Coffee & Books: A unexpected homeschool game-changer

Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies

September is here.

Armed with fresh notebooks and colorful pens, we feel renewed and inspired. We are determined to make this homeschool year a memorable one.

We have a plan for how we want the year to go, a vision.

And yet, sometimes, the best homeschool ideas are unplanned.

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Take, for example, last winter.

A lifelong morning person, I suddenly found myself unable to wake up before my children. I can see now, in retrospect, that it was the result of saying yes to far too many people plus a case of the winter doldrums.

My motivation was at an all-time low.

By not waking before my children, I lost my planning time. Rather than enjoying an hour to myself, drinking my coffee in silence and setting us up for a peaceful morning, I woke up to rambunctious, hungry children.

When my feet hit the floor on those cold wintry mornings, I already felt behind. I was overwhelmed by a sense of urgency, a need to accomplish all the things … and fast!

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I’d rush through breakfast so that we could tackle math. (Because don’t we all worry a little bit about math in our weakest moments?)

This resulted in colossal power struggles. And tears. And general chaos.

Needless to say, we didn’t accomplish much.

One morning, as I was laying in my warm bed, silently berating myself for not getting up and accomplishing all the things, I had a revelation:

What if I start our mornings with what we love? What if I tackle the one area I never worry about?

And so I got out of bed, poured a cup of coffee, and grabbed a book.

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When my kids arrived in the kitchen, sleepy-eyed and ready for breakfast, I read to them.

I didn’t know it yet, but a tradition was about to unfold. 

We had stumbled onto something good: Coffee and Books.

Starting our day with the easiest thing

I’m a reader. My first word was bookie. I’d follow my mom around the house, book in hand, and plead, “Bookie? Bookie-bookie-bookie-bookie?”

I had a children’s book collection years before I had children.

At any given time I’m reading at least a half a dozen books.

I cherish read-alouds with my children. Reading is the one area I never worry about.

So, on that first morning of what we’d later call Coffee and Books, it didn’t feel overwhelming to pour a cup of hot liquid goodness and open a book.

Coffee and Books did not require any motivation. In fact, it felt almost too easy. 

But here’s the interesting bit: by starting our morning with the easiest thing, we accomplished more. 

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At some point along the way, I started sharing our Coffee and Books on Instagram. I didn’t share every morning, just on the mornings when I was waiting for a straggler to come to the table, or when I was especially excited about a particular book.

And an interesting thing started to happen: others started to look forward to our Coffee and Books posts. If I missed a couple days, I’d receive requests for more.

It was only then that I realized we had stumbled into a new homeschool routine. Coffee and Books was completely unplanned and born out of desperation, but it had grown into a cherished family tradition.

Sometimes, the best ideas are the simplest ones

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that Coffee and Books revolutionized our homeschool.

Here’s why:

  • Coffee and Books provided a slow, peaceful start to those otherwise chaotic wintry mornings
  • Reading over breakfast cut down on breakfast bickering and sibling squabbles
  • Starting our day with something everyone loved resulted in good moods
  • It seems counterintuitive, but we actually accomplished more on Coffee and Books days
  • And, while it certainly didn’t feel like work, reading aloud is arguably the most important part of any homeschool day
  • Since stumbling upon Coffee and Books, read-alouds have become contagious over here. It’s not unusual to walk into a child’s room and see this:

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Coffee and Books: Stealth learning at its best

I love Coffee and Books for many reasons, but at the top of the list is this: Coffee and Books allows me to tackle those subjects that I am worried about, while creating positive family memories. It is stealth learning at its best.

What are you worried about? Have you been slacking on science? Is math driving you mad? Guess what? There’s a book for that. 

In fact, there are oodles of books to cover whatever subject is currently stressing you out … and you can have fun while reading them!

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Coffee and Books, the 2016-17 edition

Last year, Coffee and Books was a pleasant, unplanned surprise. I’d wake up in the morning, minutes before my children, and scramble to find books. Our Coffee and Books was impulsive, haphazard. This year, I plan to be more intentional about our choices.

  • I want to plan our Coffee and Books selection the night before, rather than flying by the seat of my pants.
  • I plan to incorporate heaps of books from Give Your Child the World.
  • And I promise to share them all on Instagram. In fact, doing so will help me to document our read-alouds for our year-end porfolio!
  • I’m also planning to add some math play at the end of our Coffee and Books. I recently devoured this book and it has inspired me to make our math as fun as our read-alouds!

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Sometimes wonderful traditions grow from desperation. They sneak up on us, take us by surprise, and change us for the better.

Tell us: Do you have an unexpected homeschool tradition? Share here!