Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Home Research Library

Last week I finished putting together the boys' home "research library."  We plan to use the public library extensively, but it is nice to have some "starter" materials at home in order to strike while the iron is hot.

The research library is actually housed on two bookcases in our "playroom."  We call it the playroom despite the fact that the only toy in it is a wooden fire station that doesn't fit in our toy library.  It looks like it is difficult to get to the bookcase behind the treadmill, but there is more space than appears in the photo and the boys are small.

These are the same Carson Bookcases from Target that I used in the school room.  In fact, you may remember that I originally planned on getting rid of the red couch that resides in that room.  (School room tour here if you need a refresher.)  When I didn't, it meant that I over-ordered 2 bookcases.  I didn't return them because I had a feeling I would be able to use them elsewhere.  Plus, I was able to cannibalize the shelves from each kit to add to the bookcases in the school room.  I cut new shelves for these with a circular saw and a jigsaw.  The original shelves have an additional piece of trim across the front.

Our book collection was previously housed inside the toy library with the spines facing front like this:

I find that my boys use the books MUCH more frequently if the covers are exposed and it is easier to take them out and return them.  So, I picked up the red bins (2 for $3 at Walmart).  The bins are filled loosely so that it is easy to flip through and expose all of the covers.  

Now that I've reorganized our storage, the boys are using the books at least an extra hour a day. Kal-El in particular is spending a lot of extra time reading independently and making "discoveries" of books we've owned for years.

I used my standby Self-Adhesive Business Card Holders to make label holders for the front of each bin.  The books are loosely categorized: I Can Read (2 bins.  Not books from the "I can read" series, but rather books Kal-El can read by himself regardless of author/publisher), Science, Things to Do, History, Animals, Plants, Space, How Things Work, Our Earth, Our Body, Geography, Music.  The books on top of the bookcase on the right are all fiction that are beyond Kal-El's reading level that I choose from to read to them.

The "things to do" category has books for when the kids need "something to do", books like "Things You Can Make from Things Around the House," "Magic Tricks," "I Spy," "Puzzles and Mazes," etc.,   The "How Things Work" category might have "simple machines," a book on trains, etc.,

I still use LibraryThing to keep track of what we own.  It is nice to go online to my own "library catalog" and check if I have a book on "the tundra" or "dogs" rather than dig through everything we own.  I use a Barcode Scanner just like a real librarian to add and delete books from our collection.  However, I no longer label all of the books with their Dewey decimal label.

You can find my post "LibraryThing Tips and Tricks" here!

And finally, just for fun, this is the paragraph written by Jonathan Feagle that inspired me to do this project:  

If the students don’t seem to be responding [to the great lessons, key lessons, impressionistic charts], it could be that the lessons aren’t exciting enough or are too  complete (too much information). To excite an interest, the teacher must first be excited herself. To keep lessons  from being too complete, not all the information on a topic should be given. It’s important to leave the child with  restlessness to know more. After a lesson, a short stack of books on the subject can be left out for the child’s use, with  other books available in the history section of the room. It’s important to have a good library, but it shouldn’t be too  large as that can be overwhelming to the child and would also do away with the need to use the public library. The  class should be taken as a group to the library early in the year to meet the librarian, get their own cards and learn  the hours. They should then be helped to return their books on time. 

Montessori Monday


  1. I LOVE it! We really dont have enough educational books like this, but at least our public library is about two minutes away! I love that everything is organized! Someday with will happen here too when I can get some more shelves! Darn those shelves, I never seem to have enough of them! :)

  2. Beautiful. I agree about the forward facing books. You may want to create Pinterest boards that the children may access on topics. This may not be a big deal at this moment but as they get older the information they need to access to answer their questions gets really complicated.

    I've struggled with the use of the internet for research and the age at which this becomes useful and appropriate.

    Cons: 1. information is very narrow. It doesn't allow the student's imagination to be challenged.
    2. relative safety - homo.... does bring up some images that I was glad I was filtering for BW last year.

    Pros: 1. I don't have to halt the child's drive until we are going to the library
    2. With Pinterest, I can organize by topic information I feel is helpful and appropriate.
    3. By upper, sometimes it was hard to find some info at the local library and had to travel to the college's library - no check-out of books. For the most part, the internet can cover it.

    I still really struggle. I like to hold my books. The boys do really well with the interwebs as they like to call them. I don't know - agggg.

  3. Steph: Thanks !

    EV: Excellent points. The Pinterest board idea is spot on. Thank you!

  4. See! You ARE ready for elementary Montessori ;) I never did get my books forward facing, but my son actually takes the ones of interest and leans them up against things in stacks (similar to your bins), and sometimes he will use a bin to store them in (when I get after him for leaving books leaned up all over the place!). So you're many steps ahead of me already on that one ;)

  5. Wow, your educational book collection is even more than what we have in our book corners. Such a sad story really for us, but I really admire your passion about it.

  6. EC for Kids:

    Maybe you can do what we do. A local public school culls their library books regularly and puts what they consider "garbage" in the teacher's lounge for people to take. Someone pulls what looks good and gives them to us.

    Jessica: It was something I could DO. I was standing in the Montessori storage room trying to get ready, couldn't take it anymore, threw up my hands, and started organizing books.

  7. I love the way you think through every area of your homeschooling! I just had a very simple method of organizing our books (since I would never have kept up with anything more elaborate):

    That's a great point about the forward-facing books. Most of ours weren't facing forward, although I often had a table with related books facing forward on display for a unit study. It's awesome that you're getting your homeschool so well organized! I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and pinned it to my Literature Based Activities Board at

  8. WOW MBT!!! This is Amazing!!! So organized, sooo beautiful!!! You make find books at the library boring!!!lol with your BEAUTIFUL LIBRARY!!!! I LOVE IT!!!! Thanks for share this, and for teaching us organization!!!!!

  9. Wondering if you would be willing to do a post on the books you have included in your library. Maybe not all of them (I realise you have many) but perhaps the ones you have found to be most relevant, useful and attractive to your kids - especially in relation to the great lesson research work.

  10. At Home with Montessori,

    Yes, there are A LOT! I recommend the books "The Well-Trained Mind", or "Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding", OR Magellan Montessori's book for generating a list of books for your own library.

    HOWEVER, As you may have seen, as I do each work I have been highlighting the one or two books I found most useful. You have a good idea. I can't put a full list together immediately, but what I can do is create a space on my blog to accumulate a list of just those books that I am highlighting as I discover what is most useful. I'll let you know when I pull it together.

  11. Ooh! Love this idea! Sort of like the materials lists, perhaps?? Sorted by Great Lesson most likely so it corresponds to all albums.

    I would LOVE to help add to such a list :)

  12. AHwM and Jessica,

    Another point I thought of and didn't articulate, is that my book choices right now are biased toward what my boys like "right now." For example, we've been loving anything by Branley such as "What Makes a Magnet." It is a perfect fit for my first grader in the amount of information, quality and amount of information, and the super easy reading level. Next year, or two years from now it won't be the right magnetism book from him anymore.

    However, as long as everyone realizes that what I recommend is what we liked at that moment in time, I'm game.

    Would love to let you put your two cents in Jessica. Your son is older and heading into upper elementary. Maybe we can each make accumulating lists and link them to one another so that people can find the appropriate age level.

  13. Good idea having two (or more) lists going! I started to think about the different types of follow-up from one year to the next and all the different interests....

    I was also thinking of separating things by sub-topic.... wow. I am making this way bigger than it needs to be! Back to work for me... time for fun book-listing later ;)


  14. Jessica,

    Remember when I mentioned you are freakishly fast?

  15. Yep, I admit it, when I'm working on the computer already, I am SO easily distracted by e-mails coming in ;) Way more fun than coding and technical tech stuff. ;) E-mails and comments are way more fun!

    But now, I have a Wind in the Willows date with my son.

  16. I was actually thinking of writing a list of research books I have found too! Maybe we can put them all together!