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25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool Day 3: Water

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We haven’t seen the sun here in 2 weeks or more.  I am not exaggerating–it has rained at least a little every day, and there has been no blue sky to speak of.  It is a strange thing indeed to be feeling the onset of winter blues in the middle of summer.  Normally, we would be at the beginning of our summer drought–a period of about 2 months when we pray for rain.  Not this year.  This year we have flash flood watches every day.  Our yard is starting to resemble a jungle because even when it’s not raining, the grass is too wet to mow. We’ve only been able to get in the pool once in the last two weeks and it spilled over the edges when we added our bodies to it because it is overfull.  It. Is. Wet.  So I thought it appropriate for our books today to be about water.  All kinds of water.  Because, come on, we’re drowning here anyway!

There are so many different ways to teach about water.  Pond studies, river studies, ocean studies, rain cycle studies…  I could probably keep listing, but you get the picture.  With that in mind, here are several books you can use to add literature to a few different types of water study.

Water Dance by Thomas Locker

We love this book.  It takes you through all of water’s paths in non-rhyming verse, using delicious words like sparkling, plunging, roaring, glistening, and spiraling.  The watercolor illustrations are so yummy you will fall in love with water all over again, be it in the form of rain, mist, mountain stream, or the sea.  This book is excellent, and I do mean Excellent, for helping to introduce the water cycle to your littles.  It gives them a visual for just about everything water goes through on our lovely planet.
The Water Hole by Graeme Base

This book does many things–it’s a counting book and a puzzle book, and at first glance you might think it suitable only for the very young.  But the illustrations are Absolutely Gorgeous, and it reminds littles of just how many species depend on water and what might happen if that water disappears. If you are studying ponds or other types of water holes, or if you are studying our dwindling freshwater supply, this book will make a good addition.  Plus, you can get this super-awesome coloring book to go with it.
Amos & Boris by William Steig

Another brilliant book by Steig, this one is about a mouse who falls overboard in the ocean and is rescued by a whale.  It’s a true lesson in kindness and helping one’s fellow… mammal.  In pure Steig style, there’s plenty of high sea adventure, and eventually our little mouse gets to repay his big friend’s favor.  This one would be a fun addition to any ocean study.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

This brilliantly uplifting adventure is sure to please any little.  Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Karana, a native Californian who lives alone for 18 years on an island in the Pacific Ocean.  In true Robinson Crusoe fashion, she makes a home for herself and builds a life.  So many things to learn from this book, I can’t even list them.  Speaking of Crusoe,
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Another tale of survival on an isolated island, this book also has a lot of chapters about the ocean itself–its dangers, its beauties, how a person can fall in love with it and want to live on it.  It’s one of our favorite books because it is so full of adventure and truly sound ideas for surviving on one’s own.  It would be a brilliant addition to an ocean study.
Downriver by Will Hobbs

If you’re studying rivers, this adventurous tale about a group of teens who steal a raft and take off down the Colorado River will be a good addition.  There are wonderful descriptions of the river and the Grand Canyon, and lots of lessons about life and growth in this one.  Even if you have a reluctant reader, this one is sure to please.

Learning about water and all its guises can make for a long lesson.  Give that lesson a bit of fun with one or more of these books, and your little will remember what he’s learned as he relates it to the literature.  You can’t beat that.

Oh, and maybe could you do a sun dance for me?

Love wins,

KT

Day One: Donkeys

Day Two: Summer

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 2 Summer

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This post contains affiliate links

Ah, summer.  That golden time when the clock seems to slow, the morning brightens earlier, the night darkens later, and the day is filled with so much possibility we feel we might burst.  It is like that for littles, and it is like that for us as adults.  School gets a little lazier.  The rules ease up a bit.  There is fun to be had, and we are going to have it.

Learning about what makes summer Summer–which hemisphere it is visiting and what the sun and the earth are doing to cause it–is an eye-opener for most littles.  All they know is that suddenly it is warm enough to play outside every day, even in the rain, and the swimming pools are open, and popsicles are sweeter on the tongue when you’re sweating buckets.  A good lesson about summer might include what animals are lurking about that we don’t see in winter, what insects are taking our breath with their beauty or just flat annoying us, what the trees are doing to cause All That Green.  And of course, we must have books to help us celebrate.  Here’s a short list of books you can include to help your littles get the full effect of marvelous, magical summer.
Frog and Toad-The Complete Collection by Arnold Lobel

Thank you, Arnold Lobel.  These stories and their illustrations are so lyrical and daydream-inducing.  They make me want to be a toad.  They probably fostered my love of amphibians.  There are several stories here that encompass summer and will leave your littles hankering to get outside and explore.  Summer and The Garden spring immediately to mind.  If you have any of these books on hand, definitely add them to your lessons about summer.  They will show littles a bit of what summer is about, and the stories always drive home the value of true friendship.
Georgia Music by Helen V. Griffith

This book.  This one.  The watercolor illustrations capture a southern summer so gorgeously your little will get lost in them (and so will you).  The story, about a little girl who spends a summer in Georgia with her grandfather and learns the music of nature as well as the music he makes on his mouth organ, will melt your heart.  When her grandfather is forced by old age to move up north with the girl and her mother, he misses the Georgia music terribly.  So the little girl plays a mouth organ to recreate the sounds he misses and eases his heart.  Beautiful.  The bonus is the reminder to your child to listen to the crickets and the frogs and the birds and all the stunning music in her own backyard.

 

Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee

This brightly-colored book tells of an entire summer day and night through the eyes of a little girl who is looking to entertain herself.  The gentle rhyme of the book adds to the lazy, summer-time feel.  She goes on a picnic, takes a swim, sips lemonade, and catches a butterfly.  She sees an owl and hears a frog.  There are lots of reminders about how cool it is to be outside in summer and what your little might run into if he gets out there.  Lots of fun.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I know, I recommend this book For Everything.  But come on, what better summer novel is there?  I mean, ever?  The scene where Atticus has to take care of the diseased dog pops into my head any time I hear the phrase ‘dog days.’  Jem and Scout playing with Dill in the backyard?  Um, hello!  Summer!  I’ve sung the praises of the many lessons of this book many times over, especially in my favorite characters posts, so all I’ll say here is that it is a truly amazing addition to any lesson plan, and it would certainly help put your littles in the summertime mood.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Hello, more frogs and toads.  And water rats and badgers and moles and a variety of other animals to befriend.  This book not only opens up the imagination to summer, it gives you a great jumping-off place for an animal study.  The whole world of the animals is centered around a river, which gives you an opening for a water study.  The story is magical–again about the value of friendship–but also funny and entertaining.  You can’t really go wrong with this gem.
Watership Down by Richard Adams

Another of my all-time faves, Watership Down is an engaging story about a group of rabbits who venture away from their warren to find a new home.  A good way to teach your kids about courage and doing what’s right as well as about loyalty, this book is one adventure after another.  It makes a wonderful read-aloud.  My Littles loved it from the first page to the last and still create games around the story (we read it together 3 years ago).  It gives an insightful look at both the habits of animals and human nature that will stay with your littles for a long time to come.  In fact, my entire extended family still says that someone has ‘gone tharn’ when they are shocked or frightened into stillness.  Read the book.  You’ll get it.

I just have to say here, that even if you aren’t studying summer, read all these books with your littles.  At least 4 of them make it on my top 20 list.  Maybe even top 10.  And you know as well as I do that my list of favorite books is probably thousands-long, so that is really saying something.

Love wins,

KT

If you’re looking for a way to add lit to lessons about donkeys and you missed that post, take a look at Day One.

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 1 Donkeys

 

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Adding Literature to your daily lessons is super easy to do.  A good story can be such a marvelous addition to anything you’re teaching your littles about.  It doesn’t matter if you have primary, middle, or high school level littles, studies have shown that the brain doesn’t make too much differentiation between reading about an experience and Actually Experiencing it.  Which means that an interesting tale can help subject matter stick with your littles for the long haul.  Yet another excellent reason to encourage reading in your homeschool.

I’m starting out this series with donkeys for a variety of reasons, none of them having anything to do with how important donkeys are. 🙂  Mostly just because one of my all-time favorite picture books features a donkey, but also because in the freebies section of this site there’s a free Animal Study worksheet that will go well with these book suggestions.  So without further ado, here are some great books for your littles to read while they’re studying donkeys.

 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

I’ve mentioned William Steig before–he wrote one of my favorite chapter books for littles, Abel’s Island.  Sylvester’s story is very sweet and a good lesson about being careful what you wish for.  The drawings are simple and colorful and the writing is exemplary.  I have many fond memories of pulling this book off the shelf as a child and getting lost in its pages.  Perhaps it doesn’t really teach anything about donkeys.  Who cares?  It is a beautiful tale your littles will thoroughly enjoy, and it will remind them to be grateful for what they have.

 

  The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith

This is a great read-aloud for littles, with lots of wordplay and hilarity.  The watercolor pictures are soft and lovely, but the depictions of the donkey and the various things that make him wonky are hilarious.  The book comes with a free downloadable song of the story, so that’s something great to get stuck in your head. 🙂  It also provides a lesson on diversity and how being different is a quality we all have and that is not a bad thing.

Donkey-donkey by Roger Duvoisin

This is the story of a donkey who is embarrassed by his ears.  All the other farm animals have beautiful ears; why do his have to be so long?  He sets about following the advice of his animal friends in order to solve his problem (reminiscent of Leo the Lop by Stephen Cosgrove, another all-time fave of mine.  In fact, I have a lop-eared rabbit named Leo).  But when a little girl comes to the farm and admires the donkey’s long ears, he is given a new-found confidence.  The simple pen-and-ink drawings are entertaining and the lesson about loving yourself for who you are is priceless.

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

No way can we talk about donkeys here without mentioning Eeyore, the all-time best donkey ever.  Any of Milne’s collections will have him in them, but my favorite Eeyore story is in this one.  If you have littles that love the Disney version, go ahead and find a Disney picture book about Eeyore.  But if you really want to them to know this loveable guy, go for the original.  Lots of lessons here about learning to recognize when people love you and dropping the soul-sucking pessimism.  Plus, he’s just plain Funny!
Teeny Tiny Ernest by Laura T. Barnes

Here’s another tale about loving yourself for who you are (why are donkeys so good for that?!).  In this one, Ernest gets up to all kinds of hijinks while trying to impress his friends with his height.  Of course, he is not tall, so he doesn’t fool anybody.  Soon he realizes that he’s the only one who notices his size–all his friends like him for who he is, not what he looks like.  Another wonderful lesson, told in a fun, engaging way.  Ernest has a whole series of books, too, if your little falls in love with him like we have.
The Last Battle (Book 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis

This final chapter in the Narnia books stars Puzzle the donkey as one of the antagonists.  Puzzle is a bit dense but has a good heart.  He is the faithful sidekick of Shift, an ape who has it out for the Narnians.  Shift manipulates Puzzle into carrying out his orders, including risking his life to steal the skin of a lion from the Caldron Pool, then wearing it to imitate Aslan.  In the end, Puzzle does what is right and, after a short conversation with Aslan, is admitted into Aslan’s country.  As in all the Narnia books, there are lots of lessons here about how to be a good person, but particularly in Puzzle’s case, how to think for oneself and not allow peer pressure to influence decisions.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

This is one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays and Bottom, whose head gets transformed into that of a donkey’s by Puck, is the funniest character.  He is silly and foolish, and nothing about his antics ever really redeems him.  It makes this a great play with which to introduce your littles to Shakespeare.  Plus, I’m pretty sure you can get it for free on Kindle or you can read it online for free here.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

You can’t have a group of political farm animals without including a stubborn donkey.  In fact, Benjamin the Donkey is so stubborn he absolutely refuses to get excited about the rebellion.  He is the oldest animal on the farm and kind of an Eeyore with a brain.  Very cynical.  Because he is longer-lived than the other animals, he sees the rebellion and the new regime as passing fads.  He’s pretty sure he’s going to live to see what comes next, so he just can’t drum up any enthusiasm for all the plots and machinations.  He’s one of my favorite characters simply for his detached amusement about all the goings-on.

Pick one or more of these books to add to a class about donkeys and you’re sure to perk up your littles’ interest.  Even just reading excerpts from the chapter books or the play can give your child a little insight into what we humans think of the donkey’s character.  Silly, foolish, stubborn, fiercely loyal… Yeah, that describes our donkey, too. 🙂

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Love wins,

KT

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Dystopia

I’ve been on a real lit kick this week, I know, but I am, after all, the Lit Mama.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about summer reading and even though we’re spending our summer with the folks from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are so many options to choose from.

One of my favorite genres is YA Dystopia, mostly because I like reading about regular people who fight so “a man can stand up.”  But I’ve read Dystopia meant for all ages, so why YA?  Because the emotions in YA books are so much fresher and more raw than in books intended for adults.  Here you have this person who barely knows who he or she is and suddenly he/she has to save the world.  Well, why not?  What better way to get to know yourself? hahaaa  Besides, this is a summer reading list for your teen or tween, not for a Grown Up.  (Although you should definitely be the kind of grown-up who reads them, too.)  Also, the heroes are strong females as often as, if not more often than, males.  And we can always use more strong females to look up to.

Some of the greats

The very first Dystopian novel I ever remember reading was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Not really written for YA, though it is often included on lists.  I would recommend it for older teens because there is some pretty adult content.  This book, which I have read multiple times, is one of the greats.  It tells the story of Offred (Of-fred), who used to have a normal life with a husband and daughter and money of her own.  Until a totalitarian theocracy overthrows the U.S. government, subjugates all women, and turns their lives into a living hell of existing solely for the purpose of serving men.  The chilling thing about this story is that, of course, the protagonist’s name isn’t Really Offred.  It was changed when she was assigned to be the baby-maker for Commander Fred and his wife.  Because his wife is there to serve him in other capacities.  Offred is the brood mare.  Even scarier is the way the new government took power from women with a single swipe.  Offred goes to the store one day to buy something and her money card has been wiped clean.  She has no cash because people don’t use cash anymore.  It is her first clue that life is about to go terribly wrong.  I shudder when I think of it.  How many of us rely on our debit cards daily and therefore would be powerless if the government decided to shut them down and take our money?  Oh, the genius of Margaret Atwood.  It’s terrifying how quickly the government cuts women off from all independence and then sends them to camp to be indoctrinated. This book always reminds me to be careful of my own independence, to guard it with sharp teeth and claws.  Because I love my husband, but I am the subject of no man.

It was later, somehow, that I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  I spoke about the protagonist,  Guy Montag, in my 20 Fave Male Characters for People Under 20.   In this novel, “firemen” who work for the government burn books in the name of public happiness.  Any book not approved by the government is against the law.  The firemen raid houses and burn the books, and sometimes the houses, and sometimes the perpetrators along with everything else.  Guy is thrown into shock and confusion when a woman chooses to burn with her books rather than live without them.  At the same time, he meets a teenage girl named Clarisse whose views about the world make him question the way of things even further.  So one night during a raid, he steals a book.  And the fit hits the shan.  The intriguing part of the plot is the way Bradbury shows–through Montag’s wife and her friends–that with the condemnation of books and ensuing reliance on technology and media, people have quit thinking for themselves.  They have no opinions, because they have nothing, really, to opine about.  Again, a delicious shudder runs through me.  Don’t give up your books.  Don’t stop thinking.  Don’t stop asking questions.  Don’t rely on television for our information because it doesn’t truly give you any.

What turned me on to the YA genre here in the last decade was, of course, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  In Colliins’ truly terrifying world, kids are enlisted from the 12 colonies left in the U.S. to participate in a yearly murder fest.  They go to an arena, 12 males and 12 females, and they basically fight to the death.  Only one person can win.  Katniss Everdeen ends up as part of the Games when her little sister gets picked to participate.  Without forethought, Katniss volunteers to take her place.  And turns this awful, Dystopian, totalitarian world on its head.  Kids killing each other for entertainment just so the government can prove who is in control?  Somebody better do something, is all I can say.  Talk about complacence.  There is so much depth in these novels that got chucked out for the movies.  I would like to put the people who made the films in their own Hunger Games.  How can you leave the heart out of a story and still call it good?  Ugh! Do Not judge this story based on the films.  Read the books.  They are truly brilliant.

I read Uglies by Scott Westerfield because my sister recommended it while I was reading The Hunger Games.  She, too, was a librarian at the time, though she has gone on to get her masters in speech pathology and now Rocks that biz.  Uglies is about Tally, a girl approaching her 16th birthday whose best friend, a boy named Peris, has already gotten an operation and moved to New Pretty Town.  New Pretty Town.  Meaning a town for new pretties where no one has any responsibilities or worries.  Because at 16, everyone in society gets an operation that turns them beautiful.  New bone structure, new skin, new… everything.  And Tally can’t wait to get her operation and join Peris.  But then she meets Shay, a girl her age who is everything Tally is not. Shay is happy with her status as an Ugly, doesn’t want the operation–in fact, she intends to run away before her birthday to join a rebellion.  On the day of Tally’s operation, she is enlisted by the government to track Shay down and lead the government to the rebellion headquarters.  If she doesn’t, the government will never let her become a Pretty.  What follows is Tally’s awakening to government control, how Pretties are kept complacent through their lack of responsibility, and how our differences are what make us beautiful, even without operations.  Definitely a good summer read for a young girl who loves adventure and maybe needs to be reminded that ugly is as ugly does.

One of my favorite Dystopian story lines is that of Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  This totalitarian government teaches that love is a disease, and there is a mandatory surgical cure performed on people when they turn 18.  Lena, the protagonist, has been just as brainwashed as everyone else by the government and believes wholeheartedly that love is a disease.  In terrible fear of catching it before her operation, she anticipates the cure with glee.  Until she meets Alex.  Alex lives outside society, has never been cured, and is part of a resistance that is not fooled by the government’s mind-control.  Of course Lena falls in love with him.  And it changes everything.  My only complaint about this series is that it has one of those mid-story changes where Lena becomes involved in a love triangle.  And I’m sorry, but if you fall in love so hard it literally changes your whole world, I just don’t think you’re going to fall that hard again any time soon.  I hate love triangles.  Writers, give us some credit.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi is the last book I’m going to talk about. Today. It is, perhaps, my favorite.  Aria lives in Reverie, a domed city which protects its citizens from Aether storms caused by catastrophic changes to Earth.  When a night of fun turns into a tragedy, Aria is banished from her home to the wastelands, where she will surely die.  In fact, if not for an Outsider named Perry, she most certainly would have died when an Aether storm popped up.  Perry is one of the people left on earth who don’t live in a dome, an Outsider, considered to be a cannibal or worse, but Aria has to rely on him to survive.  What follows is a beautiful love story and a fascinating toppling of yet another totalitarian government. The coolest part is how Perry and Aria both have these assumptions about the other based on where they lived.  As they get to know each other, they realize what we should all know.  People are people, no matter where they’re from, and we all have things in common and we all have the same joys and worries and fears.  And we’re all worthy.  And bad guys can be found just about anywhere. Good stuff.

If you have a little looking for a bit of excitement and romance this summer, or who is as fascinated by people who don’t allow the government to control them as I am, get him or her one of these books.  There are many others, but these are the ones I recommend first whenever anyone asks.  Do you have any favorites I didn’t list?  Let me know in the comments.

Love wins,

KT