Category Archives: Reading

The Phantom Tollbooth

Recently we started a parent/child book club based on the format in Deconstructing Penguins mentioned in the previous post. Towards the end of Deconstructing Penguins, the Lawrence’s give a list of a few great books to start your book club with. The first one on the list was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.

This lively humorous children’s book was published in 1961.  Now considering I was born in the late 60’s I was amazed that I had never before seen this book, let alone heard of it – so let me start out by saying that this is an amazing piece of children’s literature full of clever puns and idioms that make this children’s book a very entertaining allegory full of witty appeal. Although it can be read at a fourth grade reading level:

  Critics have acknowledged that the book is advanced for most children, who would not understand all the wordplay or the framing metaphor of how to achieve wisdom. Writers like the reviewer in The New York Times have focused on the children and adults able to appreciate it; for them, it has “something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of Alice in Wonderland and the pointed whimsy of The Wizard of Oz”. It is now often acknowledged as a classic of children’s literature. Wikipedia

That being said, all the more reason to explore this book as a family, or even better in a parent/child book club. We had a lot of fun digging deeper together in this book and I have to say, most kids in the group understood most of the underlying wit with just a few probing questions. The little “Ah-ha!” moments of understanding were going off constantly in the circle of kids (and adults too!). Even if you don’t dig deeper with this book, I found that most kids had it read in just a couple of days – and some (including my own) choosing to read it again.

If the title of this book is new to you, consider adding it to your children’s book list. The Phantom Tollbooth is a highly engaging, lively, funny, witty, and thought-provoking read.



Filed under Books, Language Arts, Learning, Reading

Wordless Wednesday

Cozy Bedside Reading

Cozy Bedside Reading


Filed under Reading, Wordless

Guardians of Ga’Hoole

A recent and far too long library strike caused me to search for some fresh reading material for my youngest literature deprived dd. During a routine trip to Costco, I came across a bundle of three books from a children’s series called Guardians of Ga’Hoole. Not being able to read the back of the books, due to how they were bundled, I took a chance and bought them anyway.

The cellophane of the package was quickly ripped away and the spine of the first book was quickly cracked. Ten days later, my nine year old had devoured all three books. I don’t know about you, but this is generally a good sign that I’ve struck gold concerning a good read. I’m actually not big most children’s series type books as I find the writing often weak and the vocabulary unchallenging. These books; however, have not let me down. The writing is sophisticated, the plot thick, the vocabulary rich and the character development delightful. Each book is approximately 200 pgs and well worth the $7.99. There is however, twelve books in the series, so you may want to only buy a few at a time.

Even though my daughter is now reading book five, she has asked that we read book one “The Capture” again for our read aloud time. If your children enjoy books about fantasy/adventure and have a bent for wildlife then give these books a try. Whether and independent read or family read aloud, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I know we weren’t.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Reading

What I wish I’d known my first year of homeschooling.

memeThe Friday meme over at Heart of the Matter is along the theme of – What I wish I’d known. I always make a point of not reading others posts on the meme before I write my own. I hope for originality- it’s more like  surprise. Like the grey hair I pulled out of my head yesterday. Or the lottery ticket I won. Okay, I made that one up – so don’t be calling pretending your my new best friend. So, without further ado, here’s my post.

Thing’s I wish I’d known:

1. Trust your instincts:  they’re right 95% of the time. Really. Honest.

2. Take cues from your kids!  Tears are bad – if there are tears then back off, go for a walk, try again later, but use a different approach.

3. If your kids aren’t getting it, this is a sign to change your approach. It’s up to the teacher/parent to find the right approach that helps the child make the connection. If you fail to do this, there may be tears. See #2.

4. Look for ways to incorporate natural learning situations whenever possible. This is the stuff that makes kids excited about learning. Nature walks, field trips, learning games, workshops, experiments. It generally isn’t the latest workbook – generally.

5. Make an effort to discover your child’s learning style. Most of us are made up of a little bit of each – but almost always, there is an inborn preference to favor one particular learning style.

6. Purchase curriculum that is geared towards your child’s learning style. This makes learning (and teaching) well, easier. See #5.

7. Don’t be a lone tree. Get plugged in to your homeschool community. Meet people and encourage one another. Whether you attend a virtual or community based  homeschool support group – make use of it.

8. Don’t get stuck on any one homeschool method – different methods work for different kids and different families. Most of us are somewhat eclectic in our homeschool approach. Be prepared for change. Homeschooling is like an old sweater. It may be your favorite and you may not throw it out, but then one day you decide your ready for something new and fresh.

9. Read, read read read. Read out loud, read for your own pleasure and encourage your kids to read as much as possible. Keep television, video games and comic books to a minimum – or do without. Reading forms the basis of writing, spelling, grammar. It can be used to teach beginning essay and report writing skills through narration. Penmanship and grammar skills can be improved upon through dictation.

10. Read good books to your children. Start building a library of good literature. Once your child is reading, move away from simple readers. Advance them slowly, progressing to well written literature. Well written books cause us to think deeply, question our moral values, and stir emotions inside of us. These are the books that get read over and over and over again – you’ll know when you see it.


Filed under Classical, Community, Encouragement, Life, Meme, Reading

Writing Resources

The Secret Invasion of BananasLast weekend we attended the 2008 Pacific Festival of the Book – which, by the way was a great success. This was a great place to take the kiddos and expose them to not only, new and exciting literature, but also to give them an opportunity to meet the authors themselves. There were indeed some great authors and poets to meet and there was a great workshop put on by Robert Priest on youth writing and poetry. The kids enjoyed the experience and we came home with a few new books including The Secret Invasion of Bananas – poetry for children, by Robert Priest, which was one of our favorites. When one hears a story or poem read out-loud by the author her/himself, the word engaging falls short in terms of describing the experience.

Getting You WritingIn addition to the poetry, I picked up a wonderful little booklet by Naomi Beth Wakan called Getting You Writing! I believe the booklet was written with the purpose of inspiring adult writers, both new and novice, to find creative ways to expand their writing skills. What I noticed immediately, was that this little booklet is a really great resource for teachers and homeschoolers alike and contains a wealth of ideas for inspiring students to think creatively – outside the box. I had to practically wrestle it out of one of my teacher friend’s hands. I highly recommend having a copy on your resource shelf – in fact, it even inspired me to perhaps take a new twist on my own writing skills. I can’t wait to put it to use.

CompositionsIn addition to this wonderful little booklet – I purchased Compositions: Notes on the written word, also by Naomi Beth Wakan. It is a book on the writing process itself, or as quoted in the foreword by the author itself: a gathering of musings on books, writers and writing. Another book which will most likely, take up permanent residence on my resource shelf.

What are your favorite writing resources? Feel free to share and tell us why.


Filed under Books, Curriculum, Language Arts, Learning, Reading, Writing

Can you hear that?


That’s right, I don’t hear anything except the sound of the rain!

Yes, we’re all here this morning and we’re doing school. That silence is the sound of reading folks. That’s right – voluntary quiet reading. No noisy toys, no television, no video games (they don’t live in my house) 🙂

One of the many perks of homeschool – they like to read! I’m enjoying it this morning. Sooner or later I’m going to have to pull out the math books. Not so voluntary.

Photo courtesy of Dramaturq


Filed under Learning, Reading

Have You Lost the Art of Reading for Pleasure?

I recently joined a book club. I think it was a good decision. How much time do you have to read? Do you watch TV in the evenings? Too tired after work or a long day? Does reading anything over the equivalent of the newspaper or People Magazine seem too much of a task? Well, don’t lose hope! There are other tired moms (and dads) out there too.

As a homeschooling family we have made a conscious choice to forgo the television as much as possible. We actually don’t have cable and haven’t had it in 13 yrs. We still have rabbit ears on the TV which will grant us a meager 3 or 4 channels on a good day. If you ever wondered if a man could channel surf on 3 or 4 channels, well let me tell you……it can be done! 🙂

Over the years, I have noticed a lot more reading happening among the adults in the family. I believe this has helped foster my own children’s love of reading. Children are more prone to join us & pick up a book, or play a game, or do a puzzle rather than ask to watch a video if Mom & Dad are both reading.

images.jpgRecently, my husband came home with “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens only to give up on it ever too quickly because he just couldn’t get through it. This is a common fate for ‘the classics’ when we try and jump in on one of the “Great Books” without a guide or a plan. I recently picked up a copy of such a guide. “The Well Educated Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer can help you establish a plan on what to read first and how to approach reading these classics without feeling overwhelmed. The book also includes an extremely helpful annotated list of just where to begin. This is a resource worth keeping around.

In the meantime….Happy Reading!


Filed under Books, Learning, Reading, Technology