Thursday 30 January 2020

A Reading Challenge List for 2020

Well, I wasn't going to join in any challenges this year but I changed my mind. I have a range of books I'd really like to read which includes classics, non-fiction (I've been a bit slack with these in recent years), and unusual for me, I'd like to tackle some modern titles, my 'uncomfortable' reads.

I also have some 'slow cooker' reads that will probably take me all year to get finished. They're either whoppers, need to be read methodically and lingered over, or are books that are designed to be read at certain times of the year or over the course of a year. The books below are what I'm planning to read slowly:

War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri

At The Still Point, compiled by Sarah Arthur

God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis; compiled in 1970

I decided to go with this new Classic Book Challenge at The Broken Spine:

These are the Challenge Prompts I'd like to use with some ideas of what I might read:

* Read a classic over 500 pages - War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

* Read a classic that takes place in a country other than where you live
- ?

* Read a classic in translation
The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy  

* Read a classic by a new to you author - ? Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

* Read a book of poetry - Robert Burns

* Read a classic written between 1800-1860 - ? something by Elizabeth Gaskell

* Read a classic written by a womanThe Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett   

* Read a classic novellaThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 

* Read a classic nonfiction - ? something by C.S. Lewis or A.W. Tozer

See Book'd Out for details of this Non-Fiction Challenge. Here are some books I'd like to read:
H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald (2014)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (1974)

Atomic Habits by James Clear (2018)

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (2019)

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang (2019)

The Story of My Boyhood & Youth by John Muir (1913)

A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason (1925)

The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari (c. 1568)

Modern fiction I'd like to read this year:

Lila by Marilynne Robinson (2014) 

5th February - Updated to add this challenge which I've done for the past five years. I haven't decided on the books yet but I'd like to include some of these:

* The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

* Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge

* Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

* The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Thought by Mikhail Nesterov (1900)

Sunday 19 January 2020

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré (1974)

'...Mr George Smiley was not naturally equipped for hurrying in the rain, least of all at dead of night...
Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London's meek who do not inherit the earth.'

Control, the commander of the Circus (the highest level of British Intelligence) is eased out of his position and dies not long afterwards. His second in command, George Smiley, is later forced out into retirement after a series of operational disasters and the Circus is restructured.

'After a lifetime of living by his wits and his considerable memory, he had given himself full-time to the profession of forgetting.'

But Peter Guillam, a former colleague whose role in the Circus has been curtailed since the restructure, has evidence that Circus has been infiltrated by a mole over a period of decades. He recruits Smiley to 'spy on the spies.'
As Smiley works to uncover this betrayal in the upper echelons of the organisation, he also faces a  betrayal in his personal life.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was the first Cold War novel by John le Carré that I'd read (see my review in this post).
* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, was the second. The two books have similarities and share one or two characters but they both may be read as stand alone titles.
Betrayal is a dominant theme in both books, but it is more fully explored in the second.
Le Carré writes superbly and his plots are complex. Both novels are psychological thrillers and somewhat dark, which is not surprising for books about espionage.

Normally I'm only attracted to softer vintage espionage - authors such as John Buchan and Helen MacInnes - but le Carré sucked me in with his masterful exploration of character. He made me care about some of these characters. People such as Smiley and Bill Roach, the new boy at school who was considered dull, if not actually deficient, and blamed himself for the break-up of his parent's marriage; Jim Prideaux, the enigmatic hunchbacked teacher who arrived at the school as a temporary replacement:

'Bill had a feeling he could not describe that Jim lived so precariously on the world's surface that he might at any time fall into a void; for he feared that Jim was like himself, without a natural gravity to hold him on.'

And Peter Guillam, who in a moment feels not only betrayed but orphaned by the man who inspired him most: 

'His butchered agents in Morocco, his exile to Brixton, the daily frustration of his efforts as daily he grew older and youth slipped through his fingers; the drabness that was closing round him; the truncation of his power to love, enjoy and laugh; the constant erosion of the plain, heroic standards he wished to live by...
His suspicions, his resentments for so long turned outwards on the real world - on his women, his attempted loves - now swung upon the Circus and the failed magic which had formed his faith.'

This is an excellent, gritty read but I sometimes felt out of my depth with the complexity of the plot, although I found with both of le Carré's books that once I have the whole picture at the end of the book it helps me untangle some of the threads and I can then skip back to sections where I got a little lost and work things out.

* When a movie was made of the book in 2011, the commas were removed for the film title.

Saturday 4 January 2020

A Tweaked Version of Ambleside Online Year 9

We finished up AO Year 9  at the end of 2019. I made a few changes and omitted some things for various reasons. Australian titles were substituted in some areas and I've marked these with an *
Books written in black are from the Ambleside Online curriculum.
We only did one of Plutarch's Lives and two Shakespeare plays during the year.
An overseas trip during August and September, some additional family matters, and preparation for a Cello exam over the course of the year meant that we were a little stretched for time.
The following is basically what we did for Year 9:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

* The Flying Scotsman by Sally Magnusson - a biography of Eric Liddell

* Chariots of Fire - the movie of Liddell's life


* Captain Cook by Alistair Maclean (I've written about it here - scroll down) Enjoyed by everyone here.

* My Love Must Wait by Ernestine Hill - I really liked this (review) but it was a bit too descriptive/wordy in Moozle's opinion.

* Napoleon by Albert Marrin - a couple of my children have enjoyed this bio of Napoleon as well as  other books by the same author. A well-written & engaging book.

* Currency Lass by Margaret Reeson - all of my girls read and appreciated this book about a young woman growing up in the early days of Sydney.

Age of Revolution by Winston Churchill

* A Short History of Australia by Ernest Scott - I had books by modern historians (Geoffrey Blainey and Manning Clarke) but I prefer Scott for this time period.

* Personal, Career, and Financial Security by Richard J. Maybury 

Essays by Jane Haldimand Marcet

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason - we finished Book I

How to Read a Book - plodding along slowly with this one


The History of English Literature for Girls and Boys by H.E. Marshall
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Great Astronomers 
* Men, Microbes & Living Things by Katherine B. Shippen (Biology)
Napoleon's Buttons & Phineas Gage - both carried over from the year before

* A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - this has been a favourite book in Year 9. It is full of evolutionary content but Bryson has a light-hearted touch and is quick to point out holes in scientific thought and the quirks of scientists through the ages.
Cosmology, Biology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry...a broad sweep of what we have discovered about the Earth and what scientists have deduced from these discoveries; odd scientists, accidental discoveries and a good amount of humour sprinkled throughout. This has been a read aloud & discuss type of book and it has generated many good conversations, not to mention guffaws from my daughter, over some of the stuff that has gone on in the scientific world over the past two hundred or so years. The chapters are quite long so we'll be continuing this book in Term 1 of year 10.

Natural History/Nature Study

* All Things Bright & Beautiful by James Herriot - this is the second memoir in Herriot's series about his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the years just before WWII.
We visited this beautiful area on our 2019 overseas trip (which I wrote about here, here, and also here!)

* Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies

* The Art of Poetry - I reviewed this here. This is an excellent resource but I think for some students it might be overkill. 

Plutarch: the Life of Demetrius
Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice & Measure for Measure

The Arts by Van Loon

Free Reading

Rafael Sabatini re-reads of a number of his books. Scaramouche, * Seahawk, * Captain Blood, * The Gamester
* The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge
* Henrietta's House by Elizabeth Goudge   

* Murder Must Advertise & The Nine Tailors by D.L. Sayers
Agatha Christie - various
Ngaio Marsh - various
Margery Allingham - various

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren - I bought Moozle a lovely HB copy of this as she didn't have the book. it's written to a much younger age level but that didn't stop her enjoying it.

This Present Darkness & Piercing the Darkness by Frank Perretti - there are some excellent aspects touched on in both of these hard to put down books but there are also some negative aspects. I though this article explained things well and it was good to discuss those points. I read the books when they first came out and found them quite inspiring but I understand the concerns stated in the article.


Longitude by Dava Sobel
A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland by Samuel Johnson - we saved this for reading after we'd been over there.

Art & Music

For Picture Study we looked at works by John Everett Millais, Francisco Goya, and El Greco.
We've used YouTube videos to learn some art techniques and Pinterest for ideas at times but I wanted something more structured for Moozle to work through.
I bought the art course below just over a year ago in the Black Friday sales and it was very good so at the end of 2019 I bought the Pastels 101 for her to work through this year. With our low Aussie dollar everything from the USA seems exorbitant to us so a decent discount is always appreciated. At the time of my writing this they have a 40% off sale for the Art School Bundle which includes Drawing, Watercolour, Oils & Acrylics, and Pastels.
I added an account for Moozle on my Instagram so she can display her prodigious art work and various projects. It's missy_hudson05 if you want to have a peek.

During 2019 Moozle prepared for her Grade 8 Cello exam so we incorporated music by Haydn, Edward Elgar, and Ernest Bloch that she was studying into our Composer Study and read through sections of The Arts by Van Loon that were scheduled in AO 9.
A highlight of the musical side of the year was an 11p.m. orchestral performance Moozle was involved in just before Christmas for the launch of the latest Star Wars movie at a local cinema.

Clear Music Australia was recommended to me for sheet music about two years ago by one of Moozle's accompanists. A supplier we used closed down so I had to scour ebay and random internet stores to try to find what we needed and for an instrument like the cello it was really difficult. Clear Music has been excellent - great service, reasonable prices & everything arrives quickly and undamaged (!!) so I highly recommend them.


I added this subject in Year 7 and have continued with it. The exciting thing was that in 2019 we travelled to the UK & Paris and saw some of this stuff first hand. The oldest building we have here (Elizabeth Farm) only dates back to the 1790's so it was incredible to walk through castles, churches, and ruins that have been standing for centuries, and in some cases, millennia.

Stirling Castle, Scotland

York Minster

Bath, England

Notre Dame, Paris, September 2019

Swimming in a competitive squad continues three to four times a week with a two week break over  Christmas. We're nearly at the end of that and she's itching to get back into training.

An example of a week's scheduling:

See here for other options for Australian homeschoolers.