Today’s episode of Cultivating Grace is sponsored by:
How to Read More This Year
Hey there, mamas, Jamie Erickson here. I’m the founder and lead writer of The Unlikely Homeschool. I’m a work at home homeschooling mom, and I’m currently buried somewhere under a book deadline for my first book, Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child with Confidence.
I have what feels like zero seconds of extra time, and yet I somehow managed to carve out enough time to read 30 books this past year, as in books just for me. That number doesn’t include the dozens upon dozens upon dozens of books that I read aloud to my kids, for fun, for history, for science, and Bible, and all the rest. I’m often asked how I squeeze reading into a jam packed day. After all, busy as riding shotgun with me all day long.
Perhaps you can relate. My short answer is simple. Busy is a myth. A person will always make time for the most important things. If reading is the most important thing, then reading will get done. The even shorter answer is I don’t have television access, so books are my prime time, and the longer answer is a bit more complicated.
Here are my top five tips for reading more books this year.
Number one, make reading a line item. Reading is a nonnegotiable to me. It’s self-care that ends up benefiting everyone in my house. When I read, I’m not only able to teach from a place of abundance, because I’m well-read on a vast number of topics, but I also stay sane. I’m fairly certain that I’d end up acting like a caged squirrel if I didn’t have at least 10 minutes to read each and every day.
Because reading is a must, it’s a permanent line item on my schedule. Every day after our morning time together, we all grab our own just for fun book, scatter around the living room, and read silently to ourselves for at least 15 minutes. Everyone, including me. I set a timer and everything. In the same way that I make sure math, and language arts, history, and science all have a permanent place in the day, I relentlessly carve out time each morning for everyone to read because reading matters. I also try to read at least 10 minutes before going to bed at night, as a way of gently peeling off the pressures of the day.
Number two, read in the fringe moments. In this screen-driven age, a reading life has to be built on purpose. Each day, no matter how busy contains fringe moments, little bits of time that leave me sitting, waiting, loitering.
It’s easy to squander that time, sending texts, checking Facebook, scrolling Instagram, but I don’t have to be a digital prisoner. The choice for how I use my fringe moments is mine. A cell phone is an easy go-to distraction because it’s handy. It’s always with me. In the moments when I could reach for my phone, I reach for my book instead. That means that I always have to have a book on me.
I’ll admit it’s not always fashion forward, but I make sure that I carry a purse large enough to fit at least one book inside of it, or maybe even three. When I’m standing in line at the DMV, or waiting in the pickup line for basketball practice, I can read a few pages. Five minutes here, five minutes there doesn’t seem like a lot, but in spending even five minutes reading every single day, I claimed 30 hours each year turning pages in the fringe moments, and that’s more than enough time to read a few good books.
Fringe moments don’t always come with a warning. They’re random and unpredictable, I have to be prepared for them by always having a book at the ready.
Number three, have a book in the batter’s box. I never let precious book time get lost in the in between. I keep a running list of books that I’d like to read, any recommendations I get from friends, online, or trusted word nerd resources.
I use Goodreads to track books I have read and books I want to read, but a list doesn’t have to be so fancy. The key is to have wishful titles down in black and white somewhere, somehow, and in this way I always know where I’m going before I even get there. Then when I’m a few chapters away from completing one book, I order the next one. I buy it on my favorite used book site, put it on hold at the library or just borrow it from a friend. I do whatever it takes to get a book in my hot little hand, and set it aside until I need it. That way, not a moment of reading is ever wasted. I’m able to transition from one title to the next seamlessly.
Number four, read books in tandem. I used to read one book at a time. That’s all my top mom brain could muster, but over the years I’ve found that the one book method is really not a very efficient use of my reading time and here’s why. Nonfiction books work my brain differently than fiction books do. Nonfictions with their facts and no nonsense approach are easy to pick up, and put down, and pick back up again in the fringe moments.
But if we’re all being honest, we’d have to admit that nonfictions are rarely page turners. They’re not known for their riveting plot points are compelling dialogue. They’re perfect for the five minutes here, five minutes there kind of daytime reading. Fiction books, on the other hand, keep me reading. They’re the potato chips of my reading life, I can’t just read one chapter. They’re perfect for the just before bed reading, or those times when life grants me a longer than normal pause in the day.
Now, I always have at least two books going at once. I read a nonfiction in the morning during our silent reading time and in the fringe moments. It’s usually a book that always finds a spot in my purse, and then I read a fiction book just before bed at night. This can sometimes be a bit problematic, as I’ve been known to get swept up in the story and read well past two late o’clock.
Number five, ignore the tyranny of the trendy. Call it a quiet rebellion against the trendy if you must. But when it comes to the current popularity of reading challenges, I just can’t deal. I know, all the cool girls are doing them. But here’s the thing. While I can give a polite golf clap to all those who read a sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author, in order to check it off a pretty list they printed from the interwebs, I won’t read one myself.
I don’t want to. I like what I like, and trying to read through the books on someone else’s list, I end up slogging through. I don’t enjoy it, so I read slowly and begrudgingly. I’ve found that the best way to challenge myself to read is to do so with my own interests in mind. I gather recommendations from other readers I know, or from trusted online sources. I read consecutive books by authors that I’ve grown to love. I read about topics that I’m currently interested in.
The history of my library card reads much like an autobiography, showing the seasons of my life and what passions have come and gone. That’s not to say that I never read out of my comfort zone. I do, but the difference between a reading challenge and being challenged by reading is that books never have to feel like a to-do on the agenda.
Here’s a little secret for all of those mamas out there of wee ones. Please know that I didn’t always have a rich reading life. During those crowded years when it was raining babies in my house. I had to back burner my desire to read. If you are smack dab in the middle of the tornado tot season, be encouraged. Enjoy your babies while you can, knowing that books will always be there whenever you have time for them again.
Reading’s not your thing? No worries. These same ideas can apply to whatever your passion is. If you’re going to homeschool with longevity, you have to learn that self-care is actually group care. An investment in your hobby adds to your homeschool, even if it might look like it only adds to you. I’ve written all about this and so much more in my new book, Homeschool Bravely, which comes out from Moody Publishers on April 2nd. Homeschool Bravely will help you to see homeschooling as a calling.
It will show you how to overthrow the tyranny of impossible expectations, and it will guide you through some of the biggest homeschooling struggles, like teaching with babies and tots and tow, helping a struggling learner, or just homeschooling through a difficult season, when you don’t feel equipped. Reclaim your hope, renew your purpose, and transform your homeschool.
Because the truth is, God will use every part of your homeschool, even your fears, faults, and failures to weave good plans for your kids. The book doesn’t come out for a few more days, but if you pre-order now, you’ll be able to grab my quick start guide to brave homeschool schedules. It’s a 52 page e-guide that will help you plan each day with a successful end in mind.
Don’t let fear have the final say in your homeschool.
Jamie Erickson is the daughter of the King, wife to “Mr. Right,” and the mother to five blissfully abnormal kids. When she’s not curating memories, hoarding vintage books, or playing ringmaster to a circus of her own making, she can be found encouraging and equipping a growing tribe of mothers all across the globe on the Mom to Mom podcast, through her blog The Unlikely Homeschool, at national conferences, and in her book Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child With Confidence. In addition to writing and speaking, Jamie loves talking faith and family over a cup of Starbuck’s finest, collecting calories around a table full of friends, and taking grueling hikes with her formerly homeschooled husband, Dain (because alas, calories don’t display very nicely on a shelf like other collections).