Category Archives: Books I Have Read

“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.

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! 😛

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.


Keeping a Nature Journal

“Beauty is everywhere – in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful coloring of birds, in the hills and valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the bloom. What we call Nature is all Beauty and delight, and the person who watches Nature closely and knows her well, like the poet Wordsworth, for example, has his Beauty Sense always active, always bringing him joy.”

~ Charlotte Mason (Vol. 4, pp. 41, 42)

There is a book called Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth that has been much touted as an essential nature study book for homeschooling mothers who aren’t sure about how to DO nature journals in a Charlotte Mason Education. (You know – the moms who need to know everything about how to do something “right” before ever attempt to actually try it. 😉 ) A friend of mine gave it to me a couple of years ago and I have been reading it off and on since.


This book contains many suggestions of ways to Nature Journal: what to include, how often to go out, how to record what you see, and more. There are many chapters full of actual samples of different types of journals – by layout, topic, area, seasons, weather, and more.  It also includes a few tips on how to draw different things in your journals – with some basic ideas of how to get more practice before going outdoors. One way the author gets time to draw in her nature journal when she is busy is by collecting a few objects while out on a walk – a seedpod, leaves, a feather – and taking them home to save for a time when she can sit for a few minutes to draw. It is in this act that she finds time to slow down, concentrate, then think and relax.

The book also has a section called Teaching Journaling to Groups of All Ages and gives specific tips on  how to interest adults, children, school groups and more  in starting and maintaining a nature journal.

We as teachers and mothers make Nature Study so hard when we think we have to find the pristine, untouched nature around us – and that paralyzes those of us in cities. How are we to do that realistically??  I was struck by Claire Walker Leslie’s comment about including human structures in our drawings – we are part of nature and the habitat.  When viewed this way, we can let go and enjoy ourselves in the moment.  And that is the beauty of it all – learning and living!

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.

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.