Sarah Mackenzie (00:00:00):
The interesting thing is that Jesus could have just instantly made there be enough for everyone. And maybe that would’ve even been more impressive, but he didn’t. He said, “Bring me what you have and I will make it enough.” And this is what we do every single day in our homeschool. We bring this little measly basket of bread and fish that is, we are 100% sure, not enough for our children. And we are right, because he didn’t ask us to work the miracle. He just asked us to show up and he will make it enough.
What should you do if you don’t feel like you read aloud well? What’s the point of poetry memorization? Have you ever really worried about one of your kids? What would you tell a mom who’s confused about all the different homeschooling philosophies and methods? How do I know I’m doing enough? What about high school? These are questions you might have, and I’ve had them too. I’m Sarah Mackenzie and this is the Read Aloud Revival, the show that helps your kids fall in love with books, and that helps you fall in love with homeschooling
This past year, I had the privilege of speaking alongside Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing at all five Great Homeschool Conventions throughout the US. We decided to pitch each other some of the best questions we’ve ever gotten about homeschooling, homeschooling high school, about books and reading aloud. It’s all in here.
Andrew is one of my favorite speakers. So getting to chat alongside him on stage for an hour was such a joy for me. Now we know that many of you weren’t able to make it to a Great Homeschool Convention this year. So we thought we’d share our session here on the show so that you could hear it for yourself. And it seems like good timing right now. It’s the start of a new school year for most of us. So a good time for a little boost of encouragement, right? You’re not alone.
There are a lot of us starting a new school year, right alongside you. And here’s a little secret in the homeschooling world. We’re all pretty much jumping in, scared, jumping in, maybe a little more unprepared than we wish we were because that’s how homeschooling usually works. Now, before I hit play on the recording for you, I want you to know, today is the last day of our pre-order launch on Kickstarter for the first book we’re releasing at Waxwing Books. It’s a picture book I wrote illustrated by Breezy Brookshire. And you guarantee your copy in the first print run by pre-ordering on Kickstarter.
So if you’re listening to this after September 1, 2022, yes, you did miss the Kickstarter, but you can still order the book. If you’re listening to it. When it airs, head over right away to waxwingbooks.com, because September 1, 2022 is the last day of the Kickstarter and we’ve got some exclusives you won’t be able to get after that Kickstarter closes, including a really beautiful new book bag and some other goodies. So it’s all very exciting. Head to waxwingbooks.com and don’t delay. That Kickstarter ends September 1.
Okay, here we go. Here is my session with Andrew Pudewa from the 2022 Great Homeschool Convention, called the 10 best questions we ever got. Welcome. We are so glad that you’re here. I’m Sarah Mackenzie and I’m here with someone who needs no introduction, but I’ll introduce him anyway. Andrew Pudewa runs the Institute for Excellence in Writing.
The first time I talked to Andrew, wasn’t the first time I got to know him, because I listened to a recording of a talk he gave called, Nurturing Competent Communicators, which I highly recommend. And in this talk, he discusses the importance of reading aloud and reciting poetry, as two of the most important things you can do to help your kids become good communicators. So I take this advice and I’m reading a ton with my kids and I’m seeing all the things he promised would happen, the great reading comprehension and the improved vocabulary and the better writing skills.
But I’m also seeing this other thing happen, which is all of these connections and relationships really grow and nurture in our home. So I think, well, I’m going to record, I’m going to create a podcast and just create a couple of episodes about reading aloud. And I tend to be a ready, fire, aim, kind of person. So I shoot an email over to IEW and say, “Would Andrew Pudewa like to talk to me on my podcast?” And they wrote back, “Yes, he would love to.” And I thought, oh no, because this is Andrew Pudewa and I don’t have a podcast.
Andrew Pudewa (00:04:56):
If you build it, they will come. No, if they come, you got to build.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:05:02):
Real quick. And ever since, we’ve developed a friendship and you have seven children and how many grandchildren?
Andrew Pudewa (00:05:12):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:05:13):
Andrew Pudewa (00:05:15):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:05:17):
My day’s coming. My oldest is 20. She’s here, but she didn’t want me to point her out. I know, sorry. I said I wasn’t going to, but she’s the one who looks exactly like me, but six inches taller.
Andrew Pudewa (00:05:31):
It’s funny, you were sitting at dinner last night and I was watching her talk. She’s like a clone. Her facial expression was everything, so similar. And I thought, you guys probably get confused as being sisters, most of the time.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:05:45):
We do sometimes. You want to talk about it?
Andrew Pudewa (00:05:45):
It’s a good problem to have.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:05:45):
Yes. It’s a fun problem to have. So I have six kids that are 20 down to eight year old twins. And we’re just going to talk about [inaudible 00:06:02]
Andrew Pudewa (00:06:01):
Yeah. So I didn’t really know who she was because nobody did, but I’m one of those people whose desperate for attention. So any random person could call me and say, would you like to be on our podcast? I’m thinking, absolutely. I had no clue what would happen as a result of that. And I am particularly gratified because this message that I had about the importance of reading out loud. I felt like, how do I break into the outside, just the homeschool world.
And I work a little bit with schools, some public private, but how do you reach the general parent population? That’s the question I had not solved. And I am particularly delighted and I don’t know if I can legitimately use the word proud of, but I will, that Sarah has managed to do that, to extend Goodness way beyond the market that was started with.
And I really believe, if you wanted to do something to try and improve education in the United States, the first thing you would do is teach parents how to read with their kids every day, because that’s at the core of everything else that’ll happen. Anyway, I wanted to tell you something that someone told me yesterday. So there’s a woman who’s been working with us for, I know almost 20 years. And she met you at the rep retreat we did in Orlando.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:07:44):
Andrew Pudewa (00:07:45):
So one year we invited Sarah to be our guest speaker at our exhibitor’s IEW staff retreat thing. And she told me yesterday that what you talked about, teaching from rest, was the most important exact thing that she needed to hear at that time in her life, because she was dealing with elderly parents and little kids and overwhelm. And that you, I think basically saved her life, so she’s here in case you want to say hi.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:08:17):
I want to hug her now.
Andrew Pudewa (00:08:18):
Her name’s Danielle.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:08:19):
Andrew Pudewa (00:08:20):
She’s at her booth or she’s in the room.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:08:22):
If she’s in the room, you better come hug me later on.
Andrew Pudewa (00:08:25):
But I think for every one story like that, there’s probably thousands that go unheard.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:08:30):
You guys want to hear a funny story about that conference actually, that little rep retreat? Because Julie, from IEW emails me and says, “Hey, Sarah, would you come speak at our rep retreat?” And I am, this is Andrew Pudewa, right? So I’m like, “Yes I do, but I had just finished doing Great Homeschool Conventions and I have 5,000 children at home and my husband will probably start an uprising if I say yes to something else. I don’t think I can leave my kids again.”
And so she said, “Well, how many do you want to bring with you?” I’m like, well, “Three,” because the young three, they’re not even invited to go to target, so they’re for sure not coming to a conference with me. So we come, it’s in Orlando, Florida. So we’re about ready to leave. And I lean over to my kids and I’m like, “Make sure you say thank you to Mr. Pudewa for bringing us to the conference.”
So Drew who at the time was probably eight or something, 10, says, “Mr. Pudewa, thank you for paying for us to come to this conference.” And Andrew goes, “I paid for this?” It’s like, go, go, go, back to the car.
Andrew Pudewa (00:09:42):
All right. Well, we need to get started with the actual content. We’re going to ask each other questions and maybe comment. And we have to strictly limit ourselves to four minutes per question and we will still run out of time. And then we have a lightning round at the end. And I have a surprise question she doesn’t know that I’m going to ask her.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:10:06):
I tried to get it out of him last night, but he was, no.
Andrew Pudewa (00:10:09):
I wanted her to lose sleep, but she lost sleep anyway, talking to her daughter till 2 in the morning, I’m sure. All right. You ready?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:10:16):
Andrew Pudewa (00:10:17):
I’ll go first.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:10:18):
Andrew Pudewa (00:10:20):
What would you tell a mom who is confused about all the different homeschooling philosophies and methods? How many of you have had confusion about homeschooling methods and philosophies? How many of you just didn’t raise your hand, but you secretly have been confused? Yeah, so that’s like 98%. So what do you tell them?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:10:43):
Well, Okay. This is interesting because when I was brand new to homeschooling, I read all the books, right? Because we want to do this just right, so we’re reading all the things and trying to find examples and mentors. And that was good to a point, but what happened is I found myself, number one, constantly thinking, however I was doing it was wrong. Because if you read one book or one method, you find out this thing is right. And then you read from another book, that will never work and you should do it this way. And you have to do the whole thing their way, or it won’t work or this is how it works.
And so what I failed to do then, is I failed to just look at the children in front of me and respond to the children in front of me. And so what coming to a conference is really helpful, I think for is, first of all, if you look around you, this room is full of people who are doing the same thing you’re doing, alone in your house every day. But also, when we’re using these excellent published resources, this curriculum or reading about methods, those people are able to speak to their experience, but they don’t know your children because you are the expert on your own children.
So I would say, if you are lit up by reading about different philosophies and methods, that’s great, but make sure you’re keeping your eyes on the kids in front of you because those are the ones that we’re teaching. We’re not teaching books, we’re teaching images of God. And so that ends up being a little more challenging than what we can find in a book.
Andrew Pudewa (00:12:10):
For some reason, I think I should say this. I don’t know who needs to hear it, but one of the things people sometimes ask about when they first hear about homeschooling or they look at all the philosophies and methods is, well, what about unschooling? So I would like to define that word properly for you because I think there’s people who define it wrongly by saying, unschooling is where you basically just let your kids run around, do whatever they want. You don’t worry about anything.
So I do think there’s a place for unschooling, but what it is to undo the schooling that you suffered. So if you’re coming into homeschooling straight out of years in an institution, you actually may need to take some time to undo all that, which would be just relax for a while. This idea that somehow homeschooling is, you have to be busy doing school every minute, at least six hours a day for 12 years of your life is really phenomenally disordered. But that’s the one the institution puts on you. It’s like, oh no, we lost a week. We’re behind
Sarah Mackenzie (00:13:21):
And I think here in Ohio you have a 900 hour thing. So it’s helpful to know that they all count, all the hours count, so you got 900 hours.
Andrew Pudewa (00:13:32):
Cleaning, straightening your room, these are all valuable life skills. That should go on a transcript. So I just think it’s good to say, hey, let’s just take them a few months maybe and not do academic and reorient reorganize, and then that gives you the time and space to consider, okay. When we start up again, which kind of approach your philosophy do we most embrace?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:13:58):
And which philosophy maybe you most like, makes you excited about teaching, because you are going to be in your homeschool longer than anybody else. So this did not occur to me till my oldest went to college and I was like, wait, I’m still here. So you are the one that has to maintain the enthusiasm, which it can be difficult to do. So trying to find something where that I think goes with your personality or makes you excited to get up and teach your kids, makes you feel like I am lucky to do this job, which is not how we feel a lot of mornings, right. That’s useful as well.
Andrew Pudewa (00:14:34):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:14:34):
Yeah. Okay. I have a question for you.
Andrew Pudewa (00:14:36):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:14:37):
What do you do if you don’t feel like you read aloud well?
Andrew Pudewa (00:14:43):
Yeah, I think a lot of people have that fear. I’m not going to do justice to this book. I can’t read or more likely, I get tired or I get sleepy. How many of you have gotten sleepy while reading to your children? And then you feel guilty. I should take better care of myself so I don’t get sleepy so I can read an extra three hours a day to my children. And then I know, I’ve tried to inspire dads to get involved, because this is one thing dads can do with virtually no preparation, no lesson planning, no figuring out what to do.
You just pick up the book and start reading, but not all men feel all that comfortable about doing it. So one thing is to just not worry about that because you’re talking to your kids all the time anyway, and you may not do it that well, but they don’t know. So they don’t actually know that you’re not reading so good. And the more you do it, the better you will get. So like any skill, it’s practicable, it’s learnable and you can get better. So the first thing would be, I’d say, don’t worry. And the second thing is, if you’re reading a book and I know you preach this one, if you’re-
If you’re reading a book, and I know you preach this one, if you’re reading a book you want to read, then you’re just going to have that extra urge of enthusiasm that can, through grace, multiply into a better quality of experience for everyone. Because if you’re reading a book that you don’t want to read, everyone will be pretty aware of that by the end of the second page. So, that would be the one thing. And then as your kids get old enough, you can start allocating to them the job of reading part of it. So pass the book around. And then my strategy, when I get sleepy, is just stand up and walk around the room and then I don’t get sleepy. How about you? What do you tell people if they say I don’t do this well?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:16:55):
Well, I think a couple of things. One is that sometimes we feel like we have to do all the voices and things. It’s kind of funny though, my husband was reading The Enormous Egg, are any of you familiar with that? This is just a few weeks ago. And so we were doing Great Homeschool Conventions in St. Charles, Missouri and he texted me and said, “Well, I started reading The Enormous Egg, I knew it was on a farm, so I thought I’d give him a Southern accent.” Then I realized it was in New Hampshire, but I was in. And he’s like, in this Southern accent, so he gets to the end and he’s just like, “Well, one more chapter, tell your mom, my bride comes home.” And the twins say, “Your bride, our mother,” and the other one goes, “Unless things go bad and we get a stepmother.” And the other one says, “Or even worse and we get a stepfather.” And that’s where he cut them off.
Andrew Pudewa (00:17:57):
Well, if you had recorded that, it would be priceless. All right. Time’s up on that one. All right.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:18:05):
Wait, wait. I want to know what the best book recommendation you’ve gotten from me is. I’m always texting him book recommendations.
Andrew Pudewa (00:18:13):
Well, I would say, I don’t know. There’s just so many, but I did read the Wednesday Wars to a grandson who was unfortunately in the hospital for a couple weeks. And it was such a phenomenally great bonding experience. And the book was particularly interesting to me because it’s set in the late ’60s in a middle school. So just about my time period, a little bit before. So it was a way to share things I could really relate to with my grandson who could not even imagine anything like that. And so we talked about it quite a bit and I think he was just old enough.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:19:01):
Yeah. Usually I recommend that one for 10 or 11 and a half or something, yeah.
Andrew Pudewa (00:19:04):
He’s precocious. So, I don’t know, that would be the one. But I think someone else recommended it to… Actually what happened is, someone recommended it to me, I started reading it. I texted her, I go, “You’ve got to know this book.” She texted back, “Yeah, I interviewed him on my podcast.” Okay. All right. It’s my turn now.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:19:22):
Andrew Pudewa (00:19:23):
Okay. This is a softball question. What are the best read aloud experiences you have had with your kids?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:19:29):
I just asked my older kids this to find out what they said. My 16-year-old son instantly said The Green Ember by S.D. Smith. Yes, we have some Green Ember fans here, I can tell. We recently read The Hobbit and I usually don’t like to admit this in polite homeschooling society, but I was not a Tolkien fan until a month ago. I just couldn’t. I mean, I try and I felt like it was always fight, fight, fight, journey, journey, journey, fight, fight, fight, journey, journey, journey. Really?
And then we read The Hobbit, actually we listened to the audio book narrated by Andy Serkis, and that’s S-E-R-K-I-S. He’s the guy who plays Gollum in the movie. Phenomenal. So good. And we loved it so much, we re listened to the whole thing and then we started it over and we’re listening to it again. And my kids have multiple… You know, the poems and songs like chip the glasses and crack the plates, blunt the knives and bend the forks. That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates. Yeah, that one. A couple of them, like the Adder Cups, Spider Poem and down, down to Goblintown we go, my lad, that one. Anyway, we’ve got them all memorized now. We’re becoming super fans.
Andrew Pudewa (00:20:39):
Didn’t they sing the break the dishes song while they were doing the dishes?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:20:42):
Yeah, they were. Yeah. Yeah. Those are the two that come to mind for me. What about you? Do you have a favorite read aloud experience?
Andrew Pudewa (00:20:48):
Well, I would relate just one story. So I have seven children and there’s a spread between the oldest two and the rest. And the oldest two… Well, the second one who’s actually here. This is so fun. We both have a daughter here.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:21:08):
Andrew Pudewa (00:21:09):
And they got to talk last night. But anyway, I had been reading and then she went off to college for a couple years or something, I don’t know. And then she moved back home for a while. And so she joined back in the reading culture and then one day she said the sweetest thing to me. She said, ” Daddy, it’s so interesting, when I read, it’s like black and white, but when you read to us, it’s like color.” And I didn’t take a huge amount of personal pride in that, aside from the fact that my reading skills are stellar. But what it made me realize is that there’s something really particular that happens, that brings literature to life when you hear it, when you read it, when the language lives in your ear. And this particular daughter was an early reader. In fact, I think she spent the entire year of being six years old just going through The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe books again and again and again and again. And I remember my wife saying-
Sarah Mackenzie (00:22:22):
I didn’t have any of those. So if your kids are not early readers-
Andrew Pudewa (00:22:25):
My wife said, “Do you think we should make her read something else?” And I said, “Ah, I don’t know. She’s only seven, eight years old. So why bother? She’s obviously happy.”
Sarah Mackenzie (00:22:37):
And had good taste.
Andrew Pudewa (00:22:39):
She just doesn’t want to leave Narnia. But I think you will find that the more you get into the hearing of the beauty of the good and great literature, the better it penetrates into your soul. Yeah. All right. Your turn.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:22:58):
Okay. Let’s talk about, I wanted to ask you this one, why poetry memorization. So that was one of the things that you talk about in nurturing competent communicators is the two best things to do to help your kids become good writers and speakers is to read aloud a lot, memorize poetry. Tell me about that.
Andrew Pudewa (00:23:15):
So those are really the two things that were at the core of primary education for almost all of recorded history until maybe 100 years ago. So if you look back, I’m sure most of you have read books, like Little House on the Prairie, Laddie, Anne of Green Gables, Little Britches. And in most of those books written about the life of children in the mid-1800s, they will mention the fact, almost in passing, that children were responsible in schools to memorize huge chunks of poetry, scripture, as they got older, famous speeches. It was universal, in the mid- to late-1800s, every single school kid would know the Gettysburg Address, the Preamble to the Constitution, the 23rd Psalm. This was just normal. And so I started to realize how incredibly powerful that is for expanding the vocabulary, for creating a familiarity, even a love for language itself and poetry.
And one of the thoughts I’ve had more recently is we have two areas of vocabulary in our mind, in our brain. Our passive vocabulary, i.e., we hear that word or we read it and we kind of know what it means, and that’s good enough to just keep going. But then there’s active vocabulary, which is I can easily pull that word, use it correctly in context, without struggling to think of it or find it or anything. It’s just part of the natural way. Well, how do we move words from passive vocabulary into active vocabulary? By using them, but there are a lot of words you just don’t have opportunity to use on a daily basis because they just don’t come up, especially in our modern culture. So memorizing poetry or prose that includes a broader range of vocabulary, moves that word from, yeah, I kind of know what it means if I see it, to I can say this word because I’ve been reciting poems that include that.
And so I just encourage everyone very, very strongly to do memorization because of all of the great things it does for the brain, all of the marvelous expansion of vocabulary and syntax and fluency, and yet even more so because memorizing something, we use the expression learn it by heart. My mother was a music teacher and she never ever said you have to memorize your piece. She always said you have to learn it by heart. But there’s a difference there, isn’t it? Memorization is mechanical. Learning by heart, you take it into your soul. So that which you memorize will actually come into and maybe even affect, maybe even create, hopefully, positive changes in your soul. And the whole modern world discounts the value of memory. And it’s ironic because it’s advertisers who use repetition to drive really stupid stuff into your brain. But if you don’t give children good and beautiful things to memorize, they will memorize whatever garbage is in their environment. I can still say two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. How did I learn that? Television commercials when I was nine, 10 years old.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:27:02):
Did they say it that fast?
Andrew Pudewa (00:27:04):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:27:04):
Andrew Pudewa (00:27:06):
I used to be able to say it faster.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:27:09):
Don’t you love it when your kids use a word that’s just… I was just telling Audrey that her twin brothers, the other day, one of them had grabbed the other one’s book and run out of the room. And so they’re fighting. So they’re about to get in trouble except that the twin runs down and goes, “You thieving magpie.” And I was like, well done.
Andrew Pudewa (00:27:29):
And that’s one of those cases where you know thieving and you know magpie, but putting them together has a super-special effect.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:27:37):
Well, my older daughter was listening to Emma on audio while she was drawing. And the little kids were around, but she didn’t think they were paying attention until she turns it off and they’re sitting there drawing with her and all of a sudden Beckett looks up at his sister and says, “Clara, you are ill-bred.” My husband’s like, “Are we sure they should be listening to Jane Austen?”
Andrew Pudewa (00:28:00):
Yeah. You have to be a little careful because what is it? Wednesday Wars, they have this whole Shakespeare thing going. And it’s the curses. The Shakespearean curses from the Tempest that really captures this kid’s imagination. Then he goes out and tries them on all these clueless people. It’s hilarious. So I don’t really object to Shakespearean curses. I mean, if you’re going to curse, you might as well do it in Shakespearean.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:28:26):
If you do in a British accent, it sounds perfectly polite.
Andrew Pudewa (00:28:29):
All right, what’s next?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:28:32):
I think it’s your turn.
Andrew Pudewa (00:28:32):
Is it my turn? Okay. Libraries don’t seem to be safe places anymore. How do we best use libraries?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:28:43):
I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately, because that’s true. A lot of the books that are coming out of publishing right now, we get a lot of those at Read-Aloud Revival. Publishers will send us their whole list of everything that’s coming out. And it’s pretty remarkable how that has changed in the last four years or so, five years. And I think though, I feel very strongly that the libraries belong to us, they are public libraries. So they belong to us. And so you can use them. There’s a few different ways you can use them well. One is just to use the hold system so you can put things on hold and go pick them up. I hear some places have drive-through libraries. Here in Ohio? Oh, we don’t have drive-through libraries, but oh yeah, use an app. Yes. And oh, the other thing is that my library has something called Libby and hopefully yours does or something like it, Overdrive or something. And that’s an audio… It’ll have audio books and digital materials that you can put on hold. And the great thing about that is that you don’t have late fees because if you’re like me and last week, we got a thing in the mail that said I had $82 in late fees. I know, and my husband opened it, not me. I told him it was-
Andrew Pudewa (00:29:58):
And he’s an accountant.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:29:58):
I told him it was a business expense.
Andrew Pudewa (00:30:02):
You probably could do anything and call it a business expense.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:30:09):
But if you put things on hold at the library, you can avoid having your kids just like free rein. I will say, I take my kids to the library and I let them just roam and they bring things to me and I will check them all out. And then the rule is that for my older kids, it’s less strict. For my younger kids, if I’m not familiar with the author or the book, then I will just pile them up on my desk at home and I will look them up really quick. And there’s a couple resources that are helpful here. One is commonsensemedia.org, which is probably where you might go to see what’s in a movie that you are about to let your kids watch. It’s helpful because it will just point out the kinds of things. It will say violence on a one to five scale, and then it will name the kinds of violence or whatever it is that’s in the book, language or whatever.
And then redeemedreader.com is one of my favorite places to look. That’s a group of about five or six Christian women who are writing reviews on books that are coming out now. So with their emphasis being like, we’re reading ahead for you the stuff that’s coming out now, so that you… And again, they’re not going to tell you, yes, have your kids read this, or no, don’t. But they’ll say these are some things that show up in this book that you might want to be aware of.
We’ll get right back to that conversation between Andrew and me in just a moment. I want to take a second to let you know about Waxwing Books, which is the brand new boutique children’s book publishing house we’ve started at Read-Aloud Revival. We’ve actually got four picture books under contract with illustrators and oh my lands. You’re going to love them. They are coming along beautifully. Our first book is a picture book called A Little More Beautiful, the story of a garden. And it’s about an old lady named Lou Alice, who leaves each day more beautiful than she found it. Nobody notices the little things she does each day, except for a little girl. And when the old lady, when Lou Alice-
For a little girl. When the old lady, when Lou Ellis has moved from her home in town, everything she planted starts to die and be neglected. The little girl takes up the work of Lou Ellis and she does make the world a little more beautiful, but she also knows it’s not enough. She’s got to do something of her own to make the world as beautiful as it should be. You can pre-order the book by September 1st on Kickstarter to guarantee your copy of A Little More Beautiful, the story of a garden in the first print run. Just go to waxwingbooks.com to see for yourself. Even if you’re listening to this after September 1st, same place, go to waxwing books.com and you can find out how to get a copy. Okay. Back to my session with Andrew. Have you ever been really worried about one of your kids?
Andrew Pudewa (00:32:55):
Well, I’ve had a lot of kids. Actually, I’ve been really worried about every one of them, but I guess really worried is when you just think, this is going to crack my wife’s sanity.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:33:10):
Which is very insightful of you.
Andrew Pudewa (00:33:11):
This kid is poison in the family right now. What do we do short of sending them off to a different city to live in a different family and go to school forever, which is tempting, but I talked about this yesterday a little bit in the things I did as a dad talk. I had one child who at 12 years old, had reached the absolute peak of obnoxiousness. This child was so incredibly obnoxious that we were having the evil conversations in bed at night. “What do we do?” The thing that I did was I just took her off her mom’s plate and said, “I will be in charge of this kid for a while,” and so I think that’s something that can happen. It can help. And I think that was the most worried I was. The great thing is, they grow up, right? They’re not 12 forever. Thank the Lord. Then, they kind of get that sensibility. Have you ever been really worried, like capital R?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:34:29):
Two things come to mind. One is that, my kids were all late readers and that is very anxiety producing when you have a late reader and especially if your mom and sister happen to be reading specialists and are pretty sure you’re doing something wrong. I would listen to you and be like, “You better know what you’re talking about,” and you did it worked out, but one thing is worrying, especially with your oldest couple, those poor first borns, right, but the oldest few, worrying that they’re not going to have what they need. I mean, I think we did this all the way up through, my husband was just saying about our 16 year old the other day, “I don’t think he’s going to survive when we send him out into the wild,” and I was like, “I think we always think this though.” There’s a lot of maturation that happens between 16 and 18, we hope, with the grace of Jesus.
The other thing is that I really feel like a lot of this comes back to us holding our value as homeschooling parents on how our children are doing. We’re measuring our worth in our success, depending on how our kids turn out, which is not fair to them. It’s not even fair to us because that’s not the job we’ve been called to do. At one point or another, we have to realize that homeschooling doesn’t mean that you get to walk the path for your child. It just means you get to walk next to them for longer of it. Once we realize that, then we can realize, we show up and we do our work faithfully every day and they have to walk their own path to heaven. They have to walk their own relationship with God and they have to make mistakes that we wish they wouldn’t make because we can see them from our perspective, but that’s just how it works.
Andrew Pudewa (00:36:17):
Yeah. I think that the scripture says, “Teach your children as you walk and live together.” It doesn’t say, “Have anxiety and worry about them 24 hours a day.”
Sarah Mackenzie (00:36:29):
Andrew Pudewa (00:36:31):
All right. My turn?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:36:33):
Andrew Pudewa (00:36:35):
I have a child who loves audio books, who doesn’t want to read books himself. Will too many audio books make him lazy and he’ll never want to read?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:36:46):
Nope. I’m just kidding. I’ll say a little more about that.
Andrew Pudewa (00:36:50):
Yeah. I think you can unpack it a little bit, but that is the answer is, no, don’t worry. It never happens. Talk a little bit about audio books versus reading aloud and what are some benefits of, or problems with either?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:37:05):
Yeah. One thing to remember is that if what we’re trying to do is get good language and good stories into our kids, then whether they get it through the sensory experience of their eyes or the sensory experience of their ears, it all ends up in the same place, right? It’s a different modality. We call a different reading modality. There is a significant benefit to having it come through the ear, like andrew talks about, because I think one of the things that you pointed out to me early on was that when we read with our eyes, we skip stuff. We skip the little connector words and things. It’s why you can read with your eyes faster than … If I was to hand you a page of something to read, you could read it to yourself silently quicker than I could read it out loud to you. When we’re reading out loud, we get those whole, complete patterns of grammatically correct, sophisticated language intact into their ear, which has a benefit.
The other thing is I feel like we’re, especially with kids who are just, maybe they were late readers or they struggled to read, we don’t really doing stuff until we’re good at it, right? There’s this whole section of time between when we finally figured out how to decode words and when we’re really good at it. There’s this stretch of time where we really just need to read a bunch of words to get better at it so that it’s easy so that we’ll enjoy reading. During that time, especially, listening to audio books is really helpful because those stories are better than the ones they can read with their eyes. It gives you something to aspire to because if they’re just reading what they can read on their own and they’re easy readers, that’s just not very motivating. Yay. I can’t wait to read more so I can read, The Cat Sat on a Mat, again, right?
Andrew Pudewa (00:38:42):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:38:43):
Our listening comprehension is always better than our reading comprehension, well, up until I think about 10th grade, it’s better. This is why your five year old can listen to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, even if they can’t read it yet and they understand it. Giving them these audio stories and having them have lots of audio stories. Whether it’s you reading aloud or an audio book, we’re doing the reading. If you’re tired, if you have health issues, if you’ve got babies and toddlers and you didn’t get much sleep last night, just use audio books for a little while. It really will take a big load off of your shoulders. You can always say later, “Tell me what you heard, tell me what you read,” and now you’re asking your child to narrate. This is all a really beautiful way of getting a lot of good language into your kids.
Andrew Pudewa (00:39:29):
Yeah. I’m going to ask you this one.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:39:30):
Andrew Pudewa (00:39:32):
This is one everybody has.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:39:34):
Andrew Pudewa (00:39:35):
How do I know if I’m doing enough? How many people have that thought on a regular basis?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:39:43):
Andrew Pudewa (00:39:43):
Okay. Fix all the problems, solve their psychological angst.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:39:51):
Oh, you’re probably not.
Andrew Pudewa (00:39:56):
Good old Sarah.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:39:59):
In so far, well, let’s finish that sentence. If we finished it, sometimes when we keep things vague, everything feels really impossible, right? How do I know that I’m doing enough? Well, I don’t even know where to start with that. How do I know that I’m doing enough so that my kids get in college? Is that a concern or is it so that my kids have everything they need when they leave my home, so that they hold onto their faith after they leave home? When we can get a little more specific, we can also see the absurdity of the question itself, although we all ask it and I ask it too, because we’ve never been called to do enough. If we go back, let’s just think of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and we’ve got this throng of people on the hillside and the disciples are like, “Send them away. They’re hungry,” which is how I feel every Tuesday morning, right? Send them all away. I don’t have enough.
The interesting thing is that Jesus could have just instantly made there be enough for everyone and maybe that would’ve even been more impressive, but he didn’t. He said, “Bring me what you have and I will make it enough,” and this is what we do every single day in our homeschool. We bring this little measly basket of bread and fish that is, we are 100% sure not enough for our children and we are right because he didn’t ask us to work the miracle. He just asked us to show up and he will make it enough. When you’re wondering, am I enough? Am I doing enough? Remember that we’re probably taking on a yoke that doesn’t belong to us, right?
Andrew Pudewa (00:41:43):
This is the most beautiful answer you’ve given. All right. I’m not going to comment. That was too good.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:41:55):
Knowing what you know now, what things would you have done differently, homeschooling?
Andrew Pudewa (00:42:01):
Yeah, that’s great because having adult children gives you so much valuable perspective. I know you can’t, I mean, if you’re sitting out there with a seven year old, a four year old, a two year old and one on the way, you can’t conceive of the end. If you could, you will know that they will have someday all grown up, that’s future perfect tense by the way, and you will look back. One thing that helps is if you look back on your own childhood and you say, “What are the most formative things that I experienced as a child,” in the whole process of growing up and say, “If those were the most significant formative experiences for me, how can I create similar things for my children?”The things you worry about, like, are we going to finish the math book by the end of May with the right number on the cover so we can start the next math book with the next number. That is the most irrelevant thing you could ever worry about, but at the time, that’s what you worry about.
I think the thing I would say is probably, the things you’re most worried about are the least important and the things you’re not thinking about might be the most important. If I look back, I would say, “Well, there’s this, this and this that I still remember to this day, 50 years later and it affected me my whole life and I’m blessed because of it,” or cursed depending. What are those things? Then, how do you create those experiences for your children and your family and none of those things in my life had anything to do with school or academics. All of them were meaningful life experiences. I think as homeschoolers, we have to be careful that we don’t confuse the idea of academics being the most important thing about growing up and I bet almost everyone would agree.
If you look at your own childhood until you left home, what were the most important things? Very few of you would connect that with a grade in school or a course you took. There might be a particular inspiring teacher, but it was the soul of the teacher, not the content of the study. What’s that book title, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. It’s a good title, but your problem is you don’t know what’s the small stuff. That’s the contemplation. Don’t let homeschooling and the responsibilities for academics eclipse the things that are going to ultimately be the most impactful, the most formative on who the kid becomes.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:44:58):
Can I ask a follow up? I want to make sure we get to this one before we’re out of time.
Andrew Pudewa (00:45:00):
Okay. Yeah. We’re almost out of time.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:45:02):
How many of you have high schoolers? Okay.
Andrew Pudewa (00:45:05):
Yeah. High school is very easy. Don’t do it. Don’t think about it. Don’t try to do what schools do and call it high school. Instead, do something much smarter, which is, start doing college level work when you’re about the age of starting high school. If you could completely free yourself up from the idea of grade levels, you would be happier and you would be free, but you probably can’t, but you can think, okay, if this kid can read decently well, write decently well, and even has multiplication tables memorized, they are head and shoulders above the average 19 year old at 14. Looking at dual enrollment options, right, through online class or community class or local Christian college, this is a very, very good idea because you can save a whole lot of money in the long run. There’s external accountability and you get to help the teenager fight the evil demon of math or English composition or whatever class they take, accounting. You get to be on their team rather than the one trying to force them to do stuff.
Looking for that type of opportunity and I mean, anyone in this room, unless you’ve got a child with real challenges, neurological issues, could probably start at 14 or 15 and take one or two classes every semester and bank up at least a year, if not a couple years of college credits before, and even if they’re not transferable, you don’t use them, it’s still, it’s just as good. This dual enrollment and the honest truth is this, under, what do you call it, the first couple years of college underclass, right, senior.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:47:04):
Andrew Pudewa (00:47:05):
Well, the first couple years, yeah, freshman and sophomore, which is aptly named these, the rigor of almost all universities right now is lower than the rigor of a typical high school class of the same sort 50 to 70 years ago. The only difference really is that they have shortened, dumbed down, abbreviated, redefined so that they can get people through college and keep getting their money. [inaudible 00:47:39]
Sarah Mackenzie (00:47:39):
I’ve heard you say too this idea of, do what you want.
Andrew Pudewa (00:47:46):
And call it what you need.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:47:47):
Andrew Pudewa (00:47:47):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:47:47):
Talk about that.
Andrew Pudewa (00:47:47):
Yeah. Transcripts, don’t worry about it. Just do whatever you want to do and then write down whatever you need to write down.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:47:57):
I told you you wanted to hear it.
Andrew Pudewa (00:47:57):
If you do the dual enrollment thing, you don’t even need a transcript anymore, right? You got two years of /..
Don’t even need a transcript anymore, right? You got two years of college credits. Nobody’s going to ask you for a transcript from high school.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:48:09):
Transcripts also, I mean, I think a lot of us are like, ‘Oh, should I put my kids in an accredited homeschool high school program so they do the transcripts?” But the transcript is very easy. They all look pretty much the same. It’s like English 1, 2, 3, 4, World History, American History. I mean, you can Google this stuff. And they don’t want it to be some fancy name. I wrote course descriptions for my oldest and then I heard that the colleges don’t really need or want that. They’re not even looking at that. So for the second daughter, I didn’t even do that. So you just make up a transcript. And Andrew told me to give him all As, so I did.
Andrew Pudewa (00:48:42):
An occasional A minus.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:48:42):
Andrew Pudewa (00:48:42):
Just to make it look okay. All right. We’re out of time. So it’s the lightning round.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:48:50):
Andrew Pudewa (00:48:51):
We should do a whole session on just high school.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:48:54):
Andrew Pudewa (00:48:54):
All right. Okay. Lightning round. What’s one nonacademic skill you’d like all your kids to acquire before they leave home?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:49:03):
Oh, my couple, oldest, who did a finance class. Like the Dave Ramsey Finance class thing at our co-op. That was smart.
Andrew Pudewa (00:49:09):
And accountant husband.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:49:10):
Yeah. What about you?
Andrew Pudewa (00:49:11):
Cooking. Because when you go to visit your children and visit your grandchildren, you want to eat well. So you have to plan ahead. All right, what is your favorite tea?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:49:26):
Coffee. What about you?
Andrew Pudewa (00:49:34):
Chai. Unsweet. Bitter as possible.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:49:39):
Oh. Why? Because it’s more like coffee. All right, if you could have a picnic anywhere in the world, where would you do it?
Easy. Prince Edward Island.
What about you?
Andrew Pudewa (00:49:54):
My backyard. Then if I run out of something, I just go get it. The grandchildren, they’re just as happy in the backyard as they would be on Prince Edward Island.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:50:05):
This is true.
Andrew Pudewa (00:50:05):
They don’t know the difference. What book are you reading right now?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:50:10):
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys. I don’t know if any of you’re familiar, if you’re a historical fiction, you like historical fiction? Ruta Sepetys is R-U-T-A S-E-P-E-T-Y-S. I know, right, you wouldn’t be able to look that up really. If you look up Ruta, R- U-T-A, you’ll find her. But anyway, she has done lots of historical fiction. This isn’t lightning. Sorry.
Andrew Pudewa (00:50:35):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:50:36):
You asked me about a book.
Andrew Pudewa (00:50:37):
We have a few minutes just flex here.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:50:40):
Okay. She has written like Fountains Of Silence is another one that’s really good. That was about the Revolution in Spain, and her books are very heavily research based, but you never know it. They’re page-turny. If you like Susan Meissner, Ruta Sepetys is another good one. Anyway, this new one I’m about halfway in, is called I Must Betray You, and it is about Romania in 1989, so as the rest of the Soviet union is crumbling. It’s amazing.
Andrew Pudewa (00:51:05):
Would you text that to me?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:51:05):
Yeah, I will. I’m listening to on audio.
Andrew Pudewa (00:51:07):
I would like to just comment, if you were to ask any of my adult children, “Where did you learn history?” Most, I think almost all of them would say historical fiction. And you’d learn a whole lot more about the Revolutionary War period and some of the main players by reading Johnny Tremain, than you would by reading three chapters out of an American US History textbook. The textbook information doesn’t often have a good narrative line that locks it into the memory and imagination. So even though historical fiction is fictional characters, it has a better ability to lock the facts into your memory. So you should do, oh, you probably have, a whole podcast just on historical fiction.
Speaker 1 (00:51:54):
Andrew Pudewa (00:51:57):
I finally had an idea she didn’t already do. All right. What is the best family vacation that you ever took?
Sarah Mackenzie (00:52:09):
I like theme parks more than my family does. So I’m going to say Yellowstone. I know. I tried to get him to come to a theme park with me one time. You gave me that same look. It was like a scowl.
Andrew Pudewa (00:52:21):
Yeah. My opinion about theme parks is it’s kind of like the gateway to hell. But Yellowstone.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:52:29):
I am fun at theme parks.
Andrew Pudewa (00:52:31):
You’re fun even not at theme parks.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:52:35):
Yellowstone National Park. We did that last summer, and Jackson, Wyoming. And it was wonderful.
Andrew Pudewa (00:52:40):
Yeah. If you’ve never been to Yellowstone, it is good. All right.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:52:44):
But you didn’t answer that one.
Andrew Pudewa (00:52:50):
My best vacation would be like to stay at home and not have to drive anywhere or ride on an airplane. But I think the best one was we spent Christmas in the snow at a cabin one year. And so we didn’t have the whole awfulness of gazillion presents and too much cooking. It was just very calm and peaceful Christmas. So what is the number one reason to attend a homeschool convention? Number one.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:53:22):
Oh, look around you. I think it’s seeing all these people who are doing the same thing you’re doing every day alone in your house. They’re having the same struggles. They have the same doubts and just knowing we’re not alone. What’s your answer to that?
Andrew Pudewa (00:53:36):
Just standing right next to Sarah Mackenzie. She’s one of those people who’s aura is so, you just feel like you’re a better person for having been near her. All right. Now I have the secret question. What is your worst, but perfectly moral, guilty extravagance? Caught her.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:54:21):
I mean like does chocolate count?
Andrew Pudewa (00:54:23):
It’s your opinion, whatever. I mean your worst guilt, I’ll tell you mine.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:54:29):
Yeah, tell me yours.
Andrew Pudewa (00:54:30):
No, I’ll tell you mine after you.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:54:31):
Andrew Pudewa (00:54:31):
Answer the question. True confession.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:54:35):
Andrew Pudewa (00:54:35):
But it’s not immoral.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:54:38):
Okay. My husband would be like, “All right, let me start. Let me just get started over here.” I would say, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I was just telling people that I have a lot of theme park stories because I really like going to theme parks, but I do tend to do that thing where everybody else is ready to go and I’m like, “Five more rides.” And so I have that little selfish tendency that’s like, “I’m having a good time. Don’t stop my good time.”
Andrew Pudewa (00:55:09):
That doesn’t even cost you anything.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:55:12):
Except the love and admiration of my family. What about yours?
Andrew Pudewa (00:55:19):
So I really like asparagus.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:55:21):
What? No. Oh my gosh.
Andrew Pudewa (00:55:25):
I must explain this. I really like asparagus.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:55:29):
Nobody likes asparagus.
Andrew Pudewa (00:55:29):
I eat asparagus. I eat asparagus three, four days a week.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:55:33):
Andrew Pudewa (00:55:34):
Costco. They have organic asparagus in these big bags.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:55:37):
I know. My husband buys it and then we have to eat it.
Andrew Pudewa (00:55:39):
Okay. But now I’m going to tell you the trick. I really intensely just like chewy ends of asparagus. So I am very liberal in breaking off my asparagus where I have no danger of putting a chewy fibrous asparagus in my mouth.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:55:59):
You mean the bottom part?
Andrew Pudewa (00:56:00):
Sarah Mackenzie (00:56:00):
Andrew Pudewa (00:56:01):
And so I break it off halfway through and I just throw them away, knowing that I probably could have had another inch and saved myself a few money or gained a few calories, I don’t know. And then I just think-
Sarah Mackenzie (00:56:15):
I don’t think asparagus has calories.
Andrew Pudewa (00:56:18):
Load them up with butter, which is the trick.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:56:21):
Andrew Pudewa (00:56:22):
So if you get just the good part and you smother it with butter, asparagus is like the best vegetable there is. But I always feel a little guilty about breaking the asparagus so high.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:56:38):
Do you like brussels sprouts?
Andrew Pudewa (00:56:40):
I do, I do. Brussel sprouts only if they’re roasted.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:56:44):
Andrew Pudewa (00:56:44):
You got to cut them in half, salt them heavily, put them in the oven, roast them until they’re a little crispy, but if you steam them or mix them in a stir fry, it’s disaster. Well, that is the end of our hour together. I hope it’s been enjoyable for you.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:57:05):
That was a lot of fun. It’s possible Andrew and I will do another session together next year at the Great Homeschool Convention. So keep your eye on your inbox, make sure you’re on my email list, actually, if you’d like to know more about that. I will keep you posted on where I’m going to be and when in the coming year. So that’s at readaloudrevival.com/subscribe. That’s how you make sure to stay up to date.
I hope we do another session together. I really enjoy his company and I’m always reassured by his perspective. You can learn more about Andrew’s work at the Institute for Excellence In Writing, by going to iew.com. His is actually my preferred program for teaching my kids to write. I really like their new Structure and Style for Students courses, because those are pretty independent courses where Andrew is teaching your kids directly on video. So you as the parent teacher, you offer feedback and some coaching or editing ideas based on the teacher materials, but you’re not having to direct teach every lesson, which is really doable for busy homeschooling parents, moms who have their hands full with younger siblings and babies, which was me for many, many years in our early homeschool.
Anyway, check it out. We still really like IEW for writing. And I think you’ll enjoy it as well. We’ll put a link in the show notes so you can check out their program so you have several different options there.
Okay, for now, let’s go hear from the kids.
I’m Cole and I live in Atlanta, and my favorite book is Bear Stays Up by Karma Wilson.
Ella Blue (00:58:39):
I’m Ella Blue, and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. And my favorite book is Adventures With Waffles by Maria Parr. And I’m 11.
Hi, my name is Riley. I live in Frankfurt, Kentucky, and I’m four years old and I like the book Heidi. And what I like about Heidi is when she ends up with her grandpa.
Hi, my name is Esther and I’m almost five. And my favorite book series is Molly. And I like that she chose to go underwater when she didn’t like it and she was super brave.
My name is Carys and in Missouri.
Speaker 2 (00:59:28):
What book do you want to talk about?
Adventures with Otto.
Speaker 2 (00:59:32):
Why do you like that book?
Because my favorite character is Otto and he’s really funny.
Speaker 3 (00:59:38):
Hi, my name is Eliana and I live in Jefferson City, Missouri. And my favorite book is Stephanie Mouse because I can read it by myself.
Sarah Mackenzie (00:59:53):
Thank you kids. Always love hearing your messages. Hey, don’t forget to head to waxwing books.com to pre-order your copy of A Little More Beautiful: The Story of a Garden. That clock is ticking on that Kickstarter campaign. As always, thank you for listening. You can find the show notes for this episode at readaloudrevival.com/212. The episode was produced by the team at Yellow House Media. I’ll be back in two weeks with a new one, but in the meantime, go make meaningful and lasting connections with your kids through books.