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!

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.

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

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)

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! 

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?

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?

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.  

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

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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