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.
The Commons is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.
This week I continued to make progress in my reading stack.
I worked through Chapter 1 of A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe. This is a fascinating read so far. Each chapter digs into the math and mystery of the numbers 1 through 10. Chapter 1 is all about the number one, or the monad.
In the first chapter, the geometer’s tools – the compass, the straightedge and the pencil are described. My excitement to try out the compasses in my new geometry tool kit (it came with three!) seems inadequate compared to the fact that:
“The Medieval geometers contemplated the compass as an abstract symbol of the eye of God.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
Even the simple task of sitting down with tools to make the most basic of shapes, the circle, carried a greater significance.
“Pencil and paper translate divine, eternal ideas into symbols accessible to the geometer’s sight.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
The monad, the circle, also represents the cyclic nature of everything, from the simplest to most complex biological system, even to the rock cycle.
This book is examing in great detail the cyclic nature to historical events. The authors discuss this concept of a circle of time, the wheels of time, with each cycle:
“represented by a circle, symbolizing perfect and unbreakable recurrence. Nearly every primitive or archaic society came to see sacred time as rounded.” A Fourth Turning
Much of the book (so far as I can tell being four chapters in) covers the saeculum, the recurring cycle of history that runs the average length of a lifetime (approximately 100 years). The saeculum is divided into four parts, represented by four generations within the hundred years.
“Roughly once every twenty years, America discovers a new generation – a happenstance triggered by some striking event in which the young people appear to behave in ways manifestly different than the youth who came just before.” A Fourth Turning
This is a fascinating book, but it is packed with information and details – thankfully there are a lot of tables to help keep things straight – so I am moving through it slowly.
This week I let myself enjoy some lighter fiction reads. I finished up Waking Gods, the follow up to last year’s Sleeping Giants. I enjoy epistolary novels – and this would fall into this category. The chapters are mostly transcripts between an unnamed man who is quite influential in a shadow government sort of way (think Cigarette Smoking Man in X Files…) and the main characters, or transcripts of mission logs.
It is an interesting writing style. You don’t get descriptions or details to animate the story in your head, other than what you can glean from the transcript conversations. This might seem like a limitation, but somehow it just “works.”
I see that there are audio book performances of both books now, which could be a lot of fun, since the one complaint I have about how the author formats his transcripts is the lack of speaker notation (who is saying what), the back and forth in conversations are really just distinguished by hyphens. Usually I can follow pretty well, but on occasion if I leave a chapter and come back, I have to orient myself again to the conversation to see who is saying what. An audible performance wouldn’t have this problem.
I also started back up my reading in the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, reading Conspirator. This long-running series has several trilogies and a new book is about to be released. I’m two trilogies behind and working to catch up. It is very easy for me to get totally immersed in her writing though, so I am pacing myself. I definitely had a couple of rough mornings this past week as I had to read just one.more.chapter.
I have to be honest – biographies are not typically the type of book I reach for; they just haven’t really been an interest of mine. However, I decided over the next couple of years to include one or more in my reading plans each year.
Abigail Adams by Woody Holton, was my slow and steady read for 2016. I finished it up at the beginning of the new year and want to continue with her story this year.
While there are several works on either John or Abigail Adams, this is the first I have read. I enjoyed it immensely.
I imagine it is nearly impossible for a biography to not reflect biases held by the biographer. In this book, I certainly got the impression that the author held Abigail Adams in high esteem, as a woman of great accomplishment in spite of the restrictions that bound women of this time. Abigail was in some aspects very traditional and reserved, but in other ways very forward thinking and strong willed when it came to women’s welfare and interests.
Unlike some other books that primarily reference letters exchanged between Abigail and John Adams (including two I hope to tackle this year), this biography is told primarily through the extensive letters that Abigail Adams exchanged with a multitude of people, not only her husband but her children, sisters, and friends.
I think this allows for a fuller picture of her attitudes and actions, and illustrates the sometimes complicated relationships she had with others besides her husband.
Abigail Adams pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for women to accomplish and what role she had as a wife. She had a keen business sense and made many financial decisions independent of her husband. Due to John’s frequent absences she effectively was the head of household.
One thing that stood out to me was her drive for personal scholarship. I count myself lucky to be part of a great group of women (well, primarily women, but a few men as well) online who encourage each other to read more, read deeper, and strive for personal scholarship. Abigail Adams gave and received encouragement in this regard as well, in letters exchanged with friends and sisters.
My 2017 reading plan includes two more books that examine the life of Abigail Adams. I’m looking forward to continuing my study!
John Adams, for which David McCullough earned the Pulitzer Prize, which presents the life of the second president and which pulls from the extensive collection of letters exchanged between John and Abigail throughout their long relationship.
This week I worked through the Introduction in A Beginner’s Guide, and it was pretty awesome.
This is also not just a book for reading, but for doing. I have ordered a geometry set to use as I work through the book (and my kid’s aren’t allowed to touch it!). I know we have compasses and set squares for use in our math lessons, but I want a set all my own, for my own scholarship.
“Both Pythagoras and Plato suggested that all citizens learn the properties of the first ten numbers as a form of moral instruction.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
I am finding this book goes along well with my other read, The Fourth Turning, which examines recurring cycles that occur in human history.
“When the lessons of symbolic or philosophical mathematics seen in nature, which were designed intro religious architecture or art, are applied functionally (not just intellectually) to facilitate the growth and transformation of consciousness, then mathematics may rightly be called “sacred.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
Most of my May reads are my “slow and steady” titles, but I have The Beginner’s Guide, as well as a couple of fiction reads I hope to get to this month.
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.
This book arrived at such a needed time in my life. While I think parenting in general is not an easy task, parenting four children ranging in age from 2 up to 10 years feels especially overwhelming most days.
Parenting children who are considered “different” certainly presents an additional layer of parenting challenges.
I have been working through several titles by Sally Clarkson (she’s one of my literary mentors for the year…) and if there was a word I would choose to describe her, I would probably choose “together.” This is such an incredible woman, a Godly woman who shares her experiences and wisdom for families and homeschoolers.
I was blown away with her raw honesty she poured out in Different. Along with her son Nathan, the pair talks about the struggles (and blessings!) of dealing with a child being different. They take turns sharing their experiences navigating a variety of issues, including OCD, ODD, and ADHD.
It was refreshing to read Nathan’s story from both his and his mom’s perspective. Reading this, you get an honest picture of the very real struggles that go along with dealing with behavioral and mental health issues. Clarkson also was candid about their struggles seeking professional help and a diagnosis. Dealing with mental health issues is an ongoing process, with good days and bad ones too.
“But even in this broken world, where our differences often come with burdensome baggage, the imprint of God on our lives still gives value to each one of use as we are.” (p.7)
Clarkson was candid about the tension that can arise between spouses as they parent a child that is different.
“Most OCD kids, we have learned, have one parent who acts as the ‘confessor’ in their lives – the one they go to daily to tell their recurring thoughts and find relief from the guilt those thoughts carry, the one with whom they find acceptance and sense of safety. ” (p. xxv)
While she shared some of the more challenging occasions in their lives, she also discussed some of the techniques or strategies she found helpful in her daily interactions with Nathan.
“I learned to appreciate and celebrate (not just “cope with it”) because all human beings are a work of the Artist and have infinite value to the One who made them.” (p.8)
“I intentionally pressed in on issues that would affect relationships, character, and faith and tried to back off of other, less crucial issue…” (p.41)
And she spoke of the heart and attitude necessary to deal with out-of-the-box type children.
“If we accept the puzzle we have been given and ask, “What can I learn at this juncture, God? How should I be humble and glorify You in this place?” then we will become stronger, developing muscles of faith, wisdom, humility, and understanding.” (p. 121)
Clarkson addresses something that parents everywhere probably struggle with, a need to control. We want the best for our kids, and so there is a conscious or unconscious desire to control things so we can guarantee a positive outcome.
“In our broken world, there is – and will be – much that we cannot understand or control.” (p. 135)
“He [God] does not require us to control our children or friends, much less ‘fix’ them. But he does call us to pay attention, to love others, to be the ones who reach out as consistently as possible.”
It was so encouraging to read about these struggles with mental illness and behavioral issues both from the perspective of the parent and the child.
I could go on and on with the powerful words and encouragement I got from reading this book. But I’ll close with two statements and then encourage you to read the book yourself.
“My most important ministry would unfold one obedient moment after another as I learned to love and understand and serve those who were closest to me. Nathan or one of my other family members would push my buttons. And I would have to overcome my feelings and practice giving patient answers, to give up my rights one more time…” and “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit often means choosing to be patient and loving when you feel like being impatient and angry.” (p. 137)
And from Nathan:
“The truth is, we live in a deeply fractured world, and we don’t always have a choice about being broken. But we do have a choice about where we let our brokenness lead us. We can follow it into escape or addiction. But we can also follow it straight to God. To the One who knows us inside and out – with all our mistakes, broken parts, insecurities, and battles – and who still loves us. To the one who can not only handle our anger and our frustration and our questions, but can use them to transform them.” (p.186)
I have struggled over the years to establish a morning routine in our homeschool that I am happy with.
What I envision – the children and I enjoying time spent together with good books, doesn’t always happen. While we have had periods where we would start our day with a basket of good books, life happens and our routines fizzle out.
“Morning Time sets the tone for the day by helping us focus on those things that we ought to love.”
Rollins, with years of homeschool experience behind her, lays out her morning time plan. She details each area that she strives to cover. But, she also acknowledges that sometimes, morning time doesn’t happen, and that’s okay!
Rollins uses morning time not just for reading to her children, but also working on spiritual growth as well as memory work. As I read through this book, I felt truly inspired. While I made sure to have quality reading picked out for us (often choosing titles from Beautiful Feet Teaching Character Through Literature or Five in a Row), I think there was still a lack of direction to our morning time. To be honest, there were subjects I was trying to hit later in the day (like artist or music appreciation) that Rollins covers as part of morning time, and her approach seems more comfortable and natural.
“Morning Time is a liturgy ordering our affections towards those things which are true, good, and beautiful – it is a liturgy of love.”
Since I finished this quick read, I have already worked to implement some changes to our morning routine, and plan to incorporate more of her plans as the year progresses.
In the beginning of her book, Rollins lays out the elements of her morning time. These include:
Family Worship including prayer and hymns
Bible and Theology reading
Poetry reading and memory work
Miscellaneous memory work
She then expands a bit on each area. I won’t go into detail on each section, but several stood out to me and are worth mentioning here.
The morning meeting is just what it sounds like, a meeting before the day starts. This is a time to mention any plans for the day, upcoming items of interest, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
During worship time, there are prayer requests and singing. Rollins discussed singing and learning new hymns. This was something that grabbed my attention immediately. After finishing the book, I printed out the sheet music to one of my favorite hymns, Just As I Am, and we have been singing it joyfully all week. I love the idea of making a family hymn book, with printed copies of those hymns we have learned.
For Composer and Artist studies, Rollins suggests using the schedule provided by Ambleside Online. We have previously studied composers and artists when Kyri was younger, using Harmony Fine Arts. We have not done anything formally in a few years though, and I do like the schedule that Rollins uses. We may adopt the Ambleside Online schedule for composer and artist study in the new year.
We have, over the course of two years, been working on Bible Road Trip, but I think Kyri wants Bible time to be more reading and discussing and less notebooking-type work. So I like the idea of having a routine of reading some scripture, followed by a chapter or segment from some Christian text. Nothing elaborate, just a page or two depending on the depth of the reading.
Bible memory is something we love around here. The children are active in AWANA, and so they are already used to learning and reciting scripture. We could incorporate verses from their AWANA books as morning time memory work, or follow some of the suggested verses that Rollins includes.
Rollins’ suggestion of alternating between Shakespeare and Plutarch really intriqued me. Earlier this year I was able to participate in a members’-only author event with Read Aloud Revival, featuring Ken Ludwig, author of How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, and this event really ignited an interest in reading through works of Shakespeare with my children. But we just haven’t gotten started yet. According to Rollins, it’s as simple as one scene, another scene, an act, and finally the entire play. One step at a time. Why should I even bother with Shakespeare? According to Charlotte Mason, it is “good for the instruction of the conscience and the molding of our judgements.”
While I have read a little Plutarch, I hadn’t really given it much thought as a component of morning time. But Rollins explains, “Plutarch can provide us with a way out of the red state/blue state divide and into the clear air of individual responsibility and the consequences of ideas.” So reading Plutarch can be used for teaching citizenship as well as training a child’s judgement. She suggests reading three lives a year. She does suggest that this be reserved for older children but than younger children could benefit from sitting in while it is being read.
One component that I am really excited to incorporate into our morning time is Memory Work. Rollins suggests well known speeches and historical documents, among other things. I’ve already got a small list of documents that I’d like to start with, including the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
I also recently finished up Mere Motherhood, Rollins’ earlier offering, and it was such a lovely compliment to A Handbook to Morning Time. While Mere Motherhood was published first, I am glad I read Handbook first. Having a firm grasp on Rollins’ morning time routine was really helpful as I was reading through her memoir, where she mentions her morning routines regularly but not in a super detailed fashion.
You can also keep up with Cindy Rollins in her podcast, The Mason Jar, at the Circe Network.
One of the benefits of currently living on the Forgotten Coast here in Florida is enjoying all the natural beauty around us.
This weekend we took a family field trip to nearby Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Located near East Point, FL just before you drive over the Apalachicola Bay to St. George Island, this Reserve has an incredible Nature Walk, an Overlook for observing the Bay, and a wonderful Nature Center with lots of specimens, exhibits as well as aquariums.