Art is the Looking Glass Through Which We See Our Lives

Alice-through-the-looking-glass by Lewis Carroll

We learn from literature, drama and art. 

Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child

We start every babyhood with books.  Hugs, kisses and lots of tactile attention, but also books galore.  We have books with beautiful pictures and books with silly rhymes and books that tell thought provoking tales and books that speak to a child’s heart.  Snuggling up on someone’s lap while reading a story is a wonderful way to embark upon a childhood filled with love and imagination.

Not all books are created equal. 

My Bookhouse

This point is unequivocal.  The first key to literacy lies in the selection of amazing books.  Choose books that were written to be books.  Rewording of TV shows does not make for quality literature, and in most cases can barely be read aloud.  Choose beautiful editions.  Illustrations do count.  Choose stories that have an enduring message.  Children love to feel that they “understand” the underlying significance, or moral, of the story.

Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, illustrator Truth Williams

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, (Illustrations by Cruikshank)

Our initial reading program begins with the classics.  We have read and studied the works and lives of A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, E.B. White, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson and Charlotte Bronte.

Modern Literature can be Classic Literature

We choose current literature that has characteristics in common with classic literature.  These characteristics include excellent and creative use of language, characters using correct diction and a compelling story that is well crafted and carries a clear, value oriented message.

We continue with current books and authors, Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, and Suzanne Collins.

Literature Leads to Learning

Whenever possible we attend plays and performances so that we can see how a piece of literature is interpreted through theater.  In conjunction with our reading, we have studied the art of each culture (ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art) and time period in history (Italian Renaissance, Chinese Cultural Revolution, Japanese silk paintings) so as to understand the people behind the stories.

Bounce and Scooter in "Big Bug's Bad Day" (Allia)

The Happymess kids and their friends have written stories, novellas, poems and plays.  They have created beautiful sets utilizing what they have learned from studying science and art history.  They have learned the art of calligraphy and Chinese brush painting.

Art is a mirror of humanity and we are teaching our children to find themselves in that mirror.  

Do you want to give your children the gift of literacy?  READ.  It is that simple.

English Language Curriculum Resource Corner

Spelling:  We use Zaner-Bloser spelling connections.

We do all the lessons related to spelling, including the challenge words at the back of the book.  We do not do any of the extension activities or the grammar exercises as these do seem to be worth the time.  We aim for one unit per week, with a spelling test on Friday.  We complete one grade level book per year.

Grammar:  We use Building Christian Grammar, published by Rod and Staff publishing.

We use the textbook, workbook, test book and teacher’s guide (with answers) for each grade.  We do every exercise as they are all very valuable and really help with writing as well as grammar.  We do some of the work directly in the textbook to save time, as recopying all the sentences is not as necessary as learning the lesson.  We complete one grade level book per year.

Vocabulary:  We use the Wordly Wise vocabulary program.  This can be purchased through, as well as through several other locations.  We use the workbook and teachers guide, which includes review exercises, tests and answers for each grade.  This is a great program for increasing word knowledge.  Each word is defined with multiple definitions and uses (adverb, adjective, noun, etc.).  We complete one grade level book per year.

Latin/Greek Word Roots:  We use a variety of resources to study the origin of English and to enable our students to understand vocabulary that is new to them.

Handwriting:  we use Zaner-Bloser.

We use these books from K-5.  We also use homework assignments to practice our “best handwriting.”  We complete one grade level book per year.  Copying Bible verses and famous quotations is another way we practice handwriting.  Beautiful words and thoughts are a perfect match for beautiful handwriting.

Library Book Clubs:  Happymess kids join others in a Classic Literature book club.

Writing:  We do not use any standard writing program.  We write constantly, for many different purposes and create our assignments and lessons as needed.

Creatress (age 10) reading Little Women by Louisa Alcott (Allia)

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is enjoying beautiful books with your family. 

12 Responses

  1. Questo è un blog davvero interessante!

  2. Literature should be the basis of all learning. If I may offer a suggestion, include some Greek literature as well. The Greeks are the birth of western society, and the wealth of artistic endeavors produced by the Greeks in just a few hundred years are unequaled by any movement since, not even the Renaissance. Homer’s epics lay claim to the basics of many of the narratives still produced today, and the lyric poetry of the Greeks created the foundation for all poetry produced afterwards (and is also the first case of self actualization and understanding in poetry). The Platonic dialogues are thought provoking and many of them are poetically unmatched in most “classic” literature. Just a thought! Of course your child’s education is your decision; I just believe it’s important to see the birth of rationality and understanding in the Western world. Kudos to you, however, for teaching literature in a society that considers it nonsense when stood up next to science and mathematics.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful suggestions and your detailed review of the importance of studying Greek literature. I have covered quite a bit of Greek history and literature with my older daughter but you remind me that it is certainly time for me to ensure that the younger boys are equally exposed to this important culture that has shaped our own in so many ways. Additionally I realize that the Platonic dialogues would be perfect for my daughter, who has not yet been exposed to Plato. I am thrilled to have your input as it is easy to set off on a straight path but neglect the narrow roadways that are either side. Many thanks,


      • Of course! I find your project intriguing. I don’t want you thinking I’m trying to tell you how to do what you’re doing, however. I’m just offering a few suggestions :). I firmly believe our educational system is extremely flawed in the sense that the more advanced you get in any field, the narrower your focus becomes. In more ancient times, as you become more knowledgeable about your field you broadened your knowledge to include how it relates to other fields. For example: now, when you get a PhD it’s in like… 1780’s literature and how it relates to gender or something of the sorts. In the past, once you got past your masters, you would broaden your scope to include perhaps, how 1780’s literature influenced and was influenced by other fields as well as how that literature fit into the progression of thought and zeitgeist of the period. I think we’ve lost something substantial by narrowing our focus so much.

      • You make an excellent point. What is the point of spending years on research just to find your viewpoint becoming increasingly narrow? If you become very well versed in a subject the next question should certainly be, “How can I apply my knowledge to the greater universe?” This is certainly the perspective I strive to impress upon our children. Each subject that we study, whether it is math, history, literature or art, we are always asking, “How are these ideas interrelated?” “How did one idea influence another?” and most importantly, “How can we use this knowledge to make intelligent decisions in today’s world?” And no worries…I am delighted to have input into our program. More ideas and contributions are always welcome.


  3. Allia,
    I have been following your blog and am inspired beyond measure. I have a few questions: Do you use the literature to guide the history lesson, or do you teach history in a chronological order (like other classical homeschoolers) and choose literature that corresponds with that time in history? How do you relate the sciences? How do you go about choosing your reading list for the year? Also, a fun one: is your schoolhouse an outbuilding or connected to your main house?
    Many thanks,

    • Dear Angie,

      Thank you so much for your interest! You ask so many great questions. I will say, briefly, that it is certainly a two-way process. We choose literature that follows our curriculum and when we find a great piece of literature, we study the time period. I think that your questions would make a great blog topic, so if you don’t mind. I would like to use your comments as the starting point for my next post. We are participating in several ski races this weekend, so I will try to have this post up by Monday, complete with some schoolhouse photos. I look forward to communicating with you again.

      All the best,


      • Dear Allia,
        Thanks for your reply. Of course I don’t mind, I’ll look forward to it. I am preparing to start homescooling my 5 yr. old daughter next year, and am struggling to get a plan in motion. The setting and time period of the books I have in mind vary greatly, so I wonder if its better to keep them unified in some way so they lend themselves to a easier history study, or if I just bounce around and fill in the blanks as we go? If possible, I would also love a more detailed explanation of your timelines. Planning the first year is the toughest, I hope. :).

      • Angie,
        Post is finally here! Sorry for the delay. Thank you so much for the inspiration. I had fun thinking about all the questions you posed. Good luck next year, with your daughter. No matter what format you choose, it will be a success as long as you are enjoying yourself.

  4. Hi Allia,
    I have a question-do you use the teacher resource package for ZB handwriting? Thanks!

    • Angie,

      I apologize for the delay in my response. No, I do not use the teacher package. Just the books. I also buy french notebooks, one brand can be purchased at These notebooks have an additional 4 lines between every line and are also cubed like graph paper. It makes letter writing very precise, but I would not recommend this until your child is 6 or 7 so they have the ability to write neatly. My other favorite tool: the electric pencil sharpener. We actually pack this in our suitcases when traveling! A sharp pencil is the cure for many ailments. Have fun!

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