‘Research shows that one of the common characteristics of geniuses is that they were raised with many books available to them. Don’t be stingy on your library–have as many books at home as you possibly can. Have a wide variety of kinds of books. Leave them at strategic reading spots throughout the house. Make all of your books accessible. Every time your child opens a book to read, it is a lesson in language–how someone else used it to express a thought, story, idea, or insight.’
Clay and Sally Clarkson, pg. 48
I am convinced as I continue on this journey of the power of homeschooling to change so many facets of your life. A significant part of successful homeschooling is the atmosphere that we create for learning. A traditional school already has an established atmosphere because of what the physical building represents. Although the students might give the school personality, it is still a school, and most enter knowing what is expected of them.
Such is not the case with our homes. Home represents so many things, and dependent upon where we place our priorities (spelled M-O-N-E-Y), we risk not getting the rewards we want from our efforts. My SIL, as one example, invests heavily in electronics for her kids, but then says to me, “How do you get yours to read? Every time I see them, they have books in their hands.” I don’t say that to stand in self-righteousness over anyone; I am convicted each time I leave the television on “for noise” as I’m completing my work, and then wonder why the kids watch too much of it.
In their Educating the WholeHearted Child, my personal favorite of the “how to homeschool” texts, the Clarksons speak of the need for a designated learning space as a way of focusing the kids on formal schoolwork in the same way that a formal school facility would. I’ve blogged about our homeschool spaces here. However, to transform the atmosphere of a home into one that stresses learning whether in the classroom or not, we must establish certain environments: verbal-rich environment, visually rich environments (through art, use of walls for educational posters, art easels, etc.) and a print-rich environment. This latter environment means for us but one thing: we must buy books and build a home library.
In creating the home library, accessibility is as important as exposure. What good are books that aren’t both reachable as well as readable to your children? This was our original space, complete with the rocking chair that once helped the kids get back to sleep in the middle of the night. The only problem with this room is that it is our game room, also home to the Wii, the cardboard condo, train sets and dollhouses. In our home, I brought many books from my parents’ home into ours when our library started. My mother was a huge fan and supporter of Reader’s Digest (do they still make those?), and so she always had a number of Bible reference tools available. Though I didn’t appreciate them as a child, these books have heightened our experience with the Bible by allowing us a peek into how people may have actually lived. With a few other additions from my husband and our investments over the years, we’ve now outgrown our original particle board shelves. (Lord, please send some lovely built-ins before we move!) When we purchased our son’s bedroom set, we intentionally bought a student-like model bunk bed with a desk and room for book storage. This has helped us with increasingly cluttered shelves, and he’s able to store his own personal favorites here close to his bed for nighttime reading.
One novel idea, at least for me, that is also a part of the Clarkson’s approach is to get the books off the shelf. They proprose having baskets of books throughout the house.
‘Next to just about every comfortable couch or overstuffed chair, there is a big wicker baset sitting on the floor filled with "fruits and vegetables for the mind." The baskets can be filled with random or topical selections of books (holiday, illustrated stories, heroes, pre-school, etc.).’ (Clarkson, pg. 101)
I’ve always had a magazine rack, even as a single lady, but as we acclimated ourselves more and more to this change of lifestyle, I put out baskets and baskets of books.
‘Make maximum use of your table top spaces. Tastefully display appropriate magazines, art books or special books on coffee table for casual reading…Display an open art book flat, or on an book easel, on a corner table.’ (Clarkson, pg. 77)
Finally, a coffee table just begs for a colorful book or two.
How successful is this? Honestly, there’ve been hits and misses. The kids do love books, and the books do spark enough curiosity to defeat the Wii and the game room toys. However, the television is undefeated . The basket in this picture sits in front of the television, largely untouched. Yet, that, too, is a part of changing our environment. The kids (at least the older two) are making wiser choices about what they watch and when they watch it. I have hope for this basket yet.