Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The year in books!

This is the year of Discworld. My 15yo reading buddy and son was having too much fun listening to and reading all the Discworld books, so I finally took the plunge. They are filled with dry humor and some laugh out loud humor and often have great characters and compelling stories. I think I’ve read 9 of them:

Lost Continent -- surreal visit to the Discworld version of Australia. Some of the funniest lines.
Going Postal -- perhaps my favorite. The story of the post office in Ankh Morpork
The Truth -- The story of the Newspaper in Ankh Morpork. Not as good as Going Postal
Guards! Guards! -- the beginning reads like a Monty Python skit.
The 5th Elephant -- more Sam Vimes and the Night Watch
Thud -- Where’s My Cow? I loved this book and the previous 2.
Jingo -- rather unmemorable
Reaper Man -- Death takes a holiday. What can I say? It is silly and funny.
Unseen Academicals -- just read this one. Good characters, but not a favorite.

I should have known it was going to be an odd year of reading as my first book of 2010 was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

I read some classics this year, too.

Mansfield Park -- a very different Austen book.
Pride and Prejudice -- from cover to cover for the first time since my teen years
Jane Eyre -- I really liked this and it prompted me to read a biography of Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights -- I couldn’t finish. Catherine and Heathcliff annoy me to no end.
Moby Dick -- I didn’t hate it, in fact it was an enjoyable listen. Not always compelling, though.
Heart of Darkness -- it almost seems cliche, but it was the first “evil white colonialist” book

Other older titles that I enjoyed were The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which was an unexpected joy to read and The Sign of Four, one of the Sherlock Holmes novels. The plot for Sign of Four is now confused in my mind with The Moonstone as both stories deal with stolen goods from India.

My son and I both loved At Home by Bill Bryson. It really brought so much of 19th century England to life, the details from all that British literature I read now are not something I gloss over but actually describe something tangible. A couple of other titles from same time period was Remarkable Creatures, a historical fiction about Mary Anning's life and The Fossil Hunters, a biography -- poorly written -- of Mary Anning. (She is the woman who sold sea shells by the sea shore in Lyme, and discovered the ichthyosaur and plesiosaur fossils.)

I listened to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, based on my son’s love of the book. It made for a great car trip as we wound up talking about politics and Heinlein’s libertarian leanings. Far North was the most evocative book I read, I think. The landscape and situations are still vividly real in my imagination. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series was entertaining fanstasy, but not memorable.

I haven’t read all the books I bought at Comic-con, but I thoroughly enjoyed the one I have read. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss has a terrific protagonist, someone who is NOT the chosen one, NOT going to fulfill his destiny. That alone is refreshing!! But the setting and the plotting are refreshing too. His second book comes out in March, and my son and I are clearing our calendar for that one.

All in all I read 55 books this last year, though admittedly a few were put down somewhere in the 2nd half and I only skimmed the end. I've got a stack ready to go for next year, including a few more Discworld titles...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We made the plunge to start homeschooling in January 2000. It was a fairly sudden decision as it was over Christmas break that I knew I could not send my oldest son back to school. The withdrawn and unhappy child from the fall semester disappeared over Christmas break and the buoyant irrepressible child returned. I finally accepted it was pointless, even heartless, to force him to adapt to the classroom. The classroom had to adapt to him, and homeschooling was the best choice.

That child who prompted us to start homeschooling graduated back in May 2009. He is still an effervescent being, not following the standard and expected path of going to a traditional university, but is instead forging ahead with his own plans for himself, and doing very well.

And now my younger son is moving on. At the tender age of 15 he will be attending community college full time. He passed me by in math and science, the two subjects that most interest him, so needs the higher level courses, and he has had enough of mom as teacher/mentor/nag-in-chief. He is ready to move on, and proved himself quite capable in his intermediate algebra course at the college last fall.

So after 11 years, my primary identity as a homeschool mom is no more. I'm back to just being mom!

That is a huge change. Another big change coming with 2011 is that my husband will be working at home full time, something he hasn't done in 20 years. And my oldest boy will be back under our roof after living in Orlando for a year. It is going to be a very full house!

I'm no longer going to be writing blog posts about book lists and course or lesson plans. I'm trying to wean myself from the 11 year old habit of hanging out on the WTM boards every day. And yet, I'm still interested in education, still honing my skills as a teacher and mentor as I move into my second year of teaching private violin lessons. And I'm still an avid reader, still sharing books with my youngest. There should still be blog material worth reading!

Happy New Year!