The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T.H. White is a book listed to be read on the Ambleside Online Year 7 curriculum list. Since I had never read it and wanted to learn more about King Arthur, I decided to read the book for our family’s Back to the Classics Challenge.

The Once and Future King cover

photo via Amazon

It contains 4 stories – The Sword in the Stone (Disney’s movie is based on this one), The Queen of Air and Darkness (about the Orkney Clan – Sirs Gawaine, Gaheris, Agravaine, Gareth, and Mordred) , The Ill-Made Knight (about Lancelot), and The Candle in the Wind.  The stories each deal with an important part of Arthur’s life from beginning to the end.

At first, I really enjoyed it – the scenes with the Wart were fun for the most part, although I was glad when his education was over. I did not enjoy the second book nearly as much, so it took me much longer to read it. It was a relief to start Lancelot’s story. I still struggled to get to the end, but I persevered for two reasons: 1 – I said I’d read it for the challenge and I didn’t want to wimp out on my second book, and 2 – I really was determined to understand more about the different people that have been mentioned in other books that I didn’t really know about. Sir Gawaine and Sir Garath for example.  And it didn’t fully satisfy my curiosity, so I am going to read Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight now. And then the end. What can I say? I cried. Several times. Even though I was sitting in the hospital with my mom while my dad had a procedure done. Embarrassing.

So obviously, the book is set in England – we are even introduced to Robin Hood. The struggle of the people is obvious, and it is with relief that we catch Arthur’s vision for reforming the evils done to people simply because they could. Then, we watch him grapple with what to do with knights who are bored once they accomplished the goal to rid the land of the evil land owners who abused so many people. As he learns and evolves in his understanding of the human condition, he decides that fighting might with might is not always the right way, either. So he sends his Knights of the Round Table on a Quest for the Holy Grail.  That didn’t go exactly like he had hoped either, but he decided that law was the answer. All men could be equal and accountable before written law. As he works to get the laws figured out, nasty intrigue and bitter pettiness start to engulf his Court. I could feel the pathos of the situation for so many of the characters. And, at the end, I cried.

As I thought about this book, I was reminded of the scripture in Esther 4:14 where Esther has the saving of her people on her shoulders and she is asked “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Many people have done hard things when faced with that question – and fictional or historical, Arthur was presented with his own version of saving his people.

Still not sure if I would read it again, but I am glad that I finished. How’s that for a recommendation?

Charlotte Mason Original Series Free Study Guides

Have you ever read Charlotte Mason’s Original Series and wanted to take your comprehension levels of her philosophy and methods, have time to ponder ideas, and take action on the things you are learning? Then I have some things to help you! Read on!

CM Study Guide Collage

I have been participating in a virtual CM reading group for about 10 months now. We meet once a week via WebEx and discuss our reading assignment, which averages about 10 pages each time.  Slowly and surely {and thoroughly} we have completed volume 1 and are in the middle of volume 3. As we have studied, we’ve tried to use the questions in the back, but they are so inconveniently located for good discussion. I decided to do something about it (actually, I’ve wanted to do it for a long time) with the end result that I can now share with you:  Study Guides for every single one of the six Original Homeschooling volumes.

Each guide contains a schedule of weekly readings of 10-15 pages and provides the questions for those pages in easy to use format. The questions can be used to help guide your study and/or discussions by taking you deeper into the topic. After the questions, I included spaces to jot down your “Things to Ponder” and “Actions to Take”.  This allows you to always have the thoughts and ideas you felt were important at your fingertips – providing yourself with both accountability and recordable progress.  By using the guides, you take your study into the more effective range and begin to improve your relationships and homeschool.

Simply download, print, use your choice of binding (staples, paperclip, 3-hole punch – I prefer to spiral bind mine) and start your journey. Miss Mason’s ideas are too valuable to miss!


Download Volume 1 – Home Education here.

Download Volume 2 – Parents and Children here.

Download Volume 3 – School Education here.

Download Volume 4 – Ourselves, Book I here. (This is the first half of the book.)

Download Volume 4 – Ourselves, Book II here. (This is the second half of the book.)

Download Volume 5 Formation of Character here.

Download Volume 6 – A Philosophy of Education here.

These guides are free for you to use as individuals and as study groups. Please link to my blog if you are re-posting, though.

The Burgess Animal Book Study Guide

Burgess Animal BookI’m excited to offer a new FREE study guide for the Burgess Animal Book! We’ve been using it for the last year or so and really enjoying it, so I decided to clean it up and share it with you!

This new guide features lessons that have a variety of options to pick and choose (or use them all) to take the topics deeper and to incorporate more learning styles. Each lesson includes:

  • single chapter readings (either you read or listen to it on audio)
  • introduces the new animal(s)
  • has both the original illustration and/or an updated color photo of the animal
  • additional readings from the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock (optional)
  • suggested Nature Study Journal entries
  • optional coloring pages (available in separate download or links)
  • and contains additional book suggestions for further enjoyment

The large color pictures and nature journaling have made a big difference in our enjoyment this year. Recording what we remember about each reading has been a fun way to track the differences in families like the rabbits and squirrels. Here are a couple of our journals of the same readings on squirrels:

BAB Journal Pages

Click here to download the free guide: Burgess Animal Book Study Guide

Click here to download the coloring pages: Burgess Animal Book Coloring Pages

Click here to get my free Burgess Bird Book guide/resources: Burgess BIrd Book Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities

First of all – let me freely admit that I love historical fiction, and yet, I was leery of reading this because it was written by Charles Dickens. I sometimes growl at my high school literature classes – they turned me off several wonderful writers. Okay, to the point… =)  This is my first book report for my Family Classics Reading Challenge.

A Tale of Two Cities

photo from Amazon

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a book ostensibly about the French Revolution. It is an amazingly adept story of opposites. Mr. Dickens starts the book with one of the most quoted (and misquoted) lines we still hear today:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, …”

The setting is in two contrasting places – England and France – and our story begins in 1775. We are directed through several scenes that draw parallels of circumstances between the countries, beginning with the royalty and on down through Society. He mentions several real people and situations that mean nothing to us today, but I have learned that there is a great deal of understanding to be gained by knowing who/what an author is referring to, so I happily went down a couple of rabbit trails, ferreting out those details. It was fascinating and served to help me see the differences Dickens was trying to relay.

The plot was full of twists and turns – even though I had lots of ideas of things that would happen, sometimes the way they happened surprised me. There were lots of ways that the characters behaved, talked, or endured that showed the differences our attitudes and behaviors affect others, both personally and as a collective body (as in the French revolutionists, the aristocrats, and finally as a country) – in many ways the whole book was about that very thing. He clearly delineates the differences between right and wrong, love and hate, revenge or forgiveness, justice or mercy. He references the differences in motivation for both the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Once the Americans won the surrender of the British, they tried to forge ties that would help both sides. Once the French peasants were in charge, the pent up years of neglect and abuse were released, they became relentless in their pursuit of revenge by killing everyone they could – including the very group of people in charge. Thousands of people were beheaded on the slightest charges. Scary.

One thing that I noticed was the use of red in all its various shades. It really brought home how incredibly sad, final, and violent the war was. I was sickened by the thought of the women who gloried in the all the violence, who egged it on, who actively participated in the bloodshed, and who accused people just for the sake of it. The end of the book is another quote that is quite familiar:

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

After reading the story, that quote could bring me to tears. I highly recommend this book.


Illustrating History

Charlotte Mason has a lot to say about how to study and track history, and in true CM fashion, she even detailed some ideas for narrating history. In Charlotte Mason’s Vol. 1 Home Education in the section on history (pages 279-295), she says: 
“Let the mother (teacher) beware: there is nothing which calls for more delicate tact abd understanding sympathy with the children than this apparently simple matter of choosing their lesson books, and especially, perhaps, their lesson books in history. ” (page 290)
“Imagination does not stir at the suggestion of the feeble, much-diluted stuff that is too often put into the children’s hands.” (page 294)
“History readings make admirable material for narration, and children enjoy narrating what they have read or heard. They love, too, to make illustrations… Children have the same intellectual pleasure as persons of cultivated minds in working out new hints and suggestions…they tell the tale directly and vividly.” ~ page 292
Illustrations by the Children (AKA Drawn Narrations): I was so glad to read this section on page 292. We have been using this as a form of narration for years, =) Drawn narrations give children a way to hear, organize, and express detailed ideas without pressure and is a welcome relief to both mom and kid from the “tell me what I just read” line.
I have my children draw a picture of the history lesson, science lesson, scripture story, etc. Occasionally as they tell me the story, I write what they tell me so that they can also see that writing the story is important, too. It makes them feel that they “own” the story. I also find that those written notes help to remind them of the whole story – and they make great additions to a portfolio for the records.😉
A friend from my CM Study Group shared how her family has chosen one literature book (read once a week) that they draw a picture for each time. By the time the book ends. they will have illustrated each chapter. That would be an awesome way to read a history book.
Playing At History:  Charlotte says:
“they play at their history lessons, dress up, make tableaux, at scenes; or they have a stage, and their dolls act, while they paint the scenery and speak the speeches.” – page 294
“Let a child have the meat he requires in his history reading, and in the literature which gathers naturally round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours; the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he gets the merest hint.” ~ page 294-295
My girls have done all of these things and we’ve had so much fun over the years. They are rich in imagination, full of laughter, and creates the type of memory we are seeking in our pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Tracking History

There has been a flurry of discussion in the Charlotte Mason community lately on how many streams of history Charlotte Mason had her children reading at the same time – Emily at A Delectable Education has uncovered some progammes from Charlotte Mason’s schools indicating that they were following 3 different strands of history at a time. We know that Ambleside Online follows two strands at a time and other curriculums do a variety through out their plans. The point of this article is not to take a side (if one has to take a side😉 ) – it is to discuss how it would be possible to track these various strands without messing all the events and people up in your mind.

In a recent discussion of Charlotte Mason’s Volume 1 on the section of history (pages 279-295), my CM study group was talking about the visual recording of history studied as recommended by Charlotte Mason. On page 292, she wrote about the need for keeping a general overview of the centuries so that the “wide knowledge of history” the student is reading can be kept in its proper place in the overview of history. She gave a definite way of doing this by making a Century Chart (explanations on how to make one is found on page 292 in the “Dates” section.)

This sparked a discussion of how and when to use the various time-tracking notebooks Charlotte Mason had her students use. The following definitions are the ones I have gathered through my reading of books and blogs (please note that they may be subject to change as I continue to study and learn about them.)😉

A timeline of the current course of study was kept on a poster by the desk/table where they were reading. This was the more interesting – and could be quite detailed – aspects of the culture/wars/people through the years. This is handy to keep events straight in your readings. This could even be in a notebook I carried with my readings.

A Century Chart was a chart as described on page 292 – a list of the centuries with an extremely brief notation of MAJOR events that occurred throughout history. This was a quick way to orient yourself when reading new books – often you find yourself wondering what else was going on during this time frame. This would be a more permanent fixture in my school room – like along the wall above my maps. To me, this is as vital to reading multiple strands of history as a map is to reading about an army conquering the world around them.

A Book of Centuries was just that. A book that has one side of a two page spread with lines on it and a blank sheet for drawing. As I understood it, CM schools took their children to the  British Museum where they would find a particular time to really look at artifacts and things on display from that era. Then they documented or drew things they felt were most helpful, interesting, or progressive in the story of man in their books. These would be life-long pursuits and were in nice hardback books.

As you can see from these ideas, they are distinctly different, with different purposes.

How do you track your history?   

Leave a comment and tell me!

Lingering in History

In Volume 1 – Home Education, Charlotte Mason said:

“…history…is a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behaviour of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation. This is what the study of history should do for the child.” ~ page 279

“Let him…linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”  ~ page 280

Some great authors  I’ve enjoyed for lingering in a time period with engaging story lines and characters:

Genevieve Foster

G.A. Henty

Rosemary Sutcliff

Mary Macgregor

James Baldwin

Alfred Church

Heritage History and the Yesterday’s Classics collections come with many of these authors books for a low price. Many of them are also available as audio books.
Who are your go-to authors for lingering in a time and place?