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Preview: Higher Up and Further In

Higher Up and Further In

Practical ways we apply the lofty ideas of Charlotte Mason in our home and school. I want to inspire you!

Updated: 2018-04-10T07:00:34.328-05:00


Now It's Time to Say Goodbye


Dear Friends,

It's time to say goodbye. I've enjoyed sharing pieces of my life with you and hope you are inspired to give your children a life-giving education.

one step at a time...


How I Raised a Professional Writer Without a Composition Program


In a previous post, I explained that children do not need a composition program to become good writers. In fact, writing programs often hinder progress because they cause children to think that writing is like mathematics and all they need to be a good writer is a formula. The fact is writing is an art, not a science.  Writing does need structure, but this can be learned in a relatively short amount of time. What is really needful to make a truly great writer is copious reading of superior literature and many hours of practice. Composition programs can also rob children of the joy of playing with words. Writing often involves hard work, but it ought to be enjoyable as well.  I have raised successful writers by simply applying Charlotte Mason’s methods. I didn’t cherry pick, mind you, but faithfully followed all of her suggestions. This is extremely important to understand. Contrary to what some suggest, narration alone is not enough.  I’d like to explain how I did it, using one of my children as an example, because sometimes, practical real-life situations can clarify difficult processes. Let’s briefly walk through her writing experiences from birth to her high school graduation. The Preschool and Kindergarten YearsWhen Bryana was very young and not yet reading, my husband and I built a small library of award-winning children’s picture books and read these aloud to her over and over again. We chose each title carefully. We did not go to the library every week because we believed that a good library consisting of a few quality books was better than a book a day if it were merely twaddle.  We gradually filled a single bookshelf and used these books for several years. Sometimes when I read aloud, I’d point to the words. Bryana learned at an early age that words were meaningful and fun. Even when I taught her to read, I was careful not to quench her love for the written word and refrained from too much phonics instruction and long lessons. She practiced reading every day, but only for a few minutes. When she began to tire, we immediately stopped. Why do I tell you this? Because I want to make it clear that good writers love words. If, from the beginning, you introduce words in an enjoyable fashion, your children will be less resistant to them later. Reading instruction should be fun. If not, you are doing something wrong. Don’t take yourself so seriously when teaching your child to read. Relax and enjoy the process together.The Early Elementary YearsUntil Bryana was eight or nine years old, I read aloud many of her school books because she was busy becoming a proficient reader. She read the simpler books to herself and I read aloud the more difficult children’s classics and histories. After I read a brief passage, I’d have her tell back to me what she could remember. Charlotte Mason calls this oral narration or oral composition.  Notice that Bryana was learning basic composition skills by retelling what she just heard. Think about it. What do we do when we write down a narrative? We have to remember the events and sort them in the order in which they happened. We have to decide what is important enough to tell and what should be left out. We use appropriate transition phrases such as next and then. We must recall names and places and think about cause and effect. Bryana was doing all of these complex thinking processes in her head and relating them to me without having the difficult distraction of writing them all down. After all, she was only seven years old and still learning to write legibly. After learning to write the alphabet, she began to copy downher favorite lines from the books we were reading. She spent just ten minutes a day on this. It was mostly for handwriting practice, but it also helped her to pay closer attention to a well-formed sentence. This is how she learned basic punctuation and capitalization. She copied excellent literature and poetry throughout her remaining school years. Today she has several journals filled with her favorite p[...]

On Heroism


My Daughter, Bryana, has been writing a series of posts to the children she mentors now and to the ones she hopes to have in the future. May I share part of it with you today in hopes that you will read the rest and be blessed?

[Someday, perhaps, I will have children. How will I explain to them what to do with the deep-seated, grasping longings they have in them and don’t understand? How will they know they aren’t alone with their wants, that all of humanity pulses with the same passions? – passions that can raise the sinking ship from the waves, or drown it utterly? How will they know that I too know the press of their heartache? I will write a letter… ]


My Dear Children,

You want to save the world. God bless you.

How it does need saving! How like it is to an overbold ocean liner, broken on the bergs of the deep and going down. How you want to dive under it and uphold it! How you wish your hands were great like those of God, that you could seize the smokestacks of the terrorized Titanic and take her out. How you want to dispense a thousand lifeboats into the cold darkness. How you want to hang on the heavy bell-ropes of the planet and set up a clamor for help that combs the stars.

This ambition to be a hero is one of the grandest things about the kingdom of youth. Never let anyone belittle it in your hearing, as long as you live. You are wise to let it run in your veins and impassion you. You are wise to look beyond your little self and into the great world, and hurt for it. You are wise to nurture your longing to heal the ravaged globe. Young people, never stop.

There is something you need to know, though. You should know it now, while you are still young, for though it will surely dawn on you when you are old and full of days, it may be too late, then, for much good that might have been. Oh, it may be too late.

Read on...

one step at a time...


You Don't Need a Composition Program


Throughout the years I have been told by frustrated parents and no doubt, well-meaning curriculum guides, that Charlotte Mason was mistaken. Copy work, rich literature and narration are simply not enough to produce good writers. While some children are natural writers, others need detailed writing instruction. These assertions are sufficient enough to frighten many Charlotte Mason enthusiasts, if not most, into buying a “comprehensive writing program.”  I’m sure that some of these conclusions have been made because their children never became good writers. Understandably, this can lead to disillusionment. But if Charlotte Mason’s methods only work for natural writers, how did they become so popular across Great Britain and last for so long? Personally, I have witnessed the success of her methods not only with my four children, but also in the lives of numerous others. I hope to show you in this brief article that Miss Mason wasn’t mistaken and the fault lies in the application of her methods. The number one, most common mistake that I have seen parents make is that they expect too much too soon. Just last week, a frustrated parent showed me a written narration from her twelve year old daughter. Vanessa has been writing narrations for approximately two years now. I read the narration and noticed that she had clearly understood the events in her history book and written them down in correct order, even adding some interesting, rich vocabulary that she had picked up from the author. She didn’t begin with a nice introductory sentence because she was continuing the narration of some events that had happened in a previous written narration. The length was a full, written page. About two-thirds of the sentences were capitalized and properly punctuated. I saw before me a good narration. Vanessa’s mother, on the other hand, saw a mess. She couldn’t get past the ugly mechanics and the poor introduction. She expected a nice, neat essay with an introduction, a conclusion and proper punctuation. These glaring errors blinded her to the rich vocabulary and complex sentence structure that her daughter had so aptly displayed. Personally, per Charlotte Mason’s advice, I would have praised Vanessa for retelling the order of events so clearly and also commended her for using some new words that she picked up from the author. Then, I would have asked her to go over it again to see if she could find any words that she should have capitalized and any sentences that need a period. I would have pointed out one or two misspelled words and had her correct them, taking a brief mental picture of the correct spellings. Privately, I would note any other misspelled words and use them later in the week for an informal dictation/spelling lesson. You see, Vanessa needs a fan, a cheerleader, not an inspection officer. She needs to feel positive about her writing. If a child doesn’t have a positive writing environment, she will not develop a love of writing. Now, at this point, you may be thinking. That’s all good and well for Vanessa, but my child is fourteen years old and has been writing narrations for three years. He still writes like Vanessa! My reply to you may be difficult to swallow, but I assure you, your son is doing just fine. Be patient and trust the method. All of my children went through a lengthy period of writing narrations that needed better punctuation, spelling and organization. I continued to have them write several narrations a week occasionally pointing out errors and making suggestions. I didn’t over correct and I allowed them to write about the things they cared about. I didn’t burden them with stilted, formulaic writing exercises. They read great literature and were allowed to respond to it without much interference. Eventually, each child developed a style of her own without any “stylistic” instruction and the mechanical errors also ceased. Even more importantly, they all began to love writing. It happened at differ[...]

Charlotte Mason Carnival: Knowledge of God


Welcome to the latest Charlotte Mason Carnival. In this edition, fellow CM bloggers share how we impart the Knowledge of God to our children. We will begin with a wonderful quote from Charlotte, herself:“Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,––the knowledge of Godranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.”Carol, at Journey and Destination, shares some keys that help unlock a child’s heart and mind in her post Imparting Faith to Our Children. I think she mentions something of great importance when she quotes Charlotte: “It is as the mother gets wisdom liberally from above, that she will be enabled for this divine task.” Carol writes:“I always asked God for wisdom and then doubted that I had any. If you ask for wisdom, you need to believe He will give it and that He will help you to discern what is best and make wise choices regarding your children's influences, activities and direction...” source:dailyproverbs.netI agree with Carol and Charlotte so much! We are instructed in the James 1: 5-7 that when we ask for wisdom, we should not doubt that God will give it to us, or else He will not. Years ago, I began asking God daily for wisdom in educating my children. I believe with all my heart that any success I have had is because He heard and kept his promise to give it liberally. When mothers get a hold of this Divine truth, it removes much of the frustration and indecisiveness that they may be feeling when making educational decisions for their children. Ask for wisdom, and don’t doubt that the Giver kept His word and gave it to you. There's more good reading in Carol's post. Read on...Nebby writes about the areas where she disagrees with Miss Mason’s thoughts about the Knowledge of God. Then she writes about the areas in which she agrees.  Two thoughts in her post particularly stuck me. Here is the first one:artist: Lawrence Wilbur"[Charlotte] encourages mothers especially to simply talk about God in a natural way, as One who is present with them and involved in their lives... So the key really is to work on our own spiritual lives and to not be afraid to talk about it as we go through our days."And the second one:"Charlotte has some advice for those difficult years when our children may start to question what they have always been taught. Her advice is not to argue with them but to present them with good books on the subject so they can in a way argue with the authors. This makes it so they are not battling us but are wrestling with the ideas themselves."I have found this to be true with my older children as well. Great advice! If you have not yet read Raising Heavenly-Minded Children or Practical Ways to Cultivate Spirituality in a Child, I invite you to visit Charlotte Mason Help."It is better that these teachings be rare and precious, than too frequent and slightly valued; better not at all, than that the child should be surfeited with the mere sight of spiritual food, rudely served." And now we will move on to some posts about other areas of a Charlotte Mason Education.Sylvia, who is an excellent Charlotte Mason educator, presents a review of Rookmaaker’s Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. I have read that this is the book that influenced Francis Schaeffer when he wrote How Then Should We Live? Personally, I think both of these books offer excellent insight into Charlotte Mason artist studies.   I must confess that Charlotte Mason unschooling is an oxymoron to me as Miss Mason strongly believed in structure and that the teacher should choose the children’s books. But Rebecca shares how using some of Charlotte Mason’s methods adds balance to her children’s education even while using the unschooling philosophy of education.Although Laura does not write specifically on her blog about educating the Charlotte Mason way, in her rec[...]

A Picture Update


We have beef cattle and a milk cow, Arabian horses, chickens, ducks, geese, cats, a dog, and a few unwanted creatures...

We have a very large garden and fruit orchard, several hundred thornless blackberries and grape vines.

Washington D.C. Trip. Fun!
Here are some recent pictures of our family. Bryana is 20. Shannon is 18. Abigail is 15. Micah is 10. Robert and I just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary.

Family Read Aloud Night in the Backyard


one step at a time...


On Pre-reading Your Children's Books


(image) I meant to mention this as I was responding to a reader's query about proofreading pre-reading her children's books, but I forgot. I think it is something that may be helpful for all of us to remember, so, I hope you won't mind hearing a little unasked for advice.  Here it is:

If you are pre-reading books, don't read your children's books too far in advance. Years ago, I made this mistake, A LOT. I read several books that my oldest child would be reading two, three, three, and four years down the road. At the time, I couldn't possibly imagine my child being able to handle the ideas in some of these books. They seemed inappropriate for my sweet, little innocent daughter that I cherish more than my own life. Sooooo, being a little offended that such books were recommend on certain popular homeschooling book lists, I got rid of them. You know where this post is leading, don't you? Some of you more experienced homeschoolers are smiling right now.

Well, years down the road, I kept hearing about one of these books. "It is so wonderful, it is a 'must-read.'" I didn't understand this. I certainly didn't remember it being so great. Finally, I picked up the book again at a used bookstore. It was on clearance for a dollar so I bought it thinking it wouldn't be a great waste of money to give it a second chance. I took it home and reread it. This time, I liked it. In fact, I remember thinking, "Why, this book is really quite lovely. My daughter (now, three years older) will not only enjoy this tale, but benefit from these new and challenging ideas. Why did I ever think she couldn't?"

Folks, I began to reread and yes, rebuy those castaways. Are you laughing at me now? Go ahead. I'm laughing at myself. I learned a valuable lesson. Lindafay, don't read too far ahead because I can't accurately evaluate if my child can handle a book until my child is closer to the recommended age for that book.

Now, there have been plenty of books on booklists that were recommended by others but they simply didn't meet my family's standards of a worthy book FOR ANY AGE. I hope this is the case for you too, sometimes. A mother knows better than anyone else that her child is unique with unique experiences and callings. What may be appropriate for one child may not work for the other child. But sometimes, a book may seem inferior simply because we can't imagine our child older and with the maturity that is necessary to understand and benefit from it.

So my little advice today is try to pre-read your children's books as much as possible and at the appropriate time."

one step at a time...


Our Family Adventure to Washington D.C. Part 1


It had been a family wish for a long time, but it was so far away and so expensive, how would we ever manage to make it happen? So, we set the dream aside.Then, this spring, the opportunity arose. My friend suggested that we travel across the US together and camp along the way to save on expenses. A hopeful spark ignited in my heart.  It just might be possible...I broached the subject with my husband. He told me he couldn't leave his job for so long, but he would fly out and meet us for part of the adventure.Yessss!Three weeks later, my friend Lari, six children aged ten to twenty years and myself, set off to see the east coast of the USA. Our most important goal was to show them Washington D.C.  Our vehicles were loaded down with tents, bedding, and everything we would need while living out of our vans for 16 days.  We stayed with relatives along the way, camped when we had to, ate cheaply,  washed our clothing at laundromats, and showered whenever and wherever we could. Although it was difficult at times, our trip was so rewarding! After many years of studying American and World history, art masterpieces and the natural world, we experienced the actual places, the monuments, the paintings and artifacts up close and personal. Our understanding of the great ideas behind them deepened immensely.Before we left, I gave each of my children a new journal with colored pens, glue, and scissors. During our travels, each evening, we cut out and pasted in favorite pictures of the day from a pile of brochures and recorded our impressions of the events and places we visited. Here's a peek into some our our adventures: "Went to the Tuckaleechee Caverns, where the little boys drank the subterranean creek from their bellies and Gollum might have come paddling around any bend in the winding water.""Rolled into the Greenbelt campground around the hour of 5—after a rather serious detour involving an empty gas tank and a few wrong turns : ) Set up camp in the cold and ate yellow lentils with hot tortillas...sang loud LES MISERABLES in the bathroom.""We went to Gettysburg, and it was as horrible and wonderful to me as it has been to so many others... This is a place where a vast multitude of boys met the grey face of death.""We sat under the long, ridged columns on the porch of George Washington's house and looked out on the green and the blue that so many before us have seen. In the halls of his home, hung the Bastille key, the emblem and symbol of so much strife and suffering. And it’s is stunning to lay eyes and hands on these pieces of a past that has always seemed so remote and lofty and inaccessible. They really did live, and we can walk in their footsteps, but the flesh and the blood and the glassy eyes and the warm skin? Gone past recovering.""We lingered a long time among the artifacts of the earth and after all of the years between now and elementary school, I finally saw real mummies : )Perhaps the room where we spent the most time was a fascinating collection of stones and minerals which, had I seen it as a child, I suspect, would have shifted the course of my whole life. Thank goodness, I didn’t :)""The thing Ryan most wanted to see on the whole 1000 plus mile journey across the continent was the Lincoln Memorial of chiseled stone at the end of the long mall-green. So we did, and it was some joyful sight to see him treading triumphantly with his fixed eyes and his grin."  "We saw Cole’s shining angels today and so much else that is beyond description. The Copley Family, and the Gilbert Stuart collection and Cimabue and Botticelli much that has always existed on shiny little prints in my picture album but there exists on canvases in great golden frames.""Woke to steady rain pelting the roof of the tent and fled with our ironed dress clothes to the unwet restroo[...]

Year 12 Program and Booklist for my High School Senior


Updated:This is what one of my students studied for 12th grade. She has used Charlotte Mason's methods all her life and is accustomed to reading classic literature.Bible/Devotional:The Apologetics BibleWeapon of Prayer by Bounds, E.M.*Your God is Too Safe, Buchanan**My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers***Streams of Living Water, by Richard FosterApologetics/Philosophy/LogicPhilosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview, by J.P. Moreland The Discovery of Deduction-Formal Logic*Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvinand various Armenian works. (study both sides of the issue)*Pensées Pascal, Blaise  *The Golden Sayings of Epictetus * **Reasonable Faith, by William Lane Craig**Selections from Thomas Aquinas**Timaeus, by PlatoHistory/BiographyChurch History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley*How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill**Selections from the Works of Josephus**St/ Francis of Assisi by G.K Chesterton ** ***Selections from Greek Histories by Herodotus** ***The Early History of Rome by LivyScheduled Ancient and World LiteratureHeroes of the City of Man: A Christian Guide to Select Ancient Literature by Leithart*How to Read the Bible as Literature, by Leland Ryken *Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective by Leland Ryken *The Iliad, by Homer*Theogony, by Hesiod (Drama)*Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky*The Trial and Death of Socrates*The Stranger, by Albert Camus*Island of the World, by Michael O’Brien (geography too) *The Little Prince by St. Exupery*The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius by Long, George *Confessions by Hippo, Saint Augustine of*Oresteia Trilogy, AeschylusTerm 2**The Aeneid by Virgil**Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri**Figure of Beatrice by Charles Williams (commentary for The Divine Comedy)**La Vita Nuova (The New Life) by Dante Alighieri**The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis (commentary for Medieval Literature)**The Epic of Gilgamesh**Oedipus Rex by Sophocles**The Clouds, by Aristophanes (Drama)**Pearl by Tolkien**Sir Orfeo by Tolkien** *** The MabinogionTerm 3***De Monarchia by Dante Alighieri*** The Odyssey ***The Bacchae, by Euripides (Drama)Short Stories and EssaysThe World’s Last Night and other Essays by C.S. Lewis'On Stories' and Other Essays, C.S. Lewis Short Stories by Anton ChekhovShort Stories by TolstoyEeldrop and Appleplex, T.S. EliotGeographyThe Hills and the Sea, Hilaire Belloc (Geography)16 Days-Visit the Eastern Coast of USA including Washington D.C.MathPre Calculus-Khan AcademyUnderstanding Calculus w/ CDThe Humongous Book of Calculus  Problems by W. Michael Kelley** ***Mathematics, Is God Silent? by James NickelScienceExploring Creation with Physics, by Dr. Jay Wile*Ignorance: How it Drives Science, Firestein, Stuart*Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Einstein, Albert **Taking Back Astronomy by Jason Lisle** ***Einstein’s Relativity and the Quantum Revolution by Richard Wolfson w/ CD***Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, by Stephen Hawking***Instant Physics, by Tony RothmanSpeech and CompositionOn Speaking Well, Peggy NoonanContinue to a keep a quote book from books readWrite a poem every two weeks Recite memorized poetryOral and written narrationsKeep Notes and OutlinesPoetry and Recitations*The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 Eliot, T.S. *Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins*Having Decided To Stay by Johnson, Bryana  **Eyes of Youth, a Book of Verse (selected poems by Padraic Colum, Shane Leslie, Viola Meynell, Ruth Lindsay, Hugh Austin, Judith Lytton, Olivia Meynell, Maurice Healy)**Poetry of Charles Williams (Taliessin through Logres, The Region of the Summer Stars, Poems of Conformity)***William Blake***AudenForeign LanguageVarious Turkish literature for translation Various French literature for translationConcise French GrammarOpen lear[...]

Is Your Child Struggling with Written Narration?


Sometimes, I take care of a couple of boys for the day because their mother, a single mom, works full time outside the home. She home schools them in the evenings and on weekends. Iconsider their mother to be one of those unsung heroes on this earth. Although her sacrifices go unnoticed here, she’s a star in heaven.  I know that she has been reading aloud rich classic literature to her children for many years. Her  son, Justin who is in 6th grade, has been reading his schoolbooks for several years but has only been narrating for about a year. On the day that he was visiting our home, he brought his schoolwork and began working on his assigned readings. Everything was going fine until he told me that he was supposed to write a narration. I hate writing narrations! It’s like climbing a sheer cliff! Tears welled up in his eyes. His brother explained to me that Justin has always hated writing narrations and it usually took him over an hour to complete one. I had expected this resistance because his mother had warned me that I probably wouldn’t be able to get a narration out of him. In order to find out the reasons behind his frustration, I began to ask him questions. After pinpointing the problem, we sorted it out and twenty minutes later, he wrote a beautiful narration.  As he prepared to go outside for a break, he said to me with enthusiasm, “If I could write narrations like this, I wouldn’t mind it so much!”So what were the problems and how did we solve them? Problem 1 I learned that Justin had read thirty-five pages from one book that day. Reading and narrating from that many pages is too much to expect from a child. Charlotte Mason kept the readings for younger children brief. Upper level students who have several years of narration under their belt may be called upon to do this, but no one else. Justin instinctively knew this was too much. He was overwhelmed. I would be, too.Solution 1In order to solve Justin’s dilemma, I asked him to recall one small part of his reading that he really enjoyed. Then I asked him to tell me about that part, and that part ONLY. I could tell that the ice was breaking. His face showed that he thought this task just might be possible to accomplish. Now, I realize that there are times when children double up their readings to catch up on a lost week. We do this sometimes too. But this should be the exception to the rule. Shorter readings are ideal. Problem 2Justin understood that he had to SUMMARIZE thirty-five pages. This requires sifting through huge amounts of material and determining the main points while leaving out all the juicy, exciting details. Such a task is not only overwhelming for children, but extremely BORING. Essentially, he was being asked to write an ESSAY. It's difficult enough for a child to have to write his thoughts down. Adding the task of summarizing can shut down some children. Crafting an essay involves higher level skills that are best suited for older children. Some children in the elementary years are capable of doing this, but I’ve never met one that enjoys it, especially if asked to do it on a continual basis. Charlotte Mason expected high school-aged students to begin learning this skill, not young children. Technically, essays are not even narrations, but a form of academic writing that is used in college level classes. This skill can be learned in a short amount of time. But it is best learned when children have become proficient writers and only AFTER they have learned to enjoy writing. And yes, I firmly believe that EVERY child can learn to enjoy writing (or typing), if the proper foundational steps have been put in place using Miss Mason’s suggestions religiously. Solution 2When I asked Justin to tell me about a particular part of the story he had[...]

Milky Tea, Music and Middle Earth


My youngest child has reached a momentous stage in his life.  He's finally allowed to visit Middle Earth with J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of The Rings. As my daughter Bryana pointed out last week, he has eagerly awaited this milestone for over half of his life. Often, snatches of the epic sparked his curiosity from his older siblings, but they have taken an oath of secrecy. The boy shall not know the tale until he is of age. Whenever the uninitiated walks in the room, conversation ceases. He must wait until he is old enough to really appreciate it. And it is worth the wait. In fact, half of the enjoyment for my children has been the anticipation.Well, 2013 is the chosen year for Micah, and now, every Monday evening, our home becomes an enchanted portal for the imagination to enter. After supper, in front of our warm hearth, the children light candles and drink milky tea while reading aloud the next chapter. We face our enemies, learn the value of courage, the rewards of faithfulness, and the power of faith and love in the midst of deep darkness. We end the night inspired to reach higher up and further in. We make memories together and they are very good. These memories will last a lifetime and beyond.This year, we found a jewel that I want to share with you because it has added an element to our evening readings that completes the atmosphere for our adventures in Middle Earth. We like it VERY much.The Lord of the Rings: Complete Songs and Poems by The Tolkien Ensemble (four CD collection) is the first complete musical interpretation of all the poems in the J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Lee is one of the many soloists along with 150 musicians. It took ten years to complete.  We listen to the songs as we encounter the poems in the books. Wow!  A preview of The Tolkien Ensemble and more about its origins:                  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">one step at a time... [...]

Group Studies- Being Educated on THINGS as well as BOOKS


From the archives (revised and updated)Our school schedule is six weeks on and one week off. This gives us about a six to seven week break in the summer and takes the stress off of me during the year. I know that I have a one-week break every six weeks to work on the projects that I have been wanting to do. The kids love this set-up as well. We take a two-week break during Christmas and take off a few days for the other holidays as well. On birthdays or just plain hard days, we only read our books, and all of the other subjects, narrations included, go out the window. We have lessons from Monday to Thursday.On Fridays, everyone looks forward to GROUP TIME. This is how we fit in all art, music, nature study, handicrafts, and other important "extras" that shouldn't be "extras" at all. Miss Mason reminded us that children should not be solely educated on books. THINGS have their place.. If your children are somehow growing weary of the wonderful literature you are giving them, ask yourself if you are neglecting these other important areas that children need to feast on as well.Basically, this is what we do:8:30 The children make corrections in their work (from the entire week) and have conferences with mom. I make sure they have completed everything on their personal schedules.9:30 Week's Work: We recite memory work from previous terms together and review various school subjects. This varies throughout the year. We have sung the books of the Bible, reviewed math tables, geography terms and had map drills.  We've gone over Greek and Latin roots, put old timeline cards in order, learned spelling tricks, even practiced analogies with my older students who were preparing for the SAT. We've played NAME THAT TUNE using previous composers and their music. I keep a little card file with these ideas in it because I forget : )  The kids really look forward to this.10am Music study (we alternate each week with our folksong/hymn or composer study.)10:30 Plutarch or Shakespeare study with the older children. Younger ones play.11am Artist Study or Paint (alternate weekly)12am Nature Study/Walk or Handicraft depending on the weather and time of year 4pm Tea time- we all take turns reading aloud to each other as the children work on elocution (proper pronunciation and diction). This is a favorite with the children. Each child takes turn hosting it by making the tea (with lots of milk) and scones or other sweet.Please note that the schedules in our HUFI curriculum give suggestions for artists, composers, poets, nature walks and folk songs for each year. However, this does not mean that each child should be studying these subjects individually. If you have more than one child I strongly recommend that you study these areas together. Just pick those that you prefer and go from there. If you have older children they may wish to strike out on their own, and I encourage you to let them. Don't force group time upon them. This is a normal part of their growing independence and isn't necessarily a reflection of your teaching step at a time... [...]

Great Geography Site


Airpano shows panaramic views of famous places in the world. It is a great tool to use alongside of Halliburton's Book of Marvels.Here's a list of their top ten: Volcano Plosky Tolbachik, Kamchatka, Russia, 2012  Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  Grand tour of Manhattan, New York, USA  Flight to Stratosphere  Taj Mahal, India  New York, Manhattan, Night  Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt  Angel Waterfall of Venezuela - The World's Highest Waterfall  Swaminarayan Akshardham, Delhi, India  St-Petersburg, Virtual Tour  Hong Kong - the City Where Dreams Come True  Unreal Aircraft of Ivan Roslyakov  Day view of Manhattan, New York, USA  San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge in the Fog  Machu Picchu - the ancient city of the Inca Empire  Virtual Tour of Toronto, Canada  Virtual Tour of Dubai City, UAE  Luminous Las Vegas at Dusk and Night  New York, I love you  St.Moritz, Swiss Alps, Virtual Tour [...]

We are not Middlemen


mid·dle·man  (mdl-mn)  -n.  An intermediary; a go-between."The direct and immediate impact of great minds upon his own mind is necessary to the education of a child. Most of us can get into touch with original minds chiefly through books; and if we want to know how far a school provides intellectual sustenance for its scholars, we may ask to see the list of books in reading during the current term. If the list be short, the scholar wilt not get enough mind-stuff; if the books are not various, his will not be an all-round development; if they are not original, but compiled at second hand, he will find no material in them for his intellectual growth. Again, if they are too easy and too direct, if they tell him straight away what he is to think, he will read, but he will not appropriate. Just as a man has to eat a good dinner in order that his physical energies may be stimulated to select and secrete that small portion which is vital to him, so must the intellectual energies be stimulated to extract what the individual needs by a generous supply, and also by a way of presentation that is not obvious. We have the highest authority for the indirect method of teaching proper to literature, and especially to poetry. The parables of Christ remain dark sayings; but what is there more precious in the world's store of knowledge?How injurious then is our habit of depreciating children; we water their books down and drain them of literary flavour, because we wrongly suppose that children cannot understand what we understand ourselves; what is worse, we explain and we question. A few pedagogic maxims should help us, such as, "Do not explain." "Do not question," "Let one reading of a passage suffice," "Require the pupil to relate the passage he has read." The child must read to know; his teacher's business is to see that he knows. All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing."  -vol 6, Charlotte Masonone step at a time... picture source [...]

Our Music of Proclamation (Christmas 2012)


Bryana writes:

There are holy days that come around to close off our year because of the Holy One that came to close off all our darkness. To me the most joyous part of our celebration of this ultimate occasion is our music of proclamation: the refrains that are as old as grave cathedrals; the declarations that are as new as last year; the carols that were written to announce the wonderful news through the wet streets, and in fire-lit homes.

(image) Christmas has always been one of the highlights of life in my family. We have longstanding traditions for these holy days and one of these is music that has been part of our festivity for as long as I can remember.

Sadly, much that passes for Christmas music in our bewildered culture is nothing more than unsubstantial noise. Even our traditions center more around chestnuts and open fires, reindeer, mistletoe and snow than around the arrival of the Great Light. It can be hard to find artists who incorporate the mystery into their music. This is why I want to share a little list of some of my favorite Christmas music, in hopes that you will find something here you’ve never heard before, and that it will perhaps make the miracle settle a little deeper into you.


The Grammar of Poetry


Guest Author: Bryana Johnson (at 13 yrs of age) Poetry, like every other kind of art, has a form.  It has rules and reasons and a particular routine. Today, many people are forgetting this.  They think poetry is just some genius quality that a few people have and the rest of us must live without.  It is true that some people are naturally gifted at writing poetry but all of us can be good at it if we really want to.  I am reading a book this year called The Grammar Of Poetry by Matt Whitling.  It speaks of the different forms of poetry and covers the basic rules that apply to all poetry.  Knowing these rules has really helped me to write better poetry and even to enjoy other people’s poetry better.  The book actually goes into quite a bit of detail but the points that have been the most helpful to me are these:For different types of poetry, different orders of stresses are used.  In poetry scanning (going over a poetical work to determine what meter and rhyme scheme was used) each accented syllable is marked with a stress symbol, a little slash above the accented syllable.  An unaccented syllable is marked with a breve, a mark shaped like an upside-down half moon and placed above the unaccented syllable.  The three forms of poetry that I have read about so far are iambic, trochaic and anapestic.                                In iambic poetry, the second syllable is accented but not the first.  An example of a piece of iambic poetry is Tennyson’s “The Eagle,” which begins like this: (I have put the accented syllables in bold type so that you can see where the stresses are)“He clasps the crag with crooked handsClose to the sun in lonely lands…” Trochaic meter is the exact opposite of iambic meter- in trochaic meter the stress is on the first syllable, and the second syllable is unaccented.  An example of trochaic poetry is this line from Chesterton’s dedication in the Ballad Of The White Horse.  “…Carrying the firelight on your face, Beyond the loneliest star.”Anapestic meter is formed with two unaccented syllables and then one accented one.  An example of anapestic poetry is Lord Byron’s  “The Destruction Of Sennacharib” which begins like this: “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold…”Dactylic meter is the exact opposite of Anapestic meter.  It is a combination of of three syllables- the first is accented and the second and third are not.  An example of dactylic poetry is this “Hail to the chief who in triumph advances, Honored and blest be the evergreen pine! The best way to write good poetry, though, is not to memorize a bunch a grammar rules but to READ poetry.  Although learning about poetical grammar and forms is helpful, the most important thing is to read the works of other poets.  This is crucial for providing the vision and inspiration necessary for writing good poetry.  (Some of my personal favorites are Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and Gilbert Keith Chesterton.)  When you read a poet, concentrate on their style and what subjects they generally focus on.  Try to get a feel for what the poet is like- their worldview and life.  A good way to write poetry is to first read a poem written by another poet and then, with the meter still in your mind, to try and write your own poem about a different subject but using[...]

Do your kids ever snatch your camera?


Sometimes I get a surprise when downloading pictures from my camera. Dear Son has been busy 'working out.'
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We Have a Winner


Congratulations, Tara. You are the winner of our giveaway.

Please email..... with your address and we'll send you a book.

Thanks to all who participated.


Just two days left to enter Giveaway...


We gave away close to two hundred ebooks last week of Having Decided To Stay and if you were one of the recipients we'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Please don't be shy.

If you have benefited from Higher Up and Further In or Charlotte Mason Help, please take the time to leave a review of Having Decided To Stay at Amazon.

(image) This Tuesday, the 27th, we will pick the winner of a beautiful paperback edition. You have just two days left to comment on this blog letting us know that you left a review at Amazon.

Thank you,


Book Giveaway


(image) My daughter Bryana's book, Having Decided To Stay, is now available on the Kindle. For two days only, it is being offered free of charge at Amazon. If you don't have a kindle, you can still download it to your computer and read it. Even if you aren't a great fan of poetry, we hope you will try it. We think you just might like it.

If, after reading Having Decided to Stay, you enjoyed the book, we would be so grateful if you left a brief review on Amazon and rated it. In fact, we would probably dance for joy.  :-) After you do so, come back over here and in the comments section let us know that you left a review. We will have a drawing one week from today and the winner will receive a paperback edition of the book in the mail.  So hurry and go download your free ebook now!

Warm thanks,


Tips on Getting Children Interested in Hard Books


A Charlotte Mason education is not a child-led education. By that, we mean that we do not choose books or subjects to be studied based solely on our children’s desires and interests. Yet, we recognize the eternal truth that they are persons who have come from the mind of God. This makes them valuable, even precious, and therefore we should treat them with respect, being sensitive to individual differences. If a child has no interest in a book, we should not force-feed the book down his throat. This will only work against the child’s thirst for knowledge and may even quench it. The child’s education must be a delight to him. Our curriculum has additional reading lists with excellent suggestions for children’s books, but all my children do not read all the books on those lists. We add, take away and generally follow my children’s interests. We try to read many of the books on each list, but exactly how that plays out for each child-well, it just looks different. There’s a lot of leeway here.   But what about the meat of the curriculum-the histories and classic works of literature that we don’t want our children to miss? Many of us are deeply convinced that they will not only benefit from these books intellectually and spiritually, but will enjoy the stories if we can only get the children past wordy settings and difficult language. How do we readPilgrim’s Progress to boys who are only interested in The Avengers right now? They simply don’t want to dig for the jewels in this book. The language is hard and there are no pictures. How in the world did Charlotte Mason expect eight-year-olds to enjoy this tale? Do we just plow through it whether they like it or not? What about older children who moan, “Mom, I don’t understand what I am reading. Do I have to read this?” For many of us, our first tendency is to look for something easier. Sometimes, that is what we should do. After all, children are unique. What works for one child may not work for another.  But I have found that I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a work of literature simply because it's a hard read.  I have often been able to help jump-start my children’s interests in books by trying various ideas. Here are some you may wish to consider:I immediately begin reading the book aloud if my child has been trying to read it alone. Sometimes, this is all that is necessary to help someone over a hump. And I read it slowly. Often, we read too fast without realizing it. The ideas are whizzing past our children’s minds. S-l-o-w down.Sometimes, as Charlotte Mason suggested, I prepare the passage for the hard books by looking for proper names of people and places and new vocabulary. I write these words on a dry erase board, but no more than three or four at a time, and I warn my children to watch for these words.I shorten the readings. I may break the book up over several days instead of one or two. The very best thing you can do for a difficult book is read it in very small doses.I read it when my child’s brain is still alert and awake, usually in the mornings. If a child has trouble narrating, then I read only a paragraph and have him narrate it back immediately before anyone speaks. Sometimes I summarize a passage he doesn’t understand and we just move on.I don’t worry about him understanding everything I read. He needs to get the general story. He will not always understand the details. That’s perfectly okay.I take turns narrat[...]

What about Hard Books and Uninterested Children?


When you decide to take Charlotte Mason's advice and present a feast of many, many ideas to your children through the reading of numerous living books, your children won't be able to recall a lot of the people and places that they read about while young.  At least, that is what it will seem like to you. But rest assured, many of the stories and characters, even if only snatches, are filed away in the brain helping them make connections in life that you don't always notice because you are not in your child's head. I know this is true because I witness it all the time. The Benefits of Hard BooksI read aloud This Country of Ours to my children when they were six, seven and eight years old. A few years ago, during a family dinner conversation about American politics, my 13 year old mentioned that she didn’t remember hardly anything from that book. This bothered me a little, but not enough to mistrust the process. Charlotte Mason ideas had proven correct too many times in my home to turn back now. Four years later, that same daughter said that the history book she was reading brought back many memories of the people and events that she thought she had forgotten from This Country of Ours. “Really Mom, it’s amazing how much I can recall now.” But even more importantly, your children are slowly over time, becoming used to complex sentence structure, rich vocabulary and noble ideas through heroic deeds. In short, they are learning how to think deeply about the things that really matter in life. This is why I have chosen to educate my children in this way. I have observed my own children develop a taste for only the best in literature and history. Now they can't tolerate twaddle and even easy books. They want the challenge of great books and thirst for deep ideas. Reading these older, hard books also helped them to understand and enjoy poetry which for many people today, is a mysterious genre because they are not used to the complex language patterns that the poet utilizes. But our great heroes, authors and leaders of the past all know that poetry is the highest form of communication. We NEED good poets today who know how to communicate truth through this venue because it can stir the human heart like no other written form. And we all know that knowledge alone can't change a person. The knowledge must connect with the emotions.The Consequences of Giving Up Too SoonThe problem that can arise when we are experimenting with this type of education is that the teacher gives up too soon. When the children are not as interested in these hard books as they are in the twaddle on their shelves or the movies in the cupboard and Mom isn't able to enjoy the book either because of her own unfamiliarity with the rich, wordy language and vocabulary, easier books are chosen because she wants to keep the children's interest. Some parents decide to slow down on the amount of ideas they give their children. They read fewer books, explore fewer areas but delve deeply into the life of a particular person. Or perhaps, they spend several weeks studying ships or knights because their child has an interest in them. It is possible that their children will enjoy this study very much and will even be able to recall several years later a lot of what they did. But the price you pay for this type of learning is that fewer ideas are being presented to your child's thirsty, curious mind. The fewer ideas, the narrower their lives, a[...]

Our Latest Project: King Arthur and His Knights


Charlotte Mason had her students perform three major plays each school year. We have done this just about every year since the children were very young. Eventually, the plays became movies.

A few years ago, my older girls began spending their summers teaching some of their young friends how to act and film their own movies (including commercials). Everyone enjoyed this so much it has become an annual event. In December, we throw a Christmas party and invite the parents to watch the finished project together with the kids. Then we give out copies as gifts.

It is really gratifying to see how the children have blossomed over the years in their acting abilities. Children who were once shy, now perform with confidence and joy. My third daughter Abigail, who is 14 years old, recently made this trailer of the movie she's been working on with her friends this summer. She hopes you enjoy it.

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King Arthur Movie Trailer

Christmas gift tip: Buy your children a cheap digital camera that records videos and encourage them to make movies of the tales they are reading in school.  (Children don't need fancy equipment to do this. Windows Movie Maker which comes with Windows free of charge, a trunk of large, unwanted clothing and a digital camera are all that we have used for many years.)

More short films here.

One step at a time....