Taking a Break and Organizing Bookshelves

IMG_7835 IMG_7836

We don’t have Classical Conversations this week, so we are taking a break from our regular homeschooling schedule. We aren’t taking a complete break, but we are taking it easy.

Today we spent several hours organizing all the bookshelves in the house. We have so many books and bookshelves all over the house, upstairs and down, this is no small task.  The bookshelves in the photo are only some of the bookshelves we have.

The girls helped me gather and then redeposit books all over the house.  Even the baby helped. The youngest ones made games of it.  “Make way! Make way! Books coming through!”

We put red labels on all the history, geography, and social studies books.

We put green labels on all the science and nature books.

We put blue labels on all the poetry, mythology, art, and music books.

The colored labels help the kids know where to put the books back without having to think too hard about what category the books go in. Even my non-readers can help put the books back as long as the books have colored labels.

We took some time to gather collections together: picture books, Magic Tree House, American Girl, easy readers, mysteries, juvenile novels, preschool and baby books, etc.

I have found that once books have an official place that I decide upon, it is much easier to keep all the books well sorted and train and remind the kids where to put them back.  And that, of course, keeps the house cleaner, and makes the books easier to find when you want or need them.

Of course, the shelves won’t stay perfect, because we use these books all the time. But most of our books are still only ever touched by me or my oldest, so most of them will stay in relatively good order. And we do chores everyday, always taking time to put random books back at that point.

As we worked, the girls kept rediscovering books they had forgotten about. That’s another benefit to reorganizing your bookshelves. Now the house is unusually peaceful because the two oldest girls are ready to settle down after all that hard work and eager to reunite with old favorites they found.

Homeschooling Provides Kids With the Opportunity to Read


I have been reading C.S. Lewis’ autobiography and found out that he read and enjoyed Edith Nesbit’s books when he was young.  So I got the idea to download Five Children and It, The Phoenix and The Carpet, and The Story of the Amulet to my daughter’s tablet.  I just left them there, hoping she’d notice and be interested enough to read them in time.  This morning, she said, “Mom, these books by Edith Nesbit are great!”  I was elated. I am so glad my daughter has the opportunity to read. That is one thing about Lewis’ childhood that was remarkable. He was surrounded by good books, he had solitude, and his schooling didn’t fill up every moment of his day so he had hours and hours to read.  If for no other reason, I am glad to home school so that my kids have access to books and plenty of time and opportunity to appreciate them.

Rainbow Pops for Reading Together

The girls completed their first hour of reading together.  They decided on a box of rainbow pops for their reward.  Originally, they were planning to get soft serve ice cream cones from the McDonald’s drive through on our way home from the grocery store…  But as we passed through the freezer section of the aforementioned grocery store, their eyes came upon these rainbow pops and they figured out that they’d rather have one pop every night for the next nine nights “Because there are eighteen pops in a box!” than have only one McDonald’s ice cream cone in the van on the way home.  That’s some excellent home school math right there!

Rewards for Reading Together

In order to encourage my oldest daughter to read out loud to her younger sister and to encourage my younger daughter to actually sit and listen, I have concocted a plan. I’ve printed out this clock. With my help and supervision, the two of them will get to color in the amount of minutes they read together each day and once they get to one full hour, I’ve agreed to take them both to get the same reward like Slurpies or ice cream cones or hot chocolates. Whatever! The only catches are that my oldest has to read books that work for her little sister like those by Dr. Suess or Eric Carle and they can only do this up to five times, five hours, and five prizes, after that we will have to renegotiate the terms of this agreement. Here’s hoping my plan leads to many more sweet moments like the one in the photo above.

Our Summer Reading Program

We always participate in our library’s summer reading program, but we never win any of the awesome prizes. Apart from the bag of free goodies we get for signing up for the program in the first place, we have never seen any reward for so many hours and hours of reading and diligently keeping track of it all. So we’ve decided to create our own summer reading program this year with rewards we agree upon ahead of time. The grand prize for 100 hours of reading will be a trip to Coco Key. And I’m taking Norah to Toys R’ Us to get some ideas for the smaller prizes that she’ll get along the way for 10, 25, 50 and 75 hours of reading. I think I will print the pictures of the prizes and keep them somewhere that Norah can see them often. Maybe I will attach it with a stapler to the sheet of clocks we’re using to keep track of Norah’s hours.  I used clip art to make the sheet of clocks you can see in the photo above. I can print it over and over again to keep up with Norah’s hours. Under my close supervision, I will let Norah color in the amount of minutes she reads till she fills up one hour on a clock and then goes on to the next. We think this custom reading program of ours will be lots of fun. Norah wants to start counting her minutes and getting credit for her reading right away and I think I’ll let her.

Create a Home Environment That Encourages Reading

1. Done with or marked by full consciousness of the nature and effects; intentional
2. Arising from or marked by careful consideration
3. Unhurried in action, movement, or manner, as if trying to avoid error

I decided to limit my daughter’s access to television, deliberately. Several people just dismiss my decision to limit television because they assume I’m fearful about modern culture’s influence on my daughter, etc. But that’s not it, at least not entirely. I am conscious that television influences kids and characters on television model behaviors and ideals I probably don’t want my kids to emulate, but I am even more conscious of television’s basic affect on our home’s environment. I wanted to create a place where my daughter would find it easy to read and televisions just aren’t conducive to that.

Have you ever seen a television on inside a library or a bookstore? I see them inside bars and restaurants all the time, but never in libraries or bookstores. I’m sure this is also a deliberate choice by the bookstore owners and librarians because they understand that television distracts people from focusing on books. Even people who really enjoy reading would find it next to impossible to focus on books if a newscaster comes on a television screen above their heads while they were reading.

I think many parents assume wrongly that if their child is a “reader,” if he enjoys reading, he will stop whatever he is doing and choose to read a book instead, regardless of the fact that the television is on all the time. That may be true for some kids and some grown ups at random times, but it isn’t true for most people most of the time, even those who consider themselves “readers.”

People marvel at how much my daughter reads. But I don’t marvel at it because I understand it is a direct result of deliberate decisions on my part. I wanted my daughter to be free to read here most of the day. By turning off the t.v. deliberately, I’ve created a home environment that more closely resembles a library than a restaurant and therefore, Norah is more likely to read.

Reading Is Her Reward

“Can I do reading first?”

Norah asks this every single day and every single day I say, “No.”

I have good reason for denying her, even such a great request as that.

Norah will read a whole book in one sitting and reading will often take her up to an hour or more because she’s reading serious chapter books now.

If I were to let her do reading first, we’d never get around to doing math or spelling, etc. and if we did ever get around to it, she’d be so spent, she wouldn’t do those subjects well.

So reading always comes last. It’s like a reward for all the other hard work that came before.

But I do let her choose what I can.

If I know we have to do math, grammar, writing and history today (before she does reading), I’ll let her choose which of those she does first and next and next… and in that way, she gets some say in her day and it’s enough to satisfy her until she gets to do what she really wants to do anyway:


Look for Books by the Same Author

A friend of mine has a ton of great books that I’ve never even heard of. I asked her about it and she said she’s found most them by looking up the authors of books she already knows she likes and seeing what else they have written. I liked this idea so I started doing it with Norah’s Sonlight 4-5 reader list and I’ve already found some great titles that way. The book on Sonlight’s list was called “More Stories From Grandma’s Attic.” So I looked up other books by that author and found a book that was meant to come before it called “In Grandma’s Attic.” So I gave this to Norah before I gave her the book on Sonlight’s list. In this way, I hope I can keep finding more good books that aren’t on some of the main lists.

Four Practical Ways to Help Your Child Become a Reader

Four Practical Ways To Help Your Child Became A Reader

1. Phonics- If a kid doesn’t know how to read or if she is always struggling with it, I don’t see why she would ever be drawn to books. Reading will be more of a painful chore than a joy to that kid. When my oldest daughter was learning to read, she didn’t enjoy it. For a long time, I had to bribe her by giving her the choice of bedtime or phonics. She chose phonics every time in order to stay awake longer. But after enough practice in a traditional phonics program, she started reading better and better and after that, she began to really enjoy books. So, this may be obvious, but I think a kid needs to be able to read before they can develop an independent enjoyment of books.

2. Quiet- We don’t have cable television and I try and limit my kids’ time on the computer and on video games. Therefore, our house stays pretty quiet and it’s easy for my kids or I to sit down with a book and stay there without being distracted.

3. Books, books and more books!- If the number of books we owned were limited or if our books were only on one shelf in one out of the way room of our house, my daughter wouldn’t read as often as she does. But we have a lot of books and we’re always getting more and they’re all over our house so my kids are always being reminded of their option to read. In the photo I included with this article, I purchased a stack of used books from the thrift store the night before and they were just sitting on the couch one morning. I hadn’t had a chance to put any of them on the bookshelves yet. My daughter woke up, shuffled out of bed, there was no television on to distract her, so she walked into the living room, noticed one of the new books, Down Comes the Rain: A Let’s Read and Find Out Book by Franklin Mansfield Branley and just picked it up and started reading. And my daughter kept reading from that stack of “new” books for at least an hour before breakfast.

4. No “junk food” books- As a rule, I don’t buy books about popular cartoons, movies or television characters. The way I see it, it’s like teaching your kids to choose healthy foods by providing whole wheat toast and yogurt for breakfast instead of doughnuts and sugar cereal. I want my kids to develop an “appetite” for the best books that might not sparkle on the outside, but that will truly nourish their souls. My kids are really drawn to Disney princess books and things like that, naturally. My oldest daughter gasps when she sees their covers, so glittery, so pretty. She runs up to me in the bookstore and says, “Look Mom!” and all that. I tell her that she can read as many of those books as she wants while we are in the store. So then she sets to reading with real gusto and this satisfies her and keeps her busy while I comb the shelves for medal winners and other books that are more worthy books of bringing home to keep. I think this policy has actually added to my daughter’s reading experience because the characters she meets in books are always totally new and their stories are usually surprising and charming. This has made my daughter more eager to read just about anything, since she has learned she can’t judge how much she will enjoy a book by what’s on its cover.