Choosing the Best, Letting Go of the Rest
We’re taking a holiday break from schoolwork, which is giving me time to evaluate how things have been going since we started Kindergarten last July. There’s a phrase I’ve heard repeated over and over by experienced homeschool moms in discussing curriculum and addressing the fear that we might miss some important concepts: “There will always be holes.” (The point being that whether our children are educated at home or in a tradition school setting, there are things they are not going to learn, but if we instill a love of learning, they will be able to fill in those gaps on their own as needed.) I always thought they said that because we’d accidentally miss some things along the way, but now I realize it’s because there just isn’t enough time to do everything. There are so many good books out there!
My schoolroom shelves betray my attempt to collect them all. Just kidding. (Kind of. I keep a lot more on my Kindle.) Seriously though, have you noticed how today’s libraries are so full of “twaddle,” with a few of the big name classics thrown in? It can be hard to find the old stories you loved growing up. (Can you believe my library doesn’t have a Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink, who also wrote the Newberry Medal-winning Caddie Woodlawn? I know! I couldn’t either.) And so I’ve chosen to build my own library. I’ve always liked owning books. Even as a little girl, I loved buying my own copy of my favorites. (That’s actually where many of these came from.) Libraries are fine for the books you only read once, but some characters are friends you want to visit with again and again, and you just want them nearby so you can reach out and be with them any time you choose.
When I decided to create a “Year o.5” similar to what is included in the Ambleside Online curriculum to use for a more structured Kindergarten year than just the “Year 0” booklist (which we’d pretty much exhausted), I looked at what other moms had suggested. I ended up with a HUGE list of wonderful books about history, nature, fairy tales, children around the world, and much more. I pared it down once, eliminating titles that didn’t interest me or that seemed redundant, and saved it for myself to reference as our “School Booklist.” Then I pared it down again with what I thought we might possibly get to over the course of a year. (This is what I posted back over the summer in “Kindergarten Our Way.”)
As I looked over what we had covered since starting in July and the pace at which we were moving through some of the books, I realized it still was not going to be possible to get through all the good books that were on my list. Our days are already full, so I don’t want to do more each week to try to squeeze in a few more books by the end of the school year.
I’m realizing that there will always be good books that I want to read with my children. The trick is discerning which ones are the real treasures, not to be missed. As the kids get older, they can read some of the ones we’ve missed. And other they may never get to. With what little time we do have (especially allowing for plenty of creative play both indoors and out), it’s essential that we figure out what is best and let go of the rest.
Does this mean that book shelf will be looking emptier soon? Um, no. (I hear my mom sighing.) I hope my children will go through these shelves on their own as the years go by and dive into the wonderful worlds contained in the pages of these books for themselves. My job is to expose them to the best of the best in order to whet their appetites for the delight that comes from reading a good book and learning about all that exists outside the small spheres of their own experience. Then they can spend the rest of their lives devouring all that is out there, doing their best to satiate that burning hunger for knowledge.