Sunday, 26 January 2014

Together Time Plans

I'm fairly relaxed with planning for our times together in that I don't have set subjects or books on particular days but rather have a weekly list of what we will do, with some priorities determined beforehand so that if we have unexpected interruptions I know certain things will get done.

Our schedule has morphed over the years as we've made allowances for music lessons and instrument practice, which take up a good chunk of time at our place, part-time work for the older ones, and other practicalities. Ideally, I would like to do this part of our day in the morning but I've just had to be flexible so what happens is that I decide in the morning when we'll all get together for the day and then give everyone notice. This seems to work quite well.

Some of what we do is daily (Bible, memory work, poetry), others weekly (read alouds, Shakespeare, Plutarch). Some other things get done monthly and others intermittently. And then there's the occasional day when we don't do any of it!
This is what we're doing together at this point:


Bible Memory Work - you can see here how we do this.

Greenleaf Guide to the Old Testament. Every few years I go through this so the younger children get a historical sweep of the O.T. It's simple to use and good if you have children of various ages. This time through I'm thinking of also using parts of the Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt when we get to the book of Exodus.
We're also using these books.




William Blake; review of previous poems. I have a post here of poetry we've memorized or just enjoyed and some ideas for sharing poetry with children plus some books we've used here.

Read Aloud

Pilgrim's Progress: Christiana's Journey by John Bunyan. My copy is a lovely old hardback with gold embossing but it's a little hard to read aloud as there's no quotation marks or helpful quotes such as, 'Christiana replied, "..... " so I have to add those bits as I go.

Herodutus and the Road to History by Jeanne Bendick

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason. I started reading this aloud about two years ago. It is very rich and I'm taking it slowly.


Fabius. We're continuing this from last year and then I'd like to do Cicero which is a relatively new addition to the Ambleside Online Plutarch studies.


We have audio recordings for The Winter's Tale and Twelfth Night so we'll do those unless I find a production of another play that we can see live.
The Arkangel CDs are difficult to find in Australia. I used to always try to borrow them from the library but they had a limited selection and then I found an Ebay seller who was cheaper than anywhere else I looked.
Some of the Naxos Shakespeare audios are good also but I don't know if they are as consistent across the board as the Arkangel productions.



Mozart - even though we'd listened to his works about two years ago. One of the boys is learning this piece for his music exams which we were able to find sheet music for at the wonderful free online site at the Petrucci Music Library. They also have audio files.


Johannes Vermeer. I've put together some of his work on Pinterest.

Nature Study

Every month I read from A Bush Calendar by Amy Mack.


I haven't used this book for a number of years but thought I needed to bring it out again...

Poetry Selections for Memory work, Appreciation, Inspiration & Fun

A well-worn list of poems we've enjoyed over many years.
Some have been memorized, some can be recalled with a bit of prompting and some have been the opening of a door for a holy moment. Some of the links are to the the words of the poems others are to versions set to music which we find helpful for memorizing. I've marked these with an *

Mary's Lamb - Sarah Josepha Hale
Time to Rise - Robert Louis Stevenson
Singing Time - Rose Fyleman
Once I Saw a Little Bird
The Little Turtle - Vachel Lindsay
There Once was a Puffin - Florence Page Jaques
Windy Nights - Robert Louis Stevenson
The Land of Counterpane - Robert Louis Stevenson
My Shadow - Robert Louis Stevenson
The Land of Story-Books - Robert Louis Stevenson
Some One - Walter de La Mare
Furry Bear - A.A. Milne
The Owl and the Pussy-cat - Edward Lear
The Song of Mr. Toad - Kenneth Grahame
Sea Fever - John Masefield
Be Strong! - Maltie Davenport Babcock
The Wooing of Sir Keith -Howard Pyle
Horatius - Thomas Babington Macaulay
The Arrow and the Song - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I Never Saw a Moor - Emily Dickinson
The Day is Done - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Ozymandias - Percy Bysshe Shelley
If No One Ever Marries Me - Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Jabberwocky - Lewis Carroll *

Little Things - Julia Fletcher Carney
The Four Friends - A.A. Milne
Forgiven - A.A. Milne*
The Lamb - William Blake
The Tiger  - William Blake
Cock Robin
Tartary -Walter de La Mare
The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes
Lady Clare - Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Inchcape Rock - Robert Southey
If - Rudyard Kipling
No Enemies - Charles Mackay
Waltzing Matilda - A.B. Paterson *

Andy's Gone with Cattle - Henry Lawson *
How McDougal Topped the Score - Thomas E. Spencer
My Country - Dorothea Mackellar *

Pied Beauty - Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Fool's Prayer - Edward Rowland Sill

Paul Revere's Ride - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow *

Opportunity - Edward Rowland Sill
The Hound of Heaven - Francis Thompson
The Charge of the Light Brigade - Alfred Lord Tennyson
Father William - Robert Southey
An Old Woman of the Roads - Padraic Colum
Christmas Bells - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow *
The Destruction of Sennacherib - George Gordon Byron
My Gift - Christina Rossetti 
Daddy Fell into the Pond - Alfred Noyes
The Cupboard - Walter de La Mare
Mr. Nobody
The Night Wind - Eugene Field
Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore - William Brighty Rands
"One, Two, Three!" Henry Cuyler Bunner
The Wreck of the Hesperus - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Excelsior - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Clancy of the Overflow - A.B.Paterson *

 Some newer additions:

The Song of Wandering Aengus - W.B. Yeats * High School Homeschool Blog Hop

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Island of the World by Michael O'Brien

Island of the World is an historical novel but in a greater sense it is the narrative of a soul's journey - an odyssey - through love, anguish, loss and recovery.

Josip Lasta is the soul of the story. From his innocent beginnings in a small Croatian village which was later absorbed into Yugoslavia, Josip experiences the instability of the region during World War II as various factions begin to tear into the fabric of his land. From the occupation of Croatia by German and Italian forces to its domination by Communist Partisans, Josip is caught up in the maelstrom and suffers the loss of all that he loves.

This is the second novel I've read by this author, the first was Eclipse of the Sun. Both are epics (this one is 839 pages), the writing deep and rich. The first book is more story but Island of the World is in a large part philosophical with the main character's poetry and the theme of Homer's Odyssey woven throughout.

The historical aspect of the book is often overshadowed or obscured by the author's philosophical leanings, which are quite profound in places, and the sections of poetry, which I thought were overdone at times. That was probably due to the style of the poetry rather than its merit, but I pushed myself to read those bits, all the time wanting to get on with the story.

Michael O'Brien looks at humanity not just from a human perspective but in view of the spiritual realities: people are not our enemies. We are in a battle and we fight against principalities and powers and I appreciated the way he showed this reality and the truth that God can work all things together for our good.
His writing has a beautiful literary quality and even though the book is long, it wasn't hard to read or to follow the plot.

I had some reservations with some of the mystical encounters and experiences the author describes. While these were understandable, I think that relying upon these as a basis for faith is problematic as they can be deceptive.

Something that I felt most powerfully through this book was the way the author brought in the themes of hatred, justice and forgiveness.

Hatred is an energy that gives and takes. It drains the soul, even as it seems to invigorate.

Josip has witnessed great cruelty and degradation during his imprisonment on the 'island of death' and he intends to avenge the murders of two of his fellow prisoners who were tortured by Zmija the snake. A fellow prisoner, a priest, pleads with him not to let himself become Cain and allow evil to win:

"You would kill your oppressors if given the chance?"

"With pleasure," says Josip.

"Your vengeance will destroy you."

"Oh? Tell me, Tata, how does a man remain wise in hell?"

The priest does not respond to this. Instead he says: "A man suffers injustice. He resents it, and his resentment grows and grows and becomes anger. Anger, if it is fed, then becomes hatred. Hatred, if fed, opens the soul to evil spirits. And when they possess a man, he becomes capable of any atrocity. Afterward, he will not know how or why he became like that."

"I will know why. Go away!"

Josip escapes from the prison on the island and becomes 'the walker.

He will walk into oblivion; he will walk so far that all remaining cells will be burned away; if he can overcome his body, if he does not allow it to force him to eat.

Making his way to Italy, he finds an abandoned army tank and takes refuge in the cave of its interior. On his second night he realises that something alive is moving within the machine...

Throughout the long night hours, they converse together, the walker and his unseen companion, so quiet spoken and considerate...

"You need not take the path you think is yours...I will show you a different way..."

"What place is that?"

"Freedom," whispers the voice reverently. "Freedom without submission. Come with me, and I will show you. We will enter together."

"What is your name?"

"You know my name."

...The walker pauses and wonders, for an unease has entered him...

The walker falls silent. The dawn has crept in through the holes in the walls, and above his head is a scar of pale light. Now he sees the form of the other in the shadows, a man seated close by, their bodies centimeters apart. The face comes forward out of the shadows. It is Zmija the snake.

"You have found me!" cries the walker. "How did you find me?"

"I followed your trail, the trail Cain always leaves in the desolation beyond Eden, for his evil drains out of him but is ever replenished. Yes, you are already like me, for you are me and I am you."

"No!" cries the walker.

Glancing about with desperate terror, he spies a spear of metal and thrusts his wrists upon it...

"You escape from me into my arms," laughs the snake, "for there are no escapes."

Now his blood is spurting, and he falls backwards against the hard metal floor.

Now another form slips down into the hole and strikes the shadow of the snake. The two forms clash, sword upon sword, until Zmija flies out through the hole and disappears into the sky.

The warrior kneels and takes the walker's wrist in his hand.

"Rise up," he says, "for you have work to do."

The book is violent at times, as would be expected in a novel dealing with war & racial and religious tension. However, the themes of forgiveness and self-sacrifice are woven throughout it, undergirding the journey of a modern day Odysseus back to his homeland and his Father.
A very worthwhile book and I look forward to reading more from the author.

To read an interview with Michael O'Brien about this book see here.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Book Thief Movie

My sister-in-law recommended The Book Thief by Markus Zusak a few years ago while we were visiting family interstate and I read her copy while we were there. I enjoyed the book but read it fairly quickly and my impression at the time was it was good but not great. Last night I went with a group of friends to watch the movie. It was beautifully done and I came away thinking that I needed to get hold of the book and read it again.
The cast was picked to perfection and I couldn't fault the acting or anything about the movie, actually. I don't watch a lot of movies and when I do I tend to stick with the BBC productions, and this one was as good as some of my favourites. It was just over two hours long, which satisfies my criteria for watching a movie - i.e. decently long.
It's been too long since reading the book for me to say how closely the movie follows the plot, but a couple of friends said it did veer a little but not enough to spoil the story.
Highly recommended!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Routines, Interruptions and Developing Virtue

I thought I'd try to stay on topic with the Charlotte Mason blog carnival this year but the theme for this one was 'Unconsidered Aspects of Physical Training.' My mind wasn't so much on physical training as it was on wondering how to start off this new home schooling year in light of a number of changes in our situation and how I could focus on the development of virtue in my children's lives. I decided to read the chapter anyhow and was surprised to read some of the ideas CM associated with physical training and how she connected it with the concepts of heroism and virtue.

 It would be good work to keep to the front this idea of living under authority, training under authority, serving under authority, a discipline of life readily self-embraced by children, in whom the heroic impulse is always strong. 

  Fortitude by Sandro Botticelli (c.1470)

Monday at the pool while our youngest two are getting back into swimming lessons after a long break...
Moozle seems to have forgotten just about everything since we were last here!

They were swimming once a week but our routine was interrupted by two engagements, a wedding and a funeral; a daughter leaving home; a son finishing home education and entering on a new stage in his life, in addition to the usual things like the flu and visitors. We had so many changes last year.

Now we're attempting a new routine or maybe I should say a juggle as more interruptions come - another wedding with a son leaving home; a daughter turning 21; another son finishing home education and a husband who will need to travel overseas for work.


So how do I develop virtue when plans go awry and life doesn't roll along smoothly? When habit training gets interrupted and all my hard work seems to evaporate?

Virtue: Strength, from straining, stretching, extending;
          a particular moral excellence.

The idea of virtue being trained or exercised is analogous to training our bodies to become physically strong and fit by exercising (straining, stretching and extending) our muscles. Virtue is developed by use (exercise) and the more 'muscle' we build, the more fluid or natural the action associated with that virtue becomes.

To continue with the swimming - something clicked with Moozle over the week of swimming and by today, Friday, she'd regained the lost ground and was put up a level. Her older brother also got put into a higher level. He has developed more physical strength in the past year and it translated into his swimming ability.

They both had gained strength (virtue) from earlier training, in addition to some maturity, and it kicked in again after some stretching and extending of their bodies over the week. It was very heartening for me to realise that the earlier hard work hadn't evaporated! It just needed to be jump started like the flat battery we had last week.

I picked up a wise saying from Elisabeth Elliot many years ago that I like to use, 'Do the next right thing.'
It helps keep me on track or realign if I wander.
My job is to be faithful so I work on developing virtue in my children and leave the results to Him - something I was trying to express here.
If I drop the ball, I pick it up again and keep on going.

I remind my children that 'We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.' Ephesians 2:10  
And make sure they are nourished on ideas:
A habit becomes morally binding in proportion to the inspiring power of the idea which underlies it.

I've had some very special moments over the years when my children have surprised me and shown facets of their character, virtuous qualities, that I didn't know were there until circumstances gave them an opportunity to display their beauty.