Having a literature-based homeschool is the most important thing in my life. There’s a reason college is lit-heavy. Literature expands your thinking and introduces you to subjects and events you might otherwise never experience. It helps you think about life in new ways and moves you outside the zone of your daily life. Kinda why they call it ‘expanding your horizons.’ Your brain really does expand.
If you bring up your kids to think in a variety of ways from the get-go (and therefore come from a place of natural expansion), they’re going to be those outside-the-box grownups that today’s career world loves.
And that’s what we all want for our kids. To be creative thinkers and doers. Believe it or not, a literature-heavy homeschool can truly help with that.
Benefits of a literature-based homeschool
Every single day I see the proof of what a literature-based homeschool has done for my boys. If for nothing other than college prep, a lit-based curriculum has been worth it. But let me tell you the other ways literature has helped them and will help your kids, too.
1. Fiction is often more interesting than textbooks
Especially if you start them early, books will always hold a certain fascination for your kids. And stories? Well, those are the best kinds of books. You can (and do) learn a lot from a piece of fiction, especially if it’s well-researched. Even better if it’s written during an era you happen to be studying so you know the social behavior, speech, and world events are probably true to the time.
Keeping them interested in learning with stories has benefits of its own, too.
2. It slows them down
We live in a pretty Veruca Salt society, where we can pretty much get it all right now (or at least with 2-day shipping). Reading stories gives your kids a chance to breathe, a chance to unplug and just be. You can’t get to the end of a story Right Now or you miss the important stuff.
3. It takes them to other places
Reading stories (as we know from all the library ads and The Neverending Story) is the best and cheapest way to take your kids back in time or to other countries. Our favorite way to learn geography is to read a story set in the country we’re studying. For that matter, our favorite way to learn history is to read a story set in, or written during, the era we’re studying. Because it puts the boys right there where they can see it all in their heads.
4. It helps them understand themselves and others
Reading stories puts us directly in someone else’s shoes. Researchers at Emory University found that after reading a story (especially if a character-driven novel like Anna Karenina) subjects were found to be more empathetic and emotionally intelligent.
When we read about a character’s experience, our brains literally help us have the experience ourselves. The study found that readers were able to ‘feel’ the movements of the characters in the movement areas of their own brains.
5. Which helps you tackle difficult topics
Your kids are much more likely to understand civil rights if they can see it from the point of view of a person struggling to have them. The same is true for any topic you want to teach your kids about but don’t know how to broach.
Katherine Paterson wrote Bridge to Terabithia when her son lost a childhood friend and she wanted to make sense of it for him. Children’s authors get you and they get your child, and they often write about the difficult things so your kiddos know they aren’t alone and can maybe address them more easily.
6. It improves critical thinking skills
Another study by Timothy Keller and Marcel Just found that reading actually causes the brain to rewire itself, creating more white matter.
More white matter means an increase in brain communication. Following the story, predicting plot, making inferences and connections… All the things that we do as a matter of course when we read a story help your child’s brain create more paths and links, enabling critical thinking.
7. It increases attention spans
Novel or story reading is done linearly. According to Susan Greenfield, that makes us slowly think about the information we’re receiving. Considering the complex layers of the narrative and how they fit together actually increases the capacity for longer attention spans by making your kids pay more attention.
8. It helps them remember what they’ve learned
Smell, texture, and motion words affect the areas of the brain that feel and sense those details, so reading produces a vivid simulation of reality.
Dr. Keith Oatley, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, discovered that the brain does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life.
In other words, you remember it almost as though you experienced it. Imagine what that does for a chemistry lesson.
9. It improves vocabulary
I know. I say it all the time, but I cannot say it enough. If you want to use big words without even thinking about it, read. read. read. My boys are walking thesauruses.
No, it’s not genetic, as many of my friends think. Sure, I set a vocabulary example, but the boys also learn a lot of words by reading on their own.
10. It improves diction, grammar, and expression
Seeing grammar used properly every day is a great help in teaching kids the rules.
In writing, diction refers to choice of words and their accurate use. Reading good literature not only teaches your kids new vocabulary but the right contexts in which to use that vocabulary.
Literature can also teach your child to express herself better. Seeing how characters from all walks of life express themselves in stories will show her how to best use the language to her advantage when both writing and speaking.
Bonus benefit – It makes everything else easier to teach
Creating a literature-based curriculum means I can pick the novels first and the other subjects later. I usually get research ideas, history, geography, science, psychology and more from a single novel.
Which means planning is kind of a cinch.
(I mean, that might just be the real reason you should consider it.)
Looking for more great literature resources? Check out: