What We are Reading: January

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Camille

Hitler’s Art Thief is one I picked up on a whim at the library and I am really enjoying.  It blends history, art history, and intrigue in a true story that is so well researched. I like it because it is the perspective of Germans during WWII, while so many other books are written from the perspective of the allied powers.  All the Light We Cannot See blended the two well and that sparked my interest in this book as well.

I am not sure yet about Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.  I started it, but it is moving slowly.  It does have a strong recommendation so I think I’ll give it a few more chapters to make my decision.  Have you read it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

With the kids…

Do I lose some sort of credibility if I admit that I’ve never read  The Hobbit?  I am remedying that right now.  It is our nightly read aloud and we are all loving it.  Tolkien’s use of language is really remarkable, which you knew… because you’ve probably all read it…


The Long Winter – we are listening to this in the car, on cds from the library.  I just found out the series will be available on audible this February! All. seven. of. them!! I’m thrilled. These are certainly family favorites.  After moving back to a snowy climate, I thought this would be a perfect book to listen to in January, but our measly 1″ or less this month is really not holding a candle to the blizzards the Ingalls and Wilders dealt with.

Amy

I’ve been wanting to better my understanding of how Charlotte Mason approached the subject of math and how that aligns with modern research. This book has been so helpful. I have walked away inspired as a teacher! I can see how my “fixed mindset” held me back in math as a child and I want to do better with my own children. It’s also been great to see much of what Mason believed about how the brain works is continuing to be proven true.

Simplicity Parenting has been one of the most influential books I’ve read on parenting, so I was excited to read Kim John Payne’s more recent book, The Soul of Discipline, especially with a soon-to-be teenager in the house. His approach fits very nicely with Charlotte Mason’s idea of Masterly Inactivity.

 

Funny coincidence with Camille’s family…we are reading Farmer Boy at our afternoon Tea Time. One afternoon the description of their ham dinner with preserves, beans, bread, potatoes and pie had our mouth’s watering, we called Dad and asked him to bring home a ham and a pie! We’ve been having “farm dinners” on our menu rotation since!

 

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What We are Reading

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What we have been reading in October…

Charlotte Mason’s second Volume, Parents and Children, for book club.  We read chapters 3 and 4 for our meeting. It seems hard to find the old style pink paperbacks these days if you like to hold a book as I do, rather than read a website.  If I were you, I’d wait until Riverbend Press comes out with their beautiful hardback copies, but if you aren’t patient enough, you can find the book here.

Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, by William Harrison Woodward.  I started this in order to read along with Brandy.  I’m so glad I did.  There is so much goodness in his writing.  So much of it seems like it could have been pulled off the pages of Charlotte’s volumes, and indeed it was Charlotte who recommended that he be read in the back part of Volume 5 where she wrote this glowing review of this book she read when it first came out in 1897.

Vittorino da Feltre and other Humanist Educators, by W. H. Woodward (Cambridge University Press, 6s.). This volume is something more than an interesting study in the by-ways of history. True, it treats of the schoolmasters––especially of perhaps the most famous of them, Vittorino himself––of that most fascinating period, the early days of the Renaissance, the revival of learning. But the real value of the work to us is that it shows on what liberal lines the humanist schoolmaster dealt with the questions which are debatable ground to-day. The radical fault of our English thought and opinion on the subject of education seems to be that we have somehow lost the sense of historical perspective. At each new idea, which we believe we have ourselves conceived, we cry––”We are the people”; “Never was education like unto ours.” And here, towards the end of the fourteenth and early in the fifteenth centuries, we have every one of our vexed questions answered with liberality and philosophic conviction to which we have not attained. Should girls have equal advantages with boys? Vittorino taught girls and boys together. Is early education important? He laid himself out for children of five years old. Should lessons be pleasant? La Giocosa not only named but described his school. Should there be a mixture of classes in a school? He taught children whom he educated out of his large charity with the children of princes. Do we desire a wide and liberal curriculum? This was what he accomplished––Latin and Greek, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Natural Philosophy, Euclid, Astronomy, Natural History, Music, Choral Singing, Dancing, all Games for the training and exercise of the body, and a good deal besides. Plutarch was made much use of as an educational instrument, being employed with the Bible to teach morals. Does it distress many a mother that her son should wade through the pages of classic authors too apt to be unchaste? Such authors were not admitted into the curriculum of Vittorino. Do we pride ourselves on the higher education of women? This is an old story in Italian education, where women were advanced to professorial chairs even in universities for men. Are we beginning to expect that parents should be serious students of the philosophy of education? This was a matter of course for the fifteenth-century parent, to whom the schoolmaster looked for intelligent co-operation. We owe a great debt to Mr. Woodward for focussing our loose thoughts on the subject of the Renaissance in ltaly. Persons who wish to have just and liberal views of education, not limited by the last output of the last English writer on the subject, will do well to give this volume a careful and studious perusal.”

The book is really quite good and it tempts me to write here alongside Brandy because I’ve got thoughts people.

I’m also apparently the last person to read The Awakening of Miss Prim. That’s ok.  I’m late to trends all the time.  I really enjoyed it.  It falls firmly in the category of easy, enjoyable read and is far from “a stiff book”, but it has a charm and whimsy to it that I found so sweet without being cloyingly so.  Maybe it is because I am reading it at the same time as Vittorino up there, but it felt like a vacation for the mind and I read it in two days.

In the interest of full disclosure, the book I read most is really this one: Winter is Coming.  I think you might also love as much as we do. I’ve been reading it every. single. day. at the request of my toddler, but I gladly oblige.  It is rare to find a story that so seamlessly includes so many of the beautiful aspects of nature study without being at all about nature study.  You see the quiet observation, the drawing, the variety of animals illustrated beautifully and the changing of the season from fall into winter… it is truly delightful.

Amy

Well, I finally have some books to share! I really felt that all of the books I read last month weren’t worth mentioning. For example, my dear husband bought me a French novel as a gift. I had been a bit down and a new book was just the thing. However, he didn’t read it first–always dangerous, especially with the French. It ended with the main character throwing herself out of a window in despair. It was devastating! So, here I am at the end of October with more uplifting recommendations.

With our big move and adding a new baby, this book was a helpful reminder of the value of motherhood and habits that bring peace and joy to everyday life. “Making Time for Solitude” and “Maintain Key Friendships” were the most helpful chapters for me in this season of life!

I’ve just started a new novel. Since I haven’t finished it, I guess it could be like my husband’s gift, but this one comes recommended by Anthony Esolen.

We were able to hear Esolen speak this past weekend and he said it was one of the top 5 novels ever written! It is this piece written by Esolen many years ago on Touchstone that leads me to go with his recommendation. Here’s to hoping a Spanish novel set in Italy in the 1620s is better than a French novel set in Paris in the 1950s!

In the car, we are listening to Swallowdale, the second book in the series. The reader is excellent. I adore these books for their simple adventure and imagination. It’s also great to have a book which appeals to an 11 year old girl, a 10 year old boy and their two little sisters! Everyone thinks it’s fun to read a book about a family with 5 children who also like to play and explore together. We have taken to calling our baby, Fat Vicky, just like they do. It was a real laugh to find out in this novel how she got the nickname!

Even though the book is about children playing on summer holidays, it shows the virtues of self-reliance, fortitude, responsibility and a sporting spirit.

Here’s a great article from First Things on the first one.

Mother Culture: What We are Reading

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Amy is reading…

Natural History:


My husband bought this one for me! He heard about it on NPR on his morning drive to work. Heard that it was about Nature and Words and knew I’d like it. It’s fascinating. Part dictionary, part biography, part social commentary, part nature writing. It opens: “This is a book about the power of language–strong style, single words–to shape our sense of place.” Of course, I’d be hooked! The author notes the words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary: acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, dandelion, fern, hazel, heatherto be replaced by broadband, celebrity, chatroom, cut-and-paste, voice-mail. Macfarlane has interesting things to say about what this says about our society and what it will say for its future. The Glossary he creates is lovely to read.

Parenting:


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was a birthday gift from my brother and Sister-n-law. I’ve tried a few of the simple practices mentioned and it does seem to help.

 Charlotte Mason:

Volume 1 Part 2. For the Charlotte Mason Reading Group I lead. I hope to write a follow-up post of complementary books and links to this wonderful section.

Volume 2. Chapter 1 and 2. For a second Charlotte Mason Reading Group that both Camille and I will participate in virtually! I’ve never done this Volume in a discussion Group so can’t wait!

Mason’s Ourselves. With my daughter Grace! She is starting this book for the first time.

A Touch of the Infinite: Studies in music Appreciation with Charlotte Mason by Megan Elizabeth Hoyt. I appreciate the careful research the author did for this work, of Mason’s volumes, but also the Mason archives and the books Mason references in her volumes and her programmes. I learned a lot and the book covers a lot! Composer Study, Hymns and Folksongs, Solfege and so much more. It has a great list of resources in the Appendix.

Literature:

Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter is one of my all-time favorites, so I decided to read another one of her trilogies. I’ve finished Volume 1 and now moving onto the second:


It has everything I love about Kristin: history, romance, the medieval church, beautifully crafted characters…

Fun Fiction:

If you are looking for an enjoyable, easy read that is refreshing and thought-provoking, this is it! If you’ve wondered what the “Benedict Option” could look like, this is the book for you. It has homeschooling, Latin, Chesterton, discussions on feminism, hospitality, Little Women, marriage, and beauty. I found myself reading quotes aloud to my husband again and again!

Family Read-Alouds During Lunch:

I alternate between Animal Farm and Winter in the Willows (a sequel of Wind in the Willows written by another author)

With the Little Girls at Bed-time:

Betsy-Tacy. They love this sweet little book and often now play “Betsy-Tacy” throughout their day!

In the Car:

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. We are listening to this Audible book from the Newberry-Award winner, Jacqueline Kelly. I like this second novel even more than the first! I really think these books could fit in the “Nature Lore” category of a Mason curriculum. We all love it.

 

Camille is reading…

 

 

 

 

I got an unexpected email that it was finally my turn for The Cleaner of Chartes at the library.  Given that my library only lets you keep books for two weeks and there are no extensions if there is a waiting list, I’ve made this one a priority.  It is delightful so far (I’m about halfway through) – an interesting story that jumps from the early life to the current life of Agnes, a woman who was abandoned as a baby and was then raised in a convent.  She is unable to read or write due to some cognitive disability, but has other gifts that allow her to live her life independently far from anywhere that she ever called home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had just finished Mere Motherhood. I did not expect it to be quite the page turner that it was and I was done in only two days.  It is probably the first time since my fourteen-month-old was born that I can claim I read a book in that short a time. It is a story of a homeschooling mother and one that any of us can easily relate to.  The initial enthusiasm, the doubts, the new babies, the trials, the excitement over milestones, and the worries over gaps.  Beautifully written and a lovely story.

 

For my book group at church, we are reading A Mother’s Rule of Life.  It’s a book I’ve read before, but needs to be reread every few years.  It helps me to frame my day in the way a religious order might – focusing on my core priorities first and making sure my schedule reflects what is most important to my vocation.

 

 

 

 

 

I am also trudging through Gilead.  I hate to even state it that way, but it is true.  The book is not long at all, and I really like it when I am reading it, but it is somewhat slow moving and I find myself picking up other books rather than this one when it is time to read.  I’ve read enough glowing recommendations to know I should persevere…

 

 

 

Lastly, I read this great little ebook, The Confident Homeschooler, to get me ready for the school year.  I found some really good and practical nuggets that have been serving me well so far.  Most of my educational reading is really more philosophical than practical, so this felt refreshing and enjoyable before our new year started.

Our Read Aloud:

Each night after the little ones are tucked in, the oldest two kids and I read one chapter per night before bed.  We’ve just started The Yearling.  This is one I missed in my youth and I’m excited to be reading it with them.