Tag Archives: books

Unravelled

​I found this poem in my facebook memories for today, and had to look it up to discover where it was from. I liked it so I thought I would share it. 

The book was probably the best one I had on pregnancy loss because it was offering art as therapy rather than just commiserating about the loss. As it turned out, the art form I chose was writing (and my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was an unexpectedly intensely personal piece of fiction that I haven’t been able to even go back and edit because it was so raw, but getting it out helped me I’m sure). 

I like this poem because, while it is heart-rending and painful, it is more beautiful than dark. I hope you enjoy it.

After three months
of silent stitching

what finger let slip

what growing row of cells

unravelled, loosing life and

leaving the lap empty?

– Olson Binder, 1993

Quoted in Grief Unseen, Healing Pregnancy Loss through the Arts by Laura Seftel

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Pawn of Prophecy

pawnofprophecy

The ME/cfs Book club challenged us to read a book we already read, so I just read this again after 20-ish years, and it’s still good! I love David Eddings’ style and the way he weaves all the strands together. But I’m surprised I didn’t go on to read the rest of the series, as it feels as though it ends with a lot of story yet to be told. So I’ll be hunting down the next one and the rest of the Belgariad series, and maybe all of the David Eddings collection.

Garion is the central character in this first book of the series, with no real idea of who or what he is, and his journey from quiet, inconsequential farm boy to consorting with kings and nobles is really a journey of coming-of-age.

The idea of being a ‘pawn of prophecy’, having a plan and purpose that you know nothing of, and having everything happen around you, with the powers that be moving him around the ‘board’ of life, but at the same time not wanting to believe that such things are true or possible, makes Garion easy to identify with, so I’m interested to know what will become of him (although there are plenty of clues, I won’t give it away – the reader knows really, but Garion still hasn’t quite figured it out).

I’m also hoping that, in the next book, Pol will soften a bit and let in some romance with the trusty Durnik who obviously dotes on her. I hope that’s not too spoily. πŸ™‚

Nice, gentle escapism with a wholly believable otherworld of gods, sorcery and deception, although I did find it hard to keep all the characters, gods and nations straight in my mind – who was who and which nation they came from (especially when they started introducing new names!), who was married to whom etc. But David Eddings’ skillful writing had me so immersed, that I felt I was in the places and journeying alongside the characters. One of those books that I’m really sad to finish!

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society

guernsey

The Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

β€œThat’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

I haven’t read many books this year. I have started quite a few, but not sure I have finished any of them (unless you count textbooks and literature for homeschool, which would bump the number up a bit).

I had forgotten how much I loved reading and enjoyed literature until I joined a new group on facebook, The ME/CFS Book Club. It’s now one of my favourite places online, and certainly my favourite facebook group.

This book was one of their monthly reads and although I am running behind, I decided to get it because the title was so intriguing.

It ended up being the best book I read this year, it was probably the only book that made me enthusiastically want to read it to completion, and I laughed and cried and felt deeply invested in the characters’ lives all the way through it.

It is written in the form of a series of letters, between a young writer, Juliet Ashton, her publisher and friends, and members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society after a Mr Dawsey Adams contacts her about a book of hers by Charles Lamb that had found its way into his possession, and she becomes intrigued about the society’s unusual name.

The setting is post-war London and Guernsey, and the letters convey the story of the German Occupation of Guernsey during the war, the grief, sorrows and anguish as well as the joy and adventures of the eccentric islanders during that time, and the friendships forged through their common experience of war, and the beauty of literature that makes the increasingly brutal occupation bearable.

I loved the lively way the letters were written, the post-war British voices rang surprisingly true considering the authors were American. It was quite unlike anything I have read in a long time.

The ending is surprising and beautiful, with unexpected friendship, love, romance and comedy, and it is filled with delightful literary references and connections. (The story about Charles and Mary Lamb was so dreadfully sad and interesting, since we have loved Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare as a family as part of our homeschool experience.) Mary Ann Shaffer is clearly a fellow book lover. It is all the more poignant because Mary Ann Shaffer was ill during the writing and had to call in her niece , Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book, knowing that it would be her only published novel.

In her afterword, Annie Barrows writes: “This profusion of questions, exclamations, and tales is the new version of the Society. Its members are spread all over the world, but they are joined by their love of books, of talking about books, and of their fellow readers. We are transformed – magically – into the the literary society each time we pass a book along, each time we ask a question about it, each time we say, ‘If you liked that, I bet you’d like this.’ Whenever we are willing to be delighted and share our delight, as Mary Ann did, we are part of the ongoing story of The Guernsey Liteary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” I am glad to be able to offer my small contribution.

 

Plans for September

After going to and fro in my mind over what to do – follow the national curriculum more closely with a view to doing GCSEs? Concede defeat over the severe dyslexia and put them all in school (it was a serious consideration, but none of us want to go that route), or go back to our Sonlight-style, literature-based lifestyle.

I wondered seriously about starting GCSEs at home, but again, nobody really wants that. We have found two possible options for maths and English post-16, both of which are free, so I think there’s no rush for that. Heck, I’m doing GCSE maths myself next year, and I’m 44! πŸ™‚

I decided to go back to the literature-based lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle, because when we were doing Sonlight, we weren’t cooped up at home or in the classroom the way we have been recently, trying to squeeze ourselves into the National Curriculum boxes (although now I look back, I wonder why?! It has been miserable for all of us, and really, worse than unproductive, it turned them off learning).

On the contrary, the books we found were always portable, it meant that we could be out and about everyday – at the woods, at the beach, visiting with other home educators, whatever really, and we could still get the ‘work’ done, and it didn’t really feel like work (except on my throat which was known to need a constant supply of hot tea!)

Despite eldest’s difficulties with the system (possible Asperger’s without a firm diagnosis or Statement), his knowledge base was much larger than my own when I left school, so I’m confident that Sonlight gave him a good all-round education. The skills will come, but they have come frustratingly slowly.

My kids are just bright, late starters πŸ™‚

The next question was, do we go on with Sonlight itself or another literature-based curriculum I have used in between, Heart of Dakota.

I actually decided to do both: I will be doing two levels anyway – we’re going to finally go back and finish the Sonlight read-alouds from core C over the summer, and then go on to start core D. We never did cores D and E first time round because they’re based on American history, but we always felt we had missed out on all those fantastic books!

coreD

So, as always, we will do a hotch potch – we’ll intersperse the American history with some British history and geography. But we’ll be moving away from the textbooks and back to the literature. They recall it so much more fully that way.

heart-of-dakota-world-geography

For my daughter, I decided to do Heart of Dakota’s World Geography year. The titles look really interesting, and I’ve been wanting to do it for a while.

I rather enjoyed HoD’s early grades, which I used (mainly for language arts) for my two youngest alongside Sonlight’s early grades, although we didn’t do all the books (HoD are much more Amero-centric than Sonlight, and more religious! But I like it because it has a much more Charlotte Mason style) but I skipped the first three higher levels in the ‘Hearts for Him Through High School’ series (although I have the guides if I want to go back to them).

300

And, because I am a book addict, I also ordered Sonlight’s core 300 (20th Century World History for high school) instructor’s guide, but not the books. I thought I would get the books gradually as we need them. And I’ll read these myself even if my daughter’s not interested. (I had been toying with doing their Church History core for myself but we hadn’t done the 20th Century in any great depth so I thought we should do this first) I rather think she will be interested anyway, and I know my eldest will love them.

So there will be a whole lot of reading going on in this house, and out of this house next year, all being well!

But as ever, the strict following of guides and manuals, ticking off every box, and doing every assignment, probably won’t happen.

We’ve tried that, and it sucks the joy out of it all, and it kind of defeats the whole purpose of home educating in the first place, which is freedom to enjoy learning.

For science, we’ll carry on with Apologia but I think we may set aside some more time for hands-on experiments. That’s one think I may go back to the National Curriculum for, but as I said many years ago, I will use it (as I’ll use the HoD manuals and the Sonlight instructor’s guides) more as a curriculum bank of ideas, a tool rather than a master. We won’t allow ourselves to be straight-jacketed by curriculum.

When things start to arrive, I’ll post again with details about the individual books and resources.

So I’m excited right now! We haven’t had a ‘Box Day’ for a few years now! How about you? What are you planning? What resources will you be using? What would you like to learn this year?

Planning Time Again (Yay!)

fzybearglsspencilbooksline

Now is the season when homeschool / home education planning starts in earnest!

Planning is one of my favourite things, as you may know! I have probably tried all the planners there are!

I seem somehow to have managed to acquire 4, yes four, teacher planners for the 2015/2016 year, so I may do a giveaway at one point – watch this space πŸ™‚

Although we don’t do it every year, we are planning to carry on through the summer this year as we have had so much disruption again this term with moving house. Our books are mostly still in storage, so I will share in another post what we’re using.

What I would like to do is shift to earlier bedtimes and earlier rising so we can start lessons early and finish early with a view to free afternoons outdoors while the weather is good. All of my children except the youngest now are teenagers, so that may take some convincing, but I’m going to try πŸ™‚

Sorry I can’t post photos, as we still have no phone or internet so I am limited to what my mobile can cope with!

* Please note these links will take you away from me, so please bookmark this blog first! *

The four I have this year are:

β€’ an Erin Condren Teacher Planner which is personalised, so I won’t be giving that one away I’m afraid, sorry! (When it arrives, I’ll post a pic though) πŸ˜€ This really is the Rolls Royce of teacher planners! Expensive (although they’ve reduced shipping costs) but worth it because they are so sturdy and lovely to look at all year.

http://www.erincondren.com

β€’ The second is another American planner called the Teacher Anchor, which I forgot I ordered:

http://cjayneteach.bigcartel.com/product/teacher-anchortm-classroom-planner

This is a nice, sturdy planner, but not colourful like the EC. Really more suitable for school teachers than homeschool, with a bunch of Common Core info at the end, but certainly re-purposable (but they are all sold out this year),

β€’ a British teacher planner from the Teacher Planner Company:

http://teacherplannercompany.co.uk/

(I ordered this before the EC but it hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m not sure what I’ll do with this one but it does have a very nice ruler) and finally,

β€’ The ‘Holy Simplicity’ Catholic Homeschool Planner from:

http://www.allthesaintsbooks.com/holy-simplicity-planner.html

This was a downloadable file, which we printed and bound ourselves. This one is really beautiful, but I have to say I prefer the Well Planned Day planner ( http://hedua.com/cart/index.php/wpd.html ) which is also beautiful and has Bible verses whereas the Holy Simplicity planner has Catholic quotes. It’s a little bit wasted on me to be honest!

I might use it as a Prayer / Bible and Homemaking planner, as it has a nice monthly ‘Mary and Martha’ notes section for precisely those two things. I have had the WPD planner a couple of times, but it is an expensive option, and the shipping costs make it prohibitively expensive.

The other problem with American academic planners is that they don’t cover the same period as British planners – our ‘school year’ runs from September to July, whereas most American planners run from July or August to June, often even missing out July altogether, which is not much use if you do school all year round.

How is your homeschool planning going? Are you excited about the next year? What are you using? Are you a planner addict like me?

Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction

searching

This doesn’t quite qualify as a book review as it is a book that I read nearly 20 years ago, but I lent it to a friend some years ago and despite my best efforts, did not receive it back, so I decided to treat myself to a new copy.

Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction, edited by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, is a collection of essays introducing the topic of feminist hermeneutics, published in 1993 in preparation for the centenary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s ‘The Woman’ Bible’ in 1995.

I bought it in 1996 as a curious non-feminist. I think I would still place myself in that category. Although I accept the basic idea of feminism – the need for equal and fair treatment for women, I am still not quite comfortable enough with the whole feminism entity (as I understand it) to declare myself a member. Beginning to read it a second time with so many years in between, however, I find that I am more ready and able to understand or at least begin to grapple with some of the arguments.

As a caveat, I must say that I have not read or even seen a copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s original 1893 book.

When I re-opened the book it fell, appropriately, to Judith Plaskow’s chapter on ‘Anti-Judaism in Feminist Christian Interpretation’. Since this is a subject close to my heart, I thought I would share some of its insights.

Plaskow begins with explaining the significance of Cady Stanton’s book and how, on a basic level, it sought to acquit Christianity by laying its oppression of women at the door of Judaism.

“Anti-Judaism in feminist interpretation signifies both a failure to include all women within its vision and an often unconscious appropriation of anti-Jewish themes and strategies that are as old as the New Testament itself.”

Plaskow talks about the way in which, in order to do this, feminist interpretation unwittingly makes use of quite inappropriately (even patriarchal?) conservative principles of interpretation.

“The claim that ‘Jesus was a feminist’ – a claim first articulated by Leonard Swidler and then taken up by numerous feminist interpreters – can be argued persuasively only on the basis of a negative view of Judaism.”

She outlines some of the ways in which the view of 1st century Judaism as an oppressive patriarchal society is arrived at by picking and choosing sources that seem to agree with that view, whereas there seems to be a lot of evidence for two schools of thought (perhas allied to Hillel and Shammei?) within 1st century Judaism – one of which tended to be more oppressive and the other liberal.

Plaskow also goes on to outline the way in which St Paul’s very difficult, ambivalent attitude toward women is explained away by viewing Paul as being anti-feminist and oppressive in his Jewish identity, but liberal in his Christian identity, a dualism which necessarily ‘others’ Jewish women.

Plaskow says that, with a view to moving toward a more critical feminist hermeneutic, “The first step in eradicating anti-Judaism is becoming aware of its existence, and this means becoming educated about the dimensions of the problem.”

She mentions that “Feminist exploration of Jewish women’s history is a very new field…” – most of the references she gives are essays and articles in obscure periodicals rather than easily accessible books, so I would be interested to know what has happened since the book was published.

In conclusion, Plaskow says that one of the difficulties of dealing with anti-Judaism in Christian feminism is the isolationism, so again I would be interested to know what progress has been made by Jewish and Christian feminists working together since the 1990s.

Searching the Scriptures is a big, meaty volume, nearly 400 pages, so I doubt I will read it from cover to cover in one go – it will keep me occupied for some time, and I will probably dip in and out of it. But Plaskow’s essay has whet my appetite and I will look forward to seeing volume 2 in due course.

Apologies for publishing this blog-post prematurely, and I hope (I can’t see, since I am posting via my phone!) that, having edited, it will all come right in the wash πŸ™‚

I would be interested to hear from reluctant / converted Jewish or Christian feminists, or anybody who can recommend reading in this area.

Picture Book Reading Challenge

I’ve just heard about this lovely challenge: to read 300 picture books to your children, in a year.

Since we are starting in February, our allocation is reduced to 275.

It’s only ’11 books per fortnight’, so that seems fairly manageable.

http://childledchaos.me.uk/2013/12/31/picture-book-reading-challenge-2014/

I used to have pages on Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing (back when we had internet 3 years ago!) So I will check them out again when I have a chance.

Of course, since my children are older, I may have to include books other than picture books. I have been aiming for one book weekly, but life has just been whizzing by too fast to actually manage to fit that much reading in.

We keep trying though! (We’re currently still reading “The Avion My Uncle Flew”)

I think perhaps a trip to the library is in order! πŸ™‚

January Nature Notes

One of my favourite resources is a very old cloth-bound book, “Enid Blighton’s Book of the Year“. My revised edition is dated 1950 and is a classic that really ought to be reprinted.Β Enid Blighton fell out of favour, of course, and many of her stories would be considered inappropriate nowadays; but she was very knowledgeable and her writings on nature are very Charlotte-Mason-esque, so I’m rather fond of her, on balance.

enid-blytons-book-of-the-year-1Each month has its own chapter, which includes a motto for the month, stories, puzzles, plays and songs and – the reason I love it so – nature notes on weather, birds, trees, flowers, animals and insects.

We started our week by filling out our RSPB Big Garden Survey form (which we’ll post rather than register online, as we’re old-fashioned like that).

And I thought I would share with you today’s poem, from Enid Blighton’s book:

“The Blackbird is Singing”

Here’s the new year – now what will it bring?
Apples in Autumn, bluebells in spring,
Pussy-palm soft as a grey kitten’s fur,
Poppies-a-dancing when summer winds stir,
Yellow-clad fields where the butter-cups gleam,
New little ducks on the chattering stream,
Eggs in the hedgerows, lambs skipping by,
Woods full of primroses, little and shy.
Yellow bees droning in summery heat,
Early nuts ripening, blackberries sweet;
All these and more the New Year is bringing –
Really, no wonder the blackbird is singing!

We are invited to write out the poem and then underline the first letter of each line: “Read them downwards, and you will find there is a message for you from the blackbird.” πŸ™‚

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

My friend Kathryn (the bookworm) introduced me to the Simple Woman’s Daybook meme, and I thought I would give it a go today:

http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com/

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.

Outside My Window… it’s grey and drizzling. Actually it looks very lush and green out there, I may get everone into their wellies and go out for a splosh in the puddles.

I am thinking…that I should really finish up on the computer and gather everyone into the living room and start school now.

I am thankful for… relative peace in the house this morning! A roof over my head, plenty of food, family, friends, car, all that I need. To have a dishwasher!

From the kitchen…DS has loaded the dishwasher without complaining this morning so all I need to do is tidy up. Oh, and hoover (now that I check, there’s quite a lot of work to do in there 😦

I am wearing… a pink t-shirt and black jogging bottoms, (and bright orange socks).

I am creating… I’m not being very creative at the moment. I might start another scarf (my forte is chunky knitted scarfs using 2 different yarns – one thick and one thin, in co-ordinating colours – it makes a lovely effect). I’m also wondering about making some clothes for my daughter because it’s so hard to find modest clothes for girls. But the price of material is so horrendous, that I’m contemplating making some kind of hippy-looking rag-quilt type clothes from scraps. (Is there a proper name for that?)

I am going…to ballet this afternoon (well not me, my daughter). I’m rather relieve there’s no other activities to worry about any more for a Tuesday… but there’s a possibility of a Hebrew lesson this evening. I’m waiting to hear.

I am reading…a huge pile of books! See yesterday’s entry! The fiction title on the list is “Lucca” by Jens Grondahl.

I am hoping…that school will be a bit more successful today. I’m not actualy feeling too well (I think I’m fighting something off, and I have toothache) and I don’t want to fight with the children again today.

I am hearing… happy noises from the children playing upstairs, the whirr of the computer’s fan, and now the gentle hum of the dishwasher.

Around the house…lots of houseplants without a home (they had been moved into the garden for the summer, but the summer has given up a bit so they had to come in again while the weather is so cold and miserable.

One of my favorite things… bookshops and libraries which also allow you to drink coffee (how very civilised)! We first discovered this concept in Sweden when we lived in Stockholm – especially Lidingo library which remains one of my very favourite places. But failing that, Borders is pretty good.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: actually nothing much on the agenda this week, just Ballet this afternoon, and Girls’ Brigade on Thursday evening, but I’m looking forward to seeing my Swedish/Finnish friend Tieja for coffee at Ikea next week.  I might take a walk into town if the weather clears up, perhaps take the children to a park.

Here is picture thought I am sharing…