Lessons From the Library

From the above title you might expect that I am about to share with you a few tips or ideas on using the library for your homeschool. While it’s true your local library is a wonderful source of seemingly limitless information, the lesson I learned from a trip to the library this week turned out to be a bit more profound.

My 10 year old son does not like to read…much. In fact, he’d rather do just about anything other than sit still and read. It is something that I have tried to have a great deal of patience with, but I also express to him frequently that he should spend more time exploring what types of books might be of interest to him and then actually sit down and possibly, I don’t know…read one.

On this particular day, he was determined to pick up the second book in a series that he had read the week before. While it wasn’t War and Peace, I was happy he was reading, even if it was one of those juvenile cartoon-y books filled with boy oriented humor. Alas, he was foiled when he discovered the book had been checked out by another patron. I suggested we browse some selections together and come up with a second choice. Book after book was rejected. I tried the hard sell, I tried the soft sell, nothing would do. He announced that all the books in the children’s section were either not acceptable or “for girls.” Sigh…

IMG_1254A full 60 minutes of looking at every other book on the shelves passed before he announced to me that he would just rather check out book number three in the series and not worry about reading the story out of sequence. Just in case, I grabbed a little more highbrow choice in case he changed his mind later.

He woke up the next morning and proceeded to read the book in one sitting. It’s not a difficult book, I understand this, but it did require him to sit still for a couple of hours, so I was thrilled. Clearly he was engaged.

A few hours later, he grabbed a piece of paper and drew this. He really hasn’t drawn much before, and certainly nothing of this relatively more-than-passable quality.


Something about the drawings in the book had fired his imagination and given him the desire to make his own.

Over the past two days he has graduated from standard laser paper to a sketch book that his aunt gave him. He sits in front of the computer and happily copies drawing after drawing into his sketch book for hours on end.


He is intensely proud of his drawings and becomes progressively better with each one. I do wonder what would have happened if I had discouraged him (or even forbade him) to check out that book? It is a good opportunity to remember that when a child’s natural curiosity is allowed to follow its own course that often amazing and unexpected things can happen. This is not to suggest that a parent can’t exercise oversight on content or choices, but I am so thankful that a trip to the library has awakened an apparent love, and even talent, for drawing that did not exist the day before. How wonderful that I can let him draw for as long as he likes during his school day instead of forced blocks of time that he would normally experience in a school environment?


When you’re feeling discouraged about a child’s lack of interest or unwillingness to engage in the studies and activities that you deem to be meaningful, remain hopeful that there can be value and purpose in things that we may not immediately perceive.

As a homeschooling parent, the greatest wish I have for my children is that they find and follow their bliss. How powerful could it be if that happened at 10, or 8, or 13, instead of 20, or 30, or even later?

I don’t know if he will continue to draw past this week. He may tire of it and go on to something else. He may decide that he has mastered the skill of drawing and go no further. Whatever happens, whatever comes of it, I am reminded again why homeschooling works – why it is so important to remember that we are raising individuals with unique tastes and sensibilities. Hopefully ones that can think critically and for themselves.

What kinds of things do you encourage or allow your children to explore during the school day that may be a bit off the beaten track? Do you give them ample time to discover what interests them without worrying if they have done enough math for the day or read the right book? What hidden talents or wishes do your children have and how can you foster and even incorporate them into your homeschool routine while still feeling good about the educational experiences you are providing?

Drop me a line in the comment section and tell us how you try to strike a balance in your homeschool between fundamentals and creativity, or does anything go? There is no right or wrong answer!


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  1. says

    Great post! This is one of the things I love best about homeschooling. It’s awesome to see what talents and unique abilities and interests that our children have when we allow them that freedom. It’s a safe time for them to explore those interests while we’re there to guide them and encourage them. Thanks for sharing this!

    BTW, your son’s drawings are great!

    • Angela says

      Thanks, Sara! I wholeheartedly agree — it is about the freedom to discover who they are now and who they want to become. In my 13th year of homeschooling, I am surprised at how much I still don’t know. Being able to figure this out together with my kids on a daily basis has been a gift, indeed.

  2. Donna says

    As I read this wonderful account of my grandson’s adventure at the library. I think. I may have failed in many ways as a parent. But when I read and hear about my daughter’s success with homeschooling and her beautiful way of explaining her thoughts on school and children, I say, “We did not do such a bad job of raising our daughter”. At least I hope some of this came from us. We always made sure she knew how talented she was and to follow her dreams. She has done that and more. We are very proud parents and grandparents. Of course,as you see, she did not get her talent for writing from me. Maybe her dad.

  3. Lisa Lee says

    I love this Angela! Books are something I never discourage my children from…I will check out from the library or buy them just about any book they ask for. Reading and learning is always a good thing. There selections may not always be my first choice, but I have found they do lead them into expanding into other books and in your case, taking it a step further and drawing! Which by the way, his drawings are incredible! Another thing I never say no to, is anything creative–if my son comes to me and wants duct tape and pen parts to make something (most likely in his case a spy device or a weapon-eek!) then by all means use whatever you find! That almost always leads into a more acceptable creative diversion and learning something new.

    • Angela says

      Awesome ideas, Lisa. I know your kids are incredibly creative and bright — actually, a lot like their mom. :>) Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Susan says

    Angela – You are so gifted in your writing and expression of your homeschool experiences. As I’m reading your blogs it makes me feel like I’m not alone. My son would also check out the boy humor books with the cartoons when we would go to the library. As well as the comic strip type books. On many occasions I would seek out comic book series that had science or history subjects within them, especially if we were covering that piece of history in our curriculum that month. I think he’s read all the Nickelodeon Spongebob series too. I would cringe whenever he went toward them. But I kept reminding myself that on some level he needed the humor, and silliness in his life that maybe he wasn’t getting from having a brother or sister, and I knew he was such a visual learner that I had to trust the process that was unfolding. Now at 13 he has stepped into the Mike Lupica sports series. No pictures, longer chapters, and the books are actually in the teen section of the library! I’m thrilled he is into the stories, and using his own pictures and imagination in his mind. Now when we go to the library, he still likes to run his finger along the Nickelodeon series to see if there is anything new that came in. And I’m pretty sure he would still be excited if a new Wimpy Kid book came out! ha ha ha!!

    Thank you for sharing your stories Angela.

    • Angela says

      Isn’t homeschooling a great journey? We find out more about ourselves sometimes than we ever expected. Hey, SpongeBob and Wimpy Kid are actually pretty clever — there’s no shame there! Thank you for reading and commenting, I think you and your son are pretty gifted and special, too.

  5. says

    Wow what a talented kid! :) I too have a disinterested reader. (Yours read a whole book? Without you sitting next to him to make him do it? NICE!) It’s been a while since I’ve tried taking a trip to the library for the boys to pick something to read. Maybe we’ll do that tomorrow. I just got really tired of checking out books that never got read, or worse, got lost. 😛 But the cartoons give me hope! lol

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