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The McGuffey Eclectic Readers have been a tried and true set of books when it comes to teaching your child how to read. They are full of loveable and teachable stories that your child will carry with them throughout their lives.

We use them in our homeschool and have enjoyed them very much. Right now, Donnie is reading the Second Reader and MaryEllen is reading the Third Reader.

I wanted to write up a review of these classic books, but found this one that was written over a hundred years ago. I couldn't have worded it any better.

So grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy.

The McGuffey Eclectic Reader Series

There has been a great drop in the character of the reading books since I learned to read. It looks as if every author attempts to make his series sillier than his predecessors. Once it was thought that one book was enough of the childish books in a series, but now it is not an uncommon thing to find the baby twaddle running up through the Fourth Reader, and even traces of it in the Fifth. Only a few of the supplementary readers are any better. It is a general "let down" all the way through, not only in the readers, but in the arithmetics, grammars, etc.

Educational doctors are afraid the children may actually do something; hence, all educational diet is reduced to the consistency of very thin gruel. Children get very tired doing nothing. A class of boys and girls were reading about "A Doll" the other day. Not a boy wanted to read about “dolls,” and but three little girls out of fifteen had ever liked to read "doll stories." The boys wanted to read about fights and men and Indians and animals, and where people had done "good things," or said something pretty or something interesting. They liked the truthful, courageous boy or man; or the one that would help a cripple or be kind to any one. The little girls did not differ very materially from the boys, except that they did not want so much of the heroic in their reading.

After testing many classes as to their preferences, I find that children always prefer a class of literature far in advance of what can be given to them from the average readers. After a child learns the child's vocabulary of 600 or 800 words, it is not necessary to still keep pegging away on the same little words.

But to return to the first part of the allegation, namely the weak and insipid character of the pieces printed in the text-books as reading lessons: —

The McGuffey Third Reader

McGuffey Third ReaderI have a copy of "McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader," printed in 1853. Let us open this volume published forty years ago, and glance through it. A moment with "The Little Philosopher," by Dr. Aiken, or "The Peaches" by Krummacher. Noble lessons on character building! No sentimental drivel in either. The next lesson— "We Are Seven." How it lifts the soul upward! It goes straight to the heart, and leaves an impress there that all after age never can efface. "The Song of the Dying Swan" and "Swartz the Missionary." Is there not here something in this lesson that goes far beyond any mere description of bird, or bug, or worm, or plant, or atom?

Following in close succession is, “Knowledge is Power." In this a sharp distinction is drawn as to the use of knowledge. But I need not particularize. The book is filled with choice selections. There is not a weak piece in the book. Not only this, but the Second Reader of the same series contained excellent selections. Need I name but one beginning with: — "Mother, how still the baby lies," — A real gem of its kind. Such pieces as the ones I have referred to are worth more in the formation of sturdy character, and to put the pupils into sympathetic relations with human beings than all the "Little Bug Stories" that can be crowded into a child's life from now till the "crack of doom." There is some real merit in the pieces.

In the Third Reader of this series, all sides of the child's nature are touched. He is stimulated, too, by having "The Consequences of Idleness," portrayed in the life of George Jones, while the next lesson, "Advantages of Industry" are clearly set forth in the person of Charles Bullard. Again, in "The Child's Inquiry," beginning, "How big was Alexander, Pa?" the true intent and purpose of war are shown in such a manner as to leave an impression on the child's mind in regard to the murder of one human being as compared to the killing of thousands.

Another great moral lesson in this book is entitled "Little Victories," by Miss Martineau. This lesson has given more children courage than any other one lesson that I know of in the language.

Scattered through the book are enough lessons about animals to whet the appetite for something more in larger and more pretentious works. It should be remembered that a child is always more interested in reading about lions, tigers, bears, and so forth, than in counting the number of nails on each foot or the teeth in each jaw. Habits and characteristics please children most, not the number of bones in the foot, leg, or head. Details and analyses of too minute a character are always tiresome to children.

Another point, I can not see how any sincerely honest man or woman can be an atheist. With my ideas of cause and effect it appears absolutely impossible, and yet I suppose there are such persons living, but the lesson in McGuffey's old Third Reader, "The World of Chance" by Dr. Todd, is certainly one of the most perfect and complete vindications of an intelligent design in all things terrestrial that can be presented.

Yet, I suppose, the "New Educational-little pill-doctors" would claim that this is too severe for children in the Third Reader. They are very much alarmed lest they strain the children's thinkers. Lesson 69, in this book, is entitled, "Difference Between Man and the Inferior Animals." It is a wonderful presentation. It strikes the childish imagination with a force that is simply irresistible. It is one of the best antidotes to all this maudlin, physiological psychology, which essays to find mind in the bottom of a retort, or an alembic, or in a pile of brains after death, or away down yonder in the simplest form of the cell.

So far, I have said little of the poems in this book. The last lesson, "The Dying Boy" by Mrs. Sigourney, is a touching poem indeed. I ask any candid teacher to compare the character of the selections in this book with any Third Reader of modern date, and see how vast the difference. It is folly for any one to tell me that McGuffey's old "Third" was too hard for children to read in. I taught this book for three or four years and the children read well in it.

The McGuffey Fourth Reader

McGuffey Fourth ReaderBefore me is "McGuffey's Eclectic Fourth Readers," imprint of 1843. To say that it is solid only half expresses the truth. All the pieces are of the very highest literary merit. Here are better literary selections that can be found in any dozen of the books published for the use, benefit, and moral improvement of the boys and girls of the present generation. They are introduced at once to the beauties and elegance of thought and style. Twaddle there is none. Every lesson has an object—to toughen and to strengthen the intellectual and moral fiber of the boy or girl. The "coddling process" is gloriously and sensibly eliminated. Here is a book of 323 pages filled with nutritious food. There is not a padded page in it.

All the modern reading books are projected on the plan that the child must have next to nothing to do. High, wall-eyed educators lift up their hands after imbibing inspiration from Germany, and tell us just what the child is capable of doing and of not doing. They failed to learn that in Germany the reading books, after the second reader, are modeled after the books I have been describing in this article. The "boshy" notion that the way to learn to read and to cultivate the voice, is to read the plain, natural-science information selections, is about as rational as to expect to find the "Thirty-nine Articles of the catechism in C. 'Ayers' Almanac."

It was in a later edition of "McGuffey's Fourth Reader" that I read when a boy at school. I understood much of what I read, and a great deal of it caused me to think about the things mentioned. That a deep impression was made on my mind is only a half-truth. The words burnt into every fiber of my nature. The story of "The Intemperate Husband," and of "The Venomous Worm" put me on the side of "Temperance" for all time. At the same time grew up that aversion to the use of tobacco by schoolmasters which has stuck to me. In fact, it may be a little extreme, but the person who poses as an educational reformer, and is frequently seen with a cigar in his mouth, should first reform himself or sing very low before the boys.

Another phase of the straight reading should be mentioned. A book on natural science, or logic, or mathematics, or law, or medicine, is not a text to be read for the purpose of cultivating the human voice. Such works are to be studied for the information they contain, and for no other purpose. They contain statements and discussions devoid of passion and feeling. Reading as a science and an art,—the expression of thought and feeling by utterance and action, — is a different matter entirely, involving a much wider range of expression than can be brought out of any mere information subject matter.

Reading matter that does not reach the emotions, the affections, the desires, and at times touch up and arouse the very loftiest feelings of the soul, lacks the essentials of good reading matter for children. No great feeling can ever be stimulated over such a lesson as: — "Jump, little frog, Jump for Tom!" If the child takes on any feeling, it is put on for the occasion, and not because it is real.

In Conclusion

McGuffey Second ReaderMy contention is, that after the Second Reader, selections on account of literary merit should be used almost exclusively. Some purely information pieces of course should be inserted, but the gems in prose and poetry ought to predominate. Neither do I object to pupils reading books of travel in connection with their geography lessens, but the class of literature in reading books, should be the best that has ever been written in the language. Tough, hard study is the only kind that ever did a boy or girl any good, and it is the only kind that should be put in the reading books.

It is through the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Reader that nearly all the children of our common schools get an insight into literature, and because of this fact, if no other, should the selections be of the very highest excellence.

There is another danger — that of spreading too much. It is not the great quantity of printed matter rushed over that produces either the good reader or the thoughtful intelligent reader. With too many teachers, the tendency is to measure progress by the multiplicity of volumes read by a pupil or a class. Such an idea, if pursued, is dangerous, and a habit once contracted on this basis, leads to mental weakness and not to mental power. Light reading has this effect.

The really valuable selections to be read and appreciated, are those masterpieces which grow upon us with every fresh reading. The filling up process is a vicious one.

Mental dyspepsia is worse than physical and chemical indigestion of food. Little teaching, little study, fiddle-faddle nonsense,—called educating a child, is the accomplishment of a national crime, whose enormity words fail me to portray in its true colors. The-do-little policy is sapping all the life out of thousands of our school children today, under the seductive but fallacious title New Education.

Last week for the Friday Freebie, we had The Potato worksheets and information. October 27th being national potato day, I thought I would share a few ways we enjoy potatoes.

First, we like them with our eggs and grits breakfast. We slice them thin and fry them slowly until crisp and tender. Midway, we add onion and garlic salt to taste. Yum! I like them when they get really crisp and crunchy.

Another way we like them is scalloped. I know, lots of cheese! That is why I don't make them often, so when I do, it is a treat.

Recipe: Scalloped Potatoes


  • For Sauce:
  • 1/4 cups chopped onion
  • 2 TBS margarine or butter
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced), about 3 medium potatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 350


  1. Cook onion in butter until tender.
  2. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat.

Putting It Together:

  1. Line half the potatoes in a greased 1 quart dish. Cover with half of the sauce. Repeat layers with remaining half.
  2. Bake covered for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes or so until the potatoes are tender.

Number of servings (yield): 4

Meal type: dinner


I also like them roasted with chicken.

Recipe: Roasted Potatoes With Chicken


  • 1 1/2-2 lbs chicken pieces, skin removed
  • 1lb new potatoes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Line 9x13 pan with foil and place potatoes and chicken in the pan
  3. Mix the remaining ingredients and sprinkle over chicken and potatoes
  4. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Turn chicken and potatoes and bake uncovered 20 - 30 minutes longer or until chicken is no longer pink and potatoes are tender.

Number of servings (yield): 4

We do have the occasional french fry from Wendy's when we are traveling. Luckily, the kids aren't much for french fries, so a large between us three is enough.

Once in a while I will fry them up to go along with our hamburgers. The kids prefer homemade over commercial, but it isn't one of my favorite things to make.

We enjoy them baked here and there too. I will sometimes make a cheese sauce and cook up some broccoli to go along with it. But mainly, the kids eat it with butter and sour cream. I don't like my potatoes dry, so I tend to put a lot of sour cream when I have it that way. Not good for my waist...if you know what I mean.

Now, I am sure this national potato day also includes the yummy sweet potato...but oh how I do not have time to go into that. We LOVE sweet potatoes, especially this time of year. I WILL have to share those some other time. Until then...

Have a great week,

Donnie finished his Saxon 54 math book this week! Yay! He started it last August and has plodded along since.

For two days this week, he has been taking tests to see where he starts in Saxon 65. I am starting him on Lesson 26.

Now, Donnie does not care to do math...but he is good at it. Usually, it will take him twice as long as it should, or it could, for him to finish a lesson. Here he is with his, 'I do not like math' look.

I play around with him and call him 'my little mathematician'. He asks, 'Is that someone who does magic math tricks?'!! 😉 Too funny. I had to hold in my laugh as I explained what a mathematician was.

Here he is with his fake 'I LOVE math!'

Today was a short day of studies. I only had the kids do their math. They also did Bible and we will read from our read alouds tonight.

Tomorrow we are heading to North Georgia and on Monday we will visit an apple orchard to pick apples. 🙂 The kids, and I, are looking forward to it.

You all have a great weekend,

This week, I have a set of notebooking pages on the potato. Yip, October 27th is national potato day!
If you have a favorite potato recipe, share it with us below. We always have potatoes in our pantry. 🙂

Download Expired. Come back next Friday for a new freebie.

We will be out of town on Monday, so I will keep this up until Tuesday...then it is gone!

Have a great weekend,


If you have been wondering if I am planning on reformatting Emma Serl's Primary Language Lessons (PLL), the answer is YES!

I started out with Intermediate Language Lessons (ILL) because of the ages of my own children. But, I did have it in the back of my mind to also reformat PLL.

I do plan on finishing ILL first though. It will most likely be done by the end of October if there are no emergencies and so forth. Then, I will tackle PLL.

Feel free to join my email list to be kept up to date. I will also post updates here on my Journal, and on my Facebook fanpage. So, I won't leave you in the dark.

I know some are eager to get started, so I am thinking of a way where you can pre-order and I will email you the lessons as I go, most likely 10-20 at a time, and then the complete ebook when I am done. What do you think, yea or neigh?

I am at your service, so for those of you interested, let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or email me using the Contact Form.


It is Friday again, time for another freebie. Remember, it will only be available through the weekend and will disappear on Monday.

This week I have a copywork of 'best thoughts'. Enlightening Quotes.

Download Expired. Come back next Friday for a new freebie.


I just finished getting the kids' study assignments done and thought I'd share how I go about it.

First, I cannot plan more than a week because it never seems to work out. Something doesn't get done for one reason or the other. Rarely have we done ALL that I scheduled.

But, I do have a long term plan set. I know what I want us to do and what resources we will use. I set goals as to when I would like them to be done, but nothing is set in stone.

Here are this weeks schedules.
[Click on them to see them larger.]

We are just beginning to use Polished Cornerstones and Plants Grown Up. I am excited about doing these studies.

We are just finishing up our study in 2 Timothy. We used the Know and Grow Series, similar to the Kay Arthur Bible Studies for Kids. We really enjoyed doing the study so I bought a few of Kary Arthur's studies and will do those along with the Polished Cornerstones and Plants Grown Up.

Devotions are done together before we start studies. We read out of our devotion book, right now that is Morning Bells, and pray. We then talk a little if the kids or I have anything on our hearts that pertains to the text read. We are suppose to recite our memory verses, but for some reason we always forget. I think I need to write a check-list. 🙂

Math is then begun and the kids work independently for about an hour to an hour an a half. Donnie is doing half lessons because his writing is...*cough*...terrible! Right now he is to work on number form (he still writes many of them backwards) and neatness. Neatness includes lining up decimal points and lining up numbers in division and double-digit multiplication problems.

Penmanship/Copywork consists of practicing cursive. This is just the alphabet for now. They also copy their memory verses.

English/Vocabulary - Vocabulary comes from the Robinson Curriculum (RC) list. Each lesson goes for two weeks. The number of words range from 15-25. They are to do about half a week. I have them write the words 3x each and then they are to do the crossword and word finds that are provided. This helps with getting the definitions memorized and the words spelled correctly. After two weeks, I give them a quiz. They also study their words every day.

English really should say, 'writing'. I think I will change that. 🙂 MaryEllen is doing The Writing Course. She will be finishing up the lessons this week. Then she will be writing for a half hour a day or one sheet of paper, front and back, double-spaced. I will edit for corrections and then she will rewrite only the corrected areas. We will discuss anything she doesn't understand.

Donnie is doing Intermediate Language Lessons. He does a lesson a day.

Silent Reading - The Robinson Curriculum has the kids read for 2 hours each day. I schedule in Bible, a history text, either a biography or like the one they are reading now, From Sea to Shining Sea. I also schedule in a literature text. I have altered the RC book list by adding in some and taking out others.

Latin is extra. If we get to it, great! If not, oh well. I am not going to stress over it.

Bible Study is a little different than devotions because they are studying one area or book. We are just beginning Polished Cornerstones and Plants Grown Up and I will also add a study on Obedience for Donnie this coming week.

Latin and Bible Study are after their Table Time Studies and Reading. They are allowed to have their free time before these are done. I am trying NOT to make Bible Study academic in the sense of it being just another subject to get done. I want the kids to enjoy their time with Jesus and to look forward to it everyday.

Boy, that was a mouth full. You all have a great week.

This is our new audio read! We take about an hour trip every Sunday to see Don’s Mom who is in a nursing home. To make the time pass, we listen to audio books.

Our current one is this 4-part series I found on Christy. It says it is the Juvenile Fiction Series, but either way, we are enjoying the story very much. Right now, Library and Education is selling the CD Set for about $15 each. I have seen them on Amazon for about $22 each, so this is a nice deal.

Other audio books we have enjoyed on our Sunday drives have been:

We have enjoyed the Focus on the Family Radio Dramas and we are looking forward to listening to The Christmas Carol this December.


We are a homeschooling family since the kids were tots. We have mainly eclectic in our studies trying to find our groove. I love the Charlotte Mason, classical and Ruth Beechick styles of education. We have implemented them all, but last year we settled on the Robinson Curriculum.

Here is a synopsis of what you will find in our home.

Our 3r's come from the Robinson Curriculum.

Math ('rithmetic) is Saxon. I started both kids in Saxon 54. MaryEllen is already in Saxon 65 and Donnie is finishing up Saxon 54. They both have done real well with Saxon. The Robinson's way is to have them read the lesson and do all the problems. If they get stuck, they are to go back to the lesson where the concept was taught and reread it and study the problem until they understand it. After they finish their lesson, they are to correct their work. (I do this) They then go back and redo the ones they missed.

Both have surprised me in how they have learned division, fractions, probability and percents on their own! They have hit a few bumps along the way, but it hasn't taken much for them to get over them.

Writing is a combination of things. We started out continuing with our Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL), but have now decided to go more 'robinsons'. I gave my LLATL to my sister and now I am having MaryEllen work on The Writing Course while Donnie is doing copywork and a few lessons here and there from Intermediate Language Lessons.

The Writing Course was developed by a fellow Robinson user who has used it with his own children. MaryEllen has taken to it very well. She listens to the lesson on the laptop and then does the assigned work given to her by Mr. Lybrand. I then check it and we discuss it.

The course is 20 lessons, but these lessons are principles that are then used everyday in her writing. He suggests going through the course every sememster, which we will do.

Reading is also a combination of things. We are not doing the Robinson List per se. I have added a number of titles and taken out a few titles.

I have the kids alternate between a literature selection and a biography.

For the biographies, we are using The Sower Series.

The literature selections come from the Robinson Book List and other books I find. Most have come from The Keepers Of The Faith and the public domain. I also am having Donnie read The Sugar Creek Gang Series. Not all are required, but he and MaryEllen enjoy reading these even during free reading time.

Our Extra Tie-Ins

We do add in a few extra things such as Latin and Bible. I will elaborate in another post. 🙂

The following twelve rules should constantly be brought under notice of the student.

1. Make short sentences.
Say all you have to say about one thing, or under one heading, before you go to another one.

2. Let each idea form one sentence.

3. Let each sentence have one principle subject only.
Be careful that a proper predicate is given with each subject.

4. Let every new sentence begin with a capital letter.

5. Where short pauses are required insert a comma.

6. When two sentences are thrown into one, separate them by a semicolon.
Example— "The sun and the wind once disputed as to which was the stronger. They agreed to try their strength,” becomes—"The sun . . . stronger;" so "they agreed," etc. A semicolon is often followed by a conjunction.

7. Use an "exclamation mark (!)" after all interjections, or words and phrases used in an exclamatory manner.

8. Place an "interrogation mark (?)" at the end of every direct question.
Example —"What do you say?" but not after an indirect question, "He asked me what I said."

9. The words which people say, must be put between "quotation marks."
When the actual words of the speaker are not given, as when the third person is used instead of the first person, inverted commas are not used. Children are very often uncertain on this point.

Example— He said, "It is time to go home." Here the quotation marks are required; but they are omitted if the sentence takes this form —He said that it was time to go home.

10. Do not use the words "so," “then," "but," "and," very often.
This can be prevented by making short sentences, inserting a full stop, and beginning another sentence with a capital letter.

11. Be careful in the use of the relatives "who," "which," and "that."
‘Who’ does not refer to animals or inanimate things. Children often insert unnecessary relatives, for example: "A man (who) was walking down the street, when he saw…"

12. When the exercise is finished, look it over carefully, and correct where correction is absolutely necessary.