Archive for Reviews

Homeschool triumph — poem and booksigning

My parents’ name is Titchenell. They called me F.J.R.,
A hint about my future and a lucky guess by far,
For J.R.R’s enduring world of evil versus good,
For Robins both of Locksley and the Hundred Acre Wood,
For Jane whose razor wit put all three Bronte girls to shame.
Fiona was my own before the ogre princess came.

They schooled me in my craft, but on my own I heard its call.
Whatever it gives back to me, I give this task my all.
I’ll trade my days to feed myself and keep my happy home,
My heart can spend them safely locked in some remembered tome.
I’ll even do them well, my every bread-acquiring sham,
But don’t confuse the things I have to do with what I am.

I’m through and through a storyteller. That’s all I can be,
No matter if by day or night, for crowds or only me.
The use of words on paper to encourage and explore
The beauty of the human heart and mind is what I’m for.
I do this not because it’s easy nor for profit’s sake.
This life’s the one that chose me and the only one I’d take.
She’s still working at her day job but her second book has just come out and she has a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Glendale this Friday:
October 17th at 7:30pm:
Signing in Glendale
Barnes & Noble Americana at Brand
210 Americana Way, Glendale, California 91210

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The great Homeschooler correspondence — The letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett

This is one of the greatest examples of homeschooling correspondence in history — the communication and courtship of two of the most brilliant wordsmiths of the 19th century.

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

This Librivox audio recording of the work is incomplete and thus not yet in the Librivox catalog but it is beautifully done and all the important parts of the correspondence are covered.

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett (later Browning) were two of the greatest homeschoolers, unschoolers, autodidacts in history and their correspondence is a monument to philology. As they had both taught themselves French, Latin and Greek before age 15 are were very widely read, their letters do contain a wealth of rather recondite references, but translations are handled well in the audiobook version.

Audio files:

Browning Letters 1


Browning Letters 2


Browning Letters 3


Browning Letters 4


Browning Letters 5


Browning Letters 6


Browning Letters 7


Browning Letters 8


Browning Letters 9


Browning Letters 10

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An Internationally Recognized Professional Diploma for the minimal cost of an examination? Yes!

Abacus Educational Services is arranging for fully accredited examinations to be offered in Southern California and will be helping applicants prepare for them here and elsewhere.

Uncollegians, homeschoolers and other varieties of autodidact have learnt that getting an education is free! It is only obtaining an officially sanctioned diploma which costs — and indeed, that cost is immense.

What if it were possible to turn that freely accessible higher education into an internationally recognized degree simply by taking an exam? Well, it is possible up to a point.

Trinity College London ( has for many years been offering credit by examination in over sixty countries through its international examination board, including nine levels of certificate programs for primary and secondary students, and three professional diplomas corresponding to undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate university degrees.  These are fully accredited in Great Britain and widely recognized and accepted around the world.  Typically, local teachers and schools may thus prepare their students to earn internationally recognized distinction through examinations administered by visiting Trinity College Examiners. The examinations are face-to-face and rigorous and the applicants upon whom those professional diplomas are conferred, as Associates, Licentiates and Fellows of Trinity College London, may proudly place ATCL, LTCL or FTCL after their names.

It seems inevitable that institutions like Trinity College London will proliferate and eventually provide generally accessible official recognition to those students who prefer to study outside the loop.  Abacus Educational Services has been offering English Writing, Music Theory and Speech Classes to homeschoolers and uncollegians for over ten years and is now specifically helping students to prepare for the Trinity College Exams.

The advantages of the Trinity College Academic model

  • Applicants need only pay a reasonable fee for the examination.
  • Preparation for the exam need not take place within any specific institution.
  • Exams are open to all, regardless of background and geography, provided that enough applicants are prepared to sit the exam in a specific subject and location to justify a visit by the examiner(s).
  • Diplomas are highly rigorous and thus fully accredited in Great Britain and recognized worldwide.
  • A Trinity College grade level certificate is a significant and unusual mark of distinction on a college application.

The downside of the Trinity College Exam

  • Trinity College is an arts college and their curricula cover largely the performing arts including music and theater. However, they do also have a wide range of programs in English language communications skills.
  • Trinity college diplomas, though highly regarded internationally, tend to be evaluated unpredictably bu US institutions as there are no uniform admissions policies in the US.

Our immediate goal:

To help uncollegians and other out-of-loop learners in Southern California and online to prepare for the exam in English Communications, Music Theory and Theater subjects and to host the exams here.  Abacus Educational Services has many resources including online classes and online tutoring to assist applicants prepare to take these examinations with confidence here or elsewhere.  If you may be interested in participating or learning more, please join our contact list.

Longer term goals:

  • To encourage programs similar in structure to those of Trinity college but with wider ranging curricula.
  • To help establish US recognition of such degrees and of credit by examination in general.
  • To encourage life-long study and alternative approaches to education.

Parties interested in participating or learning more, please join our contact list.

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Favorite arias

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A nice free online resource for auditory learners — Wind in the Willows recording online

In our family, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame has always reigned as on of the most brilliant children’s books of all time, and some time ago we posted the full text of The Wind In the Willows in our Children’s Books pages.

A few days ago, I just discovered that someone has been posting a serialized audiobook version of  The Wind in the Willows online on youtube.  It’s very nicely read and about half done.  The reader assures me that she will be completing it.  It has also been embedded into our full text version so one can read and listen on the same page.

To us this was a wonderful find, and we thought in might be of general interest to our homeschooling friends.

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Lectures: words not in the dictionary

Lectures: words not in the dictionary

Dear Scholars,

I recently found a lecture by an eminent lexicographer on the project of listing all of the words of English — far more, he claims, than are found in any dictionary. The content is very interesting but the language used is really very poor in comparison with that others whose speech exemplifies spoken English as an art form (Stephen Wolfram’s lecture, for example, which I shared earlier).  Indeed, the speaker, Chris Cole of Harvard and Caltech, commits grammatical crimes in about every third sentence, a ratio which, though deplorable, is probably quite common among American English speakers, as spoken language is not generally expected to conform to the norms of formal English in this country. Here is the talk:
How many grammatical errors can you find?

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