Monday, December 31, 2018

Schole Sisters - Les Miserables...

You may remember this past summer I was planning to read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo with my Summer Schole Sisters. I've been waiting to post a review until now because I was going to attend the Broadway musical Les Miserables and I wanted to compare and contrast the two. This weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the musical, but first, let's back up to the book read last summer.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo was originally published in 1862 in French. There are several good English translations, of which, you can compare here. I personally, ordered each translation from the library and read the same excerpt from each book before settling on the Norman Denny translation as my reading copy. I did so because I liked the readability of it, as well as the fact that Denny maintained much of Hugo's original work. He did move a couple lengthy passages to the back of the book, but they were still there if one chose to go read them.

I did also buy the Isabel Hapgood translation because it matches the Librivox audio and the C. E. Wilbour translation because it was the first English translation and was written only one year after Hugo's original publication. A couple of moms in our group chose the Julie Rose translation and loved the extensive end notes in that edition. I plan to go back and re-read Les Mis in a different translation at some point. Either way, I would encourage you to find an unabridged version regardless of translation.

Once I began reading Les Mis, I met with my Summer Schole Sisters five times from June through August to discuss it. We broke up assigned reading by volumes, meeting after each of the five volumes. There were six regular attenders in addition to myself, which made for great discussion. All of which were home educating moms, with the exception of one grandma. It was awesome to have that perspective in our group!

Les Miserables is set in the first half of 19th Century France after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Hugo's novel shows the social injustice of the people and the long term effects of the French Revolution on it's society. In Andrew Pudewa's talk on Fairy Tales and Moral Immagination, he judges stories in four categories. The second being "Healing Stories". I would qualify Les Mis as a healing story, in which good is good, bad is bad, good does not always win, but grace prevails. It is the story of redemption, love, loss, grace, and forgiveness.

Hugo's beautiful and unforgettable characters have incredible depth. It's hard for me to pick a favorite. Jean Valjean would most likely be at the top, as the evolution of his faith was paramount to the story. Fantine was a close second for me. As a mother, my heart ached for her and I felt like she was a child herself in such an unfortunate circumstance. She unselfishly gave everything she had to provide for her daughter, which cost her life. Then of course, the Bishop of Digne, Gavroche, and Cosette were right up there. I even fell for Eponine. I felt her character was redeemed when she handed Cosette's letter over to Marius upon her death.

There is a great deal of French history and politics in Les Mis, making it a wonderful high school read for that time period. One can also learn about the 200 year old sewer system of Paris, which is now open for tour in our modern day. In addition, the reader sees examples of good vs. evil character and romantic vs. familial love. The question of justice was a constant conversation in our book discussion. Can one ever overcome their criminal past? Les Mis has several subplots, which is part of what makes it so rich.

Regarding the musical Les Miserables, many of the subplots and depth of characters mentioned are missed on stage. I did enjoy the music immensely, but I was feeling sorry for those that had not read the novel because I don't think one can get the full understanding without that written knowledge. Also, the musical's vulgar language and sexual innuendos are not included in the book. It's unfortunate if the musical is your only experience with Les Mis because it diminishes Hugo's christian side of the story and the whole redemptive point of the book. On the other hand, the set and costuming in the Broadway Les Miserables were phenomenal. In addition, it was a bonus to me that almost every character looked as I envisioned.

Overall, I LOVED Les Miserables! I highly recommend everyone read it. As stated, the musical is good as well, but please read the book first. Or, if you've already seen the musical, do yourself a favor and go back and read Hugo's intended story. It is lengthy, but oh so worthy. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas from Drywood Creek.
May you be awestruck at the coming of the Christ child and have a peace filled New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Fall Term 2018-2019 Wrap-Up

Oh, the beauty of fall seems long ago as I look out the window and see the earth covered with snow. However, according to the calendar, it is technically still fall until the end of the week...and what a fall it has been!

We wrapped up a very busy Term One in mid November, allowing us a scheduled week off for Thanksgiving and WI deer hunting season. A week of what I hoped would be filled with much needed rest and relaxation after our crazy start to the school year. Unfortunately, it began with some unplanned appointments and ended with a near tragedy when Ruben was pinned between a wagon load of round bales and the tractor, after the brakes failed, causing the tractor to roll back on him. Thankfully, angels were watching over him that day. I have no doubt that God's strength gave The Farmer the ability to move that 8-10,000 pound tractor up hill, allowing Ruben to fall from it's grip. After numerous tests, scans, and x-rays in ER, the doctor proclaimed Ruben's life a miracle. He said any man would have been killed under that kind of pressure, but because of elasticity in growing bodies, Ruben was spared. We are ever so grateful!!

Even though there were no organs punctured or bones broken, Ruben's body was badly swollen and bruised from being squeezed so hard. He had tremendous pain and walked with a walker the first couple of weeks, requiring a great deal of care. We've been administering a variety of therapies to aid in his healing since. Ruben is making great progress and slowly recovering. Our lives are gaining some sense of regularity and there is rhythm in our days. Hence the reason I am able to come back and blog about our Fall Term.

First, here is a preview of the resources I had scheduled....

Year One
Year Eight
Year Nine
Morning Time

Next, let's break it down and see what we accomplished in real life because a plan is only good if you are able to implement it.

Big Picture

Overall, we're getting through most subjects in spite of the chaos. As usual, some subjects are more joyous than others. I've had to drop a few books this term in the essence of time and over scheduling, but for the most part, the kids are getting the work done, even though some of it is hard. I don't typically drop books due to whining. (Check out Brandy's post, Don't Drop the Book.) However, if time is truly the issue, I do drop an occasional book. This was the case this term.

Morning Time has been a greater challenge this year with my age gap. I've made a few adjustments and it seems to be going better. I also let Levi come and go, depending on the book we are reading. I think it's necessary to choose a variety of books for Morning Time. Some should be geared to the older kids and some to the younger. I usually start with easier books or books geared for the youngest child. Then I let little ones go or play quietly while I continue with books for the older kids. Of course, the younger kids learn by osmosis and if they are quiet, I encourage them to stay if at all possible.

One book I dropped from Morning Time was our Geography read, Longitude by Dava Sobel. It's an AO Year 9 book that none of us were enjoying, including mama. I had to cut something because our Day 3 reading was too long. Longitude got the ax. We are continuing everything else at this point.

Year 9 - RileyAnn

Riley's been holding her own. Because she had several heavy readings, I did drop From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun. We also haven't completed The Iliad by Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore  and The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore using The Epics by Roman Roads Media as scheduled. We watched the first couple of lectures of The Epics. Wes Callihan is phenomenal! I just didn't have time to sit with Riley and complete the classes. Of course, she's capable of completing it independently, but I really feel strongly that it would be beneficial to do in a group or with a buddy. Therefore, we have set it aside for now. I would love to come back to it at some point!

We are behind in Introductory Logic by Canon Press Series. Again, this is my fault for lack of time to sit with her and complete the course. However, we will definitely continue this for her Logic credit in the coming weeks.

Year 8 - Ruben

Ruben's plan is fitting best of all three kids. I feel like we've finally found balance and he's hit his groove. The only subject that proved to be a bad fit was Introductory Logic by Canon Press Series. I have dropped Logic from his schedule this year as I just don't think he was ready for it. We will pick up some sort of Logic in his high school years, but I'm not sure which book at this point.

Ruben also struggled through astronomy using The Planets by Dava Sobel along with the Sabbath Mood Homeschool guide. He did finish it, but I must confess, the book was terrible IMHO. I find it hard to believe there wasn't a better resource out there for middle school astronomy. There were several readings I omitted because I didn't feel the content was appropriate or necessary for a 13-year old boy. I ended up pulling from Album of Astronomy by Tom McGowen and The New Astronomy Book by Danny R. Faulkner. Both of which proved to be excellent resources and complementary to most of the big picture of the Sabbath Mood Homeschool guide.

Year 1 - Levi

I was way too ambitious in planning Year One. We've been home educating since 2007 and this is my my third go around with 1st grade. You'd think by now I would have a better sense of time and ability. However, each child is uniquely created and there is no one size fits all. Therefore, the best laid plans sometimes don't work. Term One was a testament to that.

A Mind in the Light Year One - The Complete Guide by Lisa Kelly is a wonderful resource, particularly for a home educator who doesn't quite have her feet under her, but wants to educate classically using Charlotte Mason's methods. It is structured and laid out in an easy to follow format. Unfortunately, I just didn't have time to do all the things. Fortunately, having experience, I was able to cull and pull what worked for us. We have completed all the Literature and Poetry so far, most of the Science suggestions, and the Arts that I put in Morning Time. The most significant changes I made to the program were to History, opting to instead read the D'Aulaire books reprinted by Beautiful Feet Books and scheduled in their Early American History Primary guide. This is proving to be a better fit for Levi. 

I also switched up his math. We began with Charlotte Mason's Elementary Arithmetic 1 by Richele Baburina and Simply Charlotte Mason, but changed to RightStart Level B. I really did enjoy the Math Immersion Retreat I attended in October and Richele clearly has a heart for mathematics using Charlotte's methods. I simply didn't find time to research supplementary problems. When I did have time, my brain wasn't in a place to create math lessons. Instead, I opted to switch to a program that was scripted. I expect teacher intensity at this level so RS is not a problem in that regard. 

Lastly, we began using Alpha-Phonics by Samuel L. Blumenfeld. I love All About Reading Level 1 by Marie Rippel. However, this particular child was not loving the letter tiles. He prefers a movable alphabet and was able to progress a bit more quickly than AAR was moving. I have not ditched AAR completely, but instead have been going between it and Alpha-Phonics. This seems to be a good combination. 

The changes noted above have allowed us to have smoother days. We are now beginning our fourth week of Term Two and things are going better. By shuffling a few books around, there has even been room for Christmas picture books, but that's for another post...