Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Formation of Character - forming opinions, toxic environments

Parents sometimes forget that it is their duty to give their children grounds for sound opinions upon many questions which concern us as human beings and as citizens; and then they are scandalised when the young folk air audacious views picked up from some advanced light of their own age and standing. But they will have views; the right to have and to hold an opinion is one of those points on which the youth makes a stand.

Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason, Pg 228

In Part III of the above book, Charlotte Mason is addressing the relationship between home and school life and aspects of discipline and training pertaining to both. The passage above was included under 'Table-Talk' which she believed afforded parents 'their best opportunity of influencing the opinions of the young.'
There is some very good advice regarding opportunities for parents navigating the years during which children are forming their opinions. Her view is that young people are trying to construct a chart to steer by. They want to know what to do and they also want to know what to think about everything.

But it's not our duty to think for our children...

A few parents are unjust in this matter. It is not only the right, but the duty of the growing intelligence to consider the facts that come before it, and to form conclusions; and the assumption that parents have a right to think for their children, and pass on their own views unmodified upon literature and art, manners and morals, is exceedingly trying to the young; the headstrong resent it openly, the easy-going avoid discussion, and take their own way.

'Table-Talk' worked well when all our children were all still homeschooling and life was more regular. Now we have older ones often absent at mealtimes - occupied with evening classes, Bible studies, meetings or sport. It's not always easy to have those conversations but I know they are still very important.

Many parents assume that once a young people reaches the age of 18 years, their work is done but the years from around this this age on need as much care (and prayer!) just in a different way, to previous years. I've heard enough sad stories of young people who seemed to be fine until they reached their late teens and even early twenties. There are so many important decisions to be made during these years and new spheres of influence are felt. A weak foundation with unformed opinions won't stand the pressure.

We recently had a state election and my son who had just turned 20 was voting for the first time. On the way to the polling booth we were talking about an issue that on the surface didn't seem important. I explained to him what I thought and what the consequences might be if pushed to its logical conclusion.

He hadn't made that connection. His generation has grown up in an environment different to that of mine. He has been home educated all his life, loves the Lord, is active in Church and involved in leadership, and has some great friends. But the culture around him leaks its toxins into the atmosphere. We're all affected by this toxicity to a certain extent but there are things his generation have never questioned because they are 'normal' to them. Now that he is spending more time in that environment he unwittingly is affected by it.

I want to use every opportunity to help my young adults chart these waters. Mealtimes may not be practical but some of my best conversations with my young adults have occurred in the most unlikely places - when I've been sensitive enough to see the open door.

'For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive very thought to make it obedient to Christ.'

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Saturday, 25 April 2015

An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute (1940)

An Old Captivity is the fifth book I've read by Nevil Shute (1899-1960). He is definitely an author I want to keep on reading. An engineer by trade, his great love was aircraft, and details of flying and various types of aircraft are often found in his stories. I'm not very technically inclined but I don't mind the detailed explanations he includes in some of his books.
There is a website devoted to Nevil Shute which includes an address made by his daughter at a Nevil Shute Celebration in 1999 in which she talks about her father and the type of man he was. The main character in An Old Captivity, David Ross, is a similar sort of character to the author.

The first couple of pages are narrated in the first person by a psychiatrist who is travelling through France on the same train as Ross. When the train is prevented from continuing on its journey to Rome due to a breakdown of the train ahead of them, the two men decide to have dinner together.
Over dessert, Ross suddenly asks the psychiatrist a question concerning dreams and reality. It is clear that Ross is concerned about his mental stability.

He stared at me across the table; there was a strained look about him, and I knew we were coming to the root of things...

I said gently: "We've got a long evening  before us. Would you like to tell me about it?"

What follows is a third person narrative of the events leading up to the meeting on the train. Donald Ross is employed by Oxford archaeologist, Mr. Lockwood, to pilot a plane to take him to Greenland on a surveying expedition.
Much to Ross's dismay, the don's very attractive but antagonistic daughter, Alix, insists on travelling with them, which seriously complicates their journey.
Nevil Shute usually includes a romantic thread in his stories and this book is no exception.
Upon reaching the old Viking colony at Brattalid, the combination of overwork, exhaustion and the use of medication to help him sleep, brings Ross to a point where he confuses reality.
At this point the chronology of the story fluctuates. The atmosphere of the old colony seeps into Ross's dreams and he becomes Haki, serving under Leif the Lucky with his woman, Hekja. When he awakes it is in a state of confusion. The dreams are so real; backed by evidence and circumstances.
It is an interesting twist to this unusual story but the book ends rather abruptly. Maybe Nevil Shute didn't know how to 'land' this one. Although it was an enjoyable, compelling story, it was a frustrating end for me as I kept thinking of what might have happened. 
During the expedition Ross grew fond of Alix. She began to appreciate his skill and his hard work and was genuinely concerned for his welfare when he was in a delirious state.  Did the budding romance fizzle out on their return to England? Why was Ross on a train to Rome at the beginning of the book and why didn't Shute take us back to the psychiatrist?

I read this in a Vintage Classic, one of the few paperbacks I'm happy to buy.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

ANZAC Day - 100th Anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landing at Gallipoli

Anzac Cove 

There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks;
There’s a beach asleep and drear,
There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea.
There are sunken trampled graves;
And a little rotting pier;
And winding paths that wind unceasingly.
There’s a torn and silent valley;
There’s a tiny rivulet
With some blood upon the stones beside its mouth.
There are lines of buried bones;
There’s an unpaid waiting debt;
There’s a sound of gentle sobbing in the South.

Leon Gellert (1892-1977)

Their Sacrifice Childrens Video-HD from Bible Society Australia on Vimeo.

As Australia commemorates 100 years since the Gallipoli campaign, we invite you to unearth and share some of these remarkable stories of courage, camaraderie and faith in conflict and rediscover the Book that carried them through the darkest of times: the Bible.

See this website here for resources and videos, such as the one above, for teaching children about Anzac Day. There is a free downloadable pdf here.

Brona's Books has a comprehensive list of World War I picture books and others for children, and Erin has some great selections here and here.

The Gallipoli campaign is covered briefly for primary aged children in the following books:

The Story of Australia (a Childcraft Book)
Our Sunburnt Country by Arthur Baillie (Ch 12)
History of Australia by Manning Clark, Meredith Hooper & Susanne Ferrier (Ch 21)

The Last to Leave

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, "What of these?' and "What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully

I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened - all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.

The Last to Leave was written by a 23 year old Australian soldier, Leon Gellert, upon the 1915 evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Keeping Nature Notebooks

Natural history is a matter of observation; it is a harvest which you gather when and where you find it growing. Birds and squirrels and flowers are not always in season, but philosophy we have always with us. It is a crop which we can grow and reap at all times and in all places and it has its own value and brings its own satisfaction.

John Burroughs (1837-1921)

In the Garden

Mr Froggie went a courtin' - can you find him?

Bees - 10 year old Moozle's journal:


Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

 John Lubbock (1834-1913)

Camellia sasanquas in flower...

 15 yr old Benji's journal:

Contented cat...

Clouds gathering before a storm...

On our Bush Walk

My journal - I'm not as regular with mine as my children are with theirs but I've always liked pressing flowers and so continue with that.

Do what you can where you are with what you have.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

Autumnal glory...