As I was preparing for this series, I asked my children (ages 11, 7, 9 and 3) what they thought the most important tool in our homeschool is.  All four of them, in unison, shouted… BOOKS! Now that warms a Momma’s heart!

I am VERY blessed to have a bunch of bookworms for children.  Lot’s of people ask me how I made that happen.  I think it started long before I ever had any notion to homeschool.  I began long before they were even born!  Back in college as I was studying to earn my teacher certification I took a bunch of classes on children’s literature.  I loved the topic!

As I graduated and moved into teaching, I started a habit that unbeknownst to me would be a major blessing to my children some day.  What was my habit? Buying children’s books!  I was a public school preschool teacher who created her curriculum using beautiful picture books.  It became tedious year after year always hunting them down in the library with each new topic we studied so I purchased the best of the best.  When I left the classroom, I took my books with me.  My collection numbers well into the several 100’s at least.  I’ve never counted.

As my children have come into the world, they’ve had the benefit of being surrounded by all of those luscious books!  I read to them regularly!  CONSTANTLY!  Even when they wouldn’t sit still and listen or look, I’d just read aloud as they played.  I also read a tremendous amount myself.  I’ve always got my Kindle within arms reach so that I can snatch a page or two here or there if I can.  They see me reading!

Even as they’ve grown and their reading ability has shot far beyond that of picture books, I still read to them ALL OF THE TIME! It is a daily marker of our day.  It is a part of the culture of our family.

The knowledge they gain through their reading astounds me.  We often pick a topic as a family and then dig up dozens of books about it.  I set them out in the living room and before I know it I’m bombarded with, “Mommy, did you know…..?”  And they ramble on some significant fact they just discovered.  If I ask them where they learned that from I always get one answer, “A book!”  I often tell my husband that I could just dump or sell off the rest of the curriculum I’m trying to teach them because they learn more from books than they EVER do from me!

Let’s talk about where all of these books come from because clearly, I am no longer able to supply my book munching crew with only those picture books I bought for my preschool class!

1. The Library

Yes, pretty obvious I know, but I’m always amazed when I meet families who tell me they aren’t taking advantage of such an incredible treasure trove.  Bringing my kid’s to the library is more exciting to them than bringing them to a candy or toy store.  That is probably because they get to take out as many books as they please! I do try to have an influence on their choices, and I always hold veto power.  Here is a shot of just part of our haul.  I’ve become infamous around town for this cart.  “You know that lady who homeschools?” – “Hmm… not sure.”  “You know that woman with the cart?”  – “OH YES, I know her.” We have well over 100 library books out at any one time all of the time.  1497150_10203033411820074_1644277274_n (1)

2. Garage Sales, Second Hand Shops, and Grandma’s Attic

Garage sales, tag sales, yard sales, whatever you call them.  Shop them!  You’ll likely find lots of books for pennies apiece. Our library does a “Friend’s of the Library” book sale pretty regularly.  People donate unwanted books, and the library resells them to help keep their lights on.

Second-hand book stores are another fabulous source.  We have one in our area called the Book Barn.  The store is so big it is spread over 4 locations.  My children clear them out of our favorite authors and series each time we visit.  They even offer me an educator’s discount!

Check around with older friends, neighbors, and grandparents.  Sometimes you’ll find they’ve held on to a beautiful stash of books from their youth or their children’s younger days.  They may just let you take a peek!

3. eBooks!

Yes, all of my children have eBook Readers.  I prefer the eInk kind.  These are different than tablets like the iPad.  The only thing they can do is display books for reading.  The screen technology is also incredibly different.  It mimics the pages of a real book and requires a lamp (just like a book) to see the print properly.  My three oldest children each have the cheap Kindle from Amazon.  We put them in cases with attached lights.  If I’m not careful, they will read long past bedtime with these little devices!

The benefits of Amazon Kindle are many.  First, you can fit hundreds upon hundreds of books in them.  These means that you aren’t STORING all of them some place in your home!  Plus, if you are on the go, the kiddos always have a book on hand.  Second, nearly all of the classics are free! Pride and Prejudice, Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden.  ALL FREE!  Take a look at the long list here. Third, many books can be purchased at a reduced rate compared to their paper counterparts.  Fourth, requesting Amazon gift cards from family and friends can help their shopping and your book spending habit. (or am I the only person with a book spending habit?)  Fifth, children can SHARE the books.  I can purchase a book for my oldest but download it to his younger brother’s Kindle as well.  They can read the same book at the same time!  Plus all of these excellent books will be waiting for their little sister when she becomes old enough to enjoy them…. and I don’t have to store them for her! Sixth, you can borrow books from the library too!  Did you know that one? The benefits list just keeps growing, doesn’t it?

I know, books seem obvious don’t they?  All in all, though they are the backbone of my children’s education and they make up a large part of our family culture.  I may be able to homeschool with nearly nothing else if I wanted.  Books! A Homeschool Essential!