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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.

March and April at our House

These months have been a blur of snow, rain, and daffodils; of learning and medical appointments; of hockey and bunny escapes and driving lessons.  They have been so full that, looking back, I can think of hardly anything that happened.

But things did.

Most importantly and so easily ignored, we enjoyed God’s everyday goodness in countless ways and his love was with us every day.

Even when Miss 14 suffered her fifth major concussion and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.  (But she stayed on that horse!)  She is doing quite well, all things considered, and is blessed with an amazing concussion doctor who is also an expert in pain management and an equally amazing physiotherapist with the same specialties.  Photography, light reading, and lots of walks with the dogs have been replacing her schoolwork.  She has also had lots of time to dream of flower gardens and vegetables, to order seeds, and to start seedlings.  She is able to study geography, literature, and Canadian history for short times again.

Miss 16 added another shift to her work week, on the condition that she finishes the same amount (or more) of schoolwork each week, and she’s managing to meet the condition.  In terms of Dutch, we’re focusing on children’s stories and a new, very structured course that is used in the Netherlands to teach ‘educated’ immigrants.  So far it is going very well; if she completes the third book she will be fluent and I, too, will have learned a lot.  For logic we are taking a break from James Madison and diving into Douglas Wilson’s Introductory Logic.  James Madison is very in-depth, but Wilson’s course seems more logical and mathematical.    Canadian history, French, math, literature, Bible and music happen every day.  Science is being quietly ignored and that will come back to haunt us.

We finished reading The Northern Magic but have not yet finished all the planned map work. We started The Silver Pencil by Alice Dalgliesh but it gets pretty dark pretty quickly and the girls hated it so we quit.   We have been minimizing screen time and have therefore not watched any Canadian history DVDs.  I’m looking for a good Canadian history read aloud book instead.

As for my personal reading, it has been wide-ranging and varied.  Who Killed Canadian History?  was illuminating, especially considering its stern disapproval of misuse of ideas such as those in Six Historical Thinking Skills.  Basically we need to remember that ‘“Historical thinking” only becomes possible in relation to substantive content.’  Canada:  An Outline History by Lower does exactly what the title suggests—it outlines the history and minimizes all the politically correct stuff that is often added.  I am looking forward to finishing it.

Korczak’s Children is a very moving play about Jews during Nazi times, based on a real life.

Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is hilarious and also deeply disturbing.  I plan to write about it soon.  Miss 16 is studying humorous literature, an unusual and enjoyable self-initiated specialty that will keep me busy, too.  If you have any suggestions, we would love it if you left them in the comments.

Miss 14 has a huge pile of fluff books that she has been going through and occasionally I dip into it, often starting a book in the middle because I don’t really feel I have the time to read it all.  I enjoyed Maggie’s Miracle by Karen Kingsbury, It Had to be You by Janice Thompson, Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong, and The Tender Years by Janette Oke.

Things We Wish We’d Known by the Warings was a wonderful reread about homeschooling.  I skimmed a few other books about education as well (A Thomas Jefferson Education, Educating for Life, A Reformed Christian Perspective on Education).  We homeschoolers can learn a lot from the Christian school movement’s ponderings on the meaning of education.  Norms and Nobility is a deep discussion of education and the importance of ideals and heroes, related to the idea of paideia, the Greek ideal of education.  I have not finished it yet, because it is one of those books one needs to take breaks from.  Age of Opportunity, a parenting book, addresses similar ideas from an explicitly biblical point of view and I highly recommend it.

Troubled Minds by Simpson talks about how the church can help those with mental illness, and it is excellent.

Painful Yarns by Moseley is full of helpful analogies but has some rough language.  It illustrates concepts in Explain Pain by Butler and Moseley which I am still going through.   Explain Pain summarizes the latest research on pain.  The human body is so amazingly complex that there are no words to express it.  How pain works is another amazing aspect of it.  For anyone who experiences chronic pain, this book provides understanding and ways to reduce the pain felt.  It also explains quirky aspects of chronic pain that may seem far-fetched to outsiders.

Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr is a moving story of faith and suffering that I hope to review soon.  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 she could endure patiently.  It reminds me of Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose.

Bavinck, a introduction to a great scholar and a great Christian, has inspired me in many ways.  I hope to finish and review it soon.

I am also reading, very slowly, Resolving Conflict by Lou Priolo.  It’s another one of those very worthwhile books that takes a lot of reflection and living to really absorb.

For my personal Bible reading I’ve been floating around rather than reading systematically as I usually do.  I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but I do know that it has been bad that, with changes of routine due to being overly busy, I have skipped this more than usual.  Either I need to stabilize my routine or to find a different time to read.

For mealtime devotions the girls and I read from Acts to 1 Corinthians, with frequent forays into Psalms and Proverbs when one of them is away.  When my husband is home, which has happened more often than usual, we read from 2 Corinthians to 1Thessalonians.

As for my 2017 resolutions, well, I know Romans much better than before but can actually only recite snatches of it.  I do occasionally walk 10,000 steps a day, but if those steps are not spread out throughout the whole day they exhaust me.  And those little night time notes are still adding immensely to my life, although I prefer to sleep through the night.

Finally, I was privileged to speak at two conferences.  If you ever want to learn something, plan to speak about it….  And my husband received a major promotion, which was the reason for the flowers shown above.

I wish you God’s blessings in your homeschool and family as you enjoy spring and head into summer!

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. 

Notes on Things We Wish We’d Known: 50 Veteran Homeschoolers Share


A lot has changed in the homeschooling world but some things never change.  When, twenty years ago, Bill and Diana Waring asked 50 veteran homeschoolers what they wish they had known when they started their homeschooling journey, they got heartfelt, time-tested tips and nuggets of wisdom that are as relevant now as they ever were.

I have read this book several times, and the most recent time was a revelation—this book has shaped me and our homeschool more than I had realized.  There is so much wisdom in these pages!  And, as our family grows and changes, there is always more that I am finally ready to understand.

Many of these 50 veteran homeschoolers were high achievers who carried their drive and perfectionism into the homeschool but soon learned the folly of trying to bring school into the home.  That message, as well as the importance of prayer, books, and relationships in the homeschool, forms the basis of this book. The Warings compiled and edited the responses to their question under 6 headings and I have summarized some key ideas:

  • The Concepts

o   Curriculum is a tool

o   Read out loud together

o   Keep it simple

o   The ‘good’ can be the enemy of the ‘best’

o   There are closed subjects (when you know them, you know them) and open subjects (you can keep on learning forever)

  • The Basics

o   Know your learning goals

o   Focus on Bible

o   Read great books

o   Preview the kids’ subjects each year and learn the framework and outline of each subject

o   Strive to pass on interest even in subjects you know little about

o   Minimize the use of textbooks, especially for little ones

  • The Priorities

o   We are not called to do it all

o   Put God first, family second

o   Consider your priorities carefully

o   Frustration shows there is a problem; identify the problem and try to fix it logically

  • God’s Involvement

o   When the family is functioning as God has designed, learning will happen naturally

o   It does not all depend on mom

o   There is no one right way to homeschool and no one right curriculum

o   We need to do the best we can with the time and resources we have been given

o   God works through us homeschooling parents, faults and all

  • Christian Character

o   Academic learning, while the heart of homeschooling, is not to become a god

o   Homeschooling is great character training for the parents as well as the children

o   We need to maintain a sense of humor and not take ourselves too seriously

o   The goal of learning is to sharpen our children’s focus on the kingdom of God

o   Children are inspired and shaped by relationships, so it is important to help them develop relationships with persons, places, and things

o   The goal of education is to equip the child to live the life God gave in the way he intended

  • The Blessings

o   Time and togetherness

o   We can focus on training not only the mind (Greek model of education) but also the heart (Hebrew model)

o   Reading biographies is the best way to learn history

o   We can teach each child differently and encourage each one differently

o   Some parents are, by God’s providence, given that most difficult of all gifts, a prodigal, to whom they need to be wise parents, mirroring God.

It is astonishing to see how some of these veteran’s most important discoveries seem so trite.  Having made many of the same discoveries myself, I want to emphasize:  there is a world of living behind each of these statements.  Though they sound simple, it is a simplicity on the far side of complexity.  These are lessons learned after much trial, error, and, often, anguish, and finally distilled down to their essence.

Here are a few more helpful thoughts about homeschooling:

‘A vital aspect of true education is seeing that all the ‘building  blocks’  of education (facts, formulas, dates, field trips) are part of Gods world, created to help us begin to know and serve him.’ P 133

‘There is so much learning going on around us all the time, and we need to learn to recognize it.  Bloom’s taxonomy is a way of thinking about different levels of thinking skills (recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation).  The best way to develop analysis is by discussing things, and a hallmark of synthesis is being creative with what you’ve learned.’  P 37

‘Having a school day go exactly as planned is a special blessing, but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen again for another month.’ P138

‘Because children’s horizons of thought need to be broader than their textbooks, the best curriculum for a well brought-up person is daily to have

  • Something or someone to love,
  • Something worthwhile to do,
  • Something worthwhile to think about.’ P 165

This homeschooling gem is still available new but most likely your homeschooling library owns it.  If not, it should.  Things We Wish We’d Known is highly recommended for everyone who homeschools, whether you are a beginner or a veteran yourself.

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. 

Universities and Colleges in Your Community

Recently Miss 16 and I were dropped off at a university’s student center, not for a traditional ‘university visit’ of the kind US parents and teens focus on, but to attend a poster session put on by undergraduate researchers just a few years older than my daughter.

Two hours later, our minds spinning with concepts, ideas, projects, discoveries, and possibilities, we stopped off at a tiny campus shop, bought typical student food for lunch (chips and pop) and headed home.

Charlotte Mason talks about laying a feast before our children. People often take this as referring to a wide array of living books, but it also means so much more. The average university is a buffet of delicious and wholesome food, mixed with garbage, poison, and even vomit. During the high school years, we can sift through that table and help our teens find the best tidbits to feast on.

How does one access these events?  That depends on the university, but in most cases it is not easy to find out what is going on.  You will need to do some sleuthing, call around, ask students you know, keep your eyes on the newspapers, and search websites.

It will take effort, yes, but it is so worthwhile when, for example, recent biology classes come to life in an exploration of a mouse model of autism, or some basic ideas of physics are explained by a Nobel Prize winner, or students get to touch a shard of a pot that was used by people in ancient Rome.

Even attending just a few events can broaden your high schoolers’ horizons, contribute to their education, and inspire them to use their talents for God in this broken world.

You can read the entire article, with a description of events we have enjoyed, at the Curriculum Choice.

(Photo by Rick Cavasin and used with permission.)

Thank the Lord and Come with Praise

Occasionally something one has worked on for months suddenly and unexpectedly comes together.  I’ve been thinking deeply about Christian education, its ‘why’ and ‘how’ and ‘what’, and things are finally making sense to me, just in time to discuss them with others at a conference.

Full of relief and grateful joy, I can’t help but sing this adaptation of Henry Alford’s beautiful hymn:

Thank the Lord and come with praise;

songs of jubilation raise

when the crop is gathered in

ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, will provide

for our wants to be supplied.

Let his people all confess

his unchanging faithfulness.* (Music:  St. George’s Windsor by George Job Elvey)

So I’m off to continue the work which now seems possible.

Note that I’m not thinking about the ‘where’ of Christian education; for our family and many others homeschooling is best but many thoughtful Christians prefer a day school.

*As published in The Book of Praise.

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