henry reed inc

Summer Reading: Henry Reed Inc.


Reading Level: Middle grades

I have this mental list of books that I wish PBS would turn into brilliant television adaptations, and near the top of the list is Keith Robertson’s utterly delightful Henry Reed series, about a U.S. diplomat’s son who spends most of his time with his globe-trotting parents in Europe but comes home in the summer to stay with his down-to-earth aunt and uncle in New Jersey. Henry’s fascinated by the American capitalist spirit, and most of the stories are about his summer earnings efforts. (The stories are set in the 1950s, when American enterprise was still bathed in a warm and folksy golden glow.) I would watch this show, with its rural New England landscapes and bright 1950s costuming, compulsively.

Henry Reed Inc. (the first in the series) is also a quintessential summer read. In it, Henry comes to stay with his aunt and uncle for the first time in the little town of Grover’s Corners (if that sounds familiar, it’s also the name of town in Our Town), a rural town near Princeton, New Jersey. Henry’s determined to start a summer business, and he teams up with the girl next door, Midge, who’s smart, brave, curious, and every bit Henry’s equal. (Midge is one of my all-time favorite female sidekicks, and I’d like to Robertson a cookie for creating such a great example of a feminist character who’s totally believable as a pre-teen girl, an inhabitant of her time, and an independent-minded woman.) Because of their proximity to Princeton, the two decide they’re most likely to find research gigs, but their jobs end up being more varied than they’d expected, from raising worms and painting turtles to accidentally discovering oil. And along the way, they create plenty of friendly havoc, including a traffic jamming bathtub accident so crazy it makes the local news. Henry, bless his heart, has no real sense of humor, which makes his first-person reporting of these incidents even funnier.

This is an old-fashioned summer story, with the same vibe as books like Gone Away Lake, where summer is a little big magical and anything can happen. The plot is full of wacky escapades, but really, not much happens—there are no dramatic denouements, just a series of adventures that end with Henry packing his bags and saying “See you next summer!” The characters feel like real people, even the just-passing-by folks, like the Princeton engineers who get stuck in Henry and Midge’s traffic jam. And the illustrations, by Caldecott winner Robert Robert McCloskey are just great. Henry Reed is definitely a character who deserves more attention—and adding Henry Reed Inc. to you summer reading list would make a great start.

(If you're playing Summer Reading Bingo, this one counts for "Read the first book in a series.")

At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (1st Grade)

At Home with the Editors: Amy's 1st Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!


Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 1st grader.

The spine of our curriculum is Oak Meadow’s first grade program, which we use for language arts, social studies, art, and science. For these early grades, I really wanted something that would encourage him to try different things without worrying about whether there was a right answer. I like the way Oak Meadow emphasizes observation and imagination, and I love flipping back through his main lesson books (we have one for science and one for everything else) as the year progresses.

For history, we use Story of the World, which we do as a readaloud. While I read, he’ll draw a picture in his main lesson book related to the topic at hand — the Vikings and samurai were his favorites this year. We spend a little time discussing previous chapters at the beginning of every lesson, but I don’t expect him to remember everything. At this age, for me, it’s really about introducing him to important names and events. (My daughter often joins us for the readaloud — she still loves Story of the World.)

We use Miquon Math, which my son adores, for his math. We usually do a few pages in his book every day together, and he may keep going and do several more pages on his own. I let him set his own pace, though every once in a while, if I notice that he’s making a lot of simple mistakes, I encourage him to slow down. It took me a little while to get the hang of Miquon’s method — this is definitely a program where you will want to read the teacher’s manual in advance — but it’s proven to be a great fit for us. I wish the program continued through high school!

Oak Meadow’s science emphasizes nature study, but we also use The Nature Connection workbook and keep a daily nature journal. Usually, we stick to our backyard for journaling, but every once in a while, we’ll hike along the river or hit a nature center for a change of pace.

We started the year with BOB books, and now we’re powering through the Magic Treehouse series. My son was a pretty reluctant reader — maybe partly because he has a big sister who will pretty much always read him anything he wants — and it was really hard for me not to push him to read because books have always been such a big part of my own life. But I learned with his sister that pushing anything is the fastest way to make a kid avoid it, so I bit my tongue, and this year, he did start reading on his own. (I think it was mainly because he wanted to be able to play Pokemon without assistance, but I’ll take it!)

A lot of our literature comes from readalouds still, which we do a chapter or two at a time each day. We usually start the day cuddled up with a book. I keep a little notebook for each kid with a running list of what we read each year. This year, we’ve averaged about two and a half books a month, including Detectives in Togas, Henry Reed, Inc., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Fablehaven, and The Island of the Aunts.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

We use Oak Meadow’s crafts book and art lessons. I am not a naturally artsy person, so having the projects be both open-ended and spelled-out for me is great. (I highly recommend Oak Meadow's art and craft materials for non-crafty parents.) My son has really enjoyed finger-knitting, sewing, soap-carving, and making pinch pots. We are always done with lessons by lunch, so we take a few hours in the early afternoon for project-making.

On Thursdays, he takes a Philosophy for Kids class at our homeschool group, where he works on logic puzzles and discusses things like “Should you get everything you want?” and “What assumptions do you have about candy?” He really enjoys the class — this is the second year he’s taken it.

We also memorize a poem every week (or two, if it’s a tricky or longish poem) for Friday recitations. My son has been using the 20th Century Children’s Poetry Anthology (edited by Jack Prelutsky) for most of his poems this year. I think memorizing and reciting poetry is a highly underrated activity, and I frequently annoy my children by loudly and dramatically reciting poems when we are stuck in traffic.

We’ve also been cooking and reading our way through Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen. Every chapter has a Jewish folktale and traditional recipe, so we get in a little culture and cooking practice.

Writing it all down, this seems like a lot, but we’re pretty relaxed about all of it. If my son complains that he doesn’t want to do anything school-y one day, I don’t push. He’s always free to take the day off to do something else, but he usually opts to do a little work every day. (In fact, on days when I am running late, he’ll often come into my office with a stack of books, asking me when I will be ready for school.) I don’t want him to feel like learning is something you only do when you’re “doing school.”