Tea Time is Read Aloud Time
When my children were younger, I struggled to keep everyone at the table at the same time. Living books were important to me, but my rambunctious bunch wouldn’t quiet down. I was okay with them playing with LEGOs® or squishing clay while I read, but quietly? That seldom happened. At that time, only one child could read on her own. While I filled the house with great books, I wanted a way that we could read them together. As I pondered my problem, I observed one time in the day when everyone stopped talking and running around: lunchtime.
Teatime read-aloud is born
Reading great literature while they ate began with lunch. It took a little planning so that I would be ready when they all gathered at the table. I started reading for 15 minutes, just long enough for them to finish eating. After a few days, they stopped getting up after lunch and begged me to keep reading. I would’ve kept this routine, but I kept missing my own lunch. I learned that a homeschool acquaintance of mine had a routine of cookies and tea at 3 p.m., so I thought, “Why not make it read-aloud teatime?”
While it’s obvious that I needed cookies, tea, and a good book, it wasn’t quite that simple. If I didn’t have everything ready—let’s say I put the cookies out, but the tea hadn’t finished steeping—they wouldn’t stick around. I carefully timed everything and chose the book in advance. I couldn’t start reading until they had the cookies. I had to make the cookies ahead of time (my kids have allergies that make it cost-prohibitive to buy them all the time). This meant that I had to account for the baking time, even while we were doing lessons, eating lunch, caring for a toddler, et cetera.
Sometimes it was hard to get in everything I wanted to do with them. Every day was a new adventure with children who had short attention spans and wiggly legs. There were days when I felt like I accomplished nothing, but then came read-aloud time. If nothing else, I knew that my kids were being fed good stories that nourished their hearts and souls. Not only that, but we made memories that are still with them. They didn’t always remember the “lesson time,” but they sure remembered the books we read together over cookies. Even as they got to be teenagers, they still enjoyed teatime read-aloud.
I almost always chose classics and unabridged, original versions. They heard Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Wind in the Willows, Jungle Book, Velveteen Rabbit, and many, many more. They were not the Disney® versions. In fact, after we read the originals, they got angry that the stories were changed for the movies. They actively compare books to movies now and almost always find the book to be better.
Maybe you already have a read-aloud time with your children. Try adding tea and cookies and see what happens. A new tradition may be the vehicle for joyful remembering.
Julie Polanco is the homeschooling mother of four children, the oldest having graduated in 2016. She is a frequent contributor to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and is the high school botany instructor for www.schoolhouseteachers.com. Her book, God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn, is now available for pre-order through your favorite bookstore! If you send her a copy of your receipt, you will receive a personalized note from her and a digital exclusive. Go to her website, www.juliepolancobooks.com where she regularly posts about the writing life, homeschooling, Christian living, and her book projects.