A Melville-Mitford Monday Mash-Up

Posted on November 26, 2013

Call me Bibliophile. Some hours ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and no patience left with the incompetent and oblivious people I encountered in a long day of shopping, I thought I would travel about a little and revisit Mitford. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily becoming hypercritical and impatient, and bringing up the rear of the slowest-moving line in every store; and especially whenever my crankiness gets such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the aisle, and methodically knocking people’s carts over—then, I account it high time to get to Mitford as soon as I can. This is my substitute for psychotherapy. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the novel. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all readers in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the books with me.

Here in Mississippi, it’s been unseasonably cold for November, and a near-freezing, persistent rain has fallen all day. Not an ideal day to run about to 11 different stores for Thanksgiving groceries, office supplies, pet supplies, etc. I’ve been irrationally cranky all day, mentally overreacting to the traffic and the crowds and the S.L.O.W. cashiers.

Last week I had assigned bits of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick to my homeschool co-op literature class, so the opening paragraph was in my mind. Ishmael’s “damp, drizzly November” was both literal and figurative for me today.

As I drove from store to store, however, I listened to John McDonough’s wonderful reading of Out to Canaan, the fourth book in Jan Karon’s delightful Mitford series, and it soothed my soul.

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I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read the Mitford books. Jan Karon’s invitation in The Mitford Bedside Companion rings so true:

Just as we visit loved ones again and again, so you may go again and again to Mitford. Sometimes for refreshment. Often for peace. And always for hope.

Have you visited Mitford? If you haven’t, I invite you to experience its beauty and balm right away.


P.S. – For your reference, here’s the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick that inspired my Melville-Mitford Mash-Up on this cold, drizzly Monday:

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.”

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Literature of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation

Posted on October 18, 2012

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the opportunity for students to read whole books rather than textbook snippets. Every Friday I teach 18 students in grades 9-12 as part of a weekly homeschool co-op, and it’s thrilling to see these young people reading and discussing classic literature.

We spend most of our classroom time on discussion, not lecture. I discovered several years ago that if I let students do most of the talking, they end up addressing most of the issues in my carefully prepared lecture notes. Encouraging them to think deeply about what they read, to journal about it, and to share their opinions in class has a much more powerful impact than, for example, giving multiple-choice tests about the factual details of the books.

Our literature books coordinate with the time period we’re studying in history. This year we’re studying the literature of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation. Here’s our reading list:

  • Confessions by St. Augustine
  • Beowulf
  • The Song of Roland
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • The Inferno by Dante
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves (adapted from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book I)
  • Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • Selected poetry and essays

So far, Augustine’s Confessions and Beowulf have been big hits with my students. The Song of Roland didn’t go over so well; one student described it as “a morbid Dr. Seuss,” while another called it “a sing-along murder song.” I’ll be eager to see what they think about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight this week.

How do you teach literature in your homeschool?

P.S. – You may also be interested in these posts about the literature of antiquity and modernity:





Celebrate Homeschool Freedom Day!

Posted on August 7, 2012

On the first day of public school in our town, we celebrate Homeschool Freedom Day (a term I coined years ago). Whether or not our homeschool year has started, we DON’T have lessons that day. Instead, we celebrate, usually by going to the park for a picnic with homeschooling friends . . . just because we can!

We revel in the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling makes possible. (The generally smaller crowd at the park when government school is in session is a nice bonus.)

This year we made only a short trip to the park—having a picnic in 93% humidity just wasn’t that appealing—so we enjoyed lunch in the air-conditioned comfort of our favorite Mexican restaurant, Mi Pueblo. Fajitas, fun, and freedom!

[They really were having fun...until I pulled out the camera.]

I’d love to hear how your family celebrates Homeschool Freedom Day! And if you like the idea but school has already started where you live, just pick a day . . . any day . . . to celebrate your freedom. The Specific Holiday Date Enforcement Squad will never know.

Homeschooling Today’s 20th anniversary prize sign-up

Posted on June 17, 2012

Homechooling Today has been part of my family’s homeschool journey almost since the beginning. I’m honored to write the “Literature through the Centuries” column for the magazine and still enjoy reading each issue after 15 years of homeschooling.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Homeschooling Today is hosting 20 weeks of fabulous prizes AND special Grand Prizes worth hundreds of dollars!


I’ve donated a copy of my time management course How Do You Do It All to the prizes.

You can enter the drawing for all the prizes here.

The weekly prize drawing is open to anyone, but only subscribers are eligible to win grand prizes. You’ll find an abundance of practical tools, encouragement, and inspiration for your homeschooling.

Join me for the Ultimate Homeschool Expo!

Posted on April 23, 2012

Looking for encouragement and practical tips for your homeschool journey? Join me for the conference you can attend at home!

There are dozens of speakers on a huge variety of topics ranging from communication to computer science to couponing! I’ll be speaking twice–once on overcoming interruptions and distractions and once on building a home library and teaching your children to love books.

Hope you can join us!

Click Here to Checkout The Ultimate Homeschool Expo!

83 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Posted on February 9, 2012

83 Ways to Celebrate Valentines – February 1-14, 2012. Celebrate with us by receiving a gift!

Includes history of Valentines Day, Homeschool Activities, Crafts, Special Family Activities and much more

I am partnering with “How To Homeschool My Child” to bring you a special gift on Monday, February 13, 2012.

Go to http://www.HowToHomeschoolMychild.com now to sign up on the home page for 14 February Freebies.

The Freebies start on Feb 1 with a free ebook- 83 Things to Do to Celebrate Valentines and my gift to you on Feb 13, 2012.

“How To Homeschool My Child” will also send a special gift from all of their homeschooling partners on each day of the first 14 Days of February, but only to their subscribers. So don’t miss out on some wonderful offers to keep on homeschooling the best way possible this year!

Mary Jo

ps. Sign-up now so you don’t miss a thing!

Our Christmas Traditions

Posted on December 23, 2011

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is reading aloud in front of the fire and the Christmas tree lights each evening in December.

This year we’re reading The Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader, which includes 28 nightly devotionals and an audio CD with related bits of The Messiah to accompany each reading. A “Read More About It” section in the back provides additional details and resources for digging deeper on each topic.

In addition to our nightly Advent reading, we often read a Christmas picture book. I’ve already posted about The Baker’s Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale. Since we love our 6 cats, we also enjoy The Twelve Days of Christmas Cats, read/sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” If you’ve ever mixed cats and Christmas, you’ll understand the line about “a kitten in a fir tree”!

One of our favorite Christmas books is An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco. It’s a sweet story of family togetherness and unselfishness.

In honor of Frankie’s orange, we place oranges on our mantel each Christmas (along with our cherished nutcracker collection).

What are your favorite Christmas books and traditions?

Twelve Days of Christmas with Homeschooling Today

Posted on December 21, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas – December 26, 2011 through January 6, 2012. Celebrate with us by receiving a gift for the season!

I am partnering with Homeschooling Today magazine to bring you a special discount on January 2.

Go to www.HomeschoolingToday.com now to sign up on the home page for the Homeschooling Helper e-newsletter to receive this special offer via e-mail on the above date. Homeschooling Today will send a special discount or gift from a different vendor each day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but only to their readers. So don’t miss some wonderful offers to get your new year started off right! Sign up now so you don’t miss a thing!

What are your favorite Christmas books?

Posted on December 7, 2011

In honor of St. Nicholas Day, my boys and I are about to snuggle by the fire and read one of our favorite Christmas books:

The Baker’s Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale

A fair but tight-fisted baker learns an important lesson about generosity.

This new edition includes a recipe and pattern for St. Nicholas cookies. Might be time to upgrade our copy!

I'll be sharing more of our favorite Christmas books in the days ahead. What are your favorites?

How Do You Do It All? Big sale with HUGE bonus package!

Posted on December 5, 2011

Are you overwhelmed by juggling everything on your endless to-do list? Is it tough to balance your family life and work responsibilities? Throw in a home business and/or homeschooling, and the challenges grow even more! If you’re frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed, you may benefit from my 7-hour home study course, How Do You Do It All.

I like to say that I’ve test-driven most of the mistakes so you don’t have to. ;)  I’ve been running a home business since 1986, bringing up children (now 4 boys) since 1992, and doing all of this as a single mom since 2001. Believe me–I know how hard it is! Of necessity, I’ve discovered and developed powerful strategies that really make a difference and help me replace the chaos with balance and peace. (And you bibliophiles will be glad to know that the course includes tips on making time for reading.)

My homeschool publishing friends have helped me put together a SUPER SALE package of 17 free bonuses (over $140 value) and 23 door prizes (over $660 value) to go along with the $10 discount on How Do You Do It All! The sale ends this Thursday, December 8, so don’t wait to check it out.

Here’s a quick overview of what the downloadable How Do You Do It All course includes:

  • 5 information-packed teleseminar sessions (7 hours of audio!)
  • Enhanced transcripts of every session to supplement your personal notes
  • Big Dream Brainstorming Guide
  • Strategic Guide to Annual Review and Goal Planning
  • Annual Review Form
  • Annual Goal-Planning Form
  • Weekly Planner for Balancing Personal Life, Family, and Business

You can find out much more about the course HERE.

Here’s a peek at the amazing collection of bonuses and door prizes:

How To Create Credibility as a Freelancer: 70 Tips from a Collection of Experts e-book from
Mary Jo Tate, Editor and Book Coach
$5.00 value! Practical tips on building a successful freelance business.

The Home Business Option e-book from
Christian Home Business Connection
$5.00 value! Information about 8 home-based business models. A great resource if you’re having trouble deciding what kind of home business to start.

HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance e-book from
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
$12.45 value! Practical tips from work-and-school-at-home families operating a wide variety of businesses.

The Benefits of Pinterest video and handout from
Media Angels, Inc., sponsors of the Ultimate Homeschool Expo
$5.00 value! How and why to use Pinterest both personally and professionally to organize your online bookmarks in a format that’s easy to use and share.

Chaos to Order audio from
Homemaking 911
$5.00 value! This downloadable MP3 workshop gives a woman the tools she needs to eliminate some of the chaos and bring order and peace to her home and her life.

A House NOT Divided: Building Unity in Your Family audio from
Great Waters Press
$5.00 value! You’ve heard the verses and caught the vision; now here are practical ideas for getting your children out of each other’s hair and on your team!

Christmas Goals and New Year’s Resolutions webinar from
The HomeScholar
$15.00 value! In this webinar, we will first talk about how to handle school during December, then I’ll give you some super-easy New Year’s Resolutions!

Gifts That Pay for College webinar from
The HomeScholar
$15.00 value! Colleges are looking for passion, and our children are looking for presents. When you put those together, you get gift opportunities that help earn college scholarships!

Seasonal Spice MP3 music from
Greg Howlett, Christian Concert Pianist
$10.00 value! Ten beautiful Christmas songs featuring Greg Howlett on piano along with Andy Leftwich (multiple Grammy winner) on fiddle, Sam Levine on woodwinds, and John Catchings on cello.

Five Fun Holiday Crafts for Kids e-book from
New Millennium Girl Books
$6.95 value! Enjoy the holidays with earth- and budget-friendly crafts that your kids are sure to love!

Old Time Radio Audio Christmas Collection audio from
My Audio School
$5.00 value! Cozy up with the family and enjoy this festive collection of 8 beloved Christmas stories.

Christmas Mini StoryBuilder e-book from
$3.95 value! Pick one writing-prompt card from each category and spin a humorous or realistic holiday tale!

Vocabulary Bridges from English to Latin and Greek e-book by Harvey Bluedorn from
Trivium Pursuit
$8.00 value! As much as 80% of English vocabulary is derived from Latin and Greek. Vocabulary studies e-book (104 pages) for ages 10 and up.

Memory Triggers: Elementary Math Terms e-book from
Trigger Memory Systems
$5.95 value! Uses entertaining stories and pictures to help students remember the meanings of 16 math terms.

Heritage Classical Curriculum–Ancient Rome Study Guide e-book from
Heritage History
$7.00 value! Includes all you need to study Ancient Rome using classical online histories. Features timelines, character lists, recommended reading lists for all ages with detailed book summaries, outline maps, historical maps, era summaries, and much more.

Literature Study Guide for The Phantom Tollbooth e-book
AND Literature Study Guide for the book of Ruth e-book from
Bright Ideas Press
$24.00 value! Bring literature to life with our hands-on study guides! Discussion, analysis, spiritual applications, and more!

Click HERE to purchase the complete How Do You Do It All course at the special sale price of $37 and receive all 17 bonuses, plus a chance to win one of these fabulous door prizes!

DOOR PRIZES to be given to winners of the random drawing from all buyers of How Do You Do It All during the sale (one prize per winner; prize determined by random drawing). Door prize winners will be notified via e-mail by Tues., Dec. 13.

Ultimate Fall/Christmas Expo webinar from
Media Angels, Inc., sponsors of the Ultimate Homeschool Expo
2 winners; $29.97 value each!
Where else but at the Ultimate Homeschool Expo can you get 50+ audio downloads to help you have a wonderful, Christ-Centered and stress-free holiday? Felice Gerwitz is your host and brings you a few of her friends. Across the miles you will enjoy the wonders of the holiday season right from your own mp3 player or computer. This is a two year event and is available right now for immediate download. Lots of great coupon offers and discounts from the names you trust. This set contains several episodes of “Mommy’s Jammies Night TM” a wonderful monthly event just for homeschool moms. Lots of great information and encouragement for the entire family!

Free lifetime membership to Driven to De-Clutter online class from
Youthful Homemaker
10 winners; $30 value each!
Being a modern woman isn’t easy. We are expected to work, take care of the family, get food on the table, stay within a limited budget, keep the house clean, and handle anything else that comes our way. If you feel overwhelmed with the amount of things you have to do each day and the amount of stuff you have, then this class is for you!

Wonder Maps from
Bright Ideas Press
2 winners; $49.95 value each!
The best historical, reference, outline, & relief maps, now customizable on your computer!

Moonfinder hardcover storybook by Jay Ryan from
Fourth Day Press
4 winners; $15 value each!
Beautifully illustrated story of a little boy who learns about the phases of the moon with his dad.

WriteShop Level 1 Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack from
3 winners; $19.95 value each!
Grammar will become your child’s favorite subject with these colorful, lapbook-style activity folders! (Ages 8-11) (International winners will receive the e-book version.)

The Mystery of History Volume I (Second Edition): Creation to the Resurrection
MP3 Audio Download from
The Mystery of History, Inc.
2 winners; $44 value each!
Bring The Mystery of History Volume I (Second Edition) to life! Through downloadable MP3 files, you can listen to the professionally recorded stories through the voice of author Linda Lacour Hobar. With a background track of beautiful, inspiring music, you’ll feel you are right there with the author traveling through time. At co-op, in the car, over lunch, before bed, or as an integral part of your school day—there are endless ways for all ages to benefit from this listening library of world history. (These audio CDs contain narrated lessons only and do not include pretests, activities, quizzes, exercises, or similar items found in the textbooks.)

THANK YOU to the generous sponsors who donated bonuses and door prizes!!

The powerful strategies you’ll learn from How Do You Do It All will help you find balance so you, your family, and your business can flourish. Sale ends December 8–don’t delay! Please share this SPECIAL OFFER with your friends.