Author Archives: sheraz2011

About sheraz2011

I hope to share the joy and contentment I experience in my life as a wife to a great man, mother to 4 energetic and creative girls, homeschooling teacher-mom, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and most importantly, as a beloved daughter of my Heavenly Father. I love to read, research, organize, scrapbook, creating order from chaos, and hanging out with my family. I like dreaming (and eventually implementing) ways to make this house our refuge and happy place. I enjoy planning our yard and making it blossom into what I have envisioned. I enjoy homeschooling our children and want them to love learning and remain curious about so many things. I want to learn about photography, graphic design, cooking without a stove or oven, and so many more things! Welcome to our corner of the world...I hope you enjoy it!

“Only a great soul can teach another soul to be great.”

In Charlotte Mason educational circles, we talk a lot about reading great literature, looking at beautiful art, and listening to beautiful music in our search for Truth, Goodness. and Beauty. That’s because Charlotte Mason had a lot to say about it, especially about reading great literature:

“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.”     ~ Charlotte Mason

‘It is a sad fact the we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought.”     ~ vol 2 pg 263

“To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s first course must always be with good books, the best that we can find.

“Ideas must reach us directly from the mind of the thinker, and it is chiefly by means of books they have written that we get into touch with the best minds.”     ~ vol 3 pg 177

“The mind is capable of dealing only with kind of food; it lives, grows, and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust is to the body.”     ~ vol 6 pg 105

“There is no education but self-education.”                                                                                                                          

“We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters…. To become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is a great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world-teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life.”                                                                   

“Having found the book which has a message for us, let us not be guilty of the folly of saying we have read it. We might as well say we have breakfasted, as if breakfasting on one day should last us for every day! The book that helps us deserves many readings, for assimilation comes by slow degrees.”     ~ vol. 4, Ourselves

“The only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books…We owe it to every child to put him in communication of great minds that he may get at great ideas.”     ~  vol 6 pg 12

I saw a post from the blog Glory to God for All Things called “Food for the Soul”. I appreciated his thoughts, especially this quote:

“Growing the soul is not at all an obvious thing. Plato, in his Republic, suggested that musical training be required for all children precisely for the formation of the soul. The soul is ever so much more about who we are, and the character of who we are than what we are and what we know. 

As the traditional “canon” of literature continues to come under withering attack in the American academy, more and more people are simply “ignorant” souls. It is not so much that they lack the information gained from such literature (though they do), but that they lack a depth and the ability to reflect that is only made possible through engaging with the greatest ideas, the greatest music, the deepest beauty. Only a great soul can teach another soul to become great.”                                                                                                                    ~  Fr. Stephen Freeman

This is why Charlotte Mason encouraged us to read the best literature – only a great soul can teach another soul to become great.

To read the entire article by Fr. Stephen Freeman, click here. It is excellent and some of the comments have interesting recommendations as well.

What are we talking about in our CM homeschools when we talk about scaffolding?

I love reading about what my role as a CM teacher, mentor, and friend with my students should look like. Sometimes its’s a bit daunting, but most of the time I find it exhilarating and motivating!

There are new words that float about in CM circles occassionally, and scaffolding is one of them. I first heard it at the 2016 CMI Conference from a Dr. Jen Spencer presentation. I concluded that it is basically what Sonya Shafer at Simply Charlotte Mason has been teaching for years…that you ask children what we read/learned about in the last lesson before beginning another lesson. Then asking for another narration and discussing it. But I didn’t pursue it beyond that. Recently, though, I recognized that it means more than that if we look at it from a different angle.

Dawn, author of the ladydusk blog, has been reading and thinking about this concept for a while. She is now sharing what she is learning about this concept through a series of articles on her blog. They are excellent in their reminders of our goals and roles. Take a few moments to read them. You won’t be sorry. 🙂

2017 Back to the Classics Challenge Update

2017 Back to the Classics Challenge  – this is based off the challenge found at Books and Chocolate. My family is pretending to do this for the second year 😉 and I thought I would post my choices and thoughts here to help me stay motivated.
1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens –  this is the 19th century classic. I am currently reading this with my new Classics Book Club of mamas that want to read the classics. I am on chapter 11 and will have this finished by the end of May. I really am enjoying this story too, and find it interesting that so many of DIckens’ characters are abused children and the scenes in the prison are some that he actually endured as a child of an impoverished family. I got teary-eyed a few times at the evil, unkind treatment of this boy and feel a greater appreciation for Mr. Dickens devotion to ending childhood slavery and awful treatment of the poor children.
2. Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers – my 20th Century classic. I love her Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels, and this one is completely different than the others. In this one, the story takes place in an Advertising Agency and the characters and setting is so believable because Sayers was, in her day job, an advertising copy writer. I listened to a Close Reads Podcast about this one and thoroughly enjoyed learning about Sayers and her personal world so much.  
3. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – this is my classic by a woman author. This story was quite long and I found myself occasionally frustrated at the two main characters as the story unfolded. He falls in love with another woman and tells Fannie all about her. Turns out that the lady he loves chooses to have Fannie as her best friend and through it all, Fannie stays true to her love for him. There are lots of side stories as is usual in an Austen story, and it all turns out okay. Despite all the differences between the character and how I would have reacted (haha), I enjoyed this story as well. Not as much as some of her others, but still good.
4. The Iliad by Homer – this is my story in translation. I finally finished all 24 books (chapters) of this classic, and pretty much enjoyed every word. I think, though, that having read and studying Greek mythology and history helped prepare me for this story. The thing the really convinced me was a podcast called A Perpetual Feast, where 2 learned men discuss all things Homer and why it matters that read Homer. They have been so fun to listen to that it motivated me to want to know for myself. I really appreciate Homer’s ability to relate a story so full of war, and yet use so many similes that I didn’t feel unbalanced in my emotions. It is a story of unforgiving anger and how a person’s actions always have consequences for others as well as the actual person, whether intended or not. And usually, the consequences of anger are ugly.
5. The Odyssey by Homer – my classic published before 1800. I am starting The Odyssey today as the Trojan War story finishes in that book. I am looking forward to it. Again, I have been studying Homer through that podcast and other books, so I am anxious to start.
6. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare – this is my romance story. I took an intensive class on this play and absolutely fell in love with it. I also learned about the Elizabethan world and the Renaissance world at the same time. What is not to love about a strong woman who meets her match and is totally attracted and confused at the same time? About a strong man who sees past her current situation and sees what could be, and sets out to bring that to reality – all in love, not anger or abuse? This is a beautiful Johnny Lingo story about love, trust, and redemption. 
7. Haven’t decided my Gothic story yet. 
8. Henry V by William Shakespeare This is my classic with a number in the title and one of Shakespeare’s histories about English history. I am starting it this week as part of my Shakespeare in a Year challenge (which involves reading a Shakespeare play a week for a year, and at the end, you have read all of the Shakespearean canon. Very excited about this!)
9. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, This is my book about an animal. I had never read this and I loved it. Again, I read and listened to a Close Reads podcast about it. I recently learned in a fairy tale class that a Stag or Deer is an allegorical character depicting Christ and so the chapter where they are looking for the lost son of the otter has a deeper meaning to it. I also realized that if I can read certain books as allegories (Pinocchio being one of them) I can appreciate it on a whole different level, and that is one way I read The Wind and the Willows. But no matter how you read, it’s a dang fun adventure with them all!
10. Macbeth by William Shakespeare – this is set in Scotland and so it covers the classic set in a place you’d like to visit. I’d love to go to Scotland!  And it is based on a true event, AND it’s Shakespeare. I enjoy it. The end. =) Seriously, I do enjoy Shakespeare. His character development is often profound and yet so relate-able on several levels. Macbeth allows his passion to overcome his reason, murders his friend, the king (egged on by his wife – you are not a real man if you can’t do it!) and the chaos that rules his life and Scotland until order is restored by Macbeth’s death, and Malcolm (the true son) is restored to the crown. Here is another Close Reads podcast about Macbeth.)
11. An award-winning classic – haven’t even looked for one yet. 😉
12. Crime and Punishment is my Russian novel pick. I think. It is shorter than the others that I looked at. Yes, I checked page numbers, I have lots of reading to do and want to feel like I have gotten something done! 😛

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

Last year I was so blessed to go to the Charlotte Mason Institute’s 2016 Conference. It was an amazing 4 days of immersions and workshops, friends and fellow CM mamas, and learning and growing. (if you have a chance, you should go to one. They now have 2 full conferences a year: CMI East and CMI West. This is where my online video CM group met – and we’ve been reading her volumes and discussing them together for about 2 years now. They are all great ladies – and what a fabulous support group! But I digress…)

The keynote speaker was John Muir Laws (aka Jack Laws), noted naturalist, artist, author, and educator. His presentations were fabulous – especially since he had taken the time to read Charlotte Mason’s works. It was neat to see and hear how modern science is proving the things that Miss Mason said about  training our brains and how important nature study is, even today.

(John Muir Laws at lunch with my group! 🙂 )

I invited him to eat lunch with us one day and we had a fun time learning how to dry brush in the field. He’s lots of fun…and his ideas on involving people in nature and in recording what they see are inspirational and motivating.


CMI usually has pre-Conference reading book lists and so Jack’s new book was on the list. I actually resisted it for a few months – it is $35.00 after all, and I already have tons of field guides and lots of reference books on Nature Study. I finally bought it for the family for Christmas. It is AMAZING! It also is not what I thought it was, either. This book could easily replace several others on my shelf. It has so much stuff in it!

We have been using the drawing instruction section once a week as our “Drawing Lessons” for about 10-15 minutes. Then the next time we are drawing in our Nature Journals I encourage the kids to remember what we have practiced in our drawing lessons. So far it has worked really well.

If you don’t have the money to spend on his book, he encouraged us to look at his website – a lot of stuff in the book is available there. Birds, animals, landscapes, insects, flowers, plants, trees, etc. are located within the archives. It’s a great way to add practical drawing lessons to our lessons.




Composition Notebooks: Narrating, Organizing Papers, and Record Keeping at the Same Time

When I first started homeschooling, I used 3-ring notebook pages for my girls to record their school assignments on. It didn’t take long to decide that was a mess – the notebooks were huge and took up so much space on the table, they wore out quickly,  they took up a ton of space on the book shelf, and worst of all, the papers would tear out and be messy.

On the suggestion of a friend on the SCM forum, I decided to try using composition notebooks instead. They cost less than a $1, they are compact, they are small, they do not weigh a lot, and little hands can easily maneuver them about. I also made the executive decision that there were not going to be as many notebooks, so I combined history, geography, and science in one book since often it is hard to separate them. My younger girls officially started “real” school in 2014-2015, and I made them their own notebooks. We filled in the last pages of them last month, and what an unexpected treasure they were.

These are the actual notebooks. They span from August 2014 to March 2017. School years are separated by sticky tabs.

These are a couple of the science entries:

Some History entries:


I finally started dividing pages for multiple entries as well:

We also have separate notebooks for their Bible Studies:

As I was filing them away in their portfolios, my husband and I spent some time looking through them. It was particularly gratifying to me as we did because my youngest daughter kept looking over our shoulders, explaining what each page and drawing meant. I learned several things that night:

  • We are doing work and progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the day-to-day trenches.
  • That knowledge was a very great blessing to me as I have struggled with my health at the beginning of this school year. (I am doing much better now. Still have issues, but I can function again!)
  • Narration works. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t always have to be “pretty” and “perfect.” Drawing, writing, speaking, acting: it all adds up and makes incredible differences in the ability to remember things.
  • The kids love to see and think about the things that they know. What a great refresher course for them, too!

Essential Read Charlotte Mason posts by Karen Glass

These are wonderful, encouraging, helpful articles written by Karen Glass. The first one was March 20th 2017, and the others since then. I have read them all and enjoyed them, pondered them, and even re-read portions of them. Then today I saw them linked together on an AO forum thread and realized that many of you would enjoy them too, so I am posting them here as well. I appreciate Karen Glass’ contribution to the Charlotte Mason community, and especially to my attempts at self-education. She has such depth and breadth to her knowledge! “I really do invite you to see for yourself what principles and practices Charlotte Mason considered vital—indispensable—in order to make her philosophy work. But I’ll give you a hint—there aren’t that many of them, and none of them are as specific as “have school in the morning” or “do this for history.”…es-part-1/ “Do you know which of the 20 principles are the “new ones,” that CM added later in her life, after many, many years of experience?”…es-part-2/ “Because education is the science of relations, all the relationships in this relational method of education matter—the relationship between you and your children, and between your children as brothers and sisters, and between each child and the lovely enticing knowledge that is there for him to find in math, science, literature, art, music, and more. Bearing in mind each and every day, as a teacher, that “Education is the science of relations” will keep us mindful of what we are doing.”…es-part-3/ “We’re looking at the practices that Charlotte Mason considered important enough to make into principles. Basically, these are the practices that define what is and what is not “a Charlotte Mason education.” If your educational efforts line up with these educational practices, you can feel confident that you are giving your students a “CM” education.”…es-part-4/ “Remember that education is the science of relations? Well, narration is a relationship-building exercise. That is its very reason for existence—to create an emotional tie between a learner and knowledge.