Thoughtworthy (First Aid, Christmas List Addition, Deep Dives, and MORE!)


:: 1 ::

Turns out, reading a first aid book during Circle Time was a good idea! It never feels like Thanksgiving until I officially have a second degree burn. It’s what I do! This time, however, instead of bumbling around trying to take care of myself, the response from my children was astounding. We had read the burn chapter a week earlier, and they were chomping at the bits to use their newfound knowledge. One of them started running cold water to cool it down. Another ran to get the calendula gel. A third started searching around for “supplies” and a fourth pondered the freezer and whether I would need ice if the cold water didn’t cut it.

I can honestly say this is the fastest healing burn I’ve had in years! I highly recommend calendula gel. It’s nice and cooling, just remember sometimes it needs to be diluted so as not to sting.

The only downside is that my children now want to hurt themselves, just to see how it turns out. Yesterday, it was paper cuts. Maybe someone should get one on purpose to see if Staphysagria is really a good remedy for it? I’ve already informed them it’s dumb to get hurt on purpose just so they can practice what they are learning, but they still hope someone injures himself soon.


:: 2 ::

Need something new on your Christmas list? Just a reminder about Common Place Quarterly! I think it’s the perfect gift for a Charlotte Mason mama. ♥ I mean, people!! This is an EIGHTY PAGE Charlotte Mason magazine printed at collector’s edition quality levels. What’s not to adore?

And, yes: they ship internationally!


:: 3 ::

I’m finishing up one of my big projects and so excited to share it with you! ♥ The first Deep Dive session will be in January. This is for Charlotte Mason Boot Camp alums only. We’ll be studying — taking a very deep dive into — Charlotte Mason’s two ways: the Way of the Will and the Way of the Reason. I really can’t wait for this session! It’s going to be so great! ♥

Registration will open up at the end of December so stay tuned!


:: 4 ::

Have you downloaded and printed your winter Mother Culture Habit Tracker yet? If not, you better hurry! December starts tomorrow! (Can you believe it?) While it is never too late to start a good habit, there is something satisfying when you start at the beginning of the month.

Just fill out this form to download yours:


:: 5 ::

This month in 2016:

Children need to learn to read their school books for themselves. This is part of the act of learning — foraging ideas from pages they have to decipher on their own. With that said, we don’t want to just dump our children in the deep end, so here are some times on moving in the right direction.


:: 6 ::

This week’s links collection:

  • A Pact with a Thief, a Deal with the Devil: The Vatican’s Pending Agreement with China from The Public Discourse
    • I’m not Catholic. I fail to see why this is a good idea: “What we currently know of the agreement is that the Vatican will cede selection of bishops in China to the Communist Party. In exchange, the CCP will recognize the pope as the official head of the Catholic Church, and regular relations between the two states will be renewed.”
    • So let me get this straight, in exchange for recognition, an anti-Christian regime is going to choose bishops? Hmmm…
  • Students Want to Write Well; We Don’t Let Them from Los Angeles Review of Books
    • Please note: Calling the education budget an “austerity budget” in the state of California is LAUGHABLE. Plus, real education with real books isn’t really that costly.
    • With that said, decentralizing schools so that teachers can really teach and locals can really hold schools accountable sounds good to me. Plus, you all know I’d love to help kill the five-paragraph essay.
    • Personally, I think there’s a lot wrong with this article, but still some gems worth mining. The author ignores that most schools don’t read actual books (which would allow children to know what good writing even sound like) and many teachers can’t read at an adult level. The inability to write is part of the deeper problem of illiteracy run rampant.
  • The Steward of Middle-earth from The Weekly Standard
    • I had to stifle a little sob when I read this. It’s not everyday we witness the end of an era.
    • This is amazing: “‘Myth-making is normally done . . . by ancient peoples whose names we don’t know,’ Malcolm Guite says. ‘It’s just we happen to have the extraordinary example of a bloke suddenly appearing in the 20th century who became by himself the mythic equivalent of an entire people. And produced it all.’”
  • Ghost Voters from National Review
    • “California’s San Diego County earns the enchilada grande. Its 138 percent registration translates into 810,966 ghost voters. Los Angeles County’s 112 percent rate equals 707,475 over-registrations. Beyond the official data that it received, Judicial Watch reports that LA County employees ‘informed us that the total number of registered voters now stands at a number that is a whopping 144 percent of the total number of resident citizens of voting age.’” All told, California is a veritable haunted house, teeming with 1,736,556 ghost voters.
    • Please make it stop! Ugh. I don’t care — not ultimately — whether my state is “competitive in presidential elections.” No! I care that the elections are HONEST.


:: 7 ::

Finally, YES, AfterCast will be back soon. I’ve worked on it this week, actually. Make sure you’re subscribed in your favorite podcast player so you don’t miss the start of this new season!

The post Thoughtworthy (First Aid, Christmas List Addition, Deep Dives, and MORE!) appeared first on Afterthoughts.

How to Choose a Novel, How to Read a Novel

(Plus: Get Your FREE Mother Culture Habit Tracker!)

Even though I know winter here is laughable compared to a lot of places, winter reading still holds a special place in my heart. It’s definitely cold enough to cozy up under a blanket with hot herbal tea by my side (or coffee if it’s earlier in the day!). With that said, even in winter it’s easy to let my mother culture habit slide — there’s so much to do!

This is why I love my Mother Culture Habit Tracker! ♥ Habit trackers in general increase my self-awareness. I often think I do things more often than is true. With the tracker, I am far more consistent. Not only that, with my Mother Culture Habit Tracker I also vary my reading more because I’m not just tracking the habit; I’m also tracking the kinds of books I’m reading.

Let’s Talk About Novels

One of the categories for Mother Culture is novels. (You can read a broader take on Mother Culture here.) Charlotte Mason had some opinions on what to look for in a novel:

Perhaps the dramatists and novelists have done the most for our teaching; but not the works of every playwright and novelist are good ‘for example of life and instruction in manners.’ We are safest with those which have lived long enough to become classics; and this, for two reasons. The fact that they have not been allowed to die proves in itself that the authors have that to say, and a way of saying it, which the world cannot do without. In the next place, the older novels and plays deal with conduct, and conduct is our chief concern in life. Modern works of the kind deal largely with emotions, a less wholesome subject of contemplation. Having found the book which has a message for us, let us not be guilty of the folly of saying we have read it. We might as well say we have breakfasted, as if breakfasting on one day should last us for every day! The book that helps us deserves many readings, for assimilation comes by slow degrees. (pp. 10-11)


The modern Psychical novel is rarely of use ‘for example of life and instruction in manners.’ It is too apt to accept persons as inevitable, to evade the question of Will, and to occupy itself with a thousand little traits which its characters manifest nolens volens. The way of the modern novel is to catch its characters and put them to disport themselves in a glass bowl, as it were, under observation.

And also:

Novels, again, are as homilies to the wise; but not if we read them merely for the tale. It is a base waste of time to read a novel that you can skip, or that you look at the last page of to see how it ends. One must read to learn the meaning of life; and we should know in the end, who said what, and on what occasion! The characters in the books we know become our mentors or our warnings, our instructors always; but not if we let our mind behave as a sieve, through which the whole slips like water. It would, of course, be a foolish waste of time to give this sort of careful reading to a novel that has neither literary nor moral worth, and therefore it is well to confine ourselves to the best — to novels that we can read over many times, each time with increased pleasure.


These are long quotes; let’s bullet point them out (yes I just verbed a noun).

What To Look For In a Novel

  • Classics. You can’t go wrong with these! If you’re new to novel reading, start with classics that “everyone” says “everyone” should read. They aren’t just safe bets; they’ll reveal what you’ve been missing without novels in your diet! With classics, you’re not reading through the latest novels trying to find one worthy gem. (I like to leave mining to the miners.) Instead, you’re in the jewelry store and everything has been sifted — it’s all worth your time.
  • Focused on conduct rather than emotion. This doesn’t mean it’s devoid of emotion. It simply means the novel isn’t focused on psychology. Action is being lived out in the books world rather than in the character’s emotional life.
  • Causes must have effects. This builds upon the previous point. Miss Mason wanted characters who made choices — choices that had consequences.
  • Not skippable. If it wouldn’t matter that you didn’t read it, that’s a clue that it’s probably not worth your time. Time (and properly stewarding it) was a big deal to Charlotte Mason. So much so that she makes me uncomfortable sometimes! I realize, though, that this is conviction — which means I should embrace it rather than try to shrug it off.
  • Vivid characters. Miss Mason says that these characters can be our mentors or our warnings. Weak novels are populated with characters that are neither. We’re not looking for stereotypical perfect heroes and heroines, or one-dimensional villains, but we are looking for people to admire and people to fear.
  • Worth reading again. This is one of the best tests. Of course you can only know if the book met this criteria after you are done. But still: if it passes, you’ll know you chose well. The richest books will beg you to read them again.


How to Read a Novel

I don’t mean this in a literary analysis sort of way. That is far to detailed for our purposes here — and highly unlikely to happen in the everyday life of a homeschooling mom. But Miss Mason’s general principles work well for us because we can train ourselves to read this way.

  • Read to learn the meaning of life. The best novels are teaching us something about the world, about reality, about the nature of man. Don’t just read to follow the plot; read to discover the embedded wisdom.
  • Narrate. Ugh, right? Well, no. Narration is a handy tool, even for mothers. Miss Mason says the characters will be our mentors or warnings, but not if we let our minds behave like sieves. I don’t know about you, but motherhood certainly predisposed me to Sieve Brain. Everything I read slipped right through if I wasn’t careful. Narration can take many forms — a conversation with a friend, a deliberate retelling to yourself, a blog post, etc. The point is that narration closes up the holes in the sieve so that your reading is more fruitful.
  • Read it again. “Assimilation comes by slow degrees,” and in the best novels there is so much goodness that it’s impossible to get it all the first time through.


Are you ready for your tracker?

I’m pleased to introduce you to the Winter 2019 Mother Culture Habit Tracker. Fill out the form below to grab it for free. Maritza redesigned the tracker for me and it’s so cute and cheerful — I just love it! Trackers are a wonderful way to keep up our good habits during the busy holiday season (as well as the post-holiday drag!).

Need some book titles to get you going?

I’ve published many book lists over the years. For today, I’ll just share one book from each of the categories that I’m reading right now:

Stiff Book: Against the Protestant Gnostics by Philip J. Lee (yes, I’m reading this again)


Moderately Easy Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear


Novel: Bleak House by Charles Dickens


Happy winter reading, my friends! ♥

The post How to Choose a Novel, How to Read a Novel appeared first on Afterthoughts.