A reader asked me a while back, “Do you let your kids write in the books?”
I love answering your questions! I wonder if my answer will surprise you…
Yes! I let my kids write in our books. Our homeschool books, curriculum guides, and worktexts, that is.
But things weren’t always that way.
Here’s how it happened.
For years, I tried to keep our homeschool books pristine. I never let my kids write in their school books (even when they were supposed to), explained they were not to bend pages or break bindings, and kept our books as protected as possible — yes, using book-covers, even!
Why? So I could pass books down to the next child, of course. Without important things highlighted. Without answers written inside. Without markings that could otherwise confuse or tip off the next student.
Why else? So I could sell them when we were done.
I thought I was doing the right thing. But here’s what happened instead.
I took away from my kids an important tool. I denied them a study aid. I made them less comfortable by changing up the directions written in the books. I took away their ability to study, think and learn in the way each needed to. I confused them a little. I added an obstacle to the learning process.
This took me a few years to figure out. But, basically, I inadvertently made school a little harder.
Funny thing was, by not letting my kids use their books, something happened to me, too.
I was forever making photocopies, assuming that was permitted (it wasn’t always). Going through ink and paper. Duplicating pages in other ways, too, usually by creating answer sheets of my own. I was shuffling volumes of paper daily. Creating an organizational challenge. And constantly struggling to find better ways to match their written answers with material in the book.
I frustrated my kids — and myself! I added one more thing to worry about. On top of everything else I had to think about already.
The whole thing was, well…silly.
Looking back, I wasn’t using our books the way they were intended. For learning, that is.
Besides, by the time a book had cycled around and around for several years, it was out of date anyway. A minor point, but — how much did I expect to recoup on the sale of our books anyhow? I wasn’t homeschooling to break even. I was homeschooling to offer my kids a better education.
So now, with few exceptions (reference books, for instance) I let my students do whatever they want with their books. They may highlight or take notes in margins. They may dog-ear pages and flatten bindings. They may tear books apart and put pages in loose-leaf binders. They may tote them in backpacks, throw them in the car, or drop them on the floor of their rooms after reading in bed. Short of complete destruction, they may use their books in whatever way helps them the most.
What I gained from this lesson was liberating. The freedom from worrying about the condition of our books. A small thing perhaps. But something that made a big difference in our lives.
If I need to buy another copy for the next child, so be it, though not every child ends up needing the same books anyway (as a bonus, we end up with a new edition).
If a book makes it through several children and still looks great, I sell it, donate it, or share it with a friend. If not, I chalk it up to the value of a great education.
This is one homeschool decision I have been very happy with. I hope you find my logic helpful.
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