When we were homeschooling reading was an every day event, a pastime, a pleasure, indeed an anticipated hour or two each afternoon where my children (even in to late teens) would grab pillows and snacks, secure a comfy place on the couch and sit avidly captivated by the stories I would read out loud.
Through the many, many classics which lined our heavily laden book shelves, we travelled across uncharted seas, forged through uninhabited lands, learned to be self sufficient on a deserted island, walked the roads of olde England telling stories, worked in the halls of lofty palaces and ate raw onions with ancient Egyptians. For eleven years we escaped into history through books, the characters becoming so real that many a deep discussion about their bravery or lack of wisdom ensued over a second pot of tea or hot chocolate until I firmly sent the children off to do their chores whilst I began dinner.
Those years stand out for me as the best 'educational' time of my life because I wasn't just teaching my kids, I was learning right along with them, learning all the things that traditional schooling never taught me. I'd loved books since I could first read, but this was different - it was like a historical book club meeting every day of the week that never got boring and always offered enthusiastic conversation afterwards.
When I became a designer at age 50, we were in the tail end of our homeschooling years. I never planned to start a career once the kids graduated but I was praying each day that the Lord would bless me with a vision for the future and a measure of His own creativity. He answered in a way that still surprises me - such generosity of a gift which I never take for granted.
Once the homeschool years drew to a close and the children went their ways into the workforce our read-aloud hours drifted away into memory, and then one day came the realisation I'd barely opened a good fictional cover in years. In my heart there was a sorrow, a strange kind of loss, from no longer reading to, and with, my family...and then an understanding that this was why I no longer desired to read fiction unless it had a purpose.,
For example, during recovery from a serious bout of pneumonia in 2016 I couldn't get out of bed so I binged on four Lisa Genova novels because they all dealt with neurological issues and as that has a long history in my family the subject matter kept my mind occupied whilst my body recovered.
Another book (suggested in Jane Brocket's 'Gentle Art of Domesticity' which we studied through 2019) I read in 2014 was "The Home Maker" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher simply to discern what I thought of Jane's reading list - and I thoroughly enjoyed that book, even lending it out to friends.
But these small interludes with good books this past decade still didn't stir a desire to return to reading as a pastime.
The joy of reading had become a family affair in my heart of hearts, and somewhere in those long homeschool years I'd lost the solitary delight from my childhood years when I read just for me.
I do still read non-fiction (religious, health, gardening and homemaker themed), but embarking on a new fictional book that takes me on a journey and introduces me to new characters - that's just not happened for years, so when I shared with you recently of my hollow days with depression, the overwhelm of being a sole trader/designer with a home based online business and all that entails, and generally not having enough hours in a day anymore with the garden and homemaking and family, I knew the only person who could change things was me.
I didn't rush in to any changes, but offered my concerns to the Lord and asked Him to show me how to bring balance, peace, time and opportunity for personal and delightful pursuits in my everyday life. There was no quick response, but as I sat each day with my Bible and some very good devotionals (Spurgeon is always good), gradually the fog which had clouded my mind began to clear and I decided it was time to simplify more than just meals or budgets...I needed to simplify my own expectations of self.
Self imposed responsibilities had accumulated in my life and because I'm naturally someone who 'goes the extra mile' saying no to requests is quite a challenge, plus I also have way more ideas tumbling forth from my imagination than I could ever possibly hope to see through to fruition. Taking all this in, letting it simmer in my thoughts and prayers for a while, waking in the night to ponder what truly matters, listening for that still small voice, took time. And discipline. Because you can't make positive changes without self discipline.
So I decided that for the next month I'd slow down at home, not extend myself more than is needed, and I'd give myself a relaxed hour or so each afternoon to reacquaint myself with solitary reading. Being a Jane Austen fan for decades I gathered some of my favourites to one side (Persuasion is my absolute favourite Austen) ...
....but purchased a new fiction to read first. Naturally the title drew me in!
Three chapters along and I'm really enjoying this book.
And you know, it reminded me to check my Kindle for any titles I may have purchased 'back in the day' and did not read. You have to laugh because I had purchased about eight fiction books but not read a single one.
So I decided to start with the first title in my Kindle library (because having two books on the go at once seems rather exciting to me at the moment) and read the first chapter this morning.
Aunt Jane of Kentucky (1907) is marvellous!! At 4 am this morning when I could not sleep and needed to sit quietly without lights so as not to disturb my husband I put the kindle on night-light mode and began this book.
Well, my laughter woke Mr E even though I tried to hold it in. I think this will now be an evening book for me to read as we rarely watch television these days and hubby reads at night or marks his student's papers while I knit or stitch. But the joy of reading is returning and I believe it will be good for my soul.
The Aunt Jane book is a free Kindle download in the US but around $5 in Australia. Back when I got it there was no Amazon Kindle in Australia and I remember getting it for free.
When I was looking for a cover photo to show you the actual book (because that's hard with only a Kindle copy) my google search led me to Quilt Fiction (Aunt Jane quilts by hand - marvellous) where someone READS this book in a podcast. So if you're interested pop over HERE where I imagine links to all chapters can be found. The video below is just chapter one.
I did purchase the full set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books at the beginning of the year to read to Cully May and Rafaella one day, and I did actually finish "Little House in the Big Woods"...funny how I'd forgotten that but it just came to mind. But I should confess that after the first two chapters I opted for the audio version and listened to that while I stitched. So I still 'worked' while listening to the story.
Audio books may well be in my future for some stitching times or while I cook and bake in the kitchen, but a return to holding a book and reading it without distraction or employment within the home or sewing room is something I choose now to embrace.
So let me ask you, what books have you enjoyed in the past?
What books are you reading now?
I don't like crime novels or anything unsavoury in a story, and I don't like science fiction either. But I have always enjoyed the kind of historical fiction that educates and brings joy.
If you have suggestions for me with this in mind, let me know in the comments.
Bless you lovely friends, and I pray that if you too have let the bustle and hum of life fill every hour and forgotten the simple things you once enjoyed, that the Lord shows His perfect grace and leads you into a clear vision of how you can enjoy those things again and find balance in the wonderful everyday life of homemaking.