Four years ago I wrote a post detailing when our family reads together throughout the day. I re-read it recently and loved revisiting that time when Phoebe kept busy with blueberries while I tried (sometimes in vain) to read three pages (just three!) of The Jesus Storybook Bible in over lunch.
Our lives looked different then: the dining table dominated the kitchen instead of presiding over its own glorious, sunny room. The girls were in school, so Elevenses wasn’t a thing yet (what it is will make sense if you read on). Most notably, there was no Josie yet, though if my math is right, I must have been growing her when that last post was published.
Our family reading life looks different now: Lydia is 11, Josie is 3, and Sarah and Phoebe fit neatly between them. Our lives orbit that funky formica table as we school and eat there many times each day. No babies need to nurse mid-reading (though the little sisters are rather free range at times); we are in a New Season. I thought I’d give you a glimpse of when we read aloud now, with slightly older kids and a school schedule to factor in.
Note: I started writing this post during the school year but am publishing it now, after the school year’s end. Things already look different than they sound below—bedtime remains unchanged, and the lunchtime reading remains, though it often happens over a picnic at our favorite park and Heidi has given way to Treasure Island.
Mitch and I still wake early. At the time of writing, we don’t wake before the sun, but the sun wakes obscenely early up here this time of year. Who wants to compete with that?
We drink tea (green for me; Earl Grey for him) and read our Bibles and pray over the coming day together. Then he works and I write until 6:20 or so, when I pop in my earbuds and work out like nobody’s watching.
At 7, the girls emerge from their rooms, wild-haired and full of questions about life and our schedule for the day and have we seen the cat. The starting gun sounds, and we’re off.
By 10:30, Mitch has left for the day and the older girls and I have finished their individual lessons. They’ve both had a brush with math and language arts; they’ve logged a solid fifteen minutes at the piano and done some assigned reading. Maybe we’ve squeezed in a drawing lesson by then or nature study, or maybe we spent that extra time feeling big feelings and taking a walk to sort those out.
But by 10:30, we’re back at the table with a stack of books. We call this time Elevenses, because we eat like hobbits while it happens.
After we pray, sing a hymn, recite our memory verse, read the Bible together and read a poem, the girls stow their binders (with sighs of joy! And relief!) and go grab their fancy dessert plates from the kitchen. Earlier, I piled them high with popcorn, pistachios, dried apricots, and fancy flavored marshmallows, and now they carry their bounty to the table, where they sip tea and nibble tiny, time-consuming snacks as I read book after book aloud.
Here is what we’ll read today: Children of China, by Song Nan Zhang. The Story of the World: Volume 4, by Susan Wise Bauer. The Secrets of the Woods, by William Long. Twelfth Night. Empowered, by Catherine Parks. The girls narrate portions of our readings back to me; we discuss as we go. We keep track of significant dates. And we eat pistachios. So many pistachios.
Immediately after Elevenses, one lucky daughter makes lunch. There may or may not be conflict over this; there may or may not be tears. But eventually, lunch reaches the table, and while the girls eat, I read aloud to them from a novel. Lately, it’s been Heidi. Heidi has become such an inextricable part of our lunch routine that Josie recently asked me, “After we eat lunch and read Heidi, then what are we going to do today?”
The afternoon passes in a blur of probable park dates and possible lessons. But after dinner, all six of us settle in on our bed and read together from The Gospel Story Bible, by Marty Machowski. After that, the big girls say goodnight to me and rush upstairs with Mitch, where they throw themselves on the floor with art supplies and draw while he reads from The Return of the King.
I, meanwhile, curl up with Phoebe and Josie and read to them from a novel more their speed. Currently, we’re reading The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Then I tuck them in and take my book (Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog) to an armchair, where I read until one of them gets up needing to potty, then again until one of them gets up needing a band-aid, and again until one of them wants a drink of water.
Eventually, all falls quiet. Mitch comes downstairs, and we watch a show maybe, or eat frozen mangos and talk.
When we go to bed, we bring our books (David Copperfield for him), and close the day when we can no longer hold those books upright but the words begin swimming sleepily as we doze. We turn the lights off. Our day ends.