“This isn’t commonplace! This is precious to me!” my eleven-year-old daughter objected dramatically, when I asked her how she felt about writing in her Commonplace Book. She stated further, “I like looking through it. I like being able to write in it the poems and prayers that I choose. I’ve read about girls that keep journals. They write down prayers and songs and things they did, and it might sound weird, but I like writing my favorite poems, or prayers, better than just writing what I did that day. I love the smooth feel of the leather cover! I like that it says “Trust in the Lord” on the leather cover, and on every single page.”
I bought her the 5″ x 8″ lined journal book last Spring. We are both attracted to beautiful paper, and frequently ooh and aah over fun looking journals, exquisite writing papers and note cards found at Barnes and Noble, Papyrus and T.J. Maxx. That particular day I had already talked her out of several colorful temptations because I didn’t think she would actually use them. But when she picked up a very simple lined journal book with a brown leather cover, the expression on her face shifted to one of thoughtfulness, and something made me say, “Okay.”
We discussed how she might use the journal in the car on the way home. We walked in the door, and she immediately went up to her desk, wrote her name on the inside cover, and copied “Something Told the Wild Geese” by Rachel Field on the second page. I was delighted! But we didn’t do much with it after that, which means I didn’t stay on top of it, and she didn’t self-start.
Over the summer, I discovered the blog Charlotte Mason Help which has quickly become one of my favorite resources. Theory leaps into reality with transparency, full-disclosure scheduling, crisply delivered and clearly drawn methodology, free curriculum lists and schedules, along with strong conviction in Charlotte Mason’s ideals. In the midst of seeking wisdom regarding how to proceed on topics like narration, copywork and dictation, I also happened upon a few references to Commonplace Books, their place in the lives of great writers and how to implement them.
The Commonplace Book sounds similar to my quote journal, where I collect quotes that I find arresting, or witty, or insightful, or compelling or convicting. I organize them with removable tabs by topic, and had just recently begun to include poems that I find especially meaningful, and added a section for prayers, too. It was exciting to find that my love of collecting the beautiful or convincing writing of other people actually has precedence in the world of literature.
Bryana Johnson, author of Having Decided to Stay: Collected Poems, writes about the Commonplace Book at Higher Up and Further In, in a post entitled, “On the Commonplace Book: The Need to Keep Records of Words Not Ours.” She states the philosophy behind recording the compelling writing that one reads, she relates the history of the practice, and describes what her Commonplace Book looks like. She asserts, “It is not enough to merely consider for a moment, to allow ourselves to be shaken by the staggering thoughts we encounter and then to close the book on them and leave with only a vague and dusty recollection of what was said. This is inadequate.”
We are in our fourth week of our first term, and this year, inspired by what I learned and with a clearer picture of how to proceed, I set a requirement of writing one poem, and one prayer each week in GraceNotes’s Commonplace Book. I ask to see her book each Friday, at which time I look over her entries, checking handwriting and accuracy, make a very brief comment, (She really likes the comments! I would never have guessed that!) and sign off ♥Mom. The Commonplace Book is a truly satisfying addition to our studies. GraceNotes enjoys having the freedom to decide what to write, and I find it interesting to see what she has chosen to include. The other morning when we were reading our poetry selections, she piped up, “That one is going in my Commonplace Book.”
In the next term, I’ll add one more entry requirement per week, by directing her to keep her Commonplace Book close by while she is reading, and look for at least one quote in her reading assignments that she feels has a thought worthy of further reflection, or has beautiful descriptive language. If she is anything like me, keeping it to just one quote will be a bit of a struggle! Albeit, a good one! I’m looking forward to watching her love of well-written language flourish!
Thanks so much for reading! Do you or your children keep a Commonplace Book? How do your organize your entries? Or do you?
This post is part of the ABC’s of Homeschooling link up at The Momma Knows, and the Blogging through the Alphabet link up from Marcy at Ben and Me. I encourage you to click over to the link-up! One of the many rewarding aspects of homeschooling is the tremendous sense of community among homeschool moms, and the encouragement and helpful tips that are shared!