Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Entries in literature (26)


Weekly book shelf, 11/14/14

This week in history: Vikings! (SOTW ch. 14)

We have used many books in the "Biographies from Ancient Civilizations" series, and I keep coming back to them. They provide information that is far more detailed, and far more correct, than that which is provided by Story of the World. In this chapter in particular I was disappointed by several pieces of misleading, if not outright incorrect, information. We relied on Erik the Red a lot this time around, and really enjoyed reading it together.

This happy little Usborne book really caught Calvin's fancy; he drew long houses and dragon boats all afternoon after reading it. Focused more on their general way of life than on the details of any particular Norsemen, this picture book is full of charming cartoon-like sketches and good-natured humor.

East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon is a collection of traditional Norse fairy and folk tales. It reads with the same dark magic as books like Lang's Fairy Books, or the works of Grimm brothers. Wild tales with unimaginable hardships and unforeseen outcomes. The old tales didn't at all shy away from death and disfigurement. They're fascinating, and we really enjoyed them together.

And because he couldn't get enough of Vikings this week, Calvin also read two books about them for his free reading. Beorn the Proud is anther title from the "Living History Library" series. It is the story of a young girl who believes she was the only survivor after her town was destroyed by Viking invaders. She is taken captive, and is eventually befriended by a Viking boy. Calvin couldn't put this book down, but he found large parts of it heartbreaking. Thankfully it comes with a happy ending.

And Life as a Viking is a choose your own adventure type of book (from the "You Choose Warriors" series). These books are truly just for fun, but fun they certainly are. Since there are books from several different eras we will probably pick up others as we wend our way through history. Just for fun.

In science this week: protecting our food and other things from fungi and bacteria (BFSU2 B-17). All of our energy was focused on seeing and understanding this time, rather than reading, so hands-on activities instead of books.

But in literature this week, a fun treat. In Building Poems we were studying Rime Royal, so we read Chaucer's Parlement of Foules together. I read it aloud from a modern English translation while Calvin followed along with an Olde English approximation. When we reach Chaucer in history we will revisit the poem again, and if we're lucky that will be around Valentine's Day.

Lastly, Calvin is still making his way through the "Chronicles of Prydain" series, this week devouring book three, The Castle of Llyr. He really loves these books and has been heard wandering around the house pretending to be one or another of the characters and talking to others. Our home is a great forest of adventure these days.

Lastly, we are still reading The Subtle Knife together most night's before bed.


Weekly book shelf, 11/7/14

This week in history: Charlemagne (SOTW2 ch. 13).

Two main books this week. This first we didn't read in its entirety, but only large sections of. These books are great in information, not so hot on delivery—they are too much like the overly busy DK books with multiple side bars and insets and too many odd icons cluttering things up. But they are a good source of factual instead of fanciful information.

The Son of Charlemagne is historical fiction. It comes from the "Living History Library", a series of about fifty historical fiction biographies from a wide variety of eras. The series is endorsed by Christian homeschooling sites everywhere, and I believe it was written for that exact purpose, so the stories are clean and tend to have a bit of that bias, but they are well written and enlightening, really bringing the time period to life for the young reader. This is not the first book from the series that we've used, and I know that Calvin has found them easy to read and hard to put down. They make great supplementary history reading, but some are hard to find in libraries.

In science this week we were still in the land of the decomposers (BFSU2 lesson B-16), so we were still using Steve Parker's Molds, Mushrooms, & Other Fungi. We also used a few mushroom field guides just for fun.

For his reading comprehension notebook this week, Calvin flew through The Black Cauldron. In this second book in "The Chronicles of Prydain", Taran continues his quest to become a hero with a number of friends, new and old. Together they must find a way to destroy the Black Cauldron so that the evil Arawn can no longer use it to raise the evil army of the dead. Adventure packed and very exciting, it's easy to see why this series has remained in print for so long.

And some extra reading: "The Secrets of Droon" book series. I think he read the whole series this week, getting one pile of books after another from the library. These books are really easy reading, and pretty poorly written. I consider them the junkiest of junk food reading. But they are an imaginative world of magic, which is something that Calvin loves, and I don't believe a little junk food reading has ever hurt anyone.

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


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.