Planning for Senior Year

As you may be able to see from the pile of books above, we will be covering many subjects, including 20th century history and literature.  The chemistry book has not yet arrived, and the precalculus book is already being used for the dual enrollment class.

My planning is made so much easier by the wonderful book selections and schedules at Ambleside Online.  For the past 10+ years I have been hanging out over on that website, reading, learning, and borrowing their lists, schedules, and ideas.  This past summer I had the great privilege of meeting two of the creators of Ambleside Online, Lynn Bruce and Karen Glass, and their conversations were even more helpful and fabulous as I could have imagined after looking through all that the AO Advisory has done over the years.

Another main resource for me has been the ClassEd email group of which I’ve been a part since 2000.  These ladies (and gentlemen from time to time) have shared curricula suggestions, teaching tips, lesson plans, and prayed for my family for many years.  I know that we could never have done all that we did without their wisdom and support.  It really struck home how much they have supported us over the years when the husband of one of the long-time members of ClassEd mentioned how their family had prayed for our family for many years.  What a sweet fellowship we have begun on earth to be continued into eternity.

Along with Honors Chemistry and Precalculus/Calculus at our local community college, we will studying Latin, Bible, Art and Music appreciation, Shakespeare, and 20th century history and literature.  This is my third time through 20th century history in our homeschool, and while there are some bleak books written the past century, there are also some great books, which I look forward to discussing with my youngest son.  Some of the titles we will be reading: A History of the Twentieth Century, Testament of Youth , The Men Behind Hitler, The Hiding Place, Call to Conscience, The Hungarian Revolt, Economics in One Lesson, The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Chosen, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Sophie’s World, and Heart of Darkness.

We will also be continuing our reading through some of the Great Books together.  We have finished The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost.  Last year we started Les Miserables and will finish it this fall after which we will read Crime and Punishment.  This will be my first time reading Dostoevsky and I’m a bit intimidated but still looking forward to it.

Also, after attending an excellent workshop on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets this past summer, I’m adding T.S. Eliot to our poetry studies.  I’ve been given several titles to read in preparation of teaching Eliot’s poetry so that I at least have a glimmer as to what he is saying in his poems.  We will also read the poetry of the World War I poets and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to finish strong with my youngest son.  If we read and study these books, I believe that we will run our last lap of our homeschool journey well.

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s plans for this next year.  Please do share in the comments.

My year in reading 2015

This year, Goodreads did all of the hard work of compiling what I read. I’m glad I faithfully added titles and dates read, even if I didn’t always add a full review.

Goodread’s Year in Books for 2015

I had set a goal to read 100 books and went slightly over at 105.  My average rating overall was 3.8, which means I was reading mostly good books with an occasional bomb.

17 nonfiction books (if I include Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s plays in with fiction).

The rest were fiction.  Not quite as many non-fiction as I had hoped, but I find it easier to work through a novel quickly than a nonfiction book.  Perhaps this year I will be able to read at least 25 nonfiction, which would be about 25%–not ideal, but a better percentage.

I have a couple of reading challenges I’m eyeing and a Bible reading plan I am starting, both of which I will discuss in my next post.

I hope all of you had good reading years, too.  If you’re comfortable, please share how your reading year went in the comments.  I’d love to hear your experiences with books this past year.

Summer Reading

IMG_1265

Every summer I usually have more time to read than I do during the school year.  I have several books I want to read for my own growth in various fields of study (history, literature, philosophy, theology, etc), I usually have three or four (sometimes more) that I want to pre-read or skim for the upcoming school year, I always have some for work (new best-sellers, genre fiction, and writing books), and then there are the books I read just for fun.  While on vacation last week, I read a new-to-me Georgette Heyer historical fiction novel, one of the Fairacre series by Miss Read, one of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith, and a book about decorating my house.

This week I have started a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating for months:  Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith.  Anyone who knows me will tell you what a devoted Jane Austen fan I am.  I have read all of her books multiple times, have watched most of the film and TV adaptations (some of which irk me for various reasons as I’m finicky about adaptations actually being faithful to the book), and have even read a couple of biographies about Jane as well as some of her letters.

I have had mixed feelings about retellings and continuations.  P.D. James’ Death at Pemberley was only okay since she tried too hard, in my opinion, to protect Austen’s characters and it made the story kind of “wooden”.  Bridget Jones’ Diary, on the other hand, was hilarious and didn’t take itself too seriously so it worked.

I have only just started Emma, but I could tell almost immediately that I’m going to like it as a book, even if the retelling of Austen doesn’t work for me.  Here is a quote from the third page which has already pulled me in and told me that this is going to be a delightful read:

“‘My son,’ said his mother with a certain pride, ‘ is a valetudinarian.’

That sent her friends to the dictionary, which gave her additional satisfaction.  To dispatch one’s friends to a dictionary from time to time is one of the more sophisticated pleasures of life, but it is one that must be indulged in sparingly: to do it too often may result in accusations of having swallowed one’s own dictionary, which is not a compliment, whichever way one looks at it.”

The humor, as always, is gentle and understated, but appeals to me every time.  Alexander McCall Smith is also great at understanding and poking fun at our human failings.  I am just enough of a word snob that sending my friends to the dictionary on occasion would give me satisfaction, too, so I identified with this passage.

What about you?  What are you reading this summer?

Reading Shakespeare

Hamlet

 

When you first approach reading Shakespeare, it can be a daunting experience.  Even though I grew up reading the King James version of the Bible with similar language, I still found Shakespeare a difficult read unless I had a teacher holding my hand throughout the play.  I could understand the basic plot line and even some of the language, but many of the jokes, the history, and the language went over my head.

When I first started planning to teach Shakespeare to my children, I knew I was going to need some help.  Three things especially have made an enormous difference in our Shakespeare studies.

First, whenever I could find them, we would use the Oxford School Shakespeare editions of the plays.  Each volume contains a synopsis, commentary, and extensive line by line notes on the language, jokes, people, places, and history.  There are also discussion questions and a book list in the back for more information.  Throughout each book, there are black and white photographs of the play being performed.  I have grown a lot in my understanding of each of the plays for which I’ve had this version.

Second, we listen to the play while we read.  The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare recordings are the best approach to the play, in my opinion.  While many people say that everyone should take parts and read it aloud, I did not feel confident to do so and neither did my children.  Now we can listen to Shakespearean actors act out the play on audio while we follow along.  These recordings are brilliant and make all of the difference in bringing Shakespeare alive.

Third, I read commentaries on the play for myself before, during, and after I read the play.  The two books I read most often are Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human and  Brightest Heaven of Invention: A Christian Guide to Six Shakespeare Plays by Peter Leithart.  Both of these books have been a great help in understanding what Shakespeare is doing.  I may not always agree with the author but at least it gives me a starting place in my thinking about the play.

Just recently I heard about Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber.  I just picked it up at the library today and am hoping to dip into it for my reading of Hamlet.  Another resource that has been a great help is Peter Saccio’s lectures on Shakespeare, two of The Great Courses lecture series.  My library carries these series and Dr. Saccio is an engaging teacher who “unpacks” each play thoroughly and winsomely.  I recommend them.

Of course, many teachers recommend watching Shakespeare whenever possible and we do that, too.  I will write about some of our experiences another day.

I hope these helps in reading Shakespeare will make a difference in your reading, whether you are reading on your own, for a class, or with your family.

The Burning of the World and A Bunch of Sweet Peas

The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914

The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914 by Béla Zombory-Moldován

The Burning of the World is the translation of a personal diary kept by Béla Zombory-Moldován during the first year of World War I.  The author was a young Hungarian artist who was on holiday abroad when war erupted in Europe in August 1914.  He quickly returned home, reported for duty (he was a reserve officer), and was thrown into the chaos that was the Eastern Front at the beginning of the Great War.  He writes of his feelings about the war, his concern that it isn’t quite as glorious as everyone is saying, and the sheer terror and chaos that he found in his first battle.  The end of the book tells of his injuries and the three months he spends convalescing, trying to forget all that he has endured and will endure.

While the writing is quite beautiful at times and evocative of the place and time, it could be rather choppy and disjointed at other times.  One thing I found difficult was that the numerous notes were at the end of the book.  Since the author was not writing for publication, these notes were often essential to determine who people, places, and situations were.  Yet having to constantly flip to the back of the book to read them interrupted the flow of the narrative and I had a hard time staying with it.

I was glad to read a bit about the Eastern Front as I had not read anything about it before this, but I suspect that there are other memoirs that would be clearer and easier to understand than this one, which is a shame since there are moments that the author’s thoughts and words really connected with me.  Recommended, with reservations.

 

 

A Bunch of Sweet Peas by Henry Donald

In 1911 the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, offered a prize of 1,000 pounds for the best bunch of sweet peas.  Expecting 15,000 entries, they were inundated with over 40,000 entries, among which were the flowers of an obscure Scottish parson and his wife.  The story follows the steps the parson and his gardener take to grow a beautiful bed of sweet peas–only their second year growing them–, the drought that threatened to kill the flowers only weeks before the competition, the trials to determine the best way to send them by train, the judging, and the final decision.  I listened to the audio, narrated by Judy Dench, which was a delightful way to “read” this story.  I will probably want to read it again as I’m sure I missed some of the details and because it is just so heart-warming.  It’s a sweet little story and was the perfect choice for lying in bed with the flu.  Recommended.