Mention Sonlight to someone, and the conversation might turn toward a discussion of living books versus textbooks. But to me, Sonlight is more than the sum of its literature-based parts. Reading is not a philosophy of education; it’s a way of life. And a reading lifestyle offers many rewards.
1. Reading Allows Us to Seek Oases in the Desert
As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of embracing the full spectrum of learning, rather than simply going through the motions of school. (What’s the difference? School is something you have to complete, while learning is a lifestyle.) Our goal in educating our children is not to spoon-feed a given set of data over a twelve-year period, but to ignite a lifelong thirst and teach our kids to seek out oases in the desert. Books invites us to continue on in our figurative quest for water.
2. Reading Rewards Us With Hidden Beauty
Sometimes the nuggets of truth in a written passage are readily apparent; other times, the nuances require a little deeper digging before they’re visible. This is analogous to life; the profundity of life will not always shout to us from the surface, but is often
- hidden away in quiet corners,
- glistening in the shadows,
- camouflaged by the everyday,
- waiting to be discovered.
Reading teaches us it’s not always the flashiest or the loudest moments which are the most precious. In quiet searching through the written word, we are rewarded deeply.
3. Reading Instills in Us a Drive for Answers
Have you ever encountered someone who just seems to know an abundance of (accurate!) information about all sorts of topics? It’s likely not because this person is inherently more intelligent than any other given person, but simply that she is skilled at independent research; that is, she knows how to find information and connect ideas.
The modern educational system has a tendency to produce students who are stunted in their ability to find answers, verify facts, and research information. But reading ignites curiosity, and curiosity, in turn, demands answers. And kids who read will be far more adept at placing facts in the context of cultural literacy than those who simply click search on a computer screen.
4. Reading Trains Us to Sift Facts from Fiction
Reading allows us to practice discernment by separating facts from fiction. When we’re very young and still learning the limits of the world, children’s storybooks teach us—often through the humor of implausible situations—the confines of natural law. And when we read historical fiction, we’re not just learning history, but we’re also learning to discern the factual thread in the midst of a story-line which reflects collective human experience.
- navigate philosophy,
- identify literary themes,
- call out good and evil,
- shine the light on logical fallacies, and
- discuss what we’ve read
we’re molding and influencing our worldview. That’s why it’s so important to read both books that make you cry and books with difficult topics, then to break up the heavier themes with books of varied genres.
5. Reading Gives Us the Gift of Cross-Cultural Travel
Ever since I was a little girl, books have given me wings. When my age—or my travel budget—kept me home, books allowed me to travel to faraway lands, gently placing me down on streets filled with chatter, where I wandered through alleyways, chapters, and pages. Even today, my favorite books are those which provide a window to another culture. (I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough for Sonlight’s study of the Eastern Hemisphere in History / Bible / Literature Level F.)
Reading cross-cultural books does more than give context to our geographical frame of reference; it also breathes human life into the scattered, faceless, dots on the map. Cross-cultural books allow us to
- listen in on conversations,
- step into the lives of others,
- see the world beyond our own limitations, and
- develop empathy along the way.
And you’ll notice another gift: the more you read diverse books, the more you’ll embrace the marvelous God-given diversity in your own city, too. Reading excellent books full of truth expands our horizons, and allows us to receive new ideas with a teachable spirit.
The reading lists may seem long and the homeschool days may seem endless, but there’s delight in the pages, and myriad rewards for cultivating a reading lifestyle. Readers ponder topics thoughtfully, see the world in deeply nuanced ways, and never stop seeking out more.
Carry on, dear friend. Stay the course. To raise a reader is to raise a world-changer.