Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Personal C.S. Lewis Reading Plan

One of my reading goals for this year is to read through all of the C.S. Lewis books on my shelves. When I made my goal, I assumed we probably had most of the books he wrote. I assumed wrong, but we do have 25, and I'm happy to start with that. I'm pretty sure I will not get through all of them this year. I will dive in and see how far I get.

I finished reading Terry Glaspey's book C.S. Lewis: His Life & Thought. It was short and sweet. I especially enjoyed the biographical portion, and almost wish I'd read a more extensive biography. The part on Lewis' thought was more disjointed and read like a series of short articles on various topics. Still, it was easy to read and worked well as an introduction.

Using an appendix in Glaspey's book, I arranged all the Lewis books on my shelves in chronological order. Here's what I have:

The Pilgrim's Regress (1933)
Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
The Problem of Pain (1940)
The Screwtape Letters (1942)
The Abolition of Man (1943)
Perelandra (1943)
That Hideous Strength (1945)
The Great Divorce (1945)
George MacDonald: An Anthology (1946)
Miracles (1947)
The Weight of Glory (1948)
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
Prince Caspian (1951)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
Mere Christianity (1952)
The Silver Chair (1953)
The Horse and His Boy (1954)
The Magician's Nephew (1955)
Surprised by Joy (1955)
The Last Battle (1956)
Till We Have Faces (1956)
The Four Loves (1960)
The World's Last Night and Other Essays (1960) (I don't have this but my public library does.)
A Grief Observed (1961) (I will buy this.)
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)
The Discarded Image (1964)
Present Concerns (1986) (My public library has this.)
Compelling Reason (1996)

Of these, I have read only the Chronicles of Narnia, Till We Have Faces, Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and A Grief Observed. I know I've dipped into a few more over the years, but my memory of them is gone now.

So here I go!

I want to hear from you. What is your favourite book by C.S. Lewis, and why?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Priorities in the Education of Little Children

I was reading some of Charlotte Mason's works today in preparation for a meeting with my online "Start Here" study group tomorrow. In the middle of Home Education, there is a wonderful summary of six points Mason has made in the first part of the book.

(a) That the knowledge most valuable to the child is that which he gets with his own eyes and ears and fingers (under direction) in the open air.
(b) That the claims of the schoolroom should not be allowed to encroach on the child's right to long hours daily for exercise and investigation.
(c) That the child should be taken daily, if possible, to scenes--moor or meadow, park, common, or shore--where he may find new things to examine, and so add to his store of real knowledge. That the child's observation should be directed to flower or boulder, bird or tree; that, in fact, he should be employed in gathering the common information which is the basis of scientific knowledge.
(d) That play, vigorous healthful play, is, in its turn, fully as important as lessons, as regards both bodily health and brain power.
(e) That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself--both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences.
(f) That the happiness of the child is the condition of his progress; that his lessons should be joyous, and that occasions of friction in the schoolroom are greatly to be deprecated. (Home Education, pp 177-178)
Mason then says,
Premising so much, let us now consider--What the children should learn, and how they should be taught. (p. 178)
The word "premising" really struck me. This list comes first, before the books and the teaching.

This is something I need to keep coming back to, because my natural tendency lately has been to let our whole day revolve around our lesson time. Outdoor time has been neglected. My oldest child is only eight, and the things on this list are still important for him, not to mention for the preschoolers running around.

And point (f)! Last week Friday, I sent the boys outside after breakfast to play in the snow. I made a thermos of hot chocolate for them, and they stayed out until after 11:00. It was hard for me because we did not have enough time anymore to get everything on my homeschooling list done. But the attitudes that day were 100% better than they had been for a few weeks. I hadn't even realized how bad things had gotten until the moment I saw how good they could still be.

Happiness matters in your homeschool. It is not artificially produced with a certain type of lesson. It is a natural by-product of a healthy amount of fresh air, sunshine, and free play.

If your lessons have not been "joyous" for a while, it might be time to stop and think about these "premises" again. That's what I'm doing right now.

Related: Charlotte Mason and Preschool Priorities 1: The Outdoor Life for the Children

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Living & Learning Update #6: Drawing, Math, Organization

Our first school week of the new year! It was not a bad week, considering that most of us were in some stage of sickness or recovery from colds and flu.

We did two drawing lessons this week from What a great resource this is! I have decided that SA(8) needs some more time with a pencil in his hand, writing and drawing. Year 4 is coming up quickly, and he is still a very reluctant writer. He is currently at seven minutes of copywork per day, learning cursive italic. He does it very neatly, but very rarely writes anything else for any other reason. There is no ease in it for him even yet, though he has very slowly and steadily improved over the last couple of years. So I'm adding a workbook into his daily work as an excuse to make him write a little more. I'm also going to try to have all the boys do a drawing every day. All of the boys love the Art for Kids Hub, so I'm anticipating that no one will complain about that.

We have been studying Canadian artist Emily Carr for picture study. For some variety, I decided we would try to draw our narrations after trying to fix the painting in our mind's eye. That was pretty difficult. When we had done all we could, we looked again. There was so much we'd missed! JJ insisted on finishing his.

We have also been taking part in the 2017 Read Aloud Revival 31 Day Challenge. The challenge is that each reading child reads aloud for 15 minutes per day. They enjoy it immensely, as do the little children who get to listen. I love to see them all crowded together enjoying books without me. (I'm still reading plenty aloud myself, of course!)

I am very intrigued by a math program someone pointed out. It's called Mathematics with Numbers in Colour by Caleb Gattegno. I have been using Miquon with JJ(6), but in looking through this other program, it looks like it does a better job of showing a teacher how to guide exploration with the Cuisenaire rods.

I have begun to work through Mystie Winckler's Simplified Organization program. My goal for the year is to give everything in my home a place. I need help with this, people.

My sister gave me a fitbit recently. Shockingly, I'm finding my reading goals are competing with my step goals. So far, the reading goals are winning. I am hoping to work up to 5,000 steps a day this week. I don't know how people do 10,000 steps. Audiobooks?

I finished Zinsser's On Writing Well and Gerald Bray's Augustine on the Christian Life. I also continued to work on the Iliad, and started The Karamazov Brothers. The latter is fascinating to me. I have a feeling it's going to be in my top ten for this year, but I won't get ahead of myself yet at only 200 pages in. In light reading, I read The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. I shouldn't have, but it came in at the library and I couldn't help myself. I liked it.

This week I have to finish the Iliad, as my discussion group is coming up on Friday. I also plan to read a couple of chapters of Side by Side for a Bible study coming up soon. For the rest, I suspect The Karamazov Brothers will keep me busy again this week.

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Reading Goals

I have joined Tim Challies' 2017 Christian Reading Challenge again. It was so helpful in getting me reading again last year. I went from reading almost nothing in 2015 to reading 65 books for the challenge (plus a few extra that didn't fit into the categories in the challenge.). Like last year, I will not follow the challenge in order, but read whatever I want and fit the books into whatever category seems best. However, I do have some specific goals for the year:

1. Learn from C.S. Lewis. I am beginning with a biography, then I will go through the C.S. Lewis books on my shelves in chronological order. I may not have every single one, but I have most of them. I am not putting an end date on this project. It may take more than a year or two, but this is the year I'll get started. I am working on my first book already, a biography entitled C.S. Lewis: His Life and Thought by Terry Glaspey. I came across it at a thrift store last week, and picked it up because the introduction was written by George Grant, a voice I trust. I'm not sure how it compares to other biographies, but so far it is concise and well-written, and it is inspiring me to read all of C.S. Lewis's books.

2. Keep up with my book clubs. I'm part of two local homeschool mom book clubs, though there is considerable overlap in the membership. In one, we are going through the Iliad. We will finish that this month, have a little break, then begin the Odyssey. In the other, we read mostly classics, though we've been known to throw in some Wendell Berry and Elizabeth Goudge. Our first book for the year will be The Brothers Karamazov. I have never read any Russian literature before, so this is exciting! I anticipate we will read five or six classics by the end of the year.

3. Keep reading Charlotte Mason. Right now I am doing that with an online study group using  Start Here by Brandy Vencel of Afterthoughts as a guide.

4. Pre-read at least some of next year's school books for SA(8). I'll be reading from Ambleside Online's Year 4 booklist. This is becoming more and more important as SA begins to read more of his own school books. I'll start with Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why and Bulfinch's The Age of Fable.

5. Read through the ever-expanding list of books people have recommended and/or lent to me. This is where I start getting a bit overwhelmed. Number one on the list is pure fun, though: The Complete Father Brown by Chesterton. Then there is The Book That Made Your World, a gift from my parents. I also have a stack of John Eldredge books in my basket, earnestly recommended by a friend. I started Wild at Heart a while ago. Maybe I need to make a rule that I have to finish that before I get to read my Father Brown. At least it will fit neatly into a category in my reading challenge this year (ECPA bestseller). I also just added When Helping Hurts to my list, which I'm really looking forward to.

This month, I plan to finish a few books that are almost complete:
C.S. Lewis: His Life and Thought by Terry Glaspey
Augustine on the Christian Life by Gerald Bray
On Writing Well by William Zinsser (I love this one!)
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (slogging through this one.)
The Iliad by Homer

I plan to begin:
The Karamazov Brothers by Dostoevsky
The Complete Father Brown by Chesterton (I may spread this out over half a year)
The Pilgrim's Regress (depending on when I finish the Lewis biography)

I plan to continue slowly, along with a group:
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay
portions of Charlotte Mason's Original Home Schooling Series
Side by Side by Ed Welch

Reading all this at once is a little much for me...once I finish the loose ends from last year I will try to focus on no more than three books at once.

What are you planning to read in 2017?