I've learned that sometimes a schedule that has worked for years, suddenly doesn't make sense anymore and needs to be reinvented. Ever since M. was in kindergarten, I have read a chapter book at lunch. It allowed me to read interesting books that my children wouldn't normally sit through, but because they had their lunch in front of them, they were virtually a captive audience and I could get away with it. Usually we ended up loving the books we read, but sometimes we gave up on one by general consensus. I loved those times with my children.
As we began our homeschooling schedule this year, something seemed off. We had made it just a few pages into the book we were reading at lunch and I was getting complaints about the whole process. We had done this for so long that I was a bit stymied. As I thought about it I realized a few things. For various reasons, much of our group time this year is spent in reading books. That is going very well, People are engaged and interested and its working. But it also means that to turn right around and read a lunch chunk from another book is less appealing, both for me and for my children. My voice is tired, and they have already expended all of their listening energy on the last book. This means I needed to put a small break between the two times. Yet, then my whole 'captive audience' thing flew out the window and we kept running up against people needing to leave for various afternoon commitments. I didn't want to give up our chapter book reading, yet it wasn't working.
I then had a brain storm. Tea! As in tea time. A quirk of this year's schedule is that except for Mondays, everyone is home and available at about 4:15. This also seems to be a time that is the beginning of the long, slow descent into the late afternoon malaise of tired children who would like to be entertained. Having tea together and reading a book seems to solve both problems. I pitched my idea to my children and everyone thought it sounded fun. (I'm sure my promise to add to our collection of teas and a small cookie every day didn't hurt.)
We've been at it for two days now. And while as P. has dryly suggested that anyone can be successful at something once or twice, I think this is going to work... as long as I keep the tea cupboard well stocked and remember to pick up a small treat for our four tea times a week. A small price to pay for having them sit and listen to a book for 45 minutes. And that is how long I read yesterday. The book everyone said they disliked and was boring, when read for a much longer chunk turned into something everyone loved. (It's Gary Paulson's Winter Dance, by the way. It's funny in a Bill Bryson-ish sort of way. It's also not one I would hand to a child to read as I do more than a little on the fly editing for language as I read. I have 6 year olds in the audience, remember.)
It has also helped with that late afternoon malaise. Buoyed by tea and cookies and a rest as they listen, everyone has seemed to be quite ready to go back to playing as I fix dinner. I love it when a plan works. Plus, it fulfills my Anglophile desires to say, "Children, come and have tea."