Tony and I have just returned from a trip to Fosbury,Wiltshire. It was in this village in the early 1830s that Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer began a village school funded by her father in the school building erected by her grandfather, Sylvanus Bevan. Here she wrote down the lessons, that became her book Peep of Day. This book, drafted in such a secluded and peaceful spot, went on to sell over two million copies in England alone as well as editions in the USA and in over thirty different languages! It was wonderful to be allowed to see inside the school building now partly a house and partly storage for the Fosbury Manor Estate. Her grandfather's beautiful country house which she loved to visit is still standing too. One of the highlights I will treasure is that of finding the grave of “Old William” Mullens the farm labourer who is mentioned in Not Without Tears (p.41). This very poor but godly man preached the gospel from house to house in the village using a donkey for transport when he became to old to walk any distance.

Peep of Day and the other books by Mrs Mortimer form the backbone of the Mothers' Companion and her biography Not Without Tears is available from the publishers.




Not long now to the CHESS Christian home educators' holiday at Cefn Lea. I hope to be there for at least some of the time so if you are coming and think you might want a loan box now is the time to get in touch.  I'll also have an up date on the new IGCSE Latin course that is linked to the Mothers' Companion and I hope to be able to show it to anyone who is interested.

Latin for IGCSE through the Mothers' Companion

I am in the process of developing a website, Classics for Christians, which I hope will provide a three year course leading to Cambridge International GCSE in Latin. It will be suitable for complete beginners but also, if you have already done some Latin through using  the Mothers' Companion,  the first year will make a good refresher course as well as adding some knowledge about Classical philosophy. The course  will use Latin Without Tears by Favell Lee Mortimer which is on the  Mothers' Companion flashdrive and also the Greek Legends on Volume 3  of Mothers' Companion flashdrive and Stories from the History of Rome on Volume 4. The Classical Thought component will carry on from the Introductory Philosophy Sheet on Volume 9. I hope to upload all the lessons needed for the set works and translation papers to form a second and third year of the course. I'm looking forward to this follow up for older children to the Mothers' Companion flashdrive and I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

Dutch Piet

When my older son was a baby we were still in Australia. Western Australian public libraries (in those days anyway) used to periodically have huge sales of books that were no longer needed. The books would be randomly bundled up into fives or tens and sold for a few cents a bundle. I remember buying a load of rubbish to get hold of a large hardback book by Francis Schaeffer! We loved those sales and one of the delightful books we found there is now the centre piece of an intriguing little project that covers English, handwriting, history, art, music and geography – all in rhyme!

F. N.Monjo's The Sea Beggar's Son is a delightful book and I was thrilled when in 2007 Random House who own the rights, kindly gave permission to include this out of print book on the Mothers' Companion. The project is on Volume (CD) 5 of the Mothers' Companion and is suitable for children around seven years old although older children or a group of mixed ages could use it without much adaption. The book tells the story of the Dutch Admiral, Piet(er) Pietersen Heyn, who captured a Spanish ship full of silver during the Netherlands' struggle for independence from Spain. Monjo takes the story right back into Piet's childhood and relates the reasons for the eighty years war (1568–1648) in simple but accurate terms – and appealing verse. The book is exceptional for the quality of its illustrations, most in full colour, that add their own commentary to the story. 

The worksheets that go with the book go through the story in small steps giving background information and providing writing practice. The history of the Netherlands touches upon the history of Britain in this period in some interesting ways which the worksheets will help you explore. There is also plenty of scope for thinking about the issues involved in the book – especially that of freedom – which will enable you to have some valuable talks with your child as you work your way through the story.

It was only years after we'd done the project that I realised that Piet Heyn is the subject also of a very popular Dutch children's song. If you want to add some singing to the fun you can find it here – but you will have to sing it in Dutch!

Children who play the recorder (and those who don't too) will be charmed by hearing the delightful Dutch recorder music that comes into the project. ...And don't forget to look out for some merry making peasants that have sneaked into the story from a Brueghel painting on page 16 of the story!


Hidden Treasure

In our home education journey we sometimes come across the unexpected. Sometimes a treasure is hidden in a surprising place and finding it is only the beginning.

When I started home education, the search for good Bible teaching materials for very tiny children was frustrating. I could never find quite what I wanted. Then a kind relative sent me a copy of a little old book. It did not look very inspiring but it turned out to be a treasure. The author was evidently gifted in teaching very young children and had taken great trouble to distil Bible teaching and the Bible narrative into something clear, simple, and ideally suited to tiny tots. Even reading her prefatory remarks struck a chord:

“from a very early period a mother will, by casual remarks, endeavour to lead her child to the knowledge of his Creator and Redeemer; and in due time she will impart systematic instruction...”

Yes! Exactly! Through the day you carefully ensure the child knows that God is the giver of all good things, He made the world; when things go wrong this is due to human sin; naughtiness is more than just something that makes Mummy and Daddy cross. This begins imperceptibly and you are telling your child these things well before he can understand the words you say.

I started using the little book a tiny section at a time with my child on my lap. I found his interest was engaged and he could understand. Tiny bit by tiny bit we worked our way through the little book. I discovered the author's name. I found more books she had written. Gradually these books became the anchor of our home school day. I had found a treasure!

This was all before the days of the internet. Actually although I did not know it, two of the books were still in print and had never been out of print since they appeared in the 1830s! When, much later, I began scanning the ten little books to form the backbone of the Mothers' Companion I became curious about the author. I knew her name was “Mrs Mortimer” because, unlike the original copies, one of the more recent ones (c.1930) I owned carried her name. I did some research and found a biography of her by her niece, Mrs F. B. Meyer, wife of the well known founder of Melbourne Hall, Leicester. This puzzling document raised more questions but by now I had the internet and I began finding answers. The story that unfolded was so fascinating that I had to write it down. Piece by piece an intelligent, creative and godly woman stepped out of the shadows. A woman whose little children's book sold more copies in Britain than any single Dickens novel, whose books were devoured on the other side of the Atlantic, pirated, translated into thirty-seven (!) languages... Imagine a book that almost every child knew from the age of five and under! A book that tells the story of the Gospel in easy language! Hers was the hand that rocked the spiritual cradle of generations. Now published by John Ritchie as Not Without Tears, her life story is compelling.

The biography of Favell Lee Mortimer is now out!

Click here for an extra special offer too!

I am hoping to be able to bring some copies with me to the Tooting event on Saturday and they will be available at the offer price.

Mrs Mortimer is such a fascinating character. Thanks to some excellent research now going on in the USA we now know that in Britain alone from the publisher Hatchard's alone The Peep of Day sold at least two million copies! That does not count the huge sales in the USA or editions pirated by other publishers not to mention the versions translated into 37 languages (Urdu, Yoruba, Cree, Matabele, Gujerati and Rarotongan...) that missionaries found so useful. So read all about the home educated pioneer of Bible teaching for the very young. I hope you will enjoy finding out about her as much as I did!