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Category Archives: Books We Love

Literature

We’re moving away from adaptations of classical stories. These books are not written to be great literature, they’re written to explain what happens in great literature. They have a sort of this happened, and then this happened, and finally, this happened feel. They’re boring. The vocabulary is stilted. The language is bland and does not excite the imagination. They leave us feeling cold.

Yes, it’s great that Isa knows who Robinson Crusoe is and understands that Nemo isn’t just the name of a fish, but he doesn’t need to know all that now. I’d rather he read great books that were written specifically for children. You really only get one shot at capturing that magic. Once he’s older, he’s not going to want to read those stories. If he does, he may enjoy them, but they just won’t have the same effect.

I remember re-reading some childhood favourites as an adult, and while they were great books, I didn’t get that captivated, swept-away feeling that I did as a child.

So, what’s on Isa’s reading list now? Here are a few:

  • The Family Under the Bridge
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Follow My Leader
  • The Great Brain
  • Bunnicula
  • Henry Huggins

I think being exposed to great literature, rich language…learning to think and analyse on a basic level, using stories that children can sink their literary teeth into, is far better preparation for the grown up classics to come than reading adaptations, even good adaptations.

I read Deconstructing Penguins a while back, but I didn’t completely “get” what they were teaching until I started studying creative writing, so if you need help, pick up a few books on writing, such as The Art & Craft of Fiction (also available in Kindle).

We use the following three questions when analysing literature:

  1. Who are the main characters?
  2. What is the problem or problems they are facing?
  3. How do they solve their problems?

We began by analysing favourite movies and books. Now Isa can pick out the “problem” (or lack of) easily. He looks purposely for it. Doing this is also teaching him about creative writing and he understands some of the elements that he needs to have in his own stories.

In time, you can add more elements. Here is a more expanded list:

  1. Who are the main characters? (protagonist/ antagonist/ contagonist/ guardian, etc. more info here)
  2. What is the viewpoint? First person, second person, third person? (viewpoint)
  3. What are the characters like? (characterisation)
  4. Where are they? (setting)
  5. What is the problem or problems they are facing? (conflict)
  6. What obstacles are in their way? (tension)
  7. How do they solve their problems? (climax & resolution)
  8. Did the protagonist changed in any way? (character arcs)
  9. Was it a good ending? (Most often, if an ending is poor, it’s because the protagonist did not solve his or her own problems. Did someone else swoop in and save the day? Did the protagonist come into a bit of luck? Stories that end this way are often a let-down.)
  10. What kind of book was this? Funny? Serious? Fantasy? Science fiction? Historical fiction? (genre)
 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Books We Love, Reading

 

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Week 2 or, The Template of all Future Weeks

(Dictation exercise from last week; forgot to post this)

Wow, what a week! We did everything I’d planned for the week…everything. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. All the extra work hasn’t phased Esa one bit. He’s enjoying it and asking for more…I’m very happy to oblige. Here’s a snapshot of some of what we did and a few tweaks I’ve made.

  • Reading

On Fridays Esa has IRT (independent reading time). During IRT, he’s to choose a book that he’s not yet read, go away and read, then tell me what the book (or chapter, or whatever) is about. This was fabulous. Esa chose a Hot Wheels annual (not exactly Newberry material, but it does have lots of big words). He was happy to be finished, but later in the day I saw him reading from it again.

  • Spelling

Last year I purchased Sequential Spelling. It was great, but it was just too much handwriting for Esa and since he wasn’t doing a lot of writing I felt it was pointless to worry about spelling. I also knew there was a real risk of him forgetting everything he learned, so I shelved it. We’ve picked this back up and it’s working beautifully. Esa is loving it and he’s learning a lot.

However…I’ve been really tempted to try All About Spelling. This programme looks great and I like that it teaches the spelling rules. Sequential Spelling teaches patterns, but you aren’t told the rule behind it. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time or if you know me at all, you’ll know that I need to know the rules behind spelling (and everything else).

The problem is, AAS is only available from the AAS website. It can be shipped here, but it’s very expensive to do so. They do have a very generous guarantee, but I wouldn’t get that shipping charge back. I was also a little put off by all the cards- word cards, phonogram cards, and whatever else. It’s just too fiddly for us.

Since Sequential Spelling is working for us and it’s really the rules that I’m after (and it’s now available as a Kindle download, so I can view it on my computer or a Kindle if I buy one), I thought it made more sense to buy a book with the spelling rules in it. I’ve ordered the  Handy English Encoder Decoder: All the Spelling and Phonics Rules You Could Ever Want to Know which I’m hoping will live up to its title. We can do Sequential Spelling and learn the rules alongside it. Problem solved. Hopefully.

  • Latin

Sometimes when we begin a new curriculum I’m not always sure what I’m doing. I read through it and try to plan, but inevitably the best thing to do is just get it out and make a start. Within a few days things fall into place and we develop a routine. This happened with Story of the World and Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. When I got Minimus I saw quite quickly that this was one of those I-can’t-figure-out-what-to-do-with-this-so-I-won’t-try-we’ll-just-wing-it programmes. But after a week I was still just as mystified as when we began. We listened to the CD, followed along with the book, translated the passage (well, I translated it for him)…and then I just didn’t know where to go from there. So we did it again. And again. And again. And on Monday, Esa and I looked at each other with mirrored expressions that said, ‘what the blazes are we supposed to do with this?’ Even the teacher’s manual wasn’t shedding any light on things.

I needed something more scripted, something that would hold my hand. Something parts-to-whole.

Enter Lively Latin.

I’d planned on using this for third grade, but after having another look at it, I thought Esa might be ready for it. Esa and I spent a good hour on the Lively Latin website having a look and decided to take the plunge. We were both giggling and giddy when I clicked ‘pay now.’ We purchased the PDF version, so we were excited to be getting it right away.

But that didn’t happen. I never received the password to get the materials. I sent an email to the Magistra, Catherine Drown, who replied within a few hours, and then we were on our way! I printed out the introductory material, the notebook cover and dividers and the first lesson.

After spending a few hours printing, organising, and planning, the little cheeky rascal picked up Minimus and proceeded to read the first passage, in Latin, with near-perfect pronunciation. You can watch him here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBfhpYt9Dig

Oh, for the love of all things holy!

Never mind; I was going to get Lively Latin anyway, so if we do go back to Minimus, it’s not wasted, it’s just one less thing I have to buy for next year.

Lively Latin is fantastic. I think Esa is a little bored because it’s parts-to-whole so the beginning is a bit slow and tedious, but I know things will take off once he’s got a little vocabulary under his belt.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by telling you all about Lively Latin; the website has all the info you need, but I just want to mention what I love about this programme.

  • Holds my hand. I know exactly what I’m doing and how to teach with this. It’s not scripted and you can adapt it, but there is a sense of direction and I know what I need to do.
  • Parts-to-whole. This is how I learned French, German, and Spanish so I’m very comfortable with this.
  • The added bits. This programme has some art appreciation, Roman history with templates for making a My History of Rome book, activities, online games, flash cards, chant sheets, teacher’s notes, and more.
  • The introductory material. There’s some interesting stuff here, with a language family tree, an article on why we should study Latin, the origins of English, and why English is so messed up. There’s also a choose a Latin name section and tips on staying organised and how to teach. I love it.
  • It’s secular. That’s a big one for us. So many of the Latin curricula are religious and I don’t want to have to work around all that.

So, which are we using, Minimus or Lively Latin?

Well, I don’t know. We’re going to keep going with Lively Latin and see how it goes and use Minimus as a supplement. If it’s too much for him, we’ll switch back to Minimus and make the most of it.

  • British History

This is back on. I’ve nicked a great idea from Neo: instead of reading from Our Island Story, listen to the audio book. I bought this book last year, but we didn’t have time for it. To fit it in and make it easier, we’ll listen to the audio book, which I got free when I joined Audible. (You can also listen for free here.) We’re doing British history on Fridays. We’re also using :

  • Poetry

Happily, we’re back to reading poetry each day. Hat tip to Suji and her fantastic poetry recommendations. We’ve added

to our poetry library. These are fantastic additions and have spiced up our poetry reading.

Science

We’re continuing with BFSU, which is just the greatest science curriculum ever, in my opinion. It really can stand alone, but my little guy loves science and could do science all day, every day, and sadly we’re only doing science once a week at the moment. I’m going to try to add a little nature study and some fun activities to our week. More on that later.

 

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Two and a Half Weeks Left and Counting

Lately I’ve been casting wistful glances at our mountain stack of books for second grade, wishing it was time to get them out and flood the room with new-book smell. Sometimes I allow myself a few minutes with one of them…I’ll sit down with one and leaf through, relishing the crispness of the clean, unmarked pages, sighing with anticipation at the delights that await us…even the paper cuts I accumulate are all part of the fun.

That Writing with Ease workbook is particularly captivating…it’s 3 centimetres thick. I’ve covered it with book-covering film so the cover is oh-so-glossy and sturdy and hopefully with stand up to Esa’s attempts to destroy the book once he realises it’s really an instrument of torture.

I’m even more thrilled about second grade now that I’ve managed to save the SOTW Volume 2 Activity Book to my computer. If I’d bothered to read the downloading instructions, I wouldn’t have wasted 4 of my 5 downloads. But I thought I Knew What I Was Doing, so didn’t read the instructions. That’s not really like me at all, but vanity doth cloud my judgement at times…

I’ve also been perusing some of the audio books and lectures on Peace Hill Press. I bought a few (download versions…the ability to save files went to my head) and I’ve really enjoyed The Joy of Classical Education (only $.99!) This is definitely one I’ll listen to again and again, particularly if I need a little homeschooling pick-me-up.

I’m also thrilled I found the audio stories which supplement SOTW. These CD’s are pretty expensive to buy in the UK, and I prefer downloaded versions in order to save space AND you get them immediately. We’ll definitely buy a few of these as we go along. And next year I’ll buy the SOTW 3 audio book download from them as well; far cheaper than buying the CD’s. It crossed my mind that I won’t be able to resell them since they’re MP3’s and not CD’s, but then I realised I probably won’t want to resell them anyway; I can see us using these for a long time, so downloaded versions are perfect.

Esa’s getting really excited about second grade, too. Poor boy…he has no idea how much torture work awaits him this year.

I am a little concerned with the workload. We may need to cut something out if it proves to be too much. Oh well, tweaking is a specialty of mine.

Speaking of tweaking…

I’ve recently done some tweaking to our second grade schedule. It dawned on me that I’d only worked in a total of 8 weeks’ holiday. Now, if it were a year ago, I’d be finding a way to reduce that (silly, homeschooling-crazed mother that I was am was am was…oh, who am I kidding…?), but I found myself looking at that schedule and nearly hyperventilating at the lack of lines on the spreadsheet reading ****HOLIDAY****. It now has many more holidays worked into it (and my defibrillator can get a  much-needed rest.)

One more week (after this week) of prehistory/phonics review/math facts memorisation, then a week off, then we shall begin second grade.

Speaking of memorising math facts…

Ugh. This just isn’t going anywhere. I knew it was going to be hard work, I knew it was going to take time…but what I didn’t know is that after memorising 12 facts, as new ones went in, old ones would fall out, despite the repetitive drill. I thought if we did one set a week, introducing 3 new ones each day for 3 days, reviewing them all each day,  that he’d have them down. It started out well, but then our little house of flash cards came crashing down. He’s getting them confused and we’re only on 3’s. There’s just no way we’ll make it to the 9’s the way we’re going about it. I’m not really sure what to do. Not knowing his math facts is slowing him up when he does his work. Not sure if we should just persevere, try something else, or leave it for a while.

Maybe I should have him write a set out 10 times each day. That’s what one of my teachers did. (Ok, it was 4th grade and for multiplication tables, but it did work.) I do think a multi-sensory approach may be better, though. Will have to do some googling.

 
 

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A Spot of Decorating

We’re in the process of redecorating our entry way, and Esa wanted in on the fun.

Well, he certainly looks the part (apart from the slippers).

And I dare say he’s more skilful than Paddington… (or me for that matter).

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2010 in Books We Love, Family Life, First Grade

 

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Spring Reading Thing 2010

I’m not big on blog challenges, but I really like this one. It’s a very gentle challenge, and I love the graphic 🙂 I’m a little late starting, but there’s plenty of time left. So, here is my list of books to read/finish reading in the next 3 months:

Non-Fiction

Keeping a Nature Journal. I need to finish my notetaking and type up my notes and get going! ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

This book is a classic…and just in time for spring! This book has been sitting on my shelf for a week or so and I need to get it out.

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Watercolor Basics- Let’s Get Started. I’m not sure how long it will take to get through this book, but I’d like to finish it.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Watercolor. I certainly don’t intend on finishing this book, but I plan on making a good dent in it.

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The Colored Pencil. Yes, another art book. 🙂

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Fiction

The Good Parents by Joan London. I began this book a few weeks ago. I’m really enjoying it, but it’s not what I’d call a “quick read.” I want to finish this up so I can read…

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I’m loving the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. They’re easy reads, light-hearted, and not the sort of thing I normally read, but they’re great. I just got the 4th book from the series from the library: The Kalahari Typing School for Men. Can’t wait to read it!

I’m also hoping to tackle books 5, 6, and maybe even 7 by the end of the challenge. I’m not a fast reader, so I may not manage it.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman. A children’s book that I know I’m gonna love.

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Classics

Wuthering Heights. I have this in my sidebar as what I’m currently reading, but so far I’ve only read a few pages. I’m hoping to read this, too.

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Happy Spring, and Happy Reading!

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Blogging Fun, Books We Love, Michelle

 

We Need a Break

It’s been quite a while since we took any time off, and I think Esa and I could both use some free time. So, what are we going to do with all that free time? Well, Esa will do a ton of playing, I’m sure, but we’re also wanting to do lots of read alouds. Here’s some of what we’ll be reading:

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

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The Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. Esa’s loving this book. We’ve been reading a little each day. I was going to just read a few sections, but he wants to read through all 140 pages.

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Heidi. I love Heidi. I read it for the first time about a year ago and I think it’s one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to share this book with Esa.

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D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Esa has really loved reading Greek Myths. Our library has a few versions, but he’s wanting a book of his own that we can pick up anytime to read. So I chose an edition that the library does not have, and one that many have raved about.

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We read this excellent version of Aesop’s Fables last week, and Esa loved it. We also own the Milo Winter edition, which we  may read from, or may we may listen to the accompanying CD, this coming week.

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For my birthday this year, I got several DVD’s, and I’m hoping to watch one or two of them:

Emma. This was on television a few months back, and initially I didn’t like Romola Garai’s portrayal of Emma, but after a while I warmed to her.

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Northanger Abbey. I really enjoyed this book. It’s quite different from Jane Austen’s other novels and I’m really looking forward to watching this one.

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Persuasion. For me, the movie adaptations have been a gateway to the novels. That normally isn’t true, but with Jane Austen it is. I have tried reading Persuasion a few times, but I keep putting it down. I’m hoping after I watch this film the book will be more approachable.

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Coraline. I’ve seen this movie already, but I love it. The book is written by the same author as The Wolves in the Walls, and The Graveyard Book which I’m hoping to read soon.

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I’ve also got a ton of reading I want to do, too. I’ve started reading The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I’ve really enjoyed these fun, lively, warm books, although at times they’re a bit predictable, but in a fun, “I know what’s going on here!” kind of way.

This book has been sitting on the table, calling out to me every day. But I just haven’t had the time to sit with it do the necessary poring over it that it needs. I’m hoping to work on it this week.

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I love Wuthering Heights. I read it in school ages ago, and I’m wanting to read it again. The verion pictured is fabulous. It’s a pocket-sized book with an attached ribbon bookmark. It fits so nicely in the hand! I have the complete works of Jane Austen in the same format.

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Art. I’m quickly becoming addicted to art. I get so immersed it in that I’m totally unaware of what’s going on around me. I lose all track of time. I love it, and I’m hoping to do some sketching this week.

If the weather’s decent, I plan to get out into the garden and do some diggin’ and sowin’.

And we have plans to make a gingerbread Parthenon. Yeah.

To be honest, a week just isn’t enough to do all I want to do. I just know I’m going to get sidetracked with housework and other duties. Argh! I will try my best to make the most of it.  Chances are good we’ll have a few days of some of the above, and a few days of not going much, which is important, too. We all need time when there’s nothing to do. It is, after all, free time.

 

Books I’m Loving Lately

I’ve recently made some book purchases that have had quite an impact on me, and will greatly impact our homeschooling. Here they are:

Deconstructing Penguins. Boy am I glad I bought this! I have a good working vocabulary, I can read most classics, but I cannot analyse a book. I cannot find hidden meanings, metaphors, symbolism, etc in books. This book doesn’t dive that deeply, and I don’t think they get into metaphor and symbolism (I’m about half-way through it), but it’s a fantastic introduction on dissecting literature. It’s really gotten me thinking. I’ve been thinking back on books that I’ve read and trying to identify the protagonist, antagonist, setting, crisis, etc. When I’m finished, I’m going to read The Graveyard Book and see what I can do with it. It’s going to take some practice, I know, which is why I’m reading it now. Not only will it make my own reading more enjoyable, but Esa and I will be able to “deconstruct” books together when he’s ready.

Keeping a Nature Journal is the best book EVER for nature study. I cannot recommend this book enough. I thought it was just going to be pages and pages of sample pages from nature journals, but it’s not. Yes, the margins are filled with nature sketches, and there are some sample pages, but after reading a bit, I’m glad those samples are there. I always thought nature journaling was just sketches with a bit of labelling, but it’s so much more. This book is packed with information, ideas, drawing help, and motivation…there’s almost too much! I *love* this book.

I checked out The Story of Art from our library and I’ve found it difficult to put down. This is a nice, fat book and a must-read for those who, like me, know nothing about art, but wish they did. This book is completely changing the way I look at art. Before, I could only appreciate “pretty” things, but now I’m seeing the value of art that is less pleasing to the eye. I’ve ordered a copy of this because it’s going to take me a while to get through, and in fact, it’ll probably be something I’m continuously reading. And when Esa’s older he can enjoy it, too.

Ok, I’m cheating a bit here, because I haven’t actually started reading The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way yet, but I plan to soon. I was looking for some sort of history of science book for Esa, and I knew the Hakim set was good, but I also knew it was geared for children a few years older. The book just looked so beautiful (all three books do, actually) and I knew we’d use it eventually (even if Esa were to go to school), that I decided to buy it. And it is gorgeous. I’ve only looked through it and read a few pages to judge the suitability (I’m thinking another 1 or 2 years and Esa will be ready for it), but it’s fabulous. When I have time, after reading some of my other picks from above, I’m going to read this for my own benefit.

Sometimes I just know how to pick ’em. A few days ago, I gave Esa a little informal reading assessment. In most areas, I know “where he is.” But I find it difficult to judge with reading. And even though I can see his reading improving, which is truly all that matters, I wanted to have some idea how far we’d gotten. I figured he was at about first or second grade level. My Kindergarten-aged boy came in at early third grade level. It doesn’t matter of course, but I have to admit, I liked having this reassurance. As a little treat I decided to take Esa to a WHSmith outlet where all the books are 3 for 2. (This is not something I normally do; I don’t believe in rewards, carrots & sticks, etc, but I thought he deserved a little something for putting up with my neuroticism.) He really wanted a Captain Underpants book (the only twaddle I allow…they’re fun and funny). He found 2, but we just couldn’t find anything else that looked good. I don’t tend to buy adult fiction because I can usually find something at the library, there were no good reference books, no audio books, and since I have 4 books penned by Alan Titchmarsh I simply do not need any gardening books, we were at a loss. And then I picked up The Graveyard Book.

It wasn’t until after I got it home that I learned two things:

  1. This book is written by the same author of Coraline.
  2. This book won the Newberry Medal in 2009.

At first glance, I thought it was just a fun, creepy story, but after doing a little research, I’ve learned that the book is about love and family. I can’t wait to read it, and when Esa’s a little older, I can’t wait for him to read it, too.