Book of Marvels

Richard Halliburton’s

Book of Marvels

I still remember where I was when I snagged The Book of Marvels for $40 on Ebay. New moms will never know the struggle to find this book for an affordable price! It was out-of-print for ages so your best bet was to find someone on Ebay willing to make a deal.

In 2018, I remember walking into the Half-Priced Books in San Antonio, Tx and during a quick glance of the clearance section, I found Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels for $2. I’m pretty sure I screamed. I bought the book and sold it the next week for $40 and nearly started a new job peddling rare books.

Why is this book so great?

Richard Halliburton travelled and wrote about his journey back before travel easy and before the internet made “visiting” these Marvels so accessible by computer and Google Earth. He does much more than describe the locations – he always has a story to go along with his visit to make the whole book a memorable delight.

How can I use this book?

We added this book to our Morning Time Routine because my daughter was not enjoying reading it alone. We read the book as a family and usually find a You Tube Video to get a little update on the location and see how it looks in color.  Regardless, we find the location of the Marvel on the map and narrate what we’ve learned.

What other resources are available?

This website has updates to the marvels and more information about Richard Halliburton’s book. It’s now available to purchase through Living Book Press, which is much more convenient, but not nearly as much fun as stumbling on a copy in a used bookstore or garage sale. 


Free Reads

“Free Reads” in our home come from the Ambleside Online list for whatever year my kids are in.

In the Ambleside Online community, families handle the Free Read section in different ways. The way I do it is not the only way, although it does work well for us.

For the younger years, I pick a selection from “Free Reads” and add it to our morning time. We read about 15 minutes per day. I alternate from the list of each kid.

I started doing it this way because my oldest started at AO4 and missed the younger year free reads. By doing them as a family, he got to hear those stories while my daughter did. 

Sometimes we do a free read because it fits with the season or topic. For example, we visited the fair recently, and my youngest fell in love with the little piglets PLUS our nature study topic was spiders – so we had to read Charlotte’s Web. Also, every November/December, we read The Christmas Carol because it’s such a great story.

The other way we sometimes handle Free Reads is audiobooks from the library. I’ve written before about my captive car audience, and one way I take advantage of this time is audiobooks. We can’t swing a monthly audible subscription, but the occasional library fee is worth it.

Article on Free Reads from Ambleside Online



We love Shakespeare.

Shakespeare can be an intimidating addition to your homeschool journey – but it does not have to be! By biting off small chucks and going slowly, you can dig in and the Bard can enrich your home. Here are tips to get started:

The Play’s the Thing.



Pick a Play You Love


Shakespeare wrote 39ish plays and it can be hard to decide where to start. Your feelings for the work will spill over to your kids and influence their reactions, so it’s important to pick a play that you like.

Do you have fond memories of Baz Lehrman’s Romeo + Juliet? Read Romeo and Juliet! Do you have strong feeling about Brutus and Julius Caesar? Start there.

Does the thought of Shakespeare only fill you with boredom and fear? Don’t worry! You can still pick a play and have fun reading it with your children.

If you don’t love a play, it may help to pick a play that you already know a bit. If you’re worried your kids will ask you questions and you won’t be able to answer, buy yourself a copy of the “No Fear Shakespeare” version. It has a modern translation on the opposite page from the original text and can help you interpret on the fly. (Although I do not recommend No Fear versions for kids. More on that below.)

Another way to decide what play to read is to check with your local theaters to see if anyone is doing any Shakespeare in the Park. Pick a play that you can see in person as a treat.

Which Version to Purchase

Half-Priced Books is my best friend when it comes to buying Shakespeare plays. They almost always have three copies of what I’m looking for and I can touch the books in person to see what’s between the covers.

  1. Some versions have annotations on the left-hand page. These are so helpful when you come across a word that has changed meaning or a mythology reference that you just don’t remember.
  2. No Fear Shakespeare looks appealing and it may work for your family. It includes the original text plus a modern translation. The Modern version will not have the same ring as Shakespeare (Shakespeare was a great writing and chose his words for a reason.). Also, if there are any objectionable jokes (I’m looking at you, Mercutio) that would otherwise fly over your children’s heads, they may be plainly spelled out in the modern version and lead to conversations you weren’t expecting to have.
  3. Folger’s Library versions will often have notes at the beginning of the play to help with context, themes, etc. I really appreciate those for my own education although I do not burden my younger children with all these ideas. With younger kids I prefer to let the text talk for itself and save the themes/motif talk for when they are older and notice these things on their own.


Will they get it?

Not at first. The language is different and it will take time – but it’s worth stumbling through a few plays so they can reap rewards later.

As an example, the second play we did was MacBeth with my oldest in grade 5. On his own, he connected the knocking that MacBeth and his wife hear after the murder with the drumming sound in Tell-Tale Heart. ON HIS OWN. Any theme or idea I pointed out to him I’m sure he’s already forgotten, but his own brain working out that connection will be with him forever. Any child can make these connections when presented with good literature and it’s worth the hard reading work to get there.

But they do bad things…

There are people in Shakespeare’s plays that do ugly things. They sin. It’s true. They make poor choices, get angry, murder, and more. But on the whole, their poor choices have terrible consequences and the basic world-view of most of the plays is Christian. 

The good that can come from reading Shakespeare outweighs the bad and it’s worth digging in a having discussions about what the characters do and what happens to them. (not in a moralizing way…but that’s a talk for another day.)

Can we do the same play twice?

Yes! We’ve read Much Ado About Nothing, like, three times over the years and every time we see something new. When you are already familiar with the plot, you can catch more jokes and tropes.

Some families start by reading a summary, like Lamb’s Shakespeare, before they read the real play for that very reason – so they don’t have to focus on plot and can just have fun reading. That’s a fine idea. Our family has always had at least one kid old enough to read the real play, so we just read the play and follow up with a film or live version if we can find a good one.

Go Slow – just reading a scene a day, you can read at least three Shakespeare Plays easily. Let everyone pick a character or two and act it out in your own living room. Not enough family members? Make simple peg dolls to be your actors.

Film Adaptations

It can be fun to have a movie night and watch a good Kenneth Branagh version of a play. A subscription to your local PBS station can be a cost effective way to find some Shakespeare on TV.

After you have a few plays under your belt, check out Shakespeare Live! from the RSC. It was a celebration at the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and features lots of actors you family may appreciate.




Another great resource I have found is The Play’s the Thing  – a podcast by Circe Institute. They pick a play and talk about it one act at a time. Very helpful for parents and older students to find another level of understanding Shakespeare and his work.


Filling your children’s heads and hearts with poetry is one of the most important things you can do. No one is bored when they have a poem to recite. Internalizing those rhythms and rhymes will help with writing and style later in life. Here is what we do for poetry time each morning.

Who: We chose poets based on what year our children are studying at Ambleside Online. Over the years, we have read Mother Goose, A.A. Milne, John Dunbar, James Riley-Whitcomb, Longfellow, Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter De La Mare, Emily Dickenson, and many more.


What: Most of the years, Ambleside has a free, printable list of poems on their website. Some years we have printed the list and read from it. Other years, we have bought a small collection of poems from Half Priced Books. 

We study the same poet for 12 weeks.

How: First, we read one poem per day by our poets. It can be that simple and still be effective. 

If there is a good, short biography on our poet, we may add that.

If we are feeling very creative, we might pick a poem and do an art project inspired by the piece.

We have also had seasons of life that we hosted a Poetry Hour at our home. We picked a poet, had friends over to read a few of his/her poems aloud, and did a small project based on the poems we liked (like painting a rock about our poem, for example.) It helped us to focus on a poet and allowed some kids to recite their poetry in front of peers. Fun all around.

Pilgrim’s Progress

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UPDATE: The retold “Dangerous Journey” was transformative for my youngest. We switched to only reading that version for now. He loves the pictures and flips through the book sometimes when we aren’t even doing “school.” Anyway, read on, but I highly recommend the Dangerous Journey version if your child is not ready for the original.


The John Bunyan book, Pilgrim’s Progress is not always a part of our morning time, but it is for the moment. Whenever a book appears in one of my children’s reading lists that is 1. a little bit difficult and 2. would benefit the whole family, I add it to the morning time list. Pilgrim’s Progress is on the list for Ambleside Year 2, so my youngest should be reading it, but it’s good for everyone – so it’s perfect for morning time.

We aim for 10 pages per week, but no stress if we don’t make it. It’s a heavy book and it’s okay to go slow.

Pilgrim’s Progress Options

Over the years, we have found three different methods to cover the ideas in Pilgrim’s Progress.

Some of these links are affiliate links.

The original text by John Bunyan is a fine option. We found our copy on Thrift Books, but the text is old enough, it is available for free in the public domain.

There is an adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress that is illustrated and highly recommended called Dangerous Journey. We will start this version soon for my youngest because he’s not quite ready for 1600’s English.

We also purchased an audio drama several years ago. Many in the homeschool community told me it was great and helped their children understand Pilgrim’s Progress. I had a plan to play the audio in the car while we drive around because that’s prime “captive audience” time. We did, in fact, listen to one or two segments and my kids thought they were interesting. Unfortunately, I’m not tech savvy enough to play MP3s in my vehicle effectively- but I’m sure it’s a great tool for someone who knows how to use those MP3s.

Pilgrim's Progress and Dangerous Journey

Original Text by John Bunyan

Pilgrim's Progress and Dangerous Journey

Dangerous Journey

Pilgrim's Progress Audio Drama

Audio Drama

John Bunyan

John Bunyan was a writer and preacher in the 1600’s. He was a travelling tinker with a filthy mouth for some time and the story goes that a woman berated him for his sin. Convicted, he vowed to become a new man. Read more of his story in the book Trial and Triumph.

Buy Trial and Triumph


John Bunyan’s new faith grew and he became a minister. Eventually he was jailed because his beliefs did not line up with King Charles II. He was in jail for twelve years and taught from jail when he could.

Hymn by Bunyan


Laws changed, and Bunyan was released. But a few months later, when authorities told him again to stop preaching, he refused and was jailed again for 6 months. During this time, he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.

Wiki Article

At age 59, he was caught in a storm and caught an illness with fever. He died shortly thereafter.

Pilgrim’s Progress is his best known work and in England, you can visit a museum dedicated to his life and work.


John Bunyan
by Thomas Sadler, oil on canvas, 1684


Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason

This is the issue. My husband and I speak Spanish. Spanish was my minor in college. You would think it would be easy for me to teach Spanish to my kids just by talking to them and letting them “pick it up.” But you would be wrong.

Spanish is not my husband’s nor my native tongue and we didn’t want our kids growing up internalizing bad Spanish – so we’re using a simple curriculum, with several aids along the way, to help them learn to communicate with their neighbors.

Charlotte Mason and Foreign Language

CM encourages French

Alot of CM guides will recommend French as a second language. I’m fairly certain this is because Miss Mason lived in England and their closest neighbors were the French.

I did, in fact, let my daughter try to learn French one year. I bought a simple curriculum and tried to help her along – but…I don’t speak French and did not care to learn. My daughter did not have any French speakers to practice with – so now she’s back on Spanish like the rest of us.

We live in Texas

Applying the CM principles to our own lives, we can look and see who our nearest neighbors are and learn their language.

Our closest neighbor is Mexico and we attend a bilingual church, so Spanish made sense for our family. My kids get to practice with native speakers several times per week.

Many resources available

The truth is, whatever language you pick for your students to learn, there are so many resources available.

Charlotte Mason’s method is meant to mirror the way we learn our first language: hearing, speaking, and then writing.

The easiest book I have found is Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois.

Speaking Spanish

How we use Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason

Theme Phrase

Me Levanto

For example, on page 9 of our book, the phrase at the top is “Me Levanto” followed by some other phrases about getting up and dressed in the morning.

The weeks we did page, we acted out getting up, brushing hair, etc. while saying the words.

Secondary Topic

Dias de la Semana

The secondary topic for this page is the days of the week, so we practiced saying these days in Spanish.

We spend time reviewing previous topics as well. When we review the days of the week, we will do an art project – making a calendar with pictures of what we do on each day.

You Tube

Senor Jordan and Amigos

My kids learn alot through music and I am not creative enough to make up songs for every subject. 

Enter Senor Jordan and other You Tube creators like him. There is great content out there that can help your kids learn.

We spend a week or two on each page and go back to review every so often. I also own several children’s books in Spanish, and we pick one to read once a week or so. Reading the children’s book together is not my kids’ favorite activity, but it is helping them learn Spanish so we are sticking with it. 

Proverbs, Verses, and Catechism

Every morning, our first order of business is learning God’s Word.


There are 31 Proverbs in the Bible and, often, 31 days in a month.

Monday-Friday, we read the proverb that corresponds with that day of the month. By the end of the year, we’ve read all the proverbs multiple times.

We do:

Pray that God will help us understand and apply his word.

Stay as consistent as possible.

Let the Holy Spirit speak to each child.

Point out, very rarely, if one verse applies to a situation our family currently experiencing.

We do not:

Preach during Morning Time.

Point at each child and say, “Did you hear that? God says you’re being foolish!”

Play “catch up” and read extra if we missed a day.

Ambleside Online recommends King James Version, but our family uses ESV and CSV because we prefer them.



Foundation Verses Flip Book and Fighter Verses Binder

Bible Verses

We use two tools for deciding which Bible Verses to memorize. Both are from Truth:78

Foundation Verses – Desiring God used to sell small flip books with short Bible verses for young people to memorize. Now they are available through Truth:78.

Fighter Verses – Longer sections of scripture for older children and adults, also available through Truth:78.

We just read a few verses daily until most of us have memorized the verse. The memorized verses switch to “weekly” and we move on to more verses.

In theory, the joy of learning God’s word is a reward in itself. In practice, especially with my kids, a tangible reward helps. We buy small gifts from FiveBelow and when the kids memorize as many verses as they are old. (So the 7 year old gets a prize when he learns 7 verses.)



New City Catechism


Learning the catechism has been a great tool for my children to internalize truths about God.

Our family chose New City Catechism. They have a plethora of resources to help your family incorporate this tool in your morning time routine.

We used New City Catechism in our Sunday School a few years ago. It was amazing to see the children and teens make connections learn about God in this orderly, logical way.

We use the pdf that someone created. It does have a few typos but it would be too much work for me to redo the whole thing to add in missing a word or two so we use it as is. Plus, it’s free.

There’s also an app for you phone so you can work on your catechism on the go.

We learn the questions in the same way that we do the Bible Verses. Starting with Q1-Q5, we read them daily. As they get memorized, they move to a weekly rotation. At the end, we should be about to answer about 10 questions per day and get through the whole thing in a week.

New City


“Homeschool moms love planning more than the actual homeschooling.” — I’m not sure who said that, but sometimes it’s true.

Proverbs, Bible, Catechism are for everyone.

Spanish – We use Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois

Pilgrim’s Progress – we have an old copy. We may be switching to Dangerous Journey soon.

Poetry – We follow Ambleside’s poetry rotation depending on the year my kids are in.

Shakespeare – Ambleside Shakespeare Rotation. (Usually)

Free Read –  a book I pick that I want us to read aloud together.

Halliburton – His “Book of Marvels.”

Art Study – Ambleside’s Art Rotation – using a study guide from either Humble Place or Simply Charlotte Mason.

Composer – Reading a book about our composer, chosen from Ambleside’s Composer Study.

Art Instruction – You Tube Videos, usually connected to another topic. More on that later.

Geography – From from both Home Geography for Primary Grades by Long, and/or Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason 

Plutarch – We used Anne White’s Study Guides. This is aimed at my older kids, but the younger one listens, too.

Nature Study – Using Anne Comstock’s book as a guide plus the Ambleside Nature Rotation.

Dictation – For my oldest, we had to add Diction to the list so we would remember to do it.

Morning Time

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“Morning Time,” while not strictly Charlotte Mason, is an essential part of our homeschool. It’s the time that we read the Bible together, do any lessons that all the kids need, and review our day so everyone knows what to expect.

And this week I’m planning for next term.

To keep myself as organized as possible, I make a list of goals for each week. Ambleside runs 12 week terms, so I work in 12 week chunks.

I print one page for each week. Each pages as a “daily” section and a “weekly section.” We do the daily items daily and try to get in 2 weekly items per day.

Daily sample:


Bible Verses



Pilgrim’s Progress (10 pages per week)

Poetry – Whitcomb-Riley and Whittier

Shakespeare – Two Gentlemen – 1 scene per day

Two from weekly list

Free Read

Weekly sample:


Art Study – Botticelli

Composer – Bach

Art Instruction –  TBD

Geography – TBD


Nature Study – soil/erosion

Dictation (x3)

Look mysterious? Over the next few months, I’ll be posting more about each of our morning time activities. I hope these ideas may help you on your homeschool journey!


For an excellent podcast about morning time

Check out Cindy Rollins – The New Mason Jar or Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket. Both have seriously influenced my homeschool journey in a big way.

For further reading on Charlotte Mason

You can always read Charlotte’s words herself for free on the web, or check out Susan Schaffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake

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