Monday, August 2, 2010

Beginning of the End...

I made a list at the beginning of the summer of all the books I thought I'd get to with my son before he graduates. Too many books for one last year of homeschooling and he has a long reading life ahead of him, so I winnowed the list down to a manageable number. Recently I've been organizing the titles into somewhat logical groupings. My plan is to have us do all the grouped books together, but we can do the groups in what ever order feels right.

I've got the Southern grouping, featuring civil rights, integration and race relations:
Huck Finn
To Kill a Mockingbird
Flannery O'Connor short stories
Invisible Man.

I've never read Flannery O'Connor nor Invisible Man, so am looking forward to reading them myself. Mike expressed an interest in re-reading Huck Finn as he had read it when he was 10, I think, and was disappointed that it wasn't more like Tom Sawyer.

Then there's the Shakespeare fest:
Bill Bryson's Shakespeare book
Macbeth along with Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters to liven things up
Midsummer's Night Dream along with another Terry Pratchett book
The recent BBC Hamlet with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart

Mike has been exposed to Shakespeare since he was a wee lad, either attending Old Globe plays, acting in kid versions, or reading them in class. I'm not entirely sure what Terry Pratchett will bring to the study, but everything is better with a bit of Discworld thrown in!

Back to American Lit, we've got some early American authors to explore:
Moby Dick (which we should be starting this week)
Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories
Edgar Allen Poe short stories

Moby Dick we are reading just because it seemed like a terrific summer project. It is already August and we haven't started, so clearly we weren't that enthusiastic about the idea...

I'm going to inflict more poetry on the lad. I have yet to pick out which poems, but I am going to make sure he writes an academic paper on a poem, just to stretch his writing muscles.

I've got a couple of chemistry titles for him, too. If these were available at I'm sure he would have read them already:

Uncle Tungsten
The Disappearing Spoon

Because Mike enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, and a good parody, I thought I should introduce him to gothic literature by way of:

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.

I can't bring myself to assign something by one of the Bronte sisters -- I myself have never been able to get through Wuthering Heights.

I may add other titles to the final short group:

Animal Farm
Fahrenheit 451

Or I may decide, due to homeschool guilt, that he needs to read Steinbeck or Dickens before he graduates and assign Grapes of Wrath, or Great Expectations.

I've got my list of related Teaching Company lectures to go with most of these titles, and have happily spent many hours reviewing SparkNotes before deciding on a title. I just love the planning part of homeschooling. I'm going to be lost next summer when I no longer have to plan, no longer will have an excuse for searching the library catalog and Amazon for hours on end in order find the perfect works to assign my kids.


  1. Great books! I'll be checking out the Chemistry titles- that's coming up for this year. My 15 yo loved 451 and read Animal Farm this summer. And none of us have gotten through Moby Dick. SWB doesn't like it either, so I figure I'm in good company = )

  2. Wuthering Heights was certainly bizarre...a far cry from Jane Eyre. I suppose it can be interesting to look at the difference in literature between the two sisters, but I don't know if I shall ever read Wuthering again.

  3. Northanger Abbey was a hoot.

    I don't care for the Bronte sisters either. Never could.

    My senior son loved Frankenstein last year. As a joke I gave him Nightlight, a parody of Twilight, he laughed his way through it.

  4. Great list! Since we are just beginning high school, it gives me lots of food for thought. There's a couple there I want to grab just for myself. :)

  5. They've just recently released Ian McKellan's Acting Shakespeare special from PBS on DVD, and if I hadn't given it to my dad for Father's Day, I'd lend it to you... it's a brilliant piece. You might look to NetFlix or order it from It was over Kieran's head, but I think your boys would appreciate it. Besides, how can you go wrong with Gandalf doing Falstaff?