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.

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?

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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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