Category Archives: Homeschool

Book Nook: High School Edition

So my oldest two kids are enrolled in a dual-credit high school/ community college English class.  Imagine my surprise when they weren’t assigned any books the first quarter!  Well, turns out it’s more of a rhetoric and analysis class, ergo, no books.  Wanting them to please, for the love of Pete, PUT DOWN THE DEVICE AND READ, I made them a list for the sole ugly purpose of bribery.

Read one of mine, and I’ll buy you one of your choice.  Read ten of mine, and I’ll give you Big Bucks.

It occurs to me that many of you might face the same dilemma and wonder where to start.  What are the great classics worth reading?  Which books are the right combination of challenging and “hooking,” as my kids like to say — which ones are entertaining enough to overcome reluctant readers?  Which ones are a pretty safe bet for a PG read?  And some of you might just want a new audio book from the library to pass the time while driving.  Here ya go.

I offer the following list with a disclaimer:  I have not read every single title on this list.  Out of 99, I have read 56 of these, many others by the same authors, and chunks of several listed.  Those I haven’t read made the cut either because I’ve heard glowing reviews or because they are on my own lifetime I-really-oughta-read-this list.  Use your own discretion.

Most of these are novels, ranging from old school classics to science fiction.  There are short stories, plays, nonfiction, and poems as well.  Some of them are more enlightening than entertaining, and a sprinkling are more entertaining than informative.  (I think it’s a crime to make reading something your kids will dread.)  I didn’t bother to list the books my kids gravitate toward on their own; the point of this list is to stretch them.  Some come from a very different world view than my own, and are important for digesting/ discussing/ interacting with.  The last part of the list are explicitly Christian books (you can see where the alphabetizing starts over).  These are just a sampling from my pastor husband’s shelf — a few of the most accessible ones.  There would be another whole list for a slightly older or younger group — these were my best guesses for kids 14-18.

I didn’t bother to alphabetize the titles, just the authors, so don’t hate.  If you catch a mistake, let me know.  And please, from one reader to another, leave more must-reads for high schoolers in the comment box below!

99 Books for A Rainy Day

  1. Alcott, Louisa May:  Little Women
  2. Austen, Jane:  Pride and Prejudice
  3. Austen, Jane:  Sense and Sensibility
  4. Austen, Jane:  Emma
  5. Babbitt, Natalie:  Tuck Everlasting
  6. Barrie, JM:  Peter Pan
  7. Berry, Wendell:  Fidelity
  8. Brontë, Charlotte:  Jane Eyre
  9. Brontë, Emily:  Wuthering Heights
  10. Card, Orson Scott:  Ender’s Game
  11. Cather, Willa:  My Antonia
  12. Chesterton, GK:  The Best of Father Brown
  13. Christie, Agatha:  Murder on the Orient Express
  14. Conrad, Joseph:  Heart of Darkness
  15. Crane, Stephen:  The Red Badge of Courage
  16. Defoe, Daniel:  Robinson Crusoe
  17. Dickens, Charles:  Oliver Twist
  18. Dickens, Charles:  A Christmas Carol
  19. Dickinson, Emily:   Poetry
  20. Dillard, Annie:  Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  21. Dillard, Annie:  An American Childhood
  22. Doig, Ivan:  Sweet Thunder
  23. Du Bois, WEB:  The Souls of Black Folk
  24. Enger, Leif:  Peace Like a River
  25. Equiano, Olaudah:  The Life of Olaudah Equiano
  26. Frank, Anne:  Diary of Anne Frank
  27. Frost, Robert:  Poetry
  28. Gladwell, Malcolm:  Outliers
  29. Golding, William:  Lord of the Flies
  30. Griffin, John Howard:  Black Like Me
  31. Grisham, John:  A Time to Kill
  32. Hawthorne, Nathaniel:  The Scarlet Letter
  33. Hemingway, Ernest:  A Farewell to Arms
  34. Hemingway, Ernest:  The Old Man and the Sea
  35. Henry, O:  Short Stories of O. Henry
  36. Herriot, James:  All Creatures Great and Small
  37. Homer:  The Iliad
  38. Homer:  The Odyssey
  39. Hurston, Zora Neale:  Their Eyes Were Watching God
  40. Huxley, Aldous:  Brave New World
  41. Keyes, Daniel:  Flowers for Algernon
  42. King, Jr., Martin Luther:  Letter from a Birmingham Jail
  43. Lee, Harper:  To Kill a Mockingbird
  44. L’Engle, Madeleine:  A Ring of Endless Light
  45. Lowry, Lois:  The Giver
  46. McCullough, David:  1776
  47. McCullough, David:  The Wright Brothers
  48. Miller, Arthur:  Death of a Salesman
  49. Mortenson, Greg:  Three Cups of Tea
  50. Orwell, George:  Animal Farm
  51. Paterson, Katherine:  Jacob Have I Loved
  52. Paton, Alan:  Cry, The Beloved Country
  53. Potok, Chaim:  The Chosen
  54. Ransome, Arthur:  Swallows and Amazons
  55. Rawls, Wilson:  Where the Red Fern Grows
  56. Remarque, Erich Maria:  All Quiet On The Western Front
  57. Sayers, Dorothy:  Lord Peter
  58. Shaara, Michael:  The Killer Angels
  59. Shelley, Mary:  Frankenstein
  60. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr:  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  61. Steinbeck, John:  Of Mice and Men
  62. Stevenson, Robert Lewis:  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  63. Stevenson, Robert Lewis:  Treasure Island
  64. Stowe, Harriet Beecher:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  65. Swift, Jonathan:  Gulliver’s Travels
  66. Twain, Mark:  Huckleberry Finn
  67. Washington, Booker T:  Up From Slavery
  68. Weisel, Elie:  Night
  69. Wilde, Oscar:  The Importance of Being Earnest
  70. Wilder, Thornton:  Our Town
  1. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich:  Cost of Discipleship
  2. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich:  Life Together
  3. Bunyan, John:  Pilgrim’s Progress
  4. Chan, Francis:  Crazy Love
  5. Cymbala, Jim:  Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
  6. Elliott, Elisabeth:  Shadow of the Almighty
  7. Graham, Billy:  Just As I Am
  8. Hayes, Dan:  Fireseeds of Spiritual Awakening
  9. Keller, Timothy:  Generous Justice
  10. Keller, Timothy:  A Reason for God
  11. Lewis, CS:  The Screwtape Letters
  12. Lewis, CS:  The Space Trilogy
  13. Lewis, CS:  Till We Have Faces
  14. Little, Paul:  Know What You Believe
  15. Little, Paul:  Know Why You Believe
  16. McDowell, Josh:  More Than a Carpenter
  17. Mextaxas, Eric:  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
  18. Packer, JI:  Knowing God
  19. Piper, John:  Don’t Waste Your Life
  20. Perkins, John:  With Justice for All
  21. Platt, David:  Radical
  22. Reeves, Michael:  Rejoicing in Christ
  23. Reeves, Michael:  Delighting in the Trinity
  24. Richardson, Don:  Eternity in their Hearts
  25. Tolkien, JRR:  Lord of the Rings
  26. Tozer, AW:  The Pursuit of God
  27. Tozer, AW:  Knowledge of the Holy
  28. Ten Boom, Corrie:  The Hiding Place
  29. Yancey, Philip:  The Jesus I Never Knew

Adventures of Some Crazy People

I suppose it probably surprised some people when we loaded up our entire family and brought them along for Michael’s D-Min cohort that first time.  Shoot, it surprised me.  I mean, really?  Bring three elementary school kids to Georgia for 10 days for a grad school intensive?  Who does that?  I suppose it surprised still more people when we brought them on our sabbatical, dragging them, their Legos, and approximately 10,000 pounds of school books from Colorado cabin to Massachusetts cottage — and that’s right, back to Gordon Conwell for more grad school.  In the past few years, our children have listened in on more doctoral history lectures than most of their friends’ parents combined.  We joked that they were Gordon Conwell’s new mascots.  Dr. Rosell has bought them ice cream half a dozen times; they think he’s the dairy fairy.

We went on to bring them to a third cohort, back for Michael’s graduation, and to teach at a Colorado Bible school twice.  They’ve romped the Atlantic coast from Maine to St. Simon’s Island as their dad studied his way through 400 years of church history, and snapped selfies with elk in the background while he taught it.  This week we’re taking them to a conference outside of Chicago.  It’ll be scholars, pastors, college students, and our kids.  They’re used to it.

One great thing about our gypsy existence is that our kiddos have seen the country — almost all points east of us we’ve thoroughly explored.  (We haven’t turned our attention west yet, but I’m sure one day we will.)  They have adventurous spirits, don’t mind traveling for long hours, and have sampled everything from alligator to elk to grits along the way.  Hopefully they will remember how to check for bed bugs in cheap hotels.  When we couldn’t afford to fly, we drove.  Sometimes we camped our way cross-country.  I love that we can incorporate our studies into real-life places, real world geography.  Our kids have seen the first slave-built church in Savannah, Georgia and the Underground Railroad quarters hidden beneath.  They’ve stood in front of the house where George Whitefield died and explored the landing place of the Wesley brothers in Georgia.  They’ve strolled the campuses of Baylor and Vanderbilt.  I love it.  This next week we’ll get to show them around one of the premier Christian colleges in the world and hopefully pass on a vision for all that college can be.

But another perk is the kids’ assumption that intellectual engagement with our faith is expected, and is not reserved for boring grown-ups.  I love that they have heard great speakers and sung along with all ages.  I love that they continue to meet and develop respect for people from all different denominations and backgrounds.  We may attend a Baptist church, but our friends are Presbyterian, Charismatic, Congregational.  The world is much bigger than our bubble, and I love that our kids have seen that.

What if “take your daughter to work day” was more like “take your children everywhere year”?  What if those designated grown-up activities were expanded just a bit to include the small fry?  What if discipling our kids meant letting them see us dive into our vocations,  letting them see our faith hit the road?  For our own family, it’s been a trip.  Like, literally.

The conference next week is held at College Church of Wheaton, and features Ajith Fernando, Bryan Loritts, Phil Ryken, Josh Moody, and the Gettys.  Even on that one panel is a wide swath of the human experience.  Love it.  If you’re in the area…  new-sola

Homeschool 2016: Thinking With Forever Glasses On

It’s the first week back.  That means we’re still eating breakfast — the good kind, with fruit and waffles and mmmm, bacon.  We can still locate sharpened pencils (though we did somehow misplace a book on Monday.  Monday, people.  The first day.  Not to worry, it turned up, obviously, in the closed, dusty, cabinet under the computer desk — you know, the one where all of the old hard drive equipment used to go.  Of course.)  But it’s still fresh.  There’s laughing.  Interest.  We aren’t impossibly far behind… yet.

What if it could stay this way?  What if we were still laughing and curious and well-fed in February?  What would it take?

I think it would take anticipation — cultivating an expectant attitude every day.  And I don’t suppose I’m very expectant if I’m in the throes of self-pity; pity-party Kate is not thankful, but grumpy, disappointed in what’s gone wrong instead of grateful for what’s gone smashingly.  I tell my kids I don’t speak Whinese — but maybe, too often, I do.

It follows, then, that it would take gratitude, wonder, recognition of little victories and amazement at the grand stage.  Living like I have an illness in remission.  (What?  I feel good?  I get another day with these people?)

Living with a forever mentality means remembering that life is so, so short.  The stresses will pass; the kids will grow up and move on.  (Theoretically) we’ll miss them someday.  My husband likes to say that every complaint betrays a blessing — the dirty socks on the kitchen counter (what, you don’t find dirty socks on the counter?) mean I have a delightfully absent-minded kiddo.  The dog-chewed wallet means I have a wallet (and a dog.)  Living in light of eternity means seizing the joys life affords, knowing they are fleeting.  It means remembering the big picture, the prize at the end of the race, the purpose behind the cost.

I’m not just filling minds with facts, I’m filling hearts — with what?  A contagious attitude (thankful, I hope, and curious, full of awe at the incredible intricacies of the world and fascination with its people), hope, determination, purpose, love.  I’m not plodding back through 5th grade lessons for the educational thrills; I’m investing in world-changing people that will explode like dominoes from our home and set off chain reactions in a thousand unpredictable directions.

This life?  This is my one life.  This is their one childhood.  Help me, Lord, to make the most of these wildflower days.%22To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.%22

These Are The Days

I read recently of a homeschool family that ran afoul of local authorities.  Someone looked at this little-bit-different, little-bit-strange family, raised their eyebrows, and made a phone call.  Evidently one of the kids had been brought to the hospital and Mom and Dad left the older kids in charge of the small ones.  Child Protective Services came to the rescue, snatched the kids away, farmed them out to foster families, made inquiries.  What kind of education were these kids receiving?  What kind of parenting?

It’s a heebie-jeebies kind of story, a night-terror.  It’s all of our worst fears come alive:  what if they came for my kids?  What if I lost control?  What if someone sat my son down under a bright light and grilled him with division facts, state capitols, parts of speech?  What if they found out how inadequate I am?

There’s not much we want to get right as much as we want to raise our kids brilliantly.  We remember our own childhoods — the homework, the bullies, the stresses, the disappointments.  We want to shield our children from the things that smarted, to give them the opportunities we never had, to launch them laughing and shining into the world.  We watch other families out of the corner of our eyes and we judge.  One family obviously pushes too hard, one clearly never disciplines.  That mom is too uptight, the other one oblivious.  But of all the parents we criticize, we reserve the harshest condemnation for ourselves.  After all, we know the bitter truth:  we are not enough.

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All the while we fret and analyze, the kids are growing.  Our experiments in educational psychology are not bouncing off bright colored blocks, they are soaking into living sponges that absorb it all and swell before our eyes.  My own kids are almost fully saturated now — at 15, 13, 11, they are almost fully who they will be.  Think, Kate, before you speak; we are down to the wire.  The days dwindle, the season draws to an end.  Only a fraction of what I still want to say will soak in, the sponges are starting to drip.

I can’t afford to waste time on the wrong lessons.  The authorities are coming to see if we’ve caught any fish, but I can’t let that distract me.  The lesson we need to work on is how to fish.  It takes longer to teach.  We might still be empty handed when the squad car pulls up.

But if I scoop up the fish and hand the kid a bucketful, how will he ever fish for a lifetime?

Does he know how to diagram a sentence?  Or does he have something beautiful to say?

Does she know her Presidents?  Or does she value history like a treasure store of wisdom?

Has he learned the Periodic Table?  Or is he endlessly fascinated by science?

And more than all of the reading, writing, arithmetic I can teach, there’s theology.  Do they know the 10 Commandments?  Or do they know the love of God?

Can they recite the books of the Bible, or do they long to know who set the world in motion?

The day is coming when they will fall in love, get a job, apply for college.  It will be a day for courage, integrity, determination, responsibility, self-discipline, and love.  Did I mention grace?  Joy?  And of course, the kids’ll need some of those things, too.  🙂

So we pour out.  For all those years, all the great moments and the battles, all the forgiveness and all of the laughter, we pour out.  As fast as God pours in, we pass it on — love upon love.  And then we have to trust.  We have to let go.

Hopefully they won’t come and snatch my children away.  Hopefully I’ll get my full measure of years before the empty nest.  And hopefully my kids will merrily launch into the wide world with aplomb.  But I know there will be regrets, wistful questions, woulda shoulda couldas.  Because (here’s a little secret for you) they are not perfect.  And neither am I.  (SO not perfect.)  Fortunately I have a Father who will keep on pouring into me.  And it turns out He’s not inadequate.  He’s enough.  And that’s enough for all of us.

 

Gumball Dynasty

Move over, ducks.  The Gumball Dynasty is a-comin’.

Gumballs
Gumballs (Photo credit: grandmasandy+chuck)

It all started with the World Vision Christmas catalog.  At the table one night, we poured over it:  “Look!  A goat for only $75!  A water buffalo will set you back $1100.”  You might be surprised to hear that we are contemplating buying livestock, but on the other hand, maybe that is the kind of kooky thing you’ve come to expect from the Morgans.  Who wouldn’t want to share space with a llama, after all?

Of course, it wouldn’t actually be for us.  World Vision, as you probably already know, helps needy people around the world, and this is their annual gift-a-thon.  For $548, for instance, you can send a live nativity scene to a modern-day Bethlehem somewhere around the world: a donkey, a sheep, a goat, and a pair of chickens.  Manger not included.

imageI love, love, love the World Vision Christmas catalog.  I am right there along with my 8-year-old, who wants to give not a single sheep, but the whole darn farm:  28 farm animals for under $2500.  What?!  So the kids and I were brainstorming.  Could a kid raise that kind of money?  How?

So we got online to research kids and fundraising, and we started planning the bread we could sell, the crafts we could make, the bubblegum… huh?  Did you know that kids can have their very own bubblegum machine?  You know, the kind you put a quarter in and get a handful of M&Ms or a giant ball of cement with a bright candy coating?  My kids, doing some math, were all astonishment.  Gumball machine:  $100.  One bag of gumballs yields:  $200.

Little Man might just be the next Philip Anschutz, because since making this discovery, he has changed all of his previous Christmas wish list plans.  Now the only thing he wants for Christmas is a paid-in-full gumball machine , half of the proceeds of which he intends to use to buy a farm for World Vision.  (He wants to reinvest the other half into more gumballs until he has his own little vending route and enough money to fund college and a lifetime supply of Nerf guns.)

Can I just say, I wish I were so creative, caution-to-the-wind, and passionately generous as my 8-year-old?  Here’s to the gumball dynasty.  Here’s to 28 farm animals and a village lifted from hunger to abundance, and the knowledge that they are deeply loved.

School days, school days.

Books, poems, paper airplanes, walks in the woods, caterpillars, magnifying glasses, music, tasty things that can be measured, fascinating people, unbelievable tales of adventure and derring-do, wonder, telescopes, paint, hammer and nails, candle wax, beeswax, curls of pencil shavings, smudges, laughing, brain teasers, trivia, hearts poured out on paper, challenge, reward, curiosity, dreams. School starts back today. God bless us every one.image

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
― Mother Teresa