Thursday, July 31, 2014

Literature List for 7th/9th

My kids love books, but they approach them in very different ways.

 Typical random pile-o-books at the Sparklee household

Super enjoys fiction, especially stories with animals as characters.  Her early independent reading started with Thornton Burgess animal stories, Bill Wallace books and the Akimbo series by Alexander McCall Smith.  Later she blazed through the Warriors and Seekers series and even started writing her own animal adventure stories.

At the moment she is reading the Wildwood series, which is penned by Colin Meloy, the lead singer of the Decemberists.  How cool is that?  She really enjoys this series--sometimes I have to insist that she stop reading and go to bed!  

Dude is more of a just-the-facts-ma'am reader.  While he will happily listen to me read fiction for hours (and in fact is always the first to suggest a family read-aloud session) when he picks up a book on his own, it's going to be nonfiction.  

 One of Dude's favorites

Dude has always preferred nonfiction to fiction, and these days he prefers to get his information from electronic sources.  He's a wellspring of facts that you didn't even know you didn't know, mostly from YouTube channels like Vsauce, Minutephysics, and Mental Floss.

Finishing these to wrap up last year's WWII Unit Study

I'm thrilled that he loves collecting arcane knowledge, and I know videos can be very educational but...

There is something about really getting into a book--a real, paper-and-ink book--that just can't be replaced by any technology.

And I believe there is immense value in reading fiction, too.  Not just any fiction, but fiction that deals with big themes, fiction that makes you think, fiction that teaches important lessons about life.

I think it's reasonable for a 7th grader to read at least a novel a month, and that's the goal I'm setting for Dude.  He'll be keeping an independent reading journal for his own choices and doing a variety of projects based on the books I assign to him.

One of our many packed bookshelves

There's no shortage of great YA literature.  The hard part is choosing what to read and when.  So here is our tentative book list for the 2014-15 school year:


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen 
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Animal Farm by George Orwell
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 Requested by the kids because they loved Chains

The last three books on the list are part of Oak Meadow's 9th grade Intro to Literature and Composition curriculum.  We are using Oak Meadow for the base of Super's high school English, with some supplemental reading and writing projects.

 This is a new one for me, highly recommended by Dad

Dude will read from the same book list, with the possible addition of the Artemis Fowl series for his independent reading.

As always, we will open our school day with a poem, but this year I won't be choosing all the poems.  I want the kids to take turns choosing their own favorites to share.  

 Trying to overcome my "fear" of poetry

I've always loved poetry but I'm also a little intimidated by it, so I've chosen some fun and approachable sources for this year's poetry reading.


all the small poems and fourteen more by Valerie Worth
Pug and Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth
Poetry Speaks: Who I Am edited by Elise Paschen
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman
The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear 

 Valerie Worth and Mary Oliver, accessible and not a bit scary

We'll read nonfiction related to Super's Thinkwell Biology I course and whatever history topic the kids decide to jump into.  (We're about halfway through Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, but we're reading it in small doses because the kids find it so sad.)  I'll also save interesting news and opinion pieces from a variety of sources, and I just subscribed to Cicada and Dig so hopefully the kids will find those interesting as well. 

I'm sure we will add to and edit our reading lists as we discover great new literature during the year.  We are looking forward to lots of great reading!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big Picture, Small Picture

If you slow down...

...and stop and look...

...and really pay attention... never know...

...what you might see. 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gearing Up for High School (And by the way, we're still here...)

What?!  A new Karmamatopoeia post?  I know, crazy, right?  

We're still here, still homeschooling, and I still need to be three people to do it all as well as I'd like, but I'm determined to get back to my long-neglected blog.  I've missed the regular journaling, I've missed having a record of our school activities, and I've really, really missed keeping up with all my blog buddies! 

 Summer daisies in full bloom

I'm setting an intention here.  (That's a new thing I'm working on--setting intentions.)  Watch for more posts and we'll see how well it goes, but my intention is to revive this blog and post, oh, let's say once a week.

So here's our super-quick update.  2013 was rough.  I will be honest.  Life was stressful, work was intense and home was very neglected.  It was enough to drive a person who struggles mightily with perfectionist tendencies over the edge (not that I know anyone like that.)

 Nature hike discovery: dragonfly emerging from nymph stage

So we're starting the 2014 school year "behind schedule."  And also ahead of schedule.  We didn't finish our math curriculum, we only read half of our book list, etc.  But the kiddos also learned very important lessons about independent learning, being responsible for themselves, and picking up the slack when Mom and Dad are overwhelmed.  Good life lessons.  

We can always catch up in academics.  Or not--the world won't end if we don't finish that book list!

Feeding lorikeets at the zoo

Daughter Super will officially start 9th grade soon, and son Dude is technically in 7th but he's all over the map academically and will likely do much of Super's 9th grade curriculum with her.  

The kids have always preferred to school together, even though their styles are very different.  Girl wants silence, boy wants music.  Girl hyperfocuses and hates distractions, boy jumps up every few minutes and walks around humming and thinking (yet somehow always manages to complete his work before I'm ready for the next thing.)  

I can't convince them to do different things at different times or to do their work in different rooms--they absolutely insist on sitting together and working together even while driving each other crazy!  
Home-grown mint makes delightful mint lemonade

I'm spending the next few days finalizing our official high school plans.  Most of it is in my head but not on paper, virtual or otherwise, and I really like to see things written down, even if it's constantly getting revised.  I'm a planner.  Plans make me feel secure.  I'm working on the other half of that equation, which is being flexible and letting go of plans when life intervenes.  

 Independence day celebration with friends, food, and fireworks

We'll start school soon, maybe even this week if the kids' social schedule will allow a couple of days of "book work" as we call it.  Dude has been pestering me to get started--he tells me he's had a nice, long break with plenty of swimming, playing video games, and watching stupid videos on YouTube, and is ready to get back to academics.  That's my boy!

Hope you are all having a great summer (or winter, for you southern hemisphere homeschoolers.)  I can't wait to visit your blogs and catch up with your latest adventures!