Save Pequot Library!

My kids and their Destination Imagination Project Outreach teammates have been working hard all year to encourage global literacy. While they were redistributing books to children around the world, something terrible happened at home. Funding cuts threatened to close our local Pequot Library.

The kids interviewed people in their community about the library, donated their proceeds from a lemonade stand to the cause, and created this video and emailed it to to elected officials. They will be speaking at a rally on the Pequot Library Lawn at 1:30 pm tomorrow, and will were also invited to speak at the special RTM meeting to encourage the town to restore Pequot’s funding.

Adventures in Bookland: Destination Imagination (again!)

Homeschool Happymess is counting down to Christmas and the vacation that surrounds this wonderful time of year.

WBS Truth and Bounce atlasWe are crazily trying to complete all our fall projects, blasting through those half-discarded spelling books, competing with one another,

“How many chapters have YOU completed in Wordly Wise?”

Our older students have final exams in Latin, Witty Wordsmith, Chemistry, Algebra, and History of Science, to name just a few.  They can be found up at all hours, musing over flashcards, strewn across couches, reciting archaic languages and studying arcane scientific facts.  They are dedicated.  They are restless.  They anticipate the conclusion and yet, 15 page term papers still loom in their immediate futures

Our younger students are delighting in the wreaths that are newly hung on all the doors and windows.  They eagerly search every magazine for clues as to what Santa may bring.  They are crafting and wrapping small games and puzzles for their favorite stuffed animals.  Adventure Bear will receive a lovely pot of marmalade, purloined from a breakfast buffet.  Gifts are wrapped and hidden.  Bounce has an elaborate pirate treasure map detailing all the locations.  I encounter these odd items as I search the back of cupboards and behind doors looking for missing Christmas china and wrapping paper.

WBS reading trainAnd throughout the mayhem emerges our newest project:  The Wonderland BookSavers:  Inspired by Literature

This year Bounce and his friends formed a new book club dedicated to reading and discussing   Classic Children’s Literature.  The book group members are young enthusiasts who are committed to making the world a better place.  Following their reading of Old Yeller, (previous post), the group read, and became entranced by, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.

alice-in-wonderland white rabbitThey decided to name their Destination Imagination Project Outreach team after Alice in Wonderland and after great thought they have created the already amazing, Wonderland BookSavers.

WBS researchingTheir mission is to redistribute gently used children’s books to children, libraries and schools who have need of these books.

WBS donate 1WBS donate 2Thus far they have donated 685 books to a local charter school library.

WBS boxes and bookThey are currently preparing another 1,000 books to be sent to a community in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.

Wonderland BookSavers has already had a strikingly positive influence on this initially simple homeschool book club.  The children are able to see the tremendous impact that literature can have upon the imagination and the spirit of the reader.  They understand that reading is a form of communication, both with the author and with other readers.  They value the time that they spend reading and discussing literature and thus they see the value that books have for all children and communities.

WBS Bounce with booksWonderland BookSavers are committed to enlarging the community of children that have access to books.  The children love handling all the “used” books.  They pore over the pictures, read aloud sections to one another, and generally have the opportunity to enjoy hundreds of books that they might otherwise never have seen.

Occasionally they will hold a book up in disgust,

“This is TOTALLY inappropriate,”

as a modern and heavily pregnant Mary goes lurching along on a donkey in a parody of Mary and Joseph, and out the book goes in the trash.

WBS stacked boxesBut mostly, these discarded and unloved books are wonderful classics and our children fall in love with them before carefully placing them in the box with the other treasures.

Wonderland BookSavers are wondering, “Who are these other unknown children?” and, “Will they like these books as much as we like them?”

And so, as the Christmas Season is upon us, we find once again that, “Giving is better than receiving.”

WBS Bounce on boxesWhat we didn’t realize is that we would be watching 4 young children locating and donating literally thousands of books to communities across the country and even across the oceans, with their motto, “Inspired by Literature.”

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is watching a small book club reach out and touch the world.

Old Yeller and the Homeschool Book Club

Happymess is hosting a new book club this year.  It is wonderful to find new children and new ways to explore classic children’s literature.

Bounce creates his own book cover

What makes a classic?  Believe it or not, this is a discussion which the kids enjoy debating every year.  Some think there is a “committee” which grants a book “classical” status.  Others are sure there is a “list.”  In actuality, it is determined by pure love of literature, granted by a doting audience that discovers the same wonderful titles and falls in love anew with outstandingly portrayed characters.  A novel becomes a classic when it succeeds in telling an enduring tale that resonates with every reader.  It is timeless in its message because it speaks to that which is human in all of us, be it through fantasy, historical fiction or mystery.

And his own back cover

The challenge to the teacher is to help new readers discover the same beauty and meaning that previous readers have known for generations.  Our new book club has given this group of homeschool buddies the opportunity to share A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and most recently, Old Yeller by Fred Gipson.  We like to discuss the major themes, examine the author’s stylistic approach and imagine ourselves in similar positions.  Each novel has inspired its own unique approach, and Old Yeller is no exception.

We began our group discussion with a series of open-ended questions, designed to explore the experience of reading Old Yeller.  We noted that the end of the story was in the beginning, as is the case with so many great pieces of literature.  We discussed how suspension of belief allows us to read the entire story, almost oblivious of the inevitable and dire ending.

The kids were excited to share their insights into this coming-of-age story as Travis struggles to be the man-of-the-house in an unforgiving world.  Travis is a hotheaded youth forced to be tolerant, responsible and hardworking.  Eventually this trio of requirements forces Travis to mature and become the “man” he wasn’t at the beginning of the story.

The open-ended discussion was inspiring but the kids felt they were ready to tackle something equally challenging:  a detailed 50-question test on specifics of Old Yeller.  We found this excellent quiz on Capo Creations:

www.nt.net/torino/old50test.html

I was truly surprised at the children’s ability to accurately recall minute details of the story.

Example:  The man who used to go from house to house getting free meals and was too lazy to go on the cattle drive was (a) Bud Searcy (b) Burn Sanderson (c) Jed Simpson (d) Bert Wilbur

I guess you will have to read the novel with a magnifying glass to find the answer to that one.  Or be a 10 year-old avid reader.

Some of the group thought they would write an essay discussing Travis’ character development, tracking the parallels in plot with Travis’ maturation.  Bounce elected to make a photo book cover, front and back, with his own synopsis on the back cover, see above.  This was really fun for Bounce as he loves his dog and can understand the dynamics of a relationship between a boy and his dog.

Our book club group has a soft side and they love to help others.  They decided that in honor of Old Yeller, and countless deserving animals just like him, they would like to help animals at a local shelter.

So, all last week our hard working book club members have scrubbed floors and babysat and ironed linens.  They earned a combined $95.00.

170 Lbs. of pet food

 

Adventure Bear joins in the mission

This morning, with a delightful break from homeschooling, we met at the local pet supply center.  After rejecting the most expensive brands, our group learned to study the “price/lb.” labels and the “sale” signs.  They carefully perused their options, lifting 50lb bags of dry cat and dog food in and out of shopping carts as they weighed their options.  Finally, after great deliberation, they purchased 170 lbs. of cat and dog food for our local animal shelter.

 And now for the best part, they got to carry all that food into the shelter and make their very own donation!  And then of course, they visited with all the animals, wishing always that we could bring them all home.  Sadly, we could not.
Old Yeller now “belongs” to this group of intrepid young readers.  They are building their very own criteria of what makes a classic.  For these homeschoolers, Old Yeller will be filled with memories of lifting 50 Lbs bags of pet food in the rain, making old-time photos with the family dog, writing short pieces about growing up, competing with one another over test questions, and crying with Travis when he finally has to choose between his family and his dog.

Now that is what makes a classic.

Let Me Count the Ways:  Homeschooling is remembering that for each child it is their first childhood, no matter how many generations have preceded them. 

A Single Shard: One Hill, One Valley, One Day at a Time

We always begin our school year with an inspirational quote.  My goal is to allow my students to see themselves as part of the greater continuum of intellectual efforts and metaphysical thinking.  That was a mouthful!

In other words, school is not just learning facts. Homeschool Happymess is built upon the premise that learning can actually be interesting.

This year we are bridging the fun of summer with the seriousness of school with a wonderful novel, A Single Shard, written by Linda Sue Park.  The story takes place in 12th century Korea and teaches the values of friendship, honesty, integrity and hard work within the context of creating beautiful Celadon pottery.

The protagonist, Tree-ear, is a young orphan boy who desires to learn the art of pottery.  His mentor, Crane-man, is a homeless man who instills values by asking difficult questions which can only be answered through personal introspection.

When Tree-ear is presented with the question of facing hunger or stealing rice, Crane-man’s voice echoes in Tree-ear’s mind, “Work gives a man dignity, stealing takes it away.” Tree-ear ponders, “Does a good deed balance a bad deed?” He knows that Crane-man would say, “Questions (of morality) serve in two ways…They keep a man’s mind sharp, and his thoughts off his empty stomach.”

A Single Shard is a walking, talking vocabulary lesson.  The following is a sample list of the vocabulary words that Bounce (Grade 3/4) needed to learn in order to properly understand the story:  Perusal, Urchin, Garner, Sluggardly, Deftly, Emboldened, Impudence, Precariously, Ministrations, Diligent, Insolence, Parched, Felicitous, Vicious and Suffice.  Bounce’s actual list was much longer.  He rewrote every word, looked up the definition and wrote the definition along side each word.  Bounce was delighted to learn such interesting and unusual words.

Eventually, through hard work and self-sacrifice, Tree-ear is given the opportunity to represent the work of a famous potter, Minn.  He accepts the task, with encouragement from Crane-man, to carry Minn’s work to the faraway town of Songdo, where it will be viewed by the royal court.

This journey is so long that Tree-ear has grave doubts about his ability to carry out his mission.  But to not go is even more impossible.

Crane-man presents the journey to Tree-ear in the following manner,

“Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo.  But you must not tell your body.  It must think one hill, one valley, one day at a time.  In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to walk.”

Happymess kids immediately recognized this quote as applying directly to their own lives.  Each child at our impromptu book club was able to think of a way in which this applied directly to themselves.  The group agreed that they had all grown weary of many school-related tasks long before the task had been attempted, yet alone completed.  They committed to taking a more cheerful, thoughtful and dedicated approach to this year’s enterprises.  In short, they recognized that often fear of hard work is greater than the actual work itself.

As a conclusion to our reading the children suggested making banners to remind themselves that each step in a task must be taken on its own merits.

We had great fun making the banners, even though for some of us this Herculean task took several days and nights.

And so there you have it, our 2012 school year quote with which we will commence our studies.  Our journey may be long and arduous but we will embark upon it one day at a time, lest our souls grow weary before we even begin.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is seeking inspiration in novel venues.

So Long Sweet Summer, So Long…

Summer is our favorite season.  The weather is warm and wild and thus prohibitive of difficult endeavors.  Freedom reigns.

Each person is free, like the wildflowers, to grow in any direction and to follow the sunshine of their dreams.

Happymess kids begin the summer with a trip to the zoo and a greenhouse.

The plastic gorilla is even more fun!

The Fourth of July was shared with friends and family.  Watching shards of light sparkle and reflect across the ocean waves is spectacular.

This summer Scooter got his first set of wheels.  He is finally able to ride to the library, church, candy store and beach with his brothers!  This is surely the high point of Scooter’s summer.

For the first time, Truth and Quantum left home to spend a week living in the woods.  We missed them, but loved coming up for the closing bonfire.

Athena traveled most of this summer.  We did manage to catch up with her long enough to enjoy kayaking on the lake together.

Oddly, perhaps, most of our summer was spent reading.

We read long, complicated historical novels like Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and fun, short books like Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown.  We read intriguing children’s books like A Single Shard by Sue Parks and we read Bob Books as we struggled to teach Scooter some basic reading skills.

One of our favorite activities is the Library Summer Reading Program.  Bounce and Scooter race to the library everyday to record the new number of hours they read.  They average 2-3 hours per day.

We allow Scooter to count his pre-reading activities towards his reading total.

One of the fun aspects of summer is that everyone enjoys the whimsy.  Here is the ceiling of our favorite summer diner.

Bounce loves art.  I am not a big fan of scraping paint off the floor so summer and art and I are best friends.  Bounce created an outdoor studio where he can paint whenever he likes.

 

As summer comes to its inevitable end, I begin organizing, arranging and planning for the unsentimental months ahead.  Here we have all the un-owned shoes looking for new feet so they can attend school next month.  I managed to find several pairs each for Bounce and Scooter.

And so the month of August draws to a close and we must finally say, “So long sweet summer.”  What a wonderful interlude it has been.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is the freedom to dream, create and cherish the unscheduled and the free.

Falling in Love…with Books

When the student is ready, the master appears. 
 – Buddhist Proverb

We have been reading to Bounce since birth.  He has chewed on books for breakfast, he has written on books at naptime, we have read countless stories at bedtime and finally, in Kindergarten he began to read them himself.  The process from beginning reader to, “I love this book and I can’t put it down until I have read every last word,” can take years.  During this time, like a sapling, the young reader must be constantly nourished and encouraged.

This school year, 3rd grade, I decided that my first priority for Bounce was learning to love reading.  If your student is a reader, with easy fluency, expansive vocabulary, and is endlessly enticed by the written word then, and only then, they can learn ANY subject.  Without the ability to read fluently, every subject is a struggle.

Bounce began the year as an adequate, steady but uninspired reader.  We took a multiple step approach.  My favorite way to develop early reading skills is through reading aloud.  When your child reads aloud you can really hear the words he/she knows and those they stumble over.  The child must also anticipate the story as they read so the inflection is correct.  Clear diction becomes necessary if others are to enjoy the story.

So how do we accomplish this in our busy household?  With the Greatest of Ease.

Bedtime on the top bunk Bounce is assigned to read all of Scooter’s bedtime stories, aloud, to Scooter.  Scooter and Bounce both love this system.  Scooter loves to pick out his favorite books and will happily choose 10 to 15 books for bedtime.  No self-possessed parent would be able to read 15 bedtime stories every night.  However, Bounce is happy to do all this reading.  The longer he reads, the longer they can both stay up.  The more books they read, the more time I have to get the rest of the family organized.  Everyone wins, Scooter learns to love stories and Bounce, well, he is just getting better and better at reading each night.

Don’t have a younger sibling handy? How about a neighbor or cousin?  Elementary school children can also read aloud at library programs designed for toddlers.  Ask your local librarian for suggestions.

Bounce and I also read You Read to Me, I Read to You books by, Mary Ann Hoberman.  These are perfect for developing readers as the words are slightly more complex but the rhyming couplets can help the reader “guess” difficult words.  These books are alternating read-alouds.  Parent and child can share the reading and enjoy the story together.

Meanwhile, I choose a more difficult book and read this aloud each night to Bounce.  The purpose of this book is to create interest in complex plot lines and encourage understanding of more sophisticated grammar and vocabulary.

This year we read Pinocchio:

https://homeschoolhappymess.com/2011/10/18/pinocchio-a-captivating-cautionary-tale-for-read-aloud-bedtime/

We have also read A Christmas Carol, unabridged, by Charles Dickens and Wind in the Willows, unabridged, by Kenneth Grahame.  I am NOT a fan of abridged books for children.  Abridged books discourage the later reading of the original book.

My suggestion:  If a child is not ready to read the original do NOT read a picture book version, do NOT read an abridged version and most definitely do NOT see the movie.

The child should have the joy of reading the real story when they are intellectually ready.  If they already know the plot of every story what will motivate them to struggle through a difficult text when they are older?

 Treasure Island is an excellent example.  The original version of this book, by Robert Louis Stevenson, uses challenging vocabulary and the story is presented in an unusual manner..  The story, however, about pirates and adventures at sea, is very exciting.  This is a book that is definitely worth the struggle.  The student who reads this book will be much better prepared to read other challenging material.

Surprisingly, another book that fits perfectly into this category is Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne.  Many children have grown up watching the TV version of this book.  Few children have had the opportunity to enjoy the original.  This book, and the others written as sequels, utilize difficult vocabulary and is an excellent read-aloud book to encourage children to pay close attention to the story and to understand the meaning of words.

Another excellent series for developing word appreciation is Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter.  Children are captivated by the darling illustrations, but even more important is the fact that these little tales are literary gems.  Each story has a defined plot, clear moral and an unapologetic use of formal English.

So where are we now?  Bounce has irrevocable fallen in love…with reading.  He reads day and night and has progressed from the Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne, a great first “chapter book” series to Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown, to Raold Dahl, the mainstay of the elementary school reading experience.  He has read Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach and George’s Marvelous Medicine.   Currently he is reading an all-time favorite, Matilda.

Bounce says, “My favorite books to read are books about reading (Matilda)”

What better statement could I hope for?  I am thinking that soon he may be ready for Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.  This book is the ultimate children’s book about books.

For more on Learning to Love Literature by Happymess:

https://homeschoolhappymess.com/literature-art-is-the-looking-glass-through-which-we-see-our-lives/

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschool is teaching a love of books by reading books that are worth loving.

One Good (Page) Turn Deserves Another

 

Greetings Bibliophiles, Literacy Advocates and (Home) Educators.  World Book Night is almost here!

Here is an opportunity for each one of us to take a step toward improving literacy in our communities.

World Book Night is an amazing idea that began last year in the UK.  This year it is coming to the US as well.  The organization is offering to give away FREE 1 million books from people (like you) who love books and love to read to (others) who perhaps do not yet share your joy in reading..  You choose the book and the venue for giving.  They send you the books.  You give them away.  It is that simple.

This is a call for action.   We can put our thoughts into action. We can share our love of reading with those who have not had the same opportunities.

 

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
 – Frederick Douglass

http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/

Follow this link, choose your books and register, but BEFORE  Midnight Monday, February 6, 2012.

This could be you!  On April 23, 2012 we distribute 20 copies of our favorite book to our favorite people or favorite charity.  How fabulous is that?

If you choose to participate, follow the above link, then come back and reply to this post with which book you chose, why and where you plan to make your distribution.

We chose I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.  This is a beautifully written autobiographical story written as a novel.   It has long been one of my favorite books.  We plan to donate 20 copies to a local charter school that has dedicated itself to improving literacy in an impoverished community.  They have a limited library.  The 20 copies could go to individual students to kick-off their summer reading program.

Now it is your turn.  We look forward to hearing about your choices and actions for improving literacy in your community.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is sharing the joy of reading with others less fortunate.