~Grace to Grow Beside Our Children~ making time for reading in 2023!

When I read an enchanting new book to one of our children, I am often reminded of something my dad has always told me:

“The best thing about being a parent is that you get a second chance at childhood.”

Every story we give to our children is a story we also give to ourselves.

But today’s post is not about children’s literature.

In fact, you could say that today’s content has nothing to do with our (collective) children, except for the fact that it has everything to do with them.

When Mama’s growing, everybody’s growing

Making reading happen sometimes feels impossible when there barely seems to be enough time in the day to . . . umm . . . shower, let alone curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. We all have many commitments and constant access to an entire world of diversions, so setting aside time to crack open the books is no small challenge.

I’ve had to get really creative to keep my personal reading goals from always playing seventh fiddle. With the demands of homeschooling, homesteading, housekeeping, cooking, family-ing, and blogging, getting in that chapter a day to keep the stupid away often seems as elusive as temperance on TikTok.

There are seasons where it seems that there is simply not enough of me to share with books. But I’m learning just how important it is for me to carve out that reading time anyway, because the truth is . . . I’m better with books! Telling our children not to interrupt us while we read for ten minutes may actually be directly to their benefit (depending on what we are reading, of course). Yet picking up a book and reading it can feel selfish when being pulled to parent, partner, teach, cook, clean. Ironically, however, I believe setting everything aside regularly to read helps us mamas (and papas!) do those very things we’ve temporarily shelved with increasing excellence!

Even when it feels like opening up a book is stealing time from the kids, the chores, the dinner prep, the errands . . . it is that same expanding of my mind, heart, and soul within the confines of a mere ten minutes and a humble dustjacket that better equips me for all of the above.

I am a kinder, wiser, more patient mom when I’m regularly reading about the triumphs and challenges of motherhood. I’m more inspired to cook nutrient-dense meals when I’m getting my weekly dose of health and wellness reading —seduced by colorful images of fresh, leafy cuisine. I’m a better teacher when I remain curious and willing to challenge new ideas and methodology. I’m a better homesteader when I’m learning about permaculture and companion planting.

In short, I’m a happier, more rested, more interesting wife, friend, mother, daughter, teacher, human, me when I’m also serving my own growth and not just serving up growth for everyone else.

It can be challenging sometimes not to get swallowed up in motherhood. Conversely, it can be hard not to be swallowed in selfishness, too! That sinful human nature stuff is no joke.

Motherhood to me is a divine dance between daily dying to self and daily remembering oneself.

On a recent podcast by the Scholé Sisters, one of the hosts asserted that her main conviction for reading widely and deeply throughout motherhood is to not be outgrown by her children. I’m not going to lie, this statement kind of freaked me out. With just a seven and four-year-old I often feel like our kids are already gaining on me in the intellectual department. As it stands, our son may have a better handle on American history than I do, and he certainly has a more extensive understanding of nature science. He’s told me a dozen times how long a Blue Whale is, and I still couldn’t tell you.

On one hand, I want our children to build on everything we provide them and flourish beyond. On the other hand, I also want to maintain a long-term voice and authority in our children’s lives as they grow. Someday, I hope to converse with our children on a peer level —as friends even, who mutually mentor and respect each other.

Thankfully, I have had a good example in this. My parents have continued to learn and grow throughout their adult lives, even now as grandparents. I love having conversations (and friendly debates) with both of my parents. They both do an incredible job deferring to all of their kids in different areas of expertise while offering their wells of wisdom and broader perspectives on life.

Every time I talk with one of my parents, I learn something new. My dad offers a hoard of random knowledge on weather patterns, world history, practical life skills, and out-of-the box psychology. You can never be quite sure what he is going to say, which may be what I love most about him second to his wild laugh. My mom is a literary scholar, avid musician, and is always taking on new skills and hobbies which keeps her sharp and full of youthful energy, even as a grandmother of twelve. She always knows who said what and who sang what and who wrote what and it blows my mind every day.

Growing up, my parents were always with us, my siblings and me, and we all did many things together. However, much of the time we all pursued our own interests side by side. Art, music, and gardening were cornerstones in our home, as was reading.

My mom always bid us goodnight with a book in hand, and my dad tuned us out (after a game or three of Chinese Checkers) from behind his thick retro readers pointed down at some massive book —theology mostly— which doubled nicely as my booster seat at the dinner table.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents were learning and growing, too. We were all in home education together, parents and children. This didn’t rob time from us. Rather, it invested in our on-going relationships and family community. I want to invest this way in our little growing family, too. I want to challenge myself to grow at a rate to continually converge with our brilliant children throughout their lives.

This year . . . can we give ourselves the gift of time, and space, and grace to grow alongside our children?

~How I’m Making Time for Reading In 2023~

  • Mama-and-Me Book Club!

My kids love to snuggle with me in the mornings before we all begin the day. Even though this ritual cuts into my most productive time of day, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Something I’m putting to practice to recoup some of that lost time without compromising on cuddles, is to spend ten or so minutes each morning in “Mama-and-Me Book Club.” My son and I read, and Little Sis “pewuses” picture books, all of us snuggled side by side in blissful, sunrise (semi) silence. Then, we each will share with the other something interesting that we read. Often the discussion spans much longer than the ten minutes we spent reading. In fact, it often follows me around as I go about my morning chores. 😆

  • Bring a book to school!

Lately, the independent portions of the Captain’s lessons have been lengthening and giving me a lot more down time —a vision from the Ghost of Homeschool Future, perhaps? Of course, I still have little Goldilocks, but she’s also becoming more and more independent these days during lessons, focusing her little furrowed brow over toddler trays, preschool worksheets, and wooden toys. She takes her scholastic work very seriously. So, often I’ve been finding myself sitting at the table staring at our beautiful kids (how can skin be so perfectly plump and rosy?) while they blissfully do their work, sometimes for ten minutes at a time! If I get up to wash dishes, check my phone, or prep dinner, it’s over . . . like trying to photograph a butterfly. So, I’m learning instead to plan ahead and bring a book to school!

Homeschooling has long been my favorite part of the weekday, but suddenly it’s that much sweeter. What could be better than reading and learning alongside joyful, curious little humans? Sipping tea while you do it.

  • Book-it on a Bike!

I know, I know, I could bike it better bookless. But what would be the fun of that?

  • Finishing the day screen-free

Ok, so this is a bit of a no-brainer for the bookish types. For me and my hubby, however, we’re fighting against old habits of ending the day with a click of the remote, that 90’s nightcap of the glowing silver screen. The progress has been slow having started our marriage with a television in our bedroom and one of us with the shocking ritual of falling asleep with the TV on. Thankfully, we’re going on a decade or so of having rectified these unhealthy habits. But we’re still developing the discipline of turning off the TV early enough for screen-free evening hour.

  • The Gaping Bookshelf

I suffer from squirrel syndrome —squirrel! I start an elaborate project and then get excited by another one halfway through, resulting in two half-finished, not-so-exciting-anymore projects. I embark on a new book and abandon it halfway through for one with a blingier binding. This year, I’ve cleared my entire bookshelf in our bedroom and placed on it ONLY this year’s complete reading list. Every day I will see it staring at me and have to face the facts. I’ll let you know how this bookish browbeating goes next January.

  • Book-Binge Sundays!

Sabbath is a struggle for my hubby and me. We always have some project or other we are plowing through, and taking a day of true rest is a discipline we are attempting to adopt into our weekends. One of the rituals I am putting to practice in this quest for Sabbath is binge reading on Sunday afternoons. Prayers appreciated.

Thanks so much for reading friends! How do you plan to make time for reading this year? Comment below! 🙂

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

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