Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey (1897-1952)

Josephine Tey is the pseudonym of Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scottish author, who also wrote numerous plays under the name of Gordon Daviot. She was one of the great British writers who wrote during the Golden Age of Crime and is best known for her mystery novels.
The Singing Sands was published after Tey's death in 1952, and features Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard who appears in five previous books by the author. The only other book I've read by the author is The Daughter of Time and in both books Tey delves into the psychological aspects of her characters, which makes for very interesting reading.
Inspector Grant, for example, in The Singing Sands, is on stress leave due to  overwork. He's been having panic attacks when in confined spaces and Tey cleverly weaves Grant's personal problem and an enigma he encounters to resolve both dilemmas. I really enjoyed how she did this and the way she created empathy for both the dead man and Grant's struggles.

The book begins with off duty Inspector Grant travelling to the Highlands by train to spend some time recuperating at the home of his cousin Laura and her husband. At the end of his journey he witnesses the train guard's discovery of a dead passenger. The police findings are that the man died of misadventure but Grant is haunted by memory of the young man's face and some cryptic poetic scribbling left on a newspaper in his compartment:

The beasts that talk,
Th streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sand...

This was such a well-written and engaging book to read, full of interesting characters, and with the added delight of being set in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides.
Grant is a likeable, gruff, sort of character. Single, and happy to be so, in spite of his cousin Laura's attempts at lining up a female every time he visits; he is a canny judge of character, a quality that serves him well, especially in this particular case, where he pinpoints a character trait in an otherwise unimpeachable person that leads him to believe that the person could commit murder. The character trait was Vanity and here Grant expresses his thoughts to Tad, a friend of the deceased:

'I find vanity repellant. As a person I loathe it, and as a policeman I distrust it.'

'It's a harmless sort of weakness,' Tad said, with a tolerant lift of a shoulder.

'That is just where you are wrong. It is the utterly destructive quality. When you say vanity, you are thinking of the kind that admires itself in mirrors and buys things to deck itself out in. But that is merely personal conceit. Real vanity is something quite different. A matter not of person but of personality. Vanity says "I must have this because I am me". It is a frightening thing because it is incurable. You can never convince Vanity that anyone else is of the slightest importance; he just doesn't understand what you are talking about. He will kill a person rather than be put to the inconvenience of doing a six months' stretch.'

'But that's being insane.' 

'Not according to Vanity's reckoning. And certainly not in the medical sense. It is merely Vanity being logical. It is...the basis of all criminal personality...true criminals vary in looks and tastes and intelligence and method as widely as the rest of the world does, but they have one invaluable characteristic: their pathological vanity.'

Grant's obsession with finding out the truth behind the man's death takes him to the Hebrides where the 'singing sands' were said to be found. The wildness, the isolation and the 'barren water-logged universe' soaks into his soul and brings healing. He feels he has become something more than the young man's champion now: 'he was his debtor. His servant.'

A free kindle version of The Singing Sands is available here.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

An Educational Classic: Home Education by Charlotte Mason (1886)

Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was the founder of the House of Education, a college established in the English Lake District in 1892 to train governesses for young children. Located in the town of Ambleside, it was renamed Charlotte Mason College in 1938.
Mason had already published some educational books for use in schools but in 1886, her first book in a series of six on the philosophy and practice of education, Home Education, was published. This book found an appreciative audience and the Parents National Education Union (PNEU) was established soon afterwards with branches in a number of towns and cities. By 1890, it was publishing its own monthly magazine, 'The Parents Review,' edited by Charlotte Mason. By the 1920s the PNEU had established a number of schools plus a correspondence school that supplied resources to parents and governesses, especially those living overseas.

One thing to be noted about Home Education is that it is not principally a book dealing with 'Home' as opposed to 'School.'
Its main concern is with the training and educating of children under nine and Mason stresses the responsibility of the home in regards to this. This is a very refreshing approach from the more modern attitude where teachers are often expected to do for children what should have been done by parents, or where the State assumes we are incompetent and that they would do a much better job if only they could get hold of the child early enough. In fact, Mason said in regard to thinking mothers that, 'the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own.'

Considering this book was written over a hundred years ago, Home Education is incredibly relevant to our modern times, despite a few parenting practices that suited the conditions of Victorian England society but are outdated now.
Reading Mason's words in in the twenty-first century, it's apparent that she was far ahead of her time, and that her ideas are still applicable because they address universals. Children haven't changed even if our methods of parenting and teaching have, and throughout Mason's writing she presents principles that work because they take into account who the child is and where our responsibility lies in regard to them. The educational method she proposes is life-giving. It has a framework, but it isn't rigid and confining. It is based on truth but it isn't tied to the past therefore it can be adapted to different situations and locations. It can be used with gifted children and it can be used with children who have learning difficulties.

People are too apt to use children as counters in a game, to be moved hither and thither according to the whim of the moment. Our crying need to-day is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children, - children, merely as human beings, whether brilliant or dull, precocious or backward.
Charlotte Mason

What Home Education covers:

•    Mothers owe their children 'a thinking love.' Parents are to supply their children with what is     wholesome & nourishing in all areas: books, lessons, playmates, food.

•    The difference between a 'method' and a 'system' of education
•    The Gospel's view of the child
•    Health aspects: outdoor life, brain activity
•    Habits - 'Habit is Ten Natures' - laying down lines of habit; the physiology of habit; brain plasticity:

Given, that the constant direction of the thoughts produces a certain set in the tissues of the brain, this set is the first trace of the rut or path, a line of least resistance, along which the same impression, made another time, will find it easier to travel than to take another path. So arises a right-of-way for any given habit of action or thought.

If it is so easy for ourselves to take up a new habit, it is tenfold as easy for the children; and this is the real difficulty in the matter of the education of habit. It is necessary that the mother be always on the alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up...

•    Habits of Mind and Moral Habits - the habits of attention, application, thinking, imagining, remembering, obedience, truthfulness & reverence

•    There is a section of the book devoted to Lessons as Instruments of Education in which the author firstly discusses the idea of the Kindergarten. Her view was that the success of such a school demands rare qualities in the teacher so the mother would naturally be better than any commonplace person who would personally influence the child.

'...mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.'

•    She also thought that there were myriad teaching opportunities in the home that in the Kindergarten would likely become wooden and stereotyped. Mason thought that the 'garden' analogy of the Kindergarten, although attractive, is a false one and breaks down when applied to a person as it meant 'undue interference with the spontaneous development of a human being.'

•    Mason covers the teaching of reading in a very practical and helpful way as well as other lessons at home including narrating, writing, spelling, composition, Bible, mathematics, and history.

•    The final section of the book deals with the Conscience, and contains excellent ideas on the Instruction of the Conscience and The Way of the Will. She describes the blunder we make when we describe a child as being 'wilful' when in reality they have no control over their will. This error leads the parent to neglect the cultivation and training of their child's will.

•    The conclusion of this part of the book discusses the spiritual aspects of the child's life: parental responsibility and influence; the correct view of God i.e. not portraying Him as an exactor or a punisher. There is much wisdom and richness in Mason's ideas regarding the Divine Life in the Child and I highly recommend this section for anyone concerned with the spiritual life of a child.

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.

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; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads - all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause.

Home Education had been out of print for nearly thirty years and was republished by Living Book Press, an Australian company, earlier this year. This is the copy pictured above. The complete Charlotte Mason series has been available free to read at Ambleside Online (AO) for many years.

For information on Charlotte Mason, the PNEU or the Parent's Review Articles see the AO website and Charlotte Mason Timeline.

The Original Home Schooling series published in 1989 by Charlotte Mason Research & Supply includes a foreword by John Thorley, Principal, Charlotte Mason College that was most helpful in providing information on Charlotte Mason's background.

Linking this to The Classics Club and Back to the Classics 2017 for the 19th Century Classic category.


Friday, 1 September 2017

What Some Days in a Girl's Year 7 Week Look Like

Any time I've attempted to set down what we do in a day I've tried to write things up as we do them. I started off quite well most days this week but then got sidetracked. We're using AmblesideOnline Year 7 with some modifications. (I posted this year's plans here). This is what I managed to record of the week:


Wonder of wonders, I woke up about 7am and went for a walk - the first time I've done this in about two or three weeks.

8am - woke up Moozle (Monday is not her favourite day.) Breakfast and some morning jobs.
We started lessons about 9am:

* Picture Study (John Constable)
* Literature (Watership Down, which she reads herself)
* Devotions, memory work, I read a poem or two
* Read Aloud: The Gift of Music - listened to a piece by Corelli and then Vivaldi - Moozle draws while I read. She's using Draw 50 Buildings & Other Structures as part of her Architecture studies:

* Short cello practice

At about 12.15pm we go to cello lessons. She has an hour and a half's lesson and practices about an hour or more a day as she's preparing for an exam in late October. We use the time in the car to listen to our folksong, hymn & French song.

2.30pm - We had lunch & did our own individual reading. I checked emails, put on some washing, hung some out & brought some in...

When she finished lunch she continued her work - this week she did Geography.
We don't do maths on a Monday or much written work.

I started making dinner around and 4pm Moozle went outside to build "Queen Eleanor's bower," and after dinner she went to ballet. After doing Highland Dancing for many years we had to stop lessons when her teacher changed her hours so since the middle of last year she's been doing ballet, which she also loves. I listened to this Circe podcast while I was making dinner; it was very good:

"On Cultivating Wise Movie-watchers" - When to let kids make their own decisions about movies, why the MPAA ratings aren't useful guidelines, why the philosophies in films are often more important to avoid than things like s*x, violence, and language, movies and filmmakers that will help students learn to watch wisely, & much more.


I managed to fit a walk in again.

* French (watched half of the video for the week's lesson)
* Read Ivanhoe
* Cello Practice
* Ten Fingers for God - devotional reading on her own
* Devotions, memory work, Plutarch

* Churchill's Birth of Britain - reads this herself. This is her written narration from the book:

* Swimming in the afternoon - we do this in rain, hail & shine, all year - unless there's an electrical storm.

* Maths in the evening after dinner

Wednesday & Thursday - I forgot to write down what we did but it would have included science readings & notebook, French, Latin, Maths, Cello, History, Century Chart, Copywork.
We did a lesson on similes from The Grammar of Poetry and discussed some notable examples from 'My Family & Other Animals.'

 Century chart - free download from here


Today was the first day of spring here in Australia . We have a tradition of going for a walk on this day to check out what signs of spring we can see so we headed off at 8am.

Freesias in flower

 A male Brush Turkey arranging his nest

Home for breakfast...and then:

Moozle did Copywork, French, and a Literature reading. Oral narration followed, then we both got out our nature notebooks and listened to Vivaldi while we did our entries. Moozle wrote down the 'firsts' of the season and then tried out some crayons & watercolour:

 This was my attempt at drawing the brush turkey & a freesia...

Benj has Fridays off from university and teaches swimming in the morning. After lunch all three of us went to an appointment which took about an hour and then we returned home.

Afternoon work for Moozle:

* Reading on her own & then oral narration afterwards
* We took turns reading a section of Beowulf aloud
* Cello practice
* I read The Wonder Book of Chemistry aloud while she continued her work on "Queen Eleanor's  bower."

The boys took Dad out for dinner & a football game tonight for an early Father's Day gift so Moozle & I watched Ann of Green Gables, the Sequel, together.
In one of the scenes Ann told her class to open up The Oxford Book of Verse, a book we're using this year, and when Marilla & Mrs Lynde were having tea together we noticed that the tea set they were using looked just like ours:

Five weeks into AO year 7 and I'm still juggling our schedule. Cello and musicianship take up quite a bit of time and they're high priority at present which means that some other areas are getting squeezed out or slowed down. That has happened in the past with my older ones as they all studied an instrument.
I don't regret the time spent in nurturing the arts. I've observed that the discipline of music study and the appreciation of beauty that comes with spending time with great art has extended into all areas of our children's lives. It has paid rich dividends later on as adults, not to mention the pleasure they gain and give by being proficient with their instruments.

Linking up with Weekly Wrap-up and Keeping Company

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Living books for the 20th Century: Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (1986)

'On the evening of 30 August when the Red Guards came to loot my house...
I was sitting alone in my study reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich...'

What an incredible story this is! Nien Cheng's memoir, Life and Death in Shangai is saturated with spiritual and soul stretching lessons from her exceptional life. I've read a few books set during Mao's Cultural Revolution but this account stands out for the sheer courage, audacity, and fortitude displayed by the author.
In some respects, Nien Cheng reminds me of Kostoglotov in Solzhenitsyn's book Cancer Ward - two individuals pushing against a totalitarian system.

Nien Cheng was born in Peking in 1915 and studied Economics in London in the mid-1930's. She met her husband during this time and upon their return to China in 1939, he became a diplomatic officer in the Kuomintang Government.
When the Communist Party entered Shanghai in 1949 he was asked to remain in office for the transitional period, after which he was allowed to leave and take on the position of general manager of the Shell International Petroleum Company based in Shanghai.
In 1957 Nien Cheng's husband died of cancer and she was asked to fill the position of assistant to the new general manager, becoming the only woman in Shanghai to occupy a senior role in a company that was acclaimed worldwide, a role she enjoyed until 1966.
Up until the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party didn't decree how people should live, but from time to time political campaigns rocked the country, and when people fell victim to these their incomes were drastically reduced or they and their families were relocated. For seventeen years Nien Chen had made an effort to make her home a haven for her daughter, Meiping, and herself, and managed to maintain their standard of living, 'so that we could continue to enjoy good taste while the rest of the city was being taken over by proletarian realism.'
Meiping, a young actress in the Shanghai Film Studio, was an attractive and intelligent young woman who had learned from an early age that 'the classless society of Communism had a more rigid class system than the despised capitalist society.'
When the Communists gained control of China a new system of discrimination developed against the children of the educated and affluent, who found themselves handicapped because of their family background.

Nien Cheng was falsely accused of being a British spy in 1966 and imprisoned in solitary confinement for six and a half years. She steadfastly maintained her innocence throughout that time, defying her brutal interrogators with quotes from Mao's red book and her quick wits.
There was a mysterious element behind her arrest that she wasn't able to identify until much later, but it added a background of suspense to her story.
Although there were many sad and intense moments in Nien Cheng's account, at times she made me feel like laughing and giving a cheer...such as when she was being outrageously denounced by former employees of the company she worked for:

...I must put a stop to this farce. I jerked my head up and laughed uproariously.
My reaction was not what anyone had expected. There was a moment of stunned silence.

She disciplined herself to stay calm and maintain a cool politeness while her interrogators ranted and yelled at her. Her logical responses and her refusal to be bullied into a false confession were a source of frustration to those who were unaccustomed to this type of response. Throughout her imprisonment she had no contact with her daughter but her overwhelming concern was for her safety and she was careful not to do or say anything that would jeopordise her child's future.
When she was facing the extreme cold of her cell and the lack of food, she forced herself to keep her mind active by recalling poetry she had memorised and worked out ways to give her body some exercise without the guards noticing.

There were so many quotable passages in this book but here are a few that especially stood out  to me:

'I'm not a spy for anybody. I have nothing to confess,' I said firmly to the wall from where Mao's portrait looked down on me. As I gazed at Mao's face wearing what was intended as a benign expression but what was in fact a smirk of self-satisfaction, I wondered how one single person could have caused the extent of misery that was prevailing in China. There must be something lacking in our own character, I thought, that had made it possible for his evil genius to dominate.

When a man was denounced, he was depicted as totally bad, and any errant behaviour was attributed to the influence of capitalism. 

A Party officer entered her home and spat on the carpet - the first time that the author saw a declaration of power made in a gesture of rudeness:

...I had come to realize that the junior officers of the Party often used the exaggerated gesture of rudeness to cover up their feelings of inferiority.

The newspaper announced that the mission of the Red Guards was to rid the country of the 'Four Olds' - old culture, old customs, old habits and old ways of thinking. There was no clear definition of 'old'; it was left to the Red Guards to decide...

Political correctness had them changing the names of streets...the Bund was renamed Revolutionary Boulevard.

The Red Guards debated whether to reverse the system of traffic lights, as they thought Red should mean Go and not Stop. In the meantime, traffic lights stopped operating.

They seemed to be blissfully happy in their work of destruction because they were sure they were doing something to satisfy their God, Mao Tze-tung. Their behaviour was the result of their upbringing from childhood in Communist China. The propaganda they had absorbed precluded their having a free will of their own.

Nien Cheng developed bronchitis and a 'doctor' was sent to her cell. After explaining to the young man that she had a fever and had been coughing for nearly two months he declared that she probably had hepatitis! She realized he was not a trained doctor at all, but had been given the job because although unskilled, he was politically reliable:

The young man was simply carrying out Mao's order to 'learn to be a doctor by being one.'

'...It's not the purpose if the proletarian class to destroy your body. We want to save your soul by reforming your way of thinking.' Although Mao Tze-tung and his followers were atheists, they were fond of talking about the 'soul.' In his writing, Mao often referred to the saving of a man's soul. During the Cultural Revolution, 'soul' was mentioned frequently...
While no one could ask Mao Tze-tung or Lin Piao what exactly they meant when they talked about a man's 'soul', it greatly taxed the ingenuity of the Marxist writers of newspaper articles who had to explain their leader's words to the people.

On the objective of the Proletarian Revolution to form a classless society, which at first seemed an attractive and idealistic picture when Nien Cheng was a student:

...after living in Communist China for the past seventeen years, I knew that such a society was only a dream because those who seized power would invariably become the new ruling class....
In Communist China, details of the private lives of the leaders were guarded as State secrets. But every Chinese knew that the Party leaders lived in spacious mansions with many servants, obtained their provisions from special shops where luxury goods were made available to their households at nominal prices and sent their children in chauffeur-driven cars to exclusive schools to be taught by specially selected teachers...

Nien Chen was finally told she could leave prison, that the proletarian had magnanimously decided to refrain against pressing charges against her, but she wanted a full apology and refused to leave without one. The interrogators had never had a prisoner refuse to leave detention and were nonplussed. Meanwhile two guards arrived and dragged her outside. She was to endure further years of harrasment before she was eventually able to leave China.

This is such an excellent book and there are so many parallels to our present age with the push to be politically correct and the Marxist influence in many university courses. It's scheduled as a possible biography in Ambleside Online Year 11. I've used Mao Tse-Tung & His China by Albert Marrin in the past, which is a good book also, but not a personal account like Nien Cheng's, and a couple of other books we already had, but I found a copy of Life & Death in Shanghai recently and it's a book that I'd highly recommend.

Some information about the author:

"There were many Chinese who fought back and many who suffered much more. Some of them have never recovered," she said. "But my privilege has been to write about it, and that's only been possible because I could leave."

"It was not until later that Cheng learned that her interrogators were trying to get her to confess to being a spy so that Jiang Qing (Mao Zedong’s wife) and other radicals could oust Premier Zhou Enlai, a moderate who favored allowing foreign firms like Shell to operate in China."

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Ambleside Online Year 7: plans & modifications

Whenever I start planning a new year of home education I'm reminded again of the fact that each of my children are unique and what might have been good for one may not be the right choice for another at the same age. So just when I thought I should have all this figured out the seventh time around, I've been mulling over a few niggling thoughts I've had about Moozle's Year 7 content, trying to discern what is best for this girl of mine:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

We're going into Week 4 tomorrow and I wanted to wait for a few weeks before I posted what we'll be doing to see how my ideas work out in practice. I've made a few adjustments for different reasons, which I'll explain as I go, while still keeping to the basic structure of Ambleside Online Year 7 (because Years 7 & 8 are two of my favourite AO years!)
The main changes are:

Devotional Reading

I've used the first two books on the AO schedule for this year with Moozle's older siblings but the more I thought and prayed about what I should be doing, the more I've felt sure that what she needs at the moment lies in the way of story. It's not so much that the books are challenging - she's an advanced reader - but it's the spiritual aspects and the 'didactic' approach that I don't think she's ready for. Biographies, on the other hand, I know she will relate to. These are the books we'll be using instead - the first two (set in India & China respectively) serve the double purpose of devotional reading and books set in Asia/Pacific, which I cover because of their proximity to Australia and our connections with people from that area. (I've linked to reviews I've written on some of them):

* Ten Fingers for God by Dorothy Wilson

** The Small Woman by Alan Burgess

*** The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer - now this isn't a biography but I've included this in third term as an introduction to the devotional book scene because it's a book I love and Tozer uses the analogy of the tree and its fruit so the book has the feel of a parable.


We'll be doing the AO scheduled readings (scroll down the page) except for The Magna Carta. Instead I'll schedule this book over a few weeks because I have it & it's good. (181 pages)

Science & Natural History

We won't be doing First Studies of Plant Life or Adventures with a Microscope and will be substituting a couple of Australian titles:

A Bush Calendar by Amy Mack
First Studies in Plant Life by William Gillies. This is different to the one mentioned above (both the Aussie titles are free online)

We're also doing Apologia's Anatomy & Physiology and using some of these free resources I put together a couple of years ago for her brother. I usually do this in Year 6 but I didn't want Moozle to miss out on the excellent Science selections scheduled in that year. I'll be cutting out some of the activities in the Apologia book, I think.

Fine Arts

We'll be using the books pictured below for Music & Architecture in addition to our regular composer & picture study.

The Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith & Betty Carlson - I'm reading this aloud & this term we'll just be covering a few Baroque composers.

Cathedral by David Macaulay

String, Straight Edge, & Shadow by Julia E. Diggins - scroll down to see an overview of the book on the link. This is really the story of geometry but it dovetails nicely with the study of architecture and helps the reader to appreciate the significance of the Golden Mean in art and architecture...

Architecture by Gladys Wynne - I'd heard about this book but it's out of print and I really didn't know how useful it would be until one of the lovely ladies on the AO Forum posted a link to Archives and I had a chance to view it before I bought it from Amazon in the UK.


Julius Caesar 
Richard the Third


We're still reading the Life of Julius Caesar and have three more weeks left until we finish. We'll have a break before we start another life and just concentrate on Shakespeare for awhile.

French & Latin

We're continuing with French for Children B and there's quite a bit of grammar included so our English grammar study is taking a back seat for the time being.
We're still slowly going through Our Roman Roots by James R. Leek.

The Harp & Laurel Wreath by Laura M. Berquist is one of my favourite poetry anthologies and I take turns reading aloud this and the one in the picture above aloud.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Ten Fingers for God by Dorothy Clarke Wilson (1965)

Ten Fingers for God explores the life and work of Dr. Paul Brand, who was born in India to missionary parents, lived there until he was sent to school in England, and later returned to work and teach at a medical college in the southern Indian city of Vellore. 
Surgeon, teacher, and environmentalist, Dr. Brand achieved fame mostly for his pioneering research on the disease of leprosy. As a child growing up in the mountains of Madras, (re-named Chennai) he witnessed an incident which remained in his memory, a potent reminder of the awful plight and stigma for victims of leprosy. 
When Paul was nine years of age, his family had a furlough in England. A few months later, his parents returned to India while he and his younger sister, Connie, remained with relatives in order to go to school. They never saw their father again as he died of Blackwater Fever a few years later.

Paul disliked study and the school routine. He was used to the freedom of life in India where he'd sit up in a tree to do his lessons and pass his work down to his mother sitting on the ground underneath. He refused to conform, and his reports consisted of remarks such as "Poor, fair, rather disappointing; Next term we shall hope for better things."  

It wasn't books that Paul disliked, merely school books. He read avidly, often on the way to school, with such eagerness that he often ran into people. His taste in literature was respectable if not highbrow, tending largely toward adventure takes such as The Coral Islands and Westward Ho! He liked Dickens but abhorred Scott. In fact, English, next to the sciences, was his favourite subject. 

Paul tended to shine more in less admirable activities...climbing, avoiding school sports and performing dangerous science experiments in the playroom of his aunts' immaculate and genteel residence!

Paul's mother hoped he would train to be a doctor. His father had wanted to do this himself, at one time starting a course at Madras University, but Paul had no intention of becoming a doctor. The memory of his father's medical work repulsed him - pus, ulcers, blood. He decided to leave school and train to be a builder. 
After five years of training he applied to the mission board but was rejected as 'not being ready.' The two options open for him were Bible School and a short course in tropical medicine. He didn't want to do either... but he remembered his father. 

Jesse Brand had left the building trade for what he considered a nobler calling. He had prepared for his work by taking a short course in tropical medicine. His son would do the same. 

Paul found that he loved the work and the study, and his whole attitude to medical work changed. In 1937, on the eve of World War II, he was accepted into the University College Medical School in London. Here he was to meet his future wife, Margaret, their courtship taking place in the midst of evacuations and bombings, and their marriage in 1943. The war gave the young surgeon experience that would normally have taken years to acquire, and when the V-I bombs came flying over London, he was operating almost constantly, repairing gun wounds, cuts and other acute injuries. It was during this time that he became profoundly interested in the repair of severed nerves and tendons, especially in hands and feet. The skill and expertise he acquired was to serve him well in his work with leprosy patients later on. 

I really enjoy medical missionary biographies and this book is a re-read. Most of my children have read it also, usually around the age of 12 years or a little older, and I've assigned it to Moozle this term. 
Dorothy Clarke Wilson has written an engaging, joy-filled story, capturing Paul's earthy upbringing, his father's enthusiasm for nature - which he passed onto his son - his mother's dynamic personality and passion, Paul's love for the people he worked with and those he served; his struggles to overcome the stigma associated with leprosy, and his disappointments. The book also describes the disease of Leprosy (also known as Hansen's Disease), its mode of transmission, treatment, and its history. I would have loved to have read this when I was twelve!

Some highlights: 

" ...the most precious possession any human being has is his spirit, his will to live, his sense of dignity, his personality. Once that has been lost the opportunity for rehabilitation is lost. Though our profession may be a technical one, concerned with tendons, bones, and nerve endings, we must realize that it is the person behind it that is so important. Of course we need technicians: surgeons, physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists, vocational guidance specialists. But above all we need men and women who are concerned with people and who accept the challenge of the whole person, his life, his faith, and his hope." 

John, an older, almost blind patient, came to Paul and begged to have his claw hand opened. Paul said that there were so many able-bodied young men coming for surgery... "Your hands would take a lot of time, because they're stiff. And suppose, we did open them out, how could you use them? If you can't see or feel..."
But the old man persisted...

"I believe I could bring music to people...I use to be able to play the organ, and I'm sure that if you open my fingers, I could play again."
"Without being able to feel or see?" Paul had to be brutally honest. "I'm sorry, John, but how could you possibly play?"
The clawed hands crooked in a beseeching gesture. "I know how you feel, doctor, but - please just give me a chance."

Paul was unable to resist, and he operated with great misgivings on John's hands, the results being moderately successful.
John asked to be led to an organ and he sat at the keyboard while his nerveless hands fumbled and produced some discordant sounds. Paul was glad John couldn't see the pity on his face...

Then suddenly the organ swelled, not merely into melody but into the full harmony of the glorious hymn, "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun." And as the music came flooding out of the crude little box there spread over the uplifted face an ineffable smile of oracle and satisfaction. Paul almost wept.

We're using this book in the first term of AmblesideOnline Year 7 as a devotional read and as a book set in Asia.

Linking to 2017 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar - a 'creative' narration

We've just finished Week 9 of Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar using Anne White's very helpful study guide. The study of Plutarch would never have been on my radar (as I explained here) but I was persuaded to have a try, at least, when I read how highly his writing was regarded by Charlotte Mason. '...perhaps nothing outside of the Bible has the educational value of Plutarch's Lives,' - that's what I'd call high praise!

 School Education by Charlotte Mason, pg 235

More recently I questioned how well Plutarch's Lives was going to work with just my daughter and me as I've been used to having at least one teenager, sometimes three, joining in for the last six years. I think it is easier with more children in the mix, all taking turns narrating, but it has been going quite well this year with just the two of us.

Reading Plutarch isn't easy. I've always read it aloud and I've often thought to myself, "How can my kids understand this when I struggle with it myself?" But, funnily enough, although it's tough at times, Plutarch has been the originator of some great conversations and interesting written narrations. His vocabulary is so lush and expressive...'fardel.' I knew my daughter would use this word in her narration today - she latched onto the word as I read about Cleopatra being smuggled into Caesar's palace wrapped up in one. I had a good laugh reading over this today. 'It is past the hour of midnight, and I am still in my toga.'

Winter, the month of the two-headed god Janus, 48 B.C

In which much befalls me, and I meet the beautiful, divine, majestic, Cleopatra.

I, Julius Caesar, take my pen in hand to recount the day’s adventures.
I am sitting at my desk, writing this diary. It is past the hour of midnight, and I am still in my toga. Cleopatra is reclining in the room next to mine. Yesterday, I sent a message to her, asking her to meet me at the castle I am now in. She arrived this afternoon. The first notice I had of her arrival was a slave, who marched into my castle gatehouse, carrying a long, rolled up fardel. I stared at him, amazed. I asked him, “What, by Jupiter, is that?!”
The slave ignored me, and placed the fardel carefully on the ground, and started to slowly, and gently unfold it. Curious, I watched him silently. Suddenly, I gasped! The slave had finished unrolling his bundle, and out of it came Cleopatra, helped upright by her faithful slave! She advanced towards me, while I stood staring, my mouth hanging open. She took my arm, and we proceeded towards the banquet hall in severe silence. However, I soon recovered myself, and by the time we walked into supper, and we were talking without restraint, about her voyage, how surprised I had been, how I had not expected her to come like she did, and so on, and so on.
Suddenly, as we were sitting together, a slave came and whispered in my ear, a serious expression on his face. I hastily got up, excused myself, and left the room. I came back about twenty minutes later, with a nonchalant, I-have-done-nothing expression. Cleopatra looked at me suspiciously, then stared at my knife. I looked down at it, too, then hastened to explain.

“Oh dear…um, er, it’s ah, harrumph, nothing…cough, cough, ‘scuse me, um, just a little ah, um, well . . . ah, um, er, ahh, yes, a, I mean, one of my servants was er, um, killing a, ah, cough, cough, ‘scuse me, a, er pig, yes, um, er ah, harrumph, a pig . . .”
After this rather disjointed explanation, I dashed from the room, and ran to the bathroom, to wash the blood off my blade. I must admit, I gave a rather false account to Cleopatra, but I did not want her worrying. The blood one my dagger was human, and it was one of two men who had been in a plot to kill me. I had therefore disposed of one of them. My faithful slave who had told me of the plot in the banqueting room, was naturally suspicious by nature, and had, by prowling around (when he probably should have been looking after affairs of my household) uncovered this plot and saved my life.
I went back to supper, avoided the gaze of Cleopatra for the rest of the night, and then went to bed with a sense of relief. I fear, though, that she probably guessed the truth from my dagger. That is all the events of the day. I will most certainly have an eventful day on the morrow, however, for I think that I will be engaged in a battle.

Winter, Janus, 47 B.C
In which there is a battle, a fire, and I save some books from the library of Alexandria.

It was bitterly cold today. It is still cold, so I will make this entry as short as possible, so I may get to bed, sooner.
 I have succeeded in my purpose to get Cleopatra’s throne back from her usurping brother. Also, we just had a baby boy, Ptolemy Caesar, or Caesarion. I was made dictator of Rome for the second time. I had a battle with king Pharnaces, and I won. I sent to Rome the words,
“Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered.”
In the battle, my troops were routed at the start, and I was forced to swim to get away from the archers, and in the confusion, the great library of Alexandria was set on fire, but I managed to save some books, though they are rather worse for wear, having been on my head in the water while I was swimming away from the archers, so they are drenched, and have arrow holes!

Cleopatra Before Caesar by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1866

See Vera's Doll Stories for a 'doll narration' of Cleopatra & Caesar.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Radio Rescue by Jane Jolly; Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Radio Rescue was published in November, 2016, and is a successful collaboration between author Jane Jolley and illustrator Robert Ingpen. (Tea and Sugar Christmas, published in 2014, was another book they worked on together).
Radio Rescue is an exquisitely illustrated book that captures the uniqueness of outback Australia while presenting an important piece of history. The story takes place in the 1930's on a remote station in the outback where young Jim lives with his Mum and Dad. Although they all enjoy life where they are, it sometimes gets lonely for them all and their isolated position is a concern that hovers in the background, especially if medical attention should ever be required.
Then one day a 'pedal radio' arrives bringing with it the ability to communicate by tapping out morse code with the hands while powering the machine by foot. All of a sudden they were connected to the outside world! Jim is told he has to wait until he is older before he can use the machine but when Dad is thrown from his horse and breaks his leg, Jim needs to try to get help and manages to do so using the new radio.

As usual, Robert Ingpen has captured the Australian landscape in an understated, powerful way. The book is lavishly illustrated in full colour and detailed pencil sketches, and in a similar fashion to Tea & Sugar Christmas, some of the pages fold out double.

At the end of the book there is a section detailing the elationship between the Reverend John Flynn of the Australian Inland Mission and Alf Traegar as they worked together on the idea of providing a form of communication for people in isolated areas.
The author explains here how the idea for the book came to be and the books she used to research the pedal radio.

  This website has a picture of a pedal-powered radio being used in 1937

Radio Rescue is a worthy addition to any curriculum covering Australian History in the primary years especially for age 10 years and under. The story line is simple but there is much to interest a wide range of ages, including some action and a young hero who saves the day. The historical aspects are intriguing and would interest any child with a penchant for invention, as well as providing some interesting rabbit trails.
Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Free stuff for the Study of the Human Body - Updated

Some free stuff we're using for studying the human body:

August 2017: some of the links I originally put here don't work anymore so here are the updated ones:

The website contained the text from 'Your Body & How it Works' by Dr. J. D. Ratcliff, the author of  I Am Joe's Body but I haven't been able to link to it lately.

I did find that I Am Joe's Body is now available at, which wasn't available when I last covered Anatomy & Physiology.

Khan Academy also have a series of videos on Human Anatomy & Physiology - I haven't viewed these yet but they look like they are for upper level highschool.

The next three videos cover Genetics. They are done quite well but if viewing with a younger child check the third one as it explains fertilisation. It's tastefully done and shouldn't be a problem:

The next two are videos on the Integumentary System. The first one explains the layers of the skin and the second how first, second and third degree burns affect the skin.

This one is a journey through the human eye which I thought was one of the simplest and best explanations I've come across. It only covers the main parts of the eye but enough to make its function clear.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Small Woman by Alan Burgess (1957)

The Small Woman by Alan Burgess is an inspiring and very well-written biography of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China for twenty years. In her mid-twenties she went through a probationary period at the China Inland Mission in London but was rejected on account of her lack of qualifications and the belief that at her age the Chinese language would be extremely difficult to learn. Still, Gladys felt called by God to go China and although bitterly disappointed at first, she wasn't going to let this stop her.
She was a parlourmaid and didn't earn much money so she decided upon the cheapest possible mode of transport and took herself to a travel agent to make her first payment towards a ticket. He tried to tell her that although her chosen route via the Trans-Siberian railway was the cheapest option, it wasn't possible due to a conflict between Russia and China.

"I couldn't really care about a silly old war," she had said. "It's the cheapest way, isn't it? That's what I want. Now, if you'll book me a passage, you can have this three pounds on account, and I'll pay you as much as I can every week."
"We do not," the clerk had replied, choosing his words with the pedantic care of the extremely irritated, "like to deliver our customers-dead!"
She had stared up at him. His acidulousness had no effect whatsoever. She was quite logically feminine about it all. "Oh, they won't hurt me," she said. "I'm a woman. They won't bother about me."

She set out in 1930 after paying for her ticket in full. She was thirty years old, alone, and with only one contact in China - seventy-three year old Jeannie Lawson, a widow who had stayed on in China after her husband died. Gladys had written to her and Mrs Lawson said that if she could make her way to China, Gladys could stay with her. With no financial resources or official backing, and no knowledge of the Chinese language, she left England, boarded a train at The Hague, and crossed into Siberia ten days later.
Her intention was to take the train all the way across Siberia and then board a steamer for Tientsin in China, but a brief undeclared war between China and Russia over possession of the China Eastern Railway brought her rail trip to an end near the Manchurian border.
Unable to proceed any further, her only option was to walk back along the railway track to the last town, which she did in the bitter cold and dark, camping in the open overnight, wrapped in the fur rug made by her mother out of an old coat, and using her suitcases as a windbreak while she slept. She eventually reached the town of Chita and after some misunderstandings and frightening experiences with officials, who thought that the word 'missionary' on her passport implied she worked with 'machinery' and so would be a good asset in Russia, she went on her way to Vladivostok. Here a young woman, who was a complete stranger to her, warned her to leave Russia straight away or she would never get out. The woman told her to seek passage on a Japanese ship docked at the harbour and after explaining her situation to the captain, Gladys was given free passage to Japan.
Her experiences in Russia shocked her and left her with a sense that the people were downtrodden and wretched.

'For her the cold wind which sifted through the streets carrying on its breath the desolation of Siberia epitomised Russia. She felt in her bones the bewilderment and hopelessness of so many of its people. She could not canalise her feelings into a coherent, critical appraisal; she only knew how desperately she wanted to leave this country.'

Gladys did finally arrive in China after a brief stay in Japan, and found her way to Yancheng where Mrs Lawson lived and together they opened an Inn (The Inn of Eight Happinesses) where traders stayed overnight, heard the gospel and then went on their way over the mountains to tell others.
Eight months later Mrs Lawson died and Gladys was placed a precarious position financially. She was saved from possible disaster when the local Mandarin paid her a visit and asked her to be his official 'foot inspector.' Gladys was basically given carte blanche in this position; two soldiers accompanied her on her expeditions into the countryside to ensure that the Mandarin's orders outlawing foot binding were carried out, and she used these times to spread the Gospel, becoming known and beloved by all as she did so.

These were times of great satisfaction for Gladys. She loved China and its people, learnt to speak multiple dialects fluently and fully identified with her adopted country when she became a Chinese citizen in 1936.

'...Gladys had not merely learnt the language; she had embedded herself in it like a stone in a fruit. The language had grown around her.'

In 1938 war came to China when the Japanese invaded:

'The policy of the Japanese was plain. For years they had operated their 'master' race policies in their northern colony of Korea. The Japanese were aristocrats, the Koreans serfs! No Korean was educated above an elementary  level; no Korean ever held an administrative post of any importance; they were reduced to a proletarian and peasant level and kept there. Hitler was putting the same theories into operation on the other side of the world. The same treatment was already accorded those areas of North China in the enemy's grasp.'

Some of the many highlights of the book are Gladys going into a prison, quaking in her boots, to quell a riot led by a huge man running around with a machete; leading a hundred homeless children on a twelve day march over the mountains to the Yellow River, the colourful descriptions of the China and the Chinese culture, and her relationship with the local Mandarin, who she eventually led  to Christ.
She became known by the name Ai-weh-deh, the virtuous one, and remained in China until 1947, a witness of the end of a Chinese era that lasted for forty centuries.

Japan withdrew from China in 1945 but civil war continued to rage between the Nationalists and the Reds. These were heartbreaking years for Gladys; the Communists saw Christians as enemies and maltreated and persecuted them:

'She saw the faith of her friends and converts outlawed and attacked by every moral and physical means imaginable, by a godless philosophy with its lunatic assertion that "the ends justifies the means."'

The Small Woman is a remarkable, inspiring story. I read this book years ago and so did my older children, but I'd forgotten about it until Brandy @Afterthoughts mentioned that she was thinking of using it as a devotional book for one of her children. I decided to read it again to see if it was as good as I remembered. I wasn't disappointed.

There is so much to be gained from this story, and I especially recommend it for girls around the ages of  twelve or thirteen years and up. Our young women are surrounded by a culture that encourages them to push for their rights, to smash through the 'glass ceiling,' to be the best they can be, to prove they are just as good as men and are quite capable of doing anything they can do. I don't have an issue with equality, or capability, but I've been reading in Matthew 10, which obviously applies to both male and female:

"The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life because of me will find it."

Gladys Aylward knew she had work to do and that God had called her. She went against everything her culture expected of her, not to gain recognition or to be be able to say, 'I was the first women ever to do this.' When the door to missionary work closed in her face she didn't complain that she was discriminated against but believed that God would make a way when there was no way - because she was willing to lose her life. In fact, in the midst of the upheaval of war and persecution in China, she wrote this to her family:

'Do not wish me out of this or in any way seek to get me out, for I will not be got out while this trial is on. These are my people; God has given them to me, and I will live or die with them for Him 
and His Glory.'

A word on age suitability

A few situations to be aware of, although I must say that some of them were quite powerful demonstrations of God's intervention:

Gladys spent some time serving as a 'Rescue Sister' on the docks. '...she hardly knew how they 'fell' or what she was supposed to be rescuing them from...and the drunken sailors under the blotchy yellow street lamps...were just as likely to mistake her for a prostitute and act accordingly.'

Japanese soldiers broke into the mission's women's court intent on rape, 'with struggling screaming women in various stages of undress.' The soldiers didn't succeed - I love what happened here!

A Chinese Christian was forced to watch when the Japanese set fire to his house while his wife and children were inside.

There are some good biographies on Gladys Aylward's life for younger children (that I'll write about later) but I highly recommend this one at some stage.
Out of print but available secondhand.

Linking up with Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge and Back to the Classics 2017  - Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Review of AmblesideOnline Year 6 - the second time around

This is the second time we've done AO Year 6. I wrote about Benj's beefed up Year 6 here. He was 13 years of age at the time so I made a few alterations to accomodate that. Moozle is 12 years old, and although I made some modifications here and there, most of what she did followed the schedule at AmblesideOnline.
The AO Geography schedule changed during the year and as we'd already done Halliburton's Book of Marvels the year before, (see my Pinterest page for some resources I put together) this is what we actually did:

Ist Term:

The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding

2nd & 3rd Term:

A Child's Geography of the Holy Land by Ann Voscamp & Toni Peckover

I've used this before & focussed mostly on the readings and mapping the various locations. Moozle also enjoyed making some of the recipes included in the book. This book meshed nicely with the study of the Ancients in Year 6.

And she started a Geography notebook:

History Tales/Biography

We stopped using Trial & Triumph a few years ago and Moozle continued with Passion for the Impossible, a Year 5 read that we didn't get to finish.
In place of Genesis, Finding Our Roots, she read the alternative AO suggestion Ben Hur.


We finished the final three chapters of History of Australia & followed AO's History schedule.
For Asian studies she read, Little Brother by Allan Baillie, which is set in Cambodia.

Australian Literature:

Golden Fiddles by Mary Grant Bruce (1928)

Natural History & Science:

We followed the AO recommendations and they were some of her favourite books.

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, adapted by Anne Terry White - I read this aloud, skipping the first chapter. Actually I gave her a basic outline of the evolutionary beliefs outlined in that first section and she laughed and said, "There was a big bang and all the fishes turned into men!"
It is an exceptional book in many ways but it needs some up to date explanations in places, thank you, YouTube! I made a playlist relating to the chapters here.
My Occeanography & Marine Biology Pinterest board has some other links also.
A picture of the copy I have & the table of contents:


We also made good use of The University of Nottingham's periodic videos when reading The Elements and The Mystery of the Periodic Table. Over the course of both these books Moozle wrote down the elements she learned on this free downloadable blank PDF of the Periodic Table.
(Edited to add: Interactive Periodic Table - in pictures & words)
Moozle has made regular entries into her science notebook which she started in Year 5. I wrote a post about some of her notebooks here.

I read aloud My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell - some editing done on the go, but it's a fun and interesting book.

We continue to use The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock plus the following Australian titles:

Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies & Robert Hall

This one was great when we did some nature study at the beach earlier this year:

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws - I was unsure whether to buy this book as I didn't know how much use we'd get out of it but we watched a couple of John Muir Law' videos on Youtube and they were helpful so I bought it. The book contains much that can be used wherever you live - drawing and watercolour techniques, as well as the use of other art media; observation skills, types of materials to use, working in the open & making fast and accurate field sketches; drawing landscapes. There are a few examples (some birds, a bear) that are specific to the USA, or not found here in Australia, but the methods he uses to demonstrate how to draw and journal are universal. It was definitely a good buy! Moozle has been working her way through it & has picked up many useful hints.

 Not an Aussie bird, but learning some skills with watercolour and composition...


Health: We read this book together: The Care & Keeping of You 2 

Maths:  Continuing with Saxon 76 after about five years of Singapore Maths.


We listened to a recording and read along with the script and then watched this movie. It was on Youtube but it looks like it's been removed.


We're about half way through Julius Caesar so will continue that. This life seems a bit longer than some of the others we've done but it's a good one to study especially as he's been around in a few of the Year 6 books.


At the beginning of the year we started French for Children B, published by Classical Academic Press after completing French for Children A. It's excellent.


A combination of Getting Started With Latin and Our Roman Roots by James R. Leek, an out of print curriculum I've used off and on for a number of years.


We haven't done a lot of English grammar this year as the French curriculum we're using has plenty,  and since starting French for Children, her understanding of grammar has jumped significantly. When we do cover grammar, it's with Easy Grammar Plus by Wanda C. Phillips, which I started using with Benj about eight years ago & continue to use. It's different to many other grammar programmes in that it gets students to identify prepositions & prepositional phrases before anything else & once that's done it's so much easier to identify other parts of speech.

Free Reading (besides the AO list) Books marked with an * are 'highly recommended.'

Devils' Hill by Nan Chauncy (set in Tasmania)
The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne *
Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott
The Cargo of the Madalena by Cynthia Harnett
How They Kept the Faith by Grace Raymond
The Adventures of Shelock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle *

These Agatha Christie novels are in the Tommy & Tuppence series:
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie*
N or M? by Agatha Christie *
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie*

The following books are by L.M. Montgomery:

Emily of New Moon *
Emily Climbs *
Emily's Quest *
Kilmeny of the Orchard

Moozle says 'Of course I'd highly recommend every Biggles book!!' *****

Biggles & the Blue Moon
Biggles and the Missing Millionaire
Biggles Takes a Hand

All the Biggles' titles above are out of print.