Category Archives: Books

More Mapping Books, Plus Cookies

And we’re back. To schoolishness. I like to bring things back into a little order in the fall, though every fall it seems like we are a little too far gone to really achieve anything like order.Besides, when September hit there was a barrage of need-tos: new glasses, yearly check-ups, chimney repair, gov’t homeschool paperwork, allergy doctors, etc. Regular schedule? Ha!

In any case, the geography activities from Mapping the World With Art seem to be a hit so far. Violet — now 14! — is really happy that we are doing something all together again, the readings are interesting, the map-drawing instructions are clear, and Victoria (10) is happy with activities that include baking faux clay tablet maps that are really chocolate cookies.

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Funny thing about the cookies: initially we all thought they tasted kinda blah, but by 9:30 pm they became pretty tasty. I do not think it was the cookies that changed.

Oh, and we usually watch a John Green Crash Course along with the lesson. Violet loves them because John Green is an Internet hero, and Victoria enjoys them, not least because they are probably age-inappropriate for her. Oh well. They race along at breakneck speed, so I’m not sure what they’ll remember other than John Green, but with any luck it reinforces things they already knew.

I’ve also been piling up books to strew around the house to add to our geography reading. Mapping the World really hits on a lot of fascinating topics but the readings are — happily — short. I got these to allow for following up on anything interesting:

Charting the World: Geography and Maps from Cave Paintings to GPS with 21 Activities. Richard Panchyk.

This is a book from Chicago Review Press, which I find to be a fairly reliable source for worthwhile materials. Not all of the activities are going to be worthwhile for every audience, but often the text is strong enough that kids in a variety of ages and interest levels can take something away.

The Kingfisher Atlas of Exploration and Empires. Simon Adams

What you would expect from Kingfisher visually. It’s really focused on the Renaissance era of New World exploration.

The Picture History of Great Explorers. Gillian Clements.

Honestly, not a great book, and a little young. What it’s lacking in text and great illustrations is somewhat counterbalanced by the very broad definition of explorers. If you are looking for women who were explorers, you can find them in here.

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How it Changed the World. Marc Aronson.

Amazon lists this as ages 10 and up, but as with many good books written for children, as an introduction to the topic it works for older readers and adults too. Nicely done, though focused on the American history angle.

The Starry Messenger: A Book Depicting the Life of a Famous Scientist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher, Physicist, Galileo Galilei. Peter Sís.

OK, this is not really about mapping, per say, but you know, people navigate by the stars. I am not familiar with Peter Sís (though a quick scan on Amazon suggests that we should look for more), but I just could not resist a beautiful picture book suitable for older children. (They are out there, but it takes a discerning reader, librarian, or bookseller to help you find them.) It is not a biography of Galileo, in the tradition of the wonderful Diane Stanley books, but it is a gorgeous visual representation of the way the world looked to Europeans during the Renaissance. This is really an all-ages book.

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Reading Lists

This is it! High School! When It Counts!

No, I don’t expect big changes in how we do things around here. I am hoping for a few changes in how I do things, however. Namely, documenting what’s going on in a way someone else might understand.

I really want to write a post, with photos, about the amazing and full-to-bursting August we just had (Family, Friends, County Fair, State Fair, Michigan, Chicago) but I’m going to kick off my record keeping instead.

Here are a few reading lists we have created already for this fall for the 9th grader, to be tweaked, pruned, and increased — ideally with a little additional help from friends. Steal if you like, and add if you can!

CLASSIC MANGA from the 1980s
Phoenix (1967-88)
Lone Wolf and Cub (1970-)
Swan (1976-81)
Akira (1980-)
Vampire Hunter D (1983-)
Dragon Ball (1984-)
Robotech (1984-)
Appleseed (1985-)
Oh My Goddess! (1988-)
Ranma ½ (1987-)
Ghost in the Shell (1989-)
CLAMP (1989- )
Sailor Moon (1991-)
Tatsumi Yoshihiro

CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION
H. G. Wells (The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine)
Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
Robert Heinlein (The Rolling Stones, Stranger in a Strange Land)
Ursula K Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wizard of Earthsea)
Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash)
Isaac Asmiov (I Robot, Foundation)
Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, Martian Chronicles)
Frank Herbert (Dune)
Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five, Cat’s Cradle)
William Gibson (Neuromancer)
Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination)

MAPPING/CARTOGRAPHY
These are meant to accompany Mapping the World with Art this year. I doubt we will get to them all, or read the entirety of each book.
Maphead, Ken Jennings
Longitude, Dava Sobel
How to Lie with Maps, Mark Monmonier
Ptolemy’s Geography
On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, Simon Garfield
The World Through Maps, John Short
Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, Peter Turchi
You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, Katherine Harmon
A Little History of the World, Ernst Gombrich
Crash Course/World History, John Green (Web series)

CLASSIC NOVELS BY WOMEN
This one is still very under construction — a good project for the next week will be discussion what this classification could possibly mean.

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Teen Reading List for Spring

I had been worrying throughout the fall that my 13yo wasn’t reading enough. She was doing a lot of rereading old books, leafing through comics, and checking tumblr, but not poring over new novels like years past.

This semester will be different thanks to her co-op activities. A few teens have organized their own weekly book club, and these are their choices:

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Maze Runner, James Dashner
Chosen, Ted Dekker
The Card Turner, Louis Sachar
The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman
The Last Dragonslayer, Jasper Fforde
The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

What a great list, right? All the books were proposed by the kids – they have excellent taste. So far they have organized their discussions themselves: the first meeting they mapped Maze Runner and for the second one of the kids made a Jeopardy-style game about the book.

For the class I am teaching – and it is kind of interesting having your own kid sitting next to you in class, alternately being a teen among teens and being your kid – the reading list is crazy, but awesome:

Jonathan Swift, “The Ladies Dressing Room” and “A Modest Proposal”; Alexander Pope, “The Rape of the Lock”; P. G. Wodehouse, Code of the Woosters; Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest; Flannery O’ Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”; Chaucer, “The Miller’s Tale”; Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan; and short works Joseph Addison, Dorothy Parker, Italo Calvino, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, David Sedaris, Edward Gorey, and Garrison Keillor.

I am feeling torn about “The Miller’s Tale.” I did promise flatulence in the class description, but I didn’t count on how hard it would be for a few of the kids to talk about body stuff in front of each other. Looking for substitutes, I Googled “great farts in literary history.” Do not do this unless you have a strong stomach.

On reflection this seems a little light in mood/substance compared to previous reading lists, but after a fall of dystopian literature, that’s probably a good balance.

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I’m Reading a Book!

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read tons and tons of books about childbirth, child rearing, child development. Like many young women, I knew I was ready when I was sick of all the expert advice and couldn’t stand to read any more.

Something similar happened with homeschooling. I read books and discussed curriculum and scoured the internet, and then — I didn’t. I just did it the way I wanted to do it, and the umpteenth time someone wanted to talk about math curriculum I would try very very hard not to slide under the table.

But there has been a buzz around a new book, so I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I got a new book about homeschooling.

It’s Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert, formerly of the Camp Creek Blog, and now blogging at Project-Based Homeschooling. I’ve read most of it but am looking forward to going through it a bit more slowly and also talking it over with friends.

My one disappointment with the book thus far is that it is mostly oriented towards younger children. She does speak about adapting ideas to older children and teens, however, and I will be spending some time thinking about how to do just that.

Regardless, I like the book for the same reason I assume people often like certain books: it says things I already think, but in much better ways, in more affirming ways — in this case in gentler ways — and it brings that vision of what I wish I were doing that much closer to reality.

Here are a few tidbits from the introduction that made me so happy I bought my first homeschooling book in years:

Surprisingly often, people will champion self-directed learning for children but not allow those children’s parents the same freedom and respect. . . . Your kids should learn at their own pace, follow their interests, and you should trust that they’ll eventually learn everything they need to know. You, on the other hand, should get with the program, right now, 100%, or else.

So true! How easy it is for any of us to slip from advocate to browbeating zealot. I loved this more solicitous approach, inviting you to give some of these ideas a try from a sense of generosity and helpfulness. So much easier to listen to than hearing that your children are in danger of failing academically or having their tender creative souls squashed like helpless bugs unless you shape up.

And then, this:

The freedom that we have to create a life that works for us, our children, and our families is priceless. We should never trade it in for a handful of magic beans — a purist approach that comes with a set of pregummed labels, a rule book an inch thick, and threat of eviction from the tribe if you deviate from the center of the path. As you explore new ideas — in this book and elsewhere — about how children learn and how we can help them learn, I hope you keep a firm grip on your own opinions and values. You can build a life customized to your beliefs and prioritizes. Don’t settle for off-the-rack.

So true again! It can be disillusioning that the most countercultural groups can demand the most conformity, and anything “alternative” is co-opted so quickly as a product sold back to you: everything you need for a brave new lifestyle, all in this convenient package.

I’ve written before that homeschooling our kids made us aware, as adults, of how wide-open our choices really are. That doesn’t mean radical change is always in order: one happy result of our sense of freedom was realizing that we love living right where we do. And if I’m being honest, sometimes I would choose the feeling of “doing it the right way” over waiting to see where an uncharted course takes us.

What I like about Project-Based Homeschooling is that it is more like a companion on the journey than a map. Lori Pickert writes in a way that accomplishes just what she’s advocating: she’s a resource, an encourager, a hands-off mentor, never forgetting that the project of being a homeschooling parent belongs to you.

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The Neverending Teen Reading List

I posted on Facebook a few weeks about seeking book suggestions for my 13yo, who can never find anything she wants at the library. Books marked “teen fiction” are mostly awful — or checked out — and adult fiction is just huge if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This is the mostly unedited list that developed from friends’ comments. If something on here is awful, I disclaim all responsibility.

And please feel to add comment on what’s here or add to it! I promise to update eventually.

Adams, Richard — Watership Down
Alcott, Louisa May – Little Women
Anderson, M. T. – Feed
Alexander, William – Goblin Secrets
Bear, Greg – Songs of Power
Bradley, Alan — Flavia de Luce Mysteries
Bronte, Charlotte – Villette
Carriger, Gail – Soulless
Chevalier, Tracy – Girl with a Pearl Earring
Clayton, Emma — Roar and Whisper
Connolly, John – The Book of Lost Things
Cooper, Susan — Over Sea Under Stone and sequels
Dashner, James — Maze Runner
Davidson, Avram
Farmer, Philip Jose
Fforde, Jasper – Thursday Next series and Nursery Crimes series
Gier, Kerstin — Ruby Red
Gilmore, Robert — Alice in Quantum Land: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
Haig, Matt — The Dead Fathers Club
Hillenbrand, Laura — Seabiscuit
Holt, Tom – Expecting Someone Taller
Kean, Sam — The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness
Le Guin, Ursula
London, Jack — Call of the Wild
Magorian, Michelle –Goodnight Mr. Tom
Mantchev, Lisa – Eyes Like Stars
Pfeffer, Susan Beth — The World as We Knew It
Pierce, Tamora
Stoker, Bram — Dracula
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Zusak, Markus — The Book Thief
Voight, Cynthia
Wells, Dan — Partials

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