This was the view from the house we stayed in at the beach with friends for a whole week. Even when we weren’t on the beach, we could still watch the waves. We were one row back from the beach, with access just a few houses down, so it was the perfect set up.
Just as a note if any of you are considering house plans right now: lofts full of children make the living room very loud.
~ Happy Beach Play ~
The Oregon coast is cold, but we still like the water and the sand.
~ Fun Education ~
And we can count this as school and not vacation, because my husband took the boys to the McMinnville Air and Space Museum about an hour away. They spent all day there, and I preferred being on the beach with small children to all going together!
~ Real High ~
Pacific City has a giant sand dune, and so we had to hike up it, see the view, and then run down.
I almost gave up about 2/3 up, but I was glad I didn’t when the view on the other side took my breath away.
It was worth it, but I didn’t climb up again.
The climb surely justified the chocolate I had that night, too, right?
When I read the biography of Francis Schaeffer, the author referenced True Spirituality as Francis Schaeffer’s most refined statement of his message: that the Bible is True in all of life and makes a difference in everything we think and decide, not in a legalistic or moralistic way, but in a personal and spiritual way.
It is an excellent book. Because it is written more in a conversational style than an academic, I’d think it would make a good choice for an audio book, especially since Schaeffer’s conversational style is rather idiosyncratic in places.
What do we pray for?
Is it not true that our thoughts, our prayers for ourselves and those we love, and our conversation is almost entirely aimed at getting rid of the negative at any cost – rather than praying that the negatives might be faced in the proper attitude?
Ouch. It is so true. Rather than praying for the patience, love, faithfulness – you know, the fruit of the Spirit God actually wants us to have – to deal with life as God is sending it, we usually pray that God will change the life He’s sending to make it easier and nicer.
But God’s will for us is our sanctification, not our comfort.
[True spirituality is] to love Him enough in the present world to say ‘Thank you’ in all the ebb and flow of life.
That is, love and trust God’s providential care enough to be thankful even for the hard and difficult and annoying and grating bits. This is easy to affirm and demanding to live out. It is the path of sanctification.
Commonplace books are a fixture in our homeschool and in our local classical liberal arts co-op, Providence Prep, where I teach literature and English Studies. In fact, the copybooks and commonplace books are at the heart of the language arts curriculum which we are developing at Cottage Press.
If keeping a commonplace book is new to you, I hope the some of the principles and practical ideas culled from my own homeschool and co-op experience will help you get a good start. I have to be honest — my practice often falls short of my principles, and yet I can say that even our imperfect implementation of commonplace book keeping has been key in aiming my students toward a life well-read.
Our Commonplace Books
My students keep commonplace books from junior high on, averaging three or four commonplace entries per week. These are often specific assignments based on current reading in literature and language arts classes at Providence Prep. Since we meet on Fridays, my own kids tend to group their commonplace entries on one or two days late in the week. They generally do their reading earlier in the week, marking passages that they might like use for their commonplace book later.
Yes, we do write in our books! I know some of you will be aghast at such a thing, nevertheless, it is true. I adore reading a book for the second or third time and seeing my earlier comments and questions, and adding new ones. It becomes a record of my personal growth as a reader, as a thinker, and as a child of God. It is one way that I wade into the Great Conversation.
Of course, this also means that students must own the books they study, so we make provision for that in our curriculum budgeting. Wherever possible, I favor buying books over curriculum. I really mean that, even though I publish curricula! I am aware that this may not be an option for every family, but there are also areas where we are very frugal, including Christmas, birthdays, and extracurricular activities. Instead, we invest in building lifetime libraries for our kids.
Making Commonplace Entries
Every week I ask my literature students to copy at least one favorite passage from their assigned reading. We share as many of these as possible in class. They range from the profound and inspirational to the hilarious and ironic. Occasionally, they try to see if they can totally gross the teacher out (not too hard when we are reading ancient epic poetry – not sure which is worse, blood and gore, or snakes . . .).
My English students, who are currently piloting several levels of Poetics & Progym, the upcoming language arts courses for upper school students from Cottage Press, are given several additional specific assignments each week. Most often, they are to find the particular figure of speech we are currently studying. Or they may need to find a poem with a particular rhyme scheme or meter or stanza form.
Almost every week l also ask them to record an example of ANY figure we have learned thus far. For this, they may widen the field and look in any books they are reading, sermons they have heard, or songs they have sung. I delight to sit in class and hear these teens eager to share the cool examples of parallelism or metonymy or epistrophe they found this week. They marvel that all of a sudden they are seeing and hearing figures of speech EVERYWHERE. Oh be still, my teacher heart!
None of these entries should be terribly long or laborious. Ten to twenty minutes’ close attention to copy the selection is all that this is needed. In his excellent text Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Edward Corbett writes:
If you extend this exercise much beyond twenty minutes at one sitting, your attention will begin to wander, and you will find yourself merely copying words.
Now, for a bit of real life in the Weitz home. There are times (too many, I confess) when my own kids are scrambling for these required commonplace entries at ten o’clock on Thursday night. I read what they dashed off with a sinking heart. Or, truth be told, an angry one. For that week, anyway, my ideal of beautiful, meaningful, delightful commonplace entries shrivels into a grudging little checkmark on the list.
So there’s one gap between principle and practice.
How To Organize a Commonplace Book
We use inexpensive sewn composition books, the sort that you can buy for a dollar or less during back-to-school sales. I prefer these because they lay flat, and the paper is usually fairly good quality. For this age, we usually try to buy books with college ruled pages. We have a stack of ten or so in a variety of colors and patterns on our supply shelf at any given time so that if they fill a book, they can grab a new one and keep going.
Each of my kids has distinct preferences for pen choice, and I indulge them for the sake of delight and joy in the art. If elegant books with creamy pages and dreamy fountain pens would motivate my kids as they do me, I would invest in those also!
We simply start at the beginning of the book and add entries from front to back. There are more elaborate schemes for organizing commonplace books, and making things easier to find later. In these formative years, however, I prefer to keep it as simple as possible and focus mainly on developing the practice.
It goes without saying that commonplace entries should be beautifully and accurately transcribed. They should include the date of entry, the title, author, and page number, and notes about the passage, particularly if there is a figure or poetic device. Here are a few pages from my kids’ commonplace books.
You will see that not every entry meets all of those standards. So there’s another gap between principle and practice.
Don’t Mind the Gap
If I allowed them to, those gaps between principle and practice could be discouraging to the point of “Why bother?” to my sinfully perfectionistic heart. A dear and wise friend reminds me often of Voltaire’s admonition not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Our commonplace books are good in so many ways. My hope is that the habit we have formed will stretch to a lifetime. If not now, perhaps later. In the meantime, they are a permanent record of each individual student’s slow and steady progress toward a life well-read.
I’d like to start a new little feature I’m calling Saturday Q&A. I receive questions by email or social media all the time, and rather than stay in my email inbox, I thought I’d take the opportunity to turn them into posts. At the bottom of the post you’ll find a contact form where you can submit your question to be answered in a future article!
~ because you asked ~
I get this question a lot, so it seemed like a natural one to start with:
I just read this page on your website: How To Get Up To 15 Audible Audiobooks for $4 or less. My question for you, if you have a moment to respond, is to do with Whispersync. Do you have to have a Kindle? or can you just purchase the Kindle version of a book, and then get the audio version to your iTunes and have a book to listen to? We don’t have Kindles, but I would love the audio versions of the books into our iTunes, and then pop them on my iPod Classic to listen to in the truck, or just on the computer.
Yes! You can buy the kindle books on Amazon without a kindle. They will go into a digital library on your Amazon account for when/if you do get a kindle or download the kindle app on your computer or another device. But a kindle device isn’t required.
So you can just click the “buy” button on the free kindle books and ignore all the delivery part and simply click right over to getting the free or cheap Audible version.
~ around the web ~
I also recently posted at Simple Pantry Cooking and Simplified Organization:
Yes, those are some pretty sisters, but so are these:
We’ve released a new webinar on How to Start Your Own Scholé Sisters Group. For $5, you get a one hour video conversation where the four of share different options for book groups or conversation with friends, plus we put together a guide that is free, and it includes an introduction by Christopher Perrin!
~ Real Reading ~
Speaking of reading, did you see that Sarah’s Read-Aloud Revival Membership site is live? She has all manner of resources, interviews, and workshops available there, with more coming every month. I’ve heard some of the plans for future additions, and it all sounds like a lot of fun.
And for some personal development reading as a homeschool mom, make sure you don’t miss Jennifer Dow’s free ebook, A Guide to Teaching Classically. I’m going to be doing some reading, note-taking, and writing this summer on how to teach more classically, and Jennifer’s book is a great place to begin!
It’s time to be browsing curriculum materials for next year, and I am excited to share a few resources with you that you may not have heard about before.
Kathy Weitz, owner of Cottage Press and keeper of The Reading Mother blog, produces some fabulous language arts resources. And she’s offering a book of your choice from her shop to one Simply Convivial winner! Don’t miss those details at the end of this post.
Yes, there are numerous writing programs out there, and this one is similar to First Language Lessons while also teaching children how to write by beginning them with copywork and rewriting fables, like several other programs.
The reason several programs use this approach? It works. It’s classical. It’s beautiful and simple.
But Cottage Press materials stand out from the other options for several reasons.
As I browsed Cottage Press’ language arts program, here is what I noticed about Fable & Song:
It’s a complete language arts program: spelling, grammar, copywork, composition, vocabulary, poetry – you don’t need anything else for language arts.
It’s built for short lessons with no busy work.
It teaches grammar through sentence diagramming!
It incorporates dictation and copywork, as well as pattern recognition and rules practice, into the spelling lessons.
It has enough space in the boxes and between the lines for a normal boy’s handwriting.
It’s laid out beautifully; I loved the font and the look and the author’s tone.
It even teaches the student how to self-edit effectively for clarity and style.
I loved how poetry was incorporated into the lessons not only for appreciation, but also for imitation and for study. It teaches you how to scan poetry, yet without being over-analytical and killing the beauty of the poem.
All these elements are woven together seamlessly and effortlessly into a cohesive whole.
So if you’re looking for writing curriculum for your kids this year, something simple, complete, with short and beautiful lessons, I recommend Fable & Song for elementary students or Bards & Poets for older students.
But Kathy has more than language arts programs. She also has the solution to my Book of Centuries woes. After a homemade BOC failure two years ago, I was reassured by The Living Page that 11 or 12 was a good age to begin keeping a Book of Centuries, so I spent last year wondering how we’d go about it for 7th grade.
The cover is soft paperback, high quality paper, the spacing is adequate inside, there’s room to draw as well as lines to write. She elegantly avoids precise dating for Creation and the Flood by saying “In the beginning” at the top of the first page, and continuing on in literary fashion for a few pages thereafter:
I am a young earth creationist, but I think it’s silly to try to put a precise number on those first things. I love Kathy’s solution. I’m pleased that it begins with Creation, yet doesn’t force specificity we don’t have.
Moreover, time elegantly slows down as you travel the centuries through the book. It is not a straight 100 years per spread. There is a two-page spread for every 100 years until 1500, when a spread becomes 50 years; then, from 1800-1900, a spread is 20 years, and from 1900 until 2030 a spread is 10 years.
So if, as a purely theoretical example, you have a child who just loves World War II, then there will be space for all the major battles to be placed, and it will not be only a blip on the page as you careen through history.
I love that it goes all the way to 2030. For my children’s childhood, then, it can be not only a history resource, but also a current events keeping place – and they can see that all they are living through is simply in the stream that began at Creation.
I am so excited to begin working with this book, and it can easily become a continual keeping resource as I educate my five. If you’ve been puzzling over how to do a Book of Centuries, I highly recommend this resource as the perfect solution.
Cottage Press is offering one Simply Convivial reader any one book of choice from their shop for free! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 18.
You can also follow Cottage Press on Facebook to find out about discounts and other resources. Kathy is a homeschool mom who has graduated four of her six children and knows what she’s doing. Her classical education resources reflect a love of truth, goodness, and beauty. I know you’ll love them.