For most of the country school’s out for summer. Unless you’re a mean homeschooling parent who makes your kids do school all year. Uh, which we are. Though we don’t call it “school.” We don’t even tell our kids what we’re doing.
Instead we just make our home a content-rich environment (which works even if you’re not a homeschooler, and even if you don’t have kids).
If you’re single or childless you should still surround yourself with great stories and ideas. It’ll fill in the gaps in your liberal arts education. Or at least make you more interesting at company picnics and family reunions.
Here’s how to fill your home with great content:
Build your personal collection.
If you want your kids (or yourself!) to read more, make it easy. Stock the bookshelves with good books, and put some magazines on the coffee table.
If your personal collection needs a boost, keep a list of what interests you (and your kids) and request books and magazine subscriptions for Christmas and birthday gifts.
Hit the library.
We’re lucky to live near a public library, and hit it frequently year-round.
This summer, I’m borrowing a great idea from Susan Wise Bauer. When she was young, the Wise family went to the library every week. Mrs. Wise required the kids to check out at least one book in these 4 categories each visit:
- a story
- a book of poetry
- a biography
- a book about how to do something.
They checked out so many books that Mrs. Wise needed a laundry basket to carry them home.
The kids weren’t required to read all the books they brought home, but Susan said that by the end of the week, after you’d read the rest of your books, you might actually read the poetry book just because it was there.
Listen to the good stuff.
Not all content has to be visual. At my house, we’ve found audiobooks to be perfect for lazy summer afternoons. (They’re also perfect for me when I’m making dinner or folding laundry.)
Recently we’ve been listening to The Little House series and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona collection. We especially love the way Neil Patrick Harris narrates the Henry Huggins stories.
We’ve also been listening to storytelling recordings from Jim Weiss about the Lewis and Clark exploration, Greek mythology, masters of the Renaissance, and Thomas Jefferson’s America. Later this summer we’ll start Story of the World, also narrated by Jim Weiss.
I love how my pre-reading 4-year-old can still enjoy great stories–and that I don’t have to read her each 200-page book myself.
Read out loud.
I love audiobooks, but I also read out loud to my kids (almost) everyday. In the summers, reading out loud usually happens when my kids are in their pajamas. We’ll do 20 minutes right after breakfast or right before bed (or both).
Pick up The Read-Aloud Handbook if you want to get fired-up about reading to your kids. It explains the whys and hows of reading out loud to kids (and teens!) and suggests a lot of good titles.
Be a great model.
I’m very deliberate about creating a content-rich environment for our kids, but filling my home with content I’m interested in comes naturally. I love to read, and my kids often catch me crashed on the couch with a good book–or listening to an audiobook while making dinner. I think this is a good thing.
Let your kids catch you reading. Show them you value learning. And if you don’t know where to start, choose a classic or a personal growth book from the Ultimate Beach Reading guide.
And hey–if it’s just you at home, or if you don’t have kids–surround yourself with good stuff, for your own sake.
What kinds of content do you like to have in your own home? Share your favorites in comments.
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