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Each night our homeschooled children pile into our tiny master bedroom and settle into a spot for our nightly ritual of cuddly travel to an imaginary world. The setting is wall-to-wall mattresses, the walls lined with warm wood and the beds softened with white linens. We crack the door, which somehow enhances our connection with all that could be in the outside world, and quietly entangle ourselves together under heated blankets. This sacred space is where our vocabulary expands, our empathy deepens, and our understanding of the universe grows.
You see, we live and die by the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Language creates reality. Now imagine endowing your children with the ability to see those narratives being acted out all around them—the awareness of it and the power to author it.
My children learn about everything from history to botany to art but they also bloom into the best possible versions of themselves with the stories of so many people removed from them in perspective, geography, and time woven throughout their entire lives.
And my favorite part is that it’s all absorbed through a shared experience of joyful connection as we discuss all the things, from predictions to exclamations. Sometimes a kid might be bouncing on an exercise ball at the foot of the bed. Sometimes we might be reading in hammocks at an AirBnB on our latest trip. Sometimes we might be in a hospital room caring for a loved one. But that consistent habit of nourishing connection that read aloud time brings carries throughout any and all of it.
This has held true even as my kids have grown into teenagers. They now make book suggestions, take turns reading aloud, and offer more complex commentary, but the ritual remains largely the same. And when my unschooled 15-year-old got a near hundred percent on the entrance exam for the early college program, she said it was mostly reading comprehension, which she’d spent every night of her life strengthening.
You can learn all about how we homeschool in the Sage Homeschooling book and you can bring the soft structure we use into your home with the Bucket System class, but if you do nothing else, just read to your kids and genuinely enjoy it. Love it, in fact. Treasure it. Embrace their neurodiversities, proactively meet their needs, and make bedtime the time of day you most look forward to.
And this isn’t just for bibliophiles. School sadly killed my natural love of reading and I hadn’t read a single book for pleasure until I had my children. Reading aloud together reignited my love of books. And a love of reading is contagious.
My husband has been instructed that if I died tomorrow, reading aloud is the only homeschool tradition he would need to keep alive. Everything else is auxiliary.
So without further ado, these are the titles that have been our favorites (complied with my children’s input):
Share your family’s favorite read alouds in the comments below!