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Books and Things: A Planning Post

Books and Things: A Planning Post

It always seems like there are so many things we could be doing in our homeschool but just don’t quite have the time for. One of our primary jobs as home educators is that of curator.

It’s up to us to choose the best and most appropriate experiences, books, and opportunities for our kids. But there are SO. MANY. CHOICES. And it’s only getting harder to choose, the more homeschool curricula gets published. Some of the options are getting better, with years of input from homeschoolers, that’s for sure. But still, curating can be a tough job.

As you’re planning the upcoming school year, it can be easier to wade through the stacks of curriculum catalogs if you break that task of curating into a couple of categories. In her “Educational Manifesto” in School Education, Charlotte Mason divides the tools of education into these two categories: Books and Things.


img_5961That seems fairly straightforward. Most of us homeschool mamas have a love of books that borders on unhealthy. Just this week I assembled another new bookshelf in our house to hold my finds from the library book sale. Which is technically only a problem when we move…which only happens every three years or so…which is why I have to tip the movers well. Ahem.

  • Does the book you’re thinking of using point toward truth, goodness, or beauty?
  • Is it a “medium for ideas and not merely a receptacle for facts?”
  • Does it compress someone else’s knowledge in a way that makes it dry?
  • Does it enliven in you a desire to learn more? (If it doesn’t do that for you, mom, it won’t for your student.)

Ms. Mason reminds us of the power of books, if they’re chosen well, and given to a child for his free use:

Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with ‘delight’ his own living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. Children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.

This plan has been tried with happy results for the last twelve years in many home schoolrooms, and some other schools.

By means of the free use of books the mechanical difficulties of education–reading, spelling, composition, etc.–disappear, and studies prove themselves s to be ‘for delight, for ornament, and for ability.’

Did you catch that? They disappear. Books are powerful, y’all.


And so are Things. But what the heck does Charlotte Mason mean by “Things?” Lucky us, she gives us a list:

i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
ii. Material to work in–wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects in situ–birds, plants, streams, stones, etc.
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.

What does that all translate to? Our kids should be outside, doing stuff. I mean, really, it’s that simple. Engaging with things isn’t mom-intensive. Remember our job is as curator. A good curator gives them access to materials, enough instruction to get them started, and time to work with the materials. Once the kids have some elementary skills, they can be off and running. Then access and time become the biggies.

So as you plan the upcoming year, consider simplifying the way you think about the curriculum. Books are the primary way our children gain experience with ideas, things are the way our children gain experience with the world around them. When we can spread a broad feast of experiences in front of our children in the way of books and things, much of the work of educating flows easily from there.

Happy homeschool planning to you!

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Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.


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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

--the best of the homeschool blogosphere,
--current homeschool news,
--and great quotes that will refresh your homeschool mama mind.

Latest Posts


  • Happy New Year and all, but more importantly, today we got to watch our @wyo_football win the Arizona Bowl. (With a freshman QB starting for the 1st time ever, btw 😮😮😮💪🏻) Way to go Pokes! #theWorldNeedsMoreCowboys #OneWyoming #GoWyo
  • We always have so much fun doing projects from @artforkidshub #homeschool #trynewthings #watercolor
  • Morning Time Details! E. (12), S. (almost 8), and L. (6). Our Morning Time morphs as the kids grow and change. It usually includes a combination of memory work and reading aloud. We try to cover a WHOLE LOT of things: Shakespeare, Bible, poetry, catechism, hymns, timeline, art study, composer study, and Ambleside selections for nature study, tales, and church history. This term I’m adding Plutarch.
The hard part is figuring out where I want to aim, with the 5-year gap between E. and S., and then L. being a newbie to full-on school. Having moved twice in 2019, I nixed MT and just focused on individual work. That came with costs. Shakespeare, Plutarch, art study, and composer study suffered. Memory work barely happened at all. I was BUSY. We missed out on discussing things together. Now that we’re settled, it’s time to restart MT.
This term I’ve decided to aim Shakespeare and Plutarch at the oldest, while the girls listen in and do handwriting/drawing/fine motor. I won’t ask them for much narration. Our reading schedule for these is AMBITIOUS. Maybe crazy. Then we’ll do all the memory & read aloud stuff that suits everyone. These lessons are SHORT. Then E. will go do his individual work while I read aloud w/ just the girls.
Also, “Morning Time” is a misnomer, considering we break it up throughout the day. It should really be called Morning/Lunch/Nap Time. I need a new name. Circle Time? Except we don’t sit in a circle. Together school? Except we’re together doing school all day. I don’t think English has the word I’m looking for. Maybe Tertulia or Salon?
Our actual coursework is: the Scottish Play, Plutarch is Alexander the Great’s life, our artist is Gustave Courbet, composer is Paganini, Bible memory is Psalm 46, Hymn is Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, read alouds will rotate from Burgess Bird Book, Trial and Triumph, Blue Fairy Book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Vanderbeekers, & picture books. Timeline is from Classical Conversations. Poems are Charge of the Light Brigade, Winter Night by Teasdale, and The Land of Nod.
Whew! It’s gonna be a fun term! What do you guys do for Morning Time?
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  • Oh Halloween. That day when I pull costumes out of thin air at T-minus one hour ‘till trick-or-treating. Then one kid melts down in the middle of the fun, and is carried screaming to the car, with me hoping all the while that no one thinks I’m abducting a child. And, my favorite non-PC thought: one kid suggests we should have dressed as hobos, since we’re going around asking people to give us free candy. Phoned it in this year, Kutzers. 🤦🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️ #gladitsover For the record, we had a soccer player, an archer, Spider Girl, a princess, a tiny farmer, a witchy mom (Is that even a costume or just a Thursday?), and Bat Dad.
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#homeschool #charlottemasonirl #homecookedmeals #livingbooks

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