Mystie: Alright, well, welcome to the first episode of season 11. This season I’m going to be recording some past book review posts from Simply Convivial, so I thought it’d be fun for Virginia Lee and I to do some quick book recommendations for the first episode. Hey, Virginia Lee.
Virginia Lee: Hey, Mystie. Good morning.
Mystie: So, we both brought two books to recommend and not necessarily very favorites, but just ones that we thought were good to recommend that might be helpful and that have been helpful for us.
Virginia Lee: Well, I think that’s helpful because especially with homeschool moms, you know, we’re all readers. So, if it’s the same recommendations that you can get anywhere else it’s nice to have the recommendations that you haven’t heard of or that you’ve only heard a little bit about. And, then you can buy a new book. So, which ones did you pick, Mystie?
Mystie: So, the first one I picked was, The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet.
Virginia Lee: You know, I have heard of that because Cindy Rollins had recommended that also.
Mystie: Yes. I’m pretty sure that’s why I bought it at first, and you know, it’s one of those ones that then sat on my shelf for forever. It was written in 1950. It is about teaching in a time where the scientific materialistic vision was really gaining traction, and really the whole thing is about the human aspect; learning is the child/student bringing himself to bear and teaching is the teacher bringing himself. And, one of the sections I have marked, “That’s why it’s exhausting. It is legitimately exhausting to teach, and this is why, so just expect it.”
Virginia Lee: And that’s good because I think sometimes we can go around in our minds thinking, ‘OK, how can I make this not [this] way? It shouldn’t be like [this], I’m doing something wrong.’
Virginia Lee: And, it’s good to just know, “No, that makes sense.”
Mystie: You’re not doing something wrong because you’re tired at the end. You’re doing something right.
Virginia Lee: So then it’s like, ‘I’m still tired but man it’s a weight off my shoulders.’ Oh, wonderful. I’m going to have to write this down. That’s very interesting, and I like that it really talks to us as the teacher, because a lot of education books that we read are really focusing on stuff with the children also.
Virginia Lee: And, you’re not necessarily getting what the posture of the teacher is, quite as much.
Mystie: So, this quote is on the back of my book, and I thought it was so good. So, he says, “Teaching is not like inducing a chemical reaction: it is much more like painting a picture or making a piece of music, or on a lower level like planting a garden or writing a friendly letter. You must throw your heart into it, you must realize that it cannot be done all by formulas or you will spoil your work, and your pupils, and yourself.
Virginia Lee: That’s beautiful.
Mystie: So, how about you? What’s one of your books?
Virginia Lee: One of mine is Consider This by Karen Glass. And, it was just a turning point in my mind of really putting together the synthetic learning and the analytical learning, and how those work and build on each other. So, it’s just huge for me in that way. Part of her book is just going back to the classical tradition, showing how Charlotte Mason is classical, and how education has its roots in that history, and going through it. She speaks on humility as a teacher and as a student, and that’s all wonderful, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily new to everyone. The biggest part to me that I felt like Karen did so amazingly is explain synthetic learning and analytical learning.
Virginia Lee: And, how important it is to understand the difference those two, and how they work in education. It says, “Synthetic thinking can be understood as an approach to knowledge that places things together comprehending the relationship of new knowledge to old knowledge, one discipline to another and man to all things.” And then she goes through and gives this, she says, “Analysis should not be our primary approach to knowledge or our primary mode of thinking especially in the earliest years of education.” So, I’ve been homeschooling for seven years and I read this book when it first came out and it was like, “Oh!” I think I was taught with everything analytical from a really young age. This book just put together in my mind when I’m looking at everything that I’m doing with my children this synthetic learning, this relationship learning, it goes on for so much longer than I was understanding it to go on. And, it has to always be going on. And, not that analytical is bad, it’s important and it has its place, but it just doesn’t have any meaning if you don’t have the relationship first.
Virginia Lee: Oh, it’s so approachable.
Mystie: Both of them would be so much easier to understand when you have some of these building blocks that they’re using already established in a much more relatable, clear way. OK, then I’m going to bring the book conversation down to an even more approachable level. So, this week that we’re recording this, I just got a pre-leased copy of Pam Barnhill’s new book, a lovely hard copy, and her book is called Better Together, and it’s all about Morning Time. Part of her goal is to make Morning Time approachable no matter what homeschool label you claim. So, to broaden the conversation out because I think a lot of times homeschool moms have the same goals and the same view really of classical education they just don’t know it and they don’t like it, they get scared or confused about the different labels. So, the way Pam is able to broaden that conversation out of classical or Charlotte Mason conversation while retaining its core that it is about truth, goodness, and beauty, and she’s able to articulate that in words that are not shutting people out of the conversation because they don’t like those, or aren’t used to those terms.
Virginia Lee: Or, those labels just turn them off completely so they don’t want to listen anymore.
Mystie: Right. And, so even if you aren’t using the vocabulary, this is still something—it’s almost reading aloud. No matter what or how deep you want to go with that, or how much you want to claim that as your family culture or something, it’s still a good thing to do. And, so it really brings Morning Time into that same category of ‘this is just something like reading aloud that is building our family culture. And it’s not as hard or complicated, it’s not a formula, it doesn’t have to be anything specific, like you’re not doing it wrong.’
Virginia Lee: My favorite thing about Pam’s, and I have not read this book yet since it has not officially released, she shows how Morning Time is for all ages. And, I love that, because I think, especially when you think of the term “Circle Time” it sounds very young and so when you talk about all the different things that you can pull into Morning Time, that you can have in your group time together, building that relationship with each other, I mean, it could be all high school students. What Pam has done with this is just really show that it’s for everyone no matter what kind of homeschool you’re doing but it’s also for mom and all ages of kids.
Mystie: Even classes that I do with a group of middle schoolers or high schoolers—I’m really using the same principles as Morning Time. It’s not all my own kids so it’s not a family culture sort of a thing, but it’s that sitting around a table, sharing a feast together feel, not a lecture, not a classroom activity sort of thing, it is this book club feel which can be, or is very similar to, the Morning Time, where it’s all of us sharing truth of various kinds together and enjoying it together.
Virginia Lee: And, the lovely thing about those older ages is then you just have such great discussion mixed in with that. It’s like you’ve built on what you were doing when the kids were younger and now you’ve taken it to über Morning Time level.
Mystie: So, Better Together available now. What’s your second book?
Virginia Lee: So, my second book is not necessarily on education but our church started going through the book of John and will be in the book of John for over a year, and so I thought I’d read J. C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on John. He has three volumes just on John alone. It just has really helped me. And, right now I have a 12 year old so I think, you know, I have that adolescent—the different issues and things that you’re dealing with—they’re really figuring out “these are my opinions, why are these my opinions,” and so as a mom I have just really needed to be steeped in the truth of the hope that we have for our children as they’re working out, “Do I care about this? Do I not care about this?” to just really be steeped in what the hope we have for our children is, Who do we place our hope in for our children, and I think you can get really wrapped up in OK, this is my educational philosophy, or this is my daily schedule, or my entire vision and goal is because I want them to care and I want them to care rightly and in the right order, and sometimes when you have adolescence in your house they don’t yet. And so, we can become weary and we can grow discouraged because we’re not seeing that in the time frame we should be seeing it in, or we have been seeing it and now all of a sudden we’re not seeing it anymore. God is enough and Who our hope is. And, if we believe that’s our hope for ourselves, that Christ is who we put our hope in for ourselves then we have to believe that for our children, too. And, I think we do but sometimes when we’re in the day after day of homeschooling and adolescence and little people and all of those seasons together our actions and even the thoughts we’re speaking to ourselves during the day don’t always reflect that, and so it’s just been so great to be reading Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on John because he’s so pastoral but he speaks truth. And, I have one quote here I was going to read.
Virginia Lee: “Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified—the old story of His blood, and righteousness, and substitution—is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We want nothing new – nothing more broad and kind – nothing more intellectual – nothing more efficacious. We want nothing more than the true bread of life which Christ bestows, distributed faithfully among starving souls.”
Mystie: So true. We have to have faith and then we have to realize that our faith has to be in Jesus and not in our works. This is the real life right here.
Virginia Lee: We need to be steeped in that even more than our favorite homeschooling book because that is what education is.