Books

You Asked: How to Organize your Homeschool Library

You Asked: How to Organize your Homeschool Library

The key to useful and accessible homeschool library: Good organization. If you want to wrangle your book collection into a well-organized library, you’re going to have to get hands-on. Here’s how.

Not-So-New Books: Grave Mercy

In an alternate medieval Brittany, Ismae finally finds a home where she belongs — in a convent of Mortain, the god of death, where she studies the delicate art of assassination. But her first assignment calls on all her will and wiles as she's forced to team up with Gavriel Duval, half-brother to the Duchess of Brittany and potential enemy, to take down a plot to overthrow the young Duchess.

If you've ever read a book, it won't be a spoiler to learn that Ismae finds herself increasingly drawn to Duval, even as she suspects him of complicity in the plot against his half-sister. Ismae's convent upbringing has prepared her well for the intrigues and treachery of court but not for her feelings for Duval or for her growing sense that the convent's orders may not be as unequivocally right as she's always believed. As the political tension at court comes to a head, Ismae must choose between her training and her heart.

Honestly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Grave Mercy. The plot is nothing special, and Ismae is very much a character in the Katniss vein — she remains stubbornly oblivious to her own emotions and manages to navigate every perilous situation she finds herself in (and there are plenty) through a combination of good luck and natural skill. But the idea of a convent where young women who have no place in medieval society learn to help Death in his duties is engaging, and LaFevers gives it enough detail and nuance to make it believable. Some characters, such as the villainous Count d'Albret and the kind-hearted but determined Duchess Anne, border on caricatures, but they play their part in the story well enough. And Ismae's evolving understanding of what it really means to be "a daughter of death" is pretty fascinating. This one's a good addition to your young adult library.


Homeschool Gift Guide: Everybody Needs Books!

Homeschool Gift Guide: Everybody Needs Books!

The “something to read” is always my favorite part of shopping. I can’t buy all the books for my own family, so here’s a roundup of fabulous titles for many ages and interests.

Summer Reading: If You Liked the Percy Jackson Series

Secret worlds, real-life mythology in action, and heroes-in-the-making—who can resist the lure of stories steeped in legend?

 

Your next picture book

Young Zeus
By G. Brian Karas
 

In Young Zeus, the future king of the gods enlists the assistance of a motley crew of super-powered creatures to become the ruler on Mount Olympus.

 

Your next chapter book

Odysseus in the Serpent Maze (Young Heroes)
By Jane Yolen, Robert J. Harris
 

What were the great Greek heroes like when they were Percy and Annabeth’s age? You can find out in Odysseus and the Serpent Maze, in which teenage Odysseus (and some other kids you might recognize) are kidnapped by pirates.

 

Your next readaloud

Fablehaven
By Brandon Mull
 

Like Percy and his Camp Half-Blood pals, Kendra and Seth discover that mythology is very real—and very, very dangerous. In Fablehaven, first in a series, they find out their grandparents’ farm is actually a preserve for mythic creatures.

 

Your next teen read

In The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, holistic detective Dirk Gently finds himself caught up in a mystery surrounding some pretty disgruntled Norse deities. 

 

Your next grown-up book

American Gods
By Neil Gaiman
 

Neil Gaiman’s dark, complicated American Gods is superficially about a squabble between the New World’s old and new gods is full of big questions.


Summer Reading: Charmed Life

Reading level: Middle grades

Cat Chant admired his elder sister Gwendolen. She was a witch. He admired her and he clung to her. Great changes came about in their lives and left him no one else to cling to.

Cat knows his sister Gwendolen is a wicked witch—but she’s the only family he has left, and he loves her furiously. When Gwendolen conspires with her black magic tutor to get taken into the home of the great enchanter Chrestomanci, the thoroughly non-magical Cat is forced to go with her. While his sister determines to make an impression on the unflappable Chrestomanci, by conjuring apparitions to interrupt dinner and bringing total darkness to the castle every two hours, Cat tries to get along with the Chrestomanci’s enchanter-in-training children and the rest of the curious family at Chrestomanci Castle. But Gwendolyn’s plans are darker than even Cat realizes, and he has to choose between loyalty to the sister he loves and doing the right thing.

Charmed Life is the first book in Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series, and it’s a delightful introduction to the world of the Chrestomanci, where magic is so ubiquitous that it needs a sort of President-of-All-Things-Magical to keep it all in check. (Alternatively, you could start with The Lives of Christopher Chance, which introduces the Chrestomanci when he was just a kid named Christopher Chant having magical dreams.) Diana Wynne Jones is a masterful world-builder, and with almost no exposition or explanatory passages, she manages to bring a complicated and nuanced world to life.

It’s easy to get a little frustrated at Cat’s devotion to Terrible Gwendolen, and he’d have to be unflinchingly loyal to miss some of the clues to just how awful his sister really is—much like Chrestomanci, we’re tempted to protect him from that knowledge, even though we know that realization is the only thing that will pull him out of Gwendolen’s shadow. Gwendolen is pleasantly villainous and makes no apologies for her villainy—her glee at successfully working evil magic is one of my favorite parts of the book.

Seeing another kind of wizards school—totally different from Hogwarts—is always fun. (I especially love the students’ magical battles over marmalade and toast.) But really, anything I say about it is going to seem pallid and flat once you start reading the actual book, which you should do, stat. You don’t have to go out and buy every single book Diana Wynne Jones has ever written after reading this, but I bet you’ll want to.

 

(My copy weighs in at 224 pages, meaning you can use Charmed Life to cross off “more than 200 pages” if you’re playing along with summer book bingo.)


Summer Reading: The Girl from Everywhere

The Girl from Everywhere
By Heidi Heilig
 
When I was young, I learned to expect loss. Every time you slept, something disappeared. Whenever you woke up, someone else was gone. But . . . I also learned that every day, you created everything anew. And whatever you had, you enjoyed as long as it lasted.

Nix’s dad can sail his ship anywhere, as long as he has a map—and she’s been anywhere with him, from mythical Scandinavia to modern-day New York City and all kinds of real and imaginary places in between.Where she hasn’t been is back to 1868 Hawaii, where she was born and her mother died—but that’s the map her father has spent Nix’s entire life looking for it, and it’s starting to look like he might finally have found it. But what happens to Nix if her father rewrites history?

I mean, really, how can you resist a story that centers on a time-traveling pirate ship that can go anywhere someone’s taken the time to draw a map of? It’s such a good idea that I forgive The Girl from Everywhere for having the inevitable YA Boring Love Triangle. (It’s not between a wolf and a vampire, but honestly, it might as well be. YA writers: Seriously, we do not need love triangles to sub in for plot action. I promise. Please stop.) Nix’s dad, Captain Slate, and his motley crew of sailors (who come from real and imaginary ports around the globe) are well-drawn, fascinating characters—in fact, they’re so interesting that they often overshadow Nix, which I think makes sense in a story about a girl who’s trying to figure out where she belongs in the world and whether she actually has a right to her own life. (It’s not clear how saving Nix’s mom could affect Nix’s own timeline, a fact that doesn’t seem to concern her quest-obsessed father at all. And it’s clear that Nix blames herself for her mother’s death—and again, that’s a fact that doesn’t seem to concern her father at all.) The world-building is terrific—though you could quibble that not all the nuances of the time travel in the book are clearly explained (Shouldn’t fake maps work the same way imaginary maps do?),  I’m pretty much always willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the actual machinations of magic. And Helig gets bonus points for solid research on 19th century Hawaii, which is where a substantial chunk of the book takes place.

There are lots of reasons to love The Girl from Everywhere. I didn’t love it, but I did like it a lot. And if you’re a fan of fantastic time travel and/or pirates, this one should be on your library list.

(If you’re playing along with summer reading bingo, this one counts as a book published in 2016.)


Bespoke Book List: The Essential Charles Dickens Reading List

Save for later: Good Dickens reading list for high school, with movie suggestions and other info, too. #homeschool

Two hundred years old and going strong, Charles Dickens still deserves his spot on your library list. 

It might seem like a stretch to compare the venerable novelist to Kim Kardashian, but the most photographed man of his day could barely walk outside without attracting a crowd. (Once, celebrity-crazed crowds literally ripped Dickens’ coat apart as he walked down the street.) Dickens was the first real pop-culture celebrity, though it was his hilarious sketches and unflinching social criticism that earned him the obsessive adoration of his Victorian peers. The late 20th century, however, was less kind: Though his books have never gone out of print, Dickens missed out on a Jane Austen-style renaissance and ended up relegated to sophomore English classes. In recent years, however, events have conspired to bring the Victorian novelist back to center stage. 

It started in 2012, when more than 3,000 volunteer editors signed on to help bring digitized editions of Dickens’ weekly magazines to the web. Hailing Dickens as “the first blogger,” academics lauded his incisive, anonymous indictments of Victorian society and politics. Director Mike Newell raised eyebrows in 2012 when he announced that his film version of Great Expectations (starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes) would have neither of Dickens’ original endings, eschewing the original gritty conclusion and the somewhat unrealistically romantic rewrite in favor of a new ending that the screenwriter says will fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Even 2012’s big hacker attack on the networking site LinkedIn has a Dickens connection: A computer security expert in Utah tests password strength using selections from A Tale of Two Cities. There’s never been a better time to get your Dickens on—even if you can’t hop across the pond to Dickens World in Chatham, where the big attraction is the Great Expectations Boat Ride.

 

The Essential Dickens: Books

The Pickwick Papers (1836)
Surely I’m not the only reader who discovered Dickens by way of Little Women. But Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy were not the only 19th century folks to get caught up in the laugh-out-loud antics of Samuel Pickwick and his friends. The book—a collection of humorous sketches in a narrative framework—sparked a craze in the 1830s and 40s, complete with spin-offs, character roleplay, and all the other fun you’d associate with a pop culture sensation. Dickens biographer Robert Douglas-Fairhurst compares Pickwick and his “assistant” Sam Weller to famous comedy duos like Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello. 

Oliver Twist (1839)
Memorable characters like Fagin and the Artful Dodger make Dickens’ no-holds-barred satire on early Victorian attitudes toward poverty a classic. Darker and less hilarious than The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist is still eminently readable and a good transition between shorter works, like A Christmas Carol, and Dickens’ bigger—in scale, scope, and page number—novels.

Great Expectations (1861)
he story of young Pip’s coming of age as a gentleman in Victorian London is vividly drawn, and Pip is a genuinely likable hero, sympathetic even in his obsession with the uninterested Estella. Dickens tackles the corrupt emotional landscape of a world where wealth is the most important asset by illuminating the redeeming power of love. If people read this instead of A Tale of Two Cities in high school, they’d probably have much fonder opinions of Dickens.

Bleak House (1853)
A vast cast of characters and complex plot line make Bleak House a better choice for older readers, but it’s worth waiting to dive into this richly detailed, fictional account of one of England’s most famous court cases. What happens when two decidedly different Last Wills and Testaments come to light and a nice little estate is at stake? Many depressing years of argument in the British Court of Chancery and a twist ending that’s genuinely shocking.

Dickens, by Peter Ackroyd (1992)
Equal parts novelist, critic, and historian, Ackroyd is just the man to tackle the complex and fascinating life of the creator of Miss Havisham and Augustus Snodgras. It takes Ackroyd more than a thousand pages, imagined dialogues (in which Dickens dismisses biographers as “novelists without imagination”), and a plethora of facts to capture Dickens’ life story, but it works. You’ll close this odd and enormous tome feeling like Dickens is an old friend.

 

The Essential Dickens: Film

David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Dame Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins, Sir Ian McKellen, Tom Wilkinson
Oliver!
Starring Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Oliver Reed, Harry Secombe, Mark Lester
Bleak House
Starring Gillian Anderson, Alun Armstrong, Charlie Brooks

David Copperfield (1999) 
Harry Potter fans will be thrilled to recognize Professor McGonagall, Dolores Umbridge, and a very young Daniel Radcliffe in this faithful but fast two-part BBC production.

Oliver! (1968)
Dickens purists may complain that this musical take on Oliver Twist simplifies the book’s complex plot more than they’d like, but the film captures the novel’s spirit and pays appropriate homage to its most unforgettable characters.

Bleak House (2005)
This exquisite, fifteen-part BBC serial is the kind of literary adaptation readers dream of: lavishly rendered, textually faithful, and brilliantly acted. Gillian Anderson gives a particularly nuanced performance as the tortured Lady Dedlock.


Women’s History Month Biographies: 3 Math-Minded Women

Great biography booklist for Women's History Month, focused on women who made contributions to mathematical knowlegde. (Yes, Emmy Noether is on the list! :))

For Women’s History Month, we’ll be featuring biographies of women in history who may have beenforgotten, neglected, or misunderstood by traditional history books. In this edition: three women who contributed to the world’s mathematical understanding.  

Ada Lovelace

Sorry, Steve Jobs, but Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace may just be the pioneering genius behind modern day computer science. Lady Byron steered her daughter toward science and mathematics, which inspired her to work wit Charles Babbage, a mathematics professor whose Difference Engine is often considered the first proto-computer.

Read more about her in: Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age by James Essinger

 

Emmy Noether

Albert Einstein called Noether the most important woman in the history of mathematics, and even if you’ve never heard her name before, you’re familiar with her work if you’ve ever studied abstract algebra or theoretical physics.

Read more about her in: Emmy Noether: The Mother of Modern Algebra by M.B.W. Tent

 

 

Henrietta Leavitt

Leavitt’s work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s was supposed to be methodical and uncreative, but Leavitt was too intelligent to record without analyzing. Using blinking stars to determine brightness and distance from the Earth, Leavitt helped astronomers understand that the universe was much larger than anyone had previously suspected.

Read more about her in: Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh

 

 This information was originally published in the winter 2015 issue of home/school/life, but Women’s History Month seemed like the perfect time to bring it to the blog. You can read the full article—with lots of other cool women included—in that issue.


Women’s History Month Biographies: 3 Determined Scientists

Women’s History Month Biographies: 3 Determined Scientists

For Women’s History Month, we’ll be featuring biographies of women in history who may have been forgotten, neglected, or misunderstood by traditional history books. In this edition: three women whose big ideas changed the world.

Suzanne’s Favorite Books of 2015

Fun list of best books of 2015 created by home|school|life magazine's awesome book columnist. #homeschool

I love this time of year! New beginnings and new resolutions­­—plus all the Best-­Of booklists come out, so I can restock my to­-read list. In the spirit of celebrating last year and looking forward to some seriously good reading in 2016, I thought I’d share some of my favorites of 2015.

Favorite Young Adult

Pure
By Julianna Baggott
The Raven Boys
By Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite First Book of a Post­-Apocalyptic Trilogy Where I Didn’t Love Books Two and Three but Book One is So Good That I Can’t Help Recommending It and You Should Probably Read the Others And Make Up Your Own Mind :: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Favorite First Book of a Contemporary Fantasy Series With Clairvoyants and Ley Lines and Cute Boys Which I Stopped Reading After the First Book Because the Fourth and Final Book is Coming Out in March 2016 and I Want to Read Them All in One Glorious Binge :: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

Favorite Fantasy Heist Novel Which I Didn’t Even Know Was a Thing But Which As a Big Ocean’s Eleven Fan I Was Thrilled to Discover and Even More Thrilled to Learn That It’s the First of an On­-Going Series (NOTE: Maybe Don’t Get Too Attached to All of the Characters in the Heist Crew) :: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

 

Favorite Reading Inspired by My Obsession with the Broadway Musical Hamilton

(Because we’re all obsessed with Hamilton, right? Even those of us who live nowhere near New York and couldn’t afford tickets even if we did and so are forced to make do with listening to the cast album over and over again and singing along while our children mock our hip-­hop skills? If you are not yet obsessed with Hamilton , you have my permission to stop reading briefly to immediately check out the album. As a bonus, it totally counts as a homeschool history lesson.)

Alexander Hamilton
By Ron Chernow
Fever 1793
By Laurie Halse Anderson

Favorite Biography That Inspired it All and At 800-­Some Pages is Maybe Not a Quick Read but Still a Great Book About Our Ten­-Dollar Founding Father Who Just Like His Country Was Young, Scrappy, and Hungry ::Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Favorite Upper­-Elementary/YA Historical Fiction That I Had Been Meaning to Read For Years And Finally Got Around to Because It’s About the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia That Also Sickened Alexander Hamilton :: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Favorite New Sarah Vowell Book About America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman and Alexander Hamilton’s Best Bud the Marquis de Lafayette Which Has, Disappointingly, Not All That Much Hamilton But Which is Wildly Entertaining Nonetheless As Are All of Sarah Vowell’s Books of History :: Lafayette in The Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

 

Favorite Readalouds

Favorite Series That I’m On My Fourth and Probably Last Time Through Reading Aloud Until I Have Grandchildren Many MANY Years From Now :: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Favorite Series That Just Keeps Getting Better and Is Giving Narnia a Run For Its Money As My Favorite Kids’ Fantasy Series of ALL TIME Where We’re Currently Reading Book Four (The Boy Who Lost Fairyland) While Anticipating the Release of the Fifth and Final (Sniff) Book (The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home) in March 2016 ::the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente

Favorite Series by My Favorite Kids/YA Fantasy Author Diana Wynne Jones Where We’re Currently Reading The Magicians of Caprona Which is Turning Out to Be One of My Daughter’s Favorites Because It Has Magical Italian Cats :: the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones

 

And finally:

Favorite Memoir That Examines the Author’s Life in Terms of Her Favorite Literary Heroines (Including Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Shirley, and Jane Eyre) Which Also Has the Best Title of Any Book I’ve Read This Year :: How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis


Stuff We Like :: 12.11.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

around the web

I am always seeking ways to help my children learn how to persevere, so I loved finding this article How creativity is helped by failure on BBC News. I even read the first four paragraphs to my son who happens to take pottery classes.

Another article that came to my attention lately was How do you raise a prodigy. I have never actually met a genius before, so I guess that’s why I found it so fascinating, but I also felt the article had some good advice for all parents.

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: I loved Shawne’s Mindful Homeschool: What Are You Afraid of?

the magazine: Hooray for our Curriculum Junkie’s latest review of EEME’s STEM-at-home Genius Light Kit. (Fall 2015 issue.) What a great resource for STEM-loving kids!

 

documentaries

As you probably know by now, I have a documentary-loving family! This past week, we enjoyed re-watching Wildest Indo China (on Netflix) because it’s one of our favorites. And then we found a fun 2-part series on PBS titled Wild at Heart: Pets. My boys were giggling up a storm at the hamsters! (See Episode 1 and Episode 2.)

Right now we’re being blown away by the 3-part series Making North America! Geology lovers will especially love the first episode.

For fun we’ve been watching the The Next Food Network Star on Netflix. I think it’s actually teaching my son not only how difficult it is to work on television but the importance of being able to speak clearly and get your point across.

 

good reads

I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of my old favorites, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to my nine-year-old, and he loves it. I have to explain a lot to him, especially since “causing mischief” is totally foreign to my “serious” child, but I think that’s also why he’s enjoying it so much.

As for adult fiction, I found buried on my shelf a book from one of my long-time favorite authors, Louise Erdrich. I first discovered her in my college Native American literature class, and I loved her early work. Some of her later work can be difficult for me to read, but I’m finding The Antelope Wife to be fascinating, if sometimes heartbreaking. I wouldn’t recommend it, if it’s the first book you’ve ever read by Erdrich though.

 

art

My six-year-old loves to draw. Sometimes he’ll produce stacks of artwork, and I’m left trying to find a place to put it all, but sometimes he’ll go awhile without producing anything.  Then something will spur him on again, and lately that’s been our art apps. (And I appreciate the savings on paper!) I love both of these apps, and both my boys like to use them: Art Set on iPad ($1.99) or the Pro Edition looks pretty cool for $6.99 and Sketchbook Express on Google Play (free).


Stuff We Like :: 12.4.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

It’s Jason’s birthday today and Hanukkah starts on Sunday, so it’s a party weekend here at Casa Sharony. I hope your family has plans for fun, too!

around the web

I may be obsessed with the education system in Finland—but articles like this make it seem kind of like learning paradise, don’t they?

“You're not irrational, you're just quantum probabilistic.”

This list of volunteer work for loners has some great ideas.

I am not surprised (but I am pleased) that Buffy kicked Dawson to the curb in Vulture’s best high school show battle.

You should know that my holiday menus will be inspired by Hermione Granger, Ramona Quimby, and Harriet Dufresnes , thanks to this guide to cooking like your favorite literary heroines.

 

at home/school/life

in the magazine: We’ve got so much good stuff coming up in the winter issue: a readaloud guide to Chinese history, inspiration for imagining your life after homeschooling, snow day science, the best winter field trips, and lots, lots more. (This looks like it’s going to be our longest issue yet!)

on the blog :Rebecca’s found a way to slow down and enjoy the holidays this year.

on pinterest: I wish someone would make me a batch of these salted caramels.

 

reading list

I discovered the Kindle edition of Greensleeves and spent a delicious evening rediscovering one of my favorite books from middle school. I had forgotten how much I loved this book.

I am on a cookbook buying spree, apparently: I picked up Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix, NOPI, Genius Recipes, and Gjelina. (At least a couple of them are for other people, I promise.) What’s on your cookbook radar these days?

We have commenced our annual December readaloud of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I thought about switching it up this year and reading something different, but the kids were having none of it. And now that we’ve started, I’m glad — it wouldn’t feel like the holidays without it.

 

at home

We’re definitely deep into holiday making mode. Like a lot of people, we follow the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” plan for minimizing stuff, but we also allow unlimited homemade gifts, which I like because they make everyone more excited about giving than getting. (Plus the “Keep Out” signs the kids come up with for their bedroom doors every year really crack me up.) I usually make one big knitted gift per person (this year, as you know, it’s sweaters for the kids and a scarf for Jas), a notebook of poetry, quotes, cartoons, memories, little notes, etc. for each person that I add to sporadically all year (I use these notebooks), and some kind of plush for the kids. This year, thanks to my forced downtime, I actually finished my making early for the first time ever.

And speaking of the holidays, few things are more fun than breaking out the Menorasaurus Rex for the first night of Hanukkah.

I’m so happy that the second season of Broadchurchis finally on Netflix. And people keep telling me to watch Jessica Jones—is it really that good?

I want to make this super cute Missoni-ish scarf so much. How cool is that a basically one-row pattern turns into such a cool chevron design?


Stuff We Like :: 10.30.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

It’s a big weekend for us here since our very favorite girl will be celebrating her birthday! So there’s lots to love about this week.

around the web

I have learned to love my Kindle (you can pack 100 books in one suitcase), but I’m thrilled by the resurgence of print.

I am insanely, ridiculously excited that the Cure is planning a 2016 concert tour.

Well, yes, everybody should be studying Buffy.

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: Nine new fall books that should probably be on your library list.

in the magazine: It’s looking like we’ll be breaking our total page number record with the winter issue. There’s some terrific stuff coming in!

from the archives: I love this post from Idzie about why boredom can be a good thing.

 

reading list

I’m listening to Pride and Prejudice on audiobook (it is only $1.95 if you download the free ebook on your Kindle—totally worth it!) because it’s like the literary equivalent of mashed potatoes—comfort food for the brain.

Apparently, this is my week for intellectual comfort food because I’ve also been rereading The Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first in the Amelia Peabody series. (If you like Agatha Christie and Egyptology, this series is probably right up your alley.)

My kids have been reading the Warrior Cats series out loud together, and they’re pretty adorable about it. I like it so much when my daughter likes a book so much she wants to share it with her little brother—it’s the best reading inspiration he could have.

 

at home

Invader Zim inspired this year’s Halloween costumes, so we’ve been enjoying a Zim marathon this week while carefully embroidering alien masks. Jason has promised to wheel me around our neighborhood for trick-or-treating, so wish us luck.

My creative writing students are publishing a magazine this year, and I’m so proud of their hard work. Seriously, that class is often the high point of my week—I love the energy and enthusiasm they bring to the project.

I am bopping along on my holiday knitting. (I’m halfway through with my daughter’s very pink Boxy.) What about you?


Topics in History: Teddy Roosevelt

If your kids think studying the U.S. Presidents is kind of boring, a unit study on Teddy Roosevelt should pretty thoroughly change their minds. #homeschool

by Kane Taylor

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt's birthday, October 27th, is here. So I thought it would be apt to dedicate this blog post to him, the 26th President of the United States. Teddy Roosevelt was quite the interesting man — a naturalist, an explorer, an author, a soldier, and so much more. In a way, he encapsulated the American spirit — from overcoming adversity in his early life by struggling with asthma. all the way up to the battle at San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American war and beyond. And while he may have been our 26h President, to me, he's number one. Here are a few cool things you might not know about this larger-than-life man:

1. Teddy Roosevelt loved the outdoors.

Theodore Roosevelt grew up in New York City, but despite his urban upbringing, he was not one to shy away from nature. Although he had asthma, he spent a great deal of his youth exercising, training his body and his lungs, and it was during this time that he began to grow an appreciation for the outdoors. Hunting, exploring, or simply spending a day out in America's great expanse, he adored it all. During his presidency, he doubled the number of national parks in the United States and added 125 million acres of national forests to the list of protected lands.

 

2. Teddy Roosevelt was homeschooled.

When Theodore Roosevelt was young, he suffered from health complications, including asthma, among other things, which made it difficult for him to spend too much time away from home. Because of this, he did all of his schooling at home, reading, studying, and learning from private tutors his family hired. Years later, he attended Harvard, one of the country's most prestigious universities.

 

3. Teddy Roosevelt is related to several Presidents.

Eleanor Roosevelt was his niece, and her husband President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was his fifth cousin. Beyond that, Roosevelt is related to eleven other Presidents either through blood or marriage, including John Adams, James Madison, Martin Van Buren, and William Taft, whom Teddy Roosevelt ran against for the Presidency in 1912.

 

4. Teddy Roosevelt worked as a cowboy and a deputy.

As a young adult, Teddy Roosevelt bought a ranch in the Dakota Territory and spent his days driving cattle from his ranches south of Medora. The Maltese Cross Cabin was his first ranch, and in 1884, he established a second, Elkhorn Ranch. During his time in the Dakota Territory, Roosevelt also worked as a deputy sheriff, hunting down outlaws and thieves. During the early spring of 1886, Roosevelt and two friends had to hunt down three thieves who had stolen a boat from his Elkhorn ranch. It was dreadfully cold, and the men were armed and dangerous, but with bravery and determination, the trio were able to hunt down, ambush, and arrest the men without a single shot being fired.

 

5. Teddy Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt.

In 1912, during his Presidential campaign, Teddy Roosevelt stopped in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to give a speech. He had been at a dinner in the Gilpatrick Hotel, and as he walked outside, he was shot. John Schrank, a rather unstable individual, targeted Roosevelt because he believed no man should run for President three times. He assaulted the Presidential hopeful with a .32 caliber revolved but only managed to fire once before being apprehended. The bullet lodged firmly in Roosevelt's chest, but only after passing through his steel eyeglass and a double-folded fifty-page manuscript of the speech he was to give. Glancing down at his chest, Roosevelt said, "It appears as if I've been hit" in a casual voice, and then, against the advice of his bodyguards and friends, he went on to the stage where he was to speak. He spoke for over an hour to the crowd, all the while with a bullet resting in his chest. Afterwards, he finally went to the hospital where the doctors declared that the wound wasn't fatal, and it'd be more dangerous to remove the bullet than to keep it in. Theodore Roosevelt would have the bullet resting in him until he died. And when asked if it bothered him he'd just say, "It bothers me no more than if it was in my coat pocket."


Reading List

It would be hard to write a boring book about Theodore Roosevelt, but these volumes are particularly good introductions.

If you’re looking for a Roosevelt readaloud, check out To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt, which uses many of Roosevelt’s own words to tell the story of his life.

 

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough only covers the first 28 years of Roosevelt’s life, but it’s an action-packed read.

To get the full Teddy Roosevelt experience, pick up Edmund Morris’s three-volume biography, starting with The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, continuing with Theodore Rex, and wrapping up with Colonel Roosevelt.


Kane Taylor is home/school/life's Tech Talk columnist and an avid history buff.

Stuff We Like :: 10.23.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

We are busy working on Halloween costumes and top-secret birthday presents here at Casa Sharony. We may also have planned our entire Thanksgiving menu last weekend. I love fall.

around the web

I am not a theme park person, but I would make an exception for a nature-centric theme park created by Hayao Miyazaki. Wouldn’t you?

I thought I was a big Little House fan, but these scientists may have me beat. I love when different disciplines come together like this.

David Bowie paper dolls. No comment needed.

 

at home/school/life

in the magazine: Our subscription cost is going up at the end of October, so renew your subscription before then if you like the $15 price tag.

on the blog: In the spirit of Halloween reading, we hooked a reader up with some of our favorite scary books.

on pinterest: I want to make some of these super-cute leaf creatures with the kids.

 

reading list

We were late on the Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures craze, but my son is now completely obsessed. It’s a really fun readaloud.

I read a lot of books that don’t always end up in the magazine.A few books that I read and liked but don’t have immediate plans to review: Every Last Word, about a secret high school poetry club and a girl struggling with mental health problems; The Peddler’s Road, a Pied Piper story that I really enjoyed until it did that thing where it ends on a dramatic cliffhanger for no good reason; and The Rise and Rise of Tabitha Baird, which was fluffy, fun, and British.

Jason is reading The Name of the Wind and really digging it. I have a hard time getting into fantasy books, but it sounds like this one is worth checking out if you enjoy them.

 

at home

I’m pretending that it’s for the class I’m going to be teaching this winter, but I’m really just binge-watching Doctor Who because I can.

I started a Saroyan to knit while I’m hanging in the waiting room at physical therapy. I love the little leaves along the edge—I’m using red yarn, so it’s like knitting autumn.

I am weirdly obsessed with learning to play mah jongg. Does anybody play? I love bridge, and we inherited a gorgeous mah jongg set from my mother-in-law … but it may just be the non-weight-bearing talking.


Bespoke Book List: Spooky Halloween Readalouds

Great list of spooky books for Halloween readalouds, from home/school/life magazine. #homeschool

Halloween is coming, and we need a good spooky book to read. We loved The Graveyard Book and The Witches. What should we read this year?

I loved scary stories, the kind that are best read under the covers with a flashlight, when I was growing up. I still love them. But my kids? Not so much. So it’s a pleasure to share some of my favorite spooky stories with other people who like a few goosebumps with their readalouds. Just keep in mind that these books all have genuinely scary moments in them and share them with your younger readers accordingly.

The Dollhouse Murders
By Betty Ren Wright
And Then There Were None
By Agatha Christie

I always recommend The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright because it was one of the first books I read as a kid that really scared the pants off me. For months, I would be afraid to peek inside my own dollhouse because I was convinced the little people inside would have moved around during the night. Twelve-year-old Amy discovers a haunted dollhouse in the attic of her family’s old home, and the dolls’ mysterious behavior spurs her to investigate a family tragedy.

One of my new favorite scary stories is Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase, the first in his Lockwood & Co. series. Lucy Carlyle, who has the ability to hear the dead, joins forces with stolid George and mysterious Anthony at the Lockwood & Co. psychic investigative agency, where they—along with other, much more impressive agencies—battle the epidemic of ghosts that’s been plaguing London for half a century. There are some seriously scary bits as the kids face down malicious specters, the characters are delightful, and the action is pretty much non-stop.

For slow-building, atmospheric horror, you can’t beat Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a mystery-horror tale in which ten people are summoned to a mysterious island house to face justice for past crimes. As guest after guest is murdered, following the pattern of an old nursery rhyme, the paranoia and hysteria among the remaining guests rise to a fever pitch.

 

The Time of the Ghost
By Diana Wynne Jones
Which Witch?
By Eva Ibbotson
Doom Stone, The
By Paul Zindel

The narrator of Diana Wynne Jones’s The Time of the Ghost doesn’t know who she is or how she become a formless, voiceless spirit. All she knows is that she is one of four sisters and that something horrible has happened. As she follows the four sisters around, trying to figure out which one she is, she witnesses their abusive, neglectful upbringing and a curious game the sisters invent, which may be the key to the darkness that lies ahead. But can the ghostly narrator do anything to prevent the terrible accident she knows is coming? And can she ever return to her own body? Grimmer and darker than some of Diana Wynne Jones’ other work, The Time of the Ghost is so compelling because of the relationship between the four sisters.

If you want something a little lighter but with plenty of spooky scenes, pick up Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson. The dark and terrible sorcerer Arriman must find an equally dark and terrible wife to give him an heir so that he can finally retire, so he holds a competition for witches. There’s much gruesome magic, a wife-murdering ghost, and an evil enchantress who collects the teeth of her victims, but there’s also the yearning-to-be-evil-because-she-loves-Arriman-so-much white witch Belladonna and plenty of humor to keep things from getting too bleak.

Sometimes you want a Halloween story that’s just action-packed, and The Doom Stone by Paul Zindel is a good bet for that. Jackson heads to Stonehenge to hang out with his cool anthropologist aunt, who’s helping the British army investigate a terrifying beast on a murder spree around the countryside. When the beast attacks his aunt and she has to be hospitalized, Jackson and his new friend Alma are the only ones who can solve the mystery and stop the beast.

 

The Witches of Worm
By Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Prince of Mist
By Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is one of those genuinely creepy children’s books that sticks with you. Jessica finds a miserable hairless kitten in an old cave, and despite her instant dislike of the cat, she brings it home to take care of. But the cat—whom Jessica names Worm—starts talking to Jessica, convincing her to do all kinds of terrible things. The cat must be a witch’s cat—but, then, where’s the witch?

A ghost story where the main characters are haunted by the Irish potato famine may seem a bit of stretch, but Black Harvest by Ann Pilling is genuinely spooky and one of those forgotten 1980s children’s books that deserves to be better known. Colin and Prill’s family, including their Eustace-Scrubb-ish cousin, expect a jolly Irish holiday, but there’s a strange stench of decay that never goes away—and Prill sees strange figures at night—and all the food starts spoiling—and people start getting sick.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a classic for a good reason: You can never be certain whether the narrating parson’s-daughter-turned-country-governess is truly the victim of vengeful spirits or whether she’s slowly and absolutely losing her mind. There’s such darkness in either interpretation, but it’s the unknown-ness of it all that’s truly terrifying.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote one of my favorite grown-up books (The Shadow of the Wind, in case you're curious), so I was delighted to discover that he also wrote a deliciously spooky young adult novel called The Prince of Mist. Max’s family moves to the seaside to escape the war, but they quickly come to believe that their new home is haunted by the spirit of the previous owner’s son, who drowned in the sea. With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia begin to explore the mystery of that death, discovering a horrifying entity called the Prince of Mist who has returned to collect on an old debt.