Saturday, May 31, 2014

What We're Reading: End of May Edition

I am even more enamored with my reading plan now than I was at the beginning of the month.  I'm in week twelve and I love how reading in this fashion slows me down, helps me to make more connections between the books I read, helps me to remember what I read better, and helps me to think more deeply about my reading.  I highly recommend it to anyone who reads for reasons other than passing the time or momentary amusement.

My Current Reads

Bible:  1 Thessalonians - I'm on the 18th time through and still enjoying how the Bible seeps into me through this focused re-reading.

Fiction:  Waverly - I'm at a strange part of this book where the story of Waverly has broken off, and there is a series of short partial stories about unconnected characters at different points in time.  I'm quite perplexed, and I don't see these chapters in the Gutenberg version of the book.  It started just after Chapter VI in the second part in the Amazon version of the book.  I skipped way ahead and found that the book does return to the Waverly narrative, but I can't figure out why these fragments are included in the book I'm reading!

Poetry:  First Fig and Other Fruits - I have a great affection for Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry.  I'm not entirely sure I can describe why.  I should probably be moving on to reading some of the poetry we'll read next school year, but I think I'll let myself finish this volume first.

Spiritual Reading:  Learning the Virtues by Fr. Romano Guardini - I'm almost done with this one, and while I think it has bore fruit, I wouldn't particularly recommend it.  I certainly wouldn't consider it and essential read for the spiritual life.  I did enjoy how his chapter on recollection felt like it belonged in Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page.  I love connections like that!

General Non-fiction:  I finished The Willpower Instinct and I've moved to Teaching from Rest.  The Willpower Instinct was worth reading and it is a book that I wish I could recommend to other people.  I haven't, namely for two reasons.  I really don't like how she frames much of her research and how she develops her narrative through the book.  However, the research is fascinating and her willpower challenges are helpful and useful.  My other problem is:  how do you recommend a book about willpower to someone without sounding a little mean?  I can't just go up to someone and say, "oh, I've noticed you seem a little deficient in willpower, and some of these studies and examples reminded me of you, so I really think you would benefit from this book."

Sarah MacKenzie's Teaching from Rest is fantastic, as is the first of the four audio talks.  I'm looking forward to listening to them all and finishing the book, but I'm also trying not to gorge.  One of the things I also appreciate about it is that it is a book that any Christian homeschooler can read and learn and grow from, no matter what her homeschool looks like.  It isn't just for classical homeschoolers or Charlotte Mason homeschoolers or homeschoolers of any other stripe.  If you believe in God and you homeschool, this book is for you and I think you will benefit from it.

Self-education:  Abolition of Man

Chesterton:  I finished Trees of Pride (I particularly liked the twist at the end) and now I'm reading Manalive.

History:  The Shadow of His Wings - I abandoned Killing Jesus; the writing was just too horrible to continue.  I switched over to The Shadow of His Wings, a book Jen Fulwiler recommended on her blog awhile back.  It is absolutely fascinating, and full of amazing anecdotes.  It is the story of a German seminarian who is drafted into the German army in WWII, and how he remains firm in his faith and leads others to faith despite being in the SS and surrounded by Nazis.

Charlotte Mason:  Volume 3, School Education - I'm enjoying all the connections between the first part of this book and Abolition of Man.  Mason and Lewis are seeing many of the same problems, and for the same reasons.  As I read both of these I feel like I'm sitting in on a discussion about authority  between two great minds.

Other Reading:  I also read Jennifer Fulwiler's Something Other Than God.  I really enjoyed this book.  As an atheist convert myself, it was a great reminder of both how I got to be a faithful Catholic, and how glad I am to be here.  It was also very well written, and not your typical blog to book deal sort of book at all.  I'm glad I snuck a little time in on Saturday nights when I had finished my other reading to go ahead and read it.

Emma's (Age 12) Current Reads
Emma is currently reading A Tale of Two Cities and loving it.  It makes my heart glad to see her pick up Dickens on her own and enjoy it.  She's also been working through the Letzenstein Series from Bethlehem Books.  A few of her re-reads include Laddie:  A True Blue Story and The Brothers Lionheart ("Mom, I just love this book!")  In her school reading she recently finished The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and is now reading Animal Farm (along with a number of other books, of course)

Gregory's (Age 8) Current Reads
Gregory recently finished The Telmaj, a sci-fi book written by a homeschooling mother. She's a good writer and a good storyteller and Emma and I have read and enjoyed it too.  He's currently reading the second book, A Smijj of Adventure.  Emma has read that one too, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Nathan (Age 5) and Justin (Age 2)
Justin is still enamored with Snowmen at Work and Snowmen at Night.  I read one or both of these books almost daily.  Another favorite is Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?  The other day he came up to me clutching it and said, "Mommy, me love this book!"  Nathan's really enjoying a couple of our family read-alouds, The Winged Watchman and Enemy Brothers.  I'm reading him picture books too, but not as many as Justin.  Nathan has a tendency to ask me to read to him when everyone else is engaged in something and no one wants to play with him, and I'm either in the midsts of something I can't abruptly drop, or about to start making dinner.  Nathan has become my dinner making buddy as of late though, and is getting quite helpful in the kitchen.

I could, and probably should, make these posts shorter...  but not only do I love to read, I love to think and reflect on what we're reading too.  And I know I'll enjoy looking back on this post a lot more if I'm long winded.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Facts and Materialism (oh, and a few bears too)

I hate to post two Weekends with Chestertons in a row, but in trying to prioritize my written narrations for my reading, commonplace journalling, my preparation for my children's education, posting pictures on our family blog, and, well, sleep, I find time to sit and write for this space in very short supply.

So, with that excuse, I offer this quote:
All his life up to that moment he had been most honestly certain that materialism was a fact. But he was unlike the writers in the magazines precisely in this-- that he preferred a fact even to materialism. ~The Ball and the Cross
I remember reaching this point myself as I journeyed towards Christianity and considered the miracles I was reading about, both the Biblical ones and the more recent ones.  Why was I more willing to believe, "oh, the doctors made a mistake" or "oh, they can't possibly be telling the truth" than that perhaps something truly extraordinary had taken place?

And look who came back!

We scared them away when they tried to get into the garden again.  After all, we don't want them to think they own the place!  It is amazing to watch them wander around though.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Decadent Weakness

The father believed in civilization, in the storied tower we have erected to affront nature; that is, the father believed in Man. The daughter believed in God; and was even stronger. They neither of them believed in themselves; for that is a decadent weakness.           ~The Ball and the Cross

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What We're Reading: Beginning of May Edition

I enjoy reading other people's posts about what is being read in their families, and I thought I'd try to do this once a month or so as well.

About two months ago, I decided to start a reading plan of sorts for myself.  I was tired of having a long list of books I was trying to read, and I was frustrated when I realized that while I am always reading good and worthwhile books, I wasn't always getting to books I really felt I should read.

I decided to resolve the following:

  • Create a list of categories of books, and to either read the book through or decide definitively not to finish a book before moving onto another book in that category
  • Read twice from each category each week
  • In each session, to read in each category for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 30
  • To review and update my commonplace book twice a week
  • To write notes about my reading in several categories 
  • To participate in Weekends with Chesterton (which I'm obviously not doing well on as of late!)

So far this has gone well for me.  I have a note in Evernote to track my reading each week and I'm enjoying continuing to make progress through a variety of books.  I'm thinking about the books more as I'm not gulping them down over a short period of time, and my commonplace is filling with interesting and thought provoking quotes.  It has also encouraged me to stick with a book if I get to a point where I feel the book is dragging, rather than consigning it to the "oh, I'll get back to it later" pile where it seldom gets picked up again.

So, with that explanation out of the way, here's my current list of categories and what I'm reading in each.

Bible:  2 Timothy - I'm following this plan, which encourages the reader to read through each book twenty times before moving to the next.  I doubt Charlotte Mason would approve but I'm finding it an interesting discipline as I feel like it is allowing me to get a good feel for the themes and rhythms of each book I'm reading.
Fiction:  Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott
Poetry:  I recently finished Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti and now I'm reading First Fig and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Spiritual Reading:  Learning the Virtues by Romano Guardini
General Non-fiction:  The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. - The research is fascinating, the willpower challenges are useful and helpful, but the way the book is written is occasionally obnoxious.
Self-education:  The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis - This category is for all those books I see referenced and quoted, but haven't actually read.
Chesterton:  I finished The Ball and The Cross last week, and I'm going to start The Trees of Pride next.  I like reading obscure Chesterton.
History:  I recently finished A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander (a great WWII story largely about a German fighter pilot) and now I'm reading Killing Jesus, which was lent to me.  The tone of the book leaves a lot to be desired, and I think the book is poorly edited.  Every time I read it I find myself annoyed, which probably means I should stop.
Charlotte Mason:  The Living Page - The book discussion for this book was cancelled by request of the author, so I won't be posting on it anymore.  It is an excellent book, however, and it has helped me grow in my understanding of Mason's methods and of my role in my children's education.

Emma (age 12):
April was largely a re-reading month for Emma.  She re-read several of the later Anne books, the Mitchells series, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Right now she's reading The Secret Garden.

Gregory (age 8):
Gregory has been enjoying the Tales of the RAF series about a boy who lives near an airfield in England during WWII.  He recently finished On the Edge of the Fjord and he's currently reading The Story of D-Day by Bruce Bliven.

Nathan (age 5) and Justin (age 2):
My two non-independent readers are bringing me a motley collection of books from around the house.  Nathan doesn't tend to find favorites that we read over and over, but Justin is currently enamored with several books.  Right now I'm frequently reading The Best Place to Read, several Eric Carle books, and Snowmen books (Snowmen at Work, Snowmen at Night).  He also has a soft spot for Otis, and I haven't had the heart to put away An Otis Christmas because he's so attached to it.