Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
     And wild and sweet
     The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
     Had rolled along
     The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
     A voice, a chime
     A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
     "For hate is strong,
     And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
     The Wrong shall fail,
     The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
May the God Who doth not slumber nor sleep fill your hearts with his peace this Christmas season and in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Snowflake Science

Tis the season...for snow!  Science for the seasons is one meaningful way to develop a relationship with the natural world.  These resources will cause your children to stand in awe of a Creator God who does all things for His glory and for our good.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqeline Briggs Martin is a picture book biography of Wilson Bentley. All his life, he saw snowflakes as small miracles.  He determined to find a way to capture them on film.  Winner of the Caldecott medal, this is also a Five in a Row Vol. 4 title and a treasure. 

Snowflakes in Photographs by W.A. Bentley - This wonderful book includes Mr. Bentley's photographs of snowflakes taken during a 50 year period.  Remarkable considering these were made over 100 years ago!

I usually don't recommend modern books, but this is worthy of an exception.  The Secret Life of a Snowflake by Kenneth Libbrect also includes breathtaking photographs of snowflakes along with the science behind them.

After immersing yourselves in these books, your snowball fights will never be the same.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Sale List Updated

Living ideas through living books...a gift to treasure.

My book sale list has been updated with many such treasures for your gift-giving needs.  See the link at the top of the page.  If you have trouble, you may also click here.

Thank you for your support,.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Livin' Off the Land

Probably one of the most popular sections in my library is the homesteading section.  As more and more folks look to be more self-sufficient (I prefer God-dependent) and looking less to the system to care for their needs, these books and videos help to regain the skills lost for the last two generations...skills that were to my grandparents "like breathin'."  I thought I would share some of these resources with you in case your family is seeking to go back to the old paths.

I guess the most obvious choice for learning how our forefathers lived is the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.   Learn from the Ingalls family as they build a cabin, milk a cow, make cheese, bake sourdough bread.  Almost everything they needed, they provided by the work of their own hands.  (An interesting side note - Look at what happened when the trains began bringing supplies to the west...and what happened when they couldn't.)

The Open Gate by Kate Seredy - I LOVE this book!!  I laughed at the struggles of a city family who accidently buys a farm.  Even though my husband and I are from this small town, we still grew up in subdivisons.  The biggest animal I had ever been around when we got our first milk cow was a German Shepherd.  You, too, will laugh and cry...and learn... as this family learns to make a very different life for themselves.

Even though the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody begins on a ranch in Colorado, we still gained so much wisdom to use on our little East Tennessee farm.  One of the keys to success in homesteading is problem-solving and thinking outside the box.  A little common sense doesn't hurt, either, and Ralph's father (and eventually Ralph himself) exemplifies all of these.  Do not miss these books.

In addition to living books, I also have many volumes to teach skills needed for the homesteading life.  The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery is a huge book that deals with just about everything you would ever encounter on a homestead.  If you can only buy one book, make it this one.

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour - This is my husband's favorite do-it-all book.  I love it, too.  Mr. Seymour also has books such as this one which introduces us to the lost skills of our ancestors.

Keeping a Family Cow by Joann Grohman - When we first got our Jersey cow, Lynette, this book was attached to my right arm for months.  So much cow wisdom!

Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel is a great book if you would like to revive this food storage means. 

Homesteading doesn't always mean lots of land.  Many in our society today have very small plots of dirt but can still be successful in providing for their family's needs.  Mini Farming by Brett Markham is a good resource for those seeking self-sufficiency on a quarter acre.

The Foxfire books are treasures in my home.  We have the set my late father-in-law had which I did not allow to be checked out in my library.  Thankfully I found a set for 50 cents each at a library sale.  Now many of my patrons enjoy learning about the skills of our ancestors in Southern Appalachia, my home.

Sometimes a video fits the bill better when we are trying to learn a lost skill.  The West ladies, featured on the Homestead Blessings video series, teach us many arts such as cooking, gardening, herbs, candle making, soap making and many more.   The Homesteading for Beginners DVD set is amazing, teaching many many skills necessary to live off the land. 

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to humbly suggest a profound and challenging book.  This is the only book I own besides the Bible that I have read more than twice.  I'm now on my fourth read.  Surviving Off Off-Grid by Michael Bunker looks at history and scripture to see how we should view life and to Whom we should be dependent.  This is not just a how-to book, but a history book, and a philosophy book.  Those who read it either love it or hate it...or both.  This is not a "chicken little" book, but a realistic look at where our culture started and where it's gone.  I highly recommend it.

I hope you will search out some of these gems if for no other reason than to connect with the past.  Where we are is a result of where we've been.  Consider introducing yourselves and your children to the old paths.

This post was shared at the Homestead Blog Hop.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Mayflower's Poem

Sad Mayflower! watched by winter stars,
And nursed by winter gales,
With petals of the sleeted spars,
And leaves of frozen sails!

What had she in those dreary hours,
Within her ice-rimmed bay,
In common with the wild-wood flowers,
The first sweet smiles of May?

Yet, "God be praised!" the Pilgrim said,
Who saw the blossoms peer
Above the brown leaves, dry and dead,
"Behold our Mayflower here!"

"God wills it: here our rest shall be,
Our years of wandering o'er;
For us the Mayflower of the sea
Shall spread her sails no more."

O sacred flowers of faith and hope,
As sweetly now as then
Ye bloom on many a birchen slope,
In many a pine-dark glen.

Behind the sea-wall's rugged length,
Unchanged, your leaves unfold,
Like love behind the manly strength
Of the brave hearts of old.

So live the fathers in their sons,
Their sturdy faith be ours,
And ours the love that overruns
Its rocky strength with flowers!

The Pilgrim's wild and wintry day
Its shadow round us draws;
The Mayflower of his stormy bay,
Our Freedom's struggling cause.

But warmer suns erelong shall bring
To life the frozen sod;
And through dead leaves of hope shall spring
Afresh the flowers of God!


author unknown

Monday, October 7, 2013

1963 ~ A Literary Look

1963 can be described as a tumultuous turning point in history.  Beatle-mania, segregation,  JFK's assignation all served to set the stage for a world of uncertainty while MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech begged for sanity.  However on October 7 of this historic year, a little girl was born in a small East Tennessee town who knew nothing of world events but who would grow up with a desire to counter the culture in her community in a small way through a peaceful but profound books...books penned to infuse life into the young hearts and minds of those who read the words.

So 50 years later, I have my own dream that those children who enter my library, who read the books of a past generation, will be the culture changers of the next generation.  We desperately need them.

For a fun (and an eye-opening look) at where the literary world was 50 years ago, I thought I would list 50 of the books published in 1963.  Some I've never heard of, others appalled me, and a few I dearly love.

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
3. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
4. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh by Vincent Van Gogh
5. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
6. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carre'
7. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
8. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
9. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobol
10. Noble House by James Clavell
11. Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle. (Seriously...)
12. Stormy, Misty's Foal by Marguerite Henry
13. Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (loved in my library for Owls in the Family)
14. Six Easy Pieces:  Essentials of Physics by Its Most Brilliant Teacher by Richard Feynman (also Six Not-So-Easy Pieces)
15. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
16. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
17. Swimmy by Leo Lionni
18. Glory Road by Robert Heinlein
19. Rascal by Sterling North
20. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
21. I Am David by Anne Holm
22. The Graduate by Charles Webb
23. Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
24. The Castafiore Emerald by Herge' (Tintin)
25. Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
26. Five Are Together Again by Enid Blyton
27. The Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle
28. The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
29. Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry
30. Curious George Learns the Alphabet by H.A. Rey
31. Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon
32. Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.
33. Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
34. The Mystery at Bob-White Cave by Kathryn Kenny (a Trixie Belden book and my favorite twaddle series growing up)
35. Dark Canyon by Louis L'Amour
36. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge (something good had to come out of this year)
37. The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum (one of my all-time favorites!)
38. Paddington at Large by Michael Bond
39. Sexuality and the Psychology of Love by Sigmund Freud (well that explains a lot...)
40. The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody (Little Britches #7)
41. Kisah Smurf Hitam by Peyo (who knew the Smurfs went back that far?)
42. The Cosmic Computer by H.Beam Piper
43. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
44. Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean
45. The Words by Jean-Paul Sartre
46. Stig of the Dump by Clive King
47. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter
48. Emil in the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren
49. William the Conqueror by Thomas B.Costain
50. Happiness Is a Warm Puppy by Charles M. Schultz

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Book Proverb

A book in the hand is worth two on the shelf. 

Henry T. Coults

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Christmas Time's A'Comin'

Christmas?!?  But it's only September!!  Yes, but time goes so fast.  Christmas is three months from today so I thought it would be great to post some past and future favorite Christmas titles.  Every year I find wonderful blog posts about favorite Christmas titles...four days before Christmas and too late to do anything about it.  So here is my list early so you can make your Advent reading plans in plenty of time.  I encourage you to choose a book (or more) from this list or from your own favorites to treasure with your family this year.  It is one of our most blessed traditions. 

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy - One of the most beautiful books I've ever read.  Truly.  This book is so special I have three copies.  (Exciting update HERE!!!!!!)

This Way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer was one of our reads last year.  David is a young boy who is separated from his parents during WWI and, in his lonliness, discovers how to give the joy of Christmas to others.  We loved it.  This book has been reprinted by Yesterday's Classics.

Stars Over Bethlehem by Opal Wheeler - You probably know Opal Wheeler from her endearing composer biographies.  Inspired by the carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, as a child, Opal dreamed of traveling to Bethlehem on the night of Christ's birth.  This book tells of her pilgrimage.  A special treat mom will enjoy, it is short enough to read in one sitting.

I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge - Can anyone resist a book written by Goudge?  Polly, who lives with her two maiden aunts after the death of her parents, is certain a miracle will happen at Christmas.  Charming.

A Song for Young King Wenceslas by Cecil Maiden - I've been fascinated with the story of Good King Wenceslas ever since learning to play the song on the piano as a child.  This is a chapter book for children.  Stephen's Feast and Wenceslas are excellent picture books.

Speaking of picture books, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is my all-time favorite.  I see this version comes with a CD narrated by James Earl Jones.  I might need to invest in it because I can't make it through this book without crying.

A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill is another touching story of a mute boy and his special Christmas miracle.

The Trees Kneel at Christmas by Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the beloved Betsy-Tacy series, tells of a Lebanese-American family during the holiday season.  Miracles seems to be a common thread in Christmas stories and this special gem is no exception.

Author Alta Halverson Seymour wrote several wonderful Christmas stories set in various lands.  Titles include A Grandma for Christmas, The Christmas Donkey, The Christmas Stove, Arne and the Christmas Star, The Top O'Christmas Morning, Erik's Christmas Camera, Kaatje and the Christmas Compass.

If you enjoy collections of Christmas stories and poetry you might like Christmas by Alice Dalgliesh or Take Joy by Tasha Tudor. 

There are so many more I could list...and I may before the seaons arrives.  If you have special ones you've savored, please share.  I'm always searching for new titles to add to our list.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

School and Reading...a Wake-Up Call

I have a list of blog posts I plan to write.  However I am continually being sent articles by folks who are saying it so much better than I can.  This article was sent by a librarian friend and is the best I've seen on reading woes for today's children.  It's a lengthy post but I encourage you to read it all...and then enjoy a book with your children.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We are here, We Are Here, WE ARE HERE!!!

I remember one of my favorite books growing up was Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a WhoHorton, the loveable elephant, is determined to save Whoville from extinction no matter what the cost to himself.  In an effort to make themselves heard, all the Whos in Whoville cry from their roof tops, "We are here, We Are Here, WE ARE HERE!!!"  The battle seems hopeless as those who only accept what they can see are determined to destroy an entire culture.

Today one of my library patrons passed an article on to me which relates the destruction of over a quarter of a million books by a Virginia library system.  I told of another library who is required to do the same thing in a previous post.  The Virginia library states budget cuts and moving toward a digital world as their reasons. 

What is so tragic about this scenerio is that there are private libraries such as mine that would have been thrilled to rescue many of these books.  I feel, as the Whos of Whoville, that I should cry from the roof tops, "We are here, We Are Here, WE ARE HERE!!!" 

What is the benefit of rescuing old books?  Can we only accept what we can see and therefore be willing to destroy the heart and soul of an entire culture?  Do we not see our need for life beyond the visible, knowledge and wisdom beyond mere facts?  Should we only depend on a digital screen to direct us in the way we should go? 

Please...stand with us in making a difference in your community.  Help us save as many of these treasures as possible before they can no longer be found.  Contact your local public libraries and see how you can become involved in book rescue missions.  Impact the culture through the printed word.

We are here...

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

~Emily Dickinson~

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Year in Review

No, it's not January but it has been a time of reflection for me.  It was this week last year that I finally stepped into the unknown world of blogging.  Since that time I've shared my vision for old books and getting them into the hands of eager young readers.  I've grieved the loss of reading in our culture and the consequences.  We have looked at the effects of electronics, not only spiritually but physiologically as relationships have become digital and our brains are being rewired.

So where do we stand?  Has anything improved over the past year? 

One of the greatest blessings of my life is sharing my collection of treasures with children in my community.  This year I am serving 34 families, my largest number ever.  That means each week dozens of children are coming into my library pouring over books, thrilled to find new friends.  I've even heard whispers of a few desiring to share their books in this way when they grow up. 

And speaking of libraries, God has opened the hearts of many more families across the country to open libraries of their own.  Libraries have been opened in various forms in many states such as Georgia, Virginia, Washington, California, Colorado and many more.  God cares about these books and the young minds they are feeding.  Perhaps He has a library planned for your community...maybe in your own home.

In the culture at large, however, things look pretty bleak.  Common Core threatens to strip any vestiges of beautiful language as they cram students' minds with utilitarian drivel.  Public libraries are discarding many of the books that are deemed treasures among my patrons.  Thankfully many of these end up in library discard sales to be snatched up by homeschool librarians.  However, I was distressed to hear from a public librarian acquaintance of mine who says her library, because of some contractual agreement, is not allowed to sell their discards.  They are required to trash them!  Google searches have replaced print on paper and the ideas written on them.  Most new books being published would have been better left as trees.

What is the answer?  Is there hope? 

As the old saying goes, just keep on keepin' on.  Support private libraries in your area.  Consider starting one of your own.  No matter how seemingly small your collection, it will tremendously bless those in your community.  If no private library is near you, educate your public librarians on the value of living books.  Check out the remaining treasures on their shelves so they will stay in circulation.  Start a book discussion club with your children's friends.  Read to your children and build collections for them.  Let them see you read for your own pleasure.  Value words and the ideas they contain.  And give God the glory as He uses children of words to be proclaimers of His Word.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cherish the Moments

Time goes so fast.  Those little ones you cradled in your arms are soon grown and on their own.  Those toddlers so unsteady on their feet are running marathons.  The scratchy notes of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on the violin suddenly become Vivaldi concerti.  And parents are left shaking their heads and wondering when it all happened. 

Recently we were reading an often overlooked book in the Five in a Row curriculum.  Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, is the story of a girl who lives in an Inuit village in northern Canada.  Eva had often gone with her mother to gather mussels on the bottom of the sea.  But today, she is old enough to go herself.  Waiting for the tide to be just right, Eva lowers herself down under the sea with her candle to gather mussels.  Adventure and more than a little fear awaits Eva.  But when safe in her mother's arms again, she cherishes her very last first time of walking alone on the bottom of the sea.

As we watch our children grow and find their way, may we cherish their very last first times.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Can't Believe You Said That!

Much of my life is consumed with books.   But I'm about to make a confession.  There is more to life than books!   I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my family's everyday (and not so everyday) life.

Marcus and Daniel enjoy their Suzuki violin lessons.

I milk one side while little Nellie milks the other.

 Enough snow to make a snowman this big is rare in Tennessee.

Daffy ducks ready for breakfast.

Our family enjoying the beach in January.

Just a common, everyday life enjoying family and home.  We pray you are enjoying yours today.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Sense of the Beautiful

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Who Cares?

"The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?" (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, pgs. 170-171)

Everywhere we look today we see people wandering aimlessly, seeing nothing, caring about nothing except where the next thrill or "thing" will come from.  Life is simply about moving on to the next event on the calendar.  Relationships are confined to digital screens.  Minds are simply dumping grounds for meaningless, random facts.  This is exactly the opposite of what Charlotte Mason was expressing in the quote above.  It is the exact opposite of the abundant life Christ spoke of.

How can we raise a new generation of caring people?  We must demonstrate caring in our own lives first and foremost.  Do we see the needy around us?  Do we look at the changing seasons with awe for the Creator?  And, of course, the books we read should cultivate caring in our children.  When we give them nothing but dry, dull, bland, factoid-laden books and call it education, it's no wonder they leave school without purpose.

I thought it would be helpful to show some examples of living, caring books...and those that are not.

Here is an excerpt from Streams of Civilization, Vol. 2, a Christian textbook, about the German invasion of Holland and other countries during WWII.

"On May 10, the Nazis  unleashed the awesome power of their blitzkrieg  on Holland, Belgium, and France.  Nothing could stand agaist the German bombers and armored panzer divisions.  A devastating air attack leveled Rotterdam, and the tank divisions raced across the flat countryside.  Within five days, Holland surrendered."  (pg. 280)

Now from The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum...

"The stars were fading and a milky light oozed over the landscape.  Mists rose from the fields to meet it, and for a while Dirk Jan walked in a kind of veil.  This was rent and scattered by the first rays of the sun, which burst across the horizon in all the glare and pomp of royalty, a royalty even the Nazis could not banish.  Its light spilled over and flooded the shivering landscape with gold, echoing in glittering windows or gleaming patches of ice.  Now people came creeping out of hiding places, out of barns and haylofts or the homes of kind farmers where they had found a night's shelter.  These were foragers, inhabitants of hungry cities where food could not be had even on the inadequate ration coupons, where light and fuel had been cut off and people had to live on watery soup distributed from central kitchens.   The most able-bodied members of the families (mostly female, on account of the manhunt) ventured forth in the cold, to find something to eat.  It was because of this heroic activity that many Dutch people managed to survive.

Dirk Jan had heard about these trips, but he had never witnessed any.  The sight shocked him deeply.  He seemed to be in the company of an army of tattered beggars who had offered their clothes for barter.  A few lucky ones had rusty bikes without tires.  Few had decent shoes.  Many had shoes that did not match, or clogs that were split and nailed together again...  Hunger, and love for those at home, drove them on."  (pg. 126-127, 128)

How much do the youth know? 

How much do they care?

In Wild Africa:  Giraffes by Melissa Cole we read, among the stunning full-color photographs,

"Giraffes are the tallest of all land animals.  Male giraffes, called bulls, are usually larger than female giraffes, called cows.  Adult males can weigh up to 3,000 pounds (1,360.8 kg).  They usually stand between 15 and 17 (4.6-5.2 m) feet tall.  The biggest bull ever measured was 19 feet high (5.8 m)!  Female giraffes usually stand about 14 feet tall (4.3 m).  They can weigh as much as 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg).  (pg. 6)

In 1971, Gladys Conklin wrote Giraffe Lives in Africa.  We read...

"The African sun was hot.

It beat down on the great open plain, turning the yellow grass to gold.  Wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes were scattered across the plain the vast numbers.  In the cloudless sky overhead. black vultures circled endlessly, hunting for dead animals.

In the foreground a small herd of giraffes moved in single file across the dusty plain.  Their feet were hidden in a cloud of powdery dust.

At the end of the line trotted Giraffe, a young calf about a week old.  She was steady on her legs and feeling frisky.  She was able to keep up with the group, but her growing curiosity often led her aside.  This new world was fresh and exciting."  (pg. 10-11)

By the end of these books, how much will they know?  How much will they care?  How full will his their lives be?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In a Library Emily Dickinson

A precious mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore,
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty,
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town.
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can We Talk?

Have you ever been reading along, minding your own business, when suddenly a quote jumps off the page and you know you have to do something about it?  As I was reading Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason's writings, I came across this:

Perhaps there is no better way of measuring a person of liberal education than by the number of substantives he is able to use with familiarity and discrimination. We remember how Scott tried a score of openings with the man on the coach and got no further until he hit upon 'bent leather'; then the talk went merrily for the man was a saddler. We have all had such experiences and know to our shame that we ourselves have victimised interlocutors who have not been able to find our particular 'bent leather.' Vol. 6 pg. 261

This quote filled me with conviction.  You see, my husband and I had just been talking about my frustration in trying to engage others in conversation.  Inevitably we end up talking about all that goes on in my life, namely boys, books and bovines.  Now I love talking about all these things because that's where I invest my time and energy.  But I would love to talk with others about what is important to meet someone where they are and learn from them.  After reading this quote I realized that, although I have 16,000 books on my shelves and spend a good deal of time reading those books, I often choose books that are within my own interests.  So I've determined to broaden my horizons!  I have chosen three books to begin learning about topics I know very little about.

The Romance of Physics by Keith Gordon Irwin - I chose this for two reasons.  My oldest son is an engineering major with a love of physics.  I, on the other hand, am completely ignorant in the fields of math and science.  

Flower Pressing by Marge Eaton - This looks fun and might be a good topic to engage a flower lover.

Spice Ho!  by Agnes Danforth Hewes - I admit this book is probably a little less practical but our conversation turned to the subject of the importance and impact of the spice trade after our Bible reading of the Queen of Sheba bringing spices to Solomon.  I'd like to know more.

Think of the benefits of reading widely.  Ministering to others by taking a knowledgable interest in what interests them cannot be underestimated.  In a culture where people are merely disposable commodities, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of others through conversation.  It might even be possible that some of us may discover an interest or talent with which to supplement the family income.  At the very least we can marvel at the diversity of gifts God has given.  And it's no shame to say, "I know nothing about that.  Tell me more."

Read a book and start a conversation.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Commonplace Book

One of my favorite habits of my adult life has been to keep a commonplace book.  In this lovely spiral notebook, I write down quotes and snippets that speak to me.  This is a beautiful way to record favorite passages from Scripture, THE Living Book, as well as meaningful portions from other life-changing books I've read.  I thought I would share a few of those with you.

Possibly Aunt Frances was right, after all, and Elizabeth Ann was a very impressionable child.  I wonder, by the way, if anybody ever saw a child who wasn't.
~Dorothy Canfield Fisher~

Give a child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.
~Charlotte Mason~

One life knows many judgements, she said.  They are like the chapters in a book.  What if every chapter but the last is one of defeat?  The last can redeem it all.  And God knows the heart that in its weakness longs for Him.  Patient still, He adds another chapter, and then another, and then in the hour of victory closes the book. 
~Elizabeth Goudge~

Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle's eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them.
~Charlotte Mason~


What worlds of wonder are our books!
As one opens them and looks,
New ideas and people rise
In our fancies and our eyes.

The room we sit in melts away,
And we find ourselves at play
With some one who before the end,
May become our chosen friend.

Or we sail along the page
To some other land or age.
Here's our body in the chair,
But our mind is over there.

Each book is a magic box
Which with touch a child unlocks.
In between their outside covers
Books hold all things for their lovers.
~Eleanor Farjeon~

Thursday, May 30, 2013

a little poem...

So, please, oh please,
We beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away!
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookcase on the wall.

~Roald Dahl~

The entire poem can be found here.  Don't miss it!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Compound Interest

One thing I have discovered over the past five years as I've counseled moms who desire to teach their children through living books is that this type of education is truly a walk of faith.  Our current "education" system tells us that children must be confined to desks seven hours a day shackled by textbooks, worksheets and standardized tests.  If our children are ever to measure up in the "real world" they must be able to jump through arbitrary hoops set up by "experts." 

Many questions torture mothers who sincerely want the best for their children...

How do I know they're learning?

How will they ever get into college?

What do you mean I don't need a math curriculum in the early grades?!?

I don't have to do grammar until they're older??

Don't my high schoolers need to start "real school?"

And on it goes...


The truth is, learning through living books is actually the most effective way to educate a child of any age.  You know they're learning because they tell you what they've learned.  Narration is a powerful means of taking ownership of what we know.  We do not truly know anything unless we can explain it to someone else.  Living with the people of the books we read, living in the places in a compelling book all serve to help us build relations with those people and places of the past. 

All subjects can be taught through living books and narration...even math to a large degree.  And colleges actively seek students who are able to think, who have good habits, who are actively engaged in the learning process rather than regurgitators of information.  And these students who have been raised on the feast of "books and things" excel in any walk of life which God leads them.


I admit that it's difficult to let go of the public school's scope and sequence.  If my second grader can't recite the 50 states and their capitals we must be behind!  After all, our neighbor's child can do that.  Am I not failing my children if I don't turn them into fact-eating machines?  But we must understand that it takes time to build relationships.  This happens line upon line, precept upon precept.  But in the fullness of time, their little minds, which have feasted on facts clothed in great ideas, are expanded to the greatest heights of knowledge and wisdom.  And it is after these things we are to seek.


The beginnings may seem slow.  I liken it to compound interest.  Charlotte Mason calls it magical expansion.  We invest a little and as it grows, it grows on the growth.  But grow it does until, all of a sudden, when you least expect it, your child has grown in widsom and stature and is able to lead others in ways of truth.

Keep the faith...

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Large Room

Charlotte Mason's wisdom found in her writings has been one of the primary forces in our home educating journey for the past 17 years.  The feast we have been encouraged to spread before our children through her teaching has unveiled a world of awe and wonder.  Learning through "books and things" has truly opened our eyes to the glories of God's world.

Charlotte was passionate about life...a full life.  God calls it an abundant life.  Charlotte said, "Life should be all living, and not merely a tedius passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking - the strain would be too great - but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest."  (Vol. 3, pg. 170)

In our family, much of our learning comes from living books.  Having the blessing of over 15,000 at our fingertips, we can readily pull off a book on any topic of interest.  Taking Charlotte's advice to heart, we are constantly reading books "in liberal supply and variety."  In the end, I want Charlotte's goals for my children...

"The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?"  (Vol. 3, pgs. 170-171)

What I find sad about current American schooling is that we do not value knowledge and wisdom...nor do we value children.  We sit them down at desks all day, fill their minds with drivel, and send them out as "educated." 

"We give him miserable little text-books, mere compendiums of facts, which he is to learn off and say and produce at an examination; or we give him various knowledge in the form of warm diluents, prepared by his teacher with perhaps some grains of living thought to the gallon. And all the time we have books, books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children."  (Vol. 3, pg. 171)

I encourage you to give your children a broad education.  Open the Word of God to them.  Read them wonderful history, science, fairy tales, fiction.  Look at beautiful paintings.  Listen to beautiful music.  Read poetry, Shakespeare.  Learn another language.  Go outside and drink in the beauty of the world as it is waking up from winter slumber.  Live!

Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Boys to Men

I have boys.  I have boys who are all boy.  They thrive on running, jumping, fishing, playing in the creek and bad jokes.  They enjoy Vivaldi, playing the violin and Monet.  And they love books.

As a mom, I have become increasingly alarmed at the challenges boys face in today's culture.  While the females in our society become more militantly antagonistic toward males (and ironically more masculine in the process) our boys are being beaten down and feminized.  In a culture turned upside down, what can we do to raise up strong men for the glory of God?

At the end of David's life, he gave his son, Solomon, this charge:  "Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.  Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn."  (I Kings 2:2-3). Oh, to have fathers like this today.

How can we train our sons to be strong and show themselves men?  Theodore Roosevelt spoke of the vigorous life.  Lots of time in the great outdoors, hard work and time spent with Godly men can be instrumental in developing the strong character that will be necessary to reclaim this culture for Christ.  Unfortunately, many boys no longer have access to these.   Thankfully books can stand in the gap when Godly role models are needed.

Boys should be immersed in biographies of great heroes from the past.  Davy Crockett, Patrick Henry, and Alvin York are examples of great courage.  George Muller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and D.L. Moody were men of great faith.  What boy is not encouraged after reading Ralph Moody's road to manhood by overcoming many obstacles in Little Britches?  Knights in shining armor, Richard Halliburton's adventures around the world, pioneers leaving everything they know for a better life all serve to inspire them to do great things.  Authors like Stephen Meader, Merritt Parmelee Allen and Jim Kjelgaard give boys the character-building excitement they crave.

Boys should have villains to fight.  Introduce them to Hitler, Marx, Stalin.  They must be equipped to stand in the world they will inherit.

School for boys should be real and relevant.  Endless reams of worksheets starve a boy's soul.  A friend who also has boys was bemoaning the fact that, although she was drawn to Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education, she thought it was much better suited to girls.  I replied, "Are you kidding??  Of all the educators throughout history, Charlotte is the only one I've found who had those boys' number!  Short lessons, on-the-edge-of-your-seat books, and kick 'em outside!"

Boys must have time to discover ways to solve real problems and accomplish real goals.  God has placed in each of them gifts to be used for His glory.  Biographies about scientists, inventors, mathematicians, artists, musicians, doctors, astronauts, missionaries, etc. encourage boys to step out and take dominion.  This is what our world needs.  Are we equipping them for the task?

Put a book in a boy's hand and watch what he will become.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reading Re-Visited ~ A Challenge

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and librarians of Living Books Library in Abingdon, VA, and I came together for a three-hour seminar entitled Reading Re-Visited:  A Re-Evaluation of the Use of Books in the Modern Homeschool.  Liz, Emily and I feel a burden to spread the message that reading is in trouble and, consequently, our culture is in trouble.  Liz recently wrote an article on her blog summarizing the seminar and offering a challenge to anyone who senses the same need to make a difference through the written word.  I invite you over to her blog and encourage you to take her up on her challenge. 

Living Books Library

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Another Golden Age?

Some interesting and encouraging conversations have been happening in my library lately.  Usually they begin with a child asking if I have a book on some obscure topic, often an animal, scientific concept or some little known event in history they have uncovered but can only find a few factoids about.  After an extensive search, I conclude that I do not.  Why don't they write one?  

Most often I'm met with a giggle but a few times I've gotten a wide-eyed curious response.  Really?  Could one of these well-read, articulate children be the next Robert McClung, Lois Lenski, Kate Seredy or Arthur Ransome?  My answer is YES!

Children brought up on living books are uniquely equipped to be writers of living books.  If you read biographies of the authors we love you will often find that they were surrounded by books, parents who loved to read and to read to their children.  These budding authors grew up with stories inside them waiting to be told.  Lists of dry facts were appalling to them.  Clothing these facts in story made the facts come alive, drew the reader in and helped the reader build relationships with the subject.

Sometimes I'm asked what recommendations I would give to children who desire to write.  My simple answer is to read.  But beyond that, I suggest that children read with a purpose.  Notice how an author like McClung teaches many facts through the story of Ruby Throatfor example.  Perhaps make a list while reading of all the facts.  It is amazing what can be learned through story.

Secondly, narrate.  This is simply telling back what has been read.  Read a portion, a short one at first, then tell it back with as much detail as possible.  When this becomes easier, try written narrations.  

Oddly enough, nature study is a wonderful tool for training good writers.  Nature study (or picture study, or observing anything closely enough to notice detail) can open our eyes to things we never saw before.  Close observation to detail and recording it through sketching or writing in a notebook causes us to notice deeply and think deeply.

Finding a topic of interest for which no interesting living books can be found is the perfect time to try writing one.  If you have been reading and narrating from the best living book authors, noticing the descriptive details they include as well as observing nature and the details God included, you can then use those techniques to transform the list of facts you have into a story to bring them to life.

The years between about 1900-1970 were special years in the life of books.  A plethora of exceptional living books were being written for children.  Michelle Miller, author of Truthquest History, calls this time the golden age of children's literature.  Since this time,  though there are more books for children being published now than ever before, there are few of them worthy of being called living.  Perhaps this will change in the years to come.  Perhaps God is preparing the children in my library and others like it to usher in another golden age.

Do you have other advice for encouraging and equipping the next generation of writers?  Please share.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Vacation reads

Because we farm, we rarely get a vacation treat.  It usually only happens when the cows are dry which we strive to make happen in the winter.  Lord willing, we will be basking on the beach very soon.  In January??

So what do you do when you go to the beach in January?  READ, of course!  Here is a portion of my stash to keep me occupied.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry - Berry is a newly-discovered author for me.  I've had his books on my shelves for awile but have not taken the time to get to know his writings.  My loss.  Hannah Coulter is a wonderful fiction story which takes place in Berry's well-known town of Port William in rural Kentucky.  Full of wisdom, strength and gratitude, Hannah Coulter is fast becoming one of my favorite heroines.

The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry - Berry is a proific writer of, not only fiction, but poetry and agrarian essays.  This volume is the latter.  From the back cover, Berry looks at why agriculture is becomming culturally irrelevant, and at what cost.  What are the forces of social disintegration, and how might they be reversed?  How might men and women live together in ways that are to the benefit of both?  How does the corporate takeover of social institutions and economic practices contribute to the destruction of human and natural environments?  Through his staunch support of local economies, his defense of farming communities, and his call for family integrity, Berry emerges as the champion of responsibilities and priorities that serve the health, vitality and happiness of the whole community of creation.

Of Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis - This is in preparation for an upcoming mid-winter reading conference I'm speaking at in February.  Very thought-provoking, especially the chapter entitled "On Three Ways of Writing for Children."  Other chapters include topics discussing fairy tales, science fiction, etc.

Towards a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason - This is in part as preparation for our next meeing and, in part, the wisdom contained there.

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit - I can't forget my children.  This is our current read-aloud.

Happy Jack by Thornton Burgess - We love Burgess!  These are short, delightful reads for us.  Perfect for a vacation.

In addition, I'm taking my iPad along to fill in with other essays and articles on reading and the culture as time allows.  

Lest you think I've forgotten, my Bible will also be tucked in.  I'm trying to read the Word through in a year for 2013.  I haven't done that in awhile and do not want to get a week behind!

We will spend time playing in the sand, as well as a favorite toss-the-shell game (and hope the seagulls don't steal our shells again!)  We'll talk and laugh and relax!  We're praying for a special time of refreshement.  Praying times of refreshing for all of you as well.  And if the Lord wills it, I will be back in a week or two.