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?

Morning Time: In Pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Morning Time Basket

Have you ever just gone through the motions after a while of doing something??

Me, too.

We have been having successful Morning Time for 5 years…only we called it our Family Studies (a la SCM). We cover many subjects on a regular basis and totally love it – poetry, Shakespeare, Plutarch, music study, picture study, nature study, hymn study, scripture memory (and all the other memory work), history, bible, geography, creative arts, handicrafts, Greek/Latin words, sign language,literature, map drill, exercising daily, etc.  I have a really successful checkoff/record sheet that has all these subjects spread out over the 5 day week, complete with the time to be spent on each one so that we spend about 2 hours a morning doing them together. Only, after a while, it started to become just another check-off list. Yep, I was going through the motions! Not good!

While listening to Cindy Rollins on the Edsnapshots Morning Time Basket podcast, Cindy talked about how her family would all gather round and do these things together on the couch and she made it sound so desirable, lovely, and something to strive for, that I knew I wanted that experience for us this term. I really appreciated her comments on the fact that it isn’t the skill subjects that she wished she had spent more time on, and how the morning time subjects are what fed her family culture – and continue to do so today, even though her youngest is in school. I think that is what I was looking for – encouragement to more fully focus on the relationships and less on the “just do it because it is on the check-off list”.

Then I finally had the chance to read Pam Barnhill’s Morning Time book and after reading about her 4 R’s of Morning Time, I had a mental “A-HA!” moment. I began to consider our subjects in context of how they fit into our family rituals and relationships. And I think I’ve found a delicate balance that can be flexible depending on our days.😉

I’ve decided that our upstairs Morning Time is going to consist of our Hymn, Prayer, Memory Work, and our selected poem. On alternating days, we will read a history, science, math, geography book. All of this can be done as we eat breakfast and tidy up. Often while I read aloud the girls will color in their beautiful adult coloring books to keep their hands busy and their minds listening. (In my opinion, this is a crucial step to a successful morning!) 

Morning Time Secrets

Then we move downstairs for the School Room Morning Time subjects around the school table – ASL, picture study, composer study, handicrafts, map drill, creative art – because all the supplies are there. As we finish the Morning Time subjects, we have a snack and go right into our skill subjects. On Thursdays we end with Poetry Tea Time, which is also new this year and is such a lovely addition to our day.

Morning Time nourishes our relationships. It motivates us to aim our ideals for finding beauty, truth, and goodness in the world around us. It provides calm in the midst of the storm, connects our family with shared culture, gives us noble ideas that stretch us in many ways, and prepares us to confront the darkness around us with light.

For more information and further reading on Morning Time, check out Pam’s website: edsnapshots.

Poetry Tea Time

Traditionally, I have had a Poetry Study time weekly where we read a bit of biography and a few poems by our chosen poet for the term. It is nice, but not always particularly memorable. I also tried to read a poem or two just for fun during the daily family studies. I felt that those poems were lacking – they were okay, but not necessarily full of living ideas that made me want to think about what we were reading.

Poetry Tea Time Refreshments 1

I have been listening to a few CM podcasts that featured Cindy Rollins of Morning Time fame (she is also the hostess of The Mason Jar on Circe’s podcasts) where she described her family enjoying a poem in depth. They only read one poem at a time, repeating it daily until they were able to commit it to memory, but also giving the whole family time to linger over the rolling phrases and mental imagery the words created in their minds and hearts.  This stoked my desires to have lovely poems that spoke of truth, goodness, and beauty in all its myriad forms.

Questions like ‘How? When? What? and even Who” were lurking in the quiet recesses of my mind as I tried to figure out where to start. And then, as always, the Lord provided a tender mercy as He provided the answers in the form of a  wonderful discussion my Charlotte Mason reading group had in December about reading Poetry and having it be fun and an effective way of conveying living ideas to our children. My friend shared with us her experience with Poetry Tea Time in their home. It sounded like so much fun that I resolved to try it in our own home.

Our first week back to school for our second term, I wanted (needed) something different to do so that we would all look forward to it and decided to introduce Poetry Tea Time. I made a pitcher of lemonade and some chocolate chip cookies, handed each of my girls a poetry book and told them to find a poem to share, asked the older girls to be prepared to recite a memorized poem, and invited my mom to participate – that officially makes it a Noteworthy Event, especially when I use the special dishes my mother got as a wedding present.

At 2 pm, we sat down, had some refreshments on our fancy little glass dishes and cups, and we each shared a poem (or two). I introduced the poet we’re studying this term by sharing a few paragraphs of his biography and reading a couple of his poems. That was it. 25 minutes and a snack. It was fun. And school could be done for the day with this ritual of poetry sharing.

Enjoying the food!

So I tried it the next week. Same time, place, and people – and it was a smashing success. We sat around the table for a whole hour reading poetry (Jack Prelutsky is so fun!) and laughing. They are already asking about getting ready this week. I felt the Spirit whispering that this is what my family needs… to slow down, to reconnect to each other as loved friends, to just be in the moment – not stressing so much about the next thing that has to be checked-off.  What a blessing!

Next week I will share some of my favorite poetry resources, new and old!

For more ideas on Poetry Tea Time, click on these links:

7 Ways to an Easy and Fun Poetry Tea Time by Creekside Learning

Easy Tips for Poetry Tea Time by Pam Barnhill  at EdSnapshots