26 Mar 2015

A look back at AO8 Term1

In two days we'll be finished AO8 term one. How can that possibly be?  It has been a good term, did you hear that, a good term.  I feel a need to reiterate that fact, because my posts at the beginning of term were filled with how hard we were finding things, how difficult the readings were, and how we were failing to understand.  I'm here to comfort you a little today by saying that it really did get easier, we actually started to like - and understand the books, and we actually had some fun along the way.

Here, subject by subject, is what we thought of the books:

Bible and Theology

Our book this term was The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.  It was okay. It was an easy read, which is nice, but I prefer to read all the theology books aloud to my daughter so that we can discuss them, so this doesn't matter much to us. Jemimah does her Bible reading privately in her room each day before class, so our weekly theology lesson is an opportunity for me to touch base with her, hear her thoughts on her readings, and also discuss a little bit more about our faith and what we believe.

I say The Case for Christ was okay, and it was. The book is the story of author, Lee Strobel's attempt to "determine if there's credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God", and I thing he does manage to establish his case, but it appeared to be a book written for skeptics, and neither Jemimah nor I felt the need for this intellectual defence of our faith at this stage. That said, he did put forward a reasonable argument, and we both learned a few things.


This is our second year using Churchill's series, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, and in AO8 we're using Volume Two, The New World. Jemimah prefers that I divide these readings into daily portions instead of reading a whole chapter at once, and so I did that again this year, but I'm not sure that it was really necessary.  This book seems much easier to understand than Volume One, mainly, I think, because Churchill spends more time on each king, and we are more familiar with the stories of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I than we are with some of the earlier monarchs.  Anyhow, whatever the reason, Jemimah finds this book interesting, and fairly easy to keep sorted.

In addition to the book, Jemimah kept a Century Chart, which went particularly well. I'll try to post picks of the finished object shortly.  She also maintained her Book of Centuries.  I'm sure these also played a role in keeping the 16th Century organised in her mind.

The play, A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt, has been turned into a terrific movie of the same name, and so I scheduled this for our first day back at school.  I'm really glad I did.  The production really set the scene so very well, and certainly brought Sir Thomas More to life for us. Later Jemimah and I chose to read this play aloud, each playing different roles.  It was a lot of fun.  This book is full of the most amazing quotes.  Keep your Commonplace Book handy.

And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

(A Man for All Seasons, Act One, Scene Seven)
Life of Francis Bacon by William Rawley is really short.  It is written in convoluted language, but Jemimah didn't seem to have trouble comprehending it, mainly I think because it was scheduled for the last four weeks of term when her mind was better attuned to the Elizabethan style.  This short work seemed to produce excellent written narrations, possibly because it was short enough to be able to summarise without much difficulty.

I was dreading The Voyage of the Armada by David Howarth, to be honest - my dance-loving daughter read a whole long boring book about a sea battle - seriously?  Fortunately, I didn't admit my reservations to Jemimah, because this book is one of her favourites.  She is absolutely intrigued by Parma's no-show, and has really cast him in the bad guy role, although she is not too fond of the Spanish King, either. This book continues on into Term II, but since the Battle of Gravelines is the next chapter, she hasn't got far to go now.  This book has turned out to be one of the pleasant surprises in Term I.


I dropped the geography titles on Columbus this term in favour of an Aussie title, Around Australia by prolific author, Charles Barrett.  I'll write about this book separately, I think, but it was pretty good, although it required a lot of updating. We haven't done Aussie geography for a few years, so I think this was a good substitution.

For map drills, Jemimah has been enjoying the free app recommended by AO, TapQuiz. She concentrated on the Pacific and South East Asia this term, and found it fun.

Government and Economics

I was uncertain of how relevant Whatever Happened to Justice, by Richard Maybury, would be for my Aussie daughter, but we've found enough of interest to choose to continue with it this far. Some of the early chapters had a great deal of overlap with Bacon's Utopia, which we are reading at the same time, and Jemimah has written some excellent 'compare and contrast' type essays using these two titles.  It's a really easy read, but Maybury's one-eyed opinion of America as the greatest place on earth gets a little waring after a while if you're not American and you happen to think that your own country is pretty wonderful as well.


Ourselves by Charlotte Mason has continued on from last year.  It's the easiest of her volumes, being written for young teens, but Jemimah and I certainly find a lot to discuss each time she reads it. Speaking about character like this allows us to discuss our own characters in an impersonal way that is not threatening and I am really impressed with my daughter's insight into her own personality and behaviour.

On to Plutarch. You should be afraid when I say that Plutarch's Lives has been a doddle this term, because...well...Plutarch used to be so hard, so what is our definition of hard now?  Well our definition of hard is our next two Citizenship titles, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, and Francis Bacon's Essays.

I read the first of these aloud to Jemimah this term, and Book One, in particular was extremely difficult to comprehend.  Read almost impossible. Still, we ploughed on, some weeks understanding more than others.  The bits we did understand were fabulous, and made us persevere, but there were lots of other parts that were just a jumble of words.  There are a few reasons for our problems, and most of these have to do with our choice of book.  Our volume is an old one, written in Elizabethan English with almost no paragraphs.  Really.  As in one every twenty pages or so. And those paragraphs were made up of really long run-on sentences about all sorts of philosophical stuff. AO now recommends a modern version - with paragraphs - translated by Paul Turner, so hopefully you won't have the same problems we've had. Fortunately, while the first book is all about three friends who meet up in Antwerp and have a really long chat about whether or not it's possible for philosophy to influence politics, Book Two is all about the mythical (only the men don't know its mythical) island of Utopia. This book covers each characteristic of Utopia individually - its geography, history cities, food, clothing, work, studies, religion, laws, holidays, and more, and it is truly fascinating. Some parts of Utopia sound wonderful - short work days, no money, no pride, no poverty, no dissatisfaction, other parts are not quite so good. Neither Jemimah and I think we would cope so well with all those rules, to begin with.

Anyhow, all I can say about Utopia is that it is worth persevering, even if at first you don't understand much at the start.  If you really, really have trouble, try jumping ahead to Book Two.  It's much easier, and you can always go back and read Book One at the end.  That's, in fact, the way More wrote it, so I'm sure there are valid reasons for reading it in that order as well.  And use Turner's translation, or at least one with paragraphs.

I wrote about Francis Bacon's Essays here, and how we chose to deal with this super-challenging text. Now, only a couple of months later, I am delighted to say that Jemimah has enjoyed her paraphrasing of these essays more than any other subject this term.  I've been posting them online, and I'm sure you'll agree, she's done a sterling job of them. The final essay for the term, Of Friendship is by far the longest she has attempted yet, but I'm sure you'll agree that her paraphrase of this one is her best so far.  I'll post it when she's done.

Just briefly back to Plutarch, it really is easy now.  I write a bit about that here.

Phew!  Still with me?  If you are, and you're finding this useful, do let me know, and I'll continue with our thoughts about the rest of AO8 Term I's books next time. And if not, it has been really helpful for me.


  1. Yes....I love these kinds of posts! I love being able to have a bit of a peek at what lies ahead for us (my oldest is currently in Y3)....especially since I am unfamiliar with many of the upper level books.

  2. I love these posts as well, though they make me a bit scared. In Year 0, Year 3 looked scary, so I know we'll get there!

  3. Me too. Useful and inspiring. Lots of work you've done for us who are in lower years.
    Congrats to both of you.
    (I found The Case for Christ at the last library sale and read a bit and your review was spot on).

  4. Yes! Do go on!! Please!

    I am planning AOY8 right now and am trying to get up some enthusiasm. Your review is very, very encouraging.

  5. Yes, I find it extremely useful. Please do keep posting.

    How many of the readings do you do with Jemima for Year 8? Besides Theology and Plutarch?

  6. Yes, more of these posts please! Question: have you read Plato's Republic and if so how is it compared with Utopia? thanks

  7. Well informed post. My favourite type of post too. You get us up and coming ones, well prepared. Thank you for that.

  8. We are nowhere near Y8 yet, but I do love reading your posts, Jeanne. They give me lots and lots of ideas that I tuck away in files for the future. So yes, please - do go on! I love it.

  9. I definitely appreciate this post! I'll begin planning for Y8 at the end of April and starting it at the beginning of August. Any glimpses into what I'll be encountering are extremely helpful. Thank you!

  10. Yes, please go on, Jeanne, it is so interesting to hear what you've been up to, and helpful, too, add others have said.

  11. So glad you posted this! We will be doing year 8 next school year and I have been nervous.

  12. It is very helpful -- I'm starting to plan year 8 and I love the encouragements as well as the heads-up on a few things. I had a question: did you watch the play before reading A Man for All Seasons? Looking forward to your next post!

  13. I read every word - and am looking back at it again now as I am penciling in our own year 8. Thank you, and please continue!


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