Monday, July 22, 2019

Time to Reflect

Hi, I'm back! I won't ask if you missed me. :)

It's that time of year again. Planning time. Before I really get into planning, I like to think about last year. I try to give thanks first for the wonderful things. Here are things I'm most thankful for this year:

1. Reading Time with AJ(4). Every morning after chores, I sat down with AJ and read a picture book (usually from the Ambleside Online Year 0 list) and shared some nursery rhymes and songs. In term 3 I also started reading Leading Little Ones to God with him, which is a book I remember enjoying when my parents read it to me when I was little! Reading Time with AJ was a way to try to fill his love and attention tank before I got really busy with the other boys' school time. I could see that it was hard for him this year as his playmate MM(6) started school and turned into a bookworm, but this special time of connection with me was a highlight of each day for both of us.

2. Morning Time (the lessons we do together) continued to be a strength and a joy to all of us. This year at breakfast each morning I read a rotation of literature (King Arthur and Oliver Twist) and biographies (Michael Faraday, George Washington Carver), followed by our Bible and hymn memory work, and our Bible reading and narration. We then separated for chores and some individual lessons (for the oldest) or play time (for the youngest) and came back together for poetry, picture study, or composer study; grammar; foreign language; and Canadian history. Not all of it was strong...foreign language got dropped in the third term and grammar lessons became few and far between at that point too, but...

3. We were able to keep plodding on even when I was not well. In January I started having heart palpitations. This led to being diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in February. At that point, symptoms I had been ignoring for months suddenly got worse until the synthroid kicked in about four to six weeks later. I felt good for a month or so (just in time to go to AO Camp Meeting!), then went through another three weeks of symptoms in May (back pain, chest pain and blue lips). This time, pregnancy was increasing the strain on my thyroid and I felt better again a few weeks after my synthroid dose was increased. Why is this in my "thankful" list? Looking back, the entire season feels like a blur as I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. BUT my two oldest boys grew in independence in a way that I otherwise would not have pushed them to, and it was good for them. The well-established daily routine continued, one day at a time. Yes, there were things that we dropped. But I'm still so grateful to be able to have the boys at home, even when circumstances are difficult. I like what we're learning together even when all the boxes are not being checked. This imperfection is also part of "Education is an Atmosphere." The way we deal with trials within the family is as much part of their education as anything else.
"By these things children live and we may not keep them in glass cases; if we do, they develop in succulence and softness and will not become plants of renown." (-Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, p. 97)

4. Snowboarding every Friday afternoon this winter. This was a HUGE highlight! A group of homeschoolers got together for the school rate at Brookvale for skiing and snowboarding. We went as a family, and all learned to snowboard, even AJ(4). AJ and I were still on the bunny hill at the end of the winter, but everyone else moved on to more challenging hills. Having this commitment "forced" us to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine even when it was cold. We all enjoyed it so much, and it made the winter fly by much faster than it normally does.

5. AO Camp Meeting was a huge blessing to me this April, especially as I was feeling down about what I was not accomplishing during my weakness and fatigue. The emphasis on applying Charlotte Mason's principles "however imperfectly" blessed me, as did the emphasis on prayer. I loved it, and can't wait for the audio files to come out so I can relive it. I met so many lovely people, too...Amber, Leslie, Emily, Becca, Sheena, Gabby, and Esther, who I stayed with the night before the conference; Anne, Jeannette, Brandy, and Dawn who before had only been online acquaintances.

These are the things I'm thankful for this year. I feel like #3 was the most significant, #4 was the most fun, and #5 might have the most potential (depending on how much I soak in and apply) but who can tell how they will all shake out over time?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Reading My Shelves in 2019: Literature Shelf 3

My shelf for March is a bit different. There are fewer classics, and more books that were popular in the 1940's and 1950's.

On this shelf, I have read:
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain
I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
Beyond this Place by A. J. Cronin
Grand Canary by A. J. Cronin

I have not read:
The Nature of the Gods by Cicero
I am very interested in this, as we are studying Cicero in Plutarch this term. However, I feel I would need a guide through this book, and as I'm reading some other academic works with my study group, I may not have the mental energy to take this one on.

The Stumbling Shepherd by H.A. Cody
This is a vintage Canadian book found at a thrift store. I thought it looked interesting, but I suspect it may not be particularly well-written. I will probably choose it for light reading this month and decide if it deserves a place on my shelf.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

The Black Rose by Thomas Costain (his best seller, references Edward I/Roger Bacon/Kublai Khan)
The Chord of Steel by Thomas Costain (Alexander Graham Bell/invention of the telephone)
The Darkness and the Dawn by Thomas Costain (Atilla the Hun)
For My Great Folly by Thomas Costain (time of James I)
The Moneyman by Thomas Costain (time of Charles VII of France)
High Towers by Thomas Costain (New France)
Ride with Me by Thomas Costain (Sir Robert Wilson/Napoleon)
The Three Edwards by Thomas Costain (Edward I, Edward II, Edward III)
The Tontine (volume 2) by Thomas Costain
I have a lot of Costain books! As he was a historical fiction bestseller in Canada in the 40's and 50's, his books are abundant at used book sales here. I picked a lot of these up as a teenager, and may have read some of these already. I feel I need to read them again to see if they really deserve a forever place on my bookshelf. Also, some of these are mis-shelved...I had thought he wrote all historical fiction, but The Chord of Steel seems to be a biography, and High Towers a history.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Citadel by A. J. Cronin
The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
I have more Cronin books on the next shelf too... He is another bestseller from the 40's and 50's. Every book I read by Cronin makes me like him more. His stories are compelling page-turners, and yet they have a great deal of depth. The moral struggles his protagonists go through batter and break them, but ultimately leave them more human and more virtuous. 

What do you think I should read next? I'd love to hear your recommendations. 

I expect I will read two or three of these. I will also be reading along with my book club this month (Middlemarch), my study group (Beowulf), and my Charlotte Mason Boot Camp (random chapters from Charlotte Mason). I also have a few books in progress to finish: Eugenie Grandet (from my January shelf), The Illustrated Columcille, and The Voyage of Saint Brendan. In addition, I have several books waiting for me at the library on Hashimoto's, autoimmunity, and hypothyroidism (I was just diagnosed last month after having heart palpitations. The palpitations are gone now, thankfully.).  So it will be a busy reading month!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Reading My Shelves: February Update

I read six books from my February shelf! It feels so good to actually read books I've been intending to read for so long.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
One of my favourite Christmas picture books is Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. This book is of course nothing like that one, but it was equally good. I was completely transported to the China she wrote of.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
I loved this book. For some reason I was waiting for a tragedy to happen to Antonia in the end, I don't know why. And then it was so beautiful instead!

And in light reading, Agatha Christie:
Death on the Nile
Dumb Witness 
After the Funeral 
The Mystery of the Blue Train 
...of which my favourite was The Mystery of the Blue Train. I liked the inclusion of "Miss Grey," a very likeable character who helped Poirot solve the murder.

Also finished this month:

The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick by R.P.C. Hanson
The little biography at the front of this book was written by someone who obviously loved Saint Patrick, and his enthusiasm was catching. I also read most of a couple other books on Celtic saints: The Illustrated Columcille (on Columba) and The Voyage of Saint Brendan. I'll list them next month when I finish them.

Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics by Charles Ludwig
I read this aloud to the boys, and I think they will always remember Michael Faraday. I was a bit disappointed in the writing (or maybe in the editing). I read some Charles Ludwig as a child and remember enjoying his books then. Now I see his tendency to add irrelevant information to try to make the story come alive, and it doesn't work very well. You find Michael Faraday imparting scientific knowledge to his wife around bites of toast, for example. I ended up editing some of the more annoying irrelevancies as I was reading aloud.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
I sometimes like listening to this sort of thing as I clean. I am not in the target demographic for this book, but I thought it was lovely anyway. The narration by Juliet Stevenson was particularly soothing.

Stephen Fry Presents A Selection of Anton Chekhov's Short Stories
You may remember that I was very interested in reading a collection of Chekhov's Short Stories that was on my February shelf. Unfortunately, that collection turned out to be a "bad" translation. It was really hard to get into and I gave up after one story. So that book is now off my shelf, and I listened to this selection to soothe my disappointment. It was well written, well translated (At least, it sounded good in English. I always love Constance Garnett.), and well narrated by Stephen Fry. All the same, I didn't love Chekhov the way I love Tolstoy, and wasn't fascinated the way I was fascinated by Dostoyevsky. Of course that's a very high bar.  It's as silly to think all Russian authors are equally good as to think that all English authors are equally good. The fact that the first two Russian authors I read were so amazing still manages to colour my expectations, though.

Total finished: 9 books
7 from my shelves, 2 borrowed
6 Fiction, 3 Nonfiction
7 Female, 2 Male Authors
1 written in the last 10 years, 6 written more than 50 years ago (and 1 more than 100 years ago if I count Saint Patrick's Confession contained in The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick).

I'll be back soon with my March shelf. I look forward to seeing what you recommend!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Reading My Shelves in 2019: Literature Shelf 2

As I settle into reading my shelves, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project. At the same time, I am really looking forward to making progress, small as it may be.

On my February Shelf, I have 8 read books and 21 unread books. (In volumes containing more than one book, I have counted each book separately.)

Read: (and these are all books I consider worth re-reading, otherwise I wouldn't be keeping them)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Bridge on the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
Lorna Doone by Blackmore
Prester John by John Buchan
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Arabian Nights - Sir Richard Burton
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
The Plague by Camus
The Outsider by Camus
My Early Life (excerpt) by Churchill
The Island Race by Churchill
Call for the Dead by le Carre
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Don Quixote by Cervantes
Don Quixote (abridged by Susan Sheridan)
Don Quixote (retold by Judge Parry)
The Riverside Chaucer
Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Of these, I find myself particularly attracted to Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov, Don Quixote retold by Judge Parry, My Antonia, and The Good Earth. I will probably read one or two of the Agatha Christie titles when I need light reading, too. There's a lot of good reading on this shelf.

I expect that, like last month, I will only be able to get through a couple of these books. I have several additional books to read with my study group (on Saint Patrick and Saint Columba and the Brendan Voyage), and Middlemarch to read with my book club (though I have till the end of March for that).

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Reading My Shelves: January Update

I read two and a half books from my January shelf:

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham
-This was the first book in the Crime and Mr. Campion volume. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't a keeper...I probably wouldn't read it again. Still, the book stays because I do want to read the other books in the volume.

The Little Minister by J.M. Barrie 
-I loved this book so much! I would never have thought this was by the same author as Peter Pan (which I've never been able to get through yet). A sweet romance with deep insight into a particular cultural context (An Auld Licht church in a Scottish small village). I'm so glad I still have another couple of Barrie books to look forward to next time I visit this shelf.

Eugenie Grandet by Balzac
-I'm about halfway through this one, and I'm debating whether to drop it as I head into February. It didn't grab me the way The Little Minister did. I don't like dropping books, but I also don't want a book I'm only half enjoying to take away from the excitement of exploring my February shelf. 

Also finished this month:
From other shelves:
Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (very good, but not as wonderful as Peace Like a River)
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
Atomic Habits by James Clear (So good! Will read again soon.)
The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

Borrowed books:
Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent by Cindy Rollins (loved it)
Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson (fun bit of fluff)
Educated by Tara Westover (fascinating, worth reading, still thinking about it)
The Benedictine Tradition edited by Laura Swan (excellent walk through church history)
Saint Benedict (Dialogues book 2) by Gregory the Great, trans. Myra Uhlfelder (amazing!)

Total finished: 12 books! (That's a lot for me. I set my goal for the year at 80 books.)
3 from my shelves, 9 borrowed including audiobooks
7 nonfiction, 5 fiction
7 male authors, 5 female
5 written in the last 10 years (Actually, the last 2 years. This is an unusually high number for me.)
2 written more than 100 years ago. (6th century and 1891)

I'll be back tomorrow with my February shelf. I'd love it if you could help me choose what to read next!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reading My Shelves in 2019: Literature Shelf 1

Every year I say I want to read more of the books that are already on my shelves.
Every year I don't read as many as I would have liked.
This year, I have a plan.

I am planning to focus on one fiction shelf per month (that will be 12 of my 14 shelves in that category). I will read (or begin to read) at least one book from my focus shelf each month.

But first, I have to choose.

January's shelf has 26 books. Of those, I've read 9. Every one of these are books I have re-read and plan to re-read again (I don't keep them if I don't think I'll re-read them.), but that's not what this challenge is for.

Emma - Jane Austen
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
The Rosary - Frances Barclay
The Broken Halo - Frances Barclay
The Lilies of the Field - William Barrett
Jayber Crow - Wendell Berry

These are the books I haven't read yet:

Tales from Watership Down - Richard Adams
Traveller - Richard Adams
Prometheus Bound - Aeschylus
Crime and Mr. Campion - Margery Allingham (volume includes Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, and Dancers in Mourning)
Meditations - Marcus Aurelius
Francis Bacon (volume includes Advancement of Learning, Novum Organum, and New Atlantis)
The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard
Eugenie Grandet - Balzac
The Forgetting Room - Nick Bantock
The Golden Mean - Nick Bantock
The Gryphon - Nick Bantock
Alexandria - Nick Bantock
Nod - Adrian Barnes
The Admirable Crichton - J. M. Barrie
The Little Minister - J. M. Barrie
A Window in Thrums - J. M. Barrie
The Romance of Tristan and Iseult - Joseph Bedier

At the pace I'm going, I don't anticipate reading more than one or two of these this month. I'm not looking for anything really heavy right now, as I have a few heavier books scheduled with my local Schole group.

I am interested in Richard Adams because my husband read Watership Down aloud to me in our first year of marriage and it's a lovely memory.

I think I'll probably pick Margery Allingham up. I've read one of her books before and her hero reminded me a bit of Lord Peter in Dorothy Sayers mysteries.

Balzac looks interesting. I've never read any of his books before.

I am attracted to J. M. Barrie's novels, but I am hesitating because I have never been able to get through his Peter Pan. However, these seem quite different from that, so maybe it will be okay.

I am not particularly interested in Nick Bantock or Adrian Barnes ... those are my husband's books. However, if I have time I may run through the Bantock volumes because they'll be quick reads.

What do you think? Is there anything on my list that you consider a must-read?

What would you read first?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Book Man

Last night just before lights out JJ(8) said to me, "I don't know what to read next."
Of course, that's just the right sort of thing to say to a mama like me.
I started to pull books off the shelf: The Moffats, Rascal, The Prince and the Pauper...

"I've been thinking I might like to read Sherlock Holmes," he said timidly.
"Of course you can. You may read any of the books on these shelves, you know," I replied.
He started to get excited.

This morning he kept finding more books he thought he might like: The Indian in the Cupboard, Hans Brinker, Peter Pan. 

He added in some books he wanted to re-read: Robinson Crusoe, The Phantom Tollbooth, Seven-Day Magic.

He sorted the books, now numbering about twenty, into two piles: the thick books and the thinner books.

I started envisioning these books scattered all over the house. This worried me a little, but I didn't want to squash that enthusiasm. "You could pick four or five for now, then pick more when you finish them?" 

This suggestion did not meet with his approval.

He did take out a couple of books that he thought he might not want to read right now after all: Mr. Popper's PenguinsHey World, Here I Am!

Then he asked me for a basket like the one I have for my current reads. Of course, I found him one. He now has a leather stool with storage space for all those books.

He pulled the seat in front of the couch and demonstrated how he can sit on the couch, reach over and open the stool, pull out a book, close it, and use it for a foot rest as he relaxes and reads.

I heard him talking confidentially to his younger brother this evening as he went up to bed:
"Hey MM, I'm a book man."