Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on January 16, 2009 at 10:04 PM


As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.  — Henry David Thoreau



Comment by jo thomas on January 17, 2009 at 01:00 PM

hello again,
i'm not sure if this is the best 1st comment but here goes: we are learning about China and i thought it would be nice 2 make our own Great Wall by using some cut out rectangle sponges & dipping them in paint. i had the girls each make their own mountains and then they were to follow the lines of these with their squares, and then add more layers. granted, my girls are 4 & 6, but they seemed 2 have a hard time with this. the older one wouldn't keep them spaced very close together (i encourged her 2 see the pictures of example), and the little one kept going up into the sky instead of following her line. this became a more "tense" situation rather than a FUN experience and i am wondering if you have some suggestions for myself as a homeschool teacher please. i am looking into purchasing one of your recommended books about reggio, but until then can you offer any ideas on how i could have made this a better project?
many thanks, jo

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 01:40 PM

hi jo and good morning,

what you are describing is a teacher-led activity. you chose what to do and how it would be done, and you had in mind what a successful outcome would look like.

a reggio approach would work from the girls’ interests .. giving them access to art materials and allowing them to represent what they know however they wanted to. so, they might build the great wall (they might) but they might draw it or paint it or make a representation out of boxes taped together.

but maybe some other aspect of china interested them and they might focus on that.

in terms of project-based learning, similarly, the starting point would be what interests the girls, whatever that might be. then you would take the role of supporting that interest by providing them with materials, helping them list their questions and keep track of when they had found their answers, etc.

i do think that reggio-inspired, project-based learning is more fun — for both teacher and student. as a teacher, you never know what is going to happen. you don’t pre-plan; you plan along. the project takes twists and turns, and you have to always be paying close attention so you can help your students do their work.

as a student, you are in charge of your own learning. what do you want to learn about? how do you want to learn? who do you want to talk to? where do you want to go? what are you going to draw today? paint? construct? build? talk about? play? you have the attention and support of the adults around you and you have your own space to work in.

jo, with an eye toward experimenting with a more negotiated curriculum, i would recommend you start at the top and read the first few posts especially listed under “project-based homeschooling” in the sidebar. since you’ve already started this study of china, you could try allowing the girls to go off in their own directions with this topic and see how it works for you. feel free to e-mail me or comment here if you have more questions! and good luck. :^)

Comment by Cathy T on January 17, 2009 at 02:12 PM

I've been thinking about visiting topics over and again for deep learning to occur and though we do a good job with this (I think), we can always learn from our kids. My 12 year old is interested in architecture, so he told me in September. I had asked, "If you had to take a class at [our area resource center] what would you want them to offer?" He told me architecture. So I went and dug out our books by McCauley and books such as Building a City and The Works:Anatomy of a City. Books my older son had devoured when he was 12. But that wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to look at cool buildings and build them (or his own designs) out of Legos. So that is how he is learning about architecture this year.

I have continued to get books that have cool buildings in or on the cover (even books for little kids - they have the best photos and he can read them to his younger brother who is 4 if he wants to. And I've asked him to make a bulletin board with pictures of buildings similar to the one Lori showed us in a previous post. We will hang it by the block center I plan to make this spring when my youngest one is just a few months older (he just turned 2). Right now there is a climber in that area of the house because my 2 year old needs to climb and climb and climb!

We've taped shows on tv that have to do with building and he picks and chooses which ones (if any) to watch. And the other thing he's done is build a town/city with all his Lego blocks and that somehow has led to making animation movies with the camera.... and other topics....

Life is good.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 03:14 PM

cathy, that sounds fantastic. thank you so much for sharing your project!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 17, 2009 at 03:26 PM

Cathy - your project really does sound fabulous. My son also has a love of architecture and he would much rather look at buildings, draw buildings and build buildings than read about them any day of the week.

My youngest one has decided that she wants to live on a farm, so right now she's involved in figuring out what she needs for her farm, where it should be based on the crops she wants to grow, how large it should be, etc. We looked at books at the library and none of them were deep enough for her, so she's doing most of her research on the internet (supervised of course) and through talking to people we know who do own farm animals. She's approaching her idea from a variety of places to make sure she covers it all. She even found a place in our yard that would be perfect for raising chickens without them being chased by our bird dogs. So this week we're going to the feed store to find out more about what kind of environment they need. Whew!

Based on her findings thus far - primarily her desire to have apples, peaches and grapes - she has decided that Oregon is the best place for our farm. Yesterday, after she finished her crop list, I asked her what she thought the next step should be. Her eyes lit up and she said "plan the farewell party!!"

Oops. She may have gone a little too deep.

Comment by katrien on January 17, 2009 at 03:43 PM

That's a great quote, Lori, from my favorite author. My DH is a neuroscientist and agrees - though he'd use the word brain instead of mind, but same difference!

It is like that with my 3-y-o Amie's dinsoaurs. She comes back to them time and time again, sometimes after months of not mentioning them. At the moment she loves to color in pictures of dinosaurs. Once in a while I sit down with her with the express purpose of having her draw one herself, if she feels like it. I have these dinosaur portraits and some day will post them on the website to show their development.

It doesn't help to force the pathways, I think. For instance, we know Amie is close to really reading and writing, but she is not very keen on taking on the progress. Sometimes she even "hides" the pathway. "What letter is this? (O). "I don't know. I don't want to." We don't want to make that into a "rut" (ha!), so we back off. Let her come back to it when she wants to and she can develop it whenever and however she wants.

There's time.

Comment by jo thomas on January 17, 2009 at 04:01 PM

hello again lori,
thank you again 4 the kind & prompt response 2 my comment. i have a few more questions if u don't mind. after reading the intro & part 1 & 2 of the project based learning in your right hand column my question is in regards to reggio. please re-direct me if you need 2 (if you have already covered this). with my girls (especially the older 6 yr old) she has many many questions & ideas that she wants 2 unfold (you had answered how 2 deal with this abundance in an earlier post). so china was one of her wonders - this was after viewing it on the samantha brown - travel channel. so, as one of her ideas, i grabbed various books on it (picture of the lands, children books 2 read) and i thought 2 gather some ideas on projects as well. i have been more waldorf/unschool based thus far, and while i realize that it is up 2 me what curriculum 2 choose or which 2 combine, i am very interested in the reggio approach & its learning style - i'm just a little confused on how 2 go about it. if you have any further thoughts i'd appreciate it greatly.
many thanks 4 your time - jo

Comment by Queen of Carrots on January 17, 2009 at 04:18 PM

I don't care for coloring books and the like but a few have crept in as gifts from neighbors or the occasional printed page from the internet.

So if I get rid of them, what do I tell my daughter who begs for "someone else's lines" to color in?

Comment by Amy on January 17, 2009 at 05:31 PM

a book recommendation for Sarah's daughter (the farmer)
it has awesome illustrations, it totally engrossed the Laura Ingalls Wilder in me. It's audience is intended as adult but honestly, any age will love it. It has layouts of crop fields, all sorts of information on animal husbandry, sounds right up her alley-

Comment by jo thomas on January 17, 2009 at 05:41 PM

dear queen of carrots,
have you heard of the Rosie Flo's coloring books? they have various topics such as garden party or space, and they are illustrated outfits. the heads, legs & arms are left off for the kids 2 fill in. also, the Charlie & Lola coloring books have it where the children fill in various parts as well; asking for their ideas & then 2 draw them in. i have heard that the best method is to have the parent do the coloring of the outline - no matter what art level you are at, the children appreciate your "talent" and that you are working with them and that they can actually "see" you draw in the lines. i have found that describing, or asking, what body part 2 add next (ex. "does your horse have any eyes?, how does he run?") 2 get her started & off she flies.
hope that this helps, jo thomas

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 06:00 PM

lol, sarah, maybe you’d better hide annika’s suitcase!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 06:15 PM

katrien, beautifully said, and i couldn’t agree with you more.

you know, i love that quote because it works beautifully for both our thinking (as parents and teachers) and the children’s. it applies to both the children’s project work — how staying with one topic and approaching it again and again in different ways can help them develop deep understanding — and our own — because if we want to truly understand this way of working with children, we must keep considering these ideas over and over and applying them to our real-life experiences.

re: what you say about amie returning to the idea of the dinosaurs again and again, over time, that’s something i was trying to express when i was writing about white space and the ebb and flow of project work. children aren’t going to work on their project like snow white’s dwarves heading off to the mine to put in a good eight hours a day … they have to be allowed to work on it at a natural pace, sometimes setting it aside, sometimes just thinking, sometimes working hard. if there is no time allowed — no white space — for reflecting and just letting things simmer, there can be no layering.

i agree with you so much about not forcing the path … i remember being at a children’s museum that had a giant sandbox where children could climb in and excavate different items that were left for them to find — dinosaur bones, pottery, etc. there were parents all around the edge of this display who couldn’t just let their children dig … they kept saying “oh, i think i see something! honey, dig right there!” or “there’s nothing there! why don’t you move over!” it was semi-comical, semi-painful. the children, left alone, would figure it out on their own; they would make their own discoveries. but their parents were so nervous about them *not* making the discoveries, or not making them *soon* enough, that they turned a supposedly fun activity into a stressful one.

lolol re: not wanting to make that into a “rut” and *so true* — you know that she will get there, you are confident she has everything she needs, so you can be relaxed and let her make it in her own way, on her own schedule. there *is* time. lovely.

Comment by SJ on January 17, 2009 at 06:19 PM

Questions for the homeschoolers out there - how do you see your life when your children leave home or don't need your input so much anymore - do you think about going to (back to?) work outside the home then? And what do you see for your children when they leave home - do you think they will go on to tertiary education (for work/interests that require a particular qualification), do you think that homeschooling will have prepared them for that? Thanks, friends : )

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 06:25 PM

QoC, well, i will admit openly that i am completely against coloring books. they are like junk food for your brain. they don’t encourage developing drawing skills or creativity. children can become dependent on them and not want to free-draw or paint; sometimes children who are used to coloring books they say they can’t draw things “right”. i don’t think there’s anything a coloring book does that couldn’t be accomplished better in a different way.

personally, i would just get rid of them, and if your daughter asks for them, say “well, we don’t have anything to color, but let’s draw!” give her lovely paper, nice materials to work with (colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, etc.), glue and things to glue (buttons, beads), tape and things to tape together (boxes, plastic lids, any clean packaging).

allow her to have pictures and books in her art area so she can have something to look at when she wants to draw, and have attractive things available for observational drawing — flowers, shells, etc.

create a really nice space for her to create and display her work, ask her to tell you about it, write down what she says, take photographs of her working and display those as well.

hopefully that will encourage her to love real art and forget about her coloring books! ;^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 06:35 PM

jo, i’m not exactly sure what your question is … it sounds like you have everything you need to do a good child-led project. she is interested in the subject, and you have gathered some materials. i think the key is to try to change your role from deciding what they will do and how they will do it to letting their ideas come forward and take precedence.

to learn more about reggio, i suggest you read whatever books are available at your local library; probably the best first book would be “bringing reggio home” (the home here refers to america, not homeschooling, unfortunately ;^) but is a good basic introduction to the main ideas of the reggio approach).

reggio children work on long-term projects, their teachers support their learning, they have access to beautiful art studios, and they are encouraged to work in many different “languages” (drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, constructions, written/dictated word, dramatic play, etc. etc. etc.).

to try to incorporate a reggio-inspired approach into your homeschooling would require, i think, some serious study of their beliefs and methods and then a thoughtful application of the ideas that resonate with you strongly. i encourage you to read more about it!

my specifically reggio-related posts can be found here:

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 07:02 PM

amy, thank you so much for the book recommendation for sarah! that sounds fantastic! :^D)

Comment by Christina on January 17, 2009 at 08:38 PM

My SIL has taken her two boys (9 & 10) out of public school this year to homeschool, so we frequently exchange ideas and methods. She called this week in utter frustration that her 9-year-old doesn't like to read and she cannot get him to read with the program she has (she mainly uses packaged curriculum). She was looking for a science-based reading program, since that's what he's most interested in. I talked to her about project-based learning, directed her to this site, and suggested she allow him to choose a project and let the reading come naturally. She was receptive to the idea, but worries that he has a tendency, when left to his own devices, to select books that are way above his reading level and then not really read them.

I simply don't have the experience to speak to all her concerns and issues, but thought maybe some of you would have some ideas. I think her boys, particularly this younger one, are in public school detox mode to begin with. My thought is that it's ok for him to select books above his reading level, as long as he's the one choosing them. Then she can suggest a few more titles that may be more appropriate. How do you help a child who hates reading (and has had years of bad experiences in the school system) to become more interested in it?

Comment by Aimee on January 17, 2009 at 08:42 PM

re: coloring books
A couple of things that have worked here at my house. Sometimes, my 4 year old is given coloring books too and they are available for a little while and then they leave, but her love for them is real, (kinda like how she loves lollipops!), two things have happened that have worked. One day completely on her own, she stapled a bunch of paper together and then drew on each page, making her own coloring book. She was very proud of this!
The other thing we have done is she has drawn a picture using a black sharpie , and then we made copies of it. That way she can "color" her own drawing and experiment with different colors.

After thinking a lot about our own "white space" this week and my role as a homeschool mom, in terms of "filling" my children's day with stuff, (even if it is good stuff,) I have come back to going slower and doing less and being home more and we have had a pleasant week, with Annabelle working on her projects (flowers and artists) on her own, with no real work from me, though lots of watchng, listening, and "do you need more paper?" And Max (1), with his bird project, we had a hurt bird at our house, watching it, trying to help it, and then looking closly at its body after it died. That and a visit to our pond with geese and the water freezing over, it ended up being a rich week, and I just had to step back and enjoy it. Thanks Lori, your posts always seem so timely!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 09:05 PM

christina, thank you so much for sharing this.

i absolutely think it’s all right — and natural — and desirable! — for a child to choose reading material that is above his or her own reading level. a child, left to choose their own books, will naturally choose things that are above, at, and *below* their reading level — something they often are not encouraged or even sometimes allowed to do at school and at home.

to tell a child he is choosing something too far above his reading level is to say “you can’t do that” and that is not a message we ever want to send. also, how do we learn to read more difficult materials? by reading them! it’s how we learn to read in the first place, how we learn to speak, etc.

i don’t believe you can teach someone to love reading by controlling what they read. and why is it even necessary? take the boy to the library and let him choose his own books and read whatever he wants. that is how you grow a great reader. read to him, regardless of how old he is, and let him choose the book.

i wouldn’t suggest “more appropriate titles” — again, to me that is clearly saying “this is what i think you can handle”. the question isn’t whether he *can* read; it’s whether he wants to read, and having someone else tell you what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t read isn’t the path toward developing a love of reading.

we all loved the ideas here:

wish your SIL luck for me! :^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 09:11 PM

aimee, good suggestions about weaning kids off coloring books — thank you!

i‘m so glad you had a good week slowing things down … you are so right that it’s still too much stuff even if it’s good stuff! that sounds like a really good week — thank you for sharing it with me. ;^)

Comment by Amy on January 17, 2009 at 09:23 PM

I'm not sure if this is too far off topic, although it does somewhat have to do with leaving "white space" and definitely with homeschooling in general--that dreaded word, socialization. Of course my boys are socialized (as much as little boys can be, you know!) but what they both seem to need is more social interaction. I have tried and tried and failed and failed to get them regular interaction. My older son especially has always craved at least one good buddy, and we just don't have it. The homeschooling community here is not as organized as I think it is in other places, and there's very little opportunity for regular play meetups, especially not nearby. Within an hour's drive, sure, but that doesn't solve the issue of not having a close friend nearby. Luckily, my boys are very good friends with each other, but I do think they'd both benefit from having time with *other* kids, and I think my older son would benefit from spending some time around kids his age and older, rather than his younger brother. This is a problem I have not been able to solve in years, as it seems most people around here (adults too) form their friendships through the school community. I sort of feel we've cut ourselves off from a lot of interaction, and I haven't found a way to replace it.

For some background, I have three kids. The boys are 7 and 4 1/2, and my daughter is 3 months old. We've spent much of the fall at home and are trying (weather permitting--grr) to get out a bit more now. My boys are, I think, both extroverts in the psychological sense--they get their energy from being around other people. I'm an introvert (not shy, but I get my energy from more solo pursuits). When we are too much together, they literally suck my energy right out. We all benefit from some outside interaction. Any ideas?

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 17, 2009 at 09:37 PM

Amy - thanks so much for that book suggestion! I'm going to go find it. We visited our friends' chickens today and while we were there, a hawk swooped down into the yard to try and pick one off. That sparked a whole new conversation about predators and keeping your animals safe. So so cool, if a little freaky for a minute.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 17, 2009 at 09:57 PM

amy, aside from participating in things like soccer, scouts, 4H, etc., i’m wondering if you would be willing to organize something.

in my experience, the easiest way to create the type of community you’re looking for is to start it yourself!

if your town or area doesn’t already have a yahoo group for homeschoolers (a nice way to be in contact with all types of homeschoolers), you could start one. if there are some organized hs’ing groups in your area, you can pull them together. if none exist, i would suggest contacting churches and the library to reach homeschooling families. then suggest the type of get-together you would like … meeting at the park to play or at the library or a local museum.

i would certainly look into any activities in your area for kids your son‘s ages — gym classes at the Y, etc. — just to give them a chance to run off some energy and meet other kids. soccer and other sports teams, gym classes, 4H, scouts .. these are all ways to make friends with kids who may not be homeschooled but live nearby.

i hope you get some more suggestions!

Comment by Aimee on January 17, 2009 at 10:41 PM

I too, find it hard to figure out how to have my kids around other chidlren. Some weeks are fine, but others we are only with each other. That can be great too! We belong to a homeschool group, and it is hit and miss about who shows up and such. We invite kids over and try to arrange playdates, but am hopeful about other's suggestions!

Comment by Dawn on January 18, 2009 at 12:48 AM

Just wanted to get in and say that there have been some really great suggestions here today.

Sarah: If she likes magazines she might want to see if your library or local book store has the magazine Mother Earth News. Great "getting back to the land" resource. The december/january 2009 has an article on raising chickens!

re: homeschooling and friends...I would not shy away from trying to strike up friendships with "schooling" families. We do not have contact with a homeschool group here but we have met up with a family that has kids our age and we have play dates with them in the afternoon after school gets out. I think it is important to have a network of homeschool families you can interact with but I would not shy away from any kids/families that you can have fun with and relate too in other ways.

Back before we moved we belonged to a wonderful hs group. Everyone was great about sending out e-mails (posting to the group yahoo page) when they were going to come to the playdate... there was one standing group playdate on Thursday at noon at a local park. I think this helped because others who might not have come see who is going to be there and are encouraged to go to. It went from a hit and miss playdate to a much more consistant playdate. It all started with one mom who posted to the group "We are going to be at the park Thrusday... anyone else coming?"... then it just took off from there...

Comment by Cathy T on January 18, 2009 at 02:26 PM

SJ, you asked about how we homeschoolers see life when our children grow up and what they might do... I think that for every family the answer would be different, just as it might be different for a schooled child. I think of life as a journey and my husband and I try to help our 4 children see life as one too. We help them see opportunities and decide if they are ready to act on them. I don't know if they will go to college but I am giving them the education that will allow them that possibility and allow them to succeed. As for me, I don't know what I'll be doing but while they pursue their interests, I do too. How best to learn, by modeling!

Christina, my 12 year old didn't learn how to read well until he was 9 years old but once he was ready, he took off. He learned to read with Calvin and Hobbs and then moved onto the Harry Potter books that he had already listened to on tape many many times before. I do believe that he may be partly dyslexic but he has adapted to it and is flourishing; I never looked for a diagnosis because having a label wasn't going to change how I was teaching him. (We read a lot of labels in the grocery store and he wrote a lot of shopping lists for me for example). I hope your sister can give her son the time he needs and the support - I had set the age of 12 as a timeline goal in my head so I wouldn't sweat the day to day not reading. My 12 year old selected many books he never read, but then again, I'd go to the library and bring home 20 and just leave them lying around the livingroom near the fireplace and then see what the kids would pick up as they cozied up to the fire in the morning. Or I'd leave a bag of books in the car when we went on long trips (as well as paper and pens, Lego figures, etc. so they had a lot to choose from.).

Comment by Dawn on January 18, 2009 at 05:34 PM

Back to the quote: I was just listening to my 2 1/2 year old son "reading" one of his favorite books... I was thinking about how my kids love to read the same books over and over again. Making those pathways!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 18, 2009 at 09:12 PM

i have company right now but i’m coming back later to answer SarahJ’s question!

Comment by Alison on January 18, 2009 at 09:26 PM

With regard to Christina's question on reading, I totally agree with you Lori, keep reading to kids, especially when they want more complex information.

Boys tend to prefer non-fiction, fantasy, and humor. Most parents seem to end up thinking that reading is about chapter fiction books by female authors.

There are many reasons why kids lose interest in reading. I still read to my son every day and he's nearly a teen. I don't read fiction to him, only non-fiction. The fiction, fantasy, and humor he loves to read by himself, but when he's reading for information he likes me to read. He wants to be able to see the words though so that the content holds his attention. I usually stop after every paragraph to talk about what we just read because there's a lot to process when you are reading non-fiction.

I could write more on this, but this is Lori's blog, not mine :-)

Comment by Aimee on January 18, 2009 at 09:31 PM

I have been thinking about reading material too and I would love to hear what others think.

Annabelle is 4 and loves to be read to and loves to look at books and this is a wonderful part of our lives. Lately, though, when we go to the library, she picks out books, that to me are as bad to read as coloring books are for drawing, books like "Dora" books and such, that I really dislike reading. She can't read, so on the one hand I want her to pick out books and love that process and I can even see by giving her a chance to pick out not so good books, she can become a better critic, but on the other, right now this is what she wants to pick out and I really want to say no.

Also she has been picking out serial chapter books, llike sweet valley high and pretending to read them and wishing I would read those to her too. We read chapter books together, and I try hard to find ones we will both enjoy. I know that she is wishing to be reading herself and pretending to read is a great thing, but when she wants me to read these books to her, it is hard, again I am torn by what is the right thing to do, what is my goal here and what am I teaching her by saying no (and I always explain honestly why I don't want to read those books, 'becasue they are not great books and I would rather read good books together." )
What do others think?

Comment by Alison on January 18, 2009 at 09:40 PM

SJ, my daughter is getting close to college age. I've seen a variety of things happen with homeschool kids in their teens. Some kids are very hands-on and get actively involved in their community. I've seen one teen who worked for a local puppet theater from his early teens. Others are interested in politics and get involved in campaigns and in writing about their opinions. One teen I know did very well in theater and got an apprenticeship with a local theater organization. Several of her plays were performed. Some kids I know chose to go to high school, or to take online classes for high school. Most have chosen to go to college. Others are athletic and like to focus a lot of time and energy into that or to something like musical studies.

My own daughter prefers to be at home rather than being out doing hands-on stuff. She is working very hard on her art. Basically she is self-taught, but she wants to learn about marketing her skills in digital art. We have gradually moved toward a more academic model of study because that seems to suit my kids best. They like the structure and find the academics pretty interesting at this point. They enjoy science best, but also like foreign language. My daughter loves writing and is interested in social studies also. My son is interested in programming.

As to what I do and want to do, I already have a small business and I write my blog. I learn new stuff every day. Once I'm not involved in daily homeschooling I expect to look for a job.

Comment by Christie on January 19, 2009 at 04:36 AM

Aimee - I had a friend that said something I really like and I now say to my daughter when she wants me to read crummy books. I tell her that there are so many many fantastic books out there, that I want to spend my time reading the very best. If it is a picture book, I'll read it once (even the ones I know will be awful), though I have stopped in the middle of some of the more propaganda type books and say, "I'm not enjoying this one very much, do you mind if we stop reading it?" For chapter books, good golly our shelf of chapter books waiting in line is packed. I'll put the book on the shelf, then have it quietly make its way back to the library. I like to think that when she can read herself, I'll not censor as much, but I really don't want to spend out reading time reading something I dislike, especially since often my tone often shows when I am not enjoying myself.

Comment by steph on January 19, 2009 at 07:24 AM

I can't believe it--he said this YEARS before it was actually proven to be a scientific fact! With so much insight...imagine the focus I would have. :::)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 19, 2009 at 01:58 PM

like alison, i still read aloud to my almost-teen as well, but we read both fiction and nonfiction. reading aloud isn’t just for small children! :^) when we travel/camp, i read aloud to the whole family in the car for entertainment (i hear other people use newfangled “books on tape” ;^) and at night before we sleep. my husband still enjoys being read to and he’s pushing 50. ;^)

also, adding to what alison said about reading nonfiction — even when he is perfectly capable of reading and understanding books on his own, we do just as alison says and stop again and again to discuss what we’re reading, and i think we both walk away with a much deeper understanding and better retention of the material. for more than a year we were reading bill bryson’s “short history of nearly everything” and i will never forget the great conversations that book jump-started!

aimee, your comment made me laugh. i have a friend whose daughter wants to read nothing but princess books, preferably disney princess books. she told me if she has to read one more princess book she’s going to … do something extreme. lol. ;^) for myself, i think back with pain on the “bob the builder” years. seriously, who writes those books? and the new winnie-the-pooh. don’t even get me started on new pooh.

in more recent years my son has read all the captain underpants books, which i loathe.

when my boys couldn’t read, i did read them the books they wanted even if i didn’t like them (strongly, strongly did not like them), but i would balance it with reading things i preferred. i would let them pick 2 books per night and then read something else. as soon as they could read, i stopped reading things i didn’t like, and like christie, i had no problem saying that i did not enjoy those books so they could read those on their own.

they have free choice at the library and do read their fair share of “junk” (garfield, captain underpants, etc.), but as they also read a lion’s share of great books, i think that’s perfectly fair. :^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 19, 2009 at 02:26 PM

SJ, great questions.

at 9 and 12, my sons work so independently already that i have plenty of time to pursue my own work and my own interests. my husband and i own our own business, so the boys are used to being in that environment; i started taking my first son to work when he was just a few months old. :^) now we work out of our home, but they are still exposed daily to parents who work and who have intense interests of their own.

i don’t worry about “the empty nest” for a few reasons. one, homeschooling blesses me with an immense amount of time with my children and a close family. i *want* them to grow to be independent and self-sufficient, and i see that happening incrementally every day. another, i have continued to work and i have many intense interests; my husband and i really model life-long learning for our sons, as we are both fascinated by learning about something entirely new. while raising children is my absolute favorite thing, it’s not my only thing.

as to college and careers, my sons will be capable of pursuing whatever they wish, and perhaps more importantly, i think they will have strong ideas of what they want to pursue and the confidence to live the life they want. they are spending their youth deeply investigating their interests and developing their talents; i love watching them grow and mature and become more themselves every day. :^)

Comment by Aimee on January 19, 2009 at 02:37 PM

I like the idea of reading picture books once. I am fine with my daughter reading the books herself, I know I read lots of "junk," myself when I was a kid, and still read lots of great books.
Any recommendations for chapter books for a 4 year old? We have read classic Pooh, some Dahl, Pippi Longstocking, Mr. Popper's Pengiuns, The Boxcar Children, All of E.B. White, and others.
The question about my children's life when older, well that will be up to them, though I do think they will be prepared for whatever they will need, or will have the resources within themselves to get the things they need.
As for my life? Well I have 161/2 years to go and it feels a long time from now. As it is I have more I want to do than time and anything is possible, but like them, I hope to keep learning and changing. Right now I am open to working for money or staying home, which ever works for me and my family.

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 19, 2009 at 03:14 PM

I'm sitting here laughing at the Captain Underpants books - I feel the same way. Jeff has a love for them (the arrested adolescent in him???) and he would read them to Gunnar before Gunnar was fluent enough to read them to himself. I would read nearly anything else to avoid those books.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 19, 2009 at 04:59 PM

aimee, re: book recommendations for reading aloud to four-year-olds, here are my suggestions in addition to the ones you mention: little house series (the first few books when the girls are very young), fables and fairy tales, a.a. milne poetry, madeleine, books by virginia lee burton (the little house, mike mulligan, etc.), rabbit hill, kipling's just-so stories.

my favorite poetry book for reading aloud to small children is the 20th century children's poetry treasury -

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 19, 2009 at 05:01 PM

sarah, lolol, i guess that proves everyone has different tastes. ;^)

why are all the new versions of books so horrible? the classic thomas the tank engine stories? great. the new ones? *awful*. classic pooh? fantastic. new pooh? *horrible*. and etc.

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 19, 2009 at 05:11 PM

Personally, I think we've stopped expecting people to truly be literate. We've lowered the bar of what we think kids can handle to such a low level that the books for preschoolers aren't even books anymore. They're marketing materials.

However, the graphic novels that Gunnar has been reading are quite impressive in their strength of narrative. It almost feels like they're sneaking the good stuff by the publishers and out to the public by putting in a comic book style. I have no complaints about that right now, since he's so visual and will only read for fun if it's in that format. At least this way he's getting good stuff and not worthless drivel.

Why yes, I do have a literature degree. Why do you ask?

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 19, 2009 at 06:41 PM

sarah, i agree. i read a really interesting article this year about how dumbed down our reading curriculum is in schools, e.g., high school reading lists from the 50s now correlate to college work versus high school reading lists today which are far less challenging.

one point the researchers made was that young adults are now far less likely to even make the *attempt* to read “difficult” works — whether shakespeare or a piece of challenging science writing.

i agree so much re: marketing materials, too — ugh. so many books published and purchased for children seem to be attempting to appeal to them as toys rather than good storytelling.

and hey, i have a lit degree, too. ;^)

Comment by Barbara on January 19, 2009 at 08:21 PM

...just wanted to chime in with a couple author reccomendations.

Tove Jansson's Moomin Books are awesome for just about any age. We have this picture book: Moomin, Mymble and Little My, and the illustrations are fantastic. But for some reason it sells for over $300 on amazon?? Don't know what that's about....
...she also has a ton of great comic strips that have been put into books, these are probably more appropriate for older kids. Oh, and adults too, Tove Jansson is a wacky Finn, but so very original.

Enid Blyton writes great adventure type books (and a few nature books) for all age and reading levels, but for younger children these two series are perfect:
Faraway Tree

Wishing chair

For older kiddos, the Famous Five can't be beat.

The paperback versions of all of these go for about $7 each.

Comment by Christina on January 19, 2009 at 08:22 PM

Thanks so much for all your suggestions for helping reluctant readers. I have forwarded them on to my SIL.

aimee: I feel your pain with the sorry book choices. My 5-year-old went through that last year. I wanted her to feel like she had the power to choose her own books, so I'd read those darn Dora books at the library with her, but she rarely asked to bring them home after one reading. My kids often choose books I don't like, but as we continue to read quality books together, I feel like they will begin to notice the difference themselves . . . which, in fact, is just what I see happening. They still choose a Magic Tree House adventure now and again, but they get bored with them quickly . . . and we just finished the Hobbit last December. No one got bored with that :)

As for book recommendations for 4-year-olds . . . ooooooooo . . . how much time do you have? You listed some good ones. Try: Averill's Cat Club series, Baum's Wizard of Oz, Burgess' Old Mother West Wind, Cleary's Ralph Mouse books, all of Dahl, Gannett's My Father's Dragon books, Lofting's Dr. Doolittle books, MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. We've been loving the Little House books too lately. I could go on . . . but won't. Enjoy!

Comment by Aimee on January 19, 2009 at 09:49 PM

Oh, Christina, please do go on. We have read some of what you recommend and I am excited to try the ones we haven't yet. I am going to go request them at my library (on-line) right now!


Barbara, off to look your suggestiopns up too! Thanks!!!!

Comment by katrien on January 19, 2009 at 09:50 PM

Have any of you read *The Child that Books Built* by Francis Spufford. It's a quirky autobiographical account of how he was shaped by the books he read in childhood.

A really good read with lovely insights into children's lit. It's written from a British perspective and a guy who's now, I should guess, in his 40s, but he also read The Little House on the Prairie and Where the Wild things Are, etc.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 20, 2009 at 01:11 AM

barbara, we love the moomin books! :^)

and christina, i meant to mention the ralph books, too -- we loved those. :^) your approach with literature was the same as mine -- i assumed they would eventually develop good taste, and they did. ;^)

katrien, i am going to check out the spufford book -- thank you for the recommendation!

Comment by Dawn on January 20, 2009 at 02:49 AM

Books: Such wonderful recommendations!
We also like The Borrowers series by Mary Norton.

Comment by Christie on January 20, 2009 at 03:50 AM

oooo, book recommendations. I keep lists for just this sort of question! When my daughter was 4 in addition to some of the books mentioned above, she liked:
Betsy-Tacy (series)
The Moffets (series)
Homer Price
Babe, the Gallant Pig (lots of other Dick King Simth)
All of a Kind Family (series)
Cricket in Times Square
The Witch Family
Toys Go Out (which is wonderful except I had to edit out the bit about ax-murderers. Really. The book is written for 5yos but in a list about scary things in the basement in the style of lions and tigers and bears, oh my, is included ax-murderers. I just changed it to something else and made a mental note not to check out the audio.)
Understood Betsy

Comment by Alice on January 20, 2009 at 01:16 PM

I love Enid Blyton books, too - I'm reading 'The Magic Faraway Tree' series to my seven year old (English isn't her first reading language). She also loved 'Heidi' which we read when she was six (I would consider it similar to the 'Little House' series).

'Alice in Wonderland' and 'The Little Prince' are other books that come to mind. I have also just started reading (I like to read them through by myself first) 'Charlotte's web' and I love it.

I also just found a copy of the 'Read Aloud Handbook' by Jim Trelease (I think it is out of print) which has a huge selection of suggestions - although not recently published books - it was written in the early eighties.

Does anyone know the name of a book about an English girl who built a Japanese doll's house for her two Japanese dolls? I remember it from when I was a child and would love to read it again. Lori, I think you would love it. It starts out with the girl going to the local book dealer, to research Japanese houses!


Comment by SJ on January 27, 2009 at 06:32 AM

Cathy T, Alison and Lori - many thanks for answering my questions - I really appreciate it : )


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