Rule #5: Read


As a girl, I received discipline often for reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. I now understand my parents’ frustration with the fact that I wasn’t sleeping when I should have been. Even then I recognized reading under the covers after lights out was dreadfully naughty, but I just had to see what happened next in the tale spun on the pages before me.

In our house, books are normal, and reading is a habit. We joke that our home is well-insulated against Oklahoma’s scorching summer heat and frigid winter blasts by our library. My husband and I are both avid readers, and we aren’t very good at sending our paper friends and teachers away from our shelves when we are done with them. Our children have the same compulsion. The books they love are well-loved, and they don’t want to send them off. So, the books stay in the our household library, guarded by the dread dragon Draco (a beardie), when they aren’t being read in our house, unless they journey to be enjoyed by a friend.

I did teach each of these guys how to read, and they each became fluid readers around the time they turned eight. Reading is a skill that is usually taught, but the desire to read isn’t taught. It is caught. My bookworm husband and I read books to ourselves, to our boys, and sometimes to each other. We both tend to stash something to read near any spot we often occupy.

We want these boys to know that reading is a cozy activity that this family just does.  They need to me to read with and to them, and they need to see me reading for and to myself. Even more so, they need to see their father reading, and it is awesome if he is willing to read aloud. My husband is not a fan of fiction, but he enjoys reading aloud histories or biographies or well-written science titles. It is covert bedtime education for all of us.

Often, we find a boy curled up in an odd space (like in a closet, under a table, or upside down on the couch) with a book, completely engulfed in story. “Children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times – a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books” (Mason, Home Education, 153). I’ve lived in Narnia, visited Rivendell, walked the moors of England, inhabited a garrett in London, and shivered in a little house on the prairie. My boys have lived in most of those places also, and we have visited some of them together.

Once in a while, a book drags one of us in and doesn’t let go when it ought. The freedom to roam literary lands is a treat that grows strong readers. Most characters don’t compel their audience to read far into the night, so these infrequent journeys are allowed. Even if it causes an occasional grumpy morning, the delight of immersion in another world is not to be missed.

What is a Rule of Six? How did I find it?

Rule of six instagram
A Rule of Six isn’t fancy. It is just six words or ideas that you want to meet regularly. It isn’t intended to make you tired or to be a judgment on whether you had a good day or not. A Rule of Six is meant to bring rest – to allow you to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing because you know what the Main Things are for your family. You won’t be as tempted to go chasing after every new curricula that pops up after you know what works in your house, and what is important to your family.

I am not completely sure of the origins of the Rule of Six, but I first read about it in 2007. That was a crazy year around here.  You see, we have five sons. Our oldest son, Danny, died when he was five years old in 2005 due to a nasty genetic disorder. That left my husband and I and Micah, preschooler. And then we had babies in 2006, 2007 and 2009. So, in 2007, I was struggling to recover from my own grief, help my husband and Micah recover from theirs, home educate that now-kindergarten-aged boy, and care for our almost Irish twins (our double blessing boys, Josiah and Gideon, who arrived 14 months apart). I was exhausted. I went searching for ways to simplify, and I found the idea of the Rule of Six appealing, but I was too overwhelmed at that moment to really think it through.

I was reading Ann Voskamp’s A HolyExperience daily because I had found that counting blessings was the only way to crawl out of the grief hole into which I had (quite understandably) been sucked. I was intrigued when Ann posted a list of Seven Daily Rungs that her homeschool hung on. That was back before she was famous, but after she started keeping her One Thousand Gifts list. You’ll find that post here:

Then I found the idea again on Elizabeth Foss’s blog as I continued my search for holistic education ideas. She wrote about a Rule of Six in 2006 and 2007 and likely some other times also. These were simply six things that she was striving to give her children daily. Those posts are here: and here:  (If you haven’t read Elizabeth Foss’s book, Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home, please do. Especially if you are in the season of many small children, she has some practical advise and curricula ideas for the first eight school years, as well as ways to avoid burnout.)

Elizabeth Foss led me back to Melissa Wiley, here: Melissa Wiley had her own (different) six things that she plans for her family.

All three ladies had different rules of six, but they had the same purpose – to bring peace and efficiency to their home educating homes that allowed them both structure and freedom as they created family life and wrote books and blogs and articles while they were at it.

Much more recently (after multiple rounds of simplifying and making our homeschool look like I want it to), Sarah Mackenzie, who hosts the Read Aloud Revival Podcast over at and who also wrote the little guide Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, did a Master’s Class to help her members sort out a way to decide what is the most important things for their own homes.  (If you join the Read Aloud Revival membership site, you can watch the recording of this class and several others)

After watching the catch-up video of the first in the two class series, I hurriedly scratched down six words that are things we have been trying for in our house. I finally grasped that I wasn’t supposed to take someone else’s idea of what would be good for this house of boys (now 8, 9, and 13) and their author-editor-publisher-parents. I needed to write what would work for us. And I needed to start with what is currently working and see where that leads. So, that is what I did.

I suggest you try it also. (I’ll explain more about why I chose the words I chose in the next few posts).