The kids lately Summer 2014

 

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OK, these top pics were of the kids in Maine before I got there (I was in Minnesota with Eleanor at the CM conference), which is why Adele is wearing a long-sleeved neon shirt underneath a lacy top paired with pajama bottoms. Oh, to be five!

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At the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

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At the National Cathedral in DC – we took Everett to an intensive Anat Baniel therapy bootcamp right down the street.

 

Supplies for Keeping Notebooks – What I Use

I’ve had a few requests for an updated list of supplies. So here it is. I am not a professional artist or anything like that, but I have tried a few different things and I’ve found several supplies that I really like to use. When I started my notebooks, I searched all over to find what other people were using, just to find a place to start, but I had a hard time finding a list like this.

First of all, if you haven’t read Laurie Bestvater’s book, The Living Page, then you should start with that. In her book, she has a list of  suggested “keeping” supplies (although mostly generic descriptions and sometimes it’s nice to have a link to something specific) and, I admit, I kind of went wild. But, I think good quality art supplies are the best kind of “toys” or even “educational tools.” I am going to provide links to amazon because it might make things easier for someone who wants to just click and buy. I definitely prefer to support local small businesses, but oh-my-goodness “click and buy” without leaving the house is really helpful for me in my current stage of life. And, just a reminder these are NOT affiliate links. I have absolutely no bias in recommending any of these items.

Nature Notebook Supplies that I Use:

I realize now that my “better quality” supplies probably haven’t improved the quality of my artwork at all, but they HAVE made the process of using them more enjoyable. And, that is worth it to me =). Also, these are just the things that work for me, and even though what I like might not be the best choice for you, it’s possible that reading why I do or don’t like something will be helpful information. I hope so, anyway!

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I have tried a variety of paint palettes, but this one is my current favorite. It is not small, but I did not want to use two separate palettes, so this is the one I use at home and also for travel. The palette comes empty and you use tubes of watercolor paint to put the colors where you want them – I suggest you take some time to plan out your colors in a way that makes sense to you before you put any paint down (I wish I had been smarter about my layout). Also, a little bit of watercolor paint goes a really long way, so you don’t need much at all in the palette. If you are doing nature study in a co-op group, you might consider splitting one really nice set of paint tubes between ten or so palettes – you’d probably still have lots leftover. This palette also has a long skinny section that holds a paintbrush or two. It even has a nifty spot to hook your thumb through so you can hold it when you are painting without a table (in my lap!). I bought this inexpensive set of paints and they work for me, but I haven’t tried a lot of brands of paint. Also, my nature journal is kind of bulky, but its beauty makes up for its weight. It is a handcrafted leatherbound watercolor journal from etsy.  I can see the appeal of a smaller palette and a smaller journal, but these sizes work for me.

When I started my nature journal, I was frustrated when I tried to add details to my painting. I thought I needed a very small detail brush. I bought about five brushes (less than ten dollars each). Recently, I invested in one real sable brush and I wish I had started with that instead of buying multiple brushes. I personally don’t use more than one brush when I’m painting, so I think it’s best to get one high-quality brush. Also, the sable brush I bought (size 8) is a lot bigger than the small brushes but the bristles come to a point, so you can still paint a nice detail.

I’ve also tried several brands of waterbrushes – it’s a genius idea where the brush holds water in the stick part and you release the water by gently squeezing. But, since I am doing dry brush technique, I use very little water (just a few drops for a whole painting), and these get too wet too easily for my taste – but they aren’t expensive, so try it – you might love it.

Commonplace Book Supplies that I Use:

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I bought a leather cover from etsy that holds three moleskine cahier notebooks. I love it! I like that I can take the books in and out easily, although I haven’t needed to yet. I thought I would be filling up a cahier book every month or so, but I write really small and am not even one-third of the way through my first one so far.

Calligraphy Supplies that I Use:

I have ventured into the world of pointed nib dip pen calligraphy. And it is sooooo fun! I bought this book, which has been the perfect guide!

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These are my favorite nibs (they’re for manga drawing), but it’s a good idea to try lots of different ones. I also prefer the manga nib holder (because it’s wood and has a cushion at the top — and it’s not any more expensive than the plastic ones). I have several different inks – my favorite is a manga ink, because it’s a very rich dark black (almost shiny), but it’s also the most dangerous because it takes a long time to dry and some parts stay wet even overnight – this means that it is easy to ruin your whole project with one wrong move. It is so hard to do calligraphy without getting ink all over my fingers! I don’t mind ink on my fingers but I do not want it on my paper! =) I also have Speedball super black and also Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Artist ink. I think each ink reacts differently with different nibs and especially on different paper. You really can’t do calligraphy on printer paper. I use smooth bristol board paper.

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Mrs. Bestvater suggested a writing desk (on an incline) in her book and I remember hearing how that’s helpful for calligraphy too. I tried a few ideas for making one myself, but I recently bought this one (large size) and I think it’s really great – very sturdy. I struggle with good posture, so having my writing surface higher really helps. I tried this wooden easel first because I like the look of the wood and it’s less expensive, but it is really intended to be used in a more upright angle – when I had it farther back it kept sliding down flat when I put pressure on it (as you do when painting or doing calligraphy). I ended up keeping it though because it really is lovely and it can still be used for upright painting and also for displaying picture study books.

Keeping Supplies that I do NOT recommend:

I bought a white sharpie with oil-based paint in it, that I hoped would allow me to add white dots on top of watercolor, but it isn’t nearly opaque enough. White gouache paint (the kind that comes with most watercolor paint tube sets) applied with a (not very wet) paint brush works much better.

I’ve also bought several sizes of Micron pens, but the super-fine tips seem to break quickly and they are not cheap. When not broken, though, these pens are excellent.

In my opinion, multiple brushes are a waste of money. I don’t want to mess with holding lots of brushes when I’m painting in my lap outside, so I think it’s best to put the same amount of money into one good brush.

I bought this Niji roll, but I don’t trust it to protect the bristles of a fancy sable brush (I just use the plastic sleeve it came in — it’s like stiff plastic tubing — and store the brush inside my plastic paint palette). I do have a few pencils that I like to use but I keep those at home and don’t like to fuss with them “in the field.”

 

 

 

To Minnesota and Maine and home again – July 2014

I had the privilege of attending a Charlotte Mason retreat in Minneapolis. My roommate brought her baby too! I thought Eleanor was a super-chubby baby until I saw Samuel, who is about a month older and extremely healthy! I think Eleanor must have had a growth spurt on the plane ride because she had really thinned out and looked especially scrawny next to her roomie.

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I consider myself a Charlotte Mason purist, so the Charlotte Mason Living Education Retreat was just the thing to encourage me for the upcoming school year. I have zero desire to go to a generic “homeschool conference” in a humongous convention center with five thousand different curriculum vendors.

In a comical scene where I misread the schedule THREE times in a row, I encountered a conference attendee who asked about doing Classical Conversations with a Charlotte Mason curriculum. [Now, I will be the first to admit that I have not actually experienced Classical Conversations. For that matter, I haven't  done an official year of homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way yet -- I am not even a real homeschooling mom using any curriculum or philosophy yet. But, I can't keep quiet when I hear questions like this. Not that I'm an expert, mind you -- but I certainly do have an opinion!] I responded that you could do anything you want, but doing CC would not be using the CM philosophy. CM focuses on ideas before facts, CC gives facts (to be memorized) for years before the child is allowed to feast on the ideas. As my dear friend Charissa reminds us, Charlotte Mason said, “The mind is an organ nourished upon ideas ONLY.” She elaborates further: “An idea is the live thing in our mind that grabs hold of us.” And, “Things of interest and ideas come before facts and symbols.”

I think, the educational model/philosophy/curriculum/etc. you choose all boils down to your goal. What are you trying to achieve? And a few more critical questions: how do you view the child, and how do we even learn anything, anyway? I know for certain that I have different goals for my children than the public school system and we fundamentally disagree on how children actually learn and even in our view of the child. These issues were brilliantly discussed and fleshed out by Dr. Jennifer Spencer in her talk “How Firm a Foundation.” I expect that the contents of her talk will be published by the Charlotte Mason Institute this year, along with the rest of the keynotes from their summer conference. Highly recommended!!

Because I, like Charlotte Mason, view a child as an image-bearer of God and a person, not an empty vessel to be filled with facts of the teacher’s choosing, my job as the “teacher” is really more of a facillitator. As such, I: provide the atmosphere, spread the feast, cultivate habits of attention and observation, provide a culture of self-education, provide scaffolding, ask for narration/copywork/conversation/etc., foster a love of books, not get between the child and the “thing” (the book, the music, the painting, etc. . . .), and not try to be my child’s Holy Spirit. I need to let the Holy Spirit and the books (or the “things”) themselves be the teacher/tutor. My role is to expose the child to a wide variety of subjects, because I don’t yet know the Holy Spirit’s calling for the child.

Perhaps the contrast between the CM philosophy and what-I’m-trying-to-avoid (in public school and also the classical method) are best described by James K. A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom (quoted in The Living Page): “What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions — our visions of “the good life” — and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? . . . What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know but about what we love?”

To me, this “better” idea of education, the Charlotte Mason philosophy, if I may be so bold, is really the sanctification of our mind (i.e. the bringing of our mind into submission to the Spirit). And, it is really giving the child the tools to self-educate in order to ultimately become equipped to serve and glorify God in that unique way that God planned from the beginning.

During the morning devotion at the conference, Nancy Kelly shared about the deeper meaning of “shalom” from theologian Cornelius Plantinga, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens the doors and welcomes creatures in whom he delights.”

Nancy Kelly also quoted Saint Irenaeus, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” Boom! How can we glorify Him if we don’t even truly “see” Him. How can we behold Him until we learn to look? And it all comes back to the art of noticing, cultivated by the notebooks.

In The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater says the purpose of a nature notebook is the acute observation (noticing) and recording of God’s creation. It is more about the process than the end result (i.e. what is happening in the heart and mind is more important than how accurately you are able to portray God’s amazing creation with your feeble art skills). She also says that the nature journal is a source of delight for a whole life, a companion. She is right! I’ve only had mine for a bit longer than a year, but it really is a source of delight to me.

Keeping a notebook is actually transforming me too. I see things now that certainly have been there all along, but I never noticed them before. Also, I have been programmed to be a consumer (quite successfully, I might add), but this, too, is changing. While we were out and about in Maine, Adele noticed a multitude of tourist shops and asked me about them. I told her that when people go on a vacation they like to buy something to remember the vacation once they are at home. Well, I could feel the urge to buy something myself, but then I remembered my recent entries (the puffin and the sea gulls) in my notebook and I didn’t feel the need to buy anything to “remember” my vacation.

I have posted my nature notebook entries on this blog as I’ve added them, one at a time, but I thought I would post them all right here – so they are in one place. I’ve added some fancier tools along the way (a quality paintbrush and new paints) so it’s kind of cool to see how things have (hopefully) improved since I began. And, I’ve recently started learning real calligraphy (pointed nib dipped in ink) – I’m excited to add that into my nature notebook too! I’ll start with the most recent entries and work backward.

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We went to Monhegan Island for a day and hiked to some very lovely views. We stopped for a little rest and I decided to paint a puffin because my landscape skills aren’t really able to capture the beauty of what I was seeing. Adele painted a puffin right beside me!

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My almost-done puffin and my paint palette that I love love love!

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Bonding with [not-yet-born] baby #3 (therablogging from the past)

I came across this post in my drafts folder and I don’t remember why I never published it. Maybe I was feeling too emotional about the possibility of losing our baby? Well, our adorable Eleanor Chara is three months old now and so far she’s totally healthy, so I thought I’d go ahead and post this (belatedly). I guess I’m hoping that it might help someone else who might be feeling the same way to not feel so alone.

date: April 2014

I have been working really hard to get our house “settled” or “ready” for the new baby, which I think is part of “nesting” — but I don’t feel like I have really “bonded” with this baby yet. With both Adele and Everett, I felt like I knew them a little when they were born. This time, despite my alarmingly huge belly, I don’t even feel like we are actually going to have a real baby. I think it is because we had some drama with Everett that I am really aware that things can go wrong, that there are no promises that this baby will live or be healthy, so I think I’ve been a bit detached. Early in the pregnancy (although I didn’t really talk about it with anyone) I kind of assumed I would have a miscarriage. I’ve never had a miscarriage before, but I just felt unbonded to the baby early on so I thought it was God’s way of making it easier on me when the baby died. Well, here we are, just two days from my due date, and the baby is still here and kicking. For those of you who don’t know me in real life or don’t know the story, when Everett was one month old, he was crying uncontrollably and had a really low fever – but enough to be a concern in a baby so young – so we took him to the ER. That was Thursday night and they couldn’t find anything wrong with him so they sent us home. The next day we took him to the pediatrician and he just wasn’t acting right – lots of crying, wouldn’t eat, etc. They ran some blood tests and did a CT scan. The scan showed a bleed in his brain and they told us they were going to helicopter him to Children’s Hospital. They didn’t really want us in the helicopter (I might have been a little bit hysterical), so we got in the car to meet them there. On the way, Everett stopped breathing and had to be intubated (which also means majorly sedated). The next morning he started having seizures so they performed a craniotomy and tried to evacuate the blood that was putting lots of pressure on his brain. They told us that there were a lot of risks for brain surgery on a baby so small — they said it would be very easy for him to bleed out because it’s very difficult to get blood in him as fast as it comes out. Well, our little Everett Dunamis (Everett means brave strong boar and Dunamis means power) was powerful, brave and strong and LIVED through the surgery! Long story short, lots of drama, lots of doctors, lots of tubes and machines hooked up to our new little baby for two weeks until we were released from the hospital. And it’s not like everything’s fine now, you know. I mean, yes, everything is fine, but Everett has cerebral palsy and nobody knows how much it is going to affect him as he gets older. He’s almost three and still not sitting (although he is getting closer!) and not crawling (although he is doing a version of an army crawl!). Everett does make progress every day and he’s such a sweet boy! I love him so much and I am so grateful that I get to be his mom. I am just relating this because I’m trying to figure out why I don’t really feel pregnant this time around – therablogging =).

I don’t know if other moms who have had children with health issues have felt this way with subsequent pregnancies or if it’s just me. In fact, maybe it is all in my head, but I notice that most moms who have special needs kids don’t have any more children – maybe because they want to give their full attention to the special needs child or maybe because they are afraid that the next baby could have problems too. Or maybe they wouldn’t have had more kids even if the child didn’t have special needs. I am trying to have the perspective that Everett is part of a family, so not everything can or should be about him. I try to do as much as I can for him while balancing that with the needs of the rest of us.

For my whole life, I’ve been an eternal optimist and honestly never even considered the possibility that anything bad could happen in my life. I took it for granted that my children would be born completely healthy and everything would be peachy! Well, I still consider myself an optimist, but I think I’ve been mellowed out a bit by some challenging circumstances. Because I know that God is good and He works all things in my life for good, I don’t have any fear for the future. I know that He will still love me and take care of me. And I also know that God loved Everett even more than I do (which is a LOT!) and God will always take care of him.

Then again, I could just be analyzing this way too much. It could be that I can’t picture the new baby because we didn’t find out the gender this time, so I don’t know the baby’s name, etc.

Adele’s first day of school

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Today we started school!!! Last night, Kent (formerly known as “Derm Dad” but he says he never liked that name, so now I’m thinking “the Commander” – did I forget to mention he got promoted?) and I were talking about school. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t want to start Ambleside Online (AO) year one this fall with Adele because I read that it should be begun in the year that the child is six, turning seven. Adele turns six this coming November so that means we would wait one more year. I explained that it doesn’t mean that we won’t be “doing school” but that we won’t be doing those books yet because I think she’ll get more out of them if we wait a year and also because the curriculum gets a lot harder in a few years and it might be too much if we start this year. Kent thought we should start the type of schooling (that I was planning to start in September) now – to see how it goes and give us an idea of whether we should start AO this year or next.

I spent a few minutes gathering books onto a rolling cart (that I stationed near the dining room table where we eat breakfast) and “planning” in my mind and we were ready to begin.

I want to cover the following subjects each week (some once a week, some daily):

  • Bible
  • copywork/calligraphy
  • geography (Operation World – find the country on the map, read a bit about it and pray for the Gospel in that country) *
  • Fairytale
  • poetry
  • math (Ray’s Arithmetic)
  • Composer Study – I picked Handel for this month of “practice school” – we’ll have a different composer when our co-op starts in September and it will be the same composer for one term
  • natural history
  • nature walk
  • nature journal entry
  • handicraft
  • virtue/character (Laying Down the Rails) – habit of “attention”
  • Picture Study
  • Hymn Study – Be Thou My Vision
  • Folk Song – I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

Once we start AO year one, we will do all these subjects as well as history, literature, biography, and a few more things. One distinctive of a Charlotte Mason education is short lessons, so we don’t spend more than 20 minutes on any one thing. Today, we had ten minute lessons – just to see what her attention span would be. I think I might try 15 minutes on a few things tomorrow.

Today, we did the following:

  • breakfast- we ate together and called Mimi on speakerphone to tell her we were having our first day of school. She prayed for us and then I talked to my sister for a few minutes (she stops by my mom’s for coffee on Tuesday mornings – I am so jealous!!!). Then we cleaned up the kitchen and put dinner in the crockpot. Adele helped me unload the dishwasher, load the breakfast dishes and measure out the dinner ingredients. When we sat down to start school it was exactly 9am – perfect!
  • Bible – We are reading Catherine Vos’ story bible together. We started it a few months ago, but we’ve been pretty sporadic. Today we read about Seth and Enoch and how people lived a lot longer in those days.  We talked a bit about “generations” and “descendants.” We didn’t get through the entire chapter (which is only a page or two), but we’ll finish it tomorrow.
  • Folk Song – I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad. We just read it through slowly and then listened to it on the computer while we sang along together two times.
  • geography (Operation World – find the country on the map, read a tiny bit about it and pray for the Gospel in that country) We talked about Turkey because we know two missionary families there. We located it on the globe and prayed for our friends as well as those the refugees they are working with. I think Adele is too young to comprehend much from this book, but we might just continue to use it to help us pick a country we don’t know much about. I think she needs to gain some familiarity with the names of the continents first, so we’ll work on that a bit.
  • poetry – Adele picked a poem called “Barbershop” which was great because I just gave haircuts to Kent, Everett and Adele on Sunday. It was my first time attempting a girl haircut with scissors – I usually use the electric clippers for the boys. I think it turned out pretty good.
  • math (Ray’s Arithmetic) - I love this little book. It’s old-fashioned and wonderful. Today, Adele wrote 1, 10, 2, 20, 3, 30 all the way to 70 – when we ran out of time. 
  • Composer Study – we read a picture book about Handel (only got through about 1/3 of it in our allotted time) and then listened to some of Handel’s music while we did our handicraft.
  • picture book – Only Opal – Oh my goodness this little book is so dear. We read the whole thing. Adele held the book and turned the pages while I nursed the baby.
  • virtue/character (Laying Down the Rails) – habit of “attention” We read Prov. 4:20-21 and talked about how attention requires us to look with our eyes and listen with our ears, to really pay attention to something.
  • Hymn Study – Be Thou My Vision - We closed with a hymn that Kent plays on the guitar during our sporadic but lovely family worship time. We read it together slowly and then played it on the computer while we sang along. She already knows most of the words to this one.
  • handicraft – When we finished hymn study, it was exactly 11am. I just love it when things work out evenly like that! We still had an hour or so before lunch. The rag rug that I made for Adele’s room was coming loose in a few places, so we worked together to repair it. Adele is still working on holding the needle without pulling it off the thread. And she is still practicing small and even stitches. But, all in all, she does a great job!

I would like to spend some time with my eclectic teachers manual to see what they say about teaching very young students geography. And, of course, we need to spend a lot of time outside. Right now it’s almost 4pm and Adele is still asleep (I made her lie down when I put Everett down for his nap after lunch and she fell asleep – I guess that means she was really tired!) which means she hasn’t been outside at all today and I know that’s really the most important thing for her at this age.

*Edited to add — Before bed, we had the following conversation:
Mom: What did you think of your first day of school?
Adele: Fun!
Mom: What was your favorite thing?
Adele: sewing my rug together.
Mom: What was your least favorite thing?
Adele: What’s least favorite?
Mom: It means what didn’t you like very much.
Adele: nothing. What was your favorite thing?
Mom: Hymn Study
Adele: What was your least favorite?
Mom: geography.
Adele: Oh yeah. mine too. I forgot. And my also favorite was listening to Winnie the Pooh. [I played the audio on the computer while I did my 15 minutes of exercises for my "mummy tummy" =) It's so cute - it's very professionally done and the actors have British accents, which really makes it lovely!]

 

If today was any indication of how things will go in the future, I looooooooooove homeschooling!!!!

 

 

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Art Update for Adele’s Gallery Wall

I really liked how my recent paint experiments turned out — my first time playing around with acrylics (i.e. cheap craft paint). I liked them so much I decided to “frame” them (i.e. tape them up with washi tape) on Adele’s rotating gallery wall. Wanna see?

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This one (above) used to have a blue background, but Adele’s room doesn’t really have any blue, so I painted it over with pink. And added a bit of background flair!

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And when I got up to Adele’s room, I realized that the yellow I used for the background of this one was the same paint I used for this frame. I like it! I don’t love the greens that I used (it was all I had on hand), so I’ll probably redo the green portions in a few days when my next Amazon order of Martha Stewart craft paint arrives. Oh happy day!

 

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Our Books

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Here is the finished “built-in” bookshelf in the schooling room. I think it really looks built-in. The crown molding is an exact match and with a coat of paint it looks like it’s been there forever. We added the beadboard wallpaper on the outside edge and fluted vertical trim as well as an egg and dart horizontal trim at the top (to hide a gap between the shelf and the crown molding).

I have the books for preschool through year eight in here (three tall bookshelves and two small) and the high school books are in our living room along with our regular family books (four large bookshelves).

For the younger level books, I have them organized by year (mostly literature, biographies, poetry, and free reading to be read in a particular year according to the ambleside online list) – one year per shelf with the required books to the left and the free reading books to the right (all the other subjects are just mixed in together). Then we also have separate shelves for certain subjects that overlap years: nature study, field guides, experiments/science, Shakespeare, composer study (Opal Wheeler bios), picture study (large-format books with one artist’s work) mixed in with artist bios written for children, globe and large-format atlases, geography (I put some fiction here if is helps to understand what it’s like in a particular country or region), my shelf (Charlotte Mason books, teaching helps, and my CM notebooks – Book of Centuries, commonplace books, portfolio for prints from picture study), and a shelf for large picture books (on the bottom shelf so my daughter can reach them easily). Then I have two smallish built-in shelves that hold our history and biography books (arranged chronologically). I used to have biographies separate, but then I thought it made more sense to put them in with their time period — of course one book spans their whole lifetime, so the arrangement isn’t precise. I also have pulled artist and composer bios out – they now have their own shelves. I also pulled out the history and biography books for upper-level readers and put those in the living room (arranged chronologically on just two shelves).

Below are the two bookcases that came with the house. This one is on the left and it houses history and biographies up to 1800. On the bottom shelf I have a few history series shelved together.

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This one is history and biographies 1800 – present

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Now we go to the living room. These bookshelves are taller than the ones in the schooling room because there is no crown molding in here. The ceilings are really high – I think nine feet tall!!

I have a few shelves dedicated to a collection of works by an individual author (CS Lewis, Elisabeth Elliot, Sir Walter Scott, GA Henty, etc.) or a particular topic (homesteading and permaculture, cookbooks, family/wife/role encouragement, child training, theology (arranged alphabetically by author). Then, I have all the high school “school” books (which we are a loooong way from using) on the upper shelves (I need a step-stool to reach them).

P1050827 P1050829  P1050830 This bookshelf (below) is the last one still waiting to be finished. I still have to do a bit of caulk and painting and then it will be finito! Our goal is to be completely done with all our “house projects” by July 4th (we moved in on March 15th and had a baby April 27th). Hopefully we won’t have any more bright green ladders in our living room or “tool piles” on the sideboard after this weekend!!

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Since the books are in the living areas of our home, I have tried to make the shelves themselves look nice (they are just cheapo Ikea Billy bookshelves with some trim, crown moulding, caulk, and paint to make them look “built-in”), and I’ve tried to arrange the books with some breathing room and a few knick-knacks for visual interest. I want it to look like we love books and beautiful things, but not like we live in a library — even if we really do =).