Did you know that when you plant bamboo, you will water it, protect it, nurture it…and nothing happens for 5 years? At least it looks like nothing is happening, because it’s all happening underground, where the bamboo is growing a complex root structure.

But above ground? Nothin’. You’ve got to faithfully water and care for that plant for f-i-v-e years before you get any proof that you’re making any progress.

Homeschooling is a lot like bamboo.

In today’s episode of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, I’m sharing the audio from a recent Circle with Sarah (our monthly coaching sessions in RAR Premium) in which I’m talking about this same experience in homeschooling.

You work, and you work, and you work, and you can’t always see the difference that slog is making.

But the seeming dormancy? It matters.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • The power of one small action – it can change everything
  • How to be sure we are using the right measuring stick (…are you?)
  • How to know where to put your energy next

I also answer a listener question about what to do if you cry while reading emotional books aloud. (anybody? 🙋🏼‍♀️)

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Listener Guide

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast:

1:26Crying during a read-aloud
4:23Circle with Sarah
6:57A small, doable action
9:53Which measuring stick?
11:18Bamboo is not like radishes
13:39Everybody wants to quit in February
16:29‘We get to choose what a successful home school looks like’
19:07A question to guide us
24:34What do we want most for our kids?
25:33Process, not outcome
31:08What’s the real goal?
38:59Let the kids speak

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Quotes to remember:

You have to stay faithful. You have to keep watering and protecting, because things are happening…you just can’t see them.” – Sarah Mackenzie

It doesn’t make sense to use a measuring stick that doesn’t jive with your own homeschool vision. But it’s very easy to default into what everybody else around you is using for their own measuring stick.” – Sarah Mackenzie

Books from this episode:

Episode 150
Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain


A dip into Boston just before the American Revolutionary War, as told from the view of a 14-year-old silversmith. Don't let the length of this one deter you—it's engaging!


After injuring his hand, a silversmith's apprentice in Boston becomes a messenger for the Sons of Liberty in the days before the American Revolution.

More info →
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The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction


Alan Jacobs is one of my very favorite nonfiction writers. I feel smarter after I've read them, and like my soul has been spiffed up, too. Don't miss my conversations with Alan Jacobs on the RAR Podcast: #145 The Importance of Reading at Whim and #163: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind.


In recent years, cultural commentators have sounded the alarm about the dire state of reading in America. Americans are not reading enough, they say, or reading the right books, in the right way.
In this book, Baylor University Professor Alan Jacobs argues that, contrary to the doomsayers, reading is alive and well in America. And the best kind of reading of all is reading at whim.

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster


Jonathan Auxier is one of my very favorite storytellers- don't miss his episode on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast. He's also a favorite WOW: Writers on Writing presenter in RAR Premium! This is my favorite of his books and also one of my all-time favorite reads. I learned so much, and my heart grew five sizes. Recomended for ages 10+. Or just read it yourself!


Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived. With her wits and will, she's managed to beat deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan's Sweep disappears suddenly and then she's caught in a chimney fire, everything changes. It starts with a black piece of coal.

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