Category Archives: Organizing Books and Things

Ideas on organizing a home library and other necessary school items

Composition Notebooks: Narrating, Organizing Papers, and Record Keeping at the Same Time

When I first started homeschooling, I used 3-ring notebook pages for my girls to record their school assignments on. It didn’t take long to decide that was a mess – the notebooks were huge and took up so much space on the table, they wore out quickly,  they took up a ton of space on the book shelf, and worst of all, the papers would tear out and be messy.

On the suggestion of a friend on the SCM forum, I decided to try using composition notebooks instead. They cost less than a $1, they are compact, they are small, they do not weigh a lot, and little hands can easily maneuver them about. I also made the executive decision that there were not going to be as many notebooks, so I combined history, geography, and science in one book since often it is hard to separate them. My younger girls officially started “real” school in 2014-2015, and I made them their own notebooks. We filled in the last pages of them last month, and what an unexpected treasure they were.

These are the actual notebooks. They span from August 2014 to March 2017. School years are separated by sticky tabs.

These are a couple of the science entries:

Some History entries:


I finally started dividing pages for multiple entries as well:

We also have separate notebooks for their Bible Studies:

As I was filing them away in their portfolios, my husband and I spent some time looking through them. It was particularly gratifying to me as we did because my youngest daughter kept looking over our shoulders, explaining what each page and drawing meant. I learned several things that night:

  • We are doing work and progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the day-to-day trenches.
  • That knowledge was a very great blessing to me as I have struggled with my health at the beginning of this school year. (I am doing much better now. Still have issues, but I can function again!)
  • Narration works. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t always have to be “pretty” and “perfect.” Drawing, writing, speaking, acting: it all adds up and makes incredible differences in the ability to remember things.
  • The kids love to see and think about the things that they know. What a great refresher course for them, too!

Charlotte Mason Original Series Free Study Guides

Have you ever read Charlotte Mason’s Original Series and wanted to take your comprehension levels of her philosophy and methods, have time to ponder ideas, and take action on the things you are learning? Then I have some things to help you! Read on!

CM Study Guide Collage

I have been participating in a virtual CM reading group for about 10 months now. We meet once a week via WebEx and discuss our reading assignment, which averages about 10 pages each time.  Slowly and surely {and thoroughly} we have completed volume 1 and are in the middle of volume 3. As we have studied, we’ve tried to use the questions in the back, but they are so inconveniently located for good discussion. I decided to do something about it (actually, I’ve wanted to do it for a long time) with the end result that I can now share with you:  Study Guides for every single one of the six Original Homeschooling volumes.

Each guide contains a schedule of weekly readings of 10-15 pages and provides the questions for those pages in easy to use format. The questions can be used to help guide your study and/or discussions by taking you deeper into the topic. After the questions, I included spaces to jot down your “Things to Ponder” and “Actions to Take”.  This allows you to always have the thoughts and ideas you felt were important at your fingertips – providing yourself with both accountability and recordable progress.  By using the guides, you take your study into the more effective range and begin to improve your relationships and homeschool.

Simply download, print, use your choice of binding (staples, paperclip, 3-hole punch – I prefer to spiral bind mine) and start your journey. Miss Mason’s ideas are too valuable to miss!


Download Volume 1 – Home Education here.

Download Volume 2 – Parents and Children here.

Download Volume 3 – School Education here.

Download Volume 4 – Ourselves, Book I here. (This is the first half of the book.)

Download Volume 4 – Ourselves, Book II here. (This is the second half of the book.)

Download Volume 5 Formation of Character here.

Download Volume 6 – A Philosophy of Education here.

These guides are free for you to use as individuals and as study groups. Please link to my blog if you are re-posting, though.

Morning Time: In Pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Morning Time Basket

Have you ever just gone through the motions after a while of doing something??

Me, too.

We have been having successful Morning Time for 5 years…only we called it our Family Studies (a la SCM). We cover many subjects on a regular basis and totally love it – poetry, Shakespeare, Plutarch, music study, picture study, nature study, hymn study, scripture memory (and all the other memory work), history, bible, geography, creative arts, handicrafts, Greek/Latin words, sign language,literature, map drill, exercising daily, etc.  I have a really successful checkoff/record sheet that has all these subjects spread out over the 5 day week, complete with the time to be spent on each one so that we spend about 2 hours a morning doing them together. Only, after a while, it started to become just another check-off list. Yep, I was going through the motions! Not good!

While listening to Cindy Rollins on the Edsnapshots Morning Time Basket podcast, Cindy talked about how her family would all gather round and do these things together on the couch and she made it sound so desirable, lovely, and something to strive for, that I knew I wanted that experience for us this term. I really appreciated her comments on the fact that it isn’t the skill subjects that she wished she had spent more time on, and how the morning time subjects are what fed her family culture – and continue to do so today, even though her youngest is in school. I think that is what I was looking for – encouragement to more fully focus on the relationships and less on the “just do it because it is on the check-off list”.

Then I finally had the chance to read Pam Barnhill’s Morning Time book and after reading about her 4 R’s of Morning Time, I had a mental “A-HA!” moment. I began to consider our subjects in context of how they fit into our family rituals and relationships. And I think I’ve found a delicate balance that can be flexible depending on our days. 😉

I’ve decided that our upstairs Morning Time is going to consist of our Hymn, Prayer, Memory Work, and our selected poem. On alternating days, we will read a history, science, math, geography book. All of this can be done as we eat breakfast and tidy up. Often while I read aloud the girls will color in their beautiful adult coloring books to keep their hands busy and their minds listening. (In my opinion, this is a crucial step to a successful morning!) 

Morning Time Secrets

Then we move downstairs for the School Room Morning Time subjects around the school table – ASL, picture study, composer study, handicrafts, map drill, creative art – because all the supplies are there. As we finish the Morning Time subjects, we have a snack and go right into our skill subjects. On Thursdays we end with Poetry Tea Time, which is also new this year and is such a lovely addition to our day.

Morning Time nourishes our relationships. It motivates us to aim our ideals for finding beauty, truth, and goodness in the world around us. It provides calm in the midst of the storm, connects our family with shared culture, gives us noble ideas that stretch us in many ways, and prepares us to confront the darkness around us with light.

For more information and further reading on Morning Time, check out Pam’s website: edsnapshots.

CM Podcasts

I have been enjoying several Charlotte Mason Education focused podcasts lately. They are enjoyable and encouraging to me, so I thought I’d share them here. I like to listen while I do the dishes or sew.  – Liz Cottrill and Emily Kizer of Living Books Library with Nicole Williams from Sabbath-Mood-Homeschool – Cindy Rollins (of Morning Time fame) interviews guests monthly, including Dr. Jack Beckman, Karen Glass, and Anne White of AO. She also has a monthly Q&A session. You’ll have to scroll through the list to get them.  – Pam Barnhill interviews and features guests every other Tuesday. A fun thing about her podcasts is she includes things to go with each episode – like study guides, poems to memorize, etc.  – I just found this one today, so haven’t listened to hers, but her books were extremely helpful when I was starting my CM journey.  – Brandy Vencel has recently started posting audio versions of her CM conference talks.
Have a great Thanksgiving!

An “Official” School Room

Dining room school room

I have been toying with the idea of moving our formal school subjects that we typically did around the dining room table to a school room in order to create a more peaceful and relaxing environment for myself. There is something about homeschooling that creates a constant need for me to think about and never quite shut school out of my brain when it is time for other things…homeschooling truly becomes a way of life. 🙂 Especially when you are trying to set an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Anyway, my problem is that we would get involved in a big project, or someone would still be finishing up something that couldn’t move from the table and so it would stay – through dinner, through a few days to a week. I couldn’t stand that there was no where else to have those things. In order to do a school room, I would have to sacrifice my craft room and the room the kids had their toys in.  Hmmmm!

Craft a& Play Room 2

As you can tell, this room  also became the catch-all room for stuff I wasn’t sure what to do with.

The other problem was stuff! I had stuff everywhere.  Yes, it was generally tidy. Everything had a place. But one day I realized that I needed to stop going up the walls. I needed some space. Something HAD to change. I was unhappy, school was starting to suffer, and I was feeling guilty.

In the midst of these ideas swirling through my head, I attended a homeschool conference for the very first time. I went because the Sipmly Charlotte Mason team was coming and Sonya Shafer (the public face of SCM) was giving several workshops on various topics such as habit training, the Charlotte Mason methods, and was presenting a brand new workshop called “When More Is Less: A Call To Simplicity.” I went with one of my good friends and planned to meet other friends there. My friends and I also had the opportunity to eat dinner with the SCM family and the Creating A Masterpiece artist and family team. It was wonderful to have 3 uninterrupted hours with Sonya, Doug, and Karen. I had so much fun and learned so much from them!

During dinner, Sonya urged me to go with my ideas and feelings. The next day when she presented her new More Is Less workshop, I knew that the Lord was confirming all these thoughts and I was going to make some changes and find a new balance in my life. All the way home, I was full of ideas and was mentally rearranging my house to better reflect the ideas I wanted my life to hold. Instead of hoarding things, I needed to share them. Instead of saying yes to everything, I had to start saying no to less important things. My family was somewhat shocked at how adamant I was about changing our lives! I had to educate them on WHY these changes were important for ALL of us – not just me. 

In order to help me stay motivated and continue to make these changes, I read the book called How To Escape the Clutter Trap. (You can read my review here.) We held a huge yard sale of really nice stuff (and my sweet sister drove 9 hours one way to help me!) and whatever did not sale, I donated to the resale shop, Book Samaritan, and other educational places around town.  

School Room Collage

Here is the basic school room when we first finished it. There is lots of floor space that I didn’t take pictures of.  😉 I painted the walls a light green and made white curtains to match the white furniture. I am deliberately trying add some blank wall space to the room. It is calm and peaceful. The table is a fold-up table and is easily put away when we have company coming to stay. It fits in front of the short bookcases like a door on the shelves and makes the room feel a little less “busy”. Since I took these photos, I have added a nature table/bookcase under the large window. I moved the cd player down there and put the nature study books on the shelf next to it. On the bottom of the shelf I put my Five in a Row books and SCM reading recommendations. That is another post for another day. 😉

Reading rail

Something that I added that I haven’t had before is a whiteboard and some book rails for easy display of wonderful books. 

I love this room. I am actually amazed at how much more consistent we are in a daily schedule, how much less I get interrupted or distracted, and how much better everyone’s attitude is about school and life in general.  Yay!!

The Value of a Home Library

I loved this post about the why’s of building a home library. I hope that you all enjoy the thought provoking ideas presented hereI

Where My Treasure Is

Books! 001

Have you ever wondered why I spend so much of my time searching out books, collecting them from far-reaching places of the country, organizing them and continually putting orders into “Dan’s Workshop” for new bookshelves? (Not to mention running a used book shop and giving books as gifts?)

When I shared my blog series entitled “Building a Library For Your Child” a year or so ago, I wrote it with the assumption that having a home library is something that people actually desire. I’ve since realized that not as many people share my passion for collecting books as I thought. 😉 hee hee.

Do you have a library of books in your home?

A home library is not really about making yourself look prestigious or smart.

Well, maybe it is for some people, but not for us! By the way, did you know that you can furnish a ready-to-go library from this website where…

View original post 1,825 more words

Our Preschool “Room”

I meant to publish this weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance. So now that this school year is almost over, I will finally share how we managed preschool this year! 🙂


This is our school wall in our house.  It has changed a bit since we moved in – we’ve repainted and added a timeline, cleaned them up to add the new preschool manipulatives (see picture below) and other smaller things.

As many of you know, I have two set of kiddos several years apart. One set is preschool and the other is middle school. This wall is aimed at the middle school aged kids and works great!

I wanted my younger girls to have something that made them feel like they were special and that learning with a real schedule was important for them too.

I had purchased the Letter of the Week download from Confessions of a Homeschooler and printed all the fun cute alphabet letters, numbers, shapes, colors etc.   I wanted to hang them up, but as you can tell, there is no room.

 I knew that we were going to use the coffee table and some small chairs for preschool while the oldest worked on their independent subjects.

So how to get those in a room format for the little kids without taking over our living room???

After a bit of thought, I remembered an old tri-fold foam display board we had in the basement.

Here’s our preschool board:

Preschool Board

We have circle time with this board, saying the pledge, reviewing the alphabet, numbers, color and shape of the week, seasons, days of the week, and a weather chart.

I simply pull this out of the school supply closet every morning, gather the daily supplies for our fun activities, and we sit around the coffee table and have a great time learning and laughing and reading. When we are done, I can fold up the board and put it away and the supplies go back on the school room shelves.

Preschool Supply Shelves

These are the shelves in the school bookcases that hold most of my preschool supplies/manipulatives. This makes grabbing supplies on a moment’s notice so simple.  I have other activities like playdough, wooden blocks, tangrams, and nature study table items stored with other like supplies, and those are in tubs on shelves in easy reach too. The books are in easy access places all over the house.

The fun part of this is that I can have school where ever I feel like it.  The board has become a signal to the girls that it is time for school, making it even easier to involve them in other learning activities  around the kitchen table, too – which is  one of  the best part of homeschooling, after all – the togetherness!