Sunday, January 22, 2017

Literature Discussion: A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

Choosing books can be both exciting and challenging. In some ways, looking at the possibilities is like looking at a line of presents ready to be opened on Christmas morning. On the other hand, the sheer number of books out there is somewhat overwhelming. For that reason I do sometimes get a bit discouraged when looking for the "perfect" book to dig into. After all, reading is an investment in time and energy. Many books also draw you into the story and truly make you "feel" things right along with their characters.

I find it helpful to hear what other people have to say about books I might be interested in. Good friends and family give me great ideas. I also use reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I have also found it helpful to peruse notated suggestions from books like Honey for a Teen's Heart by Gladys Hunt and Barbara Hampton. This book in particular gives some of the authors' favorite books as well as synopses and some notes which help the reader find books compatible with their interests and values.

I recently read one of the books which was highly recommended by Hunt and Hampton: A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. Overall, it also got high reviews from both Amazon and Goodreads.

One thing to keep in mind about reviews (including mine) is that each person brings his or her own life experience to a book. This means that there will often be widely varying, even strongly divided opinions about some books. 

Some of the positive things about the book:

*One of its biggest strengths is the humor. Some scenes between the grandmother and her grandchildren are quite funny. 

*It's a pretty short book at around 150 pages and it flows pretty quickly. I could see this, in combination with its humor, as something that would attract even reluctant-reading teens.

Some of the negative things about the book:

*Not all people will appreciate the type of humor in the book. The way the narrator and Grandma talk about other people is less than flattering. 

 In the end, most adults would probably enjoy it and parents know their children well enough to be able to decide together whether this book would be for them.

Questions to discuss:

*How do the characters change by the end of the book? 

*Would you like to spend a week with a Grandma like this? Why or why not?

*Why do you suppose the children's parents sent them to Grandma's for a week each summer?

*Does Grandma enjoy having the kids for a week? Back up your opinion with text from the book.

*The book takes place mostly in the 1930's. How do the events of this time period shape Grandma's values? How do the events shape the types of activities the children experience while at Grandma's?

*Could you turn the tables on Grandma? What if you brought Grandma to Chicago for a week? What could the kids teach her?

Friday, January 20, 2017


TAKING A LOOK INTO OUR FILES: High-school and college prep

As the end of my oldest student's eighth grade year aproaches, we've been thinking and talking more and more about plans for the future. This includes both high school plans, college plans, and beyond.

It's not really something new for us. You might be surprised if I told you how long I'd been thinking about this. But I knew this time would come and I don't think I'm really all that different than most people. I do wonder, though, how many parents like me actually have file folders for their research.

I've collected bits of information mainly for two reasons. First, we want to be prepared for the future. Second, I want to feel more prepared in the face of what feels like such a big and overwhelming phase for us.

Let's be honest, there's sometimes a lot of pressure on parents and students when contemplating what the future holds. The pressure can be even greater when it's the first time you've gone through all of this. But there are so many helpful, confident voices out there who have traveled this road before. And there is so much that we can learn from them!

I thought I'd share a list of the types of materials I have in my high-school and college prep idea files. 

-A list of books I haven't read but want to read. Topics include life-lesson books like "How to Win Friends and Influence People", specific books and videos that might make up part of a high school course, scholarship books, etc. 

-A list of books that colleges and "experts" have suggested that students read before graduating (we'll consider some of these when deciding what literature to read during the next few years)

-Articles torn out of magazines about everything you can imagine related to getting into college, parenting teens, how to write homeschool transcripts, and non-traditional activity ideas such as entrepreneurship

-A list of our state's graduation requirements

-A community college brochure (and one from a large high school) which lists their courses offered (as an idea-starter when deciding which courses we might like to pursue in high school)

-A list of college requirements from a few typical colleges, showing the items that we'll need in a few years when it's time to apply. Some of these include items that will need to be considered well ahead of time, such as letters of recommendation.

My file is already pretty sizable, but there are also a few categories we haven't started including yet: colleges that strike our fancy with contact information; testing deadlines for the PSAT, SAT, ACT. Also, scholarships and deadlines actually have their own folders.

Does anyone else keep a folder like this? What's in yours?