Catholic Homeschool Review  

Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved. Keeping It Catholic

 Educational Books and Other Helps for Parents 

Books for Parents, Books about Books, and Lesson Planners 

A Landscape with Dragons

Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

A Second Review on Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

Catholic Homeschool Treasury

Catholic Homeschooling - A Handbook for Parents

Catholic Weekly and Daily Lesson Planners

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

Harp and the Laurel Wreath, The


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A Landscape with Dragons
Author: Michael O'Brien
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Age: Upper Teens and Adults
Reviewer: Marianna Bartold


Meant to help parents in the spiritual and intellectual formation of young Catholics, Michael O'Brien provides a insightful and unusual service as he alerts parents to extremely subtle propoganda found in books and movies.


Never dealing with simple superficialities, the author assists in the discernment process of understanding "why" certain elements of any resource (whether fiction, fantasy or fairy tale) can, indeed, be good or evil. Not necessarily a simple review book, Landscape does include examples of certain popular books and movies. Such examples teach parents how to "read between the lines" when perusing reading materials or considering even "family type" videos. Landscape contains an extensive recommended reading list, provided by the good people at Bethlehem Books, with categories like Easy Readers, Picture Books, Short Chapter Books, Books for Intermediate Readers, and Adult Titles. Some categories do include out of print books, which is often disconcerting but also can be helpful to those who delight in searching for such treasures.  



Catholic Education: Homeward Bound
Author: Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Marianna Bartold


Homeward Bound features some positive points, which include the following: it recognizes the strong ties of family, addresses socialization, and includes a series of formal questions and answers encouraging parents to homeschool, as well an informative chapter on preparing homeschoolers for college.

 Unfortunately, it displays an obvious lack of enthusiasm toward home study programs, even Catholic programs - surprising in a work intended as a support of "Catholic" home education. The authors suggest such programs are appealing to those who are "newcomers to home education," "consider themselves disorganized and need a system that somebody else has already thought through," or believe that "education at home should reflect classroom education." Those who design their own curriculums, they say, "feel confident enough to pick and choose among the best from both Catholic and secular sources." The book's recommended resources refutes this claim with more than Catholic and "secular" resources but even includes anti-Catholic publishers.


The real problem with this book is the implication that any materials parents find "beautiful" are therefore always acceptable for Catholic education. It is that supposition which is diametrically opposed to Church teaching on education.


Homeward Bound makes three claims concerning materials for Catholic home educators, of which the first is, "Since what is authentically Catholic includes anything that is true, good, and beautiful, materials that reflect excellence in these areas should be used, regardless of who the author or publisher is." (emphasis mine)


 The second assertion says, "Catholic education does not mean, however, that religion is a theme in every subject." (In fact, Homeward Bound also adds an almost flippant and seemingly irreverent comment to the teaching of Christian Education of Youth. Quoting the Holy Father Pope Pius XI who wrote that every subject in Catholic schools must be "permeated with Christian piety," the authors claim, "Yet this principle doesn't mean that a math curriculum, for example, is made Catholic because the workbook problems have the children count pictures of crosses instead of sticks."


Third, the book states "... sadly, not everything that proclaims itself 'Catholic' truly is." This is true enough but the book stumbles with the answer to the question the authors themselves put forth, "How can we make sure that our children will learn from an authentically Catholic curriculum?" The authors offer their advice: "Our own faith, the Catholic atmosphere we create in our homes, the specific resources that we use to teach the Faith (emphasis mine) and our ability to weave the Faith into our children's lives are really what ensure a Catholic curriculum." This answer appears to be a contradiction, if not intellectually, then certainly practically (as one finds later in carefully reading the text, footnotes, bibliography, etc.).


In the answer above, Homeward Bound accidentally wandered into an area of Church teaching. Whether or not the authors knew it, they were addressing three of the four pillars of education offered in the papal encyclical Christian Education of Youth. Unfortunately, the book ignores the fourth point when it supports "catholicizing" Protestant texts and/or favorably refers to Protestant educators and curriculums in their book.


In the chapter on decision-making, which includes general advice on packaged programs, unit study, catalogs, and other educational matters, the authors provide a hardly noticeable disclaimer at the end of a paragraph, "Remember that non-Catholic Christian sources will not alert you to materials that may contain conflicts with our Faith." Disappointingly, neither does Homeward Bound.


Within both the body and the index of the book, Homeward Bound glosses over the contribution of Catholic homeschool educational experts yet provides copious references to non-Catholic, even anti-Catholic, homeschool resources and publishers, without offering the reader the benefit of any distinguishing remarks. Those cited as experts by Mrs. Hahn and Hasson include Mary Pride (an ex-Catholic, who does not allow any Catholic advertisements in her Practical Homeschooling Magazine), Greg Harris of Christian Life Workshops (a strongly prejudiced anti-Catholic homeschooling speaker and workshop leader), John Holt (commonly called a "secular" educator who displayed atheistic views in his educational works), and Raymond Moore (a Seventh Day Adventist). Such authors are nondenominational educational experts, but none of them are Catholic educational experts, and, as mentioned, a number of them are anti-Catholic.


As for recommended resources, not one of the traditional Catholic publishers like TAN Books or Neumann Press is recommended in the actual book, its index or bibliography


Homeward Bound even prefers the secular Calvert Home Study over Catholic home study programs, describing Calvert as "not overtly Christian; classical in approach." The authors' partiality to the secularized program is clearly evident when they write, "One of the best programs provides absolutely everything you need for the entire year, right down to pencils and paper" and provide a footnote reference to Calvert. There is no similar endorsement for any one of the Catholic home study programs.


The high school/college section, while helpful in some areas, also displays a favoritism for Franciscan University of Steubenville, perhaps because co-author Mrs. Hahn's husband holds a professorship at the college. This particular chapter would have been even more helpful had it featured the requirements of at least the three other colleges that Catholic homeschoolers prefer today (including Thomas Aquinas, Christendom, and Magdalen).


The book includes a section entitled "Suggested Resources," featuring "Kimberly's Choices" and "Mary's Choices." Of the many resources listed, some of them are out of print and so noted. For example, Mrs. Hahn's Catholic Bible and Church history study helps are, as the book notes, out of print. A majority of them, including publishers like A Beka and Greenleaf, and resources like God's Word, Operation World and The History of US are perfect examples of what Catholic home educators should avoid (see Keeping It Catholic's Pitfalls on the Path List). Mrs. Hahn uses KONOS (a Protestant unity study program), for Social Studies and character development, as well as Calculadder and Alphabetter by Providence Project.


Incidentally, the latter company sells what appear to be some "neutral" resources but it conscientiously avoids any public association with Catholics. We learned of their anti-Catholic stance when they refused to advertise what we believed were truly neutral resources in our (now out of print) Catholic home education magazine, The Catholic Family's Magnificat. Why the refusal? Providence Project claimed we were "too Catholic."


 Also included are materials from Great Christian Books (another big fundamentalist home education publishing house, which refuses to carry any Catholic books - including, ironically, the book Catholic Education: Homeward Bound), the secular Scholastic Company, and Timberdoodle (also fundamentalist). For religion, Mrs. Hahn uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Faith and Life series by Ignatius Press. For history, she primarily uses secular resources and the Protestant Greenleaf books but includes the Catholic Old World and America by TAN.


Mrs. Hasson's selections include A Beka Books (another anti-Catholic publisher) for her children's math, cursive writing, and science classes, and history materials from the fundamentalist Elijah Company. Her Catholic selections are Christ and the Americas, Faith and Life, the out-of-print Christian Child Reading series, and various, unspecified saint stories.

Another Review on Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

Reviewer: Mary Pat Kengmana

This review was originally published in July 1998 issue of the Holy Family Newsletter, New Zealand and is reprinted with permission.


I wish to revoke my recommendation of Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson's book, Catholic Education: Homeward Bound which I reviewed in the second issue of HFN. Having purchased The Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson based on Homeward Bound's recommendation I find I have inadvertently financially supported yet another anti-Catholic author.


For example, in the chapter about Czechoslovakian composer Anton Dvorak, we read about a man who has nothing to do with music:


"It should be remembered that the national hero of Czechoslovakia is John Huss (ca.1369-1415). He was a priest and professor of philosophy at the University of Prague, a man of high moral character and life. Huss was an outstanding preacher and very popular with the people because he spoke out clearly and fearlessly against ecclesiastical greed and corruption. Huss was 'a reformer before the Reformation,' strongly influenced by John Wycliffe. He insisted that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule in matters of life and religion. Following his excommunication, the whole nation rallied around him, but the enemy (KIC note: i.e., the Catholic Church) was stronger. After being deceived and cruelly tortured, John Huss was burned at the stake in 1415. As he was dying, he sang, "Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, have mercy on me."


"Under King Wenceslaus, the Czech Reformation began in 1424. This resulted in the Hussite Wars in which the blind general John Zizka led the Czechs against the Catholics and Germans and conquered Prague."


This book is not suitable for a Catholic homeschool and I also now know some of the other recommended books in Catholic Education: Homeward Bound to come from anti-Catholic publishers. My apologies to any of you who may have purchased the book based on my recommendation.



Catholic Homeschool Treasury, A
by Rachel Mackson and Maureen Wittmann
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Reviewer: Marianna Bartold


Please Note: This review was updated June 29, 2000 after Ignatius Press was notified, thanks to one of the book's editors Maureen Wittmann, that I was not able to provide a personal review, lacking my own copy. (Thanks to both IP and Maureen!) ~ MCB


At 196 pages, Catholic Treasury is a like a support group meeting in a book! A practical potpourri for new homeschooling parents, as well as a nice "refresher" for the experienced, Treasury is an easy, comfortable read with just six chapters and four appendices.

Compiling information from participants of many homeschool email lists, the individual essays are short, with the longest about 6 pages. They address subjects of special interest to homeschooling mothers (and dads!), like Confessons of a Reluctant Homeschool Dad, Unschooling for a Change, What is Classical Education?, Entering God's Boot Camp: The First Year (possibly inspired from an lively online discussion a few years ago), Making a List and Checking It Twice.

Treasury provides a nice balance, as it freely includes personal experiences with various Catholic home study programs, and discusses the role of husbands in the homeschool, flexibility, structure, unschooling, balancing schedules, and building the home library. One mother, the director of religious education, tells of the homeschool help received from her local parish, and a former teacher shares why she is now a Catholic homeschooling parent.


The middle of the book features "Teaching the Faith," which includes a short list of helpful books like Mary Reed Newland's The Saints and Our Children and The Year and Our Children, Catholic Stories for Boys and Girls, and the Children's Treasure Box series. As noted, it's not a complete list but it is a nice introduction to Catholic materials of this kind.


The chapter "Finding Support in Cyberspace" starts out well but it needs specific information on Catholic email lists and listservs. The current edition provides general information on America Online's three main homeschool forums (which are either secular or nondenominational. Finding the Catholic support forum on AOL requires a bit of a search). This chapter in Treasury could be improved in a future edition by including the email addresses of Catholic homechool groups or listservs independent of AOL.

While the section on "Philosophies" does not provide any detail on the Catholic Church's teachings on education, the contributors did give the over-all impression that their children's Catholic formation in the faith is their ultimate goal. (In fact, "Philosophies" might be aptly titled "Parents Learn a Few Lessons Themselves." ) The actual Treasury essays are more of a look into the personal lives, trials, toils and victories of Catholic homeschool families. Readers will find a "nice touch" at the end of each chapter - an inspiring quote from the Scriptures or other sources like Plato, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers and Noah Webster. Ultimately, Treasury leaves the reader wishing for just a bit more - a sure sign of a good book.


 Incidentally, our previous review noted that the appendice including website addresses had a few "out of date" link addresses. Maureen Wittmann, one of the editors, recently informed me that she is currently updating that section for the next edition.


Catholic Home Schooling (subtitled A Handbook for Parents)
Author : Mary Kay Clark, PhD
Publisher: Tan Books and Publishers in conjunction with Seton Press
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Marianna Bartold



This first book on Catholic home education, updated a few times since it was first printed in 1993, remains in the lead among the few "why" and "how to" Catholic homeschooling books. Including an often overlooked appendix with selected statements on Catholic home education by Fr. John Hardon, S.J., the book features the contributions of homeschooling parents like Cathy Gould, a certified LD teacher, Cathy Rich, a homeschooling mother with an LD child, Dr. Mark Lowery, a homeschooling father and professor, Virginia Seuffert, a homeschooling mother of a dozen children, and Gerry Matatics, homeschooling father and director of Biblical Foundations.


The overall theme of this book could very well be "The Importance of Keeping Education Catholic." Chapters include Why Catholic Homeschooling, Biblical Foundations of Homeschooling, Home Schooling in the Large Family, The Sacramental Life, The Father's Role in Homeschooling, Teaching Children Who Learn Differently, Homeschooling the Catholic LD Child,Discipline in the Catholic Home Schooling Family, and more.


The chapter Why Catholic Homeschooling offers a historical insight into the modern Catholic homeschooling movement, explaining what went wrong with parochial education and how the Catholic homeschooling movement was born. One of the strongest and helpful chapters is entitled Church Teachings on Marriage and Education, chock-full of encouragement and reminders that parents have the graces, the duty, responsibility and the power from God to educate their children. Most importantly, Catholic Home Schooling continually reinforces the Church's teachings that "religion must permeate the curriculum."


Written by the director of Seton Home Study School in Front Royal, VA, the book naturally discusses the curriculum offered by the Seton program in one of its chapters. However, this book is not "just" about the Seton program, as is evident by the titles of its many chapters.


The first edition (1993) commented on Seton Home Study's use of secular and nondenominational resources in some (not all) subject areas, freely and honestly explaining why Seton first "started with a Protestant series since no Catholic series was available." (Since that time, Seton developed and published its own Catholic series for Art, Phonics, Spelling, and Science.) Coinciding with that admission, the book differentiates between using secular or Protestant resources as the primary materials or on an "as necessary" basis for lack of any other acceptable materials in Catholic home education. It also explains that Seton was (and is) careful to point out those textbooks by publishers like A Beka, as well as the texts' errors or misconceptions regarding faith, history, etc. in their program lesson plans.


In effect, the book's underlying message is that - especially in the early years of the Catholic home education movement - the use of certain textbooks was a case of "being stuck between a rock and a hard place"- again, for lack of any Catholic materials except a few religion books. One might say this admission in itself is a silent testimony of what remains a problem in both Catholic parochial education and, sadly, also in Catholic homeschooling. In fact, it is even a tactic acknowledgement that the Catholic homeschooling movement is still in the first stages of developing new Catholic educational resources.


Catholic Home Schooling offers an excellent frame of reference in explaining the importance of keeping education Catholic, even in subjects like math. The author writes, "Some may say that it is 'overkill' to try to Catholicize even math word problems. I am reminded, however, of a math workbook produced by the Communist Sandanistas in Nicaragua in the 1980's. Among the word problems were topics involving machine guns and hand grenades, to prepare the children for warfare. The Communists…understood and made use of math to further their atheistic regime. The enemies of the Catholic Church understand the purpose of education to further their ideas among the next generation. The secular humanists promote their agenda in the all subject areas in the public schools and textbooks. We Catholics, as directed by our Church, must promote Jesus Christ in all subject areas." This single reminder alone makes Catholic Home Schooling an important contribution to the Catholic home education resources for parents.

+Catholic Weekly and Daily Lesson Planners
Designed and Published by Salve Regina Books
Reviewer: Marianna Bartold

Each of Salve Regina's Catholic Home School Lesson Planners is a well-thought out method of keeping a written log - covering everything from the spiritual to the practical!

Salve Regina has designed three different planners. Two are weekly and one is daily. The planners are comb-bound with plastic protectors and include a small insert sheet with planning suggestions. Black and white traditional religious pictures grace the various pages. Each planner includes a page to write in the year's over-all plan and a page to list texts and supplements.

A beautiful Catholic report card, printed on heavy card stock, comes with each Weekly Planner; four report cards arrive with each Daily Planner (as it is designed one to four students).

The Weekly Lesson Planner I is intended for one student. It opens with a page that explains how to use the book with Suggestions for Use, Field Trips/Activities, Check Boxes, Traditional Rules of Fast and Abstinence for Children, Saint of the Day, and Recording Tips. A liturgical calendar, Index of Feasts for Our Lord and Our Lady, and Recording Tips follow. It proceeds to one page for each of the following: Books I Have Read (one blank, lined page), Daily Schedule Planner (to help in overviews of subjects), Goals for the Year/Sacraments Received, Weekly Grades and Quarter and Final Grade.


The actual lesson plans pages are printed in a two-page weekly spread in side-by-side format. The extreme left column is headed "Subjects" and includes Morning Prayers, Saint of the Day, Lunchtime, Ending Prayers, and Field Trips/Activities. The five remaining columns are headed by day of the week and a space for the Noon Angelus. Each column also includes 12 blank spaces for subjects. The last page includes prayers (Morning offering, the Angelus, Student's Prayer, St. Michael) - a nice touch for the busy parent.


Including everything in Planner I, My Catholic Home School Weekly Lesson Planner II is also for one child. The main difference is that this one includes 12 predefined subjects in the left hand column and allows only one blank subject space. The subjects are Religion, Reading, Phonics, Spelling, Vocabulary, English, Handwriting/Writing, Math, Science, History/Geography, Art, and Music.


Our Catholic Home School Daily Lesson Planner has enough space to record lessons and grades for four students in one book. Both the left hand and right hand pages include columns with 12 predefined subjects (Religion, Math, Phonics, Reading, English, Spelling, Vocabulary, Writing/Reports, History, Geography, Science, Art, a blank space, notes and field trips.). Next to these columns are narrow spaces for the names for Students 1 - 4 next to each subject, followed with one space each for the daily lesson plan in each subject.


 Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum
Author: Laura M. Berquist
Publisher : Ignatius Press
Ages: Adult, though older children can easily refer to the suggested curricula outlines on their own
Reviewer: Marianna Bartold


Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum outlines, in practical form, the method of a classical education as set forth in Dorothy Sayer's essay "The Lost Tools of Learning." One of the "lost tools," according to Sayers, was actually the art of learning. Designing succinctly synopsizes Sayers' work and thus its own theme by claiming "…the goal of education should be to teach children how to think."


Of compelling interest is the foreword by Donna Steichen (the author's mother). In her own way, Mrs. Steichen tells of the need to "Keep It Catholic" when she writes the following about early Catholic homeschooling efforts, "A few desperate Catholic parents first turned for help to the vigorous young evangelical homeschool programs already being developed by Protestants. Though grateful for the example and useful text…the Catholics soon grew troubled about the anti-Catholic flavor of some texts." This "anti-Catholic" flavor still afflicts too many educational resources, and it is this tendency of which we Catholics must not only be aware but avoid wherever possible.


According to Sayers, as described by Berquist, "learning subjects in school is of very secondary importance. What matters is the method of learning." The Catholic Church would certainly add that the method of learning is, itself, of secondary importance to the true goal of Catholic education. Dorothy Sayer's essay rightly focused on teaching children how to think but it seems she believed that this method is the goal of education. While Sayers was correct in one respect - that of noting that the art of learning was a lost tool - it is imperative to note that a method is not a goal. Rather, a method is simply a tool that should be used in the actual"building" of the education. Tools must be good and excellent, or they are of no help to us - but they are a means to an end, and not the end itself.


Method, then, is the heart of Designing, and in this case it is given the name of "classical." The author explains, "Traditionally, liberal arts education meant the education of a free man. A free man was understood to be one who could direct his own life (and the common life of the community) and live a life of intrinsic and specifically human value (as opposed to the life of an animal or an instrument). The seven liberals arts were the introduction to such an education. These arts comprised the "Trivium': grammar, rhetoric and logic, and the "Quadrivium': arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. These arts are ordered to the disciplines of philosophy and theology. Such an education is devoted to what is intrinsically worth knowing, for a man and for a Christian, whatever his way of life may be."


To all this, then, Catholic parents must add the true goal of education, of which Christian Education of Youth teaches is not method alone, but rather that "…education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is 'the way, the truth and the life,' there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education." Catholic parents might keep in mind that the papal reference to Christian means the Church founded by Christ - the Roman Catholic Church and all those rites in union with her (the Byzantine, for example).


Designing also presents Sayers' division of learning stages, the first being the grammatical stage, the second being the dialectical or logical stage, and the last as the rhetorical. These stages are simply "classical" descriptions for those phases which most children pass through intellectually - the taste, as it were, for repetitional phrases "eeny, meeny miny, mo" in the grammatical stage, the phase of learning to reason (the early teen years when children exhibit argumentative tendencies, and finally, the student's "discovery that he needs to know more" with a "resulting interest in and capacity for acquiring information" (the rhetorical stage, when a teen realizes there is much more to life than that with which he is familiar and is eager for discovery).


The suggested material text, reading and resource list for each grade is meant to correlate with the individual learning stage. The book recommends other time-tested learning tools like the use of phonics to teach reading, the importance of memorization, oration, dictation and narration, a heavy emphasis on writing practice and skills, and the early introduction of Latin. The text book suggestions for grades K - 12 are, for the most part, very good and yet, as the author graciously accedes, they are "just that - suggestions." Thus, parents may easily substitute one suggested resource for another of their own choosing, should they so desire, with no worry of losing that which is good in the classical method.


Many of the Mrs. Berquist's suggestions are excellent and, certainly, her book is a great service to Catholic home educators. For example, she recognizes that the Baltimore Catechism (BC) is "St. Thomas distilled," adding that children's memorization of the BC, "once learned…stays with them for life." For religion, she also recommends Bishop Knecht's Child's Bible History, Ignatius Schuster's Bible History, as well as Story of the Church, the Faith and Life series, and the reading and discussion of the actual Scriptures themselves. Designing includes a suggested and extremely helpful schedule for each grade level and, beginning in grade 7, provides a religion study guide with questions (although it does not provide the answers, as the author strongly suggests that parents discuss material with their children). She also offers a list of history dates (grade 3 and up), as well as recommended history literature reading materials (grade 4 and up).


There are a few caveats on the suggested list scattered throughout the grade levels - materials of which Keeping It Catholic warns in the "Pit List" (subtitled Check Points, Warning Flags and Potholes) . Some of those materials include A Beka books (A Beka, like Bob Jones, is an anti-Catholic publishing house), Learning Language Arts through Literature (a series which displays an increasingly hateful attitude toward Catholicism as it progresses, which is quite evident by the time one reaches the upper elementary book in the set, called the "Tan Book"), Greenleaf Press Books (which exhibits a similar problem, in that this history series extols the Protestant Reformation as a positive good against the Catholic Church), and a few others.


Here, again, parents would do well to remember that Mrs. Berquist does her reader a great service when she carefully points out that her suggestions are not written in stone. And again, it would not detour from the classical method at all should Catholic homeschoolers seriously consider replacing certain resources like Abeka or Learning Language Arts and other questionable materials, replacing them with textbook resources that are not anti-Catholic.


The author offers an oft-overlooked Appendix, which mostly focuses on "what not to use," addressing a parental temptation to introduce materials that a child can read but not yet understand. This Appendix, which includes important considerations, should, in my opinion, be moved into the book's introduction in the next edition.


The back of the book comprises a list of suppliers, including A Beka, wherein the author helpfully notes, "Please note that not all of this supplier's texts are recommended. Unfortunately, most of their history texts and some science texts contain errors with respect to the doctrine and historical background of the Catholic Church." Unfortunately, not all of the resources which contain errors are so noted in Designing's supplier list, but Catholics who remember Mrs. Berquist's caveat emptor in regard to A Beka will want to apply her warning when it comes to other resources, referring to encyclical Christian Education of Youth and the Keeping It Catholic Pit List.


In conclusion, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum is an excellent guide to the method of classical education and does everything humanly possible to "Keep It Catholic."


The Harp and the Laurel Wreath

By Laura M. Berquist
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Ages: Child through Adult
Reviewer - Marianna Bartold


If you like Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum, you will surely appreciate this companion book The Harp and the Laurel Wreath. For those who wonder at the title, an interesting note is found on the first inside page, explaining, "The harp is traditionally associated with one who sings…Hence, the harp is an appropriate image for the young 'singer,' who is on a journey, the end of which is truth." As for the laurel wreath, it is "a historic symbol of victory and excellence…Our children are pursuing a course that will lead to spiritual and intellectual excellence…"


Providing over 200 poetry and prose selections as suggested in her first book Designing, Laura Berquist sheds a brighter light on the meaning of the saying that "everything true and beautiful" is Catholic. Starting with the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson, this book offers a myriad of selections matching the intellectual stages in the classical method of education.


Dictation suggestions are excerpted from books including The Winged Watchman, The Story of Rolf and The Viking Bow, The Rose Round, volumes one and two of the American Cardinal Readers, Archimedes and the Door of Science, They Loved to Laugh, and more. In addition to many selections from Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, one will find an assortment from Brown, Chesterton, Frost, Keats, Longfellow, Tennyson, and many other contributors to Western literature. Excerpts from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry V, Julius Ceasar, The Merchant of Venice, and The Tempest are included, as well as the full text of poems ranging from Lady of Shalot to The Jabberwocky.


One can have fun with this book even if not attempting to correlate subjects to literature. We were delighted to find the farcical spin off of the original Little Miss Muffet poem, entitled, "The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet." Regardless of age, one can not help but be amused to read the closing lines, "And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss, To whom you have something to say, You are only absurd when you get in the curd, But you're rude when you get in the whey!"


The Table of Contents include The Early Years - Poetry, Bible Verses, Dictation Selections; The Grammatical Stage - Poetry, Other Selections to Memorize, Dictation Selections; The Dialectical Stage - Poetry, Other Selections to Memorize, Dictation Selections; The Rhetorical Stage: Poetry Selections (include study questions) and Answers to Study Questions, subdivided into three sections. The back of the book includes not just the expected index, but an index of first lines (helpful when one remembers the beginning of a poem but cannot quite recall its title or author). Also included is an Index of Dictation Selections and suggested memorization passages.


The Rhetorical Stage chapter opens with "Terms to Know for the Study of Poetry." Remember alliteration and onomatopoeia but can't quite remember the definitions? This opening section takes care of that problem.


The collection is intended for the homeschooled child but is a treasure for the busy homeschooling parent as well, saving time and perhaps a trip to the library during hectic months. Again emphasizing the method of narration and dictation, Berquist offers helpful teaching techniques in assisting children memorize poetry and prose.


Correlated to curricula suggestions in Designing, many selections support an "integrated" approach found within the classical method. For example, it's very easy to correlate the study of that period of Roman history when Julius Caesar briefly reigned with Marc Antony's oration (by Shakespeare) that begins, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…" The same can be done when studying American history with selections from George Washington's Address to His Troops, Patrick Henry's famous lines, "Give me liberty or give me death…" (from The War Inevitable) and President Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. (Be on the lookout, though, for a printer's error found in The Preamble to the Constitution on page 128, which reads "…provide for the common welfare." The correct line is "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare…")


In a word, The Harp and the Laurel Wreath is a classical tool in the art of learning poetry and other forms of literature and, while meant as a companion book to Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum, it can very well stand alone.

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