In honor of President’s Day, I thought I’d share with you some of my current favorite books on American history. I absolutely detest textbooks – as some of you might know – but anything that can give me a sense of time and place without idolizing a person in history is my kind of book.
So if you’re jaded about reading history, chances are it’s because you’ve never read it like this.
First up, you have got to read everything by Michael Farquhar – especially Foolishly Forgotten Americans. If your eyes glaze over at the mention of American history, this book is the perfect antidote. Farquhar makes it interesting and extremely enjoyable – to the point that you can’t but share some interesting trivia with the person next to you. All. The. Time. Just ask my husband.
Daniel O’Brien’s How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Countryis like watching a stand up comedian (oh, and not someone with clean language, in case you were wondering, talk about presidents. So if you’re not into that, stay away from this one. You’ve been warned. But if language doesn’t bother you, this book is incredibly entertaining. I finished it in one day. And now I’ll always remember the distinguishing characteristics of all the presidents. (He only writes about those that have died, no one alive.)
With Valentine’s Day having just passed and the air so full of love, I thought I would have a special treat here. I asked each of my children – ages 8, 7 and 4 – to list their favorite books for me. The only rule was that they had to have read the book and loved it. There was no other criteria.
Here are their personal recommendations.
Sierra’s (age 8) Best Loved Books
Graphic novels – This child loves every graphic novel everywhere. No exaggeration. Every time we go to the library, she heads straight to the area where the comic books are. I don’t mind. The recent explosion in graphic novels means she can read Shakespeare and other classics and also enjoy Asterix and Tintin.
Warrior Catsby Erin Hunter (anything about cats, really!) Because my daughter simply loves cats, I use them as a jumping off point for almost everything, but she picked this book series. It’s about a bunch of – get this – super hero cats. Ah, well. It’s fun, though. She started with the graphic novels and recently read a much larger book in the series.
D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths – Knowing how much she likes fantasy and fairy tales, I should have known she would take to Greek myths. This book is amazing. I can’t say enough nice things about it. It has illustrations and all the Greek myths in one place. And also a family tree listing all the Greek gods. Indispensable when reading later Greek epics.
Hucksley’s (age 7) Best Loved Books
Minecraft Secrets – My middle son takes a very practical approach to life, as you will see. He likes to find things out if they profit him in some way. So these Minecraft secrets books that teach him how to maneuver and build things in the game were an immediate hit. Not only has he learned to read with these, these books have brought my kids closer together in collaboration. One reads instructions aloud, the other follows by following the directions. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Atlases – Hucksley loves maps of any kind. Period. My husband found it funny when I bought a globe for the kids but they loved it. And my middle child absolutely loves maps. So I highly recommend these map books and also the app Stack the States, which he plays daily.
Tales from the Odyssey audiobook – While my kids never cared much for the Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales From the Odyssey (the audiobook) read by James Simmons always gets loud cheers. We first listened to it in the car and since then my son will listen to it by himself before going to bed. It’s excellent.
Carver’s (age 4) Best Loved Books
The Early Bird by Richard Scarry – We’ve been reading this book to him since he was – what, 1? Not sure. Anyway, for a looooong time. It’s a fun story about early bird with lovely pictures so characteristic of Richard Scarry. I would recommend anything by him, really, and this book in particular has stood the test of time for us.
The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash – You must, must, must read this book! It’s just delightful. It’s possible I enjoy this a tad more than my son. The entire story is written in rhyme and it’s like a party for your mouth to read this aloud. Take my word for it.
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle – I don’t know what it is about this kid, but he loves seeds. Sometimes, when he likes a fruit he is eating, he will take the seed and “plant” it in the backyard. Of course we have no idea where he planted it, so it never gets watered or tended, but he claims he has planted avocado, orange and apple trees in the yard. This book is one he picked out as a prize in the library program for reading. It is wonderfully illustrated and talks about the life cycle of a seed.
Why? For one, it makes you a better thinker. For another, it is like history – a general knowledge of what came before provides a good guide to the future. And let you think philosophy is just for adults, here’s an article that shows its benefits for children.
But what if you, like me, know nothing about it? Fear not! Here are the choicest books you can pick up to learn more.
(Don’t try to just search Amazon for “philosophy” and buy what comes up because then you’ll be stuck with a line of beauty products.)
So, first off, Richard Osborne’s Philosophy For Beginnersis a fun little book to introduce you to the basics. This was given to me by a friend who knew I liked graphic novels. It’s written in comic book format, but that doesn’t mean it is simplistic. Great book for delving into the subject with no background.
If lighthearted introductions to serious subjects are not your style, you might like Bryan Magee’s The Story of Philosophy. This is a beautiful book with full color pictures and great information about how philosophy developed over the years. It gives you a general smattering of each philosopher and how he built on or changed what had gone before him.
My personal favorite is How Should We Then Liveby Francis Schaeffer, which is an analysis of western thought down the ages, but it might need one of the other two books mentioned above as companion reads.
And of course Sophie’s Worldby Jostein Gaarder is a classic by now that has been recommended to me often. Full disclosure: I haven’t read it, although it’s been sitting on my bookshelves beckoning me for a while now. Someday soon! I just have to get through my Plantagenet history first. 😉
(Because, seriously… who doesn’t love it? And isn’t January just made for cooking good, healthy food?)
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on my Facebook page that my daughter had made me breakfast. Here’s the original post.
It still makes me smile a bit when I think about it. I mean, The Child (which is what I playfully call her) had thought of everything. There was even a paper towel next to my plate with my fork on top of it.
*insert collective “Awww!”*
Because of the response that post generated, I thought I would, in typical classical unschooling fashion, share some of my favorite resources around food and cooking.
These are not just for teaching children to cook, but also for helping you dig deeper into the culinary arts and wherever else the rabbit hole you pick may lead.
After all, isn’t that the best way to learn something?
I have chicken dry-brining in my fridge as of right now, thanks to this book. I have learned to spatchcock a hen, what spice blends go well together and I know the perfect amount of time it takes to boil eggs for the yolk not to be overly boiled (9.5 minutes).
By the way, if you really wanted to know the answer to that last question, you really ought to get the book. The science in it alone can make it a great learning experience for the entire family.