Monday, July 30, 2012

Using Fiction in Homeschooling - Rachel Harris, author of My Super Sweet 16th Century

Using Fiction in Homeschooling
Guest post by Rachel Harris

Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am a bookaholic. There is nothing I love more than losing myself in the world of story. Okay, maybe that’s not true, I do love chocolate….and Diet Mt. Dew. But seriously, how awesome is it that I can simply break the spine of a new book-- or power up my lovely pink Kindle—and transport myself to another time, another country, another age, or even another gender?

Along with being a bookaholic (and an author), I’m also a homeschooler. My princesses are six and seven and we’ve been homeschooling them since they were one and two years old. They both taught themselves how to read by the age of four and now they never leave the house…or their bedroom…without a book in hand.

I love being able to pass along my love of reading to my children, and I do that by stuffing our shelves with books filled with rich words and settings, characters that exude strength and imagination, and stories that challenge their minds. My six-year-old has worked her way through the entire Ramona series and she loves reading collections of poetry and pretty much any book that has anything remotely to do with fairies. My seven-year-old, on the other hand, is my Greek mythology buff. She reads Percy Jackson and Goddess Girls and collects collections on all the myths. She’s my own personal resource on all things mythology.

Another way I encourage their love of reading is by not only feeding their interests and encouraging them in everyday life, but by using story and fiction in our day-to-day homeschooling. Instead of using dry textbooks, written by several people regurgitating tired, boring facts, we use books written by one or two authors who are wildly passionate about the subject. Then, we follow those readings with visual-heavy encyclopedias from DK and Usborne. We listen to songs to help memorize facts and bring the material even further to life. And we always have read aloud time.

Yes, the girls have their individual books they read daily (most likely hinting on our school theme/topic), and they have private reads that are totally delight-directed, but along with that we gather together every day on the sofa—regardless of Mama’s writing deadlines—and I read a chapter…or two…or three from a book. These are the classics that no child should be deprived of, books like The Cricket in Times Square, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Gooney Bird Greene, Homer Price, Tales of Robin Hood, and The Door in the Wall, along with fun, new books like Detectives in Togas, or books about real people who did amazing things like Gladys Aylward and George Muller. And yes, these are just some of the books that will make up our upcoming school year.

What has all this reading and exposure to great writing done for our family, besides making us a household of readers? Well, it made me a writer. After rediscovering my own love of reading two years ago, I decided to write my own book. And my debut hits shelves this September, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century with Entangled Teen, and I have two more books coming in 2013, A Tale of Two Centuries and Rearview Mirror.

My children are also storytellers. My oldest writes poetry and is forever coming up with complex stories to tell us at dinner time, prompting her father and I to issue the constant suggestion to take out a notebook and write it down. And my youngest, though she has a vivid imagination in her creative play, prefers not to write but to use her spare time to act out all the stories we read together. She is never without a literary imaginary friend in tow, and she loves dressing up like her favorite characters.

And finally, reading has seeped into other areas of our lives. My girls can never just watch a movie or television show. They want to discuss the black moments and turning points, the inciting incidents and climaxes. And our debates on motivation and character arcs are nothing if not entertaining. 

I’m so grateful for the written word and all that it has brought into my life, and I am passionate about kindling that flame in my children and then fanning it to a burning inferno that will last for the rest of their lives. Great fiction does this. It brings families together, it expands imaginations, and it helps us explore things otherwise impossible. 

About the author:
As a teen, Rachel Harris threw raging parties that shook her parents’ walls and created embarrassing fodder for future YA novels.

As an adult, she reads and writes obsessively, rehashes said embarrassing fodder, and dreams up characters who become her own grown up version of imaginary friends.

When she's not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, you can find her homeschooling her two beautiful princesses, hanging out with her amazing husband, or taking a hot bubble bath…next to a pile of chocolate. 

MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY is her debut novel.  She did have her own fantabulous Sweet Sixteen in high school. Sadly, it wasn't televised.
Find out more at, on Twitter, and Facebook. 

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century
by Rachel Harris  
Expected publication: September 11, 2012 by Entangled Teen

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze.

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore.

Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

Add on Goodreads, and pre-order from The Book Depository. 


  1. I absolutely adore this post. Our homeschooling involves family reading time as well as a huge emphasis on literature. Study guides and acting out the passages is a wonderful way to fully understand fiction. In fact, we are also studying The Cricket In Times Square this year.

  2. My kids have to read every day as part of their homeschooling. They love it! (Most of the time.) ;)

    Today my oldest actually chose to read one of my books. That has never happened before. Funnily enough, when he got stuck on some of the vocabulary (not his strong suit), I *still* had to look at the book and verify the word he was trying to pronounce was the one I thought it was, from context. LOL!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blog Design By Use Your Imagination Designs With Pictures from Pinkparis1233
Use Your Imagination Designs