Commonplace Book

What is a Commonplace Book?

In the reading of the Bible, of poetry, of the best prose, the culling of mottoes is a delightful and most stimulating occupation, especially if a motto book be kept, perhaps under headings, perhaps not. It would not be a bad idea for children to make their own year-book, with a motto for every day of the year culled from their own reading. What an incentive to a good day it would be to read in the morning as a motto of our very own choice and selection, and not the voice of an outside mentor: ‘Keep ye the law; be swift in all obedience’!

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason called it a “Book of Mottoes”, others have called it a Commonplace Book. A Commonplace Book is a journal dedicated to selected portions of scripture, quotes, and passages from living books, historical figures, poetry, and hymns. Each Commonplace Book will be unique.

A Commonplace Book has been used by influential historical figures since Ancient Rome, and possibly earlier. Writers and scholars that have kept a Commonplace Book include Marcus Aurelius, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many more. 

Keeping a Commonplace Book encourages the habit of attention because it engages the mind in looking for and choosing meaningful passages while reading. Charlotte Mason encourages students to choose passages from their lessons. 

Keeping a Commonplace Book is a project for a lifetime. 

8 Tips for Keeping a Commonplace Book

  1. Read other people’s books for inspiration.
  2. Create your own Commonplace Book. Show your child your book and share how it has enriched your life.
  3. Allow your child (age 9+) to choose a special hard-cover journal. 
  4. Demonstrate taking notes when you read, paying attention for passages that you’d like to add to your book. Children follow a parent’s good example. 
  5. Assign your child to choose and write a few passages each week. At the end of the week, gather together and share what each person has added to their book. 
  6. When adding a passage, include the date of entry and reference.
  7. Be inspired to add personal reflections on each passage, as well as artistic accents.
  8. Celebrate the wisdom and good habits that come with keeping a Commonplace Book. 

Discover the joy of including a Commonplace Book in your homeschool!