Classics Challenge: The Scarlet Pimpernel

I find it so odd how sometimes you know bits and pieces about a book without having any idea why. While reading through a list of "classic" books with color in the title, I was getting a bit frustrated finding one that was actually a classic (Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey has a color in it's title, No, it is NOT a classic!), that fit this challenge (delightful as Harold and the purple crayon is) and that I hadn't read before. It was getting tough. But when I read the title, The Scaret Letter, it reminded me of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I've read the former but not the latter. And I don't think I've seen the movie. But then why do I know the ditty "We seek him here, we seek him there... that damned elusive Pimpernel!?" I still have no idea! I've even watched youtube clips to see if it seems familiar but no, I've pretty sure I've never seen the movie. Culture - it's so weird!

Anyway, as delightful as the poem is, the book is more so. It's not a classic in the sense that it's a must read book for of ideas to ponder or characters you relate to for years to come. It reminds me somewhat of a Georgette Heyer book but maybe a step above it in quality (although I also find those delightful at times too). Just a fun historical fiction book perfect for a beach read or a weekend when your in bed with a bad cold. The story revolves around Marguerite, supposedly the smartest woman in France (although honestly, this is doubtful) except she's not in France, she's in England now. Add in her foppish husband Sir Percy and their tense relationship, a brother taking some risks, a dastardly French agent Chauvelin blackmailing her, the threat of the guilotin and the danger abounds. Whatever will she do and who will rescue her? Why, the Scarlet Pimpernel of course!

Since finishing it, I've realized it actually a series and I would not be opposed to reading another in the future if my light reading stack runs low.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is my Back to the Classics Challenge Classic with a Color in the Title. Go visit Books and Chocolate for more Classics Challenge reviews.


Classics Challenge: Howard's End

My first classics challenge read complete! I followed along with the Close Reads Podcast which honestly, motivated me to complete this when I don't think I would otherwise.

I originally felt hesitant because I was worried it would be dark. Anthony Hopkins just gives off that vibe I guess. That was not an issue. It's basically the story of two Romantic thinking sisters, Margaret and Helen, and their interactions with the more modern Enlightenment thinking Wilcox family. I feel like I should say more but honestly, until past the half way point, that would be my only way of describing it so anything more would be a spoiler. But I promise no hidden wives in the attic or skeletons in the closet. But I still didn't really like it - at least not until the very end.

My issues with it at the beginning were mostly the meandering and slow moving plot and the distance Forester keeps between us and the characters. There were some great quotes and ideas and I'm sure if I had a physical copy and not just an e-book, I would have be putting book darts all over the place.  But that's not enough for me. I want to me immersed in the world of the book, the people and the places and I just couldn't do with this book. Instead it's like your in a helicopter, watching these people you don't really know, not really do anything. I do think, especially after listening to the podcast, that was intentionally, but I didn't enjoy it.

Around the half way point or a little bit after that, we finally start to have some story and some sense of where the book is going. But at that point, I didn't like where it was going! The only character I had at least some sense of connection with was Margaret. And from mid-way on, I was annoyed with her - and Forester. It's not just that I didn't agree with her choices, I didn't understand why she was making them. I still don't. It didn't seem like something she would do and all the logical reasons I can think of why someone in her situation would make that choice, don't really seem to match up with what Forester is trying to say. I can not like Mr. Wilcox as a character, and I don't, but not have an issue with Forester's portrayal of him if it's real. And I have no doubt that there were men just like him in those times.  That's a different issue that the Margaret issue. And that I do think it's a failure on the book's part.  He manipulated characters for a purpose, specifically Margaret, instead of creating characters that would actually act that way.

That said, it did pick up at the end and I read the last quarter of the book quite quickly. And happily, I do feel like Margaret somewhat redeemed herself from poor choices and I was able to feel like she was acting like Margaret again. So I didn't end the book with quite the bad taste in my mouth that I had expected and I certainly enjoyed listening the David, Tim and Angelina talk about it, but it's not a heart book, I have no plans to re-read it and I will mostly likely skip watching the movie even though I had thought I would since it's available on Netflix.

Howard's End is the Back to the Classics Challenge 20th Century read.


Mason for Me - Spring 2018

So it's not technically spring quite yet but just writing a title with Spring in it has me excited. I'm so sad that February is such a hard month for homeschoolers. It's my birthday month and I wish I could say that redeems it, but it's just a hard month. And for me, it's coming on the tail end of a longer hard season (thanks to some big but happy news), so I don't have a lot of links for you. I'm really hoping, you all chime in with things that have kept you inspired over the last winter months and the ways you've kept the Mason for me concept going despite having to push through February to arrive at March! We do have a few good ones though:

Arenda over at The Upcast Eye shared her goals and some beautiful pictures of her reading journal.

I recently publish my first year 8 update which is basically just my gushing over my love of AO year 8 so far. I also included some pictures of my reading journal. Once you go look at Celeste's and Arenda's reading journal and get all inspired by the prettiness, you can come look at mine and be reminded that it doesn't have to be very pretty to work. I keep it real for y'all.

Elaine at Humble Adoration talks about reading hard books slowly. This is such an encouragement as I got to the end of 2017 and Goodreads showed me my book numbers for the last few years - and I've gone down in number of titles each year. But I know I've read harder things and learned more from them. So go slow reading!

Roots and Books shares here Back to the Classics Challenge list for 2018. I love finding other mom's merging Mother Culture with the Classics Challenge. It works well - and it can really help me if I'm stuck on a book category.

And don't forget to check out the hashtag #MasonforMe over on instagram. I love how its a mix of pretty quotes and books all laided out and then the realistic ones with computers and papers for planning and storage bin images. Isn't that just such a reflection of a Charlotte Mason homeschooling life. It's beautiful and poetic - and messy and real. Until the summer, keep reading, keep writing and keep sharing with us!


Year 8 Update #1

My first update and I'm doing so much better than I thought I would be a month ago. The year started out pretty slow. My first trimester was still bringing me down in January and all I could manage to read was the same Harry Potter books I've read multiple times before and I was worried my update would be so sad and pathetic. But not so!  I made 4 weeks my goal for the end of February but once I was able to get going with year 8, I loved it and have sped right along.  I might even have to force myself to take a break week or two in between terms to I get to some other books on my tbr pile.

Year 7 was good but very challenging and required a bit of perseverence on my part which left me feeling a bit nervous about how year 8 would be because its not just a step up but I was chosing to do a larger portion of it this time. But almost every book is just catching my attention and while I have to think, it's not the struggle that I thought year 7 was at times. Even Churchill! I get to the end of a chapter and I'm like, "Oh, I finished it already?" Part of that might be the history period. Lucy also struggled with the end of year 2 and I thought it was because I had to rely on audiobooks and didn't do as much scaffolding. I'm sure that didn't help but talking to others, I've come to see that it's just a trickier section. The War of the Roses has a lot of people in a short amount of time and keeping track is hard. Both she and I have enjoyed slowing down a bit when Henry VIII comes on to the scene. And even learning on what I had learned so far in Our Island Story, I just wasn't that familiar with early early English history. This still isn't my strongest period, my fascination with English history picks up a lot in the 18th century, but I do have a better general background to build on which helps. Or maybe I've just grown and can know more easily handle a "middle school curriculum" or I was just so desperate for some good Mother Culture after lying around for 8 weeks not being able to really do anything! Whatever the reason, I'm pleasantly surprised and enjoying my quicker pace!

I'm also really enjoying the reading journal idea I got from Celeste. Mine isn't very pretty so don't judge my crazy drawings of Luther or Henry VIII, but I know I'm getting more out of it putting things down on paper. I need to do even more of it but here's a sampling.

My century charts. These seem lower committment than my Book of Centuries so I don't hesitate to put things down as much but I'll try to work up the courage to transfer some dates over to that when I've gotten a bit more into it. 

I'll talk about books I finished as I do so or I'll forget and I want to have these notes saved for when Lucy gets closer to year 7. I've also been trying to do more written narrations (for my current self's sake) and keeping them in Evernote (for my future self's sake) I didn't break up Everyman as much as maybe I should have but I felt like I read a reasonable small portion each week and it wasn't hard so I probably will assign it in a similar fashion to my students.

I also finished A Man for All Seasons which I enjoyed. And I'm close to finishing Napoleon's Buttons early (it's from another library so my time is limited). That's the only book I'm not sure if I will include in my own students when they hit year 8. Not because it isn't good, it is. It's just more of a history of science book than a pure science book and I'm not sure if I'll want to devote space in my curriculum to that. I might talk more about that when I finish it but I also might wait and see how I feel in a few years. I tend toward the Chemistry/Physics is it's own language and deserves it's own method in the same way math does idea. 

Everything else I'm chugging along with and pretty much loving. Westward Ho started out slow for me but I know by know it's me, not it. I struggle with the old school romance adventure style stories (not to be confused with the new romance bodice rippers - which I also don't read). Henty or Ivanhoe or whatever, it's just not my genre of choice but I am coming around though and I don't think I'll be dropping this one like I did the Henty book last year.

Beowulf (technically a year 7 read but I switched it with Fierce Loves last year so I could stay with the AO forum discussion) is the surprise hit of the term. I'm loving it! I've actually done a written narration for every chapter so far. I knew the plot of the first 2/3 which was fine but I'm excited now because I have no idea what happens next!

For the other poetry selections, I started out reading the No Fear Shakespeare Sonnets after I read the original to make sure I had an inkling of what it was supposed to be about but I've stopped because I'm fine on my own. Look at me handling all the Poetry. This won't seem as big of a deal to you unless you've been around here a while but it is!

I promise I won't talk about every book but I have to include this cute little story about The History of the Candle. I'm reading each chapter and then watching the video lectures and the kids have started watching them with me. They really don't know what's happening but they like to see things explode. Jonah's even started talking in the very specific tone the presenter uses and doing experiments for me. If you watch even 30 seconds of a video you'll see what I mean about the tone. Well, today Jonah had a baggie with cheese and crackers as a snack and he stood there "You will see that I have a baggie with cheese and crackers. If the bag is closed and I squeeze it, the air moves over there and it looks similar to a balloon which you have seen before many times like at birthday parties."  He's trying to be serious but it is all I can do not to laugh because he has the tone down just right.

So that's about it for me so far. Next time I should have finished term 1 and be well on my way through term 2! I'll be posting the Mason for Me link-up shortly (Update: It's active now. Go check it out!) and I hope to hear that all your Mother (or Father!) culture work has been enjoyable and productive as well.

Oh, one more note because I've seen a question or two about it. My plans for year 8 are just the readings. I know that a Charlotte Mason education is much more than just reading and I don't want anyone who only reads these posts to think that I don't value the hymns/folks songs/artist/composer studies/nature journalling but since we are a Charlotte Mason family, that is already including in my education because its a part of our regular school day. I couldn't escape it even if I did want to! Just today my toddler who was supposed to be napping, could be overheard singing as she lay in bed "Chicken nugget, no bone, Baby sleeping, no crying, I love you, End" (Which is this if you can't speak toddler song :-).


Mother's Daybook

Feeling - Better! I'm still on both of my main hyperemesis gravidarum meds but down a bit in frequency on one and overall just feeling better and eating better. I can finally eat fruits and vegetables again after pretty much excluding them from my diet entirely for almost 8 weeks. I think the only thing keeping me from getting scurvy was the occasional cup of orange juice.

I made a big non-lettuc-y* salad intending on it lasting 2-3 meals but ate it all in one afternoon. So delicious. And its  good thing I'm feeling better and have more energy because I'm been...

*lettuce is still a bit questionable and I haven't added fresh veggie juice back yet either - baby steps!)

Dealing with - the puppy! Lizzie's here. And she's adorable. And she's a ton of work. It's like a mix of newborn and toddler rolled into one fluffy peeing machine. There's a reason she goes by Busy Lizzie.

Car ride home almost 2 weeks ago. She already looks so much bigger than that!

As far as puppies go, she's really good, very mellow, doesn't fuss in her crate, enjoys meeting new people but its crazy obnoxious jumping up or anything, loves to play outside with the kids and snuggle with me, albeit with more hand nibbling than I'm like but we're working on that and its very common is this breed. She'll learn the soft mouth soon enough but I'm pretty sure if I tried the raw egg challenge, she'd last about 2 seconds before egg was all over.

Lucy told me yesterday "I think Lizzie is the cutest and best puppy ever. The only things she does wrong are pee on the floor if we forget to watch her and bites us a lot but other than that, she's so great!"...yep, life with a golden retriever puppy.

Reading - Finally getting into my year 8 reading. It's been a slow start but I'm really loving everything so far so I think I'll be back on track soon. I'm still chugging along with Howards End but finding it odd. Not bad, just odd.

Listening - To Norah's talking. She is absolutely adorable these days. She loves my telling her bedtime stories but gets stuck on one for a while and insists on filling in the parts she knows. Right now its the three little pigs. She makes me pause so she can say "Knock, knock, knock, wittle pigs, wittle pigs, wet me come it!" and always adds "Happily ever after!" at the end. I heard her once talking to herself in bed and she was saying "happily ever after. good story! good story!" I don't know what story she told herself but she knew how to end it!

She also had picked up Tant to (Thank you) and then when I respond "You're Welcome" she adds in "I'm welcome".

She also is quick to inform me if the puppy wakes up. "Puppy sad puppy sad. Take go potty!"

Cleaning - The Entire house! I've never been one with a firm housecleaning routine. I do the basics consistently and the other stuff when I notice it needs it. Sometimes I've tried a strict schedule and it doesn't work and I worry I'm missing something or doing it wrong. But its clear that what I was doign was working because I can see such a difference when I stopped doing it for 2 months! Craig has done a fantastsic job at keeping up with dishes and laundry and basics while also working full time and taking over dinner and kid duties as soon as he comes home so I can rest. But he's only one guy. Emphasis on both ONE and GUY. Now that I'm feeling a bit better, the things I let slide are starting to drive me crazy! I'm slowly working on getting us back and ship-shape. It's gonna take a while.