A 15 Year old Boy’s Keeping

Benj is reading his way through the Renaissance and Reformation with books from Ambleside Online Year 8 and most of his Commonplace entries have been inspired by those books. He chooses his own quotes but when he first started keeping a Commonplace book and happened to comment on something that impressed him while he was reading, I would suggest he record the passage in his book. I don’t do that anymore because the habit is in place. I just like reading what he has written and to see what books have kindled his interest enough that he would record something from them.
Recently, he has quoted mostly from Churchill’s The New World and Whatever Happened to Justice by Richard Maybury.
It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or of any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review.
Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason 

Commonplace Books have been around for hundreds of years and were kept by many great thinkers and writers. I came across this post recently, not from a Charlotte Mason perspective, and not a blog I’m familiar with, but I enjoyed the thoughts there on the how & why of Commonplacing.
Jonathon Swift, the author of the book Gulliver’s Travels amongst others, wrote a letter to a young poet in 1720 with this advice:

A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there. For, take this for a rule, when an author is in your books, you have the same demand upon him for his wit, as a merchant has for your money, when you are in his.
Science Notebook
Benj is using a combination of Apologia Physical Science and Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov. He loves the detail in Asimov’s book and uses Apologia as a general overview and for experiment ideas and this has been working quite well. He’s almost finished the Apologia book but will continue with Asimov and start doing Biology, which I’m in the process of planning.

11 thoughts on “A 15 Year old Boy’s Keeping

  1. Such lovely work Carol! :)My older sons (16, 14, and 13) started commonplace books a couple of months ago. To try to get them into the habit of jotting down favorite things from their readings has been a bit of challenge, mostly with the younger two boys. The oldest one usually does great with this. When I remind them to look for something in their readings to write down, they usually say, \”I can't find anything to write!\” So I decided to make it a daily requirement: one entry per day. But is forcing them to do it the wrong way to handle it?What are your thoughts on encouraging them to do commonplace?


  2. Great examples! It is wonderful to see how the process becomes habit and a part of a student's way of learning rather than just another assigned exercise or activity.


  3. Thanks Ma. I've had to stop myself jumping in & overwhelming everyone with things as I've learnt about them or have begun to understand the 'whys.' I think honing in on a couple of things, doing them consistently & doing them well is better in the long run 🙂


  4. I thought I left a comment but perhaps it didn't get through. I love your son's notebooks. He does a fantastic job and I got some more ideas for my sons Common Place Books. I have a question about the notebooks. If your son doesn't give what you feel is enough information on a notebook page how do you handle that? Or how do you get enough information out? I KNOW my sons know more than they put down on a page…sigh


  5. Such neat and careful work by your teen scholar! I know I always tell you how inspired I am by seeing your kids' journals, but I really am. The habit they have built and how they're being educated through those habits is wonderful to see.


  6. Hi Christy, it depends on what he's been reading. Some days the content lends itself more to note booking. He covers science in three days a week; he prefers that to spreading it over the week and I expect him to do some sort of narration and/or illustration about what he's read – preferably both. I also get him to give me a short explanation about what he's narrated or drawn so I know he understands it. If he hasn't done as much as I think he should, the oral explanation usually reveals why or it might give me an idea of something else he perhaps should include. Then I get him to add that in. Sometimes it's helpful to find an online resource such as a video, simulation etc if the book is lacking in illustrations or diagrams. Does that answer your question?


  7. He wasn't very enamoured with the idea at first so I said I'd like an entry at least once a week. He quite enjoys it now that he has the habit in place – he just needed a little guidance at first.


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