Openingby Marlin Detweiler

Feature Article Mother Goose, Beloved Crone” by Cindy Lange

Educational Helpsby Laurie Detweiler

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May 2011


Feature Article


Mother Goose, Beloved Crone


We all know the following beloved Mother Goose rhyme: Jack be nimble / Jack be quick / Jack jump over the moon. Wait! Something’s wrong here. Wasn’t it the cow that jumped over the moon? Indeed, nursery rhymes sound the depths of our childhood experiences, but they serve as far more than fond memories. The nursery rhyme has been a training ground for English speaking children for the past 400 years or perhaps longer. Mother Goose was the first “holistic educator,” because nursery rhymes teach to every aspect of a child’s nature: sensory, physical, cognitive, and moral. We can say with assurance that Mother Goose was far ahead of her time.

Mother Goose is a mythical figure, usually depicted as a crone who presides over the treasury of English nursery rhymes which has evolved over past centuries. The
earliest reference to her is in a collection of French stories in 1650, but the name came into its current usage in 1780 after a British publisher adopted it in reference to a “compilation of traditional English nonsense songs and rhymes.” The tradition of Mother Goose was carried across the pond to the American colonies, where she has steadfastly remained the reigning denizen of early childhood literature. There are several reasons for the unwavering popularity of her verse; investigating them gives insight not only into the poems, but into the nature of children, and more specifically, into the ways in which children can and should develop.

The first and most important function of the rhymes is that their insistent sing-song rhythms immerse the very young in the cadences of the English language. The rhymes prepare inexperienced ears to recognize not only specific words, but entire phrases, laying down the neural pathways for children to aurally receive, process, and finally, organize the more detailed, chaotic information which will soon bombard them as they grow past toddlerhood and move into the world of cognition and reason. Take the well-known Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush—this ditty repeats the phrase “the mulberry bush” three times within four lines, with each repetition varying the tune and pitch slightly. Why? By retaining the same words while slightly altering the tune and placement on the musical scale, the phrase takes the child incrementally from the “known” to the “unknown”—this is foundational to the way that we learn. As they chant, the children run around an object, developing physical abilities in tandem with tonal memory. The content of this rhyme is irrelevant, but the repetitive nature of the words, with their sing-song lilt, provides children with a now-familiar milieu in which to learn; their auditory world becomes a known haven which yields a sense of security through its limited phraseology and repetition, while acting as a vehicle through which they refine their ability to distinguish differences in sounds.


The rhymes also provide children with information about the world around them. Mother Goose “educates” by creating touchstones for their expanding minds. For instance, many are about foods in the household. “Pat-a-cake” explains the baker’s wares; “Little Jack Horner” glorifies the Christmas plum pie (and Jack’s thumb!); silly Jack Sprat and his wife exemplify fat and lean; the “little piggies” go to market looking for roast beef, etc.  Nursery rhymes also familiarize children with commonplace items in an entertaining manner. A cat plays a fiddle, a cow jumps over the moon, dishes and forks run away together . . . amazingly, this simple technique causes children to begin to make connections between and among objects, developing their analytical processes through the use of the furnishings of their everyday world.


Additionally, nursery rhymes serve to help children learn and appreciate humor, as in Sing a Song of Sixpence, wherein the king is served a blackbird pie in which the still-alive birds pop out of the crust singing. (Blackbirds were eaten as a gourmet item in earlier times.) Or take Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-eater, in which Peter cannot “keep” (control) his wife until he places her in a pumpkin shell. Learning humor is a crucial aspect of developing critical thinking and helps children to learn to differentiate between various aspects of the world around them, as they note the contrast between the joke-rhyme and the real world it supposedly reflects.


Mother Goose rhymes also inculcate morals and rules in children by using a form which they will easily remember, as in this sardonic scolding of a child for his tardiness:  A dillar, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar! / What makes you come so soon? / You used to come at ten o’clock / But now you come at noon.  Or this one: Seesaw, Margery Daw / Sold her bed / And laid upon straw. And we all know about what happened to Jack and Jill when they ran up the hill, and it wasn’t pretty! While some lessons Mother Goose teaches might seem grim to us (Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home / Your house is on fire, your children all gone!), they were necessary helps to children of previous generations, who lived in a harsher environment where these admonitions were necessary. However, There’s a Neat Little Clock is charming even to the 21st century mind: There’s a neat little clock- /  In the classroom it stands- / And it points to the time /  With its two little hands. / And may we, like the clock, / Keep a face clean and bright, / With hands ever ready / To do what is right.


The riddle-rhymes push the envelope further: My favorite is As I Was Going to St. Ives, which is often used in first grade readers because it incorporates logic with arithmetic (or so it would appear):

As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits: kit, cats, sacks and wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?


Do you know the answer? Actually, it is unclear. Perhaps only one person was going to St. Ives, since the speaker states in the beginning that he is going there. Or perhaps everyone is headed that way, including the animals. Then there would be 2,802—talk about a traffic jam! It’s even possible that the last line of the riddle is only asking how many of the party he met were going, and doesn’t mean to include him in the question, in which case it is possible that zero could be the answer. This rhyme is actually a form of a riddle from 1650 BC called The Papyrus Rind—what better way to introduce children to the vagaries of language than that of a timeless logic problem hidden in a nursery rhyme?


Mother Goose has remained with us these many centuries because she is worthy of the honor; she is a teacher par excellence, an iconic and insightful culture-bearer who passes on an invaluable aspect our Western heritage.  Let us adopt her and say wholeheartedly: Welcome, Thou Beloved Crone!


Briggs, Raymond, The Mother Goose Treasury. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1966.
The Mother Goose Anniversary Edition. New York: Scholastic, 1916.



Cindy Lange


Cindy Lange has B.A.’s in Literature and Education from Westmont College, a California State Teaching Credential from Santa Clara University, and an M.A. in Literature from California State University, Sacramento.  She is presently studying to receive her PhD in Literature and Criticism from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a Christian school principal and has homeschooled her five children classically.  She teaches online for Veritas Press Scholars Academy.


Educational Helps


To go along with our feature article this month, we asked our graphic designer Ned Bustard to create some fun Mother Goose projects. Click here for some more nursery rhyme fun.


Laurie Detweiler



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Q. How can a father best be involved in the educational process?

A. We must first recognize that fathers carry the weight of responsibility for the education of the children (Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Ephesians 6:1-7). We must also recognize that fathers are commonly the primary wage-earner for the family. This can make for a busy man. However, planning field trips on Dad’s days off, including Saturdays, is a wonderful way to get involved. A routine individual interaction with each child about their learning for the day is also a very important and very meaningful means of involvement. Some will even have time and enjoy teaching specific disciplines, too.


Q. I noticed that you require placement tests for some of your online courses.  I haven't used the same math curriculum, for instance, so how can I best prepare my child for the test so he can enroll in your course next year?

A. Our goal with the placement test is to better help you place your child in the course where he can succeed. Using your math example, different publishers have different achievement goals for their textbooks.  Our goal is to offer students a rigorous course of systematic study, but students can enter at various stages of the process.  We recommend that you finish the math you are doing and at the end of the school year, request the placement test for the course for which you believe your student is ready. We will evaluate the results and help you decide which math course is best suited to your child.   


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Open House at our Warehouse

If you're in the area, be sure to stop by our open house, May 13-14, 2011, from 8:00 AM -5:00 PM each day.  If you are attending the CHAP convention, we are only 40 minutes away. We have giveaways scheduled throughout the days, along with free continental breakfast, free lunch, a grab bag for each family, and personal shoppers to assist you. Come with a friend.  We're located at 1829 William Penn Way, Lancaster, PA, 17601.


A Little Help for our Friends

Cary Christian School, Cary, N.C. ( is seeking a Rhetoric School Principal (grades 9-12). Responsibilities include complex administrative duties in senior high school operations including instruction, school planning, supervision of personnel and administering the policies and guidelines. This principal will report directly to the superintendent. The optimal candidate should have significant experience at an ACCS school as a teacher or an administrator. A listing of duties and a profile of desired attributes are available upon request. Candidates should submit inquiries or a resume with references to


It’s Catalog Time Again

The 2011 – 2012 catalog will be arriving in your mailbox shortly, but you can check it out now by going to where you’ll find an electronic version.


Teaching Openings with Veritas Press Scholars Academy

Online Teachers Needed Immediately!—We have immediate need for classroom experienced teachers. Openings include Omnibus, Latin, Logic, and Greek in the secondary school. In grammar school we need teachers for Literature, Grammar and Writing, History, and Latin. Experienced teachers can work from home, the beach, or anywhere high-speed internet is available. Send résumé to Bruce Etter.


Omnibus III for the Convenience of International Students

We have been so pleased to welcome students from across the world into our VPSA classes. For some families, this has meant waking up early or staying up late. Consequently, we are offering two Omnibus III classes to meet scheduling needs of families from other time zones. These 9:00 p.m. Eastern classes will have an equivalent start at 5:00 p.m. in Anchorage, 4:00 p.m. in Honolulu, 3:00 p.m. in Auckland, 12:00 p.m. in Sydney, 11:00 a.m. in Tokyo, 10:00 a.m. in Hong Kong, and 7:30 a.m. in Mumbai. If this is well-received, we will consider offering more classes in this type of time slot in the future.


Veritas Press Scholars Academy Diploma Program
Are you looking for your child to go to college? Do you desire accountability and assistance in knowing that each year your students are accomplishing what they need to? We now offer yearly certification services culminating in a high school diploma. There are four different diploma levels, each addressing the varying levels of a student's abilities and circumstances. Year-by-year certification services ensure you are on track for your objectives, meeting an outside standard, and, in many cases, satisfying state requirements. We've even made provision for qualifying courses completed elsewhere or using other curricula. For more information, click


Veritas Press In-A-Week Courses

Don't miss our “In-A-Week” adult education courses which are planned for this summer. These intensive classes are geared to teachers or parents. We are offering Latin and several levels of Omnibus classes—all taught online by outstanding teachers with considerable expertise in the material. What better way to prepare yourself to teach these courses or just learn the material for your own edification? Please be encouraged to join us for these great opportunities. Look for an announcement and the opening of registration for it in the next couple weeks.


Latin In-A-Week                    June 13-17      Joanna Hensley

Latin In-A-Week                    July 11-15       Joanna Hensley

Omnibus I In-A-Week           June 27-July 1 Bruce Etter

Omnibus II In-A-Week          June 20-24      Graham Dennis

Omnibus III In-A-Week         June 27-July 1 Graham Dennis


Our Teacher Training Conference, normally held near the end of July, will not take place this year.


19th Annual ACCS Conference

The Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) national conference will be held June 16-18, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. It is designed to provide the principles of a classical and Christian education and practical instruction in a broad range of subjects. Plenary sessions will feature Voddie Baucham, George Grant, Matt Whitling, and Douglas Wilson. Practical workshops will teach the implementation of classical Christian education. Click here for more information or contact the ACCS office at (208) 882-6101.


January Quote Contest Winners

Thanks to all who entered our January contest by submitting quotes for us to include in this year’s catalog. We used entries from the following readers, who all have won $25 gift certificates: Kristi Schache, Vicki Dolsen, Drake Friesen, Cathy Shelton, the Goodwin Family, Cherie Rathman, and Kathy L. Payne. As mentioned above, the 2011-2012 Veritas Press catalog will begin arriving in mailboxes over the next few weeks. But you can see it now in the electronic version found on our home page at


Interesting Facts about Veritas Press

In April we asked, "How many man-hours do we estimate it takes to prepare our catalog annually for the printer?"  The winner was Sharon Miller, of Flower Mound, Texas, with the answer of 850 hours.


Our question for May is “What is the growth rate of registrations for live online classes for the first four months of 2011 compared the same timeframe in 2010?


The first person to e-mail the correct or closest answer by 5:00 PM EDT, May 15th to will again receive a $25 gift certificate.



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Browse the Veritas Press virtual catalog online!