Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A American Boy from Vietnam: Escape from Saigon


by Andrea Warren

This book was inspired by the author's experience of adopting from Vietnam. Because her daughter was just an infant and didn't remember her short time in Vietnam, Ms. Warren conducted interviews with Matt Steiner, who was ten when he was flown out of Saigon as the North Vietnamese soldiers surrounded the city.

Matt's mother was Vietnamese and his father was American. His father left when American troops were pulled out and never returned. His mother fell into deep depression and eventually committed suicide, leaving Matt with his grandmother. She tried to take care of him, but could not afford to keep him properly fed. She took him to an orphanage and gave up her rights so he could be free for adoption. Eventually, Matt was selected for an adoption by an American family. There are lots of photographs of Matt (a few in Vietnam) and many pictures of the orphanage and Vietnam to give a glimpse into the country.

There's one reference to a Catholic priest who was illegally attempting to gather orphans in exchange for cash. I think this is less an anti-Catholic reference, as there are nuns and other Catholic organizations mentioned favorably, as an example of the chaos that reigned in Saigon as the war closed in.

Though an uplifting story, Matt's experiences reveal the abandonment some international adoptees feel as well as ambivalence about losing their culture. There's an afterward in the back that shares more about those experiences as well.

For those who are interested, there's a substantial list for further reading (for young readers, middle readers, and mature readers) and even a few movies.

This book would be a pretty easy read for an eighth grader as far as difficulty, so it would be a good choice for further reading for Level 4 (Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™) for a student who still struggled a little with reading. I am tentatively planning to assign it during our Asia study and will ask First Son to read it over two or three weeks to coincide with Vietnam.

Monday, August 28, 2017

War in a Day: D-Day



from the editors of TIME

This book came up in my library catalog search and looked intriguing enough I decided to read it even though I had no intention of assigning it to First Son (who will be studying World War II in Level 4 next year). It follows the events of the D-Day invasion in 24 chapters, one for each hour of the day. Some of the chapters focus on the most important event of the hour, but there are also chapters on the chaplains, the journalists, the French resistance, and others.

The book is full of pictures, including some unsettling ones of soldiers dead or dying. There are side-bars on almost every page providing in-depth information or little biographies. I loved the one on Andrew Higgins, who designed the Higgins boats used in the landing. There's a story of his youth when he built a boat in his basement. When he realized it wouldn't fit through the door, he waited for his mom to leave on an errand and opened up a wall to get it out. At least he fixed it again! It does mention homosexuality in the biography of Alan Turing.

Sadly, the text has some errors in it, typographical-type ones mostly. It's a shame when such things get printed in a magazine rushed to print, but it's really almost unacceptable that they didn't have enough proofreaders for the book text.

I'm not going to assign this book to First Son, but I am going to make it available. Though focused on D-Day, it provides lots of information and graphics on adaptations to warfare during the war, technological challenges, weaponry, vehicles, and tactics in the war as a whole.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Choosing Home: Enemy Brothers


by Constance Savery

This is yet another book listed as possible further reading in the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™. A twelve-year-old German boy, Max Eckermann, is trapped with a boat-load of escaping youth. Shockingly, one of the first men he meets after his capture is a soldier whose younger brother Tony was kidnapped and stolen away to Germany and who instantly recognizes him as the missing brother. British airman Dym Ingleford convinces the authorities to put Max under his protection while they investigate the case.

Max is determined to escape to Germany and makes repeated attempts, but through it all Dym remains a calm and assuring presence in his life, encouraging him, forgiving him, loving him. In the end, Max must decide: Will he embrace the life that could be his?

Dym is the brother I wish I had and certainly I wish I had his patience! Soon after Max comes to live in the family's home (with his other older brother, his wife, their children, and other refugees; it's a full household), Dym gathers the cousins in his room to talk with them about Max. He recalls for them a German legend of the sword Balmung.
"It was the sword of conquest and, wherever it went, it brought woe and destruction. That's the very sword Germany's using today. She's fighting with the sword Balmung. The United Nations are using another sword, Chrysaor, the golden sword of Justice."
According to Dym, Max (Tony to the family) must choose for himself whether to wield Balmung or Chrysaor and he has to make that choice when all he remembers is Germany.
"What we need to remember every minute of the time is that Tony will judge England and her cause by what he sees in this house in the next few months. What he sees outside the house will influence him too, but not so much as what he sees inside it. As far as he is concerned, we are England. He isn't very old, and you can't expect him to read deep books or listen to broadcast speeches by way of finding out for himself whether England's cause is just. He has been told that the British are greedy and treacherous, soft, selfish, and arrogant. That means that if we in this house allow ourselves to be impatient, unkind, self-righteous, he won't choose Chrysaor. How could he? And what would be the use of keeping his body a prisoner on English soil when his soul belongs to Germany. None. If he chooses Balmung, we shall have failed, utterly failed. But we must not fail."
He talks with them of the little ways they can be kind and understanding to Max. He also admits to one of the older girls that England has made awful mistakes in the past as well, but he's certain they are in the right in the war.

Max is devoted to Germany, but Dym's strength and patience slowly win him over. It it his love for Dym that draws him to England, that finally convinces him to recognize the evidence that he was kidnapped as a baby.

Dym takes time to talk with Max, to walk with him, to teach him. He values Max's questions and responds thoughtfully.
"The battle is always going on, though the foe takes different shapes at different times. England and her Allies aren't just fighting the Axis countries--they're fighting the evil spirits that have laid hold of Germany and Italy and Japan. It's a far bigger fight than most people realize. Those powers are responsible for what's happening today; a hundred years ago they were responsible for what happened in the dark Satanic mills, and two thousand years ago they crucified Christ."
When Max asks why God doesn't stop the war, Dym says:
"Perhaps it's because He has made us men, Max, not dolls that can't lift a finger of their own accord. But I don't really know; I'm not in the Operations Room, you see. All I do know is that the world has a Chief who was victorious when the power of darkness struck at Him with everything they had. He has the plans today. The darkness won't last forever. There's a splendor beyond."
Set in England, the book doesn't focus on the worst of the war, but it doesn't gloss over danger and death. Max fears for both Dym and his family in Germany. He mourns the crime and loss of his mother. Comforting him, Dym promises to take him to visit Mutti, his mother in Germany.
"There's hate enough in the world already. You're not to blame for loving the women who stole you from your father and mother. She wronged them cruelly--but we've got to forgive. No, go on loving her, Max."
Reading this book, I felt instinctively this is a book I should offer First Son for his World War II study further reading.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket: If All the Swords in England

by Barbara Willard

This book is one of the recommended resources for Connecting with History volume 3 at the grammar level. First Daughter will be using mostly grammar level resources but I wanted to read this one ahead of time because I was afraid the martyr's death at the end might be upsetting to her.

The book is written from the points of view of twin boys, separated by service. Edmund serves the King of England while Simon serves the Archbishop. They see each other only rarely. In the end, Edmund realizes what is going to happen and attempts to warn the Archbishop. He arrives too late, but St. Thomas Becket knew already what would transpire. The hectic ride is the focus of the back cover which I thought was a little silly since anyone reading the book probably knows the book will end with a murder.

The title comes from St. Thomas Becket's own words as they are quoted in the novel.
"I know you have come to kill me." He rose, then. He pulled himself up to his immense height and his great powerful voice rang out over their heads. "I make God my shield. If all the swords in England were pointed against my head, your threats could not move me. Foot to foot you will find me in the battle of my Lord."
The moment of martyrdom is described and it is violent. The attackers hack at the holy man and a renegade monk deals the final blow.
He drew his sword and struck at the skull of the dead man, scattering brains and blood on the pavement.
It is only a few pages, though Simon's sorrow continues.

I think First Daughter can handle this book even if the ending may be a bit outside her comfort zone. It is an excellent introduction to conflict between earthly and heavenly kingdoms.


I purchased this book from the publisher (not an affiliate link) which often runs sales, but I've linked above to RC History (affiliate link) because I intend to use this book with Connecting with History. It is also available from Amazon (another affiliate link)

Monday, August 21, 2017

A German Priest in World War II: The Shadow of His Wings



The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM
translated by Benedict Leutenegger

This book is written in the words of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, a young man training for the priesthood in German at the start of World War II. Conscripted by the German army, the book shows the treatment Catholics received from the Nazis and the struggles Fr. Gereon had to complete his training and be ordained. Based on a series of talks he gave on a speaking tour in the United States, it did sometimes seem disjointed to me. It's probably reasonable as he is not an accomplished autobiographer but it did make some of the events difficult to follow.

This book is another one of the possibilities for further reading on the Level 4 history program page at Mater Amabilis™ and is one I had seen before in graphic novel form.

Army life and the death of warfare are an integral part of the story of Fr. Goldmann's life, so a parent should be aware of that before sharing this book with a student. For our family, those aspects wouldn't preclude First Son (or a subsequent eighth grader) from reading the book, but it's good to know.

There is a description of a a scene around Christmas time while Goldmann (not yet a priest, but previously in the seminary) in which Himmler offered leave to any and all SS soldiers who would use the time to get a girl pregnant.
All members of the SS are bound in duty to present the Fuhrer with children. Many eager maidens will be waiting for the man who will help them to give the Fuhrer a child.
A leave of absence is herewith granted to all members of the SS for the purpose of carrying out this glorious mission. The state will assume all costs; and, in addition, will pay the SS members who fulfill this mission a reward of 1,000 marks for every child.
Goldmann gave his first sermon in response to a request from the officer to give his opinion, explaining how he quoted Tacitus in Latin, Caesar, examples from the Middle Ages, and finally concluded it was an outrage to German women.

In the war itself, Goldmann often snuck into villages ahead of the troops to warn priests.
I found myself daily thanking God for the SS uniform I wore and growing in my faith and belief that my presence in that hated company was a blessing to those I encountered, as well as to myself.
He earned great respect in the SS troops, along with other seminarians, for endurance and strength, which he claimed was a result of "rigorous days in the Catholic Youth Camps" where they were inured to "long treks and strenuous exercise."  But they were asked to sign a statement in order to earn an SS officer's commission.
I hereby declare that I am leaving the Catholic Church and make the firm resolution never again to enter the Franciscan Order or the Church.
All the seminarians refused and were consequently honored by their commander for their commitment, but they did not get commissions as SS officers. Up to this point in the war, Goldmann had always served in non-combatant positions, but without a commission he requested a transfer to medical corps.

On one of his assignments, he become friends with a member of an Evangelical Church who introduced him to other Protestant Christians.
This acquaintance was one of the decisive experiences of my life, for it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. While my faith in God had never faltered, my recent experiences with my fellow man had left almost everything to be desired. These good people did much to restore it. I spent many blessed hours, almost every day, in a house in Hessen where belief and trust in God's word as found in Sacred Scripture were strong and where an inexpressible stream of blessing flowed....The conversations I had there and the love I was shown by my "dissenting" brothers were truly remarkable, and I count those days among the most treasured of my years as a soldier. When at last I had to leave them, I took with me a deeper knowledge of their creed, their ideals, their goals: things that in a later time, and a far country, were to stand me in good stead in understanding non-Catholics who were nonetheless stalwart and upstanding Christians.
Throughout his life, and particularly displayed during the war years, Goldmann recounts odd coincidences, delays, and mistakes, that allowed him to visit holy places, study with priests (even in captivity), and even meet the pope to request an out-of-the-ordinary ordination.

At one point, he managed to visit Dachau where the head of the Franciscan Order (Goldmann's order) was imprisoned.
I had heard of how they mistreated the prisoners; but I had not heard that they killed them too, mercilessly, laughing at their defenselessness. The particular targets of their baseness were the priests, whom they forced to drill in formation for hours at a time, shooting those who fell down from exhaustion or malnutrition or some other dreadful prison hardship...My hatred of the Nazi regime became more intense, and I resolved to return as soon as I could to see if I might ease somewhat the burdens of these suffering souls.
As I mentioned above, there are many scenes of the horrors of war. These were not atrocities, but just the wartime experience of many soldiers. For example, frantically trying to escape, Gereon's company climbed aboard tanks and rode over the bodies of fallen German soldiers.
It was a terrible ride. I was on the second tank, and I could only pray to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament while the cries of crushed soldiers drowned out the clattering of the chains of the tanks. I will never forget the sound as long as I live--anonymous men who, having survived enemy fire, were now crushed by their own comrades whose plight was so desperate that escape was the only thing left in their minds.
We came through. The commander was given the cross of knighthood for his brilliant plan--but there was much blood on it.
One night, a young and foolish radio operator announced their position on a mountain openly on the radio. Shortly afterward, Goldmann describes a massive bombing from British ships offshore.
This was the most miserable night I ever had to endure. Later on, when I was confronted at my trial with the thought of my own imminent death, I was somewhat afraid--though it seemed too unreal for me to believe it. But this! This was reality--severed limbs, men drowning in their own blood, the cries for help when none could be had! This was evil; this was Darkness incarnate, and I trembled with fear and anguish. My soul cried out for relief from the suffering of these men I could not help. I felt their pain, their tears, their deaths.
In the morning:
There were very few to be buried; little but pieces of human bodies, the dreadful harvest of war.
Goldmann was finally captured and transferred through a variety of prisoner of war camps. In some he was able to study theology with other seminarians and a priest. In others, particularly those run by the French, he and the other inmates suffered terribly. As a priest, he seems to have had some ability to travel but he also suffered more from the hatred of the more extreme Nazi inmates. He was able, over time and with the aid of many who prayed for him over the years (some he learned of much later), to bolster the faith of the few who attended his first Mass in the prison camp and also to convince many others to return to the faith. They even built churches within the camps.

After the war, Father Goldmann eventually fulfilled his dream of being a missionary in Japan. An appendix, The Ragpicker of Tokyo, written by Joseph Seitz, shared his dedication to the Japan flock and their tremendous growth with his prayers, his sacrifices, and his tender devotion. This appendix was actually my favorite part of the book.

This book shows a faithful Catholic German devoted to his countrymen and serving them as well as he could as a medic and chaplain, which could be an excellent complement to books focused only on the atrocities of the Germans in the war. It also provides a balance by showing some of the deprivations and suffering in the prisoner of war camps run by Allies. It's an excellent book for those who might assume priests can't be strong or courageous under fire. Finally, Goldmann writes often how his study of logic and philosophy helped him carefully explain the faith, but he wasn't afraid to admit when he made mistakes out of youthful exuberance, both good virtues for a young man to consider and emulate.

Despite all these points, I decided against asking First Son to read this as his supplemental history reading for World War II. It's a bit on the long side for him and more difficult than other options. First Son will read anything I ask, but sometimes it's a struggle and his history studies for World War II are already on the challenging side.

I also decided we needed something a bit less depressing to counter some of the other readings he would be doing. Kansas Dad convinced me our eighth grader didn't need to wallow in the horrors of World War II as much as he could with all the excellent literature there is on the period. So I'll be reading a few novels to see if any of those would be a better fit for our family.

For those interested, I also read the graphic novel version. At times it seemed even harder to follow the series of events in the abridged version, though that might have been partly due to my inexperience with graphic novels. I think, too, the illustrations were even more graphic at times than an imagination might provide. So while this would be a shorter option, I decided we wouldn't read it either.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sacrificial Love for All: Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings


selected with commentary by Wendy M. Wright


Caryll Houselander is the author of the Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls and More Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls which are recommended by Mater Amabilis™ for Level 1A (second and third grades). I requested this book through interlibrary loan to learn more about the author. She was a layperson who believed she experienced mystic visions. Though mainly an artist who worked in wood, she also wrote extensively for Catholic audiences.

This book is one compiled from a variety of sources including published works and letters Houselander wrote. I haven't read many of the works in full, but I felt like Wright provided excellent pieces of the works to give a feel for how Houselander developed her ministry and philosophy over time. The brief introductions for each chapter and excerpt placed the works within the context of Houselander's life. There were also a few prints of her woodworking.

When describing one of her visions, Houselander shared how it prompted a new thought on separating the sin from the sinner.
Although it did not prevent me from ever sinning again, it showed me what sin is, especially those done in the name of "love," so often held to be "harmless" -- for to sin with one whom you loved was to blaspheme Christ in that person; it was to spit on Him, perhaps to crucify Him. I saw too the reverence that everyone must have for a sinner; instead of condoning his sin, which is in reality his utmost sorrow, one must comfort Christ who is suffering in him.
It's more than "love the sinner, hate the sin;" loving the sinner includes seeing Christ within the sinner who is suffering from the sin, because the sinner is also suffering from the sin.

Houselander was an artist who manipulated material to create something beautiful. She wrote on the importance of work in human life.
It is a mistake to suppose that work was intended, in the first place, to be a punishment for sin. Work was not introduced into man's life after Adam sinned, but before, at the time when Adam's whole life was an uninterrupted awareness of Gods [sic] presence, and his uninterrupted delight was a continual contemplation of God's goodness, beauty and love. Work was given to him as one means to that contemplation.
After World War I, Houselander wrote for the Catholic Evidence Guild, an organization evangelizing in England.
Talking and especially talking about God, is an art. In common with every other art it requires skill and skill is acquired only by constant effort, patience and humility, throughout a lifetime.
Caryll Houselander argues that the evangelist should not merely learn by rote or trick, words to throw out into the world (or at a person), in order to convince him or her to convert to the Catholic faith.
All too often it does degenerate into an argument, even into a kind of sport, in which the real issue, the search for truth is lost, and such petty things as scoring points, having the last-word, saying the unanswerable prevails.
More than anything, Houselander argues, the evangelist should be humble and approach sharing the faith in that frame of humility.

Then the Second World War overshadowed everything in England. In letters written early in the war, Houselander grapples with how to live as a Christian in a dark and scary world. I loved these so much, I chose a few pages to copy and include in First Son's history binder for his study of World War II in Level 4 (eighth grade).
If we are ever to come back to the lovely morning of Christianity, we must not do it by waiting for the war to end, it has to be done now, through love. If each individual can put into her personal life an unstinted absolute love -- then already out of the dark days Christ will be reborn.
In a later essay, Houselander discussed the War specifically and suffering in general as a way to participate in the suffering of Christ.
So whatever part each of you plays in the war, it must be done only as a channel through which love is poured. Love alone, love only, can save us from being swamped and swept away by the evil passions that war must let loose -- hate, fear, despair.
And love can and will save the world, because this war is Christ's Passion in us, and if we dare now to act by faith and to pledge ourselves to let His love be as strong in us as His pain is, then it will bear fruit, in proportion to its magnitude of grief. 
During the Battle for Britain, when Germany's planes rained death and destruction from the skies onto the cities and the innocent lives, it was only by extreme and explicit effort that people could protect their hearts and souls from a devouring hate for the enemy. Houselander explored how that might be accomplished.
It comes to this, the sight of suffering inflicted on innocent people fills us with a kind of violent energy, and energy can very easily turn to hate, but if we like we can turn it to love instead. And that can be done in the simplest way possible; instead of working ourselves up into a fury and exhausting the extra energy we have got, we can spend it in doing something to relieve the suffering that provoked it. 
She encouraged people to sacrifice themselves. These acts of sacrificial love allowed her to focus on loving others rather than hating the enemy.
What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life -- our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working, and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows -- to God.
Though Houselander never married, she shared a home with a child, her goddaughter. What she learned in caring for an infant and young child shaped her later years and understanding of living a life of Christ.
The ultimate miracle of Divine Love is this, that the life of the Risen Lord is given to us to give to one another. It is given to us through our own human loves. It is no violation of our simple human nature. It is not something which must be cultivated through a lofty spirituality that only few could attain; it does not demand a way of life that is abnormal, or even unusual; it is not a specialized vocation. it is to be lived at home, at work, in any place, any circumstances. It is to be lived through our natural human relationships, through the people we know, the neighbors we see. It is given to us, if we will take it, literally into our own hands to give.
Wright chose a wonderful paragraph for the last one in the book.
Truth is not something that can be learnt out of a book, or possessed like a tea-cosy, a family heirloom, or a cat. It is something which must be gradually learnt and understood and known more and more, and it can only be known by continual personal experience. This seeking for truth is, for the Catholic too, in spite of the great help of the Sacraments, a reaching out into the darkness for the hand of God, a listening in the silence for the heartbeat of God. For Truth is not a formula or a penny Catechism, it is a Person who can only be known through personal contact and of whom knowledge is inexhaustible: Truth is Christ.
I enjoyed reading more of Caryll Houselander's work. This book was an excellent edition of her writings with just a little from a variety of sources. It was a pleasure, too, to read letters to her friends and those seeking her advice. Personal letters have a sense of intimacy not found in published work as well as thoughtfulness missing in today's world of electronic communications.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our Level 4 (8th Grade) Six Week Study on Asia

Mater Amabilis™ gives some lesson plans for History in Level 4 (8th grade) in which a student studies national history for twelve weeks followed by four six-week terms chosen from six options.

Here's how that's going to look for First Son:
  • Term 1 - Mater Amabilis™ study, modified only a little to add in a few Kansas-related books. I've posted those plans in the Mater Amabilis™ facebook group for those that are interested.
  • Term 2
  • Term 3
    • Six weeks on Russia and the Collapse of Communism, plans posted in the Mater Amabilis™ facebook group
    • Six weeks on Asia - plans below

Everyone's budget hits a limit and I decided not to invest quite as heavily in this six weeks as others. Because the study is spread over a few "units" focused on different ares, I decided to find library substitutes for the Mater Amabilis™ recommended books. I have no reason to believe these are better; they were just available.

As with the other history plans I wrote for the year, there's a good chance I've scheduled more than my rising eighth grader will be comfortable doing in the time suggested for history.

Mater Amabilis™ says history at this level should take about 45 minutes each day three times a week. In addition, a supplemental reading book should be chosen from the recommended books. I'm still deciding on our supplemental reading books.

Our Main Resources

Optional Resources

  • MapTrek Modern World (previously owned)
  • Gandhi, the Ben Kingsley production (good for middle school and up, available at our library)
  • A Statement Against the War in Vietnam by Wendell Berry, p 64-75 in The Long-Legged House (from our library)
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan (from our library)


Week 1: India

Lesson 1
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 366-367, 421, 424 – Narrate. (Southeast Asia 1800-1913, Indian Independence 1945-1947, British Commonwealth 1914-1949)
Mahatma Gandhi  p 5-17 (stop before The first struggles) - Narrate.
Gandhi DVD – watch a little of these in the evenings each day this week, after the younger children are in bed.

Lesson 2
Mahatma Gandhi p 17-42 - Narrate.

Lesson 3
Mahatma Gandhi p 43-60 – Narrate.
MapTrek Modern World Map 37: Independence for India
Listen to Jawaharlal Nehru’s extempore broadcast on All India Radio announcing the news of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948 and read the text of the speech he gave three days later, found in your Google Doc.
Notebook – Write a brief biography of Gandhi.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries.

Week 2: Korea

Lesson 1
MapTrek Modern World Map 41: The Korean War
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 444-445 – Narrate. (Wars in Asia 1950-1988)
The Korean War p 8-37 - Narrate.

Lesson 2
The Korean War p 38-69 - Narrate.

Lesson 3
The Korean War p 70-85
Notebook – Briefly share what you know about the Korean War.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries.

Week 3: Vietnam (week 1 of 2)

Lesson 1
MapTrek Modern World Map 42: The Vietnam War – review this map in your binder from earlier this year
10,000 Days of Thunder p 6-30 - Narrate.

Lesson 2
10,000 Days p 31-59 – Narrate.

Lesson 3
10,000 Days p 60-85 – Narrate.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries.

Week 4: Vietnam (week 2 of 2)

Lesson 1
10,000 Days p 86-87.
A Statement Against the War in Vietnam by Wendell Berry, pp 64-75 in The Long-Legged House
Notebook – Write a position paper on the war in Vietnam.

Lesson 2
10,000 Days p 88-111 – Narrate.

Lesson 3
10,000 Days p 112-119 – Narrate.
Notebook – Briefly share what you know about the Vietnam War.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries.

Week 5: Afghanistan (week 1 of 2)

Lesson 1
Afghanistan (Global Hot Spots) by David Downing p 4-7 – Narrate.
Notebook – Sketch a copy of the map on p 6.

Lesson 2
Afghanistan p 8-13 – Narrate.

Lesson 3
Afghanistan p 14-19 – Narrate.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries.

Week 6: Afghanistan (week 2 of 2)

Lesson 1
Afghanistan p 20-25 – Narrate.

Lesson 2
Afghanistan p 26-29 – Narrate.
Notebook – What have you learned about Afghanistan in the past few weeks?

Lesson 3
Read The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Notebook – Write a prayer for immigrants and refugees.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries.

There's enough flexibility in this schedule due to the shorter books, that readings could be combined to make the unit shorter than six weeks. That would allow days earlier in the year for exams in previous units and in this one as well. Personally, I've tried to make a kind of "final" notebook entry for each unit to serve as our exam.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Learning to Love: The Scent of Water


by Elizabeth Goudge

My book club picked this book for July. I was really looking forward to it because I'd read excellent reviews of Elizabeth Goudge's books.

In this book, Mary Lindsay leaves her life in the city behind (almost cutting her ties entirely) to move into a home left to her by her elderly Cousin Mary, a woman she'd only met once. There she meets her new neighbors, each in a struggling relationship with a spouse or a family member.

Paul, one of her new neighbors, is a man blinded in the Second World War. His marriage is rocky, partly because of his struggles as a young poet, playwright, and author. His character provides some of the context for the title.
The scent of water, of the rain and of the dew. It was difficult to separate it from the grateful fragrance of the life it renewed, but it had its scent; the faint exhalation of goodness. It would still come down upon the earth after man, destroying himself, had destroyed also the leaves and the grass. Its goodness might even renew again the face of the burnt and blasted earth. He did not know. But unlike Job's comforters he believed there was a supreme goodness that could renew his own soul beyond this wasting sorrow of human life and death.
One of the other book club members said she thought the theme of the book was "learning to love." Mary Lindsay finds a whole shelf full of journals written by her Cousin Mary that help develop the theme.
I had not known before that love is obedience. You want to love, and you can't, and you hate yourself because you can't, and all the time love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God's help you can command your will when you can't command your feelings. With us, feelings seem to be important, but He doesn't appear to agree with us. 
It was not a terrible book, but it wasn't a wonderful book, either. It seemed odd that Mary, with her keen insight into all the new neighbors, had nearly no contact with anyone from her previous home in the city. It was also weird to me that she moved out to the house with the idea of coming to know her Cousin Mary, but it's not clear how she would have done that in any meaningful way without conveniently finding the journals. The plot seemed just a little too stilted for me to really give in to it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

St. John Paul II (and Poland): Stories of Karol


by Gian Franco Svidercoschi, translated by Peter Heinegg


This book is one of the possibilities mentioned at Mater Amabilis™in Level 4 for Catholic saints and heroes. I selected St. John Paul II as one of our saints because First Son has long had an interest in him and because my grandmother's parents immigrated from Poland.

All the place and person names have been "translated", though sometimes confusingly, into English. I felt like sometimes it was difficult to tell where or who the people were, if you knew anything about Poland. I don't really, but I was trying to look some of the up online to learn more about them and had trouble finding them with the spelling used in the book.

I loved the early chapters in this book, the ones focused on St. John Paul II's youth and as the persecution and difficult times under Nazi control began. Though the priesthood beckoned Karol (St. John Paul II's given name) as he grew in his faith, it was the death of his father that released him from other cares enough to realize the call was real and should no longer be postponed.
But the death of his father had of necessity brought everything to the surface. It had instigated a process of detaching him from his earlier plans and making him more clearly see the path upon which he must enter.
Throughout the book, the author draws connections between Karol's experiences and his future as bishop, cardinal, and pope. During the war, one in which he refused to take up arms, he recognized the power of words as weapons. Once, while performing an epic Polish poem clandestinely, in a sealed apartment before a small carefully-selected audience, Karol and his companions heard a blaring announcement from outside that the Germans were entering Moscow (pure propaganda). Karol and the other actors continued unabated in their roles.
At that point, both actors and spectators realized what had happened--not just symbolically, not just in the days of Mickiewicz [the poet]. Their Poland, too, the Poland occupied by the Nazis, had not surrendered to the new oppressor. It had resisted, it had reacted with courage to defend its memory, its culture, and hence its own national identity.
Karol did not fight with guns, but through his performances. Such performances as well as his studies for the priesthood, fostered hope and courage like that sometimes felts on a battlefield as the enemy retreats.
The same thing happened that evening on the left bank of the Vistula River in a little clandestine theater, where one could breathe in a little freedom and take courage again to resist the oppressor. It took tremendous energy to go on doing it. All around lay frightful desolation, and people continued to die or disappear in silence, never to be heard from again. 
Part of Karol's education under the Nazis was the very act of maintaining his faith. Emerging from the war with his faith intact, or even strengthened, meant a faith built upon a solid foundation, one prepared to endure sustained attack in the years to come under Soviet oppression.
At that crucial point in history, with all that was going on in the world, one might well ask oneself--as Elie Weisel did after going through the dreadful experience of the Nazi death camps: Why is God so silent? Why doesn't he intervene? Why does he permit all this horror? In those years, just choosing God, or merely believing that God existed, became a true act of courage and heroism.
The author is a Polish patriot, eagerly describing and defending his country. He also devotes considerable time in chapters about the end of the Second World War, in denouncing the Allies who allowed the Soviet Union to dominate Poland.
Thus Poland, which had been the first victim of the war, which paid the highest price in numbers of deaths and destruction, which had fought alongside the Allies, and had given enormous support to the struggle for freedom was incredibly discriminated against, penalized, and without ever being consulted, forcibly thrust into the sphere of Soviet influence.
I don't know enough about Polish history and the negotiations at the end of the war to say whether his assertions are false; they very well may be true. But they seemed out of place in a book devoted to St. John Paul II's life. It would have been sufficient, I think, to show how the events of the war impacted his life.

He also brazenly denounced the atomic bombings (not sure I disagree there) and the Russian Orthodox Church for remaining silent during persecutions of the Greek Catholic Church and the Latin rite Church where the Soviets were in control (don't know enough to say myself). In both cases, these digressions detracted from the focus.

Once Father Karol was ordained and in a parish, the book began explicitly to show how his work with young adults, couples preparing for marriage, and families, developed his theology and focus as a bishop and beyond.
It was those young people, those couples with their questions, with their doubts, and above all, with their experiences, who pointed the way for him to enter into an understanding of human reality. Hence, they were his first educators. They inspired not just his studies and the books that he would write, but his own pastoral and missionary disposition. Finally, they taught him the type of resistance to use against a dictatorship that claimed to have absolute dominion over persons and their consciences in order to reduce all of society to submission--and in this way to subject even the Church.
The discussion on Karol's studies to become a university lecturer would probably confuse First Son:
He developed such a passion for the subject that he managed not only to work out his own mature philosophical identity, but also to find a point of encounter and a synthesis between two currents of thought: the philosophy of being, that is, Thomism, which he had studied in the Angelicum at Rome, and the philosophy of consciousness, that is, phenomenology, which he had learned more recently through Edmund Husserl and, of course, Scheler.
It's only a few pages, though, and with a bit of warning shouldn't trip up a student too much.

The last chapter includes a few references to St. John Paul II's development of his understanding of relations between men and women within marriage. It's not extensive but might be confusing or upsetting to a student who doesn't know what a physical relationship between husband and wife entails. It would be easy enough for a parent to pre-read and potentially skip the last chapter or speak briefly with a student ahead of time.

The book ends with Pope John Paul II's election.

First Son could read this book next year in Level 4, but I hesitate to give him this book as his saint biography because of the heavy-handedness in the treatment of Poland. Also the later chapters focused mostly on world events. They certainly impacted Father Karol, but the author didn't always link them directly so it sometimes felt like a diatribe. I will only assign this book if I don't find something better.

Even if he doesn't read the whole book, he'll read chapters 3 and 4 in his history course.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

July 2017 Book Reports

William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies by Peter Saccio (The Great Courses) - This is a set of 36 half hour lectures that cover every major play by Shakespeare. I definitely felt like my understanding and enjoyment of the plays I was reading with the children was enhanced when I listened to the lectures focused on those plays. I happened to be actually reading Macbeth when I listened to those lectures and the connections were much more meaningful. This is not an audiobook I'd listen to with the children as there are many references to mature topics, but it was wonderful for "Mother Culture." (purchased audiobook; The Great Courses often show up on 2 for 1 sales for members at Audible, usually more quickly than I can listen to them!)

The Ground-Breaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science and Invention in America by Cheryl Harness - link to my post (library copy)
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain - link to my post (purchased used on Amazon, and then discovered again on my shelf)

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery - link to my post (a copy my dad bought for me when I was a little girl)

The Good Master by Kate Seredy - link to my post (requested through PaperBackSwap.com)

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - link to my post (purchased audiobook)

Prayer and the Will of God by Dom Hubert van Zeller - link to my post (purchased from the publisher)

The Miracle of Father Kapaun by Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying - link to my post (purchased used)

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Bloom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill - link to my post (library copy)

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor - I read this again in preparation for First Son's history studies next year and wrote a few journal questions. (library copy)

There's an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George - I was considering this for Second Daughter, who has a great love of birds, for independent reading next year. It is the story of a family suffering when their logger father is laid off to protect spotted owls. After adopting one, they come ot respect not only owls but the devastating effects on the environment of logging. I think it would be fine if one of the kids picked it up and read it, but I didn't find it worth requiring.

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier - link to my post (purchased used)


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). Try Audible - another affiliate link.

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

These reports are my honest opinions.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Chemistry on the Range for Third Grade

We don't follow the Mater Amabilis™ plan for third grade science, though we do cover atoms and molecules. First Son did Noeo Chemistry 1 and First Daughter did The Elements and some of what he had done. Finally, with Second Daughter, I think I have a third grade chemistry course tailored for us!

** Edited to add on June 20, 2018 - You can read about how these plans worked here. **

Books and Resources:
An asterisk marks the ones we'll use over multiple days.

How it works:

Many of the concepts introduced in these books are complicated so I've made the readings quite short on most days. Second Daughter will read on her own twice a week and narrate. I expect I will be helping her through many of the activities and readings to make sure she's understanding at a basic level. She doesn't have to learn it all! On another day, we'll do an experiment or play a game. Those are the Exploration Days.

The readings, even twice a week, only take 24 weeks, so there's time to drop a book or combine just a few readings to make the readings only once a week. Or you can slow down even more and play more games with your student without worrying about getting behind.

The Lessons:

Week 1
1 - A Drop of Water p 7-11. Narrate.
2 - A Drop of Water p 12-15. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Sticky, Creepy Water  p 93-101. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 2
1 - A Drop of Water p 16-19. Narrate.
2 - A Drop of Water p 20-25. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Sticky, Creepy Water p 102-110. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 3
1 - A Drop of Water p 26-31. Narrate.
2 - A Drop of Water p 32-37. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Sticky, Creepy Water p 111-117. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 4
1 - Rocks and Minerals p 4-11. Narrate.
2 - The Rock Factory. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Young Scientists Kit 7: Minerals

Week 5
1 - Rocks and Minerals p 12-19. Narrate.
2 - Rocks and Minerals p 20-27. Narrate.
Exploration Day - crystal growing kit

Week 6
1 - Rocks and Minerals p 28-35. Narrate.
2 - Rocks and Minerals p 36-45. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Draw with rocks: charcoal and colored chalk.

Week 7
1 - A Rock Is Lively. Narrate.
2 - Catch up / review.
Exploration Day - Geology field trip in a bag.

Week 8
1 - The Elements Ch 1 p 1-2, Activity #1 and #2. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 1 p 3-4, Activity #3 and #4. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Symbol jars game (from The Elements)

Week 9

1 - The Elements Ch 1 p 5-6, Activity #5. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 1 p 7-10, Activity #6 and #7.
Exploration Day - Photographic card deck of the elements

Week 10

1 - The Elements Ch 2 p 11-12 (stop at the break). Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 2 p 12-15, Activity #1 and #2. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Periodic Table of Elements Battleship

Week 11
1 - The Elements Ch 2 p 16-20, Activity #3, #4, and #5.
2 - The Elements Ch 3 p 21-23. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Periodic table connecting color tiles

Week 12
1 - The Elements Ch 3 p 23-25, Activity #1 and #2. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 3 p 25-28, Activity #3 and #4. Narrate. (Mom will do the Activity #3 with you.)
Exploration Day - The Quick-and-Easy "Atom-izer" (from The Elements)

Week 13
1 - The Elements Ch 3 p 29-32, Activity #5, #6, and #7. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 4 p 33-36, Activity #1, #2, and #3. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Watch "Eureka! Episode 23 - Electrons"

Week 14
1 - The Elements Ch 4 p 37-38, Activity #4. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 4 p 39-40.
Exploration Day - Symbol jars game (from The Elements) with more elements

Week 15
1 - The Elements Ch 5 p 41-42, Activity #1 and #2 (stop after #2). Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 5 p 42-44, Activity #3. Narrate.
Exploration Day - EIN-O's Molecular Models kit

Week 16

1 - The Elements Ch 5 p 45-48, Activity #4, #5, and #6. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 6 p 49-50, Activity #1. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Lab Experiments (Teacher's section p 127 of The Elements): Disappearing trick using liquid bleach and Use iodine to test for starch (if we have citric acid, do edible chemical reaction, too).

Week 17

1 - The Elements Ch 6 p 51-53, Activity #2. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 6 p 54-56, Activity #3.
Exploration Day - Make an element card (from The Elements).

Week 18

1 - The Elements Ch 7 p 57-58. Narrate.
2 - The Elements Ch 7 p 59-61, Activity #1 and #2. Narrate.
Exploration Day -  Make an element card (from The Elements).

Week 19
1 - The Elements Ch 7 p 62-64, Activity #4 and #5. Narrate. (We're doing something like #3 in Mountains and Volcanoes.)
2 - The Elements Ch 8 p 65-66 (stop before "Our Periodic Kingdom Story…"). Narrate.
Exploration Day - Make an element card (from The Elements).

Week 20

1 - The Elements Ch 8 p 66-70, Activity #1, #2, #3, and #4. Narrate.
2 - Catch up or review or play Battleship again.
Exploration Day - Play quiz games about the elements.

Week 21
1 - How to Think Like a Scientist Introduction p 3-6. Narrate.
2 - How to Think Like a Scientist How Do You Answer Questions p 7-16. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Strange-but-True Brews p 15-22. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 22
1 - How to Think Like a Scientist Using the Scientific Method p 17-29 (stop before "Scientists have a better way…"). Narrate.
2 - How to Think Like a Scientist Using the Scientific Method p 29-35. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Strange-but-True Brews p 23-33. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 23
1 - How to Think Like a Scientist What Do You Want to Know? p 36-39. Narrate.
2 - How to Think Like a Scientist What Do You Think? p 40-42. Narrate.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Just a Phase p 35-43. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 24

1 - The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake.
2 - Design an experiment with Mom.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Just a Phase p 44-49. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 25
Experiment Week! Spend all your science time this week completing the experiment you planned last week.

Week 26
From this point on there are no more independent reading assignments.
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Presto Change-O p 51-57. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 27
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Presto Change-O p 58-67. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 28
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Go with the Flow p 69-77. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 29
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Go with the Flow p 78-84. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 30
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Go with the Flow p 85-91. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 31
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Goo Gobs of Fun p 119-127. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 32
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Goo Gobs of Fun p 128-133. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 33
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Goo Gobs of Fun p 134-141. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Week 34
Exploration Day - Super Science Concoctions: Goo Gobs of Fun p 142-155. Read together and narrate as we go along. Choose 1-2 activities to try for ourselves.

Weeks 35-36
Time for review, catch up, or running around outside.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Books and Resources for 2017-2018

I finished a page listing our books and resources for the upcoming year. I know, I know, last year's never got done. But maybe I'll get back to it. In the meantime, you can browse this one.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mapping the World: Africa (Fifth Grade)

We use the Geography Coloring Book for mapping activities in geography over the course of many years. In fifth grade, Mater Amabilis™ ™Level 2 Year 2, First Daughter will repeat the assignments First Son did three years ago.

You can read about some of the books set in Africa I read before First Son did this study.

First Daughter will be reading Safari Journal, Listening for Lions, and A Gift from Childhood. Because she has a tendency to read more than I've assigned, I expect her to finish the three books quickly so I've also listed Mamba Point and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Reader's Edition) (written about later on the blog) as optional books at the end.

There are 23 lessons using the Geography Coloring Book. I'm scheduling them separately from the novels but concurrently, so she'll read once a week and map once a week (but not on the same day). There are alternative ways to schedule out the lessons, however.

  • Spread out some of the coloring so fewer countries are colored on a given day.
  • Alternate the coloring book with readings from your selected novels.
  • Including assignments to trace or freehand draw maps of the areas using the coloring book.
  • Add some tests or exams where the student would label a provided map.
We also use the Concise Atlas of the World, but any atlas you have at home would work. 


Lesson 1
Find the newest country in Africa on p 111 of the Concise Atlas of the World. Draw the changes on the maps in The Geography Coloring Book on pages 37, 38, and 39.

Lesson 2
Read the instructions on how to color the maps in The Geography Coloring Book on the pages before p. 1: How to Use and Color This Book, What the Symbols Mean, A Glossary of Geographical Terminology.

Lesson 3
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Northern countries on p 37 with light colors (see instructions under Africa: The Countries). Be sure to color South Sudan a different color than Sudan and add it to the list.

Lesson 4
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Western countries on p 37 with light colors (see instructions under Africa: The Countries).

Lesson 5
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Central countries on p 37 with light colors (see instructions under Africa: The Countries).

Lesson 6
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Eastern countries on p 37 with light colors (see instructions under Africa: The Countries).

Lesson 7
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Southern countries on p 37 with light colors (see instructions under Africa: The Countries).

Lesson 8
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Colonial Africa map on p 37 with light colors (see instructions under Africa: The Countries).

Lesson 9

Geography Coloring Book - Color the Principal Rivers on p. 38 folowing the instructions under Africa: The Physical Land.

Lesson 10 
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Principal Lakes on p. 38 folowing the instructions under Africa: The Physical Land.

Lesson 11
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Principal Mountain Ranges on p. 38 folowing the instructions under Africa: The Physical Land.

Lesson 12
Geography Coloring Book - Color the Land Regions map on p. 38.

Lesson 13
Geography Coloring Book - Color Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, and Mauritania on the map on p. 39.

Lesson 14
Geography Coloring Book - Color Morocco, Niger, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara on the map on p. 39 (Don't forget South Sudan.)

Lesson 15
Geography Coloring Book - Color Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, and Ghana on the map on p. 40.

Lesson 16
Geography Coloring Book - Color Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo countries on the map on p. 40.

Lesson 17
Geography Coloring Book - Color Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Congo on the map on p. 41.

Lesson 18
Geography Coloring Book - Color Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zambia on the map on p. 41.

Lesson 19
Geography Coloring Book - Color Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia on the map on p. 42.

Lesson 20
Geography Coloring Book - Color Kenya, Rwanda Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda on the map on p. 42.

Lesson 21
Geography Coloring Book - Color Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Malawi on the map on p. 43.

Lesson 22
Geography Coloring Book - Color Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe on the map on p. 43.

Lesson 23
Concise Atlas of the World - read p 102-105. Look at the maps on p 106-107. Narrate orally.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Homeschool Review: Time


Time from Teacher Created Resources


Second Daughter was struggling a bit with learning how to read a clock. It's not that she couldn't do it; she just didn't want to make the effort. I picked up this book at a going out of business sale and it was just enough to get her going. She liked lining up the stickers on the reward chart in the front as she completed exercises in the book.

Each page had just a few problems, so she could practice without getting overwhelmed. They increased in difficulty so while in the beginning she was choosing from multiple choice options of what a clock said, later she was drawing in the hands herself for a specified time. Exercises at the end of the book included time word problems and comparing clocks to determine the change in time. There were a few pages of calendar problems at the end of the book as well.

This was a nice little inexpensive book on practicing telling time.