Little did I know when I began this chapter that it would be the one that speaks most to my passions as an at-home mother. (I’ve learned that Schaeffer’s chapter titles are often a bit deceptive. 😉 ) I certainly don’t consider myself a person skilled or talented in the dramatic arts. I have actually played an important role in our church’s large annual Easter drama for several years. As the narrator, I have as about as many lines to speak as almost anyone in the drama, excluding Jesus. However, I feel like my talent in this area comes not from being a good actress (I’m certainly not!) but rather years of reading and listening to the Bible, since all of the narration is taken directly from God’s Word. Anyway, since being an actress is not even something I necessarily aspire to, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Edith Schaeffer sees the outworking in the home of a dramatic personality to be something we can all do: reading aloud! Oh, how I love this! 🙂
Reading aloud is likely one of the main reasons we’re a homeschooling family to this day. We started reading aloud to our eldest daughter when she was an infant, and since then we’ve read hundreds (thousands?) of stories. When it came time to make a decision about school for our eldest, homeschooling seemed like such a natural outgrowth of what we were already doing at home. Still today, it is a rare day indeed that passes that I don’t read something aloud to someone. Most of our read-alouds, at least the lengthy ones, happen following a meal. I usually read aloud after breakfast and after lunch. Having a busy three year old and an infant make this tricky sometimes, especially if the DLM is ready to be released from his high chair before I finish the chapter and/or Benny starts crying before I’m through, but I keep keeping on because it’s very, very important to me.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows this about me already. After all, I host a weekly meme entitled Read Aloud Thursday. I started it way back in December of 2008, and it has been a joy to connect with other read aloud lovers, as well as keep a record of some of the books we’ve enjoyed over the years. In fact, I have a (slightly outdated at the moment) list of chapter books we’ve enjoyed for the past five years or so, and almost every title is linked to my thoughts about the book. I’ve written before about how reading aloud creates a shared intellectual culture within a family, much in the same way that Schaeffer shares here:
Whether it is with small children, adults, or a group of varied ages, there are questions or thoughts that simply burst out at times as the book is shared together, and which open up opportunities for knowing each other and each other’s responses and attitudes in ways which no other ‘entertainment’ could ever do. Attitudes and ideas come out which might never be brought out in ordinary conversation. It gives the family a background for thinking and growing in their concepts and understanding, together, rather than always separately. (149)
People ask, “What is your advice about bringing up children? What did you do as a family?” If there is one thing I would stress as an answer it would be this: “I read aloud to the children, both individually and together.” Reading together is one of the most important factors in a growing family relationship. Reading aloud is a kind of ‘core’ for the unity of a family. (152)
I like to think that reading aloud is enough, and indeed, when it’s all said and done, I think it comes close.
I envy Schaeffer’s read-aloud schedule, or at least the amount of time the Schaeffers must have managed to devote to reading aloud:
I had a formula for reading, and also a very definite explanation of the difference in categories of books. My formula was to read something out of three classifications of books each evening, whenever possible. The first would be something from a variety of children’s stories, classics, fairy stories, and so forth; then I would read something with a Christian message; and then finish with a Bible story–or, as they grew older, with the Bible itself. (157)
As more children have come into our family, I have found that reading aloud has become exceedingly more difficult, but I persevere in this more than I have in anything. I would like to be a bit more intentional about what we read, but right now I’m just happy we’re still reading aloud. It is the thing I do that I feel draws me closer to my children individually than anything else, especially if I manage to read one-on-one with them.
I just loved this chapter, and I’m not even sure how to articulate that any more than I already have other than to say that I was sold on read aloud long before I read this, so I was merely nodding my head in enjoyment that someone else feels as strongly about it as I do. Here are a few more quotes that really resonate with me:
Romantic? Surely, it does not hurt to read the writing of another period. And how are our children going to know anything about any other kind of standard or attitude than the one by which they are surrounded, unless they read, or have read to them something written long ago? (160)
I love this because I’ve long felt that my own appreciation for older authors and literature taught me a certain standard of living that isn’t popular in today’s world. It was helpful, of course, that my parents taught me virtually the same standard as the books I read, but somehow as a teen I appreciated it from the books a bit more. 😉
To chip away at marble and turn it into a marvelous piece of sculpture takes work, constant and patient. To ‘sculpt’ a life, in the midst of life itself, takes more work, is for longer periods of time, and needs far more patience. And reading is a ‘tool’ we ought not to ignore as well as a means to fulfilment at the same time. (154)
Amen and amen. I think it was the addition of our fourth child that has finally caused me to realize just how much work this lifestyle–this family life–really is. It’s Schaeffer’s second sentence in the quote above that zeroes in on why it’s hard:
To ‘sculpt’ a life, in the midst of life itself, takes more work, is for longer periods of time, and needs far more patience.
It’s the “sculpting” in the middle of “life itself” that makes this such a daunting task, and I just appreciate Schaeffer for putting voice to it.
And so I persevere in this “hidden art” in particular. It may be the only one I’m really getting right.
I’m linking up with The Hidden Art of Homemaking Bookclub at Ordo Amoris. You can read my previous bookclub posts here.