In Which We Prepare To End the School Year and Captain Daddy Returns

We are tumbling toward the end of our homeschool year; we will officially wrap up during the second week of May. After a bit of traveling and a few extra days off for planning, we’ll be right back at it. 

It is actually quite on par for us to only take ten days to a few weeks off between wrapping up one grade and starting the next. Last year we took more substantial time between “school years” . . . but we were also doing that whole Move Everything And Everyone Across The Country thing and that was a wee bit time consuming.

We’ve tried other methods {i.e., taking a full summer break} but it always results in an epic fail. I think because our school time is so relaxed in general, the Agents don’t feel compelled to take a “break” from it. Too much time without our routine just makes everyone grumpy and out of sorts.

We do make periodic trips to our Happy Place, so there's that

Anyway, we are working to get to a good stopping point in all of our subjects. As we finish up, those things get dropped one by one until we are down to just independent reading and/or staring at each other over a math workbook once a day. 

For instance, we will finish our current geography book at the end of next week, so we simply won’t start any new geography topics for the last part of the year. Once we finish our world history we’re in the middle of {China}, we’ll put that aside next. Art and music are pretty much done now. Math and language arts will survive till the bitter end, though. 

Our big news for the week is that after 191 days {yes; we counted} Dear Hubby {aka, Captain Daddy} has returned and all is right with the world again. Deployment time is weird. When your in the middle of it, it simultaneously feels like he just left yesterday and he’s been gone for 100 years. Yet once he’s back it’s like he never left. It makes no sense.

Waiting mostly patiently at the airport for Daddy

On a related note, we are renaming the cat Benedict, because in spite of the fact that Hubby hasn’t been around for more than six months and is not even a cat person and the Agents and I have done everything for this furball while he’s been gone, this pathetic Traitor Feline is falling all over him every waking moment like he’s the best thing since cat nip.

Good thing he's cute

Anyhoo . . . as far as specifics, this week we are continuing our usual math and language arts, looking at Australia and New Zealand for geography, continuing our book of mathematician biographies, reading about Pablo Picasso, studying mammal evolution, and looking at ancient China, among other topics.

We’re also continuing to plan for next year, because planning makes me happy. You can read about what we have in store here, and here, and here, and did I mention here?

10 Books Worth Reading {At Least} Twice

Each morning, after I perform my sacred duties for the feline overlord {i.e., feed the cat}, I make coffee {because coffee is life} and read a few chapters of whatever book I’m in the middle of. I am mostly a non-fiction kind of gal; I read fiction occasionally, but it’s not my favorite. I try new books frequently and if I don’t enjoy the first couple chapters I don’t finish them. I used to feel compelled to force myself to muddle through, but now I’m like, whatever. I don’t waste my time.

Sometimes I finish a book and I think, well, that was good, but I don’t think I’d get much out of it by going through it again. Other times I just know I need to take a second look, or even a third, to really appreciate the text. The following are 10 books I’ve enjoyed so much that I’ve either already read more than once or intend to.

Seven reside on my home bookshelf; the other three likely will in the near future. I’m not a huge fan of buying books new, especially books I haven’t read. No matter how excellent I think a book will probably be, I always do a test run with a library copy first. I cannot even count how many books I thought for sure would end up in my list of all-time favorites that I checked out of the library and felt “eh” about once I actually got into them. When I do find a gem, however, I prefer to own it so I can highlight or make notes in the margin or add post-its or just generally love on in a more personal way.

The following are my current top ten favorite repeat reads {in alphabetical order}. It surprised me that the list only includes two female authors {Anne Lamott and Susan Cain}. One author appears twice {Richard Dawkins}. 

1. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

My kids are way more into science than I ever was as a child, so I feel like I’m learning right along with them most of the time. Like the title implies, this book is a fabulous shorthand way to understand the universe and get a glimpse into the world of astrophysics. Mostly the explanations are clear enough even for a beginner, but every once in a while I think, imma gonna have to read that section again. Still, a wonderful introduction to a fascinating topic.

This is the most recent add to my collection of books I want to re-read. I only read it for the first time a few weeks ago, But, it definitely deserves a spot on the list. Yes, it is written by a spiritual leader, but the suggestions are 100% secular in nature. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the most eloquent writers you will ever come across. He has a way of explaining concepts that makes you feel like you’ve somehow known the answer all along. Plus his kindness radiates off the page and he just emanates happiness. This book is like a hug from a Buddhist Mr. Rogers.

This is the second oldest book on my list {published in 1994} and also the one I have read cover to cover the most times. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was going to be a writer. Not just a maybe-I’ll-post-something-on-Blogger-that-no-one-will-ever-read writer, but a real. live. writer. I will probably never write more than a blog post. But this book makes me feel like I could.

When reading Sagan’s words, I have to continually remind myself that he wrote them more than two decades ago. So many times he seems to be alluding to current events, like a wise sage prophesying. This is probably one of the best texts out there—even twenty years later—on critical thinking and debunking pseudoscience. Plus I find myself saying the words in my head in his melodic, calming voice.

5. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

I realize it is complete and utter cliché to say that this book changed my life, but: This book changed my life. It explains everything I was feeling, doubting, wondering about, and unsure of. The writing is concise and easy to understand and ridiculously on point. I picked up this book at exactly the right time. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Or something like that.

Since I discovered my pregnancy with Agent E back in September of 2005, I have read roughly a gazillion parenting books. More than a dozen years later, this is the only parenting book I still own. It primarily addresses the idea of peer orientation: who do kids today view as their compass, their north—parents or friends—and what is the potential fallout. It gives practical suggestions for how to be a strong influence and foster a relationship of mutual respect. Definitely a book you will get different things out of depending on the ages of your kids when you read it.

This is a relatively new favorite; I first discovered this title when it was mentioned on a podcast I listen to. {And, no, of course I don’t remember which one.} Zuckerman is a sociologist who specializes in secular studies. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like. This book appeals to my inner social psychology geekiness and my desire to learn more about the inner workings of my fellow nonreligious peeps.

This will likely end up on our homeschool plan for science for next year. Each chapter answers a specific scientific question {e.g., What Is a Rainbow?} in clear, simple terms. He also incorporates the myths and legends that preceded our scientific understanding {e.g., the story of Gilgamesh}. This particular book is written for a younger, wider audience {i.e., if you tend to get lost in some of his more dense works, you won’t here}. Agent E read it last year and loved it.

I’m actually re-reading this book right now. It’s made up of numerous little mini-chapters; sometimes I read one a day, sometimes several. Each one gives a very specific thought to focus on. Overall it serves as a reminder to slow down and appreciate the present moment, the mundane in everyday interactions. I don’t remember when I bought this book, but it was published in 1991 {making it the oldest here}.

All my life I have been quiet—better at thinking than speaking—and much of that time my silence has been viewed as a flaw. It wasn’t until my first college psychology class that I knew there was a word for people like me: introverted. Whether you are more reserved than most, or you simply want to understand your friends and family who don’t share your rambunctiousness, this is a great read. I found myself nodding along and thinking, yes; this is me. It is very validating, and I need to re-read it every once in a while when I’m feeling too people-y.