I'm spending time organizing all of the school books, which is becoming a massive task. Each year I modify my organizational system at least a little bit, but luckily this year not a lot of rearranging needed to be done. I love how I have it set up now, and I thought I'd share.
Back when we started homeschooling, Silje was in 1st grade. I planned to have a 1st grade bookshelf, a 2nd grade bookshelf, and so on. It sounded so simple. I like simple. Silje is a bottomless pit for books. She craves books more than food, I think, so her reading selection is quite large. We pick a small handful of books to discuss each year, but for the most part, I just set her loose on them. I used to require that she read a chapter a day of a book of my choice, but she quickly got bored with that and now I assign her a book for every week, or what makes sense for that particular book.
It was a beautiful organizational system until I realized that my other kids aren't exactly like Silje. David struggled learning to read, and while he likes books now, there's no way I could convince him to read as much as Silje. When every book was a struggle, I didn't want to make his entire education a struggle. I'm really fine with that, because he learns very differently. He does more building and inventing while listening to audio books, or in the quiet. Now we have a third different kid in Elias, who is loving his new book time, but is really shy about it. He's in that tender time where the love of books is still being kindled, and while he likes it now, he's not nearly ready to be "set loose" to the bookshelf.
My organizational system by grade level hit a snafu when it I realized that David wouldn't read as many or the same books as his big sister. I couldn't just work down the line on the shelf. We started studying the typical classical trivium, studying history on a 4 year cycle. 1st grade was ancient history. Well, when David was in 1st grade, we were onto the Renaissance as a family, and the old books of Silje's didn't apply. Not only that, but I had purchased 3rd grade level books for her when she was in 1st grade, and David read at a 1st grade level in 1st grade. You could see how confusing this was. Nothing was matching up at all. I didn't want to teach 2-3 different history classes. I wanted to teach 1 in a 1-room-schoolhouse fashion. Like I said, I like things simple.
So I changed my bookshelf to reflect subjects rather than grade levels. Now when we are studying ancient history, I look through the shelf and just pull of books that each kid might get excited about in regard to Egypt or Rome. I can customize our learning that way. The series The Story of the World keeps us on a main track altogether for what basic story or people group we are studying, and I pull of supplement books from the shelf that fits the level and interest for that child.
Poetry and arts are now grouped together. Math and science are grouped together. All of the biographies are next to history. As far as readers, I have them organized according to who has read them, and very loosely by subject if they are historical based readers. (I have a tough time knowing where historical fiction belongs, but I put them in the reader section for now.) I have started marking to remind me who has read what. When Silje finishes a book, I put a little "S" on the inside cover. If David reads it, it gets an "D" and so on. There are now a few read-alouds that have an "E" on them as Elias participated in that one. I have two "S" names in our family, so when Solveig starts school she will probably be a "J" for her middle name, or "So" if she prefers.
Now when I'm picking out a read aloud book, I can quickly reference who has heard it before. Sometimes if the older kids have read it, they really pump up the smaller kids with anticipation to how fun it will be. I have a shelf of books that I want Elias to work through, a shelf I want David to work through, and several shelves for Silje. Actually she reads from pretty much any shelf. I no longer have them organized as read-alouds or independent readers. I decide which it will be off the cuff, depending on the day, season, and child...and of course depending on the book. This ability to be flexible has been life-giving. I love that freedom, and it's really when homeschooling started clicking, both for me and for my kids.
Really, what has happened in this whole process these last 2 years, is that I have let go of the "box curriculum" of so many books that need to be read on certain dates throughout the year. They are great to start with because they feel "safe." When I started homeschooling, the very idea of leaving the teaching schedule would have terrified me, as though I were "messing up" somehow. It's taken me a few years (I'm a slow learner) to realize that my goals are bigger, yet simpler than that. Those box curriculum schedules began feeling like unnecessary red-tape. I want my kids to love books, and I want learning to be a constant. So as long as they are learning, I don't care how many books they "x" off their list. This was a huge paradigm shift from when I would keep a strict schedule of their reading, and push hard when their interest was low. We sure crossed off a lot of books back then...books they don't remember at all. Reading is required everyday. How much reading depends on the day...and how good the book is. When I stock the shelves with only great stories, it makes it easier.
Now, even my initially reluctant reader gets excited when headed to the bookshelf. "What sort of adventure do I want to go on today?" he thinks. Usually I pull off 2-3 choices that I recommend try. We've built up a trust enough that he knows that if I pick it, it must be good. I usually give Silje a choice between 2 books as well, but if she continually rejects a book, it becomes a read aloud that I will read to her for our special time together. That nearly always redeems prejudgments on a book.
As our kids get older, and new books are added to our shelves, I'm sure I'll have to modify this system further, but for now, it's been working beautifully.