Books Read in April
I missed my resolution to read at least one fiction book per month. I think I’ll easily make it up, though, because I just started 100 Cupboards. Plus, my fiction intake usually has an uptick in my last month of pregnancy.
This month my reading was mostly-fluffy but interesting non-fiction.
Mystie’s Books Finished in April
The Christian Homeschool by Gregg Harris
Own. I bought this used some time ago.
I picked this up off the shelf to make a dent in reading books I own, mostly. And, I was pretty sure I could get through it in 2-3 days, and I did. It is funny to read books from the 80s & 90s. It’s not really that long ago, but the trends and styles, even of writing, are recognizably different.
It’s a decent book for someone on the fence or who has just decided to try homeschooling, but who is nervous. It probably was one of the best books for that audience in its time. Now, it feels rather like a book by someone who was creating the homeschool stereotypes — oh, wait… But, nonetheless, it was ok. It could have been a lot worse. Plus, the Harrises have turned out several take-on-the-world, impressive sons, so he’s not just talking all theory without practice and examples and credibility.
I was a little curious about how a proponent of “delight-directed learning” would actually describe it, since I’ve found my impressions about homeschool methods in the past to be totally off-base (cough Charlotte Mason). Plus, right now I have two very interested-in-the-world readers, and a year that I won’t be at the top of my game, so I wondered if I could pick up some ideas. His description of “delight-directed” sounded akin to what some homeschool bloggers who claim to be “unschooling” actually are doing. It is still directed, guided by the parents, but the parents pay attention to interests, hobbies, and passions, and consciously invest in and cultivate their children according to their natural bents, as well as provide requirements for the shoring up of weaknesses. So it was very much about using not only books, but real life projects and business ventures and opportunities as well, to develop children’s whole person, always looking toward helping them become productive, engaged adults.
On the one hand, I appreciated the you-don’t-really-need-curriculum mindset. On the other hand, he compensated for that by suggesting unit studies, which I believe are generally pre-chewed food rather than hearty fare or just plain silly because the “connectedness” of subjects is forced and artificial.
Likely I will sell this book at the used curriculum fair or list it on paperbackswap.com.
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
Own. I bought this last year; at the time the library didn’t have it and I was intrigued. I think I read a random blogger review of it, and saw it pop up several places in a short time. Upon reading it, I was not disappointed.
Happy people make better friends, colleagues, and citizens. I wanted to be one of those people. I knew it was certainly easier for me to be good when I was happy. I was more patient, more forgiving, more energetic, more lighthearted, and more generous. Working on my happiness wouldn’t just make me happier, it would boost the happiness of the people around me. And — though I didn’t recognize this immediately — I started my happiness project because I wanted to prepare. I was a very fortunate person, but the wheel would turn. One dark night, my phone was going to ring, and I already had a notion about one particular phone call that might come. One of my goals for the happiness project was to prepare for adversity — to develop the self-discipline and the mental habits to deal with a bad thing when it happened. The time to start exercising, stop nagging, and organize our digital photos was when everything was going smoothly. I didn’t want to wait for a crisis to remake my life.
She sets out for a year-long project, tackling one resolution a month that will help increase her happiness, created according to an astonishing amount of reading she did before and during her project. The style is personal-anecdotal while sprinkling in what she learned from her wide reading.
Her primary finding she returned to again and again, especially in the context of family life (she has two young daughters):
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
And she even quoted G.K. Chesterton:
It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.
This was a fascinating book about recent studies on the brain differences between introverts and extroverts, as well as an examination of how business, social, and school culture perceive and respond to introversion and extroversion, showing how American culture believes extroversion is ideal and introversion is a problem to be cured. She uses current and historical stories to demonstrate that we need both introversion and extroversion, often paired together, to achieve great things. She believes these they are necessary pairs, like male and female. But “collaboration” in America is actually counterproductive and usually shuts down introverts and their contributions.
One of the interesting points she made was a study that showed that one of the differences in extroverts’ brains versus introverts’ brains was that extroverts have greater capabilities for experiencing “buzz” and happiness tied to rewards. Some are concluding from this study that this is even one of the defining factors of the E v. I brain: Extroverts seek attention, social outlets, and status because they are wired to get a high off it. Introverts’ brains simply do not process as much pleasure-endorphins in the brain as extroverts, period. Instead, introverts’ brains are larger and more connected in the analytical, examining, reasoning section, meaning it is more easy for them to separate their gut-response (less intense than an extrovert, generally) from an examination of the situation (which they always have running in the background, thus they are slower to process and more easily overwhelmed socially than extroverts). So extroverts respond to rewards more strongly and tend to be more ambitious and quick-thinking, whereas introverts tend to respond better to and desire autonomy and mastery rather than stimulus and reward.
The way I put it probably clearly shows an introvert bias, but the author was very good about keeping a balanced view and showing how both are valid and contribute to a strong society.
Here was one of my favorite sections, on schools:
The school environment can be highly unnatural, especially from the perspective of an introverted child who loves to work intensely on projects he cares about, and hang out with one or two friends at a time. [...] Worst of all, there’s little time to think or create. The structure of the day is almost guaranteed to sap his energy rather than stimulate it.
We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids “blossom” into secure and happy adults. We liken it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it’s not the children who change but their environments. As adults, they get to select the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plunked into.
Books I’m Currently Reading
Hans’ Books Read (8-year-old boy)
If You Had a Horse by Margaret Hodges
Own. I found this at a library sale years ago.
“I liked it because it had lots of stories about horses, and I like horses. It had magical horses and true stories.”
More Days and Deeds New Basic Readers, Book 5.2
Own. This is a public school 5th grade reader from the 1950s my mother-in-law gave the boys. Hans has read it many times.
“I liked it because it had fun stories, history, and stories about other people like Eskimos.”
Macbeth retold by Bruce Coville, illustrated by Gary Kelley
Library. These are well done retellings. They’ve made me lose my taste for Lamb and Nesbit. I think they are a more authentic introduction to Shakespeare, apart from seeing plays live or on film.
“I liked the poems and I liked the fights, especially the ghost.”
Jaeger’s Books Read (almost-7-year-old boy)
Albert Einstein by Marie Hammontree, Childhood of Famous Americans Series
“I liked it because he thought a lot and I like reading about people who think. And I liked the part that he camped out.”
Rosa Parks by Kathleen Kudlinski, Childhood of Famous Americans Series
“I liked it because she worked a lot and because she liked to grow things.”
Geronimo by George Stanley, Childhood of Famous Americans Series
“I liked it because he was a good fighter. I especially liked the part when he was racing with his friend and a rattlesnake climbed onto his friend’s leg. He cut the snake’s head off and then they raced back.”
Ilse’s Favorite Books (4-year-old girl)
Ilse didn’t want to be left out of the book show-and-tell. She came running with her three favorite books, too.
Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban
Own. Everyone should own all the Frances books.
“The little sister had a birthday party and a birthday cake. She shared all the candy.”
Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet
Own. Peet is absolutely hilarious. I dare you to read one aloud with a straight face.
“The crab tried to grab the fish to make him dead in the water.”
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Own. A classic.
“He had a lot of hats, like 12 hats. And there were monkeys in the tree that tried to catch a hat.”
What have you and yours been reading lately?