Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Books of 2008

I love lists and categorizing, (surprise, surprise, eh?) so I've categorized my list of the books I read in 2008. I read a total of 110 books, but there is a lot of children/youth books included--as you will see. Books typed in green (for GO!) are some of my favorites, while those typed in red (for STOP!) are my least favorites (black is neutral).

Classic Children’s Fiction:
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfield
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
The Sleeping Beauty, retold by C.S. Evans
Jack the Giant Killer, retold by Richard Doyle
Cinderella, retold by C.S. Evans
The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Historical Children’s Fiction:

A Lion to Guard Us, Robert Bulla
Pocahontas and the Strangers, Robert Bulla
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Alice Dalgliesh
The Courage of Sarah Noble, Alice Dalgliesh
Squanto-Friend of the Pilgrims, Robert Bulla
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
Pedro’s Journal, Pam Conrad
Skippack School, Marguerite de Angeli
The Matchlock Gun, Walter Edmonds
The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson
Toliver’s Secret, Esther Wood Brady
Mr. Revere and I, Robert Lawson
Stone Fox, John Reynolds Gardiner
The Great Turkey Walk, Kathleen Karr
By the Great Horn Spoon! , Sid Fleischman
Sing Down the Moon, Scott O’Dell
Moccasin Trail, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
The Perilous Road, William O. Steele
Turn Homeward Hannalee, Patricia Beatty
The Great Wheel, Robert Lawson
Shades of Gray, Carolyn Reeder
Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt
Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink
Little Britches, Ralph Moody
The Midwife’s Apprentice, Karen Cushman
Hero Over Here, Kathleen Kudlinski
All-of-a-Kind Family, Sydney Taylor
Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes
A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt, C. Coco DeYoung
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Bette Bao Lord
Twenty and Ten, Claire Huchet Bishop
Bandit’s Moon, Sid Fleischman
Nory Ryan’s Song, Patricia Reilly Giff
Plain Girl, Virginia Sorensen
Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse
The Drummer Boy’s Battle, Dave and Neta Jackson
Thimble Summer, Elizabeth Enright
The Shadows of Ghadames, Joelle Stolz
The Well, Mildred Taylor
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

Other Children’s Fiction:
The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart
Rules of the Road, Joan Bauer
The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White
The Seventeenth Swap, Eloise McGraw
Ramona and Her Father, Beverly Cleary
The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks
Dragon’s Keep, Janet Lee Carey
The Boxcar Children: The Yellow House Mystery, Gertrude Chandler Warner
Everything on a Waffle, Polly Horvath

Children’s Non-Fiction:

Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia, Margaret Cousins
Meet George Washington, Joan Heilbroner
Phoebe the Spy, Judith Berry Griffin
What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, Jean Fritz
George Washington, Our First Leader, Augusta Stevenson
Meet Thomas Jefferson, Marvin Barrett
Helen Keller: A Light for the blind, Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Helen Keller, Margaret Davidson
Freedom Train, Dorothy Sterling
The Story of Thomas Alva Edison, Margaret Davidson
The Terrible Wave, Marden Dahlstedt
The Wright Brothers, Quentin Reynolds
George Washington Carver, David Collins
At Her Majesty’s Request, Walter Myers
Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth

Historical Non-fiction:
Incans Aztecs and Mayans, John Holzmann
Eating the Plates, Lucille Recht Penner
The Lost Colony of Roanoke, Jean Fritz and Hudson Talbott
Nelson Point: …Northern Gold Rush Town, David Matuszak
Riders of the Pony Express, Ralph Moody
In the Wake of the Plague, Norman Cantor

Other Non-fiction:
The Abs Diet for Women, David Zinczenko
Preparing Him for the Other Woman: A Mother’s Guide, Shepherd
Life Without Limits, Clifford Goldstein
The Well-Trained Mind, Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson
Understanding Girls with ADHD, Kathleen G. Nadeau
Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar, Cathcart & Klein

Modern Fiction:
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Summer Sisters, Judy Blume
Austenland, Shannon Hale
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, Fannie Flagg
The Star Garden, Nancy Turner
Levi’s Will, Dale Cramer
Tallgrass, Sandra Dallas
A Woman Named Damaris, Janette Oke
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler
Back Roads, Tawni O’Dell
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

Classics:
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Cranford, Mrs. Gaskell
Jane Eyre, Charlottle Bronte
The Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne
Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
Beowulf, translated by Samus Heaney

For the Record: December 2008:

I read a whole 3 books this month. But that is excusable, I am sure, since I had time only to send out exactly 0 Christmas cards. (I'm a few days early with this post, but I'm pretty sure I won't be finishing any other books before Thursday.)

The Scarlet Letter (Everyman's Library (Cloth))The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. I've been meaning to read this book for quite awhile, and finally got it off my TBR list. I really had to force myself to finish this book. The story was great, but the writing style really got in my way. How many times should the word "ignominy" be used in one small story? Many MANY less than what was used in The Scarlet Letter. And what is Mr. Hawthorne's fascination with the phrase "it must needs be"? And really, if a narrator is going to be so obtrusive and presumptious, shouldn't he be introduced at some point? Sorry to be so harsh, just not my style.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Wonderful as always.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. This was a last minute decision. It was a quick read, and very enjoyable. I like how the breaking science of the day was integrated into the book, and how much adventure was included. I'm recommending this to my boys to read.

Monday, December 8, 2008

All Set to Read for 2009

I've figured it out! My book list for 2009 is nearly complete (although most certainly NOT safe from revision). I have decided to organize it in categories. For the sake of saving myself from unneeded debate, I've decided to follow the model of the 999 challenge. (Last year it was the 888 challenge, maybe next year it will be the 000 challenge? Followed by the 111 challenge?) Basically you create 9 categories, and fill them with 9 books of your choice to read in 2009.

My category choices revolve around my desire to check some books off of The Big Read list I previously posted about. In addition, I'd like to complete Sonlight Core 530--which I received as a birthday gift in June. You will find these books in many of my categories.

1. Books from The Big Read--self explanatory.

2. Books from My Favorite Authors--everyone needs a little comfort food. These are books that I haven't read before (except for A Little Princess) by authors I greatly enjoy.

3. Already on My Bookshelf--ah, the books that don't fit into any other categories. And they ARE already on my bookshelf. These books are just a mix of everything.

4. Need to Pre-read for School--this goes hand-in-hand with homeschooling for me. Since I'm going to be reading the books anyhow, they may as well have their own category. Currently listed are books from Sonlight Core 6, which is what my 12 year old son will most likely be using next year.

5. Non-Fiction--some are books that I already own, some are books that I've been wanting.

6. Classics for Young and Old--Books from Core 530, books from The Big Read, books I need to pre-read for my kiddos...they all come together nicely here.

7. Books from Songlight Core 530--those that don't fit into the other categories are finished off here.

8. To Keep Me Well-Rounded--books from genres that I do not typically read. There are a lot of Core 530 books here...all but 1 actually (I think). And yes, I think SEA-FARING STORIES are in a class of their own.

9. Books that My Kids Want Me to Read--this category will fill up as the year goes on, never fear. Right now there are 2 books in there, but I found out this year that this category will create itself if I don't create it first.

I'm excited! It's a good thing the new year is close, or else I'd never be able to wait. Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For the Record: November 2008

Writing individual book reviews is SO tiresome...especially when time is at a premium.  Instead, for the time being, I think I'll try writing a quick overview once a month of the books read that month. Here's what I read in November:

Jane Eyre (Everyman's Library (Cloth))In the Wake of the Plague by Norman Cantor. See my review here.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I was pleased to find that this book followed my favorite adaptation fairly closely. I really liked the book, and appreciated the philosophy of life that was discussed. There were a couple of times I started to get a little nauseous with the poetry of romance, but that is just my own personal preference. Good writing, good story.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. What a sweet revisit into childhood. I'd forgotton how educational these books are! The fit wonderfully into our study of the pioneer era.

The Boxcar Children #3: The Yellow House Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Dated and of marginal writing quality, these books are nonetheless captivating for my 7 year-old. She's searching for book #4.

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman. I read this with the intention of seeing if it was a good choice for either of my boys to read as a school book to further enhance their understanding of the gold rush and pioneer days. I think that it was enjoyable, and probably would be more so for somebody younger than myself. However, I felt that the writing was a bit too simplistic, and the main character was underdeveloped to substantiate the ending. This will go on my shelf to be available as free reading, but it wasn't great enough to be assigned reading.

Everything on a WaffleEverything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath. This delightful book is written with a whimsical, humorous approach. It is the tale of a girl who has quite a difficult year, but remains optimistic and fairly lighthearted. I got this book from Sonlight, and devoured it within hours. It is a wonderful, touching, fun, and funny book.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I'm fairly fond of a good mystery, but tire quickly of them so there is usually a large span of time in between reading anything classified as a mystery. A month back I decided that I really should have read an Agatha Christie book by now, and I was excited to receive it in my Sonlight order. It was a fast paced book, and Ms. Christie did a fabulous job of pulling the reader into the story. I liked that there was no main character functioning as the detective in this story: all of the characters were vital to the story and took part in figuring out the mystery.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From The Big Read

After my last post I realized that it might be a good idea to list those books from my previous post about The Big Read that I'd thought about reading. Those books would be:

-To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
-Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
-Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
-Middlemarch, George Eliot
-Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
-Bleak House, Charles Dickens
-War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
-Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
-David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
-Emma, Jane Austen
-The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
-Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
-Animal Farm, George Orwell
-A Prayer for Owen Meaney, John Irving
-Life of Pi, Yann Martel
-A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
-Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
-Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
-Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson
-The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
-Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
-The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
-Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
-A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
-Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
-Watership Down, Richard Adams
-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
-Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

Now, there's no way that I'm going to read Charles Dickens all year long, and I'm fairly certain that I won't be able to finish more than one or two foreign tomes (such as Les Miserables or Crime and Punishment). I have put in bold a few titles that I think are good possibilities...I'll let that marinate and report back soon. As always, opinions are welcome.

Creating a Book List

It's about that time of year. You know, the time where it's about to end. I want to start a Book List with some goals of books to read in 2009. The question is, how do I go about creating this list?

I think that I may categorize. I much prefer an organized list to an unorganized one. So then, which categories will be interesting yet defined?

Here are some ideas I've had:

-Books that other people want me to read (or, from genres that I generally hold an aversion to?)
-Books that have been on my shelf waiting to be read for over 5 years (where's the inspiration there?)
-Books that do NOT take place in America (this is probably related to #1)
-Books that will broaden my education (or: non-fiction areas of interest...to vague?)
-Books about education (does this count since I'll read these anyhow? that's kind of like making a category for Jane Austen)
-Classic mysteries (not a typical category for me...is this related to #1 too?)

I dunno, not feeling very creative after all, I guess! Suggestions for categories or books very welcome!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Indian in the Cupboard

The Indian in the Cupboard is the first book in a series of 5 by author Lynne Reid Banks. It is a juvenile fiction fantasy book about a boy who receives a plastic toy Indian and an old cupboard for his birthday. He discovers that when small plastic toys are placed in this cupboard and locked with an old key of his grandmother's, the plastic figures come to life.

This is one of those rare books in which the author manages to successfully portray the wonder and pressure of being a child forced to make some adult decisions, while maintaining the magical quality of childhood fantasy.

This was a book that my son bought with his own money based on the good things he'd heard about it. He read it very quickly and immediately started begging me to read it also. I'm glad I did. It was exciting and well written. It is a book that no child or adult should go without reading!

Riders of the Pony Express

Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody was an engaging, interesting book. It didn't have quite enough factual information to sate my curiosity about the Pony Express, but the quality of writing made up for any lack. Ralph Moody has a way of making you feel like you are experiencing what is happening, not merely listening to it being talked about.

The book begins with an introduction to the origins of the Pony Express. The main body of the book describes the initial race between the western riders and the eastern riders, and the book is concluded with some final details about the Pony Express as a whole. By presenting information in this format, the author was able to depict the riders in such an interesting way that you nearly forget that you are reading non-fiction.

This was adventure reading and book learning all wrap into one slim volume. Enjoyable for adults and children alike. Thumbs up!

Plato and Platypus Walk Into a Bar

Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein is subtitled "Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes". This is a short humorous overview of the different aspects of philosophy, as well as the famous philosophers through the ages. I got some great laughs out of the book, and enjoyed the lighthearted approach to some deeper thoughts.

This is a book that will definitely be making it's way into some stockings near me.

Dragon's Keep

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey is a juvenile/young adult fiction book that my 12 year old son picked up at the library. He is a fan of fantasy fiction, and I'm not. I decided to read this book, however, so that I'd be aware of what my son was reading.

The story follows the fate of a princess in the Middle Ages who has a dragon's claw in place of one of her fingers. It is a mystery adventure involving a prophecy from Merlin, dragons, and magic.

The book remains adventurous from the beginning to the end, although the writing was choppy at times--making it occasionally difficult for me to follow. As far as content, be warned that there is a character who is occasionally talked about because she is a bastard. This isn't explained overly much in the book, but talked about enough to spur conversation with my son. Part of the storyline involves a love interest that thankfully isn't discussed in too much detail. The dragons and magic involved seemed to be par for the course for a fantasy genre book--not my personal taste, but not inordinately focused on.

My son really liked this book, I was fairly ambivalent: the storyline was interesting, but the writing unimpressive and frustrating. I was glad to know what he was reading, and glad to find it not too objectionable. :-)

For the Record: October 2008

Books I read in October 2008:

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson, see full review here
The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks, see full review here
Dragon's Keep, Janet Lee Carey, see full review here
Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar, Cathcart and Klein, see full review here
Understanding Girls with ADHD, Kathleen G. Nadeau, see full review here
Riders of the Pony Express, Ralph Moody, see full review here

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    In the Wake of the Plague

    This was one of those books that caught my eye while on an unassuming table near the entrance of a book store. It appeared to be fairly easy reading, of a fairly short length, on a fairly interesting topic, so I thought that it would be only fair to buy it and read it.

    How do I feel about it now? After I shelled out the money and invested my precious time into reading it? I suppose I'm not complaining too much, since I've found someone to give it to and won't have to live with it taking up valuable shelf space or sitting in the donation pile. If I'd known then what I know now, however, I'd have lobbied for a smaller time investment to be sure.

    I like history. I love books. This fell nicely into both of those categories. This book has made me realize that I also highly value a good editor. In fact, next time I raise my wine glass to make a toast, it may very well be applauding the world's finest editors, to whom I'm now aware I owe a debt of gratitude. It's unfortunate that the publisher of this book was unable to hire one of those editors, but spending the $ on a prime selling location at local bookstores probably paid off better when all is said and done.

    Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. The Black Death is currently largely blamed on bubonic plague carried by rats, accompanied by anthrax spread by cattle. These diseases, like most, may have originated in Africa or outer space.

    Read the reviews on Amazon. I wish I had.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Understanding Girls With AD/HD

    Understanding Girls With AD/HD, by Kathleen Nadeau is a very easy to read book about how girls with ADHD may differ from boys with ADHD. Although slightly repetitive at times, it was quick to read and easy to understand.

    The author seeks to define 2 main categories that girls with ADHD can be classified into: those with hyperactive tendencies, and those with inattentive tendencies. She notes that girls are often left undiagnosed because their symptoms are different from those that boys exhibit. She also brings to light the tendency that adults have to be more accepting of a boy with hyperactive behavior than a girl with similar behavior.

    Some of the behaviors we're more likely to recognize are found in the tomboy or the social butterfly. Less often recognized is the shy inattentive girl that often fades into the background. This girl often experiences anxiety and may be able to hyper-focus on school work or other things more than the tomboy or social butterfly.

    I admit that I had a difficult time accepting the validity of this book simply because I identified closely with many of the symptoms listed, and I don't consider myself to have ADHD! I read the book to try to gain some understanding about my daughter, and found myself thinking more about my own experiences. If I process the information without the label of ADHD, I find myself much more able to gain insight!

    Much of the discussion in the book relates to how school affects a girl with ADHD, and how girls of different ages might behave. The author's main suggestions to help a girl with ADHD were to provide a loving, understanding, stable home. These things, she said, would do more than anything else to help the child have self-confidence and learn how to function in a healthy manner.

    This was an interesting book, well documented and easy to understand. It provided me with food for thought, not only about my daughter, but about myself.

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    The Big Read?

    I found this, and thought I'd see how I stack up:

    The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books printed.
    The Rules:
    1) Look at the list and put one * by those you have read.
    2) Put a % by those you intend to read.
    3) Put two ** by the books you LOVE.
    4) Put # by the books you HATE.
    5) Post.
    **1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
    *2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
    *3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
    *4 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling (well, I read the first one, does that count?)
    %5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
    **6 The Bible
    *7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
    8 1984 - George Orwell
    9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
    %10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
    *11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
    %12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
    13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
    14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
    *15 Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
    16 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
    17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
    **18 Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
    *19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
    %20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
    %21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
    *22 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
    %23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
    %24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
    25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams -
    26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh -
    %27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    *28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
    %29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
    *30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
    *31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
    %32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
    *33 Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis
    %34 Emma - Jane Austen
    **35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
    *36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis -
    %37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
    38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis de Bernières -
    %39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
    *40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
    %41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
    42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
    43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    %44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
    *45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
    *46 Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
    47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
    48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
    *49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
    *50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
    %51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
    52 Dune - Frank Herbert
    53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
    **54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
    55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
    56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    %57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
    58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
    59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
    *60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    *61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (hated it...)
    62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
    63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
    *64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
    %65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
    66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
    67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
    *68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
    69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
    70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
    %71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
    72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
    *73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
    %74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
    75 Ulysses - James Joyce
    %76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
    77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
    78 Germinal - Émile Zola
    %79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
    80 Possession - A.S. Byatt
    *81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
    82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
    *83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
    %84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
    %85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
    %86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
    *87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
    88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
    %89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
    90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
    91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
    *92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
    93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
    %94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
    **95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
    96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
    **97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
    98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
    %99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
    %100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
    Well, I count 34 that I've read...though only 33 really since I haven't read the entire Harry Potter Series. Not nearly enough!

    I am surprised at some of the titles on the list though, some are very much NOT classics, and some I haven't heard of (my fault, I'm sure). Now I feel like I have more reading to do than I did yesterday!

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning

    “An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education”
    This book has a lot of interesting information, still applicable to schooling today even though it was written in 1991 (lest you think I'm judging time harshly, a lot has happened in the last 17 years in homeschooling and education!). The book discusses education in general, with a focus on what Christian Education should be, in the framework of the Classical Education model.
    Classical Education divides grades 1-12 into 3 stages referred to as the trivium. Grades 1-4 are spent absorbing facts and learning basic skills that will be foundational in later learning. Grades 5-8 expand on those facts by figuring out how things relate to each other and learning to ask questions and delve deeper. Grades 9-12 are the time for a student to learn how to express themselves in speech, writing and debate. There is a large focus on reading classics, world history, and joining The Great Conversation. Academics are structured and accelerated in some areas, and will typically include the study of Latin at a fairly young age.
    I really appreciated the depth of the discussion about what Christian Education should be. Much of the book was spent comparing a Christian Education to a Humanistic Education, exploring exactly why they are different. Basically, one must realize that a complete Christian Education is not accomplished by adding prayer and bible study to a Humanistic course of study. Christian Education is built on the framework of knowing that all study is connected to the Creator—they are not individual disconnected areas of study. Because everything relates back to God, there is a connection and a purpose behind the study. Without this, education is lacking true understanding and meaning, it is simply acquiring chunks of information.
    As much as I enjoyed and agreed with most of this book, I have to say that I remain unconvinced that a complete Christian Education is the only way to reform education in America simply because this is not the method employed by other countries whose educational systems far exceed that of the United States. It is probably true that countries whose students perform better academically do so in part because of societal expectations. Therefore, in a broader sense I suppose the argument could be applied that Christianity is (or was, or should be) America’s framework for such expectations. In that case the breakdown of the Christian faith in America would account for a degeneration of academic and moral expectations. I tend to think, however, that the problem is more likely to lie in the fact that we are a nation of immigrants tied together by the idea of freedom. Without any other unifying moral framework this ideal has evolved into a sense of entitlement which has had a detrimental affect on many different aspects of our country and government.
    I don’t think that the answer to government sponsored education is to attempt to make it distinctively Christian. I do think, however, that it could make a huge difference for Christians. It would benefit Christian families to put more thought into the issues that Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning raises. Overall, I have to say that it was an enjoyable, well written book. If you are in the mood to refine your educational philosophy, I suggest you pick up a copy and see where it takes you!
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