Buying books that we don’t really need

09 Dec

We’ve all done it. Some of us more than others. We’re not the first and we won’t be the last.

Ok, enough cliches.

Like most homeschoolers, we love books around here. I’m one of these, ‘we’ve gotta have it’-types when it comes to curricula and supplements.

Part of the problem is our library, which I’ve moaned about several times. It’s so horribly lacking in all areas (apart from adult fiction): story books, literature, science, history, audio CD’s, and documentaries (there are literally none). Those lovely book lists in the Story of the World activity guide? Rarely can I find any of those books, or even substitutes. Entire periods of history are missing from the Junior section. Paddington, a ‘British institution’ (says Stephen Fry), isn’t even available in it’s entirety. I’ve tried requesting they buy certain books. They never do.

Flicking through the channels a few days ago, I came across a scene from the Simpsons. In the background was the library with a big banner on it which read: ‘WE HAVE BOOKS ABOUT TV.’

That’s our library. Twilight, High School Musical, Ben Ten, Disney, books-of-the-movie we have a-plenty. Real books, whole booke, living books…forget it.

But I want these books. I want the grammar supplements, that rhyming book on Shakespeare, at least one history supplement per week… a few reference books, story books, a colouring book, and a DVD on reptiles…oh, and a poetry book, too.  Really want these good books. Even if they’re only read once, I want them. They will enrich our learning experience no end and make all the difference. They are must-haves. Right?


Not really.

Less really is more when it comes to homeschooling. And I’ve realised that half the excitement about these books is the wishlist, the ordering, the anticipation, flicking through the shiny new (or gently used) titles and that feeling of how great they will be.

And sometimes they are. One or two of them turn out to be real crackers.

Others are…not so great.

And it isn’t that the book is bad, it’s just that the expectation is so high that it’s almost doomed to fall short, and in some cases, fail miserably.

Or, the book is great, but after one reading, we’re done. So it goes back on the shelf, still crisp, corners still sharp, spine uncreased, with that new-book smell, never to be used (by us) again. Sigh.

What a waste. (Well, for us anyway, since Stiggy is an only child). And reselling books can be difficult in the UK (Amazon takes quite a chunk and some books just aren’t worth reselling).

Now, I would like to say that I do have some self-restraint. Ok, it isn’t actually self-restraint; it’s more to do with limited funds and limited space. I certainly don’t buy everything I’d like to have. I probably buy around 6-10 books per  month, not including charity shop finds.

I wonder where all the books go? That sounds like quite a few books, considering I have all of my spines, apart from the second half of our Singapore math and the next Italic handwriting workbook that we’ll soon need.

So I took a look at some of my past orders from August until now on Amazon and Book Depository.

I ordered 4 story books, one poetry book, and a DVD on reptiles (one of the stories is also a history supplement). There are also a few story books, an Einaudi CD for me, a few Shakespeare retellings, Our Island Story, The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, and Plants that Never Bloom, a British history colouring book, a few audio books, some other history colouring books, When Children Love to Learn, our Spanish curricula, 2 grammar supplements, a math riddle book, 2 Aesop’s Fables, Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia, and a few non-HS items.

About  a third to half of those we could have done without, so I’m placing certain restrictions on myself.

  1. If it will only be used once, forget it (unless it can be resold at a good price.)
  2. Only a few science resources are really needed if the library isn’t fruitful. (One non-fiction, one story/poetry book, one DVD if it will really be an asset, and a colouring book if nothing good is available online).
  3. Come on…do you really need it???!?!?!?

I’m getting ready to place another order, and I managed to cut out two books using that criteria, plus one more:

  • A Child’s Portrait of Shakespeare (criterion #3)
  • Kites Sail High: A Book about Verbs (criterion #3)
  • One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine Maccaughrean (I managed to find something that will do from the library).

That criterion #3 is the biggie. I could have wiped out about 10 books from my previous book orders over the past  4 months. I had to actually log into my accounts to have a look at what I’d ordered because I’d forgotten. So, they weren’t the unforgettbale, ‘must-haves’ I imagined them to be at the time.

So, what am I going to order this month?

  • Ink for my printer
  • First Starry Night (a living picture book about Van Gogh, our next artist. This will be the only book I buy for Van Gogh. I find these supplements really do enrich our artist study)
  • How Much is a Million?  (a lovely math story book that will be read and re-read several times. I’ve stopped buying the Math Start books because they turned out to be a real waste, but books like this one are great.)
  • The Story of Clocks and Calendars (a history and math supplement that I truly feel will be beneficial and read more than once)
  • Singapore Math Practice 1B (necessary)
  • 2 phonics readers (necessary, he’s read almost everything several times and readers from our library are all based on movies/tv shows or are complete twaddle. These are also shared with my sis-in-law)
  • Oscar Wilde Stories for Children (a lovely, long picture book that we will treasure and read several times)

I feel happy with that and don’t think I’ll regret any of those purchases.


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Posted by on December 9, 2009 in Books We Love, First Grade, Ramblings


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