February 2012

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

H.P. Lovecraft

I just re-read HP Lovecraft's “Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,” along with some of his other Dream Cycle stories, for the first time in years. Even though there's a lot of overlap between them, there's a distinction between the Dream Cycle stories and the Cthulhu Mythos stories. The Dream Cycle stories are about an alternate dimension called the Dream Lands, which can be accessed through lucid dreams by those with sufficient imagination or occult lore. They're Dunsanian fantasies, and even though there are strong horror elements, the focus is more on weird beauty and a frankly escapist philosophy.

Free Resource: The Habitable Planet

A lady who belongs to the same homeschool Facebook group as I do just posted this free resource that I wanted to share with all of you. It’s geared toward high schoolers and adults, so if your child is a bit younger, just bookmark the site for future reference. Also, this curriculum is not meant to take the place of state designed curriculum, but rather act as a supplement to support and enhance what your teen is already learning.

The main focus of the 13 units available for free on The Habitable Planet, is the Earth and, its diverse life forms, and the many global cycles it goes through. All of the course information is presented in two different ways. Your student can either read the text online, or watch a video presentation of the material. The method you choose should be based on how your child processes information. You could also have your teen read the text first, and then watch the video for further comprehension.

"The Valley Girl Turns 40"

a different time, a different place

There is one indisputable fact about the '80s:  it was a great time to be alive.  It was an even greater time to be young and living in Southern California.  From the self-publishing world of iUniverse comes "The Valley Girl Turns 40," by Laura Ross...  and suddenly it is the early '80s again.

Guilty Admission #128: I Love my Kindle

I can't stop reading.....

A few weeks ago, I wrote HERE about the strange feeling of having a book club in a book store with some of the participants reading the books on their eBook devices. We made up for whatever transgressions we had by buying coffee and treats in the book store’s coffee shop, but still felt guilty because of the eBook readers and because we live in Seattle and everybody in Seattle feels guilty about something.

At that point in time, I was in love with the feel of actual books and had decided that I would not be an eBook reader. That’s before I met my new Kindle. I’d tried the first Kindle and had found the page turning clunky and had tried the  iPad and didn’t like the glare or the size of it.

But it was love at first sight for my Kindle and me.

Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens

“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens is not a realistic book. It is chock full of improbable characters with outlandish motivations experiencing implausible coincidences. It is also very wordy by modern standards. Dickens was being paid by the word, so he wasn't about to say it with one word if he could say it with ten.

The Snobbiest Book Article Ever Written?

Elitism in the NYT? It's more likely than you think!
It's stuff like this, New York Times. Stuff like this. But do you even care that so many people hate you? You must not, if you cheerfully run breathlessly snobby book articles like this week's gem, in which author Dominique Browning discovers the joy of mass market bestsellers. 
The key to enjoying a mass market bestseller - according to Browning - is that they always remain in their place. On a plane, entertaining you when times are difficult. You wouldn't want a bestseller like Faye Kellerman or Sue Grafton (Browning eschews all but the best bestsellers, of course) getting all uppity and creeping its way into your REGULAR reading time.

All Things Fancy

Everyone enjoys a little fancy in their lives – whether that involves a nice dinner, a great piece of art, our well kept china that only comes out for special occasions…even a good book. For children, a lot of the world is fancy. They are often mesmerized by simple things…things that most of us overlook. They are constantly learning various aspects of the world. Learning skills, words, colors, and the general workings of the world itself.

An author of childrens’ books has captured the art of fancy – utilizing words and the life of a young girl to teach children about all things “fancy”. Fancy Nancy, written by Jane O’Connor details (in various books), the life of Nancy, who believes her family lead a dull life. She in turn, leads the complete opposite. Nancy spends her days using big, fancy words – dressing in fancy outfits – having fancy meals and tea parties. Crowns, boas and gowns dance across the pages. Words like “bonjour” and “exquisite” flow through the literary chatter of Nancy herself.

Homeschooling Beyond Books

Although I use a set of approved curriculum books when homeschooling, I find that going beyond the books often leads to a deeper comprehension of the subject being taught. I suggest setting aside some time for additional hands-on activities each week.

After my daughter studied Ancient Mayan culture, I had her and a friend create Ancient Mayan Indian Masks. They had to research the masks and choose one to model their own mask after. My daughter discovered that certain objects, such as corn cobs, were symbols of something meaningful to the Mayans.

Swamplandia By Karen Russell

I had trouble seeing past the child endangerment to enjoy the gothic whimsy.
I genuinely don't know what to think about this book. I put it down about 2/3rds of the way through, because I thought it was too twee and self-absorbed and ridiculous. But I read a review that said the tone of the book changes, so I picked it up again. And the tone did change, and I was horrified. I feel bad, because it's like this book just can't win with me. But there you have it: this book just can't win with me.
The eponymous "Swamplandia" is a down-at-the-heel gator-wrestling tourist attraction deep in the Florida Everglades. Its spiritual and fiscal heart is Hilola Bigtree, the wife and mother. When she dies of cancer, the whole thing falls apart - both literally and figuratively.

Be Spontaneous Because You Can

The one thing I love about homeschooling is the freedom to be spontaneous. For example, last spring it was so gorgeous out that I decided to put the books away and grab my daughter’s best friend, who is also homeschooled, and head to one of the local gardens in the area. It was such a peaceful day, and the girls really enjoyed the nature walk. They got to learn about different plants, and which flowers attracted certain birds.

Although being spontaneous is fun, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. My daughter uses real a curriculum taught in Christian schools, and I make sure that she finishes every book within that curriculum. In fact, when I went to school we almost never made it through an entire book in any of the subjects by the year’s end. In this regard, I think she gets the best education.

Narrow Road To The Deep North

By Matsuo Basho

If you ever read any haiku, you're familiar with the poetry of Matsuo Basho, the greatest Japanese master of the genre. If you've only read his haiku in isolation, though, you haven't really read them. Basho was just as much of a travel writer as he was a poet, and many of his haiku are embedded in his travel journals, giving them a context in which the poetry often has much more impact.

Parents Leave Traditional Fairy Tales On The Shelf

Who can blame them? That stuff is scary!
A study has found that 1 in 5 parents is choosing not to read traditional fairy tales to their children, in favor of "modern books" like the Mr. Men series or The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
First of all, I feel obliged to point out that the study was performed in conjunction with the arrival of the US television series "Grimm" to British shores. So I'm sure it is SUPER SCIENTIFIC YOU GUYS.
Second of all, the study specifies "children under five." I don't have kids, but I'm pretty sure we can agree that you can probably find better fare for a toddler than stories about murder, kidnapping, poison, treachery, deceit, and an unrealistic expectation of womanhood.

Romantic Book Deal-Breakers

If you see your beloved reading these, run away!
The Huffington Post has a great little article about "books that you should never give your beloved." It got me thinking about all the times that books were red flags, early warning signs that this person was not suited to be my friend or significant other. 
Sometimes when someone comes into your life, they bring you the gift of an amazing author you hadn't heard of before that point. Other times, they are total losers, and their books are, too.
1. The entire ten-volume Mission Earth series
I remember the first time I visited this fellow's house. He had the entire ten volume Mission Earth series prominently displayed atop his headboard bookshelf. In hardcover. Pristine condition. He explained that he had read the paperback versions, and that these were strictly for collectible purposes.

Using Visitor’s Guides When Homeschooling

My girls and I are currently planning a trip to Washington DC for a science and engineering expo. I requested a visitor’s guide online and just received it in the mail. Little did I know that this visitor’s guide was going to turn out to be such a useful teaching tool.

First, the visitor’s guide describes a lot of the historical sites and what they are known for. Not only does this provide my daughter with a fun history lesson, but there are also maps of the city within the guide to contribute to her geographical knowledge.

A Floating Life

By Simon Elegant

Li Po of the T'ang Dynasty was one of the greatest poets in world history. His status in Chinese poetry is roughly equivalent to that of Shakespeare in English-language poetry. He was a Taoist mystic and a wandering swordsman as well as a poet, and the greatest emperor of the T'ang Dynasty once seasoned his soup for him in deference to his genius. According to legend, he died of drowning when he drunkenly reached out over the edge of his boat to try to hug the reflection of the moon.

World Book Day and Night: April 23, 2012

Free books to get people reading!


April 23 has been chosen by UNESCO as "World Book Day." The date was selected for its literary significance: it is the anniversary of Cervantes' death, and of Shakespeare's birth and death. 2012 will be the 15th annual World Book Day, which is celebrated in over 100 countries worldwide. 
In the UK on World Book Day, millions of school children receive book tokens. On World Book Day, book tokens are given away to children in the UK. These tokens can be exchanged at a book store for a free book. This year there are eight wonderful books on the eligible list. The tokens can also be put towards the purchase of any other children's book or audiobook.

Grappling With The Help's Warm Fuzzy Racism

Toure's savage review of the movie helped crystallize my feelings about the book
I read The Help last year, several months before the movie came out. I had some qualms about the novel, and I was pretty sure the movie would make things even worse. More sanitized, less nuanced, and much more "feel-good movie of the year"-ist. 
Complaints about The Help have slowly, quietly been piling up here and there. I'm glad for this, because for a long time I thought it was just me. Everyone was raving about what a great book it was, how heart-felt, how honest and forthright about its depiction of slavery and the consequences of life in the deep South during the Jim Crow era.