Quick Update: Books, Students, and Life

BOOKS

61ewc29wj8lAs part of our exploration of the human body, I selected a lot of materials.  Far too many materials, really, but one book I really enjoyed using is called My Bodyworks, which is filled with song lyrics (CD included) for songs about different aspects of the body.  Many of these songs encourage movement while singing, and the end of the book has details about the human body as a reminder to the content of the song lyrics.  I haven’t played the CD yet (I’m afraid to, given the frequent disappointment or annoyance I have with for-kids music collections), but reading the lyrics to my son as I would poetry, and engaging our bodies in some of them was a lot of fun.  We’ll be hanging on to this one for a while.

 

STUDENTS

My new students and I had our second meeting, which involved their first projects and detailed discussions of our readings.  The readings were hard, most of them weren’t able to finish “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” and one couldn’t get through “The Lottery.”

I apologized and admitted the selections were a bit of a cruel test.  The first four were among some of my absolute favorites.  Ones I think everyone should read, and three of them are hard.  Emotionally brutal.  I shared with them the story of my experience taking a class at university titled “The Anthropology of Rock and Roll.”  I didn’t go into too many details, but on the first day, our professor played videos of a particular rock star renowned for his grotesqueries — he was violent, gross, brutal, repugnant, and did vile acts on stage for attention and to cause a visceral response to his art. The professor said, if we could get through the first day and still want to come back, the rest would be easy, and he was right.

While these stories were difficult reads for sensitive souls, my students proved themselves.  The projects were insightful, diverse in ideas, and all showed they grasped the readings well.  One wrote an essay analyzing their choice in “The Lady or the Tiger?”  Another wrote a poem about “The Lottery.”  One baked “puppy biscuits” inspired by the grocery list in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and related to the main character’s rich imaginative life amidst banality.  Another baked a social experiment to life, making one person choose what another would get to eat, knowing one was a “lady,” and another a “tiger.”  And the fifth student pulled out a box with two doors.  They’d used straws, tape, brads, cardboard, and hand-drawn pictures to create an ever-changing box of chance, since the options could be changed at will by the student before the next person chose a door.

If these kids aren’t amazing, then I must not understand the definition of the word.  I love, love, love them, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with at our next meeting after they’ve sunk their minds into some Halloween treats.

 
LIFE

Amidst all the chaos, house and car woes, and the endless cycle of chores, Daughter scored well on her first Japanese test, my son is starting to recover from his unexplained viral infection, I started a Patreon account.  Come November 1st, I’ll be taking the Flash Dash Challenge again, writing one flash fiction piece a day for thirty days, AND it looks like I’ll be a panelist and presenting my debut novel at Norwescon 40.  I’m “nervcited” (my daughter’s term).

Dead Air

My apologies to the 24 people who follow this blog.  March saw us madly dashing around trying to get ready for Norwescon, which we attempt to attend every year.  This one was our biggest — my daughter had worked hard on a costume of her creation to enter into the masquerade competition (and won, second year in a row), and I got a chance for professional critiques of my writing in THREE writers’ workshops — and was immediately concluded at the end of the weekend with frightening news that my mother, only 56 years of age, was heading to the hospital, unable to speak properly and spouting impossible and paranoid things not at all like her.  She had been ill for a few weeks, but her mind had been fit beforehand.

A week later, I was on a plane to Germany, because her condition had seriously worsened.  I arrived an hour too late, my mother passed away on April 16th of an infection she contracted while in the hospital.  Since then, our homeschooling experiment has been bumpy at best, and it’s taken a high toll on both my daily living and my daughter’s ability to focus on anything but her art.

It’s almost two months now, though it feels like days since it happened.  She was an extremely generous, loving, and creative person, and her husband, my daughter, and I are all still reeling from the shock of her sudden absence in our lives. Of the three of us, I’m pushing hardest to avoid allowing my grief to consume us.

Betsy Content Bogert Moelders
Dec. 7th, 1955 – Apr. 16th 2012

That being said, I’m going ahead with a plan I’d had rattling in my head for the last few months.  I’ve talked to my daughter and my friend’s eldest about the almost-two years of Reading Selections I began with them, where it’s taken them thus far, and whether they feel other children would benefit from it.  So, starting in September, I intend to take on new students in a casual environment — a handful of children in the homeschooling group — and give them a more polished and practiced form of this literary critiquing group we’ve been having so much fun with.  I’ve watched my daughter’s awareness of what she reads deepen, her insight into the subtle working of the world around her awaken, and my friend’s son’s critical analysis take on greater nuance.  They’ve become more considerate of the media to which they’re exposed through choice or accident, and I’m so proud to see my daughter’s own test scores in reading and spelling jump far ahead of where she’d been when she was in institutionalized schooling (and flagging) — she’s finally proficient at her approximate grade level!

I went back through this site’s archives and saw how there was nothing posted for the last “school year” of Reading Selections.  Tomorrow, I will attempt to sit down and post the list, complete with the links I can find of sources for the readings we did from September through March (our work stopped when my mother died), so anyone interested in what they’ve been reading, or who are looking for recommendations, can provide the same materials to their own home students.

What I’m most enjoying at the moment in our schooling adventure is how they’ve both taken to this summer’s reading selections project.  Their assignment is to choose three books: one fiction novel (not graphic novels/manga/manwa/etc.), one non-fiction book on a subject they find interesting, and one collection of a single poet’s work*.

Friend’s son has chosen:
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Content by Cory Doctorow
Death and Transfiguration: Poems by Kelly Cherry

Daughter has chosen:
Sky Village by Nigel Ashland
A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year by Ellen Evert Hopman
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading their three selected books, they are to find common threads, themes, or a single key subject within each of them and create a project based on that element.  They’ve both started reading, and they seem to be enjoying themselves!  I can’t wait to see what they come up with in September . . .

*I decided a single author’s work is more definitive of an individual voice, where as a selection of poems from various authors, usually compiled on a theme (e.g. feminist poetry collections, horror poetry collections, etc.) would dilute the process of seeking a shared connection between the three books.  If one of the books is already a cacophony, it can be hard to make the three books together create harmony, to tie them together.

More TED Talks

As if the TEDxRedmond event hadn’t been amazing enough for our two eldest children, there is the opportunity to bring TED to more of our youth.  On November 20th, 2010, TED will be holding a 24 hour worldwide event called TEDxYouthDay.

Anyone is invited to set up a viewing location, organize educators, or even organize youth to gather, view videos from past conferences, and include live speakers to present.  Details are here, and while there are various ways you can get involved, you should also check to see what’s already being organized in or near your community.

We’re talking about getting together a modest group for a viewing party, and we’ve already begun discussing some of our favorite and most memorable TED talks we love.

Some of our favorites:

Richard Preston on Giant Trees

Paul Stamets on 6 Ways that Mushrooms Can Save the World

and of course, Sugata Mitra’s Research into Education