by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the medieval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

by Lady Gwen Seis, Principality of Oertha

Miniver Cheevy sobered up
And joined AA and met his neighbors;
Drank patience from a coffee cup,
Found harder labors.

Miniver took to walking then
From street to street, and blankly thinking
Of what to do on weekends when
He wasn't drinking.

Miniver found a little park
Where he had sat with many a vagrant;
The poplars murmured in the dark,
The air was fragrant.

Miniver saw a Medici
So close he heard his doublet swishing;
Miniver thought he'd finally
Gone mad from wishing.

Miniver walked behind the man
Through doors of steel, o'er floors of plastic;
He paid his fee and came upon
A sight fantastic.

Miniver found a tunic and
A hood with tassels gaily proffered;
Miniver found a maiden's hand
In dancing offered.

Miniver learned to bow and fight
And dance a bransle and sing in Latin;
Miniver saw with double sight
Each hall he sat in.

Miniver had a meeting in
The local parish hall on Sunday;
In other garb he came again
To strive on Monday.

Miniver never struck it rich,
But when he heard the armor rattle
Or when he felt the drinking-itch,
He went to battle.

Miniver fell and got back up
And what he thought, his hands could fashion;
Miniver lost his easy cup
And found his passion.
To the obvious tune.

Love it from afar,
All the pageantry and action
And the merchants and wars.
I had some good times,
But it pushed me too far.
It ain't a spoonie's day,
Playing in the SCA.

Loved it all so much:
Garb and bardic, feasts and dancing
And the crack of rattan
And the flick of the fencer,
All we made with our hands,
But I can't lead or plan
When my pain's close to ten.

I spun plates and filled quorums,
Running faster until I fell.
Now I haunt all the forums.
All this fabric and these books--
Some days I can't even cook.

Loved it till I lost,
Dropped the plates, the balls went bouncing,
And I let down the Shire.
I can always aspire,
But I can't take it higher.
Can't take the strain no more;
Guess I'll love it from afar.

Gotta know where the lines are;
If you cross 'em you're bound to pay
With the health you had left, and
Then you're stuck home in your chair
With Youtube clips of the war...

Love it from afar.

Children who know their letters may like to memorize and make simple consonant-vowel-consonant words, such as M-O-M, D-A-D, D-O-G, C-A-T, even if they can't yet tell you that T on its own says "tuh, tuh." The kind of store that sells cheap alphabet blocks and refrigerator letters may also have little word-and-picture jigsaw puzzles for these words. They may also want to learn a few sight words (words that can't be sounded out--more on this below) that they consider important, such as their own names or the names of pets or siblings.

When they can easily recite their alphabet and identify large letters on sight, children are ready to begin learning the most common sound of each letter. Of course, since English has 44 sounds and only 26 letters, the actual situation is more complicated than children this age are ready for, but the most common sounds are a good beginning. Add an alphabet book to your storytime lineup. You can find some good alphabet books at any library or thrift store. The best ones I have found online are both by Walter Crane. The titles are:

The Absurd ABC (
An Alphabet of Old Friends (

They quote a lot of nursery rhymes, so if you plan to use these, begin by reading Mother Goose. After the books have become familiar, make it a daily habit to to a large letter that your child knows (like the P in O-P-E-N. or the letter blocks in C-A-T) and ask them what the letter says.

Kindergarten-aged children often enjoy having short chapter books read to them. You can read a chapter a day as a break during school time, or at bedtime--or both. See the list in Part 3.

For more advice from Charlotte Mason, see the list of primers below.

Beginning Reading

Most children learn to read sometime between the ages of 5 and 8. Because reading is so foundational, you shouldn't push, or you may cause anything from eyestrain to hatred of books. Just present a basic reading game or lesson and see if they take to it; if they don't, try again with something else in a week or so. On the other hand, if your child is still showing no interest in reading or struggling with their very first lessons by age 7, it's time to ask a doctor what's going on or at least read a book about dyslexia. Do not be too proud to seek help or too pure to accept help from people who are different from you.

There is currently an argument among educators about whether "whole word recognition," i.e., teaching children to memorize the appearance of every word, or "phonics," i.e., teaching children how to sound out letters in order to make words, is better. Actually this argument has been going on for more than a hundred years! The truth is that learning how to read English requires both approaches. On one hand, English has such weird spelling that many words can only be memorized, so that you will know them on sight: they are sight words. On the other hand, our spelling rules are just consistent enough that we can use them to decode many words the first time we see them. I favor teaching phonics as a baseline and dropping in a few common sight words per lesson. The following primers may fall on one side or other of the Great Reading Controversy; adjust the method given in the teacher's manual accordingly. NOTE that some series also have workbooks and other supplements available--just search the archive for the authors' last names. You will have to make some cards and charts for many of these courses; you can use cereal boxes with opaque paper pasted over the printed sides, or any kind of posterboard or heavy paper.

"A Summary of Charlotte Mason's Advice on Teaching Reading," by Jennifer Spead
Mason didn't write a primer, preferring instead to use familiar nursery rhymes and picture books. This document begins with suggestions for the toddler years and goes on to full-blown reading lessons. Find it here:

If you need an actual primer, there are quite a few to choose from at the Internet Archive.

The Jingle Primer by Clara L. Brown and Carolyn Sherwin Bailey uses simple nursery rhymes and tales, which Mason would have approved. It includes an explanatory preface. Find it here:

The Easy Primer by Geoffrey Buckwalter ( also uses nursery rhymes.

The Elson-Runkel Series dates from the '20s and '30s.
The pre-primer is here:
The primer is here:
The teacher's manual for both books is here: (This refers to earlier editions of the books, with different stories; use the lessons as models for your own work.)

Easy Growth in Reading by Gertrude Howell Hildreth is from the '40s and '50s.
Here is the first pre-primer, Mac and Muff:
And here is its manual:
The second pre-primer, The Twins Tom and Don:
The third, Going to School:
The first primer, At Play:
The second, Fun in Story:
A general manual for all of them: (It refers to a couple of picture books, Our Picture Book and Our Story Book, which are not in the archive.)

The Finger Play Reader Series by John W. Davis and Fanny Julien includes teacher's notes parallel to the text.
Part One:
Part Two:

The Alice and Jerry Series by Mabel O'Donnell really starts with the basics. According to the Guidebook for the second set, you can skip the following two picture books if your child is advanced.
Here We Go is here:
Over the Wall is here:
And their guidebook:
Skip Along is here:
Under the Sky is here:
Open the Door is here:
High on a Hill is here:
And their guidebook:

McGuffey's Eclectic Primer is the first in a series that is a giant of the homeschooling field even though it's more than 150 years old. The first few books are still excellent introductions to reading. I favor the 1909 reissue because the art is better. Here is the primer:
The Eclectic Manual of Methods for the Assistance of Teachers by J.T. Stewart ( covers the primer, all six readers, and Ray's first three arithmetic books.
Posted because somebody was curious. I created this file in Notepad, so the spacing turned into a big mess.


Changes were made to the breath weapon, Hit Dice, skill points, and feats that may not conform to the SRD. These changes were made to increase the starting CR to 3 as specified for a half-dragon and allow for 1 level's worth of improvement per age category.

Sartorn, Wyrmling Half-Dragon Mouse

There is a mouse at your feet. It sneezes. Roll a Fort save.

Sartorn is probably the smallest dragon that ever existed. Covered in minute blue-gray scales from her twitching nose to the tip of her long, mousy tail, and with slit-pupiled blue eyes, she has useless, permanently folded wings on her back and two stubby silver hornlets above her low-set yet mouselike ears. She is one of the Mad Mage's experiments, the result of infusing the stolen blood of a silver dragon into a pregnant mouse. Sartorn can speak haltingly in Draconic. She can read Draconic symbols. She cannot speak or read any other language.

Sartorn has remarkably long, sharp claws (for her size) and fangs as well as gnawing teeth. She has dug mouseholes in every square that contains a wooden surface in the Mad Mage's lab, which effectively means that she has a network of secret doors accessible only to a Fine or gaseous creature. She liked the Mad Mage, who often spoke to her in Draconic, but had to escape when she realized that he was laying out dissecting tools and there were no animals in the lab. Although saddened by his evident disregard for her as a person, she is lonely. She will observe visitors carefully from a hidden vantage point. If the party is not destructive or cruel, she will approach them at eye level and attempt to speak with them in Draconic. If treated well, she may follow the party, being careful to stay out of sight until she really trusts them, abandoning her treasure if she can't figure out how to hide it among the party's belongings. If treated poorly, she will escape. If the party seems dangerous, she may attack a lone character using her paralyzing breath and take food, tiny works of art such as finely crafted earrings or rings, and small items of fine cloth to her lair in one of the walls.

If the party can communicate with Sartorn, she will describe the Mad Mage's death in simple terms; although she saw him die while she was hiding nearby, she does not have the Int score necessary to understand what was happening. It should still be clear to the party that he was alone and examining an object.

Size/Type: Fine Dragon
Hit Dice: ¼d10 (3 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 15 ft. (3 squares), climb 15 ft
Armor Class: 23 (+8 size, +1 Dex, +4 natural), touch 23, flat-footed 22
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/-17
Attack: Bite* +7 melee (1)
Full Attack: Bite* +7 melee (1)
Space/Reach: ½ ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: 5' cone of paralysis gas (Fort save DC 11, lasts for 1d6+1 rounds), usable
every 1d4 rounds
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent, darkvision 60', immune to sleep & paralysis, takes
no damage from cold, takes 1½ damage from fire
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +2
Abilities: Str 9, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 4, Wis 15, Cha 4
Skills:** Balance +16, Climb +9, Hide +21, Listen +17, Move Silently +11
Feats:*** Skill Focus: Listen
Environment: Lair of the Mad Mage
Organization: Unique
Challenge Rating: 3
Treasure: A matching brooch, hatpin, and ring intricately crafted in gold, rubies, and
pearls, and 4 pairs silk stockings sized for an adult male human (3,600 GP)
Alignment: Neutral
Advancement:**** As dragon until her ability score bonuses and penalties total at least 1.
Level Adjustment: 3 (ECL = 4)

*Sartorn's bite attack has reach as if she were one size category larger.

**As a mouse, Sartorn has +8 racial bonuses on Balance and Climb, a +11 racial bonus on Hide, a +7 racial bonus on Listen, and a +4 racial bonus on Move Silently. She can always take 10 on Climb checks, even if rushed or threatened. She may use either her Strength or Dex modifier for Climb and Swim checks, whichever is better. The skills listed in this paragraph are also her monster class skills. As a half-dragon, Sartorn receives (6 + Int modifier)(ECL) skill points at start of play and (6+ Int modifier) skill points per dragon level, with max ranks of her ECL + 3.

***As a dragon, Sartorn may take general feats or monster feats whose prerequisites she can fulfill. She may do this at any level in any class at which she qualifies for a new feat.

****Sartorn is a puny and relatively short-lived dragon. Each change in her dragon age category is an increase of 1 level. If she takes no other class levels, her ECL as a great wyrm will be 15.

Sartorn's Stats by Age (Not Counting Feats Past Initial Feat)
Base Attack/ Space/
Age Sz. HD (hp) Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha Grapple Atk. Reach 1Bite 2Cl. 2Wings 1Tail
Wyrmling F ¼d10 (3) 9 13 12 4 15 4 +0/-17 +7 ½'/0' 1d2
Very Young D ½d10 (5) 11 13 14 4 15 4 +0/-12 +4 1'/0' 1d3
Young D ½d10 (5) 13 13 14 6 17 6 +0/-11 +5 1'/0' 1d3
Juvenile T ¾d10 (10) 15 13 16 8 19 8 +0/-6 +4 2½'/0' 1d4 1d3
Young Adult T ¾d10 (11) 19 13 18 8 19 8 +0/-4 +6 2½'/0' 1d4 1d3
Adult S 1d10 (15) 23 13 20 10 21 10 +0/+2 +7 5'/5' 1d6 1d4
Mature Adult S 1d10 (15) 25 13 20 10 21 10 +0/+3 +8 5'/5' 1d6 1d4
Old S 1d10 (16) 27 13 22 12 23 12 +1/+5 +10 5'/5' 1d6 1d4
Very Old S 1d10 (16) 29 13 22 14 25 14 +1/+6 +11 5'/5' 1d6 1d4
Ancient M 2d10 (27) 31 13 24 16 27 16 +1/+13 +11 5'/5' 1d8 1d6 1d4
Wyrm M 2d10 (28) 33 13 26 18 29 18 +1/+14 +12 5'/5' 1d8 1d6 1d4
Great Wyrm L 3d10 (39) 37 13 28 20 21 20 +2/+19 +13 10'/5' 2d6 1d8 1d6 1d8

Breath Weapon
Age Spread Rounds DC* Spd. Init. Special
Wyrmling 5' cone 1d6+1 (11) 15, climb 15 +1 See above
Very Young 10' cone 1d6+2 (12) 20, climb 20 +1
Young 10' cone 1d6+3 (12) 20, climb 20 +1 Can take levels in
another class
Juvenile 15' cone 1d6+4 (13) 25, climb 25 +1
Young Adult 15' cone 1d6+5 (14) 25, climb 25 +1
Adult 20' cone 1d6+6 (15) 30, climb 30 +1
Mature Adult20' cone 1d6+7 (15) 30, climb 30 +1
Old 20' cone 1d6+8 (16) 30, climb 30 +1
Very Old 20' cone 1d6+9 (17) 30, climb 30 +1
Ancient 30' cone 1d6+10 (19) 35, climb 35 +1
Wyrm 30' cone 1d6+11 (19) 35, climb 35 +1
Great Wyrm 40' cone 1d6+11 (20) 40, climb 40, fly 150 (poor) +1 2nd feat
*10 + ½HD + Con modifier; recalculate as needed if Sartorn gains levels in a class other than dragon.

Fort Ref Will
Age Armor Class Save* Save* Save*
Wyrmling 23 (+8 size, +1 Dex, +4 natural), touch 23, flat-footed 22 + 3 + 3 + 2
Very Young 22 (+4 size, +1 Dex, +7 natural), touch 22, flat-footed 21 + 5 + 5 + 4
Young 25 (+4 size, +1 Dex, +10 natural), touch 25, flat-footed 24 + 6 + 6 + 5
Juvenile 26 (+2 size, +1 Dex, +13 natural), touch 26, flat-footed 25 + 8 + 8 + 7
Young Adult 29 (+2 size, +1 Dex, +16 natural), touch 29, flat-footed 28 + 9 + 9 + 8
Adult 32 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +19 natural), touch 32, flat-footed 31 +11 +11 +10
Mature Adult 34 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +22 natural), touch 34, flat-footed 33 +12 +12 +11
Old 37 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +25 natural), touch 37, flat-footed 36 +14 +14 +13
Very Old 40 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +28 natural), touch 40, flat-footed 39 +15 +15 +14
Ancient 44 (+1 Dex, +32 natural), touch 44, flat-footed 43 +17 +17 +16
Wyrm 46 (+1 Dex, +35 natural), touch 46, flat-footed 45 +18 +18 +17
Great Wyrm 48 (-1 size, +1 Dex, +38 natural), touch 48, flat-footed 47 +20 +20 +19
*Calculated using the ability scores of Sartorn's current age category. Recalculate if her scores increase due to gaining levels in another class.
The Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Years

We think of reading as the fundamental educational skill, but it's not. Think of what you do as you read. You look at the page, decode what is written there, and turn the encoded sounds and numbers into words and images in your mind. So the fundamental educational skill is actually looking. That's what a small child has to learn first.

Luckily, this isn't something you have to teach. The first few years of life are all about learning how to use one's senses. You don't even have to set up sensory experiences. Check a good parenting book for an explanation of how well children are able to avoid and get themselves out of trouble at each age and stage, remove any hazards from their path, and just let them explore. But baby-proofing the house isn't everything. Charlotte Mason pointed out that having an indoor environment to explore is a relatively recent innovation; for most of human existence, we have only had an indoors big enough to sleep and store some stuff in, with cooking space where the climate required it, an area set aside for making things and, if we were lucky, some space to sit down and socialize. A young child's proper environment, she said, is outdoors--and not a well-groomed garden or park, but a space where a kid can run around, poke at things, and get muddy while exercising their senses. Of course, Mason lived in the mild, pest-free climate of the South of England and had an excellent light rail system to depend on. It may be harder for you to get out with your kids. Still, any outdoor messing-around time you can work into the day will be a good thing.

Babies prefer to stay close, of course, but toddlers have wider horizons. At first, a toddler's explorations are an ellipse with you at one pole and something interesting at the other. The ellipse will widen gradually, until at some point the child will take off, coming back occasionally to show you something interesting. This is when focused education can begin. Gently suggest to your children that they go to a particular place--a bush, or puddle, or what have you--and look at it for a while, then come back to tell you what they saw. You can do this once or twice per outing. Occasionally get up and wander over to the same place to point out something they missed. This is practice in retention, or being able to remember what one sees--which is the foundation of reading comprehension.

This memory game can continue into the preschool years. People talk a lot about the importance of early reading, but you have to remember that reading means looking very hard at small objects for a long time and making a lot of tiny movements of your eyes. This can lead to eyestrain, even impaired vision. So don't push actual reading.

I should note here that some preschoolers take to reading like ducks to water; they practically teach themselves. Precocious children should be allowed to read on their own for a limited time per day, preferably in large type, to save their eyes. For the rest, it's more important to be read to than to read. Read-aloud books should also be limited. Mason, remember, emphasized learning from real things in the real world. So keep read-alouds to one or two picture books or illustrated poems per day. Always pre-read a book that's new to you. Be prepared for a small child to fall in love with one or two particular books, and want to hear them over and over. Eventually they may "read" (recite) them to you!

The following is a partial list of free public domain picture books available for download. But first, some important notes.

Modern Parents: Yes, They Used That Word

Public domain books are old enough that the meanings of some words have changed drastically. In particular, breast and bosom were used to refer to anyone's chest, gay used to mean cheerful or brightly colored, queer meant odd or strange, a cock was a male bird, and a pussy was a kitty-cat. As for assorted slurs against people who were considered to be lesser beings, I have tried to stick to books that leave them out. Unfortunately I may have missed something. Keep this in mind every time you see a booklist at MNHK.

Modern Parents: Yes, They Used That Picture

It was considered completely ordinary to illustrate children's books with nearly or completely naked people of both genders and all ages. Our modern culture regards a woman's breast as a sexual thing at all times and circulates horrified whispers about child molestation if somebody publishes a picture of a baby's bottom. Our ancestors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were prudish about other things, but not these.

White Parents: American Public Domain Books Are Really Darn White!

This is how it worked in America, and still works:
*Systematically deny anybody who isn't white the ability to accumulate wealth and influence--although some people will always be lucky or stubborn enough to climb above the machinery.
*Write books that define America as white people doing things, with nonwhite people put in for comic relief or as enemies, long-ago vanished folks, or interesting objects--when they appear at all.
*Put these books into the hands of children--not just white children, who are thereby taught to dismiss everyone else, but nonwhite children too, who are thereby taught that they don't matter.

This system is breaking down, partly because it's easier to publish a book in the online age, partly because of decades of social struggle. Ask your librarian for a list of good books that present all of the American experience, not just the white part, so that your children will be able to see the whole. Check the covers of children's books at the thrift store for nonwhite faces. Just putting in pictures of nonwhite children existing in the same communities as white children, in other words, showing real life as it is, can do a lot. The same goes for acknowledging the existence of people who don't form nuclear families made up of a man, a woman, and a small number of genetically related children.

When looking for public domain books that give a truer picture of the human panorama, you will unfortunately have to be wary of anything that is presented as being from another culture. It was considered perfectly all right for a white American or Englishman to assume a nonwhite name, write in a dialect they did not speak, and pretend to be from somewhere else--as if somebody else's entire life were just a kind of paper mask that could be borrowed and played with! White editors also felt free to call the nonwhite storytellers whose works they collected childish, simple, etc., when the truth was most likely that they had been seen through immediately and nobody would talk to them like adults. Also note the pervasive habit of blending stories from hundreds of entirely separate tribes into a bland mass called "Indian," and from thousands of chiefdoms and kingdoms as "African." So be warned, and preread if at all possible.

All Parents: Stay Safe!

Anybody can scan anything and turn it into an ebook. That doesn't mean that they have benevolent motives. Remember, a clickable link might be anything. Don't go to sites that offer illegal downloads of copyrighted materials, and don't download public domain ebooks from sites with suspicious-looking URLs. A URL should clearly describe the site's purpose and the site itself should include a clear explanation of what is available and who made it available. Here is a list of sites that I have found to be safe.

Special Note: I have provided all URLs in the clear, so to speak, instead of making book titles and site names into clickable links. I have noticed that some browsers won't show you the URL behind a link if you hover your mouse pointer over it without clicking. That allows for all kinds of shenanigans. Always be sure that you know exactly what you are clicking on before you do!

The Online Books Page (
Not an archive, but a directory. It is organized like a library catalog using the Library of Congress system. It is incomplete, but includes a page of links to ebook archives of all kinds. Most of the archives listed below appear there. I picked out the ones that include the best textbooks and literature.

Google Book Search (
Offers "free Google ebooks" (PDFs) of many different titles. However, using some advanced features requires giving Google your personal information. Also, the search results turn up absolutely everything that mentions your search words no matter how irrelevant, and just keep going after that, until you end up looking at phishing sites after the first few screens.

The Internet Archive (
A mind-bogglingly huge site with any digital record you can imagine and probably some you can't, available in more languages than pretty much anywhere else. Unfortunately, it isn't very well organized; unless you have a lot of exact details about the item you are looking for, you probably won't find it. On the other hand, this side offers the most options for document type of any site I have found, and it also has some surprisingly recent titles. If you will be relying on PDFs, go here first.

Just Free Books (
Not an archive, but a search engine that looks for--well, guess what. It lists the available formats right in the results. If you already know the title and author and need a different format, this site might be helpful.

OpenStax (
A non-profit foundation based at Rice University, OpenStax provides free, up-to-date textbooks for high school and college courses, plus online courseware if your device and download limit can handle it. You can use the textbooks online, download them, or order them in print.

Project Gutenberg (
The oldest and best organized archive of public domain books, with a broad range of subjects in many languages. Most of the Gutenberg titles I use are children's fiction and verse, but there is a lot more to choose from.

How I Picked Titles

I stuck to books that can be downloaded as books--that is, in formats designed for ebook readers, or preferably as PDFs. If I couldn't see exact images of the original paper pages online, without blurring or washouts, I didn't select the book, although I relaxed this a bit for textbooks that had been converted to paragraphs of plain type. I also tried to avoid fiction that Charlotte Mason would have called twaddle, that is, books that make adults roll their eyes, sigh in boredom, or wince. (This holds true for books for all ages.)
The art is generally realistic or at least not cutesy or deliberately childish.

Some Picture Books

Project Gutenberg has a list of downloadable picture books here: If you aren't sure what to read, try the Volland Mother Goose, A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, and pretty much anything by Beatrix Potter.

Here's a collection from the Internet Archive.

Nursery Rhymes and Other Very Short Works for Little Folks
(From China--no words at all; let your child tell you the story) Le Xiaoying's Cartoons for Children:
A Mother Goose book by David Whitney:
"Hey Diddle Diddle" and "Baby Bunting" by Randolph Caldecott:
"This Little Pig" by Walter Crane:
"1, 2, Buckle My Shoe" by Walter Crane:
"Old Mother Hubbard," also by Walter Crane:
(From China) Scarecrow Guarding Melons by Li Songying:
(Also from China--an interesting look into life in another part of the world) Four Seasons of the Year by Tang Lufeng and Chen Huilian:
(Another one from China) Baby Animals and Their Mothers by Jiang Yiming:

More Complicated Picture Books for Slightly Longer Attention Spans
Shihan and the Snail, a fairy tale retold by Jiang Zhenli:
My Dog Is Lost by Ezra Jack Keats:
(And one from India!) Grandma's Glasses by Noni and Tanaya Vas:
Ameliaranne and the Green Umbrella by Constance Heward:
The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey:
The Rocket Book by Peter Newell: (Good for slightly older children who like to ask what words mean and hear the answers. A penny-liner is a writer.)
Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane: (He created a lot of fairy tale picture books, but most of them are too wordy for a little kid.)
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, illustrated by Kate Greenaway: (This is long, but the story and the poetry hold a child's attention.)

The next step for non-precocious kids is letter recognition. Start with big letters that your child encounters as you go about your daily lives. Just note what the letters are and pass on; they'll pick it up. One of my children happily chanted "S-T-O-P!" at every stop sign. In the same way, you can teach E-X-I-T and O-P-E-N. Encourage your child to pick out letters they already know in signs they haven't memorized, such as the O in CLOSED. A set of alphabet blocks, especially the type that are carved, or refrigerator letters (if everybody in the house is past the age of swallowing magnets!) will help them really get the knowledge into their fingers.

Sing your ABCs if you need to time something short, like soaping and rinsing hands. Make or find an alphabet poster and put it up where your child can see it easily. Every few days, when the child looks interested, sing the song together while you point to the letters. (If you can't sing, chant or rap it.) Small steps will sooner or later lead to memorizing the entire alphabet.

For a summary of reading readiness advice from Charlotte Mason, see Part 2.
I've heard from or about a lot of people who think that homeschool has to take about six hours per day, five days per week, or else it isn't really school. Nonsense! Most of an in-facility schoolday is taken up by logistics. Count up the time it takes for a teacher to make sure that every student in a class of 20 or 30 has opened the book to the correct page, is paying attention, has grasped the main point of the lesson, can pronounce the word, can do the math, has finished the test...and then there's the issue of moving large groups of children to and from the playground and lunchroom, not to mention older students who must move from room to room every hour! If you only have a class of two or three, or one, your day will be much shorter. If you start right after breakfast, you can expect to be done with direct instruction by noon.

Individual lessons, as I wrote before, should be short. It simply is not physically possible for most children to concentrate on one thing for 40 or 50 minutes. Most adults can't do it. Think back to your own schooldays: were you always looking at the board throughout a 40-minute lesson? Weren't you daydreaming, doodling, fidgeting, and/or looking around the room much of the time? Again, the teacher with students by the dozen must stretch lessons on a particular topic because there are so many students to attend to. Your actual time with the teacher was probably as short as five minutes. But you learned how to read, write, and cipher anyway--because that little time was all you needed.

A homeschool day, then, is a succession of short lessons on different topics for a span of several hours. Some subjects need daily practice, while others can be touched on weekly. Review should follow immediately after study. Older students can write a short paragraph on the topic at hand, while younger students can simply tell you what they know.

When you have multiple students whose lessons may vary in length, it's best to arrange the list of subjects as a checklist without times attached. When one student is busy with independent work, attend to another. As long as everything is checked off at the end of the schoolday, you'll be fine. Here is the current daily checklist for my three students. Note that our school time is schedule from Tuesday through Saturday to conform to my husband's work schedule. You may plan your schooldays and vacation days in whatever way works best for your family.


Morning Prayer (Psalm, Hymn, Scripture Reading)--all 3 students

Tue-Wed-Thur: Read and summarize 1 chapter of current history text
Fri: Geography Challenge--jointly with other tween
Sat: Alaska Geography & History--jointly with other tween

Choose 1 long poem (at least 2/3 page long) to read over, memorize, and recite each month

Wed, possibly Thur-Fri-Sat: Work through 1 lesson from current science text, 1 section per day--jointly with other tween; read a selection from a biography of a famous scientist if lesson is finished before the end of the week
Sat (unless lesson is long): Field trip--all 3 students

Tue-Wed-Thur-Fri: Work through 1 section of Spanish textbook
Tue-Wed-Thur-Fri: Do assigned memorization work from Spanish textbook, if any (on own time)
Sat: Watch something in Spanish-—20 minutes--all 3 students

Work through a section of current math textbook, with help

Work through a lesson from a keyboarding program

Study or test on current spelling lesson

Practice your martial art as assigned by your instructor (This student has formal lessons with their instructor once per week.)

Tues: Watch a scene from a Shakespeare play--jointly with other tween
Wed: Study a section from Plutarch--jointly with other tween
Thur: Study a lesson from Getting Started with Latin--all 3 students
Fri: Review a part of English grammar--all 3 students

Tues: Study a historical artist or do an art project using that artist’s techniques--jointly with other tween
Thur: Make something useful (sewing, cookery, etc.)--self-selected, with help
Fri: Study a composer or performer or listen to some of their music--jointly with other tween
Sat: Do a drawing project from a self-teaching book--jointly with other tween


Morning Prayer (Psalm, Hymn, Scripture Reading)--all 3 students

Tue-Wed-Thur: Read and summarize 1 section of current history text
Fri: Geography Challenge--jointly with other tween
Sat: Alaska Geography & History--jointly with other tween

Choose 1 poem to read over, memorize, and recite each month

Wed, possibly Thur-Fri-Sat: Work through 1 lesson from current science text, 1 section per day--jointly with other tween
Sat (unless lesson is long): Field trip--all 3 students

Tue-Wed-Thur-Fri: Work through 1 section of current Spanish textbook
Tue-Wed-Thur-Fri: Do assigned memorization work, if any
Sat: Watch something in Spanish-—20 minutes--all 3 students

Work through a section of current math book, with help

Do handwriting practice as assigned

Study or test on current spelling lesson

Practice your musical instrument (This student has a subscription to online music lessons.)

Tues: Watch a scene from a Shakespeare play--jointly with other tween
Wed: Study a section from Plutarch--jointly with other tween
Thur: Study a lesson from Getting Started with Latin--all 3 students
Fri: Review a part of English grammar--all 3 students

Tues: Study a historical artist or do an art project using that artist’s techniques--jointly with other tween
Thur: Make something useful (sewing, cookery, etc.)--self-selected, with help
Fri: Study a composer or performer or listen to some of their music--jointly with other tween
Sat: Do a drawing project from a self-teaching book--jointly with other tween


Morning Prayer (Psalm, Hymn, Scripture Reading)--all 3 students

Tue-Wed-Thur: Hear and summarize 1 chapter of current history text
Fri: Timeline Day
Sat: Alaska Geography & History--all 3 students

Read aloud
as assigned

Listen to 1 poem per day from a collection of classic children's poetry

Tue: Work through 1 section of a lesson from current science text (1 lesson to be completed each month); listen to a chapter from a science storybook if this month's lesson has been completed
Sat (unless the tweens' science lesson is running long): Field trip

Tue-Wed-Thur-Fri: Spanish Word of the Day and memorization work
Sat: Watch something in Spanish (20 minutes)--all 3 students

Work through a section of current math book, with help

Work through a handwriting lesson as assigned

Wed: Do an art project
Thur: Make something useful--self-selected, with help

This looks like a lot, but we're done in 3 hours because, again, lessons are short.
I am not going to try to distill an entire college course in teaching into a few articles. People have taught their children at home since there were people on this Earth, and somehow civilization has continued. However, some very useful terms were first articulated by people who made the study of education and child development their life's work. Here are a few of them.

Scope and sequence is the way teachers decide what to teach that week. It's a list of everything that is going to be taught in a particular subject (the scope) and the order in which it will be taught (the sequence). This is useful in homeschooling as well. While spoon-feeding precisely outlined chunks of knowledge in an exact order is not necessary, some concepts are foundational to others.

Grade level is self-explanatory. I use the American system: preschool, kindergarten, primary (1 through 6-ish), middle school/junior high (6-ish through 8), high school (9 through 12).

Ages and stages is shorthand for the way in which most children develop over time. Children of a particular age are known to, on average, be capable of certain things and not yet capable of other things, but they can pass through the different stages of development toward adulthood at different ages and still be developing normally. However, sometimes a late bloomer needs help, not time. If you are worried that your child's stage of development is not keeping up with their age, check out a book about child development or, if possible, consult a doctor. If your student is struggling and it's feasible to get professional help, get the help. (But look up the helpers online first, to see what previous clients have to say about them.)

I will add some notes about particular ages and stages in my scope and sequence articles, but if you really want to dig into this topic, a book is your best bet.

Learning styles are different for everybody. If you search on "learning styles," you'll find a lot of disagreement on how many there are and what to call them. I think the following is a decent outline:

*Some people learn better when they are alone, some when they are alone with the teacher, and some when they are working with other students.
*Some people learn best when hearing about something, some need to look at it, others do better reading about it without pictures, and some need to actually have something to pick up and handle in order to really get what the topic is about.
*Some people have got to get up and move around or they can't think; some need to rock or fidget; others do very well sitting still.
*Some people have trouble tuning out noise, discomfort from a hard chair, etc., and need to adjust their environment by (for example) putting on headphones. Others need background noise or a breeze or something in order to concentrate.
*Some people can see the whole picture at a glance and need help focusing on details. Others are excellent with details but have to be prompted to put them together into the whole picture.
*People may need to use different learning styles with different topics.
*Learning styles are inborn, although they may change with age. If you try to make somebody use a learning style that just doesn't work for them, you will make school unnecessarily difficult and they may give up.

Depending on the regulations in your state, you may have to turn in report cards for each student. Even if you don't, use them for yourself, to help you remember how the student is doing. Here's one to try:

A: 91 to 100 percent correct on tests, outstanding work, time to explore this subject at the next level
B: 81 to 90 percent correct, student shows above average mastery of the topic for their age, it may be time to skip ahead
C: 71 to 80 percent correct, student shows average understanding of the topic, do a little more practice and then test
D: 61 to 70 percent correct, student is having trouble comprehending this topic, try another approach
F: 60 percent or less, something is wrong, back off for a week or two and seriously rethink whether the student is being pushed too hard or you are using the wrong teaching method

Here's another:

O: Outstanding; shows grasp of the topic beyond the usual for their age; it may be time to skip ahead
S: Satisfactory; is keeping up with their age group; move on to the next topic, with some periodic review
I: Improvement needed; not keeping up with their age group; try another approach, review an earlier topic, or seek an outside opinion

Whatever grading system you use, test regularly and write down the results! The point is for you to be able to track at a glance how homeschool is working out for your child and have notes of what worked and what didn't that you can use when planning to educate a new student. Don't try to keep it all in your head. It won't work.

An in-facility education typically pays much more attention to scope and sequence and grade level than to ages and stages or learning styles, because most schoolteachers deal with students by the dozen. It simply isn't possible to tailor education to the individual student when there are so many of them. If the teacher is given time and support, they can nevertheless make sure that everyone learns--mainly by repetition. However, if you're only teaching a few students, you can pay more attention to individual ages and stages as well as learning styles. So while I will lay out a scope and sequence for each topic by grade, you don't have to keep your student in the grade they would traditionally be in at a particular age or in the same grade for every topic. No harm will be done.

I post these articles in my spare time and revise as needed. Keep checking back.
If your budget is tight, it's wise to find as much homeschooling help as you can. Here's a list of resources to look for within feasible travel distance.

A homeschooling co-op can be a great resource if the goals of the other members run parallel to yours. A good one will have teachers available, arrange field trips, etc.

If it's possible to register your children as homeschool students through your local school district, find out what you can get out of it and what you are expected to do in return. Even if you're homeschooling because you think your local school system is bad, you may find this useful.

Your public library may be your best resource of all. Besides books and quiet space for study, library offerings may include thousands more books via interlibrary loan, movies, documentaries, music, free computer time, magazines and newspapers to read on the premises, board games, art workshops, storytime for tots, used books for sale, free used magazines, student reading clubs, and access to hundreds of scientific, mathematical, and medical journals for free. And that's probably not a complete list! Even if all you have is a Bookmobile, use it. Knowledge is power, and libraries are hotbeds of knowledge.

Speaking of used books for sale, besides (of course) used bookstores and library sales, check out coffee shops. Older students may enjoy the atmosphere for studying, and they often have bring a book-take a book shelves and newspapers.

Garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores can produce some amazing finds. I have discovered textbooks, educational toys, music CDs, documentaries, notebooks, classic fiction, craft supplies, and children's furniture. It's best to have a firm idea of what you're looking for before you go--written down, even--so that you don't get overwhelmed.

Museums can be expensive, but they sometimes have free admission days. Your local museum may have a calendar online. Also check it for storytimes, art and craft workshops, scientific lectures, and movies. The same goes for aquariums, botanical gardens, and zoos.

If you live near a state or national park, also check into reduced price or free admission days for it. The visitor center may have free activities, lectures, even study kits.

If you live near a reservation (or anywhere in Alaska or Hawaii), see if the local tribe advertises any classes in native languages or traditional skills or allows outsiders to observe traditional ceremonies.

No matter what you may think of their politics, tune in to your public radio and TV station. My kids enjoy them for science, a survey of musical styles worldwide, and history. If you can't get the broadcast signal, but you can afford basic cable, look for your public TV station in the basic bundle.

Even in this electronic age, it's worth checking out an old-fashioned bulletin board at a library, coffee shop, grocery store, etc.--and don't forget the community pages in your local paper. Look for notices by local non-profits that might have resources to share with you. For example, my local chapter of the Audubon Society leads family hikes every weekend from April through September. For $2 per person per hike, my students can explore nature under the guidance of an expert. One of my children is learning how to fight with a real steel sword through the Society for Creative Anachronism--again, for just $2 per session (to defray the cost of loaner gear).

Don't hesitate to ask local businesses for help--within reason. A machine shop may be willing to bag some metal shavings for you when your students are studying magnetism. A pet store may have shed feathers your students can examine for science or use in art. Ask for something small that would have been trashed anyway, and the business owner may surprise you with their generosity. But if they turn you down, accept it politely and don't ask again.

If reading this list made you wrinkle your nose because you want your children to remain pure and unstained by the world, get over it now. Lordly isolation is for people who can order everything online. That's not you.
Educational philosophy is the framework on which we hang our daily lesson plans. It covers how children learn, what should be taught and when, and what education is for. If you attended public school, or most private schools for that matter, your teachers worked from the assumption that a child's mind was a receptacle to be filled with selected pieces of knowledge in carefully chosen order, and by so doing the teacher could create skills that had not existed before and build students into productive citizens. This teaching method is based on the educational philosophy of a man named Johann Friedrich Herbart, although he would be amazed at where people went with his ideas because he died in the mid-19th century. Most people have never heard of him; we just think of this kind of education as the way things are. But it is always worthwhile to get to the roots of things.

When I was getting ready to homeschool, I looked at many different virtual schools, curricula, and support groups. I had only a dim idea--more of a hope--that there were other ways to learn and teach. When I read about the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, it was like a light coming on in a dark room. Here were answers to my book of questions.

Mason, who was born a year after Herbart died, had serious problems with his philosophy and the teaching method that had been founded on it. You can read her own words at multiple sites. I recommend Ambleside Online ( because the site is mostly text with very simple graphics and windows. She was an active teacher and administrator, so she never found the time to edit her work into streamlined form. However, she did list her underlying principles at different times. Here is my rough summary of her philosophy:

First, children are complete people from the day they are born: people who combine inborn talents and handicaps with the ability to change, grow, and learn. They are not unformed little blobs, but neither are they permanently set in good or evil ways.

Second, whether we like it or not, human beings live in hierarchies. Sometimes they are elaborate (feudalism), sometimes very simple (the skipper tells the other fishermen what to do), but authority and obedience are natural to our lives. However, individual personhood must be respected. Manipulation, humiliation, and intimidation are wrong.

Third, respecting the children who have been placed under their authority limits teachers to three tools: providing a good place to learn, teaching children to discipline themselves, and presenting the material in ways that children's minds are best suited to grasp.

A good place to learn: The point of childhood is to grow into the ability to live in the world on one's own. Therefore, although you should of course keep kids safe, don't dumb down or kiddify the child's learning environment. If they are learning about firefighting, arrange a visit to the firehouse so they can get an idea of the real thing instead of giving them toys. If they are learning about farms, don't present pictures of smiling purple cows or pigs in hats; show them video of real farm animals living their lives--or take them to an actual farm. (And prepare for mud and smells!)

Teaching children to discipline themselves: This is easier than it may sound at first because people run mostly on habit. Teach children good habits first, starting with the basics, such as hygiene and neatness, and going on to habits of courtesy, study, etc. Don't lecture; lead by example and briefly remind as seldom as possible--otherwise your children may develop the habit of tuning you out. On top of this foundation of good habits, teach children to discipline their wills: to understand the difference between "I want that" and "I'm getting it now," and between "I don't find this to be fun" and "I can't do this/it's not worth doing."

Presentation: The current standard way of teaching, with its carefully organized facts and repetitive practice sheets, actually slows most children down, not to mention making them hate school. Very young children should not be formally educated at all, but given plenty of freedom to exercise their bodies and senses. When education begins, handling concrete objects must come before abstraction; for example, teach them to count and add shells or stones before they ever put pencil to paper. Our most ancient method of presenting things that should be remembered is storytelling, so reading (for example) history lessons to students up to the fourth grade is appropriate--and finding texts that flow like a good story, what Mason called living books, is vital. Instead of having their minds filled with a sequence of abstract facts, let the students use their minds to find the important facts in the context of a living book and make the connections on their own. As children mature toward adulthood, it is appropriate to ask them to do more work on the page and without direct oversight. But at all times, lessons should be short--five minutes is not too little time for many subjects; repetition should be shunned in favor of having the student do something as well as they can a few times and try again the next day; and review should be immediate, because we best remember the things we are able to put into words. Reread this paragraph a few times, because if you had a standard K-12 education this may paint a very different picture of school from what you remember.

Fourth, there's no way to educate a child to know everything they will need. However, we can teach them how to find out what they need to know and lead them to discover and develop their own abilities. A Charlotte Mason education, then, covers a little of everything from making things (useful things, not paper crafts) to mathematics, the Dewey decimal system to debate.

Fifth, the limit of education is the limit of human reason. Helping children develop their ability to reason, by teaching them logic and debate, helps them become adults who can maintain and shape our civilization--one of Mason's main goals. However, while our minds can take us very far indeed, we can't understand everything. Therefore, it is extremely important to teach children to choose what to believe in the areas of life where reason cannot help us. A foundation of good habits and a survey of the wide range of human experience will help them choose.

Sixth, Mason believed strongly that spirituality should be an everyday thing. By this she of course meant the mainstream Christianity of her culture. She made Bible reading and prayer a regular part of her schools. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, it is true that if you want your children to feel them to be part of their lives, they should experience them regularly. Whether you believe in a spiritual realm at all, it's important to make the rituals of your cultural identity part of life on one hand, and be sure that children understand why you believe what you believe on the other. (And of course, be sure that what you say and what you do are the same thing!)

If this summary doesn't strike a favorable chord for you, there are other educational philosophies out there. I can't provide a summary of every single one. Wikipedia provides a pretty good starting point, here.

And do keep this series in mind, because you can use the same texts with many different methods of teaching.

I post these articles in my spare time and revise as needed. Watch this space.
People start homeschooling for various reasons, sometimes with very high ideals. If you're homeschooling on a tight budget, however, you have to adjust your expectations. MNHK is not designed to:

Make every kid into a top-performing student. Instead, the end goal of this curriculum is to pass the GED test battery. It is nearly impossible to get any further in life in the U.S. without a diploma from a public or private high school or a GED certification. Perhaps it ought to be different--but we have to prepare our children for the world they will actually enter, not the one we wish existed.

Turn out the next generation that will run America. You can't duplicate an elite school environment at home; whether we like it or not, people who rise to political power early in life do so only partly by talent and training, while the rest of it is connections. However, the ability to participate in a democracy as an informed and empowered citizen is definitely something you can teach. And you never know: an 18-year-old voter may become mayor at 40 and senator at 50.

Make your child rich. We all want our children to be comfortably well off, but the truth is that all we can do is lay the groundwork by teaching literacy, reasoning, and good habits and hope that opportunity knocks. Don't try to predict the job market 12 years from now. Do your best to foster the growth of a well-rounded, hard-working student who can jump in any direction.

Produce perfect children who never do anything wrong or hurt your feelings. This is impossible, and anybody who tells you otherwise is selling something.

Keep children sheltered from all harm. You can't do this either--not forever. You can, however, strengthen their ability to reason and their willpower, so that they can resist evil when they encounter it.

Make it so your children will never leave you or disagree with you--the creepy underbelly of the sheltering urge. If you want that, get a dog!

I should also point out that although I am autistic, I am not presenting a curriculum tailored for neurodivergence of any kind. I teach as I wish I had been taught, making adjustments for each student's individual needs, so if you are an autistic teacher or the parent of an autistic child, you may find some useful ideas here. But for more information about how autism or any other kind of neurodivergence affects learning, you should seek the advice of a professional.

I am posting this in my scarce spare time and will revise as needed. Watch this space.
We all write what we know. I am a lower-middle-class American citizen, a lifelong resident of an isolated small town in the extreme north of the Pacific Northwest who married the boy next door, and a cradle Christian raised in one centuries-old mainstream denomination and currently teaching Sunday school in another. I live in a multicultural community, but I am (and my husband is) so white even a nasty old Victorian bigot wouldn't find anything in my family tree to sniff at. My people have been in the country long enough to have no old-country connections, but not long enough to claim membership in the DAR or what have you. I am on the autism spectrum, but received neither diagnosis nor treatment in my 13 years of public school. Academically I was far ahead of the curve by the time I graduated, but I began keeping a notebook of questions nobody seemed interested in answering in early primary school: questions about why bullying was so prevalent and about how we were being taught. All of these factors have formed my perspective on homeschooling.

I have homeschooled all of my children from the beginning, due in no small part to my own public school experience. Local conditions will require me to enroll them in public high school, but if our finances permit I will homeschool all of them through eighth grade. I am lucky to live in one of the most homeschool-friendly states in the Union. By this I mean that not only is it easy to homeschool one's children here, but the children also receive the oversight they need in order to confirm their progress. Every year, starting in third grade, they take the same standardized tests as their peers in public school; I receive a detailed breakdown of the results. I write report cards four times a year and submit a list of topics to be covered and a booklist at the beginning of the year. In return, I receive a voucher equal to the amount spent on public school students, access to all public school services and facilities, and invitations to extra learning opportunities and get-togethers for local homeschool kids. The school voucher doesn't cover religious materials in order to maintain separation of church and state, but the homeschool office has a free library of donated books, including many from Christian publishers. I even get a monthly stipend to offset the cost of my online access--and a pretty nice laptop to use for school.

But what if I didn't?

Before the school began loaning out its laptops, I was stuck using an old, slow machine that couldn't even run an OS that still got updates. We still have a low monthly download limit and our bandwidth is not the best. Going places to have experiences is not in a lower-middle-class budget when you're hundreds of miles from anywhere else, voucher or no voucher. If I didn't have a pipeline of books, music, classes, and teleconferences on tap, what could I do? Actually I had no idea that vouchers even existed when I made the decision to homeschool. Finding out about them turned me away from the resources available online, but I was recently prompted to take another look. There are some excellent free and cheap curricula and virtual schools out there, but they are all built on the assumption that you have the latest greatest shiniest speediest online-access device and a data plan to match, not to mention money for reams of paper and scads of printer cartridges, plus scientific equipment. I know that there are people out there in the bind I was almost in: you have to homeschool, but you have to make every penny and byte count. Hence, Mother Necessity's Homeschooling Kit.

Here's what you need in order to use this curriculum:

A computer (phone, tablet, desktop, laptop, whatever) that can download, store, and display PDFs, including some really big files. It doesn't have to be online all the time, but it's going to be on a lot.

Time to prepare lessons for the day or week. If you're a fast reader, you may be able to teach some things "cold," but pre-reading is always prudent!

Money for some basic school supplies, such as pencils and paper.

Additional funds for things you will have to put together yourself, mainly homemade scientific equipment, plus time and skill to do the work--or a helper who can do it.

A spot in your house where you and your student(s) can sit comfortably while any preschool children are occupied with other things. Each of you will need enough clean, cleared table space for desk work; you should have decent light and ventilation, and everyone should be able to see the screen when reading an ebook.

A printer, but only for a few items; I have found no-printing-required alternatives for almost everything.

Patience, good humor, and the willingness to adjust your approach to the needs of individual students. A tense teacher makes a miserable classroom.

I am writing this series bit by bit as I have a few spare minutes here and there. I will revise each article as needed. More later.
This will be the master post for a series about homeschooling with a bare-bones budget and a slow old computer with restrictive download limits. Watch this space.
(Not betaed; I apologize for any errors.)

It's funny how he can turn a corner, see a wall where there was no wall, and go online to find people who were born long after he went into the ice lamenting that very fact. There are so many blogs devoted to cataloging the traces of Old New York that he can't keep up with all of them. But there are puzzling gaps in what they cover. He can take a virtual tour of historic Jewish cemeteries, get a map of the best 20th-century delis still open, but nobody posting seems to be aware that the people they are lauding didn't grow up speaking English. Or not only English.

He hasn't heard Yiddish on the street a long time. The language isn't extinct, he knows, but it isn't like it used to be.

Well, he knows a bit about how that happened. He never did get to punch the real Hitler, but doing for the goddamn paskudnyak who thought Hitler was a piker--it was worth the ice.

He's been following Ms. Hill's strong recommendation (order) to lurk, but one evening a debate over which language a radio personality's immigrant parents must have spoken--German, Latvian, or Hebrew--and whether he ever learned it gets to him. He remembers this guy, who's smiling from his tombstone in an engraving taken from one of his publicity photos. He remembers WEVD pulsing out of the radio on the windowsill of the apartment below his and Bucky's on hot summer nights, the variety shows, the producers who went out with their microphones to ask any passerby to speak their piece, like an online forum sent forth on the wind. He types--well, he types a hell of a lot about it: Yiddish radio all over the dial, Yiddish newspapers on the streetcorners, children in the midst of some game in a vacant lot using Yiddish curses that would have infuriated their mothers, giggling girlfriends with their heads together shmuesing, strong old voices reciting prayers on a Friday evening. Hardly any of the old acetate recordings survived long enough to be transcribed, but he digs around online and finds a link to the WEVD theme song. Turn this up, he types at the end, in careful Yiddish with English hovertext. It should be loud.

And he signs his name: Steven G. Rogers.

I used to hang out at a blog for people who had heard absurd, cruel, stupid, and/or scary things from the people who were supposed to be helping them or their loved ones during pregnancy and labor. Most of the really awful stuff came from OBs, hence the name, but midwives, nurses, even radiologists and receptionists might feel free to bust out with this stuff. The blog is gone, but while it was still up I rummaged around in the archives and created some Bingo entries from the most common submissions. Yes, everything here is something that somebody has actually said to a pregnant or laboring person or their partner!


There are 5 groups of Bingo squares: M, O, B, S, W. Make a 5x5 grid, with the Dead Baby Card as the free space in the middle and M, O, B, S, W at the top. Pick random entries from each group below to put in the 5 columns. Head on over to any place where people talk about their experiences of pregnancy and birth and see how long it takes you to get a straight line in any direction. Then announce that you've got BINGO!


1. Already Gave Birth? Must Run Down Labor Checklist Anyway
2. You Can't Be Ready to--Oh, Look, a Baby
3. You Aren't Pregnant Because [Nonsense]
4. Everybody Gets a Pregnancy Test. EVERYBODY.
5. Vaginas Suck Up Poop (The Poop Vacuum)
6. Umbilical Cords Turn Into Blood Siphons After Birth (The Sloshing Baby)
7. Birth Attendant: "Ew, Icky, Messy, Ew"
8. Ignorant of Nursing Basics (Nametag Reads "Lactation Consultant")
9. Can't Tell That Baby Is Upset/Uncomfortable (Handles Babies Every Day)
10. Unbathed Babies Are Biohazards
11. Has Never EVER Seen an Uncut, Unmedicated Mother
12. Wheelchairs Are Magic, You Can't Leave Without One
13. Doesn't Know How Sleep Works
14. All Women Need Interventions Because Evolution (Or Something Like That)
15. Bugs Person in Labor/Transition for Decisions/Signatures


16. What Is This "Consent" Nonsense?
17. Ha Ha, I Lied & It's Too Late to Fire Me
18. Men's Boners Trump Women's Health & Dignity (The Husband Stitch)
19. Side Effects & Complications Are Just Your New Normal, So Shut Up
20. HDU Fact-Check This Thing I Just Made Up
21. Obey or I Have You Locked Up/Take Your Baby Away
22. Stop Having Emotions, They Annoy Me
23. Obey or I Punish You With Procedures/Drugs
24. I Decide Whether You Are in Pain/Distress
25. Sin/Bad Attitude Caused Your Physical Problem
26. Can't Buffalo Mom? Let's Try Her Partner
27. Fat? No Medical Care for You
28. Your Type Shouldn't Have Children
29. Saying Yes Once = Blanket Consent Forever
30. Sexual Predator


31. EDD = Extreme Death Date (What's a Midrange?)
32. All Breasts Are Broken
33. All Fat Women Explode and Die
34. All Short Women Get Stuck Babies and Die
35. Over Average Age Primipara = Feeble and Sickly
36. Under Average Age Primipara = Careless and Stupid
37. "Failure to Progress" Caused by Failure to Wait
38. Dead Baby Card (FREE SPACE)
39. Continuous Monitoring or KABOOM!
40. Babies Who Aren't Tiny Are "Too Big"
41. "Failure to Progress" Caused by Failure to Provide Privacy & Simple Comforts
41. On Your Back in Bed or KABOOM!
42. Be Precisely Average in All Ways or KABOOM!
43. Be Terrified of Everything or KABOOM!
44. Pushing Urge--Ha! Push When We Say So or KABOOM!
45. Don't You Dare VBAC or KABOOM!


46. No Clue How PPD and/or PTSD Actually Work
47. In Agony = Drug Seeker
48. A Definite Muscle Wound Beats a Possible Skin Tear (Good at Cutting, Bad at Sewing)
49. I "Helped" You by Overfeeding Your Baby (What's a Lactation-Nursing Cycle?)
50. OMG OMG YOU MUST HAVE A C-SECTION (On Next Available Business Day)
51. You Must Induce Because We Don't Have Staff After X Time
52. All Women With Birth Plans End up in . . . Trouble
53. Can't Stand My Inept Technique = Weakling
54. "At Least You Have a Healthy Baby! :D"
55. Either CP Is Stupid or CP Thinks Mom Is
56. Declining Optional Procedures is Selfish (Why Pay Less?)
57. 38 Weeks Is the New 40
58. "Oh, It's Gonna Get Sooo Much Worse :D"
59. Blurts Awful News, Runs Away
60. Manually Stops Non-Emergent Labor Because Doctor Isn't There


61. I Can't Do That Because I Never Did It Before
62. Same Client Mix, Drastically Different C-Section Rates
63. Teach That Helpless Baby "Independence"
64. Nursing Is Freaky, Breasts Are for Sex
65. You Don't Know Your Cycle. I Know Your Cycle.
66. Ultrasounds Are Super Magic (The Precise Estimate)
67. Twins Mature More Quickly
68. Women In Labor Should Be Nice and Quiet
69. Body Fat Clogs Vaginas
70. Breast Shape = Milk Production
71. I Decide When You Eat
72. Oh, Sure, You Can Take That (What Physician's Desk Reference? I Don't Know That Book)
73. Breasts Shouldn't Be Substitutes for Pacifiers
74. Can't Recognize Dangerous Bleeding
75. Everything Online Is Bunk (Even My Professional Association's Published Recommendations)
When I'm stuck at the computer nursing a baby who is having a rough night, I read a lot of fanfic. 90 percent of it is dreck of various kinds. Another 9.5 percent is pleasant but forgettable, or well written but not my cup of tea. Then there are the gems. This is an ever-evolving list of the fics I go back to again and again when I really need to escape into a good story.

ETA: My babies are long weaned, but I maintain this list as a kind of mental palate cleanser. Last updated in 2016.


"Count the Cost" by katydidmischief (cassiejamie)
A happy ending for Bucky Barnes in which his old friend Steve, a child of the Golden Age of Radio and a veteran of all-American propaganda, quickly grasps the power of social media after the fall of Project Insight. Bucky, brain-damaged and traumatized, keeps trying to disappear into life on the street, but it seems like the entire Eastern Seaboard wants to give him sandwiches and money and little slips of paper with Steve's phone number on them.

"Hollow and Honeycomb" by antistar_e (kaikamahine)
Wingfic sounds like an intriguing concept, but in execution it is nearly always "my kink, let me show you it" or "gosh I wish I were pretty." This story delves into what it might be like if some people, but only a few, actually had wings.


"Every Day is a Reminder" by ishie
Calvin, Hobbes, Susie, growing up, sad and joyous.


Pretty Much Anything By Mary Combs
Too much to explain. Too good to pass up. Read it all here:


"Brave New World" by theatresm
Discovering the Wizarding World as an adult isn't quite like discovering it as a child. Two adults from very different backgrounds meet on the brink of a horrific secret war. And kick butt. One mild buzz-harsh for high-handed behavior within a relationship.

"Survivors" by Dyce
After it's all over, after the funerals, the trials, and the cleanup, life has to go on. People grow up and find new lives beyond the Second Wizarding War. Everybody gets a character arc in this one, even Winky.


"Just a Face on a Train" by katheryne
The only thing ever posted under this nym, which is a pity. Peter Parker discovers that somebody has his back.


"On Alien Seas, and Shores" by starlady
The only Trekfic starlady has written, apparently, which is a shame. A meditation on grief, the power of the past, and friendships made at sea. Oh, and smuggling.


All But Name by Mirror and Image
A conversation with newly bereaved Obi-Wan Kenobi at Qui-Gon Jinn's funeral pyre goes differently--and in less than a minute, everything changes, from the lives of two grieving people to the fate of the Jedi--or so it is foreshadowed. This story, completed in 2012, begs for a sequel.

Everything By Fialleril
The bitter fact that Anakin was born into slavery should have been part of the entire plot arc following its introduction. Fialleril explores this in several series set in alternate universes. Also, the Jedi may think that redemption is impossible...but they're wrong. Or: Fialleril is here for the Tatooine slave revolution.


"Seven Sunday Mother-Daughter Mornings" by David Hines
Happy this ain't. I would call it more "cathartic." It is about a mother and a daughter, and ordinary moments in the course of human life, and learning how to person, and what can be stopped and what can't.
To the tall, skinny guy with the short auburn beard who paused to talk to me in Safeway this evening:

You did not just validate your mad parenting skilz. You did not call me out on my bad parenting behavior. You did not strike a blow against [insert whatever obscenities currently apply to me and my husband and children this week] on behalf of the childfree.

You recommended striking a baby until she screams in pain.

Actual conversation:

BABY: Blat! (Translation: This is my mad voice! I am tired and I want to go home and have the booby. I have been telling you this every 10 to 30 seconds since we got here and you are not getting my point.)

ME, HURRYING TO GET THE ESSENTIALS BECAUSE I WOULD RATHER NOT BE HERE EITHER: It's okay, sweetie, we're almost done. I know, I know, it's tough sometimes.

BABY: Blat! (Translation: Not buying your soothing tone of voice, lady. Booby now! Attica! Attica!)

AFOREMENTIONED AUBURN-BEARDED GENT, ABOUT MY AGE, NO VISIBLE SIGNS OF MENTAL DECAY: mutter-mutter-mutter (word that is either "smack" or "slap") mutter-mutter-mutter give her something to cry about. *smile smile*

ME, TRYING TO PUT A GOOD FACE ON IT AND NOT WANTING TO START A FIGHT: "I want to go home!" That's all she's saying. Babies get tired and bored the same as us. (Or words to that effect; I was pretty shocked at the time.) *smile smile, push cart away from the crazy man who wants to HIT MY BABY DAUGHTER*


UPDATE: He turned out to be a local judge.
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