Books about Books

A range of books is now available to guide the selection of suitable reading material for different reading levels and interests. Once a child is reading fluently, these guides are extremely valuable to home-schooling parents looking for new books to read aloud or in selecting books for a child to read independently. I have found them particularly useful at the library to 'preview' worthwhile reading material.

Some such 'books about books' are detailed below. Most of them can be found at second-hand bookshops, or ordered from home education suppliers.

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The Book of Virtues

I recently purchased the Children's Book of Virtues by Bennett (a good value, second-hand copy) and have been enchanted by the delightful prose, poetry and illustrations it contains. My son and I use it as a treasured read-aloud and greatly enjoy the gentle instruction contained within a wide range of fables, tales, poems, speeches and myths.

Bennett's master book, the Book of Virtues, contains the same set of writings plus hundreds more (though sadly lacks illustrations). It is a weighty tome to dip into over a lifetime (about three inches thick by B5 format), including extracts from the Bible, classical mythology, English poetry, Shakespeare, Aesop, Dickens, Tolstoy, Baldwin, as well as fairy tales and modern fiction. I feel sure that some of these stories were read to my class when I was in primary school. They are classic stories which children (and adults) 'ought' to know about.

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Educating the Whole-Hearted Child

I was not surprised to learn that this is the favourite Home Education book for many seasoned home-schooling mums. It is the most comprehensive of the (many) books I have read on this topic and is written in an accessible, encouraging and humorous style.

The Clarksons have educated their four children at home in the USA since 1988 and have been actively involved in promoting home education through newsletters, workshops and catalogues. They believe that 'a whole and healthy heart guided by a mind filled with God's wisdom is the true goal of home discipleship and home education'.

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The Harp and Laurel Wreath

The Importance of Poetry

It is a temptation for a person who is home schooling children to save fine arts appreciation for days when religion, english, mathematics, science, history, geography, literature, and penmanship are all finished. The problem, of course, is that all of these things seldom get done. Therefore the introduction of beautiful pictures, great music, and excellent poetry remains an activity to do ‘some day’.

This is a mistake, because the appreciation of fine arts is formative for the soul. The old adage ‘You are what you eat’ could be changed truthfully to say ‘You are what you see and hear’. The models in one’s imagination and memory become a part of the soul and affect all the rest of life.

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Hints on Child Training

These extracts will give you a flavour of the message in this classic.

The measure of willpower is the measure of personal power, with a child as with an adult. Every child ought to be trained to conform his will to the demands of duty; but that is bending his will, not breaking it. Breaking a child’s will is never in order. (Page 19)

All the way along through his training-life, a child ought to know what are to be the legitimate consequences of his chosen action, in every case, and then be privileged to choose accordingly. There is a place for punishment in a child’s training, but punishment is a penalty attached to a choice; it is not brute force applied to compel action against choice. No child ought ever to be punished, unless he understood, when he chose to do the wrong in question, that he was thereby incurring the penalty of that punishment. (Page 23)

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Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit

This book is pure soul food!

Unlike the vast majority of books about home education, which are concerned with the useful details of how to educate your child, this one is written for the home-schooling mother.

Teri, a pastor’s wife and mother of eight, looks at the very real issues of attitude and maintaining one’s equilibrium in the face of a relentless, demanding occupation. She draws on 1 Peter 3:4 ( ‘…let your adornment … be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God’) to describe the desired attitude of a meek and quiet spirit.

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Keep a Quiet Heart

The principal cause of boredom is the hatred of work. People are trained from childhood to hate it. Parents often feel guilty about making children do anything but the merest gestures toward work. Perhaps the children are required to make their beds and, in a feeble and half-hearted fashion, tidy up their rooms once a month or so. But take full responsibility to clear the table, load the dishwasher, scrub the pots, wipe the counters? It would be too much to ask of many ten-year-olds because parents have seriously asked nothing of them when they were two or three. Children quickly pick up the parents’ negative attitudes toward work and think of it as something most sedulously to be avoided.

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Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single Income Family

Childhood, Adolescence and Work

The following quotes by David Barton are from a book by Steven Maxwell called ‘Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single Income Family’. This book questions the ‘leisure-focus’ of our society and proposes that young people who are encouraged to pursue ‘productive’ activities in their youth can look forward to the increasingly rare privilege of raising a family on a single income. It raises some issues that are well worth considering before your children reach that age.

Throughout history, the goal of child training has been to train children to be responsible, mature adults. Quite frankly, adolescence has never been marked by its maturity nor productivity; therefore, the desire was to shorten adolescence as much as possible.

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Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning

Cuteness is not Goodness

The first appearance of sin and self-centredness in children often comes as a shock to Christian parents. ... Although bad companions certainly reinforce the sin in the heart, they are not the cause of it. It comes from Adam. It is easy to misunderstand this because of the natural affection we parents feel for our children and because children are cute.

The Biblical view of man (and his offspring) must affect our view of education. Christians must distinguish the natural from the spiritual and stop making surface judgments. For example, children are naturally curious. This curiosity is God-given, but it is not the same thing as a love for learning. ... If the child’s natural curiosity is encouraged by a competent teacher, it will produce more than a superficial dabbling with knowledge. Children, like the ancient inhabitants of Athens, like to hear the latest thing (Acts 17:21). But they must be taught how to study a subject in depth and grow to rejoice in what they are learning.

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Seasons of a Mother's Heart

Sally Clarkson sub-titles her book as ‘Heart-to-heart encouragement, inspiration and insight for homeschooling mothers’ and I feel it lives up to this claim. The book is a collection of twelve essays, each of which could be pondered upon for a season. The following paragraphs are from her chapter titled ‘Prayers from Home’.

“For me, the greatest benefit of prayer is that it forces me to acknowledge, like David, that ‘God is there’. Prayer opens my heart to his reality and puts all the earthly details of my life into heavenly perspective. And if ‘God is there’ for me, then that will be true for my children, too.”

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Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals

This is an easy-to-read, inspiring book which encourages us to put our books and busy-ness aside at regular intervals to take time to drink in the abundant life Christians were promised—and to learn about this wonderful world at the same time!

As a sick child, Karen was given the advice to ‘spend time every day watching the clouds. Watch them move and spin. Look for animals hidden in their curls. Look for castles and dream. Dream. You can find your dreams in the clouds.’

Now, Karen is ‘a wife, a (home-schooling) mother of seven, a daughter, a church member, a friend, a volunteer, a teacher, a house-keeper…’. She says ‘I am so many things that I begin to lose who I am. Lists suck away at my soul. Yet, the lists become longer. I rush about frantically, like a wild thing, trapped. But the trap is of my own making. I want to be all of those things. I just need a little space to remember why I have chosen them. I need a window and a breath of sea air. I need a door to go out, so I can come back in again’.

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