Friday, March 24, 2017

Art Study: Winslow Homer

This month we studied Winslow Homer, one of my favorite American painters.  He lived by the sea, and he painted many beautiful seascapes, which goes well with our sea and exploration year.  Today we attempted a watercolor project based on Homer.  Well, it was tedious, and there were a lot of complaints; but, as always, it was fun to see the end results.  

This first one is my youngest, age 8:

This glittery one is my 12 year old:

This one is mine.  I tried to do the tissue paper clouds in watercolor, but we ended up with cotton ball clouds.  It goes with the 3-D effect.

And this is my 9-year old.  He asked me if he could make it a pirate ship, with aliens and sharks.  So you have to know that we have been reading about pirates and sharks.  But the aliens are purely my son's wild imagination.  I am sure Homer would be beside himself to see aliens beaming up sharks and pirates in a watercolor inspired by him.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Art Study: Joseph M W Turner

For the last few weeks, we've been studying the beautiful paintings of English Romanticist artist, Joseph M. W. Turner.  I watched the 2014 film, Mr. Turner (without my kids).  Yeah, don't watch that with your kids.  Too many adult themes.  But it would have been wonderful to share it with them so they could see his character and his works.  It makes the artist come alive, if done well, to see a film. version.

Joseph M W Turner painted for the emotion and experience of the landscape or seascape; it was not necessarily the details he captured.  You can feel the radiance of the sun and the warmth of the humidity and the mist from the fog.  

Turner painted a lot of paintings, which he left most to his country.  But gratefully we got to see a few at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.  

Today we attempted to paint (using watercolor) several Turner paintings.  It was not as easy as expected.  

First we started with a light sketch.

And then we painted as best we could.  

Go ahead and laugh.  We did.

The girls painted this one:

Windsor Castle from the Thames

Sophia, age 12

Eva, age 8
My son chose this one: 

Ullswater, Cumberland

Vin, age 9
And I chose this one.  I love, love, love this one:

Rain Steam and Speed The Great Western Railway


 After this exercise, I declared that we all need watercolor painting lessons.  Especially me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous
Rudyard Kipling
Published 1897

I have not read any Rudyard Kipling until now.  This month the kids and I are studying poetry by Kipling, and to accompany our theme, I chose Captains Courageous, for literature.  Ugh!  It left my tongue in knots.  The dialogue is spoken in different voices, not only with seamen lingo, but also using accents from different parts of the country and world.  I never warmed up to it.

Aside from that, the plot involves a 15-year old spoiled brat, Harvey, who is babied by his mother and neglected by his father, a wealthy railroad man.  Harvey falls from a steamship into the ocean on his way to Europe and is rescued by fishermen off the New England coast.  He demands, in typical fashion, to be immediately returned to shore; but this is only where his adventures and life lessons begin.

After a season aboard the fishing schooner with the fishermen who rescued him, Harvey does acquire a different view of the world and learns how to maintain respectful relationships with others. He now understands the benefits of hard work and earning his keep.  It was a quick way to turn a feeble boy into a courageous young man. 

When finally the schooner returns to land, Harvey contacts his parents, and they are soon by his side. They hardly recognize this mature, self-controlled, compassionate young man.  In addition, his father learns a lesson as well: he was all wrong in his parenting, or lack thereof; from now on things are going to be different between Father and son, for good.  


In addition to Captains Courageous, we have been reading out of Poetry for Young People Rudyard Kipling.  We do enjoy his poetry very much.  Father and son relationships were obviously very important to the poet.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson

For enrichment last month, we read Robert Louis Stevenson for poetry.  Wow!  I loved his children's poems because they were so innocent and sweet and true.  The author must have retained his youthful imagination his whole life.  We read numerous poems from A Child's Garden of Verses.

Then for literature - and sticking with our nautical/explorer theme - the obvious choice was Treasure Island.  This was my first introduction to the children's classic.  (Now I know where Long John Silver comes from!) This was not as exciting for me as it was for my kids.  I appreciated the rich vocabulary, and the plot reminded me of Charles Dickens' style of twists and knots, which was acceptable to a degree; but I was confused at times.  (My kids had to explain it to me.)  Nonetheless, the content was agreeable to my kids, and they were interested in the plight and condition of the characters and the direction of the plot.  

Most people already know the story of Treasure Island; hence I am more interested in proclaiming that reading it to my children was an absolute success.  They loved it.  This story is perfect for young imaginative minds, drawn to adventure and danger.  It was truly exciting for them.    

Long John Silver leading the hostage Jim Hawkins,
N.C.Wyeth, 1911

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

I, Juan de Pareja
Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

Part of enrichment this year, we are reading about artists.  This month we studied Diego Velásquez.  This children's novel, I, Juan de Pareja, is about life with the painter, told through the narration of his African slave/assistant, Juan de Pareja.  The author took the liberty of improvising details of Velásquez's personal and private life, creating a warm and tender story.  

It begins shortly before Velásquez acquired Juan as his slave and ends after Juan gained his freedom some time before Velásquez died.  While many details are unknown, it is true that Velásquez gave Juan his freedom.  It is also believable that Velásquez was a good-hearted man and that he had a genuine and amiable relationship with Juan, who later worked as Diego's assistant by choice.  

Velásquez painted de Pareja in 1650, the same year he painted Pope Innocent X.

Juan de Pareja
After the death of Velásquez, a red cross of the Order of Santiago was added to his chest in the painting Las Meninas.  Some say it was painted there by King Philip IV, who had retained Velásquez as his court painter and curator for many years; but the author considered that Juan de Pareja may have had something to do with the red cross, by request of the King; we just do not know.  

What we do know is that Velasquez was a humble, gentle man, and one of Europe's greatest masters of art.  This is definitely a worthy read, peeking into the life of the artist and covering the issues, such as slavery, facing Europe during this time period. 

Detail of Velásquez self-portrait, Las Meninas

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hiking Ice House Canyon Trail on Election Day. Caution: Liberal Triggering Ahead

I am grateful we did this strenuous hike on Election Day.  Every four years I am sick to my stomach, and this election was no different.  Four years ago I cried my eyes out because Obama was reelected (except I forgot to throw a temper tantrum, destroy private and public property, block traffic, and protest the democratic outcome).  Instead, my family lost our health plan and were forced to pay more for a plan we did not want.  I lost my favorite primary doctor, and my kids lost their pediatrician, whom we loved.  But our federal government always knows what is best for us, right?  It is somewhere in the U.S. Constitution . . . I think.

Because I naturally anticipated another four years of a Democrat - a criminal one, at that - and since America loves government telling them what is best for them, I preferred the idea of getting away from reality and taking this taxing hike up Ice House Canyon Trail in the Cucamonga Wilderness.  

This trail is a rocky incline.  

We found water in California.

And tiny pinecones.

And gnarly trees.

But is was soooo PEACEFUL and serene.

Tall trees

More water

And abandoned structures.

We would love to go further; maybe next time.

This is how we California desert dwellers experience autumn.

And this is where ladybugs are born: in the Cucamonga Wilderness.  : )

On the way down; cannot wait to get to the car, and the restroom.

I did watch the election returns later that night, after we returned from our hike, and they were surreal.  By 11:30 PM I went to bed, leaving it in God's hands.  I did not know the outcome, but it appeared that Trump would win.  How America managed that one, I was surprised.

For years, my husband and children have nagged to get a puppy.  Why would I want a dog in addition to five children and a husband?  "No," I always replied.

However, about a month before the election, I said: "If Trump wins, we'll get a puppy."  It was my way of saying: "When pigs fly . . . "  I was feeling rather cynical, and rebellious.

At 4:30 the next morning, I received a text from a friend: "So, what kind of puppy are you getting?"  

I am eating my words.

Trump was not my Republican candidate.  I did not vote for him in the primary either.  He did not appear serious to me, he had Democrat roots, and he had socially liberal ideas.  However, the more he became the lone Republican candidate, the more he evolved conservatively.  

A few weeks before the election,  I found myself defending my husband's candidate, Donald Trump, against family members who referred to Trump supporters as "stupid and dumb."  (My husband is NOT stupid or dumb.  He does not hate Muslims or Mexicans, he is not racist, and he is not afraid of homosexuals.)  He just has a different political and social worldview than you - a worldview that has been demonized and demoralized for so long that some believe anything other than their own view is absolutely wrong.  (BTW, my husband is Mexican-American, if I have to use the hyphenated word.)  

The more American flags burned, the more Mexican flags waved, the more Trump supporters were violently attacked for attending Trump rallies, the more people called Trump supporters racists, homophobes, and Islamophobes, the more I was pushed to support Trump, too. These are absolute lies about people who support Trump; and the Left knows exactly how to push emotions, even untruthfully.  It worked.

Yeah, Hillary Clinton does not represent us.  She is a bigger, overreaching federal government official than Trump could ever prove to be.  She has been in government forever and out of touch with most Americans.  She actually looks like an evil, big corporate, anti-environmental Republican on paper, in her private business dealings - and if her supporters honestly cared, more would have supported Bernie Sanders than her.  And there is more, but I'll stop.  

The Democrats' way of dividing Americans has reached a boiling point.  More Americans are done taking a back seat to people who are either not American citizens, with no intention of assimilating into our culture or society, or ungrateful, spoiled brats who hate America, burn our flag, or wastefully take government assistance; and yet their voices are heard and their personal demands are taking precedence over our God-given rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Some Americans have been forgotten or pushed aside in order for government to pander to smaller groups of people based on their race, place of origin, so-called religion, or their sexual orientation. They have rejected the rule of law intended to protect what is right and good for all citizens, in favor of giving attention to smaller personal, private issues, and they have put those issues above the rights of Americans in general.  This is the liberal way of life, and it is utterly disastrous.  

Let's not forget the dismantling of and burdens on our livelihoods based on some fake environmental science about how the sky is falling, and we're all going to die because humans suck.  I'm talking to you, California voters!  But, I digress.

Will Trump change this?  I do not know because he must work with Congress.  Will they work with him?  Not if they are full of greedy, arrogant pride.  Let us hope that he does not act like a king, as some presidents have, using executive order to lay his will down.  Meanwhile, some Americans and non-American citizens alike may have to be spoon fed the rule of law because for too long many have been accustomed to having all of their selfish demands handed to them on silver platters.  I pray that era is over, at least for awhile.

It was well worth the agony of the feet.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Reading Scripture Together

This is my favorite time of the day with my children: reading Scripture together.  The Bible is the most essential, historical, scientific, poetical, prophetic, law-giving, literary text book we use in our classroom, and I am grateful that we can read it together.  Furthermore, my children love reading the Bible, and sometimes a couple of them fight over who should read next.  Even more so, they get excited about understanding and remembering what they have learned.  : )

Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Review: Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt

Honey for a Child's Heart
Gladys Hunt

I love books about books and reading.  I found my copy of Honey for a Child's Heart, by Gladys Hunt, at a used book library sale (or is it library used book sale?).  My edition was published in 1969, but that has no bearing on the context or message.  

In the first chapter, Hunt makes a great case for books. 
[A book] introduces us to people and places we wouldn't ordinarily know.  A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, beauty, delight, and adventure.  Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature.
Books help children know what to look for in life.  It is like developing the taste buds of his mind as a child learns to savor what he sees, hears, and experiences and fits these into some kind of worthwhile framework.
In chapters two and three, the author demonstrates how good books are like honey, what makes a book good, and why we should expose our children to the best kind of literature.  She covers the elements of a good story: plot, idea, theme, and style. 

Chapter four is about fantasy verses realism, and how children can tell the difference, and chapter five is about why we should introduce our children to poetry - ASAP.  

Chapters five, six, and seven are about why families should read together . . . aloud . . . especially the Bible.  I love the idea of whole families reading aloud the Bible and other great books.  I already read the Bible with my kids, and we read great literature for both school and fun; but my husband does not read with us. Gladys Hunt makes a strong, convincing case why fathers should read with their families, especially Scripture. It should be a regular family activity at home, but often outside activities get in the way and other times fathers may be unavailable or unwilling to take the leadership role; in that case, Mom must take charge.  Do not miss this opportunity, even if you have to do it without his support.  Gladys writes,
. . . two by-products of reading aloud: family closeness because of a shared experience and the bond of appreciation of good writing.  The third factor has been alluded to: the opportunity of teaching what is true and good.
As a homeschool mom of fifteen years, I agree with the author: "The best teaching [I] have done...has been through reading the Bible and good books aloud together."  If I did not have to teach math and science, I would be content to just learn through Scripture and literature with my children.

Chapter seven stresses furthermore and in greater detail how urgent it is to read the Bible (obviously) with your family (ESPECIALLY in Christian homes).  She also suggests reasons why Christian parents may not be reading the Bible at home with their children.

Chapter eight asks us who (or what) is influencing our children?  We should talk with our children, and what better way than through sharing books - good books that make us think?
We must do more than live in the same house with our children.  We need to spend time with them, talk to them, share our lives with them, and teach them.
The author states,
Underlying all of this discussion is my thesis that parents who read widely together with their children are going to be those who most influence their children, who have the largest world view, who have an uncommon delight in what is good and true and beautiful - and an uncommon commitment to it.  Sharing and feeling and talking together will come naturally.
In the final chapter the author describes how to choose the best books for your family.  And the last 50 plus pages include an extensive bibliography - A THOROUGH BOOK LIST - of good books for preschoolers through teens and mature adults, including poetry, Christmas books, and books to help children grow as Christians.

Personally, having this book for the book list alone is worth it, but I do appreciate the author's message, even though I already know personally how reading and discussing great books with your children is essential.  I am grateful I found this little gem at the library.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Celebrating Christopher Columbus

Monday was Columbus Day.  I wonder why recognition of the day has not been completely eradicated from the calendar or why we have not officially changed it to Indigenous People Day; it is overwhelmingly obvious that Christopher Columbus is despised and hated.  

After all, Christopher Columbus brought destruction, disease, rape, and slavery to the peaceful natives living in the Caribbean Islands.  Had he not made his voyages, the Europeans would have stayed on their continent and the natives would have remained on their islands, unbothered by those wicked, evil white men.  Right?

A couple of years ago I read Christopher Columbus' Four Voyages, and my whole understanding of Columbus and the native people changed.  Columbus was mad - in the sense that he had a vision and believed it to be true, that he must set out and prove it.  He persevered for years to convince others of his ideas, until someone would listen.  

Eventually, the king and queen of Spain did listen, and they believed.  At this time, only the Portuguese were daring enough to sail the unknown, so long as they could see the coast, sailing south alongside Africa, to find that new route to the Indian Ocean.  But Columbus was confident he could go west.  Yes, they thought he was crazy.

But imagine the riches and lands he would find, and he would claim them all for Spain.  The Queen liked that very much because: divine right of Kings (and Queens).  

Killing Columbus

On the first voyage, they gave Columbus three ships, and a hand full of very reluctant sailors. When Columbus arrived, he claimed land for Spain because: divine right of kings, right? which is odd because if Columbus believed he was going to China, or Japan, why would he claim land for Spain when the island already had a king?  It was a sign of the times.

The natives Columbus met believed the white men to be gods, but he persuaded them to give glory to the royals of Spain, and the Christian God, which they did.  The natives were extremely friendly and willing.  They also asked Columbus and his men to help them fight their enemies, a tribe from another island, who made war with them, murdered their men and ate them, captured their women and raped them (made them sex slaves), and made their children slaves, too.  But Columbus said he did not come to make war, and he did not want to help.  The subject was put aside for the time being.  

Columbus left some of his men behind to build a fort and mine for gold, when he returned to Spain to share what he found, which did not include much gold or riches.  He did bring five natives to show the queen (unfortunately, they died on the return voyage to the islands).  

This second voyage was the largest because the monarchy was encouraged that Columbus found land and a new route to the East, as they did not know it was a new continent. Spain sent 17 ships and over 1000 men, as more were willing to go.  But from here, the tides turned for Columbus.  All of the men he left behind were gone.  The natives communicated that some died of sickness, and some said they died because they fought with them; but mostly they did not know what happened.  Columbus could do nothing about it.

Columbus Day in Chile, protesting the violence w/ violence

Most of the time Columbus sailed from island to island, seeking the mainland of China, the Kubli Khan, and gold, with obvious disappointment.  He always believed he was in Japan, and always tried to find a way to the mainland of China.  He didn't find much gold or spice.

Meanwhile, the men who thought they were going to find gold and riches turned on Columbus when that did not happen.  Some were convicts who would earn their freedom if they went on the voyage.  They were difficult to work with, and Columbus was not a very good people manager either.  Furthermore, Portugal began sending explorers east, now that Columbus had returned unscathed, and they were going back and forth to South America, even stopping by the Caribbean Islands to taunt Columbus.  

On Columbus' third voyage, relations with the natives became worse, and the Europeans got into battles with them, though it was against Columbus' wishes.  He always knew the people to be kind and helpful, even curious about going onto the ships; but now he was losing their trust, and they would have nothing to do with Columbus.  In addition, the King sent another ship with an overseer to check on Columbus.  (Men from the second voyage had returned to Spain to complain that Columbus was mistreating them.)  This overseer took command and had Columbus sent back to Spain in chains.

Columbus pleaded his case, and the Queen had pity on him.  She gave him one more chance and permitted him a fourth voyage to the islands.  It was such a disaster because of storms, that it was all he could do to survive and return to Spain alive again.  Nothing came of his voyages, except this: that he opened the way for exploration; he broke down the superstitious barrier that prevented men from sailing the unknown waters; he made new maps of the ocean and islands and improved ways of navigation; and he was perseverant, courageous, and adventurous.  But overall, he was a product of his times.

Slavery has been practiced since the beginning of civilization.  During Columbus' time, Portugal was already taking advantage of the slave trade in Africa, which was in part ruled by the Muslims tribes. The Inquisition was also taking place in Spain.  These were brutal times.  But notice that when Columbus met the natives for the first time, they were already familiar with war, murder, cannibalism, rape, and slavery.  That is because man is inherently wicked in his heart, and he doesn't need to be taught or introduced to these evils.  That is why when the Spaniards arrived in South America, the Mayan civilization was ripe for conquest.  The native people were no different than their European counterparts.  

Anyway, my point is this: the native people were not sweet, innocent angels living peacefully.  That is not to say that what happened* to them was right, but it is not a surprise, as this is the history of man: stronger civilizations conquer weaker ones.  Nonetheless, it is not right to use Columbus as a scapegoat.  The native civilizations are long gone now, and God permitted history to happen the way it did for a reason.

* As for these other things that happened, I have yet to find primary sources to support the claims, but according to some of what we have read, Columbus brought back thousands of native people to be sold into slavery, or Columbus wiped out whole civilizations of native people with disease, rape, and war.  Of course, Columbus did not write about doing this, but he did write in his log (The Four Voyages) about how easy it would be to use the people for slaves because they were so willing and ignorant.  So I am still in search for these sources.

For further opinions on Christopher Columbus, go to my book review and analysis of him and his book, The Four Voyages.

But if you prefer a more intelligent, historical explanation of Columbus, here is an article by Russell Kirk: Columbus the Exemplar.  It was excellent!

My point to all this is that we have been studying Columbus this week, and since Columbus Day happened Monday, I wanted to have a little Columbus Day party; but I ended up going to a Dodger game (which took up 12 hours of my day) so we had our party the next day, which was not much of a party.  Instead I made Cuban sandwiches because Columbus landed on Cuba a few times.  I was going to make some Spanish-style potatoes, but I was too tired.  Instead I served Neapolitan ice cream (Italian) and made cupcakes with ships on top.  That was it.

Maybe next year.  Happy Columbus Day.
Cuban Sandwich
Neapolitan Ice Cream

The Nina, The Pinta, and the Santa Maria Cupcakes