Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whole Books, Whole Heart: Links to My Newest Hope Chest E-Magazine Articles

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I sent out the most recent issue of my Hope Chest e-magazine, which I started over 12 years ago as a ministry to home schooling families (though many of the articles are not about education).  I currently have about 1,000 subscribers around the world.  I used to post each issue on my regular web site, but it's generally easier to post individual articles on my various blogs, depending on the topic.  In this post, I am providing links to each one so you can read whichever ones sound interesting.  I recommend that you right click and open each link in a new tab to read each one in turn, so you don't have to bounce back and forth and lose your train of thought.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, "You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

I "said grace" as I wrote these articles, that they may be a blessing to you!

But first, our family news in a nutshell:
  • My oldest daughter Mary and her husband Ryan are expecting their first baby, Jacob, on Mary's 23rd birthday, June 24. I can't wait to be a Grandma!
  • Julia (21 next month), has been recovering from a case of mono. Yawn! She's sure been sleepy, but she's feeling almost back to normal and stays just as busy as ever.
  • Rachel (19), Naomi (9) and Ben (7) all had birthdays in a one week period last month. Naomi and Ben had a space alien birthday party, with cupcakes, decorations, and games like "Pin the Eyeball on the Alien" lovingly crafted by Lydia, who is wildly creative.
  • Joanna (17) spent spring break week in Daytona Beach with 15 Japanese exchange students and learned a lot about Buddhism as she in turn told them about her Christian faith. She will also have two of her nature photographs printed in Valencia College's annual Phoenix magazine, which is a huge honor since only 30 photographs were selected out of a few hundred submissions.
  • Lydia (15) just bought another gerbil, Eddie. I hope he lasts longer than his three predecessors. Right now he is hiding under a cabinet in the living room. Oh, he's back in custody now, with Lydia telling him, "You are so grounded! You are not having another field trip for a very long time!"
  • My husband Thad and our oldest son Andrew (12) went camping with friends last weekend, including orienteering at Moss Park. I stayed home with the other kids and cleaned out our bedroom closet! :-)
  • Micah (10) has been taking art classes at church, as well as taking lots of bird pictures, many of which you can see here: Nature Study: It's For the Birds!
  • Melody (4) has been learning to read and write a little. You might like this cute story, Melody and Bab, which also has a picture of her with her Daddy.
Here are the article links:
What's New on My Blogs? 

In the past couple of months, I've written several blog posts...
Here is one of the quotes from that last blog post:

"God sends children for another purpose than merely to keep up the race - to enlarge our hearts; and to make us unselfish and full of kindly sympathies and affection; to give our souls higher aims; to call out all our faculties to extended enterprise and exertion and to bring round our firesides bright faces, happy smiles, and loving, tender hearts. My soul blesses the great Father, every day, that he has gladdened the earth with little children."

What We're Doing for School Next Year (The Big Switch!)

Dear friends,

I'd like to share a story about how God has provided guidance to me about home schooling in recent months. We've been part of a weekly academic home school co-op for the past four years. The teachers there send home enough assignments to last the rest of the week. Our Mondays there have always been very "happy days" for me. I love the other ladies and the kids, and I love teaching the middle school English class with great literature. I've been glad that other teachers have done such a good job teaching their classes, especially the upper level math and science that I am clueless about. However, I have sensed during this time a certain amount of frustration over not getting to choose all of the resources my own children use and not having as much control over their schedules. Until now, this trade-off has been worth it to me, but in the past three or four months, God has renewed in me a strong desires to return to the Charlotte Mason method and unit studies approach that we used with our older daughters for so many years. How did he do this? There have been many ways!

First, over the years I had been trying to set aside a time every day to read aloud to my kids from great literature. My kids look forward to this and beg me for it, but I kept feeling guilty that I was cutting into the time they needed to complete their homework assignments from co-op. I started resenting that they had to fill in worksheets and workbooks instead of reading wonderful books with me! We have hundreds of terrific books on our shelves, but no one had the time to read them anymore. I was also getting tired of grading paperwork, checking off assignment folders, and packing backpacks. It seems like that has consumed our entire weekends lately.

Then in a random web search about something else, I stumbled on the blog of a young lady named Sarah Clarkson. Sarah is the daughter of Sally Clarkson, the author of Dancing with My Father [see review here]. It was Sally and Clay Clarkson's book, The Wholehearted Child (now titled Educating the Wholehearted Child and due for an expanded 3rd edition this spring!) that had taught us so much about Charlotte Mason and unit study education in our early years. They had raised their daughter in a book-loving home, and now she has written her own lovely book Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families [see review here]. I was captivated by her passionate plea to return to great books as the foundation of education.

Then, as God would have it, I was teaching two workshops at Books & Beyond, an annual home school literature seminar in Orlando. I had the opportunity to attend other sessions on literature by Bob Farewell, Linda Werner of Circle Christian School, and Shirley Solis of Lifetime Books & Gifts and found myself drooling over the possibilities.

I also recalled how many times my husband Thad had lamented that I was spending more time preparing elaborate lessons for my English class at co-op than I was in directly teaching my own kids. I realized that in many ways I had abdicated my privilege as my children's primary teacher. I was merely overseeing them doing homework -- which meant a lot of nagging -- rather than actually teaching them! Also, we were not learning together as a family. Everything felt so fragmented and disjointed. So I started evaluating my options. I realized that I could make other arrangements for my older children to get math and science through dual enrollment and Florida Virtual School. And I started hatching a plan of taking a year off from co-op. I started asking trusted friends for advice about whether I was crazy to make this switch. They all said, "GO FOR IT!"

My goal is to spend the mornings reading aloud from the Bible and great literature. We will be covering American history next year, and I want to accomplish this primarily through picture books, historical fiction and biographies, as well as using textbooks for references. We have dozens and dozens of books about American history already on our shelves, so I will also assign them related independent reading at their own level. We will weave in art, music and poetry from whatever time period we are studying, such as reading "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" poem by Longfellow when we study the Revolutionary War, or listening to folk music related to pioneer times. We will also cover various science topics using Jeannie Fulbright's Exploring Creation series supplemented with other books and a family membership (only $125) to the Orlando Science Center.

After their reading time, they will do oral or written narrations, telling back in their own words what they have learned from their books that morning. This is a classic Charlotte Mason method for language arts. It trains them to recall important details and to write well. Everyone will be doing basically the same thing at the same time in the same room, so it will be easier to keep track of them. We will be learning many things together, which will build family unity. I will be able to explain things to them as we go along. After lunch, they will do their math. There is an incentive with this because the sooner they get their math done, the sooner they can have free time to do their own projects and explorations around the house and yard.

I think this plan will free up our schedule to enjoy learning together. Not to mention that we want time to enjoy my new grandbaby when he comes to visit us one afternoon each week! As far as an annual schedule, I plan to do school for six weeks and then take one week off starting in mid-July. That will make good use of summer, which is often wasted, and it will also give me periodic time to plan for teaching the next historical period and to get my house clean.

So that's our plan right now. I'm sure we'll tweak it more over the next few months. My point is that this guidance unfolded over a period of months -- from asking God for wisdom, listening to my husband Thad's concerns, observing each of my children, looking back over our experiences, reading books, going to workshops, evaluating our opportunities in light of our goals. God was faithful to show us what to do, and I'm so excited to get started with it that I can't wait for this school year to be over and the next one to begin! He has clearly confirmed what to do, even though it takes a step of faith for me to go out on my own again.


This article was excerpted from my speaking notes for Amazing Grace for Home School Moms. The audio version is embellished with lots of ad libbed extra details, so be sure to listen to it, but this at least gave you the gist of what we plan to do for school this year.

If you would like to see an update from July 2010, click here: Our First Week of School: Schedule, Curriculum & Record Keeping

Please see What is the Charlotte Mason Approach to Education? for a brief description and several web links.


After I sent this article out in the Hope Chest, I received the following comment from a reader, to which I offered my clarifications about Virtual School and more on dual enrollment.

From Tammy in Washington State:

Just wanted to thank you for your emails, and all the encouragement you send our way! Your ministry is a blessing to many homeschoolers. I enjoyed reading about your journey to pull back from the co-op, to spend more time teaching your children in the manner the Lord has placed on your heart. He is so good to us, as He leads us one day at a time. (I had almost an identical experience a few years ago, and time has shown that it was the RIGHT decision for our family, especially blessing my younger ones.)

Something you mentioned about meeting the needs of your older children touched my heart though. You said you might use the Florida Virtual School to get their upper courses done. While I certainly respect each parents' decision as to how to educate their children, I thought I would inquire more about that option. I humbly bring this up, because my first thought is that you are probably very aware of what I am about to speak of. But, it is such a huge issue for homeschoolers, that I figured it was worth mentioning. In WA state, our Virtual Schools are public schools, and by enrolling our students, we lose our homeschooling status, and are considered public school students. Perhaps it is different in Florida. [Virginia's note: It is different -- see my full reply below.] HSLDA ( addresses the use of Charter and Virtual schools on their website, and discourages the use of them for the most part. They also acknowledge that these public school options undermine homeschool freedoms, in most states. I just wanted to encourage you to look closely at your options, and to confirm that your students remain independent homeschoolers, as you consider those options.

As a homeschool author and mentor, you are such a strong example of teaching our children at home, outside of government control. Many will look at your decision as a model, so with your ministry, comes influence.

I have also graduated a homeschooler, and I understand how intimidating some of the college prep science and math work can be. But there are so many resources out there, that do not involve the public school system, and I just wanted to encourage you to exhaust those options first, before turning to the schools. For the high school science classes, Apologia is now offering online distance learning classes, basically private virtual school classes! (See I was so excited to hear that. I run a homeschool support group, and when my son was in high school, I helped teach Apologia science courses, and I know that met many homeschool needs. For some of the science classes, a group of us "hired" a homeschool mom with a degree in Microbiology to teach the class. Since those options are no longer available in our area, I am so happy to be able to tell homeschoolers about Apologia's online classes. The tuition was the same that I paid for my son's classes, so it is very reasonable. Hopefully this resource will help many homeschoolers continue in their calling, all the way through high school, rather than accessing public school programs, due to a feeling of inadequacy in teaching certain subjects.

For math, there are several excellent DVD programs out there that offer support. Math Relief offers Algebra 1 and 2, Teaching Textbooks is another, and there is a gentleman in our area that offers live, internet math classes, with total support and tutoring available as well. It is called Live Online Math by John Bovey ( , and he has students from all over the country. His business is rather new, so prices are quite affordable.

As always, the Lord will provide the answers. Again, much thanks for your wonderful ministry and resources. You are a blessing to the homeschool community. In Him, Tammy : )

Virginia's response:

Thank you, Tammy, for the encouragment and for the friendly reminder that virtual school programs may differ from state to state. The Florida Virtual School ( offers a la carte classes for middle school and high school, and students remain enrolled under whatever school or home school they normally attend. Our children, for example, are students with our church's home school program. Home schoolers do not lose their status or control of their educational program here. We just get free classes! Lydia has taken Web Design and Latin 1, and we've been very pleased, especially since she's had the free use of rather expensive web design software this year. She will start Algebra 2 with FLVS very soon and then go on to Geometry right after that, hopefully finishing both by the end of next school year. Mary also took an FLVS English class when she was in high school. We've never had a problem. However, the other associated virtual school programs in Florida are different, including the ones contracted by local districts through FLVS, and the K12 and Connections Academy which also provide elementary programs. Find out more information on all of these from the Home Education Foundation here: and here

Likewise, we have also had great experience with dual enrolling our girls in a local public two year college, Valencia. However, we have just heard they are no longer accepting dual enrollment students from Seminole County, so we will need to go through Seminole State College in the future. (I don't know whether this applies to Seminole county students already enrolled at Valencia.) You can find out more about dual enrollment in Florida here:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy

Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy

Book by Sally Clarkson, Review by Virginia Knowles

After I found Sarah Clarkson's Read for the Heart (see review here), I was delighted to see that her mother Sally had written a new one, too! She was kind enough to ask the publisher to send me a copy of Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy  to review for you.

It is just what I needed right then! I especially appreciated the fact that Sally, who has been in Christian ministry for over 30 years, candidly shares her own sense of disillusionment and discouragement, and then her path back to joy in a less-than-perfect world. This is not a "mid-life" book per se, but it sure hit that spot for me. I guess we all need to know we aren't alone, that others share our struggles and feelings. I love a good story, and Sally weaves a lots of them from her own life into her encouragement for all of us.

While Poland was still under Communist rule, Sally and her friend Gwen enrolled as students at Jagiellonian University so they could, as missionaries-in-disguise, proclaim the joy and hope of Jesus to people under dreary oppression. Their hearts filled with excitement and satisfaction about their strategic kingdom work, and marveled at how God miraculously came through for them during the challenges of surreptitious gospel ministry. Decades later, on a visit back to Poland, Sally realized that in many ways she had lost that joy, adventure, and innocent expectation of a child. And she determined to get it back, not by conjuring up fake feelings, but by nurturing an intimate, joyful relationship with our Heavenly Father as he lovingly leads her (and each of us) through the twists and turns of life. Using the extended metaphor of dancing, as well as the exuberance of King David, she shares this journey to joy, and exhorts each of us to celebrate, listen, trust, and follow our Father. Often, this means we have to let go of things which hinder us from wholehearted living.

"One of the greatest obstacles was my response to disappointments, frustration, and the day-to-day interruptions of life. As I evaluated these things in light of my commitment to walk in joy, I could see that, in reality, God had used many of my difficulties to create in me a deeper, more compassionate heart, I could see that the hand of God had faithfully met me at my need and somehow sustained me instead of letting me go under. I also realized that he had used these challenges to loosen my grip on the worldly, temporal things I had previously looked to for security and stability and instead compelled me to rely on him and seek eternal answers."

"Here was my picture of Joy: David, having faithfully waited through years of anguish, danger, and humility, never losthis true focus on his ultimate Source of joy, his God, who had been with David every day, through every circumstance. And with his heart focused on the Source of his joy, David could leap and dance "before the LORD with all his might" (2 Samuel 6:14). I believe that David saw in God great freedom -- that his God created pleasure, color, beauty, food, love, sound, taste, and deep happiness. David was not tied up in knots of religion and rules, pretense and performance. Instead, he enjoyed and delighted in the God whom he knew to be his close friend and Lord. His dancing was a genuine expressions of what he felt in his heart for his most beloved and intimate companion. Where had he learned this? Out in the field, alone and free to ponder and live before God without pretense, being in nature withthe stars and storms, seasons and changes. He'd been daily alone, living in the beauty of a world that displayed God's glory and handiwork. He'd spend many hours writing music about it, thinking about the Great Designer, and singing to an audience of one."

At the end of each chapter, you will find a short prayer and several insightful discussion questions. Scriptures and short inspirational quotes are interspersed within the pages. Two of my favorites:

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis

"God's voice speaking peace is the sweetest music an ear can hear." Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sally Clarkson is the mother of four children (a teen and three adults) and the co-founder with her husband Clay of Whole Heart Ministries. Here is the web page for Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy. Clay and Sally also wrote Educating the Wholehearted Child, which first laid the Charlotte Mason foundation in our family 15 years ago, and is about to come out in a vastly expanded 3rd edition. Sally's other books include Seasons of a Mother's Heart, The Mission of Motherhood, and The Ministry of Motherhood.

Be sure to check out Sally's blog, I Take Joy. I get it delivered automatically via Google Reader. I was so relieved to read her post, "Balancing life is oversold!", as I prepared to go out of town to speak earlier this month.

Virginia Knowles

This review is featured in the newest issue of my e-magazine, The Hope Chest.  To subscribe, you can send any e-mail to the automated list manager

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Melody wore her shamrock shirt to the Providence co-op on Monday, and realized this morning that it was still in her hamper.  Instead of waiting for me to wash it, she just pulled it out and put it on.  Such is the unpretentious life of a four year old.  I think she is so incredibly adorable.  Look at those big brown eyes and goofy smile! 

Oh, I'm just a little bit Irish.  My great-great-grandmother Sallie Hogan was from the Emerald Isle, I've been told.  But I wasn't raised with Irish-consciousness.

Anyway, Irish or not, I love the story of St. Patrick, who, kidnapped by pagans from Ireland in the 5th century, miraculously escaped, and later returned voluntarily to evangelize there.  He encountered massive opposition that can best be described as spiritual warfare.  Yet he persevered for decades.  I have often read a biography of him to my kids, but it seems to have disappeared from my shelf within the past few days.  Hmmm.  I wonder which one of them is reading it without me this year...  At any rate, I also like to include "St. Patrick's Breastplate" and "Will the Real St. Patrick Please Stand Up?" in my co-op students' homework packet this time of year.  I actually didn't this time around, because we've been studying world religions, and in conjunction with our week on Buddhism and Hinduism, I gave them a story about Pandita Ramabai instead.  In the 1800's, she championed education and protection for girls in India, as well as ministering in practical ways to widows and orphans.   Same bold spirit, different century and continent.

Sally Clarkson, I Christian blogger whom I admire, wrote this post today: Bold and Wise, The Legacy of St. Patrick.   She included "St. Patrick's Breastplate" in her post, too, so I thought I would share it with you.  I remember hearing part of it sung to the same tune as Cat Steven's musical version of Eleanor Farjeon's poem "Morning Has Broken."  I'm still looking for that on-line, but you can hear a different version here.

"St. Patrick’s Breastplate"

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth
with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion
with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection
with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent
for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.


We can live this way, too!  Arise today!   If you have sincerely asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, then Christ is with you, all around you, and even in you!  Be bold in his name!


If you could go back in time, what would you do the week before Roe v. Wade?

Dear friends,

I hate politics. I really do. I'd much rather bury my head in the sand. Unfortunately for me, this is not the time for that.

An e-mail I received this morning posed the provocative question, "If you could go back in time, what would you do the week before Roe v. Wade?"

The obvious next question is, what are we going to do this week, when the U.S. House of Representatives is voting on the health care reform, which, because the House version does not include the Stupak protections against government funded abortions, will mean the largest expansion of the killing of preborn babies since Roe v. Wade?

Stop the Abortion Mandate (STAM) is a coalition of over 70 pro-life and pro-family groups working together to prevent government-funding of abortion in healthcare. You can find a wealth of information on their web site at

If you want to call your representative but don't know who or how, click here.

Spread the word by Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, and however else you can think!

For life,

Virginia Knowles

Monday, March 15, 2010

Titus 2 Mentoring Podcast and Links

Dear friends,

Karen Campbell interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about Titus 2 mentoring, and the three podcast segment are on her web site, (  Besides the links for those, I wanted to provide some other links related to mentoring to go along with this!

The podcast part 1  (hint: turn off the music in her sidebar when you get there!) 
The podcast part 2  
The podcast part 3 

This next link is for the audio I did last week in Gainesville, Florida.
"Amazing Grace for Home School Moms" audio on Joyful Liberty, Tender Compassion and Wise Guidance.  It is in four parts, with a total listening time of 1 hour and 7 minutes.

My other links related to mentoring and mothering: 

Calling All Mentors
The Joys of Mentoring
Do It Well, But Keep It Humble 
Child Discipline or Child Abuse? 
A Mother's Seeds poem
The Real Life Home School Mom PDF
Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?
Cherishing Your Marriage chapter from The Real Life Home School Mom
Read, Reflect & Respond audio
Mardy Freeman web site (I mentioned Mardy in the podcasts)
Cheryl Bastian web site (I mentioned Cheryl in the podcasts)

My other blogs: for encouragement in motherhood for preschool & elementary for middle school for high school

I'd love to hear your comments about this podcast and the links, so hit the comment button!

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