What is a Commonplace Book?
It is, simply, a collection of favorite quotes from reading. Occasionally the keeper adds their own thoughts or a quote, or reviews a book they have read, but in general it contains other people’s words, selected by the keeper. (Does anyone else just love that term? Keeper?)
My 8 year old son is too young for a commonplace book, which was started in the later school years. At this stage he is working on neat copying with Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children – he is on part 1, basic (non-joined) italics.
I found a wonderful lady on Youtube who goes under the handle of SeaLemon. For the book above I followed her saddle stitching video. After you’ve made a book or two this is very easy, especially if you have a duplexing printer.
It became obvious that my older boys (my 11yo and 12yo) needed a bit of practice in “neat” handwriting. So I printed and bound (as above) the alphabet section of part 2 (joined or cursive) of Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children. They have made good progress, and my older son especially has been trying to be neat in his writing (unless it’s math).
A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, an exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure. — Home Education
For the future, they each have a “book of poetry”, as Miss Mason alludes to. I won’t insist on poetry of course, they may copy from any book, but poetry is going to be the I-don’t-know-what-to-write default. They use a hard-cover composition book for this. I think of these books as their practice books, something to use while their handwriting becomes more consistent and fluid. One thing I do not like about these books is the paper: it is very thin and I’ve advised the boys to only write on one side of the page. I plan to buy them a moleskin like mine, or something similar, when they start year 8. (My daughter may be ready before then, time will tell. And as my oldest in year 7, I might be way off base in my expectations here.)
One thing I’ve noticed about my commonplace book: it is an uncannily accurate thermometer of my life. Plentiful entries? I’m calm and balanced. Few or no entries? I’m not reading enough, I’m rushed. I’m probably tired.
I use, and love, my moleskine. I have a very simple setup. The first sheet (both sides) is left pristinely blank. The third sheet from the back contains my list of books read (started in 2015). The rest is for quotes. For each quote I write the full date. Then the quote. Then the attribute. No color coding or anything fancy. Most of the time I note only the book title, and don’t even put a chapter or page reference. I probably should do this, but I blame my ereader for this habit of, um, brevity. Perfectionism is my enemy: the simpler, the better for me.
What’s Next for Us?
Commonplacing has a solid start here. My older boys are almost done with their handwriting refresher and I’m so excited about that. I’ve thought about different ways to encourage commonplacing and I think I’m looking at a few ideas:
- In sight, in mind: Make the commonplace book a reading companion and keeping it nearby whenever a book is opened. I will both model this (which I’ve been trying to do) and gently remind them to grab it either at the start of the schoolday or as they move into a ‘reading’ subject.
Sharing time: We have been having afternoon tea time more often, and I think I’ll invite them to use that time for a ‘keeping’ show and tell. This would include all keeping, so my younger son won’t be left out. OR I may specifically have them share during our round table (big kids) time, if a general end-of-day time proves to boisterous.
I’m hoping these organic approaches work to strengthen the commonplacing habit.
For our next “keeping” focus, I’m torn between the Book of Centuries (I just purchased one for my eldest son – better late than never!) and our Nature Journals. I’d like to have my eldest son start a habit of using his BOC, and middle son his century chart, so that will probably be next. I will also try to get my nature journal out more, and model. (As much as my kids like to draw, this may be all it takes.)