A Gathering of Days

Blos, Joan W. (1979). A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-32. New York: Simon and Schuster.

DSC_0068

I almost titled this post “Homeschooling in Literature”, as my purpose in sharing the following excerpt with you is simply to bring a smile to your face. It is the best depiction of homeschool/homemaking multitasking I have seen in a children’s book. The following is from p. 134 of A Gathering of Days.

     “One would think it a school house-ful instead of just two girls. Mammann announced, when breakfast was cleared, that she will set the lessons for us every morning early. Then we are to have two hours to study. After that she will hear us, and provide correction. Today’s attempt- perhaps being the first- was surely comical. ‘At what age, (Catherine, my scissors, please!) was Pocahontas when Captain John Smith fell into the Indians’ hands?’ And scarcely had I answered ‘Twelve,’ but that she turned to Matty with the Moral Catechism. ‘What is justice?’ (It is giving every man his due.) ‘What is generosity?’ (It is some act of kindness performed for another which strict justice does not demand.) ‘What is gratitude?’ (Gratitude is a thankfulness of heart for favours received.) Today, however, the familiar words were mixed with exclamations. ‘Dear child, do raise up the pot!’ ‘Matty, that sauce is going to scorch!’ ‘Catherine, watch your stitches!’

Joan Blos was awarded the Newbery for her depiction of a fourteen year old New Hampshire girl’s journal in the early eighteenth century.

DSC_0071

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

DSC_0022

Lewis, Elizabeth Foreman (1932). Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze is a must read for any literature based history unit on the Eastern Hemisphere. As the fortieth anniversary’s book jacket describes, “Elizabeth Foreman Lewis has vividly portrayed the turmoil of Chinese life during the 1920’s”- and she has. Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1932, and translated into more than a dozen languages, this book is a perfect example of how to make learning history fun.

It is the story of a changing period in the city of Chungking as seen through they eyes of a teenage boy experiencing adventures with bandits, fire, flood, and uprisings. This book keeps moving. Through page turning historical fiction readers learn about the Chinese fears of angering spirits, and of western ideas. They learn about social classes, customs, lifestyles, foot binding- even Marxist philosophy and drug abuse. As is common in Asian children’s literature there is an emphasis on the values of humility and diligence. Following the story are additional historical notes to fill in any gaps,

Young Fu is a likeable protagonist, as is the coppersmith, Tang, to whom he is apprenticed. Fourteen when the story begins, and eighteen when it’s finished, this book is perfect for fifth through eighth graders. Young Fu’s heart is one of integrity and kindness, and young readers (and listeners) will be blessed that while he makes his share of foolish mistakes, he always learns from them.

The Great and Terrible Quest

DSC_0003Lovett, Margaret (1967) The Great and Terrible Quest. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

For years this was my daughter’s favorite book, and sadly I was too busy with my own reading list to get to it. The Great and Terrible Quest is the story of a ten year old orphan’s adventures as he sets out to assist a wounded knight. Suffering from amnesia, his companion is plagued by knowing something of utmost importance must be done, but not knowing what that something is. Young Trad determines to protect and help him, and along the way learns about love, determination, and courage.

I love certain passages in this book especially. Huon’s adage, “What must be done, could be done” (p. 120, among other places), and the following reminiscent of Proverbs 17:22, among them:

“Trad came to believe that the times when Huon gave himself up wholly to those deep roars of mirth were like medicine, each one helping to strengthen and steady his mind,” (p.85).

And when Trad comes to the realization that  not everyone is good, Huon’s understanding and wisdom:

“His blue eyes were dark with a knowledge and grief Trad had only begun to glimpse, but steady too with courage and determination. ‘Yet you helped me, child, and the Wise Woman helped us both'” (p.73).

Trad and Huon are examples of compassion- a Christ-like character quality if ever there was one. Also, perseverance – not giving up in spite of obstacles. This is also a book about self-sacrifice. Trad, Huon, Marlo, and the Wise Woman all willingly risk their own safety, and give of their own meager possessions, to protect and help others. Finally, and not in the least, The Great and Terrible Quest is the triumphant story of a king restored, and good defeating evil: a story that shows that hidden among a despairing land are servants who persist in their hope of the true king’s return. While this book is technically not classified as Christian fiction, you’d be hard pressed to find one with a more Christian message.

For reasons unknown, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston did not reprint this masterpiece, and for a long time it was somewhat difficult to find. Rediscovered by Sonlight, it was reprinted with permission by the heir to the Margaret Lovett estate in 2008 by Avyx Inc. And I, for one, am really glad it was.

Thanks, Mike!

Farris, Michael P. (2003). The Spiritual Power of a Mother. Nashville: Broadman and Holman.

With the gracious permission of Mike Farris, current President and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom and former President of HSLDA and Patrick Henry College, I am sharing his list, “The Top Twenty Advantages of Homeschooling“. It can be found in chapter four of The Spiritual Power of a Mother, pp.33-35, which I described to you last week as being one of my favorite books for homeschooling moms.

DSC_0893

“The Top Twenty Advantages of Homeschooling”

20. Your kids never tell you that their teacher is smarter than you are.

19. If you can’t find matching socks for your child first thing in the morning, who cares?

18. You never have to cancel school for snow days.

17. Your kids have good reason to think they might get spanked in school but no reason to think they might get shot.

16. If the principal gives the teacher a bad evaluation, she can stick her icy feet against his legs at night.

15. You can post the Ten Commandments on your schoolroom wall without getting sued.

14. You never have to drive your child’s forgotten lunch to school.

13. Your child will never go to their twentieth high school reunion, meet an old flame, and recklessly abandon his marriage.

12. You get to change more than diapers. You get to change their minds.

11. Your child never brings the flu home from school.

10. It’s better to be a little concerned about socialization rather than really concerned about socialism.

9. When your children talk about New Age issues, they are referring to their birthday party.

8. Since becoming a homeschooling mom, you now have the legal right to throw a blunt kitchen object (slightly grazing, but not bruising, your husband’s forehead) if he ever asks, “Why is dinner late?”

7. You never have to face the dilemma of whether to take your child’s side or the teacher’s side in a dispute at school.

6. If your child gets drugs at school it’s probably Tylenol.

5. The teacher gets to kiss the principal in the faculty lounge and no one gossips.

4. Your kids recognize that this list is numerically in reverse order.

3. Your honor student can actually read the bumper sticker that you have on your car.

2. If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the dog.

1. Some day your children will consider you to be a miracle-working expert and will turn to you for advice.

Thanks, Mike!