Sunday 26 November 2017

Year 7 AmblesideOnline: highights from Term 1

We've finished the first term of Ambleside Online Year 7 and here are some highlights and thoughts about some of what we've done. To see my original plans and some book substitutes see this post.

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

This is the first time we've used Folger Theatre audios for Shakespeare. We've used Naxos and Arkangel recordings in the past which were very good, but as I buy most things like this from BookDepository and they didn't have the audios I usually order, I decided to try out Folger, which also happened to be discounted.
As you might expect, they are very well done, but it was weird hearing Shakespearean actors speaking with American accents! They also don't have an outline showing which scenes start when - so if you happen to stop half way through a scene, for example, you have to mess around fast forwarding until you get to the right spot. However, nothing I can't work with.

Nature Study

I haven't been as intentional about this as I usually am due to circumstances but Moozle likes to go outside and feed the birds and I have some herbs and cucumbers doing nicely up on our verandah.
We found this 'fiddler beetle' yesterday and if you look at its back you can make out the shape of a fiddle/violin.

We had a couple of packets of seeds and to check to see if they were still viable, we put them in ziploc bags with a damp paper towel. We also grew a couple of bean seeds to watch their growth.

African Daisy


We've been taking turns reading sections of this book aloud each week - much better than just reading it silently. This passage jumped out to me because it shows that the tendency to overlook a person of substance and character for another who perhaps has charisma, but is mostly bluff, is nothing new:

'He had been poorly regarded for a long time, was taken by the Geats for less than he was worth; and their lord too had never much esteemed him in the mead-hall. They firmly believed that he lacked force, that the prince was a weakling; but presently every affront to his deserving was reversed.'

Wonderbook of Chemistry - experiments with air. Going well with this book & it continues for the remainder of Year 7. I started off reading it aloud but after a few lessons Moozle continued on her own.

Ten Fingers for God - a wondefrul biography of Dr. Paul Brand that I scheduled in place of one of the AO devotional books. Moozle read this on her own and enjoyed it very much.

The Brendan Voyage - this book continues until the end of Term 2 and it's a great read. I'm reading it aloud (there are a few profanities scattered throughout the book) & it's one of Moozle's favourites.

Churchill's Birth of Britain - I've used Churchill's series on British history with all seven of my children and I think because they read so much historical fiction by authors such as Rosemary Sutcliff, G.A. Henty, Cynthia Harnett, Barbara Willard & Henry Treece prior to coming to his books, they had no trouble grasping the detail presented by Churchill, or at least they had a fair amount of background knowledge not to feel swamped.

The Weather Book - this has not been a favourite, which surprised me as Moozle enjoys science and her next brother up really liked this book. She has engaged much more with the Wonderbook of Chemistry & The Secrets of the Universe series but I'm pressing on with this as I think it's an excellent book. I've learnt not to discard a book if it seems too hard and have found that pushing through a difficult read does have its reward.


We started Latin Alive! 1 published by Classical Academic Press a couple of months ago and it's been timely and a great fit. I wrote about it here.


Continuing with French for Children B, also by Classical Academic Press. I'm hoping the next book in the series is printed by the time we've finished this one!


I posted the books we're using in the AO Year 7 link at the top of this page. We're not rushing this and will probably extend this study into the next year or two but it's been going well and this little book that we're using is fantastic!

The Fallacy Detective - fun & interesting!

The Grammar of Poetry

We're sailing through this nicely at present. I remember it covers some more challenging concepts later on, but Moozle has always enjoyed composition and poetry so I'm not expecting any problems & can slow things down if I think we need to.

Other highlights from this term:

A Grade 6 Cello exam took place about two weeks ago and Moozle passed with an 'A' so she was super happy. It took a lot of work and that squeezed out some other things for a while.

Our eldest daughter & her husband had their first child, our first grandchild, and made two aunties and four uncles out of our other children. Christmas is going to be fun!

Saturday 25 November 2017

AusReading Month: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner (1894)

Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner is a beloved Australian children’s classic that was first published in 1894 and has never been out of print since. So it with some trepidation and ducking of the head that I am going to say that I was fairly underwhelmed when I finally got around to reading it. My three girls read it before me - they were about 9 years of age when they first read it. As far as I remember, they all liked it, although it didn’t appeal to them as much as some of the other Australian classics they read around the same age e.g. The Silver Brumby and Billabong books.

At one point the story reminded me of an incident in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which was published twenty-five years earlier. Meg is the eldest daughter of the family in this book, as was Meg (Margaret) in Little Women. In both books ‘Meg’ is influenced by another girl to put on airs and act out of character and a young man is pivotal in both instances in helping 'Meg' see the foolishness of her behaviour.
My 12 year old re-read Seven Little Australians recently so I asked her if it reminded her of any other book she’d read. It hadn’t, and I mentioned that I thought in one part that it was similar to Little Women. Her reply was that ‘Seven Little Australians didn’t carry on about morals, unlike Little Women...'

If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately...
Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.

But my daughter also said that she hated the ending.
Which brings me to a couple of things I think was problematic with the story: the ending felt rushed and melodramatic, and the characters were never satisfyingly developed. I never felt I got to know anyone well enough and out of the two characters I thought had development potential, one is dispatched by the author before the story finishes.
However, the book is definitely worth reading and the writing itself is excellent and of literary quality, as you would expect of a classic that has never been out of print.

Linking up for the AusReading Challenge 2017 @ Brona's Books

Wednesday 22 November 2017

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge

Adam @ Roof Beam Reader is bringing back his TBR Pile reading challenge in 2018. To enter choose 12 previously unread books (plus two alternative titles) that have been sitting on your shelf for at least a year and post them on a Master List.
Then read and review (this doesn't have to be fancy) and update your Master List as you finish each review.
Crossovers from other challenges are acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2017!

You have until January 15th, 2018 to post your complete and final list on your blog

For more details see here.

My 2018 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1) The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge (1956)
2) The Refugees by A. Conan Doyle (1892)
3) The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1973)
4) Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (1955)
5) School Education by Charlotte E. Mason (1925)
6) The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1948)
7) The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1898) 
8) In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (1969)
9) The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (1942)
10) And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie (1939)
Sick Heart River by John Buchan (1941)
12) Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy (1877)

Alternative titles:

Unnatural Death
by Dorothy L. Sayers (1927)
by John Hersey (1946)

(Subject to change up until the 15th January...)

Monday 20 November 2017

Classical Academic Press - Review & Giveaway! Latin Alive 1

'Hardly any lawful price would seem to me too high for what I have gained 
by being made to learn Latin and Greek.' 
C.S. Lewis

Some background

I’d always wanted our children to study Latin but, like many other home educators, I had no background in the language myself, unless the medical terminology I learned years ago counts.
I’ve attempted Latin with all seven of my children but, like our French language learning, I spent quite a bit of money on curriculum that either wasn’t comprehensive enough, too difficult for me to teach or for them to use independently, or it was dull and lifeless. This was most noticeable around the ages of about 11 or 12 years when they were ready for a challenge, could handle the grammar, but also needed a creative, lively approach.

I started using French for Children by Classical Academic Press (CAP) with my daughter nearly two years ago just before she turned eleven & she loves it.
She had also been studying Latin using some resources we already had, some of which were good introductions to the language, but as time went on she started to complain about the lack of explanations, that the material was boring, and that it all seemed rather pointless. This was the same scenario I faced with her older siblings.
One day she said, “If Latin was taught like my (CAP) French I wouldn’t mind learning it.”
Enough said.

Classical Academic Press kindly provided me with a free Latin Alive! 1 bundle to use and review. This is our sixth week of using this approach and I’m very pleased with how much my daughter is actually enjoying Latin. Here are my honest thoughts on the curriculum and how we are using it:

Latin Alive! Book 1 by Classical Academic Press is the first in a series of three texts designed for about 7th to 8th Grade students and up. It is the next step after CAP's Latin for Children but it is also suitable for students with no previous Latin knowledge and the DVD’s allow the student to work independently. (see video samples on YouTube)

My 12-year-old finds it challenging but not overwhelming. This is partly due to the grammar she has covered in her French studies and her ability to think more logically now that’s she’s older.

Classical Academic Press recommend that younger students follow one of two options, depending on their academic level (see their FAQ):

1)    Complete all three Latin for Children Primers (Levels A–C), then start Latin Alive! Book 2.
2)    Complete Latin for Children Primers A and B, then move into Latin Alive! Book 1.

I did consider using Latin for Children C before commencing Latin Alive! 1 and I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed when this curriculum arrived and I started looking through it. I thought perhaps I'd made the wrong decision.
Latin Alive! is extremely comprehensive and chock-a-block full, but after going through the introductory section of the first DVD, it was much less daunting. Now that we’re six weeks in, I think it’s an ideal fit for my daughter.

Latin teacher, Karen Moore, shares her own story of learning Latin on the first DVD: she explains how her love of Latin developed after her mother made her take Latin in Year 7, and why the study of Latin is relevant to us today. This was so good for my daughter to hear as well as being an encouragement to me.

The Latin Alive! bundle:

•    Latin Alive! Level 1 Student Edition - 268 pages

•    36 weekly chapters - 29 of these contain new material, the others are review

•    A section is included at the back of the Student Edition listing vocabulary chapter by chapter and reference charts for declensions etc

•    Latin Alive! Level 1 Teacher’s Edition - 323 pages; includes the complete student text & answer keys. The answer key to each chapter is found at the end of each chapter in the Teacher’s Edition; Student pages directly correspond with the Teacher’s pages

•   Teacher's Extras in the back of the book contain various worksheets, projects and seven unit tests to be given after the unit review chapters are included

•    Latin Alive! 1 - DVD & CD set with over fifteen hours of teaching on seven DVDs. The audio CD contains unit review Latin readings so that students can practice proper pronunciation and accent. The DVDs use the Classical pronunciation and a streaming option is also available

What Latin Alive! looks like in real life:

•    Each of the 7 DVD’s in Latin Alive! 1 contain between three to five chapters, and each chapter is about 30 to 50 minutes long.

•    We decided to cover one chapter per week over three days. This usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes each day, although some additional time may be added for writing exercises. My daughter also keeps a Latin Notebook where she writes definitions or other material she wants to remember. It might be better for some students to spread the lesson over the week but this works best for us at present.

Last week we did Chapter 5 and this is how it looked:

Day 1: Watched a section of the video that went over new vocabulary and explained transitive and intransitive verbs. The video teacher directs the student to stop the video and complete exercises in the student book as they go through the chapter together. Wrote definitions in Latin notebook.

Day 2: Continued with the DVD, going back where necessary to review the previous day’s explanations. Learned about the accusative case and direct object and completed assigned exercises. Finished watching the video for the chapter.

Day 3: Chapter reading - these readings started in Chapter 4 and at the beginning consisted of short sentences in Latin about Greece and Troy. By the time the student reaches Chapter 7, the readings are about two paragraphs long.
Read the Culture Corner, a short section to help the student learn about the culture and history of the Romans.
Derivative Detective - found a derivative for amat, nautical and spectat
Collaquamur or ‘Let’s Talk’ - used some questions and responses to review nouns; used ‘eye’ Latin to try to identify words.

I asked my daughter to say what she liked about this curriculum and this was her response:

Well laid out
It doesn’t assume you know all your grammar, but teaches you everything step by step
Good teacher, explains things well
Teaches you how to pronounce words properly
Nice music

The Student and Teacher editions plus the DVD & CD set include everything you need for this course, although it is suggested that you have access to a Latin/English dictionary.
Here are some free online versions:

Online Latin

A support page for Latin Alive! is provided on the CAP website.

The only negative comment I have to make is that the Latin Alive! 1 text has recently been revised but the DVD won't be updated to match the text until next year. I understand that this primarily affects Chapter 1 and that CAP has created an errata sheet for families to use in the meantime. This wasn't an issue for us as it was only a matter of page or exercise numbers and it only took a few seconds to find the correct one.

Classical Academic Press is giving away three Latin Alive! 1 bundles to entrant with a USA residential address. To enter via Rafflecopter please visit the following blogs:

Julie @ Nurturing Learning, Karen @ Living Unabridged or Melissa @ Reflections from Drywood Creek

A 20% discount off the purchase of any Latin Alive product is available with the discount code LAJourney1 throughout the course of the giveaway for anyone to use. 

If you order from CAP with the 20% off and then win the giveaway, you will be refunded.

Giveaway ends at midnight on December 5th. Winners will be contacted by email. Winners who do not respond by the deadline given in the winners' email will be replaced by random drawing.

Thank you Classical Academic Press for supporting this Giveaway. Learn more about them and their excellent products at the Classical Academic Press website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday 14 November 2017

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill is the sixth book in the Rowland Sinclair series of crime mysteries set in Australia in the 1930’s.
One of the author’s trademarks throughout this series, and one of its most enjoyable aspects, is the cast of historical characters she skilfully weaves into the narrative.
Kingsford Smith, Nancy Bird, Robert Menzies, along with some notorious Sydney underworld figures, are some of these characters she includes in A Murder Unmentioned, bringing to life the atmosphere of Australian life in the post-Depression years.
Historical characters of the times have been a focal point in each of her books, however, in A Murder Unmentioned the plot takes centre stage, and it’s a good one. Suspense, mystery and plenty of twists kept me glued to its pages and made this my favourite book in the series so far.

Rowland’s father, Henry Sinclair, died when Rowland was 15 years of age and throughout the series references to his authoritarian and domineering personality are made, but he is mostly kept in the background. His portrait hangs on the wall of Woodlands, Rowland’s home that he shares with his three Bohemian friends, Clyde, Milton and Edna, an imposing and disapproving presence glowering over everyone that comes within view. Frequent mention is made of Rowland’s reactions to this painting over the course of the series, and here he remarks to Edna that the reason he hung the picture in his home was because,

“My father always liked to keep an eye on me.”

Edna wondered if she had misjudged Henry Sinclair. Rowland rarely spoke of his father but that need not, of itself, mean that their relationship had been strained. Perhaps it was a silence born of loss. Perhaps, beneath the outward severity, Henry Sinclair was an artistic soul. Rowland’s talent, Edna reasoned, must have come from somewhere. “It’s a shame he didn’t live to see your work, Rowley,” she said quietly.
Rowland frowned, his jaw tightened . “It’s not a shame at all, Ed.”

In previous books we had a hazy view of Henry Sinclair, but now we learn who Henry Sinclair really was and of his harshness and cruelty to his youngest son, Rowland.
When new evidence emerges about Henry Sinclair’s death and a former employee turns up to implicate family members, Rowland and his older brother, Wilbur, have to face the past, their individual fears and their secrets.
As always, Sulari Gentill doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, but in her delightful way she infuses some well-timed Aussie humour that takes the edge off the heavy stuff without detracting from the seriousness of it. Quite a skill!
I’m looking forward to the next book so much but I’m getting impatient for Edna to get over herself and reciprocate Rowly’s feelings!

I’m linking up with Brona’s Books for the AusReading Challenge 2017 over the month of November. Come and have a look at some of the great Aussie titles on her blog!


Thursday 9 November 2017

Advent & Christmas Giveaway: Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas by Laura Alary; Illustrated by Ann Boyajian

We’ve used various books, devotionals and other resources over the Advent & Christmas season and have some family favourites we like to revisit, but I’m always on the lookout for new additions to our collection. Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas is a book published by Paraclete Press and when I saw it was written and illustrated by the same folk who collaborated on Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter, I thought it would be a worthwhile book to add to our collection.

Alary uses a similar format to her Lent & Easter book to introduce children (and adults!) to the symbolism of Advent. She uses passages from the Old & New Testaments to help us to Look Back, Look Around, and Look Ahead.
As we look back, we see that these passages from Scripture remind us that God’s people have waited expectantly through the ages for a Redeemer - from the Hebrews in Egypt, to John the Baptist - and that God comes in ways we don’t expect.

‘Sometimes we see more clearly when we look back.’

The author ties in ideas and traditions for the season of Advent such as decorating a Jesse Tree; asking ourselves ‘Where did I see God today?’ and writing our thoughts in a journal.
As we look around during Advent we try to see the things we often miss and for ways to reach out to others: food donation, Advent cards to cheer others; baking treats and taking them to neighbours.
We look ahead and think about our choices. We say yes to new things such as asking a new family to come for lunch.
We light Advent candles and wait...

Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas is a thoughtful book that would be very helpful in both establishing some simple family traditions over Advent, and giving context and meaning to those traditions we may already have in place.
There are 32 pages in this book and the lovely pastel/coloured pencil/gouache illustrations by Ann Boyajian are soft and colourful.
This is a book to go through slowly and savour as a family and would be ideal to spread over the Advent season, especially if you follow a church liturgy.

Laura Alary has a background in the Classics, theology and biblical studies and she draws upon this rich foundation in her writing. She has three children of her own and works with children in her local congregation in Toronto, Canada.
Her blog is here:

Paraclete Press have two free copies of this book to give away to my readers. If you would like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment here or on my FB page.

Sunday 5 November 2017

AusReading Month: Come Danger, Come Darkness by Ruth Park (1978)

Ruth Park (1917-2010) was a prolific, multiple award-winning, New Zealand born Australian author. The author’s background in rural New Zealand and her later experience of the Great Depression while living in Sydney, gave her much to draw upon in her writing.
Come Danger, Come Darkness is set on Norfolk Island, about 1,000 km off the east coast of Australia. The author lived on the island for a number of years and described its natural features vividly.

Norfolk Island was discovered by Captain Cook in 1774 on his second voyage around the world. In 1788 a settlement was established on the island. This was later abandoned, but a second settlement began in 1825 and continued until 1855, and Norfolk Island came to be described as the 'Hell of the Pacific.'  The story takes place at this time in the island's history.

Thirteen-year old Otter Cannon and his seven year old brother, Paddy Paul, were brought from Ireland to Sydney by their recently widowed mother. The plan had been to join Major Daniel Cannon, her husband’s brother, and his family, in order that her boys would grow up as gentlemen and follow the family tradition of serving as officers in the army.
However, by the time the bereaved family arrived in Sydney, Major Cannon had been appointed Commandant of the prison settlement at Norfolk Island, a nineteen-day sea voyage from New South Wales, and the plan had to change.
The boys’ mother made the agonising decision to send the boys to Norfolk Island to join their Uncle and his family while she remained in Sydney.
The younger boy was excited about going to the island. His ambition was to be an army officer just as his father had been, but Otter’s greatest desire was to become a surgeon. This was frowned upon and his mother hoped that his uncle’s influence would change the boy’s mind.

The steersman skilfully inched the vessel as far as he dared towards the land, and the anchors whomped into the placid sea. Now the sounds of the land, forgotten since Sydney, drifted towards them - human voices, the freak of a windlass, the sweet splash of the cascade. In spite of himself, Otter was captivated by the scene. In full sunrise, the island looked like an illustration from a romance of kings and goblins. The steep plushy hills to the west demanded castles on their heights, of watch towers, or hermits’ ruined cells. But there were no towers except the pines, no ruins but the blocks of black stone piled on the narrow beach like wrecked masonry.

This is an exciting, action-filled story that keeps your attention until the very end. Mystery, danger, a whale hunt, escaped convicts, shipwreck; themes of loyalty, courage and justice - a great choice for a family read aloud with much to discuss and explore.

Not far away he saw a whale’s head, an old bull’s, marbled with age, water gushing out of the    downcurved mouth in torrents. Food, mostly tiny shrimps, was retained behind the black baleen that fringed the animal’s jaw...
Like an island emerging from the sea, the whale surfaced, tearing up the water, cascades foaming down its wet-leather flanks. It was over twenty metres long and nearly three metres higher than the men’s heads. It’s one visible eye, blue with a brown ring, glared in astonishment from that wall of head. Whissssht! The harpooner sent the javelin-like weapon hissing into its flank.

The whale hunt might be a little intense for a sensitive soul; a couple of times the word ‘damned’ is used and once an Irish Catholic convict cried, ”Oh, Holy Mary, they’re on to us!” Otherwise I’d say about age 10 years and up for a child to read on their own.
The book brims with the understanding, empathy and insight that Ruth Park had for her young audience and her writing style is excellent.
163 pages; out of print but available for a reasonable price at AbeBooks. I noticed many of the book sellers were in Austalia or N.Z. so check postage as it may be cheaper if you're ordering from either of those places.

Norfolk Island was self-governed for 36 years but that changed in 2015 when the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 replaced the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly.

Some Norfolk Island information is here & here.

Author information: Ruth Park, A Celebration.

Linking up with Brona's Books for the AusReading Challenge 2017