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    Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    The Happy Dinner Table (A Review)

    December 15, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

    When I published my Next Generation Charlotte Mason Library post back in August, one of you (and I’m sorry I no longer remember who) told me I needed to add this book to my list. I was intrigued because this was a Charlotte Mason book I’d never heard of before! When I saw the title, I hesitated. My youngest child was eight at the time. We dealt with our picky eaters years ago when they were tiny and we’d had a “happy table” for a long time now. Do I or don’t I buy the book? This what I asked myself. The book was solving a problem I didn’t have.

    I decided to take the plunge in the name of Business. I’d buy it simply so I could do a review for you, my beloved Afterthinkers.

    I am so glad I did!

    The memories came flooding back to me. I had forgotten our many food battles because we haven’t had one in so long. I had a distinct memory of turning my oldest child’s high chair around at the table as a form of punishment for the fact that he just wouldn’t eat (and the doctor was hassling me about his low weight — the pressure the doctor put on me translated into pressure I put on my son). He was only a year old, and we had a distinctly unhappy dinner table at that time.

    We had our share of food issues over the years, and three of our four children had weight gain problems in their first two years as well. The author of this book, Anna Migeon? She gets it. She knows how terrible food battles can be. She knows how stressed out moms of low-weight children can get. And I think she has a wonderful cure. I wish I’d had this book our first year of lessons when I had a first grader, two toddlers, and a newborn.

    So what does this have to do with Charlotte Mason?

    Migeon has a wonderful grasp of Charlotte Mason’s principles, and she applies them all over the place in this book. If you want to see examples of habit training, this book is for you. If you want to see other principles applied — masterly inactivity, the need for pleasantness, authority and docility, and leveraging natural appetites (just to name a few) — this book is also for you. In fact, I’d venture to say it’d be useful even if you don’t have a picky eater because it offers useful incarnations of Charlotte Mason’s principles.

    If you have only preschoolers and toddlers and babies, I think this is especially for you. Many other Charlotte Mason books will make you want to start school lessons right now, even though Charlotte Mason believed such lessons shouldn’t start until after the child’s sixth birthday. This book, however, is entirely within the preschool sphere (not that she doesn’t mention older children — what I mean is that this is an area where Charlotte Mason’s principles can be thoroughly applied even when your children are tiny), and since the more good habits you have before lessons start, the better lessons are going to go, it really is the perfect book, setting you up for success in other areas when your children are older.

    So those are the pros. Are there any cons?

    Well, yes. It’s not a perfect book, mainly because I think it’d have been better for a professional editor. I guess I can’t know for sure that it didn’t have one, but it was self-published, and the quality of writing is more blog post level than book level, if you know what I mean. There are some typos here and there (it’s not littered with them, though — if that is a pet peeve of yours, I think you’ll be okay), there are numerous excess words, and the organization could have been tightened up.

    But it’s not bad writing, and the ideas are a feast!

    In all, I highly recommend this book, especially if your dinner table is less-than-happy.

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  • Reply Elaine December 22, 2022 at 7:15 am

    My cousin unexpectedly asked me if I was familiar with an educator named Charlotte Mason at our family Christmas gathering. I tried not to overwhelm her, so I just asked why she had asked. Turns out I had put The Happy Dinner Table on my wish list so she looked it up and got it to read for herself. Now she’s researching CM and interested in home school! I’m going to try to go at her pace and not throw a bunch of info at her at once since her oldest is only 4, but I’m so grateful for this low-key introduction to the topic. She probably wouldn’t have been as receptive to my gushing.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 27, 2022 at 4:19 pm

      Ooh! That’s so exciting! Maybe you can discuss it together. ♥

  • Reply The Next Generation Charlotte Mason Library | Afterthoughts August 26, 2019 at 11:05 am

    […] You can read my review of this book here. […]

  • Reply Thoughtworthy (Medicine Cabinet, New Podcast Episode, Events Calendar, and MORE!) | Afterthoughts December 17, 2018 at 1:41 am

    […] I still wish I’d had this book when my children were young. […]

  • Reply tiphaine January 8, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    thank you for this review! I have heard a lot about this book. We have a decent dinner table but I’m sure there is room for improvement.
    I’m also bookmarking your next generation charlotte mason library! thanks for your work on that too!

  • Reply Michelle December 21, 2017 at 8:40 am

    “Blog post level than book level”
    ? I’ll be hearing YOUR VOICE in my head asking this over everything I read from now on!!! Brandy, you’re killing/stretching me!! ?This is in my to “finish” pile.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 21, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      How is your To Finish pile coming along? I always TRY to finish mine by New Year’s Day (but never fully do). I finished a book last night, so at least I’m moving in the right direction. 🙂

      • Reply Michelle December 22, 2017 at 10:50 pm

        Terrible! I always add another one to the stack. Please! Somebody save me from myself! ??

  • Reply Sharron December 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    I realize this is a loaded question but, could this be helpful with an 11 yo, multiple allergies, picky eater? And a father who tends to give in to her whims a lot? I know. There are issues here! LOL. I’m wondering if my husband and I could read it together or if it’s “too late.”

  • Reply L December 15, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    What if your issue is fussy eaters and over weight children rather than low weight children. Does the book address this?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 16, 2017 at 9:11 am

      She never addresses overweight children, no. But I could see how her advice would apply regardless. I think it’d probably still be helpful, especially since you’re characterizing the child as a fussy eater. She mentions a few specific examples in passing — sensory issues, weight gain problems, eating in front of the television, etc. — but really her focus is on using certain principles to form good habits that support better eating and more pleasant meals.

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