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Preparing Homeschoolers for College Success: Reading Aloud

Preparing Homeschoolers for College Success

Since I am about to send off my second exclusively homeschooled child to college on an academic scholarship, I get quite a few questions about how to prepare homeschoolers for college.

There are many elements we teach our children during the years and years we are preparing them to launch out on their own. These include, but are not limited to:

  • organizational skills
  • discipline
  • determination
  • proficiency in basic subjects
  • independent study skills
  • curiosity
  • self motivation

But what I want to touch on today is the single most important thing I have done for my children to prepare them for college success.


And I don’t just mean reading “Red Fish, Blue Fish” to my preschoolers. I mean reading aloud every day to all ages who are gathered in the living room and listening attentively to true stories of real life heroes, and fairy tales, and science fiction, and historical fiction, and biographies of famous inventors, and the classics, and the popular chapter books, and silly poems, and long sombre poems, and current events. I mean reading things above their levels of understanding and then talking about the words they didn’t understand.

This daily activity is important in so many ways. 

Reading aloud trains children to sit quietly and listen.

Everyone comes to the living room at the appointed time with paper and pencils or crayons so they can doodle or draw if they choose. The little ones sometimes want to whine, but I correct their behavior and continue reading. Before long, even preschoolers can sit for half an hour listening and then summarize what was read.

Reading aloud expands their minds.

What we send into that ear becomes the foundation for the child’s ‘brain house.‘” -Jim Trelease

Reading aloud sends your children to foreign countries they may never be able to actually visit. It allows them to explore imaginary lands, real landmarks, homes of historical figures, ocean depths, and distant planets.

Reading aloud sparks curiosity.

There have been many times when one or more of my children have sneakily taken the book I’m in the middle of reading aloud and read the entire thing in one day. Then they beg me to go to the library and check out more books by the same author or on the same subject.

When I read aloud about missionaries in Africa, they want to know more about missionaries and Africa. When I read The Magician’s Nephew, they want the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia series. When I read The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, they want to see what other works Poe has written. When I read about how to incubate turtle eggs, they want to know more about turtle development. In all of the above cases, the child seeks out the new reading material on their own.

Reading aloud instills a love of reading.

See above.

Reading aloud develops vocabulary.

I try to include literature that has vocabulary slightly above the children’s level of understanding. When they hear an unfamiliar word, this does an amazing thing. It makes them wonder what the unfamiliar word means. They ask me about it. They try out the word in conversation at the dinner table. We may congratulate them on using a new word, or all laugh at their misuse of it and tell them how to correctly use it. Whatever the success or our response, a new word has worked its way into the storehouse of the child’s mind.

One example of this is when my 9 year recently old asked me, “Would it be treasonous for President Obama to work with Russia?”

Reading aloud increases success rates on standardized tests, like PSAT, SAT, and ACT.

Studies show a close correlation to students’ success in school and on standardized tests and vocabulary knowledge. My own two oldest children who have gotten academic scholarships based on the results of their SAT and ACT scores have shown this to be true in our family.

You can see why I am a firm believer in reading aloud to children of all ages. 

Do you read aloud to your children?

See some of our favorite read alouds here.

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Schlitterbahn, Galveston


Our entire family was given the opportunity to visit Schlitterbahn in Galveston recently, and I have to say, WE LOVED IT.

I made our plans for late May, before school would be out because I thought we would be able to enjoy a relatively empty park, so I was a little concerned when we pulled into the parking lot to see 10-15 school buses and realized we had scheduled our visit on what appeared to be “field trip day” for the local schools.

Schlitterbahn jumping

Although there were plenty of people in the park that day, we found the workers to be extremely friendly, courteous, and accommodating. I don’t know about you, but I have found these qualities to be more and more rare these days when I encounter workers in public places. Sometimes it feels like they are annoyed you are spending money there!

Not so at Schlitterbahn! In fact, I mistakenly thought the park closed at 6, and I thought it odd that the workers were starting to sweep up and set chairs in a straight line at around 5. Then I noticed there weren’t that many people in the park anymore, so I asked what time the park closed.

“We closed 15 minutes ago, at 5:00.”

“OH! I’m so sorry! I thought closing time was 6:00!”

“No problem at all. Take your time,” the worker reassured me.

We never once felt like any of us were an imposition on their day, even though we had no idea we were there after closing time!

My best tip for enjoying Schlitterbahn is to pack a rolling ice chest. They welcome visitors to bring in food and any non-alcoholic drinks not in glass containers. We packed plenty of food and drinks to keep us refreshed and hydrated all day during our visit.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark

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Mood Lift in a Bottle

Young Living Mood Lift in a Bottle


I carry this combo in a little bottle in my purse wherever I go. While I was out of town with my 9 year old, she noticed me rubbing it on first thing in the morning.

“Are you sick?”

“No,” I replied. “These oils just give me energy and make me feel good. I like the way they smell.”

“Oh, so you’re addicted?”

“… Yeah. I guess I am.”

Here’s how these oils are described:

  • Vetiver: calming and stabilizing effect that accompanies its heavy, sedimentary fragrance
  • Patchouli: calming, relaxing, peaceful fragrance
  • Lavender: soothing and refreshing, great for relaxing and winding down before bedtime
  • Valor: inspiring and calming aroma or apply topically to experience this empowering and uplifting fragrance
  • Stress Away: stress-relieving and relaxing essential oils that can help reduce tension

You can see why I am never without this blend!

Young Living June Giveaways

If you are still considering joining the essential oils healthy lifestyle, NOW is the time to get started. Pictured above are a few of the goodies you will find in your welcome package from me when you sign up for the Premium Starter Kit through my link, PLUS my favorite 400+ page spiral bound reference guide!

Click here to join us in caring for our bodies naturally.


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Grace Upon Grace

I spent a solid three days mad at him.

I had outlined some property cleanup work I needed done. It would require a chainsaw, a burn pile, and quite a bit of heavy lifting. He reminded me more than once that he’s “an adult now” and could handle it, including figuring out how best to get it done. Now looking back, I guess that was a signal from him that he wanted me to treat him like a capable adult, instead of the 13 year old kid I sometimes forget he’s not.

But, I didn’t get the signal.

I kept after him, telling him how to best accomplish it, and finally he snapped at me.

It wasn’t a loud, door slamming scene like is often depicted on teen television dramas, but it was sharp. It was disrespectful. It was unlike him.

I stormed away and busied myself in the house, fuming all the while. That’s when I did what I often do when one of my kids has a high fever. I go straight to the worst case scenario and start imagining funeral plans and sobbing over a coffin. (I know! It’s a curse!)

I told myself if he could not even take instructions from his own mother without talking back, how could he take instructions from a boss? Or a college professor? Or a police officer holding a gun?

From there, my imagination went wild (as usual) and I imagined him in his twenties homeless, jobless, and in jail. What would his future hold if he couldn’t even respect his own mother enough to follow orders without giving me lip?

We didn’t see each other much over the next couple of days. He stayed busy working 8+hour shifts at his movie theater job, and I was pulling my usual 24/7 cab driver/nurse/counselor/cook duty.

The third day, I thought we had better talk it out, and I mentally prepared my speech. It contained a fair bit of “I expect you to give me the respect I deserve” and “How can I trust you to be responsible when you don’t show me you are?”.

I kept waiting for him to get home, and when dinner time came and went, I knew he must be working the closing shift. I headed to bed around 11pm and heard him pull in close to midnight, the usual time he gets home from closing the theater. It struck me then that I never once considered worrying about where he was. He had a job to do that his boss depended on him to complete well, and he always did. So well, in fact, he was offered a managerial position if he decides not to go to college in the fall. I also pondered how we had never considered giving him a curfew since he always lets us know where he is, and there has never been a time we have worried about the places he goes or the company he keeps.

Huh. I guess he’s an okay kid after all. I’ll give him that lecture in the morning.

Bright and early the next morning I got up to stormy skies and pouring rain. I was the only one awake and I tiptoed upstairs to deliver my well thought out speech. He wasn’t in his room. Hmm. I know I heard him come home last night. It’s 7:15 in the morning. Where could he be?

I checked the driveway. His truck was there, but he was nowhere to be found. Weird.

Over an hour later I heard the neighbor’s tractor pull into our driveway. He was driving it, completely soaked from head to toe from the driving rain. ”You’re drenched! What have you been doing out there?!” I asked when he stepped inside.

“That load of gravel needed spreading. I knew this would be the only chance to get it done before the road floods again.”

Suddenly my speech seemed petty. My grudge made me ashamed.

“I’m sorry I provoked you to anger, Son. I love you. You’re such a fine man.”

He hugged me tight. “I’m sorry I talked back to you. I love you, too.”

It was then that I thought of God’s grace for us. Over and over we fall short and disappoint, but our heavenly father never withholds the sunrise, or the rain, or the rainbow after the rain. He never stops calling us to Him and waiting for us to draw near. And I thought that’s how it should be with us. No matter how many times our children fall short or disappoint, we continue to hold out blessings and waiting for them to draw near.

We never give up, never tire of waiting, never stop loving. Like the story of the prodigal son, we continually watch and wait for the coming home.

I learned a lesson that day. Talking back to your mother seemed like a major infraction to me at the time. But when I thought about what I could have been upset about, like drugs, drinking, lying, stealing, or promiscuous relationships, I realized how fortunate we were to have that be our only issue. I also thought about how we would never give up watching and waiting even if those issues do crop up with our children.


Just like our creator waits for us.

“For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1:16

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Devotional Journal for Kids {SALE}

How to Manage Your Mouth for Kids {eBook}


Are you looking for a little bit of book work for your kids to do over the summer so they don’t forget everything they’ve ever known about writing actual words to form sentences?

Or maybe you just want a little something for them to do each day to keep them busy and using their brains?

Or maybe you need a low maintenance, independent Bible study for them to do over the summer?

I’ve gotcha covered! I’m offering “How To Manage Your Mouth – FOR KIDS, A 30 Day Wholesome Talk Challenge” to ONLY THE FIRST 100 takers for $1.97!

THAT’S UNDER $2 for a 30 day devotional guide! You can easily have them do 5 lessons a week for 6 weeks.

I wrote this eBook for my own children, and it is intended for ages 7-13. It has space for daily journaling with a scripture and explanation for each day on controlling the tongue.

Click here and USE CODE “Under2″ at check out for the discount.

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Nothing More Than a Neighbor

When I first came to know them in their eighties, I thought it was humorous of God to place us here so near them in proximity. An aging couple with no children and a bustling family with an over abundance of children. Because of a financial need, they had put for sale, and we had bought, a small section of property pretty well in the center of the land he was born on, which his parents and grandparents had farmed before him.

Adrienne's  10th birthday 037

They welcomed us and we grew fond of one another. Our family helping here and there when needed with the farm chores that were beginning to be too much for them to handle alone, and they encircling us into their tiny family, which I imagine they never imagined would include children at this stage of life.

For the past few months I had been noticing he was slowing down, gradually becoming thinner, more and more frail. That didn’t stop him from his daily chores, but I worried over him extra.

I began to imagine, in a sort of nightmarish daydream, what I would do if I saw him collapse while out feeding the donkeys or goats. In my mind, I would see myself running to him and cradling his head in my lap while comforting him and calling for his wife.

I reminded the children often that they should go over to visit and talk because one of these days, maybe sooner than later, we wouldn’t have him with us any longer. I kept an eye out for him each day.

He stopped by to visit last week. I saw again how his arms and legs were thinner than the last time we had talked. We stayed there chatting together in the light breeze with the sunlight dancing through the leaves over our heads. We talked about the rain and the news and his knowledge of Morse code. After a moment of silence, we both knew we had run out of trivial things to say. A bird broke our unease with her short, sweet song and we looked at each other, that rare look right in the eyes of another that is looking the same way at you, and we both smiled.

I could feel the thin, thin veil between now and eternity was wearing away before us, like your grandmother’s flour sack dish cloth so worn and threadbare that the shadows of the trees can be seen through it when held up to the window. All at once I felt my eyes turn moist and there was an aching in my throat. I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and hug him tight and tell him I loved him.

At the last second, I kept myself from it for fear that he would think it an odd thing to do. After all, I was nothing more than a neighbor and this was no special occasion. At least that either of us knew.

Eight days later, as I was finishing up the preparations for dinner, I answered a phone call to hear his wife telling me in a trembling voice that she thought he had suffered a heart attack.

I dropped the spoon I was holding, threw on my boots in a flash, and flew through the rain and mud to their back door. I asked where he was and she motioned to the bedroom. When I got to him he was slumped over, like a rag doll form of himself. I knelt down beside him and gently shook him and called his name. I could feel his warmth, but he never responded.

911 had been called and they began CPR when they arrived. There was a flurry of activity and questions and tears. His wife went over the days events and sobbed about becoming angry with him for refusing to eat. She wondered what she would do about making important decisions. He made all the important decisions. He always knew what to do.

The paramedics soon told us there was nothing more they could do. He was gone. More tears. The funeral home was called. The sheriff came to take a statement.

Through tears I asked if I could say goodbye before he was taken away. The paramedics stood aside respectfully and I knelt down once more. This time I did what I had regretted not doing a few days before. I smoothed his hair with my hand and kissed his barely warm forehead. I said, “I love you, Mr. Reed.”

Now she is the only living member of her family left. Can you imagine it? Being all alone in this world with no one to watch out for you in your last days? One of the children has asked, “What will happen if she has a heart attack and there is no one to see and to call us?”

And so we make some excuse to go over each day. “We made too much spaghetti. Would you like to have this dish of the excess?” “We saw it was feeding time and wondered if you needed help,” “Have you seen any snakes in your yard lately?” “What about this rain? How long do you think it will go on?” “We’re making a run to the feed store. Do you need anything?”

I feel a great responsibility for her now, since she has no one. We must be there for her, to check on her, to care about her needs, to know when the thin, thin veil between time now and time eternal has been pierced.

She has no family, but she has us, here in the center of the land they worked together. We aren’t family, but we are something far more than neighbors.

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