I was a bone-weary traveler as I pulled up to the bed and breakfast inn in Eastern Tennessee one evening last spring. I traveled there for a meeting at Bryan College and to hear Pam Tebow speak at a crisis pregnancy center. (For those of you who might not know, Pam homeschooled all five of her children, including Tim.) I had driven over four hundred miles that day, when you take into account the confusing detour I encountered near Knoxville, where I managed to get totally lost even with the help of my GPS. By the time I arrived, I was exhausted.
I trudged up the stairs of the charming inn where I was staying, carrying my suitcase and dragging a box of books behind me. Before I collapsed in the bed to rest until dinner, I decided to hang my clothes in the closet, which was actually a wardrobe. As I opened the door, I stood there totally mystified and transfixed as I realized there was no back to that wardrobe. I found myself peering into another room, my eyes riveted on some intriguing murals of a lion, two beavers, and a lamp post.
It took me about ten seconds to realize that I was in a suite designed with a Narnia motif. When I originally entered my room that evening, there was no hint that there would be something beyond that wardrobe door. In the brief magical moment when I unwittingly opened that door simply to deposit my clothes and realized this was no ordinary piece of furniture , I experienced for the first time how Lucy Pevensie must have felt when she opened the wardrobe door that mysteriously ushered her into the land of Narnia.
In those unexpected few seconds of wonder and total surprise, I felt like a child again. Upon gaining my bearings, I walked through the wardrobe and into The Aslan Room, created by the innkeepers to coincide with the movie release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe several years earlier. I perused the Narnia picture books and thumbed through the seven-volume set of the Chronicles of Narnia that had been placed in the room, lost for awhile in that wonderful world created by C. S. Lewis.
Later that evening, I picked up the manuscript I was editing at the time—Sarah Clarkson’sRead for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families. As I read, surrounded by the whimsical pictures of Aslan, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, and the lamp post, I remembered something Sarah had written earlier: “Once I started reading real books at age six, I never stopped. My first friends in print were Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie series and Aslan and the Pevensies from the Chronicle of Narniaseries. I finished both series and hungered for more.” After my own encounter that day with Aslan and the land of Narnia, I was reminded anew of the power of great stories not only to engross and entertain our children, but also to shape their lives, hearts, and character.
Sarah’s parents are Sally and Clay Clarkson, the authors of the classic Educating the WholeHearted Child. In her book Sarah says, “Before I was born, my parents decided that one of the primary gifts they would give to their little girl would be a childhood, and thus a life, shaped by great stories. Their investment of time, money, words, and wisdom is a gift that I now want to pass on by encouraging you to do the same for your children.” Of her mother Sarah says, “She didn't give me a reading list, she gave me a reading life.”
Sarah has written Read for the Heart to help you in your quest to foster a love for reading in your children, as well as to help you figure out what your children should read, and when. I found myself earnestly wishing that I had owned this guide when I started homeschooling twenty-five years ago.
Sarah encourages you to snuggle with your children and read to them while they’re young. You'll not only be laying the groundwork for them to love reading in later years, but you will also be teaching them to delight in reading. Remember to set an example by reading in front of your children. Reading is a waning skill in this culture. Since reading forms the basis for cultivating critical thinking skills, we should not be surprised that educators are extremely concerned about the lack of critical thinking abilities in children today. We can reverse that trend in our homes by surrounding our children with good books.
According to Chip Ingram, author of Good to Great in God’s Eyes, books have the ability to broaden your world, sharpen your mind, inflame your heart, develop your skills, and strengthen your soul. Apologia Press, a new division of Apologia Educational Ministries, is designed to provide you and your children with books that will do just that. We have books you can read aloud to your children like Who Is God? And Can I Really Know Him? We have books to help you with the nuts and bolts of homeschooling likeThe Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. We have books to help you in various stages of homeschooling—like Read for the Heart for those of you with preschoolers and elementary children and later this year, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens for those of you with preteens and high schoolers.
Sometimes as busy parents with overwhelming demands, we often focus so heavily on the “school” aspect of homeschooling, that we have little time or energy left over for the “home” part of the homeschooling equation. Throughout twenty-one years of teaching my children at home, I discovered that if the home is functioning well, the academics become much more exciting and easier to address. To encourage you and inspire you in your parenting and family life we offer SoundBites from Heaven and 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Children’s Potential.
One of our ardent desire at Apologia Press is to provide homeschooling moms with resources that will strengthen you and encourage you spiritually. All of our books and resources are authored by men and women who love God and His Word, and so each book is spiritually inspiring in its own right. If, however, you are looking for a book written specifically to refresh and energize you in your walk with the Lord as a homeschooling mom, I highly recommend Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson.
In the 1800s, Charles Spurgeon served as the pastor of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, then the world’s largest congregation. Spurgeon loved God’s Word. He also loved his books. He grew up surrounded by books and typically read six a week, even as a boy. Here is what he said about books: “My books are my tools. They also serve as my counsel, my consolation, and my comfort. They are my source of wisdom and the font of my education. They are my friends and my delights.”
As homeschoolers, books often serve as our tools and our paperbound counselors. They certainly have been mine. It is my prayer that these Apologia Press resources will be your tools and your friends as you endeavor to raise your children to love Christ, to help their neighbors, and to bring glory to God in this hurting world.