Thursday, October 30, 2014

Great Books for High School Kids

Just wanted to quickly share a resource you might find useful for those teens lurking about your kitchen right now, eating their way through the fridge.  This resource has not much to do with eating or lurking, but it does target the ever-perplexing teenage thought process and how to perhaps propel it in a good direction.

I admire people who take the bull by the horns and make things happen.  Mr. Ayers and Ms. Crawford couldn't find what they were looking for on the market, so they consulted with colleagues and created what they wanted for kids.  I also straighten up when I see the words "against the grain".  

Here's the blurb from Amazon describing the book:

"Teachers Rick Ayers and Amy Crawford always wanted to find a guide to the vast world of great books for teenagers-one that didn't talk down or moralize. When they couldn't find one, they set out to create it. 

An early prototype offered at Cody's Bookstore in Berkeley, California, was an instant success. Great Books for High School Kids is the culmination of their efforts.

Collecting recommendations and essays from colleagues and advisers around the country, this is a rollicking, thoughtful, against-the-grain guide that challenges stodgy notions of what great books are and what kids are ready for.

The book starts with seven essays by high school teachers about exciting, exemplary experiences they have had reading books with students in the classroom-from Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina to Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon to Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy.

Augmented by an index of more than seventy subjects, the book also has an annotated list of hundreds of Recommended Great Books. The recommendations are playful and irreverent, ambitious and entertaining, and they go way beyond traditional reading lists. From classics to the unexpected, from literary novels to nonfiction, some drama, and even a little poetry, these are all books that teenagers have read with pleasure and can read on their own.

Great Books for High School Kids is an invitation and a sourcebook for inspiring passionate, lifelong readers-a book that could seriously change the lives of teachers, of families, and of kids."

I just plunked it in the Amazon cart, used for a penny.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ten Weeks of High School at Home

Into the 10th week of doing high school at home.  That would be a prepositional phrase, one not meant to stand on it's own as a complete sentence, but this is how I think and write.  The teenager is engaged in an 8 week Time4Writing class called Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics taught by Mrs. Barrett (good thing it's not me teaching since I am a choppy sentence writer). I have peeped over his shoulder a time or two to be reminded what clauses of the dependent and independent varieties are.  Mrs. Barrett is uber positive in her comments, which he appreciates.  She is good at correcting a student's line of thinking with encouragement.  Everyone needs a little encouragement.

Time4Writing offers short classes in paragraph writing, essay writing, tackling research papers, and coping with the writing portions on the SAT.  I felt a grammar review class this year was imperative since we will be gradually writing more and more as high school drones on.  Check them out if you haven't visited Time4Writing. They offer classes for elementary through high school.

I'd like him to read this, too, for fun:

Literature has been a favorite subject thus far.  Currently he is reading a book by Orson Scott Card.  His needle seems to be stuck on science fiction, even though I had imagined him taking great big gulps from the bread(th) of the literature shelf this semester.  We know when he likes a book because he chatters about it non-stop!  Orson has gained his respect.  I've been instructed to gather more books by said author.  Because this book was on the literature shelf, it seems he has gained more trust in my abilities to meet his reading needs.  Silly boy.

He's been tackling community service hours via some volunteer stints with a couple of organizations, one involving the care and keeping of foster kittens.  It's a really tough road.  He has to pick them up, pet them, play with them and feed them when I need help.  I bring up the rear with litter box duty, laundry and washing food dishes.  Needless to say we get attached to each bunch that travels through, but it's such a good and rewarding service to provide for them.  We also know that another bunch waits at the shelter for a turn at home life, so there is never a shortage of kittens in need. It's sheer enjoyment for one thing, and the kittens benefit greatly from caring hands.  They arrive as hissy missies (not always) and leave as certified companions of the highest order.  I feel I have done remarkably well allowing only one kitten to remain on board permanently, especially since eight or so groups of kittens have moved through our house.  Good thing my husband is a limit setter.     

THIS one.  She arrived as a foster and stayed.  This is Pogo.  She's now a year old.

Math is going as well as it can be expected to as he cruises through pre-algebra for review.  We've figured out that math work should come early in the day before his energy tanks.  Tanked energy and math do not a happy couple make.

He has turned to Learn Python the Hard Way by Zed Shaw for programming and continues to enjoy it.  Three days a week.  Forgive me if I've mentioned these resources in previous posts!  He also started watching lectures on Cybersecurity via The Great Courses:

Professor Paul Rosenzweig teaches the course on cyber security.  

Let's just say Mr. Rosenzweig knows his stuff when it comes to understanding the Internet, cyber crime, cyber security and cyber warfare.  Each lecture is 30 minutes in length and there are eighteen of them.  Lots of topics for discussion here.  Professor Rosenzweig is an engaging and dynamic expert on the subject.

I cannot rave enough about Eugen Weber's (free) Western Tradition lectures online.  The teenager states that history is 'actually interesting', thanks to Mr. Weber.  The lectures are dated (1989) but full of valuable insight into how non-linear history really is and how events shaped themselves into what we recognize as everyday life as a Westerner.  I've mentioned that he wrote companion books to accompany this lecture series.  A quote from a 2007 New York Times article about Mr. Weber's death states:

"Mr. Weber was encyclopedic in his depiction of an era, a movement or a social trend, focusing more on the many facets of everyday life than on historical theories. History, he wrote in “Europe Since 1715,” was “not just the epic of collective deeds, but the tissue of the times; not just what happened, but to whom and how; not just wars and politics, the doings of a relatively restricted group, but the way people lived — humbler and middling people, and the rich as well — their food, their housing, the warp and woof of their existence.” 

Finally, rounding out each day is guitar practice.  And more practice.  And still more.  He's become passionate about learning new songs on this wonderful instrument.  I figured he might enjoy learning about some of the guitar gods, so picked up a copy of the 2013 documentary about Jimi Hendrix titled Hear My Train A Comin.

So far so good, for the most part.  He still would prefer to have much more freedom to explore his other interests, but I maintain that he has plenty of non-school time to follow his nose more intently.  This has been an ongoing struggle for me as a homeschooling parent - one of determining how much structure to provide for learning.  Ultimately, the built-in beauty of this homeschooling business is that we can continued to tweak and adjust until both of us are satisfied with the outcome.

Point blank, I love homeschooling.  Even high school!

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