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The Reading Report, Vol. 20: Reboot Edition

Hey, readers! It has been over a year (yikes!) since I posted an actual edition of The Reading Report. I have a ton of books going right now, but I don’t have any new reviews for the B2tC 2020 Challenge. So I thought I would pop on here today and give ya’ll an update on how I’m doing on all my current reading challenges. Brace yourselves…this could get long! 😉

Back to the Classics Challenge Report

I haven’t finished any new books on my B2tC list lately, but I am currently reading Gerald Durell’s My Family and Other Animals. I am likely going to use this title to replace Little Britches in the “Classic About a Family” category. I am also about to begin The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, and I will probably sub that for Til We Have Faces in the 20th Century Classic spot. After those are finished, I will have just 5 more categories to fill for that challenge.

The Literary Life 20 for 20 Challenge Report

For this challenge, let’s take a look at the titles and categories I have finished. The titles with an asterisk have been subbed for those on my original 20 for 2020 list:

Currently, I am also working my way through the following categories and titles:

Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Report:

This is probably the challenge on which I have made the least numerical progress, but the work of stretching me outside my usual novel-reading habits has been good for me so far. Here is how my 5×5 Challenge list is going so far. Titles marked with a ^ are finished. Those with a ~ are in progress

Mathematics

  1. ^ Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos ^
  2. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
  3. ^ The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz ^
  4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
  5. ?

Biography/Memoire

  1. ~ Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser ~
  2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl
  3. ~ Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson ~
  4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano*
  5. ~ My Family and Other Animals by George Durell ~

Theology/Christianity

  1. ^ The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer ^
  2. ^ In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen ^
  3. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
  4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer 
  5. ~ Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton ~

Health/Wellness

  1. ~ The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton ~
  2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
  3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
  4. ^ The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro ^
  5. ?

Literary Fiction

  1. ^ A Room with a View by E. M. Forster ^
  2. ^ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ^
  3. Silas Marner by George Eliot
  4. ^ The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde ^
  5. Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

Summing It All Up:

As you can see, I’ve been reading a lot for these challenges, and making some good headway for where we are in the year. This is also in addition to all the pre-reading I am doing for my son’s AmblesideOnline Year 4 books, plus family read-alouds that are not school related. Hopefully I can finish up some of my current reads because I am honestly having trouble juggling them all and still feeling like I’m making any visible progress. But, as the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race…and since reading isn’t a race anyway, I can feel good knowing I am learning and growing in my reading life at a steady rate!

How about you? How are you doing in your reading life? Are you doing any challenges, and if so, how are they going? You can always leave a comment with a blog post link so I can come read about your progress!

This Year in Our Home School: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 4

Welcome back to my series on AmblesideOnline Year 4 and how we are implementing the curriculum in our homeschool this year. In this final post I am going to write about how I have scheduled subjects and a little about how this works in our daily routine.

Before I get any farther with that, however, I want to emphasize that currently our daily routine is quite fluid. Some days we get everything done more quickly than I expect. Other days are a slog. Many times we have to move things around to make room for outings, grocery runs or appointments. Since we aren’t in any kind of co-op at this time, we have a lot of flexibility, and I LOVE that about our homeschool life!

I also should point out that my daughter is still only 4 years old (turning 5 next month, though!), and I do just a light preschool lesson with her 3-4 days a week. That generally happens while my son is doing this independent work. If you want me to write more about that, I can, but it really is just a few minutes of learning a different letter of the alphabet (weekly-ish), reading some Mother Goose and a folk or fairy tale, and going through a lesson from MEP’s Reception Year math.

In making my son’s schedule, I try to take into account the recommended time allotted in the PNEU’s programs for Form II. I also do my best to switch up subjects so that we don’t do too many challenging books on the same day or have several reading-narrating sessions back to back. Ok, with all that said, let’s look at our “ideal” day AO Year 4 schedule!

AmblesideOnline Year 4

Again, let me reiterate that we do not follow this schedule to a T every day, or every week. In fact, I need to point out that we are not even doing Latin at all this year. But when I made out this plan in the fall I thought we might. So it’s there—just in case sometime I get a crazy idea and decide to add it in anyway! Also, my son has some very bad feelings about Swedish Drill at this point, so when I do actually remember to get some movement into our school time, it almost always looks like doing a Cosmic Kids yoga video on YouTube or freestyle dancing to our composer of the term. Nobody’s perfect, so that’s what actually happens here, in spite of what the schedule says!

Morning Time has evolved in our homeschool, changing a little every year. Currently we are doing Morning Time at the breakfast table as soon as I’m done eating. This is what we do:

  • read a chapter of whatever book of the Bible we are reading together for devotions,
  • read about one country highlighted in the Voice of the Martyrs Global Prayer Guide,
  • pray our prayer of the month and for the persecuted church,
  • work through our Scripture memory cards,
  • sing our hymn of the month,
  • recite our poetry selections,
  • sing our folk song of the month,
  • read a poem or two from our current poetry book,
  • practice our skip counting,
  • work on a Spanish lesson, and
  • do a piano theory activity from my son’s piano curriculum.

As you can see, this packs quite a punch in our school day and squeezes a lot of subject material and goodness into a relatively small amount of time. After Morning Time, my son does his morning routine of chores, personal hygiene and piano practice. When that’s finished he comes back to the table for a brief math lesson with me before completing his practice page on his own. Copywork and one reading for the day are also done during this independent work time. When we are both done with our other morning tasks, we come back together for the remainder of the day’s lessons and finish in time for lunch.

If we are pressed for time, I will often hand off another reading assignment for my son to do on his own in the car while we drive somewhere or in his room while I do whatever else I needed to do. By the end of the year, my goal is to have him reading 2 assignments a day and only reading one thing aloud. But we are easing into that gradually.

I think that’s about it….at least it seems like a lot of caveats and details for one post! Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

This Year in Our Homeschool: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 3

This week I am continuing my series on our current homeschool year using the AmblesideOnline curriculum. I meant to have this post ready to go last week, but I went to the Nashville Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention and was too busy to actually write it until now. (By the way, if you have a chance to attend a TTD conference near you, definitely go! I was so encouraged!) So here we are at last, adding a little more information about what supplemental resources I am using with AO Year 4.

Supplemental Resources for Year 4

  • MathMEP and Khan Academy
    • We have been using MEP math since Year 1, and I am still firm in my appreciating on this curriculum. It teaches concepts in a different way than I learned them, which is sometimes a challenge for me. But it is strong in the problem solving, logic and mental math skills that I wish I had had growing up. This year we started into long division, which was discouraging for my son. So when he started struggling, we slowed down a bit and added in one day a week doing some review work on Khan Academy, just for a change of pace and something to remind him that he can do math and have fun!
  • Artist Study–picture study aids from A Humble Place
    • We are using the AO art rotation again this year, and I have found Rebecca’s resources a nice supplement to looking at the pictures every week. She has a brief biographical sketch about each artist, along with some information or things to look for in each painting. Also, if you are unfamiliar with how to do a Charlotte Mason style picture study, she always includes that information at the beginning of each artist packet. Best of all, she makes these PDFs free of charge!
  • Art Lessons–Brushwork and What to Draw
    • This year I wanted something that would lend some loose structure to our art lessons because what I have tried over the past couple of years has not really worked out that well. I found two lovely vintage books to start with and will likely add more as we finish these. The first is Brushwork by Marion Hudson, which gives several simple layouts for practicing brush forms with watercolors. The second is What to Draw and How to Draw It by Edwin George Lutz. This is really just an old-fashioned version of a step-by-step drawing book, but the vintage pictures are fun to copy, and the kids have both enjoyed making their own creations using these instructions as a jumping off point.
  • SpanishPoco a Poco and Duolingo
    • The last two years we have used Song School Spanish from Classic Academic Press, but this year I wanted to try something a little more conversational. I found an other free resource in the public domain Spanish text book Poco A Poco, as well as the Teacher’s Manual for said text book. We are going through it very slowly, but so far I am liking it. We also continue to use the Duolingo app for practice one day a week.
  • GrammarWinston Grammar (Basic level)
    • In my previous post in this series, I mentioned that grammar lessons were new for us this year. While I was at the Teach Them Diligently conference, I visited the Home Works book sellers and stumbled upon a Winston Grammar kit. I looked up some reviews on the AO forum and elsewhere and decided to give it a shot. We’ve only done one lesson so far, but I’m looking forward to getting farther into the method!

Whew! That ended up being a bit longer than I had expected! I hope that some of this information has helped you if you are planning for AO Year 4. I will be back again soon with an outline of our current schedule/routine and how it is working out so far this year.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” Book Review

Spring, the Fence – Václav Brožík

Over the weekend I had the entertaining experience of listening to an audio dramatization of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. This comedic play was first performed in 1895, and it is a hilarious satirical commentary on Victorian social customs, especially regarding love and marriage. I chose this as my 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and it also fills the Satire spot in The Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge. (They will be going through this book on the podcast very soon, so I wanted to get it read before then.)

The version I listened to was done by LA Theater Works, and it was a delightful performance. There is hardly a really serious line in the whole play, but the actors delivered their lines as if all was deadly serious, which made it even more hilarious. I could totally see how Wilde’s work in this play paved the way for P. G. Wodehouse, especially in the opening scene with the banter between Algernon and his butler/valet. It definitely reminded me of Bertie Wooster talking with Jeeves. Then, of course, there is the Shakespearean element of mistaken identities causing problems between lovers, which is always entertaining.

Some people would perhaps find the situation unbelievably over-the-top silly, but I think that is what makes Wilde’s commentary work so well. He makes some serious jabs at social conventions, but it is done in such a ridiculous manner that you can’t help but laugh. Of course, if I were in Wilde’s original Victorian era audience, maybe I wouldn’t have thought it quite so funny as I do as a modern!

“The Circular Staircase” Book Review

After a couple of unexpected weeks away from the blog, I’m back this week with a couple of classic book reviews for you! I will also be continuing my AmblesideOnline Year 4 series very soon, I promise! But first, here is my review of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase.

I chose this classic mystery novel as my “Genre Classic” for the 2020 Back to the Classics Challenge, and I am so glad I did. I have read one other book by this author, Tish, and I hope to read more of her work in the future because her books are just plain fun. Mary Roberts Rinehart was the American predecessor to Agatha Christie, and although she is not as well known today, her detective fiction was quite popular during her lifetime. She had several books adapted for the stage and screen and even wrote a few plays of her own.

The Circular Staircase was Rinehart’s first published novel, and the mystery is told from the perspective of Rachel Innes, spinster aunt and guardian to her young adult niece and nephew Gertrude and Halsey. When a murder takes place in the house they are renting for the summer, Miss Innes and her wards find themselves at the center of an investigation and potential victims, as well. Of course, in the end, all the suspenseful twists and turns of the story are explained, and the truth of the murder and all the other odd occurrences at the residence are laid to rest.

All in all, even if it is not the most literary of detective novels, The Circular Staircase is an enjoyable read, full of the tense moments and curious clues you would expect of a classic mystery. I did have a little trouble at time keeping up with the cast of characters, but that may be in part because I was bouncing back and forth between reading and listening to the book. I also do feel the need to point out that this book is a product of its era, and as such, uses some vocabulary in reference to African Americans that would not be considered appropriate today. With those caveats, I otherwise highly recommend The Circular Staircase for anyone looking for a light classic mystery to wind down with at the end of the day.

Until next time, happy reading!