• Biblical history,  history,  religion

    Comparing the Bible with Mythology

    I’m reading Charles Penglase’s book Greek Mythology and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Influence in the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. The heart of Penglase’ book is the idea that myth writers took motifs from other stories. He identifies rough motifs such as the goddess-and-her-consort stories where there is a journey to the underworld and a return and then he argues that those motifs show up even in unusual places. For example, pointing out how Apollo’s birth could be seen as fitting the goddess-and-consort-and-underworld myth. It has a wandering mother searching for (a place to bear) her child. It has the personified Island being scared it will be pushed down into the (underworld?)…

  • history,  homeschooling

    Reading Ancient Hittite Laws with my Kids

    I’ve been reading through an old book on the ancient Hittite laws. (Why? Why not?!) The first interesting detail in the book is the idea that they might not have had a word for the abstract concept of “law.” They had a word for “a law” or “the laws.” Some of the laws seem unremarkable but others have led to some interesting conversations with my kids. We talked about the following law and how it compares to modern compensation for injuries: “If anyone injures a person and temporarily incapacities him, he shall provide medical care for him. In his place he shall provide a person to work on his estate…

  • history,  politics

    Reflections on reading a book about Richard the Lionheart

    Whenever I read a book, I try to spend a bit of time reflecting on it. I try to choose the most important details of it to retell to myself, so I remember them. I try to think of what I’ve learned from it. Today I’m reflecting on the book Richard I by John Gillingham. I’m thinking about the huge role political relationships and personal negotiations played at the time of Richard. When he went on the crusades, Richard the Lionheart left his different castles and estates in the hands of individuals who had to have the strength to defend them. If he chose the wrong people he would have…

  • This picture shows a Minecraft village built in the style of Catal Hoyuk
    history,  homeschooling,  politics,  religion

    Searching for Justice and Equality in Ancient Times

    One of the classes I’m teaching these days is a secular Bible study class. I treat the Bible like a work of literature. We discuss the different historical periods and the theologies within the Bible, but I’m not trying to convert them. I use the textbooks I had from university to help me, but simplifying stuff for children. I’m having wonderful fun with the class. Then on a different day of the week I teach an ancient history class that is looking more at other ancient cultures of the Middle East. So from this study of ancient times, what fascinates me is the frequency in which the different texts and…

  • history,  politics,  religion,  the ethical life

    Nellie McClung and the challenge of history

    Up until a few weeks ago, if I was asked my impression of Nellie McClung I probably would have said “oh, she was that suffragette, right? The one people say was racist and supported eugenics?” I started reading about Nellie McClung this past few weeks. I’ll still a newcomer to McClung’s story and I’ve already read bits that do suggest the darker parts of her beliefs. But what has amazed me is realizing how beautiful some of her thoughts and ideas were too. She wrote novels that promoted the idea that we are all called to serve community, love one another and by doing so to change the world. She…

  • activism,  history,  politics,  the ethical life

    Optimism vs Hope

    I’m thinking about the difference between optimism and hope. One can be optimistic because one believes things will go well. In some cases optimism is good and natural. However optimism can also be due to a lack of information about the potential problems or because one deliberately rejects the facts that disagrees with one. Therefore optimism itself is not a virtue. We should not be trying to “choose optimism” when the situation does not warrant it. I picture NASA scientists preparing for a rocket launch. We want them to be optimistic because all the tests, models and simulations suggest they will be suc…cessful. We would not want them to “choose optimism”…

  • history,  politics

    reading 18th century history, reflecting on today

    I’ve been reading about various wars in North America during the 1700s. Several things stand out to me. One is the idea that the governments were not able to control their people. Native elders were not able to prevent individual or small groups of native warriors from going off and killing colonists, and the colonists were unable to prevent individuals from going off and killing natives. The acts of individuals were then used to justify the acts of more individuals and of governments. The second thing is that the elites were manipulating everyone into war. Before the American Revolution, the different colonies were fighting over which would control “the west”…

  • history

    Canadian pioneer poems

    The Canadian Homeschool Blog hop this month is on the theme of Canadian books and resources. Over my couple of years of blogging I’ve listed a few Canadian books, such as Melanie Bluelake’s Dream, Caribou Songs, Shannen’s Dream for a School and a collection of books about Northern Canada. Today I want to write about a poetry book, called Reading Between the Lines: Piecing together the life of Elizabeth Boyd McDougall by Shirley A Serviss. Elizabeth Boyd McDougall was the second wife of John McDougall, a Methodist missionary in the prairies. The poems start with her journeying out to the west with her new husband, preparing to meet his children, learning to prepare…

  • history,  homeschooling,  movies

    a Cinderella story, Ever After, and the history of some French royalty

    A few days ago my kids and I watched the movie Ever After, with Drew Barrymore. It was interesting. It is a Cinderella story, rewritten to take out any mention of magic and referring to Cinderella as Danielle. Its primary focus is on folktale and not history and yet the movie includes a few tantalizing little details meant to try to suggest that the story could be historical. The story features Leonardo Da Vinci. It also identifies the king as Francis and the son as Henry, and the kingdom as France. Since Francis I of France did invite Leonardo Da Vinci to his kingdom, and he had a son named…

  • history,  homeschooling,  how do we know what we know is true

    continuing my homeschooling discussion of the Renaissance

    The Borgia family gives a “human face” to talking about the power balances. However reading about them in isolation of other Renaissance rulers can make them seem like some sort of anomaly: unethical, power hungry people in a world of decent citizens. In order to broaden my kids understanding of the topic and because my oldest needs a bit of practice in using workbooks I’m having them go through a workbook Renaissance by Patrick Hotle. I’m also sharing with my kids stories I read about other Renaissance families. Caterina Sforza has a particularly fascinating story. Her first husband was Pope Sixtus IV’s nephew Girolamo Riario. Financed by wealthy relatives and…