In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.
This past week I snuck a reread into my stack – The Awakening of Miss Prim. This is such a delightful read, and full of goodness and inspiration for simple living and spiritual growth. I absolutely love the pace and quality of living in the village of San Ireno de Arnois.
“Nowadays, to live quietly and simply you have to take refuge in a small community, a village or hamlet where the din and aggression of the overgrown cities can’t reach; a remote corner like this, where you know nevertheless that about a couple of hundred of miles away, just in case, ” – he smiled – “a vigorous, vibrant metropolis exists.” The Awakening of Miss Prim
The children in the village learn the basics in the village school (the three Rs) but then continue their education at home and with others in the village, in an intimate setting.
“They’re being brought up with good books so that later they can absorb great books.” The Awakening of Miss Prim
I’ve continued with my slow reads, including Educating the Whole-hearted Child. This week’s focus was on discipleship study methods. One point that really stood out was the importance of keeping the Bible as the primary source of Bible study.
“The incessant fragmentation of Bible content into booklets, condensations, Bible stories, Bible products, software, websites, greeting cards, Biblezines, ad infinitum unfortuntately trivializes and devalues Scripture rather than making it more valuable. “ Educating the Whole-hearted Child
I am slowly working through The Fourth Turning – it is so full of minute details I can’t imagine going at any faster of a pace. The premise, that human events in history are cyclical, is just fascinating.
“What happens to each generation separately is only part of the picture. Of more importance to history is what happens to generations together. They age in place in a manner that Francois Mentre described as ’tiles on a roof’ – overlapping in time, corrective in purpose, complementary in effect.” The Fourth Turning
My slow reads continue. I’ve also taken on two more books this week, reading along with fellow book clubbers. Don Quixote (I am reading the newer Grossman translation), as well as Locke’s Second Essay. I’m just getting starting on these two so look for commentary starting next week.
In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.
This week I continued to make progress in my reading stack.
I worked through Chapter 1 of A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe. This is a fascinating read so far. Each chapter digs into the math and mystery of the numbers 1 through 10. Chapter 1 is all about the number one, or the monad.
In the first chapter, the geometer’s tools – the compass, the straightedge and the pencil are described. My excitement to try out the compasses in my new geometry tool kit (it came with three!) seems inadequate compared to the fact that:
“The Medieval geometers contemplated the compass as an abstract symbol of the eye of God.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
Even the simple task of sitting down with tools to make the most basic of shapes, the circle, carried a greater significance.
“Pencil and paper translate divine, eternal ideas into symbols accessible to the geometer’s sight.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
The monad, the circle, also represents the cyclic nature of everything, from the simplest to most complex biological system, even to the rock cycle.
This book is examing in great detail the cyclic nature to historical events. The authors discuss this concept of a circle of time, the wheels of time, with each cycle:
“represented by a circle, symbolizing perfect and unbreakable recurrence. Nearly every primitive or archaic society came to see sacred time as rounded.” A Fourth Turning
Much of the book (so far as I can tell being four chapters in) covers the saeculum, the recurring cycle of history that runs the average length of a lifetime (approximately 100 years). The saeculum is divided into four parts, represented by four generations within the hundred years.
“Roughly once every twenty years, America discovers a new generation – a happenstance triggered by some striking event in which the young people appear to behave in ways manifestly different than the youth who came just before.” A Fourth Turning
This is a fascinating book, but it is packed with information and details – thankfully there are a lot of tables to help keep things straight – so I am moving through it slowly.
This week I let myself enjoy some lighter fiction reads. I finished up Waking Gods, the follow up to last year’s Sleeping Giants. I enjoy epistolary novels – and this would fall into this category. The chapters are mostly transcripts between an unnamed man who is quite influential in a shadow government sort of way (think Cigarette Smoking Man in X Files…) and the main characters, or transcripts of mission logs.
It is an interesting writing style. You don’t get descriptions or details to animate the story in your head, other than what you can glean from the transcript conversations. This might seem like a limitation, but somehow it just “works.”
I see that there are audio book performances of both books now, which could be a lot of fun, since the one complaint I have about how the author formats his transcripts is the lack of speaker notation (who is saying what), the back and forth in conversations are really just distinguished by hyphens. Usually I can follow pretty well, but on occasion if I leave a chapter and come back, I have to orient myself again to the conversation to see who is saying what. An audible performance wouldn’t have this problem.
I also started back up my reading in the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, reading Conspirator. This long-running series has several trilogies and a new book is about to be released. I’m two trilogies behind and working to catch up. It is very easy for me to get totally immersed in her writing though, so I am pacing myself. I definitely had a couple of rough mornings this past week as I had to read just one.more.chapter.
I have to be honest – biographies are not typically the type of book I reach for; they just haven’t really been an interest of mine. However, I decided over the next couple of years to include one or more in my reading plans each year.
Abigail Adams by Woody Holton, was my slow and steady read for 2016. I finished it up at the beginning of the new year and want to continue with her story this year.
While there are several works on either John or Abigail Adams, this is the first I have read. I enjoyed it immensely.
I imagine it is nearly impossible for a biography to not reflect biases held by the biographer. In this book, I certainly got the impression that the author held Abigail Adams in high esteem, as a woman of great accomplishment in spite of the restrictions that bound women of this time. Abigail was in some aspects very traditional and reserved, but in other ways very forward thinking and strong willed when it came to women’s welfare and interests.
Unlike some other books that primarily reference letters exchanged between Abigail and John Adams (including two I hope to tackle this year), this biography is told primarily through the extensive letters that Abigail Adams exchanged with a multitude of people, not only her husband but her children, sisters, and friends.
I think this allows for a fuller picture of her attitudes and actions, and illustrates the sometimes complicated relationships she had with others besides her husband.
Abigail Adams pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for women to accomplish and what role she had as a wife. She had a keen business sense and made many financial decisions independent of her husband. Due to John’s frequent absences she effectively was the head of household.
One thing that stood out to me was her drive for personal scholarship. I count myself lucky to be part of a great group of women (well, primarily women, but a few men as well) online who encourage each other to read more, read deeper, and strive for personal scholarship. Abigail Adams gave and received encouragement in this regard as well, in letters exchanged with friends and sisters.
My 2017 reading plan includes two more books that examine the life of Abigail Adams. I’m looking forward to continuing my study!
John Adams, for which David McCullough earned the Pulitzer Prize, which presents the life of the second president and which pulls from the extensive collection of letters exchanged between John and Abigail throughout their long relationship.
This week I worked through the Introduction in A Beginner’s Guide, and it was pretty awesome.
This is also not just a book for reading, but for doing. I have ordered a geometry set to use as I work through the book (and my kid’s aren’t allowed to touch it!). I know we have compasses and set squares for use in our math lessons, but I want a set all my own, for my own scholarship.
“Both Pythagoras and Plato suggested that all citizens learn the properties of the first ten numbers as a form of moral instruction.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
I am finding this book goes along well with my other read, The Fourth Turning, which examines recurring cycles that occur in human history.
“When the lessons of symbolic or philosophical mathematics seen in nature, which were designed intro religious architecture or art, are applied functionally (not just intellectually) to facilitate the growth and transformation of consciousness, then mathematics may rightly be called “sacred.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
Most of my May reads are my “slow and steady” titles, but I have The Beginner’s Guide, as well as a couple of fiction reads I hope to get to this month.
This book arrived at such a needed time in my life. While I think parenting in general is not an easy task, parenting four children ranging in age from 2 up to 10 years feels especially overwhelming most days.
Parenting children who are considered “different” certainly presents an additional layer of parenting challenges.
I have been working through several titles by Sally Clarkson (she’s one of my literary mentors for the year…) and if there was a word I would choose to describe her, I would probably choose “together.” This is such an incredible woman, a Godly woman who shares her experiences and wisdom for families and homeschoolers.
I was blown away with her raw honesty she poured out in Different. Along with her son Nathan, the pair talks about the struggles (and blessings!) of dealing with a child being different. They take turns sharing their experiences navigating a variety of issues, including OCD, ODD, and ADHD.
It was refreshing to read Nathan’s story from both his and his mom’s perspective. Reading this, you get an honest picture of the very real struggles that go along with dealing with behavioral and mental health issues. Clarkson also was candid about their struggles seeking professional help and a diagnosis. Dealing with mental health issues is an ongoing process, with good days and bad ones too.
“But even in this broken world, where our differences often come with burdensome baggage, the imprint of God on our lives still gives value to each one of use as we are.” (p.7)
Clarkson was candid about the tension that can arise between spouses as they parent a child that is different.
“Most OCD kids, we have learned, have one parent who acts as the ‘confessor’ in their lives – the one they go to daily to tell their recurring thoughts and find relief from the guilt those thoughts carry, the one with whom they find acceptance and sense of safety. ” (p. xxv)
While she shared some of the more challenging occasions in their lives, she also discussed some of the techniques or strategies she found helpful in her daily interactions with Nathan.
“I learned to appreciate and celebrate (not just “cope with it”) because all human beings are a work of the Artist and have infinite value to the One who made them.” (p.8)
“I intentionally pressed in on issues that would affect relationships, character, and faith and tried to back off of other, less crucial issue…” (p.41)
And she spoke of the heart and attitude necessary to deal with out-of-the-box type children.
“If we accept the puzzle we have been given and ask, “What can I learn at this juncture, God? How should I be humble and glorify You in this place?” then we will become stronger, developing muscles of faith, wisdom, humility, and understanding.” (p. 121)
Clarkson addresses something that parents everywhere probably struggle with, a need to control. We want the best for our kids, and so there is a conscious or unconscious desire to control things so we can guarantee a positive outcome.
“In our broken world, there is – and will be – much that we cannot understand or control.” (p. 135)
“He [God] does not require us to control our children or friends, much less ‘fix’ them. But he does call us to pay attention, to love others, to be the ones who reach out as consistently as possible.”
It was so encouraging to read about these struggles with mental illness and behavioral issues both from the perspective of the parent and the child.
I could go on and on with the powerful words and encouragement I got from reading this book. But I’ll close with two statements and then encourage you to read the book yourself.
“My most important ministry would unfold one obedient moment after another as I learned to love and understand and serve those who were closest to me. Nathan or one of my other family members would push my buttons. And I would have to overcome my feelings and practice giving patient answers, to give up my rights one more time…” and “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit often means choosing to be patient and loving when you feel like being impatient and angry.” (p. 137)
And from Nathan:
“The truth is, we live in a deeply fractured world, and we don’t always have a choice about being broken. But we do have a choice about where we let our brokenness lead us. We can follow it into escape or addiction. But we can also follow it straight to God. To the One who knows us inside and out – with all our mistakes, broken parts, insecurities, and battles – and who still loves us. To the one who can not only handle our anger and our frustration and our questions, but can use them to transform them.” (p.186)
I have struggled over the years to establish a morning routine in our homeschool that I am happy with.
What I envision – the children and I enjoying time spent together with good books, doesn’t always happen. While we have had periods where we would start our day with a basket of good books, life happens and our routines fizzle out.
“Morning Time sets the tone for the day by helping us focus on those things that we ought to love.”
Rollins, with years of homeschool experience behind her, lays out her morning time plan. She details each area that she strives to cover. But, she also acknowledges that sometimes, morning time doesn’t happen, and that’s okay!
Rollins uses morning time not just for reading to her children, but also working on spiritual growth as well as memory work. As I read through this book, I felt truly inspired. While I made sure to have quality reading picked out for us (often choosing titles from Beautiful Feet Teaching Character Through Literature or Five in a Row), I think there was still a lack of direction to our morning time. To be honest, there were subjects I was trying to hit later in the day (like artist or music appreciation) that Rollins covers as part of morning time, and her approach seems more comfortable and natural.
“Morning Time is a liturgy ordering our affections towards those things which are true, good, and beautiful – it is a liturgy of love.”
Since I finished this quick read, I have already worked to implement some changes to our morning routine, and plan to incorporate more of her plans as the year progresses.
In the beginning of her book, Rollins lays out the elements of her morning time. These include:
Family Worship including prayer and hymns
Bible and Theology reading
Poetry reading and memory work
Miscellaneous memory work
She then expands a bit on each area. I won’t go into detail on each section, but several stood out to me and are worth mentioning here.
The morning meeting is just what it sounds like, a meeting before the day starts. This is a time to mention any plans for the day, upcoming items of interest, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
During worship time, there are prayer requests and singing. Rollins discussed singing and learning new hymns. This was something that grabbed my attention immediately. After finishing the book, I printed out the sheet music to one of my favorite hymns, Just As I Am, and we have been singing it joyfully all week. I love the idea of making a family hymn book, with printed copies of those hymns we have learned.
For Composer and Artist studies, Rollins suggests using the schedule provided by Ambleside Online. We have previously studied composers and artists when Kyri was younger, using Harmony Fine Arts. We have not done anything formally in a few years though, and I do like the schedule that Rollins uses. We may adopt the Ambleside Online schedule for composer and artist study in the new year.
We have, over the course of two years, been working on Bible Road Trip, but I think Kyri wants Bible time to be more reading and discussing and less notebooking-type work. So I like the idea of having a routine of reading some scripture, followed by a chapter or segment from some Christian text. Nothing elaborate, just a page or two depending on the depth of the reading.
Bible memory is something we love around here. The children are active in AWANA, and so they are already used to learning and reciting scripture. We could incorporate verses from their AWANA books as morning time memory work, or follow some of the suggested verses that Rollins includes.
Rollins’ suggestion of alternating between Shakespeare and Plutarch really intriqued me. Earlier this year I was able to participate in a members’-only author event with Read Aloud Revival, featuring Ken Ludwig, author of How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, and this event really ignited an interest in reading through works of Shakespeare with my children. But we just haven’t gotten started yet. According to Rollins, it’s as simple as one scene, another scene, an act, and finally the entire play. One step at a time. Why should I even bother with Shakespeare? According to Charlotte Mason, it is “good for the instruction of the conscience and the molding of our judgements.”
While I have read a little Plutarch, I hadn’t really given it much thought as a component of morning time. But Rollins explains, “Plutarch can provide us with a way out of the red state/blue state divide and into the clear air of individual responsibility and the consequences of ideas.” So reading Plutarch can be used for teaching citizenship as well as training a child’s judgement. She suggests reading three lives a year. She does suggest that this be reserved for older children but than younger children could benefit from sitting in while it is being read.
One component that I am really excited to incorporate into our morning time is Memory Work. Rollins suggests well known speeches and historical documents, among other things. I’ve already got a small list of documents that I’d like to start with, including the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
I also recently finished up Mere Motherhood, Rollins’ earlier offering, and it was such a lovely compliment to A Handbook to Morning Time. While Mere Motherhood was published first, I am glad I read Handbook first. Having a firm grasp on Rollins’ morning time routine was really helpful as I was reading through her memoir, where she mentions her morning routines regularly but not in a super detailed fashion.
You can also keep up with Cindy Rollins in her podcast, The Mason Jar, at the Circe Network.
I spent my New Year’s Day with my personal scholar planner, my 2017 book list, paper and pencils.
I finished my 2017 book list, but needed to sit down and work out the nuts and bolts. How am I going to get all those books read in a year?!
I first prepared a divided a unlined sheet of paper into 12 blocks – one block for each month.
I decided to plan a quarter at a time since it’s possible I won’t make all my goals and this allows me to retool my plans before each quarter.
My books generally fall into one of two categories – long-term (over the course of the year, or several months at least) and monthly reads.
At the top of each block, I listed all my long-term books. Below these I then listed books I expect to be able to read in a month.
In my previous post, I mentioned several areas I am focusing on this year. When planning my monthly goals, I tried to include one book from Educational Philosophy, Parenting and Christian Study. I also selected two or three fiction titles and one from another area.
On paper, then I might have fifteen books listed. This sounds daunting to me, but eight are long-term reads, so I am reading just a little at a time. For example, each month I will read the corresponding chapter in The Life-giving Home, and in In Defense of Sanity, I am reading one essay a week.
On my weekly planning pages, I list out all the books I plan to read each day, and make not of chapters or pages to work through. I only do this on a weekly basis, in case I haven’t met any of my weekly goals. Having a checklist helps me feel accomplished as I work through my daily reading goals.
For those books I am planning to finish in the month, I have planned for more intensive reading periods.
So… why even do this? I am not a formal student anymore. I don’t have quizzes or exams, I’m not paying for courses or risking a poor grade if I don’t get my reading done. So why the planning, why the schedule, why the extra effort?
Last year, I planned out my 2016 book list, and when I fell behind in my reading schedule, I stressed.
But I persisted and even though I fell short of my reading goal, I still read A LOT more books than I would have if I had not bothered to research and put together a reading plan, plan a reading schedule and commit to regular personal study time.
I am active in an online book community and there is an awesome comradery and environment of encouragement and even a mild sense accountability.
Though honestly, there still isn’t a consequence for falling short of the goal like there would be in school.
So again, why I am doing all this?
I love the term ‘personal scholarship.’ It really sums up what I am striving for, and what is the driving force for everything I do.
There are so many things I want to read about and learn and experience through books, and no one is going to hold me accountable except for me, because it is a personal goal.
By planning and scheduling, I am making a commitment, a contract with myself to work toward a goal. I want to hold myself accountable to this commitment.
If I fall short, well I reevaluate my reading goal and adjust my plans and schedules – maybe it is not realistic in light of family commitments. I reevaluate and adjust, I do not abandon. I keep the contract as a tangible “thing” that I am making myself accountable to.
I fell behind early in the year, and did not get to all the books on my 2016 list. However, I am a firm believer that it is better to plan and fall short than to not plan and go through the year unchallenged.
I’ve spent December working hard to wrap up several books, and while I still have a couple books to complete, I am so excited to hit the new year!
This year I decided to organize my reading list by areas of interest rather than just planning out month to month.
Personal scholarship areas of interest:
Educational Philosophy – I’m still focusing on Classical and Charlotte Mason this year, as well as the power of good literature in a child’s upbringing
Christian Topics – This year is about delving deeper into relationship with God, and having a more impactive Bible study time.
Parenting – this year I continue to work on being a better mom to my kids, a better wife to my husband, and making my house a home.
Science – my earliest passion was science, and even though I am not currently working in research, I do love to read about new discoveries and different areas of research.
Literature Study – Why limit yourself to reading literature when you can read books about literature?
Current Topics – It is easy for me to get wrapped up in my focus areas, so I have made it a point to select some titles on current topics to explore this year.
Great Books/Classics – I am wanting to work through some classic works this year, including more Syntopical Reading in the Great Books (which I don’t list here), as well as exploring some Shakespeare.
Homesteading and Self-sufficiency – A project of mine, and something we as a family would like to work toward.
History – I decided to follow up on 2016’s study of Abigail Adams with some additional reading.
Fiction – This is my catch-all area for fiction works, though most would certainly be considered classics.
Two of my main goals for 2017 are to improve in my role as a mother and wife, and to have a deeper and more fulfilling walk with God.
I’ve selected Charlotte Mason and C.S.Lewis as literary mentors to walk alongside me as I work toward these goals.
2017 Reading Goals
Completing 2016 Books
A Philosophy of Education (Volume 6) by Charlotte Mason
Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville
In Defense of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton
2017 Book list
Learning All The Time by John Holt
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
Keeping a Nature Journal by Charles E. Roth and Clare Walker Leslie
Consider This by Karen Glass
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
For the Love of Learning: Giving Your Children a Lolipop Education by Amy Edwards
Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons
The Paideia Program by Mortimer Alder
How to Speak, How to Listen by Mortimer Alder
Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson (survey)
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson
How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur
Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonheifer
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
Desiring God by John Piper
Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph
Parenting and Homemaking
10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker
Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
A Life-giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson (reread with RAR)
Untangled:Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour
Laying Down The Rails by Sonya Shafer
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schafer
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante
Feardom by Connor Boyack
The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Homesteadinng and Self Sufficiency
Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford
Mini-farming: Self-sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
John Adams by David McCullough
My Dearest Friend: Letters of John and Abigail Adams
The Man in the High Castle by Phillip Dick
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Native Son by Richard Wright
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Father Brown by GK Chesterton
1984 by George Orwell7
Jo’s Boys by L.M Alcott
Eight Cousins by L.M. Alcott
Rose in Bloom by L.M. Alcott
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
As with my 2016 list, I may find myself deviating from my list, and that’s okay. As long as I have a plan to start the year off right, I’m happy!