Monday, January 19, 2009

Last Week in School

I (should) post here to serve as a virtual record of our educational journey. However, I have not been on top of things for quite some time. Now I'm Ba-ack!

Last week we really got fully back into our educational plan after a long holiday break.

Josephine de Beauharnais, by Artist Francois Gerard, 1808

We have been studying world History period from around Abraham Lincoln's living years. Since we have spent quite a bit of time discussing this, I was very pleased to find myself "in the know" when I watched a documentary about French castles over the weekend. I was really just listening to it while reading, but then I heard some discussion about Josephine Bonaparte's influence on a castle's bathroom design/decor, my interest was piqued because I enjoyed learning about her before the holiday break.

When at the Chateau de Brissac, they talked about the treaty signed there in August 1620 by Louis XIII and his mother to overcome their differences. It was short-lived, but the cool thing was...I knew what they were talking about! Can you imagine living in a place so rich with history? Some of the castles were 1,000 years old! Good Gravy!

Sojourner Truth, photo by Matthew Brady, 1864

In addition to our prescribed History reading (through literature), I am having the girls read a biography about Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree). Her speech Ain't I a Woman? is a must read. Where would we be today without abolitionists like Sojourner? Would we be swearing in our first African American president tomorrow? No!

Which reminds me of what we read in Matthew 4 this morning. Verses 30-32 say (paraphrase) that the Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed, which is the smallest when it is planted into the ground. But when it grows, it is the biggest of the herbs and has such large branches, birds are able to build nests in it.

When the girls and I were discussing that, it brought to mind our reading about the disciples and historical heros we've been reading apart, particularly in regards to abolition. A tiny thing, a frail older black woman who is willing to use her life for the betterment of mankind, can become something strong and powerful.

The girls and I have been reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I wholeheartedly believe in my kids reading good literature. I also believe that my kids need guidance as they read this book, because Tara especially finds it disconcerting to read how African-American people were treated, as the story would have taken place before emancipation. I picked up my copy at a homeschool sale for a dollar, and I am so glad I did! Because it has information in the margins accompanying pictures from the historical time period explaining what was going on in our country at that time. Which is how I came to find myself studying drawings about slavery, emancipation, the Old South and the New South, etc., into the wee hours one evening. I will have to order the bio on Frederick Douglass next, I think.

Thomas Nast drew this idyllic vision of the way life would be for African-Americans after emancipation. This picture tells a story. It has a lot of hope in it. The family in the middle is drawn to show their respectability, to show the peace the multi-generational family now has after being emancipated.

But, two years later Nast drew reality in "The Union as It Was." Our copy of Tom Sawyer discusses how recently freed slaves were drawn to new places because of posters depicting African-Americans dancing and singing and flourishing. Families left everything in order to go to these mythical place where life was easy and they could have the life they dreamed of. Only to find once they got there, there were enslaved by fear, intimidation, grueling labor, poverty, relentless suffering. And that is where we ended last week.

In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, we are still lingering over poor Olivia being in love with Cesario who is really Viola posing as a man. Viola is in love with Orsino who is in love with Olivia. And so life is a soap opera, apparently. Tara really enjoys Shakespeare, and frankly, so do I.

Olivia, by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1888

I admit that I dropped the Greek Mythology for a bit of time because I just get frustrated with the pronunciation of the names. I was taught as a child that Mythology was ungodly, so I have NO familiarity with it. Now that we are Charlotte Mason enthusiasts, I picked up the Bulfinch's Mythology and started it with the kids, only to find I couldn't stop stumbling over names. Well, Hannah insisted after reading a library book based upon mythology, that we restart it. So this past week we started at the beginning with Pandora, who was the first woman according to Greek Mythology.

Allegory of Vanity (Pandora's Jar) by Nicolas Regnier, 1626

I'll admit I never had a CLUE what was meant by the opening of Pandora's Box. Come to find out Erasmus mistranslated JAR into BOX . The story goes (according to Bulfinch) that Prometheus created man, and his brother Epimetheus named and betowed gifts upon all of the creatures of the world. When it came time to bestow a gift upon man, there were no gifts left because they had all been given to the creatures. So Prometheus snuck into heaven and stole fire to give to man as his gift, which solidified man as leader of the world (over the creatures). Jupiter made woman for man and named her Pandora. She was bestowed a gift from all of the gods: beauty, music, persuasian. Epimetheus had a jar in his house which held evil, noxious properties. Naturally, Pandora was curious and slipped off the cover. Out came illness, disease, "envy, spite, and revenge," and all things vile and hateful. Pandora's "box" emptied evil into the world as everything escaped...except one thing which remained, which was Hope. The girls and I discussed how there is a different interpretation that Pandora's Box contained her marriage blessings from all the gods, and once she released them, what was left was Hope. But we preferred the interpretation that most parelled the Bible, and also, we felt like Hope was more critical when paired with evil. When else would you need more hope than when evil prevails? I am most happy we restarted Mythology.

Theseus and Aethra, by Laurant de La Hyre

We also finally received our copy of Plutarch's Live Vol 1 which we waited for FOREVER! We started reading about Theseus. His mother Aethra was married to Aegeus, but on her wedding night, met and lay with the god of the sea and earthquakes (Poseidon), so when Theseus was born, he was half god, half human. His father Aegeus went back to Athens, but he buried his sword and sandals under a heavy rock. One day his mother told him about his earthly father, and told him if he could lift the rock, he could then have the shoes and sword of his father, and he could take his rightful place as heir in Athens. Of course he did this with no trouble. Then he had to make the choice whether to travel to Athens by sea, which was quite safe, or to travel a path around the Saronic sea. He had many heroes in his family he felt like he had to live up to. He also was quite obsessed with Hercules, so he therefore chose the dangerous road to Athens, which is where we ended. We discussed how teenagers often feel like they are invincible, as Theseus apparently did as he set out on his journey. And certainly I gather he is going to make it fine since there is more material in his chapter; however, what if it had turned out badly because he felt he had big shoes to fill?