A Year of Homeschooling Peacefully in the Ancient Times

May 30, 2022 at 1:42 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The school year began, for me, in a bit of chaos. My son was born over the summer. My mother had died. In addition to my newborn son, I had two extra children in my household. I was overwhelmed by the impeding doom of our co-op. I could sense it coming, but I honestly thought it was a year or two off and I was committed to giving it my kiddo’s fifth grade year before bailing, believing that the proverbial poop would hit the fan a few months after my departure. (It hit sooner.)

Still, after the children went back to their own home. The co-op dissolved and something new began… we found ourselves homeschooling through the ancients in our own little Pax Romana. We declared this our year of homeschooling in peace and it has been phenomenal.

As usual, we began our dive into Ancient history with the Epic of Gilgamesh. After years of reading the picture book trilogy by Ludmila Zeman, it was time to upgrade to a a more “grown up” version of the story. Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean was a perfect bridge for the dialectic stage, from elementary to the full translations of high school. Kiddo was struck by the subtle differences, the pieces that make it suitable for older readers, but not for younger ones. As a child who doesn’t like change, learning that different adaptations have a different flow and feel to them has been a challenge. As a ten/eleven year old, she has now been exposed to several adaptations of the Gilgamesh myth and also has a much broader view of near eastern cultures and history. I’m happy to say, my homeschooler as an elementary graduate has a more thorough understanding of history and other people groups than I did as a public school high school graduate. These are the goals, and we’re winning.

I read The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley out loud to two ten year olds and an eight year old. This is right about the time we started making our timeline (using Amy Pak’s Home School in the Woods History Through the Ages Record of Time), and having the kids perform narrative plays of what I had just read to them while I nursed my infant. Our house is fairly full of music, so naturally we ended up making a lyre (and some ukuleles) as a hands on craft which in turn became props in our living room productions of The Golden Bull.

Meanwhile, we were also re-reading Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the Wold Volume One for the third time, reading Story of Civilization for the first time, plucking our way through the Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, reading the Old Testament, and for good measure added a plethora of picture books I had on hand from the last time we studied the ancients.

Ox, House, Stick by Robb was discovered while we studied the Phoenicians and the alphabet. This one came highly recommended, and the kids liked it ok, but it wasn’t my favorite. We also re-read The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone by Giblin, that one is always fun and fascinating.

We had some extensive discussions regarding laws and lawmakers. The kids each read a biography on Hammurabi, the one by Mitchell Lane Publishers was the best, we thought. A few rabbit trails later and we spent an afternoon on You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Assyrian Soldier.

As we moved into the time of the Egyptians, we tackled Green’s Tales of Ancient Egypt, The Landmark Book of Pharaohs by Payne, Mara: Daughter of the Nile by McGraw, The Golden Goblet also by McGraw, and The Cat of Bubastes by G. A. Henty. Kiddo hated Mara, I thought it was great. I found the Golden Goblet on the boring side, Kiddo loved it. The fun thing about reading so many books together are the discussions. Homeschooling is basically book club every day. I love book club!

One of my pet topics of study as an adult is the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. I find her to be the most intriguing and have some theories as to where her place in history overlaps with our knowledge of biblical history. The kids each grabbed a biography and I re-read a few of my own. Although I usually love National Geographic stuff, our favorite is the one put out by Compass Point Books. Compass Point Books, for the most part, is a huge go-to in our house. If I see one, I grab it, often accidentally purchasing duplicates. They are more thorough than the Who Was series, but less daunting than the DK series, although we own a good amount of both of those as well. At this point, Kiddo tried her hand at her first full length essay, complete with me dragging out my typewriter for her to type the finished product.

I also love David MacCauley books and we read Pyramid. Kiddo does *not* love David MacCauley books, which is unfortunate because I think I own them all. She preferred diving into Mummies, Tombs, and Treasure and the Magic Tree House Research Guide: Mummies & Pyramids. Side note to the Magic Tree House books: Although the fiction books are overly simplistic and quickly outgrown, we have found that the research guides last all of the elementary school years and are revisited often. We will keep the research guides long after the fiction series is purged, I believe. As homeschool eccentrics this study coincided with our anatomy studies in science. The kids got the chance to observe a profession necropsy of a rat and later Kiddo tried her hand at mummifying the spare dead rat. AmenRAThep still lies in our garage buried in salt in his intricately decorated plastic tomb. An expository essay on the mummification process ensued. More tapping away at my now “vintage” typewriter… More revisiting all our favorite picture books (Mummy Cat by Ewert just never gets old and Tutankhamen’s Gift is lovely) as well as the HMNS for the Ramses exhibit.

Necropsy

When we wrapped up our anatomy studies, the mummification process became a nice bridge into our archaeology unit. We used the Wonders of Creation series from MasterBooks.com. The Archaeology Book by David Down and The Geology Book by Dr. John D. Morris led beautifully into The Fossil Book by Gary Parker. We’re definitely going to continue through this series into Caves, Minerals, Oceans, Weather, and Astronomy as we move through the timeline to the middle ages.

I love multi-sensory learning whenever possible, so during all this we also tried our hands bringing our history studies to our taste buds. One of my favorite cookbooks to pull out during the ancient years is The Philosopher’s Kitchen. It’s full of ancient flavors that make use of modern kitchen routines so you can enjoy the taste of the times without slaving away. We have recipes we’ve attempted to make the way they would, but I’m content with learning to use the kitchen I have instead of trying to time travel. Kiddo found some easy kid recipes in various places and we also enjoyed some Mesopotamian sweet breads she made herself that were rather tasty. Cardimon and honey is a lovely flavor combination.

Thankfully, the African Chicken was deemed “tasty” by our harshest critic.

Another aspect to unit studies/ studying all disciplines through the timeline, is that we tried Spelling You See for the first time and used the Ancient (level F) package. Spelling You See was developed by a reading specialist who encourages identifying word patterns and color coding them. Married with dictation of an entire topical paragraph, this curriculum abandons the by rote memorization of a list of spelling words. I find this method useful, but we will also continue with our Spelling Workout books after we’ve completed all the lessons in this book, as spelling is a subject we’re going to have to continue to work on long after some of our peers have abandoned it as a subject. I’m ok with this, Kiddo tests gifted in most subjects but spelling is a struggle. We remind ourselves daily that we can do hard things (through Christ) and that it is ok to not be perfect at everything as long as we’re trying our best.

Adara by Gormley, God King by Williamson (we had already read Hittite Warrior years ago), and Days of Elijah by Noble were read as we continued our studies of the Old Testament as well as Herodotus. (Kiddo loved Days of Elijah, I tried to read it with her but I found the writing style very off putting, I honestly cannot remember if I finished it or not.) Kiddo re-read Bendick’s Herodotus & The Road to History, we both love all things Bendick. I wanted to re-read Herodotus’s book as the last time I had read it Kiddo was two or three, but time got away with me. We were knee deep in fractions because math may never be abandoned, no matter how many people die (we had four significant deaths this season), or how tired you may be. What kept our mind clear enough to finish our Singapore 4a&4B curriculum and get through Math-U-See Epsilon, was the fact that we were taking time to study God’s word daily. We weren’t just trying to incorporate theology in our homeschool, my husband was actually leading bible study every evening (and had been since the start of our marriage in 2020); and in addition to that, upon moving into our new house in 2021 we began using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System. I found a reasonably priced recipe box on Amazon and started adding index cards as per the instructions of the method (follow the link). Focusing on hiding God’s Word in your heart, opens the mind up for so much more, and in all the crazy we prayed for God to help us be good stewards of our brains and our time and the results have been delightful.

With all this Bible study, Kiddo requested to eventually study Aramaic and Hebrew and Koine Greek, but we decided to wait as we continue on our Latin studies. One thing at a time, and we still have some Latin books to complete.

Now, for the Greeks… The D’Aulaires have a lovely Greek Myths book. In addition to that, Kiddo read more books on Homer’s work than I can count. The highlight reel were repeat romps through the Mary Pope Osborn adaptation, Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus, and Lively’s In Search of a Homeland. She also read for the first time Aleta and the Queen, Flaxman’s The Iliad of Homer, and Colum’s Children’s Homer. By the time she reads Homer’s unabridged work, she’ll know the stories so thoroughly I’m hoping the poetry of it will shine through and delight her in ways that evaded me when I blindly trudged through it for the first time because I had no previous knowledge of context to work from. I had planned for us to read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, but when you’re done, you’re done. So we’re saving Hamilton for the next time around, in four years.

Bendick’s Archimedes and the Door of Science as well as The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Lasky are must haves. We have read them every time we’ve studied the Ancients and sometimes we pluck Lasky’s picture book up to read just for kicks.

Rome Antics by MacCauley was beautiful. It takes about ten minutes to read, but days to absorb if you want to go back and study all the architecture as well. I didn’t dwell on it too much as she’s already read Where Were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? and Where Is the Parthenon? (we did a hands on project with friends building the Parthenon out of marshmallows which was fun). While on the Who/What/Where series kick, she also read Where Is the Great Wall? We’ve studied ziggurats and pyramids and a number of other structures this year, and now that we are currently studying Rome, I’m going to have to collect my thoughts and make proper plans to lay the groundwork for a strong introduction to architecture. In the meantime, now that summer is here, we’re listening to the Rise of Rome on Wondrium, and plucking through our never ending reading list.

I’ll continue to update as we make our way through the last hundred years or so before Christ, through the New Testament, and onto the invasion of Britain. We already studied Pompeii and went to the museum exhibit with our co-op, and volcanoes were studied in passing while we raised money for the Pacific Rim Awana programs and made a homemade volcano during a friend-date at our house. (I think we may start a science club…)

(We got a taste of Asian mythology and folklore with some read alouds and picture books, but I think we will revisit them in a more heavy handed way when we study Marco Polo again. If you’re looking for titles, I recommend perusing everything by Demi as well as 101 Read-Aloud Asian Myths.)

This school year has been our most relaxing yet, despite the chaos of life, and we hope to continue this pattern in the years to come.

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Mysteries of History Part Three: Roanoke

October 8, 2020 at 11:30 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The world is full of things we’ll never know and one thing I do know is that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

As a child, the story of Roanoke was glossed over in history classes. It maybe earned itself a whole paragraph in a textbook… The colonists disappeared, most likely they were either slaughtered or absorbed by Native tribes. End of story. Now let’s talk about Jamestown and Pocahontas.

Wait, what?! That’s it!?

Jane Yolen’s picture book Roanoke addresses all the theories and just how big a mystery it actually is quite nicely, which I appreciate for my kid. At least she’s been given a bigger bit of bait than I had at that age. As a lifetime sucker for anything written by Jean Fritz, we’re also reading The Lost Colony together, it’s longer and one usually tackled by slightly older kids whereas Yolen’s picture book can be read in one sitting.

As far as information and writing style go, I prefer Jean Fritz––every time––and especially this time. Jean Fritz is my go to for all kids and young adult history books. We have a pretty extensive Fritz collection and still aren’t close to owning all the author’s work. I was so pleased to add The Lost Colony to our library, which in addition to beautiful illustrations, included all the most recent theories (as of 2001) and a summarization of Lee Miller’s Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony.

I read Lee Miller’s book and found it completely enthralling. As a homeschool family, we pick up and take our studies pretty much everywhere, and the week of Roanoke we had the luxury of spending on the Atchafalaya Basin. The only thing that could have been more perfect would have been if we had been in the Virginia and North Carolina swamps and beaches instead of the Louisiana ones––but the ambiance for the unraveling of a sixteenth century crime was perfect.

The book truly had me on the edge of my seat, due largely because of content. The writing style, which annoyed many reviewers on Goodreads, was superfluous at times, but I got the sense that it was the genuine excitement of the author jumping full swing into storytelling mode. I find the premise she suggested not only possible, but plausible based on her presentation of evidence. It’s a great book to read to get a big picture view of both sides of the pond when it comes to early American history. Too many books seem to focus on the colonies or Europe, but rarely truly show what is happening on both sides of the globe at the same time during the era.

Miller brings everything back to Elizabeth I’s Spymaster, so naturally I had to find out if her claims could be substantiated. Up next, my findings in Stephen Budiansky’s Her Majesty’s Sypmaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage.

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Mysteries of History, Part Two: The Americas

October 5, 2020 at 1:58 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

From what I can tell from Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s Goodreads biography and résumé, the man is half journalist and half historian. Perhaps, that’s why I enjoyed his writing. He’s perhaps a better journalist than any writing for the papers these days (always pointing out his own biases rather than writing opinion pieces as fact) and keeps his research assignments to the point instead of meandering in and out of his feelings (which I’ve noticed modern-day scholars doing a lot of lately). I could be wrong about him as a whole, he has a rather lengthy list of books and I have only read two of them. But what I have read, I have loved.

The Americas: A Hemispheric History has an average star rating of 3.25 on Goodreads. I gave it 5 stars. Most of the complaints seem to be that he’s not a specialist in his field and wrote too general a book––which I found incredible that he took so much history and covered it so well in two hundred pages––or, that he used words and language people didn’t understand (apparently, if you’re a journalist, you’re doomed to two syllable words forever?). The book did tackle a very broad scope of history and condensed it to a cozy mystery length, but the fact that he did it without missing major broad strokes, still telling the stories of the North and South Americas without skipping things your average high school student should know about this hemisphere but rarely does… I found it impressive.

By no stretch of the imagination is The Americas an end all be all. It is a jumping off point for people who love to learn. It’s a book that identifies all the major players textbooks are required to mention, and a few they fail to, during the times of exploration and conquest. He poses a few philosophical questions about viewpoints so you know when there is a conflict of perspective so you can go forth and research from there. There are many things Fernández-Armesto says that I don’t entirely agree with, but I liked that he made his biases clear and actually referred to them as biases. I would much rather read differing viewpoints and discuss topics outside of an echo chamber than not, but I also greatly appreciate when people are able to step back and say, this is my bias rather than infer that anything coming from their mouth (or pen) is a universal truth simply because that’s how they feel.

For instance, for a historian, Fernández-Armesto seemed to articulate a very laid back view of how all history is just a matter of perspective, not fact. This made for great storytelling, as he presents all sides of a situation, but as a Christian and self-taught scholar, I do believe in the existence of universal truths. I believe modern society as a misguided view on which things are universal truths/ facts and which are not due to the hot button phrase “my truth.” I tell my kiddo, having empathy for someone’s perspective, understanding where they are coming from and how they got the ideas they have, does not make their ideas correct. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, and those who do are doomed to watch everyone else repeat it, but I’d still rather go through the world with my eyes wide opened. I still want to go through the world with an ear that hears.

Maybe that’s why I find Fernández-Armesto’s writing style approachable and easy, when others have not. He doesn’t say all the politically correct things. He doesn’t perpetuate the required narrative, but shares the facts he has collected along with his own ideas (and is very clear about what are ideas). I pick his books up when I’m starting an in-depth study as an armchair book to whet my appetite for the topic. I’d recommend this particular one as a pre-requisite title before diving into source documents. I ordered a couple books he cited as I was reading, and even more as I read his bibliographical essay at the end of the book. I love that style of works cited. Is it a professional format used by scholars? No. Is it fantastic for a people in their homes wanting to know what books the author read to come to the conclusions he did? Yes. And honestly, how often do you get a chance to read someone’s bibliography for pleasure?

I’m excited, as always, to know more today than I did yesterday… and more tomorrow than today. I’m excited, as always, to find out all the things I don’t know, and learn them––only, of course, to find I don’t know even more things. I think this is why I “eat history for breakfast,” as a friend of mine once said, because I’m a detective always on the hunt for information, so I can understand the world God made a little better.

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Mysteries of History, Part One

October 3, 2020 at 7:35 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the misconceptions of homeschooling is that one or both parents are doing ALL the teaching. Sometimes that’s true. But most of what homeschooling is about is the power and ability for the parent to pick and choose resources (including other teachers/tutors). As much as I love teaching history, this year history instruction became a duty I chose to share with another mom in our homeschooling group. The beauty of the heaviest portion of the kiddo’s history lessons being taught by someone else on a specific day is that it leaves me more time to read additional books that cover the same topics the kids are studying. The downside is, we’ve changed gears a little and are studying a different time frame than I initially planned. The good is outweighing the bad.

At home, we had cycled back through the American Revolution and I was pumping up to spend most of our spring semester on the Civil War. As we started the Fall semester, however, our “Early American History” course reset our timeline back to the Vikings and we kickstarted the year with Eric the Red and Norse Mythology to lay a foundation for the earliest known explorers and their encounters with the early Native Americans.

One of the fun things about studying history, is studying also the evolution of history, science, and mythology while you’re at it. We got to watch some neat documentaries on Norse Explorers and how for a long time people didn’t believe that Leif Ericson had ever actually touched North American soil, but archeology has a way of uncovering truth… and sometimes additional mysteries. As students of history, our job is to remember that education is a lifetime pursuit and keep digging (sometimes literally) for answers.

During the first half of this semester we also studied the Spanish explorers. Naturally, we covered Amerigo Vescpucci (I read Felipe Fernández-Armesto‘s biography earlier this year and loved it) and Columbus, of course. Kiddo did a presentation on Vasco Nuñez de Balboa after reading multiple books about explorers and conquest. While she was preparing her speech (my husband helped her wrap her horseback riding helmet in foil so we could add a plume and make it conquistador armor for visual aid upon her head), I read up on Cabeza de Vaca.

A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca has been on my shelf for awhile now. I knew I wanted to read it, I just wasn’t sure when. I’d read his journals before, and when reading Reséndez’s chronicle of the journey, I realized I actually had two copies of the source document. The copies of Cabeza de Vaca’s journals I have are at least different publishers, so I don’t feel entirely ridiculous. I do enjoy perusing annotations and notes in addition to devouring primary sources.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (and yes, his family name was Cow’s Head, due to a his ancestor placing a cow skull in a strategic place during a battle against the Moors) is considered the first historian of Texas by some. A journey to explore Florida quickly became a survival story full of starvation, slavery, building Native American relations, and faith healings.

I gave Reséndez’s book four stars on Goodreads when I logged it as read. It’s fascinating stuff, but I did find it a tad too easy to set down. It’s definitely an account worth having on any armchair historian’s shelf, though, and I will definitely hold onto my copy.

After that I jumped into The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention that Changed the World. I put Amir D. Aczel’s work on par with Dava Sobel’s and would happily hand this amusing piece of scientific history in the hands of any upper middle to early high school student. It reads a bit like a memoir of discovery as Aczel traipses around Europe trying to uncover who actually invented the compass and reveals some “truths” to be delightful legends and fabrication. Realistically, I wouldn’t call this book scholarly, and it has some poor reviews where people have lamented that fact, but I did find it great fun and would have gladly participated in this research adventure pre-publication. I secretly just want to chat up old Italian men in dank out of the way libraries. Reliving Aczel’s research trip would be a fabulous vacation, because, after all, our education is a lifetime pursuit and also our favorite past-time.

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Winter with Dogs (and Cats)

March 23, 2020 at 10:28 pm (Education, Obituaries, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

With the arrival of Disney+ came the magic of Willem Dafoe as the infamous Leonhard Seppala, musher who put in the most miles during the Serum Run of Nome, Alaska. As a homeschool parent I have the luxury to put aside some school books to build educational unit studies on a whim. We spent weeks on sled dogs and illnesses, tundra and survivalism in harsh weather.

Kiddo read the Dog Diaries book featuring Togo. I read The Cruelest Miles by Gay and Laney Salisbury (phenomenal) as well as a novel called Dead Run by Michael Caruss (pretty good). We watched the movie together. We became smitten with a beautiful picture book by Robert J. Blake.

All the while our own dog was dying. We said goodbye to him as we ended our dogsled reading binge. Our best boy who was the greatest protector we’ve ever had. Named after Tahmoh Penikett’s character Karl C. Agathon on the Battlestar Galactica, Helo, our Siberian husky-pit bull-German Shepherd lived up to his name. Handsome, loving, and always ready to defend us from any threat, I’ve never had a better dog.

“Any man can make friends with any dog but it takes a long time and mutual trust and mutual forbearance and mutual appreciation to make a partnership. Not every dog is fit to be partner with a man; nor every man, I think, fit to be partner with a dog.” – Archdeacon Hudson Stuck

Helo was my greatest partner in getting my kiddo from age one to nine. I trained him to stay with her, he trailed her as she played in the yard and on playgrounds. He slept in the threshold of our doors, guarding us from the outside world as we dreamed. He loved his ball. He could never have been a sled dog like Balto and Togo, he neither had the build or the heart for it, too barrel chested for his smaller legs to support for long distances (he had a hard time keeping up with his mother who despite being much smaller could outrun him in speed and duration), but he was perfect for the job he was given: preserve and protect us from all threats.

Through all this studying of harsh winters, learning about famous dogs, and burying ours (he was nine)… we had the warmest winter I can remember in a long time and many, many cats…

Well, caterpillars.

Living in the lower coastal plains region of Texas means we have some tropical tendencies sweeping up from the Gulf of Mexico. It also means Monarch butterflies! We’ve raised quite a few in our pollinator garden, have ordered books, and plan to study them more in depth as we observe them more regularly through various seasons. The photos below are all from this winter.

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The Small & The Invisible

August 16, 2019 at 11:59 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Title: Dust

Author: Joseph A. Amato

Publisher: University of California Press

Length: 250 pages

I work at a used bookstore and am constantly confounding my co-workers with my eclectic taste in books. I like histories of things, biographies of objects, anthropomorphizing of trees and plants and bugs. Honestly, the weirder and more obscure, the better. So imagine everyone’s excitement when this came in… and the universal proclamation that Andi needed to see it.

When I think of dust, immediately three specific things come to mind:

  1. My older sister singing “Dust in the Wind” in our living room, circa 1994. There were choreographed dramatic arm motions worthy of Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. It was a very serious affair. I’m not sure Kansas even took this song as seriously as my sister did. Her hair was way better, though.
  2. My fiancé and his dust mite allergies.
  3. Watching the speckles float past my window as a child when I was still tucked in my bed, but the sun was beating down hard through the panes. I imagined they were fairies, as I’m sure every child does.

Needless to say, my co-workers were right, I was VERY excited about this book. And it started out wonderfully, so promising! There were even a smattering of beautiful illustrations of small creatures known to reside in dust, which is right up my alley. Then it derailed into theories and modern commentary on germs and such, seemingly to reach a word count. I’d rather read science than political and social commentary.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but the conclusion went on far longer than necessary. Where I started the book excited and engaged, I ended it bored, with a sigh of relief.

That being said, if I ever wrote a nonfiction piece even half so interesting, I’d probably be pretty pleased with myself. I hope, regardless of my opinion, that Joseph A. Amato is pleased with himself – and I don’t say that lightly or sarcastically. He is a professor of Intellectual and Cultural History, so it is most appropriate that his book took the turn that it did, but I was still hoping for more of something a microbiologist would write.

I have in my possession a first edition hardback in near mint condition that I do plan to keep. I find the size and marketing of the book quite lovely, and the pages are high quality and the best texture. It is the little things I appreciate most, and for this title specifically I find that pleasingly appropriate.

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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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King’s List

August 6, 2019 at 5:20 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

As a classical homeschool mom, I encounter many lists, I don’t always remember their sources, and often I add to them. One list is my “Chronological Order of People to Cover,” scrawled out in a yellow, college-ruled, spiral notebook that I picked up for some ridiculously inexpensive price (11 cents sounds about right) at a school supply clearance sale post Labor Day. There’s a sloppy box around my ineloquent title, and my initial attempt at writing neatly at the top of the page, beginning with:

“Cheops, pharaoh of Egypt 2700-2675 BC

epic Gilgamesh legend by 2600 BC, written 2100

Hammurabi 1750 BC

Hatshepsut 1480 BC

Tutankhamen 1355 BC…

the list goes on, until I reach King David 1000 BC”

King David is often skipped over when you consult secular lists, after all he’s not just known as the King of the Israelites, he’s the scrawny kid on the felt boards in your Sunday School class who killed a giant with a slingshot.

It’s true that those most interested in King David’s existence would be those studying Judaism or Christianity, as there are not many references to his historical presence outside those sources. But it is also interesting that he appears in the Quran, as well as the Tel Dan Stele, a stone with Aramaic writings regarding the battle history and reign of King Hazel from the 840’s. In Hazael’s account of his rule and victories, he includes an account of having killed a man of the House of David.

I love history. I love archeology. Maybe one day I’ll do more with these loves than read a lot of books, maybe not. But this bit of history found on a basalt stone is enough for me to remember that the history of God’s chosen people is a history worth studying by all people, whether you believe in religion or not. The Old Testament, archeology, all of these things are stories and evidence that point to the good news of Jesus Christ and why He’s available for ALL people to accept. All of these people are relevant pieces to the giant web of life and affect religion and politics today.

During my separation from my ex-husband I read a Beth Moore study called David: 90 Days with a Heart Like His. It was my first Beth Moore study, despite being from the bible belt of Houston. I found it comforting, captivating even. During my latest revival of the ancient history cycle with my kiddo, I read David: A Man of Passion & Destiny by Charles R. Swindoll and I found it both theologically and spiritually educational.

Beth Moore’s study, as you can imagine, goes into all the great things we think about David. All the things that truly help us see why he was called a man after God’s own heart. Swindoll does a better job of addressing his sins, the parts of him that make us wonder how this man could possibly be considered a man after God’s own heart. Swindoll addresses what a non-believer might get hung up on: David was a warlord, adulterer, possibly a rapist (depending on how you view the story of Bathsheba), he wasn’t a great father, he had many wives and his household fell to shame and scandal more than once. But David always got back up again. He always repented of his sin, looked to the Lord, and asked how to fix it.

As a history enthusiast, my immediate reaction is to find more sources and do more research on this man. I know his heart, as presented by the bible and Christian commentaries, but I want to know his world. Naturally I made some requests from the library and pulled out a few choice titles from my boxes of ancient history books… yes, boxes – plural – of ancient history books, that I own. I have a bit of a book problem and a perpetually insatiable curious mind. However, I’m still lacking the focus to choose one particular thing to study, fancy degrees, and access to fabulous antiquarian documents.

First up, Robert Alter’s Ancient Israel. I invite you to join me, if you’re interested.

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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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The Reading Life – Hurricane Harvey to Now

April 29, 2018 at 3:35 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It’s been 8 months since Hurricane Harvey swept the Gulf, the flood gates of Conroe were opened post-storm, and our house was overtaken by 13-14 inches of water. We’ve done a lot of moving around, renovation, and – of course – reading.

Martin Luther: The Great Reformer – J.A. Morrison

Studying Martin Luther with my first grader was pretty interesting. Knowing enough about your denomination to explain it to an inquisitive seven year old is harder than I thought it would be. There are many things we do that we might not know why we do until we really dive into the history behind them, and celebrating Reformation Day on October 31st was definitely more exciting after having gotten to know Martin Luther a little bit better. Morrison’s biography is designed for middle grade readers, so it’s actually great as a read aloud to an elementary age student. Morrison also included sheet music for a hymn written by Luther, which fell in nicely to our tin whistle practices during the holidays.

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) – Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas has become a guilty pleasure of mine. Assassins, fairies, War… yes, please. Naturally, there’s a romance because strong female leads can’t seem to exist without a love interest, but she rarely gets graphic enough to make me blush. The series is slated for young adult, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing them to anyone under sixteen.

Jorie and the Gold Key – A.H. Richardson

We are loving the Jorie series. So far we have read Jorie and the Magic Stones and its sequel Jorie and the Magic Key. Kids who are into Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or the Wrinkle in Time series should enjoy Richardson’s fun little saga. The books remind me most of The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles. We can’t wait to read the next installment.

Tales of Pixie Hollow – Kiki Thorpe, Laura Driscoll

Kiddo is a huge Tinker Bell fan, and these stories never let her down. They are a fairly easy going chapter book series, tie into the well beloved movies (available on Netflix), and are beautifully illustrated in the typical Disney style. We will eventually read them all, but this year have only tackled the first 9 or so.

Will I Ever Be Free of You? – Karyl McBride

As its subtitle states, this book is a self help title to aid in navigating a divorce from a narcissist. I needed it, found it helpful, and am glad I read it.

1066: The Year of the Conquest – David Howarth

I absolutely love history books the length of a a novella. Dive in, get to the heart of the information, and move on. Howarth does this nicely with 1066, it is short and sweet, but an extremely detailed account of one year in history that changed everything. It should be on every high school student’s required reading list.

Nooks & Crannies – Jessica Lawson

Could a young adult novel be more fun and reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes?! I adored this. So did kiddo. We definitely both got a little more than choked up at the end and we look forward to more books from Lawson, she is both clever and gifted – like her main character.

Peter the Great – Diane Stanley

This children’s picture book is a great addition to any homeschool mom’s library, especially for history lovers. We read it for fun, and now that we are studying Peter the Great in our actual history lessons we are pretty impressed with how thoroughly Stanley wrote the great Czar’s story. Her entire account is quite memorable and we’re pleased to own a copy.

The History of the Medieval World – Susan Wise Bauer

As I teach my kiddo, I’m trying to keep up in my own studies as well. After all, Education is a lifetime pursuit. Bauer presents the history of the world fabulously for young students in her Story of the World series, but is also very efficient at the task for adults. I plan to use these books as core history “textbooks” when kiddo is high school aged, but for the most part they give me a glimpse into what I want to study in detail, pointing me to people and places I may never have known existed. They are great starting places for adult history students.

Twenty Shakespeare Children’s Stories: The Complete Collection Box Set – Shakespeare

Kiddo and sort of went on a Shakespeare binge this winter. We read all the stories, both in these chapter books designed for early readers, and in beautifully illustrated picture books. I highly recommend this set to keep on hand so that the stories of Hamlet and Macbeth, the confusion of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and the tragedy of Othello may always be a part of childhood memories.

Story of the World #2: The Middle Ages – Susan Wise Bauer

I honestly don’t know how I would homeschool without these books. Although we are currently a part of Classical Conversations, we look to Susan Wise Bauer for our day to day homeschooling structure. We love learning chronologically through history and kiddo is enthralled with these books. We recently acquired the entire set on audio as well and can’t wait to repeat each title as we repeat each “cycle” as per the Classical model.

The Five Love Languages of Children – Gary Chapman

If you have a kiddo and have never read up on love languages, this book is very helpful. I had read The Five Love Languages about twenty years ago and didn’t find the information for children all that unique, but it did help me relate to my child a little better and ask more pointed questions to ensure I wasn’t missing or misinterpreting how she receives love.

Adjustment Team – Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick just never gets old, and I love re-reading this old short, especially when I’m gearing up to re-watch the Matt Damon and Emily Blunt version titled Adjustment Bureau.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life – Alison Weir

Alison Weir is one of my favorite biographers, and she didn’t fail me with this history of Eleanor’s time. There’s little known about Eleanor, so the biography is heavy with information about her family and the political world. It took me longer to read than her books usually do, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

The Double Life of Pocahontas – Jean Fritz

Jean Fritz is another must have for teachers and homeschool parents. We loved learning about the real Pocahontas and comparing her true life stories to those portrayed by Disney. Reality versus fantasy is always a riveting discussion topic in our house and Pocahontas offers a foundation for digging for truth in the half truths of legends.

Bloomin’ Tales: Legends of Seven Favorite Texas Wildflowers – Cherie Coburn

As a family, we tend to gravitate to legends, folklore, and fairy tales in our down time. We also spend half our time outside as eager amateur Naturalists and gardeners. Also, we’re Texas girls. Of course we love this book, of course! We were sold from the second we saw the cover.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Goldolphin Arabian – Marguerite Henry

Kiddo has been horseback riding for over two years now. It is P.E., it is diligence, it is empathy, it has become a cornerstone for everything in our lives. Naturally, we felt the need to highlight this in our reading lives and stumbled across a unit study prepared by Beautiful Feet. We pieced the titles they include in their study and lined them up chronologically to coincide with our existing school schedule as best we could. It’s a little off every now and then, but we’re learning the history of horses and the practices of keeping them along with our study of people. We also covered a lot of geography with this particular book as the Goldolphin Arabian made his way from Morocco to England. This was a childhood favorite of mine and I was so pleased to share it with my kiddo as well. I cried at the end, just like every other time I’ve read it. Marguerite Henry truly had a gift.

Anthem – Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead is one of my favorite books ever. That being said, I didn’t care for Anthem. I found it contrived, a tad annoying, and though the message was well presented, I wanted my hour and a half back.

Mistborn Series – Brandon Sanderson

When I met Brandon Sanderson while working Kevin J. Anderson’s booth at DragonCon in Atlanta, most my coworkers back in Houston were a little perturbed that I had gotten to bask in the glory of the most amazing fantasy writer of our day. I hadn’t read any of his work yet, so I admit it seemed a tad unfair. I’m glad I hadn’t read his books when I worked with him during his signing, it would have rendered me completely inarticulate, because I love the Mistborn series so much now. Finally diving in and reading them on my vacation was the best birthday present I could have given myself this year. If you haven’t read these yet, stop what you’re doing, and order them now. They are truly amazing.

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola Africa

How exciting it is to discover all these great female leaders of history. I was not familiar with Nzingha as a child and I’m excited that my kiddo has had the chance to discover her. We’re pretty smitten, and now when we’re practicing archery it’s not just Queen Susan from Narnia she pretends to be… sometimes she is Nzingha!

Black Beauty – Anna Sewell

Another childhood favorite. Another recommendation from Beautiful Feet. I cried over the last pages, Kiddo patted me. Oh goodness, sometimes I’m not sure who the books are for, but I am sure she is getting something out of them so I keep doing what I’m doing.

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms – Amy Stewart

I have always enjoyed finding earthworms in my garden. My daughter and I tend to play with the worms and name them, both in the garden and when we go fishing. Amy Stewart propelled this love for the little Annelids further by being such a warm writer. I can’t wait to start my very own earthworm farm.

Madeleine Takes Command – Ethel C. Brill

Have I mentioned how much I love homeschooling? My kiddo is getting a rich and well rounded education and I’m learning so much too! Madeleine de Vercheres lived in Canada in the late 1600’s. This historical novel brings to life the events that made Madeleine famous: at fourteen she was left in command of Fort Vercheres, where her parents were stationed, and thwarted an attack by the native Iroquois.

The Earth Moves: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition – Dan Hofstadter

As kiddo was learning about Galileo and we began basic astronomy lessons, I wanted a deeper insight into the war between the Catholic church and the heliocentric view. I like these Great Discoveries books, and Hofstadter delivered exactly what was promised on the jacket blurbs, however it took me longer than anticipated to finish such a short book. It is well written, just too easy to put down. I’m still glad I read it, am happy to own it, and look forward to picking it apart with Kiddo when she is older.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers – Ralph Moody

A good friend recommended I read this out loud to Kiddo and I am so glad I listened. This is a new favorite, a must read for all, and we’re currently saving up to buy the complete series! I don’t know how I didn’t discover Ralph Moody sooner. Moody rivals Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain in my heart.

Niels Stensen: The Scientist Who Was Beatified – Hans Kermit

I constantly marvel at people who cannot understand my fascination for science as a field of study and my Christian faith. To me, those who think the two cannot coexist have not studied one or the other sufficiently. Niels Stensen is a comfort, an inspiration, and I’m certain if I had ever met the man in person I’d have been madly intrigued.

I Hope This Reaches Her in Time – R.H. Sin

Sometimes I am too tired to do much, but not ready for sleep. That’s when I read poetry, those moments between awake and dreamland. This particular collection is for Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur lovers.

If you wish to browse or order any of these books through Amazon, please click through my link here: https://amzn.to/2r72WPI

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