An Island Story Resources (Chapters 11-15)

These five chapters of An Island Story cover the period of history between the reigns of Aurelius Ambrosius to the beginning of King Alfred’s reign.  If I’m counting right this means that we quickly cover about four hundred years of history.  As usual, many of the resources that we used were video-based, so proceed knowing that.

How the Giant’s Dance was Brought to Britain

This chapter is really more of a fairy tale than anything. It’s a tale of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon as Kings of Britain, and of Merlin using his magic to lift the stones from Stonehenge into place.

I thought this was totally cool since I had never heard of the story of the stones being  called “The Giant’s Dance.” We also thought the legend of Aurelius and Uther both being buried inside Stonehenge was very interesting.  I did have one child who was disappointed because he expected there to be some kind of dance involved.

It has only been about 6 or 7 months since we actually watched some videos on Stonehenge, but we used mostly the ones on the History channel website for viewing. At the time that we studied Stonehenge before, we made model Stonehenges and I allowed each child the opportunity to pick the medium for their model.  They were all happy with their creations.


Because of this chapter and the Arthurian story that spans the next couple of chapters, this would be a good time to start reading a book about King Arthur.  I own several, and if I were reading to my littles, I would choose King Arthur: Tales from the Round Table.  Instead, I elected to read Indiana Jones and the Dance of Giants.  I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t tell you if it is kid-friendly, but we just finished watching the Indiana Jones movies with the kids, so I was feeling like a junky book read.

The Coming of Arthur

This chapter really tells the story of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, so it would totally be appropriate to watch the movie The Sword in the Stone.  Making your own versions of Excalibur would also be a great project.

The Founding of the Round Table

This chapter is a really character building chapter if you choose to make it so. Arthur and his knights are arguing.  The knights are unhappy and want to know who is the most important, and they are all jockeying for the head table with Arthur at banquets and in doing official business.

Although their infighting is very petty, Merlin decides to come up with a solution that will make everyone happier. Instead of having the standard set-up for a king and his men, they will have a round table because a round table “has neither top nor bottom.”

We felt like this was a good place to pause and spend part of our afternoon discussing pride and humility. We talked about how often we fight and want our own way.  We discussed the parable of the pharisee and tax collector. We discussed the things that we take pride in and how often that pride is sinful.

We, of course watched a couple of videos.  These included:

Pride and Humility Lesson which shows how, when you are filled with humility, there’s not much room for pride

Price and Humility  a lesson with legos.  The kids loved this one for the crazy legos, but they also really related with the message trying to be conveyed.

John Piper: What is Humility? was another one I played because I love the way that Piper defines humility in this clip.  Just love it!

We agree that a table might change everyone’s positions physically, but changing the way the table is configured can’t ever change the heart.

This could also be a good place to use Yertle the Turtle or The Fisherman and his Wife  (also in The Book of Virtues if you have that). In both these stories, there is a main character who, no matter what power or wealth he/she gets, wants more and more until they have fallen back into their original obscurity and poverty. These are all great character lessons to go with this chapter.

The Story of Gregory and the Pretty Children

This chapter explains how the angles and saxons became the prominent cultural groups in Britain, and sets us up for proper British history.  There are probably some avenues to explore there with older children, but that wasn’t our interest.

Instead we explored more about Gregory the Great, including watching this great little biography video.  I thought about expanding this story out, and learning more but elected not to at this time.  The children loved learning about him though.

One thing that you may have to correct is that when this chapter mentions Augustine, my older children immediately connected it with Augustine of Hippo, and the Augustine mentioned in this chapter is Augustine of Canterbury.  If you’re using this as part of Ambleside with a year one student (that would be my two younger students), then this isn’t going to be an issue because they aren’t going to immediately know an Augustine.  It was my 10 & 12 year olds who knew that there was a Saint Augustine, and had to learn from this chapter that there was more than one Augustine.

How King Alfred Learned to Read

This is an excellent chapter to encourage reading and memorization. You could have your children memorize a poem or something like that as part of your work.  This is also an excellent place to branch out and do a study of King Alfred.  (He’s going to be covered in the next two chapters of An Island Story as well.)

It was just this time last year that we studied King Alfred via a unit study on The Dragon and the Raven.  You can check that out for all kinds of ideas to enhance your own study of Alfred or to use The Dragon and the Raven. We actually pulled our copy out this week to listen to again as we started working through the chapters on King Alfred.

Painting Saxon Dragons

That’s about all the enrichment we did on this chapters.  We’ll be back soon to share more about studying the next five chapters!

A Book of American Martyrs

A Book of American MartyrsA Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We live in a fraught and divided society. Many things divide us, and as we look around at those things, we realize that we are divided not just by our positions, but also by our entire worldview. There are almost no issues that are as divisive in our country as abortion rights. When, why, how and whether or not abortion should be legal and should be practiced is an issue that each side of the abortion debate attempts to take the moral high ground.

So, it is no surprise when this debate spills over into our literary novels. In A Book of American Martyrs , Joyce Carol Oates takes the abortion debate head-on by showing the most extreme form of both sides of the debate. The two “main” characters of the first portion of the novel are Luther Dunphy, a member of the anti-abortion group, Army of God, and murderer of the other main figure of the book, Augustus Voorhees. Voorhies is an idealistic abortion doctor, one who has helped thousands of women with their reproductive health and with ridding themselves of unwanted pregnancies.

When Dunphy murders Voorhees, two families are immediately deprived of their fathers. The remainder of the book is taken up with Dunphy’s trial and appeals, as well as the effect of this violent act and the absence of both Dunphy and Voorhees from their families.

As a reader, I don’t always want my literature to echo actual current issues. My fiction reading is usually a place of escape, so it is unusual for me to choose such a book for my reading. Having said that, this is a current issue that is of particular interest to me, so I enjoyed my time spent with this book. The characters are finely drawn. The issues are crisp, and the action moves well. The huge focus on the novel is on the daughters of these men, and they are both bitter and forever changed by what happens to their fathers. It is painful to see how the Dunphy and Voorhees families are fragmented by the crime. It is painful to see how hard it is for both families to move forward. If there were ever a good meditation on the importance of fathers within families, it would be this book.

The only difficulty that I had with this book (and it is the reason I did not give it four or five stars) is the difficulty that I had relating to Luther Dunphy. He is just an unlikable character and completely psychotic. I also hated that all of the Christians in the book seem to be portrayed as at least sympathetic to Dunphy, if not openly supportive of his cause. I worry that someone coming across this book will think that all Christians are okay with going around shooting abortion doctors. I wanted to shout, “I can be pro-life, and still not think that murder is okay!!” Just wanted to take a second to clarify that.

The secret sins, living conditions and uneducated squalor of the Dunphy family is about more than I can bear. In fact, I could not sympathize with him or his family for the most part, and I almost gave up reading this book in the lengthy portion at the beginning that is written from Luther Dunphy’s perspective. In fact, I feel that choosing such an extreme image of evangelical Christianity is enough to ruin this book for me.

Beyond that, the book is great. It is a wonderful meditation on the issues involved with abortion, and on how a father’s presence (or absence) affects the whole family. I’d give this one 3.5 stars if I could give half stars.

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A Model of Christian Maturity

Model of Christian Maturity, A: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13Model of Christian Maturity, A: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13 by D.A. Carson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been studying 1 and 2 Corinthians with my Community Bible Study group. Not only do I study with an excellent group of ladies, but I also guide learning for middle school and high school students with the material. In order to help myself be able to answer questions and to prepare lessons for the students, I often find some commentaries and Christian living books to be helpful in lesson preparation.

When I came to the final part of 2 Corinthians, I was surprised to find that there were very few commentaries and books to help with my learning. So, I was thrilled to find that one of my favorite authors had written an exposition of the final four chapters of 2 Corinthians.

D. A. Carson writes this cook as part of an effort to help explain what true Christian maturity looks like. If you’re unfamiliar with this section of 2 Corinthians, it is a very harsh section of condemnation for the church. They have allowed some flashy “super-apostles” to come into the church, and the church has begun to question Paul’s authority and mission. Paul begins to discuss the “qualifications” of the “super-apostles” and the call of his ministry. Along the way he discusses thorns in the flesh, spiritual strongholds and calls for the church members to give themselves an examination to test the trueness of their faith.

Carson’s exposition goes verse by verse and both gently explains the text and applies the passages to the Christian life. I want to spend the rest of this review sharing a few of my favorite quotes from the book to hopefully give you a little of the flavor.

Carson says in his discussion of chapter 10: “Argue a skeptic into a corner, and you will not take his mind captive for Christ, but pray for him, proclaim the gospel to him, live out the gospel of peace, walk righteously by faith until he senses your ultimate allegiance and citizenship are vastly different from his own, and you may discover that the power of truth, the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and the glories of Christ Jesus shatter his reasons and demolish his arguments until you take captive his mind and heart to make them obedient to Christ.”

This is Carson’s answer for the question of how we actually go about demolishing strongholds. As any of us who have tried to argue someone to faith knows, convincing someone to faith by arguing is almost impossible. In fact, having an actual argument with a skeptic is usually a step backward for our hopes of winning them to Christ.

Carson on tolerance: The appeal to limitless toleration—not just toleration of the other chap’s right to be wrong, but toleration pushed so far one can never say that anything or anyone is wrong—presupposes the greatest evil is to hold a strong conviction that certain things are true and their contraries are false. Worse, this presupposition operates because of an antecedent presupposition: confident knowledge in religious matters is impossible.

This is the problem of our day, isn’t it? There was a ton of stuff I highlighted in this section because Carson’s argument is that we are more defined by the things we oppose than the things that we tolerate. This is a completely fascinating section, and so relevant to the world we live in.

Carson on the topic of boasting: Christians ought to be greatly ashamed of boasting about strengths, skills, victories, training, successes, and productivity in their lives as if, on the one hand, we either earned those things or deserved them, or as if, on the other, such things make us intrinsically more acceptable to the Lord Jesus Christ. What do we have but what we have received? And if we received it as a gracious gift from God, how dare we boast about it (1 Cor. 4:7)?

Boasting is such a huge theme of this chapters, and Paul even answers a fool as a fool and “boasts” of his “accomplishments” in ministry. This section, as well as Caron’s commentating, make me feel a huge swell of conviction for how often I have bragged about all these things as if my victories, accomplishments, etc. were solely due to my own virtue. It is not so! I only have what I have been given, and I have often not even been a good steward of that.

All in all, this is an excellent book, and I enjoyed reading it. It’s something that is best read meditatively and reflectively, with your Bible open to be able to look at the verses as you read and study. Carefully reflecting on the chapters of Corinthians and on Carson’s writing will help you to become more mature in your Christian walk.

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When I was a young mom, I often had the ability to make my children fear me.  That’s not something to brag about but it’s true. I have one young man who is especially affected with the fear that I might take his iPad away.  Whether it be for an hour, a day or a week, a threat of taking an iPad away is all it takes to tow him back into line.

So, it was that I thought pretty well of myself as a parent.  I had it all under control.  God though, knowing exactly what I needed right when I actually needed it, gave me a child who doesn’t fear me.  No matter what I “take away” from her for “bad” behavior, she never seems to let it bother her.  It doesn’t matter if I take her kindle, her television, her dessert or drinks other than water.  She’s okay with it and brags to others that she doesn’t care.  Her brave face and lack of reform make me realize how helpless that I truly am.

She, more than any of my children, have made me realize the truth of what I have been reading in Paul David Tripp’s book, Parenting.  I have no power whatsoever to change my child.  Even the “punishments” that seem to work so well for my oldest child can never change his heart. Instead, I appeal to him to “be good” by appealing to his self-interest and his desire to play video games.

It has been a struggle of all my parenting years to find the right threat to hold over my children as a way of gaining their compliance and having their behavior to align with my desires. I often fall into the delusion that Tripp describes this way:

We think that if we speak just a little bit louder, or stand a little bit closer, or make the threat a little bit scarier, or the punishment a little more severe, then our children will change. And because the change doesn’t happen, we tend to bring it on even stronger.

So, because I feel like I should have some power over my children that I don’t, I am often looking for some ground, any ground to use against the children in hopes that I will change their hearts.  It doesn’t work. It only ruins my relationship with them.

I’m willing to let go of these habits, but I don’t know what to do in the place of them.  I don’t know how to take a relationship where I feel the need to control and let go of the control.  How do I exercise authority once I stop making threats? That’s what I don’t have the answer to.

What I forget

Lately, I find myself as a parent coming down hard on my children with stronger and stronger punishments. It’s not that I really mean to take away the television for a week or someone’s video games for that length of time (or longer).  I just often feel like whatever I’m doing isn’t working and like I have to come down hard.

It’s a fear-based parenting.  I’m trying to mold behavior or to get obedience to me–often in a completely wrong fashion. Reading Paul David Tripp’s Parenting has reminded me that I am often placing my faith in the “Law” and in my rules and punishments to change their hearts and actions.

Not only am I basing my faith in my parenting on the “Law,” I often find that:

Somehow, someway, God’s law gets replaced by our law–a law that’s sadly driven by our craving for affirmation, control, peace, success and reputation.

Then, I find myself being selfish and angry with my children, and in my anger sinning.  What I forget is that we all have sin struggles.  I’ve never stopped sinning and my children won’t either.  What I forget is that we don’t intentionally set out to hurt one another.  What I forget is that they aren’t aiming to displease me.  What I forget about is the power of indwelling sin in our lives.

It is here that I found a quote from Tripp that I want to remember forever.  However, I’m reformatting it into list format because I need to see it as a list.  Here it goes:

But without the intervention of God’s grace, your children will not be who they are supposed to be or do what they are supposed to do.

Remember, it’s sin that messes everything up.

It’s sin that makes your children resist your guidance and authority.

It’s sin that causes your children to constantly be in conflict with their siblings.

It’s sin that gets in the way of your child’s learning in school.

It’s sin that causes your children to be attracted to what’s hurtful and destructive.

It’s sin that causes your children to be entitled, demanding, materialistic, and complaining.

It’s sin that causes your children to act as if they are the center of the universe and that life should do their bidding.

It’s sin that causes your children to say hurtful things to the parents, siblings, and peers.

And it’s sin that makes parenting difficult, demanding and exhausting.

I cannot expect to break through this wall of sin with a few rules and some punishments for disobedience to my law.

It’s sin for me to show my children’s God’s law without also showing them God’s mercy and grace.  God’s grace is essential in my parenting, and is the only thing that can break through and change our hearts.

I must always keep in mind that my children are sinners by nature and that I can’t eliminate sin through a systems of rewards and punishments. Their struggles with sin are going to be a lifelong battle for them–just like my struggle is for me.

I don’t want to just “manage” their sin. I don’t want to teach them what “sin” is acceptable or how to have acceptable behaviors and sinful hearts.  Instead, I want to show them God’s love and God’s grace. It is essential, and I find that it is something that I often forget.

Sunday Sharing

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Sharing!  It is here that I share my favorite internet reading and watching from this week.

I’m starting off my sharing How My Dyslexic Son Became a Writer. I also have found that adapting aspect’s Julie Bogart’s Brave Writer philosophy into our home has helped my children’s writing by allowing me to see their writing as more than just their reading levels, grammar, spelling and mechanics.

One of the arguments against unsupervised homeschooling that I have frequently bought into is that it allows abuse to occur that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise (despite the fact that I am surrounded by loving and happy families of homeschoolers).  As I see more and more news stories about the state of foster care and abuses at school, I honestly doubt the intellectual honesty of this argument.  Child Welfare and State Supervision of Homeschools is a could counterpoint against that argument.

I also often feel like I have wasted my education or that I am somehow inferior when someone asks me what my job is (and I don’t have one other than care of my children).  So, I found the article, No, Stay At Home Moms Don’t “Waste” Their Education to be very affirming.

You might remember that I recently wrote about how my indwelling sin affects my parenting, If you found that article helpful, you might also find this article on how Parenting is First About My Sin to be helpful. I know I did!!

I shared some articles a couple of weeks ago about the prosperity gospel.  I found the article Not Your Mom’s Prosperity Gospel to be a great compliment to my thoughts about it and dos insidious it is and how quickly we can step into prosperity type thinking.

For a lot of years I would hear other ladies and Bible studies teachers using “God told me. . . ” talk.  At the time I felt like a second-class Christian and not very spiritual.  However, I have since learned and realized that the Bible is truly all I need to ever hear from God, and the only way that I can be sure God is truly communicating with me, so I was very encouraged when I read the article Basic Training: The Bible is Sufficient this week.

The children and I spent an entire afternoon listening to songs relating to Psalm 91 and looking for our favorite song was this one by Sonicflood.  I wanted to add it to my Amazon music playlist.  Only I found that it’s not on Amazon music.

I’ve been feeling discouraged recently, as a mom in general and also as a homeschool mom.  Realizing that I’m halfway through homeschooling my oldest has triggered doubt and introspection at the things I feel I’ve failed at in the first half of his schooling. I so needed to read this article, called This is Why You’re Not Failing as a Homeschool Mom.  I also find, in addition to her reasons, that I fail to factor in how the things that we choose to do in our homeschool mean that we won’t do the other things that I often castigate myself for.  One day I need to write a post about opportunity cost and homeschooling.

That’s it for this week.  I hope everyone’s have a great Easter!!

The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events #6)

The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events #6)The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After their awful experiences at a boarding school, the Baudelaire siblings are packed off to new guardians. These new guardians, Esme and Jerome Squalor have their lives ruled by the desire to be “in,” and what’s considered to be “in.” Because of this the Baudelaires find themselves taking stairs instead of the elevator, wearing plaid, and drinking aqueous martinis.

Despite the oddities of their guardians and their current lives with them, the Baudelaires find themselves beginning to grow fond of Jerome and to bond with him. This could be a place where the Baudelaires could find happiness. However, worries continue to haunt them. Where is Count Olaf? What did he do with the Quagmire Triplets? Will they ever find out what the VFD is? They miss their friends and long for everything to be resolved.

Soon, as usual, Count Olaf comes bursting into their life with an evil plan. He poses at the auctioneer Gunther, and although the Baudelaires are not sure what Olaf’s plan is, they know it’s diabolical! Will they find their friends? Will they be happy with the Squalors? Will Count Olaf ever come to justice?

This book is one of my favorites so far in the series. The whole concept of changing every thing based on what is “in” is completely ridiculous. (Imagine a restaurant called the Cafe Salmonella that only serves salmon!) Olaf’s plan is completely diabolical, and for once does not seem to involve any active harm coming to the Baudelaires. He does, however, plan for harm to happen to the Quagmire triplets, and is storing them in some sort of cage in the meantime. (Spoiler alert if you have sensitive children.)

As usual, Olaf is not apprehended and gets away with almost everything that he plans. Mr. Poe continues to be a blind idiot. Their guardian, Jerome, although quite fond of them elects not to remain their guardian by the end of the book.

Yet, more questions are raised that need answers. What is the real meaning of VFD? Why is there a tunnel connecting the Squalor penthouse to the fireplace in the burned down Baudelaire mansion? Where is Olaf taking the Quagmires? Will Olaf ever be caught? Will the Baudelaires ever find happiness? Who is Beatrice?

I look forward to reading the next one of these. Sometimes the individual unbelievable scenarios begin to annoy me, and then I still have so many questions (and more with each book) that I would like to find satisfying answers to that I continue to read in this series.

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