Comments 8

Towards Living an Authentic Life: Copybooks by Gladys Schaefer

I have a friend.  Let’s call her Laura, because, well, because her name really is Laura.  We met many years ago in a Charlotte Mason study group and have recently renewed our friendship, meeting together in tearooms. It’s been a wonderful way to set time apart and focus on each other.  She and her family are preparing to move to Ireland as missionaries.  Her friendship renews and challenges me and I always leave the tearoom with a spring in my step and a list in my mind of a number of new adventures I want to add to my life journey.

Laura is an avid reader and I have long benefitted from her guidance in the best of living books, both old and new.  She seems to have a special insight into the market and is able to find the best of the best.   I love finding the books Charlotte Mason used in her curriculum. Ambleside Online has also been a lifeline as I’ve used their guidance in planning our school days, both as a teacher in a private school setting and in our family’s home education.  Laura however, has helped me find new books that we think Mason would have loved.

In our latest discussion, over some delicious lavender scones and Irish tea, she mentioned her copybook.

“Copybook? “ I asked.  “Like the Mason copybook we had our children doing?”

She nodded yes and went on to explain that she has kept one for years.  She shared a quote that has impacted her life.  I, of course, was intrigued and frankly, a little jealous.

“Why didn’t I pick up on that and make myself a copybook when my children were in grade school?  Oh, well,’ I thought  ‘Grace, grace.  I can do that now.”

Today, a week after our lunch, I’m off to purchase the prettiest blank books that I can afford and our living room high school will join the journey of copybooks.  Maybe I just wasn’t ready for all that Mason offered me.  Much good has been done.  My students have relationships with the best of living books, we love the birds that visit our feeders just off of our glassed-in sunroom and today they will begin saving quotes. Words of meaning will be preserved in their best handwriting, in a beautiful book that will accompany them into their dorm rooms and maybe into their own homes in the distant future.

I am grateful for friendships.  I include Charlotte Mason in that group.  She has enriched my existence in many ways and continues to beckon me towards living a more authentic life.

Would you consider joining us in this voyage?  If you are reading this, you might well be on the way.  Look back at the writings and teachings and example of Mason.  Sometimes the best place to begin is at the beginning.  What else might we have missed? I’m off now. Mason’s last book, Towards a Philosophy of Education, and I need to spend some quality time together.

This entry was posted in: Philosophy


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. My son recently decided to put his copywork directly into a journal-type book rather than in his school notebook. He likes what we’re using for copywork this year (quotes from Medieval Christians mostly — Francis of Assisi and Anselm come to mind) and he wanted them in a special book. I like two things about this — that he decided to do it on his own and that he values the quotes that much. I’m excited to see him taking ownership and can’t wait to see him leap from what I assign as copywork to his own choices and musings.

    Now if I could only get off my laptop and create my own copybook!


  2. Bobby Jo says

    Thanks for the inspiration here! Simply wonderful!!

    I’ve kept a notebook going of quotes and passages I admire since high school. Though I have not always used my best handwriting. It is so fun to look back and see what I was drawn to then as opposed to now, and which ones still resound inside of me.

  3. I’ve been keeping what I called a “quote book” for years – since my college days. I had never thought of it as the copywork that I will have the kids be doing as they grow up in their reading… what a wonderful gift you’ve given me! I can’t wait to pull it out and share the quotes that have meant so much to me over the years with my children, and begin them on the same journey.


  4. Monica Duenes says

    I have my 10 yo daughter doing her copywork from a book called Thematic Copywork Lessons for Girls by Queen Homeschool. She is doing her copywork on pretty sheets I print out from At first I thought it was a nice idea to have her work on “penmanship” with nice quotes from rich literature, rich writers, and most importantly rich Scripture. But, as this year has progressed and I go back and read what she has written in her own hand, I see the beautiful treasure that she is creating for her future! What a blessing it has been to be introduced to Charlotte Mason this year (our 5th year) in our homeschooling adventures!

  5. I was recently reading about Commonplace books and thought of how much I needed one for myself. I have lots of old notebooks that I’ve used for journals and to jot down thoughts and an occasional quote. So, I was in a sense already doing what I had read about – now it just had a name 🙂 Now, I am much more intentional about using it, and I love it! I copy some lines from some of the things in my reading, ideas I have, quotes, poems (some of my own as well)…it is very enriching!

  6. Yes, I absolutely love quotes. I have lots of journals full of them! I have my students doing a Common Place quote part of their journals for Moby Dick, Thoreau, and others this year in American Literature. One thing that I love seeing is students care about what the journal looks like and the pen they use. Some even draw in them. I love that CM understood beauty even in this way. Wouldn’t she love the beautiful journals in the stores today!

  7. Janey Phillips says

    I kept a Commonplace book in high school though I didn’t know it was called that! I’ve always loved beautiful thoughts captured in writing. I have lost my high school books, but I have one for this stage of my life (I’m a grandmother now!). As I read, I’ll turn down a teeny-tiny corner of the page I want to come back to and copy from. When I finish a really GREAT book (like something by Elizabeth Goudge or Janice Holt Giles) I’ll have LOTS of pages turned down to go back & copy into my book. I love to go back and read over them a year or so later & enjoy these treasures again. Great post!

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