The Commons – July 11th Edition

The Commons is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I’ve got several titles I’m trying to finish up this month. I’ve been working on my school plans for the Fall, so my personal reading has really been pushed to the side these past few weeks. I’m behind schedule, as usual, so we’ll see if I reach my goals.

I couldn’t help myself – I added another book to the pile. I saw it recommended somewhere – maybe Goodreads or Instagram and started it this month. Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner – the author really breaks down the process of learning a new language – what works and doesn’t work.

Wyner stresses practicing recall for learning a new language – writing down or saying from memory what you have studied – rather than just studying over and over.

“When you study by reading through a list multiple times, you’re practicing reading, not recall. If you want to get better at recalling something, you should practice recalling it.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

Seems intuitive, but it’s a study skill that is applicable in any subject really. He recommends using flash cards, and specifically a study method called Spaced Repetition Systems – what the author refers to as flash cards on steroids.

Another point he stresses is to stop translating. So often our foreign language learning attempts have this middle step. If we are learning the word cat, we may see a picture of a cat, the English word CAT, and then the word we are learning, GATTO, as an example. But your brain has to go through this extra process of translating. It is more efficient to see the cat and learn the word gatto.

“By throwing away English, I could spend my time building fluency instead of decoding sentences word by word.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

One more area the author stresses is the importance of learning proper pronunciation at the beginning – you don’t get bogged down with broken words (words that we think are pronounced one way but are actually pronounced another) and we also learn to distinguish between similar sounds, known as minimal pairs (the author use the examples of R and L in English for a native Japanese speaker – their ear isn’t trained to distinguish the R and L sounds as separate).

“If you have better listening comprehension, you’ll gain more vocabulary and grammar every time you hear someone speak your language.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

One thing that I am loving about this book is the detail and research presented in this book. It’s not just a book of Do This, It Works! The author goes into a lot of detail of why and how it works. How our brains hear language and recall information. It’s very thorough.

I did manage to get in some other reading this week.

This week I have been working on the July chapter in The Life-giving Home. Sarah Clarkson writes about the importance of story in developing our own character.

“Literature is humanity’s ongoing conversation with itself about what it means to be human, to be good, to live with meaning.” (The Life-giving Home, Sally and Sarah Clarkson)

Sigh. There is my motivation for reading good books, and ensuring my children are surrounded by good books.

Speaking of good books – I’ve got a stack of books arriving over the next couple of weeks as I get ready for the new school year – I look forward to sharing our curriculum plans soon!

 

Current Reads:

 

The Commons – June 14th Edition

The Commons is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I continue to progress slowly through my June stack. I’ve fallen behind in my Don Quixote reading – I had hoped to be further along but I think I overloaded myself this month. But small steps are better than nothing.

I am really enjoying Don Quixote. It is such a funny story, and I so love the dialogue. I was laughing out loud throughout Chapter XII, where Pedro the goatherd is telling the story of the broken hearted shepherd Grisostomo to Don Quixote. Pedro keeps using the wrong words and Don Quixote corrects him several times, to the point of annoyance, but always followed with a gracious compliment of the man’s storytelling skills. After the story is finished, Don Quixote, having been invited to attend the funeral of the deceased shepherd, responds:

“I shall be certain to, ” said Don Quixote, “and I thank you for the pleasure you have given me with the narration of so delightful a story.” (Don Quixote)

I am currently reading about autobiographies in The Well-educated Mind. This has never been a genre that has caught my attention, but this particular chapter is really winning me over.

“You no longer read an autobiography to find out the truth about past events (an assumption that governed the memoirs of political retirees for decades). Rather, you read autobiography to find out what it’s like to see the world from another point of view, from inside the skin of another person.” (The Well-educated Mind)

Susan Wise Bauer suggests the book The Timetables of History as a reference tool. I’m ordering it this week and look forward to utilizing this resource. Amazon allows you to peek inside, so you can see how the tables are set up, with time periods along the left side and columns containing significant events in several categories including history and politics, literature and theatre, music, religion, philosophy and learning.

I continue to enjoy Educating the Whole-hearted Child. So many gems in this book! Concerning reading and language arts:

“the single best way to strengthen your children’s minds is making sure they read lots of good books.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

And this comment about raising readers:

“Do everything you can to cultivate in your children a love of books. Give them their own copies of special books they read on their own, illustrated storybooks that capture their hearts, series of books that they especially enjoy, classics that every child should have, informational books about subjects that are special to them, and even books that they are not quite ready for but will be soon.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

And finally:

“Be generous with books. It is an investment that will return hundredfold rewards in your children’s lives.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

I’m pretty sure that Clay and Sally just told me to go buy a lot more books. Done and done!

Current Reads:

 

The Commons – May 31st Edition

The Commons is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

This past week I snuck a reread into my stack – The Awakening of Miss Prim. This is such a delightful read, and full of goodness and inspiration for simple living and spiritual growth. I absolutely love the pace and quality of living in the village of San Ireno de Arnois.

“Nowadays, to live quietly and simply you have to take refuge in a small community, a village or hamlet where the din and aggression of the overgrown cities can’t reach; a remote corner like this, where you know nevertheless that about a couple of hundred of miles away, just in case, ” – he smiled – “a vigorous, vibrant metropolis exists.” The Awakening of Miss Prim

The children in the village learn the basics in the village school (the three Rs) but then continue their education at home and with others in the village, in an intimate setting.

“They’re being brought up with good books so that later they can absorb great books.” The Awakening of Miss Prim

I’ve continued with my slow reads, including Educating the Whole-hearted Child. This week’s focus was on discipleship study methods. One point that really stood out was the importance of keeping the Bible as the primary source of Bible study.

“The incessant fragmentation of Bible content into booklets, condensations, Bible stories, Bible products, software, websites, greeting cards, Biblezines, ad infinitum unfortuntately trivializes and devalues Scripture rather than making it more valuable. “ Educating the Whole-hearted Child

I am slowly working through The Fourth Turning – it is so full of minute details I can’t imagine going at any faster of a pace. The premise, that human events in history are cyclical, is just fascinating.

“What happens to each generation separately is only part of the picture. Of more importance to history is what happens to generations together. They age in place in a manner that Francois Mentre described as ’tiles on a roof’ – overlapping in time, corrective in purpose, complementary in effect.” The Fourth Turning

My slow reads continue. I’ve also taken on two more books this week, reading along with fellow book clubbers. Don Quixote (I am reading the newer Grossman translation), as well as Locke’s Second Essay. I’m just getting starting on these two so look for commentary starting next week.

Current Reads:

 

The Commons: May 3rd Edition

The Commons is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I spent the final week of April trying to wrap up a few titles and make room in my stack for May reads. This past week I finished Experiencing God, Honey for a Child’s Heart, and 10 Habits of Happy Moms. I also read Henry and the Chalk Dragon to my children.

Experiencing God has been quite impactful – I’ve been working through it slowly since January and I strongly recommend it to Christians. No matter how far along your Christian walk you may be, you will be challenged in your relationship with God and come out with a deeper understanding of what it really means to experience God in your personal life, and as part of the larger Christian body.

“You can’t stay where you are and go with God at the same time.” Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God

I feel like I am late to the game, having only just now read Honey for a Child’s Heart, though I have been homeschooling since 2011, and have four children at home. This book is so full of goodness – and I am so thankful that our family leans so heavily on good literature, not just for homeschooling but for character building and family entertainment. This is a resource I will return to again and again as my children grow.

“Children’s books cannot be written for or down to children. Children reject books that do not treat them as equal.” Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart

The 10 Habits for Happy Moms is a great resource for moms who struggle to consider their own needs because they are constantly meeting the needs of others. Meg Meeker does a great job reminding women that self care is so important, and she addresses ten habits to cultivate to improve happiness.

“We all choose what thoughts will fill the spaces in our minds, if you will, at the beginning of the day. It is a simple mathematical truth that if we spend more time pondering what we don’t have, we will have far less time to feel grateful for what we do have.” Meg Meeker, The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers

I’ll mention Henry and the Chalk Dragon even though it is a family read, and not just in my personal stack. This is a must read for families. We had so much fun reading this book aloud. It is laugh out loud funny and so sweet!

“Don’t insult anything that has just shimmied down the drain.” Jennifer Trafton, Henry and the Chalk Dragon

I started a new book in April that I’ll work on over the spring and summer. The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. Part ‘How to Read a Book’ and part great books reading list, I am enjoying this so far.

I am reading A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe this month with several others. I’ve only just started so I’ll share more as I get into it.

Current Reads:

The Commons: Surprised By Joy

My 2016 reading plan has gone off the rails, thanks  to  my return to work. Even with working part-time, I am struggling to keep up with my self-imposed pace.

But that’s okay. My reading list should work for me, and not the other way around. I have been reevaluating my list, and have been deciding which titles are must-haves for the year, and which ones can be postponed.

My current Read pile includes a couple of titles I’ve been working on slowly since January, as well as a few new ones that I’ve just added.

During this season of life, I am finding myself drawn to books that focus on educational philosophy, parenting, and Christian faith.

One book that I am wrapping up this week (finally!) is C.S. Lewis Surprised By  Joy.

While I have been exploring the writings of C.S. Lewis, it has been incredible to read about his childhood and early life experiences. So often, we have a one-dimensional view of authors; we only know them through their writings.

C.S. Lewis is of course known for his writings on Christian apologetics, but to read about his transformation into an atheist and eventual discovery of true Christian faith is quite moving.

Lewis shared about his time living with and being tutored by a family friend Mr. Kirkpatrick, or Old Knock as he was sometimes called. He wrote of his time reading and studying Homer in Greek.

In our homeschool, we are just getting started with Latin, which I am quite excited about since I studied Latin all through high school.  We have also learned the Hebrew alphabet and are still in the early stages of learning vocabulary and basic grammar.

This passage, from Lewis’ time with Old Knock, really struck me as we work on learning new languages.

The great gain was that I very soon became able to understand a great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning any language. Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are hunting for it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it, are not reading the Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle. The very formula, “Naus means a ship,” is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, as behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.

As I find myself getting stressed out because I have less time available for personal scholarship right now, I am reminded of another passage, again from Lewis’ time with Old Knock. Reflecting on the ideal day of study and reflection, what he terms “settled, calm, Epicurean life.” This ideal schedule, defined by set study times and minimal interactions and distractions, sound wonderful to someone seeking a scholarly life. But as Lewis points out:

It is no doubt for my own good that I have been so generally prevented from leading it, for it is a life almost entirely selfish. Selfish, not self-centered: for in such a life my mind would be directed toward a thousand things, not one of which is myself.

These words will serve as a comfort as I try to find that perfect balance between family, faith, work and personal scholarship.

The Commons: Twelfth Night

I admit to having an irrational dislike for Shakespeare. I think it comes from school teachers pushing it on me all through middle and high school.

I told you it was irrational.

Now that I am older, I want to read Shakespeare for me. I know it is worth my time and effort and I know I will enjoy it.

I am a member of Read Aloud Revival and recently participated in a member’s only Master Class on teaching Shakespeare to our children (you see the irony, here, right?!). It was such an awesome class and I am feeling really fired up about not only embracing Shakespeare for myself, but also presenting it to my children.

Want to find out more about the Read Aloud Revival and the Master Classes? Follow this link!

Well, I have added Twelfth Night to my reading list. This is one Shakespeare work that I have never read in my younger years, so I am glad that it is the one I am starting with.

As an aside, I am LOVING the Folger Shakespeare Library edition. There are extensive notes about Shakespeare and the writing and story at the beginning, and each page of writing has a companion page of notes – obscure words or phrases defined. Having each two-page spread set up this way, with definitions on the left and the actual text on the right makes it much easier to read. Because clarification of obscure terms requires little more than a glance to the opposite page, reading is smooth and not disjointed.

Here is one of my favorite passages:

 

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I’m elbow deep in books right now. When I started working part time at the beginning of the year, I had no idea how it would impact my personal scholar time. I am finding it difficult to keep up with my projected reading list I planned out in late December. Right now, I am working to finish the stack of books I started at the beginning of the year, along with a couple smaller books I have added. I will be paring down my 2016 reading list soon to something more realistic given my time constraints. Look for a revised 2016 reading plan soon.

 

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The Commons: The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic

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This week my daughter and I finished up our current read aloud, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic.

This was a truly epic story.

It was chock full of heroes, life lessons, moral messages, and good old fashioned adventure!

Though the story focuses on the adventures that Persimmony experiences as she struggles to save her island and its inhabitants from a sleeping giant as well as themselves, there are several supporting characters that have adventures of their own and moral lessons to share.

It it so easy to see our own character flaws and weaknesses in the characters of the story, and learn from their experiences

And… it was just a FUN read! We have been in hysterics the whole week as we’ve been reading. And my daughter and I have been having a blast perfecting our thinking pose:

King Lucas was in the middle of a philosophy lesson. At the moment, Professor Quibble was busy getting into the correct posture, which he had to get exactly right in order to concentrate as a philosopher needed to do. First he bent one knee upward and rested the foot on his other leg. Then he held the bridge of his nose delicately between his thumb and forefinger and raised the other arm upward in a graceful curve like a half moon. “Now, where were we? Oh yes. We were about to discuss the most ancient philosophical question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

 

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The Commons: Sleeping Giants

IMG_2964I’ve been juggling several books – education philosophy books, history books, parenting and theology books.

I haven’t sat down with a Sci-Fi book, just for fun, in months.

I’ve just joined the Litsy online community, and my first day there a post about a new book, Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, came across my feed.

I saw several posts about this book and my interest was piqued. I placed an order that night and my book arrived just a couple of days ago.

This book focuses on a presumed alien artifact that was unearthed almost two decades ago, and how the person who accidentally discovered it comes full circle to be the lead investigator in its origins and meaning.

I.am.hooked.

I am really enjoying this book and I am especially glad it’s the first in a series!

I tend to fall in love with characters and storylines and hate when they end after only one book.

Written as a collection of interview transcripts, journal entries, newspaper articles and mission logs, this format just works. And it is a creative way to tell the story from multiple points of view.

An excerpt from an interview with the main character, Dr. Rose Franklin:

And you now know what it is we are looking for?

– I haven’t the faintest idea. But I think that’s a good thing. I think those who looked at it before failed because they knew too many things, or so they thought.

Sometimes we need to step back from our weightier reading selections and just enjoy some fiction. This is my book treat!

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