• culture,  history,  meaning of life

    What to remember on Remembrance Day?

    Remembrance Day and its American counterpart, Veterans’ Day, are coming up soon. November 11th is a tricky holiday where on one hand I’m not comfortable with the idea of glorifying war and on the other hand I want to acknowledge the risk soldiers have taken and the sacrifices they, and their families, have made. This year my thoughts are shaped largely by the book  A War of Individuals: Bloomsbury Attitudes to the Great War by Jonathan Atkin. The picture of the war I gain through that book is of a war that whole countries felt drawn into. It wasn’t sending off their soldiers, it was sending off their young. Sacrifices were made by…

  • history,  Houseful of Chaos Press,  meaning of life

    A Paradise Without the Need to Work?

    I love following wisps of ideas as they lead me through different times and works of literature. Today I’m thinking about how different writers questioned the possibility of a paradise without labour. Start with the Gonzalo’s speech in The Tempest about how he would run an island, if he could: I’th’ commonwealth I would by contrariesExecute all things, for no kind of trafficWould I admit; no name of magistrate;Letters should not be known; riches, poverty, (165)And use of service, none; contract, succession,Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;No occupation; all men idle, all;And women too, but innocent and pure; (170)No sovereignty—…All things…

  • Picture of the book Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    books,  history,  homeschooling,  Houseful of Chaos Press,  politics

    Little House on the Prairie Books and the Problem of Messy History.

    It is a perennial questions in homeschool circles, whether one should read the Little House on the Prairie books with one’s kids or whether the racism in it makes those books ones that should be put aside. The books have the heroine’s mother saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” and one of them has the father engaging in blackface. I started reading the Little House books with my oldest child sometime before he turned six. I had forgotten about what they contained. We came to one of the first examples of racism in it and he said no way would he listen to the rest of the…

  • history,  homeschooling

    A Potential Resource for Looking at WWII

    Want a really different way to talk about WWII with your child? I’m reading a book right now that is a memoir of a Taiwanese man who was in university in Japan at the time of WWII. While I’m not finished reading the book and I’m not sure how much of it I’ll share with my kids, I know I’ll be reading them some of it. I want to read to them about the schools and hospitals, the systematic racism, and the little bits about how the country mobilized for war. The little details are fascinating. It is too easy to teach ‘history’ as the story of the west and…

  • history,  politics

    Where does political authority come from?

    One of the books I’ve been reading recently is called Piety and Politics: The Dynamics of Royal Authority in Homeric Greece, Biblical Israel, and Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. One of the things it points out very early is that the divine authority of kings in ancient times is not necessarily the same as the European concept of the divine right of kings. In the later European concept the authority of God is bestowed upon the king for his whole life. The king is not accountable to anyone. In its extreme the will of the king could be taken to be the will of God. In the ancient understanding the god could…

  • Biblical history,  education,  history,  politics

    Sophists And Today?

    Aaron Sorkin’s television show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip aired in 2006. Already, the show feels somewhat dated and when watching it with our children my husband and I found ourselves trying to explain how the public debate was different at that time. (Just as one example, these days we hear more about the white supremacists than the religious right, but the show focuses on the latter, not the former.) There is something fun about stepping outside of the time period and thinking about the debates of other time periods. It is part of what I do in the secular Bible studies classes I’ve been teaching. I try to…

  • activism,  history,  politics

    Conversations with Leigh Robertson and some reflections about making change in the world.

    I had a great talk with Leigh Robertson the other day. Our conversation wandered from talking about child labour as a focus for teaching children about the history of the labour movement to talking about the gig economy. Then we moved onto talking about the Danish resistence movement during WWII. It was really fun. Leigh is an Outschool teacher. You can visit her profile to see the classes she teaches. I’m sharing the videos of our conversation here and then I’ll comment with a few of the things I found particularly interesting. There’s a few take-aways I want to comment on. One, I appreciated what Leigh said about making change…

  • history,  religion,  the ethical life

    Thoughts on Reading about Medieval Religious Beliefs, Self-Improvement and Lying

    I am reading a book called Lies, Slander and Obscenity in Medieval English Literature by Edwin Craun. I can’t understand everything in the book but it raises such fascinating questions. It is fun to read about people who took questions of truthfulness so incredibly seriously. It helps put what I read about the origins of the word equivocate, in the late 16th early 17th century into context. I had read long ago (in a different book) that the word came into common use at a time where Catholics in England were being persecuted. Some Catholics wrote instructions about how to equivocate as a way of trying to be truthful without…

  • history,  homeschooling

    Resources for Learning Akkadian and Sumerian

    My current hobby is learning ancient languages, in particular Akkadian and Sumerian. I take a multi-pronged approach. I use an app to help me memorize word lists. I make charts of words and work through workbooks and I watch youtube videos. I look at ancient texts and their translations to be able to see how words are used “in the wild” (in their conjugated forms). I copy sentences. I make lists of related words. Searching for Words The Sumerian online dictionary and Akkadian online dictionary are both very useful. There are app versions. Memorizing Words: I use the app Memrise. This is basically a flash-card app that asks you to…

  • The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer and one of many academic books on the topic of the early Hebrew religion
    Biblical history,  history,  homeschooling

    Notes on the Story of the World – from a secular academic perspective

    The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer is a very popular history curriculum amongst homeschoolers. However, one complaint frequently made is that the book presents Biblical stories as if they were history. In chapter six of volume one it tells the story of Abraham and then the story of Joseph, both embellished from the Bible. Here are some notes on how I would approach these. Placement of the Story The Story of the World situations the story of Abraham as taking place shortly after Sargon the Great. Sargon the Great lived over two thousand years before the Common Era (CE or, as it was known in my childhood,…