Tea Time with Annie Kate Rotating Header Image

Leave Some Good Books Lying Around

100 Maps

Recently, Miss 13 spent an afternoon on the couch reading 100 Maps.  It was hard for me to see her lying there, ‘taking it easy’ when she had so much schoolwork to do.   I needed to remind myself several times that this was the best kind of education; because she wanted to read that book she would learn so much from it.

Yes, a necessary and important part of homeschooling involves using curricula and setting learning goals.  But, even though it sometimes makes me uncomfortable, ‘unplanned’ learning can be even more valuable.

And, although some ‘unplanned learning’ is truly serendipitous, much of the best ‘unplanned learning’ happens when I am careful to strew interesting books around the house.  Books with fascinating covers or intriguing titles, books that I chuckle through while the kids are nearby, books on unusual topics, books by authors the children love—these are the kind that get picked up in our home.

Not always, of course.  Sometimes no one wants to read a particular book, and that’s OK.  The library is free, and our librarians love us for taking out so many books.

However, sometimes the books I leave lying around become part of our lives.  Years ago, Rich Dad, Poor Dad got my son interested in economics.   My children know how to clean practically anything (theoretically at least) because they repeatedly laugh their way through Don Aslett’s hilarious cleaning books.  Mr. 18 could not resist The Origin of the Specious, a grammar book, nor the earlier (and earthier) Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.  All our teens have enjoyed Do Hard Things, a not-to-be-missed book for teens, Martha Stewart’s earliest (and best) books, and Tovah Martin’s beautiful photo books about Tasha Tudor.  And  a few days ago, Miss 13 absorbed The Science, Art and Politics of Cartography Throughout History as she ‘lazed away’ an afternoon with 100 Maps.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  But, practically, how do we make this work?  For one, we strictly limit video games and movies, and we have no TV.  And there are a few habits I’ve developed over the years:

How do I choose these books?  Well, as I meander through my emails and regular internet stops, I come across many book titles and reviews.  If a book might appeal to one of the kids, is related to schoolwork, coincides with someone’s latest interests, or sparks my own curiosity, I’ll put it on hold at our branch of our huge city library. While doing so, I’ll bump into other related books…and so it goes, on and on.  That’s how I found 100 Maps.

What do I do when the books arrive?  First, I quickly skim through them.  Some go back to the library immediately because they do not align with our family’s values.  Others end up on the coffee table, the computer table, or wherever, and occasionally I will put one in a child’s hands.  If I can find the time—which does not always happen—I read the books too, but I leave them lying around, regardless.  And if they are funny, I read aloud snippets to the kids.  Of course, everyone wants to share the joke!

What else is needed?  Time, my dear homeschooling friends, time.  Your kids need time to pick up a book and settle down with it.  Providing this carefree time is, to me, even harder than providing the books.

So, if you live near a large library, be sure to browse its shelves online and in person, trying to find new rabbit trails for your children to enjoy.  Enjoy a few of these rabbit trails yourself as well, for while education is partly the ‘filling of a bucket’, it is also the ‘lighting of a fire’ –and you can best light a learning fire if you yourself are excited about learning.

That day when I saw Miss 13 so totally absorbed in 100 Maps, I officially started her high school records even though she’s in grade 8. That book is definitely a valid supplement to a high school geography course.   And so my record-keeping, homeschool-mama self came to grips, once again, with the fact that ‘lazing around’ is sometimes the best form of learning, especially if a good book is involved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *