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Why We Use Books More Than Tech In Our Homeschool

Just in case you didn't believe I have over 100 books about King Arthur...

My Arthurian Legends shelves in my writing building

If you ever came to my house, the first thing you would probably notice is that it’s littered with books.  I have been an avid reader since I was 4, and I like to have all the books I’ve read on hand in case I want to revisit them.  I was a librarian for years, and books became even more important to me then.  My beautiful husband teases that we should make furniture out of the books because then at least we would be able to walk through the house.  It’s not really That Bad, but only because he is constantly building me new shelves.  Also, the boxes in the closets make a handy holding place.

Okay.  It’s That Bad.

I am not ashamed.  There is far worse clutter to be had.

Bookshelf

The shelf in that pic, from our first year of homeschooling (weren’t they adorable?  They made those Native American vests and headdresses), covered a whole wall and was that full from top to bottom.  That room now has shelves all the way around it.  Because books.  Duh.

Now, my Littles know their way around a computer, a tablet, and even a smartphone.  They are Children of the Tech Age, so of course they do.  But when we are learning, be it history, language, math, or science (or any of the other weirdy things I throw in there for fun), I want them to have a Learning Experience.  I want them to be able to put their hands on the words, to feel pages beneath their fingers, to be able to use an index and a table of contents.  I love when we can open a book to a page and leave it laying there while we do the experiment or project on the page.  It’s okay if we spill flour on the book while making salt dough.  It’s fine if a beaker gets knocked over and a few drops land on the book.  We don’t have to be careful not to ruin something that will cost a couple hundred to replace.  We can have fun and be free and learn without stressing over messes.  In fact, if I find something fun to do on one of the wonderful blogs I follow, I print it out so we can just read the directions off paper.  Because no way am I putting my Kindle or my phone or my beloved laptop in the line of fire.

Sometimes we use their tablets for reading, but I don’t like it.  I want them to know the joy of turning the page.

It seems to me that while technology is a necessity in this era, it is also capable of being fleeting.  Its continued use depends on so many things.  Energy resources.  Affordability.  I mean, if the lights go out, you can still use a book, but once the battery dies, a tablet is worthless.

My main issue, though, is that a good book published by a respectable publishing house is always going to be well-researched.  When you read what’s in it, you’re going to be getting pretty close to the actual facts.  Not so the ol’ interweb.  As much as we may love it, Anybody can put Anything on the interweb.  It doesn’t make it true.  Think about that Facebook rumor that’s been going around again–the one where they’re going to start charging users.  I had 3 people come to me saying, “OMG, Is This True?!”  Um, no, no it isn’t.  What a dumb move that would be on FB’s part.  Because I don’t know about you, but I could totally live without FB, and I wouldn’t hesitate to cancel my account.

My point is that if you search China’s history on the web, you get thousands of hits and if you read through just 2-3 websites you get 2-3 different sets of dates and facts.  Which one is right?  Well, how would you know unless you spend hours doing your own research and getting it narrowed down?  I’m a homeschooler, a SAHM, a farmer, and a blogger.  I don’t have those kinds of extra hours.  But there are authors out there whose job it is to get it right and publishers who have fact checkers to make sure their authors are getting it right.  So when my kids learned about Asia this year, we took our info from these:

asia books

Okay, so we didn’t get to Australia, but that’s a whole other can of worms.  My point is that these books are pretty reliable.  Plus, they give my Littles the opportunity to get their hands on the info.  Because learning is not all visual and, let’s face it, technology is more visual than anything.  I know, you could argue that books are, too, but tech doesn’t have the same tactile effect that poring over a good book has.

Plus, books don’t make that annoying whirring sound or emit weirdy waves that interfere with your brain.  There’s a reason everything tech warns not to use it for too long or risk doing  damage to yourself.  Epileptic seizures because we played an online game for math?  Not my thing.

So I limit the tech we use in school and I limit the tech they use outside of school.  When they are grown, I want them to know how to use a freaking book.

Kind of like I don’t want cursive to be a foreign language.

Love wins,

KT

Giveaway Winners and Kindle Mania

When I tell you the story of how I got my first Kindle, you’re going to laugh at me.  Remember, I was once a librarian and I believe fully in the power of physical books, books that smell of old ink and paper, books that have been read 100s of times by other eyes, held by other hands, books that you can hug to your chest when they get really good.  I never wanted a Kindle.  I was like that guy on the bus in the commercial–proudly reading my paperback while everyone else stared at a screen.  I’m still often that girl, but I have to admit I love my Kindle.

IMG_20160318_072756906

I love the image on the start screen of the little dude sitting under a tree reading a book.  I can’t tell you how often I spent my childhood days just like that.  It just seems full of promise.

Anyway, when Amazon first came out with the Kindle, my beautiful husband told me he wanted to get me one for Christmas.  He said if I could have books on a Kindle, maybe there would be room in the house to walk and we could stop using stacks of books for coffee tables.  (That was a mild exaggeration, but if you ever saw my house, it is–even now–covered in books of all shapes, sizes, and genres.  I could start my own library.)  I scoffed at him.  I Did Not Want a machine to read on. Good grief, I was a librarian; I Believed In Books. Get me something I want for Christmas, for goodness sake.

The next Christmas he was harping about the very same thing.  Thanks to rummage sales and thrift stores and Amazon, even more books were scattered throughout the house.  I adamantly refused.  Then he came home from work one glorious day.  He told me a woman he works with had a Kindle.  “She said you can get all kinds of free books,” he said.  Free Books?  My head turned.  My ears perked up.  “She said there’s all kinds of classic novels that you can get for free.”

Free. Classic. Novels?

I began to ponder the wisdom of my obstinacy.  And, before that second Christmas had passed, dreams of all those free books dancing through my head (kind of like sugar plums), I agreed.  He could get me a Kindle for Christmas.

Boom. Hooked.

At first I filled my Kindle with all the Dickens and Austen and Tolstoy (among many others) I could.  Not because I don’t already own the paper versions, but so they would all be in the same place.  As I trolled the Kindle store for more free stuff, I also began to realize what this meant.  I would not have to drive all the way to Louisville anymore to go to the bookstore or wait a week to receive a book from my beloved Amazon.  I could order them for my Kindle and they would come right to it!  Immediately!  Like Magic!

Obsessed.

When I discovered the text-to-speech option, you couldn’t tear me away.  I began to listen to my books when I was cooking, washing dishes,driving the car.  I Loved My Kindle.  I Was So Very Attached.

When I bought the Littles tablets for school, I was bowled over that I could hook them up to my Kindle account and they would have access to all my Kindle books.  We have used that feature often during read-aloud time (though admittedly, not nearly as much as we use paper books).  It was a revelation for our homeschool, though, to be able to access the classics together without having to buy 3 copies of the same book.  My love deepened.

I had that first one for about 2 years.  The love affair was still strong, till death do us part.  Then one day I was mopping the kitchen.  I had the Kindle propped up on the counter, listening to who-knows-what-beautiful-story.  Littlest walked by me and, being Littlest, promptly knocked my Kindle off the counter.  Into the bucket of mop water.  I cried.  Not quite as hard as I cried the day my glasses broke, but I cried.  I called Martin and he said, “Order a new one.  Get you a Kindle Fire this time.”

I Did Not Want A Kindle Fire.  I wanted My Kindle, with text-to-speech.  And all the info on Amazon about the Fire did not mention Text-to-Speech.  (FYI, the Fire does have the option, but I had no way of knowing that until I bought Big one for Christmas a year or so later.)  Seriously, even though they had stopped making my particular Kindle in lieu of a newer version, I searched the interweb for it and found a new one Just Like Mine.  And I ordered it.

I’ve had this one for about 2 years.  I still don’t have a tablet of my own.  My Kindle is for books and that is all I use it for.  There goes that obstinacy again.

The moral of the story is, of course, if you read books on paper and you drop one into the mop bucket, you’ve only dropped one book and chances are you can let it dry out and still read it.  But a Kindle has its own kind of magic.  Just… you can lose a thousand books at once if you’re not careful.  So don’t Littlest around when you’re mopping.

Now for the exciting news, the winners of the Dr. Seuss canvas giveaway!  Thanks to everyone who entered, but we can only have 2 winners.

seus canvasesThe winner of the blue Oh! The Places You’ll Go canvas is Gabrielle B!

The winner of the pink Lorax canvas is Amy M!

I will be contacting the winners via email to get your shipping info, so make sure you get back to me quickly.

Happy Friday, my lovelies.

Love wins,

KT

 

The Joys of Guided Reading

You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in almost all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story. (But if you’ve read more than one post here, you already know that.)

May I have your attention, please?

May I have your attention, please?

The Littles and I share a love of both reading and learning.  We look forward to our school sessions and during breaks we genuinely miss school.  Sometimes we pick a book to read together just for the sheer fun of it, even when school is not in session.  Now let me explain our favorite class: Guided Reading. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, the chance to discuss grammatical twists and turns, and practice understanding how the language works. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist (you knew I was going to throw Dickens in there, didn’t you?). Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time and is today. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world?  And what can we do to help?

Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just history and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.

Gone-Away

Right now we’re reading Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.  If you’ve never heard of this gem, let me tell you, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite chapter books for children.  You know how some authors plant you in that slow, lazy childhood summer place so deeply you feel it wrap you up and spirit you away?  This book has the stuff.  It was first published in 1957, so it has that innocence about it that only mid-20th century children’s books have.  To be honest, the reason I chose it for guided reading right now is I’ve been pushing this book at those boys for a couple of years, practically begging them to read it on their own or for book reports, and they kept passing it over for ‘more exciting’ stories.  I was so afraid they were going to miss out on this beautiful, amazing  story because it didn’t have zombies or Greek gods in it.  Solution?  Make it a class.

And you know what?  They Love This Book.  We’ve laughed together over how much they like it after all that stubborn refusal to read it.  And hopefully I’ve convinced them to try a new genre.  Hopefully, as they grow, they will be like me and want to know All The Stories in the world, regardless of genre or age level.  Well, maybe not, since it’s impossible to achieve and it leaves you with this wistful longing to be reading even when you’re having the time of your life.  And wondering every time you pass a house, a field, or another person, what the story is there if you can find it in a book.  Hmm.

Nah, let them be wistful.  So long as they are readers.

Guided reading is an amazing way to dig in deep with your littles, introduce them to books they may not otherwise read, and supplement your learning experience with a lot of fun.  There are novel studies and lesson plans all over the interweb and soon I’ll be opening my own shop to offer you some affordable novel studies so you don’t have to do the work all by yourself!  Pick a book, find some questions and activities to go along with it, and guide your littles through the glorious pages.  And check back here in a few weeks.  I should have several Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies up and ready for you.

Shamelessly plugging.

Love wins,

KT