If someone were to ask me what my favorite topics are during our homeschool day, I would have to include history, but the read alouds are by far my favorite. Even before we began homeschooling, even before I began bandying about the term “read aloud,” well, really long before my boys were even crawling, we have read together. While there are many wonderful academic and professional articles explaining the benefits of reading aloud to our children, the most profound reason for me is the shared vocabulary and language we acquire together. By this I do not exactly mean that we learn new vocabulary words together, or write down definitions from a dictionary, but rather our hearts speak the same language because we have traveled together through the pages of historical fiction, biographies, fantasies, allegories and adventures.
There are times when a single word conveys more than if one of us had spent dozens of words describing a scene. How powerful and fraught with meaning the following:
C A I R P A R A V E L
the unbreakable vow
churning butter with Ma
“All’s well that ends well.” coxswain landlubber
“no good, dirty rotten, pig-stealing great great grandfather.”
S T A Y G O L D.
You may or may not recognize all these references. I know my boys will certainly know the context and significance of each and every one. And if we are having a bad day, or we need a quick reminder of our bond, if we want to explain a correlation, or illustrate a similarity, we have the common (literary) language with which to do so.
Like most years, I am finding this season hectic. In looking for a balance between a manageable school load, and maintaining a home, it is difficult to determine what is necessary. Although I refuse to give up read alouds, I wasn’t sure we would have the stamina to begin a fresh book at this time of year. So, what follows is our list of seasonal short stories and excerpts, nearly all set at the Christmas season.
We have only read a few so far, and who knows in what order we will share them, but here is our Christmas 2015 read aloud list (not including our advent reading, of course). These are stories hand picked in hopes of promoting a true spirit of generosity, goodness, kindness and compassion that may long carry my boys past the holiday season. Admittedly, it is a challenge to find read alouds simple enough for the five year old, yet engaging enough for the 12 and 13 year olds. The following list combines some tales with thought provoking stories with complex vocabulary for the older two, as well as simpler stories which should be nostalgic for them. If someone barely in their teens can feel nostalgia.
As we recall these stories we might contrast Scrooge with Stefan Avdeyitch. We may see similarities in Jo March and Anne Shirley. Whatever may come out of our reading, I hope it will ignite dialog and bind us closer together. I hope you enjoy this list, or create one of your own. Please share if you do.
God bless us, everyone!
CHRISTMAS Reading list 2015:
1.”Where Love Is, God is There Also” by Leo Tolstoy. Technically, this is not a Christmas story, but it does take place in the winter. It quotes so much from the Gospel of Luke and Matthew and concentrates on love for mankind that it exudes the spirit of Christmas without naming it. This is not a children’s story, but one that older children should be able to appreciate. I can hardly make it through the poor cobbler’s tale without my voice cracking at least a bit at the end.
2. Elves and the Shoemaker by Paul Galdone. A classic.
3. from All of a Kind Family Downtown, “Christmas Stockings” by Sydney Taylor. I adored this book series growing up and learned so much about the practices of Jewish holidays from them. Henny and Charlotte were my favorites, but I also harbored a special love toward Guido, their Italian neighbor.
4. “Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. When I was about A’s age I began saving birthday money and allowances to purchase leather bound books with gold pages. Dickens. Poe. R.L. Stevenson. And finally O. Henry. This Christmas classic is both sad and heart warming. It’s the one where the poor, young couple both get what they want for Christmas…sort of.
5. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have written about this collection last year. These letters, which the fantasy writer wrote to his children as they were growing up each Christmas, are poignant, in keeping with the times and laugh out loud funny. Hints of his trilogy abound. Goblins appear and make trouble. Polar Bear inevitably saves the day…and the toys.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. No explanation needed. No matter how many movie or play versions you have seen, the original is superb.
7. from Little House on the Prairie, “Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are many wonderful Christmas stories from this entire pioneer series, but for some reason this one has always been my guys’ favorite.
8. “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. Sad , sweet, poignant and almost lyrical in his writing, Capote recounts for us a piece of his childhood long gone. Largely neglected in a small town in Alabama, he and his elderly cousin set out to make fruitcakes for their acquaintances. As a bonus I found this lovely illustrated edition at our library. Even with the lengthy text, it held even G’s interest.
9. from Anne of Green Gables, “Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves” by L. M. Montgomery. Because boys know what it is like to want something so badly, too.
10. “The Burglar’s Christmas” by Willa Cather. A surprising ending. A family reunion. The meaning of grace.
11. from Little Women, “Playing Pilgrims” and “A Merry Christmas” by Louisa May Alcott. Jo and Marmee. Because we may all have presents at Christmas, but there is always something more.