YMB #103 The Role of Classic Children’s Literature: A Conversation with Cheri Blomquist

When you have been homeschooling as long as I have it takes quite a bit to be surprised by a new resource. Before Austen Comes Aesop is a new book that was up to the task of turning my head.

This valuable guide for parents not only takes on the misguided idea that our kids need to read the most mature and difficult books at a young age, but also provides parents with the tools they need to create their own reading program using any books. Yes, there is a booklist, but it is not what you might expect. Instead of a subjective list of author favorites, what we have is a historical glimpse into the most influential children’s literature of all times.

This resource (and this conversation) is not to be missed.

Pam:

But remember we can come to literature at different points in our life and get new things out. I like even read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at third grade, as a bedtime read-aloud with your mom or dad, and then read it again in high school and then read it again when you’re 75 years old and still get something wonderful out of it each time. So that is where the best literature comes in. And, and that’s the great art that we want to expose our children to is the kind of literature that’s a meaningful across your life.

This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 103 of the Your Morning Basket podcast.

Read Full Transcript

I'm Pam Barnhill, your host, and I am so happy that you're joining me here today. Well, on today's episode of the podcast, I am so excited to share a new resource with you. It's a resource for all parents, but especially for homeschooling parents. And in this book, author, Cheri Blomquist has kind of broken down the classic children's literature Canon, and she's laid out this objective Canon for us to have a look. And she's going to explain a little more about what that means in the podcast, but these children's books that our children can be introduced to before they read the classic great books. The name of this resources Before Austen comes Aesop, the children's great books and how to experience them. And the wonderful thing is, is this is not just a collection of book lists, though. It certainly is. It's also Cheri’s own insights into why these books are important and why we might be harming our kids by pushing down adult books into the childhood years. But also it is an outline and a guide for homeschooling parents to use, to show their kids how to read books and to create your own literature curriculum.
So this is a really exciting resource, and I think you are going to enjoy our conversation today. Speaking of exciting resources, I have one for you. If you would like someone to plan out Your Morning Basket for you. Well, we've got you covered. You can come try a sample set of our Morning Time Plans on the website. Those are at pambarnhill.com/month.
And in this sample set of Morning Time plans, we have laid out for you a whole month of truth, goodness and beauty with some great children's stories, art music, nature study, and so much more. So come download your free sample of Morning Time plans pambarnhill.com/month. And now on with the podcast.
Cheri Blomquist is a homeschool mom, freelance writer, and a teacher with a degree in English education and the Bible from the university of Northwestern. She holds a certificate in children's fiction, writing from the Institute of children's literature. She provides a variety of language arts classes through her website once upon a pin. And she has also written courses, articles, poems, and stories for the old schoolhouse and other magazines. Her recent book is before Austen Comes Aesop, the children's great books and how to experience them. It's a useful resource for anyone wanting to invite their children into a fulfilling reading life. Cheri, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you so much. We are so glad to have you here. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your homeschool years?
I'm a Colorado, almost native from Colorado. Grew up there, lived all over the country. I began homeschooling in 2005 with my two oldest of five children. And I have been homeschooling most of that time, ever since with all of them, none of them have gone through homeschooling completely, but I've done homeschooling since 2005 for the most part. And now I am homeschooling my seventh grade son as well.
And I have also taught in the homeschool community for most of those years in various homeschool co-ops and academies for in both Minnesota and Colorado. Today, I am a freelance tutor where I teach my own courses and I also teach, I continue to teach for the homeschool community in, in a formal sense as well. So yeah, and I've been writing since my childhood, so I've always loved fiction writing.
And I do that whenever I can. I do have another book coming out in October. So yeah. So I'm pretty excited about that. And yeah, so I just keep up with my projects and my teaching for the most part, as well as taking care of my household and my homeschooler. I love that.
Okay. So what you'll have to like give us a sneak peek, the book in October, is it also about children's literature? Are you, have you gone off on another topic?
No, this is a fictionalized biography of Maria Von Trapp in the Von Trapp. Family of sound, the music fame. And it is the true story of the Von Trapp family, which is just as fascinating as the movie version, a Broadway version, which made a number of changes. But the real story is just as fascinating. So I'm excited to share that with everyone.
Okay. That sounds totally awesome. So it's going to be out in October, so that means it's available. I think so. I don't, I don't have any specific date yet, so I'm from the publisher. So I can't give any formal information about the title or the publication date yet, but it'll come out through Ignatius. Okay. We're going to be watching for that one. Then through Ignatius who also published Before Austen comes Aesop. So tell me a little bit about why you decided to write this book on the children's great books
Well, it, it kind of came in, in two stages. The first stage was back in 2007. I believe I began teaching for a local homeschool academy in Minnesota, and I was disturbed at how many adult books were being, were being assigned to the eighth, ninth, 10th graders. And they were, they were adult classics like along the lines of Bronte and Dickens.
And there were a lot of them and that kind of disturbed me because I was like, how can they absorb this many in one year? And these are adult books and you know, what about all these amazing children's classics that they might not otherwise read because they're at their level, but they're not reading them. So that kind of bothered me. And I continue to mull that over the years.
And I became immersed in, in classical education and, and I've always loved classic literature and modern children's literature. And I'm in 2014 as part of my own education, just because I liked to study various topics. I found a book on children's literature, history by Seth Lerer. I can't remember the exact title. I, I think it's classic children's literature or reader's history or something like that by Seth Lerer. Who's a professor. And as I read the book as a straight history of children's literature from ancient times, and I began to think, you know, if these are the, these are the books that have carried us through history that have developed literary history in, in the children's realm, then there must be a counterpart to the, the Western great books canon that includes, you know, like Dante and Milton and Shakespeare, those greats that we all want to have read, there must be a children's counterpart to that.
What are they, you know, because there's so many amazing children's classics and there are so many literature programs for homeschoolers that have so many different choices. And sometimes they just seem random. Like, why are we reading this book and not this book? Why is this curriculum not including this book, but it includes this book and you start to wonder, you know, is there some particular value to some books over others? And so my wheels started turning in my head and I wanted, I decided, you know, what are the really most foundational, most important books of children's literature and why are they important? And what are the ones we should be focusing on in education so that our children have a strong foundation of literature to prepare them for these great books that will come and upper high school and college.
And so I started to examine and study and write, and I didn't even have this book in mind at the time. I was just been a self publish, a little booklet eventually, but it kind of just grew and grew and grew. And here we are. So,
Ah, I love it. I love it. So you talk about classic children's literature and, you know, as kind of a its own canon, you know, compared to the regular Western Canon. So why classic literature? Why is classic literature so important for our kids or actually not for kids, but you know, for kids becoming adults, because that's where we're going with this to read.
That's really a very important question. And I, having been in education since 1994 in various roles, in various venues, like I've been in private-public, you know, charter schools, I've been in boarding school. I've been in many different educational capacities in different roles. So I've seen a lot over the years and there is a strong case in the educational community for focusing on modern literature or themed literature that is directly relatable to modern children. And I don't deny the value of their arguments because we do want our children to be able to relate to books that are meant for them.
However, we are also citizens of Western civilization. This is our, this is our whole world. We have a country that is founded in Western ideals and that may not be a value to everyone in our society today. But the reality is that is who we are. That's where we've come from. And I believe along with classical educators, that it is extremely important to understand your own civilization, to understand that foundation before you can really build on it and draw in other ideas is all part of the great conversation of the ages, where we examine ideas from, from the past in ancient times. And we see how those ideas have unfolded and hadn't built upon each other over the ages and how each great author, each minor author has borrowed and been influenced by those who have come before them. And it is this great conversation that has reached us to today, to where we are now. But if we know it's like not studying history, if you don't read the literature of the past and what has made us who we are today, then you have less insight into today's literature into today's history and into today's civilization. So classic literature is important for helping us to understand ourselves and our own society. And it's for that reason, I think that children in their schooling need this fundamental study of classic children's literature. In addition to literature that is more modern and maybe leisurely, maybe not important, but you know, books that they love.
That's all right, too, that we've got to have that foundation to prepared us for higher thinking higher levels and for understanding ourselves
Oh, I love that answer. And you know, it's funny because when I started looking through the booklist that you included in the book, I was a little, it, wasn't what I expected, you know, and we're, we're going to talk about that just a minute, but first I want, I'm going to leave a cliffhanger here for the listener because the question I want to ask you first is why do you think that reading these children's classics are a necessary step in preparing the reader to read more challenging works?
Well, first of all, many of the great authors, well, let's say all of the great authors, I should say all were once children, themselves. They too were educated on the, the literature that came before them. That was at their time. And many of the authors that I've come down to us today were classically educated because that's what there was in European and early American education. And so they read these books as well. They were influenced by these ideas they built upon in themselves. And so they, they were influenced by them. Another reason is that we have to remember that actually many of the children's classics are also adult classics. Homer's The Odyssey, Pilgrim's progress. Some of these children's books that are in my book are also adult classics.
It's just that children have embraced them throughout the centuries and made them their own. And so we have to stop thinking in terms of this as a children's book, this as an adult book, and we, and we have to keep them totally separate. That's not necessarily true. We w you know, art is art. And so, you know, some of the easier ones are necessary for leading us to the more difficult ones, but many of these crossover, and they're meaningful to both adults and children.
So if we start with these great children's ones, like, like a Winnie the Pooh and Peter Rabbit and fairy tales and nursery rhymes, they help prepare us for the higher ones also, because there's so many illusions and so many references that are made to some of these books, like you're going to see references to Cinderella and Robinhood and King Arthur, and some of these very, you know, nursery rhymes, if you see them related to and refer to in adult literature and in higher children's literature. So when we have that foundation and we are prepared for those references, that was another reason.
Oh, all great reasons. There's other reasons too. I'm just, those are a couple of to, Yeah. Okay. So when you talk about something like the Pilgrim's Progress, so this is something that comes up with homeschoolers. It's like, well, wait until they can read it for themselves. And don't, you know, read them some kind of chewed up and read digested children's version of it.
But you actually talk about in the book, Little Pilgrim's progress.
So Amazing. I love that book is my fave, one of my favorites.
Okay. So for you little Pilgrim's progress, that's a children's classic, not necessarily just a regurgitated version of the Pilgrim Progress.
Well, let's just say it's an excellent, children's retelling of the original. I wouldn't call little Pilgrim's progress, a classic in its own right. But it is an excellent retelling for that children can relate to, but I used to feel like abridgments and simplified versions were a bad idea. And I am kind of still a little squeamish about them because of course we know we want our children to read the, the real deal, not a shadow of the real thing,
because the real one is what is the art. I’ve come to feel it's a very good idea to maybe introduce children to the higher level classics in simplified children's versions. If you can get good ones, it, because it they're getting the stories, getting them familiar with the stories can help make it easier to absorb the, the real, the real versions when they are old enough. For example, Odyssey the Odyssey, Mary Pope Osborne has an excellent tales of the Odyssey series in which children become, become familiar with the stories of Odysseus, but through the six, six volumes series in a very simplified way. But they're great stories. And by the time they get old enough to read the full thing, the full, the real Odyssey, then it might be easier to understand the difficult language in the translation. So, you know, I, it's not a bad idea, I don't think.
Yeah. Okay. So that's a great clarification because you mentioned the Odyssey earlier and I'm like, wait a second, but yeah, that's exactly what we did. We actually read the children's Homer a couple of different times.
Yeah. And we did the Mary Pope osborn on audio as well. And so, you know, some really great versions and we enjoyed Black Ships before Troy, which of course is a retelling of the Elliot, Right? Yes. And those are, that's probably even better writing them Osborne. She's probably writing for a third, fourth grade level. I believe that the children's, Homer's a little higher level and well-written, can't remember specifically an outlet. That's what I seem to remember. Yeah. And my kids love those stories, just, you know, very, very much so.
Okay. So now my next question, how do you know which works should get priority? Because you've included in the book kind of a, this, this actually it's the bulk of the book, this extensive book lists. And, you know, at first, as I was looking through it, I was coming to selections where I was like, oh, I didn't expect that one in here. Oh, I didn't expect that one in here. And I think when it came right down to it, when I kind of evaluated what I was seeing in there, when we say kind of classic children's literature, we're not just talking about, you know, sometimes you get these homeschool book lists that are only old books only kind of, I don't know, what's the word I'm looking for? Like moralistic stories or moralistic tales or something like that. They don't include any modern books or you get a lot of historical fiction, which, you know, by and large, that is whats not on your list at all with the exception of maybe Johnny Tremaine and a few others. So how did you choose which book ended up on this list? Because some of these were a little surprising, The Outsiders and other things like that.
Well, first of all, the last section it's important to under the note that the title of that chapter is noteworthy books of the 20th century, because not enough time has passed to call it a great book. The reason why we can call Classics classics is because they have stood the test of time. These are books that are likely to stand this test of time because of their literary acclaim, because of their role in the development of children's literature. And just in the importance they have been in children's lives that doesn't necessarily include books we like, or that are in line with our values. This booklist is not subjective. I did not choose them based on what I felt should be part of the list. But I tried to be as objective as possible and look into history to determine what has actually been important in the great conversation in terms of children's literature. And so I tried really hard to let history reveal it to me instead of me saying, Hmm, well, The Secret Garden must be one of them. So I'm going to go look for a reason, include the secret garden. I didn't do that. I studied history and let it reveal to me what was important in the development of children's literature and in the lives of children themselves. So that is why some of the books that you might not expect are in there, because that is what I discovered. So to speak. I did have to make judgment calls once in a while, but only as I had to, you know, and, and I tried to keep that to a minimum. So The Outsiders is very important in the development of modern children's literature because of its role in the development of YA and how much it's impacted teenage readers.
So that doesn't mean though that every book should be read by every child. In fact, some of them, I would not let my own child children read, especially some of the parents cautioned ones for some of them, I did not want to include on the list, but I had to, preserve the integrity of the list, which is meant to be objective.
So parents still need to, you know, look into the books and decide for themselves what is right for their children in their education, in their, in their entertainment needs. And they still need to have an active role. They can't just use this as a list of recommendations. They're not recommendations. They are a presentation of what history has revealed to me as best I can of what the children's great books are.
Oh, I love that. And I'm so glad you brought up that last point. So yeah. And you do, as you're reading through the book list, you do notice that Cheri has come in here and said like parents cautioned here, like this is a, you've labeled each of the books where you
It's really important to understand, pay attention to those labels because there's lots of books that might offend somebody.
Like I had a student once whose parents did not want her reading fairy tales. I mean, most of us grew up in Cinderella, Snow White, you know, all those in, in, we, you know, don't even think about it, but this parent did not want her reading any fairytales. And so, you know, there's gonna be lots of books that I did not put the cautionary label on may not be appropriate for a family.
The ones that have the label, parents cautioned though, are ones that will, in a broad sense, offend or disturb families, and maybe not be appropriate. For example, Harry Potter has been so controversial that, you know, of course I wanted to put a label on that one and, you know, at The Outsiders and in some of the others, because parents need to pay special attention to those for sure.
Yeah. And I love that. And I love that you have created not so much a list of recommendations, but in an objective list, you know, of books that belong to this Canon historically. So let's go back to some of the older ones that you've included on the list that have stood the test of time.
And, you know, you start with the Bible.
Now that's scripture to me. So I am not in any way trying to reduce the importance of the Bible. I'm not, is not meant to diminish it at all because that to me is holy. But I include it in, in the literary sense because the Bible stories have made such a powerful impact on Western literature itself in both in the adults canons and in the children's canons.
So the Bible stories used to in, in that era and in the earlier era is that's one of the main things children read. That was part of their, you know, if you've got a story, a lot of times it'd be a Bible story. So, you know, this is important to recognize as well that it does have a role in the development of literature without diminishing its spiritual importance.
Oh, I love that. Yeah, that's, that's really great. And then you move through, 'em you move through the ages, you start with the ancients and then you move into the middle ages as well, and then go all the way up through those notable books, which you said, you know, of course we haven't had enough time yet to know if these are gonna stand the test of time, but they have had a certain impact on, on children's literature.
So what are we getting wrong in regards to how most children are being introduced to literature throughout their educational journey?
Well, I've seen in the homeschooling community, children's classics and adult classics have been championed by many, many homeschool families, much more so than what we see in public education today, maybe private education, but that's a whole, another thing I don't know enough about, but homeschoolers by and large seem to embrace the classics for their literature study. And I think, I think that's great. But what I have seen that has troubled me is that we tend to try to move our children into the adult literature. What I mean by that is, literature that has really not been embraced by children historically, but you know, has been pretty firmly in the area of adults. And we tend to push our children into that literature kind of early, before and often before they've had a really strong foundation in the children's classics. So for example, we might have a student reading in ninth-grade Weathering Heights without ever having read Alice in Wonderland or Treasure Island, which are, you know, key players in, in Western literature and both children in, in children's literature. And those, those have also impacted our culture, those two books. And so here we are moving to Bronte or Dickens without having that really strong foundation. Some of the major classics that have impacted children. And that has troubled me too, you know, and I used to work in a bookstore. I used to work for Barnes and Noble and worked for them a few years. And I worked in the children's department for a lot of that time. And so I saw a lot about how families chose books and how children chose books.
And, you know, they had all these children, you know, parents and adults who are like, you know, I got to find something for this child. And to me it's like, there's something for everyone. I feel like a lot of kids are bypassing some of these major works like Winnie the Pooh and never reading these. And I wonder, you know, what's, what's going to happen. They grow up and they've never read Winnie the Pooh.
If they don't have children there, they might not ever read Winnie the Pooh. How do you grow up without reading Winnie the Pooh, you know, and I'm, and I'm not talking Disney, I'm talking the real thing by, you know, it, to read Winnie the Pooh is a delight. And even adults like Winnie the Pooh and there's, there's, adult spin offs of Winnie the Pooh, you know, like a Latin version. And, you know, so I, I just feel like a lot of kids are being pushed into the adult ones without ever having that strong foundation. The other kids do get a really strong foundation, so they might be ready for some of these adult classics, Bronte, Dickens, and Shakespeare, and so on, you know, earlier than maybe some other students, other children, because they've read so much in the, in the children's classics and maybe they can, you know, make that bridge sooner than, than some others. But that's the main thing I've seen is it's bothered me is it's just too much adult literature too soon.
And by adult literature, I mean, adult literature that has not crossed over to children's literature as well.
Yeah. And I would make an argument that Winnie the Pooh, honestly, and it's just this example of pushing it down, you take a four or five-year-old and you sit there and try to read Winnie the Pooh with them. And it's like, you know, Pooh is best appreciated by a more snarky nine-year-old that's when they really start to get the humor in it. And then as an adult, I'm sitting there listening to it with my kids, because we always do the, the audio version of that one, because the, all of the accents, you know, it's just, it's, it's so much easier to listen to than read as far as I'm concerned.
I don't do accents. Yeah. But we just love it. We're rolling on the floor as, you know, 11, 12 year olds and me being much older than 11 or 12. And I think it's really wasted on a four-year-old or five-year-old so.
Well, we can come to literature at different points in our life and get new things out of it. Like even read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe at third grade is a bedtime read aloud with your mom or dad, and then read it again in high school and then read it again when you're 75 years old and still get something wonderful out of it each time. So that is where the best literature comes in. And, and it, that's the great art that we want to expose our children to is the kind of literature that's meaningful across your life.
And so I, you know, I want to celebrate that. And that's why I didn't distinguish between you. I put good night moon along with, you know, I don't know whatever novel because to me, artists are in, we don't, you know, people are ready for books at different stages of their life. Some kids can read Anna Green Gables in fourth grade.
I wasn't ready for it until I was in junior high. So, you know, we're ready for things at different times in our lives. And I think parents need to think about that when they choose books, is my child ready for this one?
Like my, my son started Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, which is a Newbery award winner. He did not like it at all, but it was, it's a good story, but he was not ready. So I just stopped and I put it aside, we'll go back to it another time. Maybe that's something.
Yeah. And I do. I think that's okay. And I think that's something you would never try to force a, you know, long division or multiplication on a child who wasn't ready for it. And so if they're not responding to a book, it very well could be that they're just not ready for it yet.
Right. And there's lots of other choices, you know, it's not like, you know, if you don't read that one, there's not something else that will, that will be right. So there's just so many wonderful books, so many wonderful ones. And there's something for everyone.
So do you think part of the issue with trying to force these books down these kind of adult books that never made it to the children's canon down on some of these kids who were in junior high and high school is the fact that we feel like, well, we only have until they're 18 and then they're gone. And we can't, you know.
Right. Some of these kids aren't are not going to go to college. So we want to make sure they have a strong literary education as possible. And that's a valid concern, but the beauty of the great books and the children's and what I call the children's great books is that many of the books that are in the children's great books list are also adult books.
So you can still get a really solid literary education well into high school with, with many of the books on this list, like Huckleberry Finn, and, you know, you know, again, Pilgrim's Progress and the Odyssey or the King Arthur stories may be told at a higher level, like the, the original French one. I can't pronounce the, you know, there, there's plenty in there to keep a student reading difficult literature well into high school, but there is at some point once you have a really solid foundation in, in those adult slash children's books, as well as a straight children's book, like Peter Rabbit, you know, you get to a point where if you want your child to go to college,
you know, they want to go to college. There is a point at which you're going to have to push them into a more difficult literature. And Shakespeare is about to give in there somewhere. You know, you've got to get in, you got to get in some of the difficult poetry. I mean, poetry is really important as well. And that's been dropped and a lot in a lot of programs as, as what I've seen, which is really tragic because poetry is, is important in its own right? And I've sometimes I thought about doing something with poetry to get people back to poetry, but there is a point at which you're going to have to engage. You know, I think my child is ready for Shakespeare. I think my child is ready for Weathering Heights or Great Expectations or, or Anna Karenina. And maybe they need to go to high school. And they're going to a classical program where they're not gonna have a choice, but if they have that strong children's foundation under them, I believe that they'll be ready, especially if they've had a chance to really discuss the themes in those books at a, at a level that's relatable to them.
So they can go deep into those stories that are meaningful to them, and then be able to apply what they learned and through those discussions into that higher adult literature later on. So that's another reason that children's literature study is valuable because we can go deep into it and prepare them for those higher studies.
So not only are we building a foundation of, you know, the references and allusions and things like that, but also we're kind of honing those basic literary skills on those children's books. So they can then turn around and use them on the, on the other books as well.
Yeah. So I feel like if you're going into really difficult adult literature, they're going to spend a lot of that time, just trying to understand it, let alone, trying to learn how to write a literary analysis, a response essay, you know, notes and outlines. And those are skills in themselves that needed to be mastered before you can really, you know, go deep into adult literature because you want to prepare them for the, with those skills so that they are ready to examine the higher adult literature in a deep level.
So let's, yeah, you don't, you don't want them to be grasping and hanging on with their fingernails resorting to CliffsNotes cause they're just trying to make it right.
Okay. So in talking about those basic literary skills, you talk about three different literary adventures in the book. So why do you like in the study of literature, two adventures, and you want to just give me a brief overview of the three different kinds of adventures you talk about?
Hmm. Well, to me, reading, reading a good book is an adventure in itself. You're going into a new life, new lives, and new places. And, and you're experiencing new things that you won't in, in your ordinary life. So that that's, I guess that's why I used the word adventures, but though, you know, I've got the leisurely adventure.
So a way to just read books without, without going deep into them and, and, you know, just, I keeping a, a reading journal. And so that's one, it's very simple. Then there's the book-clubish adventure where you are accountable to one or more other readers who are reading the same book and you might need together, like in a book club, or you might just, you know, sit on the couch with your, with your mom. Who's also reading the same book and you discuss it or, you know, however you want to do it, but you're accountable to someone else and you can have a traditional book club, or you can keep it really casual, whatever you want. And so I have some suggestions for that, but then the big one is the scholarly adventure. And I broken that up into elementary level and secondary level. So elementary would be like, you know, you know, primary grades through maybe fifth or sixth grade, and then the, the scholar, the secondary adventure would be for junior high and high school. And of course, you know, depending on the student, you know, you might want to borrow from one of the other or simplify as needed, but those scholarly adventures are meant to help students.
First of all, it allows parents to study any book without having to locate a curriculum with lesson plans, if they just want to do it on their own. And it also, it also helps students learn how to study literature on their own, if they want to use, you know, if they're, they can follow the high schoolers, could follow the steps on their own if they chose to, they just like to do things their own way on their own, their own time and allows them to choose any book. But also the basic literary skills that I teach are meant to kind of decode literary study, I guess. And I based it on Mortimer, Adler's classic how to read a book, which was published in I want to say the 1940s. I'm not sure, but it is a major classic about active reading skills and it is still a classic, but it's very difficult to read it's really college level. So I've, I thought for a long time about trying to make that book accessible so that that classic could be made accessible to grade school students and homeschoolers. And so essentially I took his ideas and I used my own, my own education as a, you know, an English education skills, you know, teaching English, and then also Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy of learning how human beings learn. And I kind of put those together to give a roadmap for parents and students to study a book on their own based on Mortimer Adler, Scholastic, and Benjamin Bloom. So there's like how to annotate, how to take notes, how to do an outline if you want to, how to write a literary analysis essay. And so I lead students through an independent study of the books and parents can pick and choose from them. They don't have to do all of them to get value from that.
It's really up to them, but in the back and the appendices, I also offer cheat sheets. I offer a couple of sample study guides. I offer a reproducible study guide that would go with any book. And that, that just is meant to help simplify the process and, and, you know, make it less overwhelming. So,
Yeah. And you really have, you have created a wonderful resource here for homeschooling parents who, you know, maybe don't want to go out and buy a literature curriculum. And I know that a lot of times it's I spend the money on a literature curriculum and I feel like we're just rushing through all of these books where what I would really like to do is like read slower and dig deeper in a smaller handful of books, but it's like, okay, there's no curriculum for that. But the way that you've laid it out, as far as these appendencies are solid gold, you know, the cheat sheets for how to do the adventures, the rubrics for how to grade, even if you haven't read the book, because sometimes if you have multiple children across multiple ages, it's hard to be able to do that. The different activities for the kids as well. Yeah. And you just lay out how to do it and kind of make it really doable for homeschooling parents. So I do appreciate that.
I did my best. I hope, I hope it helps people as my goals to help people go deeper into this wonderful art called literature, and to really be able to, to enjoy it as, as works of art and in a meaningful way, instead of just this dry academic subject that we kind of rushed through, like you said, and I wanna make it accessible. So that's my goal. I love it. So the book can be found in Amazon and most bookstores, most places you buy books, correct.
I'm not honestly not sure. I, I think it might be at Barnes and Noble too. And Ignatius press. I know it's on Amazon. I just don't know about bookstore. Cause I haven't actually gone to look for my own book. It's not, I am sure that they could order it for you, but yes, I'm always through Ignatius Press the publisher as well. And I believe we got our copy from Amazon. So we will link to that in the show notes. And we will also link to Cheri’s website as well, Once Upon a Pen where she offers more insights and some classes there.
So Cheri, thank you so much for coming on today and just chatting with me about children's books and this great resource that you've created for homeschooling parents. Well, thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor.
And there you have it. Now, if you would like links to any of the books or resources that Cheri and I chatted about on today's episode of the podcast, you can find them on the show notes pambarnhill.com/YMB103.
Also, if you have left a rating or review for the Your Morning Basket podcast in your favorite podcast player, we just want to say, thank you so much. These reviews mean so much to us because this is how the podcast player knows to push that podcast out to more and more listeners. So if you've taken the time, thank you. Thank you.
And if you haven't and you would like to, we would really appreciate you taking the opportunity to do that.
Now I'm going to be back in a couple of weeks with a solo episode. I do believe this is the first time we've ever done this on Your Morning Basket, but it's a solo episode about what happens. If you are stuck in a rut with your Morning Time, we're going to have five different ways for you to mix up your Morning Time routine and get out of that rut. So be sure to check that episode out in just two short weeks until then keep seeking truth, goodness and beauty in your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Children’s Classic Literature on Morning Time

Classic children’s literature is an absolutely essential element of a good literary education. As members of Western Civilization, it’s important for us to be familiar with the literature that has helped to shape the society we live in. These classic books help us to see the great conversation of ideas that have been built upon in order to form our civilization. These books are part of who we are and therefore should not be overlooked.

Sometimes, we tend to rush our children into adult literature too soon in order to ensure that they don’t miss some of these great literary works of art. But we make the mistake when we do that without having fully developed underneath them the firm foundation of children’s literature. They need the great children’s books first in order to have solid ground with which to really understand the adult classics that they will eventually grow into.

Cheri describes 3 literary adventures in her book. She discusses the different ways that people can engage with literature. With the Leisurely Adventure, the reader focuses on reading and enjoying the books and keeping a reading journal. In the Bookclub-ish Adventure, the reader is held accountable to read the book by reading and discussing the book with friends. And the Scholarly Adventure is a more formal reading of a work of literature where you learn to analyze the books you are reading. Cheri provides resources in her book to make this one easier to do with students of all ages.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [2:56] meet Cheri Blomquist
  • [6:05] the story behind Cheri’s recent book Before Austen Comes Aesop
  • [9:20] reasons classic literature is so important
  • [18:10] choosing which books get priority
  • [24:58] mistakes we are making with introducing children’s literature
  • [34:33] three literary adventures

Leave a rating or review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really is a blessing — and it’s easy!

  1. Click on this link to go to the podcast main page.
  2. Click on Listen on Apple Podcasts under the podcast name.
  3. Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! 

Thanks for your reviews

  • Life Affirming
    by Logandinco66 from United States

    This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.

  • Life giving!
    by lapatita5 from United States

    This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.

  • You've made my school year!
    by Lizzie O' from United States

    Pam, My children are almost 11 and 13 and I never sent this review in! I found it sitting here. This is testimony that I am still so blessed by this podcast years later. So here it is: I wrote you an email when I first felt it placed on my heart to homeschool my now 6

  • Love the show!
    by Startup Travis from United States

    Love your content and the guests you have visiting the show! I am a huge believer in using the morning hours well. Thank you for your direction and products!

  • Enjoy the podcast & some thoughts…
    by rufocused from United States

    I enjoy listening to tips on starting and using morning time as I am just starting it this year. We have kind of done it in the past, but when you only have one child you tend to just call it bible, story time, etc… but now that my second one is old enough to join we’re going to have more of a true morning time. I did notice Pam mentioned CNN ten in one episode. CNN can be pretty liberal biased in the main news, I’m not sure if they curb that in the “CNN ten”, but thought I would mention the Daily Wire, which is from a conservative viewpoint (and often covers indoctrination in public schools) and could be fun to compare and contrast with CNN. Our family also recently discovered Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family which has a very Christian perspective, which has been refreshing as news can be so depressing sometimes! Just thought I’d throw that out there… but really do appreciate the perspectives and insights of these women who have been doing this for awhile!

  • Very helpful and pleasant to listen to.
    by Heather homeschooler from United States

    I have listened to many episodes of this podcast and have highly recommended it to others. It has been a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. Pam has a great voice and presence and I love that she does not interrupt or talk over her guests. Thank you for your hard work!

  • Always insightful!!
    by method_money from Canada

    Pam always has great great guests who bring great insights and encouragement! I so appreciate her down to earth style and ability to ask great questions! Keep up the great work!!

  • A wildly encouraging and equipping podcast for homeschool families.
    by Eryn Lynum from United States

    As a homeshool mama of four (Ages 2-9), Pam's podcast has been an increidble encouragement to me. Not only that, but I have discovered so many helpful resources for focusing on what is lovely and true during our homeschool days. I love that it is not overwhelming in nature, but instead a gentle help for moving forward one day at a time in our homeschooling adventure.

  • Best podcast for homeschooling/variety of topics
    by Bethetal from United States

    I love this podcast for so many reasons. (1) Pam is friendly, funny, humble and kind (2) She covers a multitude of topics (one at a time)- I have learned about nature notebooks, classical music study, narration, living books, Shakespeare and so much more. Whenever I have a question about a new (to me)HS term or practice, I come here to listen to Pam interview someone about it. Her interviewees have all been all-in on their respective areas of interest/expertise and I love the way she interviews/asks questions to really let the guests shine as they speak. I have changed the structure of my homeschool, found books for my kids and me, purchased materials, and found inspiration due to this podcast and I can’t recommend it enough! This podcast has shaped my homeschool in so many positive ways, most of which I probably can’t even articulate yet, as the changes have been done inside of me. Thanks, Pam!

  • Great!!!
    by Eloblah from United States

    I love the variety of things that are talked about on this show for homeschooling - things that I would never even think about including or doing - with easy ways to do them. Very much recommend this podcast

  • New home schooling mom
    by A prit from United States

    I am listening to the past episodes and loving it. This podcast has helped me develop my own homeschool. So many ideas!! I love morning time so much, we do a nightly family time so my husband and public school attending son. We do all the things instead of watching tv, playing ps4, and YouTube. My kids hang around me every evening asking if we are doing family time. I can tell they love it but don’t want to admit it.

  • Morning Time Magic!
    by DrewSteadman from United States

    I am so excited Pam is back to her morning time focus for 2020. Our homeschool has been shaped by the rich ideas and practical wisdom shared here.

  • Yay! Morning time is back!
    by Homeschooler in Germany from United States

    I was so happy and excited to learn that Pam is shifting her focus back to Morning Time for 2020! I’ve missed the morning time exclusive podcast and can’t wait to hear her back in my earbuds.

  • So excited for 2020!
    by JCrutchf from United States

    I absolutely LOVE this podcast and was so disappointed when I realized you were not actively producing it! I’m NOW relieved to know there is a whole year of episodes ahead! I’m beginning my homeschool journey with 4 little ones very close in age and my style falls somewhere in the Classical and Charlotte Mason. I found your podcast by chance via Instagram recommendation as I was doing research on “morning menus.” Your content is beautifully philosophical but at a level most parents will be able to grasp and appreciate. Filled with truth, beauty, and goodness! Your episodes fill me up and leave me feeling inspired personally and in regards to my children’s education. Everything is so good! Please don’t stop producing ever again! I’ll be grateful forever!

  • So glad Your Morning is back!!!
    by alissajohn2020 from United States

    So glad to have the morning basket podcast back! Thank you for bringing it back!!

  • So good I ran out of gas.
    by JoanieHummel from United States

    This podcast is awesome! It was recommended to me a few years ago by a very wise and experienced homeschool mom but I didn’t start listening until I saw it come up a few more times on Facebook, recommended in various groups (in particular, episode number 41). I wish I had picked it up years ago! So much great information, I’m learning so much! Be careful though, I was so interested listening to this podcast that I didn’t notice how low my gas tank was getting! I ran out of gas and as I write this review I’m stranded on the side of the road waiting for a friend to come rescue me! Happy listening!

  • Knowledge Goldmine
    by A.J. Edwards from United States

    I’ve just been eating up every episode of this brilliant podcast over the past few months. The guests are stellar and Pam’s interview style is wonderful. She gets each guest to the meat and potatoes of their topic but it’s anything but a plain meal. This is a feast for the homeschool mom’s mind. I know I’ll be revisiting many of my favorite episodes again and again. Feeling so inspired by each guest!

  • Myths and fairytale truths for homeschoolers
    by Allierhn from United States

    Mind blown! I’m listening to the myth podcast and it’s absolutely perfect. It is answering so many questions I’ve struggled with my whole life. It helps me to view our curriculum and informs my teaching so much more.

  • Super Helpful!
    by Jennlee C from United States

    I can’t speak highly enough about this podcast. It has been a huge inspiration and a practical help to my homeschool! Thank you so much Pam Barnhill and everyone else who contributes to this. It has been an amazing blessing to me and my children… And possibly generations to come!

  • Practical Inspiration
    by Mamato3activeboys from Australia

    Not only am I inspired by each episode of this podcast but I have actually put so many of the ideas into practice in our own morning time. Such a huge help as I seek to inspire my non-stop boys to truth, goodness and beauty. We are now memorising poetry as they jump on the trampoline and they love Shakespeare. That's a parenting win in my book!

  • So many great ideas!
    by Parent 98765 from Malaysia

    Thank you, Pam! I’m now bursting with inspiration and can’t wait to start our 2019 school year with a strong morning time routine.

  • Joy
    by Ancon76 from United States

    My heart is enriched and I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Just what I was looking for!
    by Joey5176 from United States

    I was looking for morning basket ideas—simple ones. These podcasts are giving me a picture of a good morning basket.

  • Wow!! What amazing nuggets of knowledge