Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book post- what I read in 2013


It is easy to say I don't have time to read. It is only true, though, if I don't choose to use some of my time for that so-worth-it pursuit. Nothing but running feels as luxuriously self-oriented to me as reading. So this year, I tried to do more of it.

I was helped greatly in my efforts by two things. The first was our decision to homeschool SuperSam (which promptly led to my decision that I knew less than enough about all the possibilities and needed to read every book out there). While I didn't read every book on homeschooling, I did manage to finish a number of them, which helped me figure out my homeschooling identity a little (and narrowed my focus for choosing more books to read!).

The second thing that helped me read more was my decision to host a Well-Read Mom group at my house once each month. Since I am the host, there's extra pressure to have actually finished the book before the meeting, even if I didn't love it.

(Oh, and the fact that my twins turned two, started sleeping on a regular schedule and are no longer completely dependent infants helped a bit, too.)

This was my to-read pile back in the summer:

I'm pleased to say I finished all of those except Seven-Storey Mountain. I think that book requires more focus than I was able to muster.

I'm also disappointed that I didn't find enough time to finish this one:

I fully intend to get to the end of it (and I really do like it! It's just so long!). Let's call it a work in progress.

As for what I actually did finish? Here's a list:

The Homeschooling Stuff:

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert

Honestly, this book changed my life. It is the book that made me believe we could homeschool. Lori has a way of making things seem really doable, and reading this was like seeing a way forward where there had previously just been a brick wall. Also be sure to check out the forums on the Project-Based Homeschooling site, where lots of really amazing and knowledgeable people are sharing ideas all the time. Inspiring stuff.

Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

This is a whole-child approach to homeschooling. The Clarksons have lots of experience and advice to offer. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I'm glad I read it.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Richard Louv hypothesizes that many of the disorders and dysfunctions so prevalent in children today are due to a lack of free time outdoors in nature to explore and take controlled risks. It could have ventured into "back in my day, kids played outside all the time and their parents never checked on them and they were fine!" territory, but it really didn't. I'm not sure how all the research holds up, but I enjoyed the book, and it inspired me to renew my efforts to get us outside at least a little every day for unstructured play.

The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers

This is a classic. I think it's like required reading for homeschoolers, so I read it.

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer

This book is so full of information that I have to keep going back and looking things up. I like that reading it made me feel that homeschooling is doable for our family (and that I'm not risking gaps in our children's education by taking it on myself without some boxed curriculum). I like that Ms. Bauer's approach leaves room to tailor classical education to fit my children's needs, and although I'm still not a fully classical-approach homeschooler, this book almost convinced me I was.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock

This is a quick read. There are lots of practical activities here for incorporating Montessori-style teaching in your own home.

Teach Your Own:A Hopeful Path for Education by John Holt

Again, I think this is one that homeschoolers are supposed to read. I appreciated Mr. Holt's focus on empowering parents. I didn't love all the negative stories and examples about public school failings (we all know public schools aren't perfect, but that's not why we are choosing to homeschool). The legal advice is (thankfully!) outdated in the edition I read. Mostly, I felt glad that homeschool legislation and support has come so far since he wrote this book.

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education by Laura Berquist

This is a helpful source for classical resources for homeschooling from a Catholic perspective. She also includes schedules to help you structure your school day. While I'm much less structured than she is, I appreciated seeing how little time she spent on formal academics for young children (Kindergarten and first grade). 

The Fun Stuff I Read on Vacation:
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz

Basically, living vicariously. The chocolate. The city. The wearing nice clothes to take out the trash. (Okay, maybe not that last one.)

The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker

This is a young adult novel about the slowing of Earth's rotation and how it affects one girl's life. I couldn't put it down. 

The One I Listened to on audible.com While Folding Laundry:

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans

This book pretty much convinced me that Rachel Held Evans and I would be best friends...and that if I hadn't become Catholic, I could have become...well, a lot like her, actually. It's really good. Listening to her read her own work is a treat, and I immediately started stalking her on Twitter after finishing this.

The Well-Read Mom Selections I Probably Wouldn't Have Read Otherwise (But Was Mostly Glad I Did):

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

This is an amazing little book that you can read very quickly but chew on for many years afterward. It's just as valuable in little two or three line snippets as it is read all at once.

A fictional account of a woman and her family settling on the prairie. I thought it was okay. It reminded me somewhat of the Little House books, but I didn't like it nearly as much.

The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

I reread these after we discussed two of them (Revelation and A Good Man Is Hard to Find) at our book club meeting. I love Flannery more and more every time I read her. If you don't love her, we can still be friends, but I will probably try to convince you that she is wonderful, anyway.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

I just don't think I'm ever going to like this book. I read it in high school and again this fall. Mostly, I was just frustrated by what I felt was missing from the characters' personal lives and by the absence of redemption or grace in the story. Maybe that's the point.

The One I Wish I Hadn't Had A Reason To Read:

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman's Companion to Healing & Hope by Karen Edmisten

I got this after we lost our baby in October. I wish I had never needed to read it, but it was enormously comforting. I'd highly recommend it- I've reread it several times since then.

The Bestest Running Training Plan Book Ever:

This book is really, really good. If you are thinking about starting to run, you should get it. If you already run but want to start racing, you should get it. If you already race and are completely and totally satisfied with your training plan, you should still get it. I followed the "Finish It" marathon training plan laid out in this book, and I cut 37 minutes off my marathon PR. (Also, I was pregnant at the time and didn't know it.) That obviously means the training plan is really good, right?

That does it for me, I think. (There is probably something I left off this list, but I think the list is long enough.)

How about you? What did you read? Anything you're particularly excited about reading in 2014?

Linking up with Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas...you can go there to see lots of other people's lists and get inspired to read more this year.

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