Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Thought on Older Kids Reading and on Letting Go of Stuff

I really enjoyed the stage of parenting and homeschooling when I read picture books aloud to my kids and we talked and laughed and learned from them.

I was a bit in mourning for the passing of that stage when both of my sons were tween-aged and reading chapter books. I often did not share a passion for reading the same kinds of books they liked. What I'd hoped they'd read they did not always want to read. Books that my older son loved my younger son refused to try to read. I wasn't always able to share in the story with them.

I always thought I'd continue with reading aloud but the fact is I rarely do it. My voice gives out after about forty-five minutes, and it has just not worked out. I am still an advocate for it, so I encourage others to do it. If it works for your family then I am glad and perhaps I am even a bit envious.

Something has shifted here with my older son's reading habits. (This developed over this year that he's thirteen years old.) He's sentimental so he does continue to read new installments of series books as they are published even though their target market audience is a younger age than my son now is (i.e. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan). But for the most part the readings he is choosing are now young adult or even adult books. The fact that he has even attempted to read books published for an adult market is thrilling to me; even though sometimes he chooses not to finish them (The DaVinci Code and a military thriller that my husband had just read were two he abandoned.)

I just introduced my son to short stories. He started with The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. He likes how in a short number of pages you get sucked into the story enough to feel immersed in it, and then it is over. He likes how easy it is to consume an entire story. He no longer needs to invest ten or more hours just to hear a story. Instead of turning to watch a movie for a story in under two hours he can open a short story and read a powerful story in less than half an hour. He loves the short story collection of dystopian literature: Brave New Worlds.

Like me, my son often has four, five or six books going at once, a mix of nonfiction and fiction. I do that with nonfiction books but I prefer my fiction to be just one story that I focus on and finish before moving on (I use the same method with my knitting). While I don't share his reading style with fiction I am happy that he's got so many books in progress.

What I'm enjoying that I didn't really think about was how my son and I can read the same short story or book and then we enjoy talking about it. I honestly had not thought about that. After a few years of having independent readers who read stuff that I didn't care to read myself, I missed that. Maybe that's why I really missed reading aloud those picture books?

In any event I got myself a bit worried about homeschooling literature high school level courses. I am over that worry. I am going to re-learn or learn some things about it in order to teach it and to be able to discuss the bones of literary analysis. I am going to read the same books my sons read in order to discuss it with them. I hope I can enjoy some if not all of the readings I choose to do. I don't think I'll be able to keep up by reading every single book my son reads but that's okay, I think.

If it gets really difficult to teach the literature I will find an outside source such as a homeschool co-op course or an online class.

I am also still designing the dystopian literature course an am enjoying that research process and the building of a book reading list. The other day my son snagged Fahrenheit 451 when UPS delivered it from Amazon. At this rate, I don't know if anything will be left to read when I try to start the course in September! As far as homeschooling problems go that's a pretty high class problem to have, isn't it? I'm thrilled to have that kind of problem!

I can't tell you how much fun this new stage is: the stage of being able to read more adult themes in books and the developmental stage having been reached in my son to be interested and able to understand more complex and more mature themes. So far this is so fantastic I think I'm starting to lose my over-blown attachment and the excess sentimentality I had for my children's early childhood years and for picture books.

I will always have a love of children's picture books with their compact and effective writing combined with the added pleasure from the illustrations, don't get me wrong. But now I'm thinking of ways I can put my passion for them to some other good use. I'm considering teaching some homeschool co-op classes with them for one thing.

My longer term ideas are that someday if I return to paid employment I hope to become a children's librarian and maybe some of what I have learned in these years will be put to use. I just heard of someone having a master's degree in children's literature and thought to myself that getting a degree in something you really really love seems too good to be true so maybe I should get that degree! I also am still thinking of ideas to write my own children's picture book (I have a couple of good ideas swirling around in my head). I am always mulling over different art techniques that I've learned that may be good for illustration should I take on that challenge as well.

As I write this I am in the middle of going through all of our family's books and donating or giving away ones I don't feel we have the space to keep now that we're moving to a place with less storage room. It's not as hard to do now as when I'd tried to let go of them in the past because my perspective has shifted. I'm in a happy mindset about reading and homeschooling. I think it's easier to let go when one is feeling positive and with a feeling of being surrounded by abundance than when feeling sad or melancholy. It's hard for me to let go of material possessions when you think you're living in lack and that you are presently in a state of feeling deprived. I get this feeling also from feeling that something has been prematurely taken away from me or when the last stage was great and the current situation is worse or not as enjoyable or not as exciting (or something else less optimal).

It feels like I'm putting some of those good memories to bed and that I'm resizing them to put them into proper perspective. That period of mothering and homeschooling was just one stage of my life and of my children's lives. It was great while it lasted! Kids do grow up and change, that's a fact. I am happy that I'm still enjoying being with my kids (we have our trying moments and some typical teen angst believe me). I'm grateful that I get to be home with my kids to raise them and also that I am still homeschooling them as it means we're together more and we know each other better. The closeness we have makes all of our interactions better. There's a flow in our family, we have a pretty good dynamic going here. You can't ask for any more than that.

I've got just four years left until my older son leaves for college, and seven more years with my younger son. The time does fly by so quickly. I'm trying to slow down time but it's not working (nor has it ever worked for any human!) so instead I'm trying to focus on feeling gratitude for the good things I have in my life. I'm trying to make sure I feel all the happy feelings and that I appreciate what I've got when I have it. When doing that even an ordinary life feels like a great one.


Deb said...

What did your son think about The Lottery, Christine?

ChristineMM said...

We didn't do a big analysis of The Lottery, it was an on the fly thing. He thought it was weird. He found it disturbing that no one questioned the ritual killing in that town when other towns had abandoned it. He said they were stuck in their routine and unquestioning which was "weird".

I guess he uses the term "weird" because in our family we question the status quo and challenge assumptions. He can't imagine living just being a follower like that.

Dawn McNary said...

Great post about both growing up and letting go. Books are a funny thing in our house, they accumulate quickly as I live at half price books and still go to the library and now download them all the time. We read them, gather them, dust them so when I decided it was time to box some up for a church sale for fundraising I thought I'd have no problems, my boys are 7 and 15 who would think they would want to hold onto "Goodnight Gorilla". Yet they did. Every time I placed a book in the box they each had a reason to pull it out-oh that's my favorite, or remember when we read this or that one. All that reading them to sleep and fighting to sit still, apparently made more memories than I ever knew. Now to try to make memories discussing "1984" "Lord of the Flies" and perhaps even "Oliver Twist".

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

What a wonderful post! My graduate degree is in school media/ librarianship, and I love it! When I retire from homeschooling (which will be a long time from now, Lord willing), I hope to go back to work as a librarian or in a children's books related field. I have toyed with the idea of a graduate degree in children's literature, but back when I looked into it, there were none online. Do you know of any reputable online programs now?

ChristineMM said...

Hi Amy, I have not researched the master's degree as I'm eyeball deep in moving. It's something to I'll look into next year.