Note: This post was originally published in July 2019. It has been updated in April 2021.
Growing up I loved reading. Admittedly television was nothing like it is today, so it was easy to get lost in a good book. My mom was a voracious reader as well. I saw her love of books modeled and simply followed. She never denied me a trip to the library or bookstore. It does not surprise me the homeschool book basket was my favorite item to assemble each week. It also does not surprise me that I brought the concept into my classroom when I returned to teaching in 2012.
When I was blessed as a first-time mother, My Mom, Aunt and cousins held a “Baby Book” shower for my bundle of joy. Each guest brought a book and wrote a message in the front cover. Our family library was off to a wonderful start! I often read to my growing belly as my pregnancy progressed. As with many families, we began a “bedtime story” routine as soon as possible.
With the addition of each child, bedtime stories continued. Because our children were all born fairly close together, they all had the same bedtime growing up. The “Kid of the Day” got to pick the story. It wasn’t long before just a story at bedtime was “enough” for our little bugs. They wanted to be read to at naptime as well. They correlated going to sleep with a story. I happily indulged them one story at naptime, and then provided each of them with a small book basket on the end of their bed they could choose to read “on their own” – whatever that looked like for their age.
The Homeschool Book Basket was born
Over the years we have cultivated what I would like to call an extensive homeschool library. We purchased books at used book stores, garage sales, Goodwill, and even Amazon when I needed something specific. Friends that knew of our homeschool methods often gifted us books as well. They never had to be new. The information or the stories remain cherished.
Whenever we studied a particular topic, I put the books we had surrounding the topic in the “Book Basket” so they were readily available for the kids to explore.
As a classroom teacher my “library area” – even if the school had a library – was the first thing I set up before school started. I loved that I could provide a cozy reading area to students in the middle grades when traditionally things like that ended after 2nd grade. We had a well-stocked classroom library with cozy pillows, reading buddies, and a monthly book basket!
Each summer during our week-long “camp” for family and friends, we study a different topic each day. The ever-faithful Book Basket is there each day for the friends and cousins to enjoy! I had books in my stash for just about every day this week. It brought back so many memories of teaching the same topics to my kids.
Types of Book Baskets
Many families incorporate religion, memory verses, Saint studies, etc. into their “Morning Basket”. The philosophy behind this is that all the children are gathered to learn as a community. Other families teach religion as a subject in their subject by subject curriculum. In our home, we did a mix. Religion was held as part of our morning, and my children attended our Parish Faith Formation classes as part of their subject-by-subject requirements. Attending these classes provided them outside exposure and friends much like sports. There is no wrong way to homeschool. Religion need not come into your basket-making at all or feel free to add it as it fits YOUR family.
The following are 5 different ideas for “Activity Baskets”, commonly called The Homeschool Book Basket.
Topic Driven Basket
This book basket sits in a known location and is just “available”. It is filled with supplemental books that go with whatever topic we are studying. If we were studying dinosaurs, for example, I would fill the basket with every dinosaur book we own. If needed we also went to the library to check out books on the topic we were studying. I do recommend a separate basket for library books. This avoids confusion and having library books get misplaced.
Subject by Subject Basket
This book basket can contain a mix of books for each subject you are studying, or it can focus on one subject each day of the week, repeating subjects if needed. For example Language Arts Monday, History Tuesday, Science Wednesday, etc.
The Morning Basket
The Morning Basket is popular among homeschooling families and is a basket of activities used with all the children in the homeschool community. Everyone for example may work on the same piece of copywork, listen to a family read-aloud, participate in Bible Study or Religion lessons. A short game or flashcards can even be an essential component. My favorite activity for this type of basket is the Vocabulary Word of the day. One year we used pictures and wrote/told stories as part of our morning routine!
Classrooms have been using what they call Morning Meeting as a best practice, and the Morning Basket can be the homeschool version of that.
But the CENTER of the Morning basket, in my opinion, goes back to the book. The Morning basket is the opposite of the bedtime story. It’s the morning story and the LAST thing we did as part of our morning routine before “starting” our other lessons. The time reading to my children from a great piece of literature to begin and end each day was priceless.
Child by Child Activity Baskets
Baskets per child – independent work so you can work with each child one on one. The book basket can have a picture book, copy work, a craft, anything your learner can complete on their own. I also, as mentioned earlier, had a basket for each child on their bed for nap time / quiet time filled with appropriate reading books.
The “Other” Book Basket
This book basket contains books on topics you may not *really* study in-depth or need long-winded lessons attached to them. I also used this type of basket to introduce future topics and store family favorites. Poetry, Art appreciation, music, biographies (perhaps related to the holiday of the day!) Literature books with a math theme or even flashcards are great resources for the “other” book basket. After we had completed a year of “vocabulary word of the day”, it got moved to the “other” book basket where the kids were free to review any and all of the words we had learned the year before. There were always brain puzzle books and cards called “PE Circuits” they could choose for free-choice learning time.
When to use the Book Basket
Your routine is yours and yours alone. The style of the Homeschool Book Basket dictated when we used it as well as what was in it. You will find strong opinions on both. Some say it must contain only books, and it must be used in the morning to start your day. I stand by my position that there is no wrong way to homeschool. Maybe my baskets are the red-headed stepchildren of the homeschool book basket, but we LOVE THEM and they worked for years.
We honestly ended up with each kind of basket throughout the house. We began our day with our Morning Basket. Whatever we were studying during our topic-driven studies was in the main book basket. Each of my children used a customized learning book basket as well. As they developed their own reading preferences, the nap time story was no longer a thing and turned into afternoon reading time. We held onto the bedtime story as long as we could…but that book bug sunk its teeth into each child and they read themselves to sleep. I can’t really argue with that! As the kids got older we shifted to a subject-by-subject curriculum and used that style basket.
It’s not going to surprise you at all to know I still put out a monthly “holiday themed” basket of books when I decorate. The big holidays like Christmas and Halloween have more books than Mother’s and Father’s day… but I have books for every month of the year and add to it when I can in hopes of sharing the book baskets with future generations of children!
It’s wonderful to start the day gathered together as a community. Keep in mind, however, the baskets are perfect during lunch or at the end of the day. They can even be scattered each day of the week depending on scheduling. Your routine is yours and yours alone. Don’t let comparison or keeping up with the Jones’ impact your Family flow.
Gather what you have and gather as a family when it works.
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