Help For Bibliomaniacs

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 Question:

“I’m a bibliomaniac and I homeschool… my house looks like a war zone created by huge piles of books and papers. I need a doable plan! Help!”  

 Answer:

book help

Oh my…I feel your pain, and also feel totally unqualified to answer this question. Is there a Bibliomaniacs Anonymous group? If so, I’ll meet you there!

We have book shelves in every room of the house. I’d like a library room, to have beautifully organized books all in one place, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. So… I’ll share the system that (mostly) works for me.

1. Decide how you would like your books sorted. You could sort them by genre, alphabetically, by subject, by author, by Dewey Decimal System, or any other system that works for you. I use a combination of many of these systems. I sort my books in the following way:

a. History – Because we study history chronologically, I only need the era we are currently studying to be easily accessible. For this purpose, I have a book case in my living room, where my children do their schoolwork, which I use solely for our history rotation. I’ve found that a large file cabinet works quite well to store the history books and media go-alongs that are not currently in use. Each file drawer contains an era, i.e. ancients, middle ages, renaissance/reformation, and modern. I simply rotate the era in use to the livingroom bookcase when needed. 

b. Geography  – further sorted by continent, then country

c. Science  – I sort my science books into Plants, Animals, Human Anatomy, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Ecology, Meteorology, Geology, etc. and put labels on the shelf edges so books can easily be found and returned.  

d. Arts and Crafts – I group together art history, biographies, how-to-draw books, misc. how-to books, cartooning books, craft books, music and composer books.

art books

e. Literature  – I keep all of my classics together, poetry books together, short story collections together, picture books together, serial books together, etc.

This case contains classics, poetry, Shakespeare, literature texts, Cliffs Notes, and misc. reference

 f. Math and Economics

g. Reference and Text

h. Recipe Books (sorted by cuisine type)

i. Medical Books

j. Gardening Books

k. Bibles and Study Aides

l. Miscellaneous

2. In case you didn’t know, bibliomania can be genetic ;-), so encourage your children to develop their own systems of book organization with their personal collections. My oldest daughter likes to keep her antiques together, her Native American books together, and her author collections together, organized alphabetically.

antiques and Finlay books

native american and lamour

3. Start separating your books into stacks depending on what system you chose. As you pull books from your shelves, piles, and/or boxes:

a. Keep only the books you love, need, or want to save for future children/grandchildren. Set save-for-laters and non-keepers aside, we’ll deal with these later.

b. Check them over for mold and bugs that may contaminate other books, and set those aside.

c. Pull any loose papers from the books, i.e. bookmarks, notes, etc.

d. Give them a good dusting before sitting them in their correct stacks.

4. Wipe down your empty shelves with some all-purpose spray or furniture polish.

5. When you have your books in stacks, taking shelf space and frequency of use into consideration, decide where each stack of books will be best placed in your home. Keep them where you’ll use them:

a.  Baskets, milk crates, file cabinets, or even rain gutters can be creative alternatives if you are short on bookcases.

b. Place children’s books at child friendly height in room where children spend most of their time.

c. Reference books are best placed closest to where your children do their school work, probably near the computer

d. Recipe books go in the kitchen

6. If you want to organize and track your library digitally, there are quite a few computer software options:

a. Mac users can check out Delicious Library

b. Windows users can use All My Books

c. Maybe Freeware Book Management Software is what you are looking for

d. LibraryThing can be used to organize your books online

7. Now you are ready to put all the books you love and need back on your clean, empty shelves.

a. Just organize one bookcase at a time, sorting them as you go.

b. Keep spines as vertical as possible; use book ends to keep them straight as necessary.

c. Keep larger books on  lower shelves. They can be stacked, ideally no more than three books high to prevent damage, but…

stacked books

…sometimes you just do what ya gotta do… 🙂

8. Now, what about those “save-for-later” books? Box them up and put them in a dry, dark, safe place.

9. And what about those unwanted books? Here are a few options:

a. Join Paperback Swap for free! You can trade books with other members, only paying for the cost to ship your book out. This is a great way to trade out books you don’t want for those you do. And you can make offers for deals on their Homeschool Forum to quickly get rid of many books. But beware; shopping other members’ deals can be addictive and counterproductive! Don’t ask me how I know!

b. If you think you have books of value, see if they would be worth selling on E-bay. Or, you could check out Book Scouter to see if anyone is willing to buy them.

c. Call your local used bookstores and find out if they buy books.

d. Donate your unwanted books to thrift shops, church libraries, daycare centers, and/or retirement homes.

10.What about those unfortunate books that have mold or are bug eaten?

a. Mold can be killed and the smell removed from most books using these Mildew Removal Tips .

b. Try these tips to remove book lice and silverfish from your biblio treasures.   

c. Keep books quarantined until you are certain that the problem is fixed.

11. The trick now is to keep your shelves organized.

a. Teach children your sorting method, and show them how to properly respect books

b. Putting labels on the shelf edges can help young children find proper homes for books.

c. Some parents like to color code books by putting a sticker on the spine that matches the sticker where the book belongs. I personally don’t like stickers on my books, but whatever works for you!

d. Some parents like to have a “library basket,” a holding place for books that need to be returned to shelves, so that they can return them to their proper places themselves.

e. This is your system! Feel free to modify it until you find something that is workable for you!

 Now, that wasn’t too bad, was it? See, bibliomania is curable! And if all else fails, you can always send those books my way! I’m sure I’ll find a place for them somewhere! 🙂

The Elevator Family

elevator-family-1

After kids learn to read most picture books but before they’re ready for bigger chapter books, there’s the awkward in between time when finding appropriate reading material is a challenge.  The Elevator Family by Douglas Evans is the perfect books for kids in that gap!

The Wilson family–Mr. and Mrs. Wilson and their ten year old twins, Winslow and Whitney–plans to vacation at the San Francisco Hotel, but upon their arrival they find that there aren’t any rooms available.  Not willing to have their time in town spoiled by such a minor detail, they decide to stay in one of the hotel’s elevators, which they dub the Otis Room.

During their stay in the Otis Room, the Winslows meet many guests and workers as they travel up and down.  There’s a lonely traveling salesman, grateful for the family’s company, the lovesick bellboy, seeking advice, and the busy widow, rushing from one social engagement to the next.  During their time in the elevator, each person learns to slow down a little and to look at what is most important to them.  Just in case you think this sounds a little contemplative for a book for early readers, there’s a mystery thrown in, too.  As they ride the elevator, the Winslows notice some details that lead them to solve a major crime!

The Elevator Family is ideal for kids wanting more than a picture book.  It’s just under 100 pages, so the length isn’t too intimidating or overwhelming.  They story is simple and easy to follow and there are many situations kids will find funny.

I think if you give it a try you’re going to love The Elevator Family.  If you do enjoy the antics of the Winslow family, there are also three recent sequels: The Elevator Family Hits the Road, The Elevator Family Takes a Hike, and The Elevator Family Goes Abroad!

Note: There is one dinner scene in which the adults drink champagne, so please be aware if that is a sensitive topic for your family. 

The Giant of Seville

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One of the things I love about Homeschool Share is that there is so much good stuff that sometimes I stumble across a book I’ve never even heard of before! This summer I was doing some planning and found The Giant of Seville: A “Tall” Tale Based on a True Story. This is such a sweet book that I had to share it with you!

The Giant of Seville, by Dan Andreasen, is based on the true story of Martin Van Buren Bates, who at 28 years old reached his full height of seven feet, eleven and a half inches and weighed 525 pounds. After serving in the Civil War, Bates joined the circus and was touted as “The World’s Tallest Man.” While traveling with the circus, Bates met his future wife, Anna, who herself was almost eight feet tall. Together they toured the world until it was time to find a place to settle down and spend their retirement, which is where the story begins.

Bates arrives in Seville, Ohio on a train, with his head and shoulders poking out of the window to make room for the rest of his body inside the car. Of course everyone notices his size, and everyone is curious to see what this giant will do. His first stop is Mrs. Crawley’s boardinghouse, where she kindly rents him a room without a single mention of his size. She and the townspeople set about making Bates feel right at home, from making a small fire outside the bedroom window to warm his feet—which are sticking outside due to his unusual length—to whipping up four gallons of pancake batter to fill him up at breakfast. They even hold a dance so Bates can meet everyone. At the dance, though, Bates’s enthusiasm has some disastrous consequences and he is sure that no one will want him to stay in town anymore. Much to his surprise, though, the townspeople decide to build a giant home for Bates and Anna to live in.

In a world where we constantly hear and read stories about people judging each other or hurting each other because of their differences, it’s so nice to read a true story where everyone is courteous and kind and willing to go out of their way to help others feel welcome. The Giant of Seville is a wonderful story to read with your children and discuss how we should treat others kindly, even when there may be a cost for us to do so. The story doesn’t come across as preachy, though; it’s just a sweet, simple story about a town coming together to make someone feel welcome—physically and emotionally.

Andreasen’s pictures are lovely, too. They have an old-fashioned feel that complements the setting wonderfully and my children wanted to look over each picture carefully when I finished reading the page. The book concludes with an author’s note about Bates and Andreasen includes a photograph of Martin and Anna Bates next to an average-sized man, so you can really see how much of a difference there was in size!

This is a book that both my nine year old son and four year old daughter enjoyed, so even if you choose not to use the unit from Homeschool Share, this would be a great read aloud for the whole family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!