A peaceful day

Phillipians 4:4-8

For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light. Psalm 36:9

Take an afternoon off

Posted by Jeanne

Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education p42

We took the afternoon off today because...well, let me show you:







If you stay inside on a day like today just to get your reading done and work a maths sheet, then we reckon you have your priorities wrong. Work hard when you're working, but play hard when you're not.

Miss Mason tells us the never be inside when you can rightly be without. I don't know about you, but this seems easier when our kids are young, doesn't it? By the time they're in years 7 and 8, (that's High School in Australia), we've started to get all serious about the academic stuff - the maths and the science and the written narrations, and practicing our two modern and one ancient language every day.

Spending half a day or more outside every week? Ain't nobody got no time for that, right? Wrong. In the years when your child is independent, when she spends much of each day reading and writing alone in her room, time outside is more important than ever. Time to walk together, talk together, laugh together. Don't miss a single day. She will be grown and gone all too soon.

When the weather is like today's, and the gazanias look like this, you really have no choice, do you? Binary multiplication can wait until tomorrow, and everything will be alright. I promise.









Of studies

Posted by Jeanne

If been dying for Jemimah to get around to her paraphrase of Francis Bacon's essay, Of Studies, because it is all about the benefits of reading and learning, and I'm sorta kinda rather fond of both of those.

There are some great quotations in the passage, no more than one long paragraph, really. These are some gems:

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

Finally there is this one. I think it is my favourite:

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.

You can have a read of the whole essay by clicking the link above. Or, you can read Jemimah's very fine paraphrase below. Apparently, paraphrasing Bacon is her very favourite thing of AO8. Whodathunk?

Of StudiesStudies serve to delight, to enhance, and to be useful. They are most delightful when you are alone and at leisure. They enhance by allowing you to display your knowledge in conversation. They are useful because they improve your ability to make good decisions and to run your business more effectively. Clever men can do things and do them well, but learned men can perform daily activities better in general. Spending too much time studying is lazy, using study to show-off is vain, and to decide things just on learning is unwise. Studies perfect man but man’s wisdom affects that knowledge, because natural abilities are like plants that need training by study, and studies can go too far unless they are given limits by experience. Sly men loath study; simple men are impressed by it, and wise men benefit from it. Studies do not teach how to use themselves, but that knowledge comes from outside and is only learned by observation. Don’t read to make arguments, or to believe blindly, or just for something to say, but rather to ponder and provide judgment. Some books are to be tasted, some to be swallowed, and a few are to be chewed and digested; that is, dip into some books, read some for enjoyment, and a few are to be read with concentration. You can read summaries of some books, but only less important books, or books that are not so good, because most summaries don’t do the original book justice, and are just for show. Reading makes you better, discussion prepares you, and writing makes you more precise. If you don’t write things down, you’d better have a great memory. If you don’t ask much, you need to be careful. If you don’t read, you have to be cunning to pretend to know that which you do not know. History makes man wise; poetry makes him witty, mathematics subtle, natural philosophy deep, moral stories make him grave, logic and rhetoric arm him for what will come. Abeunt studia in mores – what you study becomes a habit. Studies improve any intellectual deficit, just like injuries have appropriate rehabilitation exercises. Bowling is good for bladder and kidney, shooting for lungs and chest, gentle walking for the stomach, riding for the brain, and so on. So if a man is getting slow, study maths, because in doing maths, if you are distracted, you must start again. If he is not discerning, let him study the professional scholars, for they are cymene sectores, splitters of hairs and pedantic and the man will become more so. If he doesn’t think about things enough, let him study law. Every defect of the mind has a recipe for cure.



Wildflowers in the bush

Posted by Jeanne

How could you not be happy, wandering aimlessly in the bush when the wildflowers begin to bloom? Well, I can't, anyway. These photos were all taken today. I'm sorry the little purple orchid is a bit blurry. It was quite windy, and consequently, a bit difficult to get a good shot, but it was such a sweet little bloom, I wanted to show you anyway.







The most exciting thing is that this is just the start of the season. I can't wait to see what is flowering next week. Spending a whole afternoon in the bush each week is not really a hardship at all at this time of year. I love it.

What's flowering in your neck of the woods? Have you looked lately?






Latin grace

Posted by Jeanne

My university days seem like a dream, sometimes. Sure, it was almost 35 years ago, but it's more than that.

Both my school and University followed the 'Oxbridge' tradition. (That's a portmanteau of Oxford and Cambridge). Both institutions were grand and tradition-bound and old and elegant and beautiful and classy.

At university, I attended a residential college, St Hilda's. The colleges, too, were modelled on Oxbridge tradition with rowing and cricket clubs, choirs, debating teams, live-in tutors, and well stocked libraries. We dressed in academic gowns for dinner, had Junior and Senior Common Rooms, were invited to 'High Table', (literally a high table, raised at the front of the room and reserved for the academic fellows, the Headmaster and their guests) and even said grace before meals in Latin.

I had an exceptional education, and very good fun, but like I say, nowadays it all seems like a dream. A very Hogwarts-like dream.

The other day I realised that over the course of the decades I'd forgotten the grace. Just when Jemimah's Latin was good enough for her to enjoy knowing it, too. So I hopped onto Facebook, found an alumni page and asked. And here it is, in case I ever forget it again. Or in case you, too, would like to say grace in Latin.

Academic gowns and a raised high table optional.


Benedic, domine, hoc frumentum, et nostram communitatem per Christum Dominum nostrum.


Translation: Bless O Lord, this food and our community, through Christ our Lord.



Innocence and trust

Posted by Jeanne

The happiness of that afternoon was already fixed in her mind, and always would the scent of freesia recall it to her mental sight, for among the smells of the roses and violets and lilies and wall-flowers, the smell of the freesia penetrated, as a melody stands out from its accompaniement, and gave her the most pleasure.

The Way Things Happen by Hugh De Sélincourt


Freesias make me happy.

It may be just that they forecast the beginning of the warmer spring weather, but I just adore their colours too: white, cream, yellow, mauve and purple. Don't they look beautiful bunched together like that and sitting in my kitchen?

In the language of flowers, freesias symbolise innocence and trust. I can see why.

Modern freesias have little scent, but the older, less brightly colourful ones are gloriously fragrant. Mine are old. Possibly even older than me. And they smell every bit as wonderful as they look.



Seeing what's there

Posted by Jeanne

I need to buy a Wattle Field Guide.


I'm pretty sure that this is Golden Wattle, Australia's national floral emblem...

...but I'm fairly sure that this one is not. The phylodes are too large, and look at their wavy, lobed shape.



Then there are these...

and these...


and this glorious beauty...

and these just beginning to bloom...

and these scrubby ones, which should be exquisite next week.

Every year I blog about the glory of the wattle in spring, and yet this is the first season I've realised quite how many different varieties there are around our peaceful home. All of these photos were taken in one half hour journey between Jemimah's dance studio and our town last Monday. And there were more, only I was never going to get home the way I was going, and I was in a rush.

So what is it that's made me really look at the wattles that grow by the roadside, more than eight years after we started CM style nature study? What made me realise how many different varieties there are?

It was starting my Book of Firsts.

In past years it was enough to just post on FB that the wattle was in bloom, or was looking glorious, or was making me happy, but this year I want to document that the Cootamundra wattle, Acacia baileyana, is in full, glorious bloom and the Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha is just putting up its first flowers. Which is all very well, but what do I say next? That the spiky wattle is flowering, or the one with full heads of yellow? Or the one with wavy phylodes? If I can't identify between them, I can't write them in my book, and it is frustrating me no end to have to resort to saying, "The varied wattle species are looking magnificent right now."

I suppose it shouldn't really surprise me that the Book of Firsts is so much more than a list of plants. I shouldn't be surprised that it's teaching me to see, to be Eyes, not No-Eyes, because this skill of observation is so entwined in all of the Charlotte Mason method, isn't it?

We train the powers of discriminating observation from an early age using what Miss Mason calls Sight-Seeing (Home Education p 45) and mental Picture-Painting (p 48). Later we encourage our kids to mentally see whole words, not just individual letters, when doing copywork. We train them using picture study to tell what they observe. We instruct them to accurately paint what they see outside in their nature note books. We ask them to make lists of birds and animals they've caught sight of. Why should it surprise me, then, how powerful the Book of Firsts has been in improving my power of observation?

My Book of Firsts has been a constant delight to me this year. It gives me such satisfaction to document the first bloom, the firsts sprout, the first snow pea. And, pleasingly, it is just going to get more and more interesting as we get to compare this year's entries with those of the next and the year after that.

Perhaps by then I may even be able to identify a few more wattles. Which brings me back to the beginning.

I need the buy a Wattle Field Guide. Can anyone recommend a good one?



Our AO8 science

Posted by Jeanne

As many of you know, I am involved with AmblesideOnline's project implementing a Charlotte Mason science course right through to Year 12. It's really exciting, and I love what we've come up with so far. The only problem is that AO are running just six months behind where Jemimah is in school. Year 8 has just been released, for example, just when Jemimah is about to begin her final term of that year.

This is both good and bad. It's bad because I have to rely on my own decisions, and the beauty of AO is that it is a product of many minds, not just one. That means that my daughter is my guineapig, and I have made mistakes. It is also good, because I get to try the books that the AO science team are considering for later years, and I get to use those books that are OOP or too difficult to source for AO to use, but are the best books otherwise. I also get to use books that I just think look jolly good, and that I think will work for my beautiful girl, even if they mightn't be what we're looking for with AO.

At any rate, our AO8 science is a mix of current AO titles from years 7 and 8 that Jemimah hasn't read yet, books AO are considering or have rejected, Aussie books, and books that I just like the look of just because. You may find some treasures!

Open Air Studies in Australia by Frederick Chapman

I blogged about this book when I fist bought it, and Jemimah finished it last week, reading a chapter a week. This is a geology of Australia, so unless you live nearby, it probably won't be the book for you, but do keep a look out for a geology of your own region. Things make much more sense when you can see what you're reading about. One of the reasons why Charlotte Mason focused on her local region, I guess. This book was wonderful. Take the opportunity of covering the geological time scale during your geology studies. It is worth your child having a familiarity with the names and eras referred to in modern geology, even if your family believes something different. I used the timescale here.

Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday

Oh my, this book has been great. We've been using it along with Kathy Wickward's Study Guide, available on her blog, here, which contains instructions on doing the experiments Faraday demonstrated at home, and we had such fun.


This online quiz is useful for practicing balancing chemical equations, which Kathy touches on briefly. Keep your child doing these until he is proficient. Jemimah actually used this quiz in AO7, but I forgot to tell you about it. Sorry. I really like balancing equations - they're like logic puzzles. Jemimah thinks they're neat too. Yeah, geeky fun.

The Crash Course Chemistry videos on stoichiometry are a good adjunct to this book, which is scheduled in AO8.

Fabre's Book of Insects by J H Fabre

This book is Jean-Henri Fabre's Souvenirs entomologiques, retold by Mrs. Rodolph Stawell and it is just lovely. My edition, the red book on the top of the pile up top, has no illustrations, but I really covet the version illustrated by Edward Detmold. Do try and purchase an illustrated copy if you can. Jemimah's narrations of this book were excellent, and she enjoyed it very much.

Uncorked by Gérard Liger-Belair

This book was clearly written just for me, wasn't it? It's a book all about champagne, and covers the history, physics and art of what is (subjectively) the only wine worth drinking. Ahem. Uncorked is fun and chatty, but covers some quite deep science. We learn, for example, that bubbles don't arise from defects on the inside of the glass, but rather from bubble enucleation cavities in the fibres of paper or cloth found in the glass no matter how clean it is. The busiest of these bubble nurseries produce 30 bubbles per second, and the book shows you the process via a series of exceptionally beautiful micrographs. A perfectly clean glass would produce no bubbles, and that would be a tragedy.

You don't need to drink champagne in order to find this book interesting, but...oh my!...if you do, the book actually is better with some observation of some actual glasses of wine. Never have I had such a perfect excuse to pop a weekly cork! Jemimah, of course, also compares the champagne bubbles to the ones in her Diet Coke.

The Wonder Book of Chemistry by J H Fabre

Another Fabre title, this one from 1922. Again, good news and bad news here. Good, because this is another science book written by the master, himself. The conversational style of science writing contained in this title makes it clear why Charlotte Mason thought so highly of Fabre's science. Bad, it was written in French in1881, back in the early days of chemistry's history, and even by the time it was translated into English in 1921, the information was out of date. Let's not forget that Mendeleev first published his Periodic Table in 1869, only 12 years before this book was written.

So why use it? Because the majority of the chemistry is still sound, and Fabre does an exceptional job of making it all seem simple. All it needs is a little updating. As we study this book, I'm compiling a Study Guide to update the science, as well as give some suggestions on how to do the experiments safely.

Uncle Paul let his two nephews have their say,convinced that ideas thus born of personal observation are worth far more than those adopted on the authority of another. To see is to know.
And it is no vague and imperfect knowledge from hearsay I would have them gain of these fundamental truths, on which depend agriculture and the industrial arts and our health itself; I would have them know these things thoroughly from their own observation and experience. Books here are insufficient, and can serve merely as aids to scientific experiment.

Fabre believed that children had to see the things he talked about in this book with their own eyes, and I must say I agree. Do try to do experiments whenever you can. Hopefully the guide will be out soon, but in the mean time, do try to get hold of some sulphur and iron filings to do the first experiment.

This is a good time to start filling in a Periodic Table of your own, if you haven't had your child do this already. I'll try to give you further information on this in the guide, but in case you're breathing down my neck, and eager to get started, that's what I'd do.

AO schedules this book in AO7.

Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif

Only the first chapter, covering the life of Leeuwenhoek is scheduled in AO8, so that's all Jemimah has read, but oh my! This is a wonderful book. Reading biography of great scientists really brings out their dedication for their work, and inspires accuracy and the need for constant repetition.

We look forward to reading more of this, fitting in chronologically with the history we're studying in AO9.


Is anyone still with me? I hadn't realised how many science books we'd used this year until right now. Phew! Anyway, onward...

First Studies of Plant Life by George Atkinson and Botany for Gardeners by Geoff Hodge.

First Studies of Plant Life might be our favourite science book of 2015. It's basically an old fashioned practical botany book, and it encourages observation and experimentation. We've only covered Part I, so far, which has involved growing lots of seedlings and looking at them. It is terrific fun, and we have learnt heaps! AO schedules this book beginning in AO7.

Basically, the book is valuable for its experiments. This is the real reason for the books, mamas, so if you haven't purchased your seeds, hold off until you can get some. You really want to see things growing here.


In conjunction with this book, we've been using a modern book, Botany for Gardeners by Geoff Hodge. It is a particularly pretty book, illustrated with delightful botanical drawings, but it also happens to be practical and informative as well. It's probably best described as a science book for gardeners. It goes a little more into terminology than Atkinson does, but it is written for non-botanists, so the terminology is practical ad useful. You learn terms like 'lateral buds' and 'seed stratification' when you need to use them, not as part of a vocabulary list. I like it because it is more up to date than Atkinson, and uses modern terms. The two books go very well together


Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman

I first discovered this book at Jen Gagnon's last year, but I'd known the story of Phineas Gage since university days. His is one of those stories that stick with you, and I felt sure that Jemimah would be fascinated by it as well. I was right. This book has been a true highlight of our year.

Phineas Gage was remarkable for surviving a terrible accident in 1848, when a long metal 'tamping iron' was driven through his cheek and out through the top of his head, destroying much of his brain's left frontal lobe. The accident significantly changed his personality and behaviour, and allowed significant advances in neuroscience. The book is fairly short, but teaches an awful lot about what your brain does, and what it is that makes you you. It also covers some pretty in-depth anatomy and physiology, not to mention opening up some deep ethical questions.

We did this book really slowly, focusing on the science parts. It is so great, that we scheduled it for AO8. Hopefully you'll love it as we do.



Great Astronomers by R S Ball

AO8 only has three chapters of this book scheduled, but we were supposed to start it in AO7 and we didn't, so Jemimah has read a few more. She's up to Newton, and is enjoying the delightful Victorian English very much. This is what living science books should look like. Like the Microbe Hunters book, this one is read in concert with the history cycle over a few years.

Adventures with a Microscope by Richard Headstrom

Adventures with a Microscope published 1941, is a delightful book, written in charmingly engaging and informative literary language. Headstrom encourages the child to think for himself, and connects the minutia of the microscope to the larger world of nature. This is one of the main reasons that this book has been chosen over newer books for AO science in years 7 and 8.

Adventures with a Microscope is a great name for a book on microscopy, because through the lens you will discover a whole new world, and you are about to embark of a true adventure of a lifetime. The book is divided into 59 ‘adventures’ into the microscopic world of body, pond, food and plants. It covers such diverse subjects as protozoa, algae, lichens, fungi, mosses, flowers, insects, spiders, blood, hair, fibres and fingerprints. Most of the adventures are terrific fun, and we've had a ball with the 8 adventures we've done so far this year.

I put together a study guide for this book. You'll find it in the right sidebar, see?

Knowing the Atomic Nucleus by R Hobart Ellis

This is a superb book covering the discovery of the atomic nucleus, its structure and behaviour, and explains such difficult things as radioactivity, fission and fusion, in clear understandable language. This is possibly the book that has taught the most this year. It's great if you can get your hands on a copy - it's out of print.

Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks

Sacks reminds me of Henri Fabre, the way he brings the pursuit of science and truth alive. Uncle Tungsten is the memoir of Sacks' childhood, but he also manages to cover almost the whole history of chemistry, as well as infect you with his contagious enthusiasm for chemistry and experiments. I started reading this book aloud to the family when I first heard that Sacks had terminal cancer. It has been wonderful. Just as a heads up, there are a couple of paragraphs that are inappropriate for children. I edited them out on the fly. Phew! Sacks' other books are all wonderful, but you may be disappointed by some of his lifestyle choices if you choose to read his adult memoir published earlier this year.

Why Aren't We Dead Yet by Idan Ben-Barak

Why Aren't We Dead Yet by Aussie author, Idan Ben-Barak, is a witty introduction to our immune system and how we fight off infections. It is absolutely fascinating, and is highly recommended to everybody except the anti-vax brigade, who probably won't like it at all. This is what science books are supposed to be like. We read this one as a family read aloud too.

Napoleon's Buttons by Penny LeCouteur and Jay Burreson

This book is probably the most disappointing for us this year, not because it's not a good book - it is actually fascinating - but because it is more a history of the molecules that have influenced history, than about the molecules themselves, and the chapters a really long. The book does teach a little about organic chemistry, and how the similarity in two molecules often results in a similar chemical action. The other day, for example, we discovered the similarities between molecules contained in coffee, tea and chocolate with those in morphine and heroin. Ahem. I guess that still leaves me champagne...

To make this more useful as a science book, I've taken the opportunity to introduce organic chemistry and its nomenclature. We used this course, but it was sort of overkill. I'll try and find something easier for AO. Poor Jemimah.

Glaucus or The Wonders of the Shore by Charles Kingsley

Imagine Madam How and Lady Why, only instead of a man explaining geology to his son, imagine the same man giving reasons to a father about why he should study the natural history of the seaside on his summer holiday instead of reading on his recliner, and you've got Glaucus. I absolutely delight in this book, but I wasn't sure what Jemimah thought, so I asked her what she thought Kingsley was teaching. She said he thought he wanted to teach people to really see. I liked that answer.

Well, that's 15 books, and I've almost run out of battery, so I'm going to stop there. I'm using an Aussie book for natural history, News from Nature, which I'll blog on another time, and we also have Signs and Seasons for astronomy, but I haven't been very diligent with this book, so I'll just ignore it here. I do hope you find this little wander through our science books for this year. There are some really inspiring treasures amongst them. Let me know what you think.




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