The Reading Chair

“Hey Mom, smell this” is not a trap I generally fall into, but when Newt came to me yesterday afternoon with an old book in her hands, I acquiesced. There is just something about the smell of a book, you know?
New books smell very different from old. Library books smell different from those borrowed from a friend. They are all unique, but for the most part* they all smell wonderful.
I finally caved. I have put a Kindle on my Christmas wish list. I’d be willing to pay double if Amazon could make it smell like a real book…

What I’ve Been Reading
It’s just over two weeks until Christmas.
The house is still in need of much work.
I am leading Newt’s History Club meeting at our house this afternoon.
Reading for myself? I’ve got nothing.

What I’ve Been Reading to Newt
Carry on Mr. Bowditch
I can see why this book is a Newberry Award winner; it is fabulous. This is the true story of “Nat” Bowditch, a brilliant young boy growing up at the close of the Revolutionary War. His dreams of a Harvard education are cut short when he is indentured by his father to serve as a bookkeeper at a ship’s chandlery. Instead of allowing these circumstances ruin him, he chooses to educate himself. While I know that Bowditch eventually revolutionizes maritime navigation, I’m interested to see how he gets there. Newt and I are both enjoying this book.

Jesus the Christ
This is a wonderful book attesting to the divinity of Jesus Christ. However, it can also be fairly heavy and academic. I am slowly reading aloud the chapter about the birth of Jesus and taking time to discuss it with Newt. I don’t think we will go beyond that at this point, but it is a nice introduction for future study.

The Story of the Other Wise Man
I first read this story a couple of years ago and was very moved by it.
It is the story of another Magi, who had intended to accompany the well-known trio to greet the Christ child. Unfortunately for him, he is delayed by someone in need. When he finally arrives in Bethlehem, his companions are gone and the Holy family has fled into Egypt. The story chronicles his 33 year long search for the Messiah.
By the time I finished reading, Newt and I were both in tears. If you haven’t read this Christmas classic, I’d highly recommend it. (It is fairly short; we finished it in just a couple of hours.)

A Christmas Carol
One of our favorite Christmas classics.
On a side note, I have a little book crush on Dickens. He is an amazing writer, one of my absolute favorites.

What We’ve Been Listening To
The Fields of Home
This is the fifth book in the Little Britches Series and I just can’t say enough about how good they all are.
This one recounts what must have been a very frustrating period in Ralph’s life. He is sent to live with his grandfather, who quite frankly seems to have some serious mental problems. Grandpa alternates between berating Ralph for his supposed ignorance and babying him so that Ralph is unable to prove his worth.
We are hoping for some long drives in the days to come so we can see how it all turns out.

What Newt Has Been Reading
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Newt is starting to develop a personal policy of Read the Book First. With the new movie coming out soon, she decided to get the book from the library. She loved it, both for the story and the fantastic illustrations. She has pored over this book.
I can tell you right now, no matter how good the movie may turn out to be, she’s going to find a lot of things wrong with it. The better the book, the greater chance the movie will mess it up.
(And the movie won’t smell as good as the book either…)

Disclaimer: I am using Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase anything from my links, I get a small commission (which is good because Newt now wants a Kindle too).

*Exceptions: Musty, water damaged books and books handled by heavy smokers. Kindle should probably leave those smells off when they develop scented versions.

Confidential aside to Walt: Even after 16 years, I’d still say yes. Happy anniversary.

The Reading Chair

Newt and I were doing some work at the house today. She was sweeping up after the removal of the living room carpet while I was in the master bedroom pulling off all the baseboards. We were both pretty absorbed in our tasks, when suddenly I heard her yell. “Mama! Mama, can you hear me?”
She didn’t seem to be in distress, just excited, so I yelled back and asked what she needed.
“Mama, are you ever jealous of people in books? Let’s think of who!”
We spent the next half hour hollering back and forth about book characters and their lives.
There was a carpet installer caught in the crossfire of our conversation. I’m sure he left our home all the better for it.

What I’ve Been Reading

Well, I’ve read much less this week than last for three reasons:
1) I’ve been spending a lot more time at the house, painting and prepping for the new flooring to go in.
2) Newt is sick of the hotel pool. Therefore she is not interested in inviting friends to come swim with her. Therefore I can not lounge on a deck chair and read.
3) Newt and I have discovered Dr. Who on Netflix.
However, I did manage to get a couple of chapters in on Children of the Mind
Last week’s reading of Orson Scott Card reminded me that I never finished the Ender series. After picking up Children of the Mind, I am sort of remembering why. I really liked Ender’s Game, but as the series goes on it get weirder and weirder, but not in a great way. There are too many characters and I don’t care much about any of them. The plot has gotten so convoluted that it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening and why. I don’t really care for it. So why am I oddly compelled to keep reading? Is it just because after four or so prior books I’m invested? Or do I just like to finish what I start? Maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment.
Whatever the reason, no matter how bad this turns out to be, I’m already planning to read Ender in Exile.

What I’ve Been Reading to Newt
Carry on, Mr. Bowditch
We’ve only gotten a few chapters in, but already I think this will be a good one. I’ll talk more about it next week, once we’ve read a bit more.

What We are Listening To
Island of the Blue Dolphins
We have read/listened to a few really good survival stories: The Cay, Hatchet, Cast Away (okay, that last one is a movie. Wilson!).
Island is a good story, just not quite as compelling as those others. I think it may have to do with the narrator. She has a beautiful voice, but it’s so calm. I can’t feel a whole lot of story tension when her voice is so soothing…

What Newt Has Been Reading

Pretty much everything the library has to offer on wolves and foxes.

Have you read anything good lately? How about something mediocre that you can’t put down anyway?

I am using Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase from my links I get a small commission.

The Reading Chair

I’m not going to sugarcoat this:
I love my family more than anything. However, spending so much time together in our very-nice-size-for-a-hotel-suite-but-still-itty-bitty-and-growing-smaller-by-the-day room can be a bit, um… difficult.
Want to know how I cope? Just check out the size of my What I’ve Been Reading list this week.

What I’ve Been Reading
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Another middle-grade historical novel, this one set in 14th-century England. (And oh dear, there were references to the plague. I’m doomed.) After his mother’s death, Crispin is inexplicably declared a Wolf’s Head by the steward of the land. This means that he is no longer considered human and anyone who finds him may kill him. The steward claims it is because Crispin is a thief and a murderer, but neither charge is true. Now, for a uneducated boy who has never even left his small village, learning to survive and finding his place in the world is no small matter. Lucky for him, he encounters some big help along the way.

The Jungle Book
I grabbed this one off the bookshelf as we were leaving for the hotel. I’ve had it for a couple of years, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. I’m about 3/4 of the way through, and though it isn’t really a page turner, I am enjoying it. It’s fun to read the original of a story that is already familiar. And even after more than 100 years, Rudyard Kipling’s books are still fun to read (though I think I prefer his Just So Stories). Kippling gives me a glimpse of lands and characters that seem so exotic, more so I think than if something similar were to be written in our contemporary, internet-connected, global, small world.

Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Self Leadership
I think I have mentioned before that I do not particularly enjoy business books, but I have learned that good ones generally can teach me something about being a better mentor, which is one of the roles I have chosen for this period of my life. This was a good one, but since I went did not read it with pencil in hand, I’m already forgetting what it could have taught me. I plan to read it again and take notes.
In hindsight, this was not the best book for me to read in a week when I am feeling stressed and looking to escape into a book.

Homebody: A Novel
Now this one was a good escape. It was the kind of book that I couldn’t help staying up late for.
Homebody tricked me by starting out like a cheesy romance: loner building contractor with a troubled past meets lonely, but attractive Realtor when she sells him his newest project: a derelict mansion. At one point, early in the book I actually had to flip to the front cover to make sure this was Orson Scott Card, and not Nicholas Sparks. However, within a few chapters, things started to go a totally different direction. I was highly entertained by the twists brought about by a trio of crazy old ladies next door, a homeless waif squatting in the house, unwilling (or unable) to leave and the house itself with a power that seemed to grow with every repair made.
Hmm, maybe we should reconsider that new carpeting…

What I’ve Been Reading to Newt
Not a thing. As far as school goes, we are treating this week as a vacation. As such, I have encouraged heavy use of the hotel pool. I either join her, or even better, have her invite a friend so I can sit on the lounge and escape read my own books.

What Newt has Been Reading
Peanuts 2000: The 50th Year Of The World’s Favorite Comic Strip
It’s a Big World, Charlie Brown
Peanuts Treasury
Peanuts: clearly Newt’s comfort food books.
Here’s hoping we are home by this time next week.

The Reading Chair

I hate to keep beating a dead horse (since it’s a waste of effort, I mean once it’s dead, what’s the point, right?), but we’ve had an unusual week around our place. In case you haven’t heard my daily whining, we had a little plumbing issue… Anyhoo, you’d think that with all the meetings with contractors and phone calls with insurance people that there would be little time for reading. Did you think that? Because if you did, you’d be wrong. Sorry. I spent a couple hours alone in a hotel room today, just me and my book.
Charmed life, I know.

What I’ve Been Reading
Fever 1793
I love books written for young people. I love disaster books. I love historical fiction. How could this book not be a winner?
Though I will say that reading about the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic in the same week that I went to see Contagion was a little unnerving. You know how sometimes people go through a terrible experience and they say something like “I felt as though I had been prepared for this; I had just read a book/spoke to someone in the same situation/saw it on Oprah and knew just how to react when it happened to me? Let’s just say, I’m fully prepared for an epidemic/pandemic now, and it creeps me out a little.

What I’ve Been Reading to Newt
I haven’t even seen Newt in days*…

What Newt has been Reading
See above.

Here’s to getting back to our routine soon. It shouldn’t take too long. You know, unless the plague breaks out.

*She’s been hanging out at a friend’s while we wait for the dust to settle. Literally. I am happy to report that she’ll be home joining us at the hotel later today. I miss her.

Heidi Homeschools: Physical Education

Last week Newt and I met an old friend and her sons for dinner. The boys are twins, just a year and a half older than Newt. When they learned that she is homeschooled, the boys were very interested in what her days look like.

Twin 1: What do you do for PE?
Newt [looking helplessly at me]: Um, I jump on my trampoline. And I walk my dog about two miles every morning.
Twin 2: So you have PE first period?

We’ve been asked about PE before. It doesn’t rank all the way up there with “What about socialization?” but the question does come up fairly frequently. I think being active and getting regular exercise is really important, and just like every other aspect of Newt’s education, we can’t rely on someone else to make sure it happens. Lucky for us, we have been able to find wonderful opportunities for Newt to “have PE”.
Right now, Newt’s sport of choice is horseback riding. She has been taking a one hour lesson every week since August. The last couple of weeks she has been learning to ride bareback, which is great for improving her control and balance.
Newt's PE
Sorry for the terrible night shot. I really must find my camera’s manual and give it a read.
Horseback riding is a terrific workout, strengthening your core and legs. And the barn chores are great cardio. From the way she smiles when she talks about her lessons, I can tell that horses are pretty good for her heart too.
Last year, Newt was lucky enough to be invited to learn archery from a couple of retired men, They were so passionate about the sport, they offered free classes to local homeschoolers.
She quickly learned that there was a lot more to archery than just aiming and pulling on a string. She learned the importance of staying in control, focusing and remembering to breathe. That last one was learned the hard way, when she nearly fainted.
Don’t lock your knees, honey. And remember to breathe!
She’s participated in swim team, basketball and the homeschool bowling league.
Lately Newt’s even been talking about training for a 5k. So I’d say that the only thing missing from her PE curriculum is dodge ball. I think she’s doing just fine without it.
And yes, Newt does walk Pepper at least a couple of miles every day. An active puppy is much easier to live with if given an outlet for all that energy.
Newt's PE
That’s true of kids too.

If you homeschool, what do you do to help your kids stay active? If your kids go to school, do they have a good PE program? Do you ever feel the need to supplement?

Educational Gift Idea: ThinkSmart River Crossing

Yesterday afternoon, my family found ourselves on the wrong side of a snake and alligator infested river. There was no bridge, but there were stumps sticking up out of the water. Unfortunately, they were too far apart to attempt jumping, but we had some planks of various lengths that we could use to connect the stumps and cross, if we could just figure out how…
River Crossing
ThinkFun River Crossing is one of our favorite games. Solving the puzzles is great for encouraging strategic thinking, planning ahead and thinking visually, but who cares about all that?  We like it becasue it’s super fun.
The game comes with a deck of 40 puzzle cards, from easy to expert. You lay the card on its platform and place the stumps and planks where indicated.
River Crossing
The hiker moves by walking along a plank to get to a stump. He can’t jump; when he reaches a gap, he has to go back, pick up a plank and move it. This is made easy by the magnet in his boots.
River Crossing
The hiker keeps moving planks around until he reaches the other side of the river.
River Crossing
Hurray! He made it!
River Crossing
Don’t look so smug, little plastic hiker-man.  That was an easy one. This one was much harder:
River Crossing
Sometimes the hiker has to abandon a plank somewhere and hope that he will be able to pick it up later. Sometimes, he has to make several moves just to get a plank out of his way. If you really get stuck trying to help him cross, check the booklet for the answer:
River Crossing
You just need to solve the code first.
So far, we have only broken down and used the answer booklet once. The cards are plenty challenging, but we prefer to try to solve them on our own, even if we have to stop and start over multiple times.  Eventually we get our little man to safety.
Added bonus: when we are done playing all the pieces go in (and stay in) a drawstring storage bag until next time.

ThinkFun River Crossing is recommended for ages 8 and up and sells for about $15. Once you have worked through all 40 puzzle cards, you can get new challenges in River Crossing 2
(about $6). I think Santa might be bringing that one to us this year.
There is also a ThinkFun River Crossing Jr. for children aged 6 – 8.
River Crossing
Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored review. No one sent me anything. No one asked me my opinion. We just really like this game and thought you might too. However, I am using Amazon affiliate links so if you purchase from my links I get a small commission.

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