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9781455101269Dear Readers,

I am excited to announce our Summer Literature Soirée for Saturday, August 20th from 9:30 am -3:30 pm.  This will be a full day of friendship, luxuriating in literature, and just plain fun!  We will discuss For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay as well as cover Renaissance history with a full session on Renaissance artists.  I’m excited about this as it’s going to give me the opportunity to really revisit some beloved artists and sculptors of this period. We will, of course, talk about the best children’s books for exploring this period and I don’t doubt you will all have some wonderful additions to add to the general richness!

Lunch is included of course, and I will be delighted to share some fresh goodness from my vegetable garden, and more than likely we will enjoy a
IMG_2509Salad Nicoise–the variations on that theme being many!

Bernadette Speakes

Bernadette Speakes is a talented actor with broad experience on stage, film and television. She is also a wife and home schooling mother. Her readings will transport you!

And not to forget, the wonderful Bernadette Speakes and I will be coming up with some special reading to share for your listening pleasure!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

1306 Mill Street

San Luis Obispo, CA

Cost: $35.00 (includes lunch)

Register here.

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My porthole on the Queen Mary

To have the sense of creative activity is the great happiness and the great proof of being alive. –Matthew Arnold

Dear Readers,

Matthew Henry–a 19th century author, literary critic and cultural reformer, talked about the importance of true education being the purveyor of “sweetness and light”.  He strongly believed that the best education had the power to inculcate beauty, generosity, and virtue into the culture.  Well, I had the rare opportunity to attend a conference that I think exemplifies the best of this notion! I am so excited to share with those who might not know about a wonderful new (well, young might be more accurate) movement of home schooling mamas committed to raising wild and free children!  I was blessed by the founder, Ainsley Arment (www.bewildandfree.org ) with a ticket to attend their most recent event in Long Beach on the Queen Mary.  This historic ship was a truly appropriate venue as these ladies love history and love teaching history to their children through the power of good books! Ainsley Arment has had the brilliant vision to bring together a group of her favorite bloggers and IG mamas who exemplify her view of what education should look like when we infuse it with beauty, art, music, literature and nature!  Her efforts have culminated in an amazing community of strong, intelligent, artistic, and joy-filled women.  I felt so blessed  to spend a weekend with these precious people!

 Jodi Mockabee

Jodi Mockabee

I had the privilege of getting to hear Jodi Mockabee (jodimockabee.com) who I first met when she was a tiny baby being bounced on her daddy’s knee.  To see her speaking to this crowd of 400 ladies with such calm and humility was one of those “full circle” moments in life. Her grandfather and father were both our pastors for 15 years–in the wonderful community that was The Chapel in the Pines.  Over two decades later, Jodi is a devoted mother to her five and she shared about the power of good books and the power of the words we speak in our homes to each other.

I also had the wonderful privilege of getting to hear Sarah Mackenzie live and in person!  Sarah had kindly done a podcast

Sarah Mackenzie with the beautiful woodwork of the Queen Mary in the background.

Sarah Mackenzie with the beautiful woodwork of the Queen Mary in the background.

with me back in September (which you can access here) but to get to meet her bubbly self in person, laugh and share this sweet event together was a treat.  Her presentation focused on seeing the beauty in the small unexpected moments in life.  The beauty of Sarah is that when she speaks, you know she right there “in the trenches” of motherhood andimgres home schooling with you.  If you’re not familiar with her book, Teaching from Rest, you should check out a copy!  It is a breath of fresh air in our harried worlds!  I’ve felt a real refreshing of grace and perspective reading her book!

Finally, the other personal treat for me was hearing from my friend, Emily Waechtler, (bluecorduroy.com) who lives here in my community and who spoke alongside her

Emily Waechtler and Toni Weber

Emily Waechtler and Toni Weber

friend, Toni Weber (www.homeschoolingbyheart.com)  Both are mamas home schooling their children, and both are committed to giving their children the freedom to explore through their education the power of good books, the beauty of nature, and the rewards of self-directed learning.  Their presentations were humble, kind, and full of the gentle spirit they strive to incorporate into their homes each day.

I was amazed at the calm, cool, and collected Ainsley Arment, who not only put on this very successful event, but did so with grace, humor, and generosity, all while bouncing her little Millie on her hip! So, readers, if you ever get an opportunity to attend a Wild and Free event, don’t miss out!  You can also subscribe to their beautiful publications that will inspire you to incorporate more beauty into your days–they certainly have done that for me!  You will be blessed, encouraged, inspired and enriched however you interact with these interesting, alive, and passionate women!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I1413374964-8-origmagine each day wrapping your hair up in a lovely bun and then slipping a very tiny bible into your chignon?  Odd?  Well, there was a day when many young Christian women hid their bibles this way! In September 1685, in France, all Bible reading was forbidden and Christian homes were subject to search. French Protestants known as Huguenots were forced to keep their scriptures hidden and to worship in secret. I was privileged to get a little glimpse into the lives of this courageous minority on a recent visit to Provence, France while visiting with ICCP of Aix-en-Provence. While staying there with a gracious 93 year-old Huguenot gentleman, a Monsieur D’Cazenove, we were able to visit the Musée du Désert, where this fascinating and inspiring history is kept alive. And indeed it’s true that Huguenot women hid their very tiny bibles in their chignons!

This tiny bible measures just one inch high yet is very legible. Huguenot women hid them in their chignons.                                                                                   From Le Musée du Désert, Cevennes, France

The Huguenots were the fruit of the tide of the Reformation coming to France in the mid 16th century, and were devoted to reforming the church and the political institutions of their times.  Many noble and highly intellectual families joined this movement, but in a majority Catholic country where the Church was all powerful, persecution was inevitable. The most notorious incident occurred on St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572, when thousands of Huguenots were in Paris to celebrate the wedding of Henry of Navarre (a Huguenot) to Marguerite de Valois (a Catholic). The young King Charles IX, under the sway of his powerful mother, Catherine d’ Medici, ordered the massacre of all Huguenots.  Thousands died in Paris that day and tens of thousands all across France.

When Henry IV, a Huguenot known as Le Bon Roi–the Good King, came to the throne, he passed the Edict of Nantes (1598) granting religious freedom to Huguenots–one of Europe’s first IMG_2727documents to protect this fundamental right. However, 80 years later, King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, and Huguenots were harassed out of all educated professions, arrested, tortured and imprisoned, their lands and properties confiscated.  Louis XIV  issued countless warrants for the arrest of Huguenots who refused to convert to Catholicism.  At left are just a few of King Louis’s numerous warrants persecuting Huguenots.  In these samples, agents of the King are instructed to destroy all the Huguenot churches, extinguish and suppress  their colleges, arrest their midwives, and to obtain their declarations as to whether they will convert  or die as Protestants.

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This barrel converted into a pop-up pulpit, but looked like an ordinary barrel when not in use.

It was particularly during this period that Huguenots became very creative in finding ways to worship in secret.  As a large majority lived in the Provence region, where there are thick forested areas and many caves and grottoes, the Huguenots often met secretly in caves to worship.  A home church or a church meeting in a factory might have a convertible pulpit, that when not in use looked like an ordinary wooden barrel, but converted quite ingeniously into a pulpit by a clever system of levers.  Goblets for communion wine could be converted to appear as ordinary looking candlesticks, and picture frames were designed so that bibles could be hidden between the mirror and the back of the frame.

Despite these subterfuges, countless Huguenots were arrested, tortured and put to death.  Over 5000 men were forced to slave on the galleys of the King, choosing that grim fate over giving up their faith. Marie Durand was arrested at age 19 and spent 38 years imprisoned because she refused to violate her conscience.

Remarkably, despite these tremendous hardships, the Huguenot people were known as the “people who sing.”  Their secret IMG_2802worship services were marked by their joyful singing of the scriptures set to music, particularly the psalms.  When I question our host, Monsieur d’Casenove, about this fact, he slips quietly into his centuries-old chateau and reemerges quickly holding an ancient book in his hand.  It is a psalmer, a very old book of the psalms set to music.  When I ask him how old it is, he turns to the copyright page, and the book had been printed in the 1550s.

The history of the Huguenot people is a rich, varied, and inspiring history of a people who fought, suffered, and died for freedom of conscience.  It is a history that has some bearing on American history too.  In my next post I will explore what Huguenot history has to do with Paul Revere, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette!

 

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The chateau of Monsieur d’Casanove in the Cevennes region of France, an area rich in Huguenot history.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
― C.S. Lewisimgres

In July I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the delightful Sarah Mackenzie for her Read-Aloud Revival podcast.  It was more like a friendly chat over coffee as Sarah and I shared thoughts about life, literature, reading-aloud, children’s book publishing, history studies and our mutual love for good books.  The podcast is now up and you can access it here.

Sarah has recently published a book about home schooling entitled Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace.  As a young mom of six little ones, Sarah knows how hectic and demanding the homeschooling lifestyle can be and offers great advice for letting go of striving and finding a deep peace in your heart and home.

One of the topics we discussed briefly was the current educational trend of teaching history by “beginning at the beginning.” Those who are interested in a little more in-depth look at this topic might enjoy reading, “When Should I Teach Ancient History, which you can access here.  Memoria Press has also written a brief intro on this topic entitled “History is Not Chronological, which you can access here.imgres-2

In closing, one of the questions Sarah asked was what book I had read as a child that most impacted me.  I always come back to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time for the book that I believe truly, as C. S. Lewis coined, “baptized my imagination.”  I read it as a teen or young adult, but it opened the eyes of my imagination in a way no other book ever had.  We never know which book will do that for us or our children–thus the reason to read, read, read!  But read the best books first, because you never know if you’ll have time to read them all!

We cannot see with our eyes when our imagination is out of focus.
                                                                       –Mark Twain
Dear Readers,
The above quote was shared in a recent speech given by Kwame Alexander at the biennial Simmons Children’s Literature Symposium in Boston.  I was thrilled that Kwame Alexander was speaking as he is the most recent recipient of the Newbery Medal for his wonderful book Crossover.  CKwame 2rossover would make a brilliant family read-aloud as it is a hip, yet lyrically imgresbeautiful story of identical twin brothers and their lives seen through the metaphor of basketball. Kwame understands relationships, family, and community and has written a fast-paced, at times funny, and other times heart-wrenching story of life and universal lessons of the human heart.  His presentation touched on many areas, but one important theme was the power of imagination to help us truly see what is real. Twain’s quote above reminds us that it is often through the power of literature that our imagination can be enlarged and we can be set free from our prison-houses of self absorption.

The last Saturday of August I’ll be hosting my sometimes annual Back-to-School Soirée.  I would like to present the topics of most interest in the group so if you plan to come please vote on the following: Renaissance & MedievalEarly American, Modern America & World (Civil War to Contemporary–based on our two new guides) and/or a session on Poetry in the Home.  Each of the former historical periods will be explored through the best literature to use across various grade levels. For the Poetry in the Home session, the currently popular trend focused on memorization of facts highlights the importance of what we set the minds of our children to memorize. This powerful faculty is critical to cognitive development, but can be infinitely effective in cultivating a sense of humor, facilitating joy in the family, and encouraging moral and ethical awareness.  Some ladies mentioned they would like to have books for purchase at the Soirée, so if that is something you’d like to see please let me know.

•Please note this is a Lady’s event.  We do hope to offer a couple’s event some time early 2016, so watch for that.  Also, nursing babies 4 months and under are welcome to attend with their mamas.  Hope to see you here!
Date: Saturday, August 29, 2015
Time: 9:30 am -3:30 pm
Place: 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo
Cost: $30 (which includes lunch)
Make your reservation here.

. . . the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.~Pearl S. Buck

One of the topics of discussion during our soirée the Saturday before last was the way in which the dystopias of today–The Hunger Games, the Divergent trilogy etc., present disturbing scenes of violence between children.  While violence against children has always been a component of fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction etc., what the astute Samantha Riddering pointed out was the way in which that violence has traditionally been perpetrated by the evil adult antagonist.  Obviously, sometimes that antagonist was a monster, a dragon, an ogre, a wicked stepmother, or an evil Sméagol.  From  fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, to sophisticated Pulitzer-prize winning fictions like To Kill a Mockingbird,  violence against children is presented as the work of evil personified–the Big Bad Wolf to Bob Ewell respectively.  The difference in some of today’s young adult dystopias is how often  the ogres perpetrating evil against children are the children themselves. While these dystopias are the literary grandchildren of William Golding’s–The Lord of the Flies–the groundbreaking novel that first featured this disturbing literary trope, the nature of Golding’s brutal images did not popularize it to a youthful audience. In the US it Image result for hunger gamesonly sold a few thousand copies before going out of print. Today it is mandatory reading in high school. Unlike The Lord of the Flies, the trilogies of Divergent and Hunger Games, replete with graphic violence between children are wildly popular with young readers who seem inured to a level of violence that seems extreme.

Additionally layering the complexity of child-to-child violence is that the teen protagonists become hardened and highly skilled warriors perpetrating acts of war at a young age. Sometimes these actions involve gut-wrenching cruelty like the Divergent character Peter plunging a knife into Edward’s eye while he’s asleep. Though youth becoming skilled warriors isn’t new in children’s lit–Frodo and Sam Gamgee are young hobbits when they fight the evil forces of Mordor, and Peter and Edmund become warriors in Narnia–again, what is new is war between rival youth.  Perhaps the real-life counterpart is gang warfare, which would beg the question of how books like the trilogies mentioned may contribute to an already violent gang culture. Oh, but gang members don’t read, so not to worry.   I think it’s interesting to note that the film scene of Peter’s nocturnal knifing of Edward was cut from the movie.  Director Neil Burger denied that the scene was cut because it was too graphic, but rather because it “disrupted the flow of the story.”   Hmmm.  Gratuitous perhaps?

As I was finishing writing this my daughter Rebecca posted a wonderful blog entry on the “Loveliness of Reading Aloud” which I think you’ll enjoy.  She links in her article to another by Meghan Cox Gurdon which may further inspire the effort it takes to develop this practice in your home.  Gurdon is the children’s literature critic for the Wall Street Journal and as a mother of 5 has her finger firmly on the pulse of the kinds of books most parents want their children to enjoy.  For parents reading this that have YA readers, I think you’ll find her article on this genre enlightening.

For those that attended the soirée who might have thoughts they didn’t share that day or any others who would just like to comment on this topic, please feel free to do so below.  What are the thoughts ruminating around in your mind when you confront the issues of violence in children’s lit today? Let’s continue this discussion!  In the meantime I’ll close with this beautiful quote from Tolkien on the function of fairy-tale as it reminds us of the limitless power of the well-crafted tale to cultivate the best in the human heart.

The eucatastrophic tale [one with a happy ending] is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.  The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true endImage result for tolkien to any fairy-tale: this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist”, nor “fugitive.”  In its fairy-tale–or otherworld–setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.  It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, or sorrow or: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. –Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (68-69).

Dear Readers,

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The giant clock at Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

On Saturday, June 27th I’ll be holding my annual Summer Reading Soirée! 

The theme will be “Summer Reading”–exploring the world of children’s picture books, folk and fairy tales, and best picks for family read-alouds. We will also explore the deeper meanings available in children’s literature as we look at how great stories have the power to bring catharsis, anagnorisis (self-knowledge), and promote the practice of a self-examined life.  As Socrates so poignantly recognized, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Children’s books can help us cultivate self-knowledge and lead our children to establish an understanding and recognition of this in their lives too! 

For those with teens, cultivating the family read-aloud time becomes more and more difficult–sports, evening activities, and homework all tend to take precedence.  Because teen’s opinions and perspectives are solidifying, these years can be some of the most rewarding for reading aloud together as we share more complex literary works. These times build emotional, spiritual, and intellectual bridges in our relationships–bridges that help us cross over the tumultuous tides of teen life into the adult world.  We’ll explore ways to continue the practice of sharing the best literature even as our children move through the teen years.

Those who attended last summer will remember that we had the distinct pleasure of having Bernadette Speakes bring the poetry of Marilyn Nelson’s Carver: A Life in Poems, to dramatic life through her powerful readings.  Bernadette will delight us with her art once again! So, if you have a poem or a literary passage you’d like to suggest for Bernadette’s reading, please feel free to make a suggestion.  See Bernadette’s bio below.

Date: Saturday, June 27, 2015
Time: 9:30 am -3:30 pm
Place: 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo
Cost: $30 (which includes lunch)
Make your reservation here.

Finally, I am currently reading the ancient philosopher Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life.”  Hereshortnessoflife is a passage that has really made me ponder how we use our time:

I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response.  Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself–as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap–in fact, almost with out any value” (12).

 This sentiment has made me more cognizant of the incredible gift you are giving me (and hopefully yourselves) when you heroically carve out a full day of time to attend a literature Soirée.  I want to value your time as it should be valued.  In that light I intend to focus on the things that really matter–i.e. the things that can cause us to respect each day we are given, to nurture and build the relationships that are near and dear to us, and to focus on transcendent things. Because ultimately “when time is no more”, only those will have enduring value. I hope to see you on Saturday, June 27th!

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Bernadette Speakes graced the stage last winter, in the Elephant Theatre’s West Coast Premiere of the comedy, North Plan, directed by David Fofi. In the 2013 Fringe Festival, she portrayed Tituba, in The Crucible.  She created and produced the successful Get Up Stand Up . . . Clean Comedy 4 A Change–a showcase bridging the gap of laughter and charity together. Bernadette Bernadetteappeared in several acclaimed shows such as The Elephant Theater’s In Arabia We’d Be Kings, and The Fountain Theater’s West Coast Production of Direct from Death Row . . . The Scottsboro Boys. Bernadette will be furthering her film and TV credits with a key role in the upcoming film The Woods; A New Beginning. Other Film and TV Credits include: The Soloist, Heroes,  Parenthood, To Sir with Love II with Mr. Sidney Poitier, and the 1997 Sundance Festival Winner Love Jones. Awards include an Emmy Nomination for A Stage of Our Own with James Earl Jones, The LA Drama Critic’s Circle, and the LA Weekly.  Bernadette is a wife and mother of 2 beautiful children. She presently lives in Los Angeles.

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