Back-to-School with a Jane Austen Book Review

Labor Day weekend means the bins come up from the basement and my house gets a decorative uptick to the next season. In September that means FALL!

I deep clean the furnishings and pack away all the red, white, and blue Americana decor for the switch-out to faux fall leaves, bowls of cinnamon smells, pumpkin gourds, and scarecrows.

harvest decor collage

Then, the baking begins. A banana cinnamon and jelly cake as the foundation for the back-to-school tea I’m hosting for Haley Richardson–my musician collaborator on the audio books for the Fable Springs picture book series.

Back to school and book review Kathryn Ross

She’s also a homeschooled high school freshman, now. As her literature and composition mentor, we have a year’s worth of literature studies and writing workshops to plan.

freshman literature back to school

Her mom joined us to kick off the school year and finalize our course of study. So, of course, there must be tea!




Fall colors and my grandmother’s vintage candlewick glass luncheon plates set the table for sweets and stuffed caprese salad roma tomatoes with basil and balsamic dressing. 


Lingering over tea and goodies easily morphs into literary discussion and final decisions–involving the birthday present I received that morning. You see, it was my birthday on our tea date and the first thing I woke to, wrapped and waiting for me on the dining room table, was this little gift from my husband: The Jane Austen Writer’s Club.

[Tweet “What a perfect gift for this Jane Austen fan!”]

It’s chock full of writing advice culled from Jane’s personal letters and journals, speaking to aspects of the writing technique. A unique spin on Austen books. Author, Rebecca Smith, is the great-great-great-great-great-grand-niece of Jane, descended from her brother Francis. She has researched Jane’s writing prowess in drafting her settings, character development, themes, and plot details, in addition to her use of language. Using this entertaining, informative, and instructional book to study one of Jane’s books is our plan for the next three months.

But, which Austen masterpiece should we break down for study?

Sanditon is Jane’s final work–at least eleven chapters of it. She was suffering with what modern doctors believe was Addison’s disease, leaving the work unfinished when she died at the age of forty-two.

[Tweet “It is Austen at her best when she felt her worst.”]

In eleven chapters, drafted from her sick-bed just months before her death, Jane laid out the groundwork of setting, characters, theme, and plot. The story was eventually completed by the anonymous “Another Lady.”

And, another. And, another.

In fact, there are quite a number of Austen aficiandos who fancied themselves up to the task of seamlessly finishing off Jane’s work in her voice. Most never really hit the mark. But, there is one, written under the penname of “Another Lady” which rises to the top with staying power as an acceptable attempt. I read it with great interest a number of years ago and agree that it is relatively seamless, and remains largely true to the original diecast of the chapter fragments and Jane’s world.

I think this selection will be fun to pick apart and learn from. We’ll note where Jane’s writing advice in Ms. Smith’s The Jane Austen’s Writer’s Club book, is followed throughout Sanditon’s story construction. Then, Haley will be applying what she learns to craft her own short story, inspired by one of the most fascinating publishing mysteries ever!

Curious to know more?

CLICK HERE to learn more on this and our further curriculum study plans for the year at Pageant Wagon Publishing!

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tea greeting

Sharing Back-to-School with a Jane Austen Book Review this week with:

Literacy Musing Mondays

Create With Joy Book Nook

Rose Chintz Cottage: No Place Like Home

Antiques and Teacups

Christian Blogger Link-up

Sitting Among Friends

Booknificent Thursdays

Vintage Cottage Mama

Katherine’s Corner

Faith Filled Friday

Pink Saturday

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Kathryn Ross

About Miss Kathy

"I teach families how to restore their God-given authority as the primary educator in their child’s life through the experience of reading together as a family. Learn how to use literature to create teachable moments, build strong minds, and bind loving hearts."

Kathryn Ross, writer, speaker, and dramatist, ignites a love of literature and learning to equip young and old towards developing a Family Literacy Lifestyle—reading together, learning together, loving together. Her works challenge families to deepen their literacy skills and grow into the greater things God has purposed for them. She’s taught in Christian and homeschool circles, trained in the Principle Approach® through the Foundation for American Christian Education. Miss Kathy owns Pageant Wagon Publishing, producing homeschool enrichment materials, devotional works, study guides, and theatrical dramas for church, school, and community production. She podcasts at and blogs at


  1. As always, my senses are tickled when I visit you. I smelled and tasted the delicious food. I heard the music, and saw the many visual delights. And I felt that wonderful excitement of having a good book in hand. Do you know in all my years of reading, I have never read anything by Jane Austen? (Not a fact I’m proud of, but still a fact!) I don’t know much about her, so I found your facts interesting!

    Happy Belated Birthday, friend!


    • Hi Sharon!
      Well, just drop by and sneak a peek at our lit study as we post our progress. When you get snowed in this year, grab one of Jane’s novels and a cuppa tea and enjoy!

  2. Your delightful tea almost makes me wish that I was back in school! I’m also a fan of Jane Austen, but have never read “Sanditon”.

    • Blessings, Margie! You’ll have to follow along with us this year as we post our adventure. So delightful to hunker down with teaching and learning at home with a classic bit of British lit. And a cuppa tea . . .

  3. Hello Kathryn,
    I enjoyed hearing from you. Seems we’re all busy these days. I must tell you how lovely I think your blog background is; very feminine! One can’t go wrong with pearls and lace. Your tea time looks lovely and I see you are using your birdie teapot just like mine. Jane Austen’s writings were exceptional and I know you and your little friend there will enjoy many hours of delving into her masterpieces. Thank you for joining me this week and Happy September to you!


  4. Delightful post. I wasn’t aware of this book, but now I must read it. I’m a Jane Austin fan from way back. Happy Birthday and I hope you enjoyed your day. Sounds like it was wonder-FULL.
    Blessings and shalom,

    • Thanks for dropping by, Gail! Yes–you’ll enjoy how the author breaks down excerpts of Jane’s novels in the Writer’s Club book to illustrate composition and storytelling techniques. I’m creating bullet point study sheets for each chapter to put in Haley’s binder, from which to refer as she crafts her own story. We had a great brainstorming session this week and we’ll have fun with Sanditon–lots of comical segments in that with a likable heroine and a DIY home improvement job towards the end that I’d like to see Chip and Joanna tackle.

  5. Where do you live? I want to be your friend! 🙂

    Truly, I am inspired by your mentorship and obvious love for this young woman. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on!

    • Thanks, Tina. I just can’t get teaching and learning out of my life now that my own are flown–more than a decade ago! God is good and continues to use what He’s cultivated in my life.

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