Friday, October 20, 2017

Escape from the Ice: Endurance

by Alfred Lansing

Endurance is one of the books recommended by Mater Amabilis™ ™ Level 4 for Twentieth Century Exploration. It's an extraordinarily detailed account of Shackleton's ill-fated attempt to cross Antarctica; their ship was caught in the ice. Many of the men kept journals, which were shared with Alfred Lansing along with remembered experiences through personal interviews.

Upon first abandoning the ship and contemplating a march of 346 miles to the northwest, to where a cache had been left years earlier, Shackleton prepared the men for the march by insisting they limit their belongings to the bare minimum. He believed it was essential to their survival.
Then he opened the Bible Queen Alexandra had given them and ripped out the flyleaf and the page containing the Twenty-third Psalm. He also tore out the page from the Book of Job with this verse on it:
 Out of whose womb came the ice? 
And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it?
The waters are hid as with a stone.
And the face of the deep is frozen.
Then he laid the Bible in the snow and walked away.
Eventually, they had to shoot the dogs and a cat, some when they were forced to abandon the ship, and the rest later when their food supplies were running low.

Over the course of the ordeal, they camped on ice, sometimes surprisingly small floes. They pulled their boats over rough ice to get to water open enough to launch. They suffered through thirst, hunger, frost-biting cold, and eternal dampness. There's a paragraph on how they went to the bathroom, I suppose of particular interest to boys, and rather unpleasant. Dreadfully difficult exertion alternated with boredom as they waited for wind to blow them closer to land or warmer weather to open up the pack so they could launch the boats.
Day after day after day dragged in a gray, monotonous haze. The temperatures were high and the winds were light. Most of the men would have liked to sleep the time away, but there was a limit to the number of hours a man could spend inside his sleeping bag.
They slaughtered seals and penguins to eat. One episode described a migration of Adelie penguins right through camp; nearly 600 were killed in a few days. They had to eat the last dogs to be butchered, even some young enough to be called puppies
Though everyone was fully aware that their situation was becoming more critical by the hour, it was much easier to face danger on a reasonably full stomach. 
After four months in a camp on a floe, they were finally able to launch the boats.
In fifteen minutes, Patience Camp was lost in the confusion of ice astern. But Patience Camp no longer mattered. That soot-blackened floe which had been their prison for nearly four months--whose every feature they knew so well, as convicts know every crevice of their cells; which they had come to despise, but whose preservation they had prayed for so often--belonged now to the past. They were in the boats...actually in the boats, and that was all that mattered. They thought neither of Patience Camp nor of an hour hence. There was only the present, and that meant row...get away...escape.
The journey in the boats was tremendously difficult, physically and mentally.
But the dawn did come--at last. And in its light the strain of the long dark hours showed on every face. Cheeks were drained and white, eyes were bloodshot from the salt spray and the fact that the men had slept only once in the past four days. Matted beards had caught the snow and frozen into a mass of white. Shackleton searched their faces for an answer to the question that troubled him the most: How much more could they take? There was no single answer. Some men looked on the point of breaking, while others showed an unmistakable determination to hold out. At least, all of them had survived the night.
Some men complained more or didn't do their share, and it showed in the diaries. They were ridiculed, mocked, yelled at, but often to no avail. They knew there were getting close to land and feared they might miss it and end up rowing their boats right out into open ocean.
The sky was clear, and finally the sun rose in unforgettable brilliance through a pink mist along the horizon, which soon melted into flaming gold.
It was more than just a sunrise. It seemed to flood into their souls, rekindling the life within them. They watched the growing light quenching the wild, dark misery of the night that now, at last, was over.
They successfully landed at Elephant Island and made a makeshift camp. Shackleton and a select few sailed to South Georgia, a crazy attempt in their small boat, planning to return for the remaining crew members with a rescue ship. Though successful in reaching the island, the men they left behind had to wait through another winter before rescue arrived.

Illness, injury, amputation, exhaustion...but not a single man died.

This is a tremendous story of courage and perseverance, of shifting goals without suffering abject depression. I'd like to think First Son will consider his chores easier after reading about these experiences, but that's probably not going to last. Still, it never hurts to read about real men and woman (though this group was all men) who meet every challenge with determination to live.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Homeschool Record: Our 2016-2017 Poetry

In the past couple of years, we've started reading one poem a day, focusing on a particular poet for six weeks or so, depending on the book or books I choose to read. One poem each morning after our prayer - that's all.

Separate from this poet study, we read from a book of poetry about once a week just for beauty and enjoyment as part of our cultural studies loop.

Just for the blog record, here are the books of poetry we read during the 2016-2017 school year (7th grade, 4th grade, 2nd grade, kindergarten).

My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins - We started this last year after First Daughter completed her third grade state study and finished the few left this year. I like this collection of poems that highlights a few characteristics of the areas of the United States. We've checked it out from the library numerous times, but now we have our own copy thanks to

The Glorious Mother Goose selected by Cooper Edens - Second Son needed a dose of Mother Goose and this one was on our shelves. I happen to enjoy the illustrations in this book.

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes collected by Elizabeth Hammill - This book included a few of the traditional nursery rhymes we know from England and America with lots of variations and additions from cultures all over the world, gorgeously illustrated. (library copy)

Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a book of poems focused on being outside, perfect for the family needing some nature study encouragement. The watercolor illustrations are fun and vibrant, too. (library copy)

Classic Poetry: An Illustrated Collection selected by Michael Rosen has a carefully selected collection of two or three poems by prominent poets in roughly chronological order, but I was disappointed at the times only a portion of a poem was included without any indication that it was just a portion. I don't mind excerpts of poetry for younger audiences; I just like to know.  There was a nice sentence of two to introduce each poet. We didn't finish by the end of the year, so we started with this book in the fall of 2017. (There's a newer version available, but we read the old one from our library.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Henry V in our Homeschool

This year, we're planning to read Macbeth, As You Like It, and Henry V. Of the three, Henry V was the only one I had never read. In preparation, I purchased a copy of the No Fear Shakespeare version and read through it with two main questions in addition to pure enjoyment:

  1. What scenes, if any, would I be concerned about sharing with my children?
  2. What scenes, if any, have plain English "translations" that will be too explicit for my children?
While my two younger children are always about and often listening, I do not explicitly include them in our Shakespeare studies, so I was focused mainly on the eighth grade boy and the fifth grade girl. Both of them have had at least some exposure to what can happen between a man and a woman so I was more interested in identifying explicit language rather than the idea of such happenings.

Here are the areas of concern I found, though none will preclude us from reading the play together. 
  • Act 3, scene 3 - description of ravages of war on the people of France like mowing down virgins and infants, rape, and violent death
  • Act 3, scene 4 - Princess Katherine is attempting to learn English from one of her handmaidens and believes some of the words sound too much like those in French that mean "to have sex" and "vagina." The words of Shakespeare and the translation aren't explicit, but there is a little note on the modern text page to make it clear.
  • Act 3, scene 5 - "b*stard"
  • Act 3, scene 7 - In this scene, the dauphin of France and one of his men are comparing mistresses with warhorses. It's quite bawdy, but probably in a way that will go over my daughter's head. My son might understand the gist of it but...he might not. My plan is just to read it without going into depth. The modern text does not make the comparison any more explicit than the Shakespearean text.
  • Act 4, scene 5 - a reference to violating a daughter
  • Act 5, scene 2 - In the modern text, King Henry says, "But virgins close their eyes and submit all the time, and blind love has his way." This sentence is more explicit than the Shakespearean text ("Yet they do wink and yield, as love is blind and enforces.") but I think it's acceptable for my children.
So if you are debating about reading Henry V with your children and don't have time to pre-read, perhaps you could just skim these scenes and decide on the best course for your family.

First Son and First Daughter will each have a copy of the No Fear Shakespeare Henry V as we read.

Our plan for Henry V:
  • retellings: I have Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb and Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit. Usually the kids read the retelling from these books before we dive into the play proper. However, neither of them include Henry V. I purchased The Shakespeare Stories retold by Andrew Matthews to use instead. The language does not draw from the play so is less lofty or challenging as Lamb or Nesbit, but it is a good quick retelling. We'll start with that.
  • a character map
  • memorization and background with How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare
  • read one act each week with copies of the real play for myself and the two older kids, probably at the table with some of their toys or characters to play the parts for us
  • Masterpuppet Theater, if they want
I don't think we'll watch a movie version of Henry V, but we'd do that at the end if I found an acceptable version.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Unconventional Fun: a box of awesome things matching game

a box of awesome things matching game
by wee society

This is a well made matching game for young children with nice thick cards and bright colors. The box to hold the cards is all one piece with a top that flips open. It comes with 40 cards, 18 matching pairs and one set of blank cards to design your own. The creators recommend permanent markers or acrylic paint.

The back pattern of the cards shows hearts, hexagons, circles, semicircles, and smiling faces, all a bit abstract.

The illustrations on the cards are based on those found in An Incomplete Book of Awesome Things. The text beneath each picture is in all capital letters. For those that don't have the book or haven't seen it, here's what you get:

green cards
eye patches

blue cards

pink cards
camoflage - like an animal in its habitat; all you can see are eyes (lest you think of hunting)

orange cards
masking tape

Some of the choices seem a bit odd for very young children. Science is a bit abstract (a molecule). Most young children don't play with magnets (shown attracting screws and nuts). The eye patches card looks a lot like a skull rather than a pirate.

That being said, these cards are a lot more interesting and vibrant than most matching games you can find. They'll be much more fun for a parent to use along with a child and the matching part of the learning experience will be just as valuable. These are a good gift choice for the child who has everything or the youngest in a larger family because they will be completely different from everything the family already owns. They're also a good choice for the parents who want to be unconventional - nothing overtly boyish or girlish here.

I received this game for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own. The links above are not affiliate links, but the game is also available at Amazon (affiliate link).

Monday, October 9, 2017

School Week Highlights: Week 6

1. We went to adoration.

2. Three of the children had orthodontist appointments this week. No one needs braces right now.

3. Because we were in town, we did our nature study walk even though it was the wrong day. We went to a new park and enjoyed our walk pretty well. I forgot the camera which was too bad. Then we had a picnic lunch.

4. We went to the First Friday mass at Kansas Dad's university and had a picnic lunch with him. (Two picnic lunches in one week!!)

5. We learned the pet store nearest Kansas Dad's office does not carry food for our bearded dragon, so we drove to a farther store and bought some. Keeping this guy in bugs is going to be annoying.

6. After talking with a friend, I tried a new schedule this week, one that separates the subjects into blocks of time. At the end of the block, the student moves on, even if all the coursework isn't done. I think with some tweaks we're going to give it another try this coming week. It certainly has potential.

7. First Daughter asked last spring to go on an outing with me to the art museum so she could sketch some of the artwork. It took months but we made it this weekend. We spent a few hours together there and had a lovely time. She came home with three sketches and I made four.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Second Son is 7!

Second Son, my little baby, turned 7 over the summer! This little man both delights and infuriates us, usually on a daily basis.

He often gets angry and frustrated at the smallest infraction and will lash out at whoever is near-by or storm off and "give up" what he was trying. We're working on patience and managing disappointment.

He wanted chicken enchiladas for his birthday and for his baptismal anniversary. He knows what he likes! We also had chocolate sheet cake twice for various birthday celebrations. At last he has found a cake he likes besides the chocolate peanut butter concoction we just can't make on a regular basis.

Favorite foods - chicken enchiladas, angel food cake, Dad's peanut butter chocolate cake, Doritos, Sweetropes (apparently this is a kind of candy)

He wanted to watch the Harry Potter movies and we said he could after he had read the books. I figured he'd start, get bogged down, and set it aside for a few years. But he persevered! Previously, he'd pretty much read Calvin and Hobbes and other comic type books, and now Harry Potter. He finished the last book a bit after his birthday but it's taking us a while to get through the movies. We still have three to go.

Favorite books - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Big Nate books

Favorite movies - The Force Awakens, anything in the Marvel universe, The Return of the Jedi (This is obviously a seven-year-old with older siblings; First Son would never have seen these movies at this age!)

Recently he said to me, "Mom, I know you don't want to hear this, but I kind of want to see the Captain Underpants movie."

At his birthday party, he invited a 10 year old, a 9 year old, an 8 year old, and a 6 year old. I just love the wide variety of kids with whom he is friendly and comfortable. He wanted a video game party like his big brother so they took turns with three controllers on the Wii U and two Kindles playing Minecraft with each other. The boys did very well sharing and playing together.

He's been taking a break from taekwondo for a while, but we promised he could play soccer for the first time. He's on an 8U team. When First Son played U8, I thought those kids were so big and grown-up. Now I'm looking at kids about the same age but they seem incredibly small to me!

Between July of last year (when he had just turned six) and July of this year, he grew four inches, according to his doctor's chart. I'm sure he's putting on some weight, too, but it's hard to tell because he's still very skinny.

Second Son is tall for his age, I think, though it's hard to tell because he's in a class of pretty tall kids at church. We have trouble getting pants skinny enough for his waist and long enough for his legs. Summers are so nice because the shorts don't matter so much but now we're approaching fall...

He lost his top two teeth just before his second birthday and we've been waiting anxiously every since for them to come in. His dentist told us they usually show up around age seven for boys and about two weeks after his birthday, the first one started peeking through. The second one is showing now. Kansas Dad is planning a big party with caramel apples in celebration when they're both fully in.

Favorite songs - Not the Future, Try Everything, Immortals, Roar

He often likes to listen to the instrumental soundtracks of movies. He can match a shocking number of the songs with events in the movie.

He got glasses last May, the youngest of the kids to need glasses and the strongest prescription. He's supposed to take them off when he reads which means he almost never knows where they are. We had to do some major searching before our trip to the Badlands so he could see the eclipse know...the badlands.

Favorite games - Munchkin, King of Tokyo, Star Wars Monopoly

Second Son is in first grade this year.

Favorite lessons - journal, Khan Academy, maps, xtramath

He loves screen time, so of course his favorite lessons are mostly online. He's only supposed to spend ten minutes on Khan Academy, enough time for one practice session, but I often find him sneaking more.

He hates family pictures. We usually have to threaten him to get him to stand still and sort of smile for one.

He loves to jump on his trampoline and does so every single day, usually launching himself by running across the room and bouncing off in the opposite direction. We did have to explain over the summer that he should not try to jump on the trampoline while wearing his roller skates.

He loves bouldering. It's not unusual for  him to complain regularly while we're hiking (especially if it's not a loop trail) but he can climb and slide over rocks for hours on end.

He adores our dog, who endures much at his hands but also receives much love. Plus Second Son feeds him...when he remembers. He also loves the outdoor cats that belong to our neighbors. They wander quite a bit and often end up in our yard.

Second Son is not a fan of church and church activities. Mass is at the top of the list of things he dislikes, followed by Adoration and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. He's fine once we arrive at church; it's just the complaining as we're going out the door. Whenever I complain about his attitude, other moms assure me he's going to be a priest when he grows up. I hope so; then he can help to pray away all the purgatory time I'm racking up trying to raise him!

God bless you, Second Son!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

September 2017 Book Reports

The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda - link to my post (purchased copy)

Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl by Albert Marrin - link to my post (purchased used copy)

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren is the outrageous story of a unique orphan who moves next door to nice respectable children. I avoided this book for years because I'd heard it displayed a shocking lack of respect for those in authority, but decided my kids were old enough now to not be too influenced by that. There is an episode in an early chapter where Pippi leads two policemen on a ridiculous game of tag along the rooftops, but I found it more amusing than mortifying. Altogether, such silliness is not my style but the children enjoyed it. We listened to it in the van, which I enjoyed much more than I would if I'd be reading it aloud. (purchased on Audible )

Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac is an excellent choice of books on Pocahontas. It focuses on the thoughts and events Pocahontas and Captain John Smith experience from the time the Europeans arrive and Captain Smith's adoption as "brother" to Mamanatowic. The different perspectives help provide some understanding for young readers of the cultural misunderstandings of the times. Bruchac extensively researched the events, incorporates the "voices" of Smith and Pocahontas, and uses his own understanding of Native American stories and myths to expand the story. There are multiples references to "Papists," usually derogatory, but they serve to show some of the prejudices of the time. First Daughter, in fifth grade, will be reading this book independently later this year. This is not one of the books suggested by Mater Amabilis™ but it is the book I prefer. There are lots of useful notes in the book regarding language and definitions. (library copy)

Manga Art by Mark Crilley - link to my post (review copy from Blogging for Books)

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C. S. Lewis was the book club choice for this month. It's the myth of Cupid and Psyche from the point of view of her older sister. Lewis makes a few slight changes to the myth which give the sister the means to justify herself. It is the story of a woman who discovers only in her old age what love might have been. This is probably my favorite Lewis book of the handful I have read. (inter-library loan copy)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce is a delightful new tale featuring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Boyce, with permission from Fleming's estate (or whoever owns the rights to the original Chitty book), launches the Tooting family on an adventure, led and protected by the wonderful Chitty. This is the first of three books and ends with the family in the midst of a new crisis. The three books are nearly one story between them. I found this version on Audible and bought all of them as soon as I saw David Tennant was the reader of the audiobooks. It's totally like having Doctor Who read us the story! (purchased on Audible)

Books in Progress (and date started)
The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts (usually books). Thanks! Try Audible - another affiliate link.

Links to RC History and are affiliate links. Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.

Monday, October 2, 2017

School Week Highlights: Week 5

1. We celebrated First Daughter's birthday breakfast a day late with a pancake as big as her head. And she ate the whole thing!

2. We went to adoration for an hour.

3. Kansas Dad was speaking on Tuesday evening at Theology on Tap and I joined him. This really isn't a school highlight, but it was an enjoyable evening!

4. First Son stumbled in his PSR classroom but he survived with only a bloody cut on his eyebrow and a smaller one on his eyelid.

5. We travelled a bit for nature study this week and enjoyed a beautiful walk.

6. Then we went to chess club for the first time. We were a little late, but all the kids got to play one game.

7. We successfully added a new pet to our family! Second Daughter wanted nothing except a bearded dragon for her birthday. These require a bit of an investment in equipment so it took us a while to get everything together. Then, Kansas Dad called three different stores and we visited two in order to choose an actual animal. We ended up at the farthest one which was also an amazing little store almost like a zoo. They had many large reptiles that were not for sale. I took a few pictures of the bearded dragon, but none of them do him justice. So we'll have to try again next week. We sacrificed an entire afternoon of lessons, but someday when it's cold and rainy we'll draw him for nature study and that will make up for it, right?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Second Daughter is 9!

Months ago, Second Daughter turned 9. Much delayed and belated, here is her birthday post. Most of what I wrote for her eighth birthday is still applicable.

For her birthday breakfast, she requested breakfast burritos rather than a pancake bigger than her head. For dinner, we had refried bean melts (refried beans spread on bread with a sprinkle of colby-jack cheese and toasted in the oven), popcorn, Doritos, brownies and ice cream. At her request, we ate dinner while watching a Marvel superhero movie in the living room.

Instead of a party, she wanted us to take her best friend with us to a local waterpark, then go out for frozen custard. In addition to the frozen custard, she wanted a cookie man, which First Daughter made with chocolate chip cookie dough in our cookie man pan then decorated with candy.

Over the summer, Second Daughter decided Kansas Dad was going to take her camping. She had glorious and grandiose plans for their trip but in the end was satisfied when he took her to a state park for a night and most of the following day.

a picture Second Daughter took

In all our travels, she still claims Rocky Mountain National Park or the Great Sands Dunes as her favorite vacation spots. But she had a good time with Kansas Dad here in Kansas. They had a campfire and went hiking and swimming.

She was determined to master these parallel bars but didn't have quite enough time.

She liked best all the water snakes and the weird rock just sticking out of the middle of the lake.

Her favorite foods - Reese's Pieces, triple layer chocolate peanut butter cake, shrimp

Her favorite games - Uno, dominoes, games with Second Son, Rat-a-Tat-Cat

She's not the best or most focused child when doing chores. During school, too, she gives herself breaks that often extend into hours of something done outside.

She loves being outside and continues to be the most observant of our family when we're hiking or camping despite seeming oblivious and loud.

The picture below is from the Badlands in South Dakota, one of the places we visited this summer.

favorite books - Survivors series by Erin Hunter, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Boxcar Children series

favorite movies - The Princess BrideThe Night at the OperaBringing Up Baby, and the Harry Potter movies
First day of third grade
Second Daughter started third grade this year. I've given her a lot more independent lessons than First Son did, but she's managing fairly well. Her favorite lessons are maps, birds (continued from last year), and art.

favorite things to do - swim at the waterpark or pool, play in the snow, and not being eaten by bugs in the summer

She celebrated her First Communion last spring and claims Mass isn't so bad now that she can have Communion.

She has more than sixty stuffed animals. We recently imposed a rule that she must get rid of a stuffed animal if she wants to buy a new one. Since the rule was imposed, she's only purchased two more. (Gifts do not require a purge.)

She's been promised a bearded dragon for her birthday but there have been extensive delays due to various circumstances. Hopefully we'll be new pet owners in the next week or so. She's unbelievably excited and I'm nervous. As she always comforts me with her indomitable spirit, "Don't worry, Mom!"

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mark Crilley's World: Manga Art

by Mark Crilley

As much as they enjoyed The Drawing Lesson, I knew my children would be anxious to see this new book by Mark Crilley.

This book is bursting with illustrations, often a large colored illustration with preliminary sketches on the facing page. Each one is accompanied by clear text that references "traditional" manga artistic styles or techniques and explains how this particular illustration expands or riffs on those ideas.

The chapters organize the work into broad categories: characters, Japan, science fiction, conceptual art, and styleplay. Interspersed with the illustrations are autobiographical sections that describe what Crilley has experienced as a professional artist. There are also challenges here and there for a reader to put the book down and pick up a sketchbook and pencil to experiment him- or herself.

I think this is a great book for anyone interested in cartoons or manga. My kids read through it quickly but have returned to it to examine pictures in more depth. I expected my ten-year-old daughter to be the most interested as she had found a few manga books at stores or libraries and read through them, and she probably spent more time with the book than any of the kids. But I was surprised at how much the eight-year-old was inspired. She spent days after the book arrived drawing page after page of manga style drawings.

Below is a little interview with my ten-year-old daughter after she read through the book.

What did the book inspire you to draw?
I drew lots of babies and cute little characters because it told me how to do that.
What did you learn about manga characters?
I learned that there are many different forms of manga art. Chibi is all about being silly.
What did you learn about art materials?
In the Introduction it said that you should start out with a pencil with a good eraser. The erasers at the back of the pencil are not that good. Then when you have a good drawing you can go over it with pen.
How do you feel about the author?
He seems like a nice guy. I liked the book.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own. The links above are not affiliate links, but the book is also available at Amazon (affiliate link).