{Homeschool Planning} The Importance of Starting with your OWN Bookshelves

Are you familiar with Scotia Bank’s slogan?

You know, the whole, ‘You’re Richer Than You Think’  thing?

They say it is one of the most successful branding strategies any bank has ever launched.  Maybe its because we all want to be richer than we think.  I never understood it personally, because I’m almost always poorer than I thought.  *chuckle*

Anyways, I digress.  The point I’m getting at is this – think of your personal bookshelves with this slogan in mind.

You may not think you have what you need for next year – or that you have to research and order a whole pile of new curriculum, books, etc… but do you?  Really?

If you’re anything like me you might already have most of the books and ‘curriculum’ you need for next year right on your own bookshelves.   

When it comes to books – you just might be ‘richer than you think’. 

Let’s be honest, us homeschoolers LOVE to buy books.  (If you’ve hung around here for any amount of time, you know I’m as guilty as any!)  I love to add great books to our growing bookshelves and I do this periodically throughout the year and usually in the Spring at Used Book Fairs.

Here’s the challenging thing though – I need to make sure we actually READ the books (or USE the resources) that I buy.  One great way to be sure you use the stuff you’ve already got is to start with your own bookshelves every year.  That’s right – when you are planning your ‘curriculum’, look to see what you’ve already got.

It sounds so simple, but for a long time I didn’t do this.  I would buy stuff, use some and abandon most, pile it up and buy more stuff.  When I started really looking at my own shelves,  it made a HUGE difference in our homeschool (and in my bank account).  We actually use the cool stuff I’ve already purchased and we save on buying things we don’t really need.

Since Charlotte Mason was ALL about books – I thought I’d share these tid-bits for Charlotte Mason Monday…

Some Thoughts for Starting with your own Bookshelves:

Start with prayer.

I’m really feeling it lately, this need to bring my homeschool concerns/thoughts/decisions to the Lord.  I shared my heart about this with regard to planning a few days ago.  I just think, when you are choosing books and resources that will be read and used in the home – asking the One who knows our family best is a powerful starting point. 
Ask Him to show you what you already have.  Ask Him to lead you to the resources you might have written off or the books you didn’t think of reading.

Start where you left off.

What didn’t you get to this year?  We read a TON, but there are still quite a few read-alouds that were on our reading list that we didn’t fit it for various reasons.  Just because the ‘school year’ is done doesn’t mean I will scrap these books and move on.  We will most definitely still read the books we were planning on reading last year unless we feel led otherwise.
For us, this means we will be reading books that fit in the ‘early modern’ era (which we covered this past year) while we study the ‘modern era’, our time period for 2016-2017.  And that’s ok.  Because life happens and it all blends together in the end anyways.  
Great books are great books and there is something satisfying about finishing what you start.

Start by searching for books that fit the time periods you’ll be covering.

Alright, so on the flip side of finishing what you start – you can also look forward to what you’ll begin anew.  We do much of our learning around a historical rotation of about 6-7 years.  (We go from creation and ancient civilizations to modern history and flow through these year by year – ish).  So, this gives us a great springboard for read-alouds.
For this year, I scoured my bookselves for stuff covering the time period of about 1850s to present day.  Happy day – there is SO MUCH for this time period.  We could really camp out here for at least a year and a half.  And we just might.  
PS.  We use a ton of the resources from Simply Charlotte Mason.  We especially enjoy following their guides for family study through history, bible, and read-alounds.  Last year we used Early Modern History and Epistles, and this year we are using Modern Times, Epistles, and Revelation.   What I do to make these really work for us is that I approach them in a relaxed manor.  We leave room for flexibility and we add a lot of our own read-alouds.  We love the Simply Charlotte Mason yearly programs because they are so gentle and focus on family learning.

Start by looking for books you may want to revisit.

Alright, so, if you have a children who are a little older with younger siblings coming up behind – you might be able to revisit some favourites.  Some of the books we read to our eldest, Simon, we may now be able to read again with our youngest, Alex.  (It’s so neat to do this… I love how Michelle at Delightful Learning has rowed nearly all of BFIAR twice!)

Also – there may be great resources, picture books, curriculum that you have looked at a bit before or read in the past that you could bring out again this year and enjoy or use.

Start with books you purchased a while ago for ‘when the kids were older’.

This is huge.  Wanna hear something crazy about kids?  They grow.  Yeah – you already knew that because us Mamas can’t keep up with how fast the kids grow… 
So, this is why it’s important to remember to check your shelves for books you purchased before your kids were ready for them.  
Take a good look – you might be surprised what books are ready and waiting for your kiddos to devour!

Start with the curriculum resources you already have.

I think many homeschoolers struggle with buying curriculum they never end up actually USING.  So, I’m talking about Math, Language Arts, Science, etc… you know – that stuff we buy ‘curriculum’ for.  And then it just sits there. 
It’s not because the curriculum (or resource) is bad.  It’s not because the resource doesn’t fit the child.  Sometimes, its just because we want something new and shiny.  Or maybe we’ve forgotten we even HAD that particular thing.
I have come back to resources time and time again.  For example, we had Learning to Spell through Copywork on our Language Arts shelf for over a year before we ever used it.  I just kind of forgot it was there and we also started using a different program.  In the past few months I was reminded of it and pulled it out for my daughter and she actually LOVES it.  The funny thing is, we are not using it for copywork but for dictation.   So, that’s another thing – sometimes resources can be used in a another way as well.
Another example was with our Sonlight curriculum.  When our kiddos were young (I think my eldest was 5, second was 3 and littlest was 1), I purchased Sonlight Core A.  It was WAY too much for them at that time.  I got frustrated because it wasn’t ‘working’ and had spent so much on it.  I almost sold the whole thing but felt led to just hang on to the books and teacher’s guide.   It wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that we returned to Core A and used it as a family and absolutely LOVED IT.  I realize now that the program was not the problem – the kids just weren’t ready for that level at that time.  (IF you wanted to use Sonlight with kids that age, I would start them in PreK.)  We even went on to complete the next level of Sonlight all together and both years were very rich!

So, take a look and see what pricey curriculum you might already have.  You might be surprised by something that all of a sudden clicks. 

Also – don’t forget about non-fiction!

We have quite the collection of non-fiction books on our shelves.  Tons of great Usborne history and science books, lots of great stuff for art and art history, geography, composer study, atlases, dictionaries, thesauruses, etc.  
Because they have because permanent fixtures on our shelves, sometimes, I forget how great they really are.  I forget how much these books have to offer!  So, I encourage you, don’t forget to look at your non-fiction books when seeking out resources you might use this coming year.

Here are just a few of the titles I pulled off our shelf this week to use this coming year –

These are mostly books that were on our reading list this year but we didn’t get to – so, they will be put at the start of this year’s list.

Examples of awesome resources I didn’t use this year but was easily able to pull off the shelf for use in the coming year.  (I think I’ll have my eldest read from and narrate The Message…).

A mish-mash of books we didn’t get to this year and books that fit in the coming year’s time period.

More books that fit into the Early Modern to Modern History time period.

More read-alouds from our shelves that fit in with the 1850-present day time frame.

I hope this post inspires you to check out your own shelves and I also hope you find out you’re, ‘richer than you think’!



  • Unknown

    Love this. I love it when I find great books for cheap at thrift stores. But I struggle with organizing so many books – there can be so many different categories, not only subjects but also the age that the books are appropriate for. It's overwhelming. Do you have any suggestions for that?

    • Cassandra

      I wish I did… My books are not really organized in the best way, to be honest. There is one thing I do that really helps though. I move the books we plan to read (intentionally for part of our 'program') that year to a completely different shelf/shelves. This gives me a good look at what we are planning to cover. It doesn't mean other books won't make their way in – but it helps a bit… I also keep categories together… Poetry is all together. Five in a Row titles are together. and Nature Study books are somewhat together… hm. I should work on this, eh?

  • michelle

    Wow, this really has had me thinking this past week. I might already have most of the books and curriculum I need to get my kids through high school right on my own bookshelves. But, I'm not sure I want to go through all these Sonlight cores again. I thought about selling them all and starting over. Am I crazy?

    I don't think I could ever part with my FIAR books and manuals though. πŸ™‚ I so enjoyed rowing through B4 a second time (thanks so much for the sweet mention!), and the older kids pull them off the shelf regularly. In fact, Malachi just pulled Down Down the Mountain to read again since we are planting turnips for Plum Creek. πŸ™‚

    Inspired as always!

    • Cassandra

      Haha… yes. You are crazy, but aren't we all?! πŸ™‚ I hear ya about 're-doing' things, we haven't gotten there at this point but I can definitely envision shaking things up if we ever do. My FIAR books and manuals are also keepers for me along with quite a few cherished novels and picture books… that is really neat that Malachi would make that connection – FIAR is so wonderful. I could never part with our FIAR books – not to mention, some of them were REALLY hard to find and cost a small fortune to get in my hands…. πŸ˜‰ Loving your blog too and so happy you have a subscription option again. πŸ˜‰ xo

  • emegren

    This is such a great reminder. I often have this "use what ya got" mentality in the kitchen, why don't I have it with homeschool? Must have the biggest-best-easiest-prettiest-newest curriculum syndrome. We are in year six of homeschooling and I feel like I finally am getting into my groove. I feel like I can trust myself now. Love this. And your blog!

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