Thursday 28 May 2015

The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher - Newberry Honor Book this book has been inspiring in the acquisition of the French language

The war in Europe had just ended and Johnny Littlehorn's father was in France recovering from injuries he received when a German shell exploded near him. Johnny's mother was French and had met her husband in America. After their marriage they had settled on a ranch in Wyoming and now Johnny's mother, with the help of their old foreman, did what she could in her husband's absence to keep the ranch going.

One day, Johnny's father unexpectedly returned and announced they were all going to France. Johnny's mother had a younger brother who still lived in France and he had introduced Mr Littlehorn to some important people in the French army. As a consequence Mr. Littlehorn was asked to remain in France after the war and carry out liason work.
Once the family were in France, it was arranged that Johnny would stay with his 'Oncle' Paul while his parents went to England for a couple of months. Thus began an adventure which took Johnny through the countryside of France and into the centre of a plot hatched by a Nazi spy.
On its own this story is a good little mystery with a mix of spying, adventure and humour. The author has painted a realistic picture of a young boy who had to overcome substantial inner and outer obstacles. His portrayal of the boy's behaviour and thought processes is believable, but in addition the book has a unique and clever feature which sets it apart from other books with a similar theme.
During the course of the book, Johnny, who had no knowledge of French at the beginning, learns to speak and understand the language by the time the book is finished.

Knowing how to say "it's" was helpful. With that "c'est" I could make sentences. I could say, "C'est mon pere;" "C'est min once;" or I could say, "Le jour est beau;" and, "Le Parc est Bleu;" or I could ask. Us elf silly questions like, "est mon once Le Parc?" And answer myself, "Non, Le Parc est Le Parc." Maybe it seems foolish, but I found it was fun.

I ended my letter to my mother with French words I knew, such as: "C'est bon here in your village de St. Chamant...Mon once est giving me lecons in French...Le jour est beau although it rains a lot...Ou are you now, in London?...Jean va to bed..." and things like that.

I gave this book to my 10 year old after I'd read it. She has been learning French mostly by immersion, and mostly through song. This year she started a French notebook and has been doing copy work for French also. She enjoyed the story but I didn't think it was much help in the French department until she showed me the story she was writing.
She'd been listening to G.A. Henty's tale, In the Reign of Terror, for about the fourth time. The main character in the story is a young lad who goes to live with a family in France, learns to speak French and is instrumental in saving members of the family when they are caught up in excesses of the French Revolution. I could see that it was from that book that she got the initial inspiration for her characters and storyline.
After she'd read The Avion My Uncle Flew, I noticed the dialogue in her story was imitating the style used in that book. She also started using our French/English dictionary to help with her vocabulary and began writing words out in a notebook, just like Johnny (Jean) had done.
Here is a section of Chapter Two of her story:


The last page of The Avion My Uncle Flew is written completely in French and is the letter Jean/Johnny writes to his mother. The book slowly adds French words throughout and these last pages come together quite naturally. Very cleverly done, I think.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Madame How & Lady Why: Chapter 4 - The Transformation of a Grain of Soil

'Why, you ask, are there such terrible things as volcanos? Of what use can they be?'

The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains, in the Island of St Vincent, at Midnight, on the 30th of April, 1812, from a Sketch Taken at the Time by Hugh P. Keane, Esqre by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Pg 71 - The flow of a lava stream. This BBC site has some spectacular photos of lava flows.

Pg 72-73 - Trees ( I've put some pictures of these plus additional pictures & videos of other subjects on my Ambleside Online board at Pinterest).

Pg 73-74 - Kingsley tells about the threat by the eruption of Mt Etna on the town of Catania in Sicily. The story of Catania is also told by Fabre in The Story Book of Science. Fabre has a kinder attitude to the inhabitants of the town in his rendering of the story.

 Pg 74 - Lava entering the sea Hawaii (or Sandwich Islands as they used to be known).

I posted a video on the Mt St Helen's eruption which showed the damage done by the volcano to the fish population in Spirit Lake: MHLW: Part 3 - Volcanoes.
There are some spectacular photos of lava from a vent in Hawaii's Kilauea volcano as it reaches the sea on this National Geographic website. 

And now you will ask me, with more astonishment than ever, what possible use can there be in these destroying streams of fire? And certainly, if you had ever seen a lava stream even when cool, and looked down, as I have done, at the great river of rough black blocks streaming away far and wide over the land, you would think it the most hideous and the most useless thing you ever saw. And yet, my dear child, there is One who told men to judge not according to the appearance, but to judge righteous judgment. He said that about matters spiritual and human: but it is quite as true about matters natural, which also are His work, and all obey His will.

Pg 75 - The richness of volcanic soils. This short article answers the question of 'Why do people live on volcanoes?' 'Volcanic ash can be considered as a time-release capsule, rich in nutrients.'

Of course, when the lava first cools on the surface of the ground it is hard enough, and therefore barren enough. But Madam How sets to work upon it at once, with that delicate little water-spade of hers, which we call rain, and with that alone, century after century, and age after age, she digs the lava stream down, atom by atom, and silts it over the country round in rich manure. So that if Madam How has been a rough and hasty workwoman in pumping her treasures up out of her mine with her great steam-pumps, she shows herself delicate and tender and kindly enough in giving them away afterwards. 

Pg 78 - The 1812 eruption of St Vincent in the West Indies was witnessed by plantation owner and barrister, Hugh Perry Keane. He recorded his observations in a diary and also made a sketch which was what Turner based his painting above upon.

The Commonwealth

Pg 80 - Madame How's remaking of the land. The book below would be interesting for a child who's not an independent reader. It's recommended for Grades 2 to 4 and is based on the eruption of the Paricutin volcano (the volcano in a cornfield) in Mexico in 1943. I borrowed this book from the library years ago and it was a hit with the boys.

 Pg 77 - Kingsley mentions atoms in a few places and I found this video which gives a simple and clear explanation on atoms, molecules and bonding.

What's all the matter? Atoms and Molecules: Atoms, elements and molecules. Understanding the building blocks of matter.

 Pg 84  - there's a brief mention of millions of years

The Gallery of Natural Phenomena has some topics of general interest relating to what is covered in MHLW.


I forgot to add this video on the rock cycle:


For Resources for Chapter 5 of MHLW, The Ice-Plough see here.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Weekly Review - interrupted & unfinished, but good

A weekend away at a Mum Heart Conference gave me a refreshing start to this week. And a wedding at the end of the week on the Friday was a lovely finish.
The downside was getting some stitches on my nose in the middle of the week. A couple of anaesthetic needles shoved into your nose is not fun and neither is walking around with a pressure dressing on the centre of your face.
The Mum Heart Conference is based on Sally Clarkson's Mom's Heart in the USA but the Aussie version focuses on homeschooling mothers.
 I'd forgotten how encouraging it is to be around other people who share a similar vision on the heart of education - discipling our children, teaching them virtue, nurturing their souls.
I didn't realise how thirsty I was for fellow travellers and it did me good to see so many young women just beginning this journey with their children and to meet up again unexpectedly with friends I hadn't seen for years, not to mention making new ones.

Not everything got done this week but when that happens I take note of what was missed and make it a priority the next week.
Here are some things we did do:
Plutarch's Life of Timoleon - we completed this and Moozle wrote a funeral speech for him because of course he died at the end:

Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well -we also finished this play. Benj did a written narration after we listened and read along with the audio each week. I didn't see it until the play was finished but it was around 13 pages - so I won't post it here.

Moozle's Reading

We have one more week of Term 2 using my modified version of Ambleside Online Year 4 which is going well. I've added How Did We Find Out About Vitamins? by Isaac Asimov to our Science reading this term. There is quite detailed information in this book but Asimov's writing is very accessible and he brings the subject alive. It's out of print but I've picked up his books at library sales, ebay & Abebooks.

She has been going through some of the Jungle Doctor books by Australian author Paul White this past week. A few of my children really loved his medical missionary stories based in Africa.

Helping Dad put new locks on the windows...

Benj's Reading

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper - a great classic; starts slowly and is a bit of a challenge reading-wise but very worthwhile.

The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason - my friend, Kathy, is an old movie officiando. I'm not, but she tells me about these obscure movies she loves and then I try to find the book they were based on. This book has been filmed several times but it's taken me a long time to find a copy and then it was only online. The University of Adelaide is an old book lover's paradise and they keep adding new titles to their website. Their Kindle versions are so well done and I found the book there. Written in 1902, The Four Feathers is the story of a young man redeeming his character from the charge of cowardice. Benj's comment - "It's good. You should read it." I haven't yet.

Jensen's Format Writing is a book I've used with one Benj's older brothers and it seems a good fit for Benj. Well, I gave him a choice between this, the AO Year 10 selections and Wordsmith Craftsman, which I also have. He liked the look of Jensen's best, plus he preferred to use a book rather than an online programme.

He's done a fair bit of Grammar in the past and is covering that in Latin also but I wanted to keep it fresh in his mind. One of my girls tutored first and second year students at university and a major problem for many of them was their lack of grammar skills. This series of books is good for an  overview or for picking up problem areas and they only take a few minutes. Benj is only doing a page a week. The answer key is in the back.


I'll end with a quote that was read at the wedding we attended that I thought was a wonderful choice.

Love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners receive from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: the quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it. 
C.S. Lewis

Linking to Weekly Wrap-Up

Monday 18 May 2015

All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare (1604)

All's Well That Ends Well was based on a story from the Decameron (a collection of tales written in the 14th Century) and is often described as a problem play. It appears to be a comedy - it contains humorous scenes such as the interrogation of Parolles, and love wins out in the end - but there are other aspects of the play which are unlike Shakespeare's other comedies.
The story takes place in Rossilion, Paris, Florence and Marseilles.

 Helena & the Countess, Folger Shakespeare

The Main Players

Countess of Rossilion (or Rousillon)
Bertram - her son, the Count of Rossilion after his father's death Helena - a gentlewoman of the household
Lavatch - the Countess's clown
Parolles - a friend of Bertram's

King of France
Lafew (or Lafeu) - a old Lord
First & Second Lord Dumaine - Lords in the King's service  

Widow Capilet
Diana - her daughter

The Storyline

The King of France is ill and no one can cure him. When his friend Count Rossilion dies, he commands Bertram, the Count's son, to attend him at court.
Bertram takes leave of his mother and goes to the King in Paris.
As the King reminisces about Bertram's father, he laments that the skilful physician, Gerard de Narbon, is also dead and cannot help him.
Helena, the physician's daughter has been living under the care of the Countess Rossilion and secretly loves Bertram. When Bertram goes to Paris, Helena follows him and by using knowledge learnt from her father, she cures the King.
The King rewards her by allowing her to choose a husband from among the bachelors at his court and she chooses Bertram.
Bertram declares he cannot marry Helena because she is of an inferior class, but after threats from the King, he goes ahead with the marriage. Unwilling to consummate the marriage, he tells Helena to go to his mother under some pretence and he immediately runs away to the wars in Italy with his friend Parolles.
Bertram writes to Helena from Florence and says:

When thou canst get the ring upon my finger, which never shall come off, and show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband; but in such a "then" I write a "never."

The Countess is furious with her son's behaviour and blames Parolles' influence. Helena goes on a pilgrimage to Florence and there she meets the Widow Capilet and her daughter Diana, who is being courted by Bertram. When Helena reveals her situation to the Capilet's, they fall in with her plan and Bertram is told that Helena is dead. Under cover of darkness, Helena takes Diana's place and goes to meet Bertram, who has promised to marry Diana. He gives Helena his ring, believing her to be Diana, and in return receives the ring that the King gave to Helena after she had cured him. Helena conceives a child that night and Bertram returns to his mother's house unaware that he had shared his bed with his wife and not Diana.
The King is also at Rossilion and expresses his grief over Helena's death. Bertram asks for his forgiveness saying that he did love Helena but when the King sees the ring he gave Helena, Bertram is suspected to have done her harm.
Diana arrives not long after which compounds affairs even more until Helena finally enters, tells Bertram that she has fulfilled both conditions he placed upon her and he declares that he will love her dearly, forever.

The king's a beggar, now the play is done; All is well ended, if this suit be done...

We listened to the BBC Arkangel audio as we read the play, spreading it over about 11 weeks. I read along with the Cambridge School guide and Benj read it from this website
Some thoughts:

Bertram - initially I was a little sympathetic towards him as he was expected to marry someone he had no wish to. His attitude and behaviour quickly put an end to that. He was self-seeking and callous; immature and easily led. His change of heart towards the end of the play seems a little strange.

Helena - a mixed bag. I thought she was rather insipid at times but she did end up displaying some strength of character. Did she really love Bertram or was she just ambitious? Why would she want to marry a man who had been so indifferent to her?

Countess Rossilion - a just, sensible woman who, although she thought Parolles was a bad influence on her son, didn't make excuses for Bertram's bad behaviour.

Parolles - was the source of some light hearted moments in the play even though he was a rogue. He learnt some humility towards the end.

Lafew - the quick witted old Lord discerned Parolles' true nature.

The King - benevolent and kind; his behaviour in the scenes towards the end of the play where the situation comes to a head is amusing.

Diana - both she & her mother were decent people and wanted to do what was right. She had a good head upon her shoulders and didn't allow herself to be taken in by Bertram's flattery.

Something that stood out to me was that apart from Bertram, all the people of rank and position in the play were honourable and well-intentioned. The Countess, for example, loved Helena and was happy for her to marry Bertram even though she was beneath him in rank.

This play is probably best left until highschool unless you use an abridged version such as Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales From Shakespeare. There are some interesting ideas & themes for discussion in this play regarding relationships and morals.

All's Well That Ends Well is my choice for A Classic Play as part of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015.