Weekly book shelf, 10/24/14

In History, we're up to the Merovingian Dynasty. We have used the Life and Times biography series for a few different points in history. I'm not in love with the books—they're a little disjointed for me. With all their insets and sidebars, or sidetracks, they're a little too like a textbook or one of those DK factoid explosion books that I try so hard to avoid. Also, right out of the gate, in the very first paragraph, the white Christian bias was loud and kicking. Still, these books do provide a pretty good general idea of the era in which these famous people lived.

In science we revisited the concept of seasons and the various movements of our multi-colored orb that brings about the seasonal and daily variations we observe in our neck of the woods. No books, just a few demonstrations with a globe and a flashlight.

One of my favorite parts about this week was our return to poetry performance. When we first started with more curriculum based learning, poem memorization was a big part of our weekly efforts. When we switched to our new curriculum, although we were still studying poetry, the memorization component kind of went out the window. But this week, after spending some time with Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade, Calvin asked to memorize it. We have lots of poetry books, but we used Kennedy's book for this occasion. We also used The Poetry Archive for an amazing audio file of Tennyson reading his own poem.

Continuing in the tradition of October ghost stories, Calvin read The Ghost of Thomas Kempe this week. It is the story of a young boy who is being bullied by a ghost. Framed for destruction wrought by the ghost throughout the town, and believed by only two of the townspeople, he turns to a local man to help him get rid of the ghost's harassing presence. You can also read Calvin's review.


And one more ghost story from this week: The Specter from the Magician's Museum, by John Bellairs. This is one book in a mystery-adventure series. I don't know much about this one, but Calvin categorized it as an enjoyable junk food book.





Weekly book shelf, 10/17/14

In Story of the World this week we checked in with the good people of Australia and New Zealand. One of the things I find most difficult about history is connecting all the corners of the world at once. It's all good and well to look at a thousand years of activity in Europe, or in Asia, or in the Americas, but to study them all concurrently is difficult. Even more difficult is making sure that the corners of the world that we have less written history from are not forgotten or treated as less than equal. For that reason alone, I enjoyed this book. 1000 Years Ago on Planet Earth is not stuffed with enticing facts, really it's full of over simplification, but it does kind of sew the corners together.

In science this week we practiced reading latitude and longitude, and explored the ways that these measurements of the earth were made. It was a pretty fascinating week. I've always taken such things for granted, but now I know the why behind the what. The Illustrated Longitude tells the story of John Harrison and his quest to create a sea clock for determining longitude at sea. This is an adult book, and the illustrations are mainly notes and sketches, but Calvin loved it.

Tom's Midnight Garden is a sweet coming of age story. Tom is packed off to his relatives when his brother comes down with the measles. Unhappy about being stuck in a small country town, one night Tom answers the call of a clock striking thirteen and discovers a secret garden where he make a lifelong friend. Mystery abounds, and ends with a large dose of magic.


And our end the day read is still The Subtle Knife.


Weekly book shelf, 10/10/14

In history this week we reviewed the middle ages as a whole. We revisited the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Angles and Saxons in Britain. So no new books this week.

In science we explored plate tectonics, volcanoes, and earthquakes (BFSU2 D-11). Calvin is fond of natural disasters, so this was at the top of his list. We used Seymour Simon's Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Mountains for this. Simon's Smithsonian books are my go-to series for simple science reading.

Also in science, in preparation for next week's study of latitude and longitude, Calvin read  The Longitude Prize, an historical fiction representation of the story of John Harrison, inventor of the longitude calculating sea clock, lifesaver of sailors everywhere.

I'm slow to get going this semester, and Calvin's comprehension reading shelf is still empty. Instead, this week he revisited an old favorite in the Moomin' series, those beloved fantasy tales by the Finnish Tove Jansson. This series was a favorite of mine, my brother's, and Jon's back in the day, and it makes Calvin smile just as much.

And we're still reading The Subtle Knife before bed at night.


Weekly book shelf, 10/3/14

We are only one week back from California, and our fall school plan is getting off to a slow and relaxed start. The travel between time zones in the fall, when the daylight hours are slipping away on their own, is brutal.

So history this week was review of the first nine chapters in The Story of the World Volume 2. No stand out books there.

But we did make forward progress in science, cracking the spine on our Buidling Foundations of Scientific Understanding Volume II, and beginning with chapter D-10, the water cycle. It's a favorite subject of mine. It's poetry, art, fairy tale, and science all rolled into one. I have two favorite books from this subject. Water Dance is a beautiful picture book that follows water as it flows from clouds to streams, to oceans, and back. The writing is pretty, the illustrations soft and delightful.

The Day the Great Lakes Drained Away is another really fun water book that we have around. It has simple pictures, and even simpler rhymes, and it doesn't really address the water cycle, focusing more on the physical nature of the Great Lakes themselves, but it also touches on the value of the lakes, and the danger of losing them in the changing climate, and more drastically changing population demographics. And I admit—it's mostly a favorite because we're from Michigan, and we adore the Great Lakes that surround our home.

Again slow on the uptake, Calvin and I haven't yet filled his literature shelf with good choices for the year. Instead he's been filling his "assigned" reading time, and a good portion of his general free time, with what he and I call junk food books. It's October, so spooky is the go-to subject matter, and these American Chillers series books have caught his fancy. Of course, being "junk food" books, he goes through them voraciously, and very, very quickly.

And now that we are back home, we are back to reading The Subtle Knife together before bed...when we have time. Lately that's been only a few nights a week, but I'm hoping that will pick up as we ease into our fall schedule.


Weekly book shelf, 9/28/14 (California edition)

We spent the last two weeks in California. Lots of sight seeing, lots of family time, no formal schooling. Calvin packed three books. Two of them I suggested because of their settings in California, the third he chose from his literature book shelf at home.

By the Great Horn Spoon is an adventure story set during the California Gold Rush. A young boy goes in search of gold to help his family back home. It's full of surprises and excitement, and the writing is good enough to categorize as at least side dish reading, even if it's not quite full meal literature. Calvin read it twice.



Esperanza Rising is the story of a young girl who flees Mexico with her mother and settles in a camp of workers in California during the Great Depression. This is great young adult historical fiction. The characters are fully fleshed out, and great description brings the situation validity. Of the two California books, this was Calvin's favorite.



The Swiss Family Robinson, is the classic Calvin brought on our trip. He'd started it just before we left, and was eager to finish it, as he is with most books. I'm not sure it grabbed him the way the other two books did, but he really enjoyed the descriptions of the family's life on the island. Of course.