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Dickens for Christmas

I have mentioned before that I like to read Charles Dickens at Christmas time.  I’ve also mentioned that for the past couple of years, I’ve included the Littles in my Dickens reading.  We read A Christmas Carol together 2 years ago, and last year we read Oliver Twist.  This year, they are on a slightly darker kick, and they’ve decided that after we finish Something Wicked This Way Comes this week, they want to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I’m down with that.  Too many people don’t get the opportunity to read that book and take all their impressions of it from the various movies out there (my favorite of which is Mary Reilly).  So I’m thrilled the Littles want to read it now.

Dude, shave that crazy beard

Dude, shave that crazy beard

But I still have to read Dickens for Christmas.  One thing I’ve learned in the last two years is that I enjoy reading Dickens slowly.  A chapter a day?  I think I can hold myself to that.  So I started David Copperfield this morning.  Slipping into a Dickens novel is like sliding on your favorite, old, worn pair of blue jeans for me.  I’ve read A Lot of his books, several of them (think Great Expectations) many, many times.  But I’ve never read David Copperfield, believe it or not.  So I’m very excited to read this one.  Of course, I know the story.  But it’s kind of like if you’ve seen those stupid Hunger Games movies… Ugh! the books are infinitely better.  I’ll put it this way… I’ve read the Hunger Games series twice.  It is literally in my top 3 favorite trilogies of all time.  But I stopped watching the movies after the second one.  Truth?  I only watched the second one to see if they did something to make up for all the enormous gaffs in the first one.  They didn’t.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

But don’t let me step up on that soapbox.  I might never come down.

My point is that reading the book is Always Always Better.  You know that, right?  So I’m really excited to be reading David Copperfield.  So excited that maybe, yeah, it’s going to be Very Difficult to stick to a chapter a day.

The thing about reading a chapter a day, whether it’s aloud in your homeschool or on your own, is that you are better able to savor what’s happening in the book.  If you know me, you know I read roughly 3-5 books per week.  I have since I was 5.  I love books.  I love stories.  I find the oddest times to read.  I listen to books on my Kindle when I’m driving.  I’m not kidding; I can’t remember the last time I heard music.  I listen to books when I’m cooking.  I sneak out of the house when it’s all rowdy and testerone-filled and go sit in the woods and read.  I read while I’m in my deer stand, waiting for deer to show up.  I literally Cannot Go To Sleep if I don’t at least read a couple pages in bed.  If I have a morning when I don’t have to be up moving and Martin gets up before me, I read in secret while everyone thinks I’m asleep.  See why I might have trouble sticking to a chapter a day?  I may have to read two books at once for the next 2 months.  Or maybe I’ll finish this one and read Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities again.

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Ever read A Tale of Two Cities?  Wow.  Excellent stuff.

Wait.  Where was I?  Oh, savoring your book.  Dickens’ writing style can be difficult, especially for early readers and people who haven’t spent a lot of time with the classics.  We don’t talk that way anymore, and in this world of instant gratification, we definitely don’t write that way anymore.  Sentences that have more than 40 words?  Not just a couple of them, but most of them!  Yeah, we don’t have the attention span for it these days, do we?  Remeber, when Dickens was writing, there were no TVs, no internet, no social media with its limited characters.  Books were the most highly valued form of entertainment.  That’s why the classics are the best kind to read.  They don’t just rush through the story with as much action as possible.  They help you think a bit more about life, they slow you down.  So savoring them makes them all the sweeter.

If you are tackling a classic novel with your littles, be it The Secret Garden or Black Beauty or The Grapes of Wrath, going slowly and discussing Everything is the best way to make sure they’re following.  Reading the book twice within a few years (as we have done with Something Wicked) can help your child catch things he may not have fully understood the first time around.  If you’re reading by yourself and I’ve convinced you to delve into the world of Dickens, a chapter a day can give you time to think about what you’ve read, mull it over, and come to a deeper understanding.  And to email me, maybe, if you’re lost and need an explanation.  I’m pretty good at those.  When I’m not rambling.

David Copperfield

Come on, read David Copperfield with me.  It’ll be fun.  I Swear.

If I didn’t give you anything useful today, I apologize fully.  I realize I rabbit-trailed through this entire post and I’m totally owning it.  Okay, so I don’t apologize.  Sometimes I just like to let you in on what I’m thinking.

Love wins,


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25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 7 Winter

omvcxIt’s sweltering outside.  But at least it’s not raining, right?  Nevertheless, I’m doing that weird human thing where in the midst of the season I was praying for in January I am looking forward to the cool-off.  Why can’t we just be happy with what we have?  Well, I don’t know.  Sometimes it’s too hot and sometimes it’s too cold and sometimes it’s too wet and sometimes it’s too dry… We don’t live on a perfect planet.  And that’s okay.  Because it gives us something to look forward to.  In honor of that, today’s book recommendations are going to be good additions to a winter study.  The season, ice, snow, snowflakes, hibernation and other animal habits–all of those things make great science studies.  So how about a little literature to go along with it?


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

My favorite thing about winter is the very first snowfall.  I don’t care if it happens in the daytime or the dark of night, I always go for a walk in it and listen to the hush of it, the silence of the earth as it welcomes the flakes, the stillness that happens at no other time, ever.  I always take these walks by myself.  Later, after the snow has really accumulated, that’s the time for Littles.  The Snowy Day is about that littles’ time.   It’s about a little boy’s day in the snow, and the wonder he encounters in a totally transformed city.  You’ve probably read it.  Read it again.  It’s a great celebration of the winter season.


The Mitten by Jan Brett

I’m totally smitten with The Mitten.   (Like how I did that?)  This story is not only a good winter tale, it’s a wonderful reminder to share and be good to others. As all the animals pile one after another into a single mitten, your little will giggle and wonder how they all fit.  And when a sneeze tumbles them all out into the snow, you’re sure to get an outright laugh.  Brett’s wonderful illustrations are heartwarming, helping to keep the chill off of this wintry tale.


A Bird in Winter by Stepanie Girel and Helene Kerillis

This book combines two of my favorite things–Literature and great art.  It’s based on Pieter Breugel’s painting The Hunters in the Snow.  The premise is that of a young girl who nurses an injured bird back to health.  It is also a good introduction to the Renaissance and to Breugel’s artwork.  If you don’t know Breugel, he was a Renaissance painter from the Netherlands who was known for his landscapes, especially peasant scenes.  I have long been fascinated with his work because it is so simple and true.  The book contains a reproduction of the original, a picture of which I’m posting below.  Because it’s amazing.

hunters in the snow

Frost (Book 1 of the Frost Chronicles) by Kate Avery Ellison

Frost is the first book in a superb YA series set in a world that is entirely immersed in winter.  Monsters lurk in the wintry woods, and Lia, the protagonist, has to discover their secrets in order to protect her younger sister and her crippled brother.  When her sister discovers a fascinating stranger who needs their help, Lia is forced to go against everything she has ever been taught to keep them all out of danger.  Listen, there are 5 books in this series, and every single one of them is worth the read.  Each book has its own twists and turns and the overall story is well-planned.  Full of action, romance, and mystery, I think it will suck in any teen you gift it to.  Oh, and it’s about winter.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Well.  I had to include Dickens.  You’re not really surprised, are you?  (And The Shining by Stephen King .might not really be appropriate here.)  I know, I know, there are about 10 million films out there based on it, including a Muppet version, and you’ve seen them all.  It. Is. Not. The. Same.  Even the Littles agreed that reading it exceeded watching it on film a million times over.  Since it is set at Christmastime, every scene is in winter. And it’s Dickens.  So you can’t beat it.  Read it.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Set in Russia, Tolstoy’s epic novel of love gone wrong (and right) is a long read, but well worth it.  It’s at the top of my list of all-time faves because of its close look at Russian classes and life and the numerous story lines that tie together and unravel so beguilingly.  Believe me, in the end Anna isn’t even the star of the story, though she is, perhaps, the most tragic part.

Even if you’re just craving a cool-off right now, all of these books are excellent for bringing winter into your mind so that you can almost feel it.

Now if you can excuse me, I’m going to go get in the pool. And pretend I’m a polar bear.  In the Arctic.

Love wins,


Day One: Donkeys             Day Two: Summer            Day Three: Water

Day Four: Insects              Day Five: Owls                 Day Six: Bears