Slow Reading ~ The Gentle Art of Domesticity

As sometimes happens, I am walking along the bargain aisles at Barnes and Nobles hoping to catch that great homeschooling find when out of the corner of my eye I spy this cover.

I know you are not suppose to judge a book by it’s cover but I am a visual person by nature and, unfortunately, this is too often the case with me…at least with books! And this one didn’t disappoint! It’s all in the title: The Gentle Art of Domesticity {Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & The Comforts of Home} by Jane Brocket. What’s not to love? For $10 I found a homey book that I can curl up with at night or on the weekends and enjoy in my new home!

Sometimes in this bloggy world we adults develop a bad case of attention deficit disorder. We get so used to perusing and looking and envying that we never take the time to stop and read and do the things we are looking at. Or is that just me?  I often need to force myself out of this destructive pattern. This book is a breath of fresh air in that department. It’s like reading a blog (beautiful pictures married with wonderful content) but in long form. Instead of sneaking a 5 minute reading blog break, you can take an hour and read on the comfort of your couch.

This isn’t a how-to book so much as a how-I-got-here book. It is all those homey ideas I want to ruminate in for a while. And her take on our culture is spot on. Take this excerpt for example.

For the gentle arts are just that: gentle. They do not demand to be practiced. No one is obliged to pursue them. They have not been taken up by any government department and regulated and repackaged with health and safety messages and warnings. They are a matter of individual and personal choice. They can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest and the ability to thread a needle, break an egg, choose a color or wield a pair of scissors. They don’t require complicated skills, qualifications, training or equipment…What they do require, though, is a consicious choice to do something ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘quaint,’ to choose not to buy and consume endlessly, but to make and create for a change…It’s the awareness of the worth of the gentle arts that counts, the ability to see that the feminists of the 1970s were misguided when they thought that teaching young girls to devalue domesticity constituted progress.” {emphasis mine}

Wow! And this from an author who was, herself, a proclaimed feminist! It was her journey through that process of attaining a family and struggling with careers that landed her in this ever-so domestic world. I love this for two reasons. One, the book reads like a blog journal ~ interactive with you while at the same time maintaining that personal awareness and growth that only comes with writing things down. And two, you don’t have to be that traditional Martha Stewart-y crafty girl to enjoy this book. You can be that career momma or retired grandma with time on her hands or even the mom who longs to do crafts but is up to her elbows in a dirt-colored-snotty-nose season of life and still resonate with Jane’s writings on domesticity. It is that inherent domesticity in all of us women, designed by God himself, that connects us as a collective whole despite our individualistic bents.

I long to recapture my own domesticity amid the potty training, homeschooling, disciplining, and laundry pile ups.  I know this art will take intentional slowing down on my part, as well as intentional thought about how I want our home atmosphere to look and feel. It’s not about the keeping up with the Jone’s I’m interested in, it’s the comforting feeling of hospitality I long for my family and guests to feel when they step through my door. I’m excited to glean some valuable nuggets of truth in this area from Jane’s book. I hope this one stays on my shelf for years to come!

{Update :: The wonderful reason this book feels like a blog in print is because Jane actually has the most wonderful, beautiful blog right here in this cyber world. It is called yarnstorm and is just lovely. Please, go check it out!!! Plus, the book is turning out fabulous. The perfect read to take slowly in bits over sips of coffee during those rare free moments.}

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In Which Literature Captures Us and We Read Great Classics…

This week has seen a flourish of literature. As we study Mark Twain in the historical sense of post Civil-War and the invention of steamboats and the Mississippi River, we couldn’t very well not read Tom Sawyer! Gabe has been reading it on his own and we listened to parts of it out loud on audio during our table work time. The southern drawl and incorrect grammar has Gabe in stitches and even peeked Lily’s interest. We read two very fantastic living books about Mark Twain and practiced writing biographies. (Good language arts lesson!)

The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry FinnRobert Burleigh

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)Barbara Kerley

But I realize that literature has been the constant theme for our week. Delilah has been begging me to read Winnie the Pooh’s classic works to her, which I love to indulge. How can you not want to read it aloud? Any book in which every chapter is titled a very long title that always starts with “In which…”, I mean, what’s not to love?

Then there is Lily who randomly, completely out of the blue, brings me the book The Hobbit and asks, “Mom, what’s this book about?” After trying to explain she finally gets it (only because she saw The Lord of Beans veggie tale version) and now wants to read it. We have the whole series in paperback but also have one very nice larger picture version of the Hobbit. I pull this one out and start to read it aloud. Soon I have little people all around me listening and giggling. And I am thinking to myself, “Why have I never read these books? ” Yes, I watched the movie. It was okay (sorry all you die hard fans). But the book…oh wow. How the author just draws you in and hooks you conversationally. Elegant, no-twaddle, writing. A classic because it is just fantastic.

It spurred Gabe’s interest and he took the paperback version to bed (will be borrowing that soon myself) and Lily took the picture version to bed. Both have been reading it independently but I think I will also continue it as a evening family read aloud.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have really lost the art of language in today’s books. I had such trouble in high school reading classical pieces but I believe it was because I was never exposed as a child to great language. Sure, I learned technical grammar skills and I was an avid reader. But classical language eluded me. It seemed foreign and much too hard to take the time to understand. How much I missed out on!

I remember getting a beautiful copy of Little Women (which I still have) one year for Christmas in junior high. I tried reading it several times. It was only when I allowed myself to read it aloud orally that the language flowed and I started to enjoy it.  How I would’ve enjoyed reading Winnie the Pooh or The Hobbit as a child. I am so glad that it is I, a loving parent, who gets to expose and gently introduce these classics to my children and not some stuffy teacher who has taught the same 5 classics every year for 20 years and has lost the love of why it became a classic in the first place!

What has been your experience with the classics? And how has that shaped how you homeschool?

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Charlotte Mason Grammar ~ Free Language Lessons

Looking for a Charlotte Mason Grammar book that’s gentle yet thorough? Something with substance yet delightful to look at? A book that  you can curl on the couch and read conversationally? Well, then do I have some gems for you!

Today my oldest daughter (7) came to me requesting the grammar books we used to do (from Queen’s Homeschooling). I stopped buying them because she outgrew the phonics book she was using at the time and my eldest son wanted nitty-gritty grammar. We switched to Barron’s Painless Grammar for him (which he loves and reads in his free time…one of his favorite take-to-the-bathroom books) and just allowed her to concentrate on learning how to read fluently. Now she is asking for grammar again and she wants that Victorian feel to her grammar book. She highly enjoys the Charlotte Mason picture study and oral compositions and narrations whereas that part was drudgery for my son.

But as much as I wanted to grant her wish and order a Queen’s book, I’ve made myself a pledge to use what I have and not spend money on more homeschool supplies. Isn’t there a public domain copy of a Charlotte Mason style language lessons book I thought to myself? Yes, yes there was. But only the advanced Intermediate Language Lessons by Emma Serl. The Primary Language Lessons I would have to buy.



    Intermediate Language Lessons, Vol II – Emma Serl

Oh, but what’s this? Primary Language Lessons by another author? Could it be the same? Would it work for us? I was very excited to find this set that covers all of the Grammar stage. I showed my daughter and she was excited and wanted to print it out today. I downloaded it for free, happy with myself for finding a solution when out of the corner of my eye I caught some other titles.                        



 Sheldon’s Primary Language Lessons

Sheldon’s advanced language lessons: Grammar and composition

And I started clicking and reading and getting very excited. Do others know this is out here???? A veritable treasure trove of elegant words and noble ideas and substantial, rare English usage. I feel like I won the homeschool lottery today! My only vice now is coveting the Kindle or iPad…how nice to skip printer and ink and download these 150+page books directly to a tablet for the young student to use. I see this perfect blending of antiquated substance and modern technology! Sigh. Next year maybe!

     Language Lessons: A First Book of English – Wilbur Fisk Gordy, William Edward Mead

Practical Composition and Rhetoric – William Edward Mead, Wilbur Fisk Gordy

I was very excited to see this Practical Composition and Rhetoric. what a perfect carry-over to learn and practice great writing skills…writing skills lost to most of our public school system today. I admit, being a public schooled child, that I will most likely learn as much as my junior high – high school student with this book!



Introductory Language Lessons – Lawton Bryan Evans

Elements of English – Lawton Bryan Evans

I know that sometimes following a more Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum leaves me feeling as if I’m not doing enough…what with shorter lessons, less subjects, less drill and a more gentle approach. Yet looking through these wonderful public domain treasures  left me in awe. We have lost the art of language. In our rush to get better test scores we have left behind words and ideas and language that shaped nations. Sure, we know grammar. Sure, we can diagram a sentence (well, some of us anyway). But can we take that technical knowledge and turn it into ideas and thoughts that capture the spirit and move us forward? I see very little of that these days. And I believe that may be why it is so hard (even for us…gasp…adults) to pick up a classical work and read it. We feel like we are wading through it and I believe it is because that sort of language doesn’t come naturally for us anymore. Reading it feels like going against the grain and leaves us tired and frustrated. How I don’t want that for my children!

Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.”  ~ Charlotte Mason

P.S. I added all of these wonderful works to my Free Resources Page! Go check it out.

Guilty-Pleasure Picture Books

I bet you have them too. Those books that your kids beg to be read over and over again. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those books that you sigh and say, “Okay…just one more time and then it’s time for bed!” Except that really inside you are smiling because  secretly you love reading these books.

They are lyrical and you find yourself changing voices, slowing and speeding up dialogue, and just plain enjoying yourself as you hear their giggles erupting.

Here is my guilty-pleasure picture book list.

The newest ~

Sleepover At Grandma’s House by Barbara Joosse

This is the newest addition to our collection from, you guessed it, grandma! I was a bit skeptical at first until I started reading lines like this

Well I’m going there this minute

to the Gramma who is in it

and the Doozie who is barking

and I’m bouncing bouncing bouncing

and I’m flipping off my shoesies

and I’m rolling down my socksies

and I’m sighing

and I’m singing

and I’m…



We love each other so.

and then end the book with lines like this…

At the tippy-end of our sleepover day

we like to finish up this way…

snuggled and together

on the pitter patter porch

on the ricky rocky swing.

“Ooooooh!” watch the lightning

sky writing.

“Ahhhhh!” hear the thunder

rain rumbling.

This we know –

the very best way to fall asleep

is inside a hug.

What’s not to love!!!

The classics ~

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

I know most mothers I have talked to are tired of reading this book. They grow weary of the repitition and the constant demand for it. But I can honestly say after six kids that I still love reading this book to the littles. It has been a household staple and the one audio book that has transitioned all of our children to their big kid beds.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

How many times have you heard yourself chanting this line under your breath when that is the kind of day you had? I can’t count the number of times I have lamented this line to my husband. As totally relatable books go, this one is the most relatablist. (Is that a word? Afraid not!) I like to read this one with a lot of 5 year old voice drama going on, which my kids totally appreciate. What more can I say?

The best before nap ~

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

This one is a quiet book that’s repitition is soothing to read right before a nap. And I love drawing out the sleep words like dozing and slumbering.

The best from a series ~

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Henkes is by far one of my favorite children’s authors and I love all his mouse series but Chrysanthemum is by far my favorite. There are three things I love about this book. The obvious is the moral tale of not being swayed by the opinion of others. I also love the use of big vocabulary used in such a charming unassuming way. All of my children have asked me what the different words mean and it creates a nice habit of allowing them to see that you don’t have to be afraid to ask about words that you don’t know. But my most favorite part is the repitition of the name Chyrsanthemum. There is something soothing and special about this that my children and I just love.


Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoben

Who doesn’t love the Frances books? They are chock full of exactly the kind of problems that real kids experience and what one is more potent then not wanting to try something new at the dinner table? My kids love hearing me make up a tune to her songs that pop up during the stories and I must admit…I’m not very original! These are the same tunes I made up to them when I was a child reading them for the first time.

The favorite from when you were a kid ~

I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayor

I think I used to beg my mom for Mercer’s books continously as a child. That said, in hindsight maybe I just rememberd them being read so often because they are short and my mother was all about a short story before bed. Regardless, pouring over the pictures on ever page to find the spider and grasshopper was always a delight.

the obscure but delightful ~

Cheese, Peas, and Chocolate Pudding by Betty Van Witsen

This is one of those books I found cheap, cheap, cheap at a thrift store…like 25 cents cheap…and picked up on a whim. But it is my children’s absolutely most requested book for me to read! But I mean, really, who can resist chanting, “Cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding…cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding…every day the same ol thing…cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding.” Do you see how addictive that is? Okay, maybe that’s just me.

Joining up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Slow Reading

Are you a slow reader?

I don’t mean slow in that it takes you a week to read a book that might take someone else 3 days. What I mean is do you slow down enough in life to read? Whether for pleasure or information, reading is enjoyable and takes time to digest. The internet often interferes with this and actually worsens peoples reading attention spans turning us into hopeless skimmers (for a great article click here).

And what about these new-fangled e-readers? Do they serve a purpose? Can they replace books? Should they? For a positive spin from a true bookworm read here. After reading I was almost convinced that maybe they would have value. But then I picked up a book and took it to bed with me and changed my mind.

And then there’s this whole green movement. For those of us (and who isn’t in the homeschooling community?) who are very aware of the global impact and how it will affect our children, maybe e-readers wouldn’t be such a bad thing? But, yet again, I was rescued from the flawed logic by reading this wonderful post at a slow-reading blog entitled “Read a Book, Save a Tree”. Now who isn’t tempted by that?

It, of course, makes me think of my children and how I want them brought up…influenced…what memories I want them to cherish. Reading is a memory I want etched on their hearts forever. I do not want “education” to spoil this or the use of too much technology. I want to keep my kids immersed in fertile soil, always strewing books around that they can’t help but want to pick up, curl up in a chair and let time slip away. These are where the seeds of a new generation are born.

And the next book I will be putting on my library request list to curl up with in a cozy chair with a hot cup of coffee: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.

Enjoy your weekend and read a book!