I Couldn’t Have Dreamed This Up
By Liz Cottrill of Living Books Library, reposted here with her permission.
Life takes many twists and turns and I find, every now and then, that pausing to look backward reveals an amazing journey. The parade of ordinary days, small decisions, little efforts produces, well, things one could never have dreamed up.
When a friend gave me the book For the Children's Sake nineteen years ago, I never would have guessed how much my homeschooling journey would be changed by that book. That was the first time I heard of “living books.” My children have been blessed by my realizing how much they could learn from living books.
Five years later another friend told me about a lady starting a homeschool library and my source for these wonderful old, out-of-print books became reality. My children, then between two and eighteen years old, began some real book adventures there. In the basement of her home, my soon to become dear friend, Michelle, had packed twenty thousand precious treasures for all of us to revel in. Then we had to move away.
It was a cold night when we made our first visit to our new local public library, and seemed even bleaker on the way home with a meager harvest from those shelves. We had to begin hunting for better books on our own.
After getting to know other homeschool families in our area, and wistfully recounting to them the marvels of the private homeschool library we had left behind, they sympathized with our loss. Then one day boxes of books began arriving at my doorstep. They were just the kind we had grown to depend on. Where were they from? Why was this happening? The donor remained anonymous.
My husband started building new bookcases. My house was groaning under the load of books. I began feeling like a hoarder. Friends hinted, gently urging, “Why don’t you start a library?” No way, I couldn't possibly, not in my wildest dreams.
My daughter, Emily, unapologetically book crazy, has one fault. She doesn't like to be told, “It can’t be done.” I balked for several reasons, not the least of which was that I still had three young children to homeschool. I also didn’t know the first thing about running a library. And, most shamefully of all, how could I let other people carry off my precious books to homes I had never seen?
The problem was, I saw the need. Most of the families I knew depended on curriculum in a box. I observed young mothers struggling with multiple children of different ages and learning needs. My decision to share our books finally boiled down to the old, but simple command: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So we organized and labeled the books and opened our front door.
It’s embarrassing to recall my reluctance now, now that I am the one blessed by the children who have come, read our books, and rewarded me with, by now, hundreds of delightful conversations about what they have read, and learned, and are planning to do. I could ramble for hours with the memories. “I’m here for My Friend Flicka!” from an eight-year-old girl who literally bounded through the door one afternoon. “Ms. Emily, these are the books I’d like to renew,” from a two-year-old toddling to the check-out desk with his tiny box of Beatrix Potter books. Or, the rebellious lad whose mother was at her wit’s end trying to find anything he would read, coming in a year after discovering Living Books Library to ask if I thought he
would enjoy Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.
A couple of years ago, Lisa from Yesterday's Classics challenged Emily and I to work toward a homeschool library in every county in America. We howled with laughter. How in the world would that be possible? That’s a crazy dream. But three years ago, another one opened in northeast Tennessee.
This week Emily and I will be sharing about living books, organizing your home library, and what is involved in possibly opening a lending library in a workshop at the Childlight USA Conference in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Imagine being given the privilege to share about our passion for books and the incredible potential of introducing children and parents alike all that can be discovered in the world of living ideas from living literature.
On June 28, the first ever Homeschool Librarians Conference will be taking place here in southwest Virginia. Families are coming from Washington, California, Kansas, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey to name a few. We are going to share the dream and how they can make it a reality in their hometowns. I know the chances that other libraries will spring up near them are great since we have seen that trend already.
So when I look back and reminisce, I am amazed. God knows our path when we do not. We make our little choices and He knows them, every one. Our path is not a mystery to Him. I cannot guess the plans He has for any of the lives that have crossed our path, but I know they might accomplish things they haven’t even dreamed of yet. We’re still living ours, and it’s better than we could have ever dreamed.
For the joy of reading,