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. ~ Vol. 5 p. 260The Commonplace Book. It's not an auspicious name, is it? It seems so... well, common. It isn't fancy. There is nothing out-of-reach about a commonplace book. It doesn't rely on my own sophistication, cleverness, or skill to be filled up with wonderful things. In its simplest form, it is just a place to copy down passages that catch your attention while you read. Your book doesn't have to be particularly beautiful (although beauty is always a good idea). Mine is a $0.50 composition book that I covered with some scrapbook papers and embellishments. I think it's lovely, but it's no hand-stitched, Italian-leather bound journal. You don't have to be a painter and illustrate your book. You don't have to be an author and write brilliant essays in response to what you have been reading. You don't have to be a scholar and choose historically relevant entries. All those things are fine, but none of them are required. There are no rules for choosing your passage, other than that it contains a thought or turn of phrase that you want to hold on to.
In fact, it is the "holding on" aspect that brings commonplace books to vibrant, breathing, exciting life. I have read SO.MANY.BOOKS. in my life: so many wonderful, useful, educational, inspiring books. Some of them have changed me, but most of them briefly called up my admiration and agreement, and then their wonderful ideas floated right out of my head and into the ether. When I write ideas down in a copybook, however, something different happens. Somehow the act of producing words on paper with my own hands creates a kind of ownership. I remember them more. While I'm doing laundry or sweeping the floor, I find myself pondering an idea, rolling particular phrases around in my head, arguing with the author, or composing my own thoughts in response (which I rarely write down, but the ordering of those thoughts is, in and of itself, valuable). Somehow by writing these words down, I let them in.
So... commonplace books are wonderful, and sharing the things we love is wonderful. From the Commonplace is going to be a (semi?) regular feature where I can share whatever has gone into my copybook recently. Ready? Off we go, then...
The first entry I have to share is not from a book, but from a blog. If that seems a little odd to you, well, it does to me, too, but that's what I'm reading right now. This week I copied a large chunk from Lindsey Brigham's post Redeeming Time posted over on the CiRCE Institute blog. CiRCE is one of my favorite places to hang out on the web. If you haven't discovered all their new podcast offerings or their blog, Forma, go check them out posthaste.
It is back-to-school planning season for me right now, along with quite a few other homeschool families. The potential to make things wonderful, to adjust our course, and to re-energize our days is exciting, but along with all this potential for change comes an overwhelming desire to make things "perfect." That completely stresses me out. In light of this season, my favorite bit from Brigham's post was this:
We do not only speak of time as a commodity. We live as though time is a commodity... [T]he pressure to make the most of each extra minute can be overwhelming [and bring] the feeling of missed opportunity and misused resources...
[T]ime is not a commodity, but the soil of eternity, and our lives the seed. We need not hoard up and cash out momentary time-units, with all their significance resting on the present transaction; we may instead seek to "redeem the time"... Yesterday's sins and slackenings may today be met by the God of grace, Giver of life, that we may live in hope for tomorrow. We may lose time, but our Lord does not.
"We may lose time, but our Lord does not." Are there any words homeschooling parents need to hear more as we head into a new school year? I think not. If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to go and read the whole article. It's well-worth your time.
God bless us as we move forward in faith. Remember, we may lose time, but our Lord does not. May He redeem our every mistake and misstep and lead us in a higher path.