Yes, I’m a Packrat. And I Hoard Books for Homeschooling.

BookShark binder and books stand upright on an open shelf

There has been a large movement taking place over the last several months, one that promises to improve your life, simplify things, and keep you from being overwhelmed. Your house will take less time to clean, your outfits will take less time to plan, and your life won’t be cluttered with what is unnecessary. Free yourselves from the guilt of having too much, we’re told. You don’t need as much as you think and you can absolutely be content with so much less. 

This movement has a name—minimalism—and even the newest decor trends have embraced the impact of less. 

I am not a minimalist. 

In fact, I’ve been identified by many as the total opposite. I am a packrat

I love collections and options. I assign memories to precious items; I save recital programs and hospital bands. I have mountains of photos, boxes of passed down holiday decor, and overall just a lot of stuff. 

I’m not overwhelmed by it; I don’t feel stress over it. I just like having it, and am comforted by the familiarity of it all. 

My endearing packrat quirk has found its way into our homeschool as well, forcing me to implement some kind of order for my urge to accumulate. 

Collect All the Books You Want, As Long As You Can Reach Them 

Because I love the experience of having and holding, I’m not big on digital downloads. We don’t own any ereaders, opting instead for the real thing—books. Lots and lots of books

I have a passion for books. Searching for one inspires new discoveries as I find new books along the way. Websites suggest titles you may like, favorite authors have new releases, and there is no limit to interesting topics and tales. I love buying books, which is one of the reasons I’m so partial to BookShark homeschool curriculum

At some point, though, book lovers end up with a lot of books. Packrats end up with tons

Because books offer such varied experiences and education, it’s not like I can stop buying books. My kids read faster than any website can ship, and we often find ourselves diving headfirst down an unplanned rabbit hole, so it’s very important that I keep a large and varied collection of books. 

I won’t stop buying books, and with the several years still ahead of us in home education, I’m anticipating buying more. A lot more. And that’s okay. 

As long as I keep my books on shelves, I keep our homeschool from becoming overrun with novels and protect myself against buying the same title more than once. I have to keep every book in one central location. I discovered that spreading them throughout the house resulted in a scavenger hunt each time one of us wants to find a particular title. 

Whether you’re saving books for younger kiddos to enjoy later, stocking up for older kiddos to enjoy eventually, or building your own home library, as long as you can reach each one easily, I say collect to your heart’s content. 

Shelves, boxes, totes under beds...however you need to store your books, make sure that you can identify them quickly and easily. Otherwise they’ll just gather dust, go unenjoyed, and your packrat status loses some of the adorableness. 

Packrat Tip 1: Go Paperless When Possible

I know, I know, I just said that I don’t enjoy a lot of screens in our homeschool. But especially in these modern times, our kids have to know how to operate a computer, and I’d be remiss if my own fondness for the page deprived them of digital mastery. I also know that if my kids make something, I’m going to want to keep it. 

Yes, I’m a Packrat. And I Hoard Books for Homeschooling.Our homeschool is incredibly relaxed, and we rarely have tests or quizzes. I can tell from conversation how well my child has learned a topic. I’m not trying to recreate school at home. I’m aiming to instill in my kids a fluid style of learning that naturally spills over into life. Learning doesn’t stop once a quiz is graded; it’s a lifelong privilege that I want to feel natural to my children. 

The upside: no quizzes to print, no tests to grade, no busy work to keep track of. 

By limiting the paper used in our homeschool I am able to avoid a packrat pitfall and save my home from being littered with stacks of doodles and vocabulary words. We definitely use paper when working on writing skills, but these are all kept in a sacred (and organized) notebook, eliminating the possibility of scattered stories everywhere. We also practice writing on the computer, simultaneously building their typing skills and keeping my desk free (for more books). 

Packrat Tip 2: Take Pictures of Everything

Packrats get a bad name. We’re seen as hungry trolls who cling to possessions with panic and greed, but really we just like what we have. And collecting special things to hold on to is not limited to physical items or knick knacks; you can collect memories. 

Maybe it’s the 12+ years I’ve spent as a professional photographer. Maybe it’s because I’m a packrat, but I just cannot get enough photos of my kids. They roll their eyes when I whip out my camera and groan that I always take pictures, but I know that we’ll all appreciate the documentation someday. I make end-of-the-year yearbooks with photos from our adventures in learning, from read aloud time to road trips and art events. 

The photos from our day at the Impressionist exhibit hold memories for me, so I don’t need to keep the ticket stubs. The failed attempt at acrylic pouring is hilariously preserved in a series of photos, so I don’t need to hold on to the evidence in the form of mangled canvases. Special memories that are meaningful can be easily held in the form of an album on your phone or prints in a memory book. They don’t have to gather dust and eat up precious real estate in your home. The more momentos you photograph, the more room you have for books! 

There is no shame in being a packrat. When an item brings you joy, you don’t have to justify it. Whatever trends come and go in the homeschool world, the best options will always be what works best for you and your family. I may never feel that I have enough books, and I know I’ll never reach any quota of photos. As long as I’m in charge of what I own, and not the other way around, there is nothing that keeps me from enjoying every item in my home. Go ahead, fellow packrats, order the books. 

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About the Author

Jennifer VailJennifer Vail proudly lives in the great state of Texas with her very handsome husband and three very funny children. All three kids are educated in three very different ways according to their very different needs, which is exhausting but fulfilling. Jen's hobbies include naps, 90's pop culture, Netflix binges, buying books with the best of intentions to read them all, photography, and extroverting. She holds a degree in counseling but has found her calling by writing for and spending time with families of differently-wired, outlier kids—the square pegs of the round world.

She stays up way too late and drinks way too much caffeine, but has no intention of changing either. She is the community manager and contributing author at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about homeschooling gifted, anxious, and otherwise different kiddos, but also rambles at This Undeserved Life from time to time. She feels compelled to mention that she still very much loves the Backstreet Boys and rarely folds her laundry.