Sunday, 2 December 2018

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (1955)

C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963) has been called one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century as well as the most influential writer of his time. He wrote over thirty books including the beloved children’s classic, The Chronicles of Narnia, which was my first introduction to his writing when I was about twelve years of age. I didn’t know at the time that he was a Christian and had written a whole swag of other books that were going to be influential for me later on in my life.

Surprised by Joy is an autobiography that tells of Lewis’s journey from Atheism to Christianity starting with his childhood in Belfast and the loss of his mother to cancer. He goes on to describe his boarding school years in England, (one school he calls ‘Belsen’!) his childhood faith and how he lost it, his fascination with the occult for a time, and his Atheism during his youth. He touches on his War service during the Great War and his years at Oxford and ends with his reluctant conversion to Theism and then the next step as he embraces Christianity.

Surprised by Joy is so quotable that I found I was familiar with many passages because I’d read them elsewhere but didn’t know where they came from. Lewis’s candidness and humility oozed out of this book. His childhood memories were related without emotionalism but with an inherent poignancy as were his difficulties in his relationship with his father and his experiences at various boarding schools.
He describes the public boy’s school practice of pederasty and admits that while he was not tempted in that area he none-the-less had his own share of being ‘successfully’ tempted in other areas and he was careful not to cast judgement upon those who fell in an area he never had to struggle with.

Some interesting bits:

C.S. Lewis’s parents were very disparate in origin and temperament. Lewis was more like his mother - cheerful, cool and calm, while his father was sentimental, emotional and not inclined to be happy. This contrast between his parent’s temperaments bred in him a dislike and distrust of emotion from an early age.
He describes his childhood and the happy times he had with his brother who was three years his senior, the different influences on his life during that time and of the ‘absence of beauty’ which characterised his childhood:

'No picture on the walls of my father’s house ever attracted - and indeed none deserved - our attention. We never saw a beautiful building or imagined that a building could be beautiful.'

There is a theme throughout the book that is conveyed in the title. Lewis describes this as Sehnsucht - a experience of a sense of longing, yearning, and wonder or ‘an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.’ He called this experience, Joy.
These experiences came to him in the memory of a memory, or the ‘longing for the longing that had just ceased;’ one being the memory of when his brother brought a toy garden into the nursery.

‘As long as I live, my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother’s toy garden.’

It also came to him through Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin and then through poetry. The quality common to all three experiences was Joy.
When Lewis was seven years old the family moved to a larger house in the country,

‘I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books...’

When Lewis was ten years old his mother was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery, which in those days they performed in the patient’s house! She later died and Lewis’s relationship with his father grew more distant while he grew closer to his brother.

'With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of Joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.'

Reflecting on his cruel headmaster at Belsen and why those ‘wasted and miserable years’ under him did him little harm in the long run:

‘Hardly any amount of oppression from above takes the heart out of a boy like the oppression from his fellows.’

On his passion for the occult...’It is a spiritual lust; and like the lust of the body it has the fatal power of making everything else in the world seem uninteresting while it lasts.’

Of sexual temptation, he explains that a new element entered his life - Vulgarity - and he underwent a violent and wholly successful assault because of his ‘deliberate withdrawal of myself from Divine protection.’

On School Life:

'Spiritually speaking, the deadly thing was that school life was a life almost wholly dominated by the social struggle; to get on, to arrive, or, having reached the top, to remain there, was the absorbing preoccupation. It is often, of course, the pre-occupation of adult life as well; but I have not yet seen any adult society in which the surrender to this impulse was so total.'

In praising one of his teachers he said:

'...even if he had taught us nothing else, to be in Smewgy’s form was to be in a measure ennobled. Amidst all the banal ambition and flashy splendours of school life he stood as a permanent reminder of things more gracious, more humane, larger and cooler.'

About games (sport) in school Lewis likened them to a toothache or pebbles in your shoes and didn’t give them the 'moral and almost mystical virtues’ schoolmasters claim for them. He thought they led to ambition and jealousy but he felt it was a misfortune that he had no affinity for them because it can cut you off from companionship with some excellent people you wouldn’t associate with any other way.

On reading newspapers:

'Nearly all that a boy reads (in newspapers) in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an caress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.'

Ha! Nothing much has changed.

'A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere...God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.'

During his time at Oxford after the Great War, Lewis’s chronological snobbery began to be overthrown. He describes chronological snobbery as ‘the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.’
The more he read...Plato, John Donne, George Herbert, George MacDonald, Chesterton, the more alarmed he became. ‘All my books were beginning to turn against me.’

He was shocked when he found that the most intelligent and best-informed man in his English class at Oxford was a Christian and others began to pop up on every side.
He had always wanted to call his soul his own and not be interfered with. Now he felt the demand of ‘All.’

'In the Trinity Term if 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England...
The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?'

Lewis knew that God was to be obeyed simply because He was God and he found that as he moved  from Theism to Christianity, his search for Joy lost its importance. If we are lost in the woods and we suddenly see a signpost we make a big deal out of it but once we find the road we don’t stop and stare at every passing signpost as we travel along because we want to get to our destination and we know we’re on the right road.
Joy, ‘the old stab, the old bitter-sweet’ was a valuable pointer to something other and outer.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

On Being an Initiator

The other month I wrote about bringing our children into ‘a large room’ where the doors are open to a wide and generous curriculum. In School Education, Pg 170, Charlotte Mason points out that we have a responsibility to our children to ‘...initiate an immense number of interests.’

The idea of being an initiator was sparked in me years ago during a time of disappointment. A wise friend who knew my situation said some words to me at the time that I’ve never forgotten: 'Not many people are initiators.' I’ve found that to be generally true, unfortunately, so it made sense to me that Charlotte Mason addressed this in the context of education.
I decided to check out what the word ‘initiate’ implies.

The dictionary says that to initiate means to:

To do the first act
Break the ice
Get the ball rolling
Set in motion

So when Charlotte Mason states that we owe it to our children to initiate an immense number of interests, she means that we are responsible for the initial action. We get the ball rolling and do some investing. We don’t leave it to the child to do the initiating. Not that we shouldn't allow them their own interests, but when it comes to educational philosophy and direction, the responsibility is ours. Unless, of course, you believe in child-led education, which Charlotte Mason didn't espouse and neither do I.

A Practical Example

We’ve been doing Picture Study in our home for twenty-odd years - that is, we pick an artist and study about six of his/her paintings a term. It’s very simple. We just look at the picture and later we might describe it or draw a sketch of what we remember of its composition, the emphasis being on observing and appreciating the artist’s work.
If I know something of the artist’s life or have a short biography (the boys really liked the Mike Venezia books when they were younger) they might read that.

Charlotte Mason made this observation:

...I know that you may bring a horse to the water but you can't make him drink. What I complain of is that we do not bring our horse to the water. 

I initiated the introduction to the world of art, led them to the water, and they gained an appreciation of great art. That was important to me and I love how the Charlotte Mason method doesn’t consider the study of great works of art an optional extra.
Along comes my seventh child and from an early age she was drawn to art and loved to draw. I did the same as I’d done with the others but she wanted to draw all the time and especially liked to draw people. I had piles of sketchbooks that she’d filled but as time went on she started getting frustrated with how her drawings looked.

There's another version of the proverb above:

You may bring a horse to water but you can't make him drink, however, you can put salt in his oats!

Creating a thirst is something else we can do as initiators.
I had a few home education art resources but they didn’t inspire my daughter much so I started looking for an art teacher to give her lessons. She had about five or six lessons from a couple of different people but they weren’t able to continue for different reasons. She enjoyed the lessons and they did teach her techniques which helped her. I bought her some good quality paints and pencils and continued to look for ways to develop her interest in this area.
An area I had to encourage her in was perseverance. A piece of work could be spread over time, just like we spread a book out, a chapter per week, or in her case with art, a bit of time each day on piece of art that required a fair bit of work. This helped her with her observation and drawing skills, as well as the practice of perseverance. This is one of her works in progress:

Earlier this year we signed up for a free six week Natural History Illustration course with the University of Newcastle. This was so timely and helpful and there’s been a noticeable difference and improvement in her art. (See some examples of the type of work she did here & here.)
Recently we found some art tutorials in YouTube which have been great, also.

We continue with Picture Study and sometimes an artist inspires her in a particular way. This week I showed her this Mannerist painting by El Greco. It’s one I was drawn to many years ago and she had a similar response to it:

View of Toledo by El Greco (1600)

We've had to work through some difficulties in different area of our children's education. From music teachers to foreign language resources, we've had bumps in the road. One of the most important resources is prayer but it's often something I forget about until everything else fails! We've had some pretty awesome answers when we've focussed on praying for a specific educational need.
I've learned that nothing is too insignificant to put before the Lord.

These are some of the YouTube videos that my daughter's been using recently to help with her art work.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

My Place by Sally Morgan (1987)

My Place by Sally Morgan is an autobiographical account of three generations of Aboriginal women: Sally, her mother Gladys, and Sally’s grandmother, Daisy. Sally writes of her experiences growing up in suburban Perth during the 1950’s and 1960’s and her search for truth and identity after she discovers her Aboriginal heritage.
Although her mother and grandmother were Aboriginal, Sally and her siblings had a white father and they grew up ignorant of their Aboriginal background. Their mother told them they were Indian and didn't speak about the past.
Bill, their father had been a prisoner of war in Germany during WWII before he married Gladys and was a troubled man who sought relief in alcohol and frequently required hospitalisation. He didn't want anything to do with his wife's relatives and died when Sally was nine years of age.
My Place is written in a simple, vernacular style and although Sally is the main author, Gladys, her mother, Nan, and Nan’s brother, Arthur Corunna all tell their individual stories in the book. As I was reading Arthur’s Story, it reminded me of Albert Fahey’s account in A Fortunate Life of growing up in the Australian bush in the early 1900’s. There are some close similarities in the way they were both treated as young impoverished boys working in the outback during the Depression years.
Sally was fifteen before she realised she was Aboriginal and tells of her shock at discovering that her Grandmother, Nan, was black and therefore she must be also. Things began to make sense now she had this knowledge but it also raised more questions than answers:

What did it really mean to be Aboriginal? I’d never lived off the land and been a hunter and a gatherer. I’d never participated in corroborees or heard stories of the Dreamtime. I hardly knew any Aboriginal people. What did it mean for someone like me?

I was often puzzled by the way Mum and Nan approached anyone in authority, it was as if they were frightened...why on earth would anyone be frightened of the government?

In 1982, Sally travelled to her grandmother’s birthplace in the Pilbara and began to piece together the past. As she unearthed her roots, her questions and probing helped to draw out her mother and grandmother’s memories that up until this time had been kept to themselves. Her Uncle Arthur was the first person to talk to Sally about the past. When he was about eleven or twelve years old he was taken from Corunna Downs in the Pilbara to the Swan Native and Half-Caste Mission near Perth:

One day I'd like to go back to Corunna Downs...
Aah, I wish I'd never left there. It was my home. Sometimes I wish I'd been born black as the ace of spades, then they'd never have took me. They only took half-castes.

...They told my mother and the others we'd be back soon. We wouldn't be gone for long, they said...They didn't realise they wouldn't be seein' us no more. I thought they wanted us educated so we could help run the station some day, I was wrong.

Gladys’ words:

Bill had only been dead a short time when a Welfare lady came out to visit us. I was really frightened because I thought if she realised we were Aboriginal, she might have the children taken away. We only had two bedrooms and a sleepout and there were five children, as well as Mum and me.
This woman turned out to be a real bitch. She asked me all sorts of questions and walked through our house with her nose in the air like a real snob. She asked where we all slept, and when I told her Helen slept with me, she was absolutely furious. She said, 'You are to get that child out of your bed, we will not stand for that. You work out something else, the children aren't to be in the same room as you. I'll come back and check to make sure you've got another bed.'

...I just agreed with everything she said. I didn't want her to have any excuse to take the children off me.
It was after the visit from the Welfare lady that Mum and I decided we would definitely never tell the children they were Aboriginal.
I suppose, looking back now, it seems awful that we deprived them of that heritage, but we thought we were doing the right thing at the time.

Daisy's words:

In those days it was considered a privilege for a white man to want you, but if you had children, your weren’t allowed to keep them. You was only allowed to keep the black ones. They took the white ones off you ‘cause you weren’t considered fit to raise a child with white blood.
I tell you it made a edge between the people. Some of the black men felt real low, and some of the native girls with a bit of white in them wouldn’t look at a black man. There I was stuck in the middle. Too black for the whites and too white for the blacks.

Something to be aware of and that stood out to me was the different spiritual beliefs of the three women. Gladys and Sally had some Christian influence in their lives but it became blended with what they had imbibed of their Aboriginal beliefs from their grandmother so that their spiritual lives were a mix of ideas and they explained some of their experiences using this admixture. Daisy, on the other hand had a greater respect for the dangers of meddling in the spiritual dimension:

Gladdie was silly in those days. always wantin' to know her future. She didn't know what she was meddlin' with. You leave the spirits alone. You mess with them, you get burnt. She had her palm read, her tea-leaves read, I don't know what she didn't get read. I never went with her to any of these fortune-tellers. They give you a funny feeling inside. Blackfella know all 'bout spirits. We brought up with them. That's where the white man's stupid. He only believes what he can see. He needs to get educated. He's only livin' half a life.

My Place has been used in High Schools in Australia in Years 9 /10. It's definitely a book for older students and I'd recommend it as a read aloud and discuss otherwise preview for language and mature themes.

How deprived we would have been
if we had been willing
to let things stay as they were.
We would have survived,
but not as a whole people.
We would never have known 
our place.

Be aware that there is another book with the same name by Nadia Wheatley but it's a children's picture book that looks at the history of one particular piece of land in Sydney from 1788 to 1988 through the stories of the various children who have lived there.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge (1944)

Earlier this year I was introduced to Elizabeth Goudge through her book The Rosemary Tree and after reading that I knew that I’d read more by her. I ordered Green Dolphin Country because a good friend recommended it but I was surprised when it arrived that it contained 743 pages. I don’t usually commit to a book of that length unless it’s a Russian classic or a Norwegian saga because I don’t think there are many authors who have the skill to weave a story over that many pages without losing the plot and the reader.

However, once I’d bought the book I decided to read it and ended up enjoying it very much. Goudge certainly doesn’t write like a Russian novelist or a Norwegian saga writer but she is an expert delineator of character.
To me, this story was in essence a tale of love and disappointment; of choosing to love and acting on that choice when there was no corresponding feeling of love; of kindness and humility; of losing yourself only to find yourself again.

Green Dolphin Country is a work of fiction but it was based on an actual event. The story begins on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel where we meet the three main characters. It continues in New Zealand with details of the lives of two of those characters, alternating with scenes from the life of the one left behind. It ends with the meeting of all three again back in Guernsey in their latter years.
The personalities who populate this story are rendered in such a way that they become real. We see how the three main characters develop and change over the course of their lives. Goudge's insights into humanity with its weaknesses and strengths, fears and hopes, is skilful and infused with humour.
To me, this story was in essence a tale of love and disappointment; of choosing to love and acting on that choice when there was no corresponding feeling of love; of kindness and humility, of finding a way to make things work when there seems to be no way.

Some highlights

On the one who always wanted to be in control:

It was no good waiting on fortune. Her favour was inscrutable and uncertain. What one wanted one must get for oneself. A man could use his will like a sword but a woman had mostly to use hers like a shuttle.

...for the first time in her life she had taken her hand off the tiller and was waiting patiently for something beyond herself to take her in charge.

The worst thing about sin was that its punishment could not be borne by the sinner alone. Why did one not realise that before it was too late?

Goudge has a knack of illuminating ordinary things and highlighting hope. One of my favourite passages is this one about the unseen aspects of prayer:

There were days when the impossibility of seeing the result of one’s prayer was disheartening almost to the point of faithlessness. One prayed for those in peril, but though one might seem to hear the beating of wings in the wind the eyes of the body could not see the angel who took the prayer from one’s outstretched hands, held it as a shield between some human creature and the death that it was not yet the will of God should come upon them. One prayed for courage for those who had turned back upon the path, that they might turn again, but one’s own body did not experience the shock of realisation, the reversal, the gathering of strength. One prayed for the faithless but it was not granted to one’s ears to hear the crumbling of the walls and the shouting of the trumpet and the ‘I believe...’

There might be utter humiliation but that’s not the end of the story.

The sort of love he had given her, deliberately created, not drawn irresistibly forth by the loveliness of the beloved, implies no merit in the object of it and was not worth having. No, she had nothing - nothing.

She was too humiliated just at present to dare think that the virtue of humility might one day be her own.

How desperately hard it must have been for him. What a price he must have paid for her salvation! That was what love was - a paying of the price.

This is a very redemptive type of story and I love it for that fact alone.

Linking to Back to the Classics 2018: Classic with a Color in the Title

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Catriona by Robert Louis Stevenson (1893)

Catriona continues the story of David Balfour who was introduced in Stevenson’s well-known book, Kidnapped. Kidnapped was published in 1886 but Stevenson’s ill health at the time prevented him from bringing the story to the conclusion he originally intended so he left the door open for a sequel. Catriona didn’t appear until 1893 and it is quite a different story compared with most of Stevenson’s other works, being more of an historical romance with a convoluted plot and strong female characters as opposed to high adventure and daring exploits.
Catriona starts just at the point where Stevenson left David Balfour at the end of Kidnapped - at the doors of the British Linen Company’s bank - only this time he was coming out instead of going in.

The Gist of the Story

The book is set in the mid 1750’s after the Battle of Culloden in which the Jacobites were defeated. In 1752, Colin Roy Campbell, a government official also known as The Red Fox, was shot and killed, and members of the Jacobite Stewart clan were blamed. David sets out to clear his old friend, Alan Breck Stewart and his relative James Stewart (James of the Glens) of what became known as the Appin murder.
David visits his cousin, Mr Balfour, who provides him with a letter of introduction to the Lord Advocate Prestongrange and David presents himself before him as a witness for the accused.
Prestongrange is in a difficult situation as the Campbell clan are determined that James Stewart should be hanged for the murder but he tells David that he will arrange for him to be a witness at the trial.
In the meantime, David meets Catriona Drummond, the beautiful young daughter of James More Drummond, a son of the notorious Rob Roy.
David is unimpressed with More and thinks he is an unworthy man to be the Catriona’s father. His dislike is warranted as More is working behind the scenes to get him out of the way until after the trial, which he does by getting his Highland followers to kidnap David and keep him on the Bass, an island off the east coast of Scotland.
More is a selfish, conniving man, but Catriona is devoted to him. Gradually, his treachery comes to light but not before David and Catriona are separated and she realises that her father has been a manipulator and helped to send an innocent man to the gallows.
I enjoyed the latter part of the book most of all as it describes David’s poor attempts at courting Catriona, their misunderstandings of one another, and Alan Breck’s advice to his friend on the subject.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the description of the Lowland Scots’ attitude to the ‘Heiland’ folk. My Grannie was a Lowlander and she had a typical reaction if someone did something stupid or very clumsy. She’d say, “Och, dae'n be sae Heilan’!” I only found out many years later that it was a put down of the Highlanders. I don’t know it’s like that now but the same attitude has come up in Josephine Tey’s books only she takes the side of the Highlanders and makes references to 'vile Glasgow speech.'.

Catriona contains many of the characters found in Kidnapped so it’s best to have read that book beforehand or else you’ll miss connections. Kidnapped also helps to introduce some of the Scot dialect - and be warned, it’s all through Catriona. 

Some highlights:

Upon our reaching the park I was launched on a bevy of eight or ten young gentlemen (some of them cockaded officers, the rest chiefly advocates) who crowded to attend upon these beauties; and though I was presented to all of them in very good words, it seemed I was by all immediately forgotten. Young folk in a company are like to savage animals: they fall upon or scorn a stranger without civility, or I may say, humanity; and I am sure, if I had been among baboons, they would have shown me quite as much of both...

From these I was recalled by one of the officers, Lieutenant Hector Duncansby, a gawky, leering Highland boy, asking if my name was not “Palfour.”
I told him it was, not very kindly, for his manner was scant civil.
“Ha, Palfour,” says he, and then, repeating it, “Palfour, Palfour!”
“I am afraid you do not like my name, sir,” says I, annoyed with myself to be annoyed with such a rustical fellow.
“No,” says he, “but I wass thinking.”
“I would not advise you to make a practice of that, sir,” says I. “I feel sure you would not find it to agree with you.”
“Tit you effer hear where Alan Grigor fand the tangs?” said he.
I asked him what he could possibly mean, and he answered, with a heckling laugh, that he thought I must have found the poker in the same place and swallowed it.
There could be no mistake about this, and my cheek burned.
“Before I went about to put affronts on gentlemen,” said I, “I think I would learn the English language first.”

A sample of the Scot's tongue:

“Mony’s the time I’ve thocht upon you and your freen, and blythe am I to see in your braws,” she cried. “Though I kent ye were come to your ain folk by the grand present that ye sent me and that I thank ye for with a’ my heart.”

This conversation between David and his gaoler while he was captive on The Bass is found in Chapters XIV and XV contains the largest section of Scottish dialect:

“Well, Andie, I see I’ll have to be speak out plain with you,” I replied. And told him so much as I thought needful of the facts.
He heard me out with some serious interest, and when I had done, seemed to consider a little with himself.
“Shaws,” said he at last, “I’ll deal with the naked hand. It’s a queer tale, and no very creditable, the way you tell it; and I’m far frae minting that is other than the way that ye believe it. As for yoursel’, ye seem to me rather a dacent-like young man. But me, that’s aulder and mair judeecious, see perhaps a wee bit further forrit in the job than what ye can dae. And here the maitter clear and plain to ye. There’ll be nae skaith to yoursel’ if I keep ye here; far free that, I think ye’ll be a hantle better by it. There’ll be nae skaith to the kintry — just ae mair Hielantman hangit — Gude kens, a guid riddance! On the ither hand, it would be considerable skaith to me if I would let you free. Sae, speakin’ as a guid Whig, an honest freen’ to you, and an anxious freen’ to my ainsel’, the plain fact is that I think ye’ll just have to bide here wi’ Andie an’ the solans.”
“Andie,” said I, laying my hand upon his knee, “this Hielantman’s innocent.”
“Ay, it’s a peety about that,” said he. “But ye see, in this warld, the way God made it, we cannae just get a’thing that we want.”

And Alan’s opinion of David’s attempts at wooing:

“I cannae make heed nor tail of it,” he would say, “but it sticks in my mind ye’ve made a gowk of yourself. There’s few people that has had more experience than Alan Breck: and I can never call to mind to have heard tell of a lassie like this one of yours. The way that you tell it, the thing’s fair impossible. Ye must have made a terrible hash of the business, David.
...It’s this way about a man and a woman, ye see, Davie: The weemenfolk have got no kind of reason to them. Either they like the man, and then a’ goes fine; or else they just detest him, and ye may spare your breath — ye can do naething. There’s just the two sets of them — them that would sell their coats for ye, and them that never look the road ye’re on. That’s a’ that there is to women; and you seem to be such a gomeril that ye cannae tell the tane frae the tither.”
“Well, and I’m afraid that’s true for me,” said I.
“And yet there’s naething easier!” cried Alan. “I could easy learn ye the science of the thing; but ye seem to me to be born blind, and there’s where the deefficulty comes in.”

Catriona is free for Kindle here.
The book was published under the title David Balfour in the USA.

Linking to Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: Classic with Single-Word Title

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Plans for Combining Ambleside Online Years 8 & 9 Over 18 Months

In a previous post I mentioned that we were planning to do a combination of Years 8 & 9 over 18 months.  This is the Year 7, 8, & 9 in Two Years plan at AO that I'm modifying - we started at Week 25. As we were finishing up Year 7 when I decided to do a Year 8 & 9 combo, it frees us up to add in other areas we want to cover. I haven't finalised everything yet, but here are some of the selections that we have already started or are planning to start at some stage, including some Australian substitutions.

Devotional Reading

* Continuing Tozer's book The Root of the Righteous

**  By Searching by Isobel Kuhn - as with Year 7, I'm including a missionary biography/autobiography  in devotional reading.

*** C.S. Lewis or another title in the AO Year 8 selections

I think I've mentioned before that we didn't finish Trial & Triumph in the early years of AO so we started Saints & Heroes in Year 8 to cover some of the lives we missed earlier on & it's been a better option for us, I think.


As per AO Year 8 with the exclusion of Plymouth Plantation.

I started using the TruthQuest History guides when I was putting together my own curriculum with my older children. Since we started AmblesideOnline about 8 years ago, I've used them not so much as a resource for finding books, but for their commentary on the times we're studying and the worldviews those time periods espoused. I'm using this one for Year 8 and generally have Moozle read the commentary sections. I've had to purchase my copies from the USA. If I'm only after one or two books I find has reasonable postage to Australia (or used to have when I last looked!) The downside to these books are that they are spiral bound & one of mine already had the cover coming apart when I received it new. 


* The Bight by Colin Thiele & Mike McKelvey (Australian)

**  *** Longitude by Dava Sobel - I read this aloud about 8 years ago but Moozle wouldn't remember it. AO schedules it in Year 9, which will work out to be Term 2 in the combined schedule I'm doing (i.e. Week 1 here)


We'll probably skip Westward Ho!

* Shakespeare's Richard III
** ? The Merchant of Venice


Grammar of Poetry is scheduled in Year 7 but I've ended up spreading it out so at the moment we've done 25 out of 30 lessons. It's interesting but gets quite technical in places and could do with some better examples in some of the exercises.


* ** *** We'll be doing the second year of Architectural Science using these resources

We're continuing with:

Apologia Botany - this is an alternative book AO recommends for Botany & I'm using it because we already had it.

Signs & Seasons by Jay Ryan - I bought this before it was on the AO booklist but it's a little difficult to use if you're in the Southern Hemisphere. Moozle reads sections that are applicable to us & sometimes parts that are not because it interests her. As for experiments/observations - we've had a couple of occasions to observe some interesting sights, the lunar eclipse the other month, Mars, blood-red moon, for example, rather than what the book recommends.
I'm reading The Planets by Dava Sobel, which is a literary approach to the solar system. I was considering using it with Moozle but my thinking so far is that it would be better for an older student.

* ** *** Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies & Robert Hall - I've scheduled this in Year 8 before and it's very good. 39 chapters covering a wide range of subjects. Free online

The other week Moozle read Chapter IV - What We See at the Beach and made a Notebook entry:

We'll be following the science schedule here (the combined AO Years 8 & 9) with the exception of Adventures With Microscope & First Studies in Plant Life.

Free Reads

Blanket of the Dark by John Buchan (1931) - a story of intrigue against Henry VIII. An enjoyable free read that fits in the AO Year 8 timeframe. Free for Kindle here.

'(Henry's) face was vast and red as a new ham, a sheer mountain of a face, 
for it was as broad as it was long...'

Lady in Waiting by Rosemary Sutcliff (1956) is set in Elizabethan times and tells the story of Bess Throckmorton, Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth, who becomes secretly engaged and later married to Walter Ralegh (Raleigh). It's been a long time since I read this book and I just remember that it was quite a sad story. Moozle said it wasn't one of Sutcliff's better books (it probably didn't move quickly enough for her) but it was quite good.

The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson - a story of the Wars of the Roses. Free for Kindle here.
I've been reading Stevenson a bit lately & he is a great story teller. I'd recommend any of his books.


I tend to alternate Shakespeare & Plutarch term by term, as we don't always have time to do them both each week. These are the two I plan to do:

** Cicero
*** Demosthenes

Watercolor Workshop by Sasha Prood - Moozle's older sister bought her this and she's using it to develop her watercolour skills and techniques.


Continuing with Latin Alive! from Classical Academic Press & very happy with it.


Moozle finished the second year of French for Children (Primer B) but unfortunately, the next Primer in the series won't be ready until next year sometime. Classical Academic Press suggested French First Year or French Second Year by Eli Blume in the meantime but it's only available from the USA and when I enquired it was going to cost me $200 Australian for shipping alone!!!
I bought an older edition second-hand but when I received it there was no answer key & I haven't been able to source one, so it's not much good to us. So at present we're using 'Living French' by T.W. Knight (it's ok but Moozle isn't really inspired by it) until I decide what to do...

Moozle is reading all her 'school' books on her own. I'd previously read How to Read a Book by Adler aloud but she's getting more out of it reading it on her own.

I'm still reading James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small to her - it's sort of our Natural History book but it's mostly just for fun.

I recently pulled these books I've had for many years off the shelf: Beautiful Girlhood originally by Mabel Hale but this edition has been revised by Karen Andreola. I'm using the Companion Guide, which I think is out of print, very loosely. Sometimes it has Scripture verses to study or ideas - again, I've got the book so I'm using it. I do this about once a week.

We're revisiting these folksongs I've used when the boys did Year 8 a number of years ago.

I'm sure I've forgotten a few things here but life in general has been very full. Lots of good things which I may get to post about later.
This verse from a hymn has been on my mind this past week:

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of the mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.