read-aloud duties to your oldest kid. (Although from time to time, read aloud or listen to an audio book with that kid. I’m going to read The Giver to my girls. Or maybe listen to the audio book.)

That, I think, is the key for parents who are already stretched past their limits but want to create a read-aloud culture in their family. Parents, I give you permission to outsource this good idea to the audio books. Think of it as hiring a bard.

As a homeschool mom, I read aloud a lot to my younger kids as part of their lessons. But lesson reading isn’t the same as read aloud reading. Honestly, at the end of the day, I don’t wanna read aloud anymore. My husband reads to the boys at night, but the one big thing we do is listen to a ton of audio books. Since we listen while we drive all over the northern part of Texas, we can go through two or three books a week, depending on the length. We are probably the number one checker-outer of Hank the Cowdog audio books from our local library. We’ve listened to the Chronicles of Narnia a dozen times. We’re listening to a great new series The Heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom/Storming the Castle/Being an Outlaw that has us all laughing out loud and has inspired my daughter to choose another Halloween costume no one will get.  On our two road trips this summer, we listened to more than a dozen audiobooks.

And here’s a secret that no one mentions: listening to audio books for kids is so much more fun than listening to audio books for adults. David Tennant is our family’s favorite narrator. He performs the How to Train Your Dragon series and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang series, and it’s far more entertaining and enjoyable to listen to those than most entertainment geared to adults.

Plus, you’re building a bond with your kids based on shared stories. And what could be better than that?

So get the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher or just download it. Listen while you’re doing whatever you have to do (I personally listen to podcasts while exercising and cleaning. It makes the tedious chores go faster.) You’ll get a lot of great ideas on what to read and how to read, as well as encouragement to adopt a read-aloud culture for your family. Then hit your local library, LibriVox, or Audible, and start building a read-aloud culture in your family.

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