Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater....

I borrowed The Living Page, Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater from a dear friend last summer.  I read the first three chapters, taking a copious amount of notes.   I even created my own version of the 'Book of Centuries'.  For whatever reason, I set the book aside and never finished it.  Feeling shameful for keeping it nearly a year, I found the book and revisited it, knowing I should promptly return it.  Unfortunately, I couldn't recall what I had read so I started back at square one from the beginning.

I found The Living Page fascinating and more meaningful than I remembered.  I wonder if my study of Charlotte's 20 Principles is deepening my understanding of her philosophy.  It appears as though Bestvater has done her homework regarding Mason's notebooks.

Chapter one sets the stage in learning about the art of the keeper.  Bestvater lays down examples of various famous folks in history that kept notebooks, beginning with ancient civilizations and the art of book binding.  She notes notorious notekeepers such as Da Vinci, Galileo, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, and Albert Einstein, as well as some other lesser known.

I found the meat of The Living Page to be chapters two through four.  It's here Bestvater describes what she calls the "Gallery of Forms" or "Forms of Vitality".  I had no idea of the number of notebooks Charlotte may have used in her schools.  Not only does Bestvater describe each of these notebooks, but she has photographed images of some as well as charts recreating several others.  Being visual, these images were of great significance to my understanding.  Bestvater further describes when and how each of these notebooks was used.  There is a five page chart that accompanies chapter three, titled "The Forms of Vitality Across the Years", in which Bestvater lays out the type of notebook, the form in which it was used, and how it was used or what was recorded in it.  Bestvater also gives advice on how to start with notebooks, what supplies to use, and evaluating notebooks.  Again, the information in these three chapters was most beneficial.

The final chapter, five, was a bit philosophical to me.  Bestvater sums up The Living Page by attempting to show why keepers of notebooks keep them and the significance of keeping a notebook.  The subtitles within the chapter are Keeping Imagination and Attention; Keeping Time; Keeping Place; Keeping Relationships; and Keeping Glory.  Some of her summations were legitimate and some were wordy and far reaching.   She frequently referenced and quoted Wendell Berry, likening him to Charlotte Mason.  For those unfamiliar with Berry, this could be rather annoying. 

Overall, I found The Living Page helpful in my understanding of Charlotte's notebooks, particularly what Bestvater calls "The Three Pillars", these being The Nature Notebook, The Book of Centuries, and the Commonplace.  We have dabbled in using all three of the pillars, but reading The Living Page has sparked a deepened curiosity within me to further our use. 


  1. I so loved this book as I've been in love with journaling for years! It made a lot of sense to me. I found it so helpful also for learning more about Charlotte Mason's use of journals/notebooks! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I too was really struck with this book when I read it last year, though I agree with you that it can be overwhelming to the newer-to-CM mom (and I do hesitate to recommend it sometimes for that reason). I feel like it revolutionized both my understanding of how Keeping fits into a Charlotte Mason education and my interest in committing to that Keeping personally and as a family.