Wednesday, December 31, 2008

God Bless Us Everyone

(I have a busy week next week, so I'm posting this just a couple of days early, but discussions will be open until the 10th as usual.)
So what did you think of A Christmas Carol?

I must admit that this short of a book was perfect for my Decemeber. The plan of reading it to my kids however, turned into reading them the Childrens', Great Illustrated Classic, edition. It was too much for the little ones. They all loved it, however, and I enjoyed watching them laugh at the changes Scrooge went thru in the end.

If I'm being perfectly honest, I find Dickens to be a little overly descriptive. When it speaks of the Ghost of Christmas Present surrounded by food, I could have just been told that there was turkey and drinks and lots of fruit. I don't need to know how golden the skin was and the exact discription of how it smelled. I found myself more skimming over those parts than reading them.

I was actually surprised at how little Tiny Tim was mentioned. He was definitely a part of the story, but it seems to me like the movies always put more emphasis on him.

I loved the book though. It was a perfect addition to my Christmas reads. I love the change in Scrooge, the Spirit of Christmas, and the message that it's never too late to change.

I hope that all of you had a WONDERFUL holiday season!!! Please leave your thoughts on A Christmas Carol and take time to vote for February's book on the side bar. I hope you enjoy The Scarlet Letter this month.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Sounds of Christmas

Every Christmas Eve, my family reads the Nativity story out of the Bible. But I also love to read lots of other Christmas related stories through out the month. (Plus we always watch a few favorite movies, that it just wouldn't be Christmas without.)

So for this months "in between" question I thought I'd ask, What other Christmas stories are you reading this month? What Christmas story is your favorite?

I think mine is definitely the poem The Night Before Christmas
It's just a classic, it's a must read, to the kids, every year. Although, I'm very excited to introduce a few new ones this year, since my children are getting old enough, like A Christmas Carol. I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to my two oldest for the first time this year, and they loved it. I've never heard them laugh so hard. The only problem was my 11 year old boy thought I'd lost my mind when I started crying in the last chapter.

So,how about you?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Fill You In

Thank you to all who voted for January's book.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter, won the vote and will be the book selection for Jan.

I hope you have all had a chance to get started on A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. The discussion will be here on Jan. 5th, and I will be on time, this time.

Also, I just remembered that when the book club started, Mrs. Brooke had a monthly give-away.
Due to our family budget, the fact that this is a monthly deal and my proximity to book stores, I will be giving a $5 Barnes and Noble gift card to the winner. (I am looking into email-able certificates from different locations, but for now, I will have to snail mail the real deal.)

I forgot to do it last month. So I decided to do both last months and this months at the same time. For the Nov discussion on Oct.'s Book Pride and Prejudice I had my children pick a number. They chose 2. The second commenter that month was Sharon from KY.

For this months discussion on Nov.'s book, Jane Eyre I played eeny-meeny- minney, mo between the two who commented and again the winner is Sharon from KY.

So congratulations Sharon! If you will email me (shimmywith4[at]yahoo[dot]com) with your address, I will send you a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card. ($5 for each month)

This month's in between question will be up on Dec. 15th. Until then, "Happy Reading!"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What I learned from Jane

I don't know about you but I really enjoyed Jane Eyre.

First if all I must admit that it started totally different than I expected. All I had ever heard about Jane Eyre was that it was a good book and that Jane and Mr. Rochester was someone's favorite couple. So I almost expected another Pride and Prejudice type of book. So when it started off with Jane as a child, and a severely mistreated on at that, I was immediately sucked in. I wanted to know how she would over come these hardships.

I thought that school was the answer to those questions when it was first mentioned. Then she got to school and I found one more thing that she would have to overcome.

I fell in love with Helen and I think that she deserves to be Sainted.

I was very impressed with how Charlotte wrote in a way that you understood why Jane felt the way she did. When she had been a short time at Thornfield and was feeling bored and like there was so much more to the world. I remember thinking that I would just be happy to not be at Lowood anymore. When she started wanting to leave I thought, "Oh, be careful what you wish for." But I understood how Gateshead and Lowood, were all she had known and she wanted to see more.

I also like how she was so comfortable with Mr. Rochester when he mistreated her. I thought it was true to the character of Jane.

I liked the mystery part of the book. I've always liked mysteries but not the blood and gore kind, which seems to be all that is put out anymore. So I was dying to know why Mrs. Poole was allowed to stay. And why Mrs. Fairfax wasn't happy about Jane's and Mr. Rochester's engagement.

I was very upset with Mrs. Fairfax telling her to act differently. I thought THAT would cause wedding problems.

When the wedding day arrived, my heart broke when the wedding was interrupted. I couldn't believe that it was all being taken away from her. I wanted to scream at the book. "It's not fair, she survived such a rotten childhood! Where is her happy ending?"

I was amazed at her composure. She had never asked questions about Mrs. Poole or Mr. Mason, she just followed along. She treated her cousins and Aunts so civilly when she went back there and then, when her world crashed down around her, she kept her cool and listened to him. I could not have done that. I'd have lost it.

I also ached with her in her decision to leave. I knew she had to, I knew I would have to if it were me. But I would have wanted to stay as much as she did.

I instantly feel in love with the people of Moors Head. Especially the caring sisters. I liked how she took on Morton School and I loved how blunt and open she could be with Mr. Rivers. St. John never totally won over my feeling though and when he asked her to marry him I was incredibly angry. When she actually considered it I worried and when she said,"No." cheered. Yes, I literally squealed "Yeah!"

When she found Mr. Rochester after finding out about Thornfield I couldn't have been happier. I truly thought that he needed a happily ever after as much as she did. And I was so excited that they did get it, but in the right way. Patience is a virtue for a reason I guess.

This is definitely up there on my list of favorites now. I really did love it, especially the religious tone of the book.

As soon as I finished it I remembered how Mrs. Brooke had said she had hated it in High School and I thought, "I probably wouldn't have liked it as much then either." It definitely is a book that I think you like better as an adult. As a kid without many life experiences, I think I wouldn't have forgiven Edward for lying. I would have been upset that she was once again thrown into terrible experiences that she had nothing to do with. But as an adult, I understood that life is full of things we have no control over, except how we handle them. I admired her strength and I revealed in her ability to move on. And even though Mr. Rochester had been disfigured, I still saw it as a "happily ever after" ending, and appreciated the unconditional love even more. It's amazing how much you change over the course of your life isn't it.

(You all have my apologies for being late posting this month. The holiday preparations got away from me a bit. I have copy and pasted Sharon's comments from Jane Eyre in the comments, since she did it on time a couple of days ago.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Good Ole Nathaniel

Next year's time period is 1850- Present. So naturally I started at the beginning. And when I was looking for books written or about 1850 one name kept coming up over, and over and over again... Nathaniel Hawthorne. So I decided to dedicate the month of Jan to him. So go to the side bar and vote for which Nathaniel, novel, you want to read.

Don't forget our discussion for Jane Eyre starts on Dec. 5th.

Monday, November 17, 2008

About The Author

I thought some of you might be interested in learning more about the author of this months book. (For the whole article, including, why she used a pen name. You can read it at Wikipedia)

Charlotte Bronte: (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855)
Charlotte was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England in 1816, the third of six children, to Patrick Brontë (formerly "Patrick Brunty"), an Irish Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Maria Branwell. In April 1821, the family moved a few miles to Haworth, where Patrick had been appointed Perpetual Curate. Maria Branwell Brontë died of cancer on 15 September 1821, leaving five daughters and a son to the care of her sister Elizabeth Branwell. In August 1824, Charlotte was sent with three of her sisters; Emily, Maria and Elizabeth, to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire (which she would describe as Lowood School in Jane Eyre). Its poor conditions, Charlotte maintained, permanently affected her health and physical development and hastened the deaths of her two elder sisters, Maria (born 1814) and Elizabeth (born 1815), who died of tuberculosis in May of 1826 soon after they were removed from the school.

At home in Haworth Parsonage, Charlotte and the other surviving children — Branwell, Emily and Anne — began chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms. Charlotte and Branwell wrote stories about their country — Angria — and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about theirs — Gondal. The sagas were elaborate and convoluted (and still exist in part manuscripts) and provided them with an obsessive interest in childhood and early adolescence, which prepared them for their literary vocations in adulthood.

Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head, Mirfield, from 1831 to 1832, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. During this period (1833), she wrote her novella The Green Dwarf under the name of Wellesley. Charlotte returned as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. In 1839 she took up the first of many positions as governess to various families in Yorkshire, a career she pursued until 1841. In 1842 she and Emily travelled to Brussels to enroll in a pensionnat run by Constantin Heger (1809 – 1896) and his wife Claire Zoé Parent Heger (1814 – 1891). In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music. Their time at the pensionnat was cut short when Elizabeth Branwell, their aunt who joined the family after the death of their mother to look after the children, died of internal obstruction in October 1842. Charlotte returned alone to Brussels in January 1843 to take up a teaching post at the pensionnat. Her second stay at the pensionnat was not a happy one; she became lonely, homesick, and deeply attached to Constantin Heger. She finally returned to Haworth in January 1844 and later used her time at the pensionnat as the inspiration for some of The Professor and Villette....

Charlotte's brother, Branwell, the only son of the family, died of chronic bronchitis and marasmus exacerbated by heavy drinking in September 1848, although Charlotte believed his death was due to tuberculosis. Branwell was also a suspected "opium eater", (i.e. a laudanum addict). Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis in December 1848 and May 1849, respectively.
Charlotte and her father were now left alone. In view of the enormous success of Jane Eyre, she was persuaded by her publisher to visit London occasionally, where she revealed her true identity and began to move in a more exalted social circle, becoming friends with Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace Thackeray and G. H. Lewes. Her book had sparked a movement in regards to feminism in literature. The main character, Jane Eyre, in her novel Jane Eyre, was a parallel to herself, a woman who was strong. However, she never left Haworth for more than a few weeks at a time as she did not want to leave her aging father's side.

In June 1854, Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate, and became pregnant very soon thereafter. Her health declined rapidly during this time, and according to Gaskell, her earliest biographer, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness."[2] Charlotte died, along with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855, at the young age of 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis), but many biographers suggest she may have died from dehydration and malnourishment, caused by excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness. There is also evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Brontë household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her. Charlotte was interred in the family vault in The Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Are You a Spine Breaker?

This months "in between" question is borrowed from a site called Booking Through Thursday:
Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earrer?
Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

I have gone through stages of both ways. When I was younger I would break spines to make the book open flat, wrap the cover around the back of a paper back, fold down pages etc. Now, whenever I see my son do that, I scold him. "You're going to ruin the book! We keep books nice in this house."

I try to be careful not to open them too far, but I will open them far enough to read comfortably.
And I must admit I like when others keep their books nice, because my favorite place to buy books is 

So how about you? How do you read/keep your books?


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Time for Discussing

I must admit that before Oct. I had never read Pride and Prejudice. Now that I have, I think I have a crush on Mr. Darcy!
Do you think my husband would mind that I also have feelings for a fictional character?

On the serious side here are some of the thoughts that occurred to me while reading.

#1 In the beginning of the story, I found the book fairly hard to read. It wasn't the large vocabulary, or the more "old english" way of speaking. I can read that fairly easily. My problem was that Jane doesn't use many "he said" or "she exclaimed" or "they interupted"'s. She just starts a new paragraph with a new set of quotation marks. I found myself having to re-read half a page, a couple of times, just to figure out who said what.
If this hadn't been a book club selection, and I hadn't heard almost every friend I know tell me how "GREAT" of a book it was. I don't know that I'd have gotten past chapter 3. By chapter 5, however, I either got used to it, or it got better in that regard, because that was when I started to get hooked. I had a very hard time putting it down. In fact, as soon as I finished it I read Sense and Sensibility and devoured it just as quickly.

#2 Was the change of times

Man did those people like to play cards! Every time it spoke of pulling out the card tables I laughed. But then I thought, if someone were to document my everyday life, people would probably laugh every time I clicked on the television. At least their after dinner past time could involve some personal conversation.
I also longed to be invited to one of the balls. I have always been a dancer, and I wish that the social balls were still apart of our social life.

#3 I LOVED how Jane pointed out that shyness is often confused for Pride. I myself, have been accused of being "stuck up" by people who have then changed their minds once they got to know me. And even though that is the case, I have thought the same of others, just to find out later that they are frighteningly shy. I think it is usually the case that when someone is thought of as prideful, it is usually that they just don't have the guts to prove otherwise.

#4 On a personal note, I very much admired Elizabeth's spunk. I found her character and myself incredibly alike, however, I am VERY non-confrontational and I hardly ever speak my mind to anyone other than my VERY close friends and family. For her to be so bold with her opinions, especially to the wicked Lady Bourdough, in times when most women of that day would have stayed quiet, or conceded was wonderful to me.

#5 As far as the message about marriage I was surprised by how many things have changed and how many things have stayed the same over the years.
People do in fact still marry for status or money. Some people still stay married even though they aren't at all happy. Some people still try to talk relatives out of the marriage they want. However, I don't think many people would even blink at Lydia and Mr. Wickham's situation. Sadly, there is almost no such thing as a dishonorable marriage anymore. (I however, still detested him and do not hold him in any high regard. The little weasel.) And it is much more likely that people who aren't happy do not stay together. Divorce is no longer looked upon as an evil.
It is fascinating to see where all the differences, or lack of them have taken place. Whether they be for the better or the worse.
The one thing that I think very much still rings true is her point of the book: That the only way to truly be happy is to marry the person you love and not to let the other worldly influences sway you from that.
I was very struck by an observation that was made on the inside cover of my copy of the book:
"The making of a suitable marriage was the great theme of nineteenth-century English literature, from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens, from George Eliot to Henry James. and no one has ever pointed out the pitfalls and stumbling blocks on the way to the alter with more verve, wit and sparkle than the UNMARRIED Jane Austen."
Married or not, I think she, obviously, spent a lot of time watching people and was one of earths true romantics. Like I said, I love Mr. Darcy!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

In Lieu of Voting

Before Mrs. Brooke, officially removed herself from this blog. The two of us talked and made an executive decision.

We will not be voting for Decembers book. Instead we have chosen: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
It fits perfectly, not only with the time of year, but also with the era we are reading.

Never fear, though, voting for January's book will be here on Dec. 5th. And I did a lot of research this week on novels for our 2009 scheduled time frame. I have a nifty little list of 38 books to choose from. So this is the only time (at least for a year) that the decision will be made for you.

Discussion for Oct.'s read, Pride and Prejudice, will start (as usual) on the 5th of November. So you have a couple more days to finish up. I can't wait to hear all of your opinions. I have a few myself. And until I "see" you again, work on getting, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for our next two months.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fun In Between Question

I realize that this isn't a blog that we usually visit everyday, but I thought I'd put a little post on here for those who stopped by in between book posts. I was at the blog of a fellow book lover, Smilingal, who is a book reviewer, and she asked the question:
Who is your favorite literary couple?

Hers was Romeo and Juliet, written, of course, by William Shakespeare.
While I LOVE Shakespeare, I have to admit that I felt very let down at the end of Romeo and Juliet. I wanted them to live "happily ever after", not croke! lol
I think my favorite couple is Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blyth from Anne of Green Gables. (by L.M. Montgomery)
But I can't have read this months selection and not say, I also love Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
More of my favorites include:
The parents in Swiss Family Robinson, (by Johann David Wyss) I love how their trials only strengthened their relationship, their family and their faith in God.
Lastly, I LOVE a very little known book called Love Comes Softly, by Janette Oke. It is the first in what is refered to as the Love Series. (It was made into a Hallmark movie, but it was NOTHING like the book.)
So I'd have to say that Marty and Clark are one of my favorite couples. I loved watching their relationship turn into love throughout the pages.

So how about you? Who are your favorite literary couples?


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Updated Buttons

I'm finally getting to updating the blog address in the publicity buttons. Here's two that are finished, and I hope to get to the others soon.

Are there any particular images/art you would particularly like to have made into a button? Let me know!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Knew You Were Going to Pick Jane Eyre

I read Jane Eyre in high school and absolutely hated it. I proceeded to write a scatching review of it for my English class, not knowing that it was my English teacher's absolute, most favorite book in the entire world.

She gave me a big, fat "F" on my paper. True, I didn't do a very good job of backing up my opinion with anything from the text (I was still just a baby freshman); I just wrote that I didn't like the story and that I thought it was dumb and a bunch of senseless garbage. She wrote me a note saying that my paper showed how ignorant and close-minded I was as a reader and that I needed to keep my opinions to myself unless I could back them up with relevant information.

I guess we'll see how I like it this time through...

Thanks for sticking with us while we figured out what's going on around here!

Friday, October 10, 2008

We're Still Alive

Hey there everyone,

It's me, Shimmy Mom, I just took over the blog for Mrs. Brooke. And like all of you I wish her the absolute best and hope that she is back to leading us soon, and especially hope she will still join us in our reads and comments.

We are a little late this month, but did anybody read the assignment for Sept.? I must admit that my family moved in Sept. and I did not get it all read. I have, however, sort of cheated. When my family lived in St. Louis, they we in the middle of making a huge memorial library dedicated to Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea. So I would love to hear your thoughts on the reading. So we will extend the commenting time to Oct. 15th this month.

Remember that this months book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. If you haven't started yet, you still have time. We will be back to our normal discussion schedule in Nov. and will have open forum from Nov. 5th to the 10th.

Don't forget to go over to the side bar and vote for our Nov. read. We have three great options.

Now, as to business. I don't plan on changing things. I would like to pose the question though, if it would be helpful to anyone for me to send out emails to remind you that it is time for the book discussions, that voting is open for the next months book etc? If so please let me know in the comments and I will make sure that everyone gets their reminders.
I'm really excited to keep this going and hope that you all decide to stay in the group. Feel free to contact me or ask questions in the comments. Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hold onto your hats!

Sorry there folks.

RTH is in the process of being transferred to someone else's authority and will then continue on...I'm sorry to leave you, but personal priorities make it incredibly difficult for me to keep up with this at this point in time.

October's book is Pride & Prejudice, so get reading!

For discussion this month, you can leave your comments here or on your own blog. Just let us know.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Other Classics Discussion Sites

Jolly Roger

Here's a place that looks like a good find. I'm having a hard time keeping up with things lately, so I thought I'd point you in other directions for discussion just in case I have to permanently pull the plug on RTH. If you find other sites, please leave a link in the comments section.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

It's already time for discussion! Leave your comments...I have none, as I have yet to make it through the second chapter. I made the boneheaded mistake of not buying the book and just borrowing it from the library.

Turns out that I just cannot read a book if I can't underline and circle stuff in it.

Enjoy your discussion this month with each other!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mrs. Brooke's Plan for Reading Through History

In response to Sharon in KY's query, I'll explain how I go about reading through history.

The two books that motivate me the most to push forward are The Well-Trained Mind and A Thomas Jefferson Education, both of which are geared towards homeschooling, but I've adapted them to fit my personal needs as an adult. They have excellent reading lists and work to inspire me to educate myself. I am a huge advocate for a return to classical education methodology.

I have a degree in history, which is where I've picked up my preference for original documents. I don't like to recite others' opinions about what happened, I like to immerse myself as much as possible in an event or era and come to my own conclusions.

When delving into a particular period or subject, I do a little internet surfing or book research and gather information--this usually gives me a couple of books to start out with. Then those books open up the possibility of other books--bibliographies are a great place to look for more reading material on any subject you're interested in. I also peruse college history department websites, looking for online syllabi and test driving various professors' sources. There are a myriad of ways to find books to read. If a title keeps popping up as you skim through background information, chances are that that title is something that you should read.

I started RTH because I had no one to talk to about what I was reading, which I think is a very important aspect of becoming educated. Talking through ideas and opinions helps me to think deeper and take away so much more from something I've read. (And I do not want to run the risk of being one of those crazy people who come up with completely odd ideas that run unchecked because I don't talk them through with others...) It's also incredibly motivating to know that there are others "out there" that are like me...reading the classics and pondering over the great events of history just aren't seen as too particularly cool amongst the folks I interact with on a daily basis.

I can keep RTH going, but I won't be able to keep up with the discussions at times. If you can give me room to just direct at times without participating, then I'm happy to remain in charge. The idea of ending this is sad to me...just yesterday I about went out of my mind when I found myself with some time to read, but wondering if I should start A Tale of Two Cities if I wasn't going to be able to discuss it. I'd rather still read it even if I can't find the time to write about it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

RTH Needs a New Parent

I need to take a big break for a while and won't be able to keep up with RTH. If anyone is interested in taking over here, please let me know and I'll sign the blog over to you. Thanks.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Book Selection for September

We'll be heading into the beginnings of the nineteenth century, a time of war and exploration.

The three books to choose from are:

  • War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy (1424 pages, Napoleonic Wars)
  • The Journals of Lewis & Clark, by Meriwether Lewis and John Clark (576 pages, Lewis & Clark Expedition)
  • The Naval War of 1812, by Theodore Roosevelt (500 pages, The War of 1812)

And our comment winner for August is Shimmy Mom. You can choose to have A Tale of Two Cities sent to you or a $10 gift certificate. (New rule, formed due to last month's glitch.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Yes, I've read it; and no, I can't write about it right now. So I figured I'd at least get a post up so y'all can start leaving your comments and I'll leave my thoughts in the comments section as well. Sorry...things are just crazy around here at the moment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Paul Revere's Ride

By: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

(Um, yeah...I didn't realize how incredibly long this was when I chose it for our memorization piece this month!! But I think it's many of you memorized last month's poem?)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

August's Reading Selection

Come on you guys! What's up with a straight-up tie?!?! Alright, this time around I'll just break the tie, but I'm going to put up a poll and see if you'd prefer for me to be the tie-breaker (even though I already voted), or if you'd like it better if the random book winner breaks the tie (and honestly, they've already voted as well). Or we can ask my 4 year old which one she thinks would be best. But in order to keep things orderly, I'm picking this time around and I'm going to go with A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. We'll discuss the book in September; our discussion on August 5th will be for 1776 by David McCullough. (Which is a good read thus far!)

Free book announcement...drum roll please...and the winner is...#2 (compliments of, which is...Mr/s. Mordecai! Email me with mailing info so I can get your book out to you. (If you already have a copy of ATOTC, we'll work something out.)

Thanks for the comments this time around, some of them really got me thinking!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thoughts on The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States and The Federalist Papers

Whoever came up with the idea of posting on the 5th failed to take into consideration how tired she would be after staying up to celebrate the 4th of July.

Alright, down to business. First off, I really enjoyed reading through these selections and found that the more I read through and about them, the more I wanted to read other things in connection to them. I finally understand why it's important to read all those philosophers' works we're always hearing about, and I've taken the time to really think through some of the wording of these documents and was able to come to some opinions on my own that wouldn't have happened just by listening to teachers or the media. (That makes me feel smart.)

The basic historical facts behind the American Founding Documents:

The second Continental Congress met May 10, 1775 (three weeks after the battles at Lexington and Concord). On June 7th, the idea of dissolving ties with Britain was introduced. Four days later, a committee was assembled to produce a draft of a declaration of independence. The draft, written by Thomas Jefferson, was finished within two weeks. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin reviewed the draft and added 47 amendments before it was presented to the whole Congress on June 28, 1775.

A year later, on the second of July, Congress formally adopted the resolution declaring independence from Great Britain. Thirty nine changes to the Declaration were made and on July 4, 1776, the actual Declaration of Independence was drafted and formally adopted by Congress.

The Declaration's first public appearance was in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6th and George Washington had the Declaration read to his army in New York on July 9th. That night a mob of New Yorkers tore down the statue of George III located on the Bowling Green at the foot of Broadway.

The Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781, but problems soon became apparent and led to the need for a stronger centralized government, which spurred the creation of the Constitution. The Constitution was approved by the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and received enough votes for ratification in 1788.

The Bill of Rights was introduced in 1789 and became effective in 1791.

The Declaration of Independence:
It's mind-blowing to me to even try to think about the enormity of what the Founding Fathers did. Here's a colony of the greatest ruling power in the world (which also had the best military forces), and they muster up the courage to declare independence from that country, all in the name of the philosophical ideal of democracy. These people believed so strongly in the "unalienable rights" of each person that they intentionally took on Great Britain and all its power. "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." That last line is almost chilling to me because those men entered into that battle knowing full well that the odds were stacked against them and they still were so committed to their convictions that they pledged up front that they were in it to their last breath. All they had was their faith in their God that what they were doing was the right thing, and their wealth and lives, and they pledged it all to the cause of liberty. That's courage. I can only hope that I will be as valiant when called to such a task.

This had never been done before. Despite the many philosophical reasonings declaring that government should be by the voice of the people, it's not hard to see why monarchies pervaded. Sure, rulers and dynasties had been overthrown time and time again, but only to be replaced by a new ruler and/or ruling family. The American Declaration of Independence from its mother country was a huge event in history. It flew in the face of reason; and what's more surprising, it actually worked! There is no way that it should have worked, but it did. It is my personal belief that the American Revolution had a lot of help from Providence. You won't come to that conclusion by reading the textbooks of today, but if you hunt down the primary sources and read the first-hand accounts, you will find many eery "coincidences" and events that defy reasoning.

Another line from the Declaration really resonated with me:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be
changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath
shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than
to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But
when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same
Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their
right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards
for their future security.

Isn't that a candid observation? It made me think of the things and people in my own life that dictate to me what to do or promote suffering or ill will. This had made me think about my worth as a person and how it is my own responsibility to throw off the abusive things and relationships that are present in my life. I think the Declaration of Independence still serves us today in the role of affirming the worth of each individual.

Something that is bothering me though--if each individual has the inherent right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, it doesn't sit well with me that women can just run amuck and abort their unborn children simply because they don't want them. I think a child in the womb has just as much right to Life, Freedom and the chance to find their own happiness as a child outside of the womb. It's not my intention to make this club into a hot political debate, but part of gaining wisdom and becoming truly educated does demand that we think through the hard questions of our day.

The Constitution of the United States:
We are blessed to live in a country that is governed by its own people, instead of the whims of a monarch or dictator. It's unfortunate that the two pre-eminent political parties of this country are becoming rather polarized, but it's still a blessing that the people can decide for its self what they would like to happen. I'm glad that I can voice my opinion and hopefully sway legislation to go in the direction that I believe is best. At least we have that. When laws are passed that I disagree with, I always have the hopeful chance of changing it for the better.

Some things that came up as I read through the Bill of Rights:

  1. What, exactly, is speech? It is my understanding that the first amendment was created to allow people to speak out against the government without fear of persecution. The first amendment allows for free speech--and speech is speaking, oral communication, the written word and the use of gestures to communicate (ie. sign language). I cannot understand how it can be stretched to cover pornography or offensive art and photographs.
    I attended my church's General Conference a few years back, and at the conclusion of the session I walked out and saw the usual throng of protesters--and one group had this huge banner of a full-color, dismembered fetus as a way to protest against abortion. It was grotesque. And it pained my heart to look into the crowd of my fellow church members and to see the multitude of young children who were witnessing that image. I don't think free speech necessarily covers the use of images--a banner with the words "Abortion is wrong," or something like that, would have been perfectly acceptable. (And why in the world was an pro-life group protesting a church that also opposes abortion?)
    Free speech also doesn't give free license to artists to flaunt indecency. Lyrics are covered by the amendment, but I highly doubt that the raunchy "bump & grind" theatrics of many concerts come even remotely close to being a form of speech.
  2. The second amendment gives us the right to bear arms, and I am looked at like I have three heads if I say that I have a gun in my house, especially since I have young children. It's important that we keep arms in the event of emergencies and danger. What happens if our military is wiped out or our government is somehow overthrown? I am thankful for the guaranteed right to protect myself. Yes, guns in the wrong hands do a lot of damage. I can't fix that. But if there were more guns in the hands of the right people, what are the odds that the wrong people would be so eager to whip theirs out? How do you think the American Revolution would have turned out if all those farmers hadn't already had guns of their own? I consider it a patriotic duty to not only have a gun, but to also know how to use a gun well.
  3. The fifth amendment has this one phrase that says a person should not "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." and it made me think of Child Protection Services. I think it's fair to ascertain that my children are my "property," and I also think it completely goes against my Constitutional rights to snatch them out of my home simply because CPS thinks I'm guilty of a crime against them. Yes, CPS is a necessary in our society; but we've all heard tons of stories about children being ripped from their homes because CPS suspected abuse, and then those reports of abuse being unfounded. We are innocent until proven guilty, period. If I haven't been tried and convicted of child abuse, then no one has the right to take my children away from me. I admit, this particular example is a double-edged sword; we don't want children to stay within a potentially abusive situation, but we do have this right to our property and I think CPS's ability to remove children based upon suspicion is downright unconstitutional. (And no, I don't have a solution to the problem at the moment...except to perhaps, just maybe, gather enough evidence to arrest the offender and then keep them in jail until their trial?)

The Federalist Papers:
I was only able to read #1, 2 and 10. The thing that stuck with me after reading them was the necessity of good and virtuous people being involved in government. Our government was set up to weed out the bad politicians and to keep wicked people from positions of leadership, but it only works if the good and honest people rise up to the challenge and serve their country. The pervading opinion of politicians is that they're evil and horrible; and if that's the case, we have only ourselves to blame. The ideal politician is a humble, honest and good person; if you consider yourself one of those, perhaps you should be in politics.
I really liked the message of #10, about how our government protects against factions. Recently in my town, there were windmills installed to generate electricity in an environmentally-friendly manner. My goodness, you should have seen the fit that people threw over those things because they considered them to be an eyesore. The city had gone about getting the windmills approved in the correct governmental manner, but the people who didn't want them didn't show up to the meetings. Federalist paper #10 lauds the importance of the "common good." When you considered what the windmills could do for the town, at the expense of simply being an eyesore for a few people, it didn't make sense that the anti-windmill people should have been in such an uproar. We really do need a better commitment to the common good. (And yes, I can see the windmills from my house and they are an eyesore; but they're doing a good thing and I think that's more important than my view from my driveway.)

Whew, that's a long post. This has been good to really read these and then have to sit down and write about them because it forced me to really think about them. Hopefully you all feel the same way. Leave your (relevant) thoughts or a link to your own thought posts in the comments section and I'll choose from them on the 10th to send August's book to.

And speaking of August's book, the next historical event on the schedule is the French Revolution and we have three choices to vote on. Voting will end June 9th at 11:59pm.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

July's Reading Selection

The reading selection for July is:

David McCullough's 1776. I am really looking forward to reading this--it's been sitting on my shelf since my birthday! Thanks to all of you who voted.

To avoid confusion, we are not technically starting on this until July 6th.

Right now we are working on the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and The Federalist Papers (I'm noticing that #10 pops up a lot on various lists) and we'll be discussing them on July 5th. (Unless we want to change that date with it being so close to a holiday, I'm up for July 3rd or 7th. You know where to leave your input...)

Memorization: "Paul Revere's Ride," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (I couldn't resist!)

Alright then, read away dear friends!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reading Selection for June

June's reading selection is:

  • The Declaration of Independence

  • The Constitution of the United States (incl. The Bill of Rights)

  • The Federalist Papers, by James Madison et al.

I know that people generally read "patriotic literature" in July, but I'm of the opinion that you should read the patriotic stuff during June in order to have it freshly in your mind on Independence Day. I think it adds deeper meaning to what we are celebrating when we're familiar with the struggles and sacrifices that took place in order to found this country.

I realize that this is a bit of reading, and I am not expecting us to read through all of The Federalist Papers, but think it's good to read through as much as we can given our time limitations. The only "required" reading is The Declaration and The Constitution.

Memorization: "America for Me," by Henry Van Dyke

Happy Reading! We'll be discussing it all on July 5th!

July's Reading Selection

America for Me

By: Henry Van Dyke

'Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings,--
But now I think I've had enough of antiquated things.

So it's home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

Oh, London is a man's town, there's power in the air;
And Paris is a woman's town, with flowers in her hair;
And it's sweet to dream in Venice, and it's great to study Rome,
But when it comes to living, there is no place like home.

I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!

I know that Europe's wonderful, yet something seems to lack!
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back,
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free,--
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

Oh, it's home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that's westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the blessed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reading Through History Book Club Information

The aim of the book club is to read through the eras of history (via Classics, primary sources and relevant commentaries) over the course of four years. We will read works published during the time period and works written about the time period. There will also be "extra credit" assignments of memorization work.

The breakdown of history will be as follows: Ancients through Medieval (5000 BC-AD 400), Medieval through Early Renaissance (400-1600), Late Renaissance through Early Modern (1600-1850), and Modern (1850-present).

While I'm a fan of starting at the beginning and working until you reach the end, I've decided to ease us into our studies by beginning with the Late Renaissance/Early Modern period, as I think it will be a little more familiar and far less intimidating to start with.

I will post the book selection(s) one month in advance in order to allow everyone the opportunity to acquire their personal copy with time to spare.

Discussion Framework:

  • On the 5th of each month I will post my thoughts regarding the last month's book selection. In turn, each participant can either post their thoughts, or provide a link to their thoughts on their own blog, in the comments section of my post.

  • Also on the 5th of the month, I will post a poll with possible choices for the next month's reading selection. Please vote on which work(s) you would like to read.
  • On the 10th of the month, the voting will end and I will announce which work(s) we will be reading the next month; and, using some sort of random choosing gizmo, select one of the commentors to receive a prize (think gift card) from yours truly. It is the responsibility of the chosen commentor to contact me via email and provide their mailing address so I can send them their copy.

  • Around the 15th of the month, I will do an "in between" post. It will be a fun question, extra information, etc.

    If you're interested, here's some suggested reading that Mrs. Brooke (the club founder)and I found beneficial regarding reading and education through the Classics:

    • How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler

    • "Invitation to the Pain of Learning," by Mortimer J. Adler

    • The Well-Trained Mind, by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer

    • A Thomas Jefferson Education, by Oliver Van DeMille

    • A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion, by Oliver Van DeMille et al.