Yesterday our box from Peace Hill Press arrived. It felt like Christmas for this curriculum planning Mom, as I opened up the package and reveled in several of the main books we'll be using this fall for the sweet girl's first grade year. After the enjoyment we've gotten out of The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading, I decided to go with Jessie Wise's First Language Lessons for English/Grammar. And I long ago decided that we would begin our study of ancient history with Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World: Volume I. The press was running a good discount on the "combo" pack, which means I got the book itself, plus the activity guide, answer guide, and student pages. Did I mention it felt like Christmas?
Making the decision to customize curriculum (pick and choose from various resources and build our own) was the right decision for us, both from the perspective of how I best teach and S. learns, and from the perspective of our incredibly limited homeschool budget. I know that there are probably people out there operating on even more of a shoestring than we are, who are also more disciplined and savvy than I am about finding online resources (although I'm getting better at that as time goes by). Still, although I cannot (and choose not) to go the route of spending hundreds of dollars on ready-made curriculum in a box, I still think it's important that we invest in some good books. Hence my excitement yesterday when some of those good books arrived.
The other thing that struck me yesterday was how good opening the box felt knowing that I had earned every cent of the money to pay for the books by hard labor as a book reviewer. Okay, you can giggle now: I confess to some tongue-in-cheek tone here, equating "hard labor" with "book review writing." But self-publishing reviews on a consumer website really is fairly labor intensive when you consider how little most of the reviews earn. It's become one of the few sure-fire ways I can bring in "extra" income, meaning income that doesn't come directly from one of our paychecks already earmarked for rent, utilities, paying down debt, food, or medical expenses. It's also why I've been writing reviews like crazy lately, trying to take advantage of a promotional season at Epinions when they're paying reviewers slightly more per review.
"These," I told D. last night, holding the history books in my hand, "are the reason why I've been reviewing everything from Jane Austen to shampoo."
"But have you reviewed Jane Austen's shampoo yet?" my husband asked, which of course cracked me up.
Of course, it's not entirely true. I write reviews first of all because I enjoy writing them, most especially the literary ones. The main reasons I began writing them in the first place was to push myself to write and write more often, and because I hoped that my reviews might actually help other parents and teachers out there who were looking for good book recommendations. But I confess that lately many of them have gotten written for more teleological reasons :-) -- because I have an end goal in mind. These checks I receive from time to time get spent, at least in large part, on good books for our homeschool. And that's a joy.
Once upon a time, I think I might have scorned this kind of "practical writing." I went through a long season where I had romantic notions about writing being all about process, whether or not I ever got paid for it. Well, it's actually still something I believe to a certain extent...the joy of writing is its own deep reward; the process both exhilarating and exhausting. But many years ago I also came to the conclusion that writing is not primarily self-expression but communication, and communication requires that someone on the other end is listening. Which means you've got to get the writing out there somehow, find ways to share it. It also means clarity matters. Writing can be art, but it should always be a skill...and I confess it's very nice when someone pays you to hone your craft.
Remember this moment from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women? I remember thinking "how funny" when I read this as a child, that Jo would think of her beloved short stories in terms of what she could earn by selling them...
So Jo was satisfied with the investment of her prize money, and fell to work
with a cheery spirit, bent on earning more of those delightful checks. She did earn several that year, and began to feel herself a power in the house, for by the magic of a pen, her`rubbish' turned into comforts for them all. The Duke's Daughter paid the butcher's bill, A Phantom Hand put down a new carpet, and the Curse of the Coventrys proved the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries and gowns.
Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand, and to the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world.
Hmm. Despite the slightly moralizing tone, there's something akin to truth here, methinks.
Enough rambling for one day! I'm off to see if I can discover what sort of shampoo Jane Austen used....