Reading and Teaching the Great Books (with Kristen Rudd)

Accidental-Homeschooler-Turned-Classical-Educator Kristen Rudd joins us in this week’s Homeschool Conversations episode. We’re chatting about one of our favorite topics: BOOKS! Have you wondered what people mean by “The Great Books”? Have you wondered if the Great Books even matter? Or maybe you’re convinced that they’re important, but it seems way too overwhelming to know how to start reading and teaching them in your homeschool. Well, you definitely don’t want to miss my conversation with Kristen! She suggests 3 questions you can ask about any book, encourages us to approach literature and learning with humility, and explains how loving our neighbor is at the core of her approach to studying Great Books. Listen to the podcast in your favorite app, or read the full transcript below!

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Kristen Rudd on The Great Books, reading with humility, and classical education homeschooling

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Who is Kristen Rudd?

Kristen Rudd lives in Cary, NC and is a homeschool mom by day. By night, she’s exhausted. She offers online literature and writing classes to high school students through She is the founder of Piedmont Classical Forum, #ThisisEpic, #everydayOvid, and #100daysofDante. Kristen is a CiRCE Institute certified Master Teacher and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Classical Teaching through the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. In her spare time (ha!), she lifts weights, eats tacos, and defends Dido, Queen of Carthage, to anyone who dares smack-talk her, may her memory be eternal.

Kristen Rudd

Watch my interview with Kristen Rudd

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Amy Sloan: Hello friends today I am joined by my friend, Kristen Rudd, who actually has the distinction of being the first person I ever friended on Facebook that I didn’t actually know in real life. Kristen lives in Cary, North Carolina, and she is a homeschool mom by day and by night she’s exhausted. She offers online literature and writing classes to high school students through She’s the founder of Piedmont Classical Forum, #ThisIsEpic, #everydayOvid, and #100daysofDante.

Kristen is a Circe Institute certified master teacher, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Classical Teaching through the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. In her spare time, she lifts weights, eats tacos, and defends Dido, Queen of Carthage, to anyone who dares smack talker. Forget politics. If you really want to get some good social media drama going on, you just tell Kristen that Aeneas and Dido weren’t really married.

Kristen Rudd: I will argue about very few things and that is one of them.

Amy: I’m so excited to get to chat with you today. My son gets to talk to you a couple times a week in his online classes, but this is the first time we’ve actually got to sit and talk. I would love it if you could start by just telling us a little bit about yourself and your family and just how you came to start homeschooling in the beginning.

Kristen: Yes. I have two children. My daughter is 17. She’s a junior, and my son is 14 and he’s a freshman. We have been homeschooling the entire time from kindergarten on. When we first started homeschooling we lived in San Francisco and we’re told how horrible and terrible the public schools are there. We had never planned on being homeschoolers. I’d never given it any thought. In fact, I said that I would never homeschool my children which is just, God’s really got a funny sense of humor.

When we were looking at putting our daughter in kindergarten, we were doing all the research and we did our due diligence, and we did interviews around the public schools. San Francisco at the time had a lottery-based system. You didn’t go to your neighborhood school. You put your top picks down, and if they sent you to one, they sent you to one. You really had no say. We did our research and we looked into it and decided not to go through the process. We decided that in California, kindergarten is not compulsory, so there was no need to send her to school.

We didn’t like the idea that kindergarten was a full day for five-year-old children. It’s a long time, a long time for them to be gone a long time for them to be in school. She’s a super creative, energetic kid. I didn’t want to see an all-day school system suck that out of her because I’d seen it happen with some other kids. We said we would give it a year and we would homeschool for a year and reevaluate and see what we want to do the next year. It was really, really hard and everybody cried a lot. It just felt like a disaster, so we decided to keep doing it. We decided that’s the best thing to do.

We found a few more resources, got a little bit more support, and joined some homeschooling groups, and hodgepodged our way in. I think about maybe second grade, we found The Well-Trained Mind, which was a classical guidebook to how to educate your child classically. I poured over that religiously and started following some of the suggestions in there. I found some curriculum to help me guide me through what we were to do. That helped me– The biggest thing I think that did for me was helped me see that I don’t have to take it one year at a time. I can take a longer view of things. I don’t have to get everything done in one year. I can take a longer view of cycles of history and cycles of science and just really slow down. That helped a lot. We spent a lot of time just reading books on the couch, doing a lot of art projects, a lot of going to the park. It was fun and I think back to those early years, and I think, “We really probably did do a pretty good job.” It’s easy to look back and think, “Oh, I could do it so much better now.”

We moved to North Carolina in 2014, and by that point, we just knew we were going to homeschool all the way through. I knew I wanted to homeschool my kids through high school and so I joined the Circe Apprenticeship because I didn’t feel really equipped to teach classics to high school students. I went through that program because I wanted to feel more equipped to teach my kids through high school and here we are still doing it. They both are dancers. They both dance ballet. In fact, they’re there right now. They dance five days a week, about four hours a day, sometimes six days a week, but five days a week, four hours a day. They’re gone during the day. We put their homeschool in and around their ballet. At this point, even if we had not started as homeschoolers, there’s a very good chance that we would have ended up as homeschoolers. That’s us, that’s what we do.

From Accidental Homeschooler to Classical Educator

Amy: Well, I love to hear how many different stories and the different angles that bring people into homeschooling, and yet as the stories at the beginning are often so different, a lot of times we end up in this same place. I would love to hear a little bit more about how your educational philosophy grew and developed over those years. You mentioned that it was relatively early on, I guess, but not right from the beginning that you were first introduced to classical education ideas. Then, of course, I’m sure it’s grown and developed even more now that you have pursued that education on your own. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Kristen: Yes, it’s been kind of hodgepodge. I tell people we just tripped and fell into homeschooling because we never planned on doing it. I didn’t really want to do it, but I knew that I thought it would be the best option for my kids. I didn’t really have a strong philosophy at first. I remember feeling like I was floundering. The first homeschool conference I went to, I remember being inundated with all these homeschool philosophies and just feeling really overwhelmed, like, “I don’t even know what these are. How do I pick?” There are some that appealed to me more than others. I think little pieces of all different kinds.

It feels like there’s– I’m trying to think back to what it was like. One of the things we had is, in our homeschool group in San Francisco, we had a lot of unschoolers. We were around a lot of unschoolers, and so that philosophy was appealing to me. We’ve tried things from different philosophies at different times, but I think when I found the classical education view, it just clicked. It seems to make sense. It seems to be laid out pretty well with a goal in mind. I think I’m a pretty type-A person. I like to be organized, I like to know where I’m going, I like to have all my ducks in a row. I’m a huge planner, and that gave me a map that made sense.

The more we read and the more we studied, I think the more we just felt really comfortable in it. I don’t spend a lot of time researching philosophies. I don’t spend a lot of time looking into other things. I found my path, I’m just going to walk it. There’s probably a lot of other things I can learn from a lot of other philosophies like Montessori or Waldorf or more Charlotte Mason, which would be interesting, but I just stick with what I know at this point.

Amy: I’d like to tell new homeschool moms that you don’t have to get married to your homeschool philosophy. In those early years, like you were mentioning, you go to the conference or you start researching on the blogs, like, “What are the different approaches to homeschooling?” There can be so much pressure like you have to figure it all out right from the beginning. Sometimes it just takes you a little time to find your footing and find what works best for your family. Then, you can just put blinders on, and do you.

Kristen: We’ve even tried unschooling for a little while. We’ve tried a few different things. We’ve jumped around. I think kids are resilient. Not that we should subject them to harsh treatment or anything like that, but children are resilient. If you’re moving in a place from love and you care much about their education — and there’s no one more anxious about their child’s education than homeschool parent. We constantly second guess ourselves. We always worry about whether we’re doing a good enough job which is the biggest anxiety that we have, and that’s one thing that I would like parents to do away with– Just trust your instincts, trust your gut. We work hard. I mean, we work hard. There’s people I think, “Well, they do a lot more than we do. Maybe I should be doing more. But this is my family and this is how we’re structured, and this is what we can do, and this is the path we’re walking and it’s fine. Everybody’s different.”

Kristen Rudd on The Great Books, reading with humility, and classical education homeschooling

What do we mean when we say The Great Books?

Amy: Well, there are a million and one things that I could and would love to chat with you about. Maybe we’ll have to put a pin in a future podcast season and talk again. I thought today let’s chat a little bit about books and literature, something we both love, and something that you are currently teaching. I wanted to start with the big picture. I’m a big picture person and I like to think first, “What are we even talking about?” Like, “Let’s define our terms.” Especially in the classical world, just terms get thrown around all the time, and you don’t always know what people mean by them. Let’s just start real basic. What do we even mean by the Great Books, and do you think there are any misconceptions around that term?

Kristen: I think the thing with the Great Books is it is a loaded term, and there are a lot of misconceptions about it. I see this playing out a lot. When I talk about the Great Books, and some people may talk about them in a little bit different way, I’m thinking of the Great Books specifically in the Western civilization tradition that have stood the test of time that have been foundational to all of our stories. There’s lots of people who make lists of these books. Some include more and some include less, but they’re books that are good books that nurture the human spirit and soul that tell us what it means to be a human that have also built the foundation for all of the other stories that we also know.

A lot of misconceptions about them are that we’re saying that other books don’t have any value. I’ve seen that a lot and I don’t think that that’s what we’re saying. We’re saying that these are the Great Books and that there’s always room for more of them. This is specifically of Western civilization. These aren’t the Great Books of a Chinese civilization or a South American tradition. It’s just, this is a specific canon that we’re talking about.

I’ve seen a lot of questions on whether or not we should be teaching them or what we should be teaching. For me, I’ve chosen to teach these. There’s lots of things, there’s so many things we could teach, and we have such limited time. I decided to pick the best books that I thought I could teach throughout history, as far as we can find them. I don’t always stick to necessarily just to European civilization. Last year I taught ancient literature and I chose the book of Job from the Bible, from the Hebrew tradition. We did the Epic of Gilgamesh from the Sumerian-Akkadian tradition. We did poke around a little bit, but I think sometimes you just have to focus and you just have to pick what you think you can do with the limited time that you have. I don’t know if that answers the question. It’s such a difficult question to answer, I think.

Amy: Yes. I thought I would just start with something real easy and simple.

Kristen: Define the Great Books and defend it.

Amy: In 30 seconds. Let’s go. Yes, I think so. It’s such a good point that we are finite. When we try to push back against that and try to do all the things, or be all the things, or even teach all the things, having to accept the fact that we are limited is actually a very freeing concept. It’s not saying that there aren’t things outside of ourselves, obviously are outside of what we’ve chosen to teach or to learn, but at some point, you just have to accept that you’re not God, you’re not infinite. You have to be content with not knowing some things, and simultaneously recognizing that you don’t know them. Just because you’ve studied these books doesn’t mean you know all the books.

Kristen: Oh, no. I think the big argument that I see that stems from, “Why teach these books?” is twofold. People want to know that they matter. We want to know that we matter in this world to each other. One of the arguments I see against teaching them, is that we need to teach students books that help them know who they are, that speak to them, that helps them tell their story. I think that there’s truth to that. We need that. We need to be told who we are as a human. This is why we read fairytales to our children. We need to know the story of our people.

In a country as diverse as ours, we’re less and less having a common story. I want to teach things that bring us together as a people and don’t divide us apart into our discrete little areas. It’s important for us to tell our children the stories of our families. “This is who you are. This is where you come from. Good or bad, this is what makes who you are.” When I teach the Great Books, I’m trying to do one of two things. I’m trying to teach them books that do form a common foundation for who we are as an American people from the political tradition that we come from. I think that they tell us who we are. I think if we read these books, they do tell us who we are. They might not tell us specifically who this individual is, but it tells them about other people.

That’s the other side. We want to read, to find out who we are. That is a very beautiful thing when you read and you feel really seen. That’s a beautiful, beautiful thing and I want that for my students and my children. But that’s not the only reason that we should be reading and it’s not the only reason we should be teaching our children to read. We need to teach our children to love our neighbor and love their neighbor. By reading people who come from different eras and different perspectives, it helps us do that. The Great Books do that as well. They also show us what it’s like to see through other people’s eyes, to see what it means to be someone from ancient Rome or ancient Greece or Sumeria or the medieval Italians. They help us see that kind of thing. I think they’re a unifying force and that they do show us who we are and they do help us see other people as well.

Reading and Teaching Literature with Humility

Amy: You’ve already started to address it a little bit, but I’d love to dive a bit into how we can approach reading ourselves and then teaching the Great Books and literature, in general, from a position of humility.

Kristen: I find it very easy to be humbled because I know how much I don’t know. I know how much I haven’t read. There’s so much that I haven’t read. I didn’t grow up in a classical tradition and I’m a public school kid. I had some good teachers and we read some really good books that I remember, and I remember the discussions really well. But there’s so many books that I don’t know. I was chatting with a friend this morning about the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure, and I’m not familiar with this play. He said, “Well, you need to add it to the list.” I’m like, “I need to actually write this list down because there are so many things that I have not read that I want to read.

We’re finite. We have very little time, and I want to reread things that I’ve read. I feel like I can’t get– How can I possibly be arrogant or proud about literature when I know that there’s so much that I don’t know and I have so much to learn? Even the things I feel like I know well, there’s depths that I haven’t plumbed yet to understanding these works. It’s just fun we get to do this. This is my job!

Amy: I know. It’s the best. It’s really fun too. I am very thankful that I– I’ve said this probably to you before, but I look at my parents as they were homeschooling and I was homeschooled classically before it was cool, before people were even talking about it. That was just my experience, which I’m incredibly thankful for.

Even so, there are books that I know I’ve read, and then I’ll read them again in my 20s and now I’m reading them again in my 30s and it’s as if it’s a different book in a way. You’re going deeper, but you’ve had life experience and your perspective is also different so even a book you’ve read, you think, “Oh, yes. I’ve read that a couple of times.” You read it again and it blows your mind again and affects you in a different way. It makes you think about different questions.

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Kristen: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Kristen Rudd on The Great Books, reading with humility, and classical education homeschooling

What questions should we ask as we read?

Amy: What are those kinds of questions? What questions should we be asking and encouraging our children to ask as we’re opening up a book together, or they’re reading a book and then we come together to talk about it? What kinds of questions should we be asking?

Kristen: That’s a good question, because I think a lot of people get– If you’re not a literature person, you’re kind of, “What do I do? What do I ask? What do I say? I don’t know how to discuss this.” It’s really not difficult. There’s a few basic questions you can ask of any story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a children’s book or an ancient epic or a fantasy novel. It doesn’t matter.

  1. Who is the story about?
  2. What does this person want?
  3. Why can’t they have it?

Those are the first three questions that we always ask, “Who is this about? Tell me everything you know about them. What are they like? What do they look like? How do people talk to them? What do they say about themselves? Are they reliable? Are they not? Are they good? How do we know? What does the story say? What is it that they want?”

If we can identify that, we can ask the question, “What is the story about? Who is this person and what do they want?” That question gets answered in the climax of the story. We can walk through the plot development very easily. We can walk through all the parts of the story very easily and find out what happens in the story. We talk about all the different characters, ask about any character, what they’re like, how they interact with others. Ask about where it’s set, when is it set, what’s going on? How does that inform the story?

Then when you’re done with all of that, then, “What is the story about? What is the story really talking about, and how do we know?”

I find that when we just walk through those questions, they start to ask their own questions. Naturally, they start to pull things out on their own. They’re able to see things that they didn’t see before just by asking really good questions. Here’s what the story is about– what do they want? Why can’t they have it? Do they get it or not? Why? Then what happens? Where is it set? What is the story about? It’s the themes, just, what is a story about? What universal elements, and what else can you tell me? What devices are used? Symbolisms can be easy to get into, but what does this mean in the story? Those can be asked about any story whatsoever.

Amy: One of the reasons why I wanted to have this conversation with you, and I’m so glad you expressed that so clearly and simply, is because a lot of times there can be a tendency that I see a lot when I read a blog post or something about like, “Here’s how to talk about this book.” It can be very focused on you as the reader and your personal experience from the get-go. What did you think about this story? Did you like the main character?

Instead, to really come first and say, “Well, what does the book even say? What is the author saying?” Let’s first try to actually understand the story before we start spouting off all of our own opinions about it.

Kristen: I do ask them if they like the characters often. We recently did The Wife of Bath’s Tale in Canterbury tales, which the kids were very upset with because they don’t like the knight at all, because the knight has raped a woman and is sentenced to death and Queen Guinevere pardons him if he can find out what women want in a year and a day. He goes, and he finds out what women want and he comes back and he tells her. The students were just really bothered by the fact that this rapist basically gets away with it. They didn’t like him. We had to discuss well, “Who is he and why is he pardoned? What is going on?” We made jokes. Queen Guinevere pardons and like, “Right. Yes. This is clearly a work of fiction.” We make jokes along the way. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.

We ended up talking about how he was saved and he didn’t deserve it. He was saved by something he found completely repulsive. This is a common theme that shows up in story after story, after story, and this is the human story. We are a people in desperate need of redemption and we don’t deserve it. How can we pass judgment on this knight, despite how we feel about him, when we are in just as much need of salvation as he is? We’re able to draw these things out. In that sense, what they think about the knight doesn’t really matter. That’s not the point of the story. That’s just as an example, but yes.

Amy: Well, some of us get really, really excited. I’m sure you can’t tell who that would be. Now excitement can be good as a homeschool mom. It can be my superpower, but it can also be a problem because I can get so excited that I start talking too much and I don’t listen very well. Especially when we’re wanting to talk about deeper issues with our older students and really draw them out to understanding and wisdom, I’ll just say I, maybe not we, need to do a better job of listening and not talking. How do we do that in a way that encourages growth and wisdom and encourages discussion, and especially with teens, while not just wanting them to think that whatever their opinion is, is just equally valid as any other opinion?

Kristen: If I could get that answer, that would be great. I tend to talk too much myself. One thing I found in teaching online is a little challenging because you don’t have as many cues when people are ready to speak. The rules are a little bit different and it’s very easy to talk over students, or it’s very easy for them to talk over each other without realizing it. I have to really train myself to wait to be okay with some silence, to give kids a minute to process a question maybe, or look something up. I find if I can generally use questions more than anything else to direct and guide to discovery into the truth, instead of telling them something. That usually goes better. In teaching harder books, I’m just going to have knowledge that they don’t have about the story. I’m going to, and that’s appropriate. There’s a lot of stuff that it’s appropriate for me to tell them. But if I can find a way to ask a question about it, instead of directly telling them, I think that’s better.

I can find that I can monologue, especially if I get interested and passionate about something. When it’s not about maybe literature, maybe about something more important, we’ve had a lot of political and social discussions this week with the election and everything and theological discussions and metaphysical discussions. It’s easy for them to go off on just what they think or believe. I always try to draw it back to loving our neighbor. If we are spending too much time talking or too much time opining without considering why someone else might think the way they do, or behave the way they do, or act the way they do, or have a reason for whatever it is we’re discussing, to see something from the other’s perspective, to ask questions about that, to consider the other side of any issue, to consider what might be going on that they might not know, I find if I can direct them towards thinking about those things, then maybe we can guide them to some wisdom. It’s a virtue, but it’s hard. We care about ourselves. Everyone.

I teach writing workshops and one of the things I tell people about writing characters, especially villains, is that every character, no matter who they are, is the hero in their own story and that’s true for life. We’re all the hero in our own story. If we can get out of that mentality a little bit and understand how someone else is the hero in their own story, then we can have a bit more understanding and compassion, and can maybe slow down a little bit and think.

Liberal Arts, Great Books, and Classical Christian Education Wes Callihan

How can we as homeschool parents reclaim our own education?

Amy: Well, what would you say to maybe a homeschool parent who’s listening to this and is like, “Wow, this sounds great, but I personally feel very underread and undereducated. I don’t even know where to start to go equipping myself as a homeschool mom, or a homeschool teacher.” How would you encourage that homeschool parent in reclaiming their own education? Do you have a good place to start? Also, we’ve been talking about limits. We are limited in time and energy and all the rest.

Kristen: That’s a really good question. I actually get this question a lot because people are like, “How do I start?” I’m like, “You start. Just pick something, anything.” You mentioned, I run some Facebook groups to help people read classics and community. People are so intimidated by so many of these books, they seem so difficult. It’s like, “Great. Let’s take the intimidation factor out. Let’s read it together.” Some of these I’ve never read before I started the group. We’re all doing this together. If people are intimidated by not knowing where to start– It really depends on where your kids are, like what level. If they’re younger, find a good book list and just pick a book. Maybe you have a childhood favorite that you know is a really good book. I’ll never forget the day I handed my daughter Island of the Blue Dolphins. She came back to me and brought it to me and was like, “Mom, do you know about this book?” I was like, “Yes, honey, that’s why I gave it to you.” Start with what you know. You don’t have to go explore everything. Start with what you know.

Then find friends to read with you. If you can find friends to read with you, do it in community. That’s helpful, but you don’t have to read everything. You don’t have to. There’s a lot that I don’t know. There’s a few things I know really well, but I think we can get so overwhelmed by– I’m looking at all the books behind me. I’ve not read most of these. I want to, but I get really sometimes overwhelmed with, “Well, how do I pick? How do I pick one?” You just pick one and you just start and you just ask questions.

I think when they’re older, it’s a little more intimidating because we were scared by what we don’t know. We don’t necessarily have to teach the books we don’t know. Teach your favorites, teach good ones, or read it together, learn it, enjoy it together, figure it out together. I think there’s no harm in that. That’s what I’m doing with geometry right now. I don’t know geometry, but we’re learning it together and that’s okay. I think as homeschool parents, we have so much anxiety that we can really psych ourselves out into overthinking things. I do it all the time so I know this is true. I think if we can just take a deep breath and just relax for like two seconds and just calm down, that we’ll be okay. We’re really going to be fine. It’s really going to be okay.

Amy: I think I’m just going to take that clip out of here and just play that for myself, like “Calm down.”

Missy Andrews Center for Lit My Divine Comedy interview

What are you reading lately?

Well, Kristen, I am asking two questions to each of my guests here in season three. Speaking of books, what are you personally reading lately?

Kristen: What am I personally reading? I have been trying to finish Return Of The King since August. I’ve been reading Return Of The King. I feel like it’s taking me as long as Sam and Frodo took to get through Mordor to finish this book. I have been very, very slowly reading that. I’ve been reading a lot of different things. I teach classes and I’m in grad school, so I’m currently reading some of the Canterbury Tales. I’m reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics for grad school, which is really difficult. I’ve no idea what I’m reading so I just keep plugging along. I’m reading Josef Pieper’s An Anthology. Let’s see. What else am I reading? Reading Wendell Berry’s Commonplace Essay. A lot of reading I’m doing for grad school.

I’m trying to think what else I have going on. I’m always reading bits and pieces of things to try to improve what I do as a homeschooler and a teacher. I’ve been reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser with my students. I’ve been reading How To Write A Sentence And How To Read One by Stanley Fish. I’ve been reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass. I’ve got several things that I want to be reading that I’m not, but that’s what I’m actually reading at the moment.

Amy: Just a real short easy list. No big deal.

Kristen: Yes, and it’s not like I’m reading from all of these every day. Most of these are for grad school. This week is Pieper’s Anthology, and Lord Of The Rings and Canterbury Tales, and How To Write A Sentence. I’m not a super voracious reader and I’ve turned into a slow reader. I read much more slowly than I used to. I think I pay a lot more attention than I used to. I’m reading a lot for different reasons than just escapism or enjoyment. The books I’m reading tend to be a little bit more time attentive and a little bit more difficult.

Amy: My husband is a very slow reader and I tend to read very quickly, but what I notice is he retains every detail of what he has read. The books that he has read? The list may be shorter, but he knows them more deeply and so I want to take a little bit of that for myself. I think slow reading is something that I have undervalued in the past, but I’m beginning to value more now.

Kristen: I think some of the things I’m reading, I’m reading for school. I’m kind of in this mindset of, “I need to get something out of this.” I can get caught up in that and not just enjoy the reading. I’m trying to get a little bit better. It just really enjoying and absorbing what I’m reading instead of trying to decide, “Okay, what am I going to write about this?” I want to make sure students don’t fall into that trap either. I tell them, “Enjoy it, read it, have fun with it. Let’s have a good time.” But I do take a lot of notes in my books. I do write in my books and highlight in my books so I do do that a lot. I always have to have my highlighters and my pencil with me, which makes bathtub reading kind of difficult.

Amy: Well, it’s interesting. It makes me think, when you talk about have good listening habits, just an ordinary conversation with someone, you’re supposed to listen to understand not listen in order to reply. That probably applies too when we’re reading, especially if we know there’s going to be something we’re supposed to produce afterwards. It can be hard to just listen first to understand as opposed to like, “Ooh, what am I going to say about that?” the whole time.

Kristen: Yes. I need to listen a little bit more.

Tips for a Homeschool Day Going Wrong

Amy: That seems to be a theme here. Well, Kristen, what tips would you have for a homeschool mom whose day is just going completely off the rails?

Kristen: Send the kids outside, take a minute, collect yourself, and then when they come back in, apologize. My days never go off the rails. It’s not like I ever have to do this, this week whatsoever. Monday went off the rails. The best parenting advice is to not get emotional, to be the adult, and to not get emotional. I don’t know how to do that. That is not my personality type whatsoever. I find that I have to do a lot of apologizing when I let my emotions get the best of me, but I found that usually, it’s when no one’s moved their body enough, or somebody needs a snack and a nap. I mean something. Usually, it’s, “Move your body. Go outside, go take a walk, go sweep the deck off.”

When they were little, I actually would make them go around the house five times until they just had burned off some physical energy. If they came back, I’m like, “Okay, just go play.” At this point, nothing’s getting done. You’re not learning. We are embodied people. We live in bodies and I think we can get caught up, especially when they’re older, we don’t really play as much. They can get caught up in, “You’ve been sitting down doing math for an hour and a half. Maybe you need to let go move your body for five minutes. They get fixated on it.

I would say, “Yes, go outside.” Send them outside or you go outside, but take yourself a break, think about what you’ve done, go back and apologize to your children because usually when it goes off the rails, it’s because I have lost my cool. I’ve gotten frustrated in some way and my kids deserve an apology, and I’ve been in the wrong. I found that apologizing and explaining, not as a way of excusing, but as explaining, “I’m just frustrated and I took it out on you and I’m sorry,” I found my kids to be so receptive to that. It doesn’t make everything better, but usually, it calms down whatever’s going on. There are some days when you just have to be done, and there are some days when you have to dig in and try again. It’s a matter of intuition and knowing and making a mistake, and learning from it. Yes, go outside, take a breath, and apologize. That’s usually what solves it.

Follow Kristen Rudd Online

Amy: Such a good encouragement. Well, Kristen, where can people find you all around the internet?

Kristen: That’s scary. [laughs] I have a website so they can find my classes and teaching and some of the writing that I’ve done at I have a little bit of writing at the Circe Institute blog and a little bit of writing at the Center For Lit blog. I’ve got some writing there. I’m on Facebook. I’ve got the groups I run on Facebook. You can find those there. I’m on Twitter @kristenrudd.

Amy: I will have all of those things linked up in the show notes for this episode at Thanks so much, Kristen, for joining me today, it was really fun.

Kristen: It was fun. Thank you.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews Podcast Amy Sloan
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