Monday, August 17, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Librarian

Often when the conversation of operating a library in my home arises, I get variations of the following comments...

"You have a your house??"

"You mean people come to your house to check out books?"

"What do you DO with 18,000 books?!?"

Occasionally I'm conversing with someone who wishes to do this crazy thing called "operating a private library" in her home and are trying to wrap her brain around the logistics of such an undertaking.

I thought I'd take a little time and share what our lives look like as we go about the business of sharing our treasures with 30+ families in our community.

My library hours are always posted in the right hand column of this blog. Patrons check their due dates with my schedule and plan their visit. On library days, we get up and milk cows and other farm chores. My boys begin asking almost immediately, "Who's coming to the library today?" They begin making plans based on my answer (getting ball equipment together, for example.)  We have breakfast and I go over their schoolwork based on how busy I expect to be. Patrons are asked to let me know if they're coming. If the day will be light, we might be able to get in a semi-regular school day. If the day will be insane, I leave a list on the fridge to be completed independently. I also leave a self-serve lunch with instructions to bring me a few crackers or something around mid-day.

Before the library opens, I make sure I have paper in the printer for check-out sheets, swipe over the bathroom and check essentials like soap and toilet paper (those practical things...), maybe run the vacuum.  I pull the check-out sheets of those whom I'm expecting as well as any books that have been requested.

Families come and go during the day with lots of chatter, laughter, encouragement, sometimes a few tears as burdens are confided.  The children enjoy telling me about their favorite reads during the past month.  They make their rounds among the shelves starting piles of volumes that may become treasured friends.  Moms ask for my picks of books of various topics and time periods.  Books are checked in and checked out, packed in totes and sent out the door.

After the library closes for the day, the fun begins.  Reshelving the hundreds of books that are returned in an average library day can take hours a week.  If my week is particularly crazy, I may not get it done at all, in which case piles of books accumulate on the book cases and the floor.  Families don't seem to mind as they sift through the piles to see what has been returned that they might enjoy themselves.

So you may it worth it?

My answer is definitely...yes!

Yes, it can be stressful.  Yes, it's often back-breaking work.  Yes, I have no money to spare because I'm always buying books.  But seeing lives enriched, relationships formed, and the excitement of children and families who are being touched by story is worth all the sacrifice.

If you're on the fence about starting a library of your own, don't hesitate.  Your life won't be the same.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In Awe of Dirt

This past Saturday I was privileged to attend a seminar by my friend, Nicole, of Sabbath Mood Homeschool blog.  Nicole is becoming well known in the Charlotte Mason community for her encouragement to study science using Charlotte's methods.  Even though I have been homeschooling for nearly 20 years with Charlotte's philosophy and have a son who is finishing up an engineering degree, I was inspired and encouraged to expand my vision for the sciences for my younger boys.  I have not been as diligent with these two in seriously studying the world around us in an intentional way. 

One of the things that convicted me was this quote by Charlotte...

"Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value." 

Was our science teaching us to wonder and admire?

Then I remembered this quote by Charlotte...

"Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle's eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them."

Have we ceased to wonder about those things that happen frequently?  The sun rises each morning.  We see the stars at night.  We breathe and our hearts beat.  Do we consider these as the miracles they are?

I decided to choose for our special study this term a humble topic, something that we take utterly for granted.  As I was browsing Nicole's site for ideas, I came upon this recent post.  That was it!  DIRT!  We'll add to that her rocks and minerals suggestions as well.  The miracle of the ground beneath our feet should fill us with awe of our Creator who has supplied us with many of the componenents necessary to sustain life in the soil.  We are looking forward to our study.

I've begun pulling the books I have on these topics and ordering more.  These include, among others:

How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty

Life in a Bucket Soil by Alvin Silverstein

The Soil that Feeds Us by Eleanor Heady

Rocks and How We Use Them by Tillie Pine

Rocks and Minerals by Illa Podendorf

These, in addition to a field guide and experiement suggestions, will help us marvel at the miracle of dirt.  I hope, as the new school year gets underway, you will choose a topic to teach your children to wonder and admire.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Extraordinary People

Ordinary people
have big TV's.
Extraordinary people
have big libraries. 

Robin Sharma

Monday, June 1, 2015

20 Years and Counting

Today began a blessed milestone in my life.  Today I began my 20th year of homeschooling.  It's so hard to believe that little boy who sat on my lap for stories so long ago is grown and gone.  My two boys at home are growing up before my eyes before I can grab the years and toss them to the wind. But that's the way of life.

We have shared so many memories over the years.  Trips we've taken, sights we've beheld...books we've read...  They've all woven themselves into the fabric of our lives to form us into individuals and bind us into family.

God has been so good to give us this opportunity to educate at home.  We are thankful and give Him the glory for everything we have learned for His Spirit is our teacher, after all.  Lord willing I will have seven more years of homeschooling.  I'm excited to see how much more we can learn.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To See with Other Eyes

We want to see with other eyes,
to imagine with other imaginations,
to feel with other hearts,
as well as our own... 
We demand windows. 
Literature as logos is a series of windows,
even of doors. 
One of the things we feel after reading a great work is
 "I have got out."

An Experiment in Criticism
~C.S. Lewis~

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Raising Dragon Slayers

Fairy tales are more than true;
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

G.K. Chesterton

There is much being discussed and written about the moral imagination.  So much so that I'm wondering why I'm entering the conversation, but I believe understanding the importance of this aspect of our children's upbringing can redefine culture in a profound way.  I certainly don't have anything new to add. I have read books and blog posts, listened to podcasts and seminar sessions, and so everything I have to say is a conglomeration of all my study.  But I'd like to use this space to narrate what I've been learning and hashing out what this might look like in my own home.

First of all, what is this moral imagination that seems to be the buzz word of late?  I like Sarah Mackenzie's definition:

"The Moral Imagination is the ordering of the soul rightly toward Truth. It rests entirely on the understanding that humans are reflections of the Divine Image- our value does not rest on our usefulness or utility, but on our very natures. It is, basically, the intrinsic knowing of God’s Truth in our souls."

Notice the capital T in truth.  The concept of "truth" is very subjective in today's culture.  The person with moral imagination is able to rightly discern Truth...God's absolute, unchangeable Truth.  Another way to look at it is virtue vs. society's quest for values.  Vigen Guroian, in his not-to-be-missed book, Tending the Heart of Virtue:  How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination says:

"There are real and very important differences between what we now call values and the virtues as they had traditionally been understood.  Let me put it in this way.  A value is like a smoke ring.  Its shape is initially determined by the smoker, but once it is released there is no telling what shapes it will take.  One thing is certain, however.  Once a smoke ring has left the smoker's lips it has already begun to evaporate into thin air.  Volition and volatility are characteristics of both smoke rings and values.  By contrast, a virtue might be compared to a stone whose nature is permanence.  We might throw a stone into a pond where it will lie at the bottom with other stones.  But if, at some later date, we should want to retrieve that stone from the bottom of the pond, we can be sure that the shape of the stone has not changed and that we will be able to distinguish it from the rest of the stones."

It is comforting to know that Truth is unchanging, that virtues are a constant rock.  But how do we equip our children with a rightly ordered moral imagination in today's relativistic world?


Specifically...fairy tales and fantasy stories.

We were made for story. Our lives are connected to the great Story of the universe which begins with, "Once upon a time, a great and benevolent King created a Kingdom full of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.  But a wicked dragon, intent upon the destruction of the Kingdom, its people and the very King Himself, purposed in his villainous heart to crush the Kingdom forever.  However, the King, because of His great love for His people, sent His Son to slay the dragon by His own death and defeat of death, releasing the King's grateful servants from their bondage...and they lived happily ever after."

This is our story.  And it has been told in countless ways through fairy tales.

How are our moral imaginations fed through these stories of old?

First, fairy tales confirm in a child's imagination that Truth is not relative.  Black is black and white is white.  The bad guy is obvious and he will be defeated.  This is a powerful notion for a child.  The enemy will not only BE defeated, he IS defeated.  The dragon has been slain, even while we must still fight.

Secondly, enchantment is reality.  We live in an enchanted world.  The God of the universe spoke the world into existence, parted a sea, made a donkey talk, was born of a virgin, rose from the dead.  In our cynical world, where we are bombarded with scoffers who reject any spiritual aspect of our existence, we must instill in our children the fact of enchantment.

And thirdly, imagination is necessary for faith.  "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  (Heb. 11:1). While we have access to so many wonderful books of "real things," we often neglect works of imagination, believing them to be somehow less worthy because we are not learning something "real."  Teaching children that the things we hope for, the things we do not see are produced through imagination and grows in us faith, wonder and awe of our great King...what more incredible gift can we offer them?

I can understand a parent's concern of what they perceive as possible dangers of fairy tales and fantasy.  We must always be discerning.  Many modern renditions and current authors twist the archetypes we've always held as good and evil.  Sometimes the clear water is muddied and we can't even tell whom we are to cheer for.  I suggest starting with the tried and true. Find a good old version of fairy tales, such as Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book and slay a dragon with a child.


In addition to the resources above I recommend this outstanding sermon which was presented as part of a conference at my former church.  Also Sarah Mackenzie hosts the Read-Aloud  Revival podcast which also has a membership site.  Inside the membership site, there is an excellent video workshop given by Andrew Pudewa entitled How Fairy Tales Shape the Moral Imagination. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Salute to Private Librarians

In 2001, thanks to a fire lit by Michelle Miller, author of TruthQuest History and owner of an incredible private lending library, I began preparations for opening a library of my own in my small town in East Tennessee.  For several years I collected books, prayed, prepared, prayed, researched the Dewey Decimal System, prayed...  Finally I opened my doors officially in June 2008.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were four other such libraries in the country. 

Three years ago, my friends and owners of Living Books Library in Virginia, hosted the first ever homeschool librarians conference.  I was priviliged to attend and give the keynote address.  Since that time many libraries have been springing up around the country and more are in the works.  It is so exciting and rewarding to see so many families stepping into the role of Keeper of the Stories and sharing their collections of living books in their communities. 

If you have ever wondered whether there is a library in your area, please check my updated page entitled Libraries Near You

If there is no library in your vicinity, I implore you to consider starting one of your own.  The need is great.  So many families are desiring to give their children the gift of living ideas through living books but many of the best books are out of print and difficult to come by.  You don't need a large collection to make a difference.  500 treasures are worth more than 5000 volumes of mediocrity.  If this is something you would like to consider, I recommend the recording of the conference mentioned above.  There is also a yahoo group dedicated to these libraries.  Here we discuss all aspect of book collecting, lending, organization, challenges, etc.  I invite you to join us.  Search for Homeschool Library Builders in yahoo groups.

I pray more will join us on this journey, whether as members of these libraries or fellow librarians.