Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to Turn a Beloved Book into a Literature Lesson: The Life of St. Brigid: Abbess of Kildare

Happy Feast of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland! (January 1)

St. Brigid has been with me through many difficult moments with my children. When I was having trouble with my milk coming in to nurse my daughter, I prayed that she would bless my "pantry" so my milk would overflow. And she did!

We love St. Brigid and hope you get to know and love her too. And if you homeschool, you can use her book as a part of your curriculum.

Below is a link to a chart with examples of literary devices from The Life of St. Brigid: Abbess of Kildare.

With elementary children, work on only one device at a time.

For example, one week, read this sonorous book aloud together. Afterward, turn back to a page with alliteration, re-read the sentence aloud, and explain to your child the concept of alliteration, which is the repetition of the beginning sounds of words. See if your child can find another example as you read the rest of the page.

Through out the week, practice noticing alliteration (a favorite technique in most children’s books) in the various stories you read. Play games like “A my Name is Alice, and I like apples” (B my name is Betty and I like bongos and so forth) or “I’m going on a picnic” (and bringing awesome apples, bright yellow bananas, crunchy crackers, etc.) This is one of the children's favorite pastimes for the hour-long drive to the Grandparents' house.

You could have your child write a summary of her own saint’s life, using alliteration in one sentence. Or write a poem practicing alliteration in each line.

Don't go overboard! Especially with an elementary age child, use your judgement to know when your child has had enough, because we want this learning to be like a game. The main goal of reading stories in this age group should be to feast on the ideas of the stories, meet new friends (like Saint Brigid!) and to learn to love books.

I have played with a few of these ideas with my 5 year old, but I also remember writing papers in the 12th grade for AP English in which we identified and analyzed an author’s use of these very devices. Consequently, the material can be modified for middle and high school students as well.

Final note: the Literary Devices Chart includes hyperlinks to a variety of sights, so you can decide which one is right for your age group and personal preference. The St. Brigid Chart of Examples is not an exhaustive list of literary devices but is a list of some techniques Jane G. Meyer uses in creating her lyrical story.

Link to St. Brigid Chart of Examples

Link to a Literary Devices Chart Template you can use to find more examples in this book or in other books.

And really, you can take this idea and apply it to any good story. You will probably do it even better than I did because you know your own child best.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Amazing Story, Enjoyable Story-Telling

“Oh, my.”

Pages turn.

“I didn’t know that.”

Story sings and words play in Celtic frames.

“Wow! No way.” I turn to my husband, “Babe, listen to this!”

So progresses my journey through the pages of The Life of St. Brigid: Abbess of Kildare. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out the details. The first time I read the book was to myself, silently, sitting on the couch one evening after the kids went to bed. Just the facts of the life of this amazing Irish saint are enough to make this book valuable, but I don’t recommend reading it silently or alone.

The next day, when the kids – 2 years and 6 years old – joined me on the couch and we read aloud, then the joy of Jane G. Meyer’s writing could be heard and savored. Meyer likes to play with her words, reminding me of the way my daughter likes to play with a shelf of shoes. Anyone can line the shoes up in pairs. My daughter likes to take the shoes off, rearrange them, try different combinations, get rid of some, and bring in new ones from other rooms. Jane G. Meyer does the same things with words, rearranging, ordering, changing them until the effect is more of a hybrid between prose and poetry, much like another beloved lyrical book in our home: Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall.

I teach English, and The Life of St. Brigid is so full of examples of rhetorical technique that by nature I had to start creating a lesson plan that used this text to identify certain literary devices like alliteration, repetition, assonance, and more. If you are teaching older reader-writers, you might like to use this chart (coming soon) to supplement your studies. If you are using Mary's British Isles Curriculum next year, this story of God’s faithful servant from Ireland might fit in nicely.

My only complaint in reading this book is that the creative font is hard to read if you have a headache, and not great for beginning readers. Despite these minor things, the Holy and Amazing St. Brigid is worth reading about, just for God’s story in her life.

Don’t limit yourself to an English lesson, either!

Open your heart to St. Brigid’s inspiring faith in God’s provision. (This has been an encouraging book to read as my husband continues his job search in a strained economy.)

Open your eyes to the intense colors and carefully painted Celtic designs by illustrator Zachary Lynch.

Open your lips and sing to your pantry or invite St. Brigid into your prayer life.

This book contains the amazing story of a girl who knew no boundaries in her faith of God, it is an enjoyable read-a-loud, and it can be a handy resource for extra rhetoric practice. I pray that St. Brigid’s love and generosity might grow in my family, overflowing like her blessed pantry.

PS1 - For another perspective of this book, see Emma's thoughts.

PS2 - Now I understand why Sophia's family named their farm St. Brigid's Farm - she was a shepherdess in Ireland and is a protector of flocks and herds.

PS3 - Visit Author Jane G. Meyer's website here.

PS4 - I love that this book includes a kontakion to St. Brigid.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In preparation for the Dormition Fast

Well, I'll let you read other blogs like this series for spiritual preparation.

All I'm offering is kitchen help. Watch this video for a tutorial on how to make crab(cooked), cucumber & avocado sushi rolls. Yum!

Here's how to make the "sushi rice"

I must say that I am looking forward to starting The Most Holy Theotokos Study on Evlogia Katherine has created.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gifts from God: Other Mothers Part 2

From my own mother's garden transplanted to mine - lantana, so easy to keep alive!

MammaJuliana often reminds me to hit the thrift stores. When I realized recently that Little Builder's swimsuit was left at the Grandparents' house, we headed to Goodwill for a $2 replacement.

Alana at Morning Coffee includes the Farmers Market in her weekly routine. We are so blessed to have our little market here in our little city.

Once again, thanking God for the blessings of other mothers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gifts from God: in the Kitchen

I have met a new friend, this parchment paper. She barely lifts a finger, effortlessly releasing these artisan loaves.

No more scraping bottoms of loaves from the pan.

No more piling up a 1/4 inch layer of corn meal (or regular flour for prosphora) under my loaf in order to prevent the finished loaf from sticking to the pan.

No more unintended flat bread from the dough sliding and spreading out on a greased pan.

Just brown loaves of goodness, sliding off the pan onto the baking rack.

Gift from God #638: Parchment Paper

If anyone knows a reason why one couldn't use parchment paper under prosphora, let me know! I can't wait to use it when it's my next turn to make it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Birthdays and Namedays

Sylvia was pondering how to go about celebrating these two special days, and we didn't have to choose yesterday. Little Builder had a birthday and our Toddler had her Name Day - St. Elizabeth the new Martyr - so we had one big celebration with two cakes.

Little Builder wanted to have the party at his beloved Sunday School teacher's house, so we grilled burgers, hit balls off his new tee, played in the slip-and-slide, and enjoyed each other's company. Our church friends are so gracious to help us make these days special.

Here's the semi-truck cake a little closer.