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Some of the books weve studied and accompanying bits :) Will try to add them as we go along. There's always piles of them lying around...
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This has to be the jewel of the books weve studied so far - we all loved it and felt a sense of loss once we'd finished reading it. It's written in a warm and friendly style, the story being seen through the eyes of Scout who is six years old at the start of the book. You quickly become very fond of her, her brother Jem and friend Dill. Despite the serious issues that are dealt with, the book never loses it's humour or it's ability to make you laugh (and cry).
It fitted in well (home ed synchronicity) with our study of the civil rights movement as one of the main stories of the book is the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama. Atticus Finch, Scout's father, the lawyer who defends him is a very memorable character, teaching the moral of doing what is right even if it's hard and others disapprove. There are strong themes of justice and prejudice running throughout the book, not least in the story of the mysterious Boo Radley who never leaves his house and is the source of much childhood imagination and terror. Without giving away too much plot we loved the way that ultimately Boo's right to be different and who he really is, is respected and truly appreciated.
Lee includes quite extensive comment on the school system, all still valid today. Scout is devastated to be told not to read anymore by her first teacher as she 'won't have been taught correctly'. Atticus reassures her that she can continue to read at home without telling the teacher. She is then one of the few to pass first grade, most other children failing to learn to read with the system in place. Lee (Scout) continues: "The remainder of my school days were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in it's well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics. What Jem called the Dewey Decimal System was school-wide by the end of my first year, so I had no chance to compare it with other teaching techniques. I could only look around me: Atticus and my uncle, who went to school at home, knew everything - at least what one didn't know the other did." ...... "but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me."
It's quite impressive that a book expressing such sentiments is used in schools across the world - very glad it is, it's a wonderful educational title in so many ways.
We followed up by watching the film with gorgeous Gregory Peck as Atticus. It did keep the feeling of the book and the characters were all well recognised and superbly acted, but we mourned the ommission of many minor individuals and events which had all added to the rich tapestry of the book, but then that is inevitable in any book to film production. Buy UK or Buy US
Also see the wikipedia page for much more background detail.
Lunchtime listening on days when we were in and didn't have visitors during May/June 2008 - busy social times!!! Enjoyed the story as told by a bottle of wine... magic, food, love... little girl in this is home ed, mother much vilified by some of the villagers.... good reminder to us that in cases like this ( :) ) there are always people who keep their heads and decide for themselves rather than listening to behind the back speak... can't help feeling the author must have had this happen to her, it's so truly presented. Loved the ending too :D Buy UK or Buy US
March 2008 we read 'The Red Tent' by Anita Diamant. We all loved the story of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, sister of the more famous coated Joseph (who does not come off well in the book!!). This is a real tale of womanhood, births, deaths, loves, mothers. Earthy and adult - it raised many frank discussions about deep issues that are as relevent today as they were in the times of the old testament. There is a very moving atmosphere to this book - it stays with you.
January 2008 we were studying Italian and Sally Vicker's 'Miss Garnet's Angel' accompanied it beautifully. We followed Miss Garnet's journey in Venice, learned lots of tid-bits about Italy, art, sprituality, abuse, sexuality, love and angels - yep, long discussions were spawned by it :)
Summer/Autumn 2007 had us studying modern spiritual literature with the Celestine Prophecy. We liked the insights and much discussion was had about the phenomenal success of the book. Weve read so much fine, classic stuff that this did seem a bit banal in comparison but very good from an educational standpoint anyway. Buy UK or Buy US We folowed up with the questionable film version - again, very interesting and have to admit we really enjoyed it ;) Buy UK or Buy US
Summer 2007 was Bronte time for a while. Love seeing the children enjoy these books - so valuable, not just for their literary finery (oh the vocab, the grammar, the research into currently lesser used words and phrases) but for the emphasis put on strength of character and being a good person. We all thoroughly enjoyed Wuthering Heights, getting very involved with the characters. It really is quite a unique book - read up on it's unfavourable reception at the time of publishing and Emily Bronte. We followed up by watching two film versions: one with Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche and a Granada adaptation. Much preferred the latter - found the first so shortened, severely lessoning the impact of Heathcliff's actions, though the actors were very good in their roles. Both were excellent for sparking various points of discussion and noting how the film makers had sought to convey certain feelings, atmosphere etc. Buy Book UK or from Amazon.com
We then moved on to Anne Bronte's 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall', one of my all time favourites. Banned for a time for it's feminist leanings, again it is full of those of strong virtue and those not... followed up with an excellent version from the BBC - they can always be relied upon to do good fiction justice :)
UK Book or from Amazon.com
For a while July 2007 found us all curled up in corners to discover Harry's fate with the last book in the series - all happily satisfied with the end :D This is a fairly rare work in which the central character is selfless in his saving of others... lots of good messages for Humanity there us thinks! Buy UK or Buy US
'Entertaining Angels' - this book was a source of light relief to me when we were just starting out with home ed. A little racy (not for kids) and hilarious with ladies fancying the local vicar, this novel has a mum who is teaching her HFA daughter at home. Particularly funny are the LEA visits! Buy UK
Also summer 2006, we had a very interetsing time reading My Ishmael, looking at our weird and whacky culture, comparing it to other ways of living... Daniel Quinn has some good stuff to say about education too... Buy UK or Buy US
Summer 2006 we read William Golding's Lord of the Flies. The links below take you to the educational version of the book which has suggested questions and bits to mull over and discuss - got quite a lot out of this. Fascinating comment on the human condition and civilisation... Buy UK or Buy US Then this great game from NobelPrize.org for after you've read it backing up and revising some of the characters and themes - also linking to more information on William Golding. While reading this we were lucky to catch the Simpsons episode 'Das Bus' which is a short parody of the book.
May 2006 - continuing on with our study of classic literature, politics and human society with Animal Farm - Charlotte is particularly enjoyed this one. Buy UK or Buy US
April 2006 - we read the Day of the Triffids - everyone gripped by the storyline - sparked much discussion and imagination. Language and vocabulary skills stretched too. Buy UK or Buy USWe then went on to watch the old BBC series from the 80s which was a good follow up.
This was another audio book listen in 2005. Loved this frighteningly believable novel and parody of the Blair government. Prime Minister Edward Clare wants to get back in touch with the people of his country. He travels round Britain disguised as a woman (which he quite enjoys) - lots of social comment as usual from Sue Townsend. Laugh one minute, cry the next - a fantastic read. Buy UK or Buy US
Summer 2005 found us listening to this hilarious tale with our lunches.Buy UK or Buy US