North American History and Some Confusion Over Canada

March 29, 2021 at 5:15 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We read through history chronologically, something those who have read this blog for awhile are perhaps well aware. In doing so, we tend to skip around the globe a tad. I try to redirect the kiddo to maps, but in the case of North America, I failed somewhere…

“Wait, where’s Canada?”

“North.”

“I don’t see it.”

“It’s north of the United States.”

“Canada isn’t a state?”

As a homeschool mom my face palm was directed one hundred percent at myself. “No, baby, it’s its own country.”

I know how why the confusion occurred. Well, let’s back up. We’ve been reading, a LOT…

Saint Isaac and the Indians – Milton Lomask

When the French were flocking to North America and colonizing the forests and St. Lawrence River, along with them came Jesuit missionaries intent on sharing the word of God with the Mohawks (Iroquois) and Huron people. Some, were martyred by the very people whose souls they were trying to save. Isaac Jogues, was such a man. He was later sainted by the Catholic Church.

We are not Catholic, but we do value Catholic church history as an important part of education. I try to keep a well balanced and diverse selection of biographies as we study so we can see a complete picture of the world and all God’s creation. When looking for elementary friendly biographies on those who have been sainted, I find Ignatius Press a reliable source. Lomask’s book didn’t fail us and we were enthralled with Isaac’s story.

The Courage of Sarah Noble – Alice Dagliesh

Kiddo read this on her own, then I read it immediately afterward, so we could discuss. I’m getting to the point where I hand her more books to read alone, not because I’m reading out loud less, but so we have more time to read meatier things aloud while she tackles the easy stuff. She enjoyed this one and made a lap book off a kit I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s not my favorite, but I definitely think it has value on an elementary reading list.

The Matchlock Gun – Walter D. Edmonds

This is the second time we’ve read this book. The first time we paired it up with a trip to the science museum for a firearms through the ages exhibit. Kiddo was excited to revisit it and we looked through old pictures from when we got to peruse cases and cases of antique matchlock guns. This is another fantastic “living book” to read during a study of early America.

Who Was Blackbeard? – James Buckley Jr.

Kiddo hates any book with “bobble head people” on the cover. When she was younger I used to put post-it notes over their faces. She’s getting better about ignoring the awkward caricatures on her own and was able to put a lot of personal preference aside for the sake of a good pirate story. The Who Was series is perfect for filler when you just can’t find a better biography on a person readily available.

Ben and Me – Robert Lawson

I love Robert Lawson books. So does Kiddo. But it wasn’t just Robert Lawson that captivated her for this one… mice make for riveting anthropomorphized creatures. We both just love a good rodent in the lead. For Kiddo there was another aspect… the week she read Ben and Me, she actually binge read about six Ben Franklin biographies. She just can’t get enough of the guy.

The D’aulaires have a fantastic picture book about him, we are on a mission to own everything they wrote, and there were a handful of other generic chapter books on our shelves she powered through for the sake of more Ben.

While she was doing all this Ben Franklin research, I read…

Myne Own Ground: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore – T. H. Breen

…which was utterly brilliant. I’ve never read such an honest, objective account of the slave situation in colonial Virginia. It is single handedly the best race relations book I’ve read to date. And I’ve read a lot of them over the years, trying to understand everyone. Kiddo obviously didn’t read this one this time, but I definitely plan on including it on a high school reading roster.

This is where I derailed, while she focused on Ben, I was reading about the English Republic between 1649-1660. I read a book on Charles I by Leanda de Lisle, a book about Roger Williams by James A. Warren, a biography on Henrietta Miaria (Charles I’s wife) by Alison Plowden, and a biography on Charles II by Martyn R. Beardsley.

During this time we discussed Ben Franklin’s travels to France. We talked about a book we read a few years ago called Madeleine Takes Command about a French girl at a Fort in Canada. We discussed the politics of what was going on between North America and Europe… She likes to understand people and things they fight for, I didn’t catch on that the borders were unclear.

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin – Marguerite Henry

My husband read Brighty of the Grand Canyon out loud before bedtime as a family. It was lovely. He has a lovely reading voice and Kiddo and I just love Marguerite Henry. Brighty is set during Teddy Roosevelt’s time, so it was a little misplaced, but delightful. Benjamin West was a perfect way to drag ourselves back to our timeline, and it was required reading for her history class at Atrium (our co-op she attends and I teach at once a week).

We loved this one and it put us both in the mood to paint, we watched a YouTube slideshow of his work, so we would be familiar. While feeling artsy, we read a biography on Maria Merian, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies. We revived our nature journaling.

But Benjamin West also gave us an opportunity to discuss Quakers. We hashed out the similarities and differences in our beliefs after she pointed out that they’re a bit like me… luddites. My kid likes to call me out for my avoidance of technology. Ironic, considering I’ve written a blog for over a decade.

Amos Fortune, Free Man – Elizabeth Yates

This is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. I’m so glad the Kiddo and I got to share reading it for our first times together. She asked if we could visit his historical landmark, and I definitely want to add that to our list of vacation goals.

Ethan Allen: Green Mountain Rebel – Brenda Haugen

I love the Signature Lives biographies. They’re such great resources. The cool thing about reading about people like Ethan Allen is the opportunity to really discuss flaws and virtues in human beings. How most people have both. Some people teeter into the realm of so flawed they become evil and some are so virtuous they become sainted… and some, like Ethan Allen, have a bizarre mix of both. Mischievous to a fault. Brash. Heroic. Terrible. Principled. A Menace. A Patriot. A Legend.

George Washington then became the highlight of our weeks… we read George Washington’s Teeth, Phoebe the Spy, we talked about the spy ring (an endless fascination because we descend from Townsends, but not those Townsends), The Winter at Valley Forge: Survival and Victory, George Washington’s Breakfast, Cinnabar, the One O’Clock Fox.

Calico Captive – Elizabeth George Speare

My first introduction to Elizabeth George Speare, I believe, was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I can’t wait to share that with her; but Kiddo’s was Calico Captive. She was riveted. “One more chapter?” But the chapters are long. “Please?” We spent hours, against Charlotte Mason’s advice of limiting book binging, we binged.

Note: Calico Captive involves Indian capture, being sold to the French, living as a prisoner in CANADA.

Not to let a good theme go to waste, we also read Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jamison by Lois Lenski.

We brushed up on our Benjamin Banneker knowledge from the last time we studied him, and then dived into…

Early Thunder – Jean Fritz

I just can’t get enough Jean Fritz. This particular title might be my favorite Jean Fritz yet, and I really do love them all. I thought it would take us longer to finish, but it became another “Please read another chapter” book. We finished this one even faster than Calico Captive.

Early Thunder follows our underlining theme for history this year which has largely been: “It’s Complicated.” I loved how perfectly it addressed all the emotions of the people in Salem as they wanted to be good citizens but also govern themselves. What makes a good citizen? Someone who sides with their neighbors or someone who is loyal to a distant government?

From an educational stand point it helped the Kiddo sort out who the Whigs and Tories were, what they stood for and why. It gave us an opportunity to lay out the monarchy of England, the purpose of Parliament (remember the Magna Carta? What did that mean? How is that affecting the 1700s?). It set her up for revisiting the Declaration of Independence with a clearer view.

From a spiritual maturity and empathy stand point, it helped her wrestle with the idea that we cast hindsight judgements on historical figures all day, but do we really know what we would do? Do we really know what we would choose when placed in those historical figure’s shoes? The book was truly a roller coaster ride of deep thinking for a kid, and I’m so glad we made time for it.

This doesn’t even come close to wrapping up our semester studies, I haven’t even caught up to where we are on our reading list as of the posting of this blog… we tackled Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Johnny Appleseed, and more…

But it does bring me to the moment of my point–Canada–and why we now have a Geography curriculum.

“Mom, I might regret this, but… can we get a geography curriculum?”

I laughed. Heartily. And then proceeded to find and order what extra bits I needed to complete something I discovered I already owned half of.

Beautiful Feet: Geography Through Literature Pack

We already had a few of Holling’s picture books, I only had to order the guide, a book, and the maps. I’m so glad I did. We’re in love.

And, we understand what’s going on with Canada now.

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Thanksgiving 2020

November 28, 2020 at 8:57 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Pretty much always has been, because, well… FOOD. I love the food. I love the deep fried turkey, I love the dressing (which I call stuffing even though it’s never stuffed in anything because you don’t stuff that which you deep fry), my cranberry sauce (which is apparently somewhat unique and more of a salsa or relish, a blend of: wholeberry cranberry, cranberry sauce, orange marmalade, apple cider vinegar, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeño, and a sprinkle of orange peel). For dessert, I prefer my marble pumpkin cheesecake over pumpkin pie, some years I’ve made Pumpkin Rolls — another bite of perfection. And I’ve always loved that above all, Thanksgiving is about being thankful to God for what we already have and the burden of gifts are not involved.

This year, our history studies coincided perfectly with the holiday: We studied William Bradford, the Mayflower, and the Pilgrims.

William Bradford: Pilgrim Boy by Bradford Smith is a gentle middle grade chapter book that tells the story of the Puritan governor William Bradford. From his childhood with his grandfather, through his schooling, to Holland, and across the sea to lead a new colony to religious freedom. Understanding his story helps flesh out understanding for King James, the King James Bible, British politics, and early America. Without knowing William Bradford, do you really know what the Pilgrims were thankful for?

During the weeks I read this aloud, Kiddo was reading a book called Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey, published by Beautiful Feet. We caught one error in the book, at the beginning the writers seem to be confused about Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart. We revisited our Rhyming History of Britain and memorized a few stanzas to ensure Kiddo didn’t remember the wrong information. It helped to clarify how James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Memorizing rhymes is one of our favorite activities (so much so that we spent November 5th celebrating Guy Fawkes Day memorizing the infamous poem… Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot…).

I read The Landing of the Pilgrims as a child, I really love the old Landmark Books and make a point of collecting them, and this was another one I made Kiddo read on her own this time. I find at this age when I can assign independent reading, instead of me reading out loud less, we just cover twice as many books per topic.

My husband read The Adventures of Myles Standish out loud and we both marveled over the beauty of the timeline across the bottom of Harness’s lovely biography (so much so, we started stocking up on other biographies in the same series for the future).

P.J. Lynch’s The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower might be one of my all time favorite Thanksgiving books. The illustrations are simply beyond gorgeous and take my breath away. Lewis Buzbee talks about children’s picture books in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop and how they’re meant to be read over and over again, by children and adults alike… this is one of those books, a perfect work of art I am pleased to own and revisit. I paid full price for it (something I rarely do, as the majority of my books are bought used), and have no regrets.

Thanksgiving Day, Kiddo insisted on dressing like a Wampanoag child. She was very disappointed that not a single article of clothing her dress up basket included authentic Wampanoag attire. Instead she’s wrapped in a touristy Navajo blanket sent to us for our donations to some reservation school or another. (My mother spent much of her childhood near the Navajo and they are the one tribe we feel a familial attachment to despite a lack of native blood. I grew up singing bible school songs in Navajo, as she was taught.) I know some in the world would consider this cultural appropriation at the worst or at best possibly roll their eyes at us, but we study these things and she dresses up out of the highest level of respect, empathy, and intrigue. This is childhood, children learn through stories and play.

By afternoon, she’d shed half her costume and settled into the life of Squanto while I read the Mayflower Papers over dessert.

Education is a lifetime pursuit and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my love of learning through the discipleship of homeschooling.

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Jamestown

November 28, 2020 at 7:39 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

We spent the month of October studying Jamestown, Pocahontas, and John Smith. We also read a few things on Galileo, since he was making discoveries and writing books around the same time and we enjoy getting a whole big picture of the world perspective when we study any place or time period.

So, for a big, big, big picture perspective, I read Her Majesty’s Spymaster by Stephen Budiansky first, to take me from all the mysteries surrounding Roanoke through British and Spanish politics, espionage, and intrigue, and into the reign of King James.

From there, I tackled Love and Hate in Jamestown by David A. Price. I loved this book. I think Price thinks very highly of John Smith and it shows, but I also think the author tackled the subject like a true historian: with a lot of source documents and an appreciation for the fact that all human beings typically have virtues as well as character flaws. Too many tend to portray people as all good or all bad, depending on their political leanings, personal preferences, and limited knowledge/ understanding of humanity.

I couldn’t put Price’s book down and I’m honestly astounded there are less than five star reviews on Goodreads because I just adored this account so much. It is well-balanced, thoroughly researched, and presented in a riveting manner. I think Price treated each historical figure with respect and honesty.

After this, naturally, we binge read everything we could get our hands on about Pocahontas. From D’Aulaire’s beautiful (though, apparently now controversial?) picture book, to Linwood Custalow’s “True Story” of Pocahontas, which to me reads like a propaganda piece about how all natives are saints and all white men were terrible… Obviously, these sorts of narratives (especially when poorly written) don’t sit well with me. I would love to read a Native American who is also a historian tackling this subject. I was disappointed in Custalow’s ranting, but am sure (because history is always documented by the “winners”) that some part of the truth lies in the middle and I’m dying to know which parts are the truths.

That desire for truth and clarity led me to Helen C. Rountree‘s The Powhatan Indians of Virginia, which is brilliant! I highly recommend her work for anyone looking for an authoritative voice on the natives of Virginia. Her research is so thorough and respectful she was made an honorary member of the Nansemond and Upper Mattaponi tribes. I appreciate that she is well-educated, articulate, and has the stamp of approval to share cultural context that allows us to understand what was going on between the lines of the source documents we’re accustomed to reading, like John Smith’s own book.

And like a flash, we moved onto William Bradford in time for Thanksgiving…

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Homeschooling Chemistry and Physics

August 20, 2020 at 3:43 am (Education, Recipes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This year at Atrium (my kiddo’s co-op), I’ve been teaching science with a bit more purpose than I did last year. Last year consisted of a lot of impromptu science articles and activities… when we were studying the bubonic plague in history, I covered fleas on rats, the plague, what modern day scientists said about it, and played a song from YouTube about it set to the tune of Hollaback Girl. In the spring we covered lots of random pollinator things, talked about bees and butterflies and the anatomy of a flower. We did black out poetry over articles I had printed. At some point in the year, I brought roly polies and we talked about crustaceans and literally played with bugs in the driveway. We made terrariums. It was a hodge-podge of whetting the group’s appetite for the idea of studying science seriously, but was mostly exactly what you’d expect homeschool science to be: nature studies, crafts, songs, and critters.

The 2020-21 school year I was determined to do different—to do better.

Naturally, I started teaching what I consider the most difficult science of all the sciences: Chemistry & Physics. To a group of children that range between 5 and 13.

If you’re going to get serious about science, the studies of matter and energy are the way to go, right? Every time I prep for class I’m two parts terrified and one part giddy.

But today, I realized, I’m not failing them. And more than that, they seem to be enjoying themselves.

In our first two lessons, we covered matter. We talked about properties and how scientists use properties to describe matter. I started by describing that matter is anything that has volume and mass, but to say that then I had to describe what volume and mass are. I sent them home with a white bread recipe. One of the fourth graders actually baked it over the weekend and was able to tell me all about how cool it was that the same ingredients can create something with a different amount of volume. I was so pleased. If only this one child understood volume because of a white bread recipe, then I felt I was already winning.

During that same first lesson I taught them about displacement and was delighted when my classically educated group of kids were able to participate in a retelling of Archimedes and the Goldsmith. Several kids shouted “Eureka!” along with me. If I wasn’t already sold on the trivium, that moment would have done it.

Density was when it got really fun. In Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics I found a lab with salt, water, two eggs, and two cups. Fill both cups with water about halfway. Dissolve a quarter cup of salt into one of the glasses. Have the kids announce their hypothesis on what might happen, then drop the eggs in their own glass. The egg in the salt water will float because the water is more dense than the egg when there is salt there, but the egg in the regular water will sink because the egg has more density. One of the kids was convinced it was because one of the eggs was bad and one of them was good, so another mom swapped them. The experiment won out!

After that we talked about buoyancy and made aluminum boats. (This lab was also found in Fulbright’s textbook.) Everyone had brought a casserole pan where we had blue dyed salt water and pennies sprinkled at the bottom of each. The goal was to make a boat that could float the most pennies without sinking. The kids loved playing pirates and stole each other’s pennies a lot in a spirit of imagination and fun. Our best ship held 176 pennies. Runner up had 173 before the ship started taking water. The take away: surface area helps.

On day two, the following week, we talked a lot about gold versus pyrite, how luster and hardness helps you identify matter.

The kiddo and I made playdough the day before and at the start of the lesson I put pieces of tree limbs, various garden and river rocks, aluminum foil, and the play dough out on the table. There were plenty of sensory aids for everyone to have their hands on something. Nearly everyone squished play dough in their hands for the duration of the lesson, which I thought was perfect as it helped explain the concept of malleability to the littlest ones and kept hands busy so their brains could focus.

My new, very involved husband sent me to class with a giant magnet and we also discussed how magnetism can help you identify different materials. Everyone got a turn choosing a piece of junk I’d collected from around the house to try against the magnet.

Finally we wrapped up the day with a Mel Science Lab. I’m obsessed with our subscription and it was pretty cool seeing the kids get to do a more intense lab. I had the oldest kids in the group do work, two boiled water and we talked about the “rapid vaporization of a liquid using heat” because I love defining things while two others mixed up the chemicals and dropped in the pyrite samples. Fifteen minutes later, we had a small sample of Prussian Blue!

All in all, I’m pretty pleased how our class is going and I can’t wait to map out next week’s adventure. Because of the broad age range of kids and the desire to keep them all engaged and learning, I’m trying to maintain at least one craft oriented activity, some sensory aids, and a Mel Science Lab per gathering. If you have any ideas or advice, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from the more experienced.

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Homeschooling During Covid

August 19, 2020 at 12:53 am (Education) (, , , )

We’ve always homeschooled, thank God. Educating this way has been the biggest blessing of our lives. Post-divorce, during single motherhood, it was the easiest way to spend the most amount of time with my kid while staying on top of her education. In homeschooling, a little bit of time goes a long way. As a public school graduate, the public system always seemed like for every second of education occurring, there were hours of waste. Homeschooling is efficient, we cover a lot of ground in less time.

“Play is the work of childhood,” and I want my kid to have lots of play time.

During the chaos of sheltering in place, school getting canceled, and whatnot, the only thing that changed for us was me going to work (I got laid off a few months before I was planning to quit), and attending our extra curricular activities. A good chunk of our daily lives looked the same, just more relaxed. Way more relaxed.

Now, in the midst of so many of our friends dealing with school district uncertainty, virtual public schooling, Zoom courses, and a plethora of other dramas–we’re going on with life business as usual. Our co-op is so small and cozy, and several members already recovered from Covid, so we still get to meet as usual.

So what does our Classical Homeschooling life look like?

At Home:

We started a formal Spelling curriculum last year, just using McGuffey’s Speller and memorizing wasn’t cutting it for us. The Workout Spelling books are fantastic and I highly recommend them.

We’re flying through Math-U-See Delta and using Singapore 3A on review days to keep all those math skills sharp. (We do math every day, year round: Math-U-See we maintain her appropriate grade level and Singapore we do the year before. She tested above grade level on her end of year CAT last year, so we think this routine works for us.) We finished the Mensa K-3 reading list this summer and have been plugging away at the 4-6 list and loving it.

As a family, we’re making a point to learn more recipes in the kitchen. I quit buying bread at the grocery store this month and am officially baking all our bread myself. Something I’ve always loved to do, but not had the time and energy to maintain doing it regularly. Now we both have a routine and baking and cooking has been a magical experience instead of a stressful one. She has to help with a minimum of one meal a week, next semester I’m increasing it to three. Hopefully by next year she’ll be making more things on her own, but as it stands if she goes to college with only what she knows now, she’ll be eating a lot of waffles and french toast.

She’s still working through the Botany science curriculum she started this summer in addition to helping me prep for the Introduction to Chemistry and Physics science class I teach at the co-op. We have a stockpile of MEL Science kits we can’t wait to dig into.

At Atrium:

The kid’s course load isn’t light, by any stretch of the imagination, but so far she’s loving it… Early American History, Critical Thinking & Logic, Introduction to Chemistry & Physics, Poetry, Writing & Rhetoric: Fables, Fix It Grammar, Song School Latin 2, Art, Kung Fu. (I’m teaching two Latin classes, the science class, and Kung Fu. Course load sharing with other moms is so fun, as every morning I get a well deserved coffee break while the other moms are “on deck.”)

Extra-curriculars:

So swimming was a great choice for us for 2020. Dipping kids in chlorine seems like a pretty safe choice and the kid swims like a fish now!

I’m not going to lie, I’m a tad envious of her piano lessons. She’s rocking them and composing music like there’s no tomorrow. She graduated the Let’s Play Music program amidst a pandemic and it was worth every penny and then some.

So, if you’re homeschooling this year for the first time ever and need help, message me. If you have ideas for things we’re covering, please share them! (Your favorite DIY science labs and dinner recipes are welcome!)

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Tristan & Iseult

October 14, 2019 at 3:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Tristan and Iseult, Tristan and Isolde, Drustan and Yseult… the variations of spellings are endless, but the way the names – and the story – roll of the tongue, largely stay the same.

I didn’t read the story growing up, but I gathered the main plot points throughout other literary references my whole life. The story was built slowly, for me, an allusion here, a quip there, until when I watched Legends of the Fall for the first time in college, I thought I understood the the gist of the movie’s genius: naming the wild heart that could not be tamed “Tristan” and subtly throwing in that his wife’s name was Isabel.

The movie is based on a book by Jim Harrison, that I later read and was not so smitten by, I even wrote a less than glowing review here. But in finally reading Tristan & Iseult both to myself and aloud to my daughter, I’m finding the desire to re-read Jim Harrison’s novella swelling in my literary soul.

The part that never sunk in through other literature, or the heavily influenced King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot love-triangle–the part that left me briefly chuckling in a “Oh I see what they did there” –was that there are TWO Iseults. (And *spoiler* Tristan’s wife in Legends of the Fall is known as Isabel Two.) The story of Tristan and Iseult follows the tale of Tristan falling in love with Iseult the Fair, Queen of Cornwall, but marrying another Iseult, called Iseult of Whitehands. If you wanted to twist literature and try to be one of those people who got extra creative, telling authors what they were really trying to say and all that, you could say the wild-hearted Tristan had mommy issues and was Oedipally in love with the first Isabel. But that’s just too much…

The point is that literature is pervasive, ancient poems permeating society for generations; legends evolving and growing, but also maintaining. The stories of Tristan & Iseult, in all their incarnations, heavily influenced the King Arthur tales, the theme or forbidden love–no matter how ridiculous–ending in passionate death (Romeo and Juliet, anyone), continue for centuries. Bits and pieces dribbled in to make each new story more rich with nuance and the truths behind the human condition.

John William Waterhouse painting of Tristan & Isolde drinking poison.

So, I found the most “original” version I could find (and still read in English) for myself, and the most kid friendly version for me to read out loud for my eight year old. Rosemary Sutcliff is my go-to when it comes to ancient or medieval tales brought to life for a young audience. Much to my pleasure, she had a Tristan & Iseult published in 1991. Kiddo gave the story 4 stars on Goodreads, “It was really amazing, but also dramatic, and all the love stuff isn’t what would really happen.”

We had many discussions on the difference between love and passion. “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, love is not rude or self seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth…” A man who loves you will never encourage adultery. A woman who loves a man will not participate in adultery. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Cheating isn’t love, it is passion. Some romance can be romanticized too much. It’s not that the “love stuff isn’t what would really happen,” it’s that it would happen, it does happen, and that’s not love, that’s agonizing obsession.

I enjoy working through literature with her. When she’s in college, I’ll be interested to see what her much more informed reaction will be to Legends of the Fall. As soon as my library is out of storage, I plan to re-read a few things, and see if my own mind has been changed by the experience of reading the literature that came before.

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Back to School…

August 14, 2019 at 4:25 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well, actually, we never left.

History in the hammock.

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Education is a Lifetime Pursuit

May 31, 2019 at 3:36 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“Education is a lifetime pursuit.” I tell my daughter this constantly. It is our household motto, so much so, I would not doubt if I had already posted something with the same title before. I even hope that my readers already have read this phrase.

I am a homeschool mother. I am, in the deepest parts of my soul, a teacher. I always have been, and have been overzealous about it since I discovered the classical model. What I have loved about the classical model most is the ease in which I can continue my own education while I educate my daughter. She memorizes facts and dates in the grammar stage and not only do we supplement with rich literature to help her remember, but I get to pluck out related reading material for myself. Individually, I learn and teach the classical model… as a household, we are constantly involved in “unit studies” that are structured chronologically throughout history.

While she was memorizing history sentences about Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, and eventually the colonists dumping tea into the Boston Harbor, I was reading Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon.

First published in 1983, Changes in the Land is the earliest book I know of written directly about environmental history, not part of a political movement. Everything I’ve read published prior to this book are either beautiful transcendentalist nature essays (Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, etc.), geological science books (Lyell, Stenson, etc.), or solely activist tree-hugger type stuff. In fact, I think it paved the way for books like the one I read recently (and thoroughly enjoyed) while she learned about the gold rush called Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail, whose author also crossed genres by highlighting the land, and all the things that make it what it is and the men who mar it, as the main character in the book’s story.

The biggest thing the two books have in common, for me, is at the end of each I thought, “This must be required reading for high school students.” After all, how do you learn history of a place without comprehending the blood, sweat, and tears, that was shed on it and ALL the reasons why, not the just the wars, but trails cut, deforestation, farms, dustbowls, mining… and not just focus on what it did to the people, but what it did to the land and how all that affects us today. Books like these are a beautiful marriage of history, social science, science, and more.

I love finding these gems as I sort through piles and piles of potential reading material, planning out lengthy lists of things to shape my kiddo’s mind. I love that my mind is also being shaped. I love that I am 35 and never done studying. I love that, in addition to growing my relationship with Jesus Christ and my daughter, education is my lifetime pursuit.

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Beowulf

September 13, 2016 at 1:33 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have a confession: I never read Beowulf in high school.  Or college.  I read Canterbury Tales more times than I can count (yet only remember a handful of the stories).  I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ad nauseum – and I like that story.  But no Beowulf.  How did I miss it?

I’ll tell you how, we tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time.  We spent hours and hours in school, but spent very little time actually studying.  Somewhere along the way, Beowulf was lost to me.  I’m not sure if I was ever really exposed to it or not.  It might have been something I breezed through in a Norton Anthology and regurgitated the next day for a pop quiz, only to be quickly forgotten.  I couldn’t tell you.  I only know that I had a vague idea that it was an epic poem involving something named Grendel when I began working at a bookstore as an adult.  Even then, I couldn’t tell you if Grendel was the monster or the man.

unknownAs we began our Middle Ages/ Early Ren. (450 AD to 1600 AD) year while classically homeschooling, it dawned on me that this was the year for Beowulf. I had already read the picture book by Eric A. Kimmel to kiddo when she was a wee one, but I’m sure she was so tiny she had fallen asleep; now was the time to embrace the story.

And we did.  I read her the picture book shortly before my trip to Atlanta. It fit right in with all the Celtic and Norse mythology we’ve been reading to bridge the gap between the ancient times and our exciting year ahead.  “What a guy! He tore off the monster’s arm! I can’t even do that,” she exclaimed. She was very pleased that this particular picture book could give the story in “one-sitting, all today” as opposed to the stories of Odysseus and Troy which all took weeks of chapter by chapter to finish. I foresee reading this again and again over the coming months, she loved the story so much; I have to admit, I did too.

4cf814193a0I liked it even more when I discovered there was a cartoon made in 1998 starring Joseph Fiennes as the voice of Beowulf – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA.  We got to watch that and call it school.  It was a lot of fun.  (There’s one for Don Quixote we’ll be watching next year when we make it into the 1700s.)

Naturally, I was curious as to the accuracy of these versions.  I won’t ever truly know, because everything is a translation, but I thought I’d give an adult version a go.  There’s so many versions out there, I think I’ll just try a different one every Middle Ages cycle.  So I took the Constance B. Hieatt version with me to Atlanta and enjoyed it immensely, especially the little extras at the end.

beowulf-cover-hiea-900

The kiddo, of course, keeps asking me why we are using “fake stories as lesson books, they aren’t real stories mother!” I keep telling her, very ineloquently, that these stories help us understand the people who told them.  Read them to her as bedtime stories and naturally she’s thrilled at the excitement of them.

We’ll collect more versions over the years and by the time she is grown she will know the story well – and remember it.  Next go around we’ll even tackle it in poem form, and eventually we’ll read Gardner’s Grendel.

Do you have any favorite versions of Beowulf?  Or, more importantly, do you know any great stories of the time period that should not be missed?

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Archimedes and the Door of Science

August 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

517SvkV79rL.jpgTitle: Archimedes and the Door of Science

Author: Jeanne Bendick

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Genre: Children’s Biography

I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library.  My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book.  At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.

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