Tuesday 28 April 2020

Homeschooling Help During Lockdown

The Australian Homeschooling Summit, (which is not just for Australians, by the way) was originally scheduled for April but due to the coronavirus it was postponed and will now be held in May from the 4th to the 15th.
This has actually worked out well because some of the presenters have had time to run additional sessions adding to the originally 30 workshops that were planned.

Some Details

•  It's online, so you don't have to leave home - how convenient, especially now we have to stay home!

• This will be Summit's 4th year and it's had attendees from all over the world in that time.

•  About half the workshops are live, and half are pre-recorded, however, when each workshop is released the presenter will be available to answer questions, either verbally if live, or in chat if pre-recorded.

•  All workshops are recorded and added to the website for you to access whenever it’s convenient.

• If you don't have Facebook you'll be able to watch the live workshops and ask questions within Zoom, so you’ll have complete access to everything except the chat in the FB community.

• All the mp3 files are split from the workshop and uploaded to the website, so you can listen whenever you like. Plus, the mp4 and mp3 files are available to download.

• The total cost is only $25 and that's for lifetime access to everything.

My Thoughts

I was in two minds about presenting at this Summit. I've spoken at a couple of homeschooling conferences and enjoyed doing it but this one is online via video so I wasn't keen about that! However, my husband encouraged me to do it and Kelly George, the Summit organiser, makes herself available to help with the technology side of things.
In the last couple of weeks Kelly asked if anyone wanted to do some FB Live workshops and I surprised myself by putting up my hand for that. I presented one on 'Encouraging Kids to Write,' and there were others who presented a whole range of topics such as having a healthy relationship with screen time, self-care, and journaling. These will be available as part of the Summit package.
If you need to refresh your homeschool, whether you're an old hand or brand new to all of this, I think you will find the Homeschooling Summit helpful & encouraging.
If you're feeling a little isolated, come and join in with some kindred spirits from all over the place and meet some new people.

See here for details & ticket sales. Hope to see you there!

Saturday 25 April 2020

An Australian Living Book: All the Green Year by Don Charlwood (1965)

All the Green Year by Don Charlwood is an Australian coming of age classic set during the year of 1929. The story takes place around the Port Philip Bay area of Victoria in the fictionalised town of Kananook, which was modelled on the real town of Frankston when it was still rural.
1929 was the end of an era. It was still the age of silent pictures where ‘mood music’ was played during a movie by a pianist and the American accent was seldom heard.
It was the age of gramophones, coppers for boiling clothes, blacksmiths, cable trams, and milkmen delivering milk into billies outside everyone’s gate. By 1930 this began to change with the coming of talking pictures.

‘Now alien speech poured into our ears: in musicals, westerns, gang warfare, smart comedy. Implicit in my story of boyhood in 1929 would be the suggestion that our era had been much less Americanised than those to come.’

Charlie Reeve narrates the story which mostly revolves around his best mate, Johnno, school, family life, boyish adventures and hijinks.
1929 was the year Charlie turned fourteen and started 8th Grade at school. It was also the year when his grandfather’s mental state worsened and Charlie’s family moved into ‘Thermopylae,’ Grandfather’s house on the cliffs, to take care of him.

This is a memorable story of adolescence, adventure and family friction at the beginning of the Great Depression. Fathers worried about their sons, their school grades and future prospects with the downturn in the economy, and this inflamed the conflicts at home. Both sides in the conflict misunderstood the other or just couldn't relate to their concerns and attitudes. It didn’t help that Charlie & Johnno’s teacher, Mr Moloney, targeted the two of them and made life and learning generally miserable.

'After five grades together this was my last year with Fred Johnston, a tall, melancholy boy of extraordinary physique...head and shoulders above everyone else, as a swimmer and boxer hardly anyone in the town could touch him. He had learnt boxing from his father who at one time during the war had been R.A.N. welter-weight champion...
About Johnno himself there was a contradiction I have never forgotten. He had practically no physical fear, yet he was always afraid of his father and of old Moloney…
His fear of both of them went back a long way; back, I suppose, to the third grade when Johnno had lost his mother. About a year after that Moloney, in a temper, had hit Johnno across the face with the strap. Johnno had gone home and told his father and old man Johnston had given him a note to bring to school. But the note only told Moloney to give him more for not taking his punishment like a man.'

During the year, Miss Beckenstall, a new, young and pretty teacher replaced Moloney and Charlie and Johnno began to enjoy school and do well. She encouraged them with their writing, and read poetry and David Copperfield with them, giving each of the students parts to read.

'“Don’t like being Steerforth,” said Johnno. “Look what he’s done to Little Emily.”

I wasn’t sure what he’d done to Little Emily; in any case Little Emily was being read by Janet Baker, who had nothing to recommend her.

“A chap’s really bad if he’s tough on women,” said Johnno gazing into the distance...

“She’s only in a book.”

He hadn’t heard me. “I’d drop Steerforth cold.” He punched the air absent-mindedly.'

Charlie’s grandfather and his antics were portrayed so well as was the family’s attitude towards him. It was refreshing to read about their sense of duty in their care towards him, making difficult decisions in order to keep him in his own home. He wasn’t an easy fellow to live with.
There were many humorous anecdotes throughout the book: stealing a camel and riding it to school, antagonising a bull, fist-fights with the town bully; the two boys reluctantly escorting Johnno's sister to a dance and 'defending her honour' as they were directed to do by her father; but the author also portrayed the pain and discomfiture of boys moving from childhood to adolescence; their physical and emotional upheavals, as if they were recent experiences for himself.

When two of Australia’s foremost critics commented that the first part of All the Green Year read as a ‘book about boys’ but the second part read like ‘a book for boys,' the author replied, ‘I was writing as an adult repossessed by boyhood and that the state of ‘repossession’ intensified as the book neared its climax so that, briefly, I shed my age and became in spirit a boy again.’
I think this expresses the feel of the book well. Charlwood sounds like he's looking back at events that just happened.

All the Green Year is an evocative novel that is wonderfully Australian. It is honest, compassionate, humorous, sad at times, and a compelling read. It was one of those Aussie classics that I knew about but I’d never seen in book shops. A while ago, I noticed that Erin had used it as a read aloud and their family enjoyed it so I had a look for it online. I saw that Text Classics had republished it so I bought a copy. (They have reprinted some other worthwhile books.)

We’re using it this year in our Ambleside Online Year 10, which I have modified a fair bit for Australia. It had been read in high schools here for twenty years but has suffered the same fate as other noteworthy classics such as I Can Jump Puddles.
Don Charlwood’s writing career spanned more than eighty years and he was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992 for services to Australian Literature. He served in Bomber Command during the Second World War and later wrote several books about his experiences during this time. He died in 2012 aged ninety-six.

Sunday 19 April 2020

The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge (1963)

‘At least there is hope for a tree:
    If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
    and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
    and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put forth shoots like a plant.’

The Book of Job

About 20 years after the end of World War II, Mary Lindsay, a single middle-aged woman living and working in London, received word that her older cousin, whom she had only met once, had died and Mary had inherited her home in the country.
Making a sudden decision to leave her prestigious job, her friends, and her future plans, Mary went to live in her new home. She had read Jane Austen’s books and decided that she would like to look at the few last fragments of Austen’s England before they disappeared forever - at least, that is the explanation she gave for her for her resolution, but deep down she knew there were other reasons.
Mary had led an interesting life and worked in the Admiralty during the war. It was there that she met her fiancée but he had been killed a week before they were to be married. With her trademark resilience, she poured herself into work with the Red Cross in Germany after the war.
Now, twenty years later she has made a life-changing decision that will help her to understand the past and gain insight into the lives of others that have touched her life in some way.

The Scent of Water is quite a lovely story with an unusual protagonist. Elizabeth Goudge really excelled in her characterisations and this book is peopled with some interesting and loveable characters. It’s so good to read a book and connect with the people in it. Her characters are always flawed people but she never leaves them without hope and one of the attractions of her writing is her gift of bringing these persons to a better place than they were at the beginning.

“People talk a lot of ballyhoo about suffering improving you. I should say that what it does is to underline what you were before...No, I can’t blame what I am on the war.”

“I deceived you and deception is stealing because it takes away the truth...”

The library catalogue of this book classifies it under ‘Domestic Fiction,' amongst other categories  (e.g. ‘Retired teachers,’ ‘Country Life’ and ‘Self-actualisation’ ), a description I haven't seen before but I like it. It could be interpreted as dull or prosaic, but in Goudge’s hands it is charming and filled with wisdom and insight.
The author weaves a domestic story that introduces the reader to a whole village and its doings. She delves beneath the surface and gets to the heart of things, revealing heartbreak, disappointments and difficulties but always with the purpose of redemption.

‘If anyone had asked her what she meant by integrity she would not have been able to tell them but age had seen it once like a picture in her mind, a root going down into the earth and drinking deeply there. No one was really alive without that root.’

Mary’s cousin kept diaries over the years and in them she reveals her struggle with mental illness but also her belief that she was meant to ‘build something up for somebody, make something to put into the hands of another’ when she died. That ‘other’ was her young cousin, Mary, whose father had brought her with him to visit her many years earlier.

The quote at the beginning of this post is from the Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible. It highlights a theme that runs through the story and involves the various characters.
I did think that the story felt a little unfinished. There were some loose ends and I would have liked to have seen some of the situations more fully resolved but it was very endearing, nevertheless.

Linking to 2020 Back to the Classics: Classic with Nature in the Title

Saturday 11 April 2020

A Charlotte Mason Picture Study Resource

Here is Part 2 of the Australian Artist Picture Study featuring the work of Tom Roberts. I've concentrated mostly on his portraits this time. For a short biography of his life see Part 1.
Download the PDF for Part 2 here. I hope you find this helpful and if you find any errors or have difficulty downloading it please let me know.

‘By making art the perfect expression of one time and one place, it becomes art for all time
 and of all places.’

Tom Roberts (1856-1931)

Saturday 4 April 2020

'A gauntlet with a gift in 't.'

‘God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers, 
And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face, 
A gauntlet with a gift in 't.’ 

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

I think we’d all agree that we are in challenging times. I remembered this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning the other day and it seems to me that there is a gift in this gauntlet. God has often answered my prayers in a challenging way, but there is always a gift hidden in the challenge. 'God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.'
I’ve heard it said that ‘this virus writes its own rules,’ and it remains to be seen how long our ‘quarantine’ continues and whether it becomes more rigid. That’s out of our control but regardless of the outcome, each situation we find ourselves in will have its own challenge, and in some measure, its own gift.
A couple of nights ago we had our ‘Mum Culture’ evening via Zoom instead of our usual get together at my home. The topic had already been picked some time ago: Habits. But as I thought about the topic, I realised that we have an ideal time to work on some of those habits we’ve let slide or those that we need to put in place. When we have full days with lots of outside commitments good habits are easy to break and harder to form. Habit is a good servant but a bad master. Like fire in some aspects. When we’re home for large portions of time it becomes obvious when we’ve let things slip. We get to see the gaps more clearly. So this is an ideal opportunity to work on the important little things that we otherwise may overlook. I’ve been trying to find the gifts in this challenge I've had thrust upon me; to look with fresh eyes at our everyday lives.
  • Moozle usually swims three or four times a week so instead of dropping her off at the pool we’ve been having a good walk together or she’s ridden her bike while I walk/jogged. She had her cello lesson via Skype with her teacher the other day and we have FaceTime with her niece and nephew so they don’t forget us!
  • We’ve set up the sewing machine in the garage because my husband has taken over the kitchen/dining room for work and we’ve started a quilt for her older brother.
  • I had to order some fabric online, which I’d never done before. It wasn’t quite the same as it looked online but it’s fine.
  • I’ve been in phone contact with a whole lot of friends I haven’t talked to in a while and we’ve checked in via Skype with my relatives in Scotland a few times.
  • I’ve almost finished ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ which I’m reading in tandem with my daughter-in-law & checking in with each other on our progress. There is something about this book that is restorative and calming. Frodo faces extreme danger throughout but is always rescued, gets up and goes on, even in the face of his great fear and the unknown of what is ahead.
When life gets back to normal, or non-lockdown, we hope to watch the movies together. I’ve purposelessly not viewed them as I wanted to read the books first. Looks like I’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that!
Having said that, I don’t feel like I’ve got any more time now than I did before everything shut down. I just have different opportunities. I don't want to look back on this time and feel that I've wasted any of them.


This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:—
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes. 

A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel—
That blue blade that the king's son bears,— but this
Blunt thing—!" He snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field. 

Then came the king's son, wounded sore bested,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

Edward Roland Sill (1841-1887)

Rainbow Lorikeets on the Birdfeeder

Kookaburra Interrupting our Lesson on the Verandah

Something we've had the opportunity to concentrated more time on is writing poems. Moozle wrote this after spending some time listening and watching outside in the garden:

My Home

Nestled in the side of a valley,
Tucked up a long driveway,
It met the eye as you walked up the ascent
Shadows lying in their vague way
Across the pebbles,
An avenue of trees and bushes
Leading to the house.
Weather beaten, brown brick
Piled on top of brown brick,
Trees arching their backs to the
Miracle of light above.
A wilderness of beauty
Wrought with a divine hand,
Surrounding man’s creation.
Imperfect, yet perfect,
It lay there placidly.
Beauty was in the eye of the beholder –
But I considered it beautiful.
The furthest city light
Not far for the seeking,
But still it was peaceful,
Untouched, a piece of paradise
In the suburban world.
It was said of the house
That it was unfinished,
Wrong, the hand of the designer
 Had slipped in his work.
The verandah was massive,
A table, turned grey
By the wind and the rain,
Crowning the centre.
 It was a thing of rough beauty,
I thought, with the
Flashes of colour made by
The flowers in the middle,
The pots staining the shadows
With white and orange clay.
Truly we take our possessions for granted.
Visitors marvel at
The beauty of the surroundings,
The dwellers say,
‘The gardens are untenanted,’
Left except for an occasional sprinkle of care.
But that is the beauty of it,
An unfinished work of art.
 The first brush of orange,
As the sun slips down the sky,
Skidding out of sight,
Only held in place by
An invisible string, controlled
By some unseen hand.
Night wings over,
Blackness settling down
Gently upon the earth,
Shrouding the home in darkness.
A myriad of lights,
Bright shining in the dark,
And a round circle
Where the moon beams down
Kindly upon the humans
That inhabit the earth.
The moon like a pock-marked diamond,
Rough-hewn from stone.
From the rising of the dawn,
To the putting out of the sun,
From maze of stars,
To spume of suns,
An unfathomable mine
Of never-failing skill.
The clouds straddling the sky,
Like cloths of heaven,
Left out to dry.
A swashbuckling bee
With stripes of terracotta,
Zooming in among the flowers,
Gathering its life-giving dust.
Surrounded by countless trees
And miracles of colour,
A work of art
Encircling a house.
No, it was not a house,
It is my home.

I often think of my online friends in your different parts of the world and it always brightens my day when I hear from any of my readers.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells (1896)

In January of 1888, a brig sailing between Samoa and California, discovered a man floating alone in a small open boat and rescued him. The man was Edward Prendick. Eleven months earlier he had been on a ship which collided with a derelict vessel and he was thought to have drowned. The tale he told his rescuers was so strange that they believed the solitude and danger he went through had made him mad.
His tale was thus:

After the collision he managed to climb onto a dinghy and some days later a schooner carrying a menagerie of savage beasts chanced to pick him up.
Montgomery, a man with a scientific background, was on board and he had been collecting animals to take back to an uncharted island in the Pacific where he worked with Dr Moreau, a scientist engaged in vivisection and bizarre experiments.
After an incident with the drunken captain, Prendick was evicted from the ship and stranded on the island when Montgomery disembarked. Moreau and Montgomery reluctantly allowed Prendick onto the island as his only other option was to drift in the ocean in an unseaworthy boat until he succumbed to the elements.
Bit by bit the secrets of this island began to reveal themselves. Moreau was breaking the laws of nature by experimenting with vivisection, blending one animal with another, and had created the strange ‘Beast People.’

‘Scarcely six weeks passed before I had lost every feeling but dislike and abhorrence for these infamous experiments of Moreau’s. My one idea was to get away from these horrible caricatures of my Maker’s image, back to the sweet and wholesome intercourse of men.’

Augustin Filon, a contemporary reviewer of the book, said that Moreau’s ‘...absurd and sublime dream is that of condensing the innumerable slow stages of evolution into a few weeks or months.’

However, one of Moreau’s victims escapes from his laboratory and attacks the scientist. The taste of blood causes the creature to relapse and incites the rest of the ‘Beast Creatures’ to similar behaviour. As they start to revert to their former animal states the island becomes a very dangerous place to be.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is a work of science fiction but it raises ethical questions that are relevant for today. In the pursuit of scientific knowledge and advancement, what ethical dilemmas should be considered beforehand? Even though we have the capabilities to push biological boundaries, how far should we allow ourselves to go?
This is an interesting book and H.G. Wells was a superb writer. I think it would be a good book for biology students to read & discuss but some sensitive souls may want to give it a miss.

Linking to Back to the Classics: An Abandoned Classic. I started reading this a few years ago but I wasn't in the mood for it then. As much as I enjoy this author's literary gift, his subjects are often a tad depressing!