The History of the (Whole) World

my progress as I write, revise, send to my editor, re-revise, fact-check, galley-read, and promote my books, including (but not limited to) a multi-volume history of the world. While living on a farm, educating my kids, and teaching. And doing a few other things too.

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I’m speaking nine times this summer, as long as you have an Internet connection…

March 16th, 2015 by Susan

In my ongoing effort to stay home and write more/travel less (and as part of my continual unhappiness with home education conferences), I’m trying out the online conference scene.

This summer, I’ll be giving three sets of mini-sessions (three workshops each) as part of the Well-Trained Mind Online Conference series. Have a look: This Isn’t as Easy as I Thought, Beyond Elementary School, and A Plan for Teaching Writing.

These conferences, which are sponsored by the Well-Trained Mind Academy, are an effort to give parents solid academic training without any other agenda. I’m delighted that so many fantastic speakers have joined in this initial effort, and am looking forward to future years with an even broader agenda.

Please visit the site and join us!

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KIRKUS reviews the Story of Science!

February 24th, 2015 by Susan

The first big industry review of The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, just came out from Kirkus! “A bright, informative resource for readers seeking to understand science through the eyes of the men and women who shaped its history.”

Read the entire review here:

And, in case you didn’t know, the Well-Trained Mind Academy is offering a one year history and philosophy of science course, based on the book!

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If you’re the parent of a school student, I have a question for you.

February 20th, 2015 by Susan

And here it is.

If you’ve have had, or now have, your student(s) part- or full-time in a classroom situation. were you able to use any resources/techniques/ideas from home schooling to help you customize your child’s situation? In what ways did the idea of a parent-directed education make you able to take charge of the classroom setting? Or the reverse–did you decide to take a more hands-off approach?

For a long time, I’ve heard from “afterschoolers” who use the Well-Trained Mind approach to do one or more subject at home in addition to a traditional school curriculum, and I’m also interested in hearing from you.

I have a theory that the home schooling movement is having a “ripple” effect that stretches far beyond the realm of traditional home educators. I’m curious to see whether I’m right.

You can post your stories here, or at our message boards (see the thread here) or, (if you’d rather be more private), you can email your thoughts to [email protected]

Thanks, gentle readers!

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And the winners are…

January 15th, 2015 by Susan

Julie from Trinity, NC, home schooling this year for the first time and using classical methods

Debbie from Florida, mother of two girls, aged ten and eleven

Tabitha from Florida, a reader of The Well-Trained Mind

Jennifer from Alabama, home schooling mom of three

Janie from Texas, a “decade-long fangirl”

Sheila from Victoria, who blogs at Greenridge Chronicles

Susie and John, “adjunct faculty and former homeschoolers, classical education fans and wannabe homesteaders”

Congratulations! You should see those galleys early next week. And thanks for playing, everyone.

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The drawing is complete!

January 11th, 2015 by Susan

I am so grateful for everyone who posted to the galley give-away contest, and I wish I had many more copies to distribute! I did dig up a couple more, so we drew eight names from the 776 comments below (778 total, one was from me, one was a duplicate). An email has gone out to the winners, and as soon as we get confirmation from all eight, we’ll post the results.

ADDENDUM: If you entered, check your spam folder! I’m still waiting to hear back from a winner or two.

And for the rest of the entries…I really want to give everyone SOMETHING! Stay tuned and I’ll arrange a couple of other giveaways this spring. Many, many thanks.

More soon,

Susan (enjoying this great start to the New Year)

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Galley Giveaway!

January 4th, 2015 by Susan

I am thrilled to report that the galleys (prepublication copies) of The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory have arrived!

Front cover

And I’d like to share them with you! Post a comment here before midnight on Friday, January 9, and I’ll enter your name into a random drawing for a galley. I’ve got six to give away.

Back cover

Hope to see your name here soon…

(By the way, comments have to be approved before they appear–this keeps the spam away! So if you don’t see your comment immediately, be patient. As long as your user name isn’t “NFL Jerseys” or “Watch Online Free!”, you’ll get past the moderation queue shortly…)

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Writing in fish mode

November 28th, 2014 by Susan

In nonfiction publishing, you typically sell your publisher a promise–an outline, a few sample chapters, and a deadline by which you plan to have the project finished. Writing under contract is good for publishers, who can begin to plan out their lists a few years in advance, as well as providing feedback on projects in process. It’s good for writers because we get some money up front to keep us from starving while we lock ourselves in our offices to write–and we don’t spend years on a manuscript that nobody really wants to publish.

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been writing under contract. I’m lucky that I have contracts. I’m lucky that people want to read what I write. I’m lucky that I can make a living this way.

It’s just that I’ve done big project after big project after big project, almost always behind deadline. (I used to suggest a deadline when I signed a contract. Then I started settling on a deadline and doubling the time. Then I started doubling the time and adding six months. I still never finish anything within the time frame on the contract.) It’s wearing, because when I’m behind I feel that I can’t afford to stop and reflect on what I’m doing. It’s not great for creativity, because you don’t have the luxury of rebooting if a book starts to go in an unexpected direction. It leads to late nights, early mornings, not enough exercise, and too much high-calorie comfort food.

So about a year ago, I promised myself that when I hit my last big deadline, I wouldn’t sign another contract immediately. Instead, I decided to take six months and just write. Go down to my office and work on anything that struck my fancy. Read, reflect, experiment, let my horizons expand.

I’ve been looking forward to this six months. Can’t even tell you how much.

The six months started the first week of October. I have until the end of March to read, reflect, and experiment.

And I hate it. I have about eight different projects I want to do, and I can’t seem to make headway on any of them. I am in total fish mode.


“Fish mode” is a phrase my husband invented a few years ago to describe the kind of progress you make on a project when you go one way for a little bit, and then turn around and go the other way, and then swim a little to the left, and then a little to the right. I don’t like fish mode. It wastes time and energy. It isn’t gratifying in the slightest.

And even though I thought I hated them, I miss my deadlines. They keep me focused. They force me to carve out bottom-in-the-chair, fingers-on-the-keyboard time. They force everyone else to work around my writing time (because, after all, I have to get that writing done by the deadline).

I’m going to stick out my six months. I’m not going to send anything to my editor or agent, or promise anything to my Peace Hill Press readers, until March 31 has come and gone. I suspect something useful and important is going on in my non-deadlining brain, even though I don’t appear to be making any particular progress.

But this “break” is oddly stressful. Fish mode, as it turns out, is exhausting.

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The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory

November 15th, 2014 by Susan

storyofscience“Far too often, issues based on science are decided by voters and politicians who have received their science secondhand. The Story of Science guides us back to the original texts that have changed the way we think about our world, our cosmos, and ourselves.” My latest book for W. W. Norton, The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, now has a pub date: May 2015.

This has been a wonderful project–a chronological walk through the greatest discoveries of science, organized around the books that brought those discoveries to the world. You can read the full description at W. W. Norton’s online catalog page, The Story of Science. (Norton does the most intriguing, insightful book covers ever, by the way. Can you see what makes this one perfect for a story that stretches from the ancient astronomers to modern cosmologists?)

Visit the Table of Contents here (manuscript version) for more detail, or have a look at the Foreword, which lays out the book’s purpose.

More news forthcoming shortly about a new Fall 2015 release, plus a brand-new and INCREDIBLY FASCINATING project. Sign up for my email notification list to stay in touch.

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Writing, writing, writing

April 9th, 2014 by Susan

…by which I mean not so much that I’m writing (although that’s mostly what I do, when I’m not sheep-herding or stall-cleaning), but that I’ve just finished up a big project about writing. The third volume of Writing With Skill, our pre-rhetoric program, is finally polished off and in production.

I’ve had a number of requests for the Table of Contents from educators who are planning their next year, so here it is: Writing With Skill, Level III, TOC. (I uploaded it as a PDF, for your convenience, so when you get to the next page, click on the title one more time.)

If you use Writing With Ease or Writing With Skill, also be sure to check out my updated recommendations here.

(And if you’re wondering why I haven’t been blogging so much recently, I’ve kind of come around to this way of thinking. And have been putting most of my energies towards other kinds of writing.)

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A new Peace Hill venture

January 14th, 2014 by Susan

For those of you who are sheep, wool, or knitting enthusiasts…I now have a farm store!

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I’ve been raising Leicester Longwool sheep and Angora goats as a break from my writing duties. We’ve learned how to skirt the fleeces (prepare them for processing) and have found a wonderful Maryland fiber mill to spin the wool into a gorgeous custom blend. Check out our wool offerings by clicking here.


Also notice that if you’d like a lamb of your own, we’re expecting LOTS of them in the spring…

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The barn thermometer, this morning.

January 7th, 2014 by Susan


I feel no further words are necessary…

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Thanks, Belgium!

November 19th, 2013 by Susan

So this popped up this morning in my news feeder. It’s this week’s Top Ten Audiobook History Downloads on iTunes:


Hey, I’m number 8!

But only in Belgium.

I’m really curious now…and, perhaps, planning a trip to Brussels…

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