I have a secret…

Okay so I’m really laying myself bare here. I’m going to say out loud what I  have been keeping under wraps for a while now.

I’m writing a book.


I’m writing a book.

Okay, I’m not ready to shout it from the rooftops just yet but I am terrified excited to share this news with you here. Brooke, author of Warrior Prayers and Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God’s Plan (due out next week), encouraged her blog readers to come up with an elevator pitch for our books, so here it goes:

The working title is “Bountiful: Cultivating a fruitful life in dry seasons”

Where can we look when find ourselves in a season that is painful or dry? Galatians 5 is a gift from God for a parched soul.  My book walks us through the lush garden of the fruit of the spirit, picking one fruit at a time and examining its healing properties for hurting lives. We can find that place of refreshing and renewal in Christ.

I pray this is only the beginning of great things. I am writing this book because someone (maybe you!) needs to read it. God has help for others on the other side of my faltering pen.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I struggle to complete what I feel God has placed on my heart to share.

I’m writing a book!

Sheltering and books

LIT’ERATURE, n. [L. literatura.] Learning; acquaintance with letters or books. Literature comprehends a knowledge of the ancient languages, denominated classical, history, grammar, rhetoric, logic, geography, &c. as well as of the sciences. A knowledge of the world and good breeding give luster to literature.

There seem to be two camps concerning literature:  those who think you should shelter your children and those who think that difficult books are a tool for discussion. Of course older children can handle things that younger children cannot. And difficult discussions on slavery, racial slurs, abuse, etc. do need to happen. I think for me it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

I have heard both sides of the argument and they both have merit.  I think I come down on the side of caution. My children count on me to keep them safe. The mind is the most. I do not ever want to allow them to put something there that they are not ready for. I believe literature (true literature) is a terrific way to introduce difficult topics in their natural settings. Books can open casual doors for conversations that might seem contrived otherwise. Then Biblical Principles can be introduced/applied where they fit.

And then there are some books that I do not believe qualify as literature, are salacious or are otherwise twaddle. Those don’t make the cut. But important works are worth reading and discussing together. Because we are “living” with the books and their characters, I want to make sure we are “acquainting” ourselves for a specific reason and not just to have something to read or because it was recommended by someone else.

Where do you fall in the book sheltering debate?

We have a winner!

And the Freedom & Simplicity on the R Road to Biblical Wisdom ebook goes to…



Thanks to everyone for playing. I love giveaways and hope to have another one soon. Tricia let me know where to email your book!

Commonplace Blogging

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/crespoluigi/3334034556/in/photostream/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=Before the internet craze of blogging we wrote our thoughts down in something called a journal. Or a diary maybe. But it was for your eyes only, no worries of nasty comments from people you’ve never met–or kudos either. There is a comfort in putting pen to paper, capturing thoughts in space and time with the confinement of the written word is challenging and exhilarating.

This article (and my other passion) got me thinking about what I do here online. While it’s good and helpful and sometimes I dare say necessary, it is something my family, even though they participate by default, know very little of this part of my life. I don’t sit and read them my posts or share articles from other moms that bless me. They don’t know most of what I share here, not because I have a secret but I suppose it just never seemed necessary–at least not at this time.

But what about later, when they are older, when they have children of their own and are filled with questions, or when they are searching for more homeschool memories, the little memories that are crowded out by more urgent matters. I could just point them to this URL and let them search, like any stranger could, probing for information and answers. I don’t want a cold computer screen sharing my thoughts on this season of life with them. I think I can do better than that.

I have decided to keep a written record of the posts I feel are the most poignant to my family. I want a sort of scrapbook, more of a commonplace book about our homeschool years, filled with blog posts, pictures and all the other memories that make everyday life interesting. It will be in my own handwriting (ugh) and filled with my thoughts and dreams and hopes and yes, even fears, with those who mean the most to me.

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nate/412783683/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=This is a gift, something I can leave as a legacy, my blog posts and more, written by my own hand. Who doesn’t love finding treasures like that up in Gramma’s attic? We all love poring over old letters and pictures. Who wouldn’t love to hear great gramma’s thoughts on a particular time of life? Family is a big deal and I don’t want to deprive mine of the part of my life I share with all of you.

Commonplace books on our family. Now there’s a treasure worth leaving future generations.

R Road book giveaway

I haven’t had a contest in a long time and I love this book, so I thought I would give away a copy to a fortunate reader.rroadcover

Lisa Hodgen’s new book Freedom & Simplicity on the R Road to Biblical Wisdom: A “How to” Guide to Biblical Learning in Home Education is one of new favorite books. I reviewed it at The Curriculum Choice so I won’t rehash it here. Just know that I think this book gets you where you want to go in your home education journey–Wisdom’s house.

How do you win? Leave a comment about something related to Biblical wisdom–a scripture, a question or just a comment. And please read the review before you enter so you have a good idea of what the book is about. One entry per person please. I will draw randomly from all entries stamped by 9pm CST on August 31, 2009. If the winner does not claim the prize within 7 days another winner will be chosen.

Commonplace books

In my studies recently I happened upon a type of “notebooking” that was fascinating. It combines two of my favorite things–notebooks and traditional books (which I happen to be passionate about making!). I am such a book geek that I had to learn more.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as:

Commonplace-book, a book in which are registered such facts, opinions or observations as are deemed worthy of notice or remembrance, so disposed that any one may be easily found. Hence common-place as used as an epithet to denote what is common or often repeated, or trite; as a commonplace observation.

It’s taking a topic, such as sewing, literature, a branch of science or cooking and creating your own special book about it. It may include tables or charts, definitions, clippings, quotes, measurements or your observations. Some well known commonplacers included Thomas Jefferson, John Locke and Ben Franklin.  Jonathan Edwards also kept a commonplace book. 

Read more here here and here.

Some modern uses for commonplacing may be for remodeling your home, landscaping or gardening, scrapbooking, reading an important literary work, fiction writing or Bible study. They can be invaluable resources for a life full of learning. And they can become treasures that your kids can fight over after your funeral!

 And of course, I will endeavor to make some commonplace books that are uncommon. If you are interested in a unique commonplace book customized to your special topic, please contact me for details and I’ll make a one of a kind commonplace book you will treasure for years to come. anna at annahawthorne dot com

Anna Hawthorne Studios

My favorite soil softeners

A few years ago I purged all the “twaddle” on our bookshelves. I have been diligent since that time to fill our shelves with literature that would qualify as soil softeners.

Ms. Rosalie Slater referred to certain literature as “soil softeners,” or material that softens the soil of the heart for instruction in righteousness and planting seeds of Biblical principles. Here are just a few of the many soil softeners we enjoy in our home.

Garden Planting

Mary Jones and Her Bible is a beautiful story of a girl who worked and saved for years and walked 20 miles to buy it. It is such an inspiring story. The story teaches character such as diligence and parental respect and a love for God’s Word.

My Kingdom by L. M. Alcott is a 4-stanza poem about self-government that children can memorize. It softens the heart and opens the door to discussion about Christian self-government. By the way, she wrote it when she was 13 years old.

Little Pillows and Morning Bells by F.R. Havergal are one of my all-time favorites. I adore her and these simple children’s books are precious and full of ideas about God that children can understand. They are to be read before bed and upon waking. Plant the seeds of placing God first and last in your day.

One Morning in Maine by Robert McClosky is a lovely story about God’s creation and the power of nature. It will encourage stories of childhood summers and weather. You can see the majesty of God’s creation, His creativity and the power of childhood memories.

Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder shows the character of the pioneers and the strength of a godly family. It will insipre boys and girls alike to obey their parents, appreciate nature and enjoy the blessings they have.

The Autobiography of George Mueller is wonderfully inspiring. His character and conduct is something we should all aspire to.

Music by Isaac Watts. His Divine and Moral Songs  for Children will teach your children about godly character in  a way kids love, set to music.

What I’m reading now

There always several books on my “current” reading list. I am also a devourer. I will consume a book in a day. But then I will go back slower again and read with more purpose. Here are some books I am enjoying right now (aside from my Bible and A Guide to American Christian Education, which are ALWAYS in rotation).

  • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. This one is going slower. I am taking my time the first time around. It is terrific. I enjoy it right before bedtime because it gives me something lovely to meditate on as I drift off (bad dreams are too often a problem for me).
  • The Mother at Home. Written in the mid-1800′s by a pastor, he encourages and challenges mothers in a tender way that I think is missing in most modern parenting books. The principles are timeless. (I also am going through The Child at Home with my two older children, a few pages each day.)
  • What the Bible Says about…Child Training. I just got this book yesterday. It is another book that deals with Biblical principles and not doctrine or psychology. More good stuff.
  • If You are Triying to Teach Kids How to Write…You’ve Gotta Have This Book! I am in love with this book. It’s written for classroom teachers but it it easily applicable to home educators. Her passion for writing is contagious!
  • The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Edith Schaeffer discusses how to bring art and the arts into your home and everyday life. Our lives, as Christians, should be a beautiful expression of God’s character and nature and a celebration of all things creative. I have not mastered this but I want to. I want my home to be full of beauty. I don’t want to “put off” my artistic side because I am a home educator and homemaker. I want to still have that creative outlet, even if no one sees it but my lovely family, or even only God.
  • Nourishing Traditions. Helpful info on what fats really do to help our bodies work properly, among many other things. I enjoy the scientific approach myself, though some may find it a bit dry. It is more like what I am used to, with broths, raw foods, meat and butter. I encourage you to check it out from the library like I did, before I bought it.

Classic science texts

The book I am using for science is from the 1180′s, entitled The Child’s Book of Nature by Dr. Worthington Hooker. My volume is three books in one that I got on eBay. It contains botany, zoology and light heat and air, etc. The title page says “… for the use of families and schools intended to aid mothers and teachers in training children in the observation of nature.”

I want to give you a peek into his books because it is a gentle science text that your kids will love. It is from a Christian/creationist perspective, so God is glorified throughout. And the writing is eloquent, so I enjoy reading it just for that. Let me give you an example.

Sample of Botany Chapter 1: Our Love for Flowers
Everybody likes flowers. We like them wherever we see them. How pleasant they are to our eyes as we see them in the garden! How their various colors please us as we look along the borders! Some are red, some are white, some are blue, and some are yellow. All these different colors, mingled with the fresh green leaves, make a feast for our eyes….
It was in a garden that Adam and Eve were placed. While they were innocent and pure God surrpounded them with beautiful things, because he loved them so much. Before they sinned they lived among the flowers and trees of the garden of Eden. It was more beautiful than any garden that has been since that time. It was so beautiful that God would not let Adam and Eve stay in it after they had sinned.
Some of the chapter titles in the botany book include:

  • Our love of flowers
  • What live on flowers
  • The sap in leaves
  • The leaves in autumn
  • Lfe in the seed
  • What seeds are for
  • Leaf-buds
  • what roots are for
  • the bark of trees and shrubs
  • the wood in trees and shrubs
  • circulation of the sap

This year-long study of plants will give your child a wonderful understanding of botany–why we need to study plants and the wonderful way God created them to function. And it goes from whole to parts, making it easy for children to understand. It begins with what you see and small and then moves to what you cannot see. Biblical principles are also easy to identify and highlight. And I cannot stress enough how this book, with its gentle approach to learning, excites your children to learn without overwhelming them with information. It’s one of my favorite books to use. (You can see some lessons we have done ubder my “science” heading” and in “general lesson plans”.)

This book also lends itself very well to notebooking, with its reasoning questions at the end of each chapter. The subject matter makes it so easy to develop notebook ideas that kids love to do.

Ms. Katherine Dang has a $10 supplement that follows Dr. Hooker’s books, with experiements and the like. You can contact her for more info (it’s not listed on her site but you can e-mail her about it). I recommend it.

Dr. Hooker also has written volumes on chemistry, natural history, philosophy and more. He has a small bio here. He is known as the “Father of American Medical Ethics.”

I am so happy with this gentle study of the sciences. Princess G begs to study from this book every day (no joke) and she loves for me to read to her from it. She has learned a lot about flowers and I look forward to seeing what she has learned at the end of the year.

You can see some for sale on eBay here. There is a new reprint in softcover you can see there. (I have an origianl 1888 three-in-one edition in good shape that I love.) Or you can get reprints from the publisher here.

My favorite Christmas reading

I can’t give a complete list because I’m sure I’ll forget something, but this is my family’s list for Christmas reading. It’s not long but the works are quality.

  • Account of the Christmas story in Luke 2 (KJV), read by candlelight
  • Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Treasury: The Complete Christmas Collection from River Oak Publishing
  • The Candymaker’s Gift by David and Helen Haidle from Honor Books
  • The Christmas Lizard by Cory Edwards from Honor Books
  • The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
  • An Early-American Christmas by Tony daPaola
  • This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar (along the line of “This is the house that Jack built”)
  • “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem

I am enjoying Alcott’s writing very much these days. There is a nice bio of her in the book as well. Your kids will enjoy the candymaker, with it’s beautiful illustrations and focus on Jesus, and the Oscar the lizard also learns the true meaning of Christmas. Early American Christmas focused on the blessing of God’s bounty and not on the gifts. The poem is just for fun.

You may wonder about some of the publishers. River Oak is an imprint of Honor Books, a Christian publishing house with an emphasis on gift books. I have done a lot of proofreading for Honor Books and these are some books I received after I worked on them. I hope you will look for them in your local Christian bookstore or at www.honorbooks.com. And you might even find them at your library.