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.


  • Michelle

    So true! Having taught my children for 21 years I am shocked how God will use so many different books for each individual child. Yes, there are times when the books will overlap for each child but the quality and integrity of them does’nt change!

  • Krystal

    Deanna, I have this same problem…wanting to schedule more than there is time. I would love to come and browse your book shelves…just curious, what are the two different sets of white spined books under the Shel Silverstein books, and the ones one book shelf over with the multi colored pastel spines? Series sets always intrigue me because then you know they are worthwhile because they were all purchased…

    • Deanna

      Oh my goodness … I’ve organized my shelves a bit since this picture, so let me see if I can figure out what you’re talking about. I believe one of white-spined sets is the letter books series by Jane Belk Moncure (My “A” Book, etc.), which I purchased when my oldest reached preschool age. Both my older boys have pulled these out again and again as they learned to read because they follow a consistent formula and are pretty easy to read using the pictures. I would definitely purchase them again. The other white set is Value Tales series (also out of print) from my own childhood library. Only my oldest is into these (so far), but he reads them multiple times, and if I ever had a chance to add the volumes I’m missing at a decent price I would. The pastel spines are the Help Me Be Good series by Joy Berry. I inherited them from my mom when she retired from teaching Kindergarten, and again, they’re very popular with my kids. I tend to only pull them out when we’re dealing with a specific character issue, but we’ve read most of them just because my children bring them to me to read. Thanks for asking! 🙂

      • Krystal

        Thank you for answering! I wondered if those were the Moncure books, but I couldn’t think of the author’s name off the top of my head! If you ever thought of doing a book post, I know I would be interested! I enjoy reading books about books, and blog posts about books generally have pictures too, so that makes them even better!
        Do you have any good tips on arranging all the picture books?
        I just recently found your blog and have been enjoying getting “caught up” reading some of your older material. I have definitely added to my ongoing book wish list!

        • Deanna

          Welcome! As far as a system for picture books, I try to keep it pretty simple so that my kids (the older ones, at least) can put books away. My Five in a Row books (Before FIAR and all 4 volumes) take up almost two shelves (up higher so my kids know they have to ask permission to get those down). Then I have 2 shelves for science books (one that’s all animals and nature study, and one that’s space, dinosaurs, the human body, physics, etc.) Then I have a section for biographies and one for Bible story books. Other than that, I just keep two shelves for all the rest.