Saturday, June 16, 2018

Book Review: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

How the Irish Saved CivilizationHow the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Own. I'm going to actually give it 3.5 because the first half of the book was so good.

I started this on the beach and read for about 4 hours straight (ish) what with watching kids and people and dogs thrown in. I did manage to sit there and get sunburned though. I found the chapters interesting and the comparisons easily (too easily?) applicable to modern day. Ausonius' poetry being politically correct and expected; Augustine being a robust thinker. The description days of the Roman Empire being fat and happy and their failure to be prepared for invasion. All of that made sense in a historical as applied to today sense. I enjoyed the writing and the pace of that section. He made an argument for Western Civilization and learning as was known through the fall of Rome.

The next part was a lot new to me. I enjoyed the mythos of Ancient Ireland. My kids had just been reading and narrating about the Tain and other stories in their AmblesideOnline Year 7 readings, so that crossover of ideas was quite helpful. Cahill introduces an Irish people rife with story and as ready to hear the gospel as the Greeks had been. His tracing of where they came from and his discussion of a national character were interesting. His storytelling is a little bawdy in this section, but probably good.

We come back to the church and to Patrick. Here is where some of Cahill's claims start to fall apart for me. His story of Patrick was engaging and interesting, the work Patrick did in Ireland to evangelize the people was miraculous for sure. Cahill's characterization of the Irish comes into play here and as the narrative continues the Irish remain Irish but believe the Gospel. There's less fighting, but in general the Gospel makes no real change in their lives and activities. This is contrasted sharply with the uniform whitewashing of culture that the Church is described as having over the rest of Europe.

And, then, Rome falls.

The last part was, IMO, the part that knocked stars off. Part of the issue, for me, is that while this isn't an academic work, it is presented as scholarly for the public. The bibliography is insufficient, IMO, for helping with the claims that he is making. All of the books in all of Western Europe were entirely destroyed? All of civilization imploded that completely? Now he had made an argument that they were already failing from within to advance in intellectual and cultural ways (cf. Ausonius and his poetry) I think he needed to make a much stronger argument that salvation was necessary for the continent.

All of the sudden, out of nowhere the Irish come to save the day. These men who were exiled from their green isle and have been copying any scrap of paper that came their way. I did love that he portrayed the monks as loving learning and the creative impulse that came out of their copywork. I guess I wanted to see more than two paragraphs make the case that civilization needed saving and that the Irish swooped in like Superman to save it without any real danger to those who were in need.

The sharp dichotomy he built between the Irish church and the Continental church is disturbing as well. He also seems to have dug to find many salacious stories to keep modern readers engaged and reflects on Saint Brigid, in particular, with a decidedly modern eye. He paints Ireland with a fine brush and European Christianity with a broad one and then compares distinctions. This is a book for a careful, mature reader IMO.

I loved how he brought story, poetry, philosophy, and memoir together to build his story. It was fun to meet Beowulf in the pages as I had just finished it. His use of story to display the Irish character was very well done.

Overall, I'm not disappointed to have read it. I greatly enjoyed vast swaths of it. I'm disappointed in the speed with which it was all wrapped up. The overall arc was good, but the last chapters felt rushed and not as carefully crafted and engaging as the beginning. They were more jumbled and a timeline of events was hard to follow. I'm also not totally convinced he made his case - that civilization needed saving and the Irish are the means by which it was accomplished.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Book Review: Beowulf Translated by Burton Raffel

BeowulfBeowulf by Unknown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend of mine loaned me her copy of Burton Raffel's translation of Beowulf. I'd been listening to Seamus Heaney's Beowulf with my kids and was surprised by the Christian themes I heard. My friend thought the introductory essay in this edition was worth reading and she was right.

But, then, I went ahead and read the whole thing. Because the kids and I had been listening slowly as I drove them places, I sometimes missed parts and was a little lost during storytelling or other conversations that referred to previous actions or people; reading it helped a lot.

Having never read it until now, the events and speed of them surprised me. The plot points carried the story, certainly, but the descriptions of Beowulf were fascinating to me, especially lines 2177-2183

So Edgetho's son proved himself,
Did as a famous soldier must do
If glory is what he seeks: not killing his comrades
In drunken rages, his heart not savage,
But guarding God's gracious gift, his strength,
Using it only in war, and then using it

While we don't see Beowulf's whole life, we see - or hear about - five important episodes where he used his bravery rightly against wickedness and darkness. We see him judge rightly on issues of diplomacy. We see him acting as a king even unto his own death to protect those who were unprotected.

I really enjoyed Beowulf and will enjoy listening to the sections in our audio with my children to hear them a second time.

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Monday, June 04, 2018

The Simple Woman's Daybook for June 4, 2018

For Today...

Looking out my window ... the sun has gone to bed and so must I. Soon.

I am thinking ... scaffolding, personhood, paideia, Irish civilization, the Ideal Type. Something's bound to bump into something else up there.

I am thankful ... for a wonderful vacation with my wonderful inlaws.

One of my favorite things ... is date night with Jason when we're at the Outer Banks:

I am wearing ... shorts and the top in my profile picture here on the blog ... and a grey hoodie. It cooled off.

I am creating ... blog posts that may never be written and a talk that has to be done soon!

I am listening to ... Flourish a new podcast from Ambleside Schools International and enjoying it very much.

I am hoping ... Jason's meeting doesn't go too late tonight.

I am learning ... to control my temper and to stop the negative interaction sooner.

In my kitchen ... BLTs at R-girl's softball game tonight. They tied, but the BLTs were yummy.

In the school room ... back to it tomorrow. Gotta print the week's assignment sheets ...

In my garden ... I have plants from my brother to plant. And maybe R-girl's garden tomorrow. And maybe get N-boy to mow.

Post Script ... big doings over at Pam's place. A planning new course that we're super excited about. (Nota bene - I'm not an affiliate, but I am paid for work I do for Pam as her Community Manager. I wouldn't work for her or share her stuff if I didn't think it valuable. Carry on. Check it out!)

Shared Quote ... Last week's Wednesdays with Words post on Instagram:

A moment from my day ... writing at the orthodontist:

Closing Notes: So, our date night was at The Paper Canoe. We've gone every year since it was opened and we love it. The food is delicious and the views are spectacular. This year, while we waited for our table, we read some of the book from which it gets it's name: a travel journal from the 1870s of a man who canoed from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and then from Pittsburgh to the same point. His trip took him down the Currituck Sound, which is the view of the restaurant. The parts of the book we read were so well written, I ordered a reprint from Amazon. He is traveling in the South during reconstruction and the interactions with people are so interesting. I can't wait to read more.

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: Sit by Deborah Ellis

SitSit by Deborah Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I sat to read Sit by Deborah Ellis while watching the kids - my kids and my nephews - playing blissfully in the pool while on vacation. While I would never say that sadness, hardship, or even violence have never touched their teen and pre-teen lives, the juxtaposition between their lives and the stories detailed in this book were stark.

Sit is a collection of short stories with children or teens in difficult circumstances; children from all over the world facing violence of a mental, emotional, and/or physical nature. They are often soul-breaking situations out of which strength or destruction may come. Most of the stories are unrelated -- the exceptions are 1) the first and the last of the same character in his violent situation and then his redemptive one and 2) a brother and sister whose stories are told separately, yet coincide to show how well they know one another and help them find common ground in their parents' divorce.

All of the children physically sit as some point or another and their sitting comes with introspection and contemplation. The act of sitting and thinking yields an action or decision. Their thoughts affect their identity - the tell the reader about who they decide to be and how they would be known. In this way, there is a spark of hope in each story, which is good as many of the stories are dark.

There are some problems with Sit that have been detailed by other reviewers on GoodReads. The adults are uncommunicative at best and abusive at worst. The children are always portrayed as wise due to their willingness to sit and think. While relationships like those portrayed here are not uncommon, I hope that these contentious relationships are not what our society sees as normative, nor do I desire to show my children that such relationships are the norm.

I think this would be best as a read-aloud book. Because of the weight of topics and the way interpersonal relationships are portrayed, much discussion would be required. Ellis deals with divorce, child abuse and alcoholism, child labor, the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania, the Holocaust and generational guilt, juvenile detention and solitary confinement, the tsunami that wiped out Fukushima in Japan, and refugees escaping the Taliban hiding in Uzbekistan. The stories are not long and the writing is not difficult, but I would not hand this to a child without intent to discuss -- and reading together would be the best.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Our Weekly Amble for February 26-March 2 AND March 5-9, 2018

Last week, (Feb 26- March 2) was like a perfect storm. On Sunday, the end of break week, I was home sick with a horrible head cold. On Monday, we began our new term, the Warm-Up Week for Homeschool Consistency Boot Camp, and I was curating for Charlotte Mason IRL on the topic of Break Week. It was busy.

It was also a very organ week. On Saturday I sat in the hallway while the children were at a day of workshops for the Organ Guild of Columbus. It was great because I got a good bit of work done, it was not great because I got colder and colder throughout the day and I suspect it helped that head cold along. M-girl and N-boy enjoyed the workshops a lot. M-girl particularly enjoyed the Children's Choir workshop and N-boy the improvisation techniques one. I ran into both choir teachers from high school, which was weird. (I was only in choir my freshman year, but the one was a student teacher that year).  Anyway, we had that on Saturday, then regular lessons and practices on Tuesday and Thursday. Thursday was also the first Thursday of the month, so there was a recital that we attended (actually, the organist from my parents' church).  On Friday, the church where the academy is hosted had a visiting composer (who has composed some of the children's music) and he did an hourlong workshop with them. The six students played for him, then he worked with each one in the group and focused on something key for their piece. It was one of the coolest lessons I've ever observed.

Remembering what we're about
Monday after break week is often a challenge, I wore my Atmosphere Discipline and Life shirt to remember - and remind - our purpose and posture of learning. The very beginning of this first day after break was not an exception, we struggled.  However, once we got going it went pretty well. The best first day after break. Overall, it was a good week. We did the planned work and the extra events.

Wednesday was cleaning day - and we decorated for spring besides. The girls did a nice job with that.

We had Art and More with Friends and worked more on Cleomenes for Plutarch (killed all the ephors!), made the most difficult fans ever in paper sloyd, and started some drawings.

We gave the children a good amount of time to play outside as it was a nice day, especially for February.

I got to snuggle the newest member of our group - a few weeks old - during the sloyd and drawing time. That was fun, I like holding the ones I can hand back these days :)

Drawing Lesson
Baseball outside
R-girl planned and cooked dinner Thursday night. It was yummy and she experienced the difficulty of getting everything together. Good lessons all around.

This week went overall very well. We had our moments, though.  

We did Morning Time all four school days, although I was tempted to skip Friday. I was glad we did it because it was, by far, the best part of the day.  We finished A Comedy of Errors during Whatchamacallit. The children were painting, so we listened to the Arkangel production I bought - which all term they refused to try because they thought they wanted to read it. They decided they loved it, so I purchased Henry V and Richard III - we'll finish Henry V from last term (that I stopped to pick up Comedy) and Richard III for next term as we start Year 7. We missed it in the fall and I think it'll be good to do before we get to Daughter of Time.

We mostly finished the Memoria Press grammar book II and I'll be buying Level III at the Cincinnati GHC. We're still reading through the section on diagramming. We finished the week with what turned out to be a not very funny Mad Lib. 

We started learning When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and Philippians 4:4-13. They've almost finished memorizing 'Matilda who Told Lies and Burned to Death.'  We've been enjoying Langston Hughes poetry in the Dream Keeper book. We started to read from Michael Clay Thompson's Building Poetry about metaphor and simile.

We also finished The Open Gate by Kate Seredy. We all enjoyed it and there was much to think about. 

I got and wore another attitude adjusting shirt from Brandy and it was well received by all. The girls had optometrist appointments on Tuesday. R-girl needs a slight adjustment to her lenses, but M-girl needs drastic changes ... and wants to get contacts, so that'll be happening soon. Actually, she's been wearing N-boy's old glasses this week and they've made a big difference.

The children continued with Latin. N-boy and R-girl in LFC B lesson 19 (maybe 18?) and M-girl moving forward through lesson 7 in Latin Alive! She had a good tutoring session yesterday using Google Hangouts with our tutor.

In math, M-girl had several lessons that were marked as though for tests this week. She got almost everything right which is always reassuring and she is finishing up MEP Year 5. N-boy is working on positive and negative numbers with multiplication and division, addition and subtraction. R-girl is working on fractions and adding together differing kinds of things and order of operations.
I want to start giving variations on their written narrations as we move into more formal composition.  I need to purchase and watch Amy Snell's workshop and read Karen Glass' book. The children all write fine narrations, but I think more variety and challenge would help us all.

On Friday, my parents took the girls to see the new A Wrinkle in Time movie. They said it was good - pretty to watch and interesting - but not like the book. They could see all the things that were stripped from the book and the things added to the movie, so I felt like they were discerning about it. 

We had some sibling squabbles throughout the week - especially at the end of the week. We were all tired, but two children had to do school at different times because of it, which was disappointing. I need some strategies for peace-making and longsuffering for my kids to deal with each other more kindly. The constant wrangling for "my own way" tires me out so quickly and makes me sad.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Simple Woman's Daybook for March 5, 2018

For Today... 

Looking out my window ... it's dark out. I has been a long day and I'm glad to be sitting down to my laptop to write a post.

I am thinking ... friends who homeschool in very difficult circumstances. My heroes.

I am thankful ... for my cuppa tea.

One of my favorite things ... Voltron on Netflix when Daddy has an evening meeting. So much smoother.

I am wearing ... torn jeans (laundry day) and my orange with white flowers shirt. I like this one! When I walked the dog earlier I wore my new winter coat. It's bright orange LOL

I am creating ... not much time for creating right now but I saw some knit creations downtown on my walk

I am reading Norms and Nobility as soon I I hit Publish. I just finished listening to The Classical Homeschool Podcast on Isocrates ... walking the dog and then cleaning the kitchen.

I am hoping ... I don't fall asleep reading.

I am learning ... to get up on time in the morning. It's such a struggle.

In my kitchen ... we made a copious amount of waffles. I like the Cook's Illustrated waffle recipe (although I do half whole wheat flour). I'll freeze what we didn't eat tonight for another meal because waffles are no joke, y'all.

In the school room ... we had a pretty good Whatchamacallit and a good school day over all. Piano lessons and choir rounded it out.

Post Script ... last week I hosted a discussion on Break Weeks for @CharlotteMasonIRL It was a good discussion thinking about assessing our homeschool based on Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life.

Shared Quote ... WCF Chapter 5 Section 5: "The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends."

A moment from my day ... First Friday with my people at Barley Hopsters. Fun.

Closing Notes: It's such a busy time of year! Entering into Convention Season; Boot Camp ramping up; Pam's new book release, and many other things.  I heard from a soccer coach tonight, too. Fun all around!

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Our Weekly Amble for February 19-23, 2018

This past week was Break Week at the Garrett Academy. We worked hard for six weeks and were ready for something different. I kept telling my kids that Break Week does not equal vacation, and it doesn't. Break week is still work - it's just different work ... and this week proved it. There's a proverb that says a change is as good as a rest (i.e. A change of work or occupation can be as restorative or refreshing as a period of relaxation), but in this case I think the change of work makes us ready to go back to our regular work.

Monday was a slightly quieter day for the children. I purposely planned the first two days to be work days, but primarily work I need to do. I needed to order AmblesideOnline Year 7 books and think about the differences between Lite and regular Year 7 because I am thinking about how to differentiate for R-girl. I don't think she can keep up with a full Year 7 pace. I think she can read the books, but maybe not quite so many of them. I figure anything I drop from her now could be added back when she's in Y12, though, because she'll "finish" with N-boy - so I may need something. Anyway, I did the ordering, but I have the next 6 weeks to plan and organize.

The kids still had all of their outside classes to continue, so there were piano lessons and choir to attend to.

Tuesday was supposed to be office filing and online work day. I did some of the online work, but the filing went by the wayside ... it was absolutely, gloriously beautiful here in central Ohio and we took advantage of opening the windows and going to the park with friends.

Organ ended up being canceled, so we enjoyed the quiet day.

During all that free time on Monday and Tuesday, I was trying to pay attention to how my kids were spending their time. Mystie Winckler says a part of break week is about assessing how affections are being ordered. So, while I was tapping on my laptop, I was watching things like - Bible reading first thing, domino builds, reading (lots and lots of reading), playing with scratch programming online, writing stories, riding bicycles, joining my Pilates challenge, playing piano and/or organ music on the piano, and some voluntary moving books around to improve spaces. R-girl got her final Doodle Crate from her Christmas subscription, so she worked on that. I was really pleased with what I saw.

Doodle Crate

Scratch Programming on the new family laptop

Nice enough to read outside!


1000 Dominoes! It was my Dad's birthday, so my kids sent him this video.
Wednesday is our regular cleaning day and day out. The morning cleaning was not what I expected so we had to do some when we got home. There were hurt feelings and some tough words until attitudes improved and the work was accomplished. I've been trying to establish that cleaning time as it is a personal (and therefore family) weakness. Opportunities to repent and work together. The work didnt' take very long once we all chipped in and they still ended up with some free time prior to their evening classes - parkour for the younger kids and soccer conditioning for the oldest.

Thursday was baking day. Perhaps you recall my breakfast and lunch plan where I assigned a certain food for each day of the week?

It was a rousing success. That made the main food pain point "Second Breakfast." On Thursday I planned Baking Day where we would take care of that ... and we made so much food to freeze

We made Sausage Balls (replacing the Bisquick with Almond Flour - and I like them better), Lemon Coconut Energy Balls (I also add zest of one lemon), Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites (which R-girl made, having put them into her Enquire Within journal during a Keeping Hour)

We also made some quick breads - Cranberry Chocolate Chip Bread (a new recipe! mine is pretty crumbly but I might've used regular chocolate chips and more than the recipe called for ;) It still tastes yummy!)

And three old friends:

Banana Bread

Sift 3C flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 12/ tsp salt. In separate bowl, cream 3/4 C butter and 1-1/2 C sugar. Add 2 eggs and 2 over-ripe bananas. To the creamed butter, sugar, banana alternate adding sifted flour and 2/3 C milk. (you can add nuts or chocolate chips or whatever, I usually don't) Bake in 2 greased loaf pans at 350* 45-50 minutes

Pumpkin Bread

Cream 2/3 C Butter with 2-2/3 C sugar. Add 4 eggs. Add 16 oz pumpkin (1 can) and 2/3 C of water. Sift 3-1/3 C flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1-1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves (or to taste) ... you can add 2/3 C coarsely chopped nuts or 2/3 C raisins or 1 C chocolate chips (I did white chocolate chips recently) Bake in 2 greased loaf pans at 350* for 1hr 10 mins.

Finally, I made a batch of my "Big Batch Chex Mix" I make it in one of those roaster ovens which is great because I don't spill Chex all over my oven.

Big Batch Chex Mix

Mix 12 oz box of Corn Chex, 12 oz box of Rice Chex, 14 oz box of Wheat Chex, 4 C cheerios, 4 C pretzel sticks, 4 C mixed nuts in a great big huge bowl (or the roaster oven itself. On stove, melt 3 sticks of butter with 8 T Worcestershire Sauce, 2 Tblsp Lawry's Season Salt, 3 tsp  garlic powder, 1.5 t onion powder. Pour over and mix well. Roast at 350* for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool and put in wide mouth Mason Jars for storage. Makes about 8-1/2 jars.

Thus ends my career as a food blogger :)

We went out to dinner Thursday night (and, in full disclosure, I made the cranberry bread Friday morning)

Friday was clean out the basement day. We have a children's half a family quarter, affectionately called the library, and a grown-up quarter. All portions needed significant attention. Much of the portions I worked on included throwing things away and organizing. We have boxes that we moved from our old home (almost 14 years ago) and my office. We have boxes of things we inherited (so many pictures from my mom) and things I'd like to keep, but don't necessarily need to access.

I also have a copious amount of craft stuff because while I don't have a hobby, per se, I do like to dabble from time to time (usually around Christmas).  My stuff was a big jumble with no organization. I got a good start on clearing that up.

The kids half was more of a struggle, although they did find pieces for and put together a lot of games. I'm leaving much of that mess to them ... we'll see if they can get it organized and cleaned up. They did put some baby and toddler toys out of their area into the crawl space but it was harder than it needed to be.

Today, M-girl and N-boy are at workshops for the local Organ Guild. The music is amazing to sit here and write and work to :) Choirs and organs. Wonderful.

Now, I'm ready to preread for the school term that starts Monday. I think we're all ready to get back to our regular work after this busy week.