Reading about books rather than reading the books

Who now reads the ancient writers? Who systematically reads the great writers, be they ancient or modern, whom the consent of ages has marked out as classics- typical, immortal, peculiar teachers of our race? Alas! the Paradise Lost is lost again to us beneath an inundation of graceful academic verse, sugary stanzas of ladylike prettiness, and ceaseless explanations in more or less readable prose of what John Milton meant or did not mea,n or what he saw or did not see, who married his great aun,t and why Adam or Satan is like that, or unlike the other. We read a perfect library about the Paradise Lost, but the Paradise Lost itself we do not read.

~Frederic Harrison, Choice of Books

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The Competition for your Reading Time

“If modern literature has any competition to dread, it is not that of the old classical writers, but of the daily, weekly, or monthly periodicals,  which fall as thickly round us as the leaves in Vallombrosa [‘autumnal leaves that strow the brooks, in Vallombrosa’ from Milton’s Paradise Lost], and go near to suffocate the poor victim who is longing to enjoy his volume in peace, whether that volume be of Sophocles or of Shakespeare, or of Goethe or of Burns. Or if by chance our would be student is one who for his sins is engaged in political contests himself, he may recall the position of Walter Scott’s Black Knight at the siege of Front de Boeuf’s castle when defeated by the din which his own blows made upon the gate contributed to raise.[Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott]. How, under such circumstances, he must wish that he was like Dicaeopolis in the Acharnians [Dikaiopolis, in The Acharnians by Aristophanes], and could make a separate peace for himself. ”

The Pleasures, the Dangers and the Uses of Desultory Reading
by Stafford Henry Northcote Iddesleigh

Publication date 1885

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A Rhyme for Tired Cooks

O weary mothers, mixing dough,
Don’t you wish that food would grow?
Your lips would smile, I know to see
A cookie bush or a pancake tree.

No hurry, no worry, no boiling pot;
No waiting to get the oven hot;
But you could send your child to see
If the pies had baked on the cherry tree.
A beefsteak bush would be quite fine;
Bread be plucked from its tender vine;
A sponge-cake plant our pet would be,
WE’d read and sew ‘neath the muffin tree.


From a Good Housekeeping magazine, circa late 1800s. No author was given except ‘Household’

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Teaching the Parts of Speech, Nouns

You can look over some example of each of the parts of speech here.  However, if you are using this to teach your student (and I would do this around 9 or 10 years of age, although children *can* learn it younger, I think their time is better spent on other things), I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on the names.  I’d just tell him that we divide up the words used in English sentences into 8 categories, and the categories have names, and here are those names, but don’t worry about memorizing this list yet.  Let’s work on it one category at a time.

This week/ the next two weeks/ this month, we’re going to look at the category called nouns.

1. In the English Language there are Eight kinds of Words, called The Parts of Speech.
These are-1. Noun. 2. Verb. 3. Pronoun. 4. Adjective.
5. Adverb. 6. Preposition. 7. Conjunction. 8. Interjection.
2. A Noun is the name of any person, animal, place, or thing ; as, James, the name of a person. Horse, the name of an animal. Town, the name of a place. Pen, the name of a thing.

Perhaps ask your young scholar to tell you to give you another noun, or a ask for some specific sorts- the name of a person, the name of a thing, the name of a place. That’s enough for the first day. The next day ask your scholar to tell you everything remembered about the part of speech called nouns. Then spend a few moments picking out some nouns from a page in one of the books you’re reading.

Do this two or three different times, never spending more than five or ten minutes on finding nouns in a passage of reading.


Then try working a few minutes a day on the assignments from this page- they need not be written. You can do most of them orally.  You can do them while washing dishes together, while you are brushing the younger siblings’ hair or while you are driving to a music lesson, or while you are cutting up vegetables or peeling potatoes or folding clothes- “Tell me six nouns that are names of people.  Can you tell me six nouns that you might find in a story about football? Can you tell me six nouns that are places?  Name six nouns we can see in your bedroom.”  Again, this should not become tedious, don’t spend an hour on it, take it lightly, a little bit, steadily, regularly over time.


EXERCISE I. Name twenty four Nouns. 1. Six names of persons. 2. Six names of animals. 3. Six names of places. 4. Six names of things.
Point out Nouns, and say concerning each whether it is the name of a person, an animal , a place, or a thing.

1. The sun rose. The horse ran off. Mary’s lamb fol- lowed her to school. The teacher turned him out.

2. The boys were playing at football. A dog was crossing a stream. He saw his reflection in the water.

3. The hailstones rattled against the window. The ship sailed down the river. Ali Baba entered the cave.

4. He saw many bags of money. The eagle built his nest on a high crag.

(Continue this Exercise in the first twelve lines of the Reading Lesson).

Tell your students another important part of speech are words called ‘verbs,’ which are action words.  Ask your young scholars to make sentences using nouns with the following verbs.  For example:
Example : Flows : The river flows.

Sings, falls, walk, reads, slept, makes, gave, break, tells, carry, takes, plays, ran, gather, sent, comes, stands, gives, fell, sees, carries, sleeps, told, look, runs.

Spend a few minutes a day, or at least a few times a week, playing around with identifying nouns using activities like these. Don’t stress or fret over it, just treat it something like a game. If your child balks and wants to know more about why, you can tell him this will help with foreign languages, and that there are other good reasons for understanding this, but it will be easier to explain it once the student knows more, as of right now, he doesn’t possess enough information for an explanation to make complete sense.

from he Parts of Speech: an Easy Grammar for Beginners
By William Balfour Irvine, 1889

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Just for Fun

Got this from an old school magazine.  I wouldn’t necessarily use it for ‘school’ but sometime when the kids are bored, or you’re on a road trip, or it’s too hot to go outside and you just want to lie around doing almost nothing.


Variety Work

1 Write three words that end in y .

2 Write names of two yellow flowers .

3 Write names of two red flowers .

4 Write names of two animals having fur .

5 Write names of two animals having hair .

6 Put letters to old and make other words of it , such as g old t old s old etc .

7 Name three kinds of trees that grow near your home .

8 What stands for Doctor Mister Street .

9 Write names of four birds you have seen .

10 What color is your house?.

11 What animals dig holes in the ground to live in?.

12 Write five girls names .

13 Write five boys names .

14 Write three names for dogs .

15 Of what color are lemons?.

16 Of what color are ripe grapes? .

17 Write three words of four letters each .

18 Name five things that can jump .

19 Name something that likes to live in water.

20 Name three things you like to do .

21 Tell what cows are good for .

22 Name some animals that have hoofs.

Laura F Armtiage in American Teacher .

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