In Common – September 14th Edition

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

I took a long break from my reading updates, but I am elbow-deep in so many books,  I thought it was time to get back to it!

This week I am wrapping up some books, and making room for some new September reads. I wanted to share some notable quotes before I put these books away and and new titles to the list.

Bruce Handy’s Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, was a delight. He spent six years putting this book together and the effort was worth it. He read books from his childhood, as well as children’s books he passed over as a youth. His analysis of books, compared to how he remembers them as a child, or as most children remember them, is quite interesting. Each chapter has its anchor book, but he weaves in references to similar titles, along with fascinating background details of the authors. He writes with a humorous voice that adds to the book’s enjoyment. He gave his honest opinion on books as well – something I appreciated because I understand that some people don’t like certain books, regardless of their status as classics or cult favorite. I appreciated his honesty.

In the Introduction, Handy recounts reading The House at Pooh Corner to his children. In the scene where Christopher Robin has to tell Pooh that he is going away and cannot do “nothing” anymore, Handy describes it as a “wrenching scene” and a little while later,

As I read this aloud, I couldn’t help but weeping. It’s a story, of course, about leaving childhood behind, which for poor baffled Pooh, the one being left – the one who exists only in Christopher Robin’s imagination – is a kind of death. … All this was swirling through my head as I read, tears spilling down my face, and my heartless kids couldn’t have cared less. (p. xx)

Having gotten the raised eyebrows from my kids as I cry my way through The Velveteen Rabbit (every time!), I found his tongue in cheek description of his children hilarious.

In his chapter entitled Runaways, he tackles books with characters that deal with family drama, bad parents, and yes, even runaways (most notable being The Runaway Bunny). In another example of his humor, he writes about “bad” parents:

There are a few characters I might accuse of sloppy parenting, such as the Man in the Yellow Hat, who is so laissez-faire that he never realizes that merely admonishing Curious George to be a good monkey, and then abandoning him for hours on end, will never not prove a recipe for disaster. And as we will see, the mother in The Cat in the Hat is so loopy she leaves her children in the care of a fish; hers will be the house where all the kids go to smoke weed in high school. (p. 28)

In his chapter on Beatrix Potter, he writes,

A key aspect of Potter’s genius is that she keeps one foot firmly planted in each world, human and beast; her stories are familiar yet strange, cozy yet haunted by Darwinian menace. In her view, anthropomorphism had well-defined limits, as she noted by way of criticizing her contemporary Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows: “A frog may wear galoshes; but I don’t hold with toads having beards and wigs.” (p. 98)

Later, he writes about Beverly Cleary and the Ramona books.

Reading Ramona the Pest makes me feel five again – not a 100 percent pleasant sensation, but a powerful one. Ramona’s vividness on the page and her headstrong joie de vivre are big reason’s why. So too is Cleary’s recognition of the way seemingly minor details can loom so large for a young child trying to make sense of the world. (p. 149)

Handy includes an appendix, where he suggests book pairs, as well as a fairly extensive bibiography. This book was a fun and informative read, and is a great resource for considering books to read to your own family, or on your own.

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

It’s a New Year! Curriculum for 2018/2019

It’s that time of year! Even though we school over the summer, we do start our new year in September.

I’ve got four school years I am planning for this year – Year 6, Year 2 and Kindergarten  and Pre-K (Pre-K is mostly follow-along with Kindergarten).

We are heavily literature-based, so our curriculum is A LOT of good, quality books. Much of our reading is done as group read-alouds with an expectation of discussion and narration. A significant portion of our school day is spent reading together, rotating through reading selections for the three age groups. I look at Ambleside Online, Build Your Library, Beautiful Feet for reading selection and scheduling ideas.

We spend approximately an hour and a half per person (for Year 6 and Year 2) working on individual subjects – Math, Language Arts, Latin and some Science. This is a mixture of guided lessons and independent work that is done.

Year 6 (6th Grade, age 11/12)

Math

Singapore – we use the student textbook, workbook, intensive practice, as well as t he Home Instructor’s Guide (I definitely recommend this!)

Level 5B, Level 6A and Level 6B

Language Arts

Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind – Book 1 – I teach from the Core Instructor Text and Student Guide Key and student works from the Student (Purple) Workbook

Evan Moor – Reading Comprehension Fundamentals Grade 6

Evan Moor Building Spelling Skills Grade 6+

Vocabulary From Classical Roots – Level B

Science

* Chemistry is our focus this year. While our Year 2 will be participating in read alouds and demos, subject matter level is aimed at our Year 6 student.

DK The Way Science Works (spine text)

The Wonder Book of Chemistry  by Henri Fabri

The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker

Usborne’s Dictionary of Chemistry

Evan Moor Daily Science Grade 5 for supplemental reading and practice

History

* Renaissance/Early Modern and US (mid-1400s to early 1800s)

*We will be spreading the reading of our spine texts over the entire year. In addition, we have an extensive historical fiction read-aloud list that will be included

The Age of Empires

The Age of Voyages

The Age of Science and Revolutions

The World of Christopher Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster

The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster

George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster

Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genvieve Foster

Historical Fiction read-alouds:

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern

Midnight Magic by Avi

The Ghost of the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape from the Tower of London

The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds

Poor Richard by James Daugherty

A Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Statham

The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Out of Many Waters by Jacqueline Greene

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

Calico Bush by Rachel Field

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Indian Captive: The Mary Jamison Story by Lois Lenski

Literature

Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable – started this past year, will be completing this year

Plutarch’s Lives – using the Ambleside Online Study Guides

Demosthenes

Cicero

Demetrius

Shakespeare -I use Folger Library editions. Books with annotations (links below) with printable versions for student (no annotations) through the Folger Library (tons of resources here so check it out!).

Julius Caesar

Richard III

Henry VIII

Geography

Carpenter’s North America Reader

DK Geography: A Visual Dictionary – select physical geography topics

Latin

Latin for Children Primer B

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – typically we work to memorize one Question/Answer every week or so, and review what we have covered

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

Nature Study

Experiencing Nature with Children – loosely following for seasonal suggestions

Handbook of Nature Study – an excellent parent/teacher resource

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – we will participate in Project Feederwatch again this year and use resources throughout the year, such as Bird Academy and eBird.

Critical Thinking

Building Critical Thinking Skills Level 2 – a great resource for verbal and figural critical thinking skills

Year 2 (2nd Grade, Age 7)

Math

Singapore – we use the student textbook, workbook, intensive practice, as well as the Home Instructor’s Guide

Level 1B, Level 2A, Level 2B

Language Arts

First Language Lessons Level 1

Evan Moor Building Spelling Skills Daily Practice Grade 2

Evan Moor Reading Comprehension Fundamentals Grade 2

Evan Moor Basic Phonics Skills Level C

History

Story of the World – Book 2 The Middle Ages – book and activity guide (for map work and suggested supplemental reading)

Science

Burgess Animal Book by Thorton Burgess

Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature

Childcraft Annual (1995) – Our Amazing Bodies

Evan Moor Daily Science Grade 2

Geography

Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling

Seabird by Holling C. Holling

DK Geography: A Visual Dictionary – select physical geography topics

Latin

Song School Latin 1

Literature

Aesop’s Fables – completing this fall

Tales from Shakespeare (Lamb)

The Wind in the Willows (Graham)

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – typically we work to memorize one Question/Answer every week or so, and review what we have covered

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

Nature Study

Experiencing Nature with Children – loosely following for seasonal suggestions

Handbook of Nature Study – an excellent parent/teacher resource

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – we will participate in Project Feederwatch again this year and use resources throughout the year, such as Bird Academy and eBird.

Kindergarten (Year 0) – Age 5/6

Math

Family Math – games and hands-on activities

Spectrum Math Kindergarten

Starfall – online as well as printables

Language Arts

Evan Moor Phonics Level A

Spectrum Phonics Kindergarten

Starfall – online and printables

Literature

Five in a Row (FIAR) Volume 1 and 2 – literature selections and discussion prompts

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – reading and review during morning reading time but no memorization expected at this age

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

Critical Thinking

Building Critical Thinking Skills Beginnning Level – a great resource for verbal and figural critical thinking skills *I will say that this Beginner level has some content that is “too easy” for my Kindergartner. But I decided to start him at this level because the next level up has a lot of writing, and he is no where near ready for that yet.

*** Science and Nature Study are “tag -along” at this level

Pre-Kindergarten – Age 4

Math

Family Math – games and hands-on activities

Starfall – online as well as printables

Language Arts

Evan Moor Phonics Level A

Starfall – online and printables

Literature

Five in a Row (FIAR) Volume 1 and 2 – literature selections and discussion prompts

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – reading and review during morning reading time but no memorization expected at this age

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

*** Science and Nature Study are “tag-along” at this point

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It seems like a lot once it’s all on paper, but it really is mostly a ton of good books! My oldest LOVES workbooks, so I tend to load her up at her request, and I use multiple resources spread across the week for them all – it helps break up tasks too – I can do “table” work with some while others are doing independent reading. It works for us.

Note – I’ve loved Evan Moor workbooks for years, and usually bought the teacher’s guide and photocopied them as needed. This year I have started buying the e-books directly from Evan Moor and it is a life saver! Printing from my computer instead of photocoping is definitely the way to go!

 

In Common – March 16th Edition

I love when I get to start a new stack of books at the beginning of the month. I still have a couple of longer-term reads I’m finishing up this month – Don Quixote and The Genius of Birds. But I’ve got several new titles on my Current Reads shelf.

I tend to get bogged down in heavier reads – I struggled with this at the end of last year, and my reading goals suffered as a result. Last year my reading list was heavy on educational philosophy, and currently I have found myself in a season of reading about parenting, with an emphasis on special needs and issues. I want to make sure I leave enough room in my schedule for lighter reads – I’ve actually been spending more time of science fiction and fantasy, and it’s only in the last week or so that I only have a single title – Starship Troopers (I’m listening on Audible) – as a current sci-fi read.

This month I am FINALLY going to finish Don Quixote! I think the sheer volume is intimidating – I’d read and read and then with so much further to go, I would need to set it down for a time and read something else. But I have really enjoyed it -it is such a fun read!

Some of my newer titles this month:

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren: The author relates the ordinary events of a typical day to church liturgy and to overall aspects of the Christian faith. As an Anglican priest, the Anglican church liturgy is her point of reference, but the message she brings is non-denominational. Each day I have read a chapter (I’m finishing this week and will put together a more thorough review) and while I have been tempted to tackle more than one chapter at a time, I have resisted the urged so I have time to really “chew” on the content throughout the day.

A Parent’s Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder by Sally Ozonoff, Geraldine Dawson, and James McPartland: This book is an excellent guide for parents who suspect they may be dealing with a child with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, parents who have recently received a diagnosis, and for families who have been living with autism for a while. It starts out with a detailed explanation of what high functioning ASD is, how it is defined according to the DSM (the newest edition as well as the more familiar previous edition), the diagnosis process, and challenges that children and young adults may face. This book is very detailed but without being unreadable to the average parent. I’m finishing this up this week and will put together a more detailed review.

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister: Listed in The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for 2016, this book tackles the history of unmarried women in this country, examining various aspects of singlehood such as the political and social power of women in history, independence in an urban setting, single women and friendships, as well having children.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve also completed reading Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. It was really good, and I am ready to binge watch the Netflix series and continue reading the next book (of three) in the Takeshi Kovacs series.

Current Personal Reads

Current Family Read-Alouds

In Common: February 2nd 2018

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

I have not kept up with my commonplace over the winter months, but I am trying to get back into good habits. I’ve managed to keep up with my reading schedule since the new year, and so I am pretty motivated to start my weekly summaries as well.

One of my longer term reads I started in January is the Introduction to The Gateway to the Great Books. This short offering is similar to the Introduction to The Great Books of the Western World (which is awesome, by the way), introducing readers to the value of reading good books. One thing that is mentioned is the different kinds of reading matter, and how different books call for different styles of reading. Not everything needs to be read actively, but in the same vein not all books are worth reading at all.

“We need to remind ourselves of this bygone situation in which a book was a lifelong treasure, to be read again and again. Deluged as we are with a welter of printed words, we tend to devaluate all writing, to look at every book on the shelf as the counterpart of every other, and to weigh volumes instead of words. The proliferation of printing, on the one hand a blessing, has had, on the other, a tendency to debase (or, in any case, homogenize) our attitude toward reading.” (GTTGB, Introduction p.19)

As for the importance of actively reading a book (and Mortimer Adler was all about actively reading, pencil in hand to mark up the book):

“Buying a book is only a prelude to owning it. To own a book involves more than paying for it and putting it on the shelf in one’s home. Full ownership comes only to those who have made the books they have bought part of themselves – by absorbing and digesting them. The well-marked pages of a much handled volume constitutes one of the surest indications that this has taken place. Too many persons make the mistake of substituting economic possession or physical proprietorship for intellectual ownership.” (GTTGB, Introduction p. 29)

I’ve got so many good books going on right now, including our read alouds (for school as well as bedtime)! I’ll share some more excerpts next week.

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

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: