Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Slow Time

There were things we did that worked so well, we returned to them fall after fall. With the turning of the days and nights, like birds migrating to their winter resting places, we came back to a place we had carved for ourselves in the great effort to learn. One of these things was our reading period.

In the mornings, the boys had a simple breakfast which they prepared of cereal, fruit, breads, and a hot drink. Then they settled down in a comfortable spot and read for at least an hour. I used this time to read my Bible, pray over my life, and organize the day in my head. I did not do any housework. I did not make any phone calls. In fact, we did not answer the phone at all during this time. We did not anxiously attend to school lessons or jobs where we had fallen behind. None of that existed for us during this morning hour. It was a time set apart, a slow time.

Slow time because the sun slowly rose up above the trees. Slow because we didn't have to live fast, at least not for this little while. Slow because it didn't matter, in this space, how efficient we were. We could just be.

The boys read books that they had picked out. Then sometimes, as they grew older, they read books we had picked out together and an occasional book that I assigned. They read real books -- classics -- timeless stories. They watched as Huckleberry Finn floated down the Mississipi. They saw Laura Ingalls dance to Pa's fiddle in the middle of the empty prairie before the people filled it. They sailed with Captain Jack, brave commander, to faraway seas. They watched as All Creatures Great and Small found a place of help in time of need. They discovered the tomb of King Tut in the depths of Egypt with Howard Carter. They went there and back again with Bilbo Baggins. They discovered the terrible truth with Hamlet and watched him find the courage to act. As they read, they learned about life, love, and truth.

We all learned together. We imagined ourselves in the places we had read. We studied the landscape, ate the food, heard the music. We read the great books -- long, and slow.

I confess that I did work to make it happen. When they were very young, I read to them every day. This gave them a warm feeling associated with reading time. It was special, something to anticipate and to relish. We made regular jaunts to the library where they were allowed to check out any books that seemed appropriate for them. I deliberately created sections of the house that were attractive reading nooks, full of books and big stuffed chairs and couches; warm reading lamps and convenient side tables; places where they could pile their books and things and relax. I never, ever scolded them for spilled drinks or messes that happened when they read or piles of books left behind, although I did occasionally try to help us plan for reading areas that would clean up easily and for ways to prevent accidents. I often played classical music very softly while they read, and I sometimes allowed them to have an extra treat during the reading hour.

This became my sons' favorite time of the day. Now, after moving on to adult lives, they still recall it. They tell me that one of the best things homeschooling gave to them was the time to read books. Each of them read 100 books of literary merit, many of them classics, in high school alone. It's a treasure to them now. And to me.

Hard as this is to believe, it's the truth: in spite of all the benefits, I did not properly esteem our reading time. I did not, while we were homeschooling, understand just how important it was. But now, if I could select just one element of the day to put down on a schedule, this would be the one.

Have a reading hour. Keep it fun. Keep it sacred. Keep it slow.


  1. What an absolutely wonderful idea! I had already thought about setting aside an hour in the afternoon when our little one is napping for a quiet time. Maybe we could incorporate that hour as a special reading time for my daughter, complete with coffee or hot tea and treats. I think she would love that.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. I really appreciate it!

    Take care,

  2. I love this idea of starting slow. With homeschooling, why not start by savoring? Thank you for sharing!


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