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:

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:

In Common – November 1st Edition

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

My reading slump continues. I don’t know if it is because school is in full swing, the seasons are changing, or if I just overloaded my reading pile.

To be honest, I’ve put several books in my stack on the back burner and have focused on just one or two, while I have gotten caught up with the C.J. Cherryh Foreigner series. I’ve got the final two books arriving tomorrow (actually there is one more, but I make it a rule to wait until the paperback comes out for most of my fiction books, and the newest book comes out in paperback in January…).

I think the break has been helpful and I am trying to finish up my current stack for 2017. I might get a couple smaller titles squeezed in before year’s end, but I don’t expect to tackle any more from my 2017 list – they’ll just have to wait for 2018.

This week I am wrapping up Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-educated Mind. Along the same lines as Adler’s How to Read a Book, Bauer’s book goes through different genre’s and the different approaches to actively read each. At the end of each chapter, she includes an extensive annotated book list, which includes recommendations for best editions to choose. I have really enjoyed this book, and my TBR list has become, to be honest, unwieldy at this point. Now that I am finishing up the book, I may go back, and focus on one genre’s annotated book list at a time.

This week, I started a new book (I know, I know…). I’m reading The Life-giving Table by Sally Clarkson. I have loved her other books, and I am so excited to get into her new book.

“Through our careful preparations, our attention to tone and atmosphere, our gifts of loving touch, our example of humble service, and the provision of satisfying food, we can bring ourselves and those we love closer to Christ and foster growth of body, mind, and spirit. ” The Life-giving Table, Sally Clarkson

This is an excellent follow-up to The Life-giving Home, where she focused on traditions and family functions. Her new offering covers feasts and meals as a way to minister to family, friends and community. Hospitality is an area I want to improve upon in 2018 (being an introvert is hard!), and Clarkson is an excellent mentor for this.

 

Current Reads:

In Common – September 20th Edition

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

My current read pile has grown a little stagnant. I’ve been busy getting ready for the new school year, and have not made nearly as much progress as I would have liked.

I’ve got a stack of books to preread for my Year 5 student as well, so I am pretty sure many of the remaining titles on my 2017 list will be pushed to 2018. But I have managed to wrap a couple books up.

I recently finished In Defense of Sanity. This is an extensive collection of essays written by G.K. Chesterton and I believe it is a wonderful introduction to Chesterton’s writings.I’m already giving thought to what is next for me, as far as Chesterton goes. I’ve got the complete Father Brown Mysteries, which I just have never found the time to start, but maybe something a little deeper, like The Everlasting Man. One of my favorite quotes from In Defense of Sanity is taken from “If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach.”

“Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.”  In Defense of Sanity

I took a break from my current stack and read A Man Called Ove this past week. This was such a wonderful book, and it provided a much-needed break from all the non-fiction I’ve been working on. Ove is such a man of principle, and while he is a surly man of few words, and seemingly averse to forming friendships, somehow he manages to touch the lives of so many people. Even as a young man, he lived by a simple code, passed down from his father.

“‘Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say’, said Ove.” A Man Called Ove

This week I am trying to finally finish Locke’s Second Treatise. I have enjoyed reading it, though I have been at odds with some of Locke’s arguments (mostly his argument that labor puts the greatest part of value on land, a view that can be seen in the justification of wholesale Native American land grabbing) but overall his writing on the rights of man, man’s role in society and the limit of authority and government is fascinating.

I did take a break from my regular reading schedule to binge read a couple books from C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. I am a couple of trilogies behind schedule and trying to get caught up.

And as is my habit, I did start another book this weekend – Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible. This is an excellent overview of inductive bible study methods. I am a little familiar with the method because of my time spent doing Good Morning Girls bible study, which uses an inductive approach (somewhat), and also because my daughter has worked through Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible For Kids. I expect it to be a quick but impactive read.

 

Current Reads:

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:

 

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:

 

In Common – July 11th Edition

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

I’ve got several titles I’m trying to finish up this month. I’ve been working on my school plans for the Fall, so my personal reading has really been pushed to the side these past few weeks. I’m behind schedule, as usual, so we’ll see if I reach my goals.

I couldn’t help myself – I added another book to the pile. I saw it recommended somewhere – maybe Goodreads or Instagram and started it this month. Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner – the author really breaks down the process of learning a new language – what works and doesn’t work.

Wyner stresses practicing recall for learning a new language – writing down or saying from memory what you have studied – rather than just studying over and over.

“When you study by reading through a list multiple times, you’re practicing reading, not recall. If you want to get better at recalling something, you should practice recalling it.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

Seems intuitive, but it’s a study skill that is applicable in any subject really. He recommends using flash cards, and specifically a study method called Spaced Repetition Systems – what the author refers to as flash cards on steroids.

Another point he stresses is to stop translating. So often our foreign language learning attempts have this middle step. If we are learning the word cat, we may see a picture of a cat, the English word CAT, and then the word we are learning, GATTO, as an example. But your brain has to go through this extra process of translating. It is more efficient to see the cat and learn the word gatto.

“By throwing away English, I could spend my time building fluency instead of decoding sentences word by word.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

One more area the author stresses is the importance of learning proper pronunciation at the beginning – you don’t get bogged down with broken words (words that we think are pronounced one way but are actually pronounced another) and we also learn to distinguish between similar sounds, known as minimal pairs (the author use the examples of R and L in English for a native Japanese speaker – their ear isn’t trained to distinguish the R and L sounds as separate).

“If you have better listening comprehension, you’ll gain more vocabulary and grammar every time you hear someone speak your language.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

One thing that I am loving about this book is the detail and research presented in this book. It’s not just a book of Do This, It Works! The author goes into a lot of detail of why and how it works. How our brains hear language and recall information. It’s very thorough.

I did manage to get in some other reading this week.

This week I have been working on the July chapter in The Life-giving Home. Sarah Clarkson writes about the importance of story in developing our own character.

“Literature is humanity’s ongoing conversation with itself about what it means to be human, to be good, to live with meaning.” (The Life-giving Home, Sally and Sarah Clarkson)

Sigh. There is my motivation for reading good books, and ensuring my children are surrounded by good books.

Speaking of good books – I’ve got a stack of books arriving over the next couple of weeks as I get ready for the new school year – I look forward to sharing our curriculum plans soon!

 

Current Reads:

 

In Common – June 14th Edition

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

I continue to progress slowly through my June stack. I’ve fallen behind in my Don Quixote reading – I had hoped to be further along but I think I overloaded myself this month. But small steps are better than nothing.

I am really enjoying Don Quixote. It is such a funny story, and I so love the dialogue. I was laughing out loud throughout Chapter XII, where Pedro the goatherd is telling the story of the broken hearted shepherd Grisostomo to Don Quixote. Pedro keeps using the wrong words and Don Quixote corrects him several times, to the point of annoyance, but always followed with a gracious compliment of the man’s storytelling skills. After the story is finished, Don Quixote, having been invited to attend the funeral of the deceased shepherd, responds:

“I shall be certain to, ” said Don Quixote, “and I thank you for the pleasure you have given me with the narration of so delightful a story.” (Don Quixote)

I am currently reading about autobiographies in The Well-educated Mind. This has never been a genre that has caught my attention, but this particular chapter is really winning me over.

“You no longer read an autobiography to find out the truth about past events (an assumption that governed the memoirs of political retirees for decades). Rather, you read autobiography to find out what it’s like to see the world from another point of view, from inside the skin of another person.” (The Well-educated Mind)

Susan Wise Bauer suggests the book The Timetables of History as a reference tool. I’m ordering it this week and look forward to utilizing this resource. Amazon allows you to peek inside, so you can see how the tables are set up, with time periods along the left side and columns containing significant events in several categories including history and politics, literature and theatre, music, religion, philosophy and learning.

I continue to enjoy Educating the Whole-hearted Child. So many gems in this book! Concerning reading and language arts:

“the single best way to strengthen your children’s minds is making sure they read lots of good books.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

And this comment about raising readers:

“Do everything you can to cultivate in your children a love of books. Give them their own copies of special books they read on their own, illustrated storybooks that capture their hearts, series of books that they especially enjoy, classics that every child should have, informational books about subjects that are special to them, and even books that they are not quite ready for but will be soon.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

And finally:

“Be generous with books. It is an investment that will return hundredfold rewards in your children’s lives.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

I’m pretty sure that Clay and Sally just told me to go buy a lot more books. Done and done!

Current Reads: