Several weeks ago, I stumbled across the Book Boxes Blog. This blog is designed to provide parents with fun ideas for enhancing books and reading with your children. I love this! We do this a lot already, but I’m always eager to talk books and creating magic with books we love with other book lovers. I hope you enjoy my interview with Erin and Marguerite.
1. Please introduce yourselves!
Erin: I’m Erin! I’m a thirty-something mom, military spouse, and home educator. I’ve been teaching my own kids since Christmas of 2014 when we pulled my oldest from 2nd grade because he wasn’t adjusting well to a new school after moving to Germany. My then 4-yo daughter wanted to join in the fun, so I taught her too. I feel like I have been every “type” of mom: working, stay-at-home, send-to-school, homeschool, etc. When my oldest was born, we needed my salary and I went back to work when he was just six weeks old. I switched jobs between children, but ended up telecommuting. The Army had moved us from CO to VA and my organization wanted to keep me so they allowed me to telecommute. But as an extrovert, I HATED it! So I put in my notice and only went back to work for a month. Fast forward three years and I decided to pursue a teaching credential which I’d long talked about while my husband was deployed. Essentially, I was single-parenting while working full time and going to school online. When we moved to Germany, I couldn’t find a teaching job, so I worked part time as a substitute. I much prefer teaching to substituting, so when my oldest asked me to quit and homeschool him, it wasn’t too hard to decide.
Marguerite: I’m a stay-at-home mom who homeschools my 7 yr old daughter. I knew that I wanted to homeschool before she was even born! When she was just three I became one of the admins for a facebook penpal group (called Homeschool Penpals and Swaps). I have always loved books, often getting into trouble as a child for reading to much!
2. Can you share the premise of your blog?
Erin: Marguerite is the one who came up with idea for Book Boxes, and she posted them on a FB page I am also on. After reading all the comments, I couldn’t believe she didn’t have a blog! So I PM’d her and asked her if she wanted a partner to help her get one set up, and she said yes!
Marguerite: The blog came from my love of books and wanting to climb right into the story. I wanted to make the books come alive for my daughter and make some memories together. I kept seeing those subscription boxes, and really I wanted to buy them all! There are ones about states and countries and fiction books and art…. So fun! But then I would look at them critically and wonder, where they really worth the money? As a single income family, we can’t afford to be frivolous with our spending, and most of what is in subscription boxes is filler that I didn’t necessarily want. But a box full of surprises? I really wanted that for my daughter, so I decided to make my own. I was sharing my boxes on a FB gameschooling page, and kept getting asked about them and asked if I blogged my boxes….. but I didn’t. Erin saw me mention that I would try to get around to it when I found time and asked if she could work with me to get things going! So she set up a blog and has been working with me to get posts made and published.
3. Your blog has so many ideas; how often do you do these “book boxes” with your children?
Erin: I actually just ordered the things for my very first Book Box (which hasn’t hit the site yet). I fell in love with the idea as soon as I saw it but then I had to read the book I wanted to do and decide what to put in the box. There is so much out there that it can be hard to narrow down.
Marguerite: I have been making these boxes just since the end of October! I made a bunch for my daughter for Christmas…. I wanted to make more but was restricted by money. So I made my first 6 and planned out several more. Then when I was talking to other homeschool moms many would ask me to help them build a box around the next book they were reading. I have thoughts and ideas on paper for around the next 20 or so boxes I want to make for my daughter! Crazy I know. But for my read alouds with her we get through around 2 books a month.
4. What’s a favorite book you’ve read aloud with your children?
Erin: There are so many good ones it’s hard to choose. Recently my daughter requested a book from the library, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. I read that one with “voices.” My voices don’t make a lot of sense. I always read the protagonist in my natural voice, but her parents were my approximation of blue-blood Brits, while I mixed in Scots, Cockney, Irish, American Southern, and who knows what else. I should mention that only my Southern accent is even close to passable. It doesn’t matter to my kids though, they love it even if its nonsensical.
Marguerite: I really enjoyed reading Heidi to my daughter. It was a story she was familiar with having watched two versions of the movie and the tv series that was on Netflix last year. But she LOVED the story! She kept saying that it was so much better then the videos and as soon as I was done with it she asked me to start it again. She still wont let me put the book away on the shelf. She said she wants it on her nightstand forever because it makes her happy.
5. What was your favorite book as a child?
Erin: Can I give you them for various stages? When I was in elementary I loved The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. I must have read it hundreds of times. I have two books that I discovered in middle school and have treasured ever since: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Marguerite: Wow, that one is hard! Like I said, I was reading constantly. I loved so many different books! I can give you a favorite theme; fantasy. But favorite book? That is hard. In elementary and middle school my favorite books were the Laura Ingalls books, Hobbit, The Narnia books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and the Xanth books. In high school I added in (but didn’t replace) The Dark is Rising series and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series.
6. What are you reading now?
Erin: Right now I’m reading The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. I do read fiction too, it’s just not on my shelf right now. I’m a big sci-fi junkie, and my favorite author is Neal Stephenson.
Marguerite: Right now I am reading “On the Farside of the Mountain” to myself while reading My Side of the Mountain to my daughter. Farside of the Mountain is the second book in the trilogy and I had never read it before! I always try to read books through before I read them aloud to my daughter. I am also listening to Echoes in Death by JD Robb on audiobook. I LOVE audiobooks, they make housework seem so much easier.
7. Why do you think that book related activities are important?
Erin: I sincerely believe that reading enables you to learn anything you need to. I love Book Boxes even though my kids don’t really need the extra encouragement to read. I want them to see the connections between the page and the physical world. And reading aloud gives us time to snuggle and enjoy each other’s company. I very fondly remember my mother reading all of the Narnia series to us, among the many things she read. We lived somewhere with no electricity for a while, and we would all crowd onto my parents’ bed under the mosquito net and listen to tale of faraway places being read by flashlight. Those memories are some of my favorites.
Marguerite: I think doing activities that go along with the books you are reading is so important because it is another way to make the stories come to life. It is so fun to cook a food together that the characters just ate, or plant a garden while reading about children who love to help things grow. It is a fun family activity, and will make wonderful memories! Also it was a way to experience the stories that wasn’t a lesson plan. I have tons of lapbooks that I was planning on doing with my daughter for each of our books, and while she greatly enjoys art and has enjoyed making lapbooks before, I found that she wasn’t really enjoying the stories when we had to do the lapbook component the next day before we continued on with our story. By not having to stop to work on lessons, the stories are no longer “school” and she is getting much more involved in them, to the point of crying because the book is over and she really wanted to hear more about what happens to the characters!