Monday, 26 November 2012

Mother Culture and the Tasting of Books

'Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.' --Francis Bacon, Of Studies.

I decided to have a taste of some more of P.D.James' books after reading her futuristic novel, set in London in the year 2012, The Children of Men.
My interest in this author was piqued when I read that she had lost some of her following due to the strong Christian undertones on the sanctity of life in this particular book.
 (An interview with the author is here:

I've been rather hesitant to recommend this author. In all but one of her books I've read (except for Death Comes to Pemberley) there was a description or event that assaulted my senses in some way. Her characters are very complex and she writes with depth and a realism which can be raw, but at the same time insightful. She doesn't dwell long on these descriptions, however, and they tend to vividly divulge an aspect of the character's personality or background.
Original Sin, also set in London and centred around a publishing house, is a story about ancestral sin, 'the sins of the fathers,' and the fruit of this sin after years of unforgiveness and schemes for revenge.

One of the minor characters in this book was a disgruntled author whose latest work had been turned down by the publishing house. She was a lonely, pathetic sort of woman caught up in her own sense importance, and in her peevishness went to complain to the manager of the publishing firm and walked into the wrong place at the wrong time.
After her murder two detectives walk into her dingy apartment with its echoes of insignificance and disarray and James writes:

‘“Lord, let me know mine end, and the number of my days: that I may be certified how long I have to live."
Surely few people could pray that prayer with any sincerity. The best one could hope for or want was enough time to tidy away the personal debris, consign one's secrets to the flames or the dustbin and leave the kitchen tidy.'

I felt an ache when I read those words and thought of the murdered woman's 'personal debris' and it made me want to make sure that I didn't leave any debris behind, physically or spiritually. In the P.D. James books that I have read, justice was eventually accomplished, the characters reaped what they'd sowed, loose ends were tied, and I was satisfied that the case was closed - maybe I'm an idealist, but I dislike unresolved endings. There is a real literary quality to her writing but for me a taste of her books is enough now and again. Her worldview often diverges from the Christian one, in my opinion, which is contrary to some reviews of her books I've read.

 P.D. James was an author I tasted but another author I  read wholly and with attention was Miss Read.  She is an English author and former schoolteacher, whose real name is Dora Jessie Saint (1913-2012). Her books centre around English villages, their inhabitants and the minutiae of everyday life in a way that is absorbing and evocative. She also describes the natural world beautifully.

My favourite is Miss Clare Remembers, a reminiscing by a retired school teacher who has lived through the two world wars. Miss Clare remembers her family and her school days, the death of Queen Victoria and the invention of the motor car. The engagements of both herself and her best friend (also a teacher) and their fiancés' subsequent deployment to France at the start of the war is remembered with pride. She poignantly recalls the death of her young man in action and the wounding and hospitalisation of her friend's fiancé and his decision to end the engagement and marry the nurse who had cared for him.

It was a very endearing story and so interesting to read about the impact the death of Queen Victoria had on her subjects and the developments that followed the world wars.
Miss Read has written a number of other books which centre around village life in England including, The Howards of Caxley, Winter at Thrush Green and Return to Thrush Green. She died in April of this year at 98 years of age.

"Miss Clare Remembers" by Enya was inspired by the beauty and simplicity of Miss Read's book.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Australian Folksong - Moreton Bay

Also known as 'The Convicts' Lament on the Death of Captain Logan,' this ballad is about the Moreton Bay Penal Colony - which was set up in Queensland in the early 1800's in what is now the Brisbane area - and in particular the notorious Captain Logan.
Apparently Ned Kelly quoted some lines of this ballad  in his Jerilderie Letter in 1879.

The Logan City Library in Queensland has this information on Captain Logan

One Sunday morning as I went walking
By Brisbane waters I chanced to stray
I heard a convict his fate bewailing
As on the sunny river bank I lay
I am a native from Erin's island
But banished now from my native shore
They stole me from my aged parents
And from the maiden I do adore

I've been a prisoner at Port Macquarie
At Norfolk Island and Emu Plains
At Castle Hill and at cursed Toongabbie
At all these settlements I've been in chains
But of all places of condemnation
And penal stations in New South Wales
To Moreton Bay I have found no equal
Excessive tyranny each day prevails

For three long years I was beastly treated
And heavy irons on my legs I wore
My back from flogging was lacerated
And oft times painted with my crimson gore
And many a man from downright starvation
Lies mouldering now underneath the clay
And Captain Logan he had us mangled
All at the triangles of Moreton Bay

Like the Egyptians and ancient Hebrews
We were oppressed under Logan's yoke
Till a native black lying there in ambush
Did deal this tyrant his mortal stroke
My fellow prisoners be exhilarated
That all such monsters such a death may find
And when from bondage we are liberated
Our former sufferings will fade from mind

Sheet music and some  more information here. 

Another version of Moreton Bay:

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Bible History Resources and Ideas

A book I've used for the chronological study of Ancient Israel is the Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History. The guide organises 196 readings through the Bible in chronological order with suggestions for further study and narration questions. The narration questions were a very helpful start for me when I first started learning about the Charlotte Mason approach to learning.
Greenleaf Press also publish a guide to Ancient Egypt which fits in well with the readings from the book of Exodus. You can read about them here. They've been around for many years and I like their simplicity and their ease of use with multiple children.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders

Basically an overview of the structure, geography, eras, and books of the Bible, we used this book over the course of a year. It has three main sections:
1) The Story of the Old Testament
2) The Story of the New Testament
3) The Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible
There is an appendix at the end of the book which contains reproducible images to use as teaching helps. There is also a teaching plan which is more suitable for a group of older students or adults which I didn't use.
Sections 1& 2 contain 19 chapters and we covered one chapter one day a week with review on the other days.
At the beginning of each chapter the author has a short anecdote, story, or example from history which I read aloud to everyone. Then I read, for example, about the Patriarch Era and learned a story line summary i.e. 'Abraham is chosen by God to "father" a people to represent God to the world.'
Then I read about the 4 major men in the Patriarch Era: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Joseph and covered the geography of this era using maps provided in the book which I enlarged before printing.

As we finished each era everyone made a notebook page for that era, a total of twelve. The author called these 12 eras The Arc of Bible History. Whenever anyone wrote a Bible narration or a narration pertaining to one of the eras we'd covered  it was placed in the appropriate section of their History notebooks.
This was very useful for helping them understand the Bible as it relates to history and gave them a visual sense of the chronology as we went through the eras and placed a title page like the Exodus page to the right.
 If they did a narration on Alexander the Great, for example, I would ask, 'Where would you place Alexander in the arc of Bible History?'
'Well he was between the Old & New Testaments so he belongs in the Silence Era.'
'What is the story line summary of this era?'
'Pharisees and others entomb the Israelites in legalism for the next four hundred years.'
I found it quite an easy book to adapt to our situation - another resource which can be used successfully with multiple ages.

The above book has some good reproducibles for Bible timelines and maps in particular. (Gospel Light Publication)

Free notebooking pages for Bible & Ancient Cultures can be found at:

The Story of the Ancient World by Christine Miller is a revised and expanded edition of the work of H.A. Guerber and is a narrative of the history of the Old Testament up until the time of Alexander the Great. It includes the history of the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians interwoven with the Biblical narrative. There is also a recommended reading list that corresponds with the chapters in the book.

A helpful book to have alongside when studying Bible history is Journey Through the Bible by V. Gilbert Beers. Well illustrated and lots of helpful cultural insights, archaelogical finds and maps.

Historical fiction book suggestions:

Shadow Hawk by Andre Norton
Set in 1590 BC at the time of the Egyptians' fight for freedom against their Hyksos invaders.

Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson
Based on an episode from the Book of Judges at the time of Deborah and Barak, about 1200 years before the birth of Christ. 

God King by Joanne Williamson
This story takes place around 710-702 B.C. and involves a young prince, heir to the throne of Kush and Egypt who flees for his life to the land of Judea where he encounters Sennacherib, the mighty Assyrian King and the Jewish King Hezekiah.

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

By Lord Byron (Gordon George)

Victory on the Walls, a Story of Nehemiah by Friedan Clark Hyman.
Nehemiah's story told through the eyes of his nephew. Set in 445 BC when the Jews returned from exile to rebuild Jerusalem.

Festival of Lights Retold by Maida Silverman
A picture book story telling of the Maccabees stance against Antiochus IV.

The following books centre around the time of Jesus:

Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse
A very moving story about a young disfigured boy who is present when Jesus is crucified. A great read aloud.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
A Roman soldier on duty at the crucifixion wins the robe of Jesus at a game of dice. He believes Jesus to be an innocent man and when he is cajoled into later wearing the robe at a banquet held by Pontius Pilate, he becomes mentally deranged.

The Big Fisherman by the same author is a follow on book from The Robe. "The Big Fisherman" is Peter the disciple of Jesus.

Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ  by Lew Wallace
Great Christian classic free here.

 For the Temple by G.A. Henry
The book is free online here. The destruction of Jerusalem at the time of Titus, 70A.D.
Josephus, the historian, is one of the characters in Henty's book:

The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem by Josephus 

Masada, The Last Fortress by Gloria D. Miklowitz. The siege of Masada in 72A.D.
Basically everyone dies - which is what actually happened - so a preview might be a good idea.

Pearl Maiden by H.Rider Haggard
Set in Rome in the first century. Online here. Also at Librivox - I haven't listened to it so I've no idea how good the narrator is.