You know I’m going to start off this recap with literature, especially literature which doubles as history. Buckle up, hide your wallets, and get out your library card. I’ll talk about a lot of books today. (Our Eastern Redbud tree is in full — yet leafless — bloom this week. Magical!)
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This week in St. Raphael School, Aveline started Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe: Growing up in Siberia. As a part of this module, she also watched this 60 Minutes episode about Anne Frank’s betrayal. Literature this week has included a lot of tears and Big Conversations. That’s important. Reading about history gives us the courage to stand up for what is right, even when there’s a cost. May we raise children who have an authentic view of authority, and a proper sense of rebellion. (Lord have mercy.)
Here are 5 reasons kids should read books with difficult topics.
Aveline’s free-reads for the last two weeks were as follows:
- The Great Brain by John D Fitzgerald
- Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story by Beverly Naidoo
- The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
- The Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
- Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Paddington on Top by Michael Bond
- Paddington Takes the Air by Michael Bond
- James Harriot’s Treasury for Children
Oh, and she re-read Waka T. Brown’s While I Was Away — that makes two read-throughs in three weeks. And, uh, a lot of Geronimo Stilton.
(At this point, a thank you to Nashville Public Library is in order. ::applause::)
My Scholé co-director and I have been pre-reading up a storm choosing books for next year’s Ancient & Modern World Literature class at Restoration Scholé. Alongside some very classical classics and epic epics, we read international memoirs with the aim of becoming better neighbors.
Over the last two weeks, I read the following:
- Which None Can Shut: Remarkable True Stories of God’s Miraculous Work in the Muslim World by Reema Goode (a pseudonym)
- The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jiménez
- Breaking Through by Francisco Jiménez by (a sequel to The Circuit)
- The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin
- Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story by Beverly Naidoo
I almost didn’t finish Too Far From Home by Naomi Shmuel, but since it is only 100 pages, I just pushed through. As you might guess from the page-count, the story is oversimplified to the point of confusion. One hundred pages simply isn’t long enough to unpack the history of Ethiopian Jewish migration to Israel.
The Genius Under the Table is an absolutely lovely book, which comes as no surprise to any reader who loved Breaking Stalin’s Nose. It would be a great match for a reluctant reader, too, since Yelchin’s illustrations are generously scattered throughout. And even though it’s humorous, Yelchin delves into real issues of Soviet history and talks about his own experiences with anti-Semitism. A worthwhile and meaningful book for middle-grade readers (and adults like me!)
I’ve never read a book quite like The Circuit. I had a lump in my throat throughout. Francisco Jiménez writes about his childhood in California’s migrant worker camps with a rawness that will tear your heart apart, and yet he does it without a hint of bitterness. The Circuit will absolutely be a part of our Restoration Scholé curriculum next year. (And a grateful thank you to @marielhowsepian for pointing me in the direction of this book.)
Sometimes, when choosing books for Restoration Scholé, we pass on perfectly good books because they don’t fit in with the cadence of the other books we’ve chosen. A good booklist for a literature class is like a good playlist: each book connects to the next in subtle and unexpected ways, but it shouldn’t beat you over the head with a theme, nor should it play too many of the same songs in a row.
With this in mind, I didn’t end up choosing Which None Can Shut or Journey to Jo’burg, but that’s not because they’re not worthwhile books. It’s simply because they didn’t fit into our literature mixtape.
Also, in my pre-reading extravaganza, I didn’t finish these titles:
I made it nearly halfway through A Wish in the Dark (a Newbery Honor book), and a third of the through I Lived on Butterfly Hill before I shelved them both.
I chose to read I Lived on Butterfly Hill because it’s an autobiographical novel of the author’s escape from Chile during the Allende / Pinochet era, and I hoped to use it as jumping off point for a short study of of Chilean history. (Ok, I also chose it because of the cover. I’m quite possibly in love with the cover art.)
Alas, it was not meant to be. This book cannot function in any factual context. Readers who look for historical Chilean president Allende will never find him, because the author makes up a fictional character “Alarcon” in his place — but never explains this fiction this to her readers. As I read, I became so confused I had to stop and search the internet for “Alarcon”, only to discover the author had invented him. Actually, she invents a lot, even a new timeline for the entire revolution. I can overlook liberties in a memoir, but this is simply dishonest. As another reviewer wrote, I Lived on Butterfly Hill is “a major — and in my mind unforgivable — distortion of history.” A shame, especially in a book presented as a historically true.
As far as not finishing A Wish in the Dark, that’s simply personal preference. It didn’t captivate me. The writing style didn’t seem up to snuff for a Newbery Honor book. It’s probably a harmless read, but there are lots of other books I’d reach for if I were looking for richness or redemptive qualities (which I am, Pip.)
Of course, rabbit trails in history involved even more reading. (Again, huge props to Nashville Public Library.) Aveline devoured all 350 pages of Eiffel’s Tower for Young People: The Story of the 1889 World’s Fair by Jill Jones, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Bonus: it’s loaded with lots of historical photographs.
Another big hit? The highly-illustrated Tales of Ancient Worlds: Adventures in Archeology by Stefan Milosavljevich and Sam Caldwell, in all its oversized 150-page glory. She also dabbled in Famous Family Trees: Explore 25 Family Trees from History by Kari Hauge and Vivien Mildenberger, but skipped the pages in which “I didn’t know who a single person was, mom.” (For the curious: the famous people she’d never heard of were Ned Kelly, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lorenzo De’Medici, Desiree Clary, and Maria Tallchief.
I’m sending her back.)
And Aveline has been really enjoying the KS3 British History lectures from Oak National Academy — did you know they’re FREE?
Technically, the following were free-reads, but I’m listing them in the Science category:
- It Couldn’t Just Happen by Lawrence O. Richards
- Rocks & Minerals and Volcanoes in the Science Comics series
- Nick & Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle: A Mystery with Spy Cameras, Code Wheels, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
That last book was combined with creating a few circuits on this Virtual Circuit Lab (it’s FREE!)
Last week, I mentioned that I’d given Apologia’s middle school Physical Science another try, and concluded once again that it’s a hot mess, despite my love for the K-6 materials. That resonated with so many of you! Apparently, middle school science leaves a lot of you in a muddle. I’m glad to know I’m not alone, but some publisher really needs to step up.
So, we’re back to using curriculum from the United Kingdom via Twinkl (paid subscription) and Seneca (the free version). We use the UK content for KS3/Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9) on both sites, so I can’t vouch for the material on the American versions. The science content on BBC Bitesize is very high quality too, and organized well. Everything is free, but to watch the embedded videos, you’ll need a VPN.
Grammar and writing is fairly routine and rhythmic these days: Writing & Rhetoric alongside Well-Ordered Language — with regular reading reflections as assigned in Aveline’s Liberal Arts class. The teacher guides for Well-Ordered Language have 2-3 times as much content as the workbook, but the extra material is quite repetitive for a kid like Aveline who reads writers’ handbooks and style guides under the covers with a flashlight. So lately I’ve simply been handing her the workbook — very smooth sailing.
More Understanding Algebra I from the Critical Thinking Company, alongside daily online skill reviews with Dr Frost Maths. (More on that program next week — it’s free!)
A routine couple of weeks: homework from the local Chinese school, speaking practice with AI Storytime, and lots of translation. Pleco continues to be #1 in Aveline’s iPad app usage; no other app comes even close.
Call me ignorant, but I didn’t even know the deponent case existed. Yet here we are. Thank God for Κυρία S. at St. Raphael School, who can teach these lovely mysteries of language to my daughter!
Have you ever tried Chinese brush painting? We did!
Not much to update on the preschool front, since we’re still very much enjoying Evan-Moor’s Everyday Literacy series:
- Evan-Moor’s Everyday Literacy: PreK Math
- Evan-Moor’s Everyday Literacy: PreK Science
- Evan-Moor’s Everyday Literacy: PreK Listening & Speaking
- Evan-Moor’s Everyday Literacy: PreK Reading & Writing
And that’s all for this time!
Leave me a comment and let me know something you’re loving this week in your homeschool! And if you missed the last recap, you can catch up, too.