Saturday, November 29, 2014

What We’ve Been Reading [part 1]

Luke's Book Stack


Luke has been the most consistent reader in our house the past couple months. He’s the child most likely to get his work done and most likely to read what I suggest.


:: The Chronicles of Prydain is one of the most frequently recommended series on book lists that I’ve perused (along with The Chronicles of Narnia), particularly on classical school book lists. Luke declared this series his favorite reading of the past few months. [Levi has enjoyed many Lloyd Alexander books such as Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth.]

:: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is another oft-recommended book on the lists I’ve been using, so I passed this one on to Luke.

:: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I think a Mt. Hope reader suggested this one some time back. All three boys read and enjoyed it, so I purchased Jonathan Auxier’s most recent book, The Night Gardener. Luke gives it nine out of ten. Here is a short video of the author sharing his own favorite children’s fiction:


:: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. Luke gives this book ten out of ten.

:: The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree is another series frequently recommended (in particular, by Susan Wise Bauer), so I’ve borrowed them all from the library and Luke is just getting started.

Historical Fiction

:: Number the Stars was on Levi’s reading list for Challenge A, and after reading it myself I decided that Luke would really enjoy it, which he did. The story is set in Denmark during World War II but isn’t quite as heartbreaking as other books from that time period, which makes it a great introduction for younger kids.

:: I Am David was a logical next choice. A twelve year old boy escapes a prison camp in Eastern Europe and travels to Denmark. This is one of my absolute favorites from my childhood. Luke declared that he wished it were longer because he enjoyed it so much! We may have to watch the movie version in the next week or two.


We are studying modern history this year (1600 to present). I’ve read aloud chapter after chapter after chapter (seventeen, to be exact) of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, and we’re still in the 1600s. It was a happening time in history! I try to weave in (though not perfectly) literature from the time period we are studying. Beginning in about the 1600s, the literature selections we have to choose from widen considerably.

:: The boys had been complaining that the retellings of Gulliver’s Travels that we own all only tell the first two of the four stories. And, by golly, we can’t have that. So I purchased (and they all read) the Classic Starts version of Gulliver's Travels, which contains all four stories (abridged). I completely forgot about the masterpiece Jonathan Swift's Gulliver retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell, so that’s on its way from Amazon as well. Is it wrong to own more than three retellings of Gulliver’s Travels?

:: I tried to get Luke to read the original Robinson Crusoe by Defoe, but he wasn’t quite up to it. We also have a few different retellings of that one, so he picked up a new-to-us vintage copy and enjoyed it.

:: Luke wasn’t quite ready for Don Quixote retold by Martin Jenkins (another masterpiece, hilariously illustrated but quite long), so I had him read Don Quixote and Sancho Panza retold by Margaret Hodges.

:: The Family Pilgrim's Progress by Jean Watson. This meaty picture book is a great introduction to the classic.


Luke has read many history-related picture books and chapter books recently (especially from around the time of the Pilgrims), but the following are a few of our favorites.

:: The King's Day: Louis XIV of France (wonderful illustrations, fascinating life)

:: Hana in the Time of the Tulips (historical fiction, beautiful Rembrandt-style illustrations)

:: Peter the Great (Diane Stanley’s biographies are excellent)

:: Don't Know Much About the Kings and Queens of England (We’ve referenced this one over and over again. Short one to four page entries for each king or queen with highly entertaining illustrations.)

:: Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (author of Misty of Chincoteague) tells the story of the American artist Benjamin West. The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West is a lovely picture book option.

History Picture Books

[Again, this post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission on purchases made through these links—even if you do not purchase the recommended item! Thanks for generously supporting my book addiction children’s education. I greatly appreciate all of you who have recently shopped Amazon through my links!]

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Walk


I managed no photos of Thanksgiving dinner. I’m particularly disappointed that I didn’t snap a picture of my grandpa who is visiting from California. [I’ll be sure to get a picture this weekend before he heads home.] Having him here this week is a huge blessing. The whole family was present (my grandpa, my parents, the three of us girls with families, and Olive). Casey made the turkey on his Traeger grill. Holly made rhubarb pie. Shannon made bread dressing and rolls. Olive brought delicious mashed potatoes. We brought marionberry and pumpkin pies and our traditional jello salad. Mom made gravy and yams and pecan and apple pies. We also had ham, a veggie plate, and our traditional Martinelli’s sparkling cider.

It was rainy and dark for most of the day, but we took advantage of a short break in the precipitation for our traditional after-dinner walk. I snapped some pictures of Holly’s kids for Christmas cards.

There was a lot of game playing after dinner was cleaned up.

Oh, how thankful I am for my family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paddington! [Speaking of Upcoming Shows]

This looks perfectly delightful.

My boys read five of the original chapter book series by Michael Bond (first published in 1958), beginning with A Bear Called Paddington, and Lola is enjoying the audio book performed by Stephen Fry. I think a plush Paddington Bear may find his way into her stocking this Christmas.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Oh, the Anticipation!

The Librarian - Quest for the Spear is one of our family favorites, and this new spin-off tv series looks like a blast!!

If you’ve enjoyed the National Treasure movies (or Indiana Jones), give these a try! Adventure, humor, and smarts—my kind of movie.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas Gift Inspiration

I’ve shared confessions of “terrible gift shopper” in previous posts (notably here and here), so I won’t bore you again with the details. You will notice, however, that the following list is short on toys. My kids don’t play with them. They don’t clean them up. They can’t even think of any to put on their wish list. So I’m okay with not buying them.

Without further ado, I offer you the start of my Christmas shopping list.


:: Fisher Price Classic Record Player

How many of you had one during your childhood? My sisters and I did not, but our family friends did and I loved to play with it! I think I might have to get the Fisher Price Classic Changeable Picture Disk Camera for Lola.


:: The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse

This simple picture book looks delightful for young children.

:: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Lists of words? Yes, please! Melissa Sweet is one of my favorite illustrators. Check out this lovely book trailer:


:: The Boy Who Loved Words

This would be a fun fiction book to pair with the above biography.





:: Snap Circuits Lights


For the fantasy-loving child:

:: Harry Potter Marauder's Map Tapestry Throw

:: Dr Who Wibbly Wobbly Quote T-shirt

:: Schleich Griffin Rider Toy

If I have to purchase toys, Schleich figures are among my favorites—animals, knights, dragons, fairies, ooh-la-la!!


Several people on my list, young and old creative adults, are receiving drawing books this year. So many inspirational titles to choose from!


:: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals

:: Illustration School: Let's Draw Happy People

:: 20 Ways to Draw a Tree and 44 Other Nifty Things from Nature: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers

:: Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists

:: Creative Doodling & Beyond

:: The Art of Whimsical Lettering 



:: Andrew Peterson: Light for the Lost Boy

My boys have become huge Andrew Peterson fans. They’ve devoured all four books in his Wingfeather Saga, and they continuously listen to his album Light for the Lost Boy. I think it’s time for a new album to play on repeat.



:: Omnisax Anastasia Reusable Shopping Bags 5-pack

I have several of these bags, and they are incredibly handy to slip in my purse. Rolled up, they take up little room and weigh almost nothing, and yet they are extremely sturdy and hold an astonishing amount of groceries or books (whenever we have an impromptu library visit). Beautiful, functional, take up no space—perfect.



:: My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method

:: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Dutch Oven with Dual Handles, 5-Quart

Because easy, hot, homemade bread. Nothing else to say, right?


[You will notice there are no gifts for men on this list. All of the men in my life are notoriously difficult to buy for.]


What Christmas gifts are you most excited about this year?


[This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission on purchases made through these links—even if you do not purchase the recommended item! Thanks for generously supporting my book addiction children’s education.]

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Better Late Than Never

Img2014-11-07_0022fMermaid and George W.

I think “better late than never” is my new “reaching for the stars.” Because I still hit “never” more often than I’d like to admit.

We had a belated costume party with our best friends, and now I’m posting belated pictures of the belated party. Impressive.

Do you remember last year when I lost Lola’s mermaid costume? I’d love to pretend that I found it, but in reality my “make everyone’s dreams come true” best friend found the exact mermaid costume on Ebay and bought it for Lola for Christmas. And this year she got to be a mermaid. I bought both a George Washington and an Abraham Lincoln costume this year. Leif refused to wear one. (Surprise.) He made his own Creeper head, and I suppose that was better anyway. Luke happily chose George Washington. Levi went as himself (ha!!).

I dressed as a lady in waiting (yes, I did). We joined Harry and Hermione and made marzipan pumpkins. Because no party with these 6 kids is a party without marzipan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christmas Reading



Are all your Christmas plans in place?

I used to be a big planner. Now I plan about an hour ahead. Sometimes I just wing it as I go along. Who is this person I’ve become?

But who needs gifts and decorations and yummy food when there’s a towering stack of Christmas books to be read?

I’ve been collecting for years, and now I’m not certain if my shelves can hold one more Christmas book—but I’m willing to risk it!

Have you added any Christmas books to your collection this year?

I’ve shared many of my favorites in past posts:

I noticed with excitement that two of my favorite out-of-print Christmas books are available used on Amazon for reasonable prices right at this moment (they’ve often been available only at much higher prices!). Snatch them up before they’re gone!

This year I’ve added The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-na-ween to our collection since Ruth Sawyer is the author of two of my most favorite Christmas books. We’ll also be enjoying Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck (because, well, Pearl S. Buck), The Christmas Wish (the photography—oooohhh!), and Christmas Farm (perfect for reading the day we get our Christmas tree).


Next up, Christmas gift ideas!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

More Lola Lovely

Lola Lovely

[She had to give herself “bunny ears” since her brothers weren’t around to do it. Giggle.]

Saturday, November 8, 2014

La, La, La

heart sing

[only two of my many favorites from an impromptu photo shoot this afternoon]

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Poetry, Music, the Nine Muses, and More

On Music

I went down a bit of a rabbit trail earlier today, although the subject matter has (obviously) been on my mind recently.

It started while reading the language arts series by Michael Clay Thompson. I am re-reading the Island level with Luke and including Leif this time around. We diagram sentences together daily from one or another level of practice books (we have Island, Town, and Voyage), and Levi often joins us. MCT provides wonderfully imaginative sentences to analyze, and he includes fantastic comments for each one including vocabulary and Latin stems, grammar notes, and poetic devices (alliteration, assonance, etc.).

Today’s sentence was “Yes, after the ceremony the enthusiasm was manifest.” I always write the sentence on the white board incorrectly (e.g. missing punctuation, misplaced capitals, duplicate words, or misspellings), and Leif and Luke’s most favorite task is the “mechanics check” when they are given the chance to correct all my mistakes using editor’s marks. We then identify the parts of speech, parts of the sentence, purpose, structure, and pattern. After the hard work of analysis comes the delightful reward of diagramming.

After our grammar work this morning, we moved on to start the vocabulary book, Building Language, in which the author takes us back to the history of Rome and the beauty and strength of the arch as it relates to architecture. He then compares the arch to the Latin language and how it influences our own.

The boys began to construct Playmobil worlds in the front room while I continued to read aloud from the poetics book, Music of the Hemispheres. It opens with a poem by Emily Dickinson: "How happy is the little stone/ That rambles in the road alone/ And doesn't care about careers/ And exigencies never fears..." [My oldest son piped up to tell me the definition of "exigencies" as applied to logical fallacies. As hard as this life can be many days, I was reminded why we’re on this adventure called homeschooling.]

In the preface of Music of the Hemispheres, Michael Clay Thompson writes:

“Being a poet is much like being a composer of symphonies. Just as a composer writes each note on a musical staff, and composes harmonies for the different instruments, and knows when to enhance the percussion or the woodwinds, a great poet has an array of tools and techniques at hand, and puts each sound on the page, one sound at a time, in a deliberately chosen rhythm, for a reason.”

MCT talks about poetry being the "music of the hemispheres" meaning that poetry uses both sides of the brain in a way similar to music (utilizing sounds, rhythm, precise form, and creativity).

Just a few short minutes after finishing our reading for the morning, I came across the following short, entertaining, and fascinating video (thank you, Facebook).


I started wondering if structured dance affects the brain in the same way, as it is musical and physical. A smidge more rabbit-trailing, and I came across this video (also short, fascinating, and entertaining—oh, how I love TED). Ah, of course. The nine muses of Ancient Greece: tragedy, comedy, poetry, dance, songs, history, astronomy (music of the spheres!), hymns, and epic poetry.


[At this point in my rambling, I’m itching to share twenty quotes about educating the poetic imagination, music, and the history of classical education from Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott, but that would make an already lengthy blog post unreasonably unwieldy. You’ll just have to read the book yourself.]

And then I began free-falling down a rabbit hole.

::  How to Read Music (engaging introductory video, again by TED). This brilliantly sums up the current music theory unit we are studying in the Classical Conversations Foundations program.


::  Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies @ The Atlantic. This is a surprisingly humorous and quite helpful how-to essay.

7. A poem cannot be paraphrased. In fact, a poem’s greatest potential lies in the opposite of paraphrase: ambiguity. Ambiguity is at the center of what is it to be a human being. We really have no idea what’s going to happen from moment to moment, but we have to act as if we do.

12. A poem can feel like a locked safe in which the combination is hidden inside. In other words, it’s okay if you don’t understand a poem. Sometimes it takes dozens of readings to come to the slightest understanding. And sometimes understanding never comes. It’s the same with being alive: Wonder and confusion mostly prevail.

::  This Bird’s Songs Share Mathematical Hallmarks With Human Music @ Smithsonian. The hermit thrush prefers to sing in harmonic series, a fundamental component of human music.

::  50 Great Teachers: Socrates, The Ancient World's Teaching Superstar @ nprED. [Yes, this is a stretch, but we’re talking about education in Ancient Greece, right?]

"That's at the heart of the Socratic method that's come down to us from the streets of Athens: dialogue-based critical inquiry. The goal here is to focus on the text, ideas and facts — not just opinions — and to dig deeper through discussion."

"The Socratic method forces us to take a step back from that and ask questions like: What's going on here? What does this possibly mean?" Ogburn says. "What's important? What's less important? What might be motivating this person to say this?"

::  Researchers explore links between grammar, rhythm @ Vanderbilt University. [If this doesn’t bring us full circle, I don’t know what would.]

In grammar, children’s minds must sort the sounds they hear into words, phrases and sentences and the rhythm of speech helps them to do so. In music, rhythmic sequences give structure to musical phrases and help listeners figure out how to move to the beat.

And to reward you for your perseverance all the way to the end of this post: