Monday, March 30, 2015

The Boys’ Summer Reading Challenge

Children's Classics and Modern Classics Book List Challenge @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Books, books, books, reading, writing, discussing, books, books, books. Are you getting tired of book talk yet? [wink] I promise I’ll have more picture and adventure posts as our “school-year” commitments wind down at the end of April and the sun [please, oh please!!] begins to shine.

If you have read here at Mt. Hope Chronicles for longer than, say, a day, you know I adore book lists. I eat, sleep, drink, and breathe books lists.

I have my own book list challenge for 2015, and I’ve crossed a few more off the list in the past couple weeks. I notice a big difference in my reading habits when I have a book list. I don’t want to read just to cross off a book on a list, but I will admit it is a motivator.

This past week, a few things came up that made me want to make up a book list challenge for my boys. I’ve been running out of ideas for them, so they’ve been picking up books randomly. That isn’t a bad thing, but they could be reading better selections, and they are willing to do so if I hand them one.

1. I finished reading Honey for a Teen's Heart, and I adore it. I must review it this week.

2. I read this article about the differences in school reading lists for 8th graders in the year 1908 and today.

3. An online conversation reminded me of The New First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Your Child Needs to Know by Hirsch. I got out my copy and started reading it again, beginning with the literature section (of course).

4. I was searching (as usual) on Amazon, and came across this Puffin Classics 16 Book Set containing the following books:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain [Luke and Levi, audiobook]
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain [Luke and Levi, read-aloud]
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll [Levi read]
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling [Luke and Levi read]
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green [Levi and Luke have read other retellings]
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett [Levi read]
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott [Levi read others by author]
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, (abridged) Introduction by Garth Nix [Levi and Luke listened to an abridged version]
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett [Levi and Luke read, Challenge A literature selection]
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson [Luke and Levi, read-aloud]
White Fang by Jack London [Levi read]
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame [Levi and Luke, read aloud most of it]
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum [Levi read]

It doesn’t take much to inspire me to make a book list, and this put me over the edge. Must. Make. List.

Because, if a child read all the Puffin Classics, he or she would be well-read indeed. Add the Puffin Modern Classics? [swoon]

I don’t want to use this collection as a law or as some standard of achievement. It is simply this—here are some wonderful works of literary art in which children should have a chance to immerse themselves. Books with rich language and imagery, diverse time periods and geographical locations, interesting characters. Books that have withstood the test of time. Books that are oft-referenced in other literary works. Books and stories and characters that are found in parts and pieces throughout our culture.

[Of course, as soon as I started making this list, I read a fantastic blog post at Center for Lit about not letting a book list rule your educational plans and inevitably shame you. That is not my intention with this book list. Only read it if it is life-giving for you!]

As I perused the list of Puffin Classics and Modern Classics, I thought that I’d love to have my boys enjoy as many of these as possible by the end of their 6th grade year, before entering the Classical Conversations Challenge program in 7th grade. Levi has already read most of them, and he’ll make short work (or play, as the case may be) of the few he has left. I think Luke could read most of them by the end of the summer. I’ll save the ancient history related books for this coming school year when we head back to ancient history and literature.

My plan is that we will all read at least a couple together and use the Book Detectives model to discuss the stories and think about them more deeply.

We actually have a ton of Puffin Classics in our collection, and we have many of the Puffin Classics selections in other editions or audio book form. (It doesn’t matter to me which edition they read or listen to, but the Puffin Classics books are inexpensive and the above 16-book set is a great deal!)

I chose our next few read-alouds.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie [Read-aloud in progress]

Heidi by Johanna Spyri [Levi read]

I then made a list of Puffin Classics in addition to those listed above and marked whether Luke or Levi had read them.

[In no particular order after ancient and Medieval stories]

Tales of Ancient Egypt retold by Roger Lancelyn Green [Levi read]

Aesop's Fables [Levi and Luke read]

Tales of the Greek Heroes retold by Roger Lancelyn Green [Levi and Luke read other retellings]

The Tale of Troy (Homer) retold by Roger Lancelyn Green [Levi and Luke read other retellings]

The Odyssey (Homer) retold by Geraldine McCaughrean [Levi and Luke read other retellings]

Myths of the Norsemen retold by Roger Lancelyn Green [Levi read]

The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer) retold by Geraldine McCaughrean [Levi read?]

The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green [Luke read]

Grimms' Fairy Tales

Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights [Levi read]

Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb [Levi and Luke have read other retellings. I’d like them to finish the books by Leon Garfield.]

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales [Levi and Luke have read other editions]

The Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Levi and Luke read]

The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Levi and Luke read]

The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde [Levi and Luke read]

The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit (and all others by E. Nesbit) [Levi and Luke read]

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (and sequel) [Levi and Luke read, Leif is working on it!]

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi [Luke and Levi, read aloud a few years ago]

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss [Levi read, Luke listened to audio book]

Kim by Rudyard Kipling [Levi read]

Rip Van Winkle & Other Stories by Washington Irving

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Which classics would you add to the above list for children under 12 or 13?

I am having them wait on Red Badge of Courage (which they will read in Challenge I along with The Call of the Wild and Tom Sawyer) and abridged books (Dickens, Dumas, Bronte). They have read several abridged books and retellings so I’m not against them entirely, but I would rather they spent their time reading the other books on the list. We are currently reading A Tale of Two Cities (unabridged) by Dickens together (which they will read again in Challenge II along with Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and many others). The boys also have or will read retellings of classics (some of which they will read again in Challenge II) such as Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Don Quixote, Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, and Pilgrim’s Progress.

Levi has read Anne of Green Gables, but I’ll probably just have all the boys watch the movies with me this summer. Everyone should watch the movies, even if they don’t read the books.


Then we have the Puffin Modern Classics, many of which my boys have already read.

* Are the ones the boys haven’t read

*Gentle Ben by Walt Morey [Levi read other books by the author. I won a contest with a Heidi (the book) themed shoebox diorama in 5th grade and was invited to attend an author event with Walt Morey, who lived in Oregon. I still have the two books he signed for me! But I digress…]

*Rascal by Sterling North

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

*Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit by Julius Lester

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

*To Be a Slave by Julius Lester

*Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray [Levi read]

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

*Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor


I have so many more books I would add to the modern children’s classics list! But attempting my own must-read modern children’s classics list at the moment would be like falling down a rabbit hole.

Enough list-making. Let’s go read!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Read-Aloud Revival Membership Site Is Up!

membership wide700

Hey, friends! Have you had a chance to listen to the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast with Sarah Mackenzie of Amongst Lovely Things?

If you haven’t, you are missing out! In the podcast, Sarah, author of Teaching from Rest, chats with a wide range of guests about creating a family culture around books and reading aloud. You can listen to talks with Andrew Pudewa, Tsh Oxenreider, Jim Weiss, [cough] me [cough], and many others.

This week, Sarah is launching the Read-Aloud Membership Site with benefits such as podcast transcripts, cheat sheets, worksheet pages, live author events, video workshops, and more! 

Speaking of video workshops…

If you join the Read-Aloud Membership Site, you will be able to watch me talk for over an hour (broken down into six shorter videos) about creating a parent and child book club!

I haven’t had the courage to watch the whole thing [what is it about watching myself on video that freaks me out?], so if you watch it, report back and let me know what you think. [ha!] Some of you who know me in real life already put up with my non-stop talking, so this may not seem like much of a benefit, but…

Really, can one spend too much time talking about books? I don’t think so. Go check it out!

Crispin and Lost Tools of Writing [CC Challenge A] Discussion Notes and ANI

Crispin and Lost Tools of Writing Discussion Notes and ANI Classical Conversations Challenge A @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is one of my favorite CC Challenge A literature selections of the year. I made many marks in my book as I was reading. The imagery is gorgeous with beautiful schemes and tropes (literary devices: parallelism, similies, metaphors, alliteration, etc.). [In fact, I plan to use a couple passages of the book in my Essentials class next year, having the kids mark up a paragraph as if it were an IEW paper.]

I’m sharing my discussion notes. Obviously, there will be spoilers if you haven’t read the book! And just because something is in our discussion notes, doesn’t make it “the right answer.” Literature is open to interpretation. That’s what makes it so interesting!


Asta’s Son/Crispin, Bear (Asta, Father Quinel, John Aycliffe, Lord Furnival, Widow Daventry, John Ball)



Asta’s son needed a name, the ability to make decisions, a friend, freedom, a life, a soul, joy.


Chapter 51, p 222

“As time passed in the darkness of my hiding place, the one thing I knew for sure was that as Bear had helped to free me, he had given me life. Therefore I resolved to help free him—even if it cost me that new life to do so.”

[We took some time to define specific vs. universal (plot is specific, theme is universal).]


[It would be fun to go through the book using highlighters for different themes.]

Naming (absence of being)

p 21 “O Great and Giving Jesus, I, who have no name, who am nothing, who does not know what to do, who is all along in Thy world, I who am full of sin, I implore Thy blessed help, or I’m undone.”

Becoming (his own person, making decisions, gaining a soul)

p 39 “I need to do as I was told.”

p 52 “I, who had never really had to make important choices about anything—now I had to decide everything for myself. The result was that I stayed where I was…In faith, I did not know how to do otherwise.”

p 82 “’I have no choice,’ I said.
’Would you like one?’
’God’s will be done,’I said.”

p 104 “’Think what you might become if you were cleansed of thirteen years of dirt, neglect, and servitude.’”

p 106 “’Then surely you can sing no less than they for you have a soul.’
’Sometimes…I think I have none…I have…never felt it.’”

p 138 “Perhaps it was time for me to make the decision for myself.”

p 171 “I made up my mind to leave the town…While it was easy to make the decision…”

p 221 “The only question was, now that I knew who I was, what should I do?”

Freedom (not bondage)

p 97 “Lose your sorrows, and you’ll find your freedom.”

Relationships (greater than station in life)

Free will to lay down life, sacrificing

Power corrupts (venom)

p 221 “He was shielding me from the poison in my blood.”

p 222 “I saw it then: Bear and Ball were talking about the very word Father Quinel had used, freedom. Something I had never had. Nor did anyone in my village, or the other villages through which we had passed. We lived in bondage. To be a Furnival was to be part of that bondage.”

Love, Trust

p. 73 “’You needn’t be so resentful,’ he said. ‘When you’ve lived as much as I, you’ll learn to neither trust nor love any mortal. Then, the only one who can betray your is yourself.”

p 88 “As God in Heaven knows, both wheat and trust take a full season to grow.”

p 138 “Though I was excited by Bear’s promise, I was very nervous. Should I or should I not trust him?”

p 207 “Yet I had little hope that it would bring either comfort or release for my one true friend.”

Life and Death

p 1 [Opening words] “’In the midst of life comes death.’ How often did our village priest preach those words. Yet I have also heard that ‘in the midst of death comes life.’ If this be a riddle, so was my life.”

p 12 “Thus our lives never changed, but went round the rolling years beneath the starry vault of distant Heaven. Time was the great millstone, which ground us to dust like kerneled wheat…Birth and death alone gave distinction to our lives…”

p 97 “Living by answers is a form of death. It’s only questions that keep you living.”

p 148 “As for doors, I did not think the world had so many. These people, I thought, must live their lives by little more than entries and exits.”

p 221 “How odd, I though: it had taken my mother’s death, Father Quinel’s murder, and the desire of others to kill me for me to claim a life of my own. But what kind of life?”

All themes come to a head at the climax (quote above under plot) and the last paragraph (resolution) of the book. [sob]



Whether Crispin should have risked his life and forfeited his birthright to save Bear

5 Common Topics


[We defined Crispin twice—unnamed and named.]

Asta’s Son

not slaves but neither free

villeins-serfs, bound to Furnival

worked land (farmers)

13 year old boy

couldn’t read or write


had no name, was nothing, doesn’t know what to do, all alone, “full of sin”

orphan, homeless, friendless

“Wolf’s head” wanted outlaw, others free to kill him

couldn’t make choices or decisions


illegitimate son of Lord Furnival

still an orphan (13, Christian)

has Bear = master/friend/father

on the run

forced servant-hood then bound apprentice (not free)

Bear sets him free after Crispin saved his life and sacrificed title

member of the Guild of Free Men

feels like a true son

makes decisions on his own and trusts


man, physically large, red beard

Age 12-19: enrolled @ abbey to be monk, learned to read and write

Age 20-30ish: ran off with mummers (performers), learned music, tricks, and laughter

Aged 30ish: became soldier. learned survival skills/fighting

Later used knowledge and experience from all 3 to become spy

Then master, friend, and father to Crispin

split hat of jester symbolized his two natures: jest/anger, good/bad

We also defined the term “father.” Lord Furnival fit the objective definition, and Bear fit the subjective definition.


We compared the terms serf, servant, and apprentice because Crispin was all three over the course of the story.

Similarities: They are all bound but not slaves.

Differences: Serfs and servants are so for lifetime; apprenticeships are so for a period of years

Serf and servant positions were involuntary; apprenticeships were supposed to be voluntary.

Serfs usually worked the land, servants had a variety of possible tasks, and apprentices learned skills or trades.

All three usually had meager, miserable livelihoods, but apprentices could eventually be free and have a chance at a better life.

We also compared Crispin, Amos from Amos Fortune, Free Man, Nat from Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, and Robin from The Door in the Wall (all Challenge A literature selections).

Similarities: They were all boys. They all were faced with pivotal decisions to make around the age of 12-14 that changed the course of their lives. They made brave and honorable decisions. They took responsibility for their own lives and made sacrifices.

Differences: Crispin and Robin lived in England during the Middle Ages. Nat lived in America in colonial times and Amos lived in America during the time of slavery.

Crispin, Amos, and Robin all had stigmas attached to them, but they were different kinds (illegitimate child, African race, crippled). Nat had none.


England, 1377. Just after the plague.

Lord Furnival died.

Bear was being held in the dungeon of the Furnival palace.

The affirmative answer is possible (because Crispin succeeded in the end). Crispin said he had to try even if he couldn’t succeed. (p 231)


We talked about the relationship between Bear and Crispin. Bear was Crispin’s master, father figure, protector, friend, provider, and teacher/mentor.

And then we talked about Crispin’s relationship to Lord Furnival in comparison. (Biological father, but he cast them out.)

What happened immediately before: Crispin warned the men that Aycliffe was coming. Bear helped save Crispin and the other men. Bear was captured.

What happened immediately afterward: Crispin rescued Bear. Aycliffe was killed in the fight at the town gates after going back on his word. Crispin left his cross with Aycliffe’s body, fulfilling his vow.

What caused the circumstances: Aycliffe captured Bear to get to Crispin because Crispin’s birth threatened Lady Furnival’s position.


Who was an authority within the story? Who had something to say about the issue?

Bear told Crispin to leave the city because it was Crispin they wanted. Bear was an authority (master/father) in Crispin’s life. He was a trustworthy authority.

Widow Daventry told Crispin to leave town and never return. She said that his noble blood was poison. She said the connection gave him no honor or position. She said he would be used by Lord Douglas. She said his noble blood would cause a warrant for his arrest. She was an adult authority with life experience. She knew his situation and was trustworthy.



Crispin was only a 13 year old boy
He was a wolf’s head and Aycliffe wanted to kill him
He was an illegitimate child
Bear forced Crispin into bondage
It wasn’t fair for Crispin to have to give up who he was just when he had realized it
Bear was not related to him
Crispin was risking his freedom
There were no other heirs to the Furnival line
Title could have provided ease of life
He could have gone to his mother’s father, taken the title, and then tried to rescue Bear
It was terrifying
It was dangerous
Widow Daventry told him to leave town
Bear told him to leave town
Bear didn’t want him in danger
Bear could already have been dead
Widow D. already made arrangements for Crispin to escape
Bear chose to take the risk of being a spy
Crispin was doing exactly what John Aycliffe wanted him to do
It was a trap
Crispin was outnumbered
Crispin had no one to help him

Affirmative (with preliminary sorting)

1. Relationship with Bear
Bear father figure
One true friend
Bear master
Bear saved his life (more than once)
Loved Bear

2. Needed Bear
Bear was teaching him skills
Crispin had no one else

3. Character Development
Self-sacrifice turns boys into men
Taking responsibility
Learning how to make decisions
Take charge of destiny

4. Bear’s Qualities
Bear deserved to be saved
Bear was helping peasants in his role as spy
Bear helped others escape before he was captured

5. Technical
It was possible
Crisping was able-bodied
Crispin was the only one who could
Crispin had something to bargain with
Crispin’s decision was made in free will

6. Anti-title
Being part of the Furnival name meant participating in bondage
Noble blood was poison
He would have been used by Lord Douglas if he had tried to claim inheritance

7. Cause/Effect
He needed to save Bear from further torture and death
It was Crispin’s fault that Bear was taken as a prisoner
John Aycliffe was killed in the skirmish

Interesting (not as many as we should have, but most of our “interesting” points were already in our notes)

Bear seemed mean at first and forced Crispin into bondage
Bear was captured while in the service of the Freeman’s Guild
The plague was over
Why did Crispin leave the cross with the dead body of Aycliffe?
Crispin forced Aycliffe at knife-point to make a promise, just as Bear did to him
Crispin gained awareness of his soul


I think that about wraps up what I have written. I always feel as if we’re just scratching the surface of what we discussed and what is possible to discuss!

You can read another parent’s Crispin discussion notes and ANI at this link.

I’ll share the essay when it is completed next week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

CiRCE Pacific Northwest Regional Conference

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Are you planning to attend the CiRCE Pacific Northwest Regional Conference just outside of Seattle on May 8 and 9? Have you registered?

CiRCE says that space is limited and registration is nearly full. Don’t miss out! Register now! I’d love to see you there.

Let’s Play ~ Timeline!

Timeline Game Review @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

My boys have been on a huge game-playing kick lately. Leif, my trivia hound, carries the Professor Noggin Card Games and Classical Historian Go Fish Card Games wherever he goes. They are perfect for play on the go or stuffing in a backpack or purse for “just in case.”

We’ve discovered another fun one! We are rather fond of timelines in general because of our CC history sentence songs and timeline songs. The boys have a great number of “pegs” already memorized.

Timeline Historical Events Card Game is a game played with 110 mini timeline cards. I think of them more like tiles than cards—they are about half the size of a regular playing card. They need to be small, because you are building a timeline on your table as you play the game! The artwork is nice and often gives a few visual clues (such as period clothing) to help with placement. The sturdy cards are nicely packaged in a sturdy tin.

Each card has two sides with the same picture and event label on each side. One side has a date; the other does not. Players are dealt four cards, date side down. The remaining cards are stacked on the table, and the top card is played in the middle to begin the timeline. Each player takes a turn adding cards to the timeline. Cards are placed date side down where the player thinks they belong on the timeline. Once placed, the card is turned over. If the date is in the correct order, the card stays. If not, the card is returned to the box and the player must draw another card. The first player to play all his cards wins.

[The cards have only an event label without any other information, but our curiosity was piqued a few times and we were inspired to research more!]

This game is easy to adjust depending on the age and abilities of the players. The more cards the players start with, the harder the game. The more players participating, the harder the game. More obscure events (or those very close together chronologically) can be removed from the deck. [Note: There are a few “origins” cards that could easily be removed if one feels that is necessary. It wouldn’t affect the game.]

There are additional sets that can be played separately or added together to create a much more diverse and difficult game. We also have the Diversity Set, which contains a wider range of events, inventions, discoveries, and arts-related cards such as literature (not “diversity issues” as the title seems to suggest). These cards seem to be more difficult to place. I may go through the deck and pick out my favorites until we feel confident and ready to add more to the stack.

For under $15, this game is a great value to add to a game collection. I hope Monuments and Arts and Literature sets are in the works as one of the Amazon comments hinted at!

[This game could be played with the Classical Conversations History Cards or the Veritas Press History Cards, but you would need a much larger space!]

Monday, March 23, 2015

On Leisure and the 5 Common Topics [Your Turn to Play]

On Leisure and the Common Topics @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

I have been sharing about Aristotle’s 5 Common Topics of Invention this year. [When you see the word Invention, it might help to think about gathering an inventory of ideas, which is what we are doing when we ask questions!] I’ve given examples of what it might look like if one is using the common topics to discuss a classic piece of literature (albeit children’s literature) or even a picture book (which can also be literature, and certainly was in the example). But, you might be saying, I haven’t read those books! It is hard to participate in a discussion about a book if one hasn’t read it!

What if I told you that you could use the common topics to have a deep discussion about a single sentence?

Yes, you can. Some of you attended a Classical Conversations Parent Practicum last summer and had the chance to break into small groups to do just that. When I spoke, I used the above quote for our small group discussion material. The definition alone, as usual, could have taken up all of our discussion time.

In fact, one can have a deep discussion about a single word using only the topic of definition.

(See, for example, the second video imbedded in this post.)

Today, we are asking:

:: What is leisure? ::

I will ask a few questions using the five common topics. You are welcome to use them to contemplate the idea of leisure, to discuss the quote with family or friends, or to share thoughts in the comments here.

Below the questions are several quotes and links on the subject of leisure. You are welcome to read them before or after you contemplate the questions (or both!). Be aware that they may change your idea of leisure. [grin]

[Note: There is no answer guide. There are no “correct” answers. This is not a reading comprehension quiz. These “Socratic” questions are to be used in the service of open-ended dialogue.]

5 Common Topics


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word leisure? [It’s okay to admit that leisure suit was your first thought. Grin.]

What is the definition of leisure?

Subjective definition? Objective definition?

Synonyms? Antonyms?

What broad category does leisure belong to?

What are other things/divisions under that category?

How is leisure the same as or different from the other things within the broad category?


Compare leisure and labor. Similarities? Differences?

Leisure and relaxation? Leisure and laziness or idleness? Leisure and pleasure?

Compare leisure and a river.

[One often needs to return to definition when new words and ideas are introduced into the conversation!]


How is leisure related to art?

How is leisure related to culture?

How is leisure related to slavery?

How is leisure related to the Sabbath?

Is leisure a luxury or a necessity?

What is necessary in order to have leisure?

How does one acquire leisure?

What effect does leisure have on a person? On a society?

[Some of these answers may sound like definition or comparison, and that’s okay!]


Who, historically, has had leisure? What kind of people? In which cultures?

How has the definition of leisure changed over time and in different cultures?

What is leisure and who has it in cultures with a caste system, slavery, or communism?

What was leisure in Ben Franklin’s world?


Who or what has something to say about leisure? Are they an authority, a witness, or are they giving their testimonial?

Are there maxims about leisure? Laws? Statistics?

Is Ben Franklin an authority?

What would your grandfather have said about leisure? A celebrity?

Which of these “authorities” are credible? Why or why not?


Did you know that thinking about the five common topics is practicing leisure?


The following are quotes, books, and articles about leisure that may be used to expand the conversation.

:: From The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin. You may be interested in the words Franklin wrote directly after the quote we are contemplating:

Employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure; and, since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour. Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but the lazy man never; so that…[a] life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.

:: From Thoreau on Hard Work, the Myth of Productivity, and the True Measure of Meaningful Labor @ Brain Pickings

The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time, and does not exaggerate the value of the husk. Why should the hen set all day? She can lay but one egg, and besides she will not have picked up materials for a new one. Those who work much do not work hard.

:: From Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott::

As we have seen, the “Liberal” Arts are precisely not “Servile” Arts that can be justified in terms of their immediate practical purpose. “The ‘liberality’ or ‘freedom’ of the Liberal Arts consist in their not being disposable for purposes, that they do not need to be legitimated by a social function, by being ‘work.’” …At the heart of any culture worthy of the name is not work but leisure, schole in Greek, a word that lies at the root of the English word “school.” At its highest, leisure is contemplation. It is an activity that is its own justification, the pure expression of what it is to be human. It is what we do. The “purpose” of the quadrivium was to prepare us to contemplate God in an ordered fashion, to take delight in the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness…"

:: From Artists: Don’t Just Work; Be At Leisure by Somer Salomon @ Transpositions

Instead, Pieper maintains that the arts are most definitely rooted in leisure. Pieper insists that we have forgotten the true meaning of leisure, from which springs richness, fullness of life, existential meaning, and happiness. Leisure is not idleness or even relaxation (both of which Pieper ironically says are other forms of work). Instead, leisure is the openness to the given world, an attitude of considering the things before us in a celebratory spirit.

:: From Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

[p 34] St. Thomas speaks of contemplation and play in the same breath: “because of the leisure that goes with contemplation” the divine wisdom itself, Holy Scripture says, is “always at play, playing through the whole world.” (Prov 8:30f.).

[p 43] At the zenith of the Middle Ages, on the contrary, it was held that sloth and restlessness, “leisurelessness”, the incapacity to enjoy leisure, were all closely connected; sloth was held to be the source of restlessness, and the ultimate cause of “work for work’s sake.”

[p 46] For leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation.

[p 53] Leisure…is not a Sunday afternoon idyll, but the preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of that undiminished humanity which views the world as a whole.

[p 65] The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration.” Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and a superiority of “active leisure” to all functions. But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.

[p 69] The vacancy left by absence of worship is filled by mere killing of time and by boredom, which is directly related to inability to enjoy leisure; for one can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost.

:: From Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education by David Hicks:

[Aristotle] shares the popular view that a happy, well-adjusted individual is the true end of learning, and he does not shrink from giving a full account of what he means by happiness. “Happiness is believed to depend on leisure,” he writes, “for the aim of all our business is leisure just as the aim of war is peace.”

The life of virtue has nothing to do with one’s prospective pleasures, possessions, or practical affairs, but concerns the manner in which one is prepared to spend one’s leisure hours.

:: From the Bible (KJV)

Mark 6:31

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

:: From Leisure, from the Dictionary of Bible themes at Bible Gateway

Time for rest and recreational activities. Economic conditions in biblical times did not allow ordinary people much free time for leisure. However Scripture does give principles which apply to leisure.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Food for Thought ~ On Thinking Independently and Educating Ourselves

Cinnamon Mufins

I am sharing only two links this weekend. Not because that’s all I have, but because both of these are so important that I don’t want them to be missed. Go read them. [Yes, I’m bossy like that.] I have shared quotes to whet your appetite, but they are no substitute for the full articles.


:: What I Learned from Teaching English in North Korea @ Ideas.TED

As you might have noticed, I’ve spent a great deal of time contemplating discussing ideas, learning dialectically (as opposed to didactically), and writing persuasive essays this year (with more posts to come). This article has haunted my thoughts for the past two days because it shows the consequences of not doing these things. We must let our children (and ourselves!) learn how to wrestle with ideas! It reminds me of a quote by Leigh Bortins in The Question: “One of the hardest things about being a parent or teacher is believing (to the point of acting on your belief) that truth will stand up to scrutiny.”

“Their entire system was designed not to be questioned, and to squash critical thinking. So the form of an essay, in which a thesis had to be proven, was antithetical to their entire system.”


:: Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book by Susan Wise Bauer @ Memoria Press

Tsh posted this article in her Cuppa Reads at The Art of Simple this weekend, and I needed to read it after a rough time with a book last night.

I have a confession to make. Reading is difficult for me. Does that come as a surprise to you? I have a hard time shutting out distractions and not going for easy entertainment like television. I struggle with important books that I don't understand or feel like I'm not intelligent/receptive/emotionally sensitive enough to get. I get impatient when I can't get into a book quickly. I get impatient for the ending of a book when I do get into it. I feel guilty if I'm reading strictly for pleasure (and books I truly simply enjoy are super rare). But if the book isn't pleasurable, it is work to read it.

But still, I make time to read because it is important to me.

“In order to get educated, we do not have to go to graduate school. We have to read, take notes on what we read, and discuss ideas with our friends.

“…But remember this, as you resolve to embark on a program of self-education: Reading is very difficult. Many of us become frustrated in our first attempts to read the classics.

“…Often, this is the point at which the battle for self-education is lost. We decide: Ah, I just don't have enough education to understand this. And we give up.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Leveled Readers with Quality Content ~ Nonfiction and Historical Fiction [An Extensive List]

Leveled Readers with Quality Content (Nonfiction and Historical Fiction) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Has your child progressed past incremental phonics readers (such as my personal favorites by Nora Gaydos) but still needs controlled content to read aloud or independently?

I adore rich picture books or excellent chapter books, but sometimes (often, if it is quality literature) the vocabulary in those books can be complex and intimidating for budding readers.

This is where a need for leveled readers comes in to play. For some children, this is a very short stage before they take off with confidence and interest. For some children, this stage lasts quite some time.

I appreciate leveled readers for the independence and confidence they can provide my children.

They are wonderful for increasing speed and accuracy. I also appreciate that they are fairly inexpensive and fit neatly on a shelf together without taking up much space.

BUT, wading through all the insipid readers trying to find quality content can be a dreadful experience. I've spent years collecting the good stuff, and now I will try to save you from some of the wading I had to do. [grin]

I'm not saying all of these books are quality literature, and I wouldn't choose to read most of them aloud to my children (unless we're taking turns), just as I wouldn't read aloud Magic Tree House books. It's challenging to turn level 2 readers into quality literature (though Arnold Lobel is talented at it). But at least they introduce children to names, events, places, and ideas that may spark their interest. Or they may correspond with additional history studies.

I am working on a fiction list, but for now I'll share the nonfiction and historical fiction titles to get you started.

This is an extensive list, but it is not exhaustive.

Not all reader levels are made equal (the DK readers may be more challenging), and some books have been republished as different series (particularly the All Aboard Reading to the Penguin Young Readers series) and their levels changed, so it was hard to keep them straight!

My personal favorites on this list are the I Can Read Level 3 books.

I’ve grouped the history-related books very generally. I have historical fiction and myths labeled under the history period to which they are related. I have biographies generally grouped according to time period or country. I tried to group like items within each level, but they are not listed chronologically. There are obviously far more American history-related readers than any other subject.

[Ancients] Ancient Civilizations (Pre-historic, Egypt, Greece, Rome)

[Medieval] 400 AD–1400 AD

[Renaissance] 1400-1600s

[World] 1700-present (excluding American history)

[American] General American History


Level 1

[Science] Animals at Home (DK L1)

[Science] Tale of a Tadpole (DK L1) [And more in the series]

[Science] Snow (Ready-to-Reads) [Plus Wind, Rain, and Clouds in the same series]

[Science] Flood! (Natural Disasters) [Plus Volcano! and Earthquake!]

[World] Homes Around the World (DK L1)

[American/Science] Mister Bones: Dinosaur Hunter (Ready-to-Reads)

[American] Johnny Appleseed (AAR L1 or Penguin L3)

[American] The Grand Canyon (Wonders of America) [Plus others in the Wonders of America series: The Statue of Liberty, The Mighty Mississippi, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, The Rocky Mountains]


Level 2

[Science] Astronaut: Living in Space (DK Readers L2) 

[Science] The Secret Life of Trees (DK Level 2)

[Math] One Hundred Shoes: A Math Reader (Step-Into-Reading, Step 2)

[Math] A Dollar For Penny (Step-Into-Reading, Step 2)

[Ancients] Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (All Aboard Reading L2) [Penguin L4?]

[World/Architecture] Amazing Buildings (DK Readers, Level 2) 

[Renaissance/American] The Story of Christopher Columbus (DK Reader Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone)

[American] Sacagawea and the Bravest Deed 

[American] Little Runner of the Longhouse (I Can Read Book 2)

[American] Paul Revere and the Bell Ringers (Ready-to-read COFA) 

[American] Thomas Jefferson and the Ghostriders (Ready-to-read COFA) 

[American] George Washington's First Victory (Ready-to-read COFA) 

[American] Ben Franklin and His First Kite 

[American] Abe Lincoln and the Muddy Pig

[American] Annie Oakley Saves the Day (Ready-to-read COFA) 

[American] Mark Twain at Work! 

[American] The Statue of Liberty (Step-into-Reading, Step 2) 

[American] Thomas Edison to the Rescue! 

[American] Harry Houdini: Escape Artist (Level 2)

[American] Helen Keller and the Big Storm 

[American] Babe Ruth and the Ice Cream Mess (Ready-to-read COFA)

[American] Eleanor Roosevelt and the Scary Basement (Ready-to-read COFA) 

[American] Jackie Robinson and the Big Game (Ready-to-read COFA) 

[American] Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (Scholastic Reader, Level 2) 

[American] A Lesson for Martin Luther King Jr. (Ready-to-read COFA)

[American] John F. Kennedy and the Stormy Sea (Ready-to-read COFA) 


Level 3

[Science] Greg's Microscope (I Can Read Book 3)

[Science] The Innings and Outs of Baseball (Science of Fun Stuff)

[Science] The Thrills and Chills of Amusement Parks (Science of Fun Stuff)

[World/Biography/Science] Albert Einstein: Genius of the Twentieth Century (Ready-to-read Stories of Famous Americans) 

[World/Biography/Science] The Dog That Dug for Dinosaurs (Ready-to-Reads) 

[World/Science] Bermuda Triangle (DK L3)

[Science?] The Story of Chocolate (DK L3) 

[Ancients] Greek Myths (DK Readers L3)

[Renaissance] The Great Tulip Trade (Step into Reading)

[World] Hill Of Fire (I Can Read, Book 3)

[World] The Story of Anne Frank (DK L3)

[World] Leaving Vietnam: The Journey Of Tuan Ngo (Ready to Read)

[American] From Slave to Soldier: Based on a True Civil War Story (Ready-to-Reads)

[American] Billy and the Rebel: Based on a True Civil War Story (Ready-to-Reads)

[American] Abe Lincoln's Hat (Step into Reading)

[American] Sitting Bull (Penguin Young Readers, L3)

[American] Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner (Step into Reading)

[American/Inventors] Listen Up!: Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine (Step into Reading)

[American/Inventors] Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race (Step into Reading)

[Renaissance/American] Christopher Columbus (Step into Reading, Step 3, Grades 1-3)

[American] The True Story of Pocahontas (Step-Into-Reading, Step 3)

[American] The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Step-Into-Reading)

[American] George Washington and the General's Dog (Step-Into-Reading, Step 3)

[American] Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Step into Reading, Step 3) 

[American/Science] Spacebusters: the Race to the Moon (DK Readers: L3) 

[American/World] Pearl Harbor : Ready To Read Level 3  

[American] Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] Dust for Dinner (I Can Read Book - Level 3)

[American] Daniel's Duck (I Can Read Book 3)

[American] The Big Balloon Race, Level 3 (I Can Read)

[World/American] The Long Way to a New Land (I Can Read Book 3)

[American] The Long Way Westward (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] Clara and the Bookwagon, Level 3 (I Can Read Book)

[American] Sam the Minuteman (I Can Read Book 3)

[American] George the Drummer Boy (I Can Read Book 3)

[American] Small Wolf (I Can Read Book 3)

[American] Snowshoe Thompson (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] Chang's Paper Pony (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] George Washington -- Soldier, Hero, President (DK Readers, Level 3: Reading Alone) 

[American] Wagon Wheels, Level 3, Grade 2-4 (I Can Read ) 

[American] The 18 Penny Goose (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] The Josefina Story Quilt (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad (I Can Read Book 3) 

[American] The Monitor: The Iron Warship That Changed the World (All Aboard Reading, Station Stop 3)

[American/Biography] Amelia Earhart: More Than a Flier (Ready to Read, Level 3) 

[American] Teddy Roosevelt: The People's President (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] John Adams Speaks for Freedom (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] Davy Crockett: A Life on the Frontier (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women's Rights (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] Clara Barton: Spirit of the American Red Cross (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] Abigail Adams: First Lady of the American Revolution (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] Sojourner Truth: Path to Glory (Ready-to-read SOFA) 

[American] Harriet Tubman and the Freedom Train 

[American] The First Thanksgiving (Step-Into-Reading, Step 3) 

[American] Johnny Appleseed: My Story (Step into Reading) 

[American] Babe Ruth Saves Baseball! (Step into Reading 3)


Level 4

[Science] Volcanoes! Mountains of Fire (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[Ancients/World/Art] Discovery in the Cave (Step into Reading)

[Ancients/World] Ice Mummy (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[Ancients] Secrets of the Mummies (DK L4)

[Ancients] Tut's Mummy: Lost...and Found (Step into Reading)

[Ancients] Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (All Aboard Reading L2) [Penguin L4?]

[Ancients] Pompeii...Buried Alive! (Step into Reading)

[Medieval] Days of the Knights: A Tale of Castles and Battles (Eyewitness Readers) 

[Medieval] Robin Hood (DK L4)) 

[Renaissance] Joan of Arc (Dorling Kindersley Readers, Level 4)

[Math/Renaissance] A Fly on the Ceiling [Rene Descartes] (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[World] Amistad: the Story of a Slave Ship (Penguin Young Readers, L4)

[World] The Titanic: Lost and Found (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4)

[World] Atlantis, The Lost City (DK, Level 4)

[World] D-Day Landings: the Story of the Allied Invasion (DK L4)

[World] Barry: The Bravest Saint Bernard

[American]I Am Rosa Parks (Penguin Young Readers, L4) 

[American] Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[American] Thomas Jefferson's Feast (Step into Reading) (Step #4) 

[American/Biography] Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[American/Inventors] First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers (I Can Read Book 4) 

[American/Inventors] First Flight: The Wright Brothers (DK Readers, Level 4) 

[American/Inventors] Thomas Edison: the Great Inventor (DK Readers L4) 

[American/Biography] The Great Houdini (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[American] Prairie School (I Can Read Book 4) 

[American/Biography] Flying Ace, The Story of Amelia Earhart (DK Level 4: Proficient Readers) 

[American] Dinosaur Hunter (I Can Read Book 4) 

[American] Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams (I Can Read Book 4) 

[Math/American] Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 

[American] Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln (Penguin Young Readers, L4) 

[American] The Monitor: The Iron Warship That Changed the World

[American] Civil War Sub: the Mystery of the Hunley (Penguin Young Readers, L4)

[American] Buddy: The First Seeing Eye Dog (Hello Reader!, Level 4)


Level 5

[Ancients] The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War (Step into Reading)

[World] To the Top! Climbing the World's Highest Mountain (Step-Into-Reading, Step 5)

[American] Trail of Tears (Step-Into-Reading, Step 5)

[American/Science] Moonwalk: The First Trip to the Moon (Step-Into-Reading, Step 5)


If you don’t want to stop there…

Beginning Chapters

[Exploration] Ice Wreck (Shackleton)

[Music] A Horn for Louis (Armstrong)

[Music] Anna Maria's Gift (A Stepping Stone Book) (Vivaldi)

[American] Next Spring an Oriole (A Stepping Stone Book)

[American] Night Of The Full Moon (Stepping Stone)

[American] Shadow Of The Wolf (Stepping Stone)

[WWII] A Time to Be Brave (A Stepping Stone Book)

[Literature] The Time Machine (A Stepping Stone Book) [There are many retellings of classic literature in the Stepping Stone series.]


I'll be posting a list of fiction titles soon!