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How We Use Picture Books and Reading Aloud: History

What if I told you that teaching history in your homeschool could be so much fun?! Here is a quick look at how we have enjoyed Classical Conversations Cycle 2 living books + more.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a commission from the purchase of these books, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Classical Conversations History Cycle 2 covers Medieval to Modern History.  Here is a quick breakdown of curated books to pair nicely with various topics of history study, by week.  Notice that not every week is covered, but these are some great books to supplement your morning time or time learning about each of these subjects. I have also included the school supplies we have found helpful in learning history together.

History “Spine” (the book telling the big story of history)

History “Spine”: Story of the World, Vol. 2: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer

Picture Books/Chapter Books (recommended ages and page count included)

Legends of Charlemagne by Thomas Bulfinch (rec. Ages 10-18 years, 284 pages) Week 1

Crusades: Kids @ the Crossroads by Laura Scandiffio (rec. Ages 9-11 years, 72 pages) Week 3

Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta by Eileen Cameron (rec. Ages 5-12, 38 pages) Week 4

Michelangelo by Diane Stanley (rec. Ages 5-12, 48 pages) Week 6

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World (rec. Ages 4-8, 42 pages) Week 7

Encounter by Jane Yolen (rec. Ages 6-12 years, 32 pages) Week 8

Peter the Great by Diane Stanley (rec. Ages 5-12, 32 pages) Week 9 and Week 10

Who Was Catherine the Great? By Pam Pollack (rec. Ages 8-12 years, 112 pages) Week 10

A Picture Story of Napoleon by J. de Marthold (rec. Ages 5-12 years, 53 pages) Weeks 11 and 12

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (rec. Ages 4-10 years, 40 pages) Week 13

Stubby the Dog Soldier: World War I Hero by Blake Hoena (rec. Ages 4-10, 32 pages) Weeks 12 and 15

Bear and Fred: A World War II Story by Iris Argaman (rec. Ages 4-8, 48 pages) Week 17

Song of the Mekong River: Vietnam by Na-mi Choi and Sinae Jo (rec. Ages 6-10, 32 pages) Week 20 

Richard Wurmbrand: Love Your Enemies by Janet Benge and George Benge  (rec. Ages 8-12, 208 pages) Weeks 21 and 22

Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (rec. Ages 6-10)  Week 24

Supplies Used in History:

A book of centuries

Maps

Globe beach ball

Story of the World Activity Book 

We try to relate our field trips to various places we’ve learned about in history, if possible. 

Some examples of thematic field trips related to the Medieval to Modern time:

-Visit a fort (local war memorials or living history exhibits work nicely for this)

-Visit a museum with an exhibit on Medieval period

-Visit an art museum that houses original art or copies of art from the Renaissance 

-Host a “Medieval Feast” as based on Aliki’s A Medieval Feast. For reference, you can look at the “feast” our little family had in 2020.  It’s nothing too fancy! We just turned out the electric lights, lit our own candles, and cooked a few themed dishes which were probably modern versions of the actual dishes.  We used soda for “ale”. So, clearly we were just trying our best.

-Read a book that is set in a kingdom far away (i.e., Kingdom Tales, The Castle Diary: Journal of Tobias Burgess, Castle, George MacDonald’s Fairy Tales, Little Pilgrim’s Progress, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sundiata: Lion King of Mali, Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali, The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History, Famous Figures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a puppet book)

Ideas for Using These Books

  • Use your family “morning time” to read from either your history spine, your favorite picture books, or read from both. This will ensure you read about 20 minutes total about history each day. That’s pretty do-able. What is morning time? Go around the group of students and have each child narrate aloud from the reading.
  • Use your history reading time to connect with your book of centuries. A book of centuries is a book, divided into centuries, starting around 4,000 B.C. and proceeding to A.D. 2100. Think of it as a timeline in a book. Pictures can be drawn next to dates and event titles to represent the recorded events, as well. Maps that are made or used (as with Story of the World) can be inserted into the book of centuries, as well.
  • Use your children’s independent study time to read from history books of your choice, different ones geared toward each student. This might work better when you have a very large gap in ages in your homeschool. Have your students narrate to you, either orally or written, depending on their ability. It is recommended that narration start out as oral, and proceed to written (in tandem with oral) about age 9 or 10, when a child has more stamina to write.
  • Go on field trips! Read up on the places you will visit and pick out books from the library that will correlate with your destinations. Did you know that October is “Field Trip Month”?
  • Make handicrafts that correspond to your time period of study. Check out a book to explain handicrafts and trades of the time you are studying. Speak with someone in the modern day about the trade or craft you are hoping to make. There are still blacksmiths and woodworkers around, if you look in the right places! Example: make candles out of wax as they did in the early modern times (dipping)

History is Fun

Please do not forget to have fun in reading about history with your kids. Why history would ever be considered “dry” is beyond me, but when I give it some thought, I realize that teaching history the textbook-only way is pretty dry. Here is a related article that explains how I attempt to teach history: A Textbook-Free History Curriculum: It Is Possible!

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What Classical Education Has to Say

All parents homeschool.  I’ll explain that later. To jump straight to the video, scroll down to the bottom of this post, or just click this link.

It’s been a while since I’ve introduced myself on the world wide web. I’m Holly, a homeschool mom of three under the age of nine.  My husband, kids and I live in a big town/small city in eastern NC.  If you haven’t already visited my website, I’d be happy to have you at www.mylittlebrickschoolhouse.com!   My Little Brick Schoolhouse was initially a creative outlet for me.  It has evolved into (I hope) a service for you.

My mission is four-fold:

  1.  Deliver resources to allow families the chance to read living books together.
  2. Create content that fosters engaging narration and discussion about living books.
  3. Connect parents with Classical and Charlotte Mason methods
  4. Help parents strategize homeschool solutions.

I started homeschooling back in 2018.  Ask me anything, yet I am still roughly new to this.  I have so much I’m learning, and today, I’d like to share with you some things I took away from the Classical Conversations Area Practicum I attended this weekend, in addition to some of my own thoughts.

Justin Nale delivered the excellent presentation at practicum.

First of all, before I even talk about the practicum, I want to acknowledge a huge problem we have in society today.

Usborne Books and More cites that interest in reading a book outside of school drops from 100% in kindergarten to 54% in fourth grade.  What happened between K and 4th grade?  Parents. You guys need to know the reason.
Did you know that reading aloud to your children builds their “want” to read?

A more recent, 2022 survey found that more than half of 2,003 American adults surveyed had not finished a single book in the past year.

So, what happened?  Parents stopped reading to their kids.  This is a crisis.

What has replaced books in the home?  It’s the elephant in the room, guys.  Screens. Oh, don’t get me started there.  Too much time spent with screen media is associated with: childhood obesity, sleep disturbances, attention span issues… oh and I am sure there are emotional implications, too.  Adults are not immune to these effects, either!

Oh, and since we’re talking about time, where does your child spend the most time annually?  AT HOME.  You have him for 7,800 hours.  School: 900 hours.  Which teacher is more influential?

That’s why I have created some resources for you to use on my website: booklists, free resources, and unit studies.  We all should be reading with our kids.  It’s about binding hearts together in the family, not about leaving the kids. 

All Parents Homeschool

If you have breath in your lungs and also have offspring, you are a homeschool parent.  Since birth, you’ve been teaching your child.  Did you teach him to feed himself?  How about to put on his clothes?  Have you been speaking to your child since she was born?  You get the picture.  You are your child’s first teacher, and you have a tremendous impact.  Each day, we have so many things we are learning together alongside our children, if we are spending time with them.  Homeschooling is nothing new! 

Now, I’m not advocating homeschool for everyone because you have to do what God is calling you to do for your family.  Seasons of life, full-time ministry jobs, and other situations could preclude homeschool from being a good, God-glorifying option for your family.

That said, there is so much to unpack.  Where do we begin?

Classical Education is where my family’s journey began.

Well, since our family is a part of a Classical Conversations community, I’m talking from my unique perspective.  Classical education can be characterized in various ways, but I’ve heard two distinct lists. 

One list goes like this: 


1) classical education pursues virtue

2) uses tools to learn in layers (knowledge, understanding, then wisdom)

3) celebrates the integration of knowledge

Another list goes like this:

1)follows the pattern of the trivium

2) is language-focused rather than image-focused

3) is centered around the story of history

Define the terms: TRIVIUM

The trivium is a three-part pattern: the mind must first be supplied with facts and images.  This is called the grammar stage. 

Next, the mind must be given the logical tools for organizing those facts and images, called the dialectic stage or logic stage.

Finally, the mind must be equipped to express conclusions.  This is called the rhetoric stage. 
Each stage correlates with an age range. 

  • Grammar Stage: Kindergarten through fourth grade
  • Logic Stage: Fifth grade through eighth grade
  • Rhetoric Stage: Ninth grade through twelfth grade

Now that we’ve defined trivium, does it make some sense?  You probably have some questions. Do all children in any given stage fit nicely into that box and never utilize thinking skills outside of their prescribed stage?  No.  When you think about it, we adults go through the entire trivium any time we are learning something new, from start to finish.  Take baking cookies, for example.  I must learn the correct grammar (terminology) for the ingredients, tools, methods I will be using.  Next, I move on to the logic stage when I realize that one of the ingredients, say, baking soda, can be increased to make my cookies more fluffy.  I am starting to understand the way the process works.  Then, if I decide to tweak a recipe and rewrite it to reflect my preference for chocolate chip cookies, I am in the rhetoric stage. 

Okay, now that you know the trivium, those of you who are new to classical education, let me give you three things to take away. 

  • Education is not the same as training.

I was a lifeguard in high school during the summer.  We know that when you apply for a lifeguarding job, they have you watch training videos, complete worksheets, practice saving people in the pool.  I even remember swimming to the bottom of the pool to pick up bricks, delivering them safely to the surface! You are training for a job.  You are learning specific skills, for a certain future.  I was going to lifeguard that summer. I needed to learn x, y, and z. 

Now, education, that is different.  You educate for an uncertain future.  What does your future hold? If you have lived, you know that it will at some point hold suffering.  Is training about shaping the soul, and giving kids tools they’ll need across callings?  No.  It’s specific and very finite.  Education is for life.  It’s a good distinction to keep in mind. 

  • Teaching character is paramount to academics.

I have said this before.  I ask you, is the most important thing in a childhood academics? Think.  You remember what your childhood was like. 

How about this? How will you be in old age?  Grumpy and discontent, or joyful and full of life?  How are these two types of old people so distinct?  Habits.  Character.  When were their character habits developed?  Early in life.  So think about that and how you will train your children.  Character is paramount.

  • Lastly, this is my own musing.  I am noticing the shift in our culture, aren’t you?  I am specifically talking about interconnectedness, globalization and technology. Has social media and AI technology made us better as individuals? How about smarter?  First of all, the constant bombardment of images has wreaked havoc on our attention spans.  Next, do you realize how various tech companies use people like you and me to perfect their algorithms and tap into the human mind, making us no higher than dehumanized objects?  We are their product.  We help other companies sell their products because our behavior is being heavily monitored and analyzed constantly.  Okay, so what does this have to do with classical education? 

Charlotte Mason, have you ever heard of her?  She was a British education reformer from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was heavily influenced by classical thought. Many people who love her methods love classical education.  Charlotte Mason defined students as persons.  A person has a soul, a will, and possibilities for good and for evil.  A person is more than a mind. We do not fall into the ditch of intellectualism.  No, we are not just teaching a mind, disconnected from a heart.  We are teaching a whole person.  We also do not fall into the ditch of emotionalism, where everything is about the heart of a child, and we forget reason.  These are two ditches to avoid.  We are to teach the whole person.  And persons are people of words.  Our world deals in words.  Not images.  As much as Instagram would like you to think image is everything, and look how dumb we are becoming in the process, we must go back to being people of words.  We have a language to be used for God’s glory.  May we learn to communicate well with our words to bring him honor and to help others.  

Classical education points to the study of this world, and how it is all connected to God.  Just like we cannot dissect a person into mind versus heart, we cannot separate the unity of truth that is God’s truth.  All truth is connected. We are also people of words.  Technology can be used for great things for God’s glory, but let us be wary. 

May God bless you this year! If you’d like to hear more from me, sign up to join my email community.

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Homeschool Expectations Vs. Reality

Back in January 2022, I asked for some feedback. I wanted to know from fellow homeschooling moms what have been some of their (possibly) unrealistic expectations as it relates to homeschooling.

When I asked about unrealistic homeschooling expectations, a couple of common responses were:


1) That we would keep a set schedule

2) That we would all be motivated to learn on any given day

In fact, I had to make a perspective change that very week, when we all came down with sickness.  I plan- thankfully, I plan in pencil.  Surprisingly, we had met a lot of our goals for the week, but getting there looked very different.  For example, we split up one day’s work over the course of two days (we had built-in flexibility), Daddy taught a lot of subjects as I recovered from illness, the kids’ activities were cancelled, giving us more unscheduled time as a family.  We had to look at this as an opportunity for family bonding and working on some of our challenges, as opposed to a great inconvenience and discouragement. It took reframing our thinking.

How about you?

As we begin a new year, I reflect back on some of the “oops” moments and their opposing “a-ha” moments in homeschooling.

Some of my realizations:

-Relationships trump academics: I had to wrap my mind around this one because I’m such a checklist-oriented person.  But, it’s true that when children feel seen and loved, they are much more ready to learn.

-Plans need to be flexible, but organized. Buffer time needs to be built in.  In April, instead of taking off 3 weeks, we have that third week as a built-in buffer.  If we use it, we have it.  If we don’t, then that’s fine.

-A sad realization: my son and daughter have to be given incentives to work hard.  This is reality.  They are not self-motivated, unless it’s something that really interests them. Karen Andreola does address this in her Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning.

I am going to try to remember this:

“The child is a person, a human being with a spiritual origin. Yet most schools govern by a system of treats: grades, prizes, and competitive placing. Even Sunday schools give out balloons, happy face stickers, candy, and plastic trinkets as rewards for children paying attention to the Word of God! Charlotte Mason believed this type of motivation to be harmful for learning and dangerous for a child’s character. “

So, how do I “grade” my students?

I am going to set out on a journey this year to emphasize admiration, hope, and love.

Admiration: “Children should be taught to recognize and admire the righteous, the pure, the heroic, the beautiful, the truthful, and the loyal in their educational life,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 338).

Hope: “So-called ‘late bloomers’ are only flowers that bloom at a different time, and we all know that the beautiful varieties of flowers in God’s world do not all bloom in the same season,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 339).

Love: “We live by love and the love we give and the love we receive, by the countless tendernesses that go out from us and the countless kindnesses that come to us…” (Andreola, 1998, p. 340).

“Charlotte taught that we live by admiration, hope, and love, and without these three we do not live.”

Karen Andreola

-We do not need to be purists.  There is no one philosophy that fits all people, for sure.  Even within a family, there is no one philosopher or educational reformer who will “meet every need”, but we certainly draw heavily from a couple philosophies (Charlotte Mason, classical, for two).  It’s more a lifestyle than it is an educational philosophy.

-We sometimes get tired of staying at home, but honestly, I expected to feel a lot more “trapped” before I decided to homeschool.  This has not been true, for us.  We have built-in socialization throughout the normal week, and school days seem to fly by. Also, do not rule out hiring help, if you think that you can do this. That has brought me some sense of togetherness, without it being just me and the kids.

-Before I homeschooled, I assumed that if you homeschool, you do not utilize other adults’ help.  Wrong, again.  Homeschooling has helped me realize my NEED for other people and their help/expertise. 

-My expectation that we would have one-source for all homeschool advice and that would fix my problems was so far from the truth.  Thanks to the internet and a book that lists hundreds of curriculum choices, I realized that the one book I thought would be my “bible” was really just another tool I can pull from. 

-I expected that we would study the same subjects all year long.  Not true!  We have picked up subjects in seasons, and have dropped some in seasons (ex.  At-home science was dropped around the holidays, and we relied solely on our co-op for science the rest of the year).

-I expected, based off what I was seeing on Pinterest and Instagram, that all my kids would work in harmony at the kitchen table.  HA!

-I expected that my son would be an early reader because my “one source” made it sound like it was expected for kids to read around age 4, since the author had begun that early.

-I tended to want to make everything like a unit study – you know, connect the science content to the history to the math to the reading, etc.  It does not have to be so!  In fact, it is cool how the connections my kids make are oftentimes unforeseen.  Just reading good books helps facilitate their ability to connect.  (ex. Seeing a word that we studied in context, then connecting the word to the ideas found in that context) You can study Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages at the same time. You will not mess the kids or you up.

-Lastly, I FEARED I would regret homeschooling because we would be “messing our kids up” (not true, but society plays on that fear)

-I feared I would be alone, (also false) but I have found community in expected and unexpected places in our community! Find something that fits in with your normal lifestyle.

One More Thought

Think on God’s joy in seeing you and your children! He made each of you on purpose, for a purpose. I wonder what he’ll do in your homeschool this year? The children he gave you are yours for a while, and your job is to enjoy them and rely on God’s ability to help you do the toughest job on Earth. I wonder what they will become and what all they will be able to do for Him? Such a thought makes my feel hopeful. I hope it helps you feel that way, too.

Other Helpful Resources

I would be remiss if I did not share a few of these podcast episodes with you. Listen to them while you walk, run, fold laundry, wash dishes, cook, or whenever you make the time.

Mothering by the Book (Interview with Jennifer Pepito)

NEW from Jennifer Pepito: Mothering by the Book

Reading, Relationships, and Restfully Homeschooling (Interview with Sarah Mackenzie)

Three Reasons Why Your Child Will Be Ready for the Real World (Pam Barnhill)

Books to Encourage You

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie

Start with the Heart by Kathy Koch, PhD

Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler

Mother Culture: For a Happy Homeschool by Karen Andreola

Related:

On Work and Purpose

Focusing on the Heart

Creativity (and Fun!) For You

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Homeschooling Encouragement with Karen Andreola

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these materials, at no additional cost to you. Thanks so much for your support.

Encouragement

There is nothing quite like that feeling when you get some unexpected encouragement from a trusted source.

It was December 2020. I had just gotten off the phone with a far-from-trusted-source: a vanity publisher. Mr. Salesman was trying his very hardest to pull out all the stops and sell me a book deal that I would have to pay for up-front! Thankfully, my husband and I talked about it and decided this kind of thing would be more of a sham or scam (you decide) than anything else.

But I was longing so badly to get my book published. I had a manuscript that I could not wait to share with someone with trained eyes and a vision like mine.

Karen Andreola, Charlottemason.com

Enter Karen Andreola. I had managed to contact her about book publishing to get some tips and put my feelers out there in case she had any leads. She is well-acquainted with the publishing world. After all, she and her husband republished Charlotte Mason’s writings in America, which is probably one of the reasons you know of Miss Mason’s name today. So, I was hopeful.

Not only did Karen Andreola take the time to listen to me and see that I had a vision to deliver a living story to the people who would embrace it; she also took the time for a phone call. She listened to what I had to say about the book. After hearing me out, she gave me her own wise take on the modern publishing industry. She reflected on my work, and gave me great words of encouragement. I left that conversation feeling refreshed and understood. I will never forget her generosity. Fun fact: Karen Andreola’s son Nigel is an illustrator and has his own business.

Karen Andreola has not only encouraged me in conversation, but also in her written words.

Book Club

Our book club is comprised of about four to five mothers of elementary aged children. We are all fairly familiar with Charlotte Mason homeschooling, but this was not the case two years ago.

In July 2020, I attended a Charlotte Mason conference in Georgia where I met a friend who would become a founding member of our book club here in North Carolina. Kate was passionate about growing and learning more about Charlotte Mason’s methods, even though her wisdom far surpassed my own. She and I met at a Panera Bread that same year, in August, to discuss what we wanted to read. We both knew that Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning was to be our first book club pick for its format (short, easy-to-read narratives), its candid and lovely tone, and its practical application of Mason’s philosophy.

So, we began our monthly meetings in October 2020 on my friend Joy’s screened-in porch, adjacent to her lovely backyard garden.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our readings and discussion. We have not rushed our book study, as we are just now about to wrap up A Charlotte Mason Companion two years (24 meetings) later!

Wisdom

I have grown and gathered wisdom from reading this gem. One of the first aphorisms I jotted down to remember in my homeschool was:

Be sure that your children each day have:

  • Something or someone to love
  • Something (worthwhile) to do
  • Something to think about

Andreola’s book encourages self-reflection and group discussion by asking questions at the end of many chapters. As I look back on my written reflections about the nature of education in response to her questions at the end of chapter three, What Is Education?, I see these notes:

“When I hear the word ‘education’ my first impression is that education used to mean more of a system-based idea. I always believed in educating the whole person, but the methods in place were insufficient, leaving me baffled.”

What is meant by we are “educated by our intimacies”?

“The things we love and hold dear to our minds will make us who we are.”

What opportunities for loving can your home provide?

“We can practice the habit of encouragement.”

Name some worthwhile things to do at home or for others outside the home.

“Visiting lonely neighbors, building LEGO creations and imagining, writing thank you notes and encouraging notes to family.”

Have you heard it wisely put, “You are what you eat?” In what way do we become what we read (with discernment and discretion)?

“The ideas of our culture’s best thinkers will shape our own ideas.”

What are three simple things to remember about educating – whatever curriculum you choose?

“Give the children something or someone to love, something to think about, and something worthwhile to do (daily).”

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Now, What?

My dear Charlotte Mason Companion will become one of my staple reference books on my bookshelf. I plan to pull it down and find that chapter on narration or vocabulary or nature study to refresh my approach and keep the methods consistent with a living education.

I will seek fresh ideas on how to enliven our afternoons through outdoor group games by turning to her chapter Ready, Set, Go! Believe it or not, I have made a more intentional habit of taking the kids out to the front yard lately to play some of the favorites: Mr. Fox, What Time is It?; Red Light, Green Light; Duck, Duck, Goose, and more.

I will go back to the first few chapters of the book: A Living God for a Living Education, What is Education, and Education is a Science of Relations when I need to get back to the basic fundamentals of why I home educate the way I do.

Andreola’s book is marked up with my notes and underlined passages. There is so much to tuck away into my memory. Are you yearning for a group with whom to discuss Charlotte Mason’s principles? Are you looking for practical ideas of ways to enjoy homeschooling with your children? I bet you could garner a lot of interest in this book should you choose to begin a book club.

Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion and Mother Culture, makes Charlotte Mason’s ideas attainable, more amplified. Miss Mason’s original volumes are referenced throughout her works. If you find that reading the original volumes seems daunting, then try Andreola’s companion first. Her encouragement will go with you throughout your reading journey.

Karen Andreola Biography:

Karen Andreola is best known for her groundbreaking book, A Charlotte Mason Companion. She home educated her children K-12. Way back in 1989, Karen and her husband Dean fueled the revival of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education in the homeschool when they republished Miss Mason’s writings in America. Mother Culture is her newest book helping mothers prevent burn-out. Unique to the homeschool world, Karen also writes fiction to offer mothers a peek at a gentle and happy home life.  

Find Karen Andreola online at: Charlottemason.com

(source: Karen Andreola)

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Free Homeschool Curriculum and Summer Deals

I found a great vocabulary curriculum with the Homeschool Buyers Club and want to share it with you, as well as some of my tips for building vocabulary!

Disclosure: In writing this review post, I am being compensated for my time.  All of my opinions communicated here are honest and are uniquely mine.

We are thoroughly enjoying our North Carolina summer! The cicadas’ chorus echoes throughout the tops of our pine trees on hot afternoons and continues into the early evening. Much of our summer has been spent swimming, playing, visiting with grandparents and friends, and enjoying new board games. 

Homeschool Curriculum Deals to the Rescue

As much as I love our unstructured summer time, being a homeschool mom of three, I have sought the necessary structure provided in a few short lessons in the mornings, when my son’s mind is sharp.  

All it takes is about fifteen minutes.  My son sits with me on the couch, and we practice building words to improve his grasp of vocabulary.  With third grade right around the corner, I found this area to be one in need of some practice. 

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

If you’re looking for some summer learning opportunities that take just a few minutes’ time, check out the Homeschool Buyers Club!  They are featuring many FREE  products right now, as well as running amazing deals across their siteTo see the three free gifts you can get with the purchase of any product, scroll down to the end of this post.  If my son was older, I’d check out Vocabulary Quest (see below), as it is appropriate for fifth through twelfth graders. 

Free Products from Homeschool Buyers Club:

1. Thinkwell Free Trial

2. Reading Skills Assessment Ongoing

3. HomeSchoolPiano Trial

4. Code Avengers Free Trial

5. Monarch

6. Kids Guitar Academy Trial

7. Mr Henry’s Music World Freebie

8. Nessy.com Free Trial

9. Mark Kistler Art Lessons

10. Creta Class 7 Day Trial

11. Math Mammoth PDFs

12. Brilliant.org

13. Reading Eggs

14. Doodlemaths

15. Smile and Learn

16. History Alive Grades 6-12

17. History Alive Grades 1-6

18. Vocabulary Quest

19. Dynamic Earth Learning (Aquaponics Course)

Word Building Lessons

I could see that my second grader needed some extra help with vocabulary this past school year. I started looking at Homeschool Buyers Club and their engaging language arts resources.  I ended up finding a GREAT deal on the Word Build Online Program.  

My son loves his word building lessons!  It only takes fifteen minutes a day.  His little sister even joins in on the challenge.  Since I adhere to a classical approach to learning, I know the importance of teaching vocabulary first and foremost in the context of good, living books

I list a few other ways to teach vocabulary below.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Engaging Ways to Teach Vocabulary

  1. In Context: find the words ahead of time and write them down in a notebook for your child to review the word structure, synonyms and definitions throughout the week (pick about 3 words a week). Karen Andreola in A Charlotte Mason Companion  explains, “A vocabulary workbook that includes interesting text where the meaning of a word is derived from its use in context may be helpful.  But since there are so many delightful children’s books available these days, wider reading is to be preferred.” When we read our history and literature books this year, my son will have a composition book where he will write down interesting words, in their appropriate alphabetical sections.  He can do this with his independent reading, also.
  1. Interact with a Vocabulary 4-Square: Simply put, fold a piece of 8.5” x11” paper into fourths.  In the upper left rectangle, write the word you are studying, being sure to underline any prefix of suffix.  In the upper right rectangle, write a definition and synonym for the word.  In the lower left rectangle, use the word in a sentence.  Lastly, in the lower right rectangle, draw a picture of the word in an appropriate context. 

Look for ways to use the words in poems by looking at my Poetry 4-Square.

  1. In Conversation: Use words that you hope to solidify in your memory by using them in conversation.
  1. Using Morphology: WordBuild Foundations 1 (online) is described as such: “The Foundations series comprises three levels and focuses on prefixes and suffixes, having students add them to words they already know so they can understand how the meaning, spelling, and/or part of speech is changed by the addition of that prefix or suffix. They will then be able to apply this knowledge to new words as well.” (source: WordBuild Online user’s guide)
  1. Teaching Greek and Latin Roots: Did you know that teaching Greek and Latin roots benefits children in learning the meaning of many words?  If you are looking for an approach that emphasizes Latin and Greek roots, check out WordBuild Elements: “The Elements series, also three levels, focuses on Latin and Greek roots, the real foundation of academic English, the vocabulary that dominates all texts from about sixth grade on. Just as with prefixes and suffixes, students will gain enough experience with a given root to be able to apply it to a new word and figure out its true meaning based on the meanings of its parts.” (source: WordBuild Online user’s guide). 

A Look at WordBuild in Our Home

Over the course of about five days, a WordBuild Foundations (1) online unit looks like this:

Warm Up (pre-assessment)

Lesson 1: Affix Square -place a root word with the prefix OVER-, write a new definition of the new word, then select the best use of the word from the options. (Matrix)

Lesson 2: Attach the prefix OVER- to the root word, write a new definition, then select the best use of the word from the options as it appears in a sentence. 

Lesson 3: Look at the Matrix and match the definitions to the appropriate OVER- word.

Lesson 4: Fill in the blank with the correct OVER- word in different sentences. 

Summer Learning Success

My son responded very well to the WordBuild Foundations 1 exercises.  I did not help him in answering any of the questions, but did help him with operating the computer (keyboard class will be next, I suppose)!  We loved this time together.  Even his little sister joined us for many of the lessons.  I will gladly recommend this specific method of reinforcing and learning new vocabulary to anyone.  

One activity that was particularly engaging was the affix square.  My son loved it because he got to choose the root word that he would “affix” to the prefix OVER-.  He also enjoyed the mastery aspect.  Any time he completed a lesson, he would receive a “Daily Reward”.  He received 5 Daily Rewards before moving on to the next unit.  

One way I know my son enjoyed WordBuild is the fact that he would never complain about doing it.  I also think the fact that it was on the computer helped, too, since he hardly ever gets on the computer.  Novelty is a powerful thing.  Would he continue using WordBuild? Yes! As a mom, I like to see my son engaged in making meaning of new words and using them regularly in his everyday conversation and composition.  

Enjoy Up to 3 Free Gifts

I was really pumped to find out that with any purchase, we can enjoy up to three free gifts (a $38 value)! Check them out! 

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Moms Are Persons, Too: Why I Attend This Retreat

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask? A retreat. Read more to find out why.

The homeschool life is a glorious life, but sometimes it can get overwhelming, like anything else.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much.

I know you are enjoying the togetherness, as am I. However, by Week #6 or 7 of summer break, our family is ready to recharge and reset. What about you?

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask?

Why, to the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat, of course! Held in the wooded lakeside Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, the retreat is aimed at refreshing moms who are homeschooling or teaching other people’s children under a Charlotte Mason philosophy.

The retreat usually runs Friday to Saturday, with a pre-retreat on Thursday. Historically, I have attended all of these days. Held the second-to last weekend in July, the timing of the retreat is perfect – right before school starts back for many, but also a time when many families like to vacation together. I have friends whose husbands and kids will do something touristy during the day, while they attend the retreat.

I thought I would gain new ideas and inspiration when I first signed up in 2020 to attend my first retreat. I gained so much more – I gained friends. I gained a renewed love for my family. I even regained a joy in worship! The worship time on Saturday morning is priceless.

I am still here at the retreat as I type this.

My highlights have been:

  1. Meeting Karen Glass, author of In Vital Harmony, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, and Know and Tell: The Art of Narration.

I came up all giddy-like. I was just tickled to meet the author of some of my favorite education books, to-date! Karen and I chatted about the classical thinkers and their influence on two of Charlotte Mason’s principles (“Education is the science of relations” and “Children are born persons”). A great chat, from which I left feeling quite inspired to continue teaching the Charlotte Mason way.

2. Amber O’Neal Johnston, also known as “Heritage Mom” on her blog and social media, has been teaching me about using living books as “windows” into the lives of others. Using books as windows is a wonderful thing, but how about using books as “mirrors”? Knowing one’s own heritage and identity helps him or her appreciate the culture of another. That is Amber’s premise and mission: to curate an inclusive culturally rich home education.

Well, I got to meet Amber last year, and I reconnected with her today. Between yesterday and today, I have really been enjoying these extraordinary homeschool moms who are as dedicated to the nurturing and teaching of their children as I know you are.

Not to mention, Amber is about the most down-to-earth homeschool mom I’ve met. She is a lovely soul!

Her session today was entitled “Belonging Together: Managing the Seasons of Community and Fellowship”. I learned so much about the workings of a co-op from listening. Amber took us through the steps of a co-op, from exploring the idea to initiating the concept, to living it out, to excelling and growing, to moving on.

Her new book is finally here! A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond has been added to my list of books to read in the coming year.

3. I was able to go line dance last night in the conference ballroom. Sonya Shafer and her daughter were also in line. We all had a wonderful time!

4. The sessions on portraits of a homeschool parent were so encouraging and convicting, if I’m being honest. Sonya Shafer delivered the session, which was full of truth and grace. We do not do this alone, and there is so much to learn from Charlotte Mason on parenting, believe it or not.

When I spoke with Sonya later, I asked her where to start in Charlotte’s volumes, if I am looking for a good parenting read. She recommended starting with Volume 2: Parents and Children.

5. I attended a session on using technology well with Doug Smith. He drove home the point about technology as a tool to be mastered. Charlotte Mason wrote about the elaborate models of “appliances”, or what we could call “tech” in today’s vernacular. These tech models are not to be the basis of our learning, and are to be introduced progressively.

Would you give a five-year-old child a calculator before teaching him the principles of math? The same concept applies here with technology.

Technology can be a wonderful gift when used appropriately.

Doug talked about all kinds of technology, like LEGO bricks and snap circuits. How he described himself as a child made me think of my own son, who loves tinkering, taking apart and putting together, and building with all kinds of things, including LEGO bricks and wood. I gained some inspiration and thanked him for including LEGO in a Charlotte Mason education, as I wrote an article on this back in January!

6. Lastly, and possibly my favorite part of this retreat has been making new friends and reconnecting with the old friends of retreats past. I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart to know there are kindred spirits miles away who are in my corner, as I am in theirs!

So, do I attend this retreat for rest and renewal of mission? YES.

Do I attend to grow and connect with others? YES.

Do I come back a better mom? YES.

Would you consider going with me next year?

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Books I Have Loved This Summer, Books I Look Forward To Reading

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I have a new book list I am dying to share with you.

I am so thankful for the Internet, aren’t you?! It allows us to find books within seconds and either check them out at our local libraries, or use our devices to get them delivered brand new to our doorsteps! Oh, technology surely has its pitfalls, but I do love that we can do some things so much easier in this day and age.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I can recommend these books to you, and might receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Our homeschool has seen the accumulation of these beloved books over time. I cannot say that I’m ashamed to admit that I still have to read a handful of the more “adult” books I ordered for myself, because… you know what? The picture books get my attention first.

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Do you agree?

I sure do! That’s why I picked out the books on this list to reflect my hunger for living books. These books give us the noble ideas, the virtues and the facts about a person, place, time or process in the world. Some of these stories are fiction; many are nonfiction.

Please take some time to study this list. They span subjects of history, literature, science, math and I threw in some fun book basket ideas and summer read alouds, for good measure. I cannot wait to share these titles with you! You might get some ideas for future reading in your upcoming school year, or you might find something to enjoy before the school year begins. We have either read, or will read, every one of these books listed in our own homeschool.

We will be studying middle ages history this upcoming year, and I could not be more excited! The cross-section castle book looks amazing. I also cannot wait to read authors with whom I have not become familiar. They will become dear friends, I am sure, just like A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis were for us this past school year.

As this new school year begins, I thank you so much for supporting me and my mission to recommend quality, living books to families who love to read with their children.

In addition to these wonderful books, when you get the chance to sit down and think about what poetry you might read next year, you might consider Robert Louis Stevenson. I have a freebie I will send you that includes: 3 summer poems, copy work, an interactive 4-square template, and project ideas to introduce you to his work before you dive in and get his poetry collection. If you love his poetry already and are searching for a sweet, illustrated collection of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, I am happy to share my recommendation with you here:

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (Illus. Tasha Tudor)

Would you like the Poetry Mini-Unit (Freebie)?

One of my favorite homeschool memories of all time was when we read Aliki’s A Medieval Feast and later held our own very special medieval feast, complete with cornish hens and “blackbird pie”, medieval tarts, and of course, “ale”. Where would we have gotten that inspiration if it had not been for that picture book?

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Growing Together: Get to Know These Charlotte Mason Practitioners

Grow with us as we learn about Charlotte Mason and learn from each other!

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of some of these great resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you, friends!

Where are you on your homeschooling journey?  If you are just starting out, perhaps researching different philosophies of education and methods is where you are camping out this summer.  Maybe you have already found a couple ideologies that work well for your family and you want to explore one further.  When I first set out researching this homeschool thing about five years ago, I was barely thirty years old, with just two little ones.  Now, I am officially in my mid-to-late thirties…and am very tired… with three young children.  I don’t know about you, but I do not often find the time to extensively research something. Then, there is something called “decision fatigue”.  To reduce decision fatigue, I gladly took a well-crafted quiz to determine where I lean on the educational ideological spectrum back in 2017.  If you already own Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (2014), go ahead and open it and take the quiz where you find out which educational approach resonates most with you.  She gives you a comprehensive explanation about different educational methods. I can say that taking the quiz confirmed some paths for me.  

If you do have an idea about Charlotte Mason and her methods, then you might appreciate going deeper by reading about these women below.  I will call them my “team of pundits”- those to whom I look for good discussion, implementation and modeling of the lifestyle I want to incorporate into our family culture. Each one has either directly or indirectly impacted me.  Each woman comes from a different background, but all have chosen a similar way for their families, in terms of motherhood and education.  

If you have a chance to read over their bios and click on their resources, you will most likely find some kindred spirits and learn more along the way. 

Let’s get to know some of these authors, speakers, bloggers, and dedicated homeschool moms:

1. Karen Glass

“Karen Glass is the mother of four children, all graduated, and a veteran Charlotte Mason homeschooler who lived in Krakow, Poland for 25 years before recently relocating to the United States. She has immersed herself in the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and is passionate about bringing her life-giving ideas to contemporary educators. She is one of the creators of the AmblesideOnline curriculum, and has been writing and speaking for many years. She is the author of several books based on those educational ideas, including Consider This, Know and Tell, and In Vital Harmony.”

(Source: https://simplycharlottemason.com/charlotte-mason-together-retreat/)

Books I have enjoyed:

Consider This

Know and Tell

In Vital Harmony

2. Sonya Shafer

“Sonya Shafer is a popular homeschool speaker and writer, specializing in the Charlotte Mason Method. She has been on an adventure for more than 20 years studying, researching, practicing, and teaching Charlotte’s gentle and effective methods of education. Her passion for homeschooling her own four daughters grew into helping others and then into Simply Charlotte Mason, which publishes her many books and provides a place of practical encouragement to homeschoolers at simplycharlottemason.com.”

(Source: https://simplycharlottemason.com/events-speaking/workshops/sonya-shafer-biography/)

Resources I’ve used:
A Child’s Copybook Reader

Delightful Handwriting

Your Questions Answered: Narration

Picture Study Portfolios

Composer Study

Singing the Great Hymns

Pond and Stream Companion

In recent years, I have been blessed to attend the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia!  It has been an honor to see Sonya in her element and to just “hang” with other Charlotte Mason moms. 

3. Amy Bodkin

“Amy Bodkin is an Autistc Adult, School Psychologist, and Homeschool Mom to her two Autistic kids. She consults primarily with homeschool families as the Special Needs Consultant at A Charlotte Mason Plenary. She works with families who have experienced chronic health conditions, disabilities, trauma, asynchronous development, etc. Her practice is guided by Charlotte Mason’s idea that “Children are born persons” and she makes it her goal to see each child as an individual, not a diagnosis.

Amy has recently started a new venture at amybodkin.com to provide a home to her advocacy work and her new podcast Special Needs Kids are People Too!

(Source: Amy Bodkin, EdS, also see https://charlottemasoninspired.com/amy-bodkin/)

Check out Amy’s podcast: Special Needs Kids are People, Too!

Amber O’Neal Johnston (Heritage Mom Blog) gave me the great idea to feature Amy on this list.  Her experience is multifaceted and she offers great insight.  

4. Cindy Rollins

“Cindy Rollins homeschooled her nine children for over 30 years using Charlotte Mason’s timeless ideas. She is the author of Mere Motherhood: Morning Time, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Toward Sanctification, The Mere Motherhood Newsletters, Hallelujah, Cultivating Advent Traditions with Handel’s Messiah and the Morning Time: A Liturgy of Love. She co-hosts The Literary Life Podcast with Angelina Stanford and Thomas Banks and The New Mason Jar Podcast. She is also the owner of the Mere Motherhood Facebook group and runs an active moms’ discipleship group on patreon.com/cindyrollins. Her heart’s desire is to encourage moms and go to baseball games.  She lives in her sometimes empty nest in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband Tim and dog Max.”

You can find Cindy at:

morningtimeformoms.com  where she publishes her newsletter Over the Back Fence

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cindyrollins.net/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/cindyordoamoris/

Mere Motherhood https://www.facebook.com/groups/meremotherhood/

Patreon Discipleship at Patreon.com/cindyrollins

(Source: https://morningtimeformoms.com/about)

I’ve enjoyed Cindy’s Podcast: The New Mason Jar

I have also really enjoyed using Cindy’s Commonplace Book this year to improve my personal reading life.

5. Amber O’Neal Johnston

“Amber O’Neal Johnston is an author, speaker, and worldschooling mama who blends life-giving books and a culturally rich environment for her four children and others seeking to do the same. She recommends we offer children opportunities to see themselves and others reflected in their lessons, especially throughout their books, and she’s known for sharing literary “mirrors and windows” on HeritageMom.com. She is the author of A Place to Belong, a guide for families of all backgrounds to celebrate cultural heritage, diversity, and kinship while embracing inclusivity in the home and beyond.”

(Source: https://heritagemom.com/)

Amber’s new book: A Place to Belong


I had the chance to meet Amber at the 2021 Charlotte Mason Together Retreat! She is a wonderful resource on worldschooling, among her resources on teaching children to be secure in their personhood and culture.

6. Min Jung Hwang

“Min awakes with joyful anticipation of what God will do as she cooperates with Him in home-educating her 4 creative children, as well as her friend’s precious two children. She delights in sharing the Gospel-grounded Charlotte Mason philosophy and methods with every family and church.

Over a decade ago, having become convinced of the life-giving paradigm the Charlotte Mason philosophy brings, she has embraced Miss Mason’s principles, allowing them to inform her ministry with moms, college students, and children.

If you were having tea with her, she would tell you God doesn’t waste anything; she can testify to how her varied background in Nursing, law, and nonprofit work establishing safehomes for sexually exploited, pregnant mothers, has helped equip her for her current vocation.

Min is a wife of more than 20 years to her best friend, Young. They have the blessing of pastoring a beautiful, ethnically diverse church in New Jersey. In addition to serving as Pastor’s Wife, the Children’s Ministry Director, an artist, and home-educator, you’ll find her loving on mothers at Life-givingMotherhood.com – a worldwide community of mothers desiring to grow in their spiritual disciplines and life-giving habits – and podcasting at Charlotte Mason For All and Charlotte Mason’s Volumes.

(Source: https://charlottemasoninspired.com/min-jung-hwang/)

I have never met Min, but have heard her interviewed on my friend Amy’s podcast, Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology

7. Erika Alicea

“Erika Alicea is a former public school teacher turned homeschooling mama to one amazing young lady. Born and raised in NYC, Erika helps her husband, Efrain, pastor their church in the Bronx.

When Erika was first introduced to Miss Mason’s educational philosophy through God-sent friends, who are now her co-hosts on the Charlotte Mason for All Podcast, it was an answer to many of her prayers. As she began to learn about all the beauty a Charlotte Mason education offers, Erika had to be creative in implementing Miss Mason’s methods in the context of city life and as a family of color.

As a firm believer in a multicultural education for all children through the use of diverse, living books, Erika uses her website Charlotte Mason City Living as a resource to help educators diversify their instruction. It’s her prayer that it serves as an encouragement to all families, especially those who feel Miss Mason’s philosophy may not be inclusive enough or even possible for multicultural or urban families.

On any given day, you can catch Erika taking pictures of nature treasures in the city that often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of urban life. You can also find Erika at The Art of Color as co-creator of these carefully crafted and curated CM-inspired Art Appreciation resources showcasing artists of color.”

(Source: Erika Alicea, also see https://charlottemasonforall.com/our-story/)
Now that I know Erika better, I cannot wait to see her beautiful-looking multicultural artist studies at her The Art of Color Study.  She is also a part of CM City Living (multicultural living books, anyone!?) and on the Charlotte Mason For All podcast.

8. Mariana Mastracchio

“Originally from Southern Brazil, Mariana is a mom of two boys, who has been home educating them since the beginning of their schooling in 2016.  

She lives in Westchester, NY, and can be found daily with a delicious cup of black coffee paired with a good book. She enjoys serving her Catholic Church alongside her family, taking family hikes and soaking in the beauty of God’s creation at the seashore.

On her home educating journey, Mariana found a great friend in Miss Mason. This friendship has yielded precious fruit not only in her homeschool, but in the atmosphere of her home and her life.

She’s active in the CM Brazilian community co-hosting a podcast and online community in Portuguese: Descobrindo Charlotte Mason and founding a publishing company, Editora Ideias Vivas, that publishes living books for all ages. In addition, Mariana co-hosts the podcast Charlotte Mason for All, alongside Erika Alicea and Min Hwang. She also serves as a COO at the Life-Giving Motherhood Membership.”

(Source: Mariana Mastracchio, also see  https://charlottemasonforall.com/our-story/)

Mariana is very active in the Brazilian Charlotte Mason community.  I love to see Charlotte Mason spread globally. How amazing is it that Mariana is the founder of a publishing company that publishes living books in Portuguese? Find her as a co-host of Charlotte Mason For All podcast.

9. Leah Boden

“Leah Boden is wife to Dave, mother to four children, a long-time home educator, and student of Charlotte Mason.

With over two decades of experience in church leadership, Leah’s working background also features many years in youth, children’s, and family work within the church and for the local education authority. Leah speaks, writes, hosts podcasts and coaching sessions, and runs workshops sharing the beauty of a Charlotte Mason approach to childhood, motherhood, and education. 

Leah is the author of the upcoming book Modern Miss Mason (Tyndale Publishing, Jan 23)

She and her family live in the West Midlands, England.”

(Source: Leah Boden, also see https://www.leahboden.com/hello)

Follow Leah to get updates about the release of her new book, Modern Miss Mason!

I personally cannot wait to read this book.  Leah resides in a beautiful area of England, not too far from Ambleside, Charlotte Mason’s home after she taught for 30 years.

I have thoroughly enjoyed interviews with Leah, conducted by Humility and Doxology and The New Mason Jar.

10. A Great Book Study Resource

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

I personally have had the joy of speaking with Karen Andreola and have truly enjoyed the time I have had to dive deeply into the application of Charlotte Mason methods through study of her book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.  My book club and I have been reading and discussing it since October 2020!  We are still going strong, as we meet monthly and discuss about three chapters at a time! 

Shopping for Homeschool

My friend from Humility and Doxology, Amy Sloan, writes about homeschooling from the perspective of a second generation homeschooler. Interviewer, podcaster, blogger, content creator, teacher, wife and mother, she has a lot of great experience with classical Christian homeschooling and parenthood. Her Amazon store is pretty awesome.  

My Little Brick Schoolhouse living books collection is another one of my favorites, for obvious reasons.  We love living books around here.  Historically, I have enjoyed pairing living books with the content we are studying.  The picture book biographies are truly my favorites.

Living books are one of the hallmarks of a Charlotte Mason education.  

Another defining characteristic is nature study.  Check out my YEAR of Nature Study, a unit designed for each of the seasons.

Other Charlotte Mason-inspired resources in Brick Schoolhouse Etsy Shop:

The Big Maine Basket – This is a Charlotte Mason and classical education-inspired narration tool. In this Maine-themed “basket”, you will find two book recommendations, narration instructions, a narration template for use over the course of two days, coloring pages, and EXTENSION ACTIVITIES! Spend time in good, living books. Read to your children, and have them narrate part way through the reading using this template. This narration tool is designed for multiple developmental levels, is good for keeping record of narrations, and utilizes Charlotte Mason and classical methodologies. It would also pair well with any MORNING TIME, CHARLOTTE MASON, or CLASSICAL CURRICULUM.

Dear Homeschooling Mama: Refresh Your Home’s Atmosphere + Habits – This is a planner and goal-setting resource, as well as habit tracker.

I was tired of not having a plan, but every time I tried to set out to make goals for our upcoming year, I would get stuck! I started curating some wisdom from various women who have walked the walk. Lara Casey, Charlotte Mason (Sonya Shafer at Simply Charlotte Mason), and my own experience have helped me develop this tool you might find as a breath of fresh air to help you organize your thoughts about uncovering what matters, as well as implement habits to change the atmosphere of your home! This is my process. I hope it blesses you in some way.

This resource includes:

-workbook-style planning pages

-notetaking templates

-habit tracker on calendar

-checklist templates

What Works for Your Family Is Truly Best

I remember how overwhelming it can be to research all the methods and practices.  Keep in mind your own home atmosphere and what you envision for your own family.  I hope you have found this brief directory of sorts helpful in seizing your [own] self-education in the methods of Charlotte Mason.  I cannot claim to be a “purist” in the sense that we follow Charlotte Mason “by the book”.  I doubt many of us are.  However, I do believe that exposure to people in your “camp” can be edifying and inspiring.  

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Morning Time In Practice + FREE Poetry Mini-Unit

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these excellent morning time resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

I hope I am not sounding like a broken record.

By now, you probably know that I am pretty passionate about the practice called “morning time” in the homeschool day. To read up on how we have enjoyed this thirty to forty-five minute period, try these blog posts:

Make Morning Time More Beautiful

History Lessons, Book Lists and Morning Time

December 2021 Morning Time

Morning Time

While I love singing hymns and reading about history, I cannot contain my excitement surrounding our “beauty loop” for the upcoming school year (for a rising third grader and kindergartener).

The beauty loop has its benefits. First of all, you are able to rotate subject areas on a three to four day “loop”, allowing everyone to get acquainted with composers through composer study, artists through picture study, and poets through their poetry and accompanying biographies. If you missed the free planning template for the beauty loop, feel free to grab it below.

Secondly, I love how deep we can dive with our subjects. We have studied A.A. Milne for a solid semester this year. We studied Bach for at least six months of the school year, and we have been able to get acquainted with Michelangelo for the past three months. I have found that this deeper “friendship” lasts throughout a lifetime, as I myself am forever changed and tethered to the minds behind the great works.

Morning Time Beauty Loop Plan

Right now, I’d like to share the nitty gritty of our upcoming year’s beauty loop by inserting our plans. These are not set in stone, but I have already gathered my books and have linked the resources we’ll use during the loop below for you. I am making units to go along with each poetry study (designated by term). I hope this helps you in some way to at least visualize what it can look like.

If you’d like to snag a FREE mini-unit for our Robert Louis Stevenson poetry study, I invite you to subscribe to My Little Brick Schoolhouse community. You can do that below.

If you want to purchase A Child’s Garden of Verses to go along with the unit (not necessary, but recommended), Amazon is offering a great price right now.

Beauty Loop is a  3-day rotation, change topic each term:

TERM 1
9 weeks
TERM 2
4 weeks
TERM 3
4 weeks
TERM 4
7 weeks
TERM 5
6 weeks
TERM 6
7 weeks
POETRY (day 1)Robert Louis Stevenson
6 poems 
Term project: dramatization of 1 poem
A.A. Milne3 poems
Term project: cereal box biography
Christina Rossetti
Term project: lap book biography
Favorite Poems Old & New – seasonal themes
6 poems *include poetry of Wilhelm Muller, a contemporary of Schubert
Term project: compose an original seasonal poem
Eugene Field (Field Poetry)
5 poems
Term Project: create a comic strip to summarize one of Field’s poems
Jack Prelutsky 
6 poems from  Ride A Purple Pelican
Term project: plan a poetry tea and invite someone special to hear recitations and view accompanying artwork (gallery walk)
COMPOSER STUDY – Classical period
(day 2)
Schubert (first 2-3 weeks focus on biography)SchubertSchubertBeethoven(first 2-3 weeks focus on biography)BeethovenBeethoven
PICTURE STUDY
(day 3)

Renaissance period
The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient RomeThe Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient RomeGiotto (Simply Charlotte Mason)Raphael (Simply Charlotte Mason)free choice (tracing favorite works with pencil and tracing paper with narration)
Morning Time Beauty Loop by Term and Subject

Resources Used in Morning Time

Doxology (reference: YouTube “Doxology: Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”)

Singing the Great Hymns (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Poetry-

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

Who Was A.A. Milne? by Sarah Fabiny

AmblesideOnline Poetry Anthology Volume 2: Walter de la Mare, Eugene Field, James Whitcomb Riley and Christina Rossetti

Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris

Schubert’s Winterreise: A Winter Journey in Poetry, Image and Song by Franz Schubert, Wilhelm Muller and Katrin Talbot

Ride A Purple Pelican by Jack Prelutskty

Composer Study-

Music Study With the Masters: Schubert (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Music Study With the Masters: Beethoven (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study-

The Stuff They Left Behind: from the Days of Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study Portfolios: Giotto (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study Portfolios: Raphael (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Does this help you in some way? Please feel free to comment below, and ask any questions by emailing me: mylittlebrickschoolhouse@gmail.com

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This Is What Every Homeschool Bookshelf Needs: A Living Picture Book Biography Collection 

I am thoroughly enjoying this season of life, as it relates to read-alouds. Plopping myself down with a good picture book, I announce that it is time to read. Within a second, I have the bees buzzing up to the hive and all is well.

In fact, I cannot tell you how much I relish this time. Two or three kids surround me; their sweet heads rest inside the crooks of my elbows.

What’s on the menu today? I pull out a hardcover book with whimsical and detailed illustrations on its cover. In an instant, my daughter recognizes the work of the illustrator.
“This is a John Hendrix book!”

It sure is.

(Even if you only have one or two good picture books in your stash, that’s a win.)

Disclosure:  As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of some of these living biography picture books, at no additional cost to you.  I thank you for your support!

I am thoroughly enjoying this season of life, as it relates to read-alouds.  Plopping myself down with a good picture book, I announce that it is time to read.  Within a second, I have the bees buzzing up to the hive and all is well.  

In fact, I cannot tell you how much I relish this time.  Two or three kids surround me; their sweet heads rest inside the crooks of my elbows.  

What’s on the menu today?  I pull out a hardcover book with whimsical and detailed illustrations on its cover.  In an instant, my daughter recognizes the work of the illustrator. 

 “This is a John Hendrix book!”

It sure is.  

I mention the title: A Boy Called Dickens (by Deborah Hopkinson).  I crack it open and we are immediately taken on a flyover chase around London’s (almost) Victorian-era streets. The year is, well, long ago.  We can see that.  It would be helpful if the author gave an exact year, but in reading the author’s note, we can find out that British novelist Charles Dickens lived from 1812 to 1870.  This dreamlike picture book brings the reader in touch with the life of London’s poor youth.  

The chase-like scene sucks the reader in.  Where did Dickens go? Oh, there he is!


As the family gathers round for this reading, we learn that Charles Dickens had a dream to write stories, and was quite adept at telling them.  However, he had to overcome a major obstacle to realize his dream of becoming a true writer. 

I will not spoil it for you, but will point out that this book is one of a few that I would deem “living”.  

One hallmark of a Charlotte Mason education is the reading of good, living books.

“Our business is to give him mind-stuff, and both quality and quantity are essential. Naturally, each of us possesses this mind-stuff only in limited measure, but we know where to procure it; for the best thought the world possesses is stored in books; we must open books to children, the best books; our own concern is abundant provision and orderly serving.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

What, you might ask, is a living picture book?

Living books, generally speaking, have a few common elements (paraphrased from Simply Charlotte Mason website):

  1.  They are written in narrative form, by an author who is passionate about the subject on which he/she is writing.
  2. They are well-written and include a lot of description. 
  3. They feed the imagination and ignite the emotions.
  4. They contain living ideas, which spur the reader on to beauty, truth, awe, joy, confidence, compassion, etc. “Ideas are sparks of truth passed on from a greater thinker to another mind” (https://www.amblesideonline.org/art-definition)
We read these 3 while on our trip to the mountains Memorial Day Weekend.

How does one detect a good, living book?  

Usually, it only takes me a minute or two.  I read the book’s first page.  I skim the middle of the book.  I flip through the artwork on each page.  Oftentimes, a good illustrator will accompany a well-written book ( but not always).  I take into account how the author presents the material, and how engaging the story is for children and adults alike. Sometimes, I read the author’s note at the end of the book. I skim to ensure there are not any hidden agendas or glaringly inappropriate themes. These actions are what make up my quick “test”.

Let’s take a look at an example of a living picture book “opener”.  The first page of A Boy Called Dickens beckons me to plunge into its setting.  (As a side note, I would say this book is written for anyone about seven years old and up.) 

“This is old London, on a winter morning long ago.  Come along, now. We are here to search for a boy called Dickens.  He won’t be easy to find.  The fog has crept in, silent as a ghost, to fold the city in cold, gray arms.

Maybe the boy is down by the river – the thick, black Thames.  There are ragged children here, to be sure, scrambling for bits of copper and wood to sell.”

What did you learn from reading the first page?

I learned that the setting is London, a long time ago.  Foggy London is by the River Thames, and at that time there are many children on the streets who are trying to sell what they can find to make a little money.  I am still left wondering what year we are in, but that is not a deal-breaker, I suppose.

The first page is an excellent way to draw the reader in.  Throughout the book, Deborah Hopkinson uses vivid description, quotations, and clear transitions between time periods.  She weaves living ideas of perseverance and motivation into the story, as well as includes important facts.  Exposing children to biographical history in this way is more enjoyable than reading an encyclopedia article on the life of Charles Dickens, in my opinion.  

I stand up and grab another living biography off the bookshelf (or out of the book basket, in our case).

Maybe the kids will find this one endearing, I think to myself.

The title is Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President’s House.  Written by Beth Anderson, it paints the picture of a loving and patient Lincoln with his impulsive, yet loveable son, Tad.  You might know the Lincolns’ story.  After losing a child, they have Tad: a vivacious, benevolent child, who is hard to understand when he opens his mouth, but has a heart to serve others.  This book is also pretty captivating, at first glance.  While it does show the everyday concerns of the president amid war, it does more than that. It highlights the uncertainty and trials of war, while also emphasizing the importance of charity and familial understanding.  Beth Anderson paints a picture of a winsome and sincere boy: Tad Lincoln. The opening page is quite simple, but accomplishes its purpose:

“Thomas Lincoln wriggled from the moment he was born.  Like a tadpole, thought Abraham, and he called his son ‘Tad’.  The name stuck.  So did the wriggle.”

I believe the reader could learn something about the demands of daily presidential life after reading this book, but even more, the reader is acquainted with the humanity of a presidential family.  A very nice author’s note is included in the back, with photographs of the Lincolns.

Now, for the book that surely engages children’s minds in more ways than just the historical: the engineering and innovative nature of Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford will hook young engineers’ brains.  Themes of dreaming big and tenacity to persevere in the midst of criticism are central here.  Mr. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  was the mastermind behind the unlikely monument that would become a landmark and mainstay of modernity: the ferris wheel. Learn about the process, from design to implementation.  Read about the ferris wheel’s debut at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  

The first page test results in an easy decision to take the book home:

“It was only ten months until the next World’s Fair.  But everyone was still talking about the star attraction of the last World’s Fair.  At eighty-one stories, France’s Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest building.  Its pointy iron and air tower soared so high that visitors to the top could see Paris in one breathtaking sweep.”

How does this page make you feel?  What does the page paint in your mind? 

I think you will find that the pages in Mr. Ferris and His Wheel are packed with facts, ideas, and artistic depictions of an era in time that showed our world was surely changing, with innovation and new technology at the forefront of science.

What should the result be, for our children, after reading living books? Delight and wonder are two things that should arise.  “This delight will arise from the experience of receiving those sparks of truth from the author” (https://www.amblesideonline.org/art-definition).

How about you, Mom or Dad? Shouldn’t you also experience delight in reading living books, too? I think so.

After evaluating my selection of books today, I must ask myself, “Why do I love the mid-to-late 1800s so much?”  

Maybe you’ll find a time period that draws you in.  Or perhaps you will be drawn to a particular group of people – inventors, artists, politicians, writers, explorers – and will want your children to take hold of the living ideas written about the lives of such notable women and men.  Flawed humans, yes, but significant to history. 

Think about what you want to read with your children this summer, “Mom” or “Dad”.


I hope your summer is filled with picture books that tell stories about people who accomplished great feats, lived lives that are different from your own, and most assuredly, were real humans who have a lot in common with you, too.  

Some of you might be familiar with the Charlotte Mason method of narration.  I am linking my narration matrix to this post for families who want to take reading aloud a step further

Recapping the Books:

A Boy Called Dickens

Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

References:

Anderson, B. (2021).  Tad Lincoln’s restless wriggle: Pandemonium and patience in the president’s house (S.D. Schindler, Illus.). Calkins Creek.

Davis, K. (2014). Mr. Ferris and his wheel (G. Ford, Illus.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

Hopkinson, D. (2012). A boy called Dickens (J. Hendrix, Illus.). Schwartz & Wade Books.

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Make Morning Time More Beautiful

What is the beauty loop? It sounds kind of like a skincare regimen if I really think about it. While I do not take credit for the term, I know I have used the term now for about two years.

For those of you familiar with Charlotte Mason’s idea of education, you might recall this quotation from Towards A Philosophy of Education: “We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can” (Vol. 6, p. 183).

The feast is dispersed throughout the school day, even the school week. For a detailed blog post describing scheduling, you might want to read over “A Weekly Homeschool Schedule: Simple as 1-2-3” .

I think that spreading the feast out is a great way to alternate between various subjects of different sorts, as well as expose children to the “abundant and delicate feast” Charlotte Mason describes.

For my family this year, we have found that spreading out the feast occurs best at the beginning of the school day, during what we call our “morning time”.

Morning time usually begins right at the breakfast table, once dishes have been brought over. We sing and pray. For a few morning time blog posts, peruse these.

A beauty loop is the component of morning time that occurs right after our doxology, hymn and prayer, after the kitchen is fully cleaned. The beauty loop is a rotation of four days of subjects, each occurring on a different day of the week. I label them Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4, so they do not have to be relegated to a specific day of the week (too much pressure!).

Follow this link for more:

  1. information on the beauty loop
  2. a FREE resource that I made to show you how you can plan your beauty loop
  3. PLUS an editable template

Without morning time, our days would lack a little luster. Let me know if you have any morning time stories, and I’d love to incorporate them in some way over here!

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Ten Questions for Mothers

Some journal questions for you on this Mother’s Day…

Some journal questions for you on this Mother’s Day:

  1. Who is your closest friend? 
  2. How do you feel supported as a mom?
  3. How do you parent differently from your own mom?
  4. How is your parenting similar to the way you were parented?
  5. What is your most treasured memory as a mom? If you cannot pick one, can you describe one precious memory?
  6. What is a Scripture verse you hold dear as a mom?
  7. How does Jesus infiltrate your parenting?
  8. How have you changed as a person since becoming a mom?
  9. What feels hard right now?
  10.  How does God show you that you are not alone?

Here are some favorite books to hold dear, on Mother’s Day and always:

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission for the purchase of any of these Mother’s Day books, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I Love You Mommy This Much by Wonderbly (Personalized books for Mommy)

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

I Love You to the Moon and Back by Amelia Hepworth

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling by Durenda Wilson 

Just Me and My Mom by Mercer Mayer 

May God bless you as a mother.  


Isaiah 66:13 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.”

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A Textbook-Free History Curriculum: It Is Possible!

Does This Look Familiar? 

I’ll admit, I have always loved learning about history.  The in-depth study of a person’s life or a place or an event in the form of narrative has been captivating to me. 

Wait! My history classes never looked like an in-depth study of any one person, place, or event. My history class consisted of lectures, scrawling down copious dates, and textbooks.  My history class consisted of test-induced panic attacks and memories that still haunt me to this day.  One question on a test might look like:

Which of the following best describes the key factors at play in the Third Punic War?

a. and b.

a.,b., and c. 

a. only 

b. and c.

Looking for a Different Way?

I will not dismiss the potency of a test that assesses one’s prowess in timeline chronology, “true or false” reasoning, essay writing, and knowledge.  There is a lot of power there. I will even argue that there is a time and a place for these kinds of tests, especially the essay portions.  However, the training I received in my high school history courses prepared me more for taking tests and studying well.  I cannot say I was able to marinate in a time period or biographical account.  I was introduced to those things, and maybe this sparked an interest or curiosity that I could have taken into my own personal study.  Nonetheless, I was not given the time to just bask in the glory of the Renaissance Period, for example.  Maybe I was allowed to take a little time, and I do have fond memories of making projects and preparing for oral reports.  I do not want to discount the fact that my tenth grade world history teacher was probably one of the best in the state.  She was certainly passionate about making sure we knew the facts!  However, I needed more than an intense, flyover course riddled with color-coded notecards and late night study sessions.  

I needed more time and a relationship with the content.

Does this resonate with anyone else?

Thankfully, I have two parents who loved to travel.  They loved to take me and my little brother to historic battlegrounds on Sunday afternoons after church.  They prioritized taking us to as many national parks (which are filled to the brim with history) as possible in our eighteen years at home. They were certainly into delivering experiences.  I cannot thank them enough!  In fact, my mom was known for reading every single word in every single exhibit whenever we visited a natural or historic landmark.  She was very “completion-oriented”, much to the chagrin and groaning of the rest of us.  Needless to say, my classroom went beyond the four walls at Providence High.  If you can relate, thank a parent.

When I sat down to take Amy Sloan’s Textbook-Free History Masterclass, I suspected she would be of the ilk of homeschool parent who teaches history from a place of freedom and joy.  I wasn’t very surprised when Amy, a second-generation homeschooler, shared her childhood memories of driving from historic marker to historic marker with her enthusiastic parents over the course of an afternoon.  One summer, Amy’s parents took her family on vacation, exploring old battlefields for two weeks. She struck a chord of amusement and endearment with me when she shared about the time her family ran up to one of the museums at closing time (unbeknownst to her mom), hoping to spend some time there.  Her mom knocked on the door and was able to convince the museum caretaker to take her family on a private, after-hours tour! 

Amy shares:

“When it came to those big billboards advertising used and old books, I was definitely going to be the one to yell out from the back seat.  And sure enough, my dad would pull over at the exit, and we would spend hours browsing the bookshelves. We were always late to our destinations, but we generally had lots of old books in the trunk and stories to tell about the unique historic sites when we arrived, so we didn’t mind too much.” 

As she writes at Humility and Doxology and hosts her own podcast interviews about homeschooling, one theme Amy reiterates to her readers and listeners is that history can be taught in a way that deviates from the norm you and I probably had in our public (or private) schools.  History can be taught in a delightful and rich way, without detracting from history’s essence. History is a narrative, or story.  Chronology is a list of dates.  

I invite you to take the Textbook-Free History Masterclass!  You will be equipped to plan for a school year of read alouds and field trips.  Amy clearly explains how to go about choosing a topic for the year, along with a good “history spine” as the core history reading.  She describes how she uses memory work, art and drama and themed parties to make the story come to life.  With five children ranging from ages six to sixteen, Amy has used various methods over time.  She shares her tried-and-true tips with us.

How I Teach History

In list form, I’d like to share some of the components I currently use to teach history.  I have taught history now for three years, and hope to share some of my ideas for next year, as well.  These are just quick notes.  I will place an asterisk (*) next to the ideas I have not yet implemented, but hope to do so next year.

History Spine

The Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times, From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor

(3 to 4x per week) 

Read aloud two times per week.  Ask students (ages 7 and 5) for an oral narration.  Complete map work on day three.  Complete coloring page on either day three or day four.

Amy lists some other great history spines in her masterclass.

Select Read Alouds/Independent Reading

(supplemental reading, either during quiet time in the afternoon, or independent reading during the school day)

Choose historical fiction AND non-fiction picture books (for elementary-aged students)

Refer to my booklists for help finding good titles.  

Note: Many of my titles are non-fiction, but some are historical fiction. I have found the Ranger in Time series to be a great elementary historical fiction option.  

Plan Memory Work*

Choose famous speeches, poems, plays, etc. from the time period you are studying.  Print out one work per term.  Read it together each day.  Teach memorization by reading each chunk three times aloud and having your student(s) repeat the chunk in-full.  Do this each day until the work is memorized.  

Humility and Doxology has a great memory work plan for the year.

I was in Classical Conversations for my first three years of homeschooling.  I printed out flipbooks and focused on two to three subjects per day of the week to drill. For example, Monday would be Science and Latin.  We’d drill the week’s Science and Latin memory work on Monday for about 15 minutes.  I dropped the ball my last year of CC, but I was relieved to know that this wasn’t the only way to do memory work. 😉 There are other ways, as Amy explains in her masterclass.

My plan for next year’s memory work (by term):

  1. 1 longer scripture passage (i.e., Psalm 23)
  2. 1 ancient times work (i.e., a few lines from the Iliad)
  3. Times tables 1-12
  4. 1 speech
  5. 1 poem
  6. 1 song in a foreign language

Art and Music

Through our “Morning Time”, we incorporate the study of art and music, as well as poetry.  These are components of a generous history feast.

Our “beauty loop” currently consists of:

Day 1: Poetry study

Day 2: Composer study

Day 3: Joke Book (NOT art, but isn’t humor an artform?!)

Day 4: Picture Study

Next year, I plan to keep poetry, composer, and picture study in the rotation. The joke book will probably still be a hit during their free time, but I do plan to include memory work in its place.*

Visual arts: I am not a crafty person.  I hate crafts, unless someone else is leading them.  I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. My idea of crafts is drawing freehand or going outside in nature and drawing something beautiful.  I do not do the glue and paint and scissors.  That’s why I keep these materials within reach of my seven and five-year-old children.  I am happy to have them readily available when they need them, which is usually very first thing in the morning while I am making breakfast or later in the afternoon when we have free time.  I trust them. They clean up their own mess (sometimes), and all is well.  

The Story of the World has craft projects for each week of study. I have not used this portion of the activity book (read: I hate doing crafts), but it looks like a great addition to a unit study.

Musical theater: I am not plugged into our local drama community, but I know some homeschool moms who have taken children to productions of Shakespeare plays and auditioned children for musicals at the local arts council.  This would be good for my family when the children get a little bit older.*

Plan Field Trips

I am a part of a Charlotte Mason co-op that includes monthly field trips.  Sometimes, our history study and the field trips overlap.  Oftentimes, they do not. Nonetheless, children are very capable of making connections organically.  Not every field trip’s theme has to be matched perfectly to the theme of the history content.

Two years ago, my kindergarten student and I were studying medieval history.  On my family’s fall break, we took a trip to the Charleston area.  I made a point to incorporate “fortresses” into some of the hot spots to visit since we were reading about castles, fortresses and the like.  In fact, our read aloud around that time was The Castle Diariy: The Journal of Tobias Burgess. It was such a fun trip!  I am linking my page where I write about it here.

Last year, I attempted to work in some history to our family trips again, but it was a flop.  We never really got to study modern times in field-trip form as I had hoped, but our curriculum we used was a unit study.  It was so comprehensive, I did not feel a need to be so tied to aligning field trips with the history because the children made connections organically.  We did manage to travel to Williamsburg and Gloucester, Virginia to see the colonial way of life. That was memorable, as we were studying early modern history. So, maybe it wasn’t a complete flop.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the field trips our co-op took that were living history in nature.  From carding wool by hand , to spinning wool to make yarn, our students got a lot out of their trip to the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace and living history museum.  We also visited many farms that year, snuggled lambs with fleece as white as snow, picked strawberries, gleaned sweet potatoes, and found Native arrows and spearheads.  So, don’t tell me learning and making connections cannot be done if everything isn’t planned to a “T” to match the history curriculum!

Next year, I will call history field trips a “success” if I can work in  these components, many of them with our co-op:

  1. 1 symphony performance
  2. 1 historic battleground
  3. 1 living history museum
  4. 1 nature hike
  5. 1 farm/production facility
  6. 1 local business

Book of Centuries

We have been keeping a book of centuries for about two years now (since first grade). I would love to share my thoughts about it with you, as I write in my recent history post on the blog.

Drama and Skits at Home

This is one great way to make history come alive at home.  The only thing is, I have never implemented a skit or reenactment of a historic event at home, yet.  The key word is: yet.  If anyone has suggestions, I am all ears!*

Videos

YouTube has some great options for quick (like 10 minutes) videos about an historic event or person.  Just be sure to view in advance before showing it to the kids!  Some things are marketed as being geared towards children, but include some violence or themes that might be too heavy for your family.

RedeemTV has a good series called Torchlighters.  These are biographical accounts of various Christian martyrs and missionaries over the course of Christian history.

Themed Parties

While I haven’t really hosted a themed party for those outside my little clan, I do have a few ideas up my sleeve.

Our Medieval Feast

These ideas usually pair well with books we have read.

  1. Host A Medieval Feast to go along with Aliki’s book by the same name!  We did this two years ago, when my son was in kindergarten.  For pictures, check out this page.
  2. Go on a picnic with Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  The history connection would be the World War II setting in Britain.
  3. Celebrate Holy Week by hosting a “Seder meal”, as the Israelites remembered the passover, when the angel of death passed over God’s people in Egypt who had the blood of a spotless lamb painted on their door frames.

I have more ideas, but I will write on these later.

How Will I Assess Learning?

As a former teacher, I am well-versed in “formative” versus “summative” assessments.  The formative assessment is what we are constantly doing in our homeschool.  For example, if the student is practicing 2-digit addition with regrouping, I will formatively assess his understanding by giving him a problem to work out and look over his shoulder as he works it out.  I give feedback. Or, I might ask a question about what he has learned from something we just read, and give him some feedback if he is deviating from the main points.  

Summative assessment takes the form of written tests, usually.

How would I assess my history student?  Narration and record-keeping through notebooking is a great tool for assessing what students know and understand. Read my blog post on narration for a more comprehensive explanation of how I understand narration.  There are many more narration tools I include on my website (for free) and in my Etsy shop, Brick Schoolhouse.  

Amy’s Masterclass also includes some helpful tips on assessment and notebooking.

Have I whetted your appetite for a history experience that is textbook-free? If you are looking to find more content related to teaching history, I cannot vouch enough for Humility and Doxology .  I also want to point you to Pam Barnhill and her “Your Morning Basket” podcast Episode #111, “Teaching History Without A Curriculum: A Conversation With Amy Sloan”.

In short, I hope your year is full of connection and joyful learning.  History can be fun, so I hope this post gives you some fodder for a good start to your school year.

Our Gloucester, Virginia trip last May
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New Additions to Downloads, Shop, Books

I am writing to let you in on the newest resources you can get from My Little Brick Schoolhouse.

New Downloads for Spring

  1. Big Maine Basket Freemium Unit (17 pages)
  2. Nature Study Spring Mini-Unit
  3. Travel Four Square Resource

Check these out under the “Downloads” tab. (The above items are all free)

I would be remiss to not mention that Brick Schoolhouse Etsy Shop is offering 40% off all units for the month of April!

Look for more content in May and in the months to come. We are busily preparing for spring break. How are you spending your April?

Booklists for Classical Conversations Cycle 1

I also am excited to share that we are one week away from completing the entire Cycle 1 in Classical Conversations! I have made a book list to pair living books with each week of this cycle, which is heavy on ancient history and empires. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have. The subjects represented are: science, fine arts, history, geography and math.

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History Lessons, Book Lists, and Morning Time

I wanted to share the page I recently updated: Story of the World. If you are looking for an engaging, classical curriculum for history, The Story of the World is a good option. We use this in our morning time. Read more to find out if it is the right fit for you and your family!

the 2 resources we use

In addition to The Story of the World, I have made my book list to align with ancient times because Classical Conversations Cycle 1 covers ancient history. Skim each week to see if you could snag a few titles to go with your study of ancient history, whether or not you end up using The Story of the World.

What’s covered in The Story of the World? Here is a table of contents found inside:

(by chapter)

  1. The Earliest People
  2. Egyptians Lived on the Nile River
  3. The First Writing
  4. The Old Kingdom of Egypt
  5. The First Sumerian Dictator
  6. The Jewish People
  7. Hammurabi and the Babylonians
  8. The Assyrians
  9. The First Cities of India
  10. The Far East: Ancient China
  11. Ancient Africa
  12. The Middle Kingdom of Egypt
  13. The New Kingdom of Egypt
  14. The Israelites Leave Egypt
  15. The Phoenicians
  16. The Return of Assyria
  17. Babylon Takes Over Again!
  18. Life in Early Crete
  19. The Early Greeks
  20. Greece Gets Civilized Again
  21. The Medes and the Persians
  22. Sparta and Athens
  23. The Greek Gods
  24. The Wars of the Greeks
  25. Alexander the Great
  26. The People of the Americas
  27. The Rise of Rome
  28. The Roman Empire
  29. Rome’s War With Carthage
  30. The Aryans of India
  31. The Mauryan Empire of India
  32. China: Writing and the Qin
  33. Confucius
  34. The Rise of Julius Caesar
  35. Caesar the Hero
  36. The First Roman Prince
  37. The Beginning of Christianity
  38. The End of the Ancient Jewish Nation
  39. Rome and the Christians
  40. Rome Begins to Weaken
  41. The Attacking Barbarians
  42. The End of Rome
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Imagination In Place: An Author’s Perspective + A [Very] Short Story

Have you ever felt the need to justify your place? As an author, writing about a place that is not my own has definitely been a task I do not take lightly.

in my place.

Have you ever felt the need to justify your place?  Wendell Berry writes in his 2010 work, Imagination in Place, about his move from New York City, a hub of culture, to his native Kentucky.  His move was not necessary, but he wanted to move back.  For years, he wrestled with the admonitions of old New York friends who told him he was ruining his life by moving back to rural life.  He of course had no reason to give them as to why moving back was a good idea – he could not prove them wrong.  Later, he came to understand why he made the decision, after reading North Winter, a collection of poems by Hayden Carruth. Berry’s words give those of us who prize our own “place” – be it a booming metropolis or land of corn fields – a sense of consolation:

Those poems, in addition to the much else they were, clearly did not come from any great center of culture, not from New York or Boston or even Concord.  They came from Johnson, Vermont, a place not central to the culture even of Vermont, and yet a place obviously central to the consciousness and imagination of a fine poet. (Berry 57)

Have you ever felt like people who are not from your “place” tend to oversimplify your place, as if it belongs to some sort of province… as if “the South” is the same “South” in every southern state, or town? How does one politely come up against these rampant generalizations?  The answer is imagination.  I love this Wendell Berry quote:

My neighbors don’t look like Southerners or Kentuckians to me. The better I know them, the more they look like themselves.  The better I know my place, the less it looks like other places and the more it looks like itself.  It is imagination, and only imagination, that can give standing to these distinctions. (Berry 33).

As an author, writing about a place that is not my own has definitely been a task I do not take lightly.  I admit, I lack complete authority over the words I use to attempt to describe the place that is not my own.  I admit, my attempts pack less clout than those of an author who originates from the setting of my book.  I can attempt to research and gather as much contextual information as possible.  At the end of the day, I lean into humility and imagination.  Wendell Berry has helped me on this journey as a first-time author.  

You see, I have this fear that people will coin me as “fraud”.  The voices that come at me say, “How can a homeschool mom be an author of children’s books?  What about your family?  Isn’t your brain too zapped to tell the stories people want to hear?”  No matter what becomes of this, I certainly intend to read and write my entire life until I die. So, thank you Wendell Berry.  You broke the mold when you became a farmer who writes.  I am a homeschool mom who writes.  What will we hear of next – a shepherd boy who became the owner of a worldwide corporation?

The following short story follows a man named Visionary through his early years into his career as a carpenter.  The story finds its apex and quickly thereafter its resolution at the point where Visionary makes a life-altering decision.  

*Note: This short story is based on the life of Ole Kirk Christiansen, the subject of my new picture book biography I am publishing with Blue Sky Daisies and does NOT include excerpts from my book.  References are included.

A Man Called Visionary

by H.G. Lee

There was a man whose vision reached beyond the limits of his day. Visionary Man is what I’ll call him.  Visionary Man was born into an agrarian family in a Danish-speaking hamlet of white church and green field, brick cottage and wooden barn.  

Raised on the staples of home cooking and hard work, Visionary Man saw the beads of sweat on his parents’ foreheads. 

Going by “Visionary” for short, he worked out his hours in school and in the field, keeping his neighbors’ animals safe and fed.  The shepherd Visionary had bigger dreams that awaited him.  

The beads of sweat accrued from hours in his big brother’s carpentry shop led to a shaping, a forming, of Visionary’s hard work ethic.  As wood can be shaped into a masterpiece, the virtues found within Visionary’s heart were being shaped and refined.  Perhaps this apprenticeship was the beginning of the long road to excellence.  Nobody could have known what his life would be, no more than anyone can look at your life and see what might be or might have been had you chosen a different path.  

Six years of apprenticeship took Visionary from young, fourteen-year-old apprentice to twenty-year-old journeyman.  

The first cars were being mass-produced. The world had been put on wheels, and it was surely getting smaller, if you know what I mean. As Visionary proudly clutched his journeyman’s certificate, he made plans to study under the master carpenters in the land of fjords, Norway. His adult life was laid out ahead of him.  He had his training.

Carpentry work translated into many kinds of jobs.  He would go on to build churches, farm buildings, cabinets, doors and windows.  If this was all there was to his story, his life would have been considered very normal, perhaps.  It may not seem like he would go on to create a worldwide corporation whose name still elicits elated squeals from children and admiration from parents.

But Visionary’s story did not end there.

Remember, his name was Visionary.  He lived through the dawn of the twentieth century, where the airplane was the newest technology, and the Internet was introduced at dusk, long after his death.  Why did this Visionary at midlife look at his company and decide to start focusing more on toys for children than anything else?

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com


How did this man possess the resolve to make life better for children?  Was it his heart for others that led him to his own innovation? 

Some people laughed at him. His fellow townspeople knew him as Visionary, and many loved him.  But Visionary’s ideas took monetary risk.  He was a lovable man, but not always a safe man.  His ideas made him unsafe.  

Maybe you’d think this man was destined for the metropolis.

He could have moved to Copenhagen, rife with ready customers after his factory burned to the ground. He had offers to relocate.  Visionary’s loyalty got in the way.  He wanted to preserve the jobs of his friends, his workers, his “people” as he called them.  His loyalty and vision kept him in his town.  

You see, Visionary had been given a vision.  He spoke of it later as having come from God. His vision included a modern factory with assembly lines and machinery in his own town (not in a metropolis).  He loved his place.  He loved his work.  He loved the people who worked for him, refusing to call them workers, but instead, “people”.  Visionary was a special person. What would have been different had he decided to continue building household products, furniture, and churches?  A lot would have been impacted, no doubt.  Would Visionary still have had an impact in his place?  

Sometimes, it’s not what we produce that impacts people the most.  It’s who we are. 

References

Andersen, J. (2021, September 17). Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen about his grandfather: “he could gather 70-80 employees at the factory for devotion every day”.  Kristeligt Dagblad.  https://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/kultur/kjeld-kirk-kristiansen-om-sin-farfar-han-kunne-samle-70-80-medarbejdere-til-morgenandagt-paa

Anthony, W. (2018). The LEGO story. Scandinavian Review, Spring 2018, pages 17-33. https://www.amscan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Pages-from-SR-Spring-2018.pdf

Christiansen, P.N.G. (2021, November 29).  Out on an adventure. Ud & Se. https://www.udogse.dk/ud-paa-eventyr/

The LEGO Group. (2020). The lego group history [Infographic].

Lego.com US. https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/lego-group/the-lego-group-history/

GuideDanmark. (2022). Visit Billund. https://www.visit-billund.com/billund/service-information/filskov-gdk729232

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Saint Patrick’s Day Week: Things We Love (Books & More)

Disclosure statement: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these St. Patrick’s Day books, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting me!

A number of years ago, I received an AncestryDNA kit and took the test. My results were pretty…unsurprising! But, if you know me, you know I am a redhead. A true redhead. If you think I’m Irish or Scottish, I’m so sorry to disappoint. As it turns out, I’m very British (50%) and German (20%), followed closely by Swede and Dane (17%). Thank you, Vikings… I … guess?

However, I do have 5% Irish and 4% Scot in me. So, there.

Mark (my dad) and me (as a wee one). He is absolutely 0% Irish, but he’s 15% Scottish.

Now, this is what is really interesting. You do not have to be Irish to enjoy these books! HOORAY! Now we can breathe in and out a collective sigh of relief. Aaaah.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting (a tried and true)

Who Loves Tomie?

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola

Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie dePaola

St. Patrick by Tomie dePaola

Non-Fiction

Saint Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons

Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Diana Mayo and Joyce Denham

Folktales & Fairy Tales

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman (a co-op book club favorite)

Favorite Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs

Maisie McGillicuddy’s Sheep Got Muddy by Kelly Grettler (wanting a tour of Ireland?)

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott

Recipe Books

Saint Patrick’s Day Recipes for Everyone by Michelle Lee

The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook by Parragon Books

Morning Time Extras

St. Patrick’s Day Activity Book for Kids (Habu Publications)

Ireland Map (decor)

Irish Songs for Tin Whistle by Thomas Balinger

Who Was A.A. Milne? by Sarah Fabiny (I know he was not Irish, but don’t you want to learn more about the poet and creator of Winnie the Pooh? I do. We are reading his poetry in morning time, so I bought the book… it’s 33% off right now!)

For Adults Only

Dubliners by James Joyce (15 short stories about ordinary Irish people living in Dublin in the early 1900s)

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Mom of Multiple Children: Have You “Lost Yourself”? Don’t Despair!

Disclosure Statement: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these parenting resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Mom-ming It

“I am not sure I know what I’m good at anymore,” she says, voice cracking, eyes filling up with big tears. 

“I question if I am even cut out for this thing,”  another one says, anger welling up inside.  “Why, God, am I here at home, with these kids?”  

“I just stay at home,” I caught myself saying once to a new acquaintance.  

What in the world is going on here, moms of multiple children?  Have we lost our identities?  Are we feeling like we are just stay-at-home moms, as if that is some kind of badge of shame?  As if that is all we are?  As if we have no other roles or identities?

Feeling lost, mom of multiple children?  I have been there.   In fact, I have felt that way recently, and will continue to fight against that feeling that creeps into the dark recesses of my heart when I start gazing at what I wish I had or what I wish would change about my life.

I know I’m not the only one who has questioned my purpose and my calling. 

It’s a wrestling match.  Certain weeks I know I get caught up in thinking there is so much more I could be doing if I didn’t teach and keep children all day, homeschooling and parenting my three young children.   

On the flip side, I catch myself comparing and thinking that the Christian woman who homeschools a gaggle of kids under the age of eight and homesteads is the more pious one, the one I should be like. News flash: there are women who have many more children than I have. There are also women who are just gifted homesteaders.  


I wrestle to get that image out of my head.

Do you track with me? 

If so, here we are: caught in between the lies that our station in life lacks purpose and that if we embodied certain outward characteristics, we would be “better” people.  

First of all, I think many women who stay at home do so by choice.  In many cases, this implies a monetary sacrifice of money for time with family.  In other cases, it’s just a personal choice based on principles.  

Whether we do this by choice or not, it is a great thing.  It is a station packed with purpose.  Hear me out, though: it is not any more pious or good than the choice to be a working mom who has her kids in the daycare or the school.  I know, I’m a homeschooling mom.  Shouldn’t I be advocating for homeschool?  Of course.  My family has its reasons for homeschooling.  The purpose of my post is not to address our reasons as much as it is to address the INHERENT VALUE I have as a person, and guess what: it is NOT based on my decision to homeschool!!! Praise the LORD for that!

Now that I think I’ve made it clear that my decision to stay at home doesn’t make me a better or worse person than the next mom, let’s talk identity. 

Identity

The heart is at the root of my words, actions and thoughts. When I speak of “heart”, I am referring to my morality.  Morality refers to “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior,” (Oxford Languages).  The heart is also referring to the springs of life that flow out of us (Proverbs 4:23, para.).  

 I am inherently sinful, so my heart cannot really produce anything good without the invasion of the Holy Spirit.  

Even though this Spirit of God dwells inside me and seals my salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14, para.), I know I have a flawed perspective. My identity has been a major object of Satan’s attack.  Identity is knowing who I am.  Of course, I know how to dwell on my likes, dislikes and talents.  These do make up my identity, as I have been created in the image of God (the Imago Dei) to have talents, affections, and work that I love. After all, we were created in His image and He is a creative God.  Of course we are people who like to think thoughts, create creations, and work (and play) in purposeful ways.  As moms, we can carry out our God-given abilities and passions!  We can!  You can!   It just might look a little different in seasons of life that are demanding.

However, there is something much more critical when I speak of identity.  

Identity is knowing to Whom I belong.  I am not my own. I was created and given breath by God the Father.  My identity as a stay-at-home mom who homeschools is not even scratching the surface of my truest identity.  Homeschooling and stay-at-home parenting is simply a station that I’ve been given.  The vocation, the station, is where I find my tasks each day. I can evaluate the worthiness of each “task”, but that is futile.  Identity is truly not what we DO.  It is who we ARE.  If I AM made in the Imago Dei, then I have a spiritual aspect to my being that I MUST address.  As I stare down my tasks for the day, I realize that my station is where I do the work of saying “yes” to the God who loves me.  

We Are At War 

That irritation that wells up when the kids fight for the twentieth time of the day?  The sibling fight is simply a circumstance that requires a bigger, spiritual force to intervene and get to the heart.  If the spiritual is ignored, then it becomes a mere behavioral modification, an appeasement scheme.  I hate appeasement.  Appeasement is the opposite of love.  LOVE intervenes to the heart. It casts out fear and fights the fight I cannot handle on my own. 

Spiritually-speaking, we are not fighting a war against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12, para.).  When we yield to the Spirit, we draw closer to God Himself, as we take shelter and depend on His power to act in accordance with His character.  We are empowered by the Spirit to respond to anything that comes our way.  We boast in Him, because He is the one doing it. 

My point is, these seemingly mundane tasks: intervening to help siblings work through a conflict, the dishes, the laundry, the clean ups, the planning, the cooking, the teaching… the list goes on… are merely our stations.  They are our battle stations, if you will. Yet, we are not truly fighting the war.  God Almighty is fighting for us.  He is fighting the lies that rage within.  The lies that whisper, “you will never get past this” and “this is all there is” and “your worth is wrapped up in what you do”.  There is an opportunity to take hold of the power He can only give and use it for His kingdom because no matter your station, there is an opportunity to draw closer to God and bring Him glory!

A Word From Ephesians

If I remember I am safe and secure in my identity as one created in the Imago Dei and I have the Holy Spirit living inside me, then I can remember that I am also secure in my identity in Christ Jesus.  

If you are a mom struggling with identity, please read Ephesians 1.  Here are some truths you can tuck inside your heart:

-We are adopted daughters through Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:5)

-We are daughters that have been blessed with His grace in the Beloved. [Jesus] (Eph. 1:6)

-In Jesus, we have redemption through His blood.  (Eph. 1:7)

-In Jesus, we have forgiveness of our trespasses, according the riches of his grace. (Eph. 1:7)

-God has lavished his grace upon us. (Eph. 1:8)

-God is making known to us the mystery of His will. (Eph. 1:9)

-In Christ, we have an inheritance, having been predestined (chosen) according to the purpose of God. (Eph. 1:11)

-When you believed the gospel and believed in Jesus, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13)

-The Holy Spirit is the guarantee (or down payment) of our inheritance. (Eph. 1:14)

Knowing these truths from the Word Himself, how can we doubt His plan and purpose in creating us and giving us our stations?  I think sometimes I whine and look at my situations, pointing out how “crappy” they are.  What do I really want – empathy, acknowledgement, and… dare I say it… appeasement with niceties and pep talks from well-meaning people?  I think there is a difference between what I WANT at that moment and what I NEED.  I need the truth, in love.  The truth is that I am not enough.  The truth is that in griping about my situation (which might legitimately stink) I am complaining against the One who gives my lungs breath.  I need to humble myself and realize that I can get understanding and wisdom.  But humility precedes wisdom and honor (Proverbs 15:33).

If I look at my insecurities and insufficiencies and forget that Jesus gives me an identity that is truly amazing… then I will just be looking at myself and forgetting the God who is so much better.  I forget Him, and I make myself the sovereign one.  I boast in myself when I just see my own insufficiencies and do not look to the One who is everything I could ever ask for or hope for.  I might not be boasting in the same way we normally think of boasting, but it’s like I’m saying, “I am all there ever was and is and ever will be”.  I am living like an atheist, functionally-speaking.

Safe and Secure In Christ  

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.  We have hope.  Yes, we believe lies and fight against insecurity, bad circumstances and horrible attitudes all the time.  We do not have to flounder so badly if we are depending on Christ.  

The truth is, mom of many kids: God hears you and sees you.  You have not been forgotten.  Jesus knows your struggle.  Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in EVERY respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” (English Standard Version).  Jesus was tempted to be discontent with his station, since we are told he was tempted in every respect, albeit without sinning.  Jesus also humbled himself in His station, even though He was fully God.  By humbling Himself through the incarnation, we have this picture of humility.  He humbled Himself, but was exalted.  This will be true for us, if we are in Him!  Psalm 10:4 promises, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.”

We know that apart from Christ, we can do nothing that is worth doing.  But what grace we have in being united with Christ.  

“But he gives more grace.  Therefore it says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6).  

Grace enables us to move forward to the next day, hour, minute.

So when you are doubting the truth: 

You are SAFE and SECURE in Christ.

You are LOVED no matter what.

You are CALLED and CAPABLE.

You are RESPONSIBLE for your [own] actions.  

Believe first the truth that you are safe and secure.  Your identity is in Christ, not in all the things that will become dust one day.  You are so much more, in Christ!  Walk humbly in your station, whatever it may be, armed to fight the spiritual darkness, with Christ’s Spirit enabling you.  Know that your work is more meaningful than you could ever know.  One day, all these things will become apparent.   

Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

Action Steps

  • When tempted to despair, BREATHE IN…”Because Christ is enough,…”  BREATHE OUT…”I am secure.”
  • Let your body tell you when you are getting overwhelmed and falling into despair.  Tension in muscles, increase in heart rate, more shallow breathing, clenching teeth, flushed face and general uneasiness are all indications that we are starting to crumble into despair.  Fight the despair.  Look to the WORD and remember to breathe.  Make a quick escape (if it’s safe to leave the kids) to a safe place and pray to God.  Listen to some music that is full of truth and love.  Dwell on Ephesians 1.  
  • Make a list of all the ways God has given you identity in His Son, Jesus.  Who does the Bible say that you are in Christ?  Make that list and thank God He has adopted us!

Books on Parenting Humbly

Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic

Are My Kids on Track? by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Crossway

Instructing A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

The One Year Book of Hope: A 365-Day Devotional by Nancy Guthrie

The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books by Nancy Guthrie

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Self-Education is My New Venture

I am not writing today to discuss the idea of education in-depth. My goal is to share something that enlivens me to my core.
My most recent venture is starting the habit of a literary life. A literary life, in essence, is reading the things I want to read. It is reading widely and faithfully from the “Great Books” and from well-written modern texts alike. It is connecting with more than just the annals of the ancient world through a primary source text like an epic or ancient play. It is reading a complete volume of poetry, or an intimidating book I’ve been avoiding.

I Want to Become a Book Girl

Disclosure Statement: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these books, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

I’d like to think of myself as an educated human.
How is education measured, though? By test scores? By wit? By ability to think through a situation and solve the problem?

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

Charlotte Mason

I am not writing today to discuss the idea of education in-depth. My goal in writing is to share something that enlivens me to my core.

My most recent venture is starting the habit of a literary life. A literary life, in essence, is reading the things I want to read. It is reading widely and faithfully from the “Great Books” and from well-written modern texts alike. It is connecting with more than just the annals of the ancient world; it is being transported to a time and place and living amongst the people through a primary source text like an epic or ancient play. It is reading a complete volume of poetry or an intimidating book I’ve been avoiding.

I wish I could tell you reading for self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit had been a goal for my entire life up to this point, but I’d be lying.

I am coming off of a very stale relationship with books written for adults. I admit, I have a grand affinity for well-written children’s books. (I myself am writing one, after all!) C.S. Lewis said that, “a children’s story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story”. I agree. I know I have been exposed to some great ideas through the works of Robert McCloskey, Barbara Cooney, Thornton Burgess, modern authors like Melissa Sweet, Tomie DePaola, Jen Bryant, and Barb Rosenstock.

The staleness comes from a (sometimes valid) need for information regarding my station in life as a mom and homeschooling parent. For example, I recently discovered the podcast “Raising Boys and Girls” with Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan. In an effort to improve my parenting, I made an impulse-buy and got their Are My Kids on Track? I truly think I made a good decision, albeit a rushed one! However, I used to think I only had time for nonfiction, parenting books. What a drag.

My newly found love for the kind of reading that isn’t just in the form of self-help and parenting books is what gives me the motivation to press in to new worlds. It is the thing I most likely want to talk about, too – this new love for books. My husband hears a lot of it, but I am constantly looking for wise readers who can “point me in the right direction”. I am not saying I haven’t had a developed taste for books in the past. I remember taking a wonderful college course that pointed me to the “Great Books”: Persuasion, Madame Bovary, and Metamorphosis are three that I remember the most.

Nonetheless, I have held the incorrect assumption lately (as in the past 10 years) that I simply do not have time to read for fun, aside from the children’s picture books and read-alouds. This cannot be true, friends. I know it isn’t true because I have met a few kindred spirits who weave reading for pleasure into the fabric of their weeks. They are homeschooling moms, too. Don’t tell me that they do not lead already-full lives.

Take my friend Sarah Clarkson. Okay, she and I do not personally know one another, but she is my friend because I sense a kindred spirit within her. She is the author of my newest read, Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life . My real-life friend who I met on Instagram (does that count?), Laura, recommended this one for me to read.

A woman who reads is one who takes ownership of herself…she knows that to read is to begin an adventure of self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Sarah Clarkson

In Book Girl, Clarkson asserts that to be a reader, one must choose reading, again and again. It sounds simple, but it illuminates a specific phenomenon that is taking place in our modern culture: people are spending less time reading good books now more than ever. As an anecdote, Clarkson recounts the day a young editor visited her girlhood home. He gestured to the bookshelves, groaning under the weight of copious books. “All of this…will be gone in another few years. We can read so much more quickly now on a screen.” Sigh.

Clarkson’s response:

“I don’t think physical books will go out of style because we are embodied beings who need to touch and feel, smell and see reality in tangible ways. Books are more than ideas bound to black type. They are also gifts, companions, physical presences that walk with us through certain seasons of our lives.”

I find that the buzz of a busy brain overloaded with bits of information is a real detriment to reading. Mental space is one of the first things I need in order to be a reader… something I choose again and again.

Sarah Clarkson

I agree that physical books will never become extinct. I do share Clarkson’s concern here, too:

“My only concern with the use of technology for reading is simply that the fragmentary nature of online reading, the skim from headline to blog to article to Instagram not replace the habit of quiet, sustained reading, the kind that immerses you in the mind and ideas of another, giving you the space to consider, ponder and discern.”

Okay. So with that, I will wrap up this blog post.

Here is a look at one of the quotes that truly resonate with me from my reading of Book Girl:

The words you memorize become a part of you.

Sarah Clarkson

If you agree that we were created people of words that eventually shape us into who we are, then we are definitely on the same page. May we seek to encourage each other into a reading life. I can keep you updated on my journey. Would you join me?

books on my nightstand (some of these I am just starting)

My Reading Life in the Commonplace Book

The quest for connection and self-education through good books brings me to The Literary Life Commonplace Book by Angelina Stanford, Cindy Rollins and Thomas Banks.

How It Works

This is more than a reading log. It is carefully choosing the books I will read for select genres, then reading them. Making time during the day is what I’m dedicated to doing now – mostly at night, before I go to sleep. The thing that I love about the commonplace is the area where I can write down the best quotes that resonate with me from what I’m reading. It also has a section where I can review each book and give it a star rating. The authors of the Literary Life Commonplace Book also host the Literary Life Podcast. On pages 28-30, they offer their own suggestions for books to read, but I like to ask my social media and newsletter audience for suggestions. By the way, each book I am currently reading was a suggestion from a friend!

Literary Life Commonplace Book

May I share the titles I have chosen with you? If you have suggestions in any of these categories, the titles are not set in stone (aside from Book Girl and the Wendell Berry work).

In no particular order, I choose to read this year:

We are people of words. Moms count, too. Let’s spur each other on to a literary life.

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One Month of Narration Ideas, Three Years’ Worth of Books!

Narration Ideas for Days… Book Ideas for YEARS!

Narration

I designed a narration resource back in June and wanted to give it a little facelift for you. I am linking it below. Narration is the “art of knowing” and retelling what you have learned after reading something. You can retell a reading in spoken words, in written words, or in another creative way. My aim in designing this matrix is to give you ideas in the case of brain cramp. We all get those at the most convenient moments, don’t we?

Booklists

I want to bless you with three years’ worth of book recommendations. Each selection is carefully chosen based on the criteria for a living book.

A living book:

  • is written in narrative form by someone who is passionate about his or her subject
  • fires the emotions
  • ignites the imagination
  • is well-written
  • is written more like a chat with an expert in her field of expertise!

*90% of the books on my lists are living books. I denote the books that do not meet living book status, because there are some. I think you’ll love all of them, though. You can use them in any way you’d like. The content areas for the three Classical Conversations Cycles are present here in every book list. Enjoy, friends!

Year 1 Booklist

Year 2 Booklist

Year 3 Booklist

Make sure you don’t miss out on MORE resources and booklists! Sign up to be a part of our email community. It’s one way I encourage and show support to my most engaged audience.

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How I Fell In Love With Picture Book Biographies

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small amount from the purchase of these wonderful picture book biographies, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Does it surprise you that I love picture book biographies? I’m writing one; in fact I already wrote a picture book biography. If you had told me fifteen years ago that I would author a picture book biography for children and adults to enjoy, I would have choked on my water (because that is about all I was drinking fifteen years ago). I most assuredly loved reading good, living picture books to my students, but I would have been unfamiliar with the term “living book” if you had used it around me.

I have always enjoyed a good story, like most of you.  I taught in the public school system for four years and was undoubtedly exposed to some good ones.  Nonetheless, my love story does not begin there.  In fact, my love for good picture books has developed a lot more since I now have children of my own. It is more about connecting with little humans and big humans and less about analyzing the literature. Now, I think I am in love with well-written picture book biographies. Really.

My love story begins with a book called Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant.  The year was 2019. I had just listened to a popular reading podcast that inspired me to budget and buy some recommended picture book biographies.

a beloved book

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille is the story of how Louis Braille came into the world and changed it for better.  He was underestimated from a young age, but especially misjudged after an injury and ensuing infection left him blind as a child.  Jen Bryant does a fabulous job stretching out the scene of the moment in time when five-year-old Braille’s curiosity got the best of him, changing his life forever.  For a young man who saw darkness, Louis Braille’s life story was told so vividly.  I felt deep empathy as Bryant used simile to show Braille’s frustration with his sudden blindness.  In the narrative, Braille recalls a chained dog in his small French town and identifies with it.  It was as if his blindness held him back, like the tightly chained dog.   

I felt a connection to him that could not be replicated in the reading of a textbook. 

You see, when you read a well-written living book, you do not need to understand simile, metaphor, or iambic pentameter. You certainly can enjoy literary elements, but they are not essential to connecting with the text and the story. You will ascertain beauty, if it is in fact a story that exposes a transformation, connects struggle to a success, or disseminates a moral truth.

Everyone loves a good transformation story.

Louis Braille’s story is one of overcoming the odds.  He was the one who created the six-dot system of writing for the blind, enabling them to read anything they wanted to. 

When he arrived at the school for the blind in Paris, Louis had limited access to books.  Resolving to be one of the best students at the school, the day finally came when Louis earned the right to open the few books the school had.  This endeavor proved disappointing.  Louis, tracing the outlines of the standard alphabet letters only to read a couple of sentences on one page, wanted more.  He wanted to learn.  How was he going to learn if each page only had a couple of sentences, and the books were only so long?

The recurring theme in this story is Louis’s aversion to other’s pity for his situation.  That aversion and his own determination to learn and live life propelled him forward toward innovation.  He dreamed of the chained dog breaking free.  He spent hours each night developing a new alphabet that would eventually replace the old way of teaching the blind to read and write.

The story is so good and would be sufficient without beautiful artwork to accompany its pages. 

Nonetheless, the picture book biography is a work of art in varying media.

I fell in love with Louis Braille’s story as I gazed at the art depicting his hardship and determination.  The words carried most of the weight in telling his story, I will admit.  Nonetheless, the pictures certainly breathed life into a time and place I was getting to know.  Boris Kulikov has developed his distinct style.  His art style makes me think of olden days.  I surely do not want to neglect acknowledging the immense contribution visual artists have given our world.  They deliver truth, goodness, and beauty in a most palpable way.

The first-person narrative of Louis Braille includes an author’s note, q & a, and resources for further study at the end.  In addition, the inside of the back board includes a tidy graphic of the Braille alphabet and numerals.

There is power in a story.  A story moves people. 

There is connection in a story.  A story connects us to the characters.  Reading stories aloud and telling stories to our children connects us to one another.

There is art in a picture book. A picture book is like a handheld gallery of beauty and ideas.

I love the power of a story to connect people across different places and times. 

I think writing about others appeals more to me than writing about myself.  This is one of the reasons I was compelled to write a picture book biography.  After some searching, I arrived at my subject: I am honored to tell the story of Ole Kirk Christiansen, LEGO founder.  This man was incredibly visionary.  I cannot wait to share his story with you!  If you look through my list of some of my favorite picture book biographies, I know you are going to love this one.  I have already written the book and we are in the editing phase.  To follow me on my journey from first draft to first printed copy, you can join my email community.  I love being able to communicate these intimate details with my most engaged audience.  I hope to inspire and humbly share.

I briefly described here what captivates me in the picture book biography.  I am passionate about stories that utilize literary devices to skillfully disseminate beauty, truth, and goodness about a person’s life.  I must share a few of my favorites with you. In case you haven’t yet found my booklists on the internet, here is a link.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel; Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul L. Maier; Illustrated by Greg Copeland

Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern; Illustrated by Pau Estrada

Becoming Bach by Tom Leonard

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden Illustrated by Don Tate

Mathematicians are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians by Luetta Reimer and Wilbert Reimer

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Leave It to Abigail! The Revolutionary Life of Abigail Adams By Barb Rosenstock

Until later, fellow biography lovers!

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Six Things in an Introverted Mom’s Survival Kit

It’s the end of a long day and I’m spent.  I am an introvert.  This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to those people who know me well.  I am very happy to be around others, but by the end of our hangout sessions, I am done.  I relish time spent in my thoughts.  I relish time alone.  My ideal time would consist of me waking up, enjoying a hot cup of coffee with my breakfast, and spending time with a good book, the Word, or writing something new, at my own pace and at my own leisure.  I’d most likely peruse Pinterest for some inspiration, as well.  I am creative, when left to my own devices.

The introvert life is a thing of the past.  Well, it at least seems like I left it in the rear-view mirror a few years ago.  My time spent with one young child was a breeze.  How I remember those couple of years fondly!  Putting him down for his nap meant I had alone time. 

So, how am I doing it now, you might ask?  I have three kids: aged 7, 5 and 3.  Oh boy!  I know, some of you are masters in your own 3-ring circus, and yours is probably larger than mine.  However, three is a weighty number when it comes to two married individuals who also both happen to be introverted. 

In all seriousness, I love our children and realize that they are blessings from the Lord.  They are an inheritance, and they are arrows in my quiver.  I realize these things.  I do often relish the time I have with them.

However, the need for a rest during the day makes things excruciating, because I rarely get one.  Let’s face it: all moms need a rest, no matter their natural dispositions. 

I once heard of a blog called “Naptime Kitchen”.  It is probably a very popular blog.  However, the name struck me as this reality to which I said farewell many moons ago.  Naptime kitchen?  I do not get a naptime kitchen, but it sounds extremely nice.  What a luxury! 

How do I make things work and how in the world do I function in a world devoid of a naptime kitchen?!

Of course, there is retreating to my room and exercising.  But can I also order my day in a way that prompts thriving?  This is more than an escape.  It is a rhythm.

Here are a few big-picture rhythms that allow me to at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.  A few of them are probably unexpected things.  I have had to mature and come to a few of these realizations through a process of sanctification.  It has been a painful process.  Nonetheless, the process has allowed me to grow in wisdom. 

Systems

Let me preface by stating that I am not an uber-organized human.  I love organization and structure, but I am not COMPELLED to organize beyond the necessary.  Don’t get me wrong – I love a clean kitchen and feel like I cannot commence my daily activities if I do not clean the kitchen first.  So, I suppose I have standards.  Who doesn’t?  I mean, your standard is surely different from my own, but we ALL have standards.  It’s the system that you implement that makes the standards work for you, not the “you” working as a slave to the standards. 

If I had to place my “systems” in categories, they would fall under:

  1. Systems of self-regulation
  2. Systems of physical organization
  3. Systems of mental organization
  4. Systems of atmosphere

Systems of Self-Regulation

Systems of self-regulation are the tools that I use to help talk myself off the ledge.  They are emotional and mental regulation techniques.  Taking a deep breath before I engage with another irrational human is one such emotional technique.  Refuting lies from Satan with the truth of God’s principles is one such mental technique.  The mental is related to the emotional.  If you believe a lie (mental), you will feel a certain way about this distorted reality.  This also leads to physical responses (i.e., increased heart rate, increased levels of stress hormone cortisol, fight-or-flight response).  I mean, YES, I was trained as a counselor but it does not take a counselor’s training to arrive at the basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Do I use these self-regulation techniques often?  As an introvert, you bet I should!  I also take myself to a “safe place” to regulate again if I am pushed to the brink of an emotional meltdown.  You know what else I do?  I refuse to engage in back and forth over text messaging (or social media).  That is futile.  I do not recommend it to anyone.

Systems of Physical Organization

Systems of physical organization really speak for themselves.  “I put x over here and my physical space is more orderly”.  The process is really a no-brainer, but the motivation is so hard to muster up sometimes.  Some of you are probably thinking, “I organize a new space in my home every single day,”. I really want to be more like you one day if I am being honest.   I love Mystie Winckler.  She is an author and blogs on her website Simply Convivial.  She formed a support group with her email community.  Together, during the month of February, we are committed to organizing a different, small space of our home each day.  YAY!  I am in her community, but I am not accepting this challenge, at least not every day (sigh).  I know.  I must prioritize, and I feel like I am coming from an incredibly overwhelming January.  I could beat myself up about not participating.  However, now that I know what the community is working on, you know what? I am inspired to do something organizational this month!  I really am!  Thank you, Mystie!  It may not be every day, but it is something.

One thing that has been a help to me is learning how to organize my laundry system.  I know, you might be a laundry queen and have it all figured out.  That’s awesome! Well, I am not there, YET (saying “yet” helps me feel better).  I do have a system, though.  My friends are these big dish bins.  I color code them (bought these on Amazon), one for each child.  I commit to doing one load of laundry a day. (Do not smirk, laundry queen!).  Okay, so I do the necessary linens each day, but I commit to washing and drying one load of clothing per day, usually specific to a particular room in the home.  I have laundry baskets in each of the bedroom closets.  The laundry I wash IDEALLY gets folded and placed in the proper color-coded bin of the respective children.  Then, I am done.  My son is seven.  He puts all his laundry away, not without complaining (something we all need to work on).  My daughter puts her laundry away with my help.  My three-year-old son perfectly hangs his shirts up.  JUST KIDDING!  I do all of that for him, but ONE day, he will take the baton.  The 5-step habit training system is going to come into play when I see he is ready to begin taking on his own laundry.

What is the 5-step habit training system, you might ask?  Well, this is something I stole from Simply Charlotte Mason, so I take zero credit for the idea.  I will take credit for this cute “habit tracker” worksheet, though. 

Okay, so the 5-step habit training goes like this:
1. I do.  You watch.

2. I do and you help.

3. You do and I help.

4. You do and I watch.

5. You do and I inspect.

Do you know I have only used this system on forming one habit, so far?  I am a failure (Wait! That’s a lie I must refute! NO, I am not a failure.  I am a work in progress.  “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV).  My son now makes his bed.  That’s the one habit. 

Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing with you because I would have loved to have this little tool a couple of years ago, but now I have it and it has been working (most of the time).

Systems of Mental Organization

One word comes to my mind when I think of systems of mental organization: LISTS!  I love some lists, you guys.  However, I used to be such a list freak that I would write down stupid things like, “unload the dishwasher” and plan out every minute of my day.  Who has time for that now?

I still use lists.  Furthermore, I have a sticky note obsession.  It’s the squares, y’all.  Those perfect squares help me compartmentalize.  When I am finished with one task, I get the satisfaction of throwing that task in the TRASH!  I chuck that sticky note!

Just as good as the list is the LOOP.  Loop schedules have helped propel me through otherwise daunting tasks or long series of tasks that would cause me to despair if I did not get to one thing.  You see, loops are not time-sensitive.  They are sequential, but do not have to be completed in any particular time frame.  That’s why I love the loop during the morning time, our interdisciplinary studies.  By the way, morning time is my favorite time of the school day, so we do not choose to miss it unless we are so far behind.  My children all love morning time.  At the moment, our morning time consists of:

  1. Singing doxology together at breakfast
  2. Praying
  3. Hymn

Clean up breakfast, move into living room

  • BEAUTY LOOP

Day 1: Poetry

Day 2: Composer study

Day 3: Joke book

Day 4: Picture study

I build in buffer time when I only allot 4 days to BEAUTY LOOP.

  • Math word problem
  • ANCIENT HISTORY STUDY LOOP

Day 1: Read and children narrate

Day 2: Read and children narrate

Day 3:  Map work

Day 4: Coloring page

Systems of Atmosphere

Lastly, the systems of atmosphere are harder to put our fingers on if you catch my drift.  However, I love atmosphere because it reflects a lifestyle and is more like breathing than it is like consciously striving.  The atmosphere of a home is so important.  It is also kind of tricky.  So, how does one make a system of atmosphere? 

We look to ideas, beauty, and connection to provide atmosphere.  Ideas and beauty come in the form of good books and occasional movies, music, nature study, play, outdoor time and the rhythms of meeting together (more on anchors later). 

Why Systems for the Introvert?

How do systems help me as an introverted mom? They are life-giving yet provide boundaries.  The textbook introvert might be described as lacking strength in boundary-setting, but I am learning that boundaries are exactly what I need as an introvert.  At any rate, I think systems will help any person function in the framework of the household.  There are so many systems you and I use each day, without thinking twice.  What’s your system for communicating with the entire family?  The calendar.  You probably keep one somewhere.  I am not to the point where I display the calendar in a central location where all my kids can read it and write down their engagements, but one day I plan to do this, when it can be utilized by everyone.  Systems are easy to spot and easy to create.  It’s harnessing them and maintaining them that make all the difference.

Anchors

Anchors are built-in points during the day that absolutely must happen, no matter what. 

We must eat three meals a day.

The kids must go down for bed. 

The day must start and school must begin.

You get the picture.

An introverted mom like me is always looking for the anchors in the day.  I attach things that may be hard to accomplish in isolation to anchors because they suddenly become inescapable.  This is best accomplished when the little people are contained.  Sitting at the kitchen table to eat breakfast is a perfect segue into morning time.  After morning time is enjoyed, we breathe and move (physically and mentally) to the next task until we reach the next anchor: lunch.

Lunch, for me, is merely survival right now.  I used to envision a “literary lunch”.  In my mind, I would read aloud to my three children, who would attend to the engaging story and ask the best questions and provide the best insight.  Yeah, we are not there yet.  Not even close.  Right now, it is all about keeping the little dude in his seat to eat his food.  It’s also about training them in the way of manners and such.  Most days, it’s me trying to keep their plates full and then I eat at the kitchen counter, away from the chaos.  So, there is room for improvement.

The next anchor of the day is my son’s nap.  This is the signal to my older two that they are on their own for the next couple of hours – an introverted mom’s dream.  Yet, I am never alone.  No, not really.  The only way I could ever really be alone would be to hire a babysitter.  Sometimes, that is exactly what I do!  Other times, I look at the naptime as my chance to engage with the older two in short spurts, after I clean that kitchen.  By the time I’m finally done cleaning, I’m kind of ready to collapse, but sometimes, I really do make the extra effort to do something with them.  It might be drawing in the school room.  It might be playing outside.  It might look like reading to them.  Whatever it is, I know I am kind of at the dregs of my bucket.  I have just a little more left.  So, I need a recharge.  That’s when I look at my pockets (more on those later).

The final anchor of the day is dinner.  Dinner is when I have a captive audience for storytelling and recapping the day.   We also take dinner to narrate to Daddy about the day, or about something we have been learning or something we saw.  We attach number facts and phonogram flash cards to dinner.  We do this because our son is rusty on his facts and we want to use our anchor time wisely.  Plus, when Daddy calls out facts, it is a form of outsourcing.  My son gets rewarded with my husband’s reading a chapter from The Hardy Boys. Therefore, I can devote my attention to the other two kids or… I clean the kitchen. 

Both my husband and I look to the last anchor of the day (kids’ bedtime) to which we attach prayer, singing, and a short book.  Then we hope for the best and say goodnight.  We are zapped. 

Anchors are a natural part of the day.  Figuring out the best use of the anchors in your day will help you feel like you are working smarter, not harder.  Which activities will you attach to your anchors?

Pockets

Pockets are (mostly) enjoyable opportunities that propel us toward the anchors in our days.  One of our pockets is music.  Can you think of a song you could play to act as a cue to your children that an anchor is about to happen?  I’ll tell you about my son in the first grade.

My son was a first grader last year.  Our song was “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.  I really don’t like that song very much, but it has grown on me, and it is catchy.  My son loved it in the first grade.  So, that was his cue to come get started with me once I had cleaned the kitchen.  It told him that were moving toward beginning our schoolwork.  Did this pocket work? I would say it did, 85% of the time.  The other 15% consisted of him begging for another song or delaying further with a snack request.  So, we had to adjust, and I made the rule that all snack and water must be gathered by the time the song was done playing.

Other pockets for us are: snuggling with the preschooler, a TV break right before lunch, blessing Daddy by cleaning up before he gets home from work, a bedtime story and snuggle. 

Pockets bring us some vigor to days that are mundane.

Confession and Repentance

An introvert internalizes a lot of her interactions.  Why did I say that?  Has that crossed your mind before? Ha!

Sometimes, we just make mistakes and lack a filter in communication.

Other times the things we say are sinful and wrong.  The weight of this sin is such a burden, isn’t it?

Remember, we have forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  Repent and believe the gospel.  I fight my flesh daily.  When I give in and sin badly against another soul, I look to David’s Psalm 51.  The first two verses are:

1 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:1,2 ESV

(The entire Psalm is so good.)

Recently, I had to read this Psalm.  Afterward, I did feel the weight of my sin flow out of me.  Then, I was able to breathe again. 

In response to Psalm 51, I had to give myself time in my safe place, my “time out” place.  I had to admit my sin to myself and to God.  I had to turn from it and acknowledge there was something much better.  I had to pause and try to realize that it is not a battle of flesh and blood I was fighting.  It is against the powers of darkness that we wrestle.  “Being right” is not winning, because not a single person on this earth is truly wise.  I had to let that go and just look at the One who is perfect and right and offers something nobody else can offer: grace. 

Receiving Grace

You are an amazing work of art that God put into being!  Do you really believe it, though?  You are smart and beautiful.  You are loved.  Do you even know it?  I think sometimes we women especially devalue ourselves and fail to realize just how special we are. 

I know, we are also sinners.  Yes, and yes.  However, do we go back to the fact that God chose to bring himself glory by creating us?  He sent His only Son to die for us, to redeem us, and to bring us everlasting life.  He makes us completely His and we are enough.  We are made in His image. We are enough, in Christ.  If you go about life and fail to realize your worth in Christ, you will fail to set boundaries for yourself and for others.  You will also strive to prove yourself constantly. It will be your modus operandi.  So, receive the grace that covers everything.  Yes, we are worthy in the sense that we are made in God’s image, every one of us.  Sure, we are not enough without Christ, but realizing that is beautiful.  When we embrace that we are enough in Christ, we can move forward with dignity and wholeness.  We can make decisions out of a more secure place. This grace helps me move through my day, even though I sometimes go the entire day without seeing it and taking hold of it.  My prayer is that I would be drawn to the reminders of grace when I start my day, when I am in the middle of it, and before I lay myself down to sleep.  Grace yields peace and security, forever.

Wonder

Among the many things to wonder, grace is at the top of my list.

“Wonder: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

What makes you wonder?  What is beautiful and admirable?  I’ll tell you what I like to incorporate into our days that can elicit my wonder.

  1. Nature Study
  2. Watercolor
  3. Play
  4. Walking outside

So, go ahead and wonder.  Build it into your day.  Make it a pocket that propels you toward your anchors. 

I will be cheering you on!

Books that allow me to wonder these days:

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund

Nature narratives, like: The Burgess Animal Book: Mammal and Nature Education Storybook by Thornton W. Burgess

any kind of good, picture book biography with quality illustrations

Tools Work With Right Perspective

The good news about these tools – systems, anchors, pockets – is that they augmented when I see my life through a lens of confession and repentance, grace and wonder. 

The world is a noisy place.  Thinking about all the ways we want to implement tools can be overwhelming.  Seeing the big picture first helps me.  Breaking up the things I want to work on into chunks is key.  Outsourcing certain responsibilities can be beneficial.  I admit I am weak, but He is strong.  Order will come if we pursue it and ask for God’s guidance.  Knowing that my time is not my own is helpful, too.  Reframing this idea that I am owed any peace and quiet and acknowledging that I am owed nothing and cannot expect a naptime kitchen or a cheerful child is also key.  I can be responsible for myself.  God will meet me there and has already orchestrated everything, so I can trust his plan is good because He is good.  I can let go of control.  I can focus on my own obedience in the mundane instead of despising the mundane. 

Besides the usual, albeit good coping habits of retreating to a safe place and exercising, I think structure, boundaries and right perspective all help an introverted mom not only survive but live well. 

I hope this has given you something to think about.  How do you live well?


 

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National LEGO Build Day, Living Projects Are My Treat To You & Week 15 Booklist

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I might earn a small portion from the purchase of some of these LEGO books, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support.

I am so thankful to my email community.

People I personally know have shown me support and have spread the word. Thank you, dear friends!

I am also humbled in seeing how my community has grown over the past month. I cannot think that the only people interested in my content are those who know me personally. I have met kindred spirits, near and far! Thank you!

I want to invite you to join my email community. I am regularly designing exclusive, free content for my inbox buddies. I love doing this. So, if you are not already a member of our email community, please sign up.

Each Living Project includes:

  • links to engaging educational videos that serve to enrich thematic content
  • read aloud suggestions
  • narration ideas
  • family discussion questions
  • enrichment or extension projects that align with Classical Conversations content
  • LEGO trivia
SAMPLE of one page of a Living Project (Week 2)

Booklist

Another perk I have created for my email community is the booklists I make each week. Are you ready to see Week 15?

Here is the Week 15 booklist, aligned with Classical Conversations Cycle 1, Week 15. I try my best to curate quality, living books. This list has some lovely books.

Last but certainly NOT least, did you know that TOMORROW, January 28, 2022 is LEGO BUILD DAY?

Get your build on!

Check out these LEGO titles:

The Lego Ideas Book: Unlock Your Imagination by Daniel Lipkowitz

The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks you Already Have by Sarah Dees

How to Build LEGO Houses: Go on a Journey to Become a Better Builder by Jessica Farrell

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5 Things You May Not Know About Charlotte Mason

If you homeschool, you have probably heard of the name “Charlotte Mason”.  Prior to homeschooling my oldest, I was researching educational philosophies.  Five years ago, if you had asked me about Charlotte Mason, I would have said that she is a contemporary, 21st century education guru who loves being out in nature.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Clearly, I had some reading to catch up on! 

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn from the purchase of qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

If you homeschool, you have probably heard of the name “Charlotte Mason”.  Prior to homeschooling my oldest, I was researching educational philosophies.  Five years ago, if you had asked me about Charlotte Mason, I would have said that she is a contemporary, 21st century education guru who loves being out in nature.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Clearly, I had some reading to catch up on! 

Circa 2017, before I really knew much about Charlotte Mason.

Charlotte Marie Shaw Mason was born January 1, 1842.  She was a pioneer in education for her time.

Miss Mason had been home educated, was an only child, and never married.  After losing both of her parents at age sixteen, she enrolled in the Home and Colonial Society for the training of teachers and earned a First Class Certificate (Simply Charlotte Mason). She became a teacher and incorporated into her philosophy of education that children, no matter social class, should be offered a wide, generous, and liberal education.

Now, Charlotte Mason’s name resounds throughout the halls of many a homeschool. 

Going against the mainstream thought of her time, Charlotte Mason believed education should involve the whole child – the academic, emotional, and spiritual – not just the mind.

I am learning a lot about Charlotte Mason’s principles and life as I apply her methods.  I do not want to just execute the methods; I want to know the reason behind the application.

Over the course of my time learning, I am compelled to share a few things you may not know about this British educator.

A favorite book.

1. Miss Mason and the principles she ‘discovered’ do not belong to one era.

Charlotte Mason made assumptions about her readers and her culture that do not apply to twenty-first-century Americans or Canadians. How many of us are intimately familiar with the writings of H.G. Wells, or would be able to understand any reference made about a minor character in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House?  I am ignorant about these things myself (although I own a couple of H.G. Wells’ works).  It’s when I start to read and listen to the ideas and references Charlotte Mason communicates to her own culture and time that I realize just how very little I know, period. 

I first need to understand the mere references Charlotte Mason makes about her own time and people before I can begin to understand her principles that agree with the classical thinkers…right? 

Wrong.

Miss Mason read a lot.  Furthermore, she read a lot of the classical and modern thinkers and philosophers, from Plato to Locke to Ruskin.  In Karen Glass’s work Consider This we learn that “her books contain references to such thinkers as Plato, Plutarch, Erasmus, Comenius, Milton, Montaigne, Rousseau, Spenser, Locke, Herbart, Pestalozzi, Arnold, Ruskin, James, and dozens more by name…” (2014, p. 8).  Maybe I recognize half of the names on that list. Glass again writes in her In Vital Harmony that Miss Mason’s audience was comprised of “wordy Victorians and their successors – the Edwardians,” (2019, p. 1).  

Back up, I need another history lesson.  Who were the Edwardians? 

Here’s the good news, for me: 

While knowing who the Edwardians were is surely relevant to Charlotte Mason’s use of certain analogies and references, I do not think that knowing them any consequence for the utility of her principles.  I say “her” principles, but she discovered them from people who lived long before she did.  “She herself said that she and her colleagues had ‘discovered’ them, because they represent universal truths about education that have their roots in the classical world,” (Glass, 2014, p. 9). Her principles are transcendent of time.  Her principles are as useful to us as they were to Charlotte Mason and to the people who lived during Plato’s time

Principles do not change.  The way we talk about the principles might change a bit from generation to generation. Therefore, “the essential principles of education are exactly as they have always been, but they remain living and do not become stale when they are turned around and examined afresh in light of current thought,” (Glass, 2019, p. 2).  Cultural context may alter what we emphasize about a principle, but that does not negate the fact that it is still a principle, which by nature, is constant.

2. Miss Mason didn’t write her well-known books until she was in her forties.  She cofounded the Parents’ Educational Union at age forty-five. 

I think that people might assume Charlotte Mason had her writing career well underway by the time she was in her early thirties, but this was not so.  Between ages thirty-eight and fifty, Miss Mason wrote a popular series called the Ambleside Geography Books (Wikipedia.org).  This series would begin her ample literary contribution to education.  What did she do before age thirty-eight? After earning her teaching certificate, Miss Mason taught at the Davison School in Worthing, England for over ten years. 

Soon after, she was invited to lecture and teach at Bishop Otter Teacher Training College in Chichester, England, where she stayed for more than five years (Simply Charlotte Mason).  From her experience there, Charlotte developed a series of lectures aimed at helping parents understand basic principles about bringing up children.  These lectures were later published as Home Education and were widely received.  Charlotte cofounded the Parents’ Educational Union (PEU) in 1887 in Yorkshire (Wikipedia.org).  This organization would provide resources and support to educators and homeschool parents in the United Kingdom.  The periodical created for keeping up with PEU members was entitled “Parents’ Review”.

3. Miss Mason was an upstanding member of the Anglican church but was not a proponent of Sunday schools.

Why does it seem that Charlotte Mason sometimes gets overlooked in Christian circles?  She was Anglican and believed that much of the discipleship of children is the responsibility of the parents.  She therefore did not spend a lot of time discussing education in the local church.  She was not a big proponent of Sunday schools because they took away the parent’s duty and placed it into the hands of another source.
Charlotte Mason said this about Sunday school in her Parents and Children (1904/1989):

…that is, the Sunday School is, at present, a necessary evil, an acknowledgment that there are parents so hard pressed that they are unable for their first duty. Here we have the theory of the Sunday School––the parents who can, teach their children at home on Sunday, and substitutes step in to act for those who can not.

(Taken from Parents and Children, pp. 92-93, qtd. in Charlotte Mason Poetry)

Miss Mason was, however, a proponent of the unity of knowledge as it relates to all truth being God’s.  There was no dichotomy between the secular and the sacred.  Her belief that all knowledge is connected because it springs from a single source, the source being God, is referred to as the “Great Recognition”. (Glass, 2019, p. 32).

4. Miss Mason was trying to dispel commonly held beliefs of her time regarding children.

In Charlotte’s time, evolution was a new theory.  In effect this science impacted the way people thought about children.  “First, it was widely disseminated that at birth children were less than persons – akin to oysters – and not yet capable of thoughts and feelings that belong to a person,” (Glass, 2014, p. 13).  The evolutionary thought perceived a baby to not be a fully developed human.  Sad, isn’t it? 

Charlotte Mason did not agree that children were less evolved or without mental capacity.  Therefore her principle, “Children are born persons” is so consequential for her time. In addition, her time was rife with the idea that a person was either born good or born bad, and that education could not change his or her nature.  Charlotte rejected this idea, too.  If a child was born “bad” and you cannot do a thing about it, not matter what, then what good will an education do?  “You might very well leave him alone to reap the consequences as they come, and the sooner he is out of the way the better,” (Glass, 2014, p. 16).  Taking Charlotte’s view that all possibilities are present with a child, laying down a foundation of good habits and principles can effect change in a child’s character.  Helping the child to see faults in his character acknowledges the possibilities for change. 

Wisdom and virtue are necessary, because we are all flawed, but have potential for good.  (Charlotte Mason was not making a statement regarding man’s original sin or total depravity but was taking an opposite stance to Darwinism.  She did believe in the doctrines of original sin and total depravity, but that is not the point she is alluding to when she describes children as “not born either good or bad”.)

 I love this quote of Charlotte’s, which exudes her respect for children, made in God’s image, albeit fallen in their humanity:

We must reverence or despise children; and while we regard them as incomplete and undeveloped beings who will one day arrive at the completeness of man, rather than as weak and ignorant persons, whose ignorance we must inform and whose weakness we must support, but whose potentialities are as great as our own, we cannot do otherwise than despise children, however kindly and even tenderly we commit the offence.

Charlotte Mason

(taken from Philosophy of Education, p. 238, qtd. in Karen Glass-Author)

How should this reality impact us, as teachers of our children?  We are given quite a task, to nurture and lay the foundation for virtue in these souls of our children, but we have the help of the Lord.  Their souls are worth it. Souls are redeemed by Christ alone.  Souls are nurtured and cared for by loving, Christian parents that God purposes to carry out His divine providence, the training up of a child.  Common grace is a thing, too.  The souls of children who are not yet saved are still able to experience common grace.  My point is, Charlotte Mason recognized the need to educate all children’s souls because she regarded them as persons, with possibilities for good and for evil.  They are not ALL good, and they are not ALL evil, without hope of doing any good. 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/925489792146583290/

5. In addition to a geography series and her six volumes on education, Mason wrote and published a six-volume work called The Saviour of the World, a study in verse of the life and teaching of Jesus, between 1908 and 1914.

While Charlotte Mason wrote from an educator’s and not a theologian’s perspective, she did state that, “education is the handmaid of religion”.  Charlotte writes:

There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put Education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion.

(taken from Philosophy of Education, p. 46, qtd. in Karen Glass-Author)

This quote is another interesting one, and I am not sure I completely agree that if we foster good the evil will be mitigated, but we can hope so! Trusting in God’s sovereign power through prayer is imperative here, but also realizing that God does use people (like Christian parents) to carry out his sovereign will be also key.  All debate and speculation aside, I think it is remarkable that Charlotte Mason devoted six years of her life to studying the life and teaching of Jesus, writing down her meditations on the gospels in verse (poetry).  How lovely.  Did you know this work (all six volumes, plus an unpublished seventh) can be found online here?  The published volumes are entitled: The Holy Infancy (V. 1), His Dominion (V. 2), The Kingdom of Heaven (V. 3), The Bread of Life (V. 4), The Great Controversy (V. 5), and the Training of the Disciples (V. 6) (Charlotte Mason Poetry).  Now I would like to spend some time sitting with these poetic works!

In conclusion, it might be tempting to put Charlotte Mason in a box, but if you haven’t read about her life or her works, thought about her famous principles, and discussed many of her quotes, it would be easy to stereotype her and the people who practice her principles.  I understand that not everyone who incorporates a Charlotte Mason education in the homeschool follows every one of her principles or has read one of her original works (guilty).  I can attest that good works written by the author Karen Glass – In Vital Harmony (2019) and Consider This (2014) – were transformative for me.  If you want to begin somewhere and need to know where to start, they are two books I can recommend.  A Delectable Education podcast is also very informative regarding a more orthodox approach to implementing Charlotte Mason’s suggested scope and sequence in a full education (Grades 1 through 12).  Have fun learning alongside me about this pioneer whose “conception of education transcends the prominent minds of her time and endures to inspire future generations of teachers and parents” (Glass, 2014, p. 7).

If you are like me, you are on a journey of self-education. Together, we can learn more about the life and work of Charlotte Mason. If you are interested in receiving quotes like the one above on a regular basis, you can get them delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribing to my email community takes ten seconds.

References

Charlotte Mason Poetry Team. (2022). The saviour of the world. Charlotte Mason Poetry. https://charlottemasonpoetry.org/charlotte-mason-poetry/

Glass, K. (2014, September 16). Why did she have to say that? Karen Glass-Author. http://www.karenglass.net/why-did-she-have-to-say-that/

Glass, K. (2014).  Consider this: Charlotte Mason and the classical tradition. Karen Glass.

Glass, K. (2019).  In vital harmony: Charlotte Mason and the natural laws of education.  Karen Glass.

Kunzeman, A. (2018, September 11). The God of Living Ideas. Charlotte Mason Poetry. https://charlottemasonpoetry.org/the-god-of-living-ideas/

Simply Charlotte Mason. (2005-2022). Who was Charlotte Mason? Simply Charlotte Mason. https://simplycharlottemason.com/what-is-the-charlotte-mason-method/who-was-charlotte-mason/

Wikipedia.org. (2021). Charlotte Mason.  Wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Mason

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7 Reasons to Use LEGO® Bricks in a Charlotte Mason Education

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

I know many of us love Pinterest. I made a quick version of the following article. If you’re on Pinterest, please follow me and check out this idea pin! https://pin.it/11UHe5Z

Building time!

My friend, Amy Sloan, writes on her blog, Humility and Doxology. Her audience looks similar to you all. In fact, some of you might overlap! Please check her out if you “think classical education and delight-directed learning aren’t mutually-exclusive” (qtd. from her site, Humility and Doxology).

Today, Amy featured my writing on her blog. I wrote an article entitled “7 Reasons to Use LEGO® Bricks in a Charlotte Mason Education”. I pray you find it inspiring. My goal in writing is to leave homeschooling parents with more tools up their sleeves than they had before. This was my first appearance as a guest author, too!

If my blog post on Humility and Doxology resonates with you in any way, please share! I am a new author and am looking to get my content in front of an audience. Thank you for supporting me in this way!

XO,

Holly

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Blue Monday, MLK, Jr. Day and CC Cycle 1, Week 14 Booklist

Our week was quite different from what I had originally planned. We did not have morning time most of our days, we had a few kids feeling under the weather, and frankly, I had a slumpy day or two. Has that ever happened to you? I know that some of you have reminded me to be less hard on myself. I agree, and I also think that there are a couple of things we did that allowed us to hit the “reset” button. Sharing these, especially in the bleak midwinter, might help some of you.

Our week was quite different from what I had originally planned. We did not have morning time most of our days, we had a few kids feeling under the weather, and frankly, I had a slumpy day or two. Has that ever happened to you? I know that some of you have reminded me to be less hard on myself. I agree, and I also think that there are a couple of things we did that allowed us to hit the “reset” button. Sharing these, especially in the bleak midwinter, might help some of you.

For a quick “reset”, try these 7 things (one for each day of the week):

  • Go outside – I know, it’s cold! Just one hour outside will brighten anyone’s mood, though. Trust me. If it is dark throughout the winter and your days are super short, you might want to look into getting a light therapy lamp like this one.
  • Get your blood pumping. Either by dancing, doing some good, old-fashioned boot camp style calisthenics, or playing tag with the kids outside, you can start feeling more of the happy hormones!
  • Take a mental break and write down all the things floating around in your brain. If there are tasks that you are juggling in your brain, write those tasks down. Then, get started with prioritizing. Seeing all the tasks paper will help tackling them feel more manageable.
  • If you are an “organization therapy” person (I do not think I am), then perhaps think of one place in your home you want to reorganize. Start small. It could be a linen closet or a corner of a room. Even rearranging furniture can breathe more life into your day and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Talk to someone. Yes, that’s right. Just picking up the phone to dial a friend (the old-fashioned way, NOT Marco Polo or Voxer) can bring a mood boost to the day. Walking outside to chat with one of our neighbors can brighten my day. Just talk to a human, face-to-face or over the phone.
  • Read God’s Word and write down a verse to copy. Then, make that verse into a doodling masterpiece. This does not only serve as therapy, but it can help you remember the verse better.
  • Read a book of your own, just for fun. It does not have to be a read aloud book with your kids, although those can be good for uniting everyone in the middle of a rough day.

Okay, now that we’ve addressed the blues of winter, just know that you are not alone during this season. In fact, you can look up the “bluest day of the year”. According to a trusted source (ahem, Farmers Almanac), “Blue Monday” falls on the third Monday in January, each year. This year’s “Blue Monday” falls TODAY, January 17th, 2022.

A Holiday

Maybe the holiday we have here in the United States (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) will offset some of the blues. Holidays usually help because the shared honor or celebration makes people feel more united; less lonely.

As we look ahead to this week and the booklist for CC Cycle 1 Week 14, I wanted to share a book I am looking forward to reading with my kids this week:

Hammering for Freedom: the William Lewis Story by Rita L. Hubbard

I know Dr. King stood for what William Lewis stood for. Although each man has his own unique story, 19th-century William Lewis did the back-breaking manual labor of a blacksmith and did not stop hammering until each and every member of his family was set free. Like William Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr. indefatigably led marches to speak out against racial injustice for the sake of his children’s generation. Read MLK Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech here.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Martin Luther King, Jr. (“I Have a Dream” delivered August 28, 1963)

I want to sit down and read the entire speech. I hope you find some time today to reflect on the way that God created all men to reflect his image, the Imago Dei. All men (and women) reflect our good God. We were all made in His image, and we are also all sinners. I am praying for the day Jesus comes again to right all wrongs and bring true justice to this broken world. Until that day comes, I will keep honoring the stories that reflect the diversity, beauty, tenacity and struggle of my black friends, who are each uniquely created in God’s image. For a more robust catalog of books to read that honor black voices, check out my friend Amber O’Neal Johnston at Heritage Mom Blog.

Classical Conversations Cycle 1, Week 14

Whether or not you are currently on Week 14 in CC, this week has an interesting roundup: linear equivalents, three kinds of rock, trade in Africa (think: Mali Empire and Ghana’s gold), geography of Ancient Africa, and Lorenzo Ghiberti. So many connections could be made, but sometimes it’s just good to not go all-out matchy-matchy on read alouds and what we’re learning in our co-op. Kids are able to make some pretty amazing connections between things that are seemingly unrelated. So, do not sweat it when you gather resources. It might be tempting to make everything matchy-matchy… but really, that is an awful lot of work for you, and it is sometimes a lot of fun to just lay the feast out and let them figure out the connections on their own (no digesting the feast for them, please!). You can find the booklist here.

Lastly, I am having some fun making “Living Projects” for families to use with each week of school. Living Projects align with each Classical Conversations week, but you do not have to be in CC or any co-op to appreciate them. I include a video link, a book to read, a fun fact about the subject of my new book, LEGO founder Ole Kirk Christiansen, and an engaging activity or project to do that is appropriate from most students elementary-aged and up. However, I make this content FREE for my most engaged audience. If you’d like to be a part of my email community, you can sign up! I’d love to welcome you in.

I am currently learning about Charlotte Mason and her principles. If you like learning about Charlotte Mason, too, then you’ll also love the art design I insert into my regular emails (they’re quotes like the one below). You could start your next commonplace book of pretty, CM quotes! Who’s with me? Pin and share, friends. Pin and share.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/925489792146481741/
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Reframing the Newsfeed: Homeschooling Ideals, Identity and Security

While I like this idea of using a personal brand to communicate with others, educate them, and provide them with goods and services, it gets a little precarious for me when I attempt to merge reality and image.  Am I misplacing my identity?

I’ve seen it before in my newsfeed: the homeschool family gathered ‘round the kitchen table, each child engaged and working happily on his or her own lessons with the cute mom hovering over her little robins in the nest. The aesthetic is unparalleled!  That orange filter works gloriously with the light!  As I linger over the image, a sinking feeling starts to fester in my stomach.  Then, I ask the question: “Am I doing this right?” It usually follows that pattern.  The image, then the question, then the insecurity.  Sometimes it gets to the point where I am a bundle of knee-jerk reactions to a picture. Image, then feeling, with no thinking in-between. 

Is Self-Branding My True Identity?

I get it.  I do not live under a rock.  We are certainly living in an image-driven world.  Marketing is one thing, branding oneself is another thing.  It seems to me that people are becoming more focused on building a personal brand than a business brand, at least on social media.  This might be savvy, given the world we live in.  A personal brand is like an extension of oneself and is super easy to create.  Interests change, so the personal brand can evolve with one’s changing interests.  While I like this idea of using a personal brand to communicate with others, educate them, and provide them with goods and services, it gets a little precarious for me when I attempt to merge reality and image.  Am I misplacing my identity?

Zero in on said Instagram image of the mom hovering over the kitchen table.  Has she staged anything?  Likely.  Is she using a filter?  I think the orange sorbet one you probably have seen before should be named the filter of 2021 (I cannot say “filter of the decade”, because trends move too quickly)!  This perfectly aesthetic photo does not even begin to address what homeschooling multiple children looks like in actuality, for MANY people.  (As an aside, I think that I would be tempted to use my kids as part of my personal brand.  At best, it is inconsiderate, in my opinion. I digress…)  

It is likely you have had these thoughts, too.  And the reason I am writing about reframing our thinking about homeschool and the newsfeed is this: the images in our feeds are presented as attainable ideals, but do not convey the diversity of the world and reality of life for other homeschooling families, if they even bear authenticity for the photographer.  In fact, four years ago, I would have seen that image on social media and thought, “This is how people must homeschool multiple kids”.  It was the only “right” way, in my mind, because it was a redundant image.  There were countless images like it – the “poster child” of homeschooling the kids!  Before I ever taught my own kids at home, this image was my vision for a “perfect” homeschool.  Physical beauty, order, and sibling harmony all have appeal in a modern, affluent homeschool. I would think these are attractive ideals for any homeschool mom.  What homeschool mom doesn’t crave sibling harmony, beauty, and order?  In fact, I have made some, if not all, of these things idols in the idol factory of my own heart.  I have placed image above all else.  I certainly have!  And I bet you have, too. 

My True Security and Identity

Maybe these images on the feed come from a genuine place.  Maybe the intentions are pure.  Maybe some families do school this way, all the school-day long. It is not my place to judge anyone or to decide how authentic someone is.  It is my job to refute the lies that I tell myself about the way homeschooling must look, or that I must feel shame and undue comparison.  Instead of dwelling on the lies, I choose to put these thoughts up on trial against Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” How would my perspective change if I daily repeated that verse to  myself?

When Seen Accurately, Social Media Can Point Me to God

To be clear, a few wonderful things have come from being on social media, for me.  I have grown over the past year and have developed a healthier relationship with social media.  I have found community in some like-minded folks.  For example, I have been able to connect with a homeschool mom who lives just a short forty-five minutes away.  We have collaborated on newsletters, and I admire her teaching and her own unique style.  We support each other, check in with each other, and hold each other accountable in our writing.  All it took was a quick response to an Instagram story: “You like that book!  So do I!”

Also, I know that there are some amazing perspectives out there, and it is a sheer joy to follow certain people who possess God-given talents that are different from my own.  These people add life and refreshment!  Following these people who are humbly sharing their days and journeys is a pleasure, and I will continue to rejoice with them because at the end of the day I am left with more reverence and awe of God’s creativity found in people He created.  After all, Romans 12:15 calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice!

The Battle: Me Versus My Thoughts

I start refuting lies with reevaluating my own heart.  Intellectually, I know that security and affirmation do not come from the newsfeed, but who does not relish approval from others? For me, the other images have historically been a measuring stick to see my own “fitness” as a homeschool mom.  The self-condemning thinking, “I am not ever good enough,” or the covetous thinking “I wish I had what she has” can be replaced by Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  

The truth is, we have all we need in Christ, and do not need to feel less-than when we have Him telling us we are “co-heirs” with Christ (Romans 8:17).  Who do I believe – my newsfeed or Christ?  I need not look to the newsfeed for this reminder of the security, adoption, and adoration He has for me.  My challenge to you is to read Romans 8 when you are tempted to look to others for affirmation and security.  When you struggle with self-condemnation and doubt, the truth is, you are not enough, by God’s standard.  But you are loved more than you could hope for, and have all you need in Christ.  He makes you enough.  Suffering with Him will result in also being glorified with Him (Romans 8:17)!  This is an ultimate honor! Instead of rising to the top with Instagram, Facebook, or any other platform, we have this assurance that we will rise to become kings and queens in His kingdom, if we receive His Spirit of adoption. 

Remembering the truth of my security that can only be found in my Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ, is what keeps me sane.  I am already secure.  My identity is in Christ.  What else can there be? 

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Happy New Year! My Favorite Posts of 2021

This is my 30th post! Making it to a round number is celebratory. I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the past year (2021) with you. I hope you find them helpful in your homeschool.

This is my 30th post! Making it to a round number is celebratory. I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the past year (2021) with you. I hope you find them helpful in your homeschool.

My Top Posts

1. The Reason (Why We Homeschool)

This was the very first post I wrote on My Little Brick Schoolhouse. If you are curious about our reason, I think you should read it. “My family is just one tiny dot in an ocean of homeschooling families. I know we are nothing special, and there are so many wiser people who have come before. But I do have a song to sing. Can I share it with you?”

2. Resources for the First Half of Classical Conversations Cycle 1

Here is the booklist I compiled to align with the first twelve weeks of Classical Conversations Foundations Program, Cycle 1 (Ancient History). I hope it serves you in some way. Even if you are not in Classical Conversations, the list is subdivided by content areas: math, fine arts, geography, history and science. Anyone can find some titles on the list that are enjoyable to read with family!

3. Tea Time Discipleship

I love tea time. This is how we have incorporated tea time into our homeschool days.

4. My Kids Know that I like them (just because we can days!)

I am feeling a February slump coming on… fast! So, I have already put our next JBWCD on the calendar. I hope you find freedom in the fact that we can enjoy our kids for an entire day, no strings attached or agendas to fulfill!

5. A Living Story: Ole Kirk Kristiansen and LEGO®

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

This Danish man’s legacy amazes me. Read more about the founder of the LEGO® company here.

6. How I Plan A Homeschool

I wrote this in May to give you all a glimpse into the process I take in homeschool planning for the year. I hope it helps you in some way!

7. Garnering Wisdom As Our Year Ends

Even though I wrote this from an end-of-the-school-year vantage point, I could definitely take some time to do a midyear evaluation. What am I learning now, in January? What do I need to do differently?

The Newsletter

If you’d like to keep updated on our homeschool journey, receive updates on my book, and be privy to exclusive resources that pair with the booklists I create, then please sign up for my newsletter!

A newsletter is a better way for me to connect with my special readers than social media, if I am being honest. Although I see the merits of social media, the conversation gets much more robust in the newsletter. Maybe you would like to reframe some ways of thinking and start looking at life from a different perspective. Well, that’s what I’m working on, too! I would love to share more about that with you in the newsletter, so do not miss out!

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What Narration Is and What Narration Is Not: My Opinion

In my humble opinion, narration is quite misunderstood. One of the newer habits I have aimed to introduce into our home education is the art of narration. I once read that an art is something practiced, but it is not a system to be mastered.

In my humble opinion, narration is quite misunderstood.  One of the newer habits I have aimed to introduce into our home education is the art of narration.  I once read that an art is something practiced, but it is not a system to be mastered. 

My oldest narrating the Frog and Toad story, “Down The Hill”. He recreated the scene by designing the sled in the story.

My go-to book for the art of narration has been Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass. It is a resource I have referred to from time-to-time.  At the same time, I have found a look at Your Questions Answered: Narration by Sonya Shafer to be helpful in coming up with alternatives to the question, “What did you read about?”.   I also designed a narration matrix to provide a variety of ideas you can implement to practice the art of retelling. It does not have to be boring!

In short, narration helps one to practice sifting through a reading.  A student beholds knowledge for herself as she sifts through and articulates her own relationships between the subjects and herself. 

I’ve found that our readings of The Story of the World (Ancient Times) captivate my seven-year-old son’s attention and engage us all.  The subjects in the history stories come up at mealtimes, during car rides, and within questions at bedtime.

I am not a purist, and I’m learning to do this thing called narration, however imperfectly.  I know I’ve been lacking in some areas, and I haven’t consistently kept up the habit of follow-up discussion after narration.  I’m going to keep up narration, though!

The texts from which I usually ask my seven-year-old son for a narration:

The Story of the World (Ancient Times)  (after he listens to me read)

Independent reading books, like Frog and Toad All Year  and Sharks (after he reads aloud)

If you don’t know where to start, just remember that oral narration is usually NOT practiced before age six.  Written narration happens a lot later – at earliest, age nine.

“The Corner”, from Frog and Toad series. Narration by drawing.

Narration is NOT Memorizing

Rote memorization is not about building relationships with the subjects in a book.  Narration is about building relationships.  No matter how basic or flawed, a child’s oral narration can give him enormous benefits of synthesizing information.  He doesn’t extract rote sentences he has memorized from the story. He puts together the pieces of the story, recounting them, simultaneously making meaning. Children are given mental food, i.e., books.  It is their job to assimilate it for themselves.  Think of the books we give our children as a feast.  We do not give them just one kind of mental food during their feast.  Neither do we chew the food up for them and feed to them like they are baby birds (GROSS!).  Rather, we feed them the right quantity and variety, and they assimilate it into their being.  Giving a narration is like digesting the mental food.  Yum!  If narration were merely memorizing, it would be like looking at the mental food, knowing about the mental food, but never eating nor digesting the mental food.  Are you familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy?  It’s like a hierarchy of thinking skills.  It goes from most basic, knowledge, to-comprehension-analysis-synthesis-and finally, evaluation. The most basic tier of the thinking skills is knowledge.  Memorization is an exercise in acquiring knowledge, BUT it is the most basic of thinking skills.  Karen Glass reminds us in Know and Tell: The Art of Narration that “narration gives us an opportunity to reclaim those higher-thinking skills for the next generation and even to develop them for ourselves” (2018, p. 25).  Agree with this statement, and you probably realize that narration is different from memorizing.

Narration is NOT Only Oral

Narration can take the oral form as early as age six.  However, around age nine, when hand muscles and reading skills have developed, written narration can begin. I love how Glass puts it so frankly here, in Know and Tell : “Too often we attempt to address the symptom of poor writing rather than the disease of weak thinking” (2018, p. 25).  So, she seems to say that weak thinking causes poor writing.  Perhaps.  If we start narration in the written form and fail to give children the chance to narrate orally first, then we are not exercising the muscles of critical thinking.  We must start orally, get the feel for synthetic thinking, then allow that same thinking process to flow out as words on paper.  I have not started written narration with my own children, but hope to be able to in the future, as they approach the recommended age.

Narration is NOT Formal Rhetoric Instruction

This is interesting.  There are different camps regarding how people best develop written language.  One camp believes it is prudent to learn formal rhetoric (i.e., a modern-day grammar and composition program) to be able to write eloquently.  Another camp believes that good rhetorical practiced can be achieved more naturally, through narration of good, living books.  For example, Augustine wrote:

And, therefore, as infants cannot learn to speak except by learning words and phrases from those who do speak, why should not men become eloquent without being taught any art of speech, simply by reading and learning the speeches of eloquent men, and by imitating them as far as they can?  And what do we find from the examples themselves to be the case in this respect?  We know numbers who, without acquaintance with rhetorical rules, are more eloquent than many who have learnt these; but we know no one who is eloquent without having read and listened to the speeches and debates of eloquent men.

 (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/doctrine)

So the question still remains: are formal grammar programs and composition instruction necessary?  Well, I do not know.  I believe they still probably have their place in education, BUT I am also apt to believe the efficacy of narration goes far beyond just developing thinking skills.  Since thinking skills are required in order to write well, I am in agreement with Glass that, “narration becomes the key that builds our relationship with knowledge, develops our thinking skills, and gives us the power to collect our thoughts and relate them accurately and effectively, both in speech and in writing” (2018, p. 12).  Yes, my homeschool will be focusing more on narration in these younger elementary years than on formal grammar and composition. 

Narration is NOT Done In Isolation

If we fail to give some context for what we are reading, it may cause frustration when the child is trying to give a narration.  Giving the children a little context about “what we read about last time” before jumping into the “what happens next” of today’s reading is suggested.  A discussion after narration cannot hurt, either.  The narration itself is not a discussion.  It is the child’s hard work assimilating knowledge to be conveyed in his or her own way, perhaps even in the same style as the author’s. The teacher leaves the children to do the work.  The teacher is not to interrupt and ask, “What’s his name?” or anything like that.  Remember, it is the child’s knowledge to behold, and he is working on developing this muscle. 

Narration is NOT Done In Response to Empty Books

As always, narration is to be done in response to literary books that convey a variety of ideas.  In other words, the books we read together must be captivating – not entertaining – rather, wholesome, substantial, and well-written.  Living books are those written by an author who is passionate about the subject, are well-written, fire the imagination, and engage the emotions.  If these criteria are met, then chances are, the book will be captivating to children. 

Narration is NOT Original to Charlotte Mason

Narration has been around for centuries.  The early Greeks “formalized the study of rhetoric, and narration was one of the earliest exercises, appropriate for beginners” (Glass, 2018, p. 13).  In the Greco-Roman world, the simpler topics of rhetoric practiced by beginners was called the “progymnasmata”.  Narration was one of these topics, and it was meant to give practice in telling something that occurred.  The thinking skills a student would have to employ are varied: paying attention to matters of definition, classification, differentiation from similar forms, and etymology.  How interesting!  We know the Ancient Greeks were advanced for their time, so this idea of narration is one to which we can pay attention.  Charlotte Mason paid attention, too!  She recorded the narrations of many of her students, aged six to eighteen. 

Narration of “The Corner” from Frog and Toad series with modeling clay.

Narration is Relationship-Building, NOT Contrived

I love this Karen Glass quote from Know and Tell:  

Everything will be connected and presented in some way that has required the narrator to think: to order and classify, to structure and formulate, and finally to articulate her thoughts in adequate sentences and vocabulary.  In short, the deceptively simple act of narration incorporates all the powers of the mind and exercises them in a coordinated way, just as tossing a ball requires the coordinated efforts of the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems, which are energized by the digestive and endocrine systems. (p. 19)

So, narration connects mental processes, for sure.  Does it connect anything else?  For me, anecdotally, narration has allowed us to continue the conversation beyond the reading time.  We discuss the ideas and events found in our history at the dinner table.  The kids recount a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in their imaginative play together. So many ideas are being tried on and masterfully woven together during a narration and afterwards.  For us, narration has been a way to step into another person’s world.  Instead of asking questions like, “how does this passage make you feel?”, the narrator is asking more about a time and place and character that is outside of himself.  I think that is a good thing.  While introspection is good and has its own place, narration is not that place.  Let’s be the outsiders looking into another person’s world.  Mirrors can be good, too, but windows are paramount in narration.  I think that mirrors will occur, no matter what.  Identifying oneself with another character is a natural process that takes place while reading. Yet, the narration exercise takes more looking outside than looking inside. 

Narration is NOT Self-Centered and Introspective

Narration is certainly not spouting off facts as if they are just there to be spouted off and that’s it.  No.  Narration is thoughtfully describing the experience of another, the series of processes happening in the natural world, etc.   And narration helps us see things in relation to each other as they all rest under the unity of knowledge that only our trinitarian God provides.  I once read in Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, that one fallacy we tend to gravitate toward when reading the Bible is to look for OURSELVES in God’s word.  While we can certainly find out about ourselves by reading the Bible, our aim is better placed in finding out more about God Himself – His character, His relationship with us, His will.  The Bible is, after all, about Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus was even referred to as “the Word made flesh” in John 1:14.  Mirrors are important, but if they do not reveal a greater Purpose and Power, the mirrors are empty. Narration is like this.  Narration takes looking into another person’s window much more often than looking at one’s own reflection in a mirror.

Want to talk more narration?  Let’s chat!  Email me and the conversation can continue. In the meantime, check out these fun resources I developed:

Narration Matrix

The Big Maine Basket

Until later, friends!  Have fun reading (and narrating) with your children.

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Merry Christmas!

I am thankful for you, readers. To express my gratitude, I am attaching a couple of freebies below.

I am thankful for you, readers. To express my gratitude, I am attaching a couple of freebies below.

The first is an extension activity for the story An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco. If you have children aged older elementary and up, then this short research project is just great! I think it also fosters empathy, a skill that many of us need to continue exercising. Snag your free download below.

Other wonderful Christmas books we have enjoyed this season:

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Saint Nicholas the Gift-Giver

In addition, I am adding on some free thank-you notes. I thought they might come in handy, as an expression of gratitude to those family members hosting or giving presents. Or just… BECAUSE.

An Orange for Frankie cover

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Our Hope

The words below are meant to encourage you, as well as to point to a time in history.  From our 21st century vantage point we can see the end of an historical event like World War II, yet we hold on to the hope of Christ, still.  We are waiting in the already but not yet.  The same hope of these two women is the hope we hold to today in 2021.

The following post came to fruition after I listened to the Journey Women Podcast interviewing Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author.  After listening, I took away this true and beautiful picture of the new heaven, as scripture supports. 

I decided to jump out onto a limb, really jump out onto it.  I never write this kind of thing, but wanted to place myself into the shoes of a young Danish woman living during the German occupation of Copenhagen during World War II.  She is my subject, writing to her friend living in Oslo, Norway (also occupied by the Germans). Both countries would be ruled by the Nazis until 1945.  The neutral country of Sweden was a destination for Jews trying to escape Denmark and nearby countries (hence, the reference to her Jewish friend below).  The port of Copenhagen was a common escape route.  I am not sure any of us could fully place ourselves mentally into the time period and circumstances surrounding these two women.  We know how the war ended, but in 1943, they did not.  Does this sound familiar?  We KNOW how the story ends for all mortal life on earth.  We have the Bible to point to the hope of the resurrection.  We have the Biblical account of the resurrection, we have the hope of our resurrection:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so wel will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, ESV).

We have the hope of the consummation, when Christ will come again: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven and from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2, ESV)

The words below are meant to encourage you, as well as to point to a time in history.  From our 21st century vantage point we can see the end of an historical event like World War II, yet we hold on to the hope of Christ, still.  We are waiting in the already but not yet.  The same hope of these two women is the hope we hold to today in 2021.

                                                                                                  December 16, 1943

Dear Anna,

How are you, dear friend? I have longed to see you, but as you know, this war has given us all a time.  With me in Copenhagen and you in Oslo, there are just so many obstacles.  It has gotten harder.  The Nazis just bombed Father’s business last week.  The time it took him to build it and grow his customer base, all a pile of glass shards and ash on the city street.  Such loss and grief.  Poor Father cannot get over the fact that he had finally paid off the building this past year.  Now, we have to rebuild and it seems we have lost everything.  In my 22 years, I had never seen Father cry until last week.

My sweet friend (whose name I will not disclose) was taken last month to a concentration camp.  She was on her way to Sweden.  We did everything we could to keep her from being detected.  The false papers did her no good.  Where was God here, Anna?

We started reading our Bible again.  I felt I had to write you, because I cannot contain what I have read and there is a stirring inside me that cannot be put to rest.  You know, St. Lucia’s day fell on the day following the bombing.  My nerves might still sting with the impact of the bomb’s blast, but on St. Lucia’s Day, I was reminded of the resurrection.  St. Lucia had that hope. We have suffered this year, and I am sure you have too, my friend. There is hope, but I found hope at a very unlikely time – or, so I thought.  I am beginning to believe that suffering is where we find the hope that was there all along.

The suffering points me to this longing for Jesus to return.  He will return, Anna!   I long for it even more now than ever before! There is a time coming when God will come back to dwell with his people in the new heaven, the new earth.  The whole of the earth will be the most holy place, where God’s presence dwells.  How do I know this? Look at Revelation, chapter 21, verse 3.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.’ (King James Version)

Do you know that this war will end one day? We face troubles of various sorts here on earth.  I can say with certainty that one day, these will be no more. 

Behold, Revelation, chapter 21, verse 4:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (King James Version)

Anna, I wish you a very, merry Christmas.  Hope in the resurrection.  Hold on just a bit longer.  We will not say goodbye to suffering until the day Jesus returns, but He will take care of suffering once and for all.  His kingdom will be beautiful because Jesus is beautiful.  Christ is the hope we have! Our hope is not the end of the war, though that will be nice.  Christ is our true hope.  I am longing for his return when we will have the garden again.  All tribes will come together into the protection of His walls and we will enjoy a rollicking good time.  There will be abundance, and we will be left saying, “All of this land, all of this abundance… for me?”  He wants this for us.  Hold on to Him and to His word, Anna.  This life is but a vapor and reflection of what will be!

       Always Yours,                                                                                                                               

     SOFIA SØRENSEN

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A Living Story: Ole Kirk Kristiansen and the LEGO® Company

The LEGO® Bricks We Love

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

If you are like me and have a son or daughter who loves to build, you will be buying some LEGO® products this Christmas.  If this is not you, then I bet you already own something.  Am I correct in my assumption?

These days, nearly every big box store carries LEGO® merchandise.  They have even made multiple LEGO movies in the past couple of decades!  Globally, it is a giant of a company. 

But many giants have humble beginnings.

Humble Beginnings

Nearly a century ago, we face a young man who is staring down a decision.  The year is 1929.  The stock market in New York City crashes.  The effects, as we know, reach beyond the U.S.

A man in Denmark is staring down decision.  The prices of major Danish exports, butter and bacon, plummet.  Having known the agrarian life as a child, this grown man has marketable carpentry skills.  He had been an apprentice under his brother and loved working with birchwood.  He has his own carpentry business, but the farmers who suffered economic loss can no longer afford his carpentry work. 

A man in Denmark is staring down a decision. In 1931, Ole Kirk Kristiansen lets his last worker go.  He ventures out into the unknown.

The National Association for Danish Enterprise is there to help.  Established in 1908, the association promotes Danish manufacturing and the sale of Danish goods domestically and abroad.  Ole is a member.  As he opens up the pages of the association’s magazine and scans the advice column, he stops.  He looks more closely at the words.  Readily marketable products – step ladders, ironing boards, toys – wait.  Toys?  These products are the wave of the future, the hope for economic recovery, and Ole Kirk Kristiansen can see that future.  Hope washes over him. 

A man in Denmark is staring down a decision.  It is not made for him.  He has to step out in boldness, tuning out the critical voices of his relatives.  The din of the uncertainty does not make him relent in his march toward a new business venture.  Scary?  Of course. 

… I looked to the future with hope. But within two months my world was tumbling. There was a crisis in farming but as we owed our living to the smallholders and farmers, we were also affected. We were in a difficult time – but it was as well that we could not see what lay ahead. During the summer we were asked to make toys for Jens W. Olesen, Fredericia, and as we had no other work, we looked on it as a gift from God.”

                (from Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s 1932 memoirs)

Toys On the Horizon

The year is 1935.  Up until this point, our Danish friend had been refining his toy-making skills, but had not been focusing exclusively on toys.  Furniture and buildings were a large part of his repertoire.  (I sometimes imagine being a chair that Ole Kirk Kristiansen fashioned. If chairs had feelings, how proud I would feel!)

A man in Denmark is staring down a decision. He knows he would have to either drop his old craft, or extinguish his dream of toymaking.  He can not have both toys and his old craft.  It is an either-or decision.  And he makes that decision.  The rest is history.  Or is it? 

Ole Kirk Kristiansen would go on to make his LEGO business one of the most successful companies in the world. 

What I love about Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s story is his tenacity in the midst of adversity.  He had so much hope, but had so many reasons to give up.  His wife died when the four children were young.  He had the task of raising four boys, all the while pouring into his business.  Yet, this family’s story is deep and long.  The legacy Ole left his sons is indescribable.  Godtfred Kirk Christiansen is the son who carries on the legacy.  His innovation is undeniable.  Yet, it was his father, “Far” as the Danish would say, who modeled the standards of excellence, innovation, and hope.  He had plenty of sayings that we all could think upon, one of them being, “only the best is good enough”.  He was truly a man of principle. 

Living Ideas, Living Stories

This story is just a mere example of the kind of living ideas I want my children to feast upon.  There are plenty of good stories out there, if we dig for them.  The living ideas in these stories captivate the heart.  They fire the imagination, stoke the emotions.  They are written to convey universal truths and point to the light and truth that God has given us. 

If you are interested in learning more about the LEGO® story, watch this short film on the company’s site. 

Have you ever wondered how certain companies were founded?  On which principles did the founders build their businesses?  I challenge you to look up these stories.  They might surprise, even captivate you. 

References:

https://www.lego.com/en-us/history/articles/a-new-reality

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December 2021 Morning Time

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may collect a small portion from the purchase of some of these morning time resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

What IS Morning Time, Again?

Morning time has been a staple of our day.  I like to call it the “coffee” of the day, because not only does it warm us and sustain us, it seems vital to getting the day going, if you know what I mean.  Cindy Rollins, author of Morning Time: A Liturgy of Love , defines morning time with a beautiful quote: “What is morning time?  It is capturing the hours of your day before they flit away.  It is making sure the most beautiful things happen first.  It is impossible to regret that.”

How can I disagree with Rollins here? She has hit the nail on the head, for our family.  If we did not dedicate about half an hour to an hour of our day to this sacred time…school would definitely be more about checking things off a list. What’s so bad about checking things off a list?,  you might be thinking.  If that’s you, well you can decide if there is something missing from your home life.  Are you missing out on connection?  Morning time is for you, friend!  These are referred to as “mornings without measure”, yet small habits lead to profound outcomes.  Ask someone who has done morning time for FORTY years!  Cindy Rollins is your gal.  She will speak to the profound impact morning time has had on her family in her appearance on the Thinking Love podcast (episode: “The Art of Morning Time”).  She raised and homeschooled nine children.  NINE.  How many morning times do you think they had all together over the years?  Although every one of her children are grown and out of the house, she still has her own morning time.  This liturgy of love, as she calls it, gets deeply engrained.  It becomes a way of worshipping our Lord.  It becomes a way of noticing the true, good and the beautiful. 

Morning time is an ART to be practiced.

Morning time is NOT a rote system.  It is NOT something that has to be thematic or “matchy-matchy”.  Connections will be made, regardless of which hymns, Bible passages, poems, or other elements you select.  It is more of a chance for ALL present to marvel at God’s creation and truth.  It is less about the homeschool parent getting up to “teach her children something moral or good”.  It is more about taking this all in together.  The focus is on the content, the subjects, the works of art. 

Connection.  If we had no morning time, we’d be missing out on connection. Morning time lends itself to connection.  Connection in the sense of relationships, yes.  However, connection reaches beyond the necessary relational connection with children.

Charlotte Mason holds to the idea that “education is the science of relations”.  It is a principle of her famous “twenty”.  Miss Mason called this the guiding principal of education.  Why “science” of relations, you might ask?  I am reading In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education by Karen Glass.  Glass purports that the term “science”, when used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (the industrial era), was simply a buzzword.  So, maybe Charlotte Mason could have used a different word, but “science” spoke to so many of her contemporaries at the time.  It was THE word. 

We can look at the next part of the statement, “Education is the science of relations”.  We see the word “relations”.  Miss Mason divided knowledge into three categories – knowledge of God, knowledge of man, and knowledge of the universe. All realms of knowledge are bound together, whether we perceive it or not.  Finding the relationship between the realms of knowledge is the key to education.  This is the science of relations. All knowledge, of that which is observed and abstract alike, is bound together. Doesn’t this sound a lot like classical education?  I digress.

My point is that morning time is something I plan to carry out with my students for as long as I homeschool.  Hey, even if I didn’t homeschool, I would still find a way to have “morning” time with my kids.  It would just not take place in the morning. There are just too many connections to be made to give it up!

What Does Morning Time Look Like Now?

Morning Time Part I in the kitchen

Breakfast

Sing the Doxology

Sing a hymn together:  Singing the Great Hymns

Pray together

Clean up together: my seven-year-old boy sweeps, I hold the dust pan for him, my little girl washes dishes, and I help her.

Come back together for Morning Time Part II in the living room.

Beauty Loop (4-day rotation): joke book (Highlights), picture study (The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient Egypt), composer study (Bach), poetry (various)

Math Mini Lesson: As of late, this exists to gather all kids to practice our Classical Conversations skip counting.  They listen to the song, and place the numbers on laminated grid paper using wet erase markers.  Prior to this, I was practicing different skills by the month with the kids.  In October, we learned how to round whole numbers to the nearest ten, so I taught a short (5 minutes maximum) lesson on “the rounding hill” and made it fun with a car and math word problems about our ancient history.

Ancient Times Study Loop (3-day rotation): read aloud and students narrate- read aloud the remaining portion and students narrate –coloring page and map work

We are using The Story of the World: Ancient Times.

Advent Morning Time

The basic rhythm of our morning time has stayed the same, except we are now just focusing on our Advent resource for Part II of morning time.  We have paused everything else, to date.  Whether I layer in the beauty loop, math mini-lesson, and ancient times study will depend on our day.  However, I think whenever you introduce something new to morning time, it is good to start small, then slowly add on. 

Right now, we are enjoying reading the devotions and singing the songs from The Advent Jesse Tree .  We are going to begin our Christmas School the week before Christmas, and it will pair well with The Advent Jesse Tree. Our Christmas School resource has scripture readings included already, so we can just focus on our Joyful Feast and drop The Advent Jesse Tree, if it’s too much scripture reading during morning time. We can move the Advent readings to the evening, right at the dinner table, since Daddy will be home then. 

I will keep you updated regarding the flow of morning time in months to come! 

Looking Ahead to January

I cannot wait to begin our Picture Study Portfolio: Michelangelo for our new picture study in 2022!

One thing I have learned from this morning time journey is to not add too much at once!  Once we start Michelangelo picture study, we will be shelving our Ancient Egypt picture study. 

Another thing I’d like to incorporate somehow in the spring months is nature study and nature notebooking.  Although our Charlotte Mason co-op has a built-in nature study time, it would be lovely to step outside in the early spring air around 10:00 am each morning to just sit and observe God’s glory displayed in a North Carolina springtime.  Even taking a walk down the block as part of morning time would be a refreshing way to start the day. 

Morning time takes on different forms as the seasons change.

You are never too far along to begin a morning time with your older kids.  Pam Barnhill has some great wisdom and tips regarding this topic, morning time with multiple ages. 

Likewise, you are never too young to begin morning time with your babies.  A song, a prayer and a short nursery rhyme, repeated as often as possible throughout the week, can begin a lifelong habit.

I wish you well on your journey! If you have made morning time a practice, what has worked well for your family?

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Looking For Stocking Stuffers?

Looking for something for stocking stuffers? Look no further! Between this Back to School supply list (link below) and the booklists on this site, I pray you find success! https://pin.it/2e1KQu2

I have made a few booklists you can find here, or under the Booklists tab on this site.

Are you looking for gifts that will be used throughout the year? I know I am! Some of my very favorite presents have been books. The time spent cuddling on the couch or bed has been more than worth it.

Next, I will post our favorite Christmas books.

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New Christmas Resource: A Joyful Feast

I worked to create a unit study that families can use around Christmas time.  Its implementation does not depend on set days on a calendar.  Rather, it is about as flexible a unit study as you will find.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of any of these living Christmas books, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

My friends!  It feels good to share something with you

I worked to create a unit study that families can use around Christmas time.  Its implementation does not depend on set days on a calendar.  Rather, it is about as flexible a unit study as you will find.

The name of my labor of love:  A Joyful Feast!  It is a 20-page Charlotte Mason-inspired unit that allows families to create lasting memories. 

In the study I have included:

  • Bible Passages
  • Poetry Recitation
  • Copy Work/Dictation ideas
  • Nature Study
  • Composer Study (internet with YouTube needed)
  • Living Books (books needed)
  • Narration Questions
  • Mother Culture ideas
  • Family Culture Ideas
  • Coloring Pages with Verses

All of these components are meant to be enjoyed together.  Even the copy work/dictation from the poems are meant to be done together.  Now, different family members might be working on writing different lines from the same poem, or different words from the same poem, or might be looking at two different poems and reciting them separately.  Nonetheless, when one family member is enjoying poetry, all the other family members are doing the same thing. Working on a common goal builds family unity!  So everything, from the read alouds to the composer study, is done together.

The only component that can be done in isolation is the “Mother Culture” element of the study.  Mother culture is defined by Karen Andreola, who coined the term in her 2018 book, Mother Culture: For a Happy Homeschool as: “the skillful art with which a mother looks after the ways of her household and herself.  In her home she creates a culture all her own with a mingling of love and responsibility.  A mother does a lot of taking care, so she also takes care of herself,” (2018, p. 1).  When considering the

1)Atmosphere

2)Discipline-of-Habit

3)Life-of-Ideas that become tools in a mother’s hands for creating a happy home, I hope you find some echoes of that here. 

In response to each Mother Culture idea, I’ve included a Family Culture action. 

A Joyful Feast would be great for:

This study is not meant to stress you out, which is why it’s so brief and do-able.  My hope is that you do not feel like you have to add this to any other school agenda.  This is an open-and-go, standalone unit study that you can use as Christmas School. Or, if you are hoping to squeeze in some math over break, many components in here have their places in Morning Time, as well!  So, pick and choose what you want to do.  No need to sift through pages and pages of material in a so-called “bundle”.  If you have paper and pencil and an internet connection, you are good to go. 


The books you will need to gather ahead of time are:

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg (newly illustrated edition)

If I had to pick a favorite part of the feast, Poetry Study is probably going to be my favorite, since I get to work on reciting one of these timeless Christmas poems by heart. However, I know reading the living books and Bible passages will be favorites, too.

My son is probably going to enjoy the composer study the most. He already uses it in morning time with me and his younger sister.  He will enjoy finishing the Bach videos and we all will enjoy listening to Bach’s music over the Christmas season.

My daughter will probably enjoy the coloring pages, since she just loves that kind of thing, but I can already tell you that we will enjoy every single component together.  I am really looking forward to this!

How To Get A Joyful Feast

If you are interested in supporting my work, go over to my Etsy shop, Brick Schoolhouse.  There, you will find A Joyful Feast for purchase at an affordable $4.  So simple, but I think the quality rivals many of the other resources you can buy out there now!

Merry Christmas! 2021
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All Saints’ Day

Did the candles stay lit very long? You tell me!

Yesterday was All Saints’ Day.

In the morning, we remembered our Christian brothers and sisters who have gone to eternal life. We specifically lit candles to remember just a few:

🔥Perpetua (look up her story), a Christian martyr under Rome

🔥Jim Elliot, missionary

🔥Stephen, one of the very first martyrs

🔥Hannah, my husband’s sister

🔥Andrew’s great Aunt Dot

🔥my grandfather, Papa

🔥my great Aunt Becky

🔥Martin Luther

We listened to “Behold, A Host Arrayed in White” and thought about our friends. We say friends because we feel we know every one of these people as friends, from taking in their stories through the living Word and living stories.

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World
solas copy work
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Resources: First Half of Classical Conversations Cycle 1

https://mylittlebrickschoolhouse.com/booklists/booklists-2/#week-12#week12

Disclosure Statement: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these favorite picture books and read-alouds.  Thank you so much for your support!

First Twelve Weeks

In case you have missed it, I would love to share my take on a Charlotte Mason approach (READ: living books) to Classical Conversations Cycle 1, Weeks 1-12. We are currently enjoying some of the books on this list! In case you missed any, I have linked the list here. The page will take you to Week 12, so scroll up the page if you need to find a previous week.

Also, if there are any living books you have found particularly helpful during CC Cycle 1, please do not hesitate to comment here, or let me know! I love getting ideas from you all.

Life is Full!

I wish I could update you on all the things we have been able to enjoy this year so far, but alas! I have to keep up with life. If I get off the treadmill mid-stride, I will surely trip and fall. I do not like that analogy, but for now, it will have to do.

A few of the things we have been up to the first 10 weeks of our school year:

  • starting a new Charlotte Mason co-op
  • reading aloud The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (the kids and I are loving the full-color edition)
  • teaching each other watercolor painting. I (Holly) am taking this on as a thing for myself, really
  • continuing our Charlotte Mason book club (moms only) we started last summer
  • returning refreshed from a week in the NC mountains
  • reading about Martin Luther for Reformation Day
  • watching the Torchlighters Series together on Redeem TV
  • nature study in the sunshine, reading about frogs and trying to find them at our local lake (using Pond and Stream Companion)
  • getting dressed up and going to friends’ homes, where we have enjoyed crafts, games, and food
  • discovering the piano and learning to build the habit of practicing

Our lives have been full! If you’d like to stay updated in a more personal way, I invite you to sign up for our newsletter. It’s still there for you- to encourage you, give you ideas, and foster community. If you want to contribute to a future issue of the My Little Brick Schoolhouse Newsletter, make sure to sign up. I will be involving some of my readers over the next few months. Collaboration can be wonderful!

A moment in time – the family at High Falls

Cheering You On

I sincerely want to cheer you on. You are doing a great job. I trust God is using what you have and doing what He does: making a feast out of our five loaves and two fish. If you feel like a slump or burnout is coming on, you are not alone! Find something life-giving. You are making your plan work for you, not the other way around. Whatever needs to GO in your schedule, after consulting God and His wisdom, make that change. Also, if you have children and you are entering the holiday season, make the time to have some down time with your family. Events will fill up the calendar. You know it. Carve out time to just play and read and have fun together with the family, without expected deadlines or meet-ups.

I love hearing from you and look forward to the next chapter we have together!

XO,

Holly

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Fall Read Alouds We Love

Disclosure Statement: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these favorite fall picture books and read-alouds. Thank you so much for your support!

Fall brings cozy vibes, harvest time, and cooling temps here in our neck of the woods. For us, it’s some quality time curling up on the sofa with kids on a family trip to the mountains. Most days, it’s gathering in our own living room to enjoy a good book during those long afternoons or right before bed with Daddy. At any rate, these picture books have brought us a lot of warmth and fall feelings, and have also taught us a thing or two about this special season. You can find the list here.

My last pick, Little House in the Big Woods, is a longer read aloud for the whole family. It is special to me. Last year, our family of 5 gathered in the den of the mountain cabin where we were staying and sat in front of a crackling wood fire in the fireplace to listen to me read it. I do not know how we made that work with a six-year-old and four-year-old. I think our “baby” (1.5 years old at the time) had been put to bed and was sound asleep. My memories of those nights reading by the fire make me want to keep up the tradition on family trips.

The long-range view from our cabin’s deck.

Themes Addressed in Fall Favorites

  1. ingenuity and innovation (Balloons Over Broadway)
  2. change and empathy (Fletcher and the Falling Leaves)
  3. bravery and perseverance (The Little Scarecrow Boy)
  4. traditions and friendship (Thanksgiving in the Woods)
  5. hospitality and grace (Cranberry Thanksgiving)
  6. resiliency and family (Little House in the Big Woods)
  7. other nonfiction concepts about science and history
Happy Fall!
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People of Words and Traditions

How does a homeschool parent make the time to soak in the good ideas, the ones worth retelling? Living books: picture books, classic literature, biographies, poetry, living geography narratives, living science narratives, etc. Maybe we can be the monks of this age, preserving the ideas in the form of written words. I would like to think my home library is a treasure.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the books I’ve listed here, which will come at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

The Dark Ages

I am not a history buff. I consider my children’s classical education a sort of re-education for me. I love it. So when I attended the Classical Conversations area practicum back in June and heard an historical analogy, I got kind of giddy.

The “Dark Ages” refers to the time of the Early Middle Ages in the area of the Roman Empire in Europe, when *it is said that* human civilization saw a decline in intellectual, cultural, and economic progress. Now, I am not sure how “backward” this time period was in actuality; modern scholars have found evidence of noteworthy accomplishment, perhaps enough evidence to debunk the “Dark Ages” term. However, that period in history was considered “dark” because of the idea that the written word was sub-par.

At any rate, the written word that was kept and developed during that time between 400 and 900 AD was preserved by a few people: the monks, the Holy Roman Emperor’s court, and perhaps some select others (I am not an expert and do not pretend to be). The general population was illiterate, right? But, why? After all, there are only 26 letters in an Anglo-Saxon alphabet. How hard would it be to learn to read?

The Romans had papyrus, which rots in the damp European clime. So, after the paper and documents had rotted and the “dark ages” were in full swing, the main types of “paper” were birch bark, parchment, and vellum. That was probably hard to come by, especially for the common person (my own inference, so do not take it as fact). So, if you do not have anything on which to write, your literacy rate is going to plummet.

When paper as we know it first appeared in Spain in the 12th century, literacy increased. Read more about it here.

What does this have to do with our MODERN society, where words are everywhere, in fact, written and spoken information can be found in just about every corner of the planet?
I think it says a lot. We are inundated with images every day. Social media has done this. I surmise that we are exercising our literacy as a society by PRODUCING written words. But how good are these written words, really? What kind of ideas are we putting forth into the world?

Preserving the Words

How does a homeschool parent make the time to soak in the good ideas, the ones worth retelling? Living books: picture books, classic literature, biographies, poetry, living geography narratives, living science narratives, etc. Maybe we can be the monks of this age, preserving the ideas in the form of written words. I would like to think my home library is a treasure. As for our libraries, we can try to influence them with good recommendations of books they can lend, but let’s face it… society is changing. There is a narrative out there that I for one do not agree with. I digress… When good literature is hard to come by (and one day it might be a little bit harder than it is now) a home library seems almost imperative. In the meantime, we can try our best to be like the monks of the “Dark Ages”.

If you’d like to hear my thoughts on how classical education and Charlotte Mason methods support the idea that we are created “persons” of words, watch my 7-minute video here!

A Family’s Traditions

So, we can all hopefully agree that reading living books is great! Let’s aim to read them together with our children. Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival Podcast has devoted a lot of her work to supporting this idea: reading aloud to children has emotional, social, and mental benefits. It also can be a wonderful thing for the relationship between the parent and children. As Sarah so sweetly puts it, “You are the best person to help your kids learn and grow, and home is the best place to fall in love with books”.

Can we start some new traditions? I cannot wait to read this book, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids

From what I gather, cultivating faith in the family takes more than just teaching them about our faith. Traditions hold the family together. What are your traditions? I love a good meal with the family. A friend of mine recalls her mom declaring every Friday the 13th a family celebration. Other friends have an extended family pizza night every Friday. Maybe you like to do handicrafts with your kids, or have them cook with you. Whatever it is, I bet you’ll think of something fun.

Some Fun

Here are some titles of books that contain these kinds of “traditions”: family cooking, handicrafts, reading aloud to each other, things to do together. I think you’ll love looking at them! All of them happen to be on sale until September 24th. No matter what ages are represented in your family, you are sure to find something worthwhile doing… together.

The Highlights Book of Things to Do: Discover, Explore, Create, and Do Great Things (Highlights Books of Doing)
The Maine Farm Table Cookbook: 125 Home-Grown Recipes from the Pine Tree State
Make 24 Paper Planes: Includes Awesome Launcher Kit!
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: A Mister Rogers Poetry Book (Mister Rogers Poetry Books 2)
Watercolour for the Absolute Beginner: The Society for All Artists (Absolute Beginner Art)
Wood Shop: Handy Skills and Creative Building Projects for Kids
My Very First Cookbook: Joyful Recipes to Make Together! A Cookbook for Kids and Families with Fun and Easy Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, and More (Little Chef)
Tolkien Fantasy Tales Box Set (The Tolkien Reader/The Silmarillion/Unfinished Tales/Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)
Autumn Recipes from the Farmhouse (Seasonal Cookbook Collection)

We went through a soap-making phase!

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Classical Education Mini-Series: Education and Character

I have two takeaways I’d like to share with you as you go into your first week of school.  I think these embody the heart of classical education.  I take my ideas from the Classical Conversations area practicum I attended back in June 2021.

NOTE: This is a transcript taken from my video.  Therefore, it is written verbatim.  I hope that my speaking is easy to follow. You can find the video at the bottom of this post.

Education Is Not the Same as Training

When I was in high school, I trained for a summer job as a lifeguard.  Okay, so you can imagine what that was like: we watched a lot of training videos, we completed a lot of worksheets, we were even able to perform some underwater rescues.  I remember diving to the bottom of the pool, picking up those big bricks and bringing them back up, safely to the surface.  So, I was being trained for a particular job, and I had specific skills that I had to learn.  It was for a certain future.  It was finite. I would be trained on the job to do X, Y, and Z and I would perform my task.  That was what I did: I lifeguarded that summer.

Education is different.

Education is when you are being taught, for lack of better word, for an uncertain future.  And what does the future usually hold, guys?  Suffering. You are going to suffer.  I am going to suffer.  We are all going to have some suffering that we are going to have to endure, and education that prepares us for that uncertain future is paramount.

So, if you’ve lived, you know, that we are going to have to give kids the tools to suffer across callings (to suffer well).  Training doesn’t shape the soul, but education does.  Education shapes character – training doesn’t.  Education is for life.  Training is for the here-and-now.  So, it’s a good distinction to keep in mind.

Teaching Character Is Paramount to Academics

Okay, so this was an excellent analogy that Mr. Nale gave yesterday.  He was talking about the two types of old people that you will meet.  There are two types, guys.  Two types: the grumpy, dissatisfied, discontented type and the joy-filled, cheerful, life-giving type.  I thought it was brilliant.

So, let’s go back to children.  Do you think the most important thing in a childhood is academics? The most important thing in a childhood (and I’ve said this before) is not academics.  No. We are forming character first.  Academics are important, but character must be in place… if you’re going to teach anything, you need to be focusing on shaping the character first.  And, of course, the academics are a gift. 

Thinking back to the old people, how do you think they got to be this way? How did the grumpy, old “whoever” become this way? Well: habits… character.  When were those habits and when was the character formed? At an early age.  It’s something to think about.

“The child who starts out in life with say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.”

Charlotte Mason

So, think about that and how you will train your children.  Character is paramount. 

“The habits of the child are, as it were, so many little hammers beating out by slow degrees the character of the man.”

Charlotte Mason

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Back to School: A Charlotte Mason-Inspired Shopping List

I made something for you.

I made something for you.

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Dear Homeschool Mama: Refresh Your Home’s Atmosphere + Habits

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of this Lara Casey book about setting goals, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

I made something for you.

If you head on over to my Goals page, you can read all about it.

in the meantime…

Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life

Simply Charlotte Mason: On Habits

I hope this blesses you in some way!

XO,

Holly

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Classical and Charlotte Mason Education Mini-Series: My Family’s Story and Defining Our Terms

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these books about classical education, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support.

I’ll tell you a little bit about my family’s journey – homeschool journey – and how it began. My husband’s one of seven kids; he’s the oldest, and he was homeschooled back before it was “cool”, back in the early nineties. So, he has a history with homeschool.  I, on the other hand, do not.  I was raised in the public schools and was a public school teacher right out of college.  I taught for four years, then got my master’s degree in counseling.  This was during the time period when we were starting to have a family. Right before my second child was born, I graduated with my master’s in counseling, and decided to stay at home for a little while.  And, of course, the call to homeschool was there. I had already thought about it, my husband and I had talked about it, and honestly, I think the year was 2017 when we started to really look into classical education.  We looked at Classical Conversations, to be specific. And so, I’m going to be talking from my unique perspective…

*NOTE* This post is a TRANSCRIPTION taken from a video I recorded. It is not meant to be an essay or a poetic piece of writing. It is simply the quick and dirty. The difference between my spoken words and written words is noteworthy, but hopefully not too noteworthy!

Defining Our Terms

…. I just want to talk about classical education.  It can be characterized in various ways, but two main lists come to mind when I’m trying to talk to somebody about what classical education is. 

The first list goes something like this.  Classical education:

  1. Pursues virtue
  2. Uses tools to learn in layers: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom
  3. Celebrates the integration of knowledge

The other, similar list is, classical education:

  1. Follows the pattern of the trivium
  2. Is language-focused rather than image-focused
  3. Is centered around the story of history.

Okay, let’s define our terms. You’re probably thinking, “what is trivium?”, and if you haven’t heard of trivium, well, here you go.  According to the book The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise…they’re basing their methods on something they have read, an essay by Dorothy Sayers, written many years ago.  We go back thousands of years when we talk about classical education.  It has been around for a while.  It started to dwindle in our country about the time of the Civil War.  By the 1950s, classical education was all but gone in our country. So, it’s making a comeback, thanks to the republication of Dorothy Sayers’ essay in the 1980s.  So, now we have a resurgence of classical education.

The Trivium

So, what is the trivium?  It is a three-part pattern.  First, the mind must be supplied with facts and images – the grammar stage. If you’re learning something for the first time, you must learn the grammar, or terminology, of what you are learning.  You’re learning to bake cookies.  You gotta learn chocolate chips, flour, butter, sugar, brown sugar. All these different ingredients you have to learn.  Oven, you have to learn bake, you have to learn all the different methods and tools you used.  So, the grammar stage.

Next, the mind must be given the logical tools for organizing those facts and images.  This is called the logic stage or the dialectic stage.  It’s when you start to understand the process.

Lastly, the mind must be equipped to express conclusions.  This is called the rhetoric stage.

Each stage correlates with an age range.  So, the grammar stage: Kindergarten through fifth grade; the dialectic or logic stage is sixth grade through eighth grade; the rhetoric stage is ninth grade through twelfth grade.

Now that we have defined trivium, does it make some sense? You probably have some questions like, do all children in any given stage fit nicely into the box and never use thinking skills outside of their prescribed stage? No.  Think about adults.  We actually go through all three stages of the trivium any time that we learn something new from start to finish.  I just used that baking cookies example because the nice man who conducted our practicum this weekend used that as an analogy, but you could apply it to so many different things.  I am not a baker, but in keeping with the baking cookies analogy, you learn the ingredients, the tools, the methods first (grammar stage).  Then you learn, I could add more baking soda, and the more baking soda I add, the more fluffy my cookies will be. Okay, you’re learning more about the process, you’re understanding the process better (dialectic stage).  You’re comparing things. And then, the rhetoric stage is when you are able to sit down and tell somebody how to bake chocolate chip cookies.  You might have even created your own recipe, and you share that with other people.

So, now you know the trivium. Those of you who are new to classical education, let me give you three things to take away.  Some of these things I learned from the Classical Conversations practicum, but some of them are my own musings.  So, #1: 

Do NOT Miss the Elephant!

Sorry to interrupt you, but I am going to interject here.  You gave us two lists, but you spoke about this thing called the trivium an awful lot.  I am speaking on behalf of the homeschool parents who like the ideas behind classical education, but want to know more than just the trivium.  Let me explain.  Karen Glass used a fitting analogy in her 2014 work, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, of someone describing an elephant to be like a rope.  Okay, so what part of the elephant is the “rope”?  You know, the trunk.  Oh, but the rope is not a fitting description of a whole elephant.  This is akin to people saying classical education is the trivium.  Hold your horses!  Did you know that there is so much more to classical education than the trivium?  Glass writes, “any time we approach a subject and look at the discrete parts instead of the whole, we are in danger of missing the elephant” (2014, p. 120). 

So, the trivium may be a part of the whole, but it is not the whole itself.  Classical education is so much more.  If you want to actually get acquainted with the classical thinkers of the past, like Charlotte Mason did, instead of merely knowing “about” classical education, I invite you to read Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. 

The heart of classical ideal is humility and a synthetic approach to learning.  It is natural for a child to develop a relationship with knowledge and wholeness from the beginning of his life.  For example, Glass gives us another lovely analogy.  The child, from the day of his birth, naturally sees people.  He knows them in their poetic sense, their synthetic sense, because of firsthand acquaintance.  The parts of the whole are secondary.  He will have no trouble placing parts of the body in their proper places when given the task because he has firsthand knowledge of whole people.  Therefore, Glass asserts we should introduce all knowledge in this way.  “We should allow them from the beginning to have the opportunity of making firsthand acquaintance with whole things” (2014, p. 121).   Charlotte Mason was all about humility and synthetic learning.  So, rather than just using the trivium as a basis for understanding classical education, please read this book.  It is worth your time, and it is only 134 pages long! 

I hope this gives you a little something to think about.  Stay tuned for my next video on classical education!

Watch the video here:

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A Quick Peek Into Our Homeschool

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall inside a homeschool? What does a homeschool room look like? I am not speaking for all homeschool parents out there, because each one of us organizes the home differently, to meet our needs. However, this is just a peek into our homeschool: the school room and the kitchen. We do school here, so it is about functionality. No Pinterest perfect school rooms, here!

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall inside a homeschool? What does a homeschool room look like? I am not speaking for all homeschool parents out there, because each one of us organizes the home differently, to meet our needs. However, this is just a peek into our homeschool: the school room and the kitchen. We do school here, so it is about functionality. No Pinterest perfect school rooms, here!

What do you think? Give me your best school room organization ideas!

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A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations, YEAR 3 of Little Brick Schoolhouse

One obvious way we can cultivate a living education in our homeschool is by introducing our kids to living ideas found on the pages of living books…

Looking For a Booklist?

Disclaimer: If you are here to find a booklist that incorporates good, living books into a 24-week-long study of multiple content areas (aligned with Classical Conversations Foundations), you are in the right place! Scroll past the brief post, “Six Tools to Use in a Living Education”. If you are curious about Charlotte Mason methods, you might want to take about 5 minutes and read my post.

Six Tools to Use in a Living Education

  • read living books
  • observe
  • tell it back/narrate
  • record it
  • memorize (this comes AFTER guided discovery)
  • create something new from what you have learned

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about a living education. I have experienced bits and pieces of this, but I still strive to make it part of the basic fabric of our homeschool. More continuity, more of an atmosphere. Here I write briefly on each of these tools for a living education. My thanks goes out to Simply Charlotte Mason. The Charlotte Mason Together Retreat was unforgettable, unhurried, life-giving.

living books

One obvious way we can cultivate a living education in our homeschool is by introducing our kids to living ideas found on the pages of living books. If I had it my way, we would probably buy all of our books, but frugality matters, too. So, we use our local library. However, when a book cannot be found there (unfortunately, this is the case more often than I’d like to admit), we either borrow it from a friend or buy it. And once we have it added to our library here, we have even more opportunities to seek out the living ideas found within, spread out like a feast on the pages. Time and time again. What is a living book, you might ask? I have created a cheat sheet for you here.

observe

Picture Study. Nature Study. Composer Study. The list goes on, and in a Charlotte Mason education, we take the time to form a living, personal acquaintance with what we observe. The mere question, “What do you see? …hear?” without any interjection by the teacher can ignite the spark that allows a child to possess what he or she is beholding. To truly tell about, to put it into words, what he or she is taking in allows that child to form that living, personal acquaintance with something created by God.

Narrate/Record it

Know. Tell.

It begins with building oral fluency. It culminates with the goal of learning formal writing. Narration lays the foundation for writing well. When narration is done well, one possesses what he is beholding. This is a form of knowing, truly knowing. Therefore, narration is also a training exercise in thinking well. It’s an art. It builds relationships. If you are interested in starting this journey of narration with me, look no further than right here. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, take a look at the narration resource I made for those who are wanting to “test drive” narration.

memorize

Charlotte Mason taught IDEAS first, memorizing facts later. A common thread found throughout a Charlotte Mason education is “taking something into the mind’s eye”.

You can find this thread woven into the “spelling” lessons. What we call “spelling” Charlotte incorporated into the larger skill of reading and using language. Charlotte didn’t formally teach spelling as one might encounter it today in an institutionalized setting, but exercised this habit of attention to eventually have students write down a passage that was dictated to them. They would have to possess the passage in their minds’ eye, before attempting to write the dictation. This comes from memorization of words, yes, but usually within the context of a larger passage, after the students have already encountered the rich ideas found in the passage. Dictation would not be expected until around 10 years of age. Before that age, students would be practicing copy work and memorizing short phrases, pieces of a large poem or proverb.

You find this thread woven into the picture study our family has come to love.

You find this thread woven into the composer study, the nature study, the foreign language study, the list goes on.

It has taken a shift in thinking for me, to put such emphasis on the habit of attention. I will have to get used to short lessons. Only saying the directions once. I do believe it will reap benefits, not just for my kids, but also for me.

create something new

I think this is self explanatory. How could you create something new from ideas? You have surely done this before. Inspiration arises while one is living life. It usually doesn’t arise from anxiety or pressure to meet a deadline.

Let’s use my own blogging as an example. Create something new. I am starting to learn what this might be for myself. Cultivating habits that foster creativity, I hope to take incremental steps and be faithful in my writing, for example. It does not take an hour a day. It might take just 5 minutes a day. Inspiration arises from living life. So, I live my life. For me, a reliable writing routine is more about the life I live as a person, as a person who writes. I am not just a writer. So, I look for good ideas, but I am not in a frenzied state of searching. I admit, my mind does get caught up in some kind of crazy rumination at times! Nonetheless, I remember to pause and write. I remember to do something with my hands. I remember to play with my kids. I remember to go for a walk.

A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 1

CYCLE 1, Quarter 1(Weeks 1-6)

Subsequent quarters to come!

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases of these CC Cycle 1 books using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Year-Round Resources

Science:

The Story Book of Science (Yesterday’s Classics) by Jean Henri Fabre
Pond and Stream by Arthur Ransome
Pond and Stream Companion by Karen Smith
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Earth & Environment 1 by Blair Lee, M.S.
Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find? by Editors of Storey Publishing
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate
Science Encyclopedia Paperback Book w/Internet & QR Links
We are looking forward to using Pond and Stream as part of our Science study this upcoming 2021-2022 year.

Science Encyclopedia Paperback Book w/Internet & QR Links is also something we have on our shelves for quick reference or longer reading sessions.

Fine Arts:

Website: https://artsintegration.com/2012/09/19/picture-this-exploring-art-elements-in-picture-books/ (Exploring Art Elements in Picture Books)
Art from Simple Shapes: Make Amazing Art from 8 Simple Geometric Shapes! Includes a Shape Stencil
An Introduction to Art History: A Classical Approach to Art Part II by Barry Stebbing (Ancient Art: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome)
The Stuff They Left Behind from the Days of Ancient Egypt (Simply Charlotte Mason)
The Stuff They Left Behind from the Days of Ancient Greece (Simply Charlotte Mason)
The Stuff They Left Behind from the Days of Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)
Picture Study Portfolios: Michelangelo (Simply Charlotte Mason)
The Arts: A Visual Encyclopedia
Music Study with the Masters (Simply Charlotte Mason) We will be studying Bach.
Singing the Great Hymns (Simply Charlotte Mason)
Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too by Mona Brookes
Foreground, Middle ground, Background (PERSPECTIVE) in CC Cycle 3

History:

The Story of the World also has map work, narration, review questions, and coloring sheets in resources you would buy separately.
Other components of Story of the World

Classical Conversations has a Bookstore that would be helpful in finding comprehensive history resources. We are currently in the FOUNDATIONS Program. History cards, Trivium Table (for Cycle 1), Cycle 1 Audio CD for reciting memory work and timeline, History cards for Artists and Composers, and Ancient World Echoes are some examples of good resources we have used or are going to use in the future. If you are looking to save some money, look into joining Classical Conversations Connected. The Foundations Learning Center has a FILE SHARING feature that has helped me find resources like history sentence copy work, memory work flipbooks, and more.

Engaging overview of history, A Short History of the World
This book pulled me in, as I saw history through the eyes of children from around the world and from different times. It is so good. How Children Lived A First Book of History

Geography:

My Pop-up World Atlas
Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason
A Child’s Geography: Explore the Holy Land Knowledge Quest
Eat Your Way Around the World by Jamie Aramini

Math:

Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians by Dale Seymour Publications
The Math Chef: Over 60 Math Activities and Recipes for Kids
Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas
Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series) by Laura Overdeck
The Lion’s Share by Matthew McElligott
The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
The Greedy Triangle (Scholastic Bookshelf) by Marilyn Burns

Sites that promote mathematical thinking

Marcy Cook Math

Charlotte Mason Poetry (Math Resources)

Kate’s Homeschool Math Help

Free Number of the Day Worksheets

Lifestyle/Personal Development:

Embracing Screen-Free Life: When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan
The Bible is God’s Word

We have loved this Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible, for as long as our kids have been here.
Sophie and Sam: When to Say “Yes” and When to Say “No”

Week 1

Science (Classification):

Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
Animalium: Welcome to the Museum
Botanicum: Welcome to the Museum
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon (Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12) is one of my personal favorites (Holly). The illustrations are fabulous.

Fine Arts (5 Elements of Shape):

When a Line Bends . . . A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Green
The Greedy Triangle (Scholastic Bookshelf) by Marilyn Burns
If You Were a Polygon (Math Fun) by Marice Aboff & Sarah Dillard
My Heart Is Like a Zoo Board Book by Michael Hall

History (Commandments 1-5):

Exodus from Egypt (Bible Stories) by Mary Auld
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd Jones (10 Ways To Be Perfect chapter)
Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide (Hands-On History) by Nancy Sanders

Geography (Fertile Crescent):

One Small Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor
Chapter 1 Map, The Story of the World, Activity Book 1: Ancient Times – From the Earliest Nomad to the Last Roman Emperor
The Tigris and Euphrates: Rivers of the Fertile Crescent (Rivers Around the World (Paperback)) by Gary G. Miller
Ancient Agriculture: From Foraging to Farming (Ancient Technology) by Michael Woods

Math (1s and 2s):

Since I do not have any specific read aloud books for this topic of 1s and 2s, I think it might be a good idea to share how we will try to incorporate Math into our Morning Time this upcoming school year. I have a 7 and 4.5 -year-old who will be joining me, and our 2.5-year-old will be around.

introducing the math loop

Note: A loop schedule allows you to complete any activity on any particular day, just picking up where you left off the next day you get to the list. Once all the activities on the list have been “run through”, you repeat the loop from the top.

DayActivity (roughly 10 minutes)
1Counting exercise on the hundreds chart
2Number of the day from Kindergarten Mom (trace, count, frame, draw, tally, write)
3Word Problem from Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)
4Practice telling time on analog clock like DHCHAPU Student Learning Clock Time Teacher Gear Clock 4 Inch 12/24 Hour
5Charlotte Mason Math Tables
6Marcy Cook Math Game – Turn Over Tiles to Find X or Bearly Balanced Tiles

week 2

Science (Kingdoms):

A Mammal is an Animal by Lizzie Rockwell
About Fish: A Guide for Children (About…, 6) by Cathryn Sill
About Amphibians: A Guide for Children (About…, 5) by Cathryn Sill
The Burgess Animal Book for Children (Dover Children’s Classics) by Thornton Burgess
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess
NewPath Learning – 94-3502 The Six Kingdoms Bulletin Board Charts, Set of 5

Fine Arts (Mirror Images):

Mirror Play by Monte Shin

History (Commandments 6-10):

Exodus from Egypt (Bible Stories) by Mary Auld
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd Jones (10 Ways To Be Perfect chapter)
Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide (Hands-On History) by Nancy Sanders
These are the same suggestions from Week 1.

Geography (Assyrian Empire):

Map Trek The Complete Collection (I would only get Map Trek VI: Ancient World)
Gilgamesh the King (The Gilgamesh Trilogy) by Ludmila Zeman

Math (3s and 4s):

See the above Math Loop resources from Week 1 Math.

Week 3

Science (Animal Cell):

All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World by Lori Alexander
Cell Biology Diagram
Newton’s Workshop Bug Safari / Cell – A – Bration DVD by Moody Video (January 01,2010) (TRACK #6)
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling (one of our very favorites)

Fine Arts (Upside-Down):

Optical Illusions In Art: Or–Discover How Paintings Aren’t Always What They Seem to Be by Alexander Sturgis
Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson

History (Greek and Roman gods):

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
The Illustrated Book of Myths : Tales and Legends of the World by Neil Philip
Roman Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean
Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek and Roman Mythology, Specially Arranged for Children Five and Up by an Educational Expert by William F. Russell

Geography (Hebrew Empire):

The Phoenicians: Mysterious Sea People (Ancient Civilizations) by Katherine E. Reece
Ten Best Jewish Children’s Stories by Daniel Sperber

Math (5s and 6s):

See the above Math Loop resources from Week 1 Math.

These place mats of the U.S.A. worked really well to reinforce CC Cycle 3 geography this past year.

week 4

Science (Plant Cell):

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring The Earth To Life by Molly Bang
Cell Biology Diagram
The World of Plants (God’s Design) by Debbie and Richard Lawrence
Newton’s Workshop Bug Safari / Cell – A – Bration DVD by Moody Video (January 01,2010) (Track #6)

Fine Arts (Abstract Art):

Touch the Art: Catch Picasso’s Rooster by Julie Appel
Touch the Art: Make Van Gogh’s Bed by Julie Appel
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock
Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky (KNOPF BOOKS FOR) by Barb Rosenstock

History (7 Wonders):

How the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World Were Built by Ludmila Henkova
The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World: A Pop-Up by Celia King

Geography (Hittite Empire):

The Archaeology Book (Wonders of Creation) by David Down
How Many Donkeys?: An Arabic Counting Tale by Margaret Read McDonald

Math (7s and 8s):

See the above Math Loop resources from Week 1 Math.

week 5

Science (Invertebrates):

The Bug Safari and The Cell-A-Bration DVD (Track #5: Entymology)
1001 Bugs To Spot (Usborne 1001 Things to Spot) by Emma Helbrough
Where Butterflies Grow (Picture Puffin Books) by Joanne Ryder
The Big Book of Bugs (The Big Book Series) by Yuval Zommer
Seashells: More Than a Home by Melissa Stewart

Fine Arts (Perspective):

How To Draw 1,2,3 Point Perspective: For Beginners | Perspective Drawing For Kids Made Easy by Square Root of Squid Publishing
Perspective Drawing for Kids: A Perspective Drawing Guide for Kids, Including Detailed Explanations and Step By Step Exercises by Liron Yanconsky

History (Romans):

City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction by David Macaulay
Rome Antics by David Macaulay
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine (Living History Library) by Jeanne Bendick
Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield
Danger in Ancient Rome (Ranger in Time 2) (2) by Kate Messner
The Story of the Romans (Yesterday’s Classics) by H.A. Guerber
Animals in Rome: A Latin Vocabulary Coloring Book and Primer Titvs Classics

Geography (Egyptian Empire):

Mummies Made in Egypt (Reading Rainbow Books) by Aliki
Of Numbers and Stars by D. Anne Love
The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo
Tutankhamen’s Gift by Robert Sabuda

Math (9s and 10s):

See the above Math Loop resources from Week 1 Math.

Week 6

Science (Vertebrates):

The Snake Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery
Match a Track: Match 25 Animals to Their Paw Prints (Magma for Laurence King) GAME!
Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky
Box Turtle at Long Pond by William George
Bones: Skeletons and How They Work by Steve Jenkins
Bones, by Steve Jenkins

Fine Arts (Final Project):

Take a look at the Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason. Choose one portfolio to focus on for the next term. Revisit the fine arts principles of shape, mirror images, upside-down, abstract art, and perspective as you study these full-color works (8.5″ x 11″ prints) by an original artist of your choice! Picture study is simple. Each portfolio includes a 5-step process to explain how picture study is conducted. Portfolios also include an artist biography, leading thoughts, Charlotte Mason inspira