Books they should read

Thought up by our second-oldest child, Sarah (15). She’d like a list of books people think all kids should* read by the time they leave school. Since she’s pretty busy with work, I agreed to look through our stash of books (mostly in boxes now) and come up with a pile from which she will choose ones she thinks she’ll enjoy.

But I thought I turn it over to you as well, dear audience. Sarah says, “When in doubt, ask teh Internets.” 😀 What books do you think all kids should read by the time they reach adulthood?

Feel free to leave a list in the comments or trackback from your blog.

* Yes, we are well aware of the potential dangers of saying things like “all kids should”. I still feel it a valuable exercise and something that should be an interesting comparison. It won’t be a die-hard list we’ll follow by all means. In the end, it doesn’t matter how well-recommended a book is; if we don’t like it or find it interesting, we don’t read it.

Guerrilla Learning

When I was working and coming home for lunch, Andrea and I normally reserved meal times for conversation whether it was with her or among the whole family. Alot of the time we would catch up on how our morning or afternoon had gone. Since I’ve been home alot more, Andrea has been reading at lunch. Often when she’s reading something and finds something she thinks I’ll like, she reads it out loud. If I’m reading, I do the same. I think we both enjoy reading aloud and being read to. There is also having the comfort of having someone to share a good thought with.Over the weekend she read 2 things to me at one meal. The first one was:

People learn to write well not by studying grammar, sentence structure, and spelling but by reading good writing and trying to imitate it. Reading and writing are inextricably linked…

There are few things that come along that feel better than having someone who is considered an expert say something you have been telling people for years. Oddly, this fits so well with a quote from Finding Forrester:

Why is it the words we write for ourselves are always so much better that those we write for others?

I think at least a partial answer to that is in the fact that often when we write for others, our first concern is with grammar, sentence structure and spelling. When we write for ourselves, we have something we want to express. And, the technicalities of writing take a back seat to what we need/want to say.

For many, blogging offers the opportunity through both reading and writing to discover the knack of writing well. It will only take a few months of reading to discover the type of writing one likes to read. From there, when writing in ones own blog, the tendency to frame things the way one likes to read them will naturally develop. Formality and structure are secondary.

The second thing Andrea read was:

Teach your children to listen carefully and to speak thoughtfully. The best way to teach this is to listen carefully and speak thoughtfully to your children, from the time they are babies. It’s never too late to begin this practice. (emphasis mine) … Above all, listen, listen, and listen to your kids. (emphasis autor)

When I did the home ed workshop last year, listening to and responding to your children was one of the primary messages I wanted to convey to the audience. In an effort to summarize that workshop, I may have reduced the significance of that point. I did not leave it out entirely, though.

The fifth chapter is called ‘Demonstration’. Its statement was, ‘Those who are seeking to train people must be prepared to have them follow.’ Has anyone ever told you they couldn’t homeschool because their children won’t listen to them? Even though I really had no idea what impact it would have on my children, I can remember back in the days when the older three were going to turn 6, 3, 1. Every day, when I got home from work, there they would be just inside the door, all talking to me at once (including the noises of someone who crawled there), and telling me what was important to them in their day. At 17, 14, 12 and 4 they still ‘check in’.

When I elaborated on this point in the workshop, I asked how would you expect children to listen if you don’t listen to them. Children who are listened to and taken seriously, will listen and take you seriously. The only leadership skill worth having is setting an example. It is the only form of leadership which exists in our absence.

While this was sitting on draft, Carlotta wrote (in part)

I respect the choices of my child because he is a human being. What quality about him means that he should only be viewed as something that only lives fully in the future? I do not believe that there is any vastly different quality in children that distinguishes them from adults…

and Clare wrote (in part)

I have only had 2.5years experience of being a mother, but I can say most definitely that respecting my child’s choices and needs is easy, enjoyable, relatively unstressful etc. etc. It makes for a toddler who respects other people and who don’t have tantrums here there and everywhere.

What more needs to be said?

A contest in the forum

We are having a Points Contest in the forum. Full details are in this thread.

Briefly: Members are awarded points according to how much they post. Extra points for starting new threads and referring new members. The prize? I thought you’d never ask. The member with the most points by the end of January gets a copy of The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom.

A fine prize indeed, so get posting.

(cross-posted from AtypicaLife.)

John Holt – 10. The Competence of Children

“The words ‘expect’ and ‘expectation’ are on the whole badly misunderstood and misused by most people who write about children. Most people use them as synonyms for ‘demand’ or ‘insist’ or ‘compel.’ When they say we should have higher expectations of children, they mean that we should demand that they do certain things and threaten to punish them if they do not. When I speak of expecting a lot of children, I only mean that we should not in our minds put an upper limit on what they may be able to do. I don’t mean that we should assume that they can, and therefore should, do certain things or be disappointed and worried if they do not – everyone has his own path and timetable into life.”

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Holt – 9. On “Help” and “Helpers”

“It is important that we try to understand how the idea of help has been so largely corrupted and turned into a destructive exploitation, how the human act of helping is turned more and more into a commodity, an industry, and a monopoly.” (P. 79)

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Holt – 8. One Use of Childhood

“And so the family home, which we often hear described as the place where we are free to be and dare to be nicer and kinder than we can be anywhere else, turn out much of the time to be the place where at least with our children harsher, more cruel, more contemptuous and insulting, than we would anywhere else.” (P. 77)

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Holt – 7. The Burden of Having Children

“For many years now, in all kinds of places and circumstances, I have noticed that most adults around children do not act as people do when they are with people they like, but very much the opposite. They are anxious, irritable, impatient, looking for fault and usually find it.” (P. 66)

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Holt – 6. The Many “Crises” of Life

“…it seems to me very unlikely that most of the human beings who have ever lived, doing work they needed to do to get their food, clothing and shelter and to maintain the structures of their community life, thought of this work as being a ‘struggle for survival.’ Is a person ‘struggling’ when he raises food which he will eat, or make clothing, or builds or fixes his dwelling? The notion is absurd.” (P. 62-63)

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Holt – 5. On the Loss of Authority of the Old

“A generation that does not believe it can make a future that it will like, or trust or love any future it can imagine, has nothing to pass onto and hence nothing to say to the young. It might seem a paradox that our society, which perhaps more than any that ever existed is obsessed with the need to control events, nature, people, everything, should feel more than any other that things are out of control.” (P. 57-58)

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Holt – 4. The Family and Its Purposes

“Whatever is strong and healthy in families, whatever meets real human needs, enhances and enriches life, cannot and will not be threatened by what I propose here. Any institution that really works is immune to attack, however severe. Reality has its own strength. … Happily married couples who after many years get great strength and joy from each other’s company simply smile and go on with their life when they hear that marriage is nothing but a device for the exploitation of women, or whatever it may be. Their experience tells them better.” (P.
46)

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