Desmond finished first grade this week! Yay, Des! He got a cake, a small gift from us, and lots of attention on Tuesday. The best part, though, was how proud he was of his achievements. While we were sitting at the table enjoying cake, I listed some of his main accomplishments; namely, mastering reading and having read over fifty chapter books in a span of just over two months. Also, mastering his addition and subtraction fact families, along with many other arithmetic concepts. After I’d named those things, he piped up himself and said, “And I also…”, and proceeded to name off all the awesome things he’d learned and done over the past school year. It was obvious that he’s proud of himself and how far he’s come, too. 🙂
Also this week, Gray worked on solving algebraic equations, as well as solving and computing compound measurements. In grammar, he finished his punctuation unit and made a 100 on the test. We’re now doing the final unit in his grammar text, which is on writing good sentences. Yesterday we focused on appositives, phrases which clarify nouns, for the day. (See what I did there? 😉 )
We focused heavily on history this week. We had some lessons that all bridged together, so we did one each day—following the great (and often ugly) reign of the Tudor family in England, as well as Mary, Queen of Scots and the hard-nosed Scottish reformer John Knox. All this took place in the mid-late 1500’s. Smack in the middle of the Great Reformation, and all the brutality waged against protestant “heretics” for their beliefs. Though, we also learned, protestant rulers did their share of persecuting and killing catholics, too. It goes without saying that it’s sad that Christians were ever persecuting and killing other Christians—or anyone at all, actually.
It all continually brought to mind (and I told the boys many times) how blessed we are to live in an era and in a country where we have no state church—and therefore freedom of religion. Catholics and other Christian denominations (I dislike the term “protestant”…I use “Christian”) live in complete freedom, peace, and harmony in our country. Other religions enjoy freedom as well. It won’t always be this way, but for now we enjoy great freedom, especially compared to 16th-century anywhere. Or even compared to most countries in the world today. It all comes down to having a state church. Whenever that happens, you can bet that persecution is soon to follow—no matter what denomination. Catholics were the main perpetrators during the dark ages and reformation era, but once protestants got power in various places, they did their share of persecution. John Calvin, for example—he was a horrible man who tried to control everyone in his stead—to the point of imprisoning and martyring detractors. The Puritans in colonial America are another example—remember the Scarlet Letter? Putting people who’d “sinned” in stocks? Or beating, imprisoning, or killing them. The Salem Witch Trials, for yet another example. I could go on, but the point is, there’s very good reason for the separation of Church and state. I would like to think that modern Christians would do better, but history and experience says they would not.
We had lessons on Mary Tudor (aka Bloody Mary), who was a catholic queen of England; she was also Henry VIII’s daughter (with Catherine of Aragon, his first wife whom he scorned for not giving him a son). Mary was dead-set on returning England to the Roman church following her father’s switch to protestantism. So, she had hundreds of protestants burned at the stake or beheaded and caused great bloodshed and religious turmoil in England. We learned that the famous nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” was written for her—with heavy satire. “Silver bells and cockleshells” were instruments of torture that she used, and “pretty maids all in a row” were the guillotines she used for putting to death many protestant Christians. Thankfully, her reign was short-lived; she ruled for only about five years before she fell ill and died.
Mary was followed in reign by her half-sister Elizabeth (also Henry VIII’s daughter; her mother was Anne Boleyn), who was a protestant queen. She had a much more peaceful reign with much less killing, though she had her moments where she signed the death warrants of a few catholics, for nothing more than their choice of religion. But overall, her reign was a long and positive one that’s still remembered fondly by the English: also known as the Elizabethan Age, which was the age that saw the great William Shakespeare. Elizabeth I never took a husband and never had children (though she had many suitors and love interests; they just never went very far). She was dubbed “The Virgin Queen” (our state of Virginia is her namesake); she said she chose to live her life for England, rather than have a family. Kind of sad, to me. Her story has interested me in watching the two Hollywood films about her, where she’s played by Cate Blanchett. Our library has them available on dvd, so the next time P goes, he’s going to check them out for me. 🙂
Mary Stuart (or Mary, Queen of Scots) was queen of Scotland for a short time, but—as she was catholic—protestant leader John Knox opposed her vehemently. She ended up involved in some major scandal, as she was pregnant with her 2nd husband’s baby (that baby would later become England’s King James—of Bible translation fame) while at the same time being very close and friendly with another man. Then, her husband ended up getting murdered, and both Mary and her man friend (whom she married just a few months after her 2nd husband’s murder) were implicated in the murder. Mary went to Queen Elizabeth I of England—who happened to be her own cousin—for help. But Elizabeth, fearing Mary would usurp her throne, refused to help her. She, in fact, had Mary locked up in castle prisons for 19 years. At the end of that 19 years, she was accused of actually plotting to de-throne Elizabeth (no one knows if this is true or not), and Elizabeth signed her death warrant. Mary was beheaded, and quite gruesomely—the executioner’s first blow sunk into the back of her head, instead of her neck! Her response was to whisper, “Sweet Jesus!”. The executioner’s second blow hit the target, but failed to completely cut off her head. The third blow finally beheaded her. The executioner then picked up her severed head by its hair, but unbeknownst to him, Mary had been wearing a wig (she’d been in poor health from all the years of imprisonment). He was clutching only her wig, and her severed head fell loose and rolled across the ground…while her lips continued to move for nearly 15 minutes! Pretty gruesome…but of course, the boys loved these parts best of all. Boys.
For the hundredth time, I love history so much! Especially renaissance and reformation-age English history. The boys enjoy it, too. Desmond hangs on every word, and remembers things I’d never expect him to remember at his age. We have a lot of fun during these lessons. All week, I’ve found short documentaries on youtube to go along with our lessons, and we’ve watched them as supplements. It really seals the knowledge into their brains. Now the boys are wanting to act out some of their favorite scenes and video them…so we may do that next week.
In other news, we adopted some kittens last week. They were eight-week-old sisters (now they’re nine weeks old). They are so sweet, and so playful! They’ve kept us entertained (and on our toes) since the day they arrived. They play-fight constantly when they’re awake. They play with everything…constantly! Thankfully, they still sleep a lot. 😉