Review: John Ronald’s Dragons

Earlier this year we were delighted to read a gentle introduction to the early life of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Written by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien introduces the reader to a boy who loved dragons, hearing stories read aloud by his mother as a child.

Lovely illustrations detail important events in Tolkien’s life, such as living with an aunt after the unfortunate death of his mother, meeting and marrying his wife Edith, serving as a soldier in World War I, and even meeting at the pub with fellow writer friends (their group affectionately known as the Inklings).

Finally we see read about the “birth” of the hobbit, born of Tolkien’s imagination and brought to life through stories he told his children.

So many of us know the name Tolkien because of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit, but we know little of the man behind these stories.

This wonderful story makes Tolkien accessible to readers, young and old, and illustrates how many life experiences, even darker ones such as the death of a loved one and a world war, shaped the man who created an entire fantasy world that is loved the world over.

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In Common – August 9th Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I’ve been slowly working through The Well-educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. While there is a lot in this book that reminds me of How to Read a Book – and in fact SWB not only mentions Adler’s book on several occasions but does go into the different levels of reading – I love how she devotes a chapter each for several book genres.

In each chapter, she goes into some detail about the genre itself, and then specific suggestions on how to read books in the genre. Finally there is an extensive annotated book list.

I am currently working through Chapter 7, which covers History books.

“The overall task of the historian isn’t just to tell you what happened, but to explain why: not just to construct a bare outline of facts, but to tell a story about them.” The Well-educated Mind

SWB gives a thorough overview of periods of History writing, covering Medieval and Renaissance history, Enlightenment, as well as so many -isms that have always tripped me up, such as Relativism, Positivism, Progressivism, Post-modernism, and others. I feel better equiped to tackle History titles having read her introduction.

“History was not meant to serve any sort of ideological end. It was meant to find the truth.” The Well-educated Mind

SWB’s annotated list is extensive – she lists in order of time period written, earliest to most recent, starting with Herodotus’s Histories and wrapping up with Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man.

I am finishing up Math and Magic in Camelot this week, so look for a review soon. I am really enjoying the story as well as all the additional activities and information included.

Current Reads:

 

Review: Out Of School And Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

One book that is a staple in many homeschoolers’ personal libraries is Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.

Comstock’s Handbook deserves its own review but today I wanted to share a picture book we have thoroughly enjoyed here.

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Jessica Lanan, is a wonderfully put together introduction to the life of Anna Comstock.

It shares the story of Anna’s childhood love of exploring nature, and how this love matured along with her, into a life’s passion for studying nature.

Anna did not marry right away, but went to college (in a time when this was not the norm) to learn more about plants and insects.

“Such thousands of insects I never saw before.” Anna Comstock

She spent time developing her art skills, drawing insects. Her drawings were even used by a professor in his lectures, as well as by farmers identifying insects that were destroying their crops.

Some of the lovely illustrations in the book.

She also used engraved wood prints to produce very detailed images. One thing that I love in this book is the recreation of these wood prints – some can be found in her Handbook of Nature Study.

Side-by-side view of the illustrator’s rendering of Comstock’s wood stamp drawings, and the images from The Handbook of Nature Study.

Anna Comstock wasn’t just a scientist and artist though – one of her passions was getting children out into nature. She worked hard to convince teachers to include nature study – real study with children getting OUT into nature and not just reading about it at their desks – in schools.

“Nature study cultivates in the child a love of the beautiful.” Anna Comstock

I think The Handbook of Nature Study is an essential addition to any homeschool library, and we so enjoyed learning about this remarkable woman who made this work possible.

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This book gave an abbreviated introduction to Comstock’s life – but you can read more at Britannica,  and wikipedia includes references and external links to check out.

Two resources worth mentioning that use The Handbook of Nature Study:

The Handbook of Nature Study: The Outdoor Hour

Exploring Nature With Children

 

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In Common – August 2nd Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

My attention has been on school scheduling lately, so I am making slow progress through my current reads.

I have to keep reminding myself that my reading schedule works for me, and not the other way around, so I don’t get super stressed when I fall behind.

I am hoping to wrap up my current stack by the end of the month, and free up some time for pre-reading school titles in early September. I’ve also been scrutinizing my 2017 reading list, deciding what I am willing to cut to make room for a few new titles that I’d like to tackle this year. There’s just never enough time to read!

This past week I did finish Educating the Wholehearted Child. I’ve really enjoyed this book and have gleaned so many helpful and encouraging things from this book.

“This book is an incomplete but honest attempt to capture and communicate our own family’s vision for home education. Obviously, it is written to influence your vision for the education of your children., but ultimately that vision must come from God working in your own heart and mind. You must find your own vision for your life as a Christian family.” (Educating the Wholehearted Child, p. 333)

This week I did start a new book – the second Math and Magic book by Lilac Mohr – Math and Magic in Camelot. I’ll be writing a full review in the next week or so, but I will share a couple tidbits.

“The Pigeon tapped his other foot as Mrs. Magpie scrawled “49° N, 77.47° W” across a crisp white envelope and placed The Message inside. He watched with disdain as she added two metal charms to the parcel (oh, the weight!), sealed it with a drop of wax (more weight!), and attached it to his leg with thick twine (oooh, the indignity of twine!).” (Math and Magic in Camelot, p. 1)

This book follows Math and Magic in Wonderland, and continues the story of twins Lulu and Elizabeth as they experience more magical adventure, and draw upon their love of math, science and literature to solve problems they encounter.

“‘I am Lady Elfinheart, and it is with utmost pleasure that I present my sisters Lady Lynette and Lady Olwyn,’ she gestured to the two women beside her, both of whom curtseyed. ‘We are the Lily Maidens of the House of Orkney and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Beds, defenders of honor and the three-petaled way. Welcome to Camelot!” (Math and Magic in Camelot, pg. 44)

I am really excited about this book – I’m reading it myself this week, and then will do a reread with my ten-year-old. Together we will also do the Play Along activities in the back for each chapter. Look for the review soon.

Current Reads: