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

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.





Bad selfies

Posted by Jeanne

So it's official. Sarah and I are Selfie Failures.

We tried close-up.

And further away.

And with a nice background.

And without. (Why do I look like I have a wall eye here?)

Sarah is actually very beautiful, but even I look marginally better than this in reality. Sigh. Anyhow, we did get together, we did eat cake, and we did have fun. Sarah is a great mama, and a lovely friend.

No books today, because it's the Lord's Day. Tomorrow, I hope.



Day 1

Posted by Jeanne


So today I saw these beautiful paintings; works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez and Van Dyck, right here in Melbourne at the National Gallery of Victoria's Masterpieces from the Hermitage exhibition. It was quite overwhelmingly marvellous. Some of my favourites are here. Like?




Then my beautiful friend and I had a Devonshire Tea, followed by lemon tart. As you do...or should.

Then I went and bought a book, just one, Susan Wise Bauer's new title, The Story of Science. I'd never heard of it. Have you? Heard anything about it?

Then I has pizza. Capricciosa with pineapple. I wonder if I would eat this badly if I lived alone? Anyhow, it was yummy.

I am now drinking tea.

Thank you for chatting with me today. It was fun. What have you done today? What are you having for dinner? Do you like pizza? Would you cook if you were home alone?



Home Alone Mother Culture

Posted by Jeanne

Today Jemimah and her daddy leave for the snow, an event that marks the beginning of my annual (except for last year) Home Alone Mother Culture Week. Yippee!!! Can you tell how excited I am?

Above, you'll see the impressive pile of books I've packed for the week. The pile is that large for variety - I need exactly-the-book-I'm-feeling-like-right-now - this week, so I had to pack a lot to ensure heterogeneity and flexibility. Ahem.

There's no way I'm going to get through that pile, because I have lots of other delicious things scheduled for my Home Alone Mother Culture Week as well as reading. Here's the list so far. What should I add?

:: A visit to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Masterpieces from the Hermitage exhibition with a friend from Uni days (that's thirty years, people).

:: A sleepover with my BFF with Thai food, champagne, chocolate, shopping and chat. K loves clothes shopping, so that should be...um...interesting. I haven't seen her for three years.

:: A different secondhand book shop every day, plus visits to Readings and Hill of Content.

:: Indulgent 'meals for one' of my favourite cheeses with crackers and fruit. Okay, and maybe something bubbly. I cannot lie.

:: An afternoon at Aurora Spa. Think massage, facial, pedicure...

:: Time to write some blog posts. It's been so long, friends, so long.

:: Coffee dates with Daughter of Eve, and with Sarah.

:: A performance of 20:21 by The Australian Ballet.

:: A movie marathon of Studio Ghibli films.

:: Sleeeeeeeeeep

What would you do if you were home alone for a week? Does my plan sound good to you? What should I add? Leave out? Do you want me to post pics of my book treasures? Let me know. I'd love a good old fashioned blog chatter. Nobody comments on blog posts anymore, do they. Sigh.




More wattle

Posted by Jeanne



Hello, friends, how was your Monday?

We went back into the bush today to see if more wattle was flowering, so that I could show you our beautiful Australian glory, but I'm still too early. Maybe next week. Sigh. It's sooooo hard to be patient, sometimes.


In other news, the Egg and Bacon (Gorse Bitter Pea) is starting to bloom. It is going to be so lovely here in a couple of weeks. I can't wait for you to see.

What is flowering where you live?



Thoreau on education

Posted by Jeanne

I am reading Walden for the first time, and this is almost is impossible to do without my commonplace book beside me. Which it is not. This is what I would be writing into it, if it were:

The student who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure fruitful. "But," says one, "you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?" I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? Methinks this would exercise their minds as much as mathematics. If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and sciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where anything is professed and practised but the art of life; — to survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned; to discover new satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devoured by the monsters that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters in a drop of vinegar. Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month — the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this — or the boy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the meanwhile, and had received a Rodgers' penknife from his father? Which would be most likely to cut his fingers?... To my astonishment I was informed on leaving college that I had studied navigation! — why, if I had taken one turn down the harbor I should have known more about it.




Golden wattle

Posted by Jeanne

The Golden Wattle has started to flower in our local bushland. So far there are only a few plants in bloom, but there are so many bushes just filled with buds, and it is going to be quite a sight to behold in a few weeks.

The Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha, is Australia's floral emblem, and its appearance, for me, marks the start of the floral abundance of spring. Just seeing these few flowers today makes me joyful!


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