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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Best of Mt. Hope Chronicles ~ Camp Avonlea

The Best of

In honor of the passing of Jonathan Crombie, it is only fitting that I re-publish this post from the archives. I first shared pictures from my sister Shannon’s Camp Avonlea back in August 2008. Shannon now lives at Camp Avonlea and has a daughter named Rilla.  

Shannon, you do know that I fully expect you to re-create this for Lola, Rilla, and baby girl, right?!

Camp Avonlea ~ The Best of Mt. Hope Chronicles 

~Camp Avonlea~

Artistic Camp for Young Ladies


You've all seen what Boy Camp looks like in our lives. Drake (my nephew) has tagged along for the last two years. This time, it was his sister's turn. Ilex was one of four girls attending Camp Avonlea this week. (Heather's daughter was also in attendance!)

I've bragged about my sister Shannon before. Her shop. Her entertaining. Her home. She's done it again, hostessing the camp she wishes she could have attended as a young lady (and as an Anne of Green Gables-obsessed, artistic/creative girl).

Camping (4 days) in a large white tent, nestled in the garden. Poet's Garden, reinvented. Shannon as camp counselor. Dreamy, is it not?


I swear, I wish I was 12 again! (Who in their right mind would wish that?!)

While the original music score from the Anne of Green Gables movie played through outdoor speakers, the girls chose camp names for themselves: all characters from the Anne of Green Gables books. [P.S. If you’ve never seen the first two movies (Anne of Green Gables and the sequel), stop whatever you are doing and watch them. They are my most favorite movies of all time.]

And what to do for four days? Why, art, of course: living an artful life. Multiple classes each day including watercolor, scrap booking, jewelry making, gardening, and flower arranging. A nature hike at McDowell Creek Park providing collections for nature art. The girls created cards in the first few hours of their first day at camp, invitations sent to their mothers for a tea party on the last day of camp. Artful baking, decorating, and hostessing.

What do you think of the art room?




You might well ask what *I* had to do with any of this. (Particularly with a house-full of boys.) Other than the fact that I am a girl who is starting to feel that side of me ebb slowly from existence...... I (you may call me Miss Stacy) was asked to teach a two-hour photography class on the first afternoon of camp.

We sat on a quilt in the garden discussing photography tips. We then hunted through magazines (Victoria and Real Simple), cutting out pictures that inspired us. After that, we were ready to practice taking pictures!

What do you do at Poet's when you want to take a picture from a new perspective? Climb a tree!


I had just as much fun taking pictures as the girls did!



 

Ilex, above, snacked on an apple off the tree as she practiced her photography. The girls, below, intent on their watercoloring:



A couple snapshots of the end of camp tea party. The girls created place cards and party favor bouquets. They picked wild plums and blackberries to add to a fruit salad, cherry tomatoes from the garden, and herbs to flavor the cucumber sandwiches. Lavender lemonade was delightfully refreshing. The girls served scones with Devonshire cream and blueberry tea for dessert. We ate while they recited The Lady of Shallot. (They each chose portions to memorize.)


The art work created during camp (watercolors, scrapbook notebooks, and jewelry) was on display in the art room.



I think the girls had a wonderful time!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Have courage. Be kind.

Have courage. Be kind. @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Our family took a much-needed outing this afternoon. We first watched Cinderella before it was gone from the theaters. Then we bought fresh bread at Great Harvest and followed up our snacking with a restful walk around a local park called Talking Water. All-in-all, it was a life-giving few hours.

Before we left, I told Lola to get dressed. I picked out some clothes for her, but she spied her blue princess dress and insisted. She didn’t even know we were headed out to watch Cinderella. I thought her choice of clothing appropriate, so out she went in her princess dress.

The movie was so lovely. Have you watched it? You should. I cannot do it justice, but I’ll share other reviews that come much closer.

:: The Audacity of Cinderella @ The Rabbit Room 

Cinderella’s tale of redemption is found in countries all over the world. She has different names, and the details change, but the same basic plot is there. Why is that? Why is humanity so driven to create, to tell, to retell this story? Maybe it’s because we are tired of sleeping in the cinders. Maybe it’s because we are all sore from evil stepsisters and from grieving the losses of old comforts. Maybe it’s because we haven’t been courageous or kind, and we wish that we would have been.

:: Fr. Barron on ‘Cinderella’ @ Word on Fire

I’ll share pictures of our walk in the next post.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Navigating the World of Teen Reading

Honey for a Teen's Heart Review @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

My history with Honey for a Child's Heart goes all the way back to second grade. My teacher shared the resource with my mom, and it became my mom’s go-to book when searching for good literature selections for us girls all through our childhood. I purchased my own copy (an updated edition) eight years ago. It is still one of my favorite resources when I need to be encouraged and inspired to share good books with my children.

I purchased Honey for a Woman's Heart: Growing Your World through Reading Great Books the same year. It has a different format from Honey for a Child’s Heart. Rather than sharing her own list of recommended books and authors, Gladys Hunt asked other women to share their favorites, and the recommendations are sprinkled throughout the book as Hunt inspires us to read widely. This book reminds me why I love my ChocLit Guild book club so dearly. There is nothing like reading in community with friends who are also lovers of the written word!

Having read both the child’s and woman’s editions, I had been putting off purchasing Honey for a Teen's Heart, not knowing how much it would add to the conversation about books. But a funny thing happened this past year: I became the parent of a teen. And because my newly-minted teen has now been a voracious reader of chapter books for more than six years, he has read an insane number of the good books available and appropriate for children AND he is capable of reading challenging books.

Teen-hood is a time to start branching out a bit. Rather than sticking with “safe” books, I want Levi to start reading books with more challenging ideas and learning to think and discern and discuss. But that also doesn’t mean I want him to walk into the young adult section of the library and sit down to the buffet without any parental guidance.

As it turns out, I have no idea where to go from here and I need guidance in order to practice good parental guidance! I know some classics such as Dickens, Hugo, Austen, and Dumas. But I also know that Levi’s reading needs to be wider and more varied than classics and than my own teen reading. It certainly doesn’t help me any that Levi’s genre of choice is fantasy, which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, my forte.

So I purchased Honey for a Teen’s Heart, hoping that it would give me inspiration as well as tools to help me facilitate a rich reading experience for Levi.

It’s perfect in every way.

The author ties together all of the ideas that have been floating around in my brain this past year—about parenting teens, choosing good literature, reading stories, asking questions, and learning in the dialectic stage.

I would like to review this one in depth for those of you as curious about the contents as I was.

In the first chapter, Hunt again shares the benefits and wonders of reading and sharing life through books, but she also gives great parenting wisdom and insight into teens and the culture that surrounds us.

“Adolescents coming into their teenage years send out two conflicting messages: (1) ‘Leave me alone and I’ll make my own decisions,’ and (2) ‘Please help me; I feel very vulnerable.’ Which message will you listen to?”

In the second chapter, Hunt talks briefly about imagination and the screens and electronics that compete for our teens’ attention before moving on to what makes a good book in chapter three.

“Fiction is not untrue just because it is called fiction. Good fiction contains truth. It is not the Truth, but it serves as a signpost to the Truth, to the reality of God, and of our need for redemption.”

“The story may take us on adventures or introduce us to people not remotely related to our lives. Nevertheless, because people are the same on the inside and have to make the same kind of choices, the story teaches us truth, both about the differences in God’s created world and the commonalities of human experience. Good fiction does not always have a happy ending, but it always shows possibilities of how to act or resolve the conflict. It ends with hope, with some possible good in sight, some redeeming vision.”

“A story of despair is different from a tragedy. Some facet of human values, some meaning is always present in the great tragedies of literature…And, in contrast to the literature of despair, people in tragedies are ‘choosers,’ not hapless victims.”

And she quotes Katherine Paterson:

“Hope is a yearning, rooted in reality, that pulls us toward the radical biblical vision of a world where truth and justice and peace do prevail, a time in which the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, a scene which finds humanity…walking together by the light of God’s glory. Now there’s a happy ending for you. The only purely happy ending I know of.”

She ties in what we’ve been talking about the past few months with The Lost Tools of Writing:

“Good fiction can’t help having an ethical dimension. Everything we do means something. Fiction should teach us on many levels. At least it should help us evaluate truth in the context of life.”

And she speaks out against poorly-written “safe” books.

“[L]iterature…should be unconsciously, rather than deliberately and defiantly, Christian…Too often the Christian worldview is packaged as propaganda, rather than a well-written story that engages the mind and asks questions rather than giving answers. Sometimes our standards are not high enough; we are content with books that don’t say anything really important but seem safe.”

Chapter four covers how to use books to talk about values and touches on the concept we cover with Deconstructing Penguins and Teaching the Classics—there is a mystery in every book, the hidden ideas that the author is trying to convey.

“The story demands a question. As more complex novels and stories are read, the reading demands a question so that it can make sense…You have the enjoyment of a good story, plus the inner delight of understanding what it is about…No one will really be a good reader without learning how to ask questions about what has been read. A young person may read the words flawlessly, but reading is getting the meaning behind the words. It is not so much learning to read as it is learning to think.”

Yes!

“A book is a story about someone else. If it is a good book it gives perspective on what life is all about, about ways to act, ways to think, choices to make. What we are looking for is the ability to ask questions about what we read to discover what is true.”

Hunt follows this with specific questions to ask of the story that fall under three categories: let the story answer questions, question the story with your theology or belief system, and question the writing style of the book.

“A story tells the truth when we understand that this is the way things may happen, when it exposes the consequences of choices. It tells a greater truth when it gives us new insights into why things happen that way and shows us what we may have believed to be vaguely true but had never put into words. Then the story qualifies as great literature and helps us clarify and interpret life.”

Censoring books is the next topic, and I think this is an important one.

“No book will hurt you if you know how to evaluate it and have developed a principled and moral life view. If teens lack the principles to protect themselves, then no rules can keep them safe, because there is too much “out there” with destructive potential. Rules like ‘Don’t read that; don’t go there; don’t do that’—are never as effective in guarding life as an inner decision to choose what is good. In the end, the only discipline that really works is self-discipline.”

A reader also needs to be willing to see layers in a story.

“Many well-intentioned people want to protect their children by giving them only books in which the message is flatly and firmly evident…In good writing, the morality of a story is not laid on top of the narrative; it is woven into the fabric of the story so that whatever is true comes out of the characters’ actions and the plot of the story. In a fallen world, people are mixtures of good and evil, not one or the other, and the plot of any story should reveal this complexity.”

Chapter five briefly covers profanity and crude speech in books.

Chapter six is my most favorite chapter of all, alone worth the price of the book. Hunt discusses building a Christian world/life view in the context of literature. This is what was missing in my other resources (though Center for Lit does publish a Worldview Detective curriculum that looks fantastic). We know how to plot the elements of a story and discover a theme. We know how to ask questions about a character’s actions. But I have no experience with or talent for asking the right questions about a book’s worldview, nor am I well-versed in the different worldview possibilities. Hunt covers it all in this comprehensive chapter.

On a “Christian Veneer” and the difference between indoctrination and life-building:

“[B]uilding a life is different from being indoctrinated. Indoctrination is instruction in the fundamentals of a certain point of view. It does not necessarily mean learning how to think or even how to act. Instead it may mean conforming to a standard. What happens on the outside is not necessarily what is happening on the inside…Smugness is one of the ugly fruits of indoctrination.”

“[The Pharisees] didn’t like questions; they already had all the answers. Nor were they seeking truth; they lived by their traditions. When Jesus asked questions about their beliefs, they ran him out of town.”

“Truth is strengthened, not weakened, by asking questions about it.”

The author begins in Genesis and shares ideas and questions for discussion. She also gives seven specific questions that a worldview should answer before summarizing seven popular worldviews including Deism, Existentialism, and Nihilism and listing examples of books with those worldviews. This is a meaty section of the book, and worthy reading.

Hunt spends a full chapter (seven) on the topic of fantasy, which I obviously appreciate. She quotes Susan Cooper:

“There are no longer any sacred festivals in the American calendar, religious or otherwise; there are only celebrations of commerce. We don’t have heroes; we have celebrities.”

And more…

“Imagination is one of the chief glories of being created human, in the image of God. No other created being can imagine things that can’t be seen and then make connections between what is visible and what is invisible. For Christians, whose most important investment is in the invisible, the imagination is of greatest importance.”

“Good writers define reality; bad ones merely restate it. A good writer writes what he believes to be true; a bad writer puts down what he believes that his readers should believe to be true. Good writers write about the eternal questions; inferior writers deny the eternal.”

Hunt doesn’t stop there. Chapter eight covers how to read the Bible with teens, beginning with helping them to see the overall structure of the Bible.

In chapter nine, she briefly introduces readers to various genres of books and shares a small handful of her favorites in each category, expanding a bit on the category of Poetry.

Chapter ten addresses the college-bound teen. Hunt includes a list of twenty important books that should be in a teen’s “reservoir” and make an ideal starting place for a “catch-up” list. Cultural literacy plays a big part in a student’s ability to understand what he or she reads.

“In urging teens to read books, it is not that books are so important that they must read them. It is rather because they are so important that they must read them, because we want to make their lives as rich as possible.”

The second half of the book contains the book lists. I am thrilled that the author has labeled each book to indicate the age for which it is intended (early teens, mid teens, late teens, and all ages). There is a huge difference between thirteen year olds and eighteen year olds, so I’m grateful that she has made those distinctions.

There are four hundred books listed with full paragraph+ descriptions and notes of recommendation (including themes, questions to ask, and worldview comments). The lists are divided into genres of adventure and suspense, contemporary, fantasy, historical, mystery, nonfiction, science fiction, sports, and “tried and true” (classics and modern classics).

Longer author reviews are sprinkled throughout the annotations. Hunt has chosen significant authors that readers are less likely to be familiar with and gives us more extensive information about their lives, books, and worldviews.

The book ends with a chapter listing a few books by theme for quick reference (romance, geographical region, racial issues, laughter, death and grief, when life isn’t perfect, and more). The back of the book contains a glossary of literary and worldview terms as well as an index for both authors and book titles for easy reference.

I don’t know what more I could have asked for. I’ve already purchased several books on her list, many of which I was not familiar with, which surprised and excited me.

Five stars.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Little Sunshine

Recess @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[For honesty’s sake, this was a little sunshine on an otherwise difficult and frustrating day.]

I thought the above picture a little funny with the bus driving by, and all.

The motor bike is Leif’s usual choice of recess activity. His and Luke’s. Down the driveway, back up, into the yard, up the hill, around the trees, and back down again. Sometimes around the house. Today was beautiful, so he spent quite a bit of time out there. Yes, he’s wearing gloves. No, it wasn’t that cold.

Leif @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I posted a super short video of him riding over on Facebook.

Dirt Bike Trail at Mt. Hope Chronicles

In the afternoon, Luke grabbed a cookbook off the shelf, read through it, picked a recipe, and asked if he could make oatmeal craisin cookies. I decided he could do it completely on his own, and he did—with a little help from Leif and Lola. I’m trying to eat healthy and I don’t even like oatmeal cookies, but the aroma was so delicious I had to try one. He gets an A+ for this independent project, and I think I’ll let him do more baking from now on!

Independent Learning at Mt. Hope Chronicles

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ilex

Happy Birthday Ilex

Long-time blog readers have had the chance to watch my niece grow up over the years—from age eleven to age fourteen to her senior year of high school (and many pictures in between). She turns nineteen today. [not possible]

She has maintained a 4.0 grade average for the past two years of college (after homeschooling the previous seven years) and has just been selected for an academic award! I’m so proud of her!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Food for Thought ~ On Science

Food for Thought ~ Science @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

:: On the Strange Squid Near at Hand @ Dappled Things

[Love, LOVE this one on education. GO READ IT.]

"So it can hardly be denied that the squid is an interesting animal. What then? What is the value of considering this animal, if any, beyond satisfying the particular interests of the biologist? Perhaps the first thing to note is that whether or not we see the point, as non-specialists, of studying the squid, we are inevitably drawn, upon observing it, to ask questions. “What is it? How does it live?” we wonder. “Why is it?” we may even be tempted to ask. But such questioning, inevitable as it is, is a complicated matter. We bring all sorts of assumptions into the asking, and even more into the act of investigating. When we attempt to understand a thing we are assuming much about its nature, our own, and that of the entire cosmos. Good questioners that we are, we must not leave our questioning itself unconsidered."

:: Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous @ The Washington Post

[This post is fantastic!]

The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

:: What is Science? @ The Imaginative Conservative

One disastrous consequence of this reductionist view of science is the separation of cleverness from wisdom. Once physics is divorced from metaphysics it is no longer able to make moral or ethical judgments. Liberated from theology and philosophy, which are no longer considered sciences, the new truncated “science,” more properly called scientism, can be put to the service of damnable endeavours. The list of such endeavours, clever but lacking in wisdom, includes the guillotine, the gas chamber, the atomic bomb, nerve gas, biological weapons, and abortion technology.

:: Why I’m a Man of Science—and Faith @ National Geographic

"At the most fundamental level, it’s a miracle that there’s a universe at all. It’s a miracle that it has order, fine-tuning that allows the possibility of complexity, and laws that follow precise mathematical formulas. Contemplating this, an open-minded observer is almost forced to conclude that there must be a “mind” behind all this. To me, that qualifies as a miracle, a profound truth that lies outside of scientific explanation." -Francis Collins, interviewed in National Geographic Magazine.

:: Science Narrows in on Imagination @ The Imaginative Conservative

"This new scientific wisdom points the way forward, to imagination and creativity now, and eternity later. Our creativity, now, mimics that of God, in the past and future beyond the limits of Time, for that is His plan and is how we are made. Since all this is beyond mere measurement, it is beyond the limits of science and the comfort zone of most scientists—and best we do not tell them, for it would confuse and upset the poor dears. Instead, let us be grateful."

:: Believing in Science by David Hicks @ CiRCE

[go read this one!]

:: Watch Corals [and other slow life] Move in Timelapse Video @ Mental Floss.

The video at this link is gorgeous!

:: Simplifying science and embarking on nature journaling @ Nicole V. Bennett

[I love their journals! I’ll be posting more journaling resources and inspiration in a separate book post.]

:: Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why? @ nprEd

[On asking questions and seeking answers]

The researchers were surprised to learn that curious brains are better at learning not only about the subject at hand but also other stuff — even incidental, boring information.

:: Ready for Take-Off: Teens Pilot Airplanes in New York City @ Science Friday

[Well, this is one incredible way to increase curiosity!]