Here is a bit of our story, put on our website because I (Jan) am a questioner and I like to understand people, web pages, events, conversations, etc. I am an INTP, one of the Myers/Briggs personality types. Gary is, of course, an EFSJ. Yup. Opposites. Gary just does things.
Though we did not plan a gypsy lifestyle, this will be our 23rd year as BooksBloom. Gary and I travel thousands of miles each year to set up a cozy used bookstore at homeschool conferences and BooksBloom seminars. We pull a trailer filled with TONS of great books we've rescued, pulled by our third "Mighty Whitey", a Chevy Express van.. We love helping both parents and kids find great books for whatever they are interested in, enjoy, or need to study.
So, how did this begin?
I (Jan) received a B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota College of Education with a major in Physics and a minor in Math in 1977. I taught 9th grade science in a public school but did not return to teaching after I had our first Bloomer, Jenni. Our son, JJ, was born on Jenni's third birthday with Jodi, our second daughter, born halfway between them. In 3 years I had 3 children. YIKES! Parenting demanded all my time - thinking of returning to the classroom OR planning our children's education was way off in the future.
In 1982 Gary and I attended a L'Abri seminar where Ranald Macaulay spoke on "The Educational Philosophy of Charlotte Mason." He introduced us to parent-led, learner-friendly education in which parents share the wonders and puzzles of God's world with their own children. We were delighted when we discovered that our desire to be with our children was NOT unique to us and, most importantly, was a GOOD thing. This was where we first heard the term HOMESCHOOLING. (Seriously - the term "homeschooling" was not in common use yet!)
Later that same summer Gary heard James Dobson interview Raymond Moore, an advocate of delayed learning. Gary excitedly reviewed the interview for me and we agreed this fit with what we had heard at the L'Abri Conference. We wrote to Dobson, who gave us Dr. Moore's phone number. We called Dr. Moore (those were the days...) and learned that he was doing a seminar in the Twin Cities in a few months. We attended that seminar, met a few other people daring to homeschool, and were fully convinced that homeschooling was what we wanted for our family. At least for a few years...
God had other plans for our children and we marvel at how He guided our steps.
We began our homeschooling adventure reading what Charlotte Mason called "Living Books" with our children. These were the books suggested in wonderful resources such as Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt and, later, Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson, and For the Children's Sake by Susan Macaulay. We discovered library sales as a source for great books and also bought books at thrift stores and garage sales. Our home library grew. We all loved to read.
I eventually crossed the line between bibliophilia (the love of books) and bibliomania (the name says it all!) and thus BooksBloom and this website.
In order to pay for the books we wanted to keep, we began selling duplicate copies of books we really liked at book fairs in Minnesota, our home state. I remember setting up a table at MACHE, at Crystal Free, in 1989 and having shoppers ask what I was selling. BOOKS! Apparently real books were a curiosity amongst all the used curriculum!
After many years of learning about and buying and selling great books, three bookselling friends and I decided to compile a list of our favorite authors and series that we could give our customers. That project took a few detours and became my first book, Who Should We Then Read?, which has found favor with homeschool vendors and book lovers. Ten years later a second volume, with all new authors, was finished. Both are available on the order page. Each volume contains the biographies of 157 authors along with a list of the books each author wrote.
The authors in these books are authors who have stood the test of time and are considered the best of the best. Yes, the current culture has questioned a few of the authors who were extremely popular when I compiled my author biographies. I've addressed this on my "author controversy" page.
In 2000, Gary and I and a small selection of books ventured out of Minnesota to homeschool conferences in three other states. In the Spring of 2001 we traveled to more states and conferences and then, in February of 2002, Gary quit his full-time job and our gypsy phase began with traveling full-time. (A brief note here - Gary finished a B.S. degree in Psychology from University of Northwestern in 1999, so now he thinks he understands why we do what we do...sort of. He mostly likes to drive, work hard, and eat at Taco Bell...)
Each Spring we travel to homeschool conventions (AND, if anyone cares - we have to PAY beaucoup bucks to have a booth at a convention!!!), then spend the weekdays between venues visiting friends we've made along the way and replenishing our supply of great books at shops and stores.
Rescuing books is difficult yet rewarding. The constant treasure hunt allows us to experience both the thrill of finding a good book and the agony of finding only high-priced, mediocre tomes. Though the older gems are more rare, more expensive, and more tatty each year that passes, we keep finding enough wonderful books to fill our shelves and delight our customers.
An update on our children: all three were (unexpectedly!) homeschooled through high school. Jenni graduated in 1996, Jodi in 1998, and JJ in 1999. They all (unexpectedly!) continued on to college.
Jenni enjoys living in a small town in Minnesota with her kids Michael, Charlee, and Victoria (Tori). Jenni is a harpist and piano player and was almost finished with her Master's Degree in English as a Second Language before motherhood captured her. She owns Hutchfield Services, a commercial janitorial company.
Jodi, our second daughter, listened to Rocky Mountain High too many times as she was growing up. She attended Bible College in Colorado in 1998 and now lives and works in Denver. She beats me at Boggle. She's my fellow booklover. Her Kailee (born on my sister's birthday, 10-14) is learning to enjoy wonderful books.
Our son, JJ, was in the Navy for 15 years. JJ's second son, Spencer, was born on my brother's birthday. JJ's son, Blaizen, lives nearby in Chesapeake, Virginia. What a joy it was to see Blaizen read and enjoy JJ's own boyhood books, especially Freddy the Pig by Walter Brooks. We currently reside in Virginia with JJ and Spencer, helping JJ deal with his life as a brain-injured veteran.
Gypsies? Nobody could have told us years ago that Gary and I would be traveling together in a van, showering at truck stops, sleeping in Cracker Barrel or WalMart parking lots, and sharing our lives with new best friends in homes and at homeschool conferences. But it's what we do and we usually LOVE it!
Our lives are full of adventure - traveling, talking, rescuing books, sending great books to new homes, laughing, and experiencing God's kindness and mercies daily. We are grateful to the Lord that He allows us to live such a crazy life.
Gary and Jan Bloom
103 Whimbrel Dr
Suffolk, VA 23435