The Power and Pleasure of a Good Book

I wonder how weather-dependent other homeschools are.    We’ve had an incredible bout of much-needed rain (to preserve the last of the late-summer garden), and you’d think we slept outside.   The kids dragged, stayed up late, probably cringing from the violent thunder, and even the superhero had to pry himself out of bed to meet several morning appointments.   My internal alarm generally goes off around 7 a.m., but this morning I, too, relished the softness of the mattress until 8:03 a.m.    I awoke the oldest, whose teenage morning beauty regimen now forces me to wake her up an hour before her brother.   I tried to get myself in order and piddled around the house some.    30 minutes later, I noticed that both her room and the bathroom were empty.    Choosing not to be disappointed in thinking she might already be downstairs and into her studies, I peeked into the top bunk of her brother’s room (a 4-bedroom home, but all of our three sleep together—go figure).   Sure enough, she’s still snoring.    With mid-week church service and dance classes coming up tonight, today is the day we least needed to be late, but oh, well.


The youngest and I are enjoying On the Banks of Plum Creek together.   We started with Sonlight’s K Program read-alouds, and read some wonderful stories together (her favorite was Dr. Dolittle), but she wanted to “read more about Laura.”    It intrigues me that, for all the wonderfully peaceful and pleasant tales of the Wilder family, the kids really seem to enjoy most her battles with Nellie Oleson.    What does that say about us that there’s nothing more exciting than a real “duke it out” between school chums(smile)?   We’ve hit the period when the girls leave their homeschool and attend public school for the first time, meeting Nellie Oleson and others who immediately ridicule them for being country hicks and “long-legged snipes” (150+ years later and things are still the same, huh?)  The youngest keeps opening the book after I close it—“More, more!” she says.


The oldest and I are covering wonderful books together as well.    We complete written narrations (yes, I have notebooks, too, as a way of walking in her shoes and, prayerfully, showing her that you’re never too old to get intimately engaged with a good book) with the idea of using what we write to spark rich discussion.   Thus far, a question or comment or two is as “rich” as it’s gotten, but I’m trusting God, in accordance with Ephesians 3: 20, to fill the gap between where we are and where I long to be.


We have covered logic informally, completing logic puzzles with Critical Thinking Press up until the oldest’s 7th grade year.   She loved The Fallacy Detective, our choice for 7th grade, but then, what to do?      I had reluctantly settled upon the traditional logic workbooks until I stumbled upon Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book from Ambleside Online’s year 8.    The oldest’s first question when she saw the title was, “Is there a problem with me?”   She was referring to the book’s ambiguous title, thinking that I was trying to imply that she was having a problem without using straight talk.   I suppose it does sound on the surface like a primary reader, but my only regret in choosing this book is that nobody led me to it during my high school years!    The author walks the reader through the details of comprehension—how to skim, discovering whether a book is really what you want, the differences and stages of reading and understanding—and, if that weren’t enough, the author manages to make such dry subject matter genuinely interesting!   I’ve enjoyed learning techniques to help me read faster, and since Ambleside suggests taking the book in bite-sized chunks over several years, we have plenty of time to read the contents and let the author’s words soak in and impact our studies.


Ourselves by Charlotte Mason is another  AO year 8 suggestion, though I found it while reading through someone’s blog on the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.   I began reading it in the hopes of finding some inspiring words about dawdling.    After a few chapters, I knew that I also needed to get the oldest to read it for herself, so I was well pleased that it is listed as a part of the actual reading plan at AO.   Again, the suggestion is to read it in bite-sized pieces over more than one year, and I bought the modernized English version available for viewing on the AO website or at    Using this version, the weekly reading usually isn’t more than 1 page front and back—a big plus for kids who either don’t get excited about reading or who are reluctant to interact with the Old English translation.


Research tells us that more than a significant number of kids raised in Christian homes stray away from what they’ve been taught between the ages of 13 and 18, never to return.    It is critical that our kids’ understanding of the Gospel is not just based upon forced weekly church attendance, but that they understand what it means to walk with Christ every day, in every way.    So I very consciously began to introduce apologetic works, which we’ll continue to discuss together until she leaves this home.    The Lord will give the increase, but I wanted to be responsible in planting the seeds.   We began with Paul Little’s Know What You Believe, a suggestion from Sonlight.    Little’s tone does not have the personality of, say, Rick Warren of the Purpose-Driven Life, nor the intrigue and change-up in story line of the Bible; I might not have picked this one for someone in his/her teen years.   Imagine a whole chapter (approximately 20 pages) on sin.   I also realize, however, that my gift of faith allows me to accept some things without question that others may struggle with, so I persist in learning more about the basics of the Christian faith.   As I read, it also occurs to me why we aren’t always as effective in converting others to Christ—we don’t always know what we believe.   What makes this book worth its weight in gold are narratives like this one (an excerpt, written exactly as she wrote it):



Throughout history, many people have tried to discredit or minimize Christ’s death.   One theory states that Christ’s death was only a powerful example and that we’re redeemed as long His death influences us and we repent.    A second theory says that Christ’s death was necessary to preserve God’s divine law and authority.   A third theory claims that His death was an accident of history, unforeseen and unexpected, but the prophets and Christ Himself predicted that His coming was for that purpose.   One last, fourth theory is that Christ was another martyr that died from political and religious turmoil.   These are all incorrect from Scripture not supporting, not referring to or telling about, and opposing these theories.    Truth is, Jesus Christ didn’t have to die, but He voluntarily chose to endure the cross for us.   People ask, why couldn’t God, being all-powerful and all-loving, pardon and forgive sin, out of His pure mercy, without requiring sacrifice.   The reason is because Christ couldn’t just excuse sin.   A clean, holy sacrifice had to be given to clear away the dirty, unholy sins.   We, most times, look only at outward acts to judge sin, but God’s view is deeper, for to Him, sin is sin, not in little or big forms.   Holiness means no sin and holiness  and goodness reside in the heart.   The cross tells us that: each person is of value to God, evil is intolerable to God, God’s love is deep and His justice is wide, in perfect balance, we are redeemed, restored, renewed, the wall between us and our Creator has been broken down—the missing piece found, we can be a child—a member of His family.   Christ’s complete hate towards sin and evil is shown in the process of making forgiveness available to everyone.  


May these words become more than required weekly writing; may she hide them in her heart that she may not sin against God…

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7 thoughts on “The Power and Pleasure of a Good Book

  1. Terrific excerpt, Belinda! Powerful, indeed…….
    Is that not what the cry of every mother's heart — that our children will hide them in their heart, that they will not sin against God. Praise the Lord.
    I enjoyed the peek into your homeschool. Such ease with words you have.

    PS – I hope that lady has moved on over at Home Depot and your youngest is able to enjoy the workshops. We have the best time there — sometimes a bit hairy having to help 4 kids make them and juggle a baby in between, but it's so much fun.

  2. We woke up to rain this morning too. It is still steady and I just told the kids to go get pillows and meet me on the sofa. We are going to read a few chapters of Wilder's FARMER BOY. The kids are really enjoying this book. Thanks so much for stopping by with your encouraging words. I am feeling the life coming back into me already. I plan to stay home all day today as well and just teach and refresh my home. I am so grateful for this time with my children and to take care of my husband and children.

  3. I got the Know why and what you believe for the upcoming year thanks to your blog. I read it here a while back and sought it out. It will be great for my highschooler. Thanks so much!


  4. Sounds like you'v got some great reading going on~some fun and educational, some deep, thoughtful, and educational. LOL. My girls like the Nellie scenes, too.
    Another LOL. No, the cedar branch did not come home with us, mostly due to a car that was bursting at the seams already. Otherwise, yep, I might would have given in. : ) She came a little later and asked if she could have a freezer bag. I gave her one, and she said she wanted to put a few of the needles in it to save. (That's my girls.) She worked very diligently over the next couple of days plucking needles off. Little did I know. When it was time to leave, she packed up 2 very stuffed qt. freezer bags of pine needles!!

  5. Hi Belinda,
    I am so happy you are reading OURSELVES with your daughter. We love, love this book. I appreciate how CM is able to make insightful, helpful observations using succinct language. She doesn't waste words. It has helped me as well work towards becoming a better person.

    I hope you are having a wonderful time discipling your dear children.


  6. We have recently made an exciting discovery–three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos on the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    When we discovered them and how intrinsically edifying they are, we negotiated an agreement with Encyclopaedia Britannica to be the exclusive worldwide agent to make them available.

    For those of you who teach, this is great for the classroom.

    I cannot over exaggerate how instructive these programs are–we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

I'd love to hear your two cents!!