Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MFW - Rome to the Reformation - January and February

They say time flies when you're having fun and it's certainly true when studying history, too. In the last two months, we've covered about 600 years, starting with the fall of Rome. 

 We looked at the various invasions of the Roman Empire by tribes like the Huns, Visigoths, Vandals and Ostragoths. For the most part, they were none too kind to the Romans and ultimately led to their downfall. But not all was doom and gloom. A succession of emperors like Constantine, Diocletian and Justinian held the Greco-Roman culture together and worked to found the Byzantine (or Holy Roman) Empire. We learned about how Christians were terribly persecuted under the Roman emperors but were later given full rights as citizens and even became the leaders of society. We also learned a great deal about how our modern Bible was put together through conclaves and meetings of church leaders who examined the various sources and chose the books that were the most consistent in telling the story of Messiah and also matched best with the prior writings of what we now call the Old Testament.
We discussed also how the Christians weren't alone in their persecution. The Jews were also under fire during this time. While they had enjoyed some benefits under Roman rule (freedom from worshiping Caesar as a God, full citizenship),  the new Byzantine Empire under Constantine took many of those rights away and moved toward forced conversions under pain of death. If fact, some of the decisions (the date of Easter, Sunday as the sabbath) made at the various councils (Nicaea, Laodicea) were made to decisively separate the Church from Judiasm and made some Jewish practices, like the 7th-day Sabbath, unlawful. Many Jews at the time professed to convert, but secretly held to their Hebrew traditions.

We then moved on to learn about Mohammed, who obviously is a very important historical figure and had a great impact on the world then and now. We learned about who he was, what he claimed to be and how his followers took up his mission after his death. We saw how much of the medieval world his followers conquered and the influence they had on the civilizations of the time. Many of the effects were positive, such as an increased focus on education and science, but there were many instances of wholesale slaughter and pillage of those who would not submit.

But, as we moved on, we discovered that this wasn't strictly limited to Muslim conquests. As the Germanic tribes consolidated and grew in power, the Franks became the dominant group in the area that is France and Germany today. Their king, Charles Martel became known as "The Hammer" because of his relentless pounding of his enemies until there was no one left to fight. Those who were defeated were forced to become Christians. Later, his grandson, Charlemagne, would become Holy Roman Emperor and rule the largest kingdom since the fall of Rome. However, unlike his grandfather, Charlemagne's true love was God, education and the arts. He built numerous monasteries with the stipulation that they educate the local populace regardless of means, so even the poor would have an education.

The monasteries of this time served another purpose: the preservation and duplication of the Scriptures. Olivia learned how they copied the Bible by hand with paper and inks they made themselves.  She got to look at the illuminations (or drawings) in the Book of Kells and other manuscripts. She even tried her hand at copying an example in her art book.

If there was an antithesis to the monasteries, it must be the vikings.
During this time, the vikings (Saxons and Normans) were raiding up and down the coasts of France, Spain, Italy and inland through Germany. They went into villages, stole anything that wasn't nailed down and burned the villages to the ground. They particularly targeted monasteries for the gold and silver icons and utensils that were used.

Currently, we're learning about the time after the vikings converted to Christianity and became more settled. In the coming days and weeks, we'll learn of Alfred the Great, William the conqueror, see the Battle of Hastings andmany other major events and figures. Personally, this is one of my favorite periods in history and so I'm really looking forward to learning right alongside Olivia.

The illunination project wasn't the only thing she did in art. She learned about the artist, Giotto. He was well known for his incredible technical skills. He was asked for a sample of his work by the Pope and he responded by painting a circle so perfect that it couldn't be distinguished from one drawn with a compass.

Therefore, she had to do a study on freehand circles which are so very difficult to draw well.  She worked hard at it and really did well, in my opinion.

She also did a piece on color gradation, which is when a color gradually changes from light to dark. She had to mix each color herself and then paint objects as if the sun were shining from a certain direction. Once again, she did a great job.

 In science, we've been moving through the various systems of the body: digestive, respiratory, circulatory, excretory, and muscular.

As we've done each one, her paper skeleton has gradually gained organs. It's not easy to stuff all those guts into the little space that's there. I guess that's what is so amazing about the human body...

 She learned that the stomach has 3 layers of muscles to squeeze and digest our food.

 She learned how the diaphragm does the work of expanding and compressing our lungs to make us breathe.

 She learned how the heart moves blood throughout our bodies and keeps us alive by getting oxygen and nutrients to our muscles and organs.

 She learned how the exchange of nutrients and oxygen is done in the tiny capillaries.

 She learned how our blood is filtered by our kidneys to remove waste and water.

And finally, she learned how our muscles and tendons hold us all together and make us move.

We're reading through the book of Luke together and discussing in depth the stories and parables of Yeshua. It's pretty neat to hear the kids all get excited when they know a particular passage or story. It's surprising sometimes how well they know things like the feeding of the 4000 and 5000 or the Good Samaritan.

Olivia and I have read two books this time around. The first was Twice Freed, a fictionalized account of the slave, Onesimus, whom Paul talks in the Book of Philemon. Onesimus is the slave of Philemon who is determined to break free of his slavery by any means possible. We both really enjoyed the book and found it to be more than just entertaining, but really instructive because the story moves through places and times that we know about from reading Paul's other letters. It may be fiction, but it does a great job of tying in actual events, people and places.

The second book was The Door in the Wall. This one was set in the mid-1300s during the time of The Scottish wars and the Black Death. It is about a boy named Robin who is the son of a prominent knight, but is stricken by a mysterious illness that leaves him crippled. As his father is away at war, his mother is called to be a handmaid to the Queen and so Robin is left in the care of Brother Luke, a Benedictine Monk. Brother Luke teaches Robin that, when he runs into a wall in life, all he has to do is walk along it until he finds a door. Robin manages to overcome his despondency at losing the use of his legs and go on to have a great deal of fun and adventure. The challenge to this book was that the author had the people speaking in period style, so there were a lot of thee/thy/thou, woulds't, hast, etc... Olivia followed along really well and understood everything that was going on.

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