Friday 27 June 2014

Nature Notebook: June

We've had some good nature walks this month and also a visit to the Blue Mountains. The last time we went The Three Sisters were obscured by a thick mist so our youngest missed out on seeing them but this time we had a great view and just as we were about to leave the mist rolled in to hide them again.

 The Three Sisters, Katoomba, NSW

Gum Tree

This week we used challenge # 42 on the HONS blog and went looking for the three main types of lichen.

1) Crustose (crusty)

2) Foliose (leafy)

Foliose Lichen Growing with Moss on a Rock

3) Fruticose (shrubby) - which unfortunately we didn't see at all.

Barb has links to websites on the page I linked above. Some others we used are:

This Natural History Museum in the UK has a video explaining what lichens can tell us about pollution in our local environment. Apparently many lichens are sensitive to pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and are used by scientists as 'pollution indicators' as they monitor changes in the patterns of air quality.

Lichens and people - ways in which lichens have been used...stuffing mummies, curing baldness, the manufacture of perfumes and cosmetics amongst other things.

                                                             Fungi on a bed of moss

We spent about an hour and a half exploring some of our local bush tracks this morning. It's a lovely time of year to go wandering through the bush - the weather is nippy and the snakes are hibernating. There's only the leeches to contend with and the occasional dog we seem to attract. A very friendly one joined us at the park and accompanied us through the bush. We couldn't get rid of him and ended up re-tracing our steps to get back to where he originally met us after a good hour of his company.

A Track Through the Ferns

A Local Fire Trail

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Our Spanish Composers Study

“Music fulfills an important educational function because, above all, it cultivates the spirit.” - See more at:
 Music fulfills an important educational function because, above all, it cultivates the spirit.” 
Joaquin Rodrigo
“Music fulfills an important educational function because, above all, it cultivates the spirit.” - See more at:

We've spent the past couple of months focusing on Spanish composers for composer study. A list of five famous Spanish composers with short biographies of each is here. This website, 52 Composers, also has some very helpful  information.
We concentrated on the compositions below and compared arrangements in which the guitar was the main instrument with other versions.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega- lovely!

Knowing that Joaquin Rodrigo was blind from the age of three after a diphtheria infection gave us a great respect for his talent and what he achieved in his lifetime. We can tend to see people and their achievements in isolation but knowing some of their struggles and handicaps enhances our appreciation of their accomplishments.The two pieces below are his most well-known compositions.

A short extract of the above played on the harp:

Isaac Albeniz was a composer and virtuoso pianist who had a huge influence on Spanish music. The first video below is guitar only and the second is an orchestral version.

Orchestral Version: - a good motivational theme to have going in the background when you're doing serious house cleaning. I go up a gear when I hear this.

I almost passed by Manuel de Falla but I had a quick look to see what I could find and came across this piece which I recognised.

I include this cello version for Moozle because that is the instrument she plays.

The Piano Society has some free recordings of piano compositions written by another famous Spanish composer, Enrique Granados as well as a short biography.

Update: a couple of favourite pieces by Granados. The picture isn't the best on the second video but the only other choice was worse.

 Intermezzo from the "Goyescas," Granados' piano suite based on the artist Goya's paintings; played on cello with guitar accompaniment:

This is exquisite - violin and piano:

Picture Study: Inspired by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall was one of the artists featured in a set of Montessori artist cards I used with my children when they were little but it wasn't until earlier this year when I was reading Island of the World by Michael O'Brien that I became interested in learning more about him and his art.

 The Three Candles (1938-1940)

In O'Brien's book, Josip, the main character is speaking to his friend, Caleb, a troubled and rebellious young youth whom he had befriended some years before. Over time Josip had encouraged the boy's latent academic ability and when Caleb wrote his poem, Giraffe Wars, he gave it to Josip to read.

"So, how did you like Giraffe Wars?"
"I regret that I did not like it, Caleb."
"Oh, thank you very much."
"However, I did notice your technical competence, and your growing sense of creative intuition."
"Oh, then it's my hypothesis you reject."
"Poetry must never be a vehicle for ideology."
"That's ridiculous. Poetry is always a vehicle for somebody's ideology! Look at Ezra Pound!"
"I cannot read him. His Fascism disturbs me, just as Picasso's paintings disturb because they derive, consciously or subconsciously, from his Communism."
"I like Picasso - a lot!" the boy says in a challenging tone.
"You should go to the Metropolitan and spend time with Chagall."
"Who is Chagall?"
"I will take you to meet him on Saturday. He is in painting what a poet should be in poetry. These heroes you are fond of, Picasso and Pound, they disturb not in the way a painting or poem should disturb. Instead they create a malfeasance in the subconscious - and in the soul."

It's interesting that Francis Schaeffer commenting on Picasso in his book, How Should we Then Live, stated, 'In great art the technique fits the worldview being presented, and this new technique of fragmentation fits the world view of modern man.'
Marc Chagall's view of life was rooted in his faith and permeates his art. A Hasidic Jew, he was born in Vitebsk, Belarus in 1887. He lived through the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution and when WW2 broke out he and his family escaped at the eleventh hour to America in 1941. The links below have information on his life and work:

Marc Chagall Net  has probably the most comprehensive collection of his art work that I've seen plus biographical information. The art work I've put in this post came from this website.

 Peasant Life (1925)

 To understand the symbolism in Chagall's art see here.

I and the Village (1911)

The Birthday (1915)

Abraham and the Three Angels (1958-1960)

“The Bible is life, an echo of nature, and this is the secret I have endeavored to transmit."

Besides painting, Chagall work included murals, ceramics, tapestries, stained-glass work, theatre and costume design.

 A Midsummer Night's Dream (1939)

The Marc Chagall Museum in Belarus

 “I did not see the Bible, I dreamed it. Ever since early childhood, I have been captivated by the Bible. It has always seemed to me and still seems today the greatest source of poetry of all time.” 

 Bride & Groom of the Eiffel Tower (1939)

Some art work done by Moozle, inspired by Chagall's Bride & Groom of the Eiffel Tower ( also known as Newly Weds on the Eiffel Tower)

A sculpture using air drying clay

How Chagall's background influenced his art

The story behind this painting done during 1939-1947 is here.

Monday 23 June 2014

Mother Culture

Some quotes and thoughts that have stirred my heart or encouraged me in some way this week:


'Everyone on this earth should believe, amid whatever madness or moral failure, that his life and temperament have some object on the earth. Everyone on the earth should believe that he has something to give the world which cannot otherwise be given.'

I keep a prayer notebook. For each day of the month I have a list of people I pray for. I also have a couple of pages set aside for my immediate family with ongoing prayer reminders and scriptures I pray over each of them and I'd neglected this notebook in recent months. I was still praying but some people slipped through the cracks because I didn't think of them in the busyness of life. I read these words and was stirred to be more faithful in prayer:

'If you are not getting the hundredfold more, not getting insight into God's Word, then start praying for your friends, enter into the ministry of the interior. "The Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends." Job 42:10 Wherever God puts you in circumstances, pray immediately...Pray for your friends now; pray for those with whom you come in contact now...'

Oswald Chambers

After reading the words by Chambers above I also thought that I should be putting feet on my prayers. I decided I'd act upon what the Lord put on my heart that day - pray and then follow it up with an action, however small. For me that meant an email, a phone call, a visit, some text messages, a letter, a card.

'As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.' 1 Samuel 12:23

My intention: to put feet on at least one of the prayers I pray today. 

A picture of a friendship between two couples inspired me to have a large-spirit mentality in my relationships:

'In the ripened Indian summer weather, those two once again choose us. In circumstances where smaller spirits might let envy corrode liking, they declare their generous pleasure in our company and our good luck...

We have been invited into their lives, from which we will never be evicted or evict ourselves.'

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Sometimes my children have not appreciated reading and memorising Poetry. "When are we ever going to use this? What's the point?"
Well, one day it might save your life.
We've just completed Plutarch's life of Nicias. The Syracrusans had defeated the Athenians and the Athenian prisoners were sent to the quarries or into slavery and their commanders executed. But there were some who gained their freedom in an unusual way:

'Several were saved for the sake of Euripides, whose poetry, it appears, was in request among the Sicilians more than among any of the settlers out of Greece. And when any travelers arrived that could tell them some passage, or give them any specimen of his verses, they were delighted to be able to communicate them to one another. Many of the captives who got safe back to Athens are said, after they reached home, to have gone and made their acknowledgments to Euripides, relating how that some of them had been released from their slavery by teaching what they could remember of his poems, and others, when straggling after the fight, been relieved with meat and drink for repeating some of his lyrics. Nor need this be any wonder, for it is told that a ship of Caunus fleeing into one of their harbors for protection, pursued by pirates, was not received, but forced back, till one asked if they knew any of Euripides’s verses, and on their saying they did, they were admitted, and their ship brought into harbour.'

 We teach Poetry because it nourishes the soul and here it had the added benefit of preserving it.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Twelfth Night (or What You Will) by William Shakespeare

We spent 9 weeks reading through this play, one of the Bard's comedies from 1601.
We listened to this Naxos CD while reading the text which is online here.

I read along following the Oxford School Shakespeare which has side notes, commentary, and ideas for writing and other activities. I'd only use it with upper high school students as some of the content has adult themes and interprets Shakespeare's veiled language more explicitly.

The story begins at the palace of Orsino, Duke of Illyria. He is dispirited and miserable at the treatment meted out to him by the Countess Olivia who has rejected his love suit. Meanwhile, Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are shipwrecked and separated from each other. Viola arrives in Illyria, believing her brother to be drowned, and for her own safety she disguises herself as a boy, calling herself Cesario, and enters Duke Orsino's household as his servant.
Twelfth Night is a romantic comedy and includes mistaken identity, a duel of sorts, trickery, drunken house guests, unrequited love and a pompous steward who thinks the Countess is in love with him.
By the end of the play, three marriages are made, the pompous steward has been dealt with and the twins are reunited.

One of the scenes we enjoyed most was when Malvolio the steward reads a letter supposedly come from Olivia, but actually composed by Maria her lady-in-waiting, which makes him believe she loves him. It is a hilarious picture of a man who is blinded by self-conceit and affectation. He takes to heart the words Maria composed below, is lured by her trickery, and exposed for the fool that he is.

'Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.'

Our 9 Week Schedule

Week 1

Act 1
Scene 1 & Scene 2

Orsino: "If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die..."

Week 2

Act 1
Scene 3 & Scene 4

Sir Toby: "What a plague means my niece to take the death of her brother thus?..."

Week 3

Act 1
Scene 5

Maria: "Nay, either tell me where thou hast been, or I will not open my lips so wide as a bristle may enter..."

Week 4

Act II
Scene 1, 2 & 3

Antonio: "Will you stay no longer? Nor will you not that I go with you?"

Week 5

Act II
Scene 4 & 5

Orsino: "Give me some music. Now good morrow, friends."

Week 6

Scene 1, 2 & 3

Viola: "Save thee, friend, and thy music! Dost thou live by the tabor?"

Week 7

Scene 4

Olivia: "I have sent after him, he says he'll come: shall I feast him? What bestow of him? For youth is bought more oft than begg'd or borrow'd."

Week 8

Act IV
Scene 1, 2 & 3

Feste: "Will you make me believe that I am not sent for you?"
Sebastian: "Go to, go to, thou art a foolish fellow, let me be clear of thee."

Week 9

Act V
Scene 1

Fabian: "Now as thou lov'st me, let me see his letter."
Feste: "Good master Fabian, grant me another request."
Fabian: "Anything."
Feste: "Do not desire to see this letter."
Fabian: "This is to give a dog, and in recompense desire my dog again."

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.

End of play

I picked up the book above, Shakespeare in a Nutshell: A Rhyming Guide to All the Plays by James Muirden at a Lifeline sale the other month.
The author says in the introduction that school turned him right off Shakespeare and it wasn't until 20 years later that he met him again and began to appreciate his work. He wrote this book as 'a convenient and enjoyable introduction to Shakespeare's plays.'
Each of Shakespeare's thirty-eight plays has been distilled and captured in verse and they serve as a quick and quirky way to brush up on a play or get an overall picture of the story line.

When Viola, to her surprise,
Is safely cast ashore,
She finds a post (in male disguise)
At Count Orsino's court, and sighs
For his embrace; but he just eyes
Olivia, next door...

Saturday 14 June 2014

Science Videos & Schedule for A Child's Geography: Explore His Earth by Ann Voscamp

I've just finished reading this book to my 9 year old. The book is pitched to the younger child in the way the author writes (Ambleside Online has it listed as a Geography option for Year 3) but my son read it when he was about 11 years old and enjoyed it and I learnt quite a bit myself when I read it to Moozle as it goes into quite some depth in places. See here for an excerpt.

There are 11 chapters and I spaced each chapter over two weeks, occasionally three (chapters 8-10 were quite detailed), reading a few sections per week and she narrated after each section.
We skipped the writing suggestions (Postcards Home) and most of the activities except for those Moozle decided were interesting enough to warrant an effort and I added in some videos.
This is an outline of what we did.

Chapter 1

Short & easily done in a week.
Pg 9-11; 12-13
Countries & coastlines (but sadly no Australia!) 

Earth from space:

Chapter 2

Pg.19-20; 21-22; 23-25

Meteors & shooting stars at the Science Channel - quite a good video but there are links to other videos & an ad beforehand as well so preview first.

Atmosphere song:

Chapter 3

Pg. 31-33; 33-35; 35-37

Auroras seen from the north of Scotland. This is spectacular:

A very good explanation of what causes the above, especially for an older child:

Chapter 4

Pg.43-45; 45-46; 47- 49; 49-50; 51-52

Sheppard Software have some free online map activities which are great for all ages. Some of them are quite difficult but with a bit of practice you'll know all the Chinese provinces and other random information that might just be useful one day...

Chapter 5

Pg.57-59; 60-62; 63-64; 65-66
Activity pg. 71-72


Learn about rip currents, how to identify them, avoid them or how to escape if caught in one. We had a holiday last year and swam at an isolated beach which had some strong rips and we spent some time looking for the safest places to swim. I never knew how to identify rips and I was caught in one when I was in my teens - very frightening, not to mention highly dangerous. If I'd had this information at the time I would have known what to do.

The moon & tides:

The Gulf Stream - a bit of history here. Benjamin Franklin was the first person to map the Gulf Stream:

Ocean currents & Salinity - simple visual explanation:

Chapter 6

Pg.73-76; 77-78; 79-80; 80-81

An explanation of the seasons:

Chapter 7

Pg. 91-93; 94-96; 97-99; 100-101

This video on earthquakes is very good but I only let my daughter watch it up until 2:10 as it has footage of a little girl crying as an earthquake occurs and people being swept away by tsunamis later on. It has a great view of the San Andreas fault line and it would probably be fine for an older student but preview first.

Chapter 8

105-107; 108-109; 109-110; 111-113
Activity pg 116-117 & 118

Good explanation of plate tectonics for children:

Chapter 9

Pg.119-122; 123-125; 126-128; 128-129

Volcano Adventure is a great book I'd recommend while we're on the topic of volcanoes.
Activity pg 133-134 - the results weren't spectacular. Last time one of the boys made a volcano in the sandpit and it was impressive.

Cinder, composite and shield volcanoes & how they are formed:

Geysers - what they are and how they erupt:

Rotorua Geysers, New Zealand. Rotorua has been called The Sulphur City and the geothermal activity permeates the area with a distinctive odour. The colours of the rocks, terraces and water (a beautiful intense aqua in places), around the area are stunning.

Chapter 10

Pg.135-137; 138-140; 140-141; 142-144

Globe Unwrapped shows how a globe becomes a map (the website is slow to load).

Chapter 11

Pg.149-151; 152-153; 153-155; 156-159

Longitude, Latitude & Prime Meridian:

We were trying to work out time differences when my husband was overseas for work.
How come where Dad is it's Wednesday and he's just about to go to bed and it's Thursday lunchtime here??
These videos were helpful:

The concept of different times in different places takes some mind bending so this video might go over the heads of younger children and would be better for an older student:


Monday 9 June 2014

G.K. Chesterton: Contentment

'The word content is not inspiring nowadays; rather it is irritating because it is dull.
True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.'

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit a place where I'd lived for three years. For those three years I'd felt like a lump of clay on the Potter's wheel. Not pretty, unusable, messy, and dull.
Going back and showing my family the different places I'd lived when I was there, remembering people who had been a part of my shaping and firing; walking through the township and seeing the old buildings, the beautiful parks, the river front - I thought, "I don't remember this place being so lovely."
I suddenly realised how much beauty I had missed because my eyes had been only on the vulgar lump of clay and all its irregularities.
I was jarred by the thought that I hadn't made the most of my time in that place. That experience was gone and would never come to me again. I hadn't found the poetry in that unique experience setting. I didn't drink it dry.
I don't want to ever let that happen again.

'Thus the Suffragette will say, "I have passed through the paltry duties of pots and pans, the drudgery of the vulgar kitchen; but I have come out to intellectual liberty." The sound philosopher will answer, "You have never passed through the kitchen, or you never would call it vulgar. Wiser and stronger women than you have really seen a poetry in pots and pans; naturally, because there is a poetry in them."

When you have really exhausted an experience you always reverence and love it.

The two things that nearly all of us have thoroughly and really been through are childhood and youth. And though we would not have them back again on any account, we feel that they are both beautiful, because we have drunk them dry.'

Am I exhausting this experience I am going through now?
Will I be able to look back and know that I experienced the beauty of this place, for this season of my life?
Will I Iet this experience go through me - the difficulties, the pain, the dullness - and drain the cup dry?
I want to see the poetry in my pots and pans.

Rejoice in the Lord always...
The Lord is near...
Do not be anxious about anything...
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances...
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4