Photo by Katydid
For a while now (a long while) I have meant to put out some of the broken machinery hanging around our house for Farmerboy to dismantle. Farmerboy likes to build things. He likes machines. He likes to know the way things work. As far as the little boys go, we have been in kind of a lull between interests, and I imagine that Farmerboy has memorized a few of the Harry Potter books by now, as many times as he has listened to them on CD. (At the very least, I believe the rest of us have memorized them.) It was a good time to bring out something new.
In the picture above, Farmerboy and I are taking apart a wall clock from Katydid's room that doesn't work anymore. It runs on a battery and uses plastic gears. From reading Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip a few times, Farmerboy could also identify the coil attached to the battery that ran the gears.
Of course, when one kid starts to do something interesting...
Everybody wants to join in.
(Katydid joined in, too, with an old, unworking digital camera. She's just not in these pictures because she took most of them -- with my working camera.)
Stuff we took apart this week:
And this is the sort of stuff we found inside:
And yes, it was all junk that was hanging around our basement. One advantage to being the sort of people who take a long while to get rid of junk, I guess.
Anyway, a number of questions were raised about circuits and electronics in general and how gears work. To support the investigation I dug out a few more hands-on kits we had hanging around, including a Gears! set (not exactly the one I linked to, and missing many pieces) and a couple of erector sets: a metal one for ages 8 and up and a plastic one with bigger pieces for younger kids (again, missing most of the pieces.)
The twins built war machines with it, of course.
Farmerboy and I had a hard time with the older erector set, though, which was mechanized and required a battery pack to be assembled. But none of the bolts seemed big enough to go all the way through the pack and still have enough length to put a washer on the end. I do have a little mechanical skill here and there, but we decided this might need a consultation with Dad.
Considering the level of interest that carried through the week... and the fact that it's just about February... I'm hoping to free up some money for some kits with all the pieces. Here's what I'm looking at:
This is just my wish list. We already have a more complicated electronics kit, which we got for FREE because somebody left it at the dump and Andy picked it up. When he brought it home, we were amazed to see that it was completely intact and looked as if it had never been used. This was a few years ago and the kids were really too young to use it yet. Now, however, Gareth should be able to put it to good use.
And, of course, we have our share of batteries, wires, and little light bulbs... and lots of Legos... and pen and paper for designing our own fantastic machines...
Writing quarterly reports. Thinking about junior high/high school. Entering a whole lot of data into Homeschool Tracker Plus, which I missed when I was sick. Dressing small people up in enormous amounts of clothing so they can play outside in the snow. (This needs its own time slot in the schedule each day.) Wrestling a certain two year old to sleep every night. Finally stealing some time to read Wuthering Heights, which my husband calls "that book with the moors". Gearing up for a busier February.
I'll just leave you with a Katydid picture from our feeders. Because there is always time to watch birds.
Well, this is what I was actually going to write about when I started my post about New Year's planning. As usual, I got a bit side-tracked and longwinded. And out of order. Before I started tweaking the schedule, the kids needed something to work on.
We're beginning First Form Latin, and Katydid -- having learned the basics of long division and multiplying two digit x two digit numbers -- is ready to move on to Saxon 6/5. Farmerboy is nearly done with his handwriting book and wants to learn cursive, and I'm debating whether to stick with Handwriting Without Tears or go with New American Cursive, Memoria Press' new program designed to teach cursive to first graders.
Beyond that, I also had to make some more complicated plans for my older two.
Gareth -- 7th grade
Over the past year, I have been noodling around with the idea of using Ambleside Online's Year 7. Last spring I bought some of the books to preview them for this year. I bought How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books by Joan Bodger, which I never finished because I am not well-read enough, and frankly, does not seem to be the kind of book I could get Gareth to read at all. (Katydid will be another story, but Gareth -- not so much.) I bought Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, which is an amazing, amazing book that I love, but -- not so sure about Gareth there either. Gareth himself snatched up Watership Down last spring and gulped it down, no narrations of course, and not as a school book. (This was the same time he read Animal Farm -- sans reading guide, book reports, or narrations either.) And then I kind of let things drop as we got into other "stuff" at the beginning of this school year.
Unfortunately, the chart I made for Gareth at the beginning of the year mostly bombed. He read a few of the books I had listed because they were sitting in a basket on the couch, I think. He did not want to do many of the projects. Sitting down each week to plan from the chart was a nightmare for both of us. The book report I had him write on Out of the Silent Planet using Kolbe's Junior High Literature Guide sapped the joy from the book for him -- and for me, too.
We picked up medieval history as a family beginning in early November and that seemed to ignite a few sparks for him. I had decided to use Our Island Story, another Ambleside Online selection from earlier years, as a spine and family read aloud. By this point, we had also switched grammar books to use Our Mother Tongue: An Introductory Guide to English Grammar, also recommended in AO Year 7. Remembering that AO Year 7 matched up with the medieval material and that I had been thinking about using it... I went back and looked at the booklist.
It made a lot more sense this time. And I had to scratch my head as to why I had picked up the books I had when obviously it was the history books that would make the big hit. And Beowulf. And maybe even Idylls of the King. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that he had read a number of books from the Year 7 Free Reading List. In the past year, growing from 12 to a few months past 13, he has also matured quite a bit. So it seemed like a good fit.
So now one can often find Gareth happily ensconced on the couch reading Winston Churchill, or Seamus Haney's translation of Beowulf, or practicing his Old English. He probably won't be reading every single book on AO's booklist, simply because there are A LOT of books, and also because AO is a Protestant curriculum and we would need to substitute the appropriate Catholic books for the Suggested Devotional Reading List. I haven't planned out his reading to a great extent, but I have begun making up weekly to-do lists for him:
We're still getting up to speed on these lists, and he doesn't really want to write twice a week, but so far I think they have proved to be a workable guide. Although Gareth likes choice, he also needs structure. For the moment, I think we've hit on a decent compromise. Did he finish everything on this list last week? No. But he did accomplish a decent amount of work, and he didn't complain about much of it.
Katydid -- 5th grade
Katydid has enjoyed working with Literature for a Young Lady this year and finished up with our version of the Sunflower Basket in the fall. During Advent and Christmas, she attempted our version of the Literature for a Young Lady Advent plans. (I say "attempted" because December was a bit rough around here.) So with the start of a new quarter, she was also ready for some new work. Fortunately I had made a bunch of hand written notes on the Ivy Basket back in November, so -- feeling somewhat less green by January -- I could finally sit down and add my notes to the Word chart which Jen so thoughtfully included in the plans. I had to make some fairly substantial tweaks in some instances -- to the literature section, because Katydid is 10 not 12 or 13, and because she has read the first three Anne of Green Gables books many, many times already; and also to the bits that were written with fall in mind, or a winter less snow-covered than ours.
(Did I make any of you cringe with my creative use of punctuation? Mmm. Sorry. I am overly fond of semi-colons.)
If you're curious, here is Katydid's version of the Ivy Basket:
I'm not sure if Katydid will do everything listed for this basket, as she didn't do everything for her Sunflower basket, and some of the books have been carried over. We usually sit down Monday morning and write out a list of what she wants to work on over the course of the week, along with the daily work that I want her to do (math, Latin, grammar 3x a week). We don't map out page numbers or set specific goals or assign tasks (like reading Little Men or taking a nature walk) to specific days. When we tried that what invariably happened is that I would find her sitting down with her watercolors for a couple of hours on the day that she had written she would be working on Apologia Botany ch. 2 and reading In the Days of Queen Victoria. And if I suggested before she had a chance to start her work that today was the day she had decided to do xyz, she would sigh and huff. But if we just write a loose list for the week, she usually works her way enthusiastically through most of it.
The picture I put at the top of my Part 1 post?
Those are Katydid's books.
(I started writing this post Monday, Jan. 4. I am completely unable to start writing without setting the scene, and I like rooting my thoughts in time and place. Even if the ending of a post is written weeks after the beginning.)
Yesterday (i.e., a couple of Sundays ago), while the snow whipped past my window and piled into 3 and 4 foot drifts like waves on a white sea, I sat down with a big stack of papers, catalogs, and books and attempted to provide some direction to my two oldest kids for the next quarter. It was a good day for planning. The wind chill never climbed above zero all day and the 4 inches of snow we were supposed to get turned into 6 or 8 or 10. (I mean, if the size of the drift on my front walk is any indication. It looks just like ice cream that's been frozen just a little too long, then cut with a scoop. Funny how I can go from waves to ice cream in less than a paragraph.) We had been supposed to spend the afternoon sledding with our Little Flowers and Blue Knights group, and then on to dinner at a friend's house, but I had canceled a few days before because all 4 of the little boys have rotten colds and anyway, once the weather turned bad, sledding was out of the question. So there was really nothing better to do but sort through that big stack and try to make some sense of it.
I work from quarter to quarter. While I might have a broad theme (usually historical) for our family studies for the whole year, or a math or Latin book, the details get planned out a few months at a time, and not in such great detail. Around the end of December/beginning of January, I also think about how the year has gone thus far and if any changes need to be made for the remaining time. (I think this is pretty common, so I'm not telling you anything original here. )
We often need a schedule shake-up in January, too. The holidays plus winter's viruses (etc.) in combination with a definite change to WINTER weather have usually wreaked havoc on our schedule, and it usually becomes apparent about this time of the year that a portion (or portions) of the schedule are broken and need to be fixed. Maybe we've been banging our heads against the wall over some piece of time management for months (usually mornings in our house) and things have finally come to a head. So January can be a bit of a mix-up for a while as we sort out old, new, broken, and fixed.
My New Best Friend
... is a yellow legal pad. Nothing fancy, 1 of a 3 pack picked up at the grocery store. I had been using a moleskine journal to scrawl notes, but while it's good for brainstorming and writing, its size was a bit limiting and of course, I couldn't tear the pages out. At this point I like my yellow legal pad better than a computer because it's a)more portable; b)it has no buttons for 2 year olds to push randomly in an attempt to demolish hours of Mommy's work; c)it requires no tutorials in order to use; and d)it can't crash, lock up, or perform any maddening adjustments to your formatting. So here I am, a bit of a Luddite.
Anyway, I have used my new yellow legal pad to troubleshoot our old schedule, to make various new schedules hoping to address our morning problems (i.e., big kids getting up later and later, therefore making it impossible to have our normal prayer/catechism/read aloud time), and to make a neat Montessori math chart for Farmerboy so I would have some idea of what to do next with him (which is what you see in the photo above. Page numbers correspond to the NAMC Primary Mathematics Album.)
The New Schedule
After too many mornings that didn't get started until 10:00, I made out a couple of new schedules and showed them to Gareth and Katydid. After discussing how the day would go using each one, they chose one they preferred. Fortunately, it was the one I liked best, too, but it is requiring us to make a few more changes in our morning than just getting up earlier. On the other hand, this new routine is much more like the routines we had when the kids were younger.
6:00-7:00: I get up and have breakfast with Andy.
7:00-8:00: I drag the big kids out of bed and at some point take a shower. The little boys usually get up some time in between 7 and 7:30 anyway, so this is normal for them. They can watch a little TV at this time. The big change is that the big kids do not have to get dressed when they get up, but they do have to be at the table for breakfast by 8 AM-ish. (The reason we used to have the "you have to be dressed when you come out" rule was because certain people were taking so long to get dressed that it crunched the before lunch work time.) And instead of everyone eating here and there, everybody eats at the table. We have morning prayer, go over the Baltimore Catechism, and then I read aloud (currently D'Aulaire's Norse Myths and finishing up Beorn the Proud). After the kids finish eating, they can get "something to do" while I read... this morning for the little boys it was paper punches and scissors.
Around 9:00 or 9:30 (depending on how long our reading session lasts; this morning we spent some time talking about Haiti before we read and then during our reading of Beorn, we had to get out an atlas to look at Jutland, so it was about an hour and a half), it's time for everyone to get dressed and do chores. We have an hour for this, as chickens need to be fed and watered in addition to everyone's assigned house chores, and it takes a while to help three little boys with clothes and teeth.
10ish/10:30 -- 12:00: This is a work period. (Beginning with a snack for a pregnant Mommy and four "starving" small boys.) We've always had a period of work (or choice time) before lunch, but it was getting squeezed shorter and shorter and/or pushing lunch later and later. Hopefully, the new "breakfast at 8 in your pajamas" will help.
A new element to this work period, however, is that Farmerboy (my 1st grader) is doing some of his required work -- math, phonics, handwriting -- at this time instead of waiting to do it all in the afternoon. That's the way I used to have it set up because the twins and Chipmunk made it impossible for me to work with Farmerboy individually or for Farmerboy to concentrate. So we waited until the three littlest were asleep before we tried to do any sort of required work. The problem with waiting until afternoon has always been that a)it's afternoon and b)Chipmunk still will not sleep for more than 20 minutes on his own. It is very hard to do any kind of math with manipulatives while lugging around or rocking a sleeping two year old.
Anyway, although I do use phonics workbooks and primers, we're still using straight Montessori math. He doesn't really have a choice of whether to do it or not, but I do like to introduce him to enough math works so that he has a choice of what math to do every day.
12:00-2:00: Lunch and a break. Outside, weather permitting.
2:00-4:00: Another work period, primarily for Gareth and Katydid. And yes, it does usually go to 4:00... but that's only because either chores eat into the morning work period, or the kids are outside and don't come in until 2:30 or 2:45... I'm not likely to interrupt sledding if they've been stuck inside all week. (I just count sledding as PE.)
This brings up another point. Our work periods are not primarily devoted to seat work. For instance, if Gareth decides he wants to use the elliptical during work period, or if Katydid tells me she wants to take a nature walk, that's perfectly fine with me. The point is to be gainfully employed, not sitting around playing Pokemon. Both kids do have some required daily work and/or weekly work (which I'll talk about in a minute), but I like to leave the order of the work up to them. If there's a conflict somewhere (say, I can't help two people with math at the same time), I let them know my limitations and we work something out.
Also during this time I read to the little boys and put the twins and Chipmunk down for nap/quiet time.
4:00-6:00: The kids can play Wii during this time. The problem we're having is they all want to play Wii individually instead of together, and so their allotted 30 minutes a piece (except for the twins, who do play together) racks up. The related problem is that even though most of them are waiting for their turn, they're watching everybody else's turn. Thirty minutes of game time a day I'm ok with; two hours is pushing it. So we're still working on this. Wii time was actually a point of contention in the creation of a schedule, because previously the afternoon work period lasted from 2:00-5:00... which, I will just tell you now, is nuts. But we were doing that because our days weren't starting, for one reason or another, until 10. Anyway, if they had to work until 5, then not everybody could have Wii time before dinner, which made it seem like Wii just went on all night. (On the other hand, Andy sometimes likes to play Lego Star Wars with the boys after dinner, which is a bit different.)
I usually get on the computer for a little while during this time, then wake Chipmunk up so I can fix dinner and do laundry.
Next up... new work for the new year.
Toward the end of December, I decided that maybe I ought to stop reading books about "The Great Books" and read "the Great Books" instead. So after a bit of puttering around with various booklists and once again realizing how very nonsequential and unschooly I am, I decided that I didn't really want to start over again with the Greeks but the Victorians looked somewhat interesting, and of course, books written in the last twenty or thirty years don't really count even if they do come at the end of the lists in the Well-Educated Mind, which are supposed to be read through in chronological order.
I'm such a rebel.
I'm starting with Pride and Prejudice. And then I also picked up A.S. Byatt's Possession to go along with the Victorian books... although after reading several reviews around the blogosphere, I think I might have liked The Children's Book better.
Anyway, here is the stack of books I am working through for now:
Of course, I reserve the right to veer off into all the Jane Austen detective stories, zombie stories, and whatever other fan fiction has been written about her in the past decade. I may be reading Great Books, but, um, am just not sure I can avoid my massive curiousity about a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or for that matter, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. (Ok, so I won't link them for fear of offending those of my readers who are true Jane Austen fans or who have senses of humor which are far less weird than mine.)
So far I've made it through Pride and Prejudice. At the risk of further offending my friends, of whom many are Jane Austen fans, I will admit that after having been forced to read Pride and Prejudice as summer reading for my AP English class, and then being forced to discuss it with my English teacher (who was also married to the owner of the funeral home in town, in an interesting and somewhat bizarre tie-in to the whole zombie thing), I formed a rather strong prejudice (*cough*) against the book. Now that 20 years have passed, I have been able to admit that reading the book in a two-day marathon session when I would rather have been doing... well, almost anything else... but probably hanging out with my friends at the lake was not the best way to gain an appreciation of the book. And is, in fact, probably the reason why I only remembered Mr. Bennet in a favorable light. I liked his jokes. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when I read the book again over New Year's. It only took about 4 or 5 days because Chipmunk spent a lot of time sleeping on me so I had a lot of time to read, but still -- a slightly more reasonable pace. It did take a little determination to get through the first half of the book, however, without more than a few mumbled comments about don't these people have anything better to do than play whist? And Austen's snarkiness began to bother me a little. But by the middle of the book, when things actually started happening, I began to enjoy myself. In addition to the zombies, I think I will probably also add Sense and Sensibility (without the sea monsters) and maybe Northanger Abbey to my list.
Of course, I didn't think I could confine myself to all Victorian novels, so I laid in a store of a few nonfiction books to start the year, too:
So the first one's another book about Great Books. I have to plead guilty as charged on that one. I started really paying attention to book posts, adding book blogs to my Google Reader, etc. sometime around mid-December, when the incredibly depressing situation of having nothing to read finally weighed down on me a little too much. So I'm pretty sure I picked up The Whole Five Feet from Semicolon and Coop was a 5 star read from 5 Minutes for Books. (I couldn't resist a book about poultry, pigs, and parenting, and so far, I haven't been disappointed. Michael Perry is also a homeschooler.) My Life in France, which is, of course, by Julia Child, and which I bought, of course, because I saw Julie and Julia over Christmas like everybody else, is also what I just finished reading while I was feeling a little fuzzy and congested with our latest cold. I have to say I had a good time with this book, because even though Julia Child is a snob, she is the kind of snob who is not mean but only somewhat amusing, and also, if you imagine her actually saying the words all the way through, it will always make you smile. The book will also probably make you hungry, though, except for probably that part with the duck press, which must be an acquired taste. (Ahem.) Anyway, now I'm on to Coop, which is probably the most opposite book to Julia Child's I could have picked, and wonderfully down to earth. But I do still want to have a peek at her cookbook.
I started The Whole Five Feet, but it is somewhat heavy and sad, and I have to be in the right frame of mind to read those sorts of books.
And then, of course, I also have Possession: A Romance in my stack, but that doesn't fit in the "Victorian Novel" category or the "NonFiction" category, so it gets a little mention all by itself.
Oh, and I am not going to be able to resist reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which I have seen recommended various places, but it's not in the stack yet because my book-buying had to be curtailed a bit. (Um.) It is, however, on the list, and maybe our not-too-good library system will have it... after I pay my latest huge fine. (Blush.)
So that's how the year is starting off, in books anyway, and sort of more cozily and orderly than real life... but that's the nice thing about books, isn't it?
Last weekend I was very diligent. Although I haven't felt much like planning anything lately, I decided that, whether or not I felt like it, I really needed to sit down and provide my older kids some guidance for the new quarter. I had made a bunch of handwritten notes on the Ivy Basket from Literature for a Young Lady, so mostly what I needed to do was to alter the table on the computer and print it out for Katydid. I also needed to review what Gareth was doing and provide him with some more structure, since that is what seems to work best for him. So I did, and I started writing a post about it, too, which I will hopefully finish some time before the next decade passes. I thought I was fairly prepared for the new year, even though the little boys were sick (again).
Then Monday hit.
Gareth and Katydid dove into their work with a fair amount of enthusiasm (although Gareth was not terribly excited about my asking for two written narrations a week and Katydid was complaining of a sore throat.) Chipmunk spent most of his time practicing to be a gangster and walloping anyone who came near him -- with anything that came to hand. All the little boys did was argue with each other. In spite of being sick (with colds), Pip and Pop did not take naps. (I know I said I was going to call them N and J, but I'm so used to Pip and Pop I'm going back to those names. Maybe when they're 16 I'll change.) Chipmunk did take a nap, but refused to sleep anywhere but on my shoulder. Around 2:00, it occurred to me that I had a runny nose, too. About 3:30, quiet time was over, because the twins were not napping or lying down quietly or sitting down quietly. Instead, they were in the living room playing Playmobil with Farmerboy, which involved the destruction of at least one castle.
Then there was a big crash and Pip started crying. Gareth had just sat down at the table where I was in the dining room (still holding Chipmunk) to do his math. Katydid was reading Little Men on the couch in the living room. "Is he okay?" I called out to her.
"Yes!" she answered. "He's ok!"
Pip wailed. "Are you sure he's ok?" I said.
"He's ok! He's ok!" A pause. "No, no, he's not ok..."
I ran into the living room, still holding Chipmunk, to see Pip holding the back of his head, which was streaming with blood. Hurriedly I passed Chipmunk to Katydid to take a look at the back of Pip's head, where there was a large, deep gash.
"He slipped and fell and hit the back of his head on the floor," Farmerboy said. Or, well, maybe a destroyed Playmobil castle.
"Get me the phone and get your stuff together," I said. "We're going to the emergency room."
So I called Andy, who was able to get home before I had all the kids in the van, because I had to dig the van out of a snow drift and shovel out the end of the driveway. By that time the big kids had gotten everyone's boots and coats on, collected books and toys, and were ready to walk out the door. So even though everyone was sick, they wanted to go to Wal-Mart to get a toy for Pip while he was in the ER getting patched up, and we didn't have time to argue, so we all piled into the van and headed for the hospital, where Pip received three stitches, a Mickey Mouse surgical mask because he was coughing so much, and a bunch of stickers. We went through the McDonald's drive-thru on the way home and then collapsed upon arrival.
The week progressed from there, as all the rest of us came down with the cold, the weather was nasty, and Farmerboy complained off and on of an earache. Then there were job-related issues to deal with, and by Thursday night, what I was most grateful for was that my thoughtful husband had picked up two packages of all-natural hot dogs and a bag of peeled baby carrots at the store the night before, although he had had no list and we do not normally buy hot dogs.
Anyway, some productivity was accomplished this week in spite of everything, but good grief, am I glad it's Friday!
I'm potty-training 3 kids at the same time.
Two of them should have gotten it by now, but haven't. Drastic measures will have to be taken. One of them can take as long as he wants but seems to mostly want to rip toilet paper into tiny little strips and throw it into the toilet, then scream when I remove him from the vicinity. (He's the one who's requesting potty-training at this point. I would be happy to let him go for a while longer.)
I will probably find this amusing some day. A long, long time from now.
There's a discussion over on the 4real boards about organizing books. I mentioned our book bin system and there was some interest in seeing what it looked like. So I took a few pictures. I've had some technical difficulties with typepad lately, so I'm really hoping this works...
Now, keep in mind that I am pressed for space. I really need another bookcase. My books would look much neater if I could expand a bit. The books are divided (mostly) by subject (science, history), and then subdivided into bins by topic (oceans, Civil War). The white bins hold science books, the red bins history, the wicker baskets novels, both historical and otherwise.
I first went to this system when I had 5 kids under the age of 10 and nobody seemed to be able to shelve books properly. The skinny little paperback picture books all got lost. The hardbacks warped from being shoved in every which way. Since the twins were young, I did not have time to police the shelves all the time to make sure there were only history books on the history shelves, or that a picture book hadn't been jammed in between them so that its cover was bent and ripped. I had attempted to identify where books should be returned by labeling them with colored stickers. But my then toddler ripped all the stickers off the day after I put them on.
The book bins seemed to solve these problems pretty well. If a child wants a book about insects, I am pretty certain that I can just go to the insect bin and find what I'm looking for, rather than squinting down a row of science books to find the spine of a skinny book about monarchs, which may or may not have been returned to the right place. I can also take the whole bin out for the child to browse through. The bins work best for the younger kids if they're not as full. When they're very full they tend to be heavy, which is a con of this system I am still trying to work out.
I don't have all the books in bins, however. Historical fiction is mostly in baskets, divided by time period, but when I got all the books for our medieval studies this year, I didn't have a basket I could use. So these novels are shelved like normal books. You can see that using a basket to hold the other books expands the available space on the shelf, though.
Baskets and/or bins are also nearly impossible to fit on the squeezy top shelves, so I tend to shelve middle/upper grade fiction and biographies there traditionally. It's too high for the little ones, and my organizational scheme bears that in mind. I put books for them down low; books for taller people up higher. I don't shelve chapter book biographies with their time period... and to be honest, I can't really remember why I decided on this scheme. I think they just took up too much space in the bin. Bins really work best for picture books and other thinnish hardbacks.
I find that the bins are much better for keeping the paperback picture books accessible. This shelf holds some of our big hardback storybooks, but the bin (which I just made up and which isn't labeled, sorry) is for paperback fairy tales, most of them picture books.
These aren't the only bookshelves for kids' books. I also have a cheap bookshelf in the entryway which holds history and geography reference books (and is in terrible danger of collapsing, because it was never meant to take the weight of those books); another cheap bookcase in the living room that holds bins of geography books (divided by continent) and baskets of religion books (both of which really need a sort); and a built-in of science reference books, including two baskets of field guides. Gareth and Katydid both have bookcases in their rooms, and I keep the bulk of the seasonal and fiction picture books in plastic drawers in a closet so I can rotate them. They were a little overwhelming when they were all out, and then I ran out of space.
I tried looking for other posts that have to do with the book bins, as I know I've posted a few along the way, but in doing so I've discovered that I am really bad at categorization. If I actually do manage to find any, I'll come back and add the links for reference.
It's the time of year when everyone seems to enjoy looking back over the year that's been before moving on to the year to come. I suppose I'm no exception. Lately I have been thinking a lot about my reading. I started the year reading David Denby's Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World and I came to the end of the year with Ten Books that Screwed Up the World by Benjamin Wiker. So I started thinking, you know, I like reading all these books about the Great Books, maybe I should actually read some of them? Hmmm. Well, that's for the new year. As for the old year...
January: In addition to starting Denby's book, I decided that I would give everyone a virtual tour of our bookshelves. I got as far as the cookbooks on my kitchen island, which really hasn't been much of a tour. January also saw Katydid begin a term at Hogwarts, but the boys were much more interested in movies.
February: I was still reading Denby's Great Books in February, along with a bunch of books about homeschooling high school (you can see the whole giant list of books, which I read in February and March, here). But what I was reading to the kids was The Story of Caves, an old book I found in our library which contained a fair bit of information about our local caves, and sparked a fair amount of interest around here, especially with Farmerboy. Closet spelunking gave the boys something to do when it was way too February-ish outside.
March:I made some notes about my reading for the year, which is the only reason I can now remember that I read Kon-Tiki in March. Not that Kon-Tiki is forgettable. On the contrary, it's the kind of book you read when you're in your 30's and wonder why you didn't read it sooner. And then it sort of passes into your permanent, dateless memory, where all the best books are held. You know round about when you read it, you can remember snuggling up under the blankets after the toddler is *finally* asleep, you can remember setting it down on your husband's nightstand and telling him it's the kind of book that he would enjoy and also that you are hoping your 12 year old son will read it because -- well, archaeology! adventure! lots of weird fish! -- but as far as summoning "March 2009", your brain is at a loss. The allure of armchair travel passed a little by the end of March, though; we were preparing for our annual trip to Tennessee and winter was ending.
April: We spent Holy Week and Easter in Tennessee visiting family and friends, and I read He Leadeth Me by Walter Cizsek. What an excellent (and challenging) book, written by an American priest who spent years as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union. I also started Fahrenheit 451, and on the long car ride home, I read Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck. The arrival of spring saw us in the garden and at the library, checking out lots of books about plants, frogs, and dirt.
May: What did I read in May? May is sort of a blank on my reading radar. May was all about putting in gardens, getting turkeys and chickens, birdwatching, and being outside. Oh, and emergency preparedness. I read Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens, by Kathy Harrison, a good reference book for the family. To the kids, I started reading In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid, by Penelope Lively, which rounded out a year spent with ancient mythology, epics, and fairy tales. While reading this retelling of the Aeneid, the boys got interested in volcanoes, and we built a few. I also contemplated the simple life, and ended up concluding that I don't really have one... but that my kids might.
June: June was for wrapping up the school year and preparing for the new one. I read Working in the Reggio Way by Julianne Wurm and Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter, and I posted a few "Reggio reflections" of my own. Both books were excellent and prompted a lot of thinking about how to handle the projects the boys do. While I was reading about how to do projects with little people, my big kids were immersed in the Warriors series of cat books... but Katydid did take a break from Warriors to read Black Beauty and In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. After she'd finished, she was rather heartbroken to learn that the Dodgers were not in Brooklyn anymore.
July: July was rainy, cold, and asthmatic... 3 things not generally associated with July, I know. My garden persevered in spite of the weather, and so did the kids. I read Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and started adding coconut oil to my smoothies (hoping to tame the asthma), a couple of art books, and In a Patch of Fireweed by Bernd Heinrich, which taught me more than I ever thought there was to learn about how insects regulate their temperatures.
August: August was again focused on homeschooling -- plans, plans, and more plans. Accordingly, I read a few books: Snowball Earth by Gabrielle Walker, which kept me up at night so I could finish it, and most of Reading the Rocks: the Autobiography of the Earth by Marcia Bjornerud, which... did not. I also reread Homeschooling: a Patchwork of Days, edited by Nancy Lande and wrote about our not quite average day. And after reading Mudpies to Magnets, we made ice cube necklaces. Gareth was reading Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis, and Katydid read A Little Princess and began Little Women. All my tomatoes died of late blight.
September: Well, this is what I thought Gareth would be reading. He didn't actually read much of it. He did actually finish Fellowship of the Ring. He also spent some quality time with Genetics of the Fowl. Mostly, though, in September we were sick. (I would give you a link but which one??) We had an interesting not back to school day, and I nursed myself through the flu with Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time and Lyanda Lynn Haupt's Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness.
October: October was a birthday month -- the twins turned 4 and Gareth turned 13 and made his own birthday cake using a 1950 version of the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I also discovered that I was pregnant with #7. I read some very good spiritual biographies/autobiographies, including Come Be My Light (Mother Teresa) and In the Shadow of His Wings (Fr. Gereon Goldman). In fact, October was a very good month for reading. I read some of the best books of the year in October. Gloria Whelan's Homeless Bird was definitely one of them; the story of a young, widowed Indian bride, it ranks high on my all-time favorite list. So glad I checked that one out of the library. Some time in here I finally finished reading The Hobbit to the kids, too.
November: First trimester nausea moved in, and I didn't feel much like reading or doing much of anything else either. Raymond Arroyo's biography of Mother Angelica, Mother Angelica: The Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles kept me interested, though, and so did my friend Sarah's books, The Magic Thief: Stolen (#1) and The Magic Thief: Lost (#2). We took an unexpected day trip to Honesdale, PA, and I had all I could handle keeping up with the little boys.
December: December was a tough month. The little boys all came down with a bad case of croup. My nausea started to lift a bit, but none of us read a whole lot. I finished Ten Books that Screwed Up the World, which was not my favorite but brought me around full circle again to the Great Books, and I also read With God in Russia, Walter Ciszek's memoir of the time he spent in the USSR as a political prisoner (and after, until he was finally able to come back to the US). Andy read James and the Giant Peach (one of my most favorite books ever, which probably says a lot about me) to the little boys before bed, and we wrapped up the year playing Lego Star Wars and Wii Baseball, watching new Doctor Who episodes on BBCAmerica, and Julie and Julia and Star Trek on DVD.
And so went our year. :-)