And The WINNER Is…


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:


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:


They’re Watching You!


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Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you – Robert Fulgham


The following post is an excerpt from ‘Moments on mothering

Who we are and what we say, what we do and how we play out our lives is really important to our children. Every day we influence and greatly impact the little lives in our homes and hearts – but often without even realising the longevity of our loving leadership.

A big part of my life is spent facilitating my children’s learning. We’ve been home educating for almost 9 years and my greatest thrill is seeing my children thrive in their learning, especially when we’re ‘off the clock’. I’m a huge lover of nature study; I frequently point out beauty with authentic awe and wonder on any journey; from picking up milk from the corner shop to a family hike in the Warwickshire countryside.  One of my greatest learning influences is an 18th century educator called Charlotte Mason, she put great emphasis (as many have done since her) on children spending lots of time outside; observing God’s incredible creation and making their own connection with what they see.

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I can often teach and share life with my children but with very little immediate feedback, and then just like that your 18 month old wanders out into the garden and by using baby sign language tells you there’s a ‘bird’ whilst she watches the sparrows tap for worms on the lawn. And just last night I was out in the car with Nyah; she stopped me mid conversation and said “mum, look at the moon; it’s majestic”. It’s not merely that we suggest to our children what’s important to observe and commentate on, but we do it ourselves; we live it, we breathe it, we experience it and they see all.

And what if we saw all of life this way, what if we saw mothering as a plethora of perception, a nullah of noticing and a flowing river of recognition; how we live our life is how they will live theirs. Their lives may take on a different shape, but an oval is just a circle slightly squashed right? We can’t get away from the fact that our children will end up a lot like us.

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The hard thing is seeing the reality of our frailties and imperfection when we were hoping for momentary deflection. But hiding isn’t an option and neither is sitting on that pedestal. Our children need truth telling and wholehearted dwelling. They need to see conflict and wrong actions forgiven. They need blatant veracity and loving tenacity knowing that real is the raw deal but it’s within our capacity to feel and to heal.

I tell my children that I’m hopelessly flawed, very much human and I ask for forgiveness, regularly. The scandal of grace is in my face, every day and I drink it in. There’s no shame in taking the blame for what they do and say, but we have to be quick to forgive ourselves and remember tomorrow is another day.

Robert Fulghum said “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you”; and as much as I endeavour to daily win my children’s hearts through what I say and what I do, they certainly don’t miss a thing.

Your life and choices are important to your children’s day dreams and life schemes, so you’d better watch your back mama, they’re watching you!


Moments On Mothering – Reflective inspiration from one mother to another by Leah Boden

My Living Books Life – Emily Kiser


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!


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!


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?


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

Coming Up Next Week!


“The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading.”
― Charlotte M. Mason

Happy Friday friends!

Just wanted to pop on tell you what’s coming up next week on the blog – I’m proudly naming it ‘Living Books Week’; there will be a blog post explaining what a living book is and how to ask them the right questions, a guest blog post from Emily Kiser of A Delectable Education, plus a fab give-away of the Charlotte Mason’s first volume of poetry ‘The Saviour of the world’.

Stay tuned!


The ‘Charlotte Mason Show‘ has been broadcasting for a couple of weeks now and it has been fun getting to know some of you wonderful Mason mama’s from around the globe. If you’re not following me on Periscope go across and find me – the show goes live every Tuesday and Thursday at 1.30pm GMT (UK) and the whole focus is to encourage others and share my story of how I’ve implemented the Charlotte Mason methods and philosophy in my home educating over the past 8 years.

Don’t expect perfection, purism or expertise; I’m a champion of the method and an enthusiastic practitioner but I don’t claim to know it all –  so come over, relax and let’s do this journey together mama’s!

If you ever miss the broadcasts or are just not into Periscope you can keep up to date with all my videos here on Katch.

And finally

Don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter on the right hand sidebar (or scroll to the bottom if you’re on your phone) if you want to keep up to date with what’s coming up and ‘off the record’ news (smile). No spam, I promise, just a little encouraging note from me in your inbox once a month. First one goes out on February 1st so sign up today!

Have a blessed weekend…

Staying The Course – Encouragement For The Weary Soul

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What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

James 5:11 (MSG)

Whether we’re waiting for spring, enduring a ‘stage’ with one of your children, writing a book or working through a health challenge, there is always an opportunity in each season of life to ‘stay the course’. I find myself saying this repeatedly to young, sleep-deprived mothers and home educating mothers in their early years, I whisper for them to not grow weary in doing good because in due season they WILL reap a harvest of righteousness (Gal 6:9). And it is the habit of remember this and treasuring that truth in our hearts that keeps our feet firm, our naps long and our coffee cups full!

I want to encourage you on this January Monday morning that you CAN do this; the light is in sight and God has given you everything you need to seek out his face through the fog, to take the next step forward and to feel Him breathing hope back into your heart again.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. Prov 4: 25 – 27

Whatever you’re facing today you can rest assured that God is bigger and is interested in the details of what you’re carrying. The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Philippi not to be anxious about anything but to pray about everything; and there lies your invitation for God to invade your soul with peace, a peace that blows our mind every time, a peace that guards our hearts and our heads. A peace that will never be fathomed, never be explained, never be understood but is just as real as the nose on our face.

A peace that doesn’t eliminate the ‘problem’, but injects hope into our path.

Here are three things that have helped me stay the course and given room for God to graciously guide me through the sticky and the messy and the hard.


We can’t get enough of this can we? Everyone from Benedictine monks to businessmen are telling us that gratitude is a major key to success and happiness! God has been whispering this to us since the beginning of time, to always be thankful – but His idea of thankful was not about selfish endeavour and personal outcome, it was and is about worship. Turning our hearts to gratitude turns our hearts to Him, it takes our eyes off ourselves and fixes our face on His, and when we look full into His face the things of this world really do go strangely dim. What can you truly thank God for today?


My friend often uses the phrase ‘first world problem, third world win’ when people complain about their TV breaking or a long queue in the coffee shop; but isn’t it true that so many things we get anxious or stressed about, when given a bit of perspective, lift and fade in importance! I’m not saying that what you’re facing today isn’t real or hurting you but I’ve found (and I guess it links to gratitude) that when I consider those ‘worse off’ my perspective changes, I pray for them, my focus changes and heart is lighter.

So when you’re exhausted and up in the night for the fifth time breastfeeding your hungry nursling remember the couples who are longing and praying for children; whose wombs, hearts and hands are longing for a baby of their own and turn your cries to calls of hope and breakthrough for them.


And finally – don’t go at it alone. So often when we’re struggling and we’re deep in the murky mire of life we want to run and isolate ourselves. I know this for real, both personally and as  a church pastor, I see it all the time. But it never helps. Get around those who love and support you and allow God to use His church to help YOU stay the course. God designed us to walk together as a mighty force to be reckoned with. Vulnerability is hard and painful – the enemy loves us to hide in it and stay silent, but God has called us out of the corners and has given us each other, in all our messy mistake making ways, to be there, to hold up each other’s arms and to win this battle.

Give the church a chance – don’t be silent in your story.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Phil 4:6

So, face up today mama, heart to Him – let’s do this!

Can You Tell Your Truth From Your Twaddle? Shedding The Light On Living Books


“The children must enjoy the book. The ideas it holds must each make that sudden, delightful impact upon their minds, must cause that intellectual stir, which mark the inception of an idea,”

Charlotte Mason, School Education, p.178.


Be it a blog post or ‘show notes’ here’s an overview from my Periscope broadcast earlier today attempting to shed light on the determining factors of a ‘living book’!

Watch the videos…the 8 questions are listed below.

Part 1 (then it froze!)

Part 2

We’re instructed to give children a wide and varied education from whole, living books that spark the interest and emotions of the child. Charlotte Mason unfortunately did not give us a list of the best books or compose a checklist of what to look for in a living book. She did drop clues and treasures for us to find throughout her reading to help us find our way!

“Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin,
and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another,whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

There are lots of fun, entertaining, well illustrated ‘information’ books out there for children, which may help with facts and figures but we want books that engage the child (and parent), awaken the emotions and cause further thought and dialogue to go on well after the story has finished

“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. Let Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ represent their standard in poetry DeFoe and Stevenson, in prose; and we shall train a race of readers who will demand literature—that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas and pictures of life.”

Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children


Eight questions I ask to determine whether I’m reading a ‘living book’

1. Is it written by one author?
2. Is the author passionate about the subject?
3. Is it well written?
4. Does it engage YOU within the first two pages?
5. Does it trigger other thoughts or make you think about others things you are learning?
6. Is it inspiring?
7. Is it in a conversational or narrative style?
8. Could you narrate from it?

As I have said, knowledge, that is, roughly, ideas clothed upon with facts, is the proper pabulum (bland or insipid intellectual matter, entertainment) for mind. This food a child requires in large quantities and in great variety. The wide syllabus I have in view is intended in every point to meet some particular demand of the mind.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of education

Winter Poetry

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Out of the bosom of the Air
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poetry can be,  without a doubt, daily delectable soul food but so many of us archive it in the school classroom ‘box’ in our brain alongside uncomfortable uniforms (in the UK anyway) and long days in a cold classroom.

Shaping our home education around Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education has not only brought to my attention the importance of poetry in my children’s lives but also in mine. I read at least one poem a day for pure enjoyment; my older children write a long one out over a week for their copy work and we use lots of beautiful poetry alongside our nature study.

I  love seasonal poetry; it can inspire us in any season, but I think we particularly need it during these long, dark days! So here are 10 of my favourites for the winter season, feel free to add your own in the comments or on the Facebook page.

Ten Of My Favourite Winter Poems:

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind – Poem by William Shakespeare

Snow-Flakes. (Birds Of Passage. Flight The Second) – Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Winter-Time – Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Sky Is Low, The Clouds Are Mean – Poem by Emily Dickinson

January – Poem by John Updike

Woods in Winter – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

First Snow – Mary Oliver

Snow and Ice Poems – Roger McGough

Winter Stores – Charlotte Bronte

The Snowman – Wallace Stevens


Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity – William Wordsworth


5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

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Lichen: a simple slow-growing plant which typically forms a low crust-like, leaf-like, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees

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

Winter can be the most challenging time to get outside. In my early days of using the Charlotte Mason method we would revert to living nature study books in the warmth of my home more than heading out and observing it for ourselves. This was mainly due to my limited understanding of what was going on in nature in winter and my lazy, sluggish winter mode of not wanting to wrap babies up in a billion layers so they didn’t freeze whilst we hugged bare trees!!

Now, with slightly older children, warmer coats and a growing enthusiasm for the great outdoors I think winter nature study is becoming a favourite of mine.

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So, if you’re struggling to pull on your boots and head outside here are a few tips to get you mama’s motivated!

5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

  1. Check the weather and try plan ahead of time; if you can see a clear day coming cancel usual  ‘lessons’ and spend a good few hours roaming the countryside (with a flask of hot chocolate!).
  2. Wear the right clothes; there’s nothing more frustrating than your 5-year-old crying 10 minutes into the walk “I’m cold, I can’t feel my toes”. I highly recommend layers, hats & gloves and definitely a couple of pairs of wool socks.
  3. Do your research before you go so you know what to look for; beauty isn’t so obvious in winter but it’s definitely there. It’s a good idea to give your children a ‘heads up’ of what you’re looking out for as well as their own general observations.
  4. Take photos so you can sketch later – it’s hard to draw when your hands are cold! I print out pictures of our snaps the next day for the children to re-live and sketch in their journals.
  5. Visit places where you might visit in the spring/summer so your children can observe and appreciate the seasonal differences. I tend to go to 2 or 3 places over and over again so we can closely observe the change in seasons, learn the familiar trees and flowers and also the children get to learn the routes!

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5 Things To Look For In Winter

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  1. Moss, fungus and lichen – so beautiful, colourful and textured; often hidden so dig deep in the woods.
  2. Nibbled nuts and pinecones; signs of birds and squirrels enjoying their winter diet. Observe which trees you found them under.
  3. Space; when there are no leaves on the trees, woods and forests always seem much bigger; you can see the sky and through the trees for miles ahead.
  4. Tree shapes. Again, when the trees are bare you can clearly see their shape and structure – simple outline pencil sketches of these are a great way to journal this winter observation.
  5. Sound. Stand still and quiet in the middle of the woods or countryside area and count how many different sounds you can hear. It’s quite a discipline for little children but worth the try!

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Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating, there is really no such things as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather – John Ruskin