Thursday, 22 September 2016

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

How much do you know about Australia in the 1930's? I didn't know a great deal, but I recently had an enjoyable history lesson that brought this time period to life for me.
As a result of the Great Depression, around thirty-two percent of Australians were out of work in the mid 1930's.
In 1930, the Australian Government was advised to cut wages in order to increase profits and make exports more competitive. Social services were also cut, and Britain demanded that Australia not default on her loan obligations. The controversial Premier of New South Wales at the time was Labor leader, Jack Lang, and when he decided to withhold repayments, he was dismissed from office.
The building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Old and New Guards, the fear of Communism and the belief that Australia was heading towards a revolution on the scale that Russia had experienced - these historical facts are intertwined in Sulari Gentill's book, A Few Right Thinking Men.

Published in 2010, it is the first in a series of historical crime fiction books that introduces an Aussie sleuth, the artist/painter, Rowland Sinclair.
The crime in the first book is more incidental to the story, with the introduction of the main characters, the general feel of the time period, and the prevailing political atmosphere being the main focus. This gives the book a slowish start, but as it is the first book in the series, I have the feeling it promises some interesting twists and turns later on.
Rowland Sinclair is the youngest son of a wealthy pastoralist. He is ten years old when he farewells his two older brothers, Aubrey and Wilfred, in 1914 as they leave for Egypt on a troop ship. Aubrey dies in action and Wilbur later returns home, a different man.
Rowland has an artist's attraction to the left wing and is tolerant of Communism, and much to Wilbur's disgust, occupies the family mansion in Sydney with his penniless Bohemian friends. Wilbur is one of the 'Old Guard,' conservative, and convinced that the Communists are going to overrun Australia. He lives with his wife and child on the family farm at Yass, in country New South Wales.
Rowland is indifferent to politics until a murder occurs and unsatisfied with the police investigation, he takes matters into his own hands and uncovers a bizarre conspiracy.

Some interesting aspects:

Rowland is a talented painter and his Bohemian friends have interesting characters and backgrounds: one is an ardent Communists who quotes poetry as if it were his own, to which Rowland always responds in an undertone with the name of the original poet; another is a sculptress.

Many of the chapters begin with a short extract from the newspapers of the day.

There are a wide range of political and social views represented.

The author's background is in law and she is married to an historian whose area of interest is the Fascist movement in Australian history.

The attitudes that came about after World War I  - this reminded me of my own Grandmother's reactions stemming from the Second World War. She would refuse to eat the 'German rye bread' my mother bought (decades later) when she moved to Australia to live with us. My husband's Grandmother wouldn't buy anything made in Japan because she knew men who had been killed or maltreated by the Japanese forces in South-East Asia:

"Rowly," he said, as he shook his brother's hand.
"Hello, Wil."
"I see you're still driving that Fritz monstrosity," Wilfred said curtly.
"She's a good car," Rowland replied, his voice a little tight, knowing what was coming.
"The Germans killed our brother." Wilfred's response was cold.
Rowland sighed. This was not a new quarrel, and Wilfred was not alone in seeing the Mercedes as a betrayal of Aubrey. Rowland saw it differently.

The details of life in and around Sydney were very interesting: the opening of the Harbour Bridge, the descriptions of various suburbs, razor gangs and crime, and the effects of the depression.

There are seven books in the series so far, which I'm looking forward to reading. I heard about the author's books from a few different sources - a good friend, my daughter, Zana, who has collected all the books in the series so far, & Brona, who has written about some of them here. If you enjoy some history with your crime, I'd also recommend this author.

Originally published by PanteraPress, which is the copy I have above (ISBN 9781464206375) and re-printed by Poisoned Pen Press.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)

I was a little way into this book before I realised that I had confused authors. I knew the book had been written by Hardy, but as I was reading I was thinking 'George Eliot.' I read Adam Bede by Eliot last year and Far From the Madding Crowd has a very similar feel to it. One of the things that aided my confusion was the humour in the early section of the story. I've read Tess of the D'Urbervilles and didn't think Hardy had a sense of humour.

Far From the Madding Crowd begins with an almost lighthearted tone, especially in the first chapter (which is a delight) but becomes more pensive over the course of the story as Hardy explores the choices and passions of his characters.
Bathsheba Everdene was beautiful, independent and headstrong, and inclined to be impulsive and thoughtless. She had three suitors: a plain-speaking, hardworking but luckless farmer; a wealthy, mature bachelor; and a dashing, reckless soldier. Bathsheba's vanity and immaturity led her into making some careless decisions that resulted in consequences she never imagined nor intended.


'...I shouldn't mind being a bride at a wedding if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can't show off in that way by herself I shan't marry - at least yet.'

...she felt her impulses to be pleasanter guides than her discretion.

...some women only require an emergency to make them fit for one

The Farmer:

He had lost all he possessed of worldly property: he had sunk from his modest elevation down to a lower ditch than that from which he had started; but he had now a dignified calm he had never before known and that indifference to fate which, though it often makes a villain of a man is the basis of his sublimity when it does not. And this the basement had been exaltation and the loss gain.

The Bachelor:

She resolved never again to look or by sign to interrupt the steady flow of this man's life. But a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.

The Soldier:

Never did a fragile tailless sentence convey a more perfect meaning. The careless sergeant smiled within himself, and probably the devil smiled too from a loophole in Tophet, for the moment was the turning-point of a career...the seed which was to lift the foundation had taken root in the chink...

Other Characters:

'Ay, sure,' said his son, a young man about sixty-five, with a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his upper jaw, which made much of itself by standing prominent, like a milestone in a bank.

The maltster's lack of teeth appeared not to sensibly diminish his powers as a mill: he had been without them for so many years that toothlessness was felt to be a defect than hard gums an acquisition.

We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject that give them the colours they are known by, and in the same way people are specialised by their dislikes and antagonisms whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all.

Hardy's Wessex settings and his poetic style of writing are draw cards for me even though I've found some of his books rather bleak and sometimes fatalistic. Far From the Madding Crowd was a very enjoyable read and revealed another side to Hardy that I hadn't noticed in his other books.

Far From the Madding Crowd is my selection for a 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.
Ambleside Online has scheduled this book as a free read in Year 10.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

8 Favourite Fairy Tale Re-tellings for Teens

Regina Doman's first fairy tale novel was published in 1997 by Bethlehem Books under the title, Snow White and Red Rose. A few years later it was re-published with the title Shadow of the Bear, and there followed more books in the series. I found these novels when I was searching for suitable books for my daughter's birthday. I think she was about 14 years of age when I bought the first one and she loved it and requested more in the series.
Each book is a modern re-telling of a Grimm Brother's fairy tale and each chapter commences with a quote from the original story. These classic tales are put into a modern setting (e.g. New York City), and the characters face various cultural challenges and battles that young people may find themselves in today. A familiarity with the original fairy tale is helpful (I've linked to online versions of the original tales) and enhances the story, but it's not essential.
The books mature with the reader, with subsequent books tackling darker themes. The first three should be read in order as the main characters re-appear in the books.

The Shadow of the Bear

Originally published by Bethlehem Books under the title 'Snow White and Red Rose,' this is a modern day retelling of the fairy tale of the same name. The two sisters in the re-telling are Blanche and Rose, and Bear is a mysterious, street-wise young man.

'Once upon a time in New York City...
...there lived two sisters who loved books, poetry, music, and fairy tales.
They lived with their widowed mother in a brownstone with two rose bushes in front of it.
One winter night, a Bear came to their door and they let him in, even though he could not tell them his real name or his real mission.
He became their friend, protector, and constant companion.
They never dreamed that his friendship might cost them their lives.'

Picky parents guide to this book.

My book isn't a 1950's throwback—it's not a sweet book. I'm a child of the '70s, a teen of the '80s and, growing up in the teeth of the sexual revolution, I lost the innocence of the imagination early, as many kids today still do. I have no nostalgia for a safer and purer time—I never knew one.

My two heroines, Blanche and Rose, face the ugliness that is out there today, and they don't back down. They face the battle for the culture, and they fight it by how they live their lives. I think that's one reason why teens love them. And the "enchanted prince" of the story, Bear, is a great character—guys seem to identify with his sense of purpose and his convictions. He's on a lonely, dangerous mission for justice that few would understand or appreciate, and I think that resonates with teens.

Black as Night

This sequel to The Shadow of the Bear is based on Grimm's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,
only in this case, the seven dwarfs are seven Franciscan friars. The story revolves mostly around Blanche, but it's a great book for boys, with its strong male characters. It moves more quickly than its predecessor and although there is some harsh realism, the author's writing isn't bleak, and the themes of faith, love and honour are embedded in the story. It's a step up, maturity level wise from the first book.

Waking Rose

Waking Rose is a re-telling of The Sleeping Beauty and centres around nineteen year old Rose and her relationship with Fish, Bear's brother. Fish is struggling with an abusive past and fears that Rose wouldn't understand his situation so he distances himself from her. When tragedy strikes, Fish is drawn into web of corruption and retaliation, and into a battle for Rose's life. This is quite a suspenseful book and has some mature themes. Recommended for readers 16 years of age and up.

The Midnight Dancers

A re-telling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
This book is quite different from the first three and can stand on its own (one of the characters, Paul Fester, makes an appearance in Waking Rose). Rachel is eighteen and tired of her restricted life with her father, stepmother and her eleven step-sisters. When the girls discover a secret passageway from their old historic home, they make night visits to a bay, meet some interesting characters, and Rachel begins to live a double life.

 But why live in the light, when the night seems so irresistibly intriguing? 

Regina Doman is a Catholic author and in this book, Rachel's parents are strict Fundamentalists. I think she does quite a good job of showing the effects of outer (legalistic) control and its inability to change the heart. Recommended for ages 16 years and older.

Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thiefs

This is a  modern retelling of the classic Arabian Nights tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and is less intense than the other books. Alex finds out that his dad, a computer hacker and software programmer has accidentally found a mysterious website that promises instant wealth. Alex and his very untechnological girlfriend, Kateri, end up taking on 40 cyber thiefs. A good bit of technological jargon is thrown about in the book, which is probably why I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the others, but it's still a worthwhile read.
The author recommends it for ages 14 years and over.

Rapunzel Let Down

This is the author's latest re-telling, published in 2013. I haven't read it yet but will be buying a copy for my 23 year old daughter and probably my daughter-in-law also, as they both love Doman's books. It is definitely a book for 18 year olds and over, according to the author.

There are no magical or fantasy elements in these stories and the characters are very ordinary people living ordinary lives. This 'ordinariness' has allowed the author to create characters we can relate to and identify with. I read somewhere that she set out to take Chesterton's challenge and write a moden novel as if it were a fairy tale. As Chesterton observed in his book, Orthodoxy:

The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.  

G.K, Chesterton 

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I read this book many years ago and recently read it again. It's a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast and is suitable for around age 13 years and up. Beauty was the nickname for the youngest of three girls whose given name was Honour. She was the ugly duckling of the three girls, a tomboy but much loved by her family. To save her father's life (or so she thought) she was obliged to go to live with the Beast in his enchanted castle. It really is a lovely story with some important but not heavy handed themes. A younger child could read it but I was thinking that my 11 year old would turn up her nose at any sign of romance so I'll be leaving it for awhile.

I'm putting this here as an option for teens or adults who haven't read or may have had difficulty reading Spencer's Faerie Queen. We've used Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, by Roy Maynard which is scheduled in Year 8 of Ambleside Online but the re-telling by Macleod is good for a range of ages.

Linking up at Top Ten Tuesday for 'Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre' - i.e. Fairy Tale Re-tellings for Teens - even though I only managed eight out of ten.

and here:

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Inspiring Children: the life of the mind grows upon ideas

Chapter IV of Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason continues with the role of parents as inspirers. She states that the life of the mind grows upon ideas and it is the duty of parents to sustain, nourish and keep alive their child's inner life with ideas just as they sustain their bodies with food.

'Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.'
This was a common saying in the 19th Century and has been attributed to a number of people including the writer William Makepeace Thackeray, and the poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The idea is that the destiny of child is determined by his parents in the sense that they (or others to whom they delegate) are the ones who are the first to sow into a child's life.

So what are we to sow?


It is the only educational seed we have in our possession. Sowing a seed and waiting for it to sprout and grow is a faith step in the natural world - the seed has no resemblance to the mature plant. When we sow an 'idea' we also take a step of faith.

CM briefly mentions some of the educational theories underpinning the work of people such as Pestalozzi and Froebel and the 'pleasing and easy' belief that education is formative; that the role of the educator is to develop the 'faculties.'

The problem she saw was that all our thoughts about education are wrong and rest on false foundations and that the most complete and adequate definition of education that we have is:
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Parents are very jealous over the individuality of their children; they mistrust the tendency to develop all in the same plan; and this instinctive jealousy is right (!!).

Charlotte Mason, writing this book over a hundred years ago, believed that our fear of our children developing like peas in a pod because of systematic educational efforts directed towards the drawing out of faculties were groundless:

We may believe that the personality, the individuality, of each of us, is too dear to God, and too necessary to a complete humanity to be left at the mercy of empirics (experimentation).

I wonder what CM would say about this now. She died in 1923 and a year later H.L. Mencken wrote the following:

"...the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim …is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States… and that is its aim everywhere else.”

This is something Charlotte Mason touched on in the last book of her Home Schooling Series, A Philosophy of Education, where she mentions the 'new gospel of education.' She recognised this Utilitarian theory was immoral, at the same time as its advocates were convinced Utopia was on its way.

The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto, pg 145

The utilitarian, utopian model of education has become firmly embedded in the years since Charlotte Mason made her observations on the individuality of the child.

Parents: not 'modellers' but 'inspirers.'

I don't think I want my children to model themselves after me. I have too many deficits. But I do want to be an inspirer!
When I was just starting out as a mother I wanted to find a mentor; someone who'd blazed the trail ahead of me, had homeschooled and had grown children; someone who was at the stage where they were enjoying the fruit of all their hard work. I didn't find that person, but I learnt from many imperfect people and often they were walking a completely different path to my own. I wanted a model, but God gave me inspirers and I see the wisdom of that now.

You may go through years of so-called 'education' without getting a single vital idea; and that is why many a well-fed body carries about a feeble, starved intelligence...

We may have 'finished our education' without ever having experienced that vital stir which marks the inception of an idea. So we leave school...
We shut up our books and our minds, and remain pigmies in the dark forest of our own dim world of thought and feeling.

What an awful thought!

The Mind Grows Upon Ideas

Idea - a live thing of the mind...An idea strikes us, impresses us, seizes us, takes possession of us, rules us...

We form an ideal (an embodied idea) - and this exercises the very strongest formative influence upon us: "An idea struck me..." it not marvellous that, recognising as we do the potency of ideas, both the word and the conception it covers enter so little into our thought of education?

An idea may exist as an Appetency (desire, longing, affinity)

Ideas may invest as an atmosphere, rather than strike as a weapon. An Appetency may be a clear, definite form, or an instinct; a vague longing towards something.
The educator's ministry is to excite this longing towards something...

Indefinite ideas that manifest themselves in a longing, an affinity or a desire, are held in that thought-environment which surrounds the child as an atmosphere. This atmosphere emanates from his parents. I was reminded, though, that Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in her beloved book, For the Children's Sake, explored the role we may play in providing this atmosphere, not only for our own children, but others. I had a teacher when I was about ten years old who did this for me. Her direction and inspiration allowed me to develop those vague affinities that have grown and stayed with me since. I admit this is a drop in the bucket compared to what could be accomplished in a home environment where these principles are practiced, but nonetheless, it could be a crucial factor for a child who didn't have that advantage.

In the end we shall find that only those ideas which have fed his life are taken into the being of the child; all the rest is thrown away, or worse, is like sawdust in the system, an impediment and an injury to the vital processes.

Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas; ideas are of spiritual origin...

CM reminds us that the child has affinities with evil as well as good, so we take care to prevent the wrong ideas from gaining a foothold. An initial idea gives birth to others so we need to take care they get the right primary ideas. It is the duty of parents to nourish a child's inner life with ideas just as they nourish his body with food, whereas it is the child's responsibility to 'dig' for his own knowledge.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Nature Notes - wattle, black cockatoos and other encounters

We have three nature walks we do regularly. Two of them are just down the road, while the other is about a ten minute drive away. We save this one for when my daughter-in-law has a free space in her physio work schedule and sends us a message to say she's taking the dog for a walk and would we like to join her. We did that this afternoon and I was reminded of something that Tammy Glasser wrote on Why We walk the Same Trail Every Week. All three places are quite familiar to us and they give us the opportunity to observe the changing seasons and notice new things. I agree with Tammy, that walking the same trail regularly isn't boring. Last week we saw this beauty below, sitting quietly,  and what we thought might be a fairy-wren. I later found out it was a 'male eclipse of a Superb Fairy-wren, which I'd never heard of before. And in our garden last week we had a very short visit from an echidna - by the time I'd grabbed the camera, he was gone.

Crimson rosella Platycercus elegans - common to our area

One day, just after we'd moved into this area, we heard a 'thump, thump' on the skylight in our family room. It kept happening so I went out to see what was causing it and saw a couple of huge black parrots up in an overhanging banksia tree. The thumping was caused by the birds pecking at the 'banksia bombs' as my children called them, and dropping them onto our roof. They stayed for about ten minutes and then flew off, wailing with their mournful cries. The yellow-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) have returned on a number of occasions and each time we've heard them in the distance before they arrive. And each time, they heralded rain. I was wondering about this as it happened again the other day, and so I was excited to find this poem!

Rain is Coming

High up, along the clear blue sky,
Black cockatoos come sweeping by,
Calling and crying as they go—
To tell us it will rain, you know.

There's not a wee cloud anywhere,
All bright and shining is the air;
The sky is iust one great blue plain —
But now I know there will be rain!

The paddocks all are brown as sand,
You see long cracks along the land;
We long for rain to make things
And it is coming now, I know.

The creek that danced among the
With racing ripples at each turn.
Has changed into a stony track;
I'm glad the rain is coming back.

The run is parched and bare and dry.
The hungry sheep move restlessly;
I wonder if they know the rain
Is coming to make grass again?

The thirsty cattle and the flowers
Will soon be all refreshed by showers,
Out from the bush sweet scents will
The creeks will rise, and dance and

Although it's hot and dried up yet,
The land will soon be green and wet,
For rain is coming fast, I know!
Black cockatoos have told me so!
Veronica Mason, ?1907

 We've never been able to take a decent photograph so here is one from wikipedia:

The first of September is Wattle Day, at least it has been since 1992, but we usually find some wattle in flower throughout the year. We did a search of the local area to find out which varieties were in flower and then entered the findings in our nature notebooks. So - what do you know about wattles?

Sydney Golden Wattle, Acacia longifolia

The bush was grey
A week to-day
(Olive-green and brown and grey);
But now the spring has come this way,
With blossoms for the wattle.

It seems to be   
A fairy tree;
It dances to a melody,
And sings a little song to me
(The graceful, swaying wattle).

See how it weaves
Its feathery sheaves!
Before the wind a maze it weaves,
A misty whirl of powdery leaves—
(The dainty, curtseying wattle)!

Its boughs uplift
An elfin gift;
A spray of yellow, downy drift,
Through which the sunbeams shower and
Their gold-dust o'er the wattle.

The bush was grey
A week to-day
(Olive-green and brown and grey);
But now its sunny all the way,
For, oh! the spring has come to stay,
With blossom for the wattle!

Sally Wattle, Acacia floribunda

Wattle & Weather

Sally Wattle


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Weekly Review & Caffeine Withdrawals

This is my second week of no caffeine. I don't drink a great deal of coffee, although my consumption has increased in the past year or two, but my tea intake is embarrassing. My dentist asked me how much tea I drank per day and I couldn't tell him because one cup just flows into the next. I leave half drunk cups of tea all over the place. So just to say I could do it, I went cold turkey on caffeine, which I've done before but not for quite awhile.

Day 1 & 2 - not too bad. I didn't really have headaches, just a dopey feeling and I felt like going to bed earlier than I usually do.
Day 3 & 4 - as soon as I lay down to go to sleep I started getting pains in my lower back and all over my legs. Not cramps, flu-like aches but they were so bad I ended up having some Nurofen so I could get some sleep. I couldn't believe it!
Day 5 - still some leg aches but nothing like the previous couple of days.
Day 10 - my family thinks I should end my caffeine fast because I was easier to live with when I was on it. 

I've been drinking herbal tea - peppermint mostly, which I thought was wonderful for the first couple of days, but I'm really over it now and would love a real cup of tea...

 'On Tea'

 In vino Veritas. In Aqua satietas. In … What is the Latin for Tea? What! Is there no Latin word for Tea? Upon my soul, if I had known that I would have let the vulgar stuff alone.

We've just finished the fourth week of Ambleside Online Year 6. It's the second time for us to cover this particular year. Benj did a beefed up version a few years ago and it's a great year with wonderful books. Moozle is basically following the schedule as is, with a couple of Australian substitutions. This is what she did this week:

We're continuing with History of Australia by Clark, Hooper & Ferrier. We started this in Year 4 and have enjoyed it.

Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt - this book has 17 chapters so we're using it for 17 weeks and then going back to Easy Grammar Plus. Between French & Latin, we've been covering quite a lot of grammar. Easy Grammar Plus is very good but it stays on a concept (eg prepositions) for ages and I wanted to give her a quick, broad overview, which this book does. I have a store of various grammar resources that I've gathered over time. Some of my children have done well with some of them and not others. I thought of using Winston Grammar for Moozle, mostly because I really only used it with one child and feel bad that I haven't made better use of it, but she seems to be doing fine with what she's been doing since we started formal grammar in Year 4. A homeschooler has provided free worksheets to use with the book, bless her.

We have some lovely ancient copies of William J. Long's books and all my children have loved them, as well as books by Ernest Thompson Seton. This one is a 1902 edition that I found for a couple of dollars and we're keeping this on the schedule even though the animals written about in the book are native to the Northern Hemisphere. A couple have been introduced to Australia so they are familiar and I'll be adding in some Australian Natural History titles later.

I've added in videos on the periodic table that Benj used. They fit in nicely with The Elements by Theodore Gray and The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker and Jeanne Bendick. The 'Gold' (Au) video below was very interesting:

A written narration on Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill by Stephen Mansfield:


We use Seterra for geography practice. There's a language option that Moozle found today so she did the map practice in French and said it was easier than doing it in English??
We downloaded the programme; it's very easy to use and fun to compete with each other to see who gets the highest score. 

Typing - I've just started Moozle with Rapid Typing, which we downloaded for free and have been using for ages. It uses extracts from decent books such as Pinocchio for practice. Some of the programmes we looked at were fluffy but this does the job and does it well.

Benj is busy with his Liberal Arts Certificate and fits in with us when time permits. (We do Plutarch & Shakespeare with him each week.) We've had some good discussions about what he's been reading and learning. One of our discussions related to the topic discussed on this Circe podcast which I recommend as it's not something I've heard addressed very often: On Being Discerning Cultural Consumers. (I wrote a little more about it in a previous post
He's reading and doing some performing of Romeo and Juliet as part of his course but he joins us for King Lear once a week. I found a version of this play on YouTube. I've previewed the first six videos and they've been fine so I plan to use at least some of it. It has a good cast: Lawrence Olivier as King Lear, John Hurt as the Fool, and Diana Rigg as Regan:

Hymn Study - we've been listening to this version of The King of Love my Shepherd Is.

Benj & I are reading The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer

'One marked difference between the faith of our fathers as conceived by the fathers and the same faith as understood and lived by their children is that the fathers were concerned with the root of the matter, while their present-day descendants seem concerned only with the fruit.'

I finished a couple of books and added others to my reading pile:

The Road From Home - important if only for the fact that it is an event that has almost been forgotten. Used in the Sonlight Year 10 curriculum.

The Metamorphosis - I've seen this in a lot of highschool lists; also used in Sonlight.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - I'm only a few chapters in but I love it already.

 We had a kettle: we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week. . . .
The bottom is out of the Universe! 

Rudyard Kipling

Linking up with Weekly Wrap-up

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Ten Things to Make Time For

1)  Make time for teaching your children to be discerning cultural consumers - I stole this line and some of these thoughts from a Circe Podcast I listened to a while back, but it's something that I've been pondering all my Christian life. Christians tend to be black and white but life is full of grey areas. This is shown in how we react/relate to culture. At the far right there is the tendency to be legalistic - don't drink, don't dance, don't watch movies with a rating greater than PG, or whatever. On the far left, it's anything goes; all things are lawful for me; it's all about grace. Teaching our children to embrace the beautiful and appreciate all that's good in our culture without accepting it hook, line and sinker, helps them to avoid a legalistic based approach to life. This podcast discusses some ways to engage with your teens and help them with the grey areas i.e. cultivating cultural discernment.

2)  Make time to read good quality literature - there are many resources available whose purpose is to teach character but one of the best is often overlooked - reading quality literature and discussing it with your children. "Should she have done that?" "Does this story remind you of another?" I used to consider that reading fiction was inferior to reading something factual, but books can grow your soul. The characters of fiction allow us to be witness to another's actions and see the unfolding of the chain of consequences resulting from their decisions. This can be a powerful way of teaching our children and developing their characters. Some ideas of books to use are here and here.

3)  Make time to keep your own mind active - your children need your intellectual involvement. That doesn't mean you have to know about very subject they are studying. My older children studied chemistry, physics and calculus - things I know very little about, but I kept my mind stimulated and growing in other areas. Teens especially, need to know that their teachers think, have ideas of their own and are interested in learning.

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children's childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth. 

4)  Make time to feed your spirit - this is one of those obvious things we already know, but our relationship with God is often one of the first things to be neglected when life gets busy. We make time for many things and sometimes the important gets overlooked by the pressing and seemingly urgent. It's a constant adjustment I have to make and remake as the circumstances and the seasons of life change.

5)  Make time to grow your soul - looking at beautiful art, listening to great composers, reading poetry - these are so easy to slot into the day. They are often referred to as extras, enrichment or the humanities; but they aren't "extras" as that implies that we don't need them. They do enrich our lives and make us more human. I wrote some thoughts on this here.

'The Wemyss Madonna' by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1485

6)  Make time for your older children - in a large family with a range of ages, babies, toddlers, teens, it's easy to concentrate on the little ones and leave our older children to get by with not much attention. I found that as my children got into their mid to late teens that they needed time to talk and it was usually at the most inconvenient times, like when I was just about to go to bed. I have some fond memories of those conversations.

7)  Make time to nurture your younger children - sometimes it's the younger ones that get the crumbs. It is a constant balancing act to spread yourself around. This is where prayer is so important. Many times I've felt nudged to focus on one of my children especially and I knew that the Lord had helped me to discern the need.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58

8)  Make time to look after yourself physically - this is often on the very bottom of the pile of things to make time for, but it gets harder the longer you leave it. I've had to change my approach to this many times and it was certainly harder when all my children were little and my husband worked long hours. This ties in with the two things to make time for below.

9)  Make time for your relationship with your husband - marriage is spiritual warfare. We're coming up for our 29th wedding anniversary so I can testify to that fact! I've always enjoyed walking for exercise but my husband doesn't feel that does much for his fitness. He used to go to the gym before we were married and for a few years now he's been suggesting that we join up together. I wasn't at all interested and preferred just to keep walking, but at the end of last year we gave each other a Christmas present of a gym membership. We only go once or twice a week but it's been a good thing to do together.

10)  Make time for wonder - we do nature study once a week generally as part of our schedule but just getting outside into the natural world gives us a different perspective. It also speaks to us about God. When I was in my late teens and not a Christian, I was travelling through the Snowy Mountains area in summer, and one day I was suddenly overwhelmed by the natural beauty around me and knew that somehow God was speaking to me through it. A couple of months later I became a Christian.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature - have been understood and observed by what he made...
Romans 1