Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Organizing My Commonplace

Usually on Wednesdays, I try to share a recent entry {from my commonplace}.

Well, today, I'm actually going to share a few recent entries and I'm going to chat a little about how I organize my commonplace selections.



I currently have four** commonplace books because I decided to organize my Keeping into four rough categories: 

:: School readings. I include here everything I read-along or read-aloud with the kids (except for our religion studies).  So far this year, MacDonald, Kingsley, Burnett, and Teasdale have featured most prominently.  This is the book I show to my children when they ask--they enjoy seeing the quotes that have struck me from our reading together.  They choose their copywork from their readings as well, so it's also fun to see if we ever overlap.  (We usually don't. ;))  I also see this commonplace as a potential resource later on, as my younger kids come through the AO years: to refresh my memory on the scheduled books, to use for copywork or dictation selections, and so on.



:: Personal free reads.  In this book, I note selections from any fiction and poetry I'm reading on my own.  I actually don't do all that much reading these days, despite having always enjoyed it.  I read a book a month for a local book club and usually have at least one other fiction and a poetry book going in addition to our school books.  I stay caught up for the book club but usually crawl through the others.  Sometimes, I think that might actually be better than the binge-reading I used to do, though!  The combination of my slower pace and my Keeping of favorite lines or passages has definitely helped me remember what I have read a bit better.



:: Spiritual reading.  I keep here Bible verses or passages, prayers of the Mass or from Catholic tradition, and selections from my spiritual reading, of which I always have at least one book going.  This commonplace is becoming like a personal prayer book, and I absolutely love that.  If I'm in need of spiritual inspiration, I can pull it out and I am sure to find something that will bless me.  And as a sidenote: don't you think it would be lovely to have your mother's or grandmother's book of favorite selections from spiritual reading?  It would be a treasure.



:: Education and parenting.  This category includes my non-religious, non-fiction reading, which pretty much all have to deal with education in some way these days!  Miss Mason herself is the star of this commonplace, though passages from Consider This, Ten Way to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, The Living Page, and other recent favorites pop up too.



Right now, I'm using four of the blank Moleskine Volant notebooks, which are available as two-packs and come in lovely shades of solid colors.  The paper is a bit thin for my Prismacolor .005 pens, but that makes the book itself thin and smaller to store, so I'm fine with that trade-off.  I love that these are the size of a large paperback, so I can pop one my purse for an hour reading and Keeping at the kids' piano lessons, for example.  There are lots of great notebooks and pens out there--these are just the ones I currently like best.

I make entries by date, mostly, though I like to keep the passages from running on to the next page, so sometimes I'll sneak in a small one in the blank room I've left behind.  I add the date at the bottom of each page, and the author, title, and page number at the bottom of each entry.  I've left the front couple pages of each notebook blank for inclusive dates and a list of books quoted for ease of later reference.

To wrap up, let me just say: it is a balm to my busy soul to sit down in the evening with one of my notebooks and copy out the passages that have struck me from that week's reading.  I'm hoping your Keeping refreshes you in the same way, no matter how you organize yours.

And speaking of, if you haven't started your own commonplace yet because you're too worried about getting it just right--just start!  Grab a notebook and a pen, and copy when you feel inspired.  It can be as simple as that!  And you'll have the opportunity to figure out what works best for you as you go along.  And remember, there are lots of examples of all different styles of commonplace books linked-up at Keeping Company--so look there for more inspiration.

** Just as a caveat: is it overkill to have four commonplace books?  For some people, it would be!  If that's you, please feel free to stick to just one, of course--organizing only by date is perfectly acceptable and was, as far as I know, how Charlotte Mason had her students keep their books.  But I have had lots of people ask me how I organize mine, and I'm happy to share because for me, this method actually feels simpler and more intuitive.  But I may be the only person for which that is true. :)

26 comments:

  1. This is great, Celeste! I do generally keep mine all together in one book (except sermons are separate) but I like the way you've thought through your plan.

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    1. Yes, I saw your sermons notebook and it reminded me of my spiritual reading commonplace. :) Thanks, Dawn!

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  2. I like the idea of having more than one Commonplace. :) I could do one for just spiritual things and one for everything else. And I agree, it would be wonderful to find a journal like that of my grandmother's. :) Glad you posted this!

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    1. Thank you, Catie! Yes, my religion commonplace makes such a nice prayer companion now--I didn't plan it that way, but it was a happy side effect of breaking it up a bit by genre. :)

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  3. Always great to get a peek into the minds of those who are more organized than me. =)

    I currently keep my Commonplace in a plain old notebook with a plain old pen. I had to do this so I could just get started. I did not think I would enjoy it that much, so I figured it would not be a massive investment this way. Turns out I LOVE IT! Now that I know this I have been wanting a nicer notebook and pen.

    I think the key for me was to just start or it never would have happened and now that I know myself better tweak from there. Which also gave me time to see this post, because I really like the idea of keeping school readings separate so that the kids can look in it and I can use it later for copywork selections, etc like you said. Such a great idea!

    4 separate notebooks would be overkill for me for sure. But one for my personal reading (including Bible) and one for school, yes. Thank you for the inspiration! And really, I think I would enjoy any commonplace my mother might have done, not just spiritual. So many of my readings God tends to take and tie into the spiritual anyway. Science of Relations for you. So I like keeping them together for that reason. =)

    I do like lines though, note to self to see if Moleskin sells slimmer versions with lines.

    On a totally separate note, thank you for the book sale leads. What a blast that has been! And I've been enjoying the ease of Instagram too, which I never would have done if it was not for books. So you have just been a treasure trove of great ideas for me lately! What a blessing.

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    1. Yes, the Instagram sales are super fun, aren't they? The thrill of thrift store shopping without leaving your home. ;)

      I totally agree that it is best just to start and see what style fits your personality best. Different arrangements will work for different people--particularly for us as adults just starting in these habits, as we usually have set ways of doing things already! :) And when I started, I was like you were too. I wasn't sure I would think it a good use of time. I was totally wrong and do truly enjoy it. I'm so glad to be on this learning journey!

      And yes, Moleskine does sell the Volant with lines, graph, and even dots I think? Lots of different varieties.

      I'm glad to be of help, Virginia. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. :)

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  4. I love the idea of separating them out. I have been wondering how to be more organized about my commonplace book. Thank you for sharing what works for you.

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    1. Thanks--I hope you find a method that works for you too! :)

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  5. I'm so very glad you shared this! With the prompting of your new Linkup, I started my first commonplace book in late January. At first I was only reading one book, and delighted in adding favorite quotes. But then once I added a few more books to my rotation, I found myself irritated/unsettled when rereading my entries with such varying themes. There was no flow. And so I stopped keeping. I assumed that since it felt wrong to me, it just wasn't a habit for me. Now I realize that I simply need a different format. How liberating to realize I can still attempt to develop the habit of keeping, even if I'm not doing it exactly the way CM originally had her students do it. Your four categories resonate with me completely! Not overkill at all! I'll be starting four new commonplace books :) Thank you.

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    1. I felt the very same way, Meghan. I missed the Keeping I was doing in Evernote, which was by genre, and I don't know why I didn't immediately think of transferring that into notebook form when I transitioned away from e-Keeping. But I'm glad I eventually figured out what would work best for me and I'm glad you appreciated it too. (It's good to know I'm not the only one that thinks keeping up with *multiple* notebooks actually makes things *easier*! LOL)

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  6. This is so great, thank you! I never thought of organizing it into different books, but it makes complete sense to me now! Are you by chance doing a book club the well read mom? I noticed you are reading The Betrothed which is their pick for this month. :) We are just about to start one here in the Northwest and I am SO excited about it.

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    1. Yes, our local book club is following Well-Read mom this year! I think we're a month ahead, so we finished up Betrothed for our meeting a couple weeks ago and are now on to Hound of Heaven at My Heels. Both are fabulous! Actually, all of the book selections have been wonderful so far this year. Hope you have a great time with your group too! :)

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    2. great to hear! I am pretty excited about the selections that are chosen and being challenged to read some great classics. What a great service to Catholic mothers!

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  7. I don't think it's overkill at all, Celeste. I currently have 3 commonplace books: one for Bible, one for Poetry, and one for my readings and readings that I do with the children (read alouds, and AO readings). :)

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    1. Oh. good--I am in good company then! :)

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  8. I wish I'd kept some of mine separate. I've always kept a journal but also used it a diary of sorts - important things I want to remember etc but it's always difficult to find anything & I have to trawl back through months of entries. I have started keeping a notebook just for quotes. In the past I used to write them on the inside of books - even my cookbooks so they are in various places.

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    1. Yes, I'm hoping this slight amount of categorizing/indexing will make the books easier to navigate because I do refer back to my Kept quotes often. We'll see if that works in practice once I'm sifting through large amounts! Writing them on the inside of books? I actually think that sounds delightful and would love to see a photo if you ever get around to it! A totally different Keeping format! :)

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  9. Ok, let me try this again... Blogger ate my last comment... I just wanted to say that I divide my commonplace up, too, although I'm still not terribly happy with my organization as so much seems to overlap. I use the bigger Moleskine notebooks, which may take me forever to fill up at my pace! I think the biggest obstruction to commonplacing (is that a word?) for me is making the time to do it. I usually read while I'm nursing and dog-ear pages that contain passages I like. (I'm horrible, I know.) But then I never seem to sit down and copy them into my notebooks. I think a dedicated time every week would help, but when?

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    1. Blogger seems to be eating comments lately. :/

      That is my biggest problem as well! Like you, I am often reading with littles running about or on my lap, so no place for my commonplace alongside. I do have a set time to add the quotes I've dog-eared into my books: I take a few minutes to do that on Sundays if I don't get any other time during the week. Sundays are for rest and reflection, and Keeping falls into that category for me, so if I don't have a chance to copy over quotes or add to my nature journal at any other time of the week, I at least take some time on Sunday afternoon. Is it sad to say you schedule in time for your hobbies? I sorta feel like it is! LOL But hey, if I'm being realistic, having that scheduled time makes all the difference in keeping those tasks from falling through the cracks of a busy week.

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  10. Thank you for such an inspiring blog! I`m a new reader and love it:)

    For years I have kept all my notes, quotes, conspectuses and musings together in one book which has been really convenient for carrying it around with me but as the years go by and the number of notebooks I`ve filled has grown, I find it`s hard to find anything so I`ve given up looking and I`ve also pretty much given up writing out quotes. I read a lot and as I feel almost physically incapable of making notes and underlying passages in books (it feels like sacrilege), I have felt a need for a way to concentrate more deeply on fewer books at a time. Inspired by your post, today I went and got myself a few of the prettiest Pigna Nature notebooks especially for quotes from books and start filling them tonight:)
    At the moment I think I`m going to start 5 separate books: 1) religion and faith life, 2) marriage, family, parenting, education, 3) sustainable living, homesteading, home, gardening etc, 4) personal studies on all other subjects, 5) fiction, poetry and children`s books. But the list may change while actually filling the notebooks.

    Do you keep quotes from one book in one commonplace or organize the quotes by subject? For example, if a book you`re reading with kids has relevant ideas on religion and education, do you put them all in one place or keep them separate?

    Do you keep a separate notebook for your own narrations and comments of books you`ve read? I imagine that would help a lot in concentrating and thinking through the books I`m reading but I`ve never taken the time to do that so far. I do intend to add notes from my catechesis lectures in the religion notebook but haven`t decided if otherwise the books will be for quotes only or comments and narrations, too.

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    1. Hi, Ingrid! I don't currently have the energy to keep writtten narrations! That would certainly help a lot, but I just rely on the commonplace to call things back to mind. :) My commonplaces are really for the inspirational topics--not the informational ones, which I just keep in Evernote or a brainstorming notebook that I toss at the end of the year. I don't dedicated time for handwriting them all out since they aren't the kind I'm going to ponder over and be inspired by--they're just things I need to remember. ;) Does that makes sense?

      I organize the quotes by book, not by topic. So if I'm quoting from an assigned book for the kids' school, it goes in the commonplace for AO reading. Obviously, there's going to be lots of cross-over, but that's the beauty of the science of relations--I'm making connections across disciplines and genres all the time, so I couldn't possibly sort all those out, nice and neat, I don't think. And I do record some of those here on the blog or in a reading journal I keep on the computer. My commonplace books just have quotes; not my personal thoughts.

      Of course, that's just my way of doing it! :) Hope that helps!

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    2. Thank you! :)

      I find that by writing my thoughts down I think them through more deeply and am better able to remember ideas I`ve had even years later. Often I don`t know where some thoughts are going before I start writing and if I don`t make any notes on a book or write or talk to someone else about it, soon I`ve forgotten most of it. Also I`m yet to find an area in life that can`t be learned or started by inspiration from a book so I do read many books on and in better cases make notes on any subject that happens to be of interest at the moment and enjoy reading through notes later to remind myself of ideas I liked, presuming they`re well organized. Which they so far have not been. I think it would be easier to find information I need from a specialized notebook that gathers many books on the topic than go through all the books again. That`s probably just my personal learning style.

      Often I also find I don`t have energy or time or that reading goes more smoothly if I don`t stop to make notes but I do miss it. Right now I`ll start with quotes only and see if it will evolve to include narrations and comments.

      I`m not fond of technology and don`t use anything besides paper for my personal notes unless I want to share them on the internet. I have found though that sometimes what I write differs quite a lot depending on whether I write by hand or type. The flow of thoughts and organizing them is different and both have their own value.

      Thank you again for inspiration! :)

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    3. I totally agree about thinking through writing--that's one of the benefits I find to blogging. :) And I do find that even if I don't write my *thoughts* down, the writing of the *quotes* at least makes a big difference in how I remember and engage with a text.

      And I absolutely agree with you about writing by hand and typing being two different but valuable experiences. I got in the habit of composing on screen during grad school, and I still do think well when I type...but it's just not the same as writing out by hand. I find that whole difference to be really fascinating!

      Obviously, I do wish I had more time to sit down and write more, but I work with what I have. When my children are grown, I'm going to be the lady in the corner of the coffee shop with my books and notebooks! LOL

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic! These e-conversations on Keeping have been such a blessing to me as I sort out my personal and our family habits.

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  11. I love this idea! I love your handwriting as well, and since I was just starting my daughter with handwriting, wondered what style of writing you learned from?

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  12. I love this idea! I love your handwriting as well, and since I was just starting my daughter with handwriting, wondered what style of writing you learned from?

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    1. Hi Heidi! Thanks! My handwriting isn't a particular style--I suppose it's just a mish-mash of my own printing and cursive over the years. :)

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