Family Book Baskets

I often tell people that I consider myself home-educated. I went to school every day, but most of the best learning happened at home with my family, in conversation and during evening story time. Once we were all bathed and in our pajamas, we were allowed to gather in the formal living room where my mother read poetry, picture books and great literature aloud.

These days, my greatest joy as a mother is to select books and to read to my children. One of the best tricks that I have learned from other homeschooling families is to have themed book baskets. Ours are in the living room and they are part of our school curriculum, but this idea would also work well for a family whose children are going out to school. My book baskets follow the seasons, the liturgical year and also certain topic areas of our studies.
It is amazing what children of all ages can learn from the themed read alouds. This fall, Leo has learned to say “apple” and “pumpkin,” and yesterday when we read the wonderful “Ox Cart Man,” Holly sighed deeply and said “what a wonderful, simple life!” An added benefit of the book baskets is that the books get put away when their season is over. I stick the whole stack into a big rubbermaid box in the basement, they are in order, a bit like a filing system. This keeps our bookshelves from being too full, and it also means that there is great novelty and excitement as new books and old favorites come out to the baskets.
Our book collection has grown over the eight years that we have been parents, and each year I pick one area to expand as part of my school book shopping. This year we have purchased lots of new books about the middle ages, for example, but no new books about fall. Our local library also does some seasonal displays, so each year we find new favorites there, too.
I wanted to share our fall book list with our readers, and in looking for a good way to organize the list I decided to open up an Amazon store for Building Cathedrals. You can visit there to see the books in my Fall Book Basket, and over time all of the Builders will be adding to the categories there. Amazon has a referral program, so if you decide to buy any books or products through our store we will earn a small commission. For now, the commissions will be saved to be used for growing and redesigning our website. In the future, I hope to be able to donate these commissions to pro-life causes.
Please feel free, though, to use the list to browse and not buy, to make a list to bring to your library, or just to get ideas. Go through your own shelves and see what “themed” books you can pull out and put into a basket. Books about bunnies, favorite fairy tales, and theme can get you started. If you have some favorite picture books, you might look for one or two non-fiction books at the library to support your theme, or google for a little craft project that would go along with it. Think about the basic skills your child needs to be working on and tie them into your theme.
Last year, we did a huge fall curriculum, even an apple themed birthday party. You can:
Paint apple bags and go apple picking (we used small canvas bags from the craft store, and a homemade stencil. We store these with our fall books and reuse them each year!)
Paint trick or treat bags (same as above)
Cut out leaves or apples and paint a big tree. Number them and do lots of counting games
Download the free life cycle of a pumpkin cards from Montessori For Everyone
Go on a leaf walk, and try to identify the trees in your yard or neighborhood
Make crayon leaf rubbings
Bake apple crisp — peel the apples and cut them off the core, then the children can use plastic knives to cut them into small pieces. Even a three year old can do this! Count together as you measure and mix the crisp topping. Use smaller measuring cups if it allows you to involve more children (we often get one cup of flour into a recipe in quarter cups so that each has a chance to scoop, level off and pour some flour!). An older child can learn to make a simple crisp all by themselves. My 6 and 8 year old have learned enough over the years that I can get out of the way and let them do it themselves, and they love this!
Make apple prints, carve pumpkins, count seeds and glue them to index cards with that number written on it
Just a few ideas to get you started, so now go check out the book list, and happy fall!
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