Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back on 2015

A quick look back before moving forward...

2015 in Books :: Top three books of my reading year (not including the Bible or books read for school)...

:: Manzoni's The Betrothed - The best epic novel you've never heard of.  This book hits the right balance between sweeping historical drama of war and plague and the concerns (and conversions!) of ordinary and extraordinary people.  A grand cast of fully formed saints and sinners, and a message of hope and redemption.

:: Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - Tolstoy draws the obsessive, insecure personality so well--annoying to read but felt very believable.  A heart-breaking yet surprisingly hopeful book.

:: Elizabeth Goudge's Pilgrim's Inn - Lighter than the others but both moving and charming.  I appreciate the Anglican world Goudge writes about because it often feels like home to me as a Catholic.  Descriptive writing--both in lush landscapes and of the human mind and soul--is what Goudge does best, and she's stellar at both types in this book.  (It's the second in a trilogy.)

(With an honorable mention to Station Eleven, a dystopian novel I really enjoyed.)

2015 on the Blog :: Top three posts by number of views...

A Very Simple Reading Lesson

Our Weekly Checklist (and a bunch more organizational chat too!)

Inside Our Form I Binder
(with an honorable mention to Inside Our Form II Binder)

2015 in the Outdoors :: Top three moments in nature...

 :: Low tide along the cliffs in spring...

:: An afternoon under the redwoods...

:: Perfect fall days in the waves...

2015 on Instagram :: Top three nine Instagram photos by number of likes thanks to #2015bestnine


I just want to say thanks to you all for reading, commenting, sharing, engaging--it's so much fun to be part of such a friendly community of homeschooling moms.  I don't take your support for granted!

I'll be back Monday to share a bit about our Christmas and to look forward to what 2016 may bring. Wishing you many blessings in the New Year!


  1. So glad to hear that you enjoyed The Betrothed...I'm planning to read that one with the AO book discussion ladies and volunteered to help co-lead the discussion, so I'm glad it's a good one. I loved Goudge this year too. :) Happy New Year to your beautiful family!

    1. I know, I saw that you had Goudge listed also. :) I haven't read the other two in the trilogy yet because they don't have them at my library, but I'm hoping to this year.

      And I think you'll like The Betrothed. It's a good one.

      Happy New Year!

  2. So fun, Celeste! Loved reading through this! :)

    1. Thanks, Amy! It was fun to reflect a bit. It's been a busy year! :)

  3. Happy New Year to You and Your family! :)

    Yesterday I looked through all Your Instagram photos in one sitting. They were so inspiring and left an impression of such an easily flowing homeschooling that I started considering going back to school to become a teacher. Do I remember correctly that You are an English teacher?

    Would You make a post some day about Your own education? Has Your own formal education influenced the way You homeschool? Did it give You many practical skills to use at home? What have been the most influential and practical books for You, other than by or about Charlotte Mason? Do You know if there are any good videos in the internet that show practical teaching skills?

    I don`t have kids of my own yet but I dream of a large family and want to homeschool my future children. So far I have read lot`s of books on homeschooling and had a little practice with my relative´s children. I love reading books to children (and reading children`s books by myself, alone:) and tried to start homeschooling a fresh 6 yo (a few days after the 6th birthday) the CM way with reading to her and having her narrate but it was a failure. Narrating back was new to her, she declared she doesn`t have to do it and didn`t. So I just finished reading the chapter and noticed she had been listening by the way she interfered the reading with her comments on what the characters said and did. The homechooling idea was dropped for six months until her mother started doing it with workbooks and traditional methods and the child has been rather happy with it.

    Would You write about how You started homeschooling, the very first days? How did you get the kids to take it seriously, since they`re not in a new environment with a new teacher? I imagine that with my own kids the transition would be smoother because they`d be used to a routine of daily read-alouds with me but starting them narrate back still requires specific effort.

    1. Hi Ingrid! Happy New Year back to you. You have a beautiful dream and I pray God blesses you with many children in the future!

      I just want to encourage you that you definitely do NOT need any specific educational training to become a wonderful homeschooling mother. I studied to be an English teacher and taught writing at the college level for a short time. That experience helped foster my love of literature and honed my writing skills. But I can't say it made me better at this parenting business, homeschooling included! :) I have heard the same from many teacher-turned-homeschooler moms. Much more important is self-education: reading about things you yourself are passionate about, considering what you'd like your homeschool to look like and educating yourself on how to make that happen, modeling good habits, etc. Those activities are going to be much more beneficial than any degree ever will. And it sounds like you are already doing that. :)

      As for educational reading: the most influential books for me have been by and about CM, as you said, so I'm not sure I can help much! I think it's best to poke around online and see what style appeals to you, then read from there.

      I think you'll find when you have your own children that the task isn't as challenging as it seems when you're trying to do it to other people's kids--at least that has been my experience. It is not any harder to get your kids to do their schoolwork than it is to get them to clean up after themselves, fold the laundry, sit quietly at church, or any of the other plentiful tasks we parents have to train our children in. If they are used to obeying, you aren't likely to get that much push-back regarding school. So good habits in the early years is really essential.

      It's also important that the children SEE genuine delight in you, as the teacher. My children know that I believe the books are of value and are full of worthy ideas, and they know that I myself enjoy reading them. They see me model narration. They understand that narration is *for them*, to help them to take a picture of the stories to keep in their minds forever. Some students take to it more readily than others, but they all eventually get there. :) It's also good for students to understand that education is their duty--there simply isn't the option to not do schoolwork, at least not in our house. ;) I am pleasant about it, but I am also serious about it, and they know that. Ideally, education is both a student's duty AND his delight. That's what I am aiming for!

      So yes, a good routine, good habits, excitement and interest on the part of the teacher--it all works together to create a productive homeschooling experience. Believe me, we don't have things down perfectly here! But we do what we can and aim for our best each day. :)

      I hope that helps at least a little. Let me know if I didn't answer your questions and I'll give it another shot. ;)

    2. Thank You! :)
      I do know and fully believe that one does not need a degree to homeschool. And I already have taken quite a few courses in education during my previous studies. I guess it`s just insecurity and my constant desire to learn something. I`m thinking of going back to school next fall anyway, though my original plan was to continue learning about national handicrafts. Just sometimes it seems like there ought to be a degree out there that has been thoughtfully created to make me a good teacher even if I`m only ever going to teach my own kids at home and not large groups at school. The curriculum of an all-subjects teacher for elementary and middle school looks inviting in that it has courses for teaching every subject but I have doubts about it being applicable at home.

      I have read about different approaches to homeschooling and my favourites so far are CM and TJEd. Still, I feel books on homeschooling tend to be either philosophical (which is good to a certain extent) or collections of booklists (not so good if my kids are not growing up in an English speaking environment and I`d need to translate all the books before letting younger kids use them). I really miss the opportunity of seeing someone else teaching for a longer period in varied ways and subjects. Blogs are great for that and provide a lot of variety but it doesn`t replace observing teachers in action, which is included in teacher education. Videos would be great, too. I have seen a few short videos of CM teachers at school but to me they seemed to contradict many CM`s principles and were not very useful.

      I have thought it would be awesome if someone wrote fiction books and made movies about homeschooling, showing day-to-day activities, discussions, all the inside processes. Karen Andreola has such books and I feel there would be room for much more.

      Thank You again and all the best to You.

    3. I could not agree more with your desire for TRUE teacher training! Unfortunately, I don't think that's easy to find in a regular university setting--just as you mentioned. In my experience, education degrees are more about how to teach students to pass standardized tests and how to manage a classroom, neither of which will be beneficial to you as a homeschool mom! It would absolutely lovely if there were a degree that truly did give you the skills you would need to teach your children at home.

      The closest thing to what you are describing is to attend a CM conference. There are conferences and retreats offered throughout the US with speakers and immersion sessions that show how picture study might look, for example, or how to dry-brush. Charlotte Mason Institute hosts a large one each year, and AO is having a national conference this year as well:

      There are a couple video resources you might appreciate:
      :: Eve Anderson's DVDs - Eve Anderson taught in a PNEU school and was trained at CM's college. There are a set of three DVDs available that show her giving lessons.
      :: Videos from Ambleside Schools International - I have only seen a few of these, but they might be worth looking at if you want a visual approach.

      Also, have you read Elaine Cooper's When Children Love to Learn? That book blends the philosophical and practical well, I think. It's coming from the perspective of CM school teachers (rather than homeschoolers), but I still found it helpful. There are programmes in the back so you can see what a school day would look like in the CM style.

      I will also say that my English degree has been of benefit to me as a homeschooler. NOT because it taught me how to homeschool well, but because literature is something I am passionate about, and getting a degree in English was following my passion. If you're planning to be a homeschooling mother, and you're wanting to go back to school anyway, I would encourage you to study what you enjoy. The lovely thing about a CM education is that it is liberal (in the true sense of the word) -- it includes all fields and encourages students to engage in many disciplines. So whatever you choose to study will eventually be of benefit to your children in that you'll have a special expertise to share with them. And my kids seeing me interested and excited about learning is one of the most important ways I can instill in them that same interest.

    4. Thank You so much for taking time to think along! :)
      I will look up the links and videos.

      I have read When Children Love to Learn. I read it in a row between three of Karen Andreola`s CM books and two of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay`s books (her For the Family`s Sake is one of the best books on creating a home atmosphere that I have read) and found it a bit too school-centered but I will give it another try. I must admit I have not finished Charlotte`s own books though I have started two. They are probably the best place to start.

      I still have 5 months to think through what I will be studying next. Perhaps I will supplement handicrafts with individual courses from teacher education. On geography and children`s literature and other things like these.

  4. I read The Betrothed a couple of years ago after the book figured in The Heir of Redclyffe. I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to re-reading it with my daughter a little later this year when she comes to it in Y8. I also enjoyed Station 11 - although I think I liked the world and characters more than the plot. I appreciated you mentioning it, it was a great summer read.

    Happy New Year!

    1. The Betrothed was on the Well-Read Mom list this past year, which is why I picked it up, and I'm so glad I did. It reminded me of an Italian Les Mis. :) Reading it with my kids in a few years will be a great experience. Actually I could say that about a lot of books in the later years! :)

    2. An Italian Les Mis, definitely! That's a great way to describe it. The Well-Read Mom booklist is a great place to find something good to read. I will have to keep that in mind. (If I can only keep myself from longing desperately to have a Well Read Mom book group that I could join!)