Thursday, September 28, 2017

My Reading Journal :: A Commonplace with a Creative Twist

This post, and the many pictures that follow, is for...

The mama who wants to pre-read but needs something to liven up the task.

Or the mama who wants to get better at nature journaling by adding some extra drawing practice into her week -- but needs it to be meaningful.

Or the mama who loves keeping and is always up for trying a new notebooking process to see if it suits her mental flow.

Or the mama who relies on her children's school reading to be the bulk of her personal reading too, and so wants to engage more intimately with the material to feed her soul.

Or the mama who has a newborn and needs a little extra creative outlet to keep herself sane.

(Or maybe you meet all of those criteria, like me!)

Last year, I decided to expand my pre-reading by keeping a commonplace, maps, a timeline, and a century chart alongside my kids.  (You can see some of the results here.) For me, this was a life-giving activity rather than a time-sucking one. I appreciated adding these tasks to my week because I felt like they made my pre-reading and planning sessions more pleasant.

Schole-ified them, if you will. ;)

This year, I was wanted to try something that meshed all of these worthy actions into one notebook that would also challenge me creatively.  Because honestly, I need an excuse for creativity, especially during a newborn year.  Something new and fun sounded like just the trick.  And this notebook, which I am calling my Year 6 Reading Journal, has been working perfectly.

This is what I've "kept" so far during this first nine weeks of our school year:


in progress -- waiting for the perfect fit for that long spot on the bottom :)



my kids and I will be learning the countries of africa starting in Term 2



in progress -- still have a little corner there at the top to fill in :)



my WW2 map will be on this page


As for the logistics: this is a notebook I have been meaning to try -- it is lovely. Creamy, smooth cardstock-weight pages that lie flat, sewn bound, with a sturdy cover.  It's also, in my opinion, the perfect size for this kind of project. (The one I have is the Flexbook Sketchbook, 6x8.5, blank.  Way cheaper at Dick Blick than at Amazon, though they carry it too. I found it for a deal a year ago, and it has been sitting on my shelf waiting for the perfect use.)

Almost all of what I keep in here is for my Year 6 reading, though I have an occasional quote from someplace else that I couldn't resist adding because it struck me as "in conversation" with the readings here.  This doesn't take the place of my other commonplace books: favorite quotes from my Year 3 and Year 2 readings go in the notebook I keep for school-related selections, and then I have notebooks for Charlotte Mason reading, religious reading, etc. But the ones for Year 6 go in here.  It also doesn't take the place of my pre-reading notes; I still keep those on a weekly sheet.

I don't require myself to keep a certain amount per week; I just fit it in when I can. I keep a large post-it on the inside cover, and as I do my pre-reading for the week, I make note of quotes, diagrams, maps, or sketches I want to add.  And then when I get a chance, I know just what to start in on.

Most of my drawings here are what I think of as drawing copywork -- I am copying illustrations from our books or maps I find online. Trying to draw my own scenes and such stresses me out. So I just don't do that. ;)

To be honest, it has become one of my favorite things to do when I do get a spare moment without a babe in arms.  Can you tell?  That's why I wanted to share it here, in case it might be something you would enjoy trying as well.  I only wish I had thought of it sooner!

I'll be sharing updates from this notebook in my {Keeping Company} posts each month, when I think of it.

If you decide to try out something similar (or if you're already keeping something fun like this!), I'd love to see what your version looks like. I am always inspired to see how each mama adapts habits such as these for her own uses, needs, and personality.

46 comments:

  1. So glad you are back blogging. I love to see what you and your family are up to - so inspiring.

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    1. Thank you so much, Zoe! I am glad to be back at it too, when I can!

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  2. Your work and organization methods are always so inspiring!! Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. I LOVE this idea. I have so many notebooks going but this could be a great way to track what I read with and for my kiddos. Am I right that you don't "organize" this notebook by subject? It looks like some pages have selections/drawings from several books/subjects?

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    1. No, I don't organize this by subject -- it is just all in there together. It is more organized by week than by topic. But I am finding so many thematic threads that weave together, and that is showing up on these pages...the Science of Relations! :)

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    2. Just had to pop back in and say that I ordered a Moleskine watercolor journal and made my first entry today. I have no online presence where I can share it with you but wanted to say thank you again for the inspiration!

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    3. Thank you for letting me know, Kelly! <3

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  4. this is just amazing!!!! what a lovely example & inspiration for your children!

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  5. That is just gorgeous. I love it. My poor Nature journal gets a heavy amount of poetry and a bit of travel log in it as well, I really love this, Celeste. I might use this for inspiration next year. Thank you! <3

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    1. I absolutely love your nature journal and would love to see if you come up with anything similar to this in the future. It has been a joy to me, as I'm sure you know! :)

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  6. Celeste, this is beautiful! And so inspiring! Right now, I just have a binder that I'm keeping drawings in because I do them either on drawing or computer paper (or tracing paper with maps). I really like this idea. I might look into getting a notebook like you mentioned. I feel like I'm not an overly creative person; yet I LOVE the idea of decorating the pages as you have with drawings...I love opening up a notebook and seeing all the pictures and colors. So thanks for sharing your reading journal with us...it gives us all ideas of what a reading journal could be!

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    1. Honestly, Karen, I do not consider myself a creative person either. I am more of a Type A, organized, straightforward kind of person -- if you couldn't tell. ;) LOL But this has been stretching for me in a good way and so I am enjoying it a lot!

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  7. Wow. This is amazing! I feel a little overwhelmed by it, lol. That is not a bad thing, just so impressed at the beauty of your work!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! And I really hope it isn't overwhelming -- I think there are so many wonderful ways you could pull something like this together if it would be life-giving for you! That is the wonderful thing about CM-style keeping: everyone's work will look different and be a reflection of their particular interests and strengths. :)

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  8. These are beautiful and very inspirational Celeste! I started something like this a while back for a bible study I was doing, but lost steam in the busyness of life. http://reflectionsfromdrywoodcreek.blogspot.com/2016/01/commonplace-story-bible-study.html However, I've been wanting to get back to it this year as I read along with my Year 8 dd. I look forward to your comments on IG when you return from the CM conference. Thanks for sharing! I linked your post to my blog this week :)

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    1. I remember your Bible journal from when you shared it to Keeping Company! Thanks for reminding me of it because you're right -- there definitely similarities there! I love seeing others' creative, thoughtful work. If you do get back to it, I hope you'll continue to link it up. :)

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  9. What an absolute treasure you have created, Celeste. Something beautiful that is also practical and will serve as a reminder for generations to come how invested you are in the education of your children. I'm in awe! But not in a defeated, "I could never do this" way. In an inspired and encouraged way.

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  10. So, I have to ask - did you write those element poems (haiku? I didn't count sylables, lol) or copy them from somewhere? I absolutely love them, and I don't remember them from my skimming of Elements. ~Veronica

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    1. No, I am no poet! LOL I found them here: http://vis.sciencemag.org/chemhaiku/ Someone linked them at the beginning of the term on the AO Facebook page or somewhere, so I saved it and I share it with my kids whenever we read from Elements. They are really fun! :)

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  11. I LOVE this idea. I've been interested in bullet journaling for some time, and recently was introduced to the commonplace book, as well as sketch-notetaking, and the idea of modeling to our children our own pleasure in learning. This idea sort of began to occur to me last night, but coming across this today is totally Providential, really helping me to cement my ideas. Thank you so much for posting!

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    1. I'm so glad, Kim! Yes, this is really IS like a combination of commonplace, bullet journal, and sketchnotes! :) I'd love to see what you come up with!

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  12. Celeste this is beautiful! I'm so inspired and encouraged by what you share here (and beyond). You have a beautiful gift of keeping!

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  13. Celeste I love this. I especially love that it is all together -- for that science of relations. So lovely.

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    1. Thanks, Pam! Yes, I find that so much of what I read is "in conversation" with one another that I would be hard-pressed to sort it all out. :)

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  14. I love this journal! I am still trying to organize my reads and thoughts, and this is a great way to do so. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. I really want to implement this, but I think it might be a year or two before I'm able to. Instead I did the next best thing. I implemented it for me kids. Instead of having different types of keeping books, they are doing it all in one big blank book. It has been working out great. It's hard for Y2s to keep track of a BAB drawing book, artists study replications, drawn narractions, Dangerous Journey Map, etc. so now it's all in one book. And I love it. They do have a nature journal separately. When they are older I'll switch to a having a book per subject probably, but I think this is perfect for form one, and I think it's great to be able to keep everything in one place as a keepsake (cause otherwise I'd lose it).

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    1. Great idea, Sarah! I see how that could be MUCH more manageable for Form I kids. If you end up sharing photos on IG, I can highlight them here in my next edition of Keeping Company. Hint, hint. ;) Right now with my kids in Form I, I am trying to manage perfectionism, and keeping it compartmentalized helps them not to fall apart when one of the things they are keeping doesn't turn out how they were hoping. But that is really specific to the personalities in my home. Well, some of them. Some of them are a bit more "normal." LOL I'm going to think on this, though! :)

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    2. I could see how perfectionism might be a problem. We only deal with it occasionally, but for some reason the kids are way less inclined to perfectionism in schoolwork compared to everything else. Haha! In the past, I've just taped a blank piece of paper over whatever they are railing on about. But, we've only been trying out this one book thing for 2 weeks, so I haven't dealt with it yet. I'm usually dealing with the opposite problem. They scribble something down in pencil and then rush back to diligently work on their non-school work. Maybe in a week or two when we have more to show, I'll post a video on IG!

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  16. Celeste, I love this. And I just want to thank you again for sharing your life with us. I have been incredibly blessed. Know that you and your family are in my prayers, I feel it is the least I can do for someone who has brought so much richness into our life, as education IS a life!
    Just a question as I ponder the question of educating life long learners: Isn’t this sort of commonplace the ultimate goal in terms of bringing it all together? My son is entering form II next year and I’m trying to decide if I should follow suit and do multiple notebooks like you did, or do a single reading journal. The RJ seems to really tie it all together, including drawing copywork (genius!). Do you think there are any drawbacks to doing something like this vs individual notebooks. And is there anything that disqualifies a reading journal from being a commonplace notebook?
    Thank you!

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    1. I think there is value in both styles of keeping -- by topic, or all together. I personally feel that yes, the value in this kind of notebook for me is making tangible those connections across subjects, like you said. So rich! But my kids keep a lot more than I do -- daily written narrations (including a lab report) as well as extra maps and a couple other timelines. That's a lot of work to sift and sort through by the end of the term, and I think that something small, like a really hard-hitting quote they love, might get lost in the midst of pages and pages of history narrations. Having different notebooks allows them to organize their work in a way that allows connections within the subject and gives pride of place to more focused, quiet work. It also allows them to use the kind of notebook that works best for each subject. I know many children keep a graph notebook for science, a lined notebook for history, a blank notebook for maps, etc. So it really depends, I think, on what is going to make the most sense for your brain (or your child's brain :)) and the way they work! I personally love having it all together, and some of my kids are really excited to try that as well eventually, but for some, it makes more sense to do it in discrete places. I will say, though, that either way, we bring all of our notebooks to Weekly Meeting each week and get a chance to share our connections and such. So either way, connections are happening! :)

      Hope that gives you a few things to think through as you figure out notebooks for your family, Rachel! I'd love to hear what you decide on and how it goes. :) And thank you so much for the prayers -- I really appreciate them! <3

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  17. And one more question! As I’ve sorted out where drawing copywork might be appropriate for us, I’m wondering if you have any tips about what makes a good “black line” pick for absolute beginners. Obviously, no color, but beyond that? Off the top of my head, things like Burgess animals or topical nature studies are what I’m leaning towards as good candidates to form this habit. But as I google images, I’m not sure what I’m looking for. Thanks Celeste!

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    1. That's a great question. You can actually doa Google Image search specifically for "line drawings" (you can choose it under "Tools" and then "Type" -- it should come up as an option) and then find one that fits the level you're looking for. We also love the Tunis books for historical line drawings, as well as Dover and Bellerophon coloring books.

      https://amzn.to/2E3jP1j - Bellerophon coloring books
      https://amzn.to/2GUvzpY - Dover coloring books
      https://amzn.to/2IhgAWJ - Edwin Tunis books

      And I often will buy books solely for the illustrations if I think they will be valuable models for us to work from. :)

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  18. Hi Celeste! I have a question. Do you still write notes in the back of your planning sheets while you pre-read or is it all contained here?
    Thank you!
    Gabriela

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    1. Yes, I do still keep my more narrative/factual notes on the back up my planning sheets, including proper nouns, things I need to look up, possible discussion questions, etc.

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    2. Do you keep those planning sheets to use from year to year in a special binder or folder? Just curious how you organize everything. Thanks!

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    3. I have a file for each AO Year, and that's where I keep them until the next time I need them, along with maps, schedules, bookmarks, etc.

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  19. Hi Celeste! I just listened to the Schole Sisters podcast and clicked on the provided link....quick question: Do you trace your maps onto your notebook pages? Very inspiring, thank you for sharing!

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    1. I just freehand them -- in this notebook, the pages are about as thick as cardstock, so it's hard to trace onto. My kids use notebooks with thinner pages, so they trace theirs. :)

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    2. Wow! Your observation skills are impressive! :-). Thank you for your comment!

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  20. I love this and want to do it so badly! I can’t wrap my mind around how to actually do it though. Would you say that one spread (2 pages when the book is laying open) is 1 weeks worth of pre reading? And you mix the subjects right? Or do you just keep writing until the spread is full and then move to the next spread?

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    1. I do my layouts for this particular notebook very organically. :) I keep writing until the spread is full or until I need a bigger space than I have on the page...then I'll move ahead and come back in to full in the smaller spots later. I think I fill about a 2-page spread a week, but it doesn't work in that kind of organized way in practice. And yes, I mix the subjects. I hope that makes sense!

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