Thursday, 21 September 2017

Written Work in a Charlotte Mason Curriculum

This is a week's worth of written work done by my 12 year old daughter who is doing AmblesideOnline Year 7. Each week is a little different, depending on what else is happening, but essentially after each reading she is required to do an oral narration or some sort of written account, which could be a notebook entry, a composition or creative narration or just a retelling. I sometimes leave this up to her to decide or ask her to do something specific if I think she needs more variety.
Besides this her written work includes weekly dictation (we don't always get to this) & daily (or at least a few times a week) copywork.


We've been reading through the Oxford Book of Poetry as well as doing lessons from the Grammar of Poetry. This week I chose a poem, The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, read it aloud, and had my daughter tell me its rhyme scheme (AAAABCCCB). Then I asked her to write a poem of her own following the same rhyme scheme, which she almost did: 

 The War of Words

Once upon a time,
In a faraway clime,
In the season of springtime,
A princess sublime,

Was held prisoner by a knight.

Many a gallant knight
Offered for her to fight
 But their offers ended in flight,

And the evil knight still held the princess.

Her father did beg,
And he offered an arm and a leg,
And he did not renege,
But the evil knight was a prig,

And at the end of a year, he still held the princess.

Then one day,
The princess cried, ‘Hooray!’
For on the road, heading her way,

Came a tall knight, in silver armour.

He rode up to the door,
And kicked it on the floor,
‘Hi, evil knight,’ he said. ‘I’m here for war!’
And down he sat on a bucket of tar,

And waited for the evil knight to speak.

The evil knight drew forth his sword,
And they went out upon the sward,
‘But stop,’ said the tall knight, ‘I’m bored.

Why not have a battle of insults instead?’

To be finished...she's been sick and laid up with a fever and didn't get back to daughter, not the princess.

Architecture Notebook

An entry is done in her notebook once a week.


Shakespeare and Plutarch have often provided some fruitful ideas for narrations with their rich language and drama. I used this suggestion from the Cambridge School Shakespeare as a base for my daughter's narration below:
Imagine you are Caesar's intelligence agents who have shadowed Brutus and Cassius (in Act 1, Scene 2) and bugged their converstion in order to make a report on them to their master.

She typed this one & I copied it here unedited, except for the dialogue, where I used a different colour to make it easier to read:

Description of Brutus
Brutus is of middling height, with a stern gaze upon his countenance, and Rome in his heart.

Description of Cassius
Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much, therefore he must forthwith be dangerous.


Brutus and Cassius standeth together, talking in low tones, glancing this way, and that way, making certain that no one doth intrudeth forth into their conversion.


‘How now, Cassius: what brings thee to converse with me?’


‘Oh, my dear Brutus, ‘tis nought but friendly talk.’

There arises a shout from the populace, in the direction of Caesar’s whereabouts


“Alack, alack, I fear me that honour hath been given Caesar. Alas for Rome! Ah me! We sinketh thus to the depths of d…. I mean, harrumph, ah, hooray!’


‘Thou needst not fear me, Brutus, I am one of those excellent and most trustworthy people, who . . .’
Cassius’s words fade unto the air, as in the distance they heareth the voice of Caesar, who sayeth unto Antony,
‘I want fat men about me, Antonius. That Cassius hath a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Sniff. Such men are dangerous.’


‘Ah, excuse me. . . now, as I was uttering, when so rudely interrupted, cough, cough, thou canst trust me, Brutus. Thou dost not approve of honours given unto Caesar?’


‘Aye, Cassius. Methinks, thee also . . .?’ 

Cassius (drawing Brutus aside)

‘Oh, the day, when men fall down in front of men, made up as gods, when once they were as equals! I, fearless before foes, the terror of mine enemies, reduced to this! I, who once had to draggeth Caesar out of the Tiber!’


‘Out upon thee! Explain thine self, eh?!’


‘Why, my dear Brutus, upon the banks of Tiber I stood with Caesar, who turned unto me, and spake, ‘Cassius, wouldst thou jump into that flood with?’ I up and spake, ‘Aye Caesar, that would I,’ and forthwith I jumped straightway into that roaring flood, and Caesar jumped in with me. I had reached the farther bank, when whereupon Caesar cried unto me, ‘Help, o noble Cassius!’ (see what opinion he had of me!’) I turning around, with all the goodness of my heart, jumped into that flood once more, and dragged him upon the bank, for, he was too weak, forsooth, to do it himself! And now, I ask thee, Caesar holdeth the laurels?!’

Brutus (impressed)

‘Oh dear, Cassius. Of a truth, methinks thou art more fitted to hold the laurels than Caesar! I bear him no ill will, but the bettering of Rome is in my thoughts, O Cassius.'


‘I agree, Brutus. And, moreover, when Caesar had a fever, he asked for water.’

Brutus (horrified)

‘Oh horror! What a calamity. Oh justice, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.’


‘Yea, Brutus, I hear the trumpets this way come. Thine self I shall meet on the morrow.’


‘Aye. Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night ‘til it be morrow.’


A handwritten narration from Churchill's Birth of Britain. She is quite neat when she does her copywork and dictation but more haphazard when doing a hand-written narration.


This is from her Anatomy & Physiology book (see here & here for the books we're using for Year 7)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey (1897-1952)

Josephine Tey is the pseudonym of Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scottish author, who also wrote numerous plays under the name of Gordon Daviot. She was one of the great British writers who wrote during the Golden Age of Crime and is best known for her mystery novels.
The Singing Sands was published after Tey's death in 1952, and features Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard who appears in five previous books by the author. The only other book I've read by the author is The Daughter of Time and in both books Tey delves into the psychological aspects of her characters, which makes for very interesting reading.
Inspector Grant, for example, in The Singing Sands, is on stress leave due to  overwork. He's been having panic attacks when in confined spaces and Tey cleverly weaves Grant's personal problem and an enigma he encounters to resolve both dilemmas. I really enjoyed how she did this and the way she created empathy for both the dead man and Grant's struggles.

The book begins with off duty Inspector Grant travelling to the Highlands by train to spend some time recuperating at the home of his cousin Laura and her husband. At the end of his journey he witnesses the train guard's discovery of a dead passenger. The police findings are that the man died of misadventure but Grant is haunted by memory of the young man's face and some cryptic poetic scribbling left on a newspaper in his compartment:

The beasts that talk,
Th streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sand...

This was such a well-written and engaging book to read, full of interesting characters, and with the added delight of being set in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides.
Grant is a likeable, gruff, sort of character. Single, and happy to be so, in spite of his cousin Laura's attempts at lining up a female every time he visits; he is a canny judge of character, a quality that serves him well, especially in this particular case, where he pinpoints a character trait in an otherwise unimpeachable person that leads him to believe that the person could commit murder. The character trait was Vanity and here Grant expresses his thoughts to Tad, a friend of the deceased:

'I find vanity repellant. As a person I loathe it, and as a policeman I distrust it.'

'It's a harmless sort of weakness,' Tad said, with a tolerant lift of a shoulder.

'That is just where you are wrong. It is the utterly destructive quality. When you say vanity, you are thinking of the kind that admires itself in mirrors and buys things to deck itself out in. But that is merely personal conceit. Real vanity is something quite different. A matter not of person but of personality. Vanity says "I must have this because I am me". It is a frightening thing because it is incurable. You can never convince Vanity that anyone else is of the slightest importance; he just doesn't understand what you are talking about. He will kill a person rather than be put to the inconvenience of doing a six months' stretch.'

'But that's being insane.' 

'Not according to Vanity's reckoning. And certainly not in the medical sense. It is merely Vanity being logical. It is...the basis of all criminal personality...true criminals vary in looks and tastes and intelligence and method as widely as the rest of the world does, but they have one invaluable characteristic: their pathological vanity.'

Grant's obsession with finding out the truth behind the man's death takes him to the Hebrides where the 'singing sands' were said to be found. The wildness, the isolation and the 'barren water-logged universe' soaks into his soul and brings healing. He feels he has become something more than the young man's champion now: 'he was his debtor. His servant.'

A free kindle version of The Singing Sands is available here.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

An Educational Classic: Home Education by Charlotte Mason (1886)

Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was the founder of the House of Education, a college established in the English Lake District in 1892 to train governesses for young children. Located in the town of Ambleside, it was renamed Charlotte Mason College in 1938.
Mason had already published some educational books for use in schools but in 1886, her first book in a series of six on the philosophy and practice of education, Home Education, was published. This book found an appreciative audience and the Parents National Education Union (PNEU) was established soon afterwards with branches in a number of towns and cities. By 1890, it was publishing its own monthly magazine, 'The Parents Review,' edited by Charlotte Mason. By the 1920s the PNEU had established a number of schools plus a correspondence school that supplied resources to parents and governesses, especially those living overseas.

One thing to be noted about Home Education is that it is not principally a book dealing with 'Home' as opposed to 'School.'
Its main concern is with the training and educating of children under nine and Mason stresses the responsibility of the home in regards to this. This is a very refreshing approach from the more modern attitude where teachers are often expected to do for children what should have been done by parents, or where the State assumes we are incompetent and that they would do a much better job if only they could get hold of the child early enough. In fact, Mason said in regard to thinking mothers that, 'the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own.'

Considering this book was written over a hundred years ago, Home Education is incredibly relevant to our modern times, despite a few parenting practices that suited the conditions of Victorian England society but are outdated now.
Reading Mason's words in in the twenty-first century, it's apparent that she was far ahead of her time, and that her ideas are still applicable because they address universals. Children haven't changed even if our methods of parenting and teaching have, and throughout Mason's writing she presents principles that work because they take into account who the child is and where our responsibility lies in regard to them. The educational method she proposes is life-giving. It has a framework, but it isn't rigid and confining. It is based on truth but it isn't tied to the past therefore it can be adapted to different situations and locations. It can be used with gifted children and it can be used with children who have learning difficulties.

People are too apt to use children as counters in a game, to be moved hither and thither according to the whim of the moment. Our crying need to-day is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children, - children, merely as human beings, whether brilliant or dull, precocious or backward.
Charlotte Mason

What Home Education covers:

•    Mothers owe their children 'a thinking love.' Parents are to supply their children with what is     wholesome & nourishing in all areas: books, lessons, playmates, food.

•    The difference between a 'method' and a 'system' of education
•    The Gospel's view of the child
•    Health aspects: outdoor life, brain activity
•    Habits - 'Habit is Ten Natures' - laying down lines of habit; the physiology of habit; brain plasticity:

Given, that the constant direction of the thoughts produces a certain set in the tissues of the brain, this set is the first trace of the rut or path, a line of least resistance, along which the same impression, made another time, will find it easier to travel than to take another path. So arises a right-of-way for any given habit of action or thought.

If it is so easy for ourselves to take up a new habit, it is tenfold as easy for the children; and this is the real difficulty in the matter of the education of habit. It is necessary that the mother be always on the alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up...

•    Habits of Mind and Moral Habits - the habits of attention, application, thinking, imagining, remembering, obedience, truthfulness & reverence

•    There is a section of the book devoted to Lessons as Instruments of Education in which the author firstly discusses the idea of the Kindergarten. Her view was that the success of such a school demands rare qualities in the teacher so the mother would naturally be better than any commonplace person who would personally influence the child.

'...mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.'

•    She also thought that there were myriad teaching opportunities in the home that in the Kindergarten would likely become wooden and stereotyped. Mason thought that the 'garden' analogy of the Kindergarten, although attractive, is a false one and breaks down when applied to a person as it meant 'undue interference with the spontaneous development of a human being.'

•    Mason covers the teaching of reading in a very practical and helpful way as well as other lessons at home including narrating, writing, spelling, composition, Bible, mathematics, and history.

•    The final section of the book deals with the Conscience, and contains excellent ideas on the Instruction of the Conscience and The Way of the Will. She describes the blunder we make when we describe a child as being 'wilful' when in reality they have no control over their will. This error leads the parent to neglect the cultivation and training of their child's will.

•    The conclusion of this part of the book discusses the spiritual aspects of the child's life: parental responsibility and influence; the correct view of God i.e. not portraying Him as an exactor or a punisher. There is much wisdom and richness in Mason's ideas regarding the Divine Life in the Child and I highly recommend this section for anyone concerned with the spiritual life of a child.

Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child. The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief.

Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. 

How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads - all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause.

Home Education had been out of print for nearly thirty years and was republished by Living Book Press, an Australian company, earlier this year. This is the copy pictured above. The complete Charlotte Mason series has been available free to read at Ambleside Online (AO) for many years.

For information on Charlotte Mason, the PNEU or the Parent's Review Articles see the AO website and Charlotte Mason Timeline.

The Original Home Schooling series published in 1989 by Charlotte Mason Research & Supply includes a foreword by John Thorley, Principal, Charlotte Mason College that was most helpful in providing information on Charlotte Mason's background.

Linking this to The Classics Club; Back to the Classics 2017 for the 19th Century Classic category and Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge 2017


Friday, 1 September 2017

What Some Days in a Girl's Year 7 Week Look Like

Any time I've attempted to set down what we do in a day I've tried to write things up as we do them. I started off quite well most days this week but then got sidetracked. We're using AmblesideOnline Year 7 with some modifications. (I posted this year's plans here). This is what I managed to record of the week:


Wonder of wonders, I woke up about 7am and went for a walk - the first time I've done this in about two or three weeks.

8am - woke up Moozle (Monday is not her favourite day.) Breakfast and some morning jobs.
We started lessons about 9am:

* Picture Study (John Constable)
* Literature (Watership Down, which she reads herself)
* Devotions, memory work, I read a poem or two
* Read Aloud: The Gift of Music - listened to a piece by Corelli and then Vivaldi - Moozle draws while I read. She's using Draw 50 Buildings & Other Structures as part of her Architecture studies:

* Short cello practice

At about 12.15pm we go to cello lessons. She has an hour and a half's lesson and practices about an hour or more a day as she's preparing for an exam in late October. We use the time in the car to listen to our folksong, hymn & French song.

2.30pm - We had lunch & did our own individual reading. I checked emails, put on some washing, hung some out & brought some in...

When she finished lunch she continued her work - this week she did Geography.
We don't do maths on a Monday or much written work.

I started making dinner around and 4pm Moozle went outside to build "Queen Eleanor's bower," and after dinner she went to ballet. After doing Highland Dancing for many years we had to stop lessons when her teacher changed her hours so since the middle of last year she's been doing ballet, which she also loves. I listened to this Circe podcast while I was making dinner; it was very good:

"On Cultivating Wise Movie-watchers" - When to let kids make their own decisions about movies, why the MPAA ratings aren't useful guidelines, why the philosophies in films are often more important to avoid than things like s*x, violence, and language, movies and filmmakers that will help students learn to watch wisely, & much more.


I managed to fit a walk in again.

* French (watched half of the video for the week's lesson)
* Read Ivanhoe
* Cello Practice
* Ten Fingers for God - devotional reading on her own
* Devotions, memory work, Plutarch

* Churchill's Birth of Britain - reads this herself. This is her written narration from the book:

* Swimming in the afternoon - we do this in rain, hail & shine, all year - unless there's an electrical storm.

* Maths in the evening after dinner

Wednesday & Thursday - I forgot to write down what we did but it would have included science readings & notebook, French, Latin, Maths, Cello, History, Century Chart, Copywork.
We did a lesson on similes from The Grammar of Poetry and discussed some notable examples from 'My Family & Other Animals.'

 Century chart - free download from here


Today was the first day of spring here in Australia . We have a tradition of going for a walk on this day to check out what signs of spring we can see so we headed off at 8am.

Freesias in flower

 A male Brush Turkey arranging his nest

Home for breakfast...and then:

Moozle did Copywork, French, and a Literature reading. Oral narration followed, then we both got out our nature notebooks and listened to Vivaldi while we did our entries. Moozle wrote down the 'firsts' of the season and then tried out some crayons & watercolour:

 This was my attempt at drawing the brush turkey & a freesia...

Benj has Fridays off from university and teaches swimming in the morning. After lunch all three of us went to an appointment which took about an hour and then we returned home.

Afternoon work for Moozle:

* Reading on her own & then oral narration afterwards
* We took turns reading a section of Beowulf aloud
* Cello practice
* I read The Wonder Book of Chemistry aloud while she continued her work on "Queen Eleanor's  bower."

The boys took Dad out for dinner & a football game tonight for an early Father's Day gift so Moozle & I watched Ann of Green Gables, the Sequel, together.
In one of the scenes Ann told her class to open up The Oxford Book of Verse, a book we're using this year, and when Marilla & Mrs Lynde were having tea together we noticed that the tea set they were using looked just like ours:

Five weeks into AO year 7 and I'm still juggling our schedule. Cello and musicianship take up quite a bit of time and they're high priority at present which means that some other areas are getting squeezed out or slowed down. That has happened in the past with my older ones as they all studied an instrument.
I don't regret the time spent in nurturing the arts. I've observed that the discipline of music study and the appreciation of beauty that comes with spending time with great art has extended into all areas of our children's lives. It has paid rich dividends later on as adults, not to mention the pleasure they gain and give by being proficient with their instruments.

Linking up with Weekly Wrap-up and Keeping Company

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Living books for the 20th Century: Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (1986)

'On the evening of 30 August when the Red Guards came to loot my house...
I was sitting alone in my study reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich...'

What an incredible story this is! Nien Cheng's memoir, Life and Death in Shangai is saturated with spiritual and soul stretching lessons from her exceptional life. I've read a few books set during Mao's Cultural Revolution but this account stands out for the sheer courage, audacity, and fortitude displayed by the author.
In some respects, Nien Cheng reminds me of Kostoglotov in Solzhenitsyn's book Cancer Ward - two individuals pushing against a totalitarian system.

Nien Cheng was born in Peking in 1915 and studied Economics in London in the mid-1930's. She met her husband during this time and upon their return to China in 1939, he became a diplomatic officer in the Kuomintang Government.
When the Communist Party entered Shanghai in 1949 he was asked to remain in office for the transitional period, after which he was allowed to leave and take on the position of general manager of the Shell International Petroleum Company based in Shanghai.
In 1957 Nien Cheng's husband died of cancer and she was asked to fill the position of assistant to the new general manager, becoming the only woman in Shanghai to occupy a senior role in a company that was acclaimed worldwide, a role she enjoyed until 1966.
Up until the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party didn't decree how people should live, but from time to time political campaigns rocked the country, and when people fell victim to these their incomes were drastically reduced or they and their families were relocated. For seventeen years Nien Chen had made an effort to make her home a haven for her daughter, Meiping, and herself, and managed to maintain their standard of living, 'so that we could continue to enjoy good taste while the rest of the city was being taken over by proletarian realism.'
Meiping, a young actress in the Shanghai Film Studio, was an attractive and intelligent young woman who had learned from an early age that 'the classless society of Communism had a more rigid class system than the despised capitalist society.'
When the Communists gained control of China a new system of discrimination developed against the children of the educated and affluent, who found themselves handicapped because of their family background.

Nien Cheng was falsely accused of being a British spy in 1966 and imprisoned in solitary confinement for six and a half years. She steadfastly maintained her innocence throughout that time, defying her brutal interrogators with quotes from Mao's red book and her quick wits.
There was a mysterious element behind her arrest that she wasn't able to identify until much later, but it added a background of suspense to her story.
Although there were many sad and intense moments in Nien Cheng's account, at times she made me feel like laughing and giving a cheer...such as when she was being outrageously denounced by former employees of the company she worked for:

...I must put a stop to this farce. I jerked my head up and laughed uproariously.
My reaction was not what anyone had expected. There was a moment of stunned silence.

She disciplined herself to stay calm and maintain a cool politeness while her interrogators ranted and yelled at her. Her logical responses and her refusal to be bullied into a false confession were a source of frustration to those who were unaccustomed to this type of response. Throughout her imprisonment she had no contact with her daughter but her overwhelming concern was for her safety and she was careful not to do or say anything that would jeopordise her child's future.
When she was facing the extreme cold of her cell and the lack of food, she forced herself to keep her mind active by recalling poetry she had memorised and worked out ways to give her body some exercise without the guards noticing.

There were so many quotable passages in this book but here are a few that especially stood out  to me:

'I'm not a spy for anybody. I have nothing to confess,' I said firmly to the wall from where Mao's portrait looked down on me. As I gazed at Mao's face wearing what was intended as a benign expression but what was in fact a smirk of self-satisfaction, I wondered how one single person could have caused the extent of misery that was prevailing in China. There must be something lacking in our own character, I thought, that had made it possible for his evil genius to dominate.

When a man was denounced, he was depicted as totally bad, and any errant behaviour was attributed to the influence of capitalism. 

A Party officer entered her home and spat on the carpet - the first time that the author saw a declaration of power made in a gesture of rudeness:

...I had come to realize that the junior officers of the Party often used the exaggerated gesture of rudeness to cover up their feelings of inferiority.

The newspaper announced that the mission of the Red Guards was to rid the country of the 'Four Olds' - old culture, old customs, old habits and old ways of thinking. There was no clear definition of 'old'; it was left to the Red Guards to decide...

Political correctness had them changing the names of streets...the Bund was renamed Revolutionary Boulevard.

The Red Guards debated whether to reverse the system of traffic lights, as they thought Red should mean Go and not Stop. In the meantime, traffic lights stopped operating.

They seemed to be blissfully happy in their work of destruction because they were sure they were doing something to satisfy their God, Mao Tze-tung. Their behaviour was the result of their upbringing from childhood in Communist China. The propaganda they had absorbed precluded their having a free will of their own.

Nien Cheng developed bronchitis and a 'doctor' was sent to her cell. After explaining to the young man that she had a fever and had been coughing for nearly two months he declared that she probably had hepatitis! She realized he was not a trained doctor at all, but had been given the job because although unskilled, he was politically reliable:

The young man was simply carrying out Mao's order to 'learn to be a doctor by being one.'

'...It's not the purpose if the proletarian class to destroy your body. We want to save your soul by reforming your way of thinking.' Although Mao Tze-tung and his followers were atheists, they were fond of talking about the 'soul.' In his writing, Mao often referred to the saving of a man's soul. During the Cultural Revolution, 'soul' was mentioned frequently...
While no one could ask Mao Tze-tung or Lin Piao what exactly they meant when they talked about a man's 'soul', it greatly taxed the ingenuity of the Marxist writers of newspaper articles who had to explain their leader's words to the people.

On the objective of the Proletarian Revolution to form a classless society, which at first seemed an attractive and idealistic picture when Nien Cheng was a student:

...after living in Communist China for the past seventeen years, I knew that such a society was only a dream because those who seized power would invariably become the new ruling class....
In Communist China, details of the private lives of the leaders were guarded as State secrets. But every Chinese knew that the Party leaders lived in spacious mansions with many servants, obtained their provisions from special shops where luxury goods were made available to their households at nominal prices and sent their children in chauffeur-driven cars to exclusive schools to be taught by specially selected teachers...

Nien Chen was finally told she could leave prison, that the proletarian had magnanimously decided to refrain against pressing charges against her, but she wanted a full apology and refused to leave without one. The interrogators had never had a prisoner refuse to leave detention and were nonplussed. Meanwhile two guards arrived and dragged her outside. She was to endure further years of harrasment before she was eventually able to leave China.

This is such an excellent book and there are so many parallels to our present age with the push to be politically correct and the Marxist influence in many university courses. It's scheduled as a possible biography in Ambleside Online Year 11. I've used Mao Tse-Tung & His China by Albert Marrin in the past, which is a good book also, but not a personal account like Nien Cheng's, and a couple of other books we already had, but I found a copy of Life & Death in Shanghai recently and it's a book that I'd highly recommend.

Some information about the author:

"There were many Chinese who fought back and many who suffered much more. Some of them have never recovered," she said. "But my privilege has been to write about it, and that's only been possible because I could leave."

"It was not until later that Cheng learned that her interrogators were trying to get her to confess to being a spy so that Jiang Qing (Mao Zedong’s wife) and other radicals could oust Premier Zhou Enlai, a moderate who favored allowing foreign firms like Shell to operate in China."

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Ambleside Online Year 7: plans & modifications

Whenever I start planning a new year of home education I'm reminded again of the fact that each of my children are unique and what might have been good for one may not be the right choice for another at the same age. So just when I thought I should have all this figured out the seventh time around, I've been mulling over a few niggling thoughts I've had about Moozle's Year 7 content, trying to discern what is best for this girl of mine:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

We're going into Week 4 tomorrow and I wanted to wait for a few weeks before I posted what we'll be doing to see how my ideas work out in practice. I've made a few adjustments for different reasons, which I'll explain as I go, while still keeping to the basic structure of Ambleside Online Year 7 (because Years 7 & 8 are two of my favourite AO years!)
The main changes are:

Devotional Reading

I've used the first two books on the AO schedule for this year with Moozle's older siblings but the more I thought and prayed about what I should be doing, the more I've felt sure that what she needs at the moment lies in the way of story. It's not so much that the books are challenging - she's an advanced reader - but it's the spiritual aspects and the 'didactic' approach that I don't think she's ready for. Biographies, on the other hand, I know she will relate to. These are the books we'll be using instead - the first two (set in India & China respectively) serve the double purpose of devotional reading and books set in Asia/Pacific, which I cover because of their proximity to Australia and our connections with people from that area. (I've linked to reviews I've written on some of them):

* Ten Fingers for God by Dorothy Wilson

** The Small Woman by Alan Burgess

*** The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer - now this isn't a biography but I've included this in third term as an introduction to the devotional book scene because it's a book I love and Tozer uses the analogy of the tree and its fruit so the book has the feel of a parable.


We'll be doing the AO scheduled readings (scroll down the page) except for The Magna Carta. Instead I'll schedule this book over a few weeks because I have it & it's good. (181 pages)

Science & Natural History

We won't be doing First Studies of Plant Life or Adventures with a Microscope and will be substituting a couple of Australian titles:

A Bush Calendar by Amy Mack
First Studies in Plant Life by William Gillies. This is different to the one mentioned above (both the Aussie titles are free online)

We're also doing Apologia's Anatomy & Physiology and using some of these free resources I put together a couple of years ago for her brother. I usually do this in Year 6 but I didn't want Moozle to miss out on the excellent Science selections scheduled in that year. I'll be cutting out some of the activities in the Apologia book, I think.

Fine Arts

We'll be using the books pictured below for Music & Architecture in addition to our regular composer & picture study.

The Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith & Betty Carlson - I'm reading this aloud & this term we'll just be covering a few Baroque composers.

Cathedral by David Macaulay

String, Straight Edge, & Shadow by Julia E. Diggins - scroll down to see an overview of the book on the link. This is really the story of geometry but it dovetails nicely with the study of architecture and helps the reader to appreciate the significance of the Golden Mean in art and architecture...

Architecture by Gladys Wynne - I'd heard about this book but it's out of print and I really didn't know how useful it would be until one of the lovely ladies on the AO Forum posted a link to Archives and I had a chance to view it before I bought it from Amazon in the UK.


Julius Caesar 
Richard the Third


We're still reading the Life of Julius Caesar and have three more weeks left until we finish. We'll have a break before we start another life and just concentrate on Shakespeare for awhile.

French & Latin

We're continuing with French for Children B and there's quite a bit of grammar included so our English grammar study is taking a back seat for the time being.
We're still slowly going through Our Roman Roots by James R. Leek.

The Harp & Laurel Wreath by Laura M. Berquist is one of my favourite poetry anthologies and I take turns reading aloud this and the one in the picture above aloud.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Ten Fingers for God by Dorothy Clarke Wilson (1965)

Ten Fingers for God explores the life and work of Dr. Paul Brand, who was born in India to missionary parents, lived there until he was sent to school in England, and later returned to work and teach at a medical college in the southern Indian city of Vellore. 
Surgeon, teacher, and environmentalist, Dr. Brand achieved fame mostly for his pioneering research on the disease of leprosy. As a child growing up in the mountains of Madras, (re-named Chennai) he witnessed an incident which remained in his memory, a potent reminder of the awful plight and stigma for victims of leprosy. 
When Paul was nine years of age, his family had a furlough in England. A few months later, his parents returned to India while he and his younger sister, Connie, remained with relatives in order to go to school. They never saw their father again as he died of Blackwater Fever a few years later.

Paul disliked study and the school routine. He was used to the freedom of life in India where he'd sit up in a tree to do his lessons and pass his work down to his mother sitting on the ground underneath. He refused to conform, and his reports consisted of remarks such as "Poor, fair, rather disappointing; Next term we shall hope for better things."  

It wasn't books that Paul disliked, merely school books. He read avidly, often on the way to school, with such eagerness that he often ran into people. His taste in literature was respectable if not highbrow, tending largely toward adventure takes such as The Coral Islands and Westward Ho! He liked Dickens but abhorred Scott. In fact, English, next to the sciences, was his favourite subject. 

Paul tended to shine more in less admirable activities...climbing, avoiding school sports and performing dangerous science experiments in the playroom of his aunts' immaculate and genteel residence!

Paul's mother hoped he would train to be a doctor. His father had wanted to do this himself, at one time starting a course at Madras University, but Paul had no intention of becoming a doctor. The memory of his father's medical work repulsed him - pus, ulcers, blood. He decided to leave school and train to be a builder. 
After five years of training he applied to the mission board but was rejected as 'not being ready.' The two options open for him were Bible School and a short course in tropical medicine. He didn't want to do either... but he remembered his father. 

Jesse Brand had left the building trade for what he considered a nobler calling. He had prepared for his work by taking a short course in tropical medicine. His son would do the same. 

Paul found that he loved the work and the study, and his whole attitude to medical work changed. In 1937, on the eve of World War II, he was accepted into the University College Medical School in London. Here he was to meet his future wife, Margaret, their courtship taking place in the midst of evacuations and bombings, and their marriage in 1943. The war gave the young surgeon experience that would normally have taken years to acquire, and when the V-I bombs came flying over London, he was operating almost constantly, repairing gun wounds, cuts and other acute injuries. It was during this time that he became profoundly interested in the repair of severed nerves and tendons, especially in hands and feet. The skill and expertise he acquired was to serve him well in his work with leprosy patients later on. 

I really enjoy medical missionary biographies and this book is a re-read. Most of my children have read it also, usually around the age of 12 years or a little older, and I've assigned it to Moozle this term. 
Dorothy Clarke Wilson has written an engaging, joy-filled story, capturing Paul's earthy upbringing, his father's enthusiasm for nature - which he passed onto his son - his mother's dynamic personality and passion, Paul's love for the people he worked with and those he served; his struggles to overcome the stigma associated with leprosy, and his disappointments. The book also describes the disease of Leprosy (also known as Hansen's Disease), its mode of transmission, treatment, and its history. I would have loved to have read this when I was twelve!

Some highlights: 

" ...the most precious possession any human being has is his spirit, his will to live, his sense of dignity, his personality. Once that has been lost the opportunity for rehabilitation is lost. Though our profession may be a technical one, concerned with tendons, bones, and nerve endings, we must realize that it is the person behind it that is so important. Of course we need technicians: surgeons, physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists, vocational guidance specialists. But above all we need men and women who are concerned with people and who accept the challenge of the whole person, his life, his faith, and his hope." 

John, an older, almost blind patient, came to Paul and begged to have his claw hand opened. Paul said that there were so many able-bodied young men coming for surgery... "Your hands would take a lot of time, because they're stiff. And suppose, we did open them out, how could you use them? If you can't see or feel..."
But the old man persisted...

"I believe I could bring music to people...I use to be able to play the organ, and I'm sure that if you open my fingers, I could play again."
"Without being able to feel or see?" Paul had to be brutally honest. "I'm sorry, John, but how could you possibly play?"
The clawed hands crooked in a beseeching gesture. "I know how you feel, doctor, but - please just give me a chance."

Paul was unable to resist, and he operated with great misgivings on John's hands, the results being moderately successful.
John asked to be led to an organ and he sat at the keyboard while his nerveless hands fumbled and produced some discordant sounds. Paul was glad John couldn't see the pity on his face...

Then suddenly the organ swelled, not merely into melody but into the full harmony of the glorious hymn, "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun." And as the music came flooding out of the crude little box there spread over the uplifted face an ineffable smile of oracle and satisfaction. Paul almost wept.

We're using this book in the first term of AmblesideOnline Year 7 as a devotional read and as a book set in Asia.

Linking to 2017 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge