Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2016 European Reading Challenge

Can't help myself...




I saw this challenge and decided some of the titles I've picked for other 2016 challenges would qualify. I'll possibly also add a couple of children's books set in Europe that I've been wanting to read.
For the details, and to sign up, see Rose City Reader.  Basically you read books by authors from any of these European countries, or books set in these countries:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.
 

The idea is to 'tour' Europe but you may read just one book or as many as you like, although each book must be by a different author and set in a different country. This means that only one book from one of the four UK countries will count.
I'll be deciding on my books throughout the year and will add them here as I go, with links to my reviews/thoughts on them but these are some I have in mind:


Greece - Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes
Austria - The Third Man by Graham Greene
France - I Will Repay by Baroness Orczy
Germany - All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Netherlands - The Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Turkey - The Road From Home by David Kheridian
Czech Republic - The Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka
Russia - Russia's Man of Steel by Albetrt Marrin
Poland - The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
Hungary - Dangerous Journey by Laszlo Hamori
Finland - Mercy at Midnight by Lois Hoadley Dick



Monday, 28 December 2015

Living Books for the 20th Century: Geography - I Find Australia by William Hatfield (1892–1969)


William Hatfield was the non-de-plume of Englishman Ernest Chapman, who emigrated to Australia in 1912 by working as a ship's steward. Arriving in Port Adelaide in the middle of summer, he jumped ship and struck out on foot for 'the interior.' With just the clothes on his back, and a cloth cap on his head, he reached Glenelg at sundown after walking in temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The next day he had his first job - painting the exterior of a hotel. This lasted three weeks, and not long afterwards he was on his way to the centre of the continent. His aim was to see the enough in his travels to enable him to write about it one day.





I Find Australia is an autobiographical account of Hatfield's adventures and observations of Australia as he worked and travelled in mostly remote areas over the course of about 20 years.
When he first arrived in Australia, the author had basically no practical skills, but in his years of outback travel he became a skilled bushman, worked as a kangaroo shooter, dingo trapper, on sheep stations and cattle drives, and later became a well known author.

Unless you happen to be an astronomer, professional or amateur, you can go through life without really seeing the stars if you never camp out. And unless you camp out in the dry air of the desert, you will never believe, even then, what makes the traveller put them so rapturously into his tales.
You have to lie down clear of any trees somewhere out in the plains, looking straight up without tilting your head, to get the real beauty of them, the magnificence if it all. Out there in that dry air the stars won't wink. I had heard that only atmospheric moisture  gave stars the appearance of twinkling in and out, and here was proof, at any rate, that the air we were in was dry.

Some thoughts:


* This book is similar to A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey in that it depicts a very different Australia from that of today. Facey's book was mostly set in Western Australia and although Hatfield's travels took him all over the continent, his book concentrated on Central and Eastern Australia. The two books complemented each other very well in that regard, although they were very different from each other in other ways. Facey's book included some good basic outline maps; Hatfield's didn't, and I wish publishers would think to add them to these types of books.

* William Hatfield was sympathetic to the Aboriginal people, which surprised me in a book written in the early to mid 1900's. He includes some derogatory words, 'n----r' etc but I don't think they reflected his personal stance.
  
The first handling of Colts was carried out mostly by black boys, a thing that came as the biggest contradiction I had to swallow in all my Australian experience, these men of a race classed by ignorant observers in the first place as the lowest species of humanity on earth; lazy, useless, cowardly and incapable of organised effort.
Instead of which I found them doing most of the stock work on all the big unfenced runs, where their bushcraft is unmatchable, doing all the hardest riding on all the roughest horses...

They knew each individual horse's track in the mob once they had seen it, and could follow it wherever it went, no matter how many others crossed it. Our finger-print experts lay down the assertion that no two men's fingers leave the same print. The blackfellow lays down the same thing with regard to tracks. The difference in his case is that he doesn't need charts and a microscope, relying entirely on his eye and his memory.


Being unlettered, they could not count, but they could tell by sight that a few sheep were missing from a mob of two or three thousand. They saw individuality in sheep, where we just lump them as so many ewes, lambs, wethers, or whatnot.


 A personal tragedy drove Hatfield to search for the man who had been the cause of it. He was consumed with getting his revenge and at one stage in his quest ended up stranded in the desert. It was there in his search for water that he met an Aboriginal man whose tribe had been responsible for a white massacre. He, too, had his own personal vendetta and would have killed Hatfield if the white man's knowledge of tribal ways hadn't intervened and spared him. He spent some time wandering with the tribe, waiting for the rain, which eventually came in torrents, experiencing the hospitality due to a friendly visitor.  It was there in the desert that he came to realise that if he continued on his course, he was doomed to end his life as a wanderer. There would be no peaceful old age for him.

And I looked on that soft new green spreading over the desert under the rain's caress and knew that it was good to live and let live...

And I rode away from old Grungunja's camp wondering what that old wizard of a stone-age race knew of the things he had done to me.


The book is out of print but not too difficult to find secondhand; it is 348 pages in length and includes a few black & white photographs.




I Find Australia was included as a Geography selection for Grade 10 in the Charlotte Mason/Parents' National Education Union (PNEU) curriculum. I'll be adding it to our 20th Century plans which I'm adapting from Ambleside Online Year 11.

Some information on William Hatfield can be found here & here.




This book is one of my choices for the Aussie Author Challenge 2105







Thursday, 24 December 2015

Hope






“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and He will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.

A bruised reed He will not break,
    and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.
In faithfulness He will bring forth justice;

    He will not falter or be discouraged
till He establishes justice on earth..."

Isaiah 42





Tidings of comfort & joy...




Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey (1894-1982)


It's a tribute to Albert Facey that in his simply told, poignant autobiography, he was able to say that his had been a 'fortunate' life.
There were many episodes in his life which many would class as most unfortunate, but although he acknowledged his life had its share of hardship and difficulties, he was grateful for much.
Before he had turned two his father died, and not long afterwards his mother deserted him. His kind grandmother took on his care, but even so, circumstances forced him to start working when he was only eight years of age.
Denied a formal education, he grew up illiterate and because of this disadvantage he missed out on opportunities to learn a proper trade. As a young lad he was ill-treated and ill-used at times, doing work which was akin to slavery. He eventually taught himself to read and write, but it was a slow and difficult process.



http://www.bookdepository.com/Fortunate-Life-B-Facey/9780143003540?ref=grid-view



He survived Gallipoli, but two of his brothers were killed there, and Albert was to endure years of pain and disability from injuries he suffered in the trenches.
After four months on Gallipoli ('the worst four months of my whole life') a shell exploded in his trench, killing a mate and badly injuring himself. He was sent to Cairo for treatment and was repatriated back to Australia in 1915.

Albert said that he had two lives that were miles apart. Up until just after the war he had had a lonely and solitary existence but then he met Evelyn, the woman who was to become his wife:

After our marriage my life became something which was more than just me.

Albert and Evelyn raised a family through the depression years and Albert involved himself with the Trade Union movement and battled to improve the general conditions for workers.
When World War II broke out three of their sons enlisted. Only two of them returned home after the war. Their eldest son was killed in a bomb attack while defending Singapore.
Albert Facey was an ordinary man who overcame extraordinary circumstances. When he retired, Evelyn encouraged him to write down the story of his life. He crammed his stories into school exercise books, thinking that at some stage he would get copies printed for family members. The manuscript sat in a cupboard for years but in 1979, when he was eighty-five years of age, his autobiography came to the attention of the Fremantle Arts Centre Press and was accepted for publication.
A Fortunate Life was published in 1981, nine months before Albert died.

Some thoughts

A. B. Facey was a true historian, a story-teller. As I read the story of his life I could almost imagine he was sitting in the room speaking. It is simply written, understated, almost matter of fact, but totally real and engaging.

It's sobering to think that many people born in the late 19th or early 20th Century would have seen and endured similar circumstances - WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, industrial expansion. Death was a common visitor to many families and not just during the war years. We live in a very different world today.

Apart from Albert's time in Gallipoli, the book is mostly set in Western Australia and it is a fascinating account of frontier life in that state.

It was also interesting to read of the early days of the Trade Union Movement. Albert was a true Labor man and believed the Labor Party was on the side of the workers. I wonder what he would think about the Labor Party we have now?

Albert had a definite belief that Providence had brought his wife and him together, but towards the end of the book he said that the wars changed his outlook on things and that he found it difficult to believe in God.

I highly recommend this book for anyone - Aussie or otherwise. It is a valuable insight to the changes which swept through the 20th Century as seen by an ordinary person. It's also a beautiful love story and a lesson in perspective.




From the Afterword by Jan Carter:

What has Albert Facey left us? There is his description of childhood and adult-child relations at the beginning of this century which indicate how great the changes in childhood have been. There is his personal account of the dehumanising and brutal effects of war (the one defeat he felt morally unable to accept).
There is his documentation of the types and processes of work including some vanishing occupations. There are all these things and more, but in the end, Albert Facey's  autobiography must be classified as political history, for he contributes to the neglected history of this country...
From Facey, we know what it was like to be poor and young at the gold rushes...
We know what it was like to be an itinerant worker...
We understand the predicaments of a first-world-war private...
He describes being a husband and father with mouths to feed in the Depression...
Albert Facey is Australia's pilgrim.



Besides being a wonderful story for adults, this book is also suitable as a read aloud with some editing for younger listeners, or for readers around the age of 14 years and up. There is also an abridged version of the book for younger readers which is very well done.




A Forunate Life was one of my choices for the Aussie Author Challenge 2015.


Friday, 18 December 2015

A Reading Plan for 2016

For the past two years I've participated in AusRead during November, hosted by Brona's Books, and last year I added three more challenges: the Classic Children’s Literature Event, (also held during one month of the year), Back to the Classics and Aussie Authors Challenge. (update: forgot to add the 50 Classics in 5 years!). This year in addition to most of these, I'm adding a 'to be read' challenge. The idea is to choose books you already have but haven't got around to reading yet. I tried to fit in as many of these when I selected books for the Back to the Classics Challenge, so there are some cross-overs here (marked with an *) but some of the books I wanted to read were published later than the 'classic' publication cut off date of 1966 - Cancer Ward and Children of Men, for example.





So I thought that this Mount TBR Reading Challenge has my name all over it. I've discovered that signing up for something like this is a good discipline for my reading habits.
I've chosen the lowest level, Pike's Peak, and will plan to read 12 books from those listed below from my TBR mountain during 2016:


The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers

Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes *

If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim

Cancer Ward by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

The Refugees by A. Conan Doyle

Consider This by Karen Glass

The Edge by Dick Francis

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

When Children Love to Learn
- Elaine Cooper, General Editor

A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

The Tragedy of the Korosko by Arthur Conan Doyle

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

Pastoral by Nevil Shute

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen *

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte *

Children of Men by P.D. James

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

The Road From Home by David Kheridian

Nothing Else Matters by Patricia St. John

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter
 


Anyone care to join me?




Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2016




This year I'd like to concentrate on reading books I already own but  haven't got to reading yet. I'd also like to re-read some books I read when I was younger now that I presumably have the hindsight of maturity. I enjoyed the Back to the Classics Challenge for 2015 so I'm signing up again this year. For details see Karen's sign up post at Books & Chocolates.
I don't own all the books for some of the categories for this challenge so I'm hoping to fill in the gaps with borrowed books. I also can't decide between some options that's why you'll see more than one title in some (most) categories.


1.    A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, 1874. I'm pretty certain one of the boys is getting me this for my birthday.


2.  A 20th Century Classic - any book published between 1900 and 1966

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, 1924

Decline & Fall by Evelyn Waugh, 1928

The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Gouge, 1963 (borrowed from a friend)


3.  A classic by a woman author -

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, 1811


4.  A classic in translation

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Originally written in the 1400's and later translated into English from Latin.


5.  A classic by a non-white author

Unsure of which book I'll choose. Some ideas are: 
To Sir With Love by E. R. Braithwaite, 1959
Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, 1901
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, 1952.


6.  An adventure classic - can be fiction or non-fiction.

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy, 1965 - or any one of a number of titles I own in this category.
The Tragedy of the Korosko by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1898



7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, 1951, or  
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (I discovered this author when I read an essay by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn). I don't own either of these but have wanted to read them for a while.


8.  A classic detective novel

I've got oodles of books in this category but I haven't read a lot of them as I originally collected them for my children and didn't develop an appetite for this genre until more recently. Yet to decide, but Hamlette complicated matters for me when she asked if I'd ever read anything by Raymond Chandler. I hadn't, but I did see one of his books (The Big Sleep, 1939) in a bookshop recently...temptation, temptation.

Cover Her Face is P.D.James' debut 1962 crime novel which I would like to read sometime.


9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title

Hiroshima by John Hersey, 1946, or
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 1847
Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes, 1960



10. A classic which has been banned or censored.
 
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, 1928, or
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1921 - if I don't use it for no. 7


11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college).  If it's a book you loved, does it stand the test of time?  If it's a book you disliked, is it any better a second time around?

I'm thinking it will be one of these:

The Story of  Esther Costello by Nicholas Monsarrat, 1952 (I may not be able to find a copy of this).
I don't know if I actually read this book, but I've always remembered the main character's name, i.e.  Esther Costello, but had no idea who wrote it. I found out not long ago that its author was Nicholas Monsarrat.

The Agony & the Ecstacy by Irving Stone, 1961 (biographical novel about Michelangelo Buonarroti)
Phantastes by George Macdonald, 1858.


12. A volume of classic short stories. This must be one complete volume, at least 8 short stories. Children's stories are acceptable in this category only.

Methinks...something by Flannery O'Connor or a fairy tale selection eg. Grimms, Hans Christian Anderson or an Andrew Lang title.





Saturday, 12 December 2015

We Build a Snailery...

Snail mail...

From time to time we take our mail out of the letterbox to find it's had bits eaten out of it. We finally caught the culprit feasting on a piece of junk mail, so we used this opportunity to do some nature study. It was too hot to be outside so we brought himher (snails are hermaphrodites) inside to observe:

journey & destination


The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock has a good section on snails and suggests building a snailery to observe them.




So we did...a glass jar, some moss, dirt & leaves & a little container of water





A piece of muslin over the top, held in place with an elastic band keeps the snail in the snailery - we had a piece of gauze triangular sling that we cup up. The next day we found another snail & put himher in the snailery also





They were either lying around tucked up in their shells or stuck to the side of the glass while in the snailery so we got them out to see if they could be coaxed into eating some lettuce.

One of them was keen and popped out of his shell...




The other wasn't much interested at all 




Snail break! Heshe's had a feed and now is off and moving faster than we expected for a snail. Here it is trying to escape.



Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies has a chapter on snails and I read that aloud while Benj & Moozle did some drawing, but more time was spent checking the snails out, which was the main point of the exercise. 










This is a video Moozle took of the two snails when we put them back into the snailery:


video


Some precautions when handling snails as they can carry the rat lungworm parasite.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

A Year of Listening

As I had to spend about 3 hours per week driving Moozle to dance lessons, and various competitions this past year, I made sure we had some decent audiobooks to listen to while we were in transit. Our local library is very good generally but abysmal when it comes to children's audiobooks. Not that they don't have any - they actually have a good size collection - but most of it is tripe, so in desperation, I decided to try out some classics which I had read myself. Although I was comfortable about their content, I wasn't sure that Moozle would find them interesting, especially the first:





I enjoyed Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, but I know many who find it rather tedious. Anyhow, I put it on and Moozle didn't complain. I had to turn it off at one point because it was scratched and kept repeating on a section. Moozle wasn't happy about that because, 'We just got to the good bit!' I gave the CDs a bit of a clean & we listened to the rest of it over the following weeks.



http://www.bookdepository.com/Ann-and-the-King-of-Siam-Margaret-Landon-Anne-Flosnik/9781610452915?ref=grid-view


Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon is the unabridged semi-fctionalised biography of Anna Leonowen, narrated by Anne Flosnik. The story, published in 1944, was based on diaries kept during Leonowen's five year stay as a governess to the King of Siam's many children. The narrative goes into some detail regarding Buddhist beliefs and practices - there's a review here of the story. The King's use of  "etc..." was quite extensive, which Moozle thought was hilarious. There is also a fairly heavily abridged version of the book with the title, 'Anna and the King.'  Benj also listened to this one.



http://www.bookdepository.com/Tale-of-Two-Cities-Charles-Dickens-Anton-Lesser/9789626343593?ref=grid-view


A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Anton Lesser narrates this so well. We so enjoyed listening to the voices of the multitudinous characters in this story. Dickens combines tragedy and humour in such a masterly fashion.The boys in the family have never been keen on Dickens but well done audiobooks are helpful for reluctant Dickens' readers; especially if you're in the car and they are a captive audience. Martin Jarvis is my very favourite Dickens narrator.



http://www.bookdepository.com/The-Wombles-Elisabeth-Beresford/9781408825655?ref=grid-view


The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford is just a delight. I vaguely remembered something about The Wombles of Wimbledon from way back so I grabbed this when I saw it, hoping it would be enjoyable. The narrator, Bernard Cribbins, is excellent. Even though the stories are recommended for ages 5 to 7, they are suitable for anyone who would be happy to listen to Pooh Bear or Wind in the Willows. It reminds me a little of Redwall minus the battles and the baddies; the Wombles are a gentle lot. You can have a listen here.



http://www.bookdepository.com/Mansfield-Park-Jane-Austen-Juliet-Stevenson/9789626344675?ref=grid-view


Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Juliet Stevenson is another excellent narrator who is well suited to portray Jane Austen's characters. Moozle can now do a pretty good imitation of Lady Bertram after listening to this audio. The Naxos website has short audio clips if you want to listen to a narrator's voice & make sure they are not going to drive you mad.


http://www.bookdepository.com/Pride-and-Prejudice-Jane-Austen-Emili-Fox/9789626343562?ref=grid-view


Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is narrated by Emilia Fox, who played the part of Georgiana, Mr. Darcy's sister, in the wonderful 1995 miniseries of Pride & Prejudice. She isn't as dramatic as Juliet Stevenson but she is also very good. I've read P & P a number of times but listening to this audio gave me a greater appreciation for Jane Austen's razor sharp wit. I've been surprised a number of times when my 10 year old daughter caught the satire in Austen's words and looked across at me, smiling, to see if I also understood.




The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle; narrated by Christopher Cazenove. We hadn't heard this narrator before and he does a brilliant job of this book. I've read this book aloud in the past and Moozle & Benj know it well, but listening to it was a treat.
'Marry, come thither sweet chuck!' Wot!'




Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease, read by Clive Mantle. This is a good adventure story set in Elizabethan England and was first published in 1940. A 14 year old boy is on the run after throwing a rock at heartless Sir Philip Morton. He makes his way to London where he is befriended by William Shakespeare. Suitable for around ages 7 ish and up.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 - Wrap-up Post


Girl Reading in a Landscape by Ada Thilen, 1896



I've just finished the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 and read a total of 12 books from various categories throughout this year. My original list is here but I made a few changes (as I knew I would) as I went along. I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and read some books I might have passed over had I not had to include specific categories.
These are the 12 books linked to my review/thoughts on each one.


 1. A 19th Century Classic - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


2.  A 20th Century Classic - The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie


3.  A Classic by a Woman Author - Persuasion by Jane Austen


4.  A Classic in Translation - Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert


5.  A Very Long Classic Novel - The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter


6.  A Classic Novella - The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith


7.  A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title - Adam Bede by George Eliot


8.  A Humorous or Satirical Classic - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving


9.  A Forgotten Classic - I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall


10.  A Nonfiction Classic - The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis


11.  A Classic Children's Book - Bambi: a Life in the Woods by Felix Salten


12.  A Classic Play - All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare




Karen @ Books & Chocolates will be hosting another Back to Classics Challenge in 2016

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Abolition of Man by C.S Lewis (1898-1963)




I've read quite a few books by C.S. Lewis and have always found his writing very accessible but this book, despite its brevity, was stiff going.  I struggled to understand some of what he wrote, but reading this book more seventy years after it was published, I can appreciate his brilliance and the prophetic ring to his words.
The Abolition of Man or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools, was first published in 1943 and its main focus is moral relativism. The book is divided into three sections:

1. Men Without Chests

Lewis opens with an example from an English textbook written for schools, The Green Book. The book's authors, Gaius and Titius, argue that there is no such thing as objective value and that our judgements about value are subjective. You may value a painting for its beauty, but that's just your own subjective judgement. There is no outside standard by which beauty can be judged.

Although the authors may have unintentionally bred a philosophy of value while trying to strengthen the minds of their young students against ‘sentiment,’ Lewis cuts to the heart of the issue:

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.
The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments...a hard heart us no infallible protection against a soft head.

There are universal principles, natural laws, traditional values; beliefs that certain attitudes are true and others false. They have provided a framework for objective value throughout history and have been shared by successful civilisations and religious systems throughout history. He calls these principles the Tao, and devoted an appendix at the end of the book to illustrate the extent of its influence.

Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in 'ordinate affections' or 'just sentiments' will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.

In an educational sense, if you stand within the Tao, the task is to train the student in those responses which are intrinsically ordinate or just. If outside the Tao, education will either remove all sentiments from the student's mind or else encourage sentiments that have nothing to do with their intrinsic 'justness' or 'ordinancy.'


This moral relativism produces Men Without Chests. The chest is the seat of Magnanimity:

Of emotions organised by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest - Magnanimity - Sentiment - these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man.

Modern philosophy gives Men without Chests the appellation of Intellectuals. The following quotes were a couple of my favourites:

This gives them (the 'Intellectuals) the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so...
It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

2. The Way

The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.

Lewis believes that those who want to discredit traditional values often have their own set of values which they consider to be free from inherited restrictions. By removing these restrictions or sentiments, our real, basic values are allowed to surface. He uses this chapter to trace that thinking through to its natural conclusion.

The 'Innovator,' having dismissed the Tao, looks for a basic ground of value. He decides that ethics based on Instinct will give him what he wants.
But...
Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey 'people.' People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war...Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest.


The chapter concludes with the idea that the end result of stepping outside the Tao is the rejection of the concept of value altogether.

Let us regard all ideas of what we 'ought' to do simply as an interesting psychological survival: let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground if imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let yes now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.

3) The Abolition of Man

For the powers of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we gave seen, the power of some men to make other men what 'they' please.

Chuck Colson said that ‘Naturalism (the belief that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything in the universe) undercuts any objective morality, opening the door to tyranny.’
In the final chapter of The Abolition of Man, Man’s conquest of nature turns out to be man using  Nature to exert power over other men - i.e. tyranny.

Through eugenics, pre-natal conditioning, propaganda and education based on ‘perfectly applied psychology,’ Man obtains full control over himself.

This final chapter had my mind in convolutions at times, especially when I lost the thread connecting it all to education. Re-reading some sections helped make it more cohesive. It really is a book that deserves multiple readings, and is listed as one of the National Reviews 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century. I highly recommend it, especially to parents and anyone involved in education.



The Abolition of Man is my entry in the Non-Fiction Classic category at the Back to the Classics 2015 Challenge.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - ideas for Advent when life is busy...

The last days of November mark the beginning of a rush of family birthdays which continue through to the end of March for us. With Christmas preparations added to the birthday celebrations life can get quite busy. I often think of the words of the Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, where it says,

 'Let every heart prepare Him room.' 

How do we make room in our hearts and in our lives for Him at a time of year when everything pushes us into rush and busyness?




Keeping things simple and do-able is the only way I can do this. Perhaps in a different season of life my plans could be more complex, but for the time being, simple is do-able. Below are some ideas that we've used, or are planning to use, over the season of Advent. They are mostly ideas that fit well with the rhythm of our Ambleside Online schedules, which are usually still in place up until the second or third week of December. Some of these ideas have become yearly traditions, which are simple for us because we've already done them multiple times. Some are things that were great one year but didn't suit the next.


Folksongs

Music is on of the easiest ways for our hearts to 'prepare Him room.' I'll start with our favourite Christmas folksong for the past two years  - an oldie with a new twist.





And another we listen to:




Poetry

The original poem, Christmas Bells by William Wadsworth Longfellow was written in 1864 during the American Civil War. The whole poem and the story behind it is here. One of my very favourites for this time of year and very appropriate as we see what is happening in other parts of the world or sometimes within our own borders.

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”





Hymn Study

Joy to the World! An Advent Devotional Journey through the Songs of Christmas by Ray Pritchard. This is a kindle edition available from Amazon and they were offering it as a free download. It may still be available. Each day from the 1st to the 25th December a Christmas hymn or song is highlighted, some of the history of the song is covered, and then there is a link to a youtube version of the song. A handy pick up & go, no planning needed, resource. I would find doing a different song each day too much and would prefer to concentrate on just a few which would work just as well.
I've added some links below to posts where I've included some hymns that we like to listen to leading up to Christmas.


 


My Reading

The Birth by Gene Edwards. I reviewed this book here. This is a refreshing and different view of the whole Christmas story in fictional form, and I really enjoy it for that reason. I have a friend who reads this every Christmas.

Read Alouds


I Will Honour Christmas in my Heart - books we used last Christmas; some lovely picture books are included. We read through Dicken's A Christmas Carol and listened to a recording of Handel's Messiah using Cindy's schedule.
Nancy @ Ipsofactodotme joined us with both of these and she posted her very thoughtful observations on her blog. See also her blow by blow description of A Christmas Carol.


www.bookdepository.com/Christmas-Carol-Charles-Dickens-Robert-Ingpen/9780993166105/?a_aid=journey56



Advent favourites - this is a post I did two years ago that includes a range of ideas and resources - art, music, handicraft etc which we've used for Advent and Christmas.

Christmas Ideas in a Charlotte Mason Education - another post: books, handicraft etc

Keeping Christmas


The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622