Category Archives: History & History Resources

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!

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?

That’s a REAL mummy!??!

We really enjoy the St. Louis Art Museum – it has lots of different things, including exhibits of the ancient civilizations that we have/are/will study..

That's a REAL mummy!?

The girls are fun when we go because they will see something they recognize and all of a sudden connections are being made and *gasp!* mummies are REAL!  🙂 And if mummies are real then the other things we learned about like pharaohs and pyramids must be real too, and their mummified toes are gross. That is the unanimous opinion of the kids who noticed the toes sticking out of the wrappings.

Canopic Jars

 This can also lead to interesting religious conversations, which is also good. It’s a great way to clear up misunderstandings and reinforce gospel concepts. (On a side note, JitterBug started to read some of the hieroglyphics on the jars to the museum guide, who was driving us crazy that day (she obviously was following a script and wouldn’t/couldn’t answer our questions). It got her attention, at any rate! 😉 )

Beautiful necklace!

 Since this is made of beads, it must have been some painstaking work! No matter the time period or era, women love a beautiful necklace!

While we were visiting the museum during this visit, we realized for the first time that there is also an Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman room. I am excited to explore this room in more depth! 

Great Authors & Series for Boys

In my last post, I shared a list of specific books that were highly recommended for boys, but if you are like me, sometimes knowing the name of the authors is as important as the titles of books when you are shopping! Generally, if I like an author’s work, I am pretty sure that I will like others they wrote. Of course, that is not always true. There are those rare occasions when I dislike their other works…but I digress!

The following list is gathered from many places and lists, but I must give most of the credit to Jan Bloom (see  I attended her class at the St. Louis Homeschool Expo and really liked the idea of having a master list of authors or series…for both boy and girl audiences. Many of these authors are equally appealing to girls so don’t rule them out without looking at them first!  So here goes the list!

Great Authors-Series for Boys

Early Reading Levels:


  • Dan Frontier
  • Jim Forest
  • PeeWee Scouts
  • The Buttons
  • Thornton W. Burgess (we love his stories!)
  • Author Scott Bailey
  • C. W. Anderson
  • James Herriot’s Stories for Children (we liked this one very much, too!)

History/Biographies Readers

  •  Step into Reading
  • I Can Read
  • Childhood of Famous Americans
  • We Were There
  • Frontiers of America
  • Garrard biographies
  • Walter Buehr
  • Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Ronald Syme


  • Leonard
  • Peter
  • Moonbeam


  • Frog and Toad (my hubby loves reading these to the kids!)
  • Commander Toad
  • Mole and Troll

Fantasy/Other Worlds/Talking Animals

  • Thorton W. Burgess
  • Beatrix Potter


  • Helen Fuller Orton
  • Bobbsey Twins


  • Marion Renich

For Intermediate Reading Levels:


  • Merritt Parmalee Allen
  • Sonia Bleeker
  • James Daugherty
  • Walter Edmonds
  • Walter Farley
  • Shannon Garst
  • Walt Morey
  • Jack O’Brien
  • Gary Paulson
  • Willard Price
  • Ernest Thompson Seton


  • American Adventure
  • Winston Adventure
  • Trailblazer Biographies
  • YWAM Biographies (esp. Heroes of History series)
  • American Heritage
  • Dave Dawson
  • Alfred Duggan
  • Landmark Books
  • Jean Lantham
  • Stephen Meader
  • Northstar
  • James Otis
  • Howard Pyle
  • Red Reeder
  • Signature
  • Rosemary Sutcliff
  • Geoffrey Trease


  • Rick Brant
  • Eleanor Cameron
  • Tom Corbett
  • Tom Swift Jr.


  • Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Marguerite DeAngeli
  • Meindert DeJong
  • Carolyn Haywood
  • Eleanor Frances Lattimore
  • Lois Lenski
  • Arthur Ransome

Fantasy/Other Worlds

  • Lloyd Alexander
  • L. M. Boston
  • Walter Brooks
  • John Christopher
  • Edward Eager
  • Nicholas Stuart Gray
  • Brian Jacques
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • C. S. Lewis


  • Hardy Boys
  • Happy Hollisters
  • Three Investigators
  • Howard Pease


  • Joe Archibald
  • C. Paul Jackson
  • Jackson Scholz
  • Matt Christopher (pre 1990)
  • William Gault
  • Chip Hilton

High School and Grown Up Levels


  • R. M. Ballantyne
  • C. S. Forester
  • James Oliver Curwood
  • James Fenimore Cooper
  • Daniel Defoe
  • Brock Thoene
  • Louis L’Amour (we really enjoy his books)
  • Zane Grey
  • James Herriott
  • Richard Halliburton
  • Patrick O’Brian
  • Rafael Sabatini
  • Ralph Conner


  • Ron Carter (EXCELLENT American Revolution series)
  • Alfred Church (we’ve really enjoyed his books)
  • Charles Dickens
  • Alexander Dumas
  • G. A. Henty (we’ve really enjoyed his books, too)
  • Robert Leckie
  • Baroness Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel series)
  • Brock and Brodie Thoene (their Zion Covenant series on WWII is fabulous)
  • Stanley Wyman


  • Jules Verne


  • Gordon Korman
  • Raplh Moody
  • Booth Tarkington
  • P.G. Wodehouse

Fantasy/Other Worlds

  • Ted Dekker
  • Orson Scott
  • Stephen Lawhead
  • Calvin Miller
  • Bill Myers
  • Frank Peretti
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • John White


  • T. Davis Bunn
  • John Grisham
  • Rex Stout
  • Robb Whitlow


  • John Tunis

LDS Author Series 

  • Ron Carter (Prelude to Glory)
  • Gerald Lund  (The Work and the Glory, Fishers of Men, and others)
  • Brandon Mull (Fablehaven, Beyonder)
  • Dean Hughes (Children of the Promise)

Who Shall We Then Read?


Who Should We Then Read?

Photo via Amazon

A couple of years ago I  bought “Who Should We Then Read?” vol 1 and  vol 2 by Jan Bloom from Amazon – noticing that one dealer was BooksBloom and was located in MO.  I ordered from that dealer and thinking it would get here quicker. A few minutes later I received an email from the author who asked if I had noticed we are from the same town inviting me to pickup the books at her house, and she would refund my shipping money.  

I went over to her house – talk about instant gratification on order fulfillment  (lol) – and got to meet Jan Bloom…she was very gracious and interesting!  (I found another person who has a map above the kitchen table and has bookcases all over the house…literally…and I was drooling over the one bookcase full of titles I could read…all books that are recommended here and ohhhh…how about their inventory…I volunteered to get lost in there – LOL)  She and her husband travel to the conventions and sell the OOP / living books CMer’s all want.  She generously offered to help find my list of hard to find books if I would email it to her…how cool is that??  I no longer feel so alone in my CM venture here.  

I asked if I could share her advice on obtaining these books and she was happy to agree.  Most of us talk about ordering from Amazon, but she suggested that we use the search engine to find these books. She says that it searches over 40 places, and suggested that we would find much better prices for our books. I wanted to share that since it may save us all money and a headache!  She made my weekend! LOL

So – if you have made it this far – I’ll tell you about the actual book and why I think that it is a valuable resource to own.

The biographies are helpful AND it is fun to “get to know” an author as a person – what they did, what some of their experiences were, how they believed, even about their families make them real. Then they really start to become “friends.” Knowing the name of a “safe” author is important because if you know the name, the world opens up when you are in a book-buying time.

Who Should We Then Read? Volume 2

photo via  Amazon

As for how Jan’s books are organized:

There is a section containing such things as the acknowledgements,  the table of contents, introduction, where to find great books, the care and repair of books, a guide to resourses about authors, biographical resources and alphabetical author information (including the page number of each individual author biography).

Then it moves into a history overview and teaches you about choosing books based on the sources, the stories and the secrets (what really mattered?), history storytellers, with a short list of excellent writers. She does the same thing with biographies and fiction.

On page 29 she lists reading level suggestions by author for beginning readers to advanced readers and includes lists of series for each, including a variety of genres. VERY COOL since that allows you to find books to interest the picky reader.

From page 36 to page 263, Jan writes about 140+ authors. First she lists everything they wrote and published, listing it in series or other categories such as juvenile fiction, poetry, biography, etc. At the end of the list she does a brief biography of the author.

From page 264-340, she lists the books in series such as Childhood of Famous Americans, Landmark, American Heritage, Cornerstones of Freedom, Newberry Award, and so many more.

At the end of page 340, she has her bibliography.

This book is a real treasure! But Jan didn’t stop there – she wrote “Who Should We Then Read? Volume 2” as well. Volume 2 contains 155 new authors and book lists.  I highly recommend these because they have contain lists of 300 safe authors which translates to thousands of good living books, not just lists of specific books to read!

Here is a link to her first volume:

And here is a link to the second volume: