As a child, I 'd never read Ethel Turner's Seven Little Australians.
I grew up knowing that it was a 'must read' and that it was sad despite not having ever turned a single page. I'd always planned on reading it to the older 3 but never got around to it.
[I'm going to say that there will be spoilers if you haven't read it and are planning on doing so, so please read ahead at your own risk].
Funny how you always think you've got so much time left...time to make memories together, time to visit places together, time to read stories together. There were years that felt like our kids would just ALWAYS be at home, needing me to read more stories, or supervise more baking or look over their maths work just one more time.
That felt like a forever-long season to be honest. And because all our kids still live at home there is A LOT that still goes on here and it is STILL a busy life.
Not having all 5 around the table during the day for learning though has definitely shifted things for me.
Somehow when all the daily homeschooling of 5 ended, it caught me off-guard.
Even though I knew it would come.
Even though I desperately wanted it to at times.
It came abruptly but what it has taught me is that I need to make the most of all these homeschool years now that I have only 2 left.
I probably waste less time on filling the days with activities that they have no interest in but boxes that I think need to be ticked, and instead I'm making sure I do the things that I see have long-term value. I'm investing in those things (spiritual, emotional connection being at the top of our list) and for us part of this is done through read aloud time.
I decided we'd read Seven Little Australians and that I'd stop putting it off. One of the lovely things about homeschooling is that I get to learn and experience things (often for the first time) right alongside my kids.
Well today, we finished Seven Little Australians.
And man, I was not prepared for the ending.
Nor was Zippi.
5 chapters out, we decided to make damper like they did in the book at the picnic. We quickly got out a damper recipe, made it up between chapter readings and popped it into the oven for half an hour.
3 chapters out, we checked and it was ready. We got ourselves organised for the damper tea-time.
We started reading again.
And there we sat, heartbroken as we read about Judy's death.
The juxtaposition of Meg's tenderness in trying to console Judy with some prayer or hymn (that neither could properly recall) with the humour that Judy wasn't satisfied with just any old thing being said to her! And all of that being offset by the tenderness of the siblings all gathered around touching Judy in some way as she left them and passed on into the next world.
Just as in Storm Boy, we sat there, tears streaming down our faces, touched once again by how moved we can be by authors. We marvelled at the way they pull us in, let us meet and know their characters so intimately and how at a loss we can feel when those same characters leave us or when the book comes to an end.
We are moved by stories.
We are able to feel deeply because of stories, because of journeys we are taken on.
Why is this important?
Well, hopefully stories makes us more compassionate people, more willing to empathise with others and brings an awareness of the evolution that often happens in the character and somehow impacts our lives. We are changed by love and by loss. We rejoice when there is a win and we enter into a world that is alive if only in our imagination. We seek out adventure vicariously as we thumb through pages, we travel to unknown lands in times long forgotten or not yet imagined. We cry about the little girl, struck down by a tree whose cheeky life had so much time ahead of her.
As I finished reading the last words of the book, Zippi let all her tears out and my big 12 year old climbed into my lap once again like she used to years ago. Arms around my neck, we cried cathartic tears together. Dad walked in from work and our afternoon rolled on.
Our story had led us to real human connection. Ethel Turner's words, written in the 1880's, were still moving us in 2021. Yes indeed, these are stories that move us.
If you are wondering if read-aloud times are worth it, in my experience, I say a resounding, "yes they absolutely are!" It's never too late to start a tradition of a read-aloud tea time. If you don't know where to start you might want to check out this little post HERE.
May you have many wonderful moments of connection as you go on literary adventures together.
Stories are powerful. Stories help us know ourselves, others and the world in which we live. Stories move us.
More another time, Lusi x