The CopyWorkBook: George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

We are thrilled to introduce The CopyWorkBook: George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, which is now available at This copybook brings together the opportunity to practice handwriting, copy the same maxims that our first President copied as a young man, and develop composition skills by paraphrasing each rule. Get your copy today!



Christmas Reading

The first Sunday of Advent is coming up on November 27. As you think about what Christmas stories you would like to read this Christmas season, don’t forget about these two gems from Blue Sky Daisies:

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The Innkeeper’s Daughter is a sweet picture book written by Michelle Lallement and illustrated by her daughter Jennifer Lallement. The mother-daughter pair not only created a Christmas picture book, but also wrote a nativity play script that is easy to produce and adapt to whatever size cast you might have in your group. This play is perfect for a church’s children’s Christmas play, or a homeschool group, or even a family production for your Christmas holiday.



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The Birds’ Christmas Carol is a classic Christmas story by Kate Douglas Wiggin celebrating generosity and friendship, even in the face of difficulty. Blue Sky Daisies’ beautifully formatted and typeset version of this classic is available in paperback and for your Kindle.

The Mason Jar: Audiobooks

I was recently a guest on Cindy Rollins’ podcast, The Mason Jar. Don’t miss this episode in which Cindy and I chat about the founding of Blue Sky Daisies, the impact audio books have made on my kids, and some ideas about preparing young kids for enjoying the Great Books when they are older.

If you have listened to our conversation, you might be interested finding some of the audiobooks we mentioned.

Charlotte’s Web, read by E. B. White himself, is a very charming. I love White’s introduction: “This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children and to amuse myself…”

The Penderwicks and all the sequels are huge favorites with my daughters (and Tina’s as well!), but one of my sons has enjoyed it, too. When your kids tell you one day, “Mom, do you know how to say, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire!’ in Latin? It’s ‘Mendax, mendax, bracae tuae conflagrant!'” And then, “They say that on The Penderwicks on Gardam Street,” what’s not to love?

All-of-a-Kind Family and the sequels are books that the kids love to listen to repeatedly, especially my ten-year-old son. (He loves Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson books, Harry Potter, and other more stereotypical “boy” books, but All-of-a-Kind Family is still one he plays repeatedly.) In the podcast, I told how this book series gave my daughters some background to their visit to a Hebrew tabernacle in New York City.

The poetic justice in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is hilarious! Veruca is a spoiled child, and her parents do not escape punishment for their part in her spoiling.

‘Veruca Salt, the little brute,
Has just gone down the garbage chute,
(And as we very rightly thought
That in a case like this we ought
To see the thing completely through,
We’ve polished off her parents, too.)
Down goes Veruca! Down the drain!

The book really is better than the movie, so don’t miss it. This collection read by the author seems like a good deal for the price–

–but this one below, read by Eric Idle, is the one my kids have grown up hearing and loving.

And John Erickson’s Hank the Cowdog books are pure fun. Just last night in our dinner conversation, something came up and two of the kids said, “Hey, reminds me of the root stimulator in Hank!”

Farmer Boy is one that I started playing for my sons when they were three. They grew up to the sound of Cherry Jones reading about Almanzo’s childhood in New York. They especially like the chapters, “Filling the Ice-House” and “The Strange Dog.”


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Working on Writing

One of our classic reprints, Exercises in Dictation with Hints on Paraphrasing & Composition, has the most boring title ever, yet inside you will find some very practical and relevant help with your writing. There are two main elements to Exercises in Dictation: writing practice assignments and writing reference resources.

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Writing Practice Assignments

The book has writing practice assignments in dictation, paraphrasing, and composition. All three forms of writing practice begin with very simple exercises and advance to more complex and challenging assignments. I especially love the paraphrasing and composition sections.

Take a look at this paraphrase exercise, which takes a passage from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”:

To speak truth of Caesar
I have not known when his affections swayed(1)
More than his reason. But ‘tis a common proof,(2)
That lowliness(3) is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,(4)
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning(5) the base(6) degrees
By which he did ascend: so Caesar may;
Then, lest he may, prevent.(7)
—Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”

1. swayed, influenced him.
2. common proof, proved by common experience. Commonly proves to be the
3. lowliness, modest behavior.
4. upmost round, highest step of the ladder.
5. scorning, despising.
6. base, low; referring to the lowest steps of the ladder. The word base no doubt
expresses something of contempt also.
7. prevent, anticipate, prevent his further progress.


Here is my son’s paraphrase:

Truthfully, I don’t know when Caesar’s affections have influenced me more than his reason. Obviously, modesty is ambition’s ladder, where the climber upward looks; but when he has ascended to the utmost rung, he turns his back upon the ladder, looks to the clouds and scorns the steps by which he did aspire. In case Caesar does this, we must prevent it!

We worked on this together, and the exercise not only gave him practice in writing, but challenged him to carefully understand what the passage meant. His paraphrase is still a little awkward, and he had some trouble escaping Shakespeare’s poetic word order, however in the process of doing this, he was able to grow his vocabulary and practice unpacking metaphors to discover their meaning.

Writing Reference Resources

Exercises in Dictation also contains some very helpful references for writers. With sections on spelling rules, punctuation rules, and figures of speech, writers don’t have to go far for help.

Here’s an example, from the Figures of Speech section:

Metonymy (Gk. meta, expressing change, and onoma, a name,) substitutes
one word for another, cause for effect, sign for thing signified;
e. g.

“Cromwell set up Parliaments by the stroke of his pen, and scattered
them with the breath of his mouth.”

My high school literature students are working on a paper for literature class, and I asked them to use as many figures of speech from this section as they can work into their paper. It’s a nice, manageable list of some of the most common figures of speech.You may want to use Exercises in Dictation as a supplemental resource, or you may want to use it as a primary writing resource to develop some skills with your student (or yourself). I like to combine it with other writing instruction, such as progymnasmata instruction.We love old books, but we aren’t as crazy about old book formats. After a friend of mine tipped me off to Exercises in Dictation, we decided to put it into a nice paperback that we could use. We hope you like it, too.


In the Works

We’re working on a project to bring you another gem of an old book, which is a fabulous resource for teaching writing. We can’t wait for you to see the book once we have it dusted off and re-published. In the meantime, try this dictation exercise, taken from the book.

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The Birds’ Christmas Carol

Introducing Blue Sky Daisies’ edition of the classic Christmas story from Kate Wiggin, The Birds’ Christmas Carol!  Since we know you want to start reading right away, we’ve got it set up so that when you order the paperback book, you can get a Kindle copy for free with KindleMatchbook. The Birds’ Christmas Carol is a charming read-aloud for your family in the days leading up to Christmas.
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When you order by 12/16/15 you can take advantage of Amazon’s current promotion, which gets you an extra 25% off any book.*
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Blue Sky Daisies brings you classic books, re-issued in a fresh form that we know you will want in your hands or on your shelf, for a reasonable price.

Workbook 2 is Here!

The Mother Tongue Student Workbook 2 ….

The Mother Tongue Student Workbook 2 Answer Key

and The Mother Tongue Student Workbook 2 Answer Key are now available!
Mother Tongue Student Workbook 2 Answer Key

One of our purposes in reissuing the classic grammar text Mother Tongue Book II, by George Kittredge and Sarah Arnold, has been to make it easier for contemporary students to complete the valuable practice exercises given in the original text. By putting these exercises into a workbook form, students are able to focus on honing their grammar skills as they write directly onto the page. Even if you prefer to use Mother Tongue exercises as a group, orally, the workbook format and the answer key can make this process more productive for all.

The Mother Tongue Student Workbook 2 includes exercises for chapters 76 through 143 of The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students. As a bonus, Workbook 2 also includes punctuation and capitalization practice exercises. These exercises include sentences from the classic Mother Tongue text, and we have also added additional practice selections taken from literature. Students are given these selections without any proper punctuation or capitalization and are asked to copy the sentences and add the correct punctuation and capitals. The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students contains an appendix giving rules for capitalization and punctuation.

Workbook 2 has another bonus feature, which we think you will love: nearly 60 extra sentences given for analysis as a final review. These sentences are found at the back of the 1908 revised edition of Mother Tongue Book II, and originally given for diagramming practice. In Workbook 2, the sentences are presented in six “Final Review” chapters. Students are asked to label the sentences and then answer some thinking questions about them. These questions draw on concepts found throughout The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students, giving students an opportunity to pull together all that they have studied. The “Final Review” would also make an excellent oral discussion led by the teacher.

Workbook 2 also includes a short reference section entitled “Miscellaneous Idioms,” which is found in the 1908 revised edition of Mother Tongue Book II. Here the student will find help with “a number of idioms which often give rise to doubt and discussion.”

As with the Workbook 1 Answer Key, the Workbook 2 Answer Key gives teachers the source information for most of the practice sentences (see the sample image from chapter 79, below).  The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students mostly gives practice sentences written by some of the greatest English authors, which means students are not working with contrived sentences, but instead working with “real” sentences from Shakespeare, Scott, Dryden, Cowper, Swift, and others.

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The Mother Tongue at Exodus Books

Exodus Books - Educational Materials, New and Used Books, Family-Friendly Literature, and More!

Exodus Books is now carrying The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students and the accompanying workbook and key.

Here’s some of what they have to say about The Mother Tongue grammar books:

That’s why a book like The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students is so surprising and should be welcomed with open arms by all those convinced that to succeed academically students need to know the English language. The approach of this book is at once simple and far different than any grammar course we’ve seen, and that is a good thing.


Kittredge and Arnold’s approach is summed up in the first line of the preface to the first edition: “The purpose of this book is to set forth the elements of English grammar in their relation to thought and the expression of thought.” This means that the structure of the English language is decoded and examined to allow students to better understand it and express their ideas.

This also means that grammar is explored in depth. Students will study mood, case, clauses, infinitives, gender, number, and all things in between (and the parts of speech, sentence construction, etc.). Things like capitalization and punctuation are relegated to the appendices, so that students can spend their time studying the real meat of grammar.

Their opinion of The Mother Tongue grammar books:

What can you say when you’ve found what you’ve been looking for all along? The problem with so many grammar programs is that they focus on peripheral matters and never get much below the surface, so that students never really understand English but are able to perform some rudimentary functions.

The Mother Tongue actually teaches grammar, and does so in a way that will improve the student’s ability to read and write. Is it difficult? Absolutely, but once the course is successfully completed the mystery of language will be solved and students will find learning as a whole to be much less difficult, whether they’re studying astronomy or French history.

Read the whole thing here.

Exodus Books is a wonderful online bookstore, chock-full of detailed reviews books. We love their full-length articles about classic books, particularly their translation comparisons, like this one of Beowulf. Browsing their website is every bit as cozy and wonderful as browsing in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop. They do have a physical location in Portland, OR, for those lucky enough to be close enough to pop over for a visit.