.

A Well-Read Child

 "A child of any age should be a well-read person for his age." - Charlotte Mason

.
some books we enjoy
The air has taken a cooler turn as our our thoughts turn towards the upcoming school year. Everyone is talking about books, myself included. My mentoring sessions have increased as usual for this time of year and I find myself living vicariously through those who have these sweet 1st and 2nd grade years to plan.  I have a 6th, 9th, 10th, and 12th grader this year.  So much goodness in that, too!

There is something that, as the years go by, I find myself repeating over and over to others.  And that is this; I would much rather see families choose fewer books and live with them properly than an entire list from any curriculum that results in box- checking for having read the book.*

I occasionally  share my schedules with those I mentor.  That feels safe to me because I can qualify why I do what I do with the philosophical foundations intact.  Inevitability, the person looking  at is is rather stunned.  Why?  Because it appears to be a much lighter load than they were anticipating. Yet some have mentioned that my children are the best-read people they know. Indeed, Mason states that "A child of any age should be a well-read person for his age." (from The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 116) So how do those two things exist at the same time - well-read children and a lighter schedule? I think it has to do with how those books are used.

In order for me to properly introduce a book to my child (scaffolding), attentively listen to narrations (administrating), appropriately engage in fruitful discussions (grand conversationing), I need to choose fewer excellent books.  My brain simply doesn't have the time, knowledge, or energy to properly engage with dozens of titles every single day.  The result of assigning too many books is either burnout or box checking. 

"You mean occasionally people have a problem with this even in a Mason paradigm?"

 No, I mean people often have a problem with this in a Mason paradigm.

So when I plan my school year, I write up an ambitious and glorious rough draft of the books and things I think would be great for that child that year. Then slowly, over the course a a few days, I pare things down, down, down, until the schedule breathes and flows with ... life.  Try it.  You'll know when you have it right for your family as there will most likely be peace in your heart.

Warmly,
Nancy
freshly rearranged history section in library
*I recognize that yes, sometimes you can use huge book lists with certain children. (I have some of those.)  And yes, sometimes you should use about 1/2 of those lists with certain children. (I have some of those, too.) It's about how those books are used and the relationships that should ensue in the end.

40 comments:

  1. I love this post, and not just because of the beautiful picture of your library. This last year I did began to experience the burden of too many good books. I will be paring back our book list this year. If I have to choose between cutting a book or a daily walk, I will cut the book. And this coming from a a lifelong bibliophile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Heather,
      Thank you. Please come anytime and visit my library!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  2. Look who beat me to comment. Same here. I'm FINALLY understanding all this, :) it's so freeing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Silvia,
      I agree, it is freeing. Even though I wrote about it, I'm still preaching to myself. All part of the journey, right?
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Dear Jeanne,
      Yes, well, someday I hope to see yours. Next year, you can see mine again! My recent visit with Sandy inspired me to take just about everything down, prune, and reorganize. That sort of work is invigorating!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  4. I love when you write! So much goodness...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Rachel,
      Wow. Just thank you for that.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  5. Thanks Nancy. These were exactly the right words at the right time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Sandra,
      Funny. It all just came pouring out in about 15 minutes. And there it is. I believe all that inspiration is straight from the Holy Spirit!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  6. Swoon. Excuse me a minute whilst I fan myself from those library photos. ;) Heehee! We've started back this week, easing our way back in...after LER, I cut WAY BACK, and Nancy, it has been SOOOOOO refreshing!!!! Your post is such a blessing and affirmation! I can't wait to share with our CM book study how it's been going as we've all been trying grow and learn together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Amy,
      Okay, but this is only ONE bookshelf! LOL. Miss you, Amy! Keep me posted on how your year goes!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
    2. Will do! I blathered more about LER here recently too! :) http://theycallmemommywithapileofbooks.blogspot.com/2015/08/concentric-circles-charlotte-mason-and.html

      Delete
  7. Btw...I love the line under your blog header! Did you change it? If so, it is a BEAUTIFUL description!!! I especially love the "JOY" part!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad you noticed it. It's been up there a while, but that's okay. I thought it summed up what goes on around here.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  8. I left a comment but I think it disappeared so I will comment again.

    I am struggling with this. I asked you about this topic at the Homewoods Gathering and I remember your answer. I am having a hard time actually cutting anything though. Do you have a rule of thumb for books per grade? I know it will depend on the individual student but a starting place would be helpful. What about the student who can easily handle more books but would perhaps enjoy school more if fewer books were used? Would you please write another post about book-load and how to determine what it should be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous person from the Homewoods Gathering,

      No rule of thumb other than the amount generally increases from year to year. We used fewer books but had hundreds more in the house. I think because the hours of school were shorter, they did indeed enjoy school and picked up those other books often on their own. (think masterly inactivity!) You are right to notice that the book load will be slightly different - actually sometimes drastically different - from child to child. It depends on their maturity, reading level, home atmosphere, etc. This gets so personal that the only way I can give even a close answer is through a consult where I get to know families and can help develop that. Relationships and peace are key words here, I think. Does that help?

      Warmy,
      Nancy

      Delete
    2. " I think because the hours of school were shorter, they did indeed enjoy school and picked up those other books often on their own. (think masterly inactivity!)" <----PURE GENIUS! :D

      Delete
    3. Thank you Nancy. That does help. I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about this and your post was timely. I very much enjoyed hearing you speak at the Homewoods Gathering. I have referenced my notes extensively in planning this school year. We will be changing how we do Shakespeare and Plutarch and I am excited to see how it goes.

      P.S. I'm sorry about the anonymity!

      Delete
  9. Oh, yes. I second Anonymous' request. I know I should cut back, but I do not know how much is OK and still be adequate. I have a 9th grader and 7th grader. I'm mostly speaking about my 9th grader's book load What is enough for high school? And also, the level of difficulty of a book? Thank you, Nancy for your wise words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tracy!
      Well, that's hard to say. Is the 9th grader buzzing along nicely, or is he overwhelmed and burdened? Same with the 7th grader. Is there joy in the home? The answer to those questions would help determine whether or not to cut back.
      And thank you for the kind words.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  10. These ARE the right words at the right time. I too find your writing so refreshing and freeing. I can also relate with others who have a hard time cutting back on the books. I know it's good; I know I can do it, but I love getting to all those wonderful books on the list. But then, when we are out in the woods having a wonderful time I think "This is what I want for my kids". I've always emphasized quality over quantity. I do thank you Nancy for your "permission" not to read all the books!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Shelley,
      You are wise to emphasize the quality over quantity! And while you of course don't need my permission, I do appreciate your thoughts, Shelley, and I am happy to share when I can.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  11. Nancy, what a gift you are to the CM community! It's so easy to get lost in all the wonderful books there are and all the booklists. I've too had a voracious reader and now a reluctant one. A CM education will look different for each of them on paper. I like how you also consider what you, the teacher, can do well--can I really listen to all those narrations and engage in discussion over all these books? These are good, thoughtful questions to pray over. I think the tendency is to cling to the schedule and booklists and forget we are not teaching a "curriculum" but shaping a soul. Thanks for your words! Betty from the Sunny South

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Alyssa...or is it Betty??
      Great thoughts. I am reminded of that Monk Gibbon quote I am so very fond of - "Miss Mason looked on education as something between the child’s soul and God. Modern education tends to look on it as something between the child’s brain and the examination board."
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
    2. It's Betty! This is my daughter's google account and I'm not techy enough to figure out how to change it! I should have said in my comment, "it is MY struggle to cling to the booklist...." That is a great quote about education. This has been such a year of learning to apply CM principles in a different way with my current child. It took a while for me to acknowledge and understand her and how my circumstances affect my day. It is a continually seeking the Lord's face! But there is peace and joy when it's the right fit! We start Monday! I still get a bit nervous!

      Delete
  12. I really, really appreciate your words, Nancy. It is so hard to give myself permission to not do a ton more than I (and my kids) can actually handle. I'm in a season with really little ones and it can be difficult to squeeze all of our readings in. It's a relief to hear this from you. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Catie,
      So good to hear from you! Yes, an atmosphere of love and joy while authority and docility are still in place - especially with precious littles in the mix. Much more important than getting it all done.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
  13. Thank you for this. I have tears as I read it. Even as a (very😊) veteran hs'ing mama, the Holy Spirit spoke right to me with this. Peace, joy...walks...deep breaths...and paring down my booklist😄 Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Diana!
      I preach to myself all the time. No matter how long we walk this walk, it seems we need the reminders.
      Hugs,
      Nancy

      Delete
  14. Great post on focusing on a few excellent things/books..makes me feel relief that I don't have to read tons of books aloud, just really delve deeply into some excellent ones..also I love the Edwin Way Teale books you pictured at the beginning of the post!
    I do have one question as this is my first time to your blog and I am trying to understand Charlotte Mason more - what in the world does 'the science of relations' mean? I understand the 'art of mindfulness' and the idea of various notebooks/journals, but I don't understand the science of relations..can you help?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome, sparrow girl!
      So I can try and give you a quick answer to start off an explanation but the science of relations is a foundational point in a CM paradigm and can be discussed all day. It is a way of saying that the student, in a true education, will need to have a personal relationship with the past, present, and future which includes knowing about the universe, fellow man, and God in so many different facets. Mason says we can't do this for them (like a unit study tries to connect things) and that it is in the child to recognize and discover this - thus the science of relations is part of a true education. Mason has this as her 12th principle - 12. "Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––

      "Those first-born affinities
      "That fit our new existence to existing things."

      Does that help?
      Warmly,
      Nancy

      Delete
    2. It does to me for sure, cause I will share it when I'll need to tell what we are trying to do here!
      Also your post: Fabulous, as always.
      Thank you ;)

      Delete
  15. I'm a little late to the game, but this post really spoke to me. I do so love to check off my little boxes, whatever the task. But isn't this more than a task? That's another thing I sometimes forget. I appreciate your encouragement!

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is wonderful, and just what I've been learning this last year. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear Nancy,
    Thank you for your kind comment, and for this post that so encouraged my heart when I read it two days ago. Thank you for your wisdom so gently offered here: that it's okay to do LESS; to pare down; to do what brings peace. I needed that permission, it seems. ;) God gave it to me and then confirmed it through your words, here. Thank you. (May my heart ever be more tender to God's leading than any suggested book list or curriculum!)
    And thank you for this, too:
    My brain simply doesn't have the time, knowledge, or energy to properly engage with dozens of titles every single day. The result of assigning too many books is either burnout or box checking.
    YES! Amen to that. Thank you.
    Blessings to you and yours,
    ~Stacy

    ReplyDelete
  18. I soundly second the notion of paring things down. I stumbled across your blog as I'm looking into online CM resources. My children were part of a fantastic CM school in Colorado for the past four years, and now that we've moved to Utah we're considering homeschooling. My kids received an unbelievable education using Mason's philosophies and ideas, and they only read two or three great books a year for literature. But, those books are now a part of them. They have narrated them, discussed them, come home and told me all about them, and pondered them on their own for months at a time. It had honestly never occurred to me to look at a book that deeply before. As a contrast, a good friend of mine homeschooled her children using a literature rich curriculum that had the kids flying through a book every couple of weeks. Her now-grown daughter commented to her that although she enjoyed the books at the time, she honestly can't remember a thing about them. So, I agree that more is not necessarily better.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a perfect post, Nancy! Oh I cannot wait to read Teale myself now! Do you happen to also enjoy Gladys Taber's works? Her books of Still Meadow and Cape Cod are full of such tales of nature that I find them refreshing and peaceful, filled with delights of every season!

    ReplyDelete