Summer Fun in (and out) of the Sun: Cultivating Collections

Jun 25, 2021 | Posted by Jennifer

Are you a collector? Are your children? While some of us embrace the more minimalist side of life, there are plenty of people out there who delight in growing their collections. There’s virtually no limit to what you can collect. Popular items include stamps and coins, but that’s just the beginning. The possibilities are practically endless: orchids, spoons, stationery, marbles, teacups, rocks, and writing instruments. They are all collectible.

Collections offer benefits. People find joy in the items they gather. They often invest time learning more about the items they accumulate: where they came from, how they were used, and how they were made, for example. Collecting can even strengthen relationships. It is personally rewarding to build a collection, and doing so can provide entertainment and enrichment for a lifetime.

This summer might be a fun time to begin a collection whether as a family or as an individual. In our family my mother-in-law loves to look for heart-shaped rocks she finds on her hikes. Over the years my sister-in-law and I have joined her in that quest to help build her collection. It is a great way to recall a special hike. My mother-in-law keeps her “heart rocks” in a special space in her home. It’s always fun to take a walk down memory lane when we pull out her small collection.

Recently I asked around the office to see who enjoys collecting and if so, what they collect. Here are a few of their responses:

I do collect coins. Every year as a young child, my grandfather would take my brother and me to lunch and to visit coin shops. This was an adventure that was so special, as we got to spend the day with him. He taught us about collecting pennies, and each trip he would add to our penny collection. Over the years we would visit a couple of the U.S. mints and learn about coin making. Honestly I had not done much with my penny collection since I went off to college many years ago and was not able to go on our annual lunch adventures anymore. However, I inherited his coin collection and recently began to organize the treasure that he had collected over the years. Some of his coins date back to the late 1800s. I still remember our visit with the coin collectors and my grandfather patiently explaining what he was looking for, what the quality of the coin was, and which new coin he wished to add to his collection. I think the "hunt" is what drew him to coin collecting; for me it is the sweet childhood memories that I now cherish. Now I look forward to taking my own grandchildren on adventures as we try to expand on his collection and his legacy. – Renee Vasher

I collect coffee mugs. Besides the comfort of a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a cup of tea in the afternoon, each mug brings to mind a face of someone special and a story. I have the mug my daughter bought for my dad from Sevilla, Spain, while she studied abroad. When I use it, I can picture him sitting at the breakfast table, sipping his coffee in the morning. I have the mug my college roommate from freshman year bought for me. I was the shortest in the gang. I have the mug a dear friend from co-op bought me to remind me to find balance in my life. Of course, there is my beloved IEW mug with all the memories of the Birthday Bash. My cupboard is full of mugs. Of course, I have an equally cherished collection of Christmas mugs to use for the holidays. – Marci Harris

I collect board games and card games. Games can bring people together, can create a context for education, and can even be the means to influence others. Games offer an immediate opportunity for camaraderie for people who might otherwise struggle to find common ground. Can't start a conversation? Teach a game; then play it together. No matter your differences with the other person, the two (or more!) of you can find enjoyment and make memories because of the social context games create. Games can simulate reality, thus providing the opportunity for educators to have fun with their students but then to engage them in deep conversation about their experiences in the game. Want to talk about military strategy? Play Axis & Allies. Are you needing to discuss supply and demand? Settlers of Cataan® can help you out. Finally, games can actually communicate something about the nature of reality and humanity's place in it. The rules of a good game can reflect the reality of the world, allowing for real-world decision-making and the reinforcement of wise choices. Games can connect us, teach us, and help to shape us—and that's worth collecting. – Nathan King

I don't actively collect anything other than books right now, but I do have a collection of rocks and minerals from my growing up years. I am careful about the books I add to my collection, primarily sticking with specific authors, such as Agatha Christie, Miss Read, and Dorothy Sayers for adult pleasure reading. I am also maintaining my collection of children's books. My favorite children's authors/illustrators are Robert McCloskey, Jan Brett, Eric Carle, Tomie de Paolo, and Cynthia Rylant. – Danielle Olander

I collect seashells from the various beaches that I visit, and I even have red sand from the beaches of Prince Edward Island! I also collect books from the numerous places or sites that I have seen. I guess my historian side is showing. Due to this habit I have many bookcases in my home filled with books that tell of my travels and allow me to read about my many Pooh adventures with my family and friends. In addition to books I have a vast collection of historical research on my family history. I have added to the research that my grandmother began back in the 1950s. It contains letters from my uncle in WWII and letters from her inlaws living in England during the blackout in WWII, along with many fascinating artifacts from my grandfather from WWI. – Cynthia Lescault

When our family moved from Ohio to Florida over a decade ago, I became enamored with all things related to the ocean. I discovered at some point that the beach closest to us is famous for its sharks’ teeth, so for years now I have been a collector of not only sharks’ teeth but also of beach glass. The beach glass is very difficult to find, which makes it so rewarding when I actually manage to locate a piece! The teeth are always a delight to discover, and I try to never leave the beach without at least one in my beach bag. Finding the sharks’ teeth has led to a little foray into species identification. When the kids were younger, I bought them laminated placemats that had the different types of sharks with photos of their teeth. It is fun to try to determine which species donated each tooth. I also like how small they are. I’ll be able to amass a lot of them without the collection taking up too much space. My husband collects even smaller items: our cats’ shed whiskers! – Jennifer Mauser

Whether you or your students have an interest in flowers or feathers, coins or coasters, stuffed animals or stamps, you can start a collection. It’s a great way to inspire your students to become detectives, researchers, and aficionados all at the same time.


Do you keep a collection of anything? Share it with us at the IEW Homeschool Help Facebook page. It would be fun to see the breadth and depth of what everyone enjoys collecting.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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