Category Archives: Love this Book

Writer or Naturalist: E. B. White Was Both

I just heard most of this on NPR and can’t wait to seek out the book. It sounds wonderful. It also sounds like the kind of thing that inspires a twinge of writer envy, but that can’t be helped.

The NPR Science Friday segment has E. B. White reading a great passage from the book and wonderful discussion of the intersection of science and imagination.

The author mentioned he had set out to write a book about the natural world and several children’s books—Winnie-the-Pooh, Wind in the Willows—but E. B. White provided more than enough material. I wonder how often the best children’s books have an intimate connection to the natural world; even The Hobbit and A Wrinkle in Time seem to fall in that category. Makes me want to go raid the bookshelves!

p.s. I cannot even write a tiny paraphrase of that lovely line from Charlotte’s Web without tearing up a little.



Filed under In the News, Love this Book

Library Finds 8/2010 — Ulysses

We went for our first time as a family to the lovely, recently (completely) renovated Minneapolis Central library. It’s a great looking library, with a wonderful children’s room.


As I did my own browsing, I noticed that as soon as I stepped off the elevator on the 4th floor a display of homeschooling books greeted me — chic, indeed.

One (non-homeschool) education book I am very excited to read is Disrupting Class. I’m excited to learn more about online education and how it can bring freedom in education to more and more students, so that homeschool/private school/public school/unschool become increasingly meaningless labels.

I found this insanely cool, gorgeous version of the Odyssey for Victoria (and me).


We have been sporadically listening to Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, which features Circe, Polyphemus, and lots of other characters and events taken from the Odyssey.


The book’s artwork is only tied for trippiest thing found at the library, however. Eggmaster came out of the mens room reporting that he found ample evidence of someone packing blunts on the 4th floor. (Google it.)

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Filed under Gifted Ed, Love This, Love this Book, Why Homeschool?

Violet, Meet Anne

Ever since Violet was an early reader I have been holding back books that I thought she might appreciate more as an older child — Harry Potter, the Little House series, and now Wrinkle in Time (though I think she is more than ready now). I doubt my judgement, sometimes, seeing that younger gifted kids are reading things I’ve been keeping in reserve, but it’s usually worked out.

One series I have waited on is Anne of Green Gables. I loved reading the Anne books, and read them all several times as a child and teenager. I did not want to risk giving these to a child fixated on fantasy and slapstick humor. What if she didn’t love them as I did? She’s already rejected Nancy Drew!

While we are busy with house stuff, I’ve tried to ply her with more reading, and finally I have gotten her a copy of Anne of Green Gables. The edition I found at Borders looks almost ridiculously designed to fool a modern girl into giving a gentler kind of book a chance. Being a little shameless myself, I chose it over the book covers that looked more like the ones I owned — something out Victoria magazine.

And it seems to have worked! She toted the book around all day yesterday, and claims to have read the whole thing. I knew she was hooked when I saw her reading in the midst of group activities, returning to the book after every task. Of course I like to think that she is embracing a book that I loved during my own childhood, but more than that I like to see — finally — her giving a little more attention to her gentle, dreamy side. Seems that Anne Shirley is the perfect guide for that adventure.


Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Love this Book, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Schoolday Doings

Recent Reading

Mostly I have been visiting the Sen Lin Hu website, thinking, post another damn picture of my daughter will you!

Of course she has been too busy to write, so I have no idea how she is or what she’s doing, except that if she were injured or having an asthma attack they would have contacted us.

We see her tomorrow afternoon — one downside of letting her take the bus home is that we don’t learn quite so much about what she’s been doing, how her learning was going, etc. All part of letting go, I suppose.

I finished Animal Vegetable Miracle a while ago, which I mostly enjoyed , so I decided to pick up The Poisonwood Bible, which everyone else read a long time ago. Especially in the end, you can see Kingsolver’s interest in food and nutrition and farming. At points it seems a little too strong, but perhaps that is only because I had just read AVM and could connect the dots a little too clearly.

I am learning about myself as a reader: as with so many things, I like a level of understatedness that is maybe unreasonable to expect. (Except when I like things crazy and in your face, of course.)

So in The Poisonwood Bible I got a little tired of Adah, the mute genius sister, and her palindromes and writing backwards and (what came to feel) affected profundity.

Still, it was a page turner (and I don’t mean that in the condescending way of, say, a Dan Brown novel), and on the last day of reading it I must have given over at least 4 hours, staying up til 1:30 am to finish it. Also, although the Adah thing became wearying — actually, the Rachel voice also seemed to become to heavily “Rachel” too — Kingsolver is a very good writer, as in prose stylist. Reminded me slightly of reading Virginia Woolf and thinking, “Dear God, I can never be a writer — look at how every word is so carefully chosen. Who can take that much time, let alone have that deep of a well of words? Serious envy. But that’s Virginia Woolf — who somehow can do crazy effects with her writing and never make me feel hit over the head. But we can’t all be Virginia Woolf — and we can’t expect every novel to be Mrs. Dalloway. (Thus perfectionism threatens to kill so many joys.)

Here is a nice tidbit from the Catholic priest gone slightly native, who is something of a foil to the Christian missionary whose family is the center of the book. He is talking about the difficulties of bringing the Bible to the Congo, and what gets lost in translation even into English. He says to one of the daughters:

Och, I shouldn’t be messing about with your thinking this way, with your father out in the garden. But I’ll tell you a secret. When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at His Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.

Now I’m reading Mansfield Park, the most controversial of Austen novels. 😉 It is so hard to keep an open mind, after reading it a few times earlier and just really finding Fanny to be total weenie, and Edmund — oh man. This time around, I like Fanny better but I’m a little more grossed out by the tutor-pupil relationship and Edmund’s desire to make Fanny think just like him. Like Emma and Mr. Knightly, but with no fun.

No no — open mind. Open mind.


Filed under Love this Book

Around the House

[Finally I am posting this — I had to get *another* connector for the digital camera. Where do they go?]

We recently picked up this set of books:

physics periodic table biology

I’m sure they’re not for everyone. Seriously science-minded kids — or at least, serious science-minded kids — may find them a little too silly. But they are fun and easy to pick up and flip through for a moment or read through for a while.

I got them for Victoria, primarily, knowing that everyone else in the house would want to read them too. I think the Periodic Table book is probably the best, but they were cheap enough (and not available at local libraries) that I got them all. But Victoria was in a funk today and told me that she could not read them, so — about 10 minutes after a big fight in which little sis “spanked” big sis and many 5yo screams were heard round the neighborhood — Violet offered to read to her, and Victoria accepted happily.


She had just turned down dad’s similar offer.

We are working on the yelling. We are like a set of dominoes — one person loses it and we all go off. So we are working as a family to yell less. The girls have put posters all over the house. I rather like this one.


If you cannot see, the mother figure is swearing. Violet said, “Well, you do swear a lot.” What?! Oh dear . . .


Filed under Family Fun, Love This, Love this Book, Schoolday Doings

Recent Resources

Whew! It has been a crazy week, with a million little blog posts I let go.

But I have come across a few things worth sharing.

First off, we are trying something really different for us. We bought a boxed curriculum on the East. It’s from a well-known Christian curriculum provider, with a missionary and evangelical slant, so we have also joined a Yahoo list about how to use the curriculum in a more secular way. (More on that another time.) One of the resources suggested on the list was Material World, a book that was well-known a while ago. In it, families from all over the world set all of their possessions out in front of their homes for “The Big Picture,” which is accompanied by info about each family’s life and the country they live in, plus some extra photos. For each country a small table highlights things like the percentage of family income spent on food; the number of possessions such as radios, bicycles, TVs, computers; yearly income in US dollars.

This is a wonderful book, and Violet immediately started poring over it. But I found something possibly even more wonderful at the library. There is a series of books for children based on the Material World book, using many of the same photographs plus several more, and including more information about family and children’s lives. The font is larger, the data is more manageable, and in general the book is a better fit for younger kids. There are about 10 of them in the series, such as A Family from Vietnam, A Family from Germany, A Family from Guatemala, and so on.

The books don’t really advertise their connection to Material World — Violet noticed it after I had grabbed A Family from China off the shelf at the library. They are a great way to present this interesting project in a more child-friendly way.

A Facebook friend has pointed me to a very fun resource for Victoria. I put out a call for resources on microbes, especially bacteria and viruses, on Facebook and an e-mail list, and one cool thing I got back was the Microbe Zoo.

I also found these coloring pages.



We went to see Azur and Asmar, and it was beautiful and amazing. Violet really enjoyed it, though we left Victoria at home. (She assumes that most movies will be too scary in the theater.) It is touring arthouse and museum theaters, but may get a wider release. If it comes to you, go!

I did have to write a letter to the theater about the violent previews — they were violent documentaries, with gunshot victims, men pointing machine guns at children, blood-soaked clothing. Violet had a friend with her, and I nearly grabbed them and pulled them out of the theater, but I kept thinking the worst was over. Her friend’s mother later reported that he said, “Those previews were totally inappropriate for this movie. What were they thinking?!” I haven’t heard from the theater yet, but I did also notify the distributor to suggest that they encourage future venues to use better judgement, and I did hear from them, at least.

Will I ever be able to write more than tidbits again? I’m not sure. I have hopes that when the sun comes back more regularly, my concentration and mental acuity will return with it.


Filed under Curriculum, Love this Book, Love this Movie, Love this Resource

My Dad Thinks My Blog is Boring

Sorry, I just had to twit my dad for a conversation we had earlier.

Though this appears to be a theme in my family. Another family member who shall remain nameless (though my dad knows who it is!) once told me about a movie, “You’d like it. It’s boring.”

I don’t think I’m boring — though I’m sure my blog is boring at times (no no, don’t write in to contradict me, because I won’t believe you!). I think I am an introvert whose preferred brain juice is acetylcholine rather than dopamine, the favored chemical of extroverts.

I learned this from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s workshop, but you can also find it in The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. Here’s a little synopsis of the difference, from the book:

Acetylcholine says “Let’s think about it.” This is the superstar of thought, concentration, and voluntary movement. Controls vital activities that govern arousal, attention, awareness, perceptual learning, sleep, and waking. It’s the main neurotransmitter used by innies’ “Put on the Brakes” nervous system.

Dopamine says “If it feels good, do it.” This is one of our most rewarding neurotransmitters. Dopamine regulates movement, pleasure, and action. It is essential for alert awareness, especially the feeling of excitement about something new. It’s the main neurotransmitter for outies, built by the building blocks released by the “Give It the Gas” nervous system. It is also the most addictive of all neurotransmitters.

There’s much more to explain about the brain chemistry involved here, including some cool data from experiments, but one way of looking at it is that introverts often do not enjoy instant gratification as much as the delayed gratification achieved by a slow build, a course of study, something that requires concentration.

In other words, things that seem boring.

When you are reading the subtitles in a foreign movie or waiting for the plot of a long novel to build up some steam, you’re priming the acetylcholine pump — as long as there is some enjoyment that comes along eventually. There’s always the risk that the book will start slow and wind down from there.

So I’m not boring. I just like my neurotransmitters on the more subtle side. You can tell because I actually enjoy reading and writing about neurotransmitters on a Friday night. 😉


Filed under Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Love this Book