What We Do When Life Gets Busy

Posted March 31, 2020

The very simple way we learn at home, every day

Last year, six weeks after we moved house, we welcomed our third child into the world. When he was six weeks old, we had a mains water pipe burst in our kitchen. It meant a lot of phone calls and not a lot of kitchen to live in.

Fortunately, he was a breastfeeding superstar and I didn’t have to juggle bottle feeds in a kitchen with no water or floor. I did, however, still have three children to accommodate at home and not a lot of time or energy for elaborate educational plans.

Welcome to our daily bookshelf

We have a collection of books designed to be read one page or one very small section at a time. We keep them all together and pull them out when life gets busy. I’ll often let my children choose, but sometimes I just grab a book from the shelf myself, let them know what I’ve picked, and start reading. In less than ten minutes a day, we learn something new together; we sit, we read and we share.


When I’m looking for books to include on this shelf, I opt for ones that reflect our interests or values. Some are meant to be read in book order and others are for dipping in and out of. Often times, they’ll be designed to be read one section every day of the year or once a week, but this isn’t always the case. The first two books in this list are our current favourites and both are standard books that happen to be divided into small sections.

  • The Burgess Bird Book
  • A child’s introduction to ballet
  • Mistakes that worked
  • Childrens spirit animal cards
  • Year of Wonder Classical Music for Everyday
  • I am the seed that grew the tree
  • Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls
  • Children Just Like Me
  • 365 Great Stories from History for Every Day of the Year

Shop your house

It’s not an ideal time to be sourcing a whole shelf of books. Let’s keep it simple. The books that we most frequently pull from our daily bookshelf are the ones that reflect our own interests and values. They are books we want to be reading anyway. Your house is probably full of literature that you enjoy and that’s as good a place to start as any. Spend a few minutes today collecting a handful of books together. You could try;

  • Your own favourite children’s story
  • Short story or poetry collections
  • Cooking books and recipes
  • Fact books
  • Kids Discover online; a quick reads section of social and science articles ranging from ten facts about feet to stories of teenage inventors

I’m going to sound repetitive here, but put them all in one place. It increases accessibility. It means you don’t spend four out of ten minutes looking for the book you want to read. We have our daily bookshelf set up in our living space, making it really easy to grab and go.

Pick a book, get comfy and share with your children. This is an easy way to prioritise learning time when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of resources available online. If you’re just flat out of time and energy or a suddenly-at-home schooler there’s no preparation involved. After you initially collect all the books together, you’re good to go. It can work around your home life and your work schedule, and because the time commitment is very small young and old children alike can enjoy together.

A valuable addition to your home

The daily bookshelf is going to show you where your children’s interests translate to learning power.

All of my children - including the baby - sit and flick through their favourite books from our daily bookshelf themselves, perusing or actively hunting for their next little read. They will ask me to read their favourites. They will engage in further research or play, both together and independently, if something in the book really resonates with them.

Today, after reading a chapter of The Burgess Bird Book, my daughters flitted about the house pretending to be busy wren birds building a nest. We have nearly finished this book, many months after we first began reading it on our Daily Bookshelf. Our eldest can identify some of the more regular birds in our garden. She takes photographs of the birds and observes and discusses their behaviour.

If a topic or idea really sparks an interest in your children during this time, you’ll have a good idea which direction to head in when scouring the plentiful online resources available right now. In your own time, at your own pace. If life is busy, keep it simple.

What’s on your daily bookshelf? Share at #ourdailybookshelf.