Thursday, January 31, 2008

What is Twaddle?

Well, that's the million dollar question isn't it? I was trying to answer that for myself as I went through a couple of shelves last night.

At the top of my list was anything that seemed like it had been written by some sort of mercenary hack and not a writer proper. I have tons of books that I just hate to read to the kids because the language is awkward and jerky and stilted and boring. By comparison, today Henry and I read Virginia Lee Burton's, "The Little House", which was thoroughly enjoyable. Same with things like, "Make Way For Ducklings" or "Hop on Pop". They aren't merely plot driven word jumbles with treacly morality ("So, Tyler and Megan promised to be best friends forever and ever. And they were. The End.") They are well-considered in their use of language.

If the book was based on a sub-plot from a Disney Princess movie it was out. I'll tolerate Disney's, "Beauty and the Beast", but not, "Belle and Jasmine Hook Up with Cinderella at Starbucks for Skinny Lattes: Part II". I cringe to think of how many of these there were. Blue's Clues. Gone. Strawberry Shortcake. Gone. Care Bears. Gone.

But how's this for slicing the bologna a little thin? I kept the My Little Ponies books. This had less to do with my attachment to the Ponies than to Henry's attachment to the books. Don't ask. I couldn't possible come up with an answer.

I kept lots of little readers (No "Silly Sally" but "Silly Sarah", how different could they be?) as long as they made sense. For some reason, some readers marked Level One have some decidedly not Level One type words. Like, "See Bob dive. See Bob swim. See Bob quadruple twist."

So, yeah, very subjective, but I also tried to keep this in mind. I have (-----) this much time to exercise my iron literary will over these kids and (------------------------) this many books I want them to read. If they spend (--) this much time reading "Bionicles" there only (--) this much time left for the Beatrix Potter series.

But, you know, if we're at the bookstore or the library and they sit down with twaddle I'm not going to snatch it out of their hands or make a comment but when they wander over the bookshelf at home looking for something to read I want to make sure they have something nutritious from which to choose. They don't even know about the revolution that's taken place as it was all done in the dark of night and I was careful not to remove anything that would arouse immediate suspicion.

Brittney brings up an interesting dilemma regarding classic books retooled for children. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, classics are typically classics not because they have great plot lines but because they have beautiful language and sometimes great plot lines too (and lots of other things, natch). On the other hand, as Brittney points out, Beowulf at any age can be a struggle but early exposure can make it seem less insurmountable later when faced with the real deal. To that end I have recently acquired the works of Marcia Williams whose cartoon style reworking of things like, "The Canterbury Tales" and "Robin Hood" are too darned cute to pass up.

So what's on our current reading list? Eleanor is reading, "Clarice Bean Spells Trouble", which is a contemporary book by British author and illustrator, Lauren Child (late of "Charlie and Lola" fame). Our read-aloud is "Little Women" - the original- and we are nearly finished. Henry and I just finished, "The World of Pooh", by A.A. Milne and started, "The Story of Doctor Dolittle".

I am reading "Inferno" (again, for a class), "A Year in Provence" (again, for bookclub), trying to finish "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and a stack of homeschooling/teaching books that grows more than shrinks.

I'm prone to crazes and this could be one of those but if it is it will be one of the more harmless in which I've indulged (trust me) and if its not, what's the worst that could happen?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Toodle-oo to Twaddle

I've started reading Charlotte Mason's series on educating children. I don't see us become a CM school but I will certainly be adopting some of her philosophies. At the top of the list, no more twaddle.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, twaddle refers to books with little literary or teaching value. She does not accept the idea that it doesn't matter what they are reading as long as they are reading and neither do I. But, value is entirely subjective and where I see value in, say, Madonna's series, "The English Roses", others might not.

By any measure, I have a lot of twaddle. I have a lot of living books, classics and contemporary books with value too, but I have a lot of twaddle. In the next two weeks I'm hoping to purge our home of these and gradually (or not so gradually if you ask the person handling the finances in our home, no names) replace them with books of worth.

This only applies to the kids, by the way, I'm keeping the Phillipa Gregory books.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Up To Speed

We've been getting situated since the long break which was longer than I'd expected it to be. It just worked out that we ended up taking almost three weeks off and then have had only a couple of "regular" weeks since then. But, grandparents don't visit from out-of-state everyday and doctor's don't have evening hours so it is what it is.

Some curriculum changes. We have abandoned the thorough and comfortable Saxon math for the spangly allure of Singapore math. The kids are much happier and are learning at a good clip while I flounder in the teacher's manual wishing for a complete script. Actually, I like it better also but I do worry about mastery of math facts.

We've added in PE in the morning which has not made our days intolerably long. I think it was a good move and the kids seem happy with it. I bought a gym mat for tumbling on rainy days (of which we have many lately) and I'm angling for a little trampoline although I'm not sure my trampoline phobic husband will go for that.

I've also added short social skills daily lessons for Henry based on "The Social Skills Picture Book" and "Playing It Right".

For my own amusement I downloaded a printable daily cleaning schedule. Gosh and begorrah if it isn't actually working! Best $8.00 spent so far this year.

We like the new additions and have tightened up the schedule and things are going mostly great. That works for me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Meme!

B. at King Alfred Academy who rightly identified that I needed a gentle shove to get back to my blog, tagged me:

Book Meme

  • Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  • Open the book to page 123.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the next three sentences.
  • Tag five people.

I reached over my shoulder and grabbed "Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories" by William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanne M. Wolfe.

"The imagination and symbolism in these myths affect children and adults alike at a deep psychological level, shaping our perceptions and judgments. The D'Aulaires recount all of the major Greek myths with unaffected grace. The pastel shades of the color illustrations perfectly capture the otherworldliness of the gods, though they are rendered with recognizable human virtues and vices. "

Good stuff.

I tag: Lesley, Vivian, Sarah, karen (if she's reading) and Nicole (if she's reading).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday