What Lovers of History Know To Be True

It is no secret that I absolutely love history. In honor of President’s Day, here is one of my favorite history quotes. It comes from That’s Not In My American History Book by Thomas Ayres.

The quote speaks to those of us, I think, who see history as interesting biographies and love to see the people behind the stories and conjecture how their lives must have actually been.

History is not just dates, places and events to be memorized by school children. It is people influencing events – real people with blood coursing through their veins and thoughts through their minds. History breathes. Its heart beats. Just like those who make it, history changes and remains the same. It repeats its triumphs and tragedies. History is little people caught up in great events and great people turning insignificant events into momentous ones. History is madman and genius, warmonger, peacemaker, idealist and cynic – actors all, playing out their roles on the greatest stage of all.

You can buy the book here.

Other books by Thomas Ayres:

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Love Is Where The Home(School) Is – Quotes to Inspire You On Valentine’s Day

Every year, I do this. I get caught up in the love of Valentine’s Day. It’s impossible not to. The hint of spring, warmer days, flowers in the air and all the sneezing. How can you not?

And yes, I know, I know… Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about romantic love. But I’m still going to go ahead and do it. I’m going to make it all about education. And you know why? Because I actually love learning. Get it? Love? Learning? Ahem.

Okay, here are some quotes to inspire you.

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. – Dr. Seuss

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books. – H. W. Longfellow

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love. – Julia Child

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. – Elie Wiesel

Cultivate an appreciation and passion for books. I’m using passion in the fullest sense of the word: a deep, fervent emotion, a state of intense desire; an enthusiastic ardor for something or someone. – Cassandra King

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. – M. Scott Peck

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. – Robert Heinlein

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C. S. Lewis

Love is as love does. – M. Scott Peck

I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing. – Neil Gaiman

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – The Bible

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. – Gandhi

Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love. – M. Scott Peck

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. – J. R. R. Tolkein

I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did? – Mother Teresa

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. – Ursula K. Le Guin

Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. – M. Scott Peck

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up. – James Baldwin

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done. – Vincent Van Gogh

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them. – Agatha Christie

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. – Bertrand Russell

Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep. – Clive Barker

When we love someone our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion – through the fact that for that someone (or for ourself) we take an extra step or walk an extra mile. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful. – M. Scott Peck

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. – C. S. Lewis

Find what you love and let it kill you. – Charles Bukowski

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh” – A. A. Milne

It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you. – John Updike

One word
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love. – Sophocles

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. – Kurt Vonnegut

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Juggling Well

I recently came across some fantastic time management advice in Michael Gelb’s book More Balls Than Hands that I thought I’d share with you. Even though it refers to juggling (and he’s not kidding – there’s an actual section at the end about how to learn real juggling) the author has some great advice for homeschoolers.


In fact, this advice can be applied to your life no matter what you do and especially if you’re a busy mom.

Read this.

James Clawson says that there are two types of people in their work styles: Project Finishers and Time Allocaters. Project Finishers can only handle one ball at a time. They’re good doers, but bad managers. Time Allocaters don’t organize their work by projects but by allotments of time spread across a wise variety of tasks.

The Time Allocation approach to work seems very much like juggling. How does one keep multiple balls in the air? And how do we discover the optimum number that can be successfully managed? If there are too many balls, they all fall. If there are too few, not much gets done. The principles of juggling seem to help. Develop a stable, reliable process for handling one project or item and then apply that process to other projects…

Develop a rhythm, an inner sense of how much time it takes to keep a project from falling to the floor. Handle projects lightly but firmly and with a familiar repetition.

Now I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like homeschooling. It also sounds very similar to advice I have given about developing a side income while homeschooling as well as advice I have received about the real schedules of real homeschooling families and how they make it all work.

If you’re a homeschooling mom, you’re a manager. And if you have any interest in juggling well, you ought to read this book.

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Reading Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

I recently came across Fareed Zakaria’s book In Defense of a Liberal Education and picked it up. Literature after all is close to my heart. And my daughter is beginning to develop an interest in writing. I myself have a degree in literature and a terminal degree in Creative Writing. So this book seemed like something I should read.


The Good

There were a few things I agreed with Zakaria on.

I agree, for instance, that getting along with other people comes more naturally to those with a common base of culture and knowledge to draw from. It is just as true that reading good literature makes you a better thinker, speaker and writer. These are in themselves good arguments for being educated in the classics.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t put forth a very convincing case for college.

The Bad

While there is much I agree on with his basic idea, Zakaria consistently pulls anecdotal evidence to make his case. He dismisses rote learning as “not working” because of his own bad experiences. Never mind the fact that Greek education which he glorifies depended heavily on memorization.

He also conveniently forgets the contributions of Christianity in bringing education to America and instead claims that it was knowledge after all that God did not want Adam and Eve to have.

That’s intellectually lazy, at best. At worst, it was just a parroting of bad stereotypes that agreed with his point of view.

Final Takeaway

Zakaria’s claim that colleges in the 50s and 60s were “more than just glorified trade schools,” that people went to college to supposedly get a liberal education just doesn’t stand close scrutiny. If you want to truly understand why higher education took off in the 1950s read Zak Slayback’s The End of School. 

Also take a look at the graduation rates of the time Zakaria considers the golden age of liberal education.

The biggest argument I had with the book is that it never justifies spending four years secluding yourself in a college studying the liberal arts while racking up mountains of student loans in an effort to… what? Become a better writer? A better communicator? Wouldn’t this be possible with self study? That’s when he cleverly brings in MOOCs, (Massive Online Open Courses) which I appreciate.

While you can make the case that the value of a degree can go beyond just getting a job, delaying getting a job to attend college for a liberal arts degree while racking mountains of student loans is just going to create an ivory tower academic.

So, a mixed read. But an interesting one, especially as a homeschooler.

You can check out In Defense of a Liberal Education here.

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The Best Definition of Socialization

It’s been a while since I’ve heard comments about how homeschooled kids miss out on socialization. Perhaps the message is getting through and we homeschoolers not so strange after all.

However, this is – hands down – the best definition of socialization that I have ever read. It’s from Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s book Flow, which I have mentioned on this blog before.

He says about socialization:

The essence of socialization is to take make people dependent on social controls, to make them respond predictably to rewards and punishments. And the most effective form of socialization is achieved when people identify so thoroughly with the social order that they can no longer imagine themselves breaking any of the rules.

He goes on.

A thoroughly socialized person is one who desires only the rewards that others around him have agreed he should long for… He may encounter thousands of potentially fulfilling experiences but he fails to notice them because they are not the things he desires. What matters is not what he has now, but what he might obtain if he does as others want him to do. Caught in a treadmill of social controls, that person keeps reaching for a prize that always dissolves in his hands.

Tell that to anyone who asks about proper socialization of your kids.

You can buy Flow here.


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Why Memorize

I have written before about why we memorize, what we memorize and also that I have thought long and hard about if memorization has any use outside of learning things by rote themselves.

Here’s another quote I found in Mihály Csíkszentmihályis Flow which is a fantastic book to read if you haven’t already done so.

Besides dealing with how to achieve moments and lives in which we are not just dependent on society, but search within ourselves to create meaning and thus live meaningful lives, he has much to say about socialization and memorization as well.

Here’s what he has to say about learning things by rote.

Learning complex patterns of information by heart is by no means a waste of effort. A mind with some stable content to it is much richer than one without. It is a mistake to assume that creativity and rote learning are incompatible. Some of the most original scientists for instance have been known to have memorized music, poetry, or historical information extensively.

And this is perhaps my favorite part and relates directly to homeschooling.

A person who can remember stories, poems, lyric of songs, baseball statistics, chemical formulas, mathematical operations, historical dates, biblical passages, and wise quotations has many advantages over one who has not cultivated such a skill. The consciousness of such a person is independent of the order that may or may not be provided by the environment. She can always amuse herself and find meaning in the contents of her mind. While others need external stimulation to keep their mind from drifting into chaos, the person whose memory is stocked with patterns is autonomous and self contained.

You can buy Flow here.

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From “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers

If you have read my book The Classical Unschooleryou know that I think The Lost Tools of Learning is arguably the best essay I have read about how learning takes place and so how best to teach (and learn!)

If you haven’t read it yet, make it a point to do so.

Here are some great takeaways from the book to whet your appetite.

Although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think? They learn everything, except the art of learning.

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armour was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.

We who were scandalised in 1940 when men were sent to fight armoured tanks with rifles, are not scandalised when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotised by the arts of the spell-binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of educationlip-service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school leaving-age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school-hours, till responsibility becomes a burden and a nightmare; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.

You can buy The Lost Tools of Learning here

And if you haven’t yet read The Classical Unschooler, pick up a copy here.

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