This year, I'm trying to expand my reading horizons by reading more broadly, reading more challenging books, and reading more in general. I think those goals were met in March! (You can also check out what we read in January and February!)
One of the neatest things about reading this month is that a lot of the ideas I read connected (I'll tell you more about that below!) I
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This was my first-ever CS Lewis read. I had attempted a few others in the past, but decided that since I'm more comfortable with challenging books now, I'd give this one a go. The lovely former-principle at the Ambleside School that I taught at gave me this book, and I had always harbored some guilt for not reading it. So, reading this book was doubly meaningful for me.
This is a series of speeches/essays that Lewis wrote around World War II. Many of the ideas were comforting to me right now in these strange times. I filled my copybook with quotes from these essays, and my favorite is probably this one:
"If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance."
I'll probably re-read this in the not-too-distant future, because I didn't quite grasp ALL of it and have heard that a re-reading helps for that!
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger-
I *accidentally* bought this book for my husband one Christmas, thinking he had searched for it on Amazon.
But no! It must have been a recommendation based on the other books that I bought at that time, probably because it has been popular in Charlotte Mason circles.
Two things I really enjoyed about this book:
1. The writing was really clever. Not necessarily jaw-droppingly beautiful, but very clever. The author foreshadowed in a unique and captivating way, using subtle word play that kept me guessing. For example, knowing that there were 5 deaths that summer that helped to move him from childhood to manhood made me want to know who else had died. Also, because of these little hints, it wasn't overtly predictable. I really had no idea who the murderer was.
2. So much about this seemed realistic and painted a picture of a simpler time. It didn't feel like one of those "realistic fiction" books that while technically not including unicorns or fairies, weren't a succession of events likely to happen in real life.
The Gospel message was also clear in this book, which to me seemed gutsy and amazing.
I didn't love some aspects of the author's writing style. He seems to be anti-commas, except for when used in quotations and appositives. This made many of the sentences seem like run-ons, or at least clunky, even though they were technically accurate.
Nathan Coulter by Wendell Berry-
Last year, I listened to Hannah Coulter and it was slow and soothing and enjoyable. It reminded me of my husband's family, who left the farm that had tied many of their lives together. I expected to feel similarly about Nathan Coulter, the story of Hannah's husband. While the book about his wife covered many years, his own story was mostly about his adolescence.
I'm sure other people will find it more artful, but I mostly thought it was sad, and sometimes disturbing. Nathan found himself without a mother, living with his disinterested dad and older brother by his early teenage years. Much of his upbringing comes from men in the community who are well-meaning but rough around the edges. It's a coming-of -age tale that lacks a deep storyline, although the writing is beautiful.
I read this book after Ordinary Graces, and I saw so many similarities that it was stunning. They are both coming-of-age tales, and both of the boys have a little grudge that they hold. Also, I don't think I've ever read a book that included blowing up animals, so to read these two that featured it back to back was surprising (and disturbing!)
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto-
This is one of those, "You have to read this if you're going to homeschool" kind of books that I put off reading for way too long. This book was mostly anecdotal, and I wish it had included more actual evidence of his claims, but it looks like his other book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, does a better job including those.
John Taylor Gatto won awards for New York City teacher of the year and New York State teacher of the year in 1990 and 1991. Instead of giving the inspiring speeches that people would have expected, he used it as an opportunity to point out what is wrong with the school system. The reasons that stood out to me the most were that-
1) We take children out of their community and put them in a false replication, a poor substitution, of being with people who love them and are able to teach through life's circumstances.
2) Children no longer have time to become their own person because all of their time is taken up with school, technology, and extracurriculars.
3) WHAT is being taught in school has changed and become less rigorous over the years. Children could learn reading, writing, and mathematics in around 100 hours each.
My experiences as a public school teacher align well with Mr. Gatto's observations, so this book was so meaningful to me. If you haven't had similar experiences, it's going to take some blind faith to trust his claims.
Brain Hacks by Lara Honos-Webb-
I need some serious help with my executive functioning skills, and this book taught me what areas I struggle with the most, and how to work on those areas. I really appreciated that!
There are five main executive functioning skills, and the hardest for me are organization and emotional management. These chapters included some tips that you would probably think were too simplistic and not helpful at all if you don't struggle with them. For that reason, I didn't read the chapters on the skills that I don't struggle with as much, because it started to seem silly to read the things that I already know and implement.
This was definitely worth the read, but I think viewing it as a reference rather than a cover-to-cover read was helpful.
This book was SO rich and SO intimidating! I chose to listen to the audio book (I linked to the Audible version above) because reading it would have taken me months, and then I wouldn't have any blog posts to share with you 🙂
This book stood out to me for several reasons-
1) It was easier to read than I would have thought a 150- year-old book could be
2) It was written just a few decades before the Russian Communist Revolution, and the discussions on education choice, Religion, equality, etc. struck a little bit close to home. I learned so much about what led up to the revolution, and some of the philosophical statements sounded like they came from today's social media debates. At one point, Levin told another that he didn't want to be forced to send his children to a certain school, and wasn't sure that peasants should be forced to send their children there, either. As a homeschooler, this had my attention!
3) The development of characters was so much richer than in modern day books. I had a feeling that the book was so long because Tolstoy had a hard time letting the characters go. Maybe he just wanted so spend more time with them and couldn't put down that pen.
D'Aulaire's Book of Trolls by Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire-
I picked up this book at the library for my five-year-old who just loves legends, folk tales, and fairy tales. He loved this book! It's one story about many different trolls, so some of it is a little tangentially related, but delightful nonetheless.
I read this to my daughter in March, and while we both enjoyed it, it wasn't our favorite Five Little Peppers book. First, there is some racism that I skimmed over. The best part about reading old books out loud, rather than handing them to my daughter to read, is that I can edit out anything I want. I did that here.
These books are generally difficult to read aloud because of the language, but this one seemed a little more difficult than the first of the series because not much happened. There was a lot of discussion and insignificant events.
One thing that did stand out to me is that the Pepper children's education. (I always pay attention to the education of the past!) I realized that their education is more similar to John Taylor Gatto's version in Dumbing us Down than our modern system is!
The Magician's Nephew by C.S Lewis-
It was enchanting to read this book, which records the beginning of Narnia. We read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe first, and then circled back to this one.
Digory and Polly find themselves transported to another world by a nefarious uncle. They visit several different worlds, one of them which reveals an evil queen who tags along with them for the rest of their journey. These books frighten my kids a bit, so we have to read them in the morning instead of at bedtime!
We actually have this set of books- I liked that they had a colorful, vintage feel to them.
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Baretta and Frank Morrison
We picked this book up from the library and thoroughly enjoyed the modern recount of George Washington Carver's childhood. He was a sickly child, and found refuge in nature. His time exploring and learning through nature eventually led him to make many great discoveries about the uses of peanuts (but he did not invent peanut butter, which was news to me!)
The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper-
This book tells the story of Henri Matisse's childhood, in a very terse sort of way. The first section of the books is literally one long sentence and that kind of bothered me. It started with, "If you..." and it just kept going and going.
But the pictures are lovely and despite it's briefness, really painted a picture of Matisse's childhood and how he became interested in the things that he paid attention to.
I think we'll file this one under, "I'm glad we read it, but I hope we don't have to read it again." We recently read Trumpet of the Swan, and last summer, H read Charlotte's Web. This book wasn't as strong as either of the others that we've read.
First of all, it's a bit bizarre. A family has a second son and discovers that he's a mouse. Early in the book, it's all about Stuart's life and how he manages life with his family. As he gets older, he sets off from home in search of a friend that he loves. That is the point that the story became less interesting and more bizarre!
Tumtum and Nutmeg- The Great Escape
We have a treasury of the first three Tumtum and Nutmeg stories, and this is the second story in the volume. After we finish the third story in April, I think I will be able to tell you that The Great Escape was my least favorite of the three. But one thing that stood out to me is that Emily Bearn did not lose her ability to weave a tale interestingly in this second book, even if I didn't like the plot as much.
E. however, is just LOVING these books. He requests it every night, and for a child who at one point was not interested at all in books, this is huge!
Do you follow me on Instagram? I post quotes from what I'm reading often!