August 29, 2011

Summer Extension

I planned to start today.  The sky is perfectly blue.  The weather is warm enough for swimming but gentle beautiful breezes.  The curriculum has not all arrived in the mail yet and we only have three days left with the pool with water slides.  I think we can start next week and enjoy the beauty of summer and all its fun for just another week.

August 20, 2011

Required Reading List

Harry Potter is well loved in this house.  However, my kids did not just get the books whenever and read start to finish.  There are many good discussion topics in Harry Potter and I wanted to wait until they were old enough to discuss the books more in full.  In addition I wanted them to have read certain other books to be able to refer to in our conversations.  I also wanted them to read most of the classics in at least abridged form so we made a deal.  They would get to read Harry Potter when they finished what I wanted them to read first.  I also wait until they are 10 for the first two books 11 for the next three books and 12 for the final two books.  There were lists of books to read before each of these.

Recently some friends asked me to recreate the list of books I required at age 10 and before the first Harry Potter. I do require slightly different books based on gender.  Below is Ciaran's list since he is most recent in my memory.  My son Ciaran was not what I would call an enthusiastic reader until recently.  Still he did read everything required of him as he desired to read Harry Potter. I asked him after he finished the first two books if Harry Potter was worth reading everything I required and he said yes, which honestly surprised me.  Of everything he read, the only book he truly hated and trudged through was Hans Brinker.  The rest he either liked or said he did not mind in the end, even if he was reluctant to start it.  

When a "classic" title is listed I only required the abridged Great Illustrated Classic version.  If you are unfamiliar with this books series, get familiar with it. A very gentle introduction to the main story of all the classics.  I remember reading many as a child and wanted my own kids to read them as well.  It makes the transition to reading the unabridged versions much easier for later years.  The stories are easy to read, big typset, and a whole page picture for every page of writing.  Still the stories are fairly true to the unabridged versions with easier language and a few minor changes overall.  They are pretty quick reads even for reluctant readers. This list is not in order he read them - just broken down by category required

Classics Unabridged - 3

Peter Pan
Wind in the Willows

Great Illustrated Classics - 17
Treasure Island
Gulliver's Travels
Around the World in 80 Days
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The Secret Garden
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
Swiss Family Robinson
Oliver Twist

Robinson Crusoe
The Time Machine
The Prince and the Pauper
The Jungle Book
Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn

General Fiction Required - 11

Indian in the Cupboard - Lynn Banks
Mary Poppins - P.L Travers
The Black Stallion
Black Beauty
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Chocolate Touch
Snow Treasure
Charlottes Web
Bridge to Terabithia
Tuck Everlasting
The Call of the Wild

Series Books Required - 15 with some choice
The entire Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (7 books)
The Wizard of Oz series - Frank L Baun (5 books of choice)
Little House series (3 books of choice for Ciaran, On the Banks of Plum Creek required) 

50 Favorite Picture Books for Kids

I have been thinking about picture book a lot lately.  With my youngest being 8 I know our time with these books is waning.  Still I cling to and love children's picture books.  Every year we buy each child a special picture book for their birthday and for Christmas.  We write a short inscription about them and the book inside.  It is getting harder to find good picture books that represent them as we already own so many of the good books here in the house.  At 11 we switch to buying good quality leather covered books to start their own special book collection to take with them when they move.  But back to picture books.

Sirah just had a birthday and I spent awhile looking through the kids books for her.  I decided on My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry.  This is a sweet book that encourages kids to dream big dreams. In the book the girl pretends to be various famous women in history. It fit Sirah's personality this year and was an encouraging and sweet book.

Still as I was in the bookstore I was struck by how few new good children's books there are. I keep coming back to our old standards even as I read many new books. There are plenty of good pictures but the stories and meanings just do not seem as rich as children's books of past. So I started thinking I would keep a list here of some of my favorite children's books. Feel free to add your own in the comments. I am not ranking the books on this list if they made the list they are good in my mind and well loved in our house.

Miss Rumphius
The Empty Pot
The Story of Ferdinand
Little Bear
Frog and Toad
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Salamander Room
Birthday for Frances

Stone Soup
Make way for Ducklings
Blueberry Shoe
Sailor Moo
The Boy Who Changed the World
I'd be your Hero
I'd be your Princess
A Coat for Anna
Seven Silly Eaters

Musical Beds
I Love you the Purplest
Owl Moon
The Bee Tree
The Giving Tree
Quick as a Cricket
The Quiet Place
The Paper Bag Princess
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
The Story about Ping

The Kissing Hand
A Pocket full of Kisses
Butterfly House
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
Bedtime for Frances
The Wretched Stone
Love You Forever
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day
I'm Gonna Like Me

The Mitten
A Chair for my Mother
Guess How Much I Love You
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear
Thanks to You: Wisdom from Mother and Child
Pickles to Pittsburgh
All of Beatrix Potter

Questions They Ask - Answers we Find

One of the things I love about raising net-natives is Google. I know it makes things too easy sometimes but overall I think it is great to be able to just answer immediately many of the random curious questions they have. Like today. What is the longest living animal on Earth?

August 16, 2011

I Miss You Too

Thanks to all of you who have emailed and left comments here sharing that you miss me and my regular writing.  I miss connecting with all of you and I miss my writing here as well.  It is hard to think about the fact that I have been blogging here for over 8 years, with more consistency some years than others.  The past few years have been busy and my writing pursuits have been elsewhere.  I spent a lot of time working on writing a book only to abandon it as the time has passed for such a book.  Perhaps I will one day write another.  I have been busy teaching, raising a family and doing all that goes with it.

Recently I thought back quite a few years to when I regularly posted reading lists, something I have come to discover many of you actually loved about this blog.  During that time I wondered at all the "how in the world?" type comments I received about the amount of reading we did.  At the time I thought to myself it is because that is the choice we make, not realizing how hard that choice can sometimes be to make.  Flash forward quite a few years - to the living in the car phase of homeschooling and I realize how hard it can be to make time for read alouds and even finding the time to make the kids read on their own.  It is hard but I still say it is possible.

We still read a lot. The kids read on their own more than I read aloud now but we still probably read more than the average household as I still require at least one hour of reading every day by all my kids once they reach 2nd grade.  Sirah recently told me I was a "tiger mother" when it comes to reading and I responded with "I can live with that."  All of my kids are readers now and all of them will actually admit to enjoying reading now - not a day I was ever sure I would see with two of them :)

My kids recently had to create a list of their favorite books (50 for my 12 year old, 20 for my 10 year old and 5 for my 7 year old) both the 12 and 10 year old had a hard time limiting what would make that list - that made me happy.  It also made it worth all the battles we have had over the years about reading: yes you will read even though you don't want to, no you can't have screen time until you read, yes you have to finish that boring book, yes I am serious, no I don't care that your friends don't have to read in the summer, yes you have to finish my list of 30 books I want you to read before you get to read Harry Potter, yes you still have to read an hour a day during the school year and your sports season, yes I am serious you will have to do this until you are 18 and move out of the house.  When they move out they can choose to read however they want or to never read again - at least I will be confident they can read anything they want or need to, ever.  And if that makes me a tiger mom about reading I can live with that label.

I still keep lists I just never posted them here anymore as I use a software now that does not make it easy and I never realized people missed that.  This year I will go back to it.  Of course the lists will be shorter as the books are longer now :)  You will have to go back a few years for the good picture books and early reader lists.  I do miss that time, I miss the read alouds and the hours on end with nothing better to do than read picture books.  I think when I am retired I will go to the library and read books to young children on end - my grandchild will hopefully enjoy being read to.  It gets harder and harder to make time for read alouds especially once I knew they could all read on their own.

One of my kids fought me hard about reading.  I knew the child was ready, but was just purely resistant.  I could not figure out why.  I pushed, I cajoled, I offered carrots, I withheld privelages, nothing seemed to convince this capable child to read.  Finally I got an answer to why the child did not want to read.  I was told there was a fear I would stop reading aloud once the child was reading. This child truly loved listening to me read out loud so had decided to simply wait to read on their own, no matter what. How did I get such stubborn kids :)  I promised I would continue to read aloud (and I have) and the child agreed to read and reads well alone now.

Why am I spending so much time talking about reading tonight?  It is on my mind and heart as I think about this blog and about approaching a new year of home schooling. As I wrote their schedules today I worked a half hour of reading (my choice) into their school day every day and they will still need to do an additional half hour in the evenings (their choice), and yes they have to read on weekends too.  I am getting excited thinking about what books I will pick for their required reading this year.   I think if my children will remember anything about school with me it will be the emphasis on reading.  Why am I such a stickler for reading?  It is because I believe if you can read well you can learn anything.  You can find the answer to any question.  The world opens up to you as does the fantasy realm.

I look around and I smile when I see kids carrying ereaders because I know for some of them it means they will read more.  I know for others it likely means they were already avid readers with desperate parents trying to find a better solution.  I smile and compliment kids when I see them reading in public, I ask them about their books and I am truly interested when I listen to them talk about them.  I often recommend books to kids based on what they are currently reading.  I ask them for their recommendations and listen to them.  I host book clubs and read the books with the kids - I am up to over 60 books read for my kids book club discussions. I love seeing kids love reading.  I wish I could help all adults feel the same way.  I cherish my reading friends and always love their recommendations.  I just finished reading Unbroken and Mindset both recommended and enjoyed - even though I would not have picked them up on my own.  My own reading time is some of my favorite time.

I have started keeping track of books I have read and have been going back and trying to write down and recall all of them.  I simply can't recall them all.  I am up over 6000 books recalled. No that is a list I don't think I am going to share.  I can only imagine what honest glimpses into my soul that list would give as well as the random and wrong assumptions people could make about me from just seeing the list.    I did not love everything I read but I am thankful to have read so much good, bad, ugly and life changing.  Each book has left an imprint on my life.    I have encouraged my kids to keep track of their reads throughout their lives as well.  It was my own parents love of reading that inspired me to read.  I grew up seeing them read, reading myself and we all still read today.  May my children and their children on down learn to love reading.  May you and yours as well!

Thanks for listening to my ramblings to those of you who just stopped by for the first time and those of you who have been around for the duration of this blog.  I have heard your requests and the book lists will return as will some occasional thoughts from me.