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.

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)

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.  

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.

Imagination In Place: An Author’s Perspective + A [Very] Short Story

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

in my place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Man Called Visionary

by H.G. Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Visionary’s story did not end there.

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

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Loves Tomie?

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola

Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie dePaola

St. Patrick by Tomie dePaola

Non-Fiction

Saint Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons

Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Diana Mayo and Joyce Denham

Folktales & Fairy Tales

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

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

Favorite Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs

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

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott

Recipe Books

Saint Patrick’s Day Recipes for Everyone by Michelle Lee

The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook by Parragon Books

Morning Time Extras

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

Ireland Map (decor)

Irish Songs for Tin Whistle by Thomas Balinger

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

For Adults Only

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

Self-Education is My New Venture

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

I Want to Become a Book Girl

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

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

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

Charlotte Mason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Clarkson

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

Clarkson’s response:

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

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

Sarah Clarkson

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

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

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

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

The words you memorize become a part of you.

Sarah Clarkson

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

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

My Reading Life in the Commonplace Book

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

How It Works

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

Literary Life Commonplace Book

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

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

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

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

Narration Ideas for Days… Book Ideas for YEARS!

Narration

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

Booklists

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

A living book:

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

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

Year 1 Booklist

Year 2 Booklist

Year 3 Booklist

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

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