April’s review of March reading selections included performance art on the part of friend’s son. He took There Will Come Soft Rains, spent hours drawing the house as he saw it from the description using various architecture examples from web images, and then . . . he took us outside and lit it on fire.
He wasn’t entirely comfortable with the pictures I took before, during, and after, as he pointed out that he was making a statement about the loss of human civilization as described in the story. He added that it took him hours to make it and only minutes to destroy it; he had intended to leave no record behind of all his work. He did, however, give me permission to show the end photos, but not the before image.
My daughter chose Kate Chopin’s A Pair of Silk Stockings and provided a sensory experience. She made a box into which each blindfolded person placed their hand to find something new. She included a stocking to stroke, a glove to touch, a wine cork to smell (we could have freshened it up a bit, as the scent was all but gone), and a piece of Blanxart dark chocolate to taste.
We discussed each story as usual, and I let them each lead the discussion of the story they chose for projects. In the end, it was Longing to Die of Old Age that won out on discussion time, as there was a lot about food security, community, and mortality that they wanted to talk about. Before heading off to their swimming lessons, I assigned them the following . . .
April Reading Selections:
- Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
- Lamb for the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
- “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison
- Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
So then last week, we got together to discuss the above stories. Both of them had chosen the Ticktockman, because, you know, this is just a fun story, even if it has a classic Ellison ending. Both of them had created pictures of said Ticktockman. A. handed me a two page short story in his composition book to show the perspective of a young boy whose father’s time runs out, and showed me the picture the “boy” had drawn. Daughter had a pair of watercolor paintings, a before and after, of the Ticktockman and his association with the Harlequin.
When I saw what was presented, I said to A., “I was expecting a jar of jellybeans from you, or something,” and he said, “oh, right,” and stood on his chair. A moment later, his fingers having unsealed the plastic baggie attached to the ceiling I’d failed to notice, we were pelted with hailing jelly beans. His brother helped “clean up” by gathering them all and stuffing them into his mouth.
We covered the story, I read the poem about Paul Revere, breaking it down because some of the events mentioned needed clarifying for Daughter, and then a sober review of The Shawl. I kept that one brief only touching on the exact events going on in the story that were poetically detailed so as to avoid ambiguity. We agreed it was dour, and the moment I mentioned Dahl’s story, both of them laughed with relief. They loved it (yay!), and thought the whole thing very clever. We detailed more about Harlequin, and decided after a quick recap of Rip Van Winkle that the story was rather boring and could be shortened to anecdote or old WB cartoon. I did point out some of the cultural notes that were important in the story (current location, mythology, the culture of the people who had colonized the area, and relations to other stories/authors in their readings). I pointed out, too, that as a young nation, our legends and folktales are only now becoming myth in our collective minds; Rip Van Winkle, Paul Bunyan, and Johnny Appleseed are just some of those that have fallen into the hands of animated comedy and parody and pretty much out of everyday discussion. Except among homeschoolers and “history” teachers it seems. 😉
Then I announced that the following were the last selections before a reprieve for summer. Well, not really a reprieve, but a shifting of gears. Taking a page from formal school teachers, I’m giving them a book reading project, but those details will come in June.
May Reading Selections:
- The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
- Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath
- If Men Could Menstruate by Gloria Steinem
- On Cheating the Fiddler, For a Lady Who Must Write Verse, and Oscar Wilde by Dorothy Parker*
- We Have Always Spoken Panglish by Suzette Haden Elgin
*I tried to find three selections without a man-hating theme, because honestly, I love Dorothy Parker, and I want A. to have a chance to enjoy her, too without feeling constantly attacked.