Saturday, September 7, 2013

Horse Sense

Horse Sense
“Are you going out?” I asked my husband Dean, as I cleared away the breakfast dishes.
“Yes. Do you need anything?

“Horses,” I said. A couple, married as long as we have, tends to talk in abbreviations but this word stumped him. He was expecting, “peaches, tomatoes” or some such thing as he regularly stops at farm stands. 
“Horses?” he queried.
“Would you get some horses for me . . . on camera? It’s for a blog post.”

Living anywhere else would have made this request a problem. Living in Lancaster, he just said, “Sure.”

Dean came home with peppers, peaches, tomatoes and a camera with horses in it.  A few photographs were taken on a day when an Amish man did some work for us. While the carthorse rested in the shade his master worked in the hot summer sun.

Amish cart horse resting in the shade

Horses have helped man to farm, to cross prairies, deserts and mountains, and to defend the homeland.  And they have provided companionship. Eyeing our neighbors' horses gives a small picture of how valuable the horse has been in man’s story. 

During the years I reviewed home school materials I was attracted to the concisely written 32-page guide, History of the Horse by Hilary Severson. It probably attracted my attention because my daughters, in their teens, were enchanted by horses. For three summers they and their brother took English riding lessons. Their brother wasn’t keen but his sisters were. They energetically cleaned stalls for barn-bucks that they traded in for a trail ride. Dean took the trail with them. I shy away from the saddle, generally.

 All our children read horse stories. But it was the girls who drew horses. Magazine pages of horses, they collected, ran along the top of their bedroom wall in a frieze. “Better horses than insufficiently dressed male pop stars,” I remember thinking. And yet such an idea would never have crossed their minds. Our children were exposed to so little television and it was the days before internet and computer entertainments. I was thankful that youth-culture had hardly any influence over them. On Friday evenings we watched odd and old movies that Dean picked out for us. Therefore, horses, it was. 

Amish man cutting his front lawn with a horse drawn mower
Amish man mowing his front lawn by one-horse-power 
When we heard that the Lipizzaner stallions of Vienna would be performing in our area we drove into the city to see them. It is one breed spotlighted in this course.

A sober reality is in store for those who admire horses. The day I sat down to write this piece I heard about another horrible road accident in the local news. A spirited buggy horse had run away from an Amish gathering in the dark and was hit head-on by a car on the highway. The driver is in critical condition. The horse did not survive. Incidental dangers – in the earliest chapters of Black Beauty – and those that follow - are a reflection of reality. But there is also tenderness, respect, good will, hope and humor in the realistic fiction Hilary Severson has chosen in her History of the Horse.

Amish buggy horse resting in a parking lot

Today I’m drawn to use the pronoun “she” for “student.”

 History of the Horse is for elementary up to junior high grades. It recommends reading aloud. I think some silent reading would be fine - as the older student could follow the guide independently - but reading aloud is always a pleasure and allows the teacher to be personable and share in the study. This is the togetherness-parent-child part of home educating that is unsurpassed. Speaking as a home teacher with adult children I can tell you that the years we share with our children are more fleeting than we can possibly recognize in the busy day-to-day.

a wagon full of hay pulled by a team of horses

But before I get too mushy . . .  

The guide has an intelligent plan of reading, reasoning, relating and recording. Discussion questions stimulate reasoning. The method of narration (relating) takes place when the student tells back the reading (or a portion of it) in her own words, orally or in writing. She keeps a notebook for recording written narrations. All rough draft work is done outside the notebook with the final draft recorded inside it.

The notebook will be individual and varied because narration and drawing are individual. Notebook entries bring a sense of ongoing accomplishment to a student as she watches the notebook grow. At the end of the course, her work becomes a keepsake.

 Rather than work-pages there are a few key questions. How refreshing. With narration the student takes responsibility for learning, extinguishing the need for work-pages. Vocabulary to define comes in threes and fours rather than long lists.

Weekly Bible memory is recommended and relates to the ideas and pertinent ethics brought forth in the stories. This is where horse sense comes in. The student thinks about what she is reading, forms an opinion (no matter how small) and slowly and steadily acquires the wisdom of discernment.     

With History of the Horse the student gains knowledge in so many different (naturally occurring and connected) areas: English composition, geography, biography, zoology, ethics, drawing, etc. For example, throughout the lessons the student studies the anatomy of the horse and does classification and identification of breeds. While reading King of the Wind she looks at an atlas of the Strait of Gibraltar, colors and pastes a map of Morocco in her notebook, traces and draws one of England and France.

Justin Morgan Had a Horse has biographical relevance. Further study is encouraged in this time period of early America. A website for The Morgan Horse Farm in Vermont is provided.

     At least one website, youtube or film is supplied for each story. 

Sample - Lesson 28
Read chapter 36-37 of Black Beauty.
Discuss the issue of working on the Sabbath brought out in these chapters. Contrast the difference between what Jerry does in chapter 36 to that of chapter 37. What is his reasoning?
In Horses (Smithsonian Handbook) read page 26 about the walk and the trot.
Copy [Jerry’s] little poems . . . into notebook. Memorize.

Black Beauty, hardcover book, resting on tweed vest
Our hardcover resting on a tweed vest from our son's winter wardrobe 
Two to three lessons per week will cover one school year.
You could count all the reading and notebook work toward an English credit if you prefer to do an additional history for the year.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is one of the first books read. Stories by Margaret Henry are the primary source:

Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West
Album of Horses (non-fiction) 

Black Stallion by Walter Farley is the final story.

Draw 50 Horses by Lee J. Ames teaches how to draw horses in motion while also drawing - not a generic horse - but specific breeds.

Full of 250 color photographs, Horses (Smithsonian Handbook) by Elwyn H. Edwards is an aid in examining and identifying species by sight and by the informative descriptions.

Our books pictured here were purchased some years ago. That's why the covers are different than those you'll find on my links to Amazon. 

In the 1990s we owned, on video, the British film “Black Beauty” directed by Caroline Thompson. We watched it repeatedly; Mom with a tissue box nearby. I should say listened to it repeatedly, as well, because the sound track is a stunning arrangement of strings and flute. One of our daughters was so fond of the theme song composed by Danny Elfman that she had the pianist play it during her wedding service. (This is the kind of tid-bit you pick up when reading a blog.)  

Justin Morgan Had a Horse   Directed by Hollingsworth Morse

Misty   Directed by James B. Clark

The Black Stallion   Directed by Carroll Ballard

A horse in Lancaster County, PA

 Horse Sense is a good thing for anyone to have. And with History of the Horse your student may not find a more delightful way of acquiring a measure of it. 

Happy to have you stopping by for a visit,
Karen Andreola  


  1. Asking Dean for horse pictures reminds me of a scavenger hunt my husband participated in as a teen. The teams were provided with polaroid cameras and tape recorders. They had interesting items on the list: the sampler that Mrs. So and So from church made when she was a girl, Mr.___ singing "Take Time to Be Holy" etc. The idea was to get the kids into the homes of and talking with various fellow church members. With today's technology, it would surely be easier.


  2. oldest was crazy about them since she was little, and is still crazy about them as an adult. She read many of those books. My youngest daughter is currently trading lessons for mucking out stalls. My son shows no interest in them at all.
    I myself think they are beautiful, but prefer to admire them from a distance!


  3. That sounds like a wonderful curriculum. I still have a daughter who would like to use this.

    We too, have had the loss of a horse through Rachel's pony getting out of the pasture and running into an oncoming car in the dark. Thankfully for us the driver was unharmed though the poor pony died.

    I'm off to listen to the theme music from Black Beauty!

    Tell Dean that he took some nice photos.


  4. I miss Beautiful Feet Books and their wonderful study guides. I didn't end up doing the horse one, but it would have been really enjoyable. I miss reading your wonderful books and reviews, too. I have been done homeschooling for a couple of years now, and it just seems to stay with me. Thank you for all of your years of writing and encouragement, Karen.

  5. Oh Deanna, How very hard it must have been to loose a pony. What a sadness. But it is good to know that the driver of the car was unharmed.
    Nadine, One certainly can't clean out a stall without a good work ethic under one's belt buckle.
    Susan, The church fellowship hunt sounds like a good idea for mingling. I'd like to see Mrs. So & So's girlhood sampler, by-the-way. Dean welcomes the use of "his"
    camera. It follows me around the house and has become part of the furniture.
    Thank you for your visit and your comments.
    Karen A.

  6. So good to hear that my writing is appreciated. Thank you. I'm still reading children's books which lessens the separation of years in a way. I love children's books. And, too, it is fun to know that a grandchild has started homeschool Kindergarten this September.
    Karen A.

  7. Hi Karen. :) This post put such a smile on my face. Having visited Lancaster in July, I was taken back to fond memories of my almost-13-year-old who enjoyed our time in Amish country mostly because of all the horses. It is more of a girl thing than a boy thing, indeed. So glad there were no accidents while we were there; how tragic.

    Thank you for sharing, for inspiring! I'll be sharing this post with my AnnaLynn who will, I'm almost certain, be begging for this curriculum!

    Blessings to you and your wonderful photographer. :) ~Lisa

  8. Thank you for showing us how we can draw out a curriculum from the use of living books. This post truly inspired me and reminded me of what my heart's desire is for my children's education.


  9. Slow down Mrs. Andreola! This is so much information in one post!!!

    I had to read it over again. I'm gleaning from the lessons to the history behind the horse to forming a science of relations with your girls on their fondness of horses as children. My daughter is keen on them too.

    Over the weekend, we found an old hobby horse at a yard-sale. The daddy picked it up for the baby. But when we got home I was surprised to see my green eyed girl with a blanket saddle, a halter and riding the wind on the little horse...And after recently reading black beauty, you can guess what name was chosen:)

    I was cleaning off my bookshelf this week. Weeding out all non-living books. I found a copy of Misty.

    I'll go ahead, dust it off and open it's torn pages to snuggle by my children tomorrow night and open the doors to a new adventure.


    Enjoyed the photos. I've never seen Amish mowing a yard like this. I like it!
    Please tell Mr. Andreola he did a fine job on collecting your requested photos.


    Take Care,

    From the Backwoods~

  10. Hello!

    Growing up in Kentucky, I was around horses quite frequently. I took riding lessons as a girl. One of my best friends lived on a farm and would allow me to ride whenever I wanted.

    Your pictures are lovely. I hope the Amish boy will be okay. As a current Georgian I also admire your peaches! We have quite a few that I need to get made into a crisp or pie quickly.


  11. My daughter, Rose, did that study on horses several years back. Naturally, she loves horses, I was along for the ride so to speak. But I truly enjoyed reading those books with her. Learning about the Lipizzaners was a highlight of the course for me because I knew so little about the training of these horses. We are still wating for the day we can see them in a live show. Unfortunately, they always come to our area during Holy Week.

  12. Such beautiful pictures you have shared. The horse is an amazing creation of God indeed. My eldest daughter loved them too as a young girl. She too drew pictures of them as well as collected small figures of them. And to think...Jesus himself is recorded in his word, to come back to earth riding on a white horse, in majesty! Every eye shall behold him! Blessings friend

  13. This was great. I shared it on one of our local homeschool Facebook group pages.

    Merry Christmas!