The Simple Feast

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We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can – Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, p. 183).

The delectable ‘feast’ is one of the appeals of a Charlotte Mason Education; the variety of stories and lives and lessons to fill our children’s hearts and minds excites me and brings joy as I plan for their learning days.

After a long summer of adventures, camping, conversations around back yard candles and firelight; after days of late nights and later mornings, unplanned food thrown together, memories from car to beach we’ve kicked off our ninth ‘formal’ learning year this week (because everything is learning right?). I leaned more towards a ‘soft launch’ allowing the children to adjust, orientate and for me to communicate our new course of travel over a few days; then it’s heads down, ears open, hearts ready to soak up what our year may bring.

Despite my slow approach to launching straight into all of our subjects and schedule, in spite of a splattering of summering still humming in the background like a busy worker bee; as I sat and reflected on our day I was overwhelmed by the impact of what I had served up.

So here’s our day, a very normal day but a day where I paid attention to conversation; I noticed voices and opinions, actions and reactions, methods and themes of play and I can heartily say there was no veneer – this was a feasting day!

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I yell the children downstairs as I finish preparing breakfast to the quiet soundtrack of our beloved British radio favourite ‘Classic FM’; Dave noticed one track was from the film ‘Love actually’ before he left for work.

We gathered around the table and I read ‘Kindness’ by Naomi Shihab Nye and discussed the contrast of sorrow and kindness, heartache and joy and how they are synonymous to each other. We talked about her starting to write poetry at 7. This caught Micah’s attention and he went on to talk about Roald Dahl’s writing hut. Micah later set up a writing table in our garden to write his books. He was inspired to not allow the fact that he is a child hinder him or hold him back from publishing a story…

We then looked at our first Murillo painting; each child narrated and Nyah was the only one to notice the dog in the bottom right hand corner of the painting. We discussed the angel up in the sky on the right hand side being there to signify a miracle, a true work of God. We discussed Roman architecture, disciples, how the angel looked like a unicorn and how there was a possibility of the guy on the balcony being a spy (smile).

We then read from the Bible; we read the beginning of the story of Joshua attempting to enter the Promised Land, going in as spies and Rahab helping them – one child commented on Rahab telling the king that they weren’t there anymore but knowing she had hidden them. Why would she lie?

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As I read to the children Micah drew his version of Murillo’s painting (unprompted) in pencil.

We read together John 3:16 and committed to memorising it this week.

They bickered – I addressed it; I spoke to them about peace and how to make good choices of when to speak, stay silent, and why not to react to their siblings.

We prayed; everyone prayed.

We then got on with work in the house; folding laundry, wiping down the bathroom, making beds, brushing teeth, emptying and refilling the dishwasher.

Then it was heads down for listening and learning independently (if old enough); I talked through with Nyah and Joel their schedules, books and expectations – they then got on with grammar, copying out poetry and fables, map study, foreign language, reading Shakespeare – the maths launch is tomorrow for the older children.

I orientate Micah with his new schedule and eight year old expectations; he goes on to copy out a quote about nature, begins to study his list of spellings, starts to study a map of Europe and watches an online maths lesson.

Our youngest learner Sienna starts ‘life of fred’ (‘living’ maths) and learns that x always equals x and y always equals y. No matter which way round 5 + 2 is (i.e. 2+5), it will always equals 7.

We read A A Milne poetry together and she chose some ‘beautiful’ words to copy out and add to her homemade flash cards. We read a nature story and looked for more interesting words.

After a group effort of hashing lunch and a pot of tea together we fell straight into our quiet reading half hour; between us we had the pages of Pride and Prejudice, Five children and It (audio), Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, a biography about Louis Pasteur and Krista Tippett’s ‘Becoming Wise’ open and being lapped up.

We also realised we hadn’t quite finished ‘Miracles on Maple Hill’ before the summer break so I read aloud one of the two chapters we have to finish the book.

My younger children interspersed their reading and listening with games, songs, dancing around the garden, playing ‘Hulk’, making potions and being ‘scientists’, Lego and lots and lots of drawing.

Micah scribed a ‘book’ at his writing table and also had a bit of time playing a game on his Kindle fire.

We observed an Orb Weaver spider on a huge web wrapping up a fly, we found honey fungus growing under a tree, we noticed the life cycle of a ladybug was happening on a bush right in our backyard after one of the children spotted a pupae on a leaf.

The September sun was warm enough to play long and hard outside.

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The day turned into early evening and dinner was prepared; the table was set, Dave came home and together we all breath and eat and connect and converse about our very normal day.

It is the duty of parents to sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as they sustain its body with food – Charlotte Mason

My Living Books Life – Celeste Cruz

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Instagram: Leahvboden

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

–Henry David Thoreau

Like many homeschooling moms, I have always been a lover of books.  I’m embarrassed to admit how many Baby-Sitters Club books lined my shelves, but I also gobbled the good stuff: I re-read my Little House books until the covers fell off and rejoiced over the vintage hardcovers passed down to me from my mom’s childhood.  In high school, I earnestly dipped into the classics and developed an intense appreciation for poetry. From there, I jumped into my college studies with enthusiasm: I double-majored in English and Humanities, minored in Art History, and earned a graduate degree in Literature.  I spent those years gulping Milton, Eliot, Dante, Austen, and Shakespeare (especially Shakespeare!).  I poured it all right back out into the students I was teaching and into writing—and all the while I was gulping more. I hit a healthy balance of the poetic and the analytic: I knew how to love a book and the ideas it contained, and I also knew how to pull it apart to marvel at its inner workings; sounds like a Living Books Life, right?
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Instagram: Leahvboden
But actually, my true Living Books Life started after that.  I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and spent my first trimester sick in bed, where I read all the books Lucy Maud Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott ever wrote.  I also started reading another female writer, Charlotte Mason.  In the months and years following, in the midst of the daily chaos with a brood of young children, I undertook a new kind of reading life, one that looked more like Miss Mason suggested.

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The difference? I delved into the beautiful habit of slow reading multiple books across genres and subjects.  Living books are meant to be savored; slowing down allowed me time to process to commonplace alongside, to discuss with others, to ponder, to wonder, to connect with the author and his ideas, to notice how the readings connect with one another in that wondrous web governed by the Holy Ghost.  Those connections are best understood by reading liberally—and that moving beyond literature and grabbing books about math, cultural commentary, theology, and the sciences.
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Instagram: Leahvboden
And something else was different too: that slow, broad, relational reading changed my perception of success. No longer did I measure my reading life by how many books I finished or how many pages I wrote on them. In those gulping years in an academic environment, I perpetually felt a combination of buzzed and burned out.  I still get that buzz sometimes—a lot of the time, actually. This is an exciting life of learning! But rather than bouncing between two extremes, I am continuously fed, soothed, invigorated, challenged, encouraged, and blessed.  My new goals are to cultivate virtue, to notice details and delight in them, to meet great minds, and to build knowledge of man, nature, and God.

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

–Oscar Wilde

A Living Books Life promises that we might have life—and might have it more abundantly. One can only approach such a promise with a posture of humility and gratefulness. I cannot adequately express my deep thankfulness for the lessons learned on this road of self-education, with Miss Mason as my guide. And the best part of it all? I get to live this with my kids. Abundance indeed.
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Instagram: Leahvboden
Living books are meant to be savored; slowing down allowed me time to process to commonplace alongside, to discuss with others, to ponder, to wonder, to connect with the author and his ideas, to notice how the readings connect with one another
20140824_180303-001Celeste Cruz is mommy to eight children under age ten. Once upon a time she was training to be an English professor; now, she can often be found chasing her little ones while schooling her elementary kids. (Some days are more successful than others.) When she has her hands free, she enjoys distance running, nature journaling, traditional Catholicism, exploring her native Northern California, and beach-combing with her husband of thirteen years. She moderates for the AmblesideOnline Forums, fits her life into small squares on Instagram, and shares the joys of a Catholic Charlotte Mason home education at Joyous Lessons.

My Living Books Life – Catherine Shelton

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…reading a wide selection of living books has not only increased our children’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around them but has also given them a thirst for more living books and a general love of learning.

I’ve always loved books, and started reading fairly early. As a young girl I devoured the Famous Five series and pretty much anything by Enid Blyton. I remember being discovered by my parents, more than once, reading under the bedcovers with my torch, long after lights were supposed to be out. My favourite book was ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, perhaps because I shared a name with the heroine.

Fast forward many years and I found myself at Oxford University studying Maths and Philosophy, reading Descartes, Aristotle and Aquinas. Around that time I felt God was calling me to overseas mission, and so I lapped up all the missionary biographies about heroes such as Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael and Elizabeth Elliot. I loved reading about their amazing adventures and their passion to know God and to make Him known. It wasn’t long before I was at Bible college, meeting my future husband and then heading off to Russia to work in Bible translation – the ultimate ‘living book’!

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There’s something about living overseas that makes you filter out ‘twaddle’ like never before. With limited room in our suitcases and no access to libraries or Amazon (we didn’t discover the wonders of the Kindle until later), books became really precious and we only brought the best books into our home – ones we knew we’d read again and again and recommend to others. That applied to our children’s books too, especially once we started out on the wonderful journey of homeschooling. We had to plan well in advance what books we really needed, acquire them while we were back home on furlough, and make sure we had room in our suitcases. When we had to return home for good, 11 years later, at least half of the 15 bags we were allowed by British Airways were filled with books we couldn’t bear to part with.

It’s a bit harder to fight against the twaddle now that the kids have access to their local library here in England, but we keep up our focus on living books as much as we can. One of my favourite childhood memories is of my mother reading ‘The Hobbit’ to my brother and me on holiday one year, so last summer I took that as our holiday read-aloud. The children were enraptured. My then 5 year old claimed it was his favourite part of the whole holiday! We’re now about a third of the way through ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and my son has been inspired to write his own book – ‘The Adventures of Bobo’ – which he works on diligently every day and illustrates too. My daughters are enjoying the likes of Anne of Green Gables and Caddie Woodlawn.

The children were enraptured

One of the things I love about home education is that it gives our children time just to read. All six of us are at our happiest curled up on the sofa with a good book – even the one-year-old pretends to be reading and knows how to lick her finger to turn the page! I’ve noticed that reading a wide selection of living books has not only increased our children’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around them but has also given them a thirst for more living books and a general love of learning.

All six of us are at our happiest curled up on the sofa with a good book – even the one-year-old pretends to be reading and knows how to lick her finger to turn the page!

The writer of Ecclesiastes may well have said “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.…” (Ecc 12:12) but I like to think he wasn’t talking about living books!

 

 

Catherine Shelton (1)Catherine Shelton and her husband have been married for 15 years and they have four children, aged 11, 8, 6 and nearly 2. In a former life she worked as a secondary school maths teacher and then later as an exegetical advisor in a Bible translation project in Russia. After living overseas for 11 years the family had to return to the UK, and Catherine now continues to home educate her children full-time using the Charlotte Mason approach, specifically following the Ambleside Online curriculum. She also enjoys writing and can be found blogging over at www.catherineshelton.net. Catherine de-stresses from busy family life by training for half marathons and by spending time at the beach near where she now lives in the south of England.

My Living Books Life – Nancy Kelly

 

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My life has been forever enriched by reading slowly, surely, and widely

When did my living books life begin? My mom tells a story of when I was hospitalized at age nine with spinal meningitis.  She says that when the nurse leaned over the bed and asked what I wanted to have – and I could have anything – I whispered, “My books, please.” I like that story, and always remember that I loved books, but I’m not sure what books I was reading at that age.  Some Little House on the Prairie with some Nancy Drew on the side, most likely. Pretty sure I didn’t do any reading that day after the spinal tap.

I’d say that my real journey with living books began when I moved from California to my husband’s small hometown in Minnesota in 1993. With only preschoolers in tow at the time, I really didn’t have much of a library.  But then came a call from a retiring school librarian which changed things.  That sweet lady had heard that I might be homeschooling and so wouldn’t I need books?  And would I like to come pick through the stacks and take what I think might be useful? They were pruning most books printed before 1975.  Truth is, I didn’t even know what to look for and there was no time (or internet!) for research. So I filled up a dozen boxes with what looked like they might make for good reading – Landmarks, Signatures, Messners, as well as books by McClung, Wheeler, Earle, Petersham, the D’aulaires and many more. Then I giddily threw myself into the author research, the library sales, the donations, 4 more children and a 3 story house that happily creaks with all those books today.

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In the early days of my living books life, I was reading all about Charlotte Mason and her ideas of what a living book actually is. I could see that it needed to be well-written, engaging, by a passionate author, and that it should stir the emotions.  But I think there is something else going on with living books, something spiritual between each individual child and certain books that makes them living.

But I think there is something else going on with living books, something spiritual between each individual child and certain books that makes them living

I found that out early on as I sat for hours reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my two  young sons. I watched and observed how those precious children responded with excitement and wonder, acting out scenes and describing episodes to their father at the end of the day. Whatever was going on with their strong reaction to the story is exactly what I wanted more of for them, for their education, and for their lives.

Whatever was going on with their strong reaction to the story is exactly what I wanted more of for them, for their education, and for their lives.

Because I’m never sure which book will move which child, variety is important.  Just because one daughter has read the 12 books from the Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons twice, doesn’t mean the next child will be interested in them.  Why one son wants every Jim Kjelgaard ever printed and the other prefers Leonard Wibberley, I can’t say. Why the quiet child consumes everything by Roald Dahl and the loud one prefers Ursula Le Guin is a mystery to me.

I love what Charlotte Mason says about the child and living books:

A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader. The expert is not the person to choose; the children themselves are the experts in this case (School Education,  p. 228)

For myself, Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald goes down as the first book to make me cry. Years later I read it aloud in school (unabridged)  and it took almost 2 years.  No one minded.  I cried that time, too.  As a family we have enjoyed dozens of titles out loud such as Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer, Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan Eckert , the Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, A Family of Foxes by Ellis Dillon, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, to name just a few.

My life has been forever enriched by reading slowly, surely, and widely. Think the turtle, not the hare! I’ve enjoyed all the Miss Read titles, old books about my favorite president James A. Garfield, theology from N.T. Wright, Richard Foster, and John Piper and my current interest – beautiful vintage collections of devotions, prayers, and poetry that follow the church year (see my reprint of The Cloud of Witness). By establishing an atmosphere filled with books and an expectation of learning, every family member has been positively and eternally enriched. With a living book to look forward to every evening when I crawl into bed, alongside my morning devotions, and during the school day with my children, I invite and ensure that new ideas will be at the ready in my mind on a daily basis.  That, I have found, leads to a living a very full life.

 

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Nancy Kelly lives in a little town on the prairie called Windom, Minnesota. She and her husband Kent have home-educated their six children for over 20 years using the principles and practices of Charlotte Mason.  After listening to Susan Schaeffer Macaulay speak on education at the 1994 L’Abri Conference in Rochester, MN, she decided to wholeheartedly pursue this way of learning and living. Nancy has helped build a thriving educational community in southwest Minnesota that continues to learn and grow.  She administrates the Parents’ Midwest Educational Union (PMEU), a parents’ book discussion group; Truth, Beauty, Goodness (TBG), a student learning cooperative; the teacher-training Awakening sessions; and the Living Education Retreat, now in its 10th year of sharing and spreading the ideas of Charlotte Mason. Ten years ago she began sharing her knowledge and experience across the country speaking on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy at conventions and retreats. She is a sought-after educational consultant and mentor.  A trip with Kent and dear friends to Ambleside, England in 2014 forever changed her understanding of Mason’s teacher training and deepened her love for Mason’s relational philosophy. Nancy has a Bachelor of Science in Multidisciplinary Studies with cognates in English and Education from Liberty University. She is a current board member of the Charlotte Mason Institute and writes at her CM-inspired blog, Sage Parnassus.  She enjoys family, ‘bright eyes’, flower gardening, collecting vintage honeypots, exploring the flora and fauna of new places, and of course…books.

You can contact her at sageparnassus@gmail.com .

Truth Around The Table – More On The Morning Gathering

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“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday on The Charlotte Mason Show I shared about the power of short lessons as well as the our morning home school routine otherwise known as ‘Boden’s assemble’, ‘morning basket’ or ‘morning time’!

Periscope is wonderful and crazy all at the same time (especially when there’s a 5-year-old climbing all over you and trying to drink your tea whilst you’re broadcasting) and as I jumped off I realised I hadn’t said some of the most poignant thoughts I had about this daily ritual!

So, go ahead and watch the (long) replay but here are a few thoughts about beautiful life around the table…

Despite our every day morning intentions to gather before anything else starts, life happens right? I’ve found the habit of table time is a great way to reset the day if all is not going to plan; if meltdowns are occurring, motivation is low, fights are breaking out – I stick the kettle on, make a pot of tea, grab a snack and gather my children around the scribbled on, much-loved dining room table and say/read/(shout)/pray something!

Our dining room table gatherings are a place of education, rejuvenation and reconciliation

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Great books, poetry, theology, ideas, conversation, debate and heart-felt prayer are all thrown around during our morning gathering. Give a wiggly child a notebook, a pot of pencils and a snack and you’ve got their attention…for at least 10 minutes (wink)!

Don’t underestimate meal conversations and narrations about their day – so much of our children’s learning comes from their experiences around the table with family, make it count!

Rejuvenation

I find the table a great place for anxious children to breathe, over achieving children to take a break (!) and an overwhelmed mama to draw the children close and take stock of their work that day. As well as feeding their tummies, we’re feeding their precious souls.

Bring JOY to the table mama and make sure it’s a place of refreshing for everyone, not stress!

Choose your battles –  your three year old will try broccoli eventually, just maybe not today, and that’s ok!

Reconciliation

Our children need to see repentance and forgiveness in action to really grasp that it really is more than muttering ‘sorry’ through gritted teeth! The gospel is raw and real and we ALL need a saviour; let’s show and tell our children this reality.

I find if I’ve had a breakdown with a child or kids have been fighting I can gather them around the table, speak peace into the situation and reconcile our family before we move on; there’s a table between us, possibly a warm drink and we can breathe, talk and create space to see what we did/said and fully forgive.

So the next time you’re sweeping the food littered floor for the third time that day or doing another pile of dishes; remember the chatter and satisfied tums, remember that smile between siblings, remember that amazing question and discussion that followed and take heart – your table is a place of transformation and truth, keep up the good work mama!

Your table is a place of transformation and truth

Poetry Teatime – Creating A Language Rich Environment

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When you pair poetry with tea, your children create a connection between contemplation and rest – Julia Bogart

Yes, we are a tea drinking nation so this was a pretty natural move for me (smile); our home education has been established over pots of tea around our dining room table but there’s something quite special about an intentional ‘stop’ to pretty up the table, plate up treats, brew a combination of Earl grey and English breakfast tea in our large white pot and sit around piles of poetry books, ready and waiting to be thumbed, flicked and read aloud.

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After setting the table and gathering the children I quickly phoned my Mum and invited her over; she’s one of the main reasons why I’m passionate about literature and nature study so she downed tools (in the kitchen, wink), grabbed a favourite poetry compilation book and we set another place as she drove the 10 minutes from her house to mine!

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Profound thought is conveyed in language of very great simplicity and purity. – Charlotte Mason

As my children sipped tea and nibbled on cake they each in turn chose a poem to either read aloud or be read for them; the atmosphere was filled with Hardy, Dickinson, Cicely Mary Barker and Shakespeare to name a few. We lingered over the language and were wowed by the words passing over our dining room table, filling our hearts and quietly making connections we’ll draw from in days, weeks and years to come.

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An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing. – Charlotte Mason

Just as it got to my turn there was another knock on the door and in came my friend Serena (who often pops by for coffee on a Thursday on her way home from work) who just happens to be the most creative, theatre and literary genius I know! She was delighted to push her way onto our pew, be poured a cup of tea and then be offered a pile of poetry books. She refused the books and said she’d recite a couple from memory (I know, right?!); she delighted us with Tennyson and Shakespeare all whilst having my 5-year-old climbed upon her knee!

We lingered over the language and were wowed by the words passing over our dining room table, filling our hearts and quietly making connections we’ll draw from in days, weeks and years to come.

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We’ve wrapped up a wonderful half-term with this beautiful focussed gathering, which I’m sure will become a regular part of our homeschool rhythm.

To Create a language rich, literary environment in our homes, it often means pushing past the ‘formulaic study’ and making room for the flow and freedom of reading, doing life around piles of living books, celebrating the snuggling and gathering of children around a story and the delighting in the incredible gift of words.

Let them get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with diluted talk from the lips of their teacher. The less the parents ‘talk-in’ and expound their rations of knowledge and thought to the children they are educating, the better for the children…Children must be allowed to ruminate, must be left alone with their own thoughts – Charlotte Mason

And The WINNER Is…

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There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

–Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Thank you to all you wonderful living book lovers who entered this competition; I am planning on wading through all your amazing recommendations and forming a blog post out of them, what fabulous books you read!

So, without further ado (drum roll please), the winner is:

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Congratulations Katie – I have books and tea treats all ready to come to your home; email me via the contact form on the blog with your full name and address and I’ll get them in the post to you!

Here’s me on Periscope in case you were wondering what Katie is referring to, or you can catch up on my latest #Charlottemasonshow updates via Katch, here’s one from our nature walk yesterday:

 

My Living Books Life – Emily Kiser

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To introduce children to literature is to instal them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served – Charlotte Mason

I’m so delighted to introduce you to my guest on the blog today, Emily Kiser. Emily and I met over the wonders of social media and it’s my pleasure to have her share a little of her living books story here today, enjoy!

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I come from a family of readers. My mother, Liz Cottrill, (who has written and spoken about her own reading background quite a bit) was diligent to read extensively to me and my siblings as we were growing up. Being blind, she read to us from Braille books, the ones she read as a girl. So my early reading life was drenched in classics like Heidi and Little Women, The Wind in the Willows and The Yearling. I loved to read and began reading for myself quite early, but still, my mother continued to read aloud to me, and I am eternally grateful that she did.

Despite the solid foundation I had in reading good books, my personal reading culture grew stagnant once I discovered Nancy Drew. I devoured mystery after mystery, not caring that the plots were all very similar. The problem wasn’t the books themselves (I still credit my reasoning skills to the hours spent solving crimes with Nancy), the problem was that I stopped reading anything else. Slowly, bit by bit, I backed out of this dead end and expanded my reading taste once again in my late teens. I discovered beauty in the sensitive writing of Madeleine L’Engle whose books led me to discover others.

After I finished college, I moved back home. My younger siblings were still being home educated, so I used to take my mom to used book sales at the public libraries in the surrounding areas combing the stacks for treasures. I didn’t really know what I was looking for beyond a few trusted authors, and the term “living book” didn’t mean very much to me at all yet. It wasn’t until I found a copy of Who Shall We Then Read by Jan Bloom (a collection of 155 excellent authors and lists of their books) on the homeschooling shelf that I stumbled into the pages of the best books I’ve ever read. Often tears would come to my eyes as my heart was overwhelmed with truth and beauty glimpsed in the pages of these books. Here I was, a twenty-something adult crying over books intended for children. While reading Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen, I actually said aloud, “Does someone have to die in every good story?” I had an epiphany at that moment. I realized that yes, someone does have to die, because someONE did die to save the world. Living books, I learned, reflect the True story that God has already written. These stories I was coming to love were not only enjoyable, they were teaching me more about myself, and also the true nature of the world. They taught me to empathize with others whose experiences are so different than my own. These books were living books and they have enhanced my own life beyond measure.

Living books, I learned, reflect the True story that God has already written

From that time on, I have been collecting books from “The Golden Age of Children’s Literature.” As my collection grew, my mom began urging me to consider helping her open a lending library for homeschooling families in our area. In the spring of 2006 we opened Living Books Library to 12 local families with our meager collection of about 3,000 volumes. We now have about 17,000 volumes and about 45 families currently check out books to use in their education. Though I am now married and have children of my own, the library is still a large part of my life. It is a great honor and responsibility to help put the right book into the right hands at the right time. Looking back, I think it was my shyness that kept me from asking for new book recommendations. I hope to be the kind of librarian that invites children to explore new horizons, to seek out unexplored lands, to walk in a different person’s shoes–the kinds of things that happen in the pages of really good books.

EmBioPicEmily Kiser lives with her husband and two sons on their small, family-owned Organic farm in southwest Virginia. She is the author of Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolios and librarian at Living Books Library. She and her mother, Liz, along with Nicole Williams host the weekly Charlotte Mason podcast, A Delectable Education.

Giveaway Time!

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Indeed, the gospel story offers the epic of the ages for the poet who shall arise in the future, strong in faith, and meek enough to hold his creative gift in reverent subjection. –  Charlotte Mason (The Saviour of the world)

So, as I promised, it’s giveaway time; I’m offering a copy of Charlotte Mason’s ‘The Saviour of the world’ (volume 1), another surprise living book and a selection of Neal’s Yard tea – I will send this anywhere in the world and you can enter twice, if you’d like!


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If you’d like to know more about it go on over to A Delectable Education where you can hear Emily Kiser and Art Middlekauff discussing Charlotte Mason’s poetic reflections on the Life of Christ from this work.

I’ve started using it as part of my devotional routine; taking it slowly and thoughtfully, soaking in the deep and beautiful revelation from the gospels.

How do I win?

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Well, let me tell you! All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post (it won’t appear straight away – I have to approve it, don’t worry!) recommending one living book and the author, that’s it – easy right?

Next Wednesday morning I will announce the winner and hopefully the books will be winging their way to YOU!

Don’t forget to pop back on Friday where we’re featuring a guest blog post from Emily Kiser herself!

 Hope it’s you…

What Is A Living Book?

 

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For the children? They must grow up upon the best .  There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told.

Charlotte Mason

Whether you’re home educating using the Charlotte Mason method, classically schooling, unschooling or any of the other fabulous ways to educate your child you read books right? And you want ‘good’ books!

Charlotte Mason advocated using living books in every possible subject instead of dry, factual textbooks.

Living books will enliven your child’s imagination, wake up your love for reading aloud, help your whole family fall in love with literature and enrich your children’s education.

The use of living books around our dining rooms tables,  whilst snuggled up on the sofa and read under quilts with torch-light will fill our children’s minds with great thoughts and rich ideas which will benefit their heads and hearts for ever.

So how do we tell our truth from our twaddle?

Charlotte also used the word ‘twaddle’ to describe dry, factual, snooze worthy textbooks (which often have fabulous, colourful pictures on the front which means they’re the first ones our children pick up at the library ha!); so much of our leading them towards truth has to come from us; the educator and the mother. How are your storytelling tactics mama?

Do the two page test

A living book isn’t always obvious until we read the first one or two pages; I’ve even started using ‘living books’ that have been recommended by others or taken from a trusted list and we’ve fallen asleep over the first page – so we put it down! And that’s ok – what excites my children may not enthrall yours…just pop it on your shelf and try again another year!

Here are a few questions to ask during your two page test:

  1. Does it draw you in?
  2. Does it engage the emotions?
  3. Do you want to read on?
  4. Could you narrate from the section you’ve read?
  5. Is the writer passionate about what they are writing about?

You’ll pretty much know whether you’re holding a living beauty in your hand at this point!

If I’m committing to reading aloud a particular book to my children for the next few weeks then I need to be excited about its content too – I know I’ve found a winner if I’m excited to get into another chapter; it’s important (and permitted, wink) to find joy in your reading and educating.

A living book is full of beauty and truth, emotion and moral instruction; it engages the mind and the heart and begs us to read on, to read more and to go deeper than the words on the page.

A living book will guide, not force a child’s ability to learn to retain and to form a relationship with the ideas taken from its pages.

Living books are for life, lingering longingly on the shelves of your home and your heart.

The question is not, how much does the youth know when he has finished his education but how much does he care? –  Charlotte M. Mason