You're Supposed to be Exhausted


Say it with me, friends: 
“Hard. Doesn’t. Equal. Bad”. 

For mothers, the internet has become a place where the mom who has somehow made the daily tasks of motherhood seamless and painless is both the hero being worshipped and also the villain being envied.
This is a tragedy for two reasons. 
1. She doesn’t exist. Motherhood isn’t painless and it isn’t seamless. Ever. She’s a lie. 
2. Motherhood isn’t supposed to be painless and seamless. Motherhood is a laying down of one’s life for the life of others. 

The internet makes mothers believe that if daily motherhood is difficult and utterly exhausting then it’s obviously being done poorly.
Mothers fall for this lie because the desire of the flesh is for ease and comfort. 

The flesh will always want to self-preserve. It’s this desire for preservation that motivates us to be resentful towards the work we do and the people that we do it for. And, from this stems the idea that we’re simply working too hard (especially since no one recognizes us for the work anyway) and that we’re in need of a better system, a new outlook, a bright and shiny new planner, or whatever the week’s motherhood mantra on social media is.

If we can just situate things differently, it’ll be easier and we will “have more time for ourselves”. Then we will likely use this time scrolling the same social media that fed us this lie and we will soon see that we’ve once again been left at the starting block while everyone else takes off with yet another new idea or system or magical formula for easy and comfortable motherhood. 

Stop the train and get off, friends. 

The posture of the flesh is “how can I self-preserve and maintain the quality of my life?”. But, the posture of the Christian should be death to oneself and sacrifice of ones desires. This is an unpopular thing to say, both in the world and sadly also in the church, but it’s the truth. By telling mothers that they shouldn’t think of themselves last we’ve created a false narrative and an alternate reality for Christian mothers where they can demand to be appreciated and where any service of others should be rewarded with a girls night or a glass of wine and a manicure. 

Like it or not, Scripture tells us to think of ourselves last.
And, if we will stop ranting about how we’re “not doormats” and “deserve to be appreciated” for long enough to see what’s true, we will remember that joy and peace aren’t in the affirmations of others or in others serving us. The Christian’s joy comes from pouring out of oneself for others.

Loving God results in a love for neighbor that demands our all and expects nothing in return. 

And, our children are our neighbors. 

Why is it that we think we’re equipped for ministry outside of our homes when we buck against the ministry we’re called to within our homes? We can’t love others well enough to lay down our lives joyfully for them if our children aren’t some of those “others” we’re willing to die to ourselves for. 

This laying down of our lives must be done in joy and with open hands and willing hearts. Not with nagging lips and fingers from which flow posts of resentment and cries for solidarity against the “martyrdom” of motherhood.

Mothers aren’t martyrs.
Christian mothers are servants of Christ whose very existence is for His glory.
A motherhood that glorifies God is one in which sacrifice is joyful. 

We can’t call ourselves qualified for leadership and ministry anywhere else if we can’t even wash a sink full of dishes with a grateful and contented heart.
If we fold clothes and clean sticky floors and cook meals in resentment, we are not ministers at all. 

Ministers don’t begrudgingly and resentfully serve and then
demand to be appreciated and compensated for it. 

Ministers spend far more time actually doing their work than they do searching every corner of the internet for a better system for making their work “easier” and “more comfortable”. 

You’re supposed to be exhausted, Momma.
Motherhood isn’t everything you are, and it isn’t the only place you’re called to serve and to lay down your life. You’re also called to friendship, marriage, ministry, fellowship with and service of the saints, evangelism, and an assortment of other things. And you’re called to do them all well, reflecting Christ. 

But, motherhood is no doubt the most demanding of those callings in this season, and the place where you’re most tempted to cling to your own life instead of willingly offering it up. 

Can I encourage you with some good news? 
You aren’t enough for all of those callings, or any of them, and especially not for motherhood. You don’t have enough to give and your strength doesn’t measure up. 

But, the grace of Christ is sufficient for it all, and God has equipped you
for every good work that He designed for you before the foundation of the world. 

He provides all that you need, and in offering up of one’s life is found the joy and peace that comes only from turning away from the temptation to demand appreciation instead. 

One of the things that He provides is your energy and your waking hours.
And, He expects you to expend every bit of it in service of Him. That is what you’re living for.

He equips us with all that we need to build His kingdom in the ways in which He’s commissioned us to, and we’ve no right to take those provisions and attempt to hoard them away for our own pleasure. 

Your energy isn’t a luxury. It’s a tool. 
It isn’t for you. It’s for others. 

Spending it each day isn’t an indication that you’re doing anything wrong, but an indication that you’re living your life in precisely the way that all Christ followers are supposed to live.

The Christian life is one of death to self and joyful service of others, and no matter how much messaging champions an outlook of self-preservation,
you were never intended to preserve yourself or to serve yourself.

Release your death grip upon your own desires and open your palms.
Let joyful service flow from your fingers, your lips, your heart and your life. 
Die to yourself, and truly live.

Use the energy God provides each day in service of Him and those He’s given you. 
That’s what you’re supposed to be doing. 
You’re SUPPOSED to be exhausted. 
Your head is supposed to hit the pillow each night
not having hoarded up more for yourself but having given it all
to those around you as an act of worship for your King. 

It’s not supposed to be easy. 
The truly incredible thing about giving it all is that when you do, God will replenish those provisions.

You’ll arise in new mercies and fully equipped to give it all again. 
That’s the Christian life. 

You’re not a hero for cooking 895,678 meals this week.
You’re simply a servant of Christ. 
And, to serve Christ means to serve others. 
Joyfully. Sacrificially. Willingly. Wholly. 

You’re supposed to be a servant. 
You’re supposed to serve. 
You’re supposed to work hard. 
You’re supposed to give it all. 
You’re supposed to be exhausted. 

So, ignore the lies and turn to the Truth and stop searching for a secret to ease. 
Instead, take joy in the hard. 
Because, that’s where joy is to be found. 

Please know that I am not advocating for not resting or neglecting the stewardship of our health and bodies, which are also tools from God to be used for His glory. 
Christ set an example of Sabbath rest, and then He Himself became our perfect Sabbath. It is in Him that we find our rest, but we also can learn from His example of seeking solitude to pray and rest. 
We absolutely need physical rest and good mental health in order to do the work that God has given us to do. This is good stewardship and it is obedience. 
I speak often about SCHOLE, and I am an advocate of *true* rest. 

I do think it's important that we define rest accurately; scrolling social media and binge watching tv are not rest. That doesn't mean that those things are wrong, but they aren't restful. Rest invigorates the mind, rather than dulling it. 

Reading, creating, enjoying nature...these things are rest. 

And, we DO need rest. 

We need to define rest accurately, seek rest appropriately, and use rest as the tool that it is in order to be equipped and ready to do the work that God calls us to. 

Keep on keeping on, Momma. 
Run the race with patience. 
Press on towards the prize. 
When Christ returns, let Him find you exhausted and joyful. 
Be found being faithful. 
Colossians 3:23-24

Living Books: A Look At Books Living and Not

Living Books: 

A Look at Books Living and Not 

One of the best ways to dive into the topic of living books, and to grow our taste and understanding of them, if to compare books that are living with books that are not. As we see books side by side, we begin to gain more than a lofty idea of what living books should look like, an instead form a picture in our mind's gallery of what living books actually DO look like. Comparisons also give us the opportunity to look at various aspects of living books, and to hone our instincts for what is best so that we can search for it, not settle for less, and fully enjoy the benefits of living books in our homeschool. 

"A Look at Books Living and Not" is a series of posts comparing books and displaying the various qualities of living books, and discussing the things that we are attempting to avoid in books that aren't.

Abridged Books

I am staring with a comparison of a book with its abridged version. This is because the most prevalent type of Twaddle available on book store shelves is a plethora of abridged books. 

You will notice that one of my identifying factors of Twaddle is abridgement. It is popular, and convenient, to choose "children's versions" of books.  However, in most cases, abridgment does indeed qualify a book as Twaddle. If we hold to the dictionary's definition of Twaddle, which is "foolish or trivial", we can see in abridged books a particular brand of triviality in which children are viewed as incapable of enjoying quality language and the depth of story available to adults and need a "simpler" version. 

 In particular, I want to address the multitude of "illustrated classics" lines of abridgements that are available. Please note that an "abridged book" and a "retelling" are not the same thing, and I have a post coming about retellings. 

I have pictured here an illustrated abridgement of Tom Sawyer, along with my original (first edition- a gift from my late mother in law ❤). I have also pictured one of the best portions of the entire story in both books: the fence painting and fight scene. You can see my note in the original indicating that the scene is 21 pages long in the original, and 7 pages long in the abridged version. 

By definition, to abridge something is to make it shorter.
Shorter can seem at first glance to be better when trying to hold the attention of young readers. 

So, what is the problem? Well, there are a few: 

1. The Story is Butchered.
The authors of classic books wrote their stories, in each of their individual brilliance, the way that they thought they should be written. And, each piece of classic literature has stood the test of time precisely because of the story being told and the way it is told. To decide which portions of a story need to be sacrificed in order to abridge it is to butcher the story. A child doesn't need the book to be shorter, and in fact, in many abridgements some of the best portions of the book are removed. 

This is certainly the case in the fight scene from Tom Sawyer. I read these portions of both of these books at my very first Retreat, and every mom present was amazed at how the abridged version failed to captivate and hold her attention, even though it was far shorter. 

2. Poor Language Quality. 
Most abridged versions of children's classics are aimed AT children, and not written FOR children. The language is dumbed down, simplified, and robbed of all of its richness. The sentences are often disjointed, and the living ideas are often sacrificed in the name of fitting in all of the events and "important" details such as dates. Simply put, these books are usually not quality writing. 

3. Taste is Bred.
Many times, I hear a case being made for reading an abridged version in hopes that it will whet a child's appetite for the real thing. The problem is that this is seldom the case. I am not saying that it never happens, but it rarely does. This is because quality language begets an appetite for quality language. Taste is bred. In order to desire quality language, and living ideas, a child's mind must be fed a steady diet of quality language and living ideas. We don't give children cookies in hopes that they will then want broccoli, and giving a child an abridged version of a book in hopes that they will want the real thing is just as futile. 

The fact is that, in most cases, we can just read the real thing. 

They CAN handle it, and we do children a large disservice by underestimating them.

 In the cases where a child simply isn't ready for a particular book, or it is truly best for an older audience, it is better to simply wait and read it later.

Classic (and quality modern) literature is one of the best gifts that we can give our children, and we truly have no need to cheapen it. 

What is your favorite piece of literature that you've read to your children? 

Side Note:
Tom Sawyer was the book we read for Teddy's first literature lessons, with narration required, for his first term of first grade. I wouldn't choose Tom Sawyer (it isn't an "easy" book) again, but I sure don't regret it. He didn't understand all of it (the theological banter made me chuckle but was certainly above his head), but he got to know Tom and Huck, and I will never forget his delight and amusement when reading the fight scene. He thought "suck eggs" was the best insult he had ever heard.

Give Them the Very Best: Living Books

The discussion of Living Books is often synonymous with a Charlotte Mason education.
And, books that are alive are vital for an education that is living.

But for many of us, the subject of living books (and especially how to find them!)
is more abstract than practical.
And, for all of us an understanding of living books develops
over time and through practice in choosing and reading the very best of books. 
The journey towards a developed taste and passion for living books is valuable
 and the more that we seek out the "very best" in books,
the more our taste is bred towards them, and this is a journey that never comes to an end.

 We never "arrive" at a perfect understanding of living books,
 but instead we continue to grow and develop an appetite for, and an ability to spot,
 the best quality of living books for a lifetime. 

 Living Books     

What is a living book?

Because this term has become synonymous Charlotte Mason, you will find no lack of definitions available for it, and you will also find that not everyone agrees about exactly what qualifies, or doesn't, as a living book. When ideas become viral, they are often misunderstood and it can be confusing to reach a conclusion.

The best place to understand what is true about a living book is within the words spoken by Mason herself. This is my definition of a living book, based on what I find in Mason's volumes: 

A living book is a book filled with inspiring ideas, written by one author who is passionate about the subject, and whose passion permeates writing that is filled with both quality language and timeless truths.

       I think that the most foreign thing that slowly grows within our understanding about living books, is that they are filled from cover to cover with ideas, not facts. For the most practically minded among us, the concept of ideas, instead of facts, can be abstract and difficult to grasp.

What are ideas? 

Ideas inspire, while facts inform.
Ideas form connections with other ideas, while facts stand alone.
Ideas are digested, while facts are merely chewed over in the moment.
Ideas are the flesh upon the dry bones of factual information.
This does not mean that living books will not contain factual information, but this information won't be presented in a rote, bulleted, dated, list. This information will not be presented on it's own, but rather with, and among, the other information that it is connected to, and that gives it significance.  

To know that the Egyptians crossed the Red Sea after their Exodus from Egypt sometime between 1525 and 1270 BC is a fact. To read about the Exodus AND the Shang Dynasty in China that occurred at the same point in history, gives ideas. To know George Washington's birthday and the names of his parents are facts. To read about the perseverance and ingenuity he displayed during the crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, gives ideas.

Living Books contain ideas, because ideas are living.
The mind feeds upon ideas, so when searching for a book that will nourish the minds
of born persons before us, we must seek out ideas. 

What else are we searching for? 
These qualities of a living book give something to commit to memory, something by which to measure the quality of a book, and a discussion about the various aspects of a living book, which can be present in each book in varying measure. 



When you hold a living book up next to twaddle, with no expertise whatsoever, you can tell the difference. Living authors, as a general rule, choose living illustrators. The words, ideas, thoughts, drawings, and stories within the pages of living books are all lovely. They impart loveliness to our days, and they leave us feeling fuller, richer, and more joyful. A living book is one that is remembered, delighted in by all ages, and discussed throughout the days and weeks following the reading. A living book will appeal to your God given desire for truth, goodness, and beauty.


Living books display insight regarding the subject that goes beyond just a presentation of fact. Insight involves personal experience, passion, and a depth of thought regarding every aspect of the subject at hand. This personal experience is possible because the author is passionate about, and has a desire to truly know and understand, that which she writes and presents to readers. The gift of a living book is a perspective, and insight, that is only available from that author, about that subject, at that time. We do not seek information from a living book. Mason said that it can not be too often said that information is NOT education. Instead, we seek to be invited into the hearts and minds of people gifted with passions and perspectives different from our own.


The ideas presented in a living book may only directly address one subject or topic, but they abundantly prove the science of relations, by leading to and bringing to remembrance the truth, goodness,and beauty of other subjects read about, or experienced. A vast variety of topics, subjects, and Grand Conversations come out of the pages of a living book. The gift of living ideas is one that keeps on giving. A living book is a display of connections between all things, and much more importantly, the spiritual sacredness of all things-whether it be science, math, or music. All things point to other things, and all things point to God.


Reading a living book will inspire great ideas, honorable action, a variety of connections, and the pursuit of virtue. The very essence of being living is that the words on the page contribute to life. This happens in the moments following the reading, as someone exclaims "Oh! That gives me the greatest idea", and also in days and weeks to come, when children are reminded of the adventures of their favorite characters, or see their favorite art on the walls of public places.


Living books make their mark on the lives of the readers, and on the world. The stories, persons, and adventures are like life long friends that form the very character of the partakers of their ideas and wisdom. They do not do this in a moralizing, or trivial way, through trite lessons presented to "simple minds" who must be taught what to think. Rather, a living book is a gift that keeps giving, read time and time again, and more importantly remembered for a lifetime. Each reading, and each memory of the beloved story, gives a person a new depth of understanding, or brings to light a new aspect of the character or story. Reading about the lives of people displays for us the results of choices, and the elements of human thought and emotion. We do not have to be told what lesson to take from a living story, but rather take what we need as we digest, relate to, love, and delight in stories and as we form relationships with real and fictional people of the past and present.


Living books stand the test of time. A living book can be set in any time period, and contain elements relevant solely to that time period, and yet still be enjoyed by readers for centuries. A living book contains, and gifts us, with truths that are truly timeless, and that apply to hearts and lives, regardless of current technology or culture. Ideas and knowledge gained from the cultural, or historical, content of a book is valuable, without a doubt. However, even more valuable is the truth that nourishes the soul, no matter when and in what culture, a person happens to exist.

If living books are what we seek, then twaddle is what we avoid.
Mason didn't create the term, and in fact it is an English word meaning "trivial and foolish"

Just as living books can be misunderstood and misrepresented, Twaddle is often a label put upon any book that isn't living. There are many categories of books, however, and every book that is less than desirable isn't necessarily twaddle. Twaddle, however, is prevalent and readily available, and it helps to have a good understanding of what is is and why we would want to avoid it. 

 In order to know how to give them the best, we must know how to recognize what is less than.



Twaddle is foolish, and this foolishness often makes it less than desirable. We mustn't mistake silliness for foolishness. Silly does not indicate twaddle, and several living authors delight readers with silly and humorous rhymes and stories. Foolishness, however, is void of ideas, empty of virtue, and often inspire negative thoughts and reactions.


Twaddle doesn't display a power of language, but rather a weakness of writing. Twaddle isn't timeless, because it isn't well written and doesn't contain the brilliance of a gifted and insightful author. A book that is not living will never stand the test of time, and doesn't leave a reader inspired to greatness.


Abridged writings, or writing that has been simplified, is twaddle. Great ideas, and beautifully written stories capture the curiosity and heart of adults and children alike, even amidst language that isn't always fully understood. There are retellings (like of Shakespeare) that take difficult to translate words and language and present it to children in a format that has not lost its power. However, all adapted stories that have taken the brilliant writing of inspired authors and dissected it, under the assumption that children need simple vocabulary and silly illustrations in order to delight in goodness, are twaddle. Children should never be underestimated, and we should always consider them worthy of the best.

D-Dumbed Down

A book doesn't have to be abridged, or adapted, to be dumbed down. Far too often, books are written AT children, instead of TO children. If we respect our children as born persons, and if we believe that they are worthy of the best, then we should require that all authors invited into their lives give them the same respect. A child doesn't need a mini, simple, or "young" version of great truths and big ideas. A child is in need of truth. A child is in need of goodness. A child is in need of beauty. Every author that is worth their time will see this need of upmost importance.


A book considered twaddle will not delight a child. Sure, there is temporary pleasure in a beloved cartoon character, and most children have those. However, true delight occurs when stories are living, and twaddle fails to deliver this phenomenon. Books that are rote, filled with lists of facts, too simple, dry, or just plain boring are not living (and often they are twaddle) and there is always a better alternative. Any time spent bored, or in drudgery, is time wasted. The world is teeming with living, delightful books and we will never have time to read them all. 


The depth present in living books is contrasted sharply by the shallow words of twaddle, that tend to be short lived, both in impact and in remembrance. A living book will cause you to stop, and think, and most living books have to be read slowly and deliberately to be digested (reading slowly is ideal) whereas many books that can be flown through rapidly are twaddle.
Not all light reading is necessarily twaddle, but all twaddle is most definitely light, and lacking depth.


The words of twaddle carry no long term, or permanent significance. They don't change hearts, minds, or the world. They don't form characters, or inform worldviews. They don't inspire, because they hold nothing within them that can be taken possession of by the reader. The words of a living book become the sought after prize of a person, and because they are full of life themselves, they make fuller the life of the one who now owns them.

Should We "Ever" Read or Allow Twaddle? 
I am often asked about twaddle and whether it is ever "okay"; specifically whether or not we should let our children indulge on small amounts of it, like we let them indulge on brownies and candy.

It can begin to feel like the twaddle police are going to bang upon our door if we don't get it "right" in every moment. They won't, and the truth is, small amounts of twaddle will NOT undo your child's hope of a quality, living education.

But, hear my heart, my friends, and let me encourage you with this: 
Every "yes" is a "no" to something else. 
Every "yes" to twaddle is a "no" to time spent reading books teeming with ideas that will inspire our children and form their moral imaginations.

Will miniscule amounts of twaddle "harm" your child? Who's to say.
But, it certainly won't help them in any way. They may enjoy it, but they enjoy plenty of things that are not best for them, and it is our job to teach them to love what they ought to love. How much twaddle you allow is, quite obviously, up to you and I will never advocate for legalistically following Mason's advice and getting caught up in a spiral of guilt and perfection.

 I do advocate, however, for not taking the easy way out, and for pursuing truth, goodness, and beauty. I advocate for stewarding our time wisely, and for shepherding the hearts of our children. I advocate for being active in ensuring the quality of the feast spread before them. I advocate for fiercely protecting their minds and hearts from anything that is lesser than they need and deserve.

You don't have time, in a lifetime, to read every good thing worth reading.
So, every moment spent reading twaddle is a moment adding to the list of good things that will never be enjoyed. The reason, in my opinion, that Mason staunchly disagreed with ever allowing twaddle for any reason, wasn't because she was admonishing mothers to aim for perfection. It was because we have but a few short years to feast upon ideas with these children of ours, and every moment counts.

Is there grace for twaddle? Of course there is! Is there also room to grow, until we have cultivated good tastes that loves what we ought and doesn't desire the "low hanging fruit" of mindless twaddle? Absolutely. 
So, keep growing. 
Don't beat yourself up about a lack of perfection. 
But, also, don't let yourself off of the hook. 
The transition from twaddle to living books can be a weaning process, and you certainly shouldn't cease to give your children grace. But, you also should never cease to faithfully, actively cultivate their tastes until they desire only good things. 
Keep giving grace. 
Keep cultivating. 
So, my answer to the ever present question of "is twaddle ever okay?" is this: 
"The world is teeming with wonderful books. Who has time for twaddle?". 

 The quality, and impact, of living books becomes more greatly desired the more than we come into contact with them. As we increase the presence of living books, filled with living ideas, in our lives and in our lessons, the result of this increase will be the reward in and of itself. As you pursue the best for your born persons, you will come to seek after living books like the treasure that they are, and in doing so, will be succeeding in offering up courses of lovely, insightful, vast, inspiring, notable, generational words and ideas to be feasted upon by the children that you are bringing up in the way that they should go.

You will quickly find the significance, and truth, of Mason's Great Recognition that the Holy Spirit is the Teacher of all things, and that your role in education is simply to provide the best variety of living books that you can get your hands upon. In doing so, you remove the burden from yourselves to "get it all right", and place the education of your children in the hands of the God that designed them, and the men who He has gifted with wisdom and passion, shared upon countless pages of countless books that can be delightfully feasted upon for a lifetime. 

May All Your Days Be Spent...Delightfully Feasting
Crystin <3

Resource Roundup: Poetry

 Resource Roundup: 
My Favorite Poetry Resources 

For Mom/Reference:
The Well Read Poem Podcast
Mentor Books of Poetry
Dover Thrift Editions
Dover Thrift 100 Best Loved Poems
Wordsworth Poetry Library Volumes
World Poetry Anthology
Everyman Series by Donald Thomas
Prayers Written at Valima by Roberts Louis Stevenson (out of print, watch for it used!) 
A World That Sings: Favorite Verses of Helen Lowrie Marshall  (out of print, watch for it used!) 
The Standard Book of British and American Verse by Nella Braddy (out of print- watch antique stores!)

Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes by Clyde Watson (also Christmas Rhymes and Feast of Songs) 
A Mother Goose Treasury by Kate Greenaway
Mother Goose Treasury by Priscilla Lamont
Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose
The Dandelion Mother Goose by June Goldsborough
Tomie dPaola’s Mother Goose
The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright
Father Gander Nursery Rhymes
Iza Trapani Picture Books
Kin Eagle Picture Books
Hey Diddle Diddle and Other Rhymes by Bright Sparks
Catch It If You Can by Brian Thompson
Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky
Anna Banana- 101 Jump Rope Rhymes by Joanna Cole

Nonsense Poetry: 
Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense 
When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne 
Lewis Carroll: Jabberwocky and Other Poems 

Single Poets:
A Child’s Garden of Verses
Dover Thrift Editions
Poetry for Young People
Cottage Press Poetry Readers
The Golden Store: An Illustrated Selection of Poetry by William Wordsworth by Nancy Martin
The Complete Poems of William Shakespeare by George Gesner 

Other Resources for Poetry Lessons: 
Under the Home Poetry Programs  
Under the Home Year 5 Poetry: Poetic Forms 
Gone Camping and Gone Fishing Novels in Verse (with notes and explanations of types of poems) 
Kid's Magnetic Poetry Kit

Single Poem Picture Books:
Paul Revere’s Ride (Longfellow) illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Frost)  illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Father, We Thank You (Emerson) illustrated by Mark Graham
Wynken, Blynken and Nod (Field) illustrated by David McPhail

Ten Thousand Stars/ Heroes, Horses and Harvest Moons Illustrated Readers by Jim Weiss
A Child’s First Book of Poems illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres (Golden Book)
Treasury of Poetry by Alistair Hedley
The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry by Louis Untermeyer
The Children’s Classic Poetry Collection by Nicola Baxter
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children by Jack Prelutsky/ Arnold Lobel
To Ride a Butterfly by Nancy Larrick and Wendy Lamb
Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris
Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy

Themed Poetry:
The Rose in my Garden by Arnold Lobel
Anna’s Garden Songs by Mary Q. Steele
Flower Fairies Series by Cicely Mary Barker
Poems of Flowers by Gail Harvey
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian
Earth Verses and Water Rhymes by J. Patrick Lewis
A Pot O’ Gold by Kathleen Krull
Alphabestiary by Jane Yolen (and other Nature Poem collections by Jane Yolen)
Felines by Martha Paulos
Lullabies and Good Night by Stephen Elkins (out of print and rare-watch for it used!) 
Making Friends With Frankenstein by Colin McNaughton

Seasonal Favorites:
Turtle in July by Marilyn Singer
Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak (nonsense rhymes for each month) 
Julie Andrew’s Treasury for All Seasons
The Sun is Up: A Child’s Year of Poems by William Jay Smith and Carol Ra
Sing a Song of Seasons by Nosy Crow 

Loving Poetry: Living Lessons in Poetry

                                                    Loving Poetry: 

Living Lessons in Poetry 

Poetry imparts life to its readers in a way that no other expression of the English language can boast of. It is also, sadly, most often the expression of language that seems most intimidating to readers. In poetry, we find ourselves and we find a world that we haven't physically beheld but can nonetheless SEE with the eyes of our souls.
And, in poetry we see expressions of the human soul that simply can't exist in prose. 

What we love is what we choose to love, and we can all choose to love poetry. 
Poetry is good, true, beautiful, and worthy of our affection. 

Last week I shared a few of the things I share when I gather moms for a SCHOLE workshop that I call "Loving Poetry", with hopes that it gives you food for thought and inspiration regardless of whether you are an ardent lover of poetry, a beginner filled with trepidation, or anything in between.   

And now I will share some basic principles and practices for making poetry lessons living and delightful in your homeschool. 

Principles for Poetry Lessons 

  • Taste is bred, and exposure breeds taste.  Good taste is bred, and the only way to breed taste is to be exposed to what is good and true and beautiful. Just like the food that is best for our bodies, the mind's nourishment isn't always palatable to us, particularly when we have been satiated on lesser things; the more that we are exposed to what is good, however, the more our tastes will be cultivated. We will have an ever increasing appetite for what is good and true and beautiful. With poetry, choose what's good, and don't let a lackluster reaction discourage you. Taste is bred. Exposure breeds taste. 
  • Your child's reaction doesn't determine the worth of something. A living education isn't a child-led education. A living education respects children, and their personhood, immediately. And one of the ways that Mason implored mothers to respect their children was to give them what was good and true and lovely. Beauty, truth, and goodness are inherent, and are not diminished in any way by whining and complaint and nonchalance. We would never allow our children to have a diet solely made up of potato chips and cookies simply because they complain about the rich nourishment of what is provided to them. We can apply the same principle to what nourishes their mind and souls. 
  • Your own attitude is worth its weight in gold. I can find the cause of many of my own homeschooling struggles when I direct my attention to my own attitude. You can't force another human to learn, and you can't control how another person feels or reacts to something good. But, you can ensure that you have a posture of wonder and that you use words that convey that you are grateful to get to spend time with your children nourishing your mind on the best ideas of the best minds in history, and the phenomenal command of the English language displayed in a poem. 
  • Loving poetry is a marathon, not a sprint. Every poem matters, and every moment that you spend breeding good taste and cultivating rightfully ordered affections adds up to much. 
  • Keeping poetry lessons synthetic ensures that a love will grow; fragmenting poetry hinders that growth. Poetry, in the younger years, should simply be read. It holds its own power, and its power isn't diminished if it isn't fully understood. Every word need not be defined, and the ideas within a poem can rightly be interpreted in more than one way. Just read. Enjoy. Experience.
    And, allow poetry to form you and become a part of you in a way that only poetry can do. 
    There is time for understanding and composing after a foundation of synthetic enjoyment. 

Practices for Poetry Lessons
*Note: Everything that I present as a practice is rooted within Mason's volumes and programmes, and my extensive research within them. However, these are MY practices developed from what I know about what Mason recommended and also from my own thought, experience, and knowledge. 
  • Maintain two "streams" of poetry. This is optional, but I often recommend it when a mom or family wants to use a beloved poetry anthology (a book of poetry by many poets). I recommend this because a poetry anthology is wonderful, but if we solely read anthologies then we miss out on the benefit of getting to know a single artist by immersion into his work for an entire term. I have found it to be great practice to have a two "streams" of poetry within our school lessons so that we can enjoy both a poetry anthology and also get to know single poets over time. I have done this in a few ways: 
    1. Use anthologies at Tea Time, and a single poet within lessons. 
    2. Read our term's single poet each school day except for the last day of the week, and then read from our anthology. 
    3. Read our term's poet on one school day, an anthology on another, and seasonal poetry on the other (we have 3 day school weeks, plus a co-op day). 
  • One Poet Per Term 
    Mason didn't specify this, but I find it to be of great value. For a couple of years, I watched my children getting to know a single artist and a single composer at a time, and becoming familiar with their work, through Picture Study and Composer Study. But, they weren't getting to know poets in the same way. I immediately aligned my poetry lessons to be much like my Picture Study and Composer Study lessons, and I have never looked back. It has allowed them get to know poets and their work, and to be able to attribute a poem to its author like they can a painting to its artist and a sonata to its composer. 
  • 1 Poem Each Day. Poems are potent. A single poem will give the mind much to work with. 
  • Just Read (Don't require narration). Poetry is the one thing that Mason instructed there to be no required narration of, and this is for good reason. Poetry is a language all its own, and the mind works with it differently than with prose. It ruminates, and its power is subtle and often slow. Poetry can do its work within the mind by just being read. If your children have an observation or are bursting with something to say, you can certainly let them. But, don't require anything. 
  • Repeat poems. 
  • Finish the term with a biography of the poet. 
  • Use one poem by the term's poet as the term's recitation piece. 
  • Combine types of poetry throughout your year (modern poetry for a term, nonsense poetry for a term, and a naturalist poet for a term, for example). Don't read a single type of poetry every term. 
  • Start with nursery rhymes, always. It is of great value, no matter how old your children are, to spend at least a year in nursery rhymes before moving on to other poetry. Nursery Rhymes are the breeding ground for the type of thought and the navigation of the English language that poetry requires of us. Plus, they're just really fun! :) 
  • Go OUTSIDE of your own comfort zone. Taste is bred, and you CAN stretch and grow your own affections. Sure, you will always have favorites. And some things will never be your absolute delight. But, everything good and true and beautiful deserves the effort it takes to grow an affection and respect for it. 

A Few Additional Ideas: 
  • Use anthologies for: 
    Tea Time, Morning Time, Evening Basket, Family Time, Sunday Reading, Mealtimes
  • Use Seasonal Poetry at the beginning of each month as a special treat. 
  • Use thematic poetry for special units or within other lessons throughout your school week (Space Poetry during a Special Studies lesson on the solar system, for example)

In a final post in this series,  I will share a massive roundup of all of my favorite poetry resources.

Also, if you'd like to explore these ideas, you can listen to my interview with Crystal from Triumphant Learning, on the All in a Homeschool Day Podcast. 
How to Add Poetry and Recitation to Your Homeschool 

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