Weekly book shelf, monthly edition: June

Calvin's great discovery of the Harry Potter series occured over Memorial Day, and the whole month of June was reading, and rereading, and rereading the series in its entirety. And acting it out. The series obviously needs no real introduction here.

There was some additional reading, too, though. On his birthday (June 9) we took him out to dinner and to our local bookstore to pick a new title. He chose The Thickety, a new release that is the first in a promised trilogy. He picked the book for its cover, and I let him, because why not, and because everyone has to do that every once in a while, right? As it turned out, he really enjoyed the book. Unfortunately he's been spoiled by reading finished book series, so the fact that the second book doesn't come out until next June was a huge disappointment.

A find the boy took home from our library used book sale—and an award winner at that. Natalie Babbitt is the author of several other well known books, like Tuck Everlasting, and this story doesn't disappoint. Young Egan moves to a small town where the people live in the belief that a monster inhabits there hills. Finally one night he climbs the rise to discover the truth once and for all about the urban legend.

Another title from a well known author picked up from our book sale. Avi, though, is more prolific, more varied, and less reliable, and Poppy, though sweet and enchanting, is not award winning material. It also turned out to be the second book in a series that kind of resembles the Redwall series that Calvin loved so much. He enjoyed Poppy, too, though not quite the same.

Together we are still reading The Golden Compass. It's been difficult to get our read aloud time in, what with his eagerness to read his own books, and the later summer nights that lead to late baths and immediate zonking upon hitting the pillow. Slow and steady wins the race, though, and he's definitely still enjoying it.


Weekly book shelf, 5/30/14

Summer is here. This year we'll actually be taking a break from planned or formal scooling for the summer months. Instead we'll be focusing on exploring topics of interest, on reading lots of good stuff, and on learning from life, especially in the great outdoors. We have some trips planned, both near and far, and some fun activities coming up, too. Of course that means we'll be doing less sitting at a table, and I'll be doing less record keeping, so for the summer I'll also be taking a break from the weekly bookshelves. Instead, I'll be updating once a month with some of our favorite titles from month.

That makes this the last weekly bookshelf until September. Until then look for monthly book shelves, and maybe a few reviews or other things that come our way, or stop by to read our journal and find out what we're up to. Happy summer!

In history this week we reviewed our previou study of ancient China. With everything that we've had going on, and all the extra reading that Calvin's been wanting to do, it's been hard to move forward in history. I think that's fine—one of the great things about homeschooling is the flexibility to work around interests and schedules—so we've slowed down a bit. This is actually a book I got from the library when we first went through SOTW2 ch. 6 on China, and only this week did we have time to actually look at it. It's pretty lite, so we paired it with some fun tangram play.

Science has been a little easier to get to this week, but we're off script. Calvin expressed a great interest in Nicola Tesla, so I encouraged him to pick a few books to bring home. This book was a standard jouvenile biography, complete with timelines and photographs, but it was not at all a science book, and provided no information on Tesla's methods, research, or findings.


Tesla's Attic is a pure fiction adventure story about a young boy, Nick, who moves into a house where he is surprised by strange goings on in the attic. He and his new friends learn, after selling off many of the odd items from the attic, that the house had been a final resting place for many of Tesla's last unknown inventions. They then set about retrieving all the odds and ends they'd let go, and adventure ensues. Calvin enjoyed it, but even he said it was a little lite. Not at all what I expected, I would not condsider this an historical fiction relating to Tesla at all.

Of course the week was dominated by Harry Potter reading. I could have limited the reading time and forced some focus on other subjects, but the sweet smells of spring and the increasingly warm sunshine filled me wtih a sense of good will and for some free time to work in the garden, bought with copious free reading time for Calvin, of course. So this week Calvin finished the Harry Potter series with book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), book 6 (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), and the final book, book 7 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

We are on our second week of Golden Compass this week, too. A favorite of mine, and Calvin is loving it as well.


Weekly book shelf, 5/23/14

In history this week we are mainly reviewing—stuck getting familiar with medieval China. Lon Po Po a book that we've had on our shelf and enjoyed for many years. It is a retelling of the Red Riding Hood tale in which three young girls (rather brutally) do away with the wolf. Stunning visuals add to the richness of the story in this book.

In science, after a few weeks hiatus already, we are still off script, only now we are more thoroughly exploring the human body. Calvin is preparing a project to enter at the 4H Youth Show that will demonstrate his knowledge of the body systems, something he learned quite a bit about over the year. Jakab's Our Body series (about the Circulatory, Nervous, Respiratory, Muscular, and Skeletal systems) has been immensely helpful on this study.

Lastly, and long awaited, Calvin has finally discovered the Harry Potter books. It happened when he put on a pair of toy glasses and my mother commented that he looked like Harry Potter. The books have been on his shelf awaiting his interest for years, but all of a sudden he decided there was no time to waste in plowing through them. And I really do mean no time to waste—he read the first four books in the series (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) this week and is already starting on book 5.

And we started a new read aloud this week. The His Dark Materials series is a long time favorite of mine and I've been looking forward to the time when Calvin wanted to read it with me (I'm not willing to let him read it alone—I want to discover it again with him). So we started it this week, and I was right—he's entirely in love with the idea of daemons.


Weekly book shelf, 5/16/14

We went completely off script in History this week. Jon had jury duty at the federal court in Detroit. He got up at 5am every morning this week and drove into the city, missing some rather important things at his regular job, to hear a case that, as he summed it up, came down to a dead beat looking to get money from the government. He found it rather disheartening, but we used the situation to take a closer look at the judicial system in our country. I can't necessarily recommend this book (it was the best option our little library had on the shelf and our study decision came too late to order title from other libraries), but it certainly did the trick.

Also off script this week in science. Calvin kept coming up with all these great ideas for mixing and combining, so I got the Mixtures and Compounds book off our shelves. He gave me a list of materials he wanted and I set him loose on the driveway. When he was done it looked like a rainbow had exploded (thanks to the food coloring) and I was completely out of a number of kitchen staples, but Calvin was one happy boy.

Calvin did a literature study of The Magician's Elephant this week. Although I am not a fan of all of DiCamillo's work, this and Edward Tulane struck my fancy. In this story a young orphan boy refuses to give up the belief that his sister is still alive somwhere, and a fortune teller predicts that an elephant will bring them together. Add magic and adventure and you have a heartwarming story.

And in free time this week, Calvin devoured Eyes of the Killer Robot. Jon was a fan of Bellairs's books when he was younger and had encouraged Calvin to give them a try, but until now he'd been a little nervous of them—concerned that they would be scary. I can't imagine why, when the story involves a young boy who must put a stop to the robot his professor has assembled, an evil killing machine that wants his eyes. I think he did find it scary, but he read it all the same. Not stellar writing, but still a step above junk food. Maybe trail mix with chocolate.


Weekly book shelf, 5/9/14

In history this week we reviewed our study of the rise of Islam (SOTW2 ch.6-7). With all the activities we've had in the past few weeks we haven't had enough time to keep up our chapter-a-week pace, and it was time to make sure we at least remembered what we had already read. Aside from rereading the chapter in the SOTW2, we also revisited some favorite picture books from that study, including this marvel by Demi. Beautiful illustrations accompany smoothly written text in this story of Muhammad's life.

We also spent our evening read aloud time rediscovering the Arabian Nights classic. Since it can trace its roots back to the middle east, I count this as the epic ethnic work from that location.



In science again this week we are focusing on identifying birds. This is a great time in Michigan to get out and do some bird watching. It's migration time, and this is a major stop for warblers, and other birds, on their way to their northern breading grounds. Since the trees are fairly sparse at this time, and both visiting and returning birds are so busy looking for next materials and prospective mates, this is an excellent time to see bird activity. We've spent many days out with our favorite field guide identifying our brief visitors.

And along the same track, we fished out our picture book biography of Roger Peterson. It is a well written book, intended to capture the fancy of young naturalists. The illustrations are a real selling point, too. It's a favorite in our house.


For literature study this week, Calvin read The Twenty-one Balloons. This is a mid century French children's novel that really takes irony and absurdism to the extreme. I found it tiresome, Calvin found it hilarious, but I think for both of us it is going to turn out to be rather forgettable.