Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library I bet I’m not the only homeschooler who has a home overflowing with books. Though we’ve made ample use of the public library as homeschoolers, it’s important to keep a print rich environment on hand in our home.

But how do you store and organize all those books on your shelves so that you can use them efficiently? Organizing your homeschool library can be a daunting task. Here are a few tips!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Places to Keep Books

First, let’s get to where we are going to store all these books. What kind of bookshelves do you use and what other tricks have I found useful?

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

  • Magazine Wall Rack – holds our reference materials like the atlases, subject encyclopedias, DK general books, dictionaries, thesauruses, spellers, and some Field Guides.Anything that can be considered reference is here, but we’ve outgrown the space now that our kids are older.
  • Shoebox Bins- I keep biographies, Newberry honor books, classics, and other chapter favorites in shoebox bins on the shelf so the kids can flip through them. That strategy is a favorite of mine because it turns the book covers out.
  • Converted Cereal Boxes – make great magazine holders and I labeled them with winter, summer, spring and fall. I also have a box for Five in a Row, Before Five in a Row, and Beyond Five in a Row books. On another bookcase I have boxes for alphabet books, Henry and Mudge Books and a few other series we’ve collected over the years.
  • The Library Shelf- This is a spot for library books only. When my children were younger and we used the library more often, this was a wonderful addition to our homeschool library. Having books from the library all in one place is a useful organizational tool on library day! When kids are finished with a book, they return it to the library shelf. On the display, I like to keep a book open. It’s guaranteed to stop your kids on the way by and draw them in.
  • Bookshelves- As many as you can reasonably fit! I have worked to replace mine with IKEA Expedit Shelves which hold a ton. Not living close to an IKEA, I keep my eye out on Craigslist and I’ve been able to get two. Make sure they are sturdy- solid wood means they won’t bend under the weight of the books.
  • Gutter Shelves- Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, is a van of the gutter shelf. It is just what it sounds like- a gutter fastened to the wall which holds books. We put up gutter shelves when our kids were younger and our space was small. Using the vertical space in our house was imperative. Word to the wise on the gutters- the cost is low as long as you skip the end caps and other hardware. Once you start adding that in, it gets very pricey! So you will see ours had rounded edges and they were plain. I’d prefer the end caps and braces, but it turned $15 worth of gutter into a $100 project.
  • Personal Book Storage- I try to provide space for books in our kids’ bedrooms. With three boys in one room, we don’t currently have bookshelves in there. This is when a gutter shelf would be great! Maybe it’s time to bring those back. My daughter does have a small shelf in her room which holds her project related books for her studio. All of our kids have project workspaces where they do keep books.

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Ways to Organize the Books

Now that you have places to put the books picked out, how can we organize them so you can find them? Having books is a great start, making them accessible and attractive is the next step!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

  • Use a service like Library Thing  – Keeps an inventory list for you and connects you with other readers.
  • Organize Using the Dewey-Decimal System – No reason not to categorize books as the public library does. I’ve always figured that if I need to shelve the books in my home using Dewey Decimals, my husband would declare us once and for all to have too many books! So, I haven’t taken that step. I do a combination of several systems at our house.
  • Arrange by Subject on the Bookshelves- I use a color coding system to organize them together on the bookshelf.  I just colored plain white sticker labels in a small size and then stuck them to the bindings of the books. Purple- math, Green- science, Red- Social Studies.
  • Reference Section- Just like a public library, you can have a reference section at home. It’s a place for dictionaries (I hope you are still using a print version!), thesauruses, atlases, topical encyclopedias, etc.
  • Shelve Teaching Resources Together- We have a lot of teaching resources- things like curriculum teacher manuals, curriculum not in use, and activity books for all kinds of topics like art, history, and science. When my kids were young these were exclusively my shelves. Now I share better and my teens see plenty of use out of those resources for their own enjoyment and research. I still shelve teaching books by subject area.
  • Keep Current Teaching Resources at the Ready- I have a small, narrow cubby shelf next to my desk where I keep the books I need to plan from now. It makes it much more convenient when I’m sitting to work with one of my students or I need to work on planning.
  • Place Chapter Books in Shoeboxes- As mentioned above, I store some chapter books in a box so they can be indexed like a file and face front. It saves space and makes the books attractive. I like to rotate the front book so they catch my students’ eye.

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

However you choose to organize your books, make sure they are rotated and you bring attention to various types of books and content. The time it takes to plan this and implement it pays off!

Using & Organizing eBooks

Is there a place for eBooks in your homeschool library? Using eBooks saves me time and money. Sometimes an eBook is cheaper than the gas it takes to get to my library. They are also cheaper than the fines some of us incur! It definitely takes less time to download an eBook than it takes to make a trip to the library. Obviously, eBooks take up less space. That’s a bonus as well.

Blog, She Wrote: eReader HomeschoolingHaving trouble with the concept of eReaders? Here are links to a few compelling reasons to use them.

  • 5 Reasons to use a Kindle eReader- This post focuses on the Kindle eReader with 5 ways we use them in our homeschool.
  • 5 Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire-  These five ideas focus on the Kindle Fire tablet and how this little gem has enhanced our homeschool.
  • eReader Homeschooling- My Pinterest board on all things eReader for your schooling. You’ll find free books here and other information on using eReaders effectively at home.

My teens use eReaders in their school work daily. You won’t find a better tool for the cost.

Other Reading Resources at Blog, She Wrote

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Building readers is a passion of mine. Take a look at other helps for making readers at your house.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & Stick

Our many books provide a print rich environment for our children and allow them to explore many topics and places. The key to having lots of books is making sure they are somewhat organized. Owning books is every bit as important as using the library. If you have another way to organize books, please leave a comment and share it with us!

How to Build up A Repertoire of Words

Blog, She Wrote: How to Build up A Repertoire of WordsThis post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s easier to write when you have the tools to work with and one tool which goes a long way is vocabulary. Today’s post is all about How to Build up A Repertoire of Words.

Blog, She Wrote: Story Cubes Review at Curriculum Choice

Ideas on How to Play with Words

Enjoying and playing around with words is a great way to build up a repertoire of new words. Sure, you can focus on vocabulary and word exercises and programs, but an authentic approach helps you to hold on to the new words better.

  • How to Make a Word Collage {& Why}- A post from earlier this school year on how to use a thesaurus and art supplies to reflect on a word and all its uses and meanings. It’s one of our favorites and my word kids love this activity.
  • Five Ways to Play with Words- A post I did for Bright Ideas Press in the fall on all sorts of ways to get to know words.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes- Fun way to create story and practice words with friends or alone. This one is my recent review over at The Curriculum Choice.
  • Writing with Word Cards- Give word cards kids have to use in their writing. They can be ordinary or not, but always try to give a new word.
  • The Dictionary Quest- The perfect activity to make friends with a printed dictionary. Use the dictionary to explore a word and the words around it. Those of us growing our vocabularies before the internet, have the advantage of wandering through print dictionaries and stumbling across all sorts of words surrounding the target word. Use this activity to investigate new words. At random!

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Reading Builds Vocabulary

The more kids are exposed to words in a variety of contexts, the more they get to know new words. Be sure to get your kids reading- whether they like the process or not! Madeline L’Engle said it well when she talked about how we need many words to make sure our thoughts can stay big (that’s the Heather Woodie paraphrase).

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

If you need ideas for how to getting ready to be a regular part of your home, here are a few I’ve compiled.

resource-3-1

Coaching Writing Helps to Build a Word Repertoire

One of my favorite things to do as a homeschool mom is to banter with my kids over their writing. From the youngest to the oldest, it is always an engaging time to see what their vision is and to hear them tell about their writing choices. Often, we’ll talk about using strong words to replace weak choices so they can convey a thought more precisely.

  • Resources for Coaching Writers- Do you need some help finding things that will help you to work with your students? This post is full of books, websites, and general information on working with student writing.
  • Coaching Writing Pinterest Board- This board has all sorts of ideas on how to work directly with student writers. Mostly for middle and high school students, you’ll find many resources here.
  • Essay Rockstar- Do you find that you have trouble being a mentor to your student’s writing? Essay Rockstar could be the tool you are looking for to have occasional or routine outsourced help with writing.

Whatever you choose to do to enhance your use of words, make it fun. Try out new activities and think about words. Use them. Try them out. Surprise people with them. Make words enjoyable. Play with meanings. Challenge yourself to find precise words. See how your use of language changes and see how your writing changes. Join your kids with word challenges. See what happens!

Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s summer time once again and homeschooling parents everywhere are thinking about how to keep the academics fresh in their students’ minds and how to keep kids reading throughout the summer. Summer reading programs abound whether it’s the library, the bookstore, or even the local pizza shop. Everyone wants to add up the books read and hand out the rewards. 

What are the summer reading plans for your homeschool this year? What if we shatter the paradigm on summer reading and require it without the baiting? How would that look?

Don’t Be Afraid to Assign Reading

Parents worry a lot about assigning reading to their kids. We want our kids to love to read and we believe that if we make our kids read, they can’t possibly learn to love it. However, there is evidence to suggest that required reading is pretty important.

  • The Read Aloud Handbook- Jim Trelease in his book about how reading aloud affects children as readers, specifically tells us not to be afraid to require reading from our kids. After all, practice makes a better reader no matter who we are or how well we read. Ben Carson is a classic example of this. The story goes that his mother, who only had a 3rd grade education, turned off the TV on Ben and his brother and required them to read and write about what they read. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Getting the Most out of Your Homeschool Summer- This book talks about taking a break for the summer and making sure you take a break even if you school year round, but the author also recommends using the summer for purposeful reading for your students. Many resources, including this one, mention the book lists for college bound students. This is a great time to check some of them off and add them to the finished list.
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations- Written by Alex & Brett Harris, this book is all about showing teens they have a lot to offer and how they can break through the stereotypes of the typical teenager today. When they were 16 and and their debating days were coming to a close, their father put the boys on an intense reading program for the summer. The stack of huge books included titles on varying topics such as history, philosophy, theology, sociology, science, business, journalism, and globalization. They read a lot of the time that summer and the more they read, the more excited they became of the ideas they were learning about. Wanting to do something about these ideas, eventually led to their website- The Rebelution.

The point is just because our kids may not choose to read, that doesn’t mean we should shy away from assigning it. I’ve seen many students get excited about a topic or a book when they’ve been told to read it. If our kids, especially the ones not inclined to read on their own, are never stretched to new places in books, their experience will become limited and they will miss out.

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

Blog She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Avoid the Carrot & Stick Approach to Summer Reading

That’s not to say you have to forgo any sort of summer reading fun, but connecting book reading directly with a reward seems counter intuitive. If you have more than one child, it gets cumbersome to keep track of and it feels a lot like coercion. Here are some other tried and true ideas for encouraging reading:

  • Enjoy reading books together- Change things up so kids aren’t always reading alone. When my readers were at the emergent stage, I often would read with them. They would read a portion and I would read some and we’d take turns. This way reading isn’t always a solitary activity.
  • Have book discussions- Engage with your kids about the books they are reading. Let them know you’ll talk about the chapter they’ve read for the day and ask them what they think. It’s easy to get simple answers, but try to draw the story out of your child and offer some insight as you go. This is a great way to check up on how your kids are understanding what they read and it’s done in an authentic conversational sort of way.
  • Form a summer book club- We’ve had a girl’s book club going all year and their June selection is Frankenstein. Book clubs let kids come together to talk about a book and they are more willing to read titles outside of their usual experience. Forming a summer book club is a fun way to encourage kids to read. Of course, there are plenty of activities that go with book club gatherings so prepare to insert some fun!

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Summer Reading Resources & Ideas

There is no shortage of summer reading ideas. Here are a few for inspiration:

  • Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This ultimate post has so many ideas for building a reading environment in your home- from babies to high schoolers. Don’t miss this resource. You’ll find resources for any time of year including the summer.
  • Book Wagon- I really enjoyed this creative idea from another blogger. Fill a wagon with favorite titles and new ones and take your books on the road to a picnic or in the yard under a favorite tree.
  • Set up Your Home Library- Make sure your home library is engaging for your kids. Rotate titles, get new titles and make use of eReaders!
  • Give eReader Surprises- Make ample use of your Kindle and surprise the kids now and then with a new title. You can check your library for titles or keep an eye out for Kindle deals. I have a Pinterest board on eReader Homeschooling which has a lot of ebook resources all in one spot.
  • Five Reasons to Use an eReader Kindle- I have found our Kindles to be invaluable in our homeschool. If you haven’t given one serious though, here are some compelling reasons. I find myself using the library less and grabbing an ebook in 10 seconds which costs less than the price of gas to get to the library!
  • Five Reasons to Use a Tablet Kindle- This little affordable tablet is a great tool for listening to audio books, watching video, and reading text clearly. I didn’t imagine how useful this tool would be for our homeschool.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Summer Reading Challenges

If you are going to set a reading challenge before your kids this summer, consider bringing them to the table to have input on their challenge. If you know that will not be productive or you have something in mind (like Mr. Harris), then forge ahead and put together a reading list for your children. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Set a Number- Simply set a number of books they must read. However, you will want to add some parameters such as “new books” or ” a particular genre”. Assign four books for the month but they must be new titles. Be creative about how to set a number and see it through. Take the challenge with your kids!
  • Classics- Assign a certain number of classic titles. If your kids haven’t read much in the classic arena, then the sky is the limit on choices. You can suggest tales of intrigue and adventure or any other type of story your student might like. So many of these are great stories which are rarely read because they intimidate. Shake the reputation and select a few this summer.
  • Set a Time for Reading- Rather than focusing on the number of books tackled, focus on the amount of time you read daily. That will take care of numbers in the end most likely if you are consistent. If your kids aren’t inclined to read on their own, you can read at the same time. What better way to get your extra reading in during the summer. Once the habit is set and you feel your kids are enjoying the time, you can relax and let them choose a time. However, my boys love to read and it is still a great practice to set a time. Otherwise, they may always find other things to do!
  • Set Your Own Summer Reading Goal- And join your kids in the reading challenge. I know I always have books I want to read and re-read during the summer. What better way to meet your own goal than to join your kids in meeting theirs? Research shows that seeing parents read has a positive effect on children’s reading. Let them see you making reading a priority this summer!

I have grown so weary of the trinket based programs that try and encourage reading. Require your kids to read. Just like you require them to eat their vegetables. Don’t worry about your kids being turned off to reading because you require it. We don’t have to love to read. We just have to do it.

Be real with them and enjoy discussions based on the books they are reading. Gather kids together and make books engaging for the sake of the story. But stop with the prizes. They don’t make readers.

So, let’s join the challenge together. Make reading a part of your summer without meticulously counting books and making it a race. Simply set some goals- either together or on your own and make it happen.

Happy Reading!

Summer Vacation Fun with Chalk Pastels

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Vacation Fun with Chalk Pastels

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Reasons to Take Chalk Pastels on Vacation

With everything else you need to prepare for vacationing not to mention you’ll be on vacation doing all sorts of fun things, why take the time and space to pack chalk pastels (or any other art supply) for Summer Vacation Fun with Chalk Pastels? Here are a few of our reasons:

  • Makes a great rainy day activity- Sometimes you get a wash out on vacation and bringing art supplies changes things up and keeps kids engaged when you can’t run around outdoors.
  • Feeds the creative soul in your midst- Rebecca hadn’t sat and created anything in a few days but was delighted to sit for an afternoon and paint. It was a balm to her vacation weary soul!
  • Provides a quiet activity when everyone needs some down time- At about the midway point in any vacation, tired kids begin to wilt. An art activity can slow the busiest person down so there is rest even for a little bit. My other go to for this is reading aloud- which we always bring on vacation!
  • Ensures a low cost way to enjoy your vacation environment- Some of us vacation on a tight budget leaving behind the attractions for something simpler. Make a memory by drawing your favorite spot while on vacation.
  • Add to Your Vacation Journal- Make a journal for your kids to have fun recording their favorite parts of vacation. Rebecca has one going for this trip to Maine and it’s been a lot of fun. You can include your memory making art in the journal and add some collages of brochure pictures.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Vacation Fun with Chalk Pastels

Materials to Pack for Art Fun on Vacation

Whether you are flying or driving, save room for some art essentials. Our list includes:

  • Chalks- Since we flew to Maine, we packed a new package that was still nice and flat rather than our box with the smaller pieces.
  • Chalk Tutorials- We’ve been taking our Hodgepodge tutorials with us for years and whether we are camping or staying in a vacation house, they always come in handy.
  • Tablet- In our case our Kindle Fires so we can easily follow along with the pdf tutorials no matter where you are. This inexpensive tablet has been invaluable to us in our homeschool this year. If you don’t already have a tablet, this is a great investment without being too costly!
  • Drawing Paper- Rebecca likes to cut them into quarters making it easier to travel with and easy to fill space on when she draws.
  • Watercolor Paper-We like to travel with several media and watercolors are also easy to travel lightly with.
  • Watercolor Pencils- Much easier to be on the go with, watercolor pencils are fun to use on nature hikes and excursions. Then you can add the color later.
  • Drawing Pencils- Easy to carry on vacation if you have a sketcher in your family.
  • Sketch Pad- You can use any of these media in a sketch pad. Especially if you have one one meant for wet and dry media.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Vacation Fun with Chalk Pastels

Rather than a sandy beach, Rebecca modified her beach to match the rocky shoreline here in Maine. That’s the beauty of chalk pastel tutorials, you can make them your own along the way.

I think one of her favorite parts of this painting was to outline the clouds in pink to indicate sunset. We always learn something new with each tutorial!

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Vacation Fun with Chalk Pastels

Just in time for summer traveling, Hodgepodge has released a new chalk pastel ebook! I downloaded it specifically for our trip to Maine and it has not disappointed. Rebecca spent an entire afternoon reading the book and making some chalk paintings.

Fill Your Sand Bucket with Art for All Ages!

If you are new to Southern Hodgepodge’s Chalk Pastels, you might be interested in a full bundle of books. These will provide you with a year of art curriculum which is guaranteed to be enjoyable even by your kids who don’t enjoy art. My 15yo loves to work with chalks and he finds art to be very effortful. It’s a forgiving medium and very pleasing to use.

From now through June 10, 2014 you can get $10 off. Just use the code: TCC614.

A Year of Art CurriculumSo, what are your vacation plans this summer? Be sure to put your art supplies, especially chalk pastels, on your packing list!

Finishing Strong- Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years Week 13

Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.

Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #13 Education Possible

Our favorite posts from last week:

Amy from Milk and Cookies enjoyed reading Educational Board Games for Kids and Teens from FundaFunda.

Amy really enjoyed seeing a list of family friendly board games that would appeal to tweens and teens. Sometimes kids from this age group forget how much fun simple board games can be.

There were a couple in Meryl’s list that she had never heard of before and will now be adding to her soon-to-buy list.

Her other favorite post was Middle School Math Contests, also from FundaFunda.

She has a huge soft spot for math, so any quality math post will be a favorite of hers! Amy really enjoyed this list of resources and contests.

Don’t forget to check out all of our co-hosts – Aspired Living, Blog She Wrote, Education Possible, Eva Varga, Milk and Cookies, Starts at Eight, and Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus.

Kyle from Aspired Living liked the Rhetoric Stage from Classically Homeschooling.

Each stage has it’s own unique challenges and joys, and Sara captures the essence of the Rhetoric Stage in this post. “We listen as much or more than we teach. The Socratic method is perfect for this stage. Ask leading questions, make the teens work through ethical issues, see the weaknesses of both sides of an argument, and determine what is right, what is wrong, and why.”

Isn’t this the goal of most homeschool parents, no matter which path we take?

She also enjoyed Review: Daily Grams from Tea Time with Annie Kate.

Kyle shared, “Like many homeschoolers, I absentmindedly proceeded down the path I had taken in public school and decided to teach grammar every year. Then just as my 3rd kiddo was going to begin grammar I attended a conference and three different speakers said that children do not need 12 years of grammar. In fact, many young children cannot grasp the abstract concepts of grammar. This was a light bulb moment for me.”

This post, highlighting Easy Grammar, shows how a formal grammar education can be achieved in less then one year. It is, as the Brits would say, “spot on”.

Do you want to connect with other parents homeschooling older kids? Join our Finishing Strong Community on Google+!

Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

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