Monday, December 29, 2014

Powerful Spiritual Themes in Chronicles of Narnia

My parents read aloud to us on a regular basis as I was growing up. Whenever we had a quiet evening at home, Mom or Dad would read aloud to us - they were both very good readers.  They read a wide variety of heart nourishing books to us.  The Chronicles of Narnia stand out as favorites.  I have shied away from this wonderful series of book for some years because of the magic content.  But picking it up and reading it aloud again to my children, I am realizing we have been missing a wonderful treasure trove of spiritual insight woven into powerful story form.  The deceitfulness of sin and the traitorous nature of our sinful independence and rebellion, the wonder and adequacy of Christ's sacrifice, redemption, and our relationship with Christ - his omnipotence touching us gently, all these are beautifully pictured in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  This is the first book as they were originally written and I am reading them in the order that they were originally presented, as that's how we read them when I was a child.  We're currently reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which has a powerful picture of the pervasiveness of sin and self, how it separates us from those we would love and how impossible it is for us to free ourselves from it. Then this beautiful, moving, allegory presents the power of Christ to liberate and change us!  The writing is elementary, not complicated and wordy like Dickens, but the meanings and experiences are powerful and transforming.  We're all enjoying these books immensely, each taking away what we can on our own level.  I highly recommend it! 

 We found Prince Caspian on CD so I was able to knit while we listened. The version we listened to was read by Lynn Redgrave, who has a wonderful way of using appropriate voices for each character. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I had a mother who read to me...

I have wonderful memories of my  mother reading to my sisters and me!  We explored marvelous lands and ideas together through the written word!  We were talking about this the other day and Mom quoted the line, "I had a mother who read to me," but she couldn't remember where it was from.  We looked it up online and found this inspiring poem by Strickland Gillilan:

The Reading Mother

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

It has seemed just natural for me to read aloud to my children since my parents read almost nightly to my sisters and me!  I treasure the gift and feel privileged to pass it on.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald

When I saw this book displayed at our local library I knew I wanted to check it out!  George MacDonald was my Dad's favorite author and he has become a favorite of mine, too.  We read the first story last night and I wasn't disappointed!  The  paintings are lovely and the stories are moving and powerfully told.  

Shakespeare His Work & His World

We just finished reading Shakespeare His Work & His World by Michael Rosen and Illustrated by Robert Ingpen.
If you are looking for an introduction to Shakespeare, the world in which he lived and wrote, and his plays I recommend this book. The text is interesting and well-written and the artwork is really exceptional. We read it slowly, just once a week over five or six weeks. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Christmas Carol

book-cover-largeThis version of 
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens as recorded on Librivox is done by an excellent reader.  We are enjoying it very much.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Reading

Last night we finished The Best Christmas Pagent Ever.  By Barbara Robinson.  It's a wonderfully humorous story of a family of unchurched children who are exposed to the real story of Christmas for the first time as they decide to be part of the local church Christmas Pageant.  

I just started a knitting project that I need to get done by the weekend so I decided to look for our next Christmas story online. Librivox has many wonderful short stories for Christmas.  We listened to O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi and "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen and several others, two of which were new to me, but fun stories.  They have quite a few collections to choose from.  Search for old familiar stories or browse for new ones. We hope to listen to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol later this week.  My sister and niece were in a musical presentation of "The Gospel According to Scrooge" a couple years ago and we were able to purchase a video of that presentation.  It is very well done and it has become a tradition to watch it as a family during December.  It was filmed and edited by DTV20 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota and you may still be able to purchase a copy by contacting them at 1-320-351-7288 or

What stories do you enjoy during the holiday season? 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bracket Fungus Study

We studied mushrooms last week during our Friday nature time.  At first we weren't sure we'd find many as it has gotten quite cold out, but as we searched we found quite a few different kinds.

Today we studied Bracket Fungus, inspired by Barb at Handbook of Nature Study.  We read the section on Bracket Fungi in The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, (pp721-724 in my edition).  Then we went out searching our woods for bracket fungi collecting and photographing them as we went.  Finally we came in and drew in our nature notebooks some of the wonderful specimens we found.  Here is a link to a gallery of bracket and crust fungi.

Following are our journal entries and a few of our photos. 

J age 9 Bracket Fungi on a tree trunk

S. age 15

This fungus was growing on a piece of birch bark....  S age 15 did a lovely job of capturing it.

Sorry I couldn't get my entry turned....

R. age 11

underside of bracket fungus

 If you view this picture up close you can see the tiny openings....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Videos on nature journaling

A Picture of a nature journal I found online....

I found a couple of wonderful videos on nature journaling this morning.  So we watched a couple together this afternoon and hope to finish them in the next week when we have Friday art and nature walks. 

How to Draw Plants - Introduction This is a series of seven clips put out by the California Native Plant Society.  John Muir Laws shows how to draw plants with 3, 4, 5, or 6 petals as well as the daisy-type flowers symmetrically, demonstrating as he goes.  We watched the first two clips and are ready next week to move on to foreshortening. 

We also enjoyed the first half of a video also by John Muir Laws as he talks about ways to make your nature journal more interesting and helpful in the learning process, using his own journal pages as examples.  Keeping a Nature Journal is interesting and helpful.  I'm looking forward to the second half next week. 

I noticed that under Youtube's  heading of "botanical illustration" there are lots and lots of wonderful videos.  

I hope to enjoy a few more days of outdoor nature journaling before the cold of winter in the Midwest keeps us inside most days.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books

We're working our way through the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder again this summer!  We read them to the older children years ago but I wanted to share them with the younger children.  Some of the older ones are sitting in on the reading and enjoying them again.  Laura is so wonderfully descriptive.  When Mary went blind, Pa told Laura that she would need to be Mary's eyes now so she got in the habit of describing everything going on around them to Mary.  I would guess that it is this practice brought on by the tragedy of Mary's loss of sight that makes Laura such a wonderful, descriptive writer! As Ma would say, "There's no great loss without some small gain."  Anyway, we are enjoying the books very much.  We're presently reading  By the Shores of Silver Lake

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bug Collections

My friend Delight is the inspiration for our "bug collections" and ours will never look as professional as hers nor will we have as many species to display, but she has inspired me and our children to make our own displays.  She tells stories of going out nightly around the yardlight with her first two sons collecting various moths and she has wonderful display cases filled with their collections from those  years. 

Riker Mounts with Fiber-Fill (16It is fast becoming a tradition for our family to purchase bug nets for a dollar each in different colors for each of the children from the dollar store early in the Spring.  I recently purchased new display cases so the children can each make their own collection.  Following is a link to the site I ordered from: Wholesale Riker Mounts.  Shipping almost doubles the price but they were still the cheapest I found.  

Ruthie is adding tiny hand-written labels to her display.  In the past we've filled the display cases as a family project but the children are older now and I think it will be valuable for them to fill their own cases, deciding on layout themselves.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

    We've started another wonderful George MacDonald book and the children beg for "just one more chapter".  We're reading an edition edited by Michael Phillips, titled, The Baronet's Song, produced by Bethany House Publishers. This book was originally published as Sir Gibbie.  It's a beautiful story and as usual MacDonald's words are often worth recording and find their way into my commonplace book.  Here is a memorable quote:  "So, teaching him only that which she loved, not that which she had been taught, Janet read to Gibbie of Jesus, and talked to him of Jesus, until at length his whole soul was full of the Man, of His doings, of His words, of His thoughts, of His life.  Almost before he knew, he was trying to fashion his life after that of the Master.  
     "Janet had no inclination to trouble her own head, or Gibbie's heart, with what men call the plan of salvation.  It was enough to her to find that he followed her Master."
      This reminded me of a quote by Charlotte Mason from Home Education,  "The Essence of Christianity is Loyalty to a Person--Christ, our King.  Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child.  The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief.  We have laid other foundations--regeneration, sacraments, justification, works, faith, te Bible--any of which, however necessary to salvation in its due place and proportion, may become a religion about Christ and without Christ.  And now a time of sifting has come upon us, and thoughtful people decline to know anything about our religious systems, they write down all our orthodox beliefs as things not knowable.  Perhaps this may be because, in thinking much of our salvation, we have put out of sight our King... Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ the King.  How?  How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes?  Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; their style of clothes, all was one proclamation of the boundless devotion to their king and his cause.  That civil war, whatever else it did, or missed doing, left a parable for Christian people.  If a Stuart prince could command such measure of loyalty, what shall we say of the Chief amongst ten thousand, the altogether lovely?'" 


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Morals Do Not Come By Nature

This article is written as part of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carival.  You can see the schedule and subscribe to it here.
Reading School Education ch. 12 this week, several thoughts stood out to me.  

One, She asserts that it's not about rules, but rather about principles, that God's law surrounds us and influences us like gravity. It's not an arbitrary,  man-made set of rules, but truths and principles based on true reality given by the designer of us and our world Himself for our benefit.

She mentions that we as parents should "discern the signs of the times too; the tendency is to think that a man can only act according to his 'lights,' and, therefore , that it is right for him to do that which is right in his own eyes; in other words, that every man is his own final authority in questions of right and wrong.  It is extremely important that parents should keep in view, and counteract if need be, this tendency of the day."  It is interesting to me that the moral climate in England in Charlotte Mason's day was so similar to our present one.  Our present culture clearly teaches the same idea - that each must decide what is right for himself and not judge another. In our times it is acceptable to think of ourselves, as individuals, as the central focus of life rather than beginning with God as the measure of all things and thinking of ourselves accordingly.  Our culture looks through the wrong end of the telescope. She suggests that we as parents must be aware of this kind of teaching and counteract it.

She says here that, "Morals do not come by nature." and "A certain rough-and-ready kind of morality, varying with our conditions, does come by heredity and environment; but that most delicate and beautiful human possessions, an educated conscience, comes only by teaching with authority and adorning by example."

She goes on to explain how beautiful poetry and art, biography and especially Biblical biography and even the memorization of credes all promote morality and help a child form true ideas about what is right and what God expects of us.  This is where a Charlotte Mason education shines!  These are the exact means this kind of education utilizes and why I love it so much!

I liked her idea about having children collect mottoes daily.  It made me think of Laurie Bestvater's wonderful book The Living Page which lists so many of Charlotte Mason's wonderful ideas for commonplace books of various types. 

This chapter concludes with the idea that parents need to be clear in their own minds about the "manner of virtues they want their children to develop" and a caution, that children need to know that "being good is not their whole duty to God, although it is much of it; that the relationship of love and personal service, which he owes as a child to his Father, as a subject to his King, is even more than the 'being good' which gives our Almighty Father such pleasure in His children."  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good reading - books by Stephen Meader

At the recommendation of Cindy Rollins at Ordo Amoris here, I ordered in a Stephen Meader book at our library.  We read it aloud and really enjoyed it.  So I ordered another and now another.  Tonight we finished The Fish Hawks Nest.  We were only half-way through when we started but it was early and we couldn't find a good stopping place - the adventure had us and we wanted to continue to the end.  Our first book by Stephen Meader was Boy With a Pack, and then Lumberjack. I recommend these books.  They've all been about boys but we have mostly girls at home now and have still enjoyed the adventures. We'll definitely be looking for more books by this author!  


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Life in Ancient Rome

For World History we've been studying Ancient Rome. Following is our list of books:

Everyday Life in Ancient Rome by F.R.Cowell  - This is a bit like an encyclopedia with the following sections:  I.The City of Rome, II.Growing Up in Ancient Rome, III.Family Life, IV.Slavery, V.Earning a Living, VI.Leisure Hours, VII.Relgion.
We're moving through this slowly as there is so much to take in and it isn't given in story form.  Still, it gives good descriptions.

Roman People by Olivia Coolidge was interesting but a bit advanced in content.  She uses nine short stories to present what life was like for different types of people during this time period.  There is intrigue and murder and the author seems to like surprise endings.  I found the above two books at a used book sale and we have enjoyed them.

I hope to watch Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in the next few weeks and see if it is appropriate for our family.  I found several different ones to try and ordered them in from the library.

I also copied Julius Caesar from Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls. The Baldwin Project: Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls - Julius Caesar.  It was longer than I expected - it may take us awhile to read.  I think we'll read it before we watch Shakespeare's play.  If you are interested in other versions - Here is Ambleside Online's list.  Scroll down to what you are looking for and click the link.

We read Beric the Britain by Henty earlier this year.  With Henty, the first chapter or two come slowly and then I don't want to put the books down.  I like how historical novels give a wonderful feeling of place and culture.  We've also started For the Temple, by Henty.  This gives the history of this time-period from the perspective of the Jews.

We're also reading The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.  She is a wonderful writer.  This story has a Roman legionary and a British warrior who has been captured and made into a slave.  They become good friends and seek together to find the Eagle Standard that the Roman's father had been carrying when his legion disappeared into the British frontier.  This book includes description of a pagan initiation rite for young warriors.  It isn't graphic but young readers may find it scary.  I reminded our children that Jesus is stronger than these false gods that the British Druids worshipped.

I'm looking forward to reading The Runaway by my favorite children's author, Patricia St. John.  It is set in New Testament times.

We started using Simply Charlotte Mason's Matthew Through Acts & Ancient Rome (History, Geography, Bible for Grades 1-12) last year and I want to get back to it.  It uses Famous Men of Rome and A Traveller in Rome as well as map activities (I use Uncle Josh's Outline Map book).

My two older students are reading through Augustus Caesar's World.

Some other books they have read are, The Bronze Bow, Stephen a Soldier of the Cross, Detectives in Togas, and Mystery of the Roman Ransom.  The oldest has Ben Hur on her list. 

I own Galen and the Gateway to Medicine so we'll probably read that, too.

We're starting to have a good sense for this time-period.

Any other recommendations?