Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Home Library

We live what is basically a library-less existence. For a couple of years Erin had piano lessons in Nakusp, and we were able to purchase a membership to the tiny but nicely-appointed library there and use it regularly. For the past four years piano has been in Nelson, and the library there is rather difficult for us to use. It isn't open before piano lessons, we're not thrilled with the fees, the borrowing limits, the selection and quality of the books and the lack of user-friendliness. Sometimes, if piano is rearranged or if there are no lessons for a week or two, we can't get books back, and there's no on-line system for renewals. We also find that we are so exhausted by the end of our other Nelson errands that we just want to start the long drive home rather than browse at the library. So while we had a membership there for a while, it just didn't work well for us.

There's the library at the local public school which we are welcome to use, but honestly we just haven't put the effort into this that we should. My kids don't like being there while classes or parts of classes are using the tables because they feel like intruders, and it's hard to predict when the library will be (relatively) empty. It is of course only open on school days, and only during the school year, and with the school having fewer than 150 students K-12 the selection is small.

There is a tiny 'reading centre' that serves some of the functions of a local library here, but the children's book selection is so limited that we found we quickly exhausted the entire selection at each child's level. It's only open 8 hours a week at best, and not at all lately because the heating system went belly-up.

One of our favourite things to do if we have time to kill in a larger city is to visit their library, and we dream of that kind of access, but it just isn't here. So we do other things instead.

So we raid our friends' bookshelves and they raid ours --- though it's important to keep lists of what you're lending and borrowing! (Actually, building a sign-out system is a great project for a kid...)

I have wishlists at and and have fun researching books, filling my wishlist, refining it and spending money. This is the only kind of shopping I actually enjoy. I try to buy books we'll really treasure, that are worth owning for the long term ... for their literary merit, depth, beauty and/or reference information.

We've put a fair bit of focus on video documentaries. We subscribe to for the winter months and get access to thousands of esoteric DVDs.

We browse and buy used books wherever we can. Prices are often very good, so I'll buy books here that "might someday appeal to someone". And our local donation store and freecycle book nook are often productive places to not only pick up books but to cycle those we no longer want back into circulation. As you can imagine, our many bookshelves tend to be full to over-full!

We enjoy audiobooks. and iTunes both have great libraries of audiobooks for download that can be burned to CD or transferred to portable players (iTunes only to iPods, but Audible works with scores of devices).

We re-read books a lot. It helps to have filled our home library with books that have real literary merit or lots of depth of content for reference.

I still dream of a local resource centre that would combine the functions and collections of the school library and the reading centre, as well as serving as a location for the sharing of other community resources (kitchen, garden and home-improvement tools, toys, baby equipment and games). And someone who won a lottery would donate a million bucks or two to expand the book collection. But until then, we make do... with enough books in our home library to serve as the backdrop for photos of the kids many times over.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A unit study

We have been studying the flu. Chuck, who was vaccinated due to his work in the nursing home, was spared, so he headed off on a continuing education course 4 hours away. The rest of us have been completely down and out for the past 8 days.

There are two strains of Influenza A in our community of about 1000 right now. I'd guess about 80% of the non-immunized population have been sick. Public school attendance has been 30-50% for the past two weeks. Alas, homeschooling has not spared us this time around. Sophie managed to contract the flu at community orchestra 12 days ago.

We spent most of the time watching DVDs as even reading aloud demanded too much of us/me. The big hits have been "All Creatures Great and Small" (12 episodes watched, some of them multiple times) and Leonard Bernstein's wonderful "Young People's Concerts" series (6 episodes watched). We did manage to get through a couple of novels as readalouds. But little else happened.

I spent a lot of time dreaming of an angel who would come and wash the dishes, split some kindling, bring in more firewood, empty the garbage, bake bread (or at least bring us some store-bought) and cook meals. But we managed to get through. By yesterday afternoon we were all feeling human again, and Chuck arrived home last night before the indoor supply of firewood ran out again.

Creativity fell to negligible levels this past week, but today it has resurfaced. Yesterday the kids wrote a silly song together. Erin is working with our new-to-us 4-harness table loom to create interesting weaving patterns. Noah is back at work building his website. Fiona and Erin have been watercolour painting, and the kids are pulling out their instruments again today for the first time in a week.