Friday 28 August 2015

Education is the Science of Relations...Connections

We started learning the hymn St. Patrick's Breastplate last week. I usually make up my own schedule for hymns & folksongs but the hymn suggestion on the Ambleside Online rotation for September contains these beautiful words taken from a prayer of St. Patrick and I decided it was too good to miss:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same
The three in one and one in three

 I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay,
God’s ear to hearken to my need,
the wisdom of my God to teach,
God’s hand to guide, God’s shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
God’s heavenly host to be my guard.

The version I've posted here is different to the traditional tune and is used by the Celtic monks.
The complete words of this hymn and some explanations of its meaning are on this site also.
The hymn starts properly at about the 2 minute mark.

The words to this hymn have been running through my mind all week. I've been using Dawn's free study of Charlotte Mason's motto with Moozle - I am a child of God, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...and it ties in beautifully with this prayer of St Patrick's.

Recently I've seen more and more eidence that a child naturally connects with many things. Charlotte Mason called it the 'Science of Relations.' I looked up the definiton of 'relations' and found some words that I could substitute in its place which helps to make sense of her idea. Words such as: connections, links, bonds, associations.
I always feel quite excited when these connections or relations happen without me having anticipated  or planned them.
We were reading Age of Fable the other day and came to the story of Hero & Leander. This was Moozle's short synopsis of the story:

 'There lived in the town of Abydos, a youth by the name of Leander, who loved a maiden who lived across the other side of the Hellespont (Dardanelles), in the town of Sestos. Her name was Hero and he used to swim across to visit her. One day he was swimming across, when a storm arose, and it was so violent that he drowned. When Hero heard about it she threw herself into the sea.
Swimming across the Hellespont was thought impossible, until Lord Byron did it.'

The Hellespont had come up somewhere else and immediately she was able to associate some previously separate ideas and learn also that Lord Byron, the writer of The Destruction of Sennacherib, a poem we have used for memory work, was a pretty good swimmer as well as a famous poet.
In fact, on the 30th August each year, a traditional swim is held to commemorate Lord Byron's swim from Europe to Asia in 1810 which he did in honour of Leander. He wrote a poem about it afterwards.

This was Lord Byron's account, although I think the modern swim is more like 3 km and contestants are given one and a half hours to complete it:

 This morning I swam from Sestos to Abydos. The immediate distance is not above a mile, but the
current renders it hazardous...I attempted it a week ago, and failed, - owing to the north wind, and the wonderful rapidity of the tide, - though I have been from my childhood a strong swimmer. But, this morning being calmer, I succeeded, and crossed the 'broad Hellespont' in an hour and ten minutes. 

And another neat little connection for us was finding that the current artist we're studing (J.M.W. Turner) painted The Parting of Hero and Leander in 1837:

A highlight from Macbeth:
We've probably enjoyed Shakespeare's comedies more than his tragedies but this week we hit some fun when we read from Act 5: Scene 3. Some good insults were stored up for future use...

'Thou cream-faced loon!'
'Where got'st thou that goose-look?
'Thou lily-livered boy!'

A Philosophy of Education, Pg xxx:

"Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books...

Family lunch extravaganza ie. everyone turns up so there's quite a crowd. Benj & Moozle cooked & prepared all the food with help from their Aunty D & Donna Hay...

Nothing fancy yet, but Moozle can cast on & off by herself & knows the basic stitches...

Connecting maths with science...

Nature lore...

Linking up with Weekly Wrap-up.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

The Spartan by Caroline Dale Snedeker

The historian Herodotus (c. 485-425 BC) in his narrative history, which records the wars between the Greeks and the Persians, gives an account of a young man named Aristodemos. Caroline Dale Snedeker has taken this brief description, fleshed it out and brought this period of ancient history vibrantly to life.
The son of Lykos, a cultured Athenian and his Spartan wife, Makaria, Aristdemos grew up in Athens, inbibing the culture, the love of beauty, the songs of Homer and his father's ideas of freedom. When he was 10 years old his father was killed in an accident and he and his mother returned to her hometown in Sparta. Here he was thrust into the rigours of a Spartan training camp, which appalled and disgusted him.

Aristodemos was placed under Leonidas, his 'ilarch,' who trained him but also offered him his friendship. As the young boy gradually learnt the ways of the Spartans, he became a respected warrior and Leonidas's closest companion.

"Thy mother loveth and honoureth the thee," remarked Leonidas. They were throwing the disk in the Dromos, where Aristodemos's skill was gradually creeping up to the record of his friend. Aristodemos paused, thoughtful, with bowed head, disk in hand.
"She loved me not when I was poor and unheeded. I think it is my victory she love the more than me."

Leonidas eventually became King of Sparta and when King Xerxes and his Persian host threatened the countries of Greece, Aristodemos went with Leonidas to defend the Pass of Thermopylae.
Originally published as The Coward of Thermopylae in 1911, the book was republished as The Spartan in 1912, and in the preface to the 1912 edition the author wrote:

The new title of the book will be found a little less misleading than the former. One must perhaps know our hero well before the "Coward of Thermopylae" can become an affectionate paradox.

Getting to know our hero Aristodemos, the only survivor of The Battle of Thermopylae, well, is the substance of this book.

Some thoughts:

The Spartan is scheduled in Year 12 of Ambleside Online and at first glance it might appear out of place at that level. Caroline Dale Snedeker wrote a number of historically accurate novels for children but this book is more than just a story set in Ancient Greece. The differences culturally and philosophically between the people of Athens and those of Sparta is skilfully shown; the splendour of the Persians and the hubris of Xerxes; the realities of Spartan training, their embracing of death and the fatalistic fear inspired by their gods are interwoven in the story.

...something in the brightness of the face, the joyous nod of the golden head, struck Leonidas with that shrewd ancient fear of the Greeks.

"Be not so openly glad, Aristodemos," he said. "Remember the signet ring of Polycrates the fortunate one, which the gods returned to him from the sea before they came to destroy him. Some things the gods will not brook, and for the too-happy man there is no escape, turn he this way or that!"

One of the strongest pictures for me was the absolute rejection of Aristodemos by his mother after the Battle of Thermopylae. Following the natural progression of a philosophical outlook to its end - in this case a mother who would curse and spurn her son who returned from battle, without knowing the circumstances, and wish him dead - was a powerful way to portray and bring the Spartan philosophy to life.
Our philosophy of life is reflected in how we live and act, and bears fruit in keeping with itself.

I really like historically based books like this to have a map but fortunately, it doesn't have any, so here's one from Wikipedia.

Friday 21 August 2015

Weekly Review: A Fly on the Wall

This year has been a very different one to previous years. Up until last year I had five children who were all home at different times throughout the week, studying or working part time and for the few years before that there were seven filling up the house. It's been a very a different dynamic this year with only the two youngest at home during the day.
I've always had a flexible approach to home schooling and whilst I can't see myself getting rigid, I think I do need to be more structured. When I had lots of kids to teach, I naturally fell into a routine. I had to or I never would have got anything done. Now that I don't have the same pressure of circumstances, it's easier to let the time leak.
Sometimes I find it helpful to write down what we're doing as we go, to get a better idea of where the leaks are occurring and to see where I need to be more intentional.
This is a fly on the wall's view of a couple of days of this past week.


Got up at 7am.
Zana (22) first year of teaching (Year 6); Nougat (18) apprentice plumber, have already left for work
Benj, Moozle & I do our individual Bible reading 
8am - Dad leaves for work 

Benj (15)- Maths & Science; Jensen's Format Writing

Hoggy (20) goes for a run, and then heads off to TAFE - he's in his 3rd year of a 4 year cadetship & studying electrical engineering technology.

Moozle (10) - Cello practice. I do some patchwork and keep an eye on her practice to make sure she's doing what she should. She has an exam in about three weeks.

Copy work; listens to times tables & does her drawing practice using Mark Kistler's Draw Squad:

Singapore maths with me

Age of Fable - I've been reading this aloud to her; oral narration
Drawing pactice while listening to Dvorak's Largo:

Benj - piano practice

Moozle - Dictation, Grammar using the dictation passage (colour the proper nouns blue, underline nouns in purple, circle the verbs green.

'Europe was at peace, and Napoleons in exile on the Isle of Elba. Matthew hardly knew of this, for he had been in bed sixteen weeks, steadily becoming weaker.'

Maths speed drill
Poetry review while continuing with drawing 

Lunch - free reading 

Together time

Devotions: Bible, memory work, prayer time
Poetry - William Wordsworth. I've used The Harp & Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist to delve a little deeper with poetry with the older children. She has some commentary on various poems & a good selection.
Read aloud: A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey - an Australia classic set in the outback of Western Australia. It's good.

Hoggy comes home - takes Benj to work at 3.30pm
Moozle and I go to Orchestra rehearsal
Home around 5.30pm
I pick up Benj from work. He's doing some training for the part-time job he's starting which has thrown a spanner in the works a few days this week.


Zana and I have a quick trip to the Library
Come home and spend some time with that man of mine.


6am - Dad has a conference call at home for work
7am - I head off to the markets on my own to do a quick shop
8am - I get home; cook breakfast & dh and I have some time together before he goes to work

Benj - Maths, Reading, oral narration, piano practice
Moozle - Maths, Cello practice, Latin 

I read aloud Old Man River and Monarch of the Western Skies to Moozle while she 
does her drawing practice (she likes drawing, in case you didn't realise)
French & copy work

We take Benj to work at 12pm
Listen to Folksong:

Washing & other domestics
We leave home around 3pm to pick Benj up from work and go to swimming lessons.
5.30pm - I head home with Moozle & make dinner.
Thursday evenings are generally erratic at our place with swimming, soccer, and everyone arriving home at all different times.
Usually I go back to the pool to get Benj but not tonight. Dad is running late so he goes straight to the pool so I can start:

7pm - Book Club at my place. We're working through Start Here by Brandy at Afterthoughts.
I've really enjoyed reading through For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay yet again. Brandy's study links the chapters in Schaeffer's book to Charlotte Mason's Philosophy of Education:

The rest of the family go to bed before we finish our study...
11.30pm - winding down & off  to bed at midnight.

Some things are worth losing a bit of sleep & again.

Linking up with Weekly Wrap-up

Thursday 20 August 2015

All Hail Macbeth!

"God's benison go with you, and with those
That would make good of bad, and friends of foes."

William Shakespeare

I've mentioned previously that we are listening to & reading Shakespeare's Macbeth and on the weekend we headed for the hills to be present at MariMudge Shakespeare's first ever performance of that very play.

 The Cast

L to R: Mr T - 15yrs; Mr. I - 15 yrs; Miss C - 7 yrs; Miss S - 13 yrs; Miss M - 8 yrs; Miss L - 14 yrs.

I was privileged to have a rare interview with two of the weird sisters, and I must say that casting the pair in this role was a stroke of genius. Who would have known that these two with their child-like demeanour and seeming innocence would have led Macbeth down the path he took?

 But 'tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
In deepest consequence.

Macbeth: Act 1: Scene 3

Beware, Macbeth!
Not really, my nieces are very sweet!

The Royal Shakespeare Company production starring Ian McKellen and Judi Dench is a sparse but good interpretation of Macbeth we watched a few years ago. The scene where Macduff's wife is murdered is one you might want to skip but apart from that nothing else comes to mind. Even so, it would be better appreciated by those of a high school age as it relies mostly on dialogue and there isn't much in the way of props. Both actors are wonderful and the weird sisters not as creepy as those found in other versions of Macbeth.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth: Act 5: Scene 5

The Gael  - this piece is mostly known by its inclusion in the film, The Last of the Mohicans, but it was written by a Scot, Dougie Maclean (The Gael = The Scot or Scotsman). It's a stirring piece of music so I can understand why they pinched it. Here it is so you can feel the Scottish atmosphere of  Macbeth...

Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!

Lady Macbeth: Act 5: Scene 1 

Although Shakespeare based his play on fact - Macbeth did rule Scotland in the eleventh century - he  changed some historical and chronological details. The book Macbeth and Son by Jackie French is an interesting version of the character of Macbeth which takes a very different view to that of Shakespeare. It uses a modern setting and interweaves the time period of Macbeth's Scotland into the narrative. One of my daughters really enjoyed this book, when she was around 13 years (?) of age:

There is an account of Macbeth in H.E. Marshall's Scotland's Story


Saturday 15 August 2015

Madame How & Lady Why - Chapter 6: The True Fairy Tale

You like to draw: but why you like it neither you nor any man can tell. It is one of the mysteries of human nature; and that poor savage clothed in skins, dirty it may be, and more ignorant than you (happily) can conceive, when he sat in the cave scratching on ivory the figures of the animals he hunted, was proving thereby that he had the same wonderful and mysterious human nature as you; that he was the kinsman of every painter and sculptor who ever felt it a delight and duty to copy the beautiful works of God.

Madame How & Lady Why

See the Study Guide by Katie Barr at Ambleside Online for helpful commentary on this chapter. Old earth references will be found on some of the sites below.

Pg. 106-107: French cave paintings and rock archive - lots of photos.

The map below is in a pdf format here and may be printed.

Cave Painting Locations

Pg 107: The Lena River where Woolly Rhino carcasses were found. No commentary, just beautiful scenery:

Historical references to the Woolly Rhino

Scholarly article with some interesting information on the Woolly Rhino find in Siberia if you'd like to delve into this a bit more.

Pg. 109: The Irish elk - not actually Irish nor elk but a gigantic deer, Megaloceros giganteus. See here and here.

Pg 108 - The Ice Age

Pg 114: Middens - what they are & what they tell us.

Middens provide an insight into earlier occupation of sites. This one, at the NW edge of Traigh na Beirigh, Great Britain, indicates shellfish in the diet.

Pg 116 - Kingsley talks about 'Neanderthal man' in a very derogatary fashion - that he was 'like an ape' & 'would have eaten you if he could.' This article shows how the view of Neanderthal man has changed in recent times.

Over the past several years, the scientific community has witnessed (not always to its liking, I might add) a serious “redefining” of the Neanderthal people. Some anthropologists of the past depicted them as culturally stagnant, if not outright stupid, individuals. In 1996, however, researchers were forced to reevaluate their long-held views on Neanderthals...

I found this video of the Lacaux caves which were discovered in France in 1940, well after Kingsley's time - but it's in French! However, it doesn't look too difficult & I'm going to go through it with Moozle and see how she goes translating it, or the gist of it at least.

Update: Chauvet Cave, France - in English! Thanks to Zoe for the suggestion.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Non-Fiction Living Books for World War II: We Die Alone by David Howarth

About seven years ago I happened upon an audio version of this book in the library when I was looking for something to listen to as an incentive to get a mega load of ironing done. I enjoyed the story enough to buy the book and it was a great addition to our collection of non-fiction books for World War II.
This is an amazingly true story of bravery, faithfulness, courage and survival against literally all odds that took place during the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II.
In March, 1943, twelve men, expatriate Nowegian commandos, set sail from the Shetland Islands to the north coast of Norway with two objectives: to train the locals in the skills of sabotage and later to attack and destroy a large German military airfield.
By an unlucky chance their plans are ruined; they are betrayed and forced to abandon their boat when they are met by a German warship as they approach land. One of the group is killed in the attempt to reach the shore, ten are captured and later executed, and one man, twenty-six year old Jan Baalsrud, escapes. This book is his story.

'If Jan had stopped to think, everything would have seemed hopeless. He was alone, in uniform, on a small bare island, hunted by about fifty Germans. He left a deep track, as he waded through the snow, which anyone could follow. He was wet through and had one bare foot, which was wounded, and it was freezing hard. The island was separated from the mainland by two sounds, each several miles wide, which were patrolled by the enemy, and all his money and papers had been blown up in the boat.'

Jan escapes from the island by swimming across the sound. Exhausted and finally unconscious, he is swept ashore where he is found by some children and is taken into their home and cared for. From there he is later rowed to the mainland with the intent of making an attempt to reach Sweden on skis, a distance of sixty miles, but is caught in an avalanche.......concussed, wandering four days and nights in the mountains, snow blinded, frost bitten and gangrene infected, delirious and almost dead, Jan gives up hope, but a group of isolated arctic villagers are determined to save him.

The author first heard the skeleton of this story during the war but it wasn't until ten years later that he had the opportunity to visit the far north of Norway to find out what had really happened and to piece all the individual recollections and events together to form a true account. He has seen nearly all the places mentioned, met almost all the people and has given a detailed, absorbing account.
All through the story there are shining acts of charity shown to Jans by his fellow Norwegians, incredible coincidences and feats of bravery.

At one stage Jan completely loses hope and would have committed suicide but he was physically incapable of the act:

It was absurd really. He felt he had made a fool of himself. He had struggles so long to preserve his own life that now he had not enough strength in his fingers to kill himself. If he had not felt ashamed, he would have laughed.

An outstanding story and a great choice for a boy! My children read the book when they were about 13 years of age and as I was writing this, I had two of my boys remark that they thought this book was great. Courage, resilience, Arctic conditions, wolves - all the right ingredients & all the better because it actually happened.

I originally posted this about two years ago but updated it with some more detail.