First, please note that I am not affiliated with Read Aloud Revival in any way. This is not a sponsored post. We are just a family that really loves books. I read aloud to my kids every day, usually at every meal. Stories are the lifeblood of our family. They build connections and help us to understand the world and our place in it. Naturally, I was drawn to the RAR Premium membership. This post will describe some of my thoughts after having been a member for several months.
Being extremely frugal, the Read Aloud Revival premium membership is a subscription that I choose to pay for off and on. I had my first 3 months of RAR Premium from May to July of last year so that we could participate live in the Writers on Writing (WOW) workshops (replays are available). I let it lapse over the summer since we were not doing as much structured learning. However, I signed up for another 3 months recently so we could watch a featured author event. When my subscription ends, I will likely let it lapse again until I find another pressing reason to sign up. In the meantime, I have been making the most of my membership. Read on to hear the pros and cons I have found using this subscription membership service.
First off, I should say that I am a huge fan of the Read Aloud Revival website and podcast. Sarah Mackenzie’s bubbly personality is delightful. Also, I use the RAR free booklists all the time when I’m trying to find awesome read-alouds for my family. I trust Sarah’s judgement when it comes to selecting books that will be enjoyable and meaningful. Building a family culture around books is a goal I am 100% behind. I belive that reading aloud is a fantastic way to connect with your kids.
It might just be my personality type, but my favorite part of the membership is the masterclasses. I love learning new things, especially from experts in their field. Frequently I find the masterclasses inspiring. They help me find fun ways to get my kids excited about some aspect of literature or learning. As a mother with several children of varying ages, Sarah’s general homeschooling advice is also extremely valuable.
I have currently listened to all of the master classes. My personal favorites were the ones on Shakespeare and nature journaling. I liked Kristin Roger’s nature journaling masterclass so much, I also purchased and completed her course off the Wild and Free website. At the beginning of this school year, I bought Ken Ludwig’s book, How to Teach your Children Shakespeare after watching his masterclass. We have been working through it off and on for several months. Even my four year old has parts of passages from A Midsummer Night’s Dream memorized. My kids are all proud of their accomplishments learning and understanding Shakespeare.
In addition to the master classes, my second favorite part of the RAR membership is the Writers on Writing (WOW) workshops. They are the reason we signed up in the first place. I have one aspiring writer and one reluctant writer (and a couple pre-writers as well). I think these classes benefit all of my kids. Maybe the advice does not all sink in immediately, but they are being exposed to the work and advice of actual authors and they soak it up. I love the idea that these tips are percolating somewhere in their subconscious.
Although we have never participated live, we have also watched a few author events to go along with our read-alouds. I even got to watch interviews with some of my own childhood favorites like Lois Lowry and Tomie dePaola. I really love letting my kids see that authors are real people. This was actually the main reason why we re-signed up a couple months ago.
Our family was reading the Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I *loved* it. It has been one of my favorite recent read alouds. My younger kids were all enjoying it, but for some reason, my 10 year old son was not a fan. I think he felt the story featured too many girls. I decided to sign up so we could watch the author event on the RAR premium membership. After seeing that there was a real life person behind the book who had worked hard crafting this story, my son completely changed his tune. Not only did he then stop complaining about the book, but he asked if we could get the sequel.
There are a lot of other features of RAR premium which I personally have not taken advantage of at this time. Sarah does more informal “Circle with Sarah” chats. I listened to a couple of those and while the chatty tone is friendly and encouraging, I haven’t made the time to listen to more. There are also book club guides for reading with your kids that include extension activities and conversation starters. While I love the idea of celebrating books beyond just the read-aloud, in practice this is something we only do with friends. When we start easing up on social distancing, I may try out the book guides.
There are also forums and Mama book clubs where members can engage with each other directly. I have not participated in these, but I am sure they are a great place to find helpful information and a supportive community of like-minded moms that understand the importance of books in the lives of children.
If you value the goal of creating a family culture around books, you MAY want the Read Aloud Revival RAR Premium membership. You will undoubtedly want to check out free the RAR booklists and will likely find the RAR podcast helpful and inspiring. The premium membership contains extra support and information outlined below for developing a book-centered family. Personally, I like to sign up for a 3 month membership every 6 months or so to save money.
Here are some of the benefits of RAR membership.
- Master Classes – I am the nerdiest of nerds. I love learning and setting goals for myself. Not all personality types will appreciate the master classes the way I do. However, if you are eager to find out more about ways to broaden your homeschool experience, these master classes are a wonderful place to begin.
- Writers on Writing Workshops – Who better to teach our kids writing then actual published authors? Not only are they authoritative sources on their craft, but they show our kids that what we are asking them to do is not pointless. Writing can be meaningful, life-changing, and fun if approached with an open mind.
- Author Events – Along similar lines, showing our kids that authors are real people is an effective way to help them form deeper connections to books.
- Family Book Clubs – Sarah is fantastic at selecting books that your family will enjoy. She has never led me astray. You can get a lot of her recommendations for free, off her website, but if you would like additional support in turning these read-alouds into memorable experiences, the premium membership provides curated guides packed with doable and valuable suggestions.
- Mama Book Clubs – I have not participated in any of these, but if you are looking for a virtual community to discuss books with, this might be a great option.
- Forums – This is also not a feature I use, but if you have questions about books, schooling, or parenting, there is a community of moms here that are available to you.
- Downloadable – All of the classes are available for you to download as audio or video files if you choose. This way, your content is available to you even when you are offline. Many of the classes also have helpful PDFs that you can save. For example, I recently saved the Christmas Guide and will be able to pull it out next year even if I am not a member at that time.
- Time – The main problem with all website memberships, I find, is that if I am not disciplined about making time to take advantage of them. Weeks will pass while my membership goes unused. This is why I prefer to sign up for just a month or 3 months at a time. That way I try to get all my value up front and don’t push it off for later.
- Cost – The first time I saw that membership was $150/year, I thought “no way.” Yes, I am cheap. However, later when I wanted to sign up for a specific weekly workshop series and saw that it was $15 per month or $40 for 3 months, that felt more reasonable to me. Thinking of it in terms of one hour long class per week made it seem like a great deal.
- Religious content – Like Sarah Mackenzie, I am Catholic, so the religious content is not an issue for me. However, just know that it is there, so it might be a turn off for some. I find most of the content to be non-sectarian, but the Circles with Sarah in particular seem to feature praying and references to God.
- Entertainment varies – My kids have really enjoyed some of the workshops. My son in particularly liked the Hero’s Journey class and the fill in your own adventure assignment. However, there have been other classes that, while undoubtedly valuable, don’t seem to excite my kids as much. It is always easier when I have their willing participation, but know that your kids may not be 100% on board with watching the workshops or having to write, especially if it seems like something added onto their normal workload. Whenever possible, I like to do these classes in lieu of other work to make it appear more like a treat.
If you are considering a RAR Premium membership, I hope this information has been helpful to you!