Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School Freebie

Back to School Freebie:
Books I am reading with my kids to teach Early and Revolutionary America

My idea of curriculum is pulling together great stories, preferably primary accounts when they can be found, to read to or with my kids to help them have a closer connection and visual of a particular time period.  We have no time for boring textbooks assembled by a committee of unknown adults who think they know better.  I like to mix literature and non-fiction.  So this is what I have narrowed my list down to:

Homes in the Wilderness A Pilgrim's Journal of Plymouth Plantation in 1620 
by William Bradford

The Story of Hiawatha by Allen Chafee

Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi

A Namesake for Nathan by F.N. Monjo

Braving the New World by Don Nardo

Poems by Phyllis Wheatley

Amos Fortune Feeman by Elizabeth Yates

The Founding of a Nation The Story of the 13 Colonies by Elizabeth Richards

The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds

Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit

Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes

Some other books we are using for resources include:

The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Bulla
The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson
George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster
Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes by Carl Waldman
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock by Jean Fritz
We the People The Story of Our Constitution by Lynne Cheney

Have you read any of these?  Tell me, what did you think?
Or do you know of something I missed?

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Published 1880
Russian Literature Challenge, The Classics Club II,
Back to the Classics, The Manly Reading List

The Brothers Karamazov was a very important book that covered four of my reading challenges.  It was a highly anticipated read, and I did not take the commitment lightly.  Now that I am done, I am rather speechless -- in part because I still do not know how to write something worthy enough, but also because I am really too distracted to sit down and think about it clearly.  This is our last week of summer vacation, and we have big plans each day; but once school begins, any time to think about this book will be farther from realization than it is now.  I must have closure as soon as possible.

The Brothers Karamazov is serious reading.  I gave it up half way through until someone suggested that I read it one chapter per week.  I slowly returned to it.  It went smoothly until I came to the major event of the story, and then I could not put it down.  It moved rapidly; it was intense and wonderful.  It was well worth the struggle.

Russian authors, or at least those whom I have already read, often fascinate me because they are so similar in their story telling processes, demonstrating a theme of loyalty and admiration of their country, even if there is some disagreement on the author's part. These authors manipulate characters to represent philosophies, societies, and cultures, and my point is that Dostoevsky is no exception. If you have not read Brothers Karamazov and plan to one day, be prepared for much Russian nationalism or patriotism and philosophy.  Also, there is a heavy religious tone or theme, with references to Scripture and many questions about God and morality.  Oh, and lots of exploration of psychology, justice, and many other ideas, too.

Another major issue is the particulars of family.  Three young men grew up under a tyrannical father, without a mother's love and nurture, and now you understand why children benefit from loving, attentive, patient, and mentally stable fathers and mothers who raise them.  In other words, crappy childhoods may produce messed up adults.  It happens.

And then there is the family character as a whole symbolizing Russia, examining how outside conflicting forces and environments affect each man differently, causing the reader to consider how foreign influences may have altered the Russian people, society, government, and culture.  It is all very intriguing and perfect for a year-long study one of these days.  Or maybe in another life.

So, yes, this is superb reading, but it is also a serious commitment.  It took me months and months to read and almost half as long to blog about.  I could not put it off any longer, hence the unpretentious, inept post about this very complex story.  But yay! It is done.

I read my copy to pieces.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Married for God by Christopher Ash

Married for God
Christopher Ash
Published 2016 (2007 in UK)

Married for God is not another self-help book for married people.  Rather, it is a radical way to look at marriage.  It is the biblical approach to marriage.   

Marriage is not a man-made idea; God created marriage and it exists for Him and His purposes: procreation, faithfulness, and order.  

God created us male and female for a reason, and we are to use our "maleness and femaleness in joyful service of God in the government of His world."  God made woman to be "a helper rather than a companion."  In addition, the sight of the woman was a delight to Adam, which brought them together in the "shared purpose, intimacy with a common goal, and companionship in a task that stretche[d] beyond the boundaries of the couple themselves (what the author refers to as) . . . sex in the service of God."

God made men and women equally in His image, and entrusted them equally with the responsibility of governing His world.  Equal, but complementary.  

Couples may serve God by "bringing up children in the hope that they too will serve God."  This is how God populates his "garden" with "more gardeners to care for it."  There is a section on barrenness because some couples cannot have children.  God knows this, and He permits it, as painful as it is; but childless couples may still serve and honor God, which Ash discusses.

The Bible does not have a negative attitude toward sex.  Of course, couples should never have a high view of sex either - that would be idolatry.  Sex is not for our self-fulfillment.  But we should maintain a healthy view of sex with a "passionate heart of intimacy that overflows in blessing to others." Marriage is outward-looking.

Marriage is the example of God's relationship with Israel or Christ's relationship with the Church.  A wife submits to her husband as the Church submits to Christ, and a husband loves his wife as Christ loves His Church.  Submission is a free and willing response, not by coercion.  And the commandment (in Ephesians) to husbands is longer and more challenging because it is a sacrificial love that he would give himself up for his wife even to death.  

The shape of marriage for the husband is the shape of the cross.

God is a God of order: marriage is a safeguard against sexual chaos (or sexual immorality). Marriage is a public commitment or promise.  If you are not ready to make a public pronouncement of commitment to someone, then you are not ready for sex.  If you "feel" like you love someone, remember "feelings are an unreliable guide to love."

There are boundaries for marriage.  They include: 
  • being from different families 
  • one woman and one man
  • voluntary union 
  • public union
  • begins with public consent, not consummation
  • defined by pubic consent, not private emotion

There is a whole chapter on singleness.  Our first obligation is our obedience to God, and whether we are married or single, we can still serve Him.  In fact, marriage only complicates our focus on God. But whatever our condition, we are to remain content in our circumstances. 

The heart of marriage is faithfulness, or steadfast love.  
Faithful, steadfast love is the heart of marriage, for faithful, steadfast love is the heart of the universe.  The faithful, steadfast, passionate Lover God calls men and women to show faithful, steadfast, passionate love in their marriages.
Genesis teaches that husband and wife become one flesh, and Jesus says that means they are joined by God.  When couples divorce, "they tear apart something potentially beautiful made by God."

A Warning:

Marriage is a covenant to which God is witness.  This covenant is "a relationship that the parties involved have chosen, (unlike natural relationships of parent to child or brother to sister)."  This relationship comes with obligations, where each has made promises to the other and entered into commitments, where God is witness.  He holds each responsible to keep those promises made under His sanction.  If they break them, they are accountable to Him.
God takes marriage seriously.  He does so because the marriage covenant is an echo of the covenant He makes by His own marriage with His people.
Believe it or not, marriage does not exist to meet our personal needs.  Our first desire should be to have a marriage that serves God; and the key to a good marriage is one that pursues the honor of God. 

I would recommend this book to anyone - married, engaged, single, or those who teach marriage classes - anyone who is interested in having an insightful, deep, and right understanding of biblical marriage.  

While I was reading this book, I thought about couples I know today (in the public) who are examples of what faithfulness in marriage looks like.  I am in awe of them.  The world may look at them and mock, but if you want to know what Jesus' steadfast, sacrificial love for us looks like, look at these couples:  (You can click on their names to read their amazing stories.)

The heart of marriage is faithfulness.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mark Twain, Hannibal, and the Mississippi River

For the last fourteen days, I have been traveling with my family.  (And we're still driving back to Cali right now.)  We spent five days in El Paso, Texas, and the remainder of the time in Missouri.  While we were in Missouri, we drove up to the little town of Hannibal, which sits on the edge of the Mississippi River.  Mark Twain's boyhood home is there, as well as the setting for many of his written works.  When Twain grew up there, his environment influenced and inspired him; today it is Twain who influences the little town of Hannibal.  

Here are some of the pictures from our trip.

View of Mississippi from my hotel

I was super excited to see the Mississippi River for the first time.  We spent our school year learning about European explorers who first came to the River.  Spanish explorer De Soto couldn't care less about being the first European to come to it; he later died of illness, and his crew dumped his body into the River.

La Salle claimed the area west of Mississippi River for France; but later when he returned to the Gulf of Mexico to find the opening of the River, he ended up in Texas.  He and his crew had to walk back toward the Mississippi River with their supplies, but they grew weary of La Salle's oversight and murdered him.  Talk about tolerance.

The amazing explorations of Marquette and Joliet remind me a lot of Lewis and Clark.  They were only interested in making maps of the Mississippi River, collecting specimens, and sharing the gospel, not of conquering or claiming land for a king.

The little, quaint town of Hannibal

Mark Twain's boyhood home

Inside the kitchen

Dining area
An office
While in Hannibal, we took a turn on the Mark Twain on the Mississippi River.


The captain told us how Twain incorporated the River and these islands in his stories, like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

This is Lover's Leap
(View of the Mississippi River from Lover's Leap)
 Since we sat on the very top deck (directly in front of the the pilot house), the captain asked my children if they would like to steer the boat for a bit.

The captain also pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree on one of the islands, which was a first for me because I have never seen one in the wild.  

Another attraction in Hannibal is the Norman Rockwell Museum.  All of the works that Rockwell did for Twain are here in this museum.  Here are just two:

While visiting Hannibal, I got to see a cardinal.  Living in New York, I would see them often, but it has been awhile now that I live in Cali.  So I was overly excited to catch a glimpse of one of these.  (I love birds.)

Our final stop was at the Mark Twain Caves, of which you must know he used in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  This tour was a lot of fun, and our guide was excellent.  He shared much Mark Twain trivia throughout the tour.  So cool.

People left their signatures on the cave wall

Once, Jesse James hid out in these caves.  His signature is also on the wall, but we were unable to go to it.  Later we saw a picture of it.

This was such a great experience.  I feel like I will never read another Twain story without thinking about his childhood and the town of Hannibal.  It will forever be etched in my mind.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I've Read So Far in 2017

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
AMAZING fictional work.  Could not put this down, and wished it never ended.

Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
Equally AMAZING non-fiction work.  A new favorite author.  : )

Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis
Could not have been more grateful to have read this.
Lewis took the complicated and made it clear.

The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis
Again, Lewis' ingeniously exposes human nature.
What better subject than human nature?

55 Men The Story of the Constitution
based on the day-by-day notes of James Madison - Fred Rodell
Dear United States Schools:
throw away your tedious, lifeless textbooks about the U.S. Constitution,
and just have your students READ THIS.  Thank you.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
I don't know why, but this one just feels like home to me.
Even better this second time around.