Tuesday Tome Week 39 – The Last Battle

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My daughter, who is six, says that The Last Battle is her favorite book in all The Chronicles of Narnia. I don’t think it was my favorite, but it was definitely a great book to read.

The Last Battle

The allegories to the Christian journey continued and culminated with the last scenes where all the characters come back. We had to go back to the first volume to remember if the first king of Narnia, King Frank, was a policeman or a cabby (he was a cabby) because we had forgotten such details.

It was good to recount who was who and who did what and when. The children remembered more than I did, which is a good thing. I have enough things to remember as it is. Information overload is the story of a mother’s life.

One thing we have been doing more and more of is highlight humorous passages. For example, the kids laugh when a character says, “Hallo! What are we stopping for?” or “aii-aii-aouwee!” or “ow! ow! What d’you do that for!” They are beginning to take literature in and react and respond to different scenes and turns of phrases, the silly ones for now, but others later on, too, I am sure. That was my goal all along.

Once literature speaks to them directly, they will reach for books again and again. It’s like anything else. You cannot force them to love music (or Jesus). You put them in the presence of music (or Jesus) over and over and then music (or Jesus) works its (His) magic. Continue reading »

Further in and further up, the two commands toward the end of the book, are such metaphors. In our Christian walk, we are encouraged constantly to come further in (closer to the heart of God) and further up (raising our standards and conduct accordingly).

The whole confusion between Aslan and Tash should clarify once and for all – if anybody has ears to hear – the confusion between true religion and the false religions of the world. In mixing reality with the shadow of reality, C. S. Lewis reaches for Plato again, showing us his scholarship and power of synthesis.

Lord Digory complains, “It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what DO they teach them at these schools?” While everybody laughs at his remarks, I am not laughing. Unfortunately, most schools these days have abandoned the classics for newer methods and play learning. I am not just referring to government schools but also to private Christian schools and some homeschools as well.

While Classical methods are on the rise among homeschoolers, many still resist the idea of a thorough, challenging curriculum which includes Greek philosophers. They refuse it in the name of Christ. There’s no arguing with such folks, either, because many of them have decided “pagan” ideas should not be shared with their children.

To each his own, but I have spoken with several mothers whose children walked away from the faith after they took Philosophy 101 in their freshman year in college. A little introduction (at the very least, in high school) to the ancient ideas that laid the foundation of the Western thought and civilization would have inoculated their children against unbelief. Just sayin’.

Tuesday Tome Week 38 – The Silver Chair

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The Silver Chair did not seem very interesting to me at first. It took more than half the book to even understand the title. I felt confused by the whole layout of the land described and the Marsh-Wiggle called Puddleglum. (Uh, what’s a Marsh-Wiggle?)

The Silver Chair

The book begins with Eustace helping a school mate, Jill, while she is being chased by bullies. They both escape to Narnia just in time before the bullies get to Jill. Folks, this is 1950 and C.S. Lewis knew enough about schools in those days to put a bit of them in his books. The bullies today work just the same, if not worse.  Continue reading »

It made me realize there is a whole theme about education through Narnia. Peter complained about the school Edmund started attending. In fact, Peter claims the school Edmund started attending made Edmund a traitor and a liar.

Jill’s bullying in The Silver Chair makes me thankful we are able to homeschool and spare our children the grief. She attends an Experiment House where children can do what they want and teachers believe that if they just talk to the children with the right words, they can elicit the correct behavior. Sounds like the progressive education of the 21st century we see all around us, doesn’t it? Well, it all started 20 years before Narnia was published and so by the time Lewis wrote about it, it was developed enough to be analyzed and mocked by an intellectual of his caliber.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Professor wonders, “What DO they teach them in these schools?” when he realizes the children have no Logic principles. In yet another place, the question is repeated by another character.

The Christian overtones become very clear in The Silver Chair. Puddleglum sacrifices his health by stomping out the fire with his own foot in order to stop the witch’s spell. The children are given directions by Aslan, directions which must be memorized and obeyed (Scripture memorization?).

When they wonder what will happen if they do what Aslan told them to, Puddleglum reminds them that Aslan never told them what would happen. He just wanted their obedience. And as long as you listen to his words and trust they are the best for you, you will have done your duty.

Prince Rilian is tied to a silver chair when he comes back to his right mind, so that he may not escape from the Underworld. Reality and fantasy blend and become very confusing. The children don’t know if they should release him or not, because he is a totally different person when his “fit” comes over him. I could go on and on with examples of how deep this book goes into the Christian journey with its ups and downs, confusing and clear moments.

For those familiar with Plato, you will of course recognize his allegory of the cave. Lewis is a genius in coming up with a story which can show children philosophical principles.

Tuesday Tome Week 37 – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the fifth volume of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. The Dawn Treader is a Narnian sail boat which belongs to Prince Caspian. Lucy and Edmund join him on this ship and end up going to the end of the world in it.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

One of these days, you will have to sit down and read this book. Especially if you miss the seaside and it’s cold outside and you just got overwhelmed by wanderlust. It’s an adventure and most children will enjoy it, too.  Continue reading »

We get introduced to Eustace – the Penvensies’ cousin. This vegetarian boy does not play nice, but with a little help from Aslan he turns his character around.

The spiritual lessons in this book abound, just like in the rest of the Narnia books. When Eustace becomes a dragon, he realizes his need to change his ways. He comes face to face with loneliness and is ready to do anything to have friends and show himself friendly.

When Aslan tells Eustace to scratch his dragon skin off, Eustace tries but under each layer he finds more scales and more dragon skin layers. Finally, Aslan says, “Let me do this for you.” He has Eustace lying on his back (a symbol of powerlessness) and performs the change for him.

Eustace’s becoming undragoned symbolizes the born-again experience. If you have not gone through it, you cannot understand it. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. That’s just one story from the whole book to give you an idea of how things work in a book like Narnia.

At the end of the book, Lucy and Edmund are told they will never come back to Narnia ever again. Peter and Susan do not feature in this book, as each of them is doing something else for the summer, away from Eustace’s home where Lucy and Edmund are hosted.

Reepicheep, a giant mouse, provides lots of entertainment and lessons in bravery, too. I am not fond of mice and they seem to be everywhere in children’s literature. So far, Reepicheep is my favorite mouse from all the books we have read. I see a bit of myself in him, actually.

The light they ran into at the end of the world and the sea of water lilies provide more metaphors for the Christian walk. Overall, a deeply spiritual read, with lots of adventures and laughter in between.

Tuesday Tome Week 36 – Prince Caspian

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Prince Caspian is the fourth volume in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. We read these books out loud – I read them to the kids – one chapter or two per day. They love Narnia. We also listen to the radio theater version created by Focus on the Family and watch the BBC version from 1988.

Prince Caspian

The children liked Prince Caspian a lot. In fact, my six-year-old said she liked it better than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think I liked it better myself. The journey narrative made me think of our own journey through life.

And then, why do we journey? A battle awaits at the end of a journey – a confrontation with envious, jealous people, who want to either kill us or take away our birthright. Whether they symbolize the forces of evil or mean-spirited people in our own lives, it depends on every context. But I can see this scenario repeated in small things and big things in the human experience and especially in the experience of a Christian – somebody who has taken God, the King of Kings, as their Father. Which, of course, makes us princes and princesses, heirs and heiresses.

There were some funny parts, especially the ones involving Dwarfs. And then there was the chilling realization that the White Witch is back in a different form. Even the radio theater people, by using the same voice, made sure we got the hint. When I asked the children, they said they knew. They could tell it was her again.

The moments when Aslan pops into the story are as touching as ever. My children love Aslan and they know he is a symbol of Jesus.

The best part for me was the location of the battle: Aslan’s How. I think C. S. Lewis was brilliant when he came up with that. The method of Aslan or his “how” should be paramount in our minds and hearts. All in all, a great, meditative read.

Radio Theater from Focus on the Family

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As we homeschool, we morph and change. The children grow and we grow with them. I drove them to Knoxville (one hour both ways) for three years to participate in Adventure Club – a scouting program through our church.

Then, I got burned out. They were younger. No matter what we did in the car for their entertainment, they drove me crazy. My children have never traveled well. It was just too much driving for their age and it had to stop.

Focus on the Family Narnia radio theater

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis in radio theater form on 19 CDs.

Nine months later, they are different people. Plus, we have discovered radio theater CDs from Focus on the Family. We have listened to almost the whole series of Adventures in Odyssey. We are working through Chronicles of Narnia now.  Continue reading »

The children love these programs. They listen intently. They still squabble a bit, as sibling always do on the backseat, but they are a lot better behaved and easier to manage.

I can also see how listening develops their auditory learning skills. Since the actors in Narnia have a British accent, it’s a very good educational opportunity to stretch their minds and ears. We may live in East Tennessee, which is a world in itself, but I want them to know the world is big.

Since we also read through the unabridged books, it is a great way for the children to see how writers adapt certain scenes for radio theater. Many times, they take the sentences from the books word for word. Other times, they tell one chapter in one sentence or two. It’s a great lesson in narration.

Last but not least, children are children. They are impatient and want to know how the story ends. It is so hard to wait until we finish the book and its 15-17 chapters. We can almost listen to the whole radio version of a book in three hours or a trip to orchestra practice, for instance.

They don’t mind the repetition. Once they know what will happen from the radio version, they are more inclined to listen to the descriptions and details of the book version. It works for us and, as a treat, we let them watch the DVD version of Narnia as well. I am sure this whole book-audio-video experience will be on their list of fond childhood memories once they are adults.

Tuesday Tome Week 35 – The Horse and His Boy

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Volume 3 in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy was a completely unknown book to me. How sad! This book has fed me so much since we read it with the children. We also listened to it in radio theater form from Focus on the Family.

The Horse and His Boy

Shasta is an orphan boy raised by a cruel man, who ends up running away to Narnia on a talking horse. So now you know who the characters in the title are. The books presents several other memorable characters as Shasta meets friends and foes on the way to his new destiny.  Continue reading »

The most memorable quote in this volume for me was something Aslan says to Shasta and, later, to Aravis. Shasta wanted to know why Aslan hurt Aravis. Aslan replies, “I only tell you your story, not hers. Nobody gets told anybody else’s story but their own.”

In another place, Aravis finds out that Aslan clawed her back because she needed to experience what her servant girl had to experience for having helped her flee. Aravis knew that she was just using this servant. She knew they would flog the girl once they realized she had helped Aravis take her flight from a planned marriage.

And Aravis did not care. This servant girl used to work for Aravis’ step-mother and had given Aravis a hard time once or twice before. It was Aravis’ way to take revenge. Well, Aslan showed her. We don’t take revenge. We let the lion do the revenge for us. It’s always better. So he clawed her.

After Aravis understood, she wanted to know what happened to the servant girl afterwards. Aslan replies, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. Nobody gets told anybody else’s story but their own.”

When you look at somebody’s life and you see something going amiss, you start speculating. But you don’t know. And you should not want to know. Everybody has their own story with Aslan. And even if we think we know why bad things happen to good people or why good things happen to bad people, we actually don’t.

It’s liberating. It’s a relief. I don’t have to figure out why there is conflict in the world or in my friends’ lives. Aslan – a symbol of Christ – is in charge. He knows. He is handling it even as I wonder about it. And I just need to rest in the assurance that their story is in good hands. I don’t need to understand it. I can pray for them, I can help them if they seem to need help or if they ask for help, but that’s about it.

Of course, the book has a wonderful plot and great descriptions and it makes for an exquisite reading choice. The children love it and even if they don’t get all the Christian nuances and allegories, they get exposure to wonderful writing.

Tuesday Tome Week 34 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second volume of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and, probably, the best-known and the most read. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy spend their summer in the country because of the war (this was World War II England – a chance to discuss some history with the kids), in the home of an old professor. There, Lucy walks into a wardrobe and, from there, into Narnia, a magical land.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

C. S. Lewis wrote about Narnia and you could just enjoy the story as it is, of course. But the writer meant it all as an allegory of the Christian walk and a human’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Aslan, the lion in the title, represents Jesus. The Witch represents Satan and, at times, our fallen nature. The Wardrobe is the actual “door” used to go between our world and Narnia.  Continue reading »

There are so many double meanings to what the characters say and do. Every time I read this book or listen to its radio theater version, which I highly recommend, I see something new. It’s the mark of a good writer and somebody who understands the Christian walk through his own experience.

The most memorable quote for me from volume 2 is when Mr. Beaver talks to the kids about Aslan, the lion. They have never met him so they are wondering what he is like. Is he safe? Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about being safe? But he is good.”

I tear up every time I read or hear that quote because I have experienced this with the lion, Jesus, in my own Christian walk. Aslan will take you places where you will hurt. He will make you meet people who will hurt you. You will feel unsafe in places and relationships where you know He placed you. But it’s all part of His good plan for your life. He knows what you need to get ready for the “big journey” as He calls it.

After I read the book out loud to the kids, one chapter a day, sometimes two, we listened to the Focus on the Family radio theater version of it (as mentioned above). Then and only then, did I allow the kids to watch the BBC production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I pointed out to the kids how the movie just cannot give you all the details you find in the book and why they should always read the book first.

It’s not that hard to finish the book in 10 days actually. If you read one chapter in the morning, right after breakfast and devotional, as a way to usher in your Language Arts for the day, and then another chapter in the evening, after dinner, you can get it done. It has 17 chapters. You can definitely read it in two weeks if you should slow down a bit here and there.

Tuesday Tome Week 33 – The Magician’s Nephew

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The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis have inspired me and the children in many ways. I will attempt to cover several in this blog post but there will be more points coming, as I will write about each volume in a separate post.

The Magician's Nephew

The first volume of this masterpiece is titled The Magician’s Nephew. The language, the long sentences, the descriptions, i.e. the beautiful prose of C.S. Lewis, represent the first reason why any homeschool should put Narnia on their reading list.  Continue reading »

Whether you do it out loud like we do or you let the children read on their own depends on you, your schedule, and their reading skills. I think it makes for a great read out loud title(s) because, for one, I had never read them from cover to cover. So it helps me to get exposure to great English literature. Then, we can talk about it.

“Mommy, wasn’t it funny when … [insert different scenes from the book, which I see as her own way of naturally narrating back to me what she heard] ?” says my six-year-old, whose world is all fun and games. She sees everything as funny and amusing. She inspires me, that’s for sure.

Then my eight-year-old would repeat phrases and words from the book and let them roll off his tongue and I can tell he tries them on for size. He is taking on new vocabulary and longer sentences or at least full sentences, descriptions and turns of phrases, as if they were new outfits he puts on, outfits that define him in a new way.

See, even my sentences on this blog have become longer thanks to reading Narnia. That’s what a book does to you. It changes you, it penetrates your mind, it becomes one with you. All the more reasons to look for the best titles and immerse yourself in them.

The second reason you should drop everything and start on Narnia is the gospel theme woven throughout the books. You may get more of the symbolism than your children, if they are under 10. But you can always point it out to them. I have personally been very inspired in my walk with God by these books, as I see myself in the struggles and joys of the characters and their interaction with Aslan, the symbol of Jesus Christ.

Finally, Narnia should be read because it is fantasy or fairy tale literature. At the time when C.S. Lewis was publishing Narnia, in the 1950s, many people thought fairy tales were wrong for children because it confused them, as children already have a hard time discerning what is real and what is make believe. Uber-conservative Christians today still stand on that platform.

C.S. Lewis explained why that position is nonsensical in many essays and articles. He explained how children’s imaginations were fed and encouraged by fantastic creatures and mythical worlds where seemingly everything is possible. And he kept on writing Narnia – seven volumes of it.

Well, that is quite a debate and I shall not even attempt it. I have made my choices and you have yours to make. To each his own.