You keep asking, so today I’m answering. I fear you’ll be disappointed because there’s nothing magical about what I do. But first, a disclaimer: I have no babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. Yes, I read when I had them, but it’s very different. I made some good decisions (like sneaking in reading whenever I could), and some bad decisions (like staying up too late to have “alone time” with my books). The hardest part about fitting in reading when you have young children is that everything changes so frequently — you figure out what works, only to have it not work three weeks later.
Each season of life has its benefits and challenges, and the one I’m in now is no different. The benefits, as I see them, are that everyone can feed themselves, dress themselves, buckle themselves into the car, and more. It. is. glorious. I never realized how stressful it was to have to do so much for everyone until I didn’t have to anymore. I miss having cute toddlers around, but I’m definitely okay with where we’re at.
The big challenge of this stage is the busyness. I know that some people see teaching high school level subjects as a challenge, but so far that hasn’t been much of an issue for me. We’ve gotten help for Latin and science, and math is still going okay, and the rest of it is sheer joy — I’ve been waiting for high school for a long time.
But there is all the going places. There’s science and youth group. There’s Plutarch and P.E. at the park. There’s karate multiple times per week. There are family obligations. I’m not nearly as busy as some people I know, and I have no clue how they do it. As it is, I leave my house five out of seven days per week, and that’s when we don’t add anything extra.
A couple of my guidelines for Circle Time execution — plan ahead, and combine what can be combined — have turned out to apply to other areas of life. In fact, they apply quite well to finding time to read.
In the end, our personal time is more often aligns with what we hope it will be if we plan ahead. Or maybe it’s just me. Good things don’t tend to happen when I’m winging it so much as when I plan them.
We don’t have to see these classes our children take as some sort of conflict between them-time and me-time. What I mean is, these times can be as much for us as they are for our children.
This isn’t just true for when we are trying to fit in reading. I want to see Friend R. (who doesn’t homeschool, so we don’t see each other at park days), so what can I do? Well, usually I pick her up on my way to drop my son off at youth group. (Our husbands have all the other children.) We go to coffee near the church office. We get a couple hours together, and then we pick my son up and I take her home and call it good. It’s not what we used to do, but it works for this season of life.
So back to reading.
Let’s pretend books are my friend I want to see more of. How can I make that work?
I am at Starbucks as I type. There is one a five minute drive from my son’s science class. My parents are kind enough to watch the other children. I drop him off at science and head to Starbucks where I get almost two glorious hours in which to read and also have uninterrupted thoughts. What once felt like an inconvenience — science class — has now turned into a time that I can make work for me. On weekends, I try to plan how I will use my time. I might need to finish my pre-reading for AmblesideOnline Year 9. Other times, I plan to write a blog post, read Vittorino da Feltre, or work on a talk for a speaking engagement.
Usually, though, it’s devoted to reading and writing.
Last week during karate, I planned what I would do with the time if I didn’t have other parents to talk to. I brought my notebook and a book to read. I read, I took notes, and I still watched a lot of what my children were doing.
Is this starting to make sense? Plan ahead and combine reading into your schedule in a way that makes sense.
Is your time spent in the car driving? This might mean audio books. I know some books aren’t for children, but many books written for adults will suit them just fine. Audio books also work for while you are doing chores alone. I don’t know about you, but my children disappear outside and that’s when I can put in my earbuds while doing chores without them.
There are other things you can do, of course. Sometimes, I get up early to read. I have a plan for what that looks like, so when I rise early, I know exactly what I’m reading and for how long. I also carry a book in my purse, for those unexpected times when reading is possible. If you think about how many times you check Facebook or some other social media on your phone, you can think about what life might look like if you replaced that with quick snatches of your current book instead.
But, ultimately, I have to plan to read if I really want to make progress. And it’s not just about making progress — reading is an important part of preventing that dreaded disease, Homeschool Burnout.
Of course, those of us who love reading have to be careful to hold our plans with an open hand. There will be days when it doesn’t work out, even though we planned for it. Children get sick; plans fall through.
This week, if you want time to read, check your calendar. Look at where you’re going and what you’re doing. And then ask yourself if you can combine reading into any of your commitments. It’s possible you can’t, of course. But it’s also possible you can. And what I’ve found is that once I got into the habit of looking at my time this way — of seeking out time for reading rather than expecting to stumble upon it unexpectedly — I was finally able to read the way I’d wanted: notebook in hand, growing as a human.
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