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Review: Explain Pain by Butler and Moseley

This is one of the most difficult books I’ve read recently, not so much because of its intellectual challenge but because I need to absorb and understand it at a deep level in order to support loved ones in pain. I have read it twice in the last two months while trying to apply its insights to everyday situations, and it has changed the way I think.

Explained simplistically, the concepts of Explain Pain could be considered cruel and unhelpful; explained well, they are life-changing and life-giving.  So please bear with me while I try to give you the gist of this book and then, if you or a loved one deals with chronic pain, study the book yourself to understand it more thoroughly.

Almost all pain begins with tissue damage, but at a certain point chronic pain may spread through the body if the nervous system, immune system, endocrine system, and motor system become sensitized to pain and try to over-protect the body from perceived threats.  This is related to many body systems becoming hypervigilant, and is no longer related as much to direct tissue damage.  So the approach to chronic pain is essentially two-fold:

  • deal with the tissue damage and
  • reduce the hypervigilance that has overtaken the body’s systems.

Learning about pain helps a sufferer with the latter, and that is what this book is about.  It discusses

  • how the brain perceives pain,
  • how pain messages are conveyed to the brain,
  • what happens to tissue when it is damaged,
  • how pain and other sensors become more sensitive to pain,
  • what happens in the spinal cord when the body becomes sensitized to pain,
  • how the nervous system, the endocrine system, the immune system, and the motor system become involved.

Finally, Explain Pain discusses pain theories, how experts can help, and how sufferers can help themselves using various coping strategies.  It also shows which kinds of coping strategies are more effective than others and it details three approaches that almost always help.

Filled with footnotes to recent scientific literature, Explain Pain outlines the latest pain research for the ordinary person.  Although many medical professionals do not think untrained people can understand pain science, Dr. Butler and Dr. Moseley have learned that they can and that this understanding is a vital part of learning to manage their pain.

Among other things, the ideas presented in this book and reinforced by my daughter’s (Miss 14) pain specialists have really helped her.  She is at her lowest pain level in years despite embarking on an ambitious (but very gradual) strength-training program and being on the go almost constantly.  She is now also able to study adult level specialist books in animal care and human kinesiology, whereas in the past she could often hardly concentrate enough to read at all.  Even though she is not yet well, the improvements in her life are mind-boggling, and a lot of them have to do with concepts presented in Explain Pain.

If chronic pain is a factor in your life or in the lives of those you love, please read Explain Pain.  Its ideas can make a significant difference.


–We were blessed with a talented and dedicated neurological physiotherapist who, while caring for my daughter, discussed pain science with us for hours.  Perhaps God will send such a compassionate and knowledgeable person into your lives as well.

–As our pain doctor pointed out in a careful, politically-correct way, those who believe that God is in control of their lives and makes all things work out for good have a great advantage in the struggle with pain.  This is not stated in Explain Pain, but the concept is fully compatible with the science discussed in Butler and Moseley’s book.

Explain Pain does not focus much on tissue pain itself;  it does, however, help with the extra pain that so easily builds up around tissue damage pain due to sensitization of the body’s various systems.

As mentioned, Explain Pain focuses largely on the aspects of pain that are not directly related to damaged tissues.  A complimentary approach that can help long-term tissue pain, especially in complex conditions, involves eliminating gluten and/or yeasts from the diet.  Magnesium supplements and magnesium cream (to rub on the skin) can also make an enormous difference. (It is assumed that intake of calcium and vitamin D is adequate.)

–This recent report is an example of what can happen to neurons in pain conditions; other scientific advances detail what happens when one is able to calm sensitized body systems.  Surely, as the authors of Explain Pain state, ‘we are highly integrated beings and fearfully and wonderfully complex.’ p 111

–Painful Yarns by Moseley presents stories and metaphors to help you understand the biology of pain.  The language is a bit rough and many of the stories are about trucks and other masculine interests, but the book did help me understand pain better and explain it more effectively.  This is a helpful but not required companion volume to Explain Pain.

–Two related books that I have not read:

  • The Explain Pain Handbook Protectometer by Moseley and Butler, which I hope to read soon.
  • Explain Pain Supercharged by Butler and Moseley, which is for health care professionals.

–In Explain Pain I read one sentence that made me wonder how many of these concepts can apply to debilitating fatigue.  Although I suspect that much in this book is irrelevant to fatigue, some of the treatment approaches in Chapter 6 contain insights similar to those I have found helpful for fatigue management.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  We borrowed this book from my daughter’s physiotherapist and are not compensated for recommending it to you.

Homeschool Reading and Resource List

Homeschooling is a challenging calling, but there are some resources that make it easier.  Here are some that we have loved, that you might want to consider for your homeschool reading this summer.  As you go through this list, remember, the only indispensable one is the Bible; the next three most helpful ones are 102 Top Picks,  How to Read a Book, and Total Truth.  The rest are very worthwhile, but you do not need them.   (Note that most of the links in this article are to my reviews; there are no affiliate links.)

The Bible. If you are having a hard time reading your Bible regularly, here are Six Tips that may help. 

Bible memory:  For a non-permanent way to cover your walls with Bible texts, you might want to try Scripture Stickies. They created a special coupon code for you: “rvhea” gets a 10% discount at the Scripture Stickies website.

Helpful Bible texts for homeschooling moms to memorize; I need these so often!  Philippians 4:4-8, Proverbs 14:1, Proverbs 3:5,6, and Titus 2:3-5.

The Heidelberg Catechism is a 450 year old Bible curriculum that explores the gospel message using the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer using a question and answer format.  Its purpose was to provide Bible knowledge and real-life comfort during troubled Reformation times and it also gives guidance and comfort during troubling homeschooling days. Even if you don’t like catechisms, this one is a treasure for all Protestants (although there will be disagreement on one question and answer about baptism as well possible controversy about the Lord’s Supper).

102 Top Picks by Cathy Duffy (or the older editions 101 Top Picks or 100 Top Picks). The more carefully you work through the first five chapters of this book, the more your homeschool will benefit.  I go through this introductory material every few years so I won’t drift away from our original goals.  If you wish to buy it, Cathy has offered you a $3 discount that is good here through 8/31/17: AKA2017. (This can be used on either print or ebooks but it won’t work for just the charts.)

How to Write a Low Cost No Cost Curriculum for Your Home School Child by Borg Hendrickson is ideal for grades 1-8 if you are making up your curriculum yourself. This book was helpful at the beginning of our homeschool journey when we had no money for curriculum, knew nothing about teaching little ones, and lived overseas. You can find similar information in the scope and sequence documents of major curriculum suppliers such as A Beka, Bob Jones, Veritas Press, Sonlight, etc.  There is also the series What your __th Grader Needs to Know by Hirsch.  But don’t get overwhelmed—these are tools, not tyrants.

Ambleside Online curriculum (free) is an excellent resource guide which was created to ‘spread a feast of learning’ before children and to help them develop relationships between different concepts.

Public and Christian school course catalogues are very helpful for high school planning; these will also help you write course descriptions for your high school records.  You can often just pick them up; some high schools will mail them; sometimes they are available online.  Also, if you are not sure if your high school curriculum meets certain standards and covers all topics expected by a university or college, libraries often have textbooks as well as public school review material.  Be sure to check university entrance requirements (available on their websites) for areas your teen may be interested in.

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick With this, the library, and access to a wide variety of hands-on activities, you can teach the first three grades beautifully, although I did find security in having ‘real’ curricula, too.

One homeschooler-turned-teacher gave me this list of things our children need to know in order to be able to learn well:  phonics (even if the child can already read), basic arithmetic, stories and facts of history, patterns in history, basic facts and cool concepts of science, vocabulary, parts of speech, elements of a picture, elements of a story, how to write a paragraph, comparing and contrasting.

How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren teaches the average reader how to understand, analyze, and learn from books. It takes students beyond the basics of reading to become scholars and is the second most important book in our homeschool high school, after the Bible.  Helpful for moms as well as students.  It is worth buying. For more information, please see my summary of The Four Levels of Reading for High School.

Things We Wish We’d Known by Bill and Diana Waring.  Fifty veteran homeschoolers share what they wish they had known when they started their homeschooling journey—heartfelt, time-tested tips and nuggets of wisdom.  Much of our homeschool is based on their advice.

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey.  Based on the idea that we need to move beyond a privatized faith, Total Truth analyses our culture, showing why and how Christianity is marginalized and what we can do about it in our everyday lives. This is a very valuable guide to help us ensure we are teaching truth and may help us understand what Paul said in Eph. 6:4, about teaching our kids Christian culture and thus developing it.  I am excited to be studying this book over the summer with a group of ladies; that is my big summer reading project this year.

Schoolproof by Mary Pride will help you figure out what is essential for each child and each subject, helping you eliminate unnecessary extras.  ‘Knowledge is complex enough, students are complex enough, without making teaching complicated, too.’

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen. In our homeschools we can avoid these ten things that our society does to children.

Setting the Records Straight by Lee Binz will help you prepare comprehensive high school records that are suitable for university admission.  It is definitely worth buying.  (Or if you are as frightened and stressed out as I was, you might want to invest in the more expensive Comprehensive Record Program which is similar but involves a lot more handholding).   Lee Binz’s method helped me enormously and helped my teens get scholarships.  Warning: when you read it, beware of the danger of comparison.  Most of our 12 year olds are a far cry from some of the super stars mentioned but don’t panic, just pray and work.

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel is a very practical book for those of us involved in the important daily business of teaching our kids.

SCRUM by Jeff Sutherland.  This is essentially a business book about aiming for goals rather than being devoted to methods, a skill that is invaluable for homeschooling moms.  This technique has been successfully applied to education on pages 204-211 and would be interesting to homeschoolers who, for one reason or another, want an efficient approach to education.  It has a mindset similar to Schoolproof, listed above.

Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory, summarized here and available to download here.

General Resources, because if the rest of your life runs smoothly, your homeschool will, too.

Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews is the best practical distillation of the time management literature available for moms.  It covers all the basics in 30 pages, beginning with the shocking (to some of us) truth that there really are only 24 hours in a day….

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem by Kevin de Young discusses the spiritual issues involved in being too busy.  Challenging and helpful.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg helps us avoid wasting our time, energy, health, or money on bad habits.  Thorough, practical, research-based guide for adults.

Laying Down the Rails by Sonya Schafer. I haven’t yet seen any of Shafer’s several books about developing habits, but this one, about teaching children habits, has Ann Voskamp’s hearty approval:  ‘One of the most productive homeschooling reads. Worth every penny and more. Needful, necessary stuff.  I return again and again to this book, all underlined and dog-eared.’

Note:  This list has been shared with conference attendees in the past.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  I am not compensated for recommending any of these books and resources to you.

Review: Ticket to Curlew and Wings to Fly by Celia Barker Lottridge

Much non-Christian fiction, especially award-winning fiction, has an edge to it.  Even when I read books for children I am tense, waiting for something really bad to happen, some twist of darkness or angst or evil.

These two award-winning books by Celia Barker Lottridge, however, are refreshing fun and give a sympathetic look at immigration to Alberta in the early twentieth century.  Although the author does not avoid difficult issues, she treats them with matter-of-fact compassion and hope.

In Ticket to Curlew, Sam Ferrier and his father moved to the Alberta prairie to build a homestead before his mother and younger siblings arrived from Iowa.  The land seemed endlessly flat but in his wanderings, always keeping the tiny house in sight and feeling even tinier, Sam discovered surprises from the past.  He was also relentlessly busy in the present with school, his new friend, and his horse Prince.

This is a fact-based story of a good boy and his good family, learning to love the Alberta prairie and their new neighbors.  It is satisfying, enjoyable, and hard to put down.  I highly recommend it for young teens and preteens to accompany Canadian history studies, and also a gentle read for older teens and adults interested in history or needing a soothing break from everyday life.

Like Ticket to Curlew, Wings to Fly is based on Celia Barker Lottridge’s family stories.

Josie Ferrier, Sam’s sister, meets a new girl, straight from England, whose mother hates the prairies.  Margaret and Josie ride to school together, but much happens before their friendship blossoms—the great influenza epidemic, a mysterious stranger who cleans the abandoned house the girls both love, and an elegant tea party.

Without being angry or simplistic, Wings to Fly explores early twentieth century ideas about women, determination, courage, mindset, goals, and education.  Although the book occasionally seems to be more about the themes than the characters and plot, the story flows well and is full of both interest and humorous moments.

Wings to Fly, too, is hard to put down. Full of unexpected happenings, there are the constant questions: will Josie become a flier, will anyone die of influenza, what kind of a person is mother anyhow, will Margaret’s mother ever learn to cope, and what is it that Josie will be determined about?

Although Wings to Fly is for slightly older readers, both preteens and younger teens will enjoy it and I recommend it.  Like Ticket to Curlew, it is a valuable addition to Canadian history reading and an enjoyable book in its own right as well.  However, Wings to Fly does not have the universal appeal of Ticket to Curlew.

Aside: When I looked up Celia Barker Lottridge, I discovered one possible reason for the courage, hope, kindness, and goodness displayed in her books—the author has also published volumes of Bible stories.  I plan to read two more of her children’s books this summer, Home is Beyond the Mountains and The Wind Wagon.

These books form part of our multi-year, literature-based Canadian History course . This review may be linked to Finishing Strong , Trivium TuesdaysSaturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.

Disclosure: We borrowed the books from the library and I am not compensated for this review.

Canadian History Through Literature

The best way to learn about the past is to live in it, and we can do that with well-written books.  For Canadian history we have always focused on reading novels, stories, and even poems and have used textbooks mainly as outlines and guides.  This literature-based approach to Canadian history leads to great learning and remembering.

This year we are focusing on Canadian history in our homeschool.  Recently I wrote a broad overview of what we are doing to celebrate Canada’s 150th year, but now I also want to share some of our favorite authors and books as well as some excellent reading lists we use.

So, here are some of authors we have enjoyed.  I have included minimum ages in brackets where appropriate.  These age levels are not for inappropriate content but for ages at which the material would be interesting or relevant to the average student.   (All book links are to my reviews.)

R. M. Ballantyne (12+) Hudson’s Bay: or, Life in the Wilds of North America. Fascinating but occasionally a bit gruesome; a good inside look at the British class system and at wilderness living.

Pierre Berton.  Many slim children’s history books as well as many adult ones.

Lyn Cook (8+). The Secret of Willow Castle, Pegeen and the Pilgrim (about the start of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival), Bells on Finland Street.

Marion Greene (10+). Canal Boy and its sequel, which is likely Down River Lies the World although I cannot remember for certain and have not been able to verify that.  A hard-to-find but worthwhile story about the construction of the Rideau Canal.

Barbara Greenwood (8+).  A Pioneer Story, A Pioneer Christmas, A Pioneer Thanksgiving, The Last Safe House, Factory Girl, Gold Rush Fever, Pioneer Crafts, The Kids Book of Canada, A Question of Loyalty.

Stephen Leacock (15+). Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

Celia Barker Lottridge (8+). Ticket to Curlew and Wings to Fly.

Janet Lunn (various ages; psychic elements in some of her other books). The Story of Canada, Laura Secord, Charlotte (incredibly sad Loyalist story), Maud’s House of Dreams.

L.M. Montgomery (8+). Anne of Green Gables, obviously, and many of her other books.  Having studied this author in-depth by keeping up with all of her newly discovered work until about 15 years ago, I see dark elements in her work that a casual reader might miss, but most readers will delight in many of her popular books.

Farley Mowat (8+). Owls in the Family, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float.  These books are a lot of fun, but they do have some inappropriate moments and language.  Please preview or read aloud with editing, as suggested in the comments here.

Janette Oke (12+).  Canadian West series (RCMP in the North), Return to Canadian West series, Songs of Acadia series.

Catherine Parr Traill (15+). The Backwoods of Canada, Canadian Wildflowers.

Eric Walters (10+ but note that some of his books raise difficult questions that need to be discussed).  Many good Canadian history books including the Camp X series, Fly Boy, Safe as  Houses, Bully Boys.

So, these are a few of our family’s favorite Canadian history living books and authors.  There are, of course, many more, some of which are listed in the links below. Do you have any favorites?

Other Canadian history and literature book lists

The best list is from the Simply Charlotte Mason forum.  I have actually printed this one out.

For years the go-to list of Canadian historical fiction for homeschoolers has been Nicola’s list, and Canadian homeschoolers owe her a huge debt of gratitude.  I know nothing else about this wonderful woman and her original list is no longer available online, but The Canadian Homeschooler has updated it.

I have not seen the Chronicles of Canada series but am looking forward to reading it.

A short but excellent list of Canadian historical fiction from my favorite homeschool suppliers, and their list of Canadian history study books, some of which are also living books.

Ambleside Online also has a helpful list of books and resources for Canadian history.

Picture books used in the popular Come Sit By Me elementary curriculum (like Five in a Row, but with Canadian books), Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Some of the books we have used in our family’s multi-year literature-based Canadian history course.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  I am not compensated for recommending any of these books and resources to you.

Review: Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr

When my kids complain that something isn’t fair, I usually remind them how incredibly blessed they are compared to people throughout the world and throughout the ages.  That response stops complaining quite effectively for anyone who knows history or current events.

But it does not get to the heart of the matter, and when true suffering is involved it is not an adequate response at all.

Marie Durand, who has become a symbol of perseverance especially in France, knew true suffering.  She spent 38 years imprisoned in the Tower of Constance for refusing to recant her protestant faith, serving the Lord by caring for fellow prisoners.  Even when she was finally freed, she faced enough difficulties to make the average person bitter.

Through it all, ‘…she simply continued to do what God called her to do every day, keeping her eyes on the future “triumph of glory,” loving those around her, and thanking God for what she described as “the honor of wearing His uniform for His just cause.”’

How is this possible, and what can we learn from this inspiring woman?

Marie Durand, born in 1711 to Huguenots, was taught from the Bible, catechism, and psalter* that were hidden in her parents’ wall.  Her parents taught her about God’s providence and care for his children in their trials, and Marie clung to this her whole life long.  Even though her entire family was persecuted because her brother Pierre was a protestant pastor, she found peace in ‘the God of mercy’ and trusted his goodness.

She found comfort in the Bible for herself and shared it with her fellow prisoners as well as her orphaned niece, Anne.  A moving letter from Marie to Anne highlights this.  And, when the women in the tower were getting on each other’s nerves, a refugee pastor reminded them, “Only the Word of God can make you wise to learn and succeed in every good work.”  That theme runs throughout this sad story and transforms it into an inspiring one.

Simonetta Carr describes Marie Durand’s life in calm and restrained manner.  Despite the subject matter this is not an angry book but it simply presents facts in a way accessible to children, youth, and adults.  Nor is it a book that glorifies Marie Durand excessively; although it tells her story in detail and the story of 18th century French Protestants in general, the focus is more on God’s Word than on Marie’s goodness.

Marie Durand is more difficult to follow than most of Simonetta Carr’s books.  At first I got lost in the characters, perhaps because there are two Pierres, two Annes, an Isabelle and an Isabeau, and even two Maries.  (I needed to write up a list of the people involved and have included it near the end of this review to simplify your reading.)

Despite this difficulty, however, Marie Durand is one of the most inspiring of Simonetta’s books.  Although most of the other people represented in her Christian Biographies for Young Readers suffered, many of them could see they were doing great work for the Lord.  Marie Durand suffered humbly, and her life was filled with the simple task of doing what God called her to in ordinary everyday life.  In that she is, probably, more representative of the average Christian although her sufferings were far greater than ours.

She is an inspiration to everyone to trust God and to study and love his Word. Now when anyone says, “It’s not fair,” I think of this devoted Christian woman.  Life was far from fair for her, but she believed God was in charge and therefore was able to endure patiently.

I recommend this book for Christians of all ages, for homeschools, and for church libraries.

People in Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr

  • Marie Durand (1711-1776)
  • Etienne and Claudine, Marie’s parents
  • Pierre Durand, Marie’s brother
  • Pierre Rouvier, Pierre Durand’s best friend
  • Anne Rouvier, Pierre Rouvier’s sister and Pierre Durand’s wife
  • Matthieu Serre, Marie’s fiancé
  • Isabelle Rouvier, Pierre’s mother-in-law, who also ended up in the tower
  • Isabeau Menet, Marie’s best friend in the tower
  • Anne Durand, Marie’s niece, daughter of Pierre and Anne Durand
  • Paul Rabaut and Antoine Court, French pastors who supported the women in the towers with letters and by arranging financial help

*probably the Genevan psalter

Related Resources:

Six Tips for Bible Reading

The New Genevan Psalter, a recent English version of the psalter that the Durands probably used.  Its melodies were tailored to each Psalm in intricate ways involving modes, rhyming patterns, rhythms, and line lengths.

Marie Durand reminds me of Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose.

I have had the privilege of reviewing many of the books in Simonetta Carr’s Christian Biographies for Young People series and recommend each one.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books for the purpose of this review.

This review may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays.

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