Peaceful Pandemic Parenting Survival Strategies (because alliteration makes everything more fun) – Books!

Bar none, the #1 thing people say to me when they find out we homeschool is, “I could never do that!” as though I have some sort of superpower, being able to spend all-day-every-day with my kids. I don’t take offense to this. Truthfully, it was one of my top fears, too, when we were deciding to homeschool. Could I hack it? Would the days seem interminable, a torturous loop of Groundhog Days in which I barely endured?

There was a learning curve, to be sure, but we had some time to ease into it. Unfortunately, with the rapidly advancing COVID-19 virus situation, I know a lot of families are being suddenly thrust into a de facto “homeschooling” environment because schools are canceling for the immediate forseeable future.

So from one mama to another, let me tell you–YOU CAN DO IT! I thought I might take the next few days to share some of the things that make our days fun. Not just endurable, but truly fun! And maybe a little educational, too! 😉

Hands down, if you’re facing a stretch of time at home with your kids and you’re not sure how to fill the days, I’d recommend finding a good read-aloud. Stocking up on a read-aloud or two is probably far more important than hoarding toilet paper. 😉

Today, I’m sharing some of our family’s favorites. These books are truly wonderful–my kids have enjoyed them, but I have enjoyed them as well, and for me that’s KEY in maintaining a positive energy during our days. If you find something you can enjoy, it makes time pass that much more pleasantly!

For reference, we started reading these types of books aloud when my kids were in range of 2, 4, and 11. I wouldn’t hesitate to read any of these again right now and my kids are 6, 8, and 15. Use your judgment, but don’t be afraid to let littles hear more advanced stories or to read younger books to big kids. Both experiences have their own sort of charm.

First up, the series books, which are nice because if you expect to be facing an extended time at home, you have a ready-made world to dive into, and the characters become so rich as the series unfolds:

  1. Harry Potter – because is any list like this complete without it? But I’m sure you’re familiar enough with the story, so we’ll move along to some of our lesser-known favorites. I promise the rest of this list isn’t so obvious.
  2. Penderwicks – a new find for us, we are loving it. I can’t overstate enough how much of a hit The Penderwicks have been with my kids. They are drawing about it and building Lego models of the family. It’s a series about 4 sisters and their adventures and mischief. I thought it might connect better with Isla than Jude because the main characters are girls, but that hasn’t seemed to matter at all. We finished the first book and immediately started the second. I’m only reading it with my littles right now, but Gabe read one from the series when he was in public school and loved it, too.
  3. Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place – a series about three children, formerly raised by wolves, who have been found and rescued by Lord Ashton and are being nannies by Miss Lumley. It is an absolute delight on audio. The narrator makes it come alive with her voices and howling, which sounds a little painful, but I promise it’s not! It has some moments that are a little bit more intense/scary, but we haven’t found it to be overwhelmingly so.
  4. The Mysterious Benedict Society – in the interest of full disclosure, only Gabe and I have read these. But I’m so excited to read these aloud to my littles. They’re at a stage where I think they’ll love them! This was one of the first series Gabe and I read after we read Harry Potter; we were both feeling the letdown of leaving beloved characters and an enchanted world behind. This series isn’t really anything like Harry Potter, but it filled the void perfectly. It’s quirky and interesting and kept us guessing. I find this series especially good for a child who sometimes feels different from others, but I think any child would love it, so that’s not a necessary qualifier.
  5. Tumtum and Nutmeg – this is a delightfully sweet series about a mouse couple and the children from the house in which they live and I love every bit of it! The mice act as fairies to the motherless children, and they get into all sorts of little capers trying to make the children’s lives better. This series may be better for the younger end. I’ve read it to my littles but I don’t think Gabe would connect to it as much as he has some of the others.
  6. The Green Ember – in the interest of full disclosure, my children objected to this series, but I loved it and I know it is adored by many homeschool families, so I thought I’d include it because it’s different than anything else on the list. A colony of rabbits finds themselves defending their home and wolves against a pack of evil wolves. It’s in the style of a mythical epic, a traditional battle of good versus evil. Be aware that there are some battle scenes that could be intense for some, and some loved characters experience losses/death, so it might be too much for a sensitive youngster.

And now for some of our favorite stand-alone books:

  1. Mandy by Julie Andrews – when we finished this book, my littles cheered, exclaiming that this was their favorite book they’d ever read. It also provided some great opportunities for discussions about making good choices and about what motivates people to make less-than-smart choices.
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl – this might be my children’s most beloved read-aloud of all time. We listened to it on audio; Kate Winslet is the narrator and the book on Audible is absolutely not just a narration, but a masterful performance. We’ve read and enjoyed a number of Roald Dahl books, but Matilda rises far above the rest–the perfect amount of charm, suspense, and resolution.
  3. By The Great Horn Spoon – I think this was the first family read-aloud we did when we started homeschooling? I was entirely unsure how it would go since Jude wasn’t quite three when we started. I’m not sure how much of the story he understood, but he listened without interruption while the older kids truly enjoyed the story. This is a historical novel set in the time of the California Gold Rush about a boy and his butler who escape their family life in Boston to go on a grand adventure to strike it rich.
  4. Beyond the Pawpaw Trees – Anna Lavinia embarks on a magical journey to solve a mystery about her missing father. It’s entirely different, but something about it–maybe the journey?–reminded me a bit of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book my family collectively hated. We found this book much less tedious than that, and it’s shorter, too, making it a nice, readable length. The story is full of magic and fun.
  5. Tuesdays at the Castle – a magical castle and the royal children work together to save their family’s kingdom, and it is a truly enjoyable story. It’s actually a series, but I didn’t put it in the series list because we only read the first one. It worked fine as a stand-alone. We did this one on Audible, but I don’t think the narration was that integral; it would have been just as good no matter who read it.
  6. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit – my children were split on this one, but I loved it. It’s an older story, and when we first started reading aloud I found older stories intimidating because I believed them to be dull and written with tricky language. This book showed me that I was so wrong! The story is so richly layered and I didn’t want the world to end when it concluded. We listened to it on audio and I adored the narrator’s British accent.

Also, a note–I let my kids do other things when they read. Sometimes they draw, sometimes they play with Legos, sometimes I’m so engrossed in the story I don’t even realize what they’re doing. So long as they’re quiet and mostly paying attention, I don’t care. I think this goes a long way toward making read-aloud time successful. Don’t feel guilty if yours aren’t completely engrossed, especially if reading chapter books aloud/as a family is a new thing for you.

Oh–a second tip! Did you know you can purchase audio books on Amazon even if you’re not an Audible member? I didn’t know this until I read it on another blog. Audiobooks had confused me! But you can purchase the audiobooks straight out and they’ll be yours to keep forever even if you never sign up for an Audible membership.

If you have any books you’d recommend to me, I’m all ears! I’m always looking for a new book to drop into my Amazon cart. 😉

Happy reading!

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  1. Sarah Hornback says:

    Thank you for posting these lovely books! We are homeschooling our 3 boys also and are always looking for good books. A recommendation book is worth gold. There are several books I have not seen on our usual book list. Thanks again!

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