Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Required reading

Future Present at The Return of Scipio. Here is a snip:

Our archeologist, while rummaging among the ruins of our fallen civilization, met a ghost from the long dead race of Americans. The wraith boasted much about what we had been as a people.

We died in the hundreds of thousands to end slavery here and around the world.

We invented Jazz.

We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg address.

We went to the moon to see how far we could hit a golf ball.

We lifted a telescope into orbit that could see to the edge of the universe.


Apparently inspired by How Beautiful We Were at American Digest:

A short list. In no particular order.

We told our children that any child could grow up to be President. And then we made it come true.

We had car shows, boat shows, beauty shows and dog shows.

We ran robots on the surface of Mars by remote control.

Our women came from all over the world in all shapes and sizes hues and scents.

We actually believed that all men are created equal and tried to make it come true.

Everybody liked our movies and loved our television shows.

We tried to educate everybody, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes we succeeded.

We did Levis.

We held the torch high and hundreds of millions came. No matter what the cost.


Be prepared to be really sad, and maybe scared too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My lights are on

So I guess I am, by default, celebrating Human Achievement Hour tonight. But all it really means is that, I have things to do that require... light. My washer and dryer are running too. But sometimes they are not. What difference does it make when I run or don't run them? The people who are turning off their appliances for Earth Hour are going to turn them back on. Those washers and dryers will be running at another time. Seems like an empty gesture to me.

Today was soccer league signup, even though the season doesn't start till September. Why do we need to register nearly 6 months in advance? By early summer the league is closed. No last-minute urges to sign up for soccer tolerated around here!

Last year the line took forever (signups are in person only) so today I was prepared with coffee and a book to entertain myself while standing in line. But there were only about 10 people ahead of me, and a worried mom behind me, so I didn't even get to crack my book. Her kids are signing up for the first time - they'll be in grade 1 next year - and she's worried because all the other kids have already been playing for a while. Wow. I am a pretty good worrier, but that one never occurred to me. My girl played her first season last year - in grade 4! - and did fine. She is excited about going back; the boy (7th grade next year) is going for his first season. Oh, the horror!

Another change at soccer signups is the non-volunteer fee. Last year it cost $25 per kid to forgo volunteering. All one had to do was say "yeah, I'll volunteer" and the non-volunteer fee did not get charged. At the time I wondered how they'd handle deadbeats. Well, someone else wondered that too because this year the fee is paid up front, and refunded at the end of the season. It was a little painful writing that check, and I wonder how long it will take to get those refunds, but...

I did finish a book this week but I never wrote anything about it so you won't find me in the Saturday Review of Books. You'd never find it anyway; there are 175 reviews there today!

I also missed the Carnival of Homeschooling this week. All I can say about it is: great photos! Maybe sometime soonish I will have a post to submit. I have been thinking about how strange some people think it is that I trust my daughter to wander the library alone and choose her own reading material.

We had an Indian feast for dinner tonight, using this recipe for Beef Curry. I also decided to try to make naan - we really miss good naan. The seminarian ended up taking that over as working with a 500 degree oven and broiler can be dangerous for me, and it's nice not having any cuts or burns on my hands right now. Turned out great; we'll do that again. We used Madhur Jaffrey's recipe from this book.

Was this post worth blowing off earth hour?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is everyone's life this crazy?

For the past year and a half or so, we've been a one-car family. Surprisingly, even living here in suburbia, where nothing is within walking distance, it hasn't been too much of a struggle. I take the seminarian to school on the days I need the car. Simple. Kind of reminds me of Laura and Rob Petrie.

But every now and then it's not so simple. For instance, today, when piano lessons and baseball practice coincided. We decided the boy could skip piano this one time. I could take him and Dad to the ballfield a little early, get the girl to piano, read on the teacher's living room couch for 30 minutes, then come, watch the end of practice, and go home for dinner.

But it's drizzling, and darkish, and the boy is still coughing a bit, and it seemed like an extra 45 minutes outside might not be the best thing. (Usually it takes quite a bit of rain to cancel practice.) So we thought we could all pile into the car, drive to piano, drop off the girl, take the boy to practice, go back and get the girl.... aaaahhhh!

None of these distances are all that big, but still.

The phone rang. It was the piano teacher, calling to cancel because of mild illness in her family. As I was checking the calendar for rescheduling, email from the baseball coach arrived. Practice is canceled due to the rain!

So we went from a super-packed early evening to an empty one. Dinner is all prepped (Thanks, Ms. B and B!). Think I'll go find some coffee and a book.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More poolside conversations

I'm just gonna keep running with this till swimming lessons are over. [This is apparently part of a series wherein I ponder aloud the conversations I've been having with another mom at swimming lessons.]

This week's poolside conversation revolved around kids' activities and mom's free time.

Free time is usually a hot topic among any group of mothers, no matter if mom works outside the home, works at a paying job at home, or is a homemaker; whether the kids are in school or not in school. But how did this conversation start?

My companion has mentioned a few times that her kids don't like swimming lessons. But it's more than that: her son in particular doesn't really want to be in any structured activities. He's about 10, I think, and she said that after school and homework he wants to do his own thing. Saturdays, too.

Well, wow, I thought - who can blame him? Every minute of his day is scheduled out, except for 20 minutes of recess each day. I'd guess a guy would want a little time to call his own after 7 or 8 hours of structured time. Don't most adults? But it's hard to say that to a near-stranger who isn't asking for advice and doesn't understand my point of view anyway.

S0 we talked about things like piano lessons and learning a foreign language for fun. And she said - did I imagine a wistful tone in her voice? - that there is nothing stopping her from learning to play the piano, or getting some foreign-language course and doing something different with her days. Because she has the time.

That's when I remembered that her other child is 6, so, perhaps in her first year of full-day school. And I'm thinking this mom doesn't quite know what to do with herself with her kids out of the house all day. I am not sure about this, but maybe I'll have a chance to explore that next week. Anyway, she went on to surmise that surely I had no free time at all, what with giving lessons, creating lessons, cooking, housework, etc. I just said that it isn't so much a matter of having no time, but using my time wisely. At that, she turned her attention to the lessons and asked the teacher, who had just swum up to our end of the pool, a couple of questions.

So I opened the magazine I'd brought and looked at recipes. I am continually looking for new recipes. And I pondered what life would look like if my kids were out of the house all day. I guess our house would be cleaner and we'd never have laundry emergencies. I could decorate it a bit, maybe even paint, and could do more gardening. Meals would always be glorious occasions because I would never have to put something together in a rush....

But my reverie was broken by my companion commenting on a recipe in the mag. And then talking about a common meal at her house: chicken thrown in the crockpot with a bottle of barbecue sauce poured over it. Now there is nothing wrong with that meal; we had a variation on it tonight (pork, ketchup, garlic, herbs, some other things I can't remember). Because even though we stayed home today, the Girl Scouts were here learning how to make skirts for their dolls. Anyway, back to the topic at hand - for all I know that's her emergency meal when the schedule is such that there's no time for more effort and most nights she cooks great meals all from scratch. So I'm not dissing her for that. But I couldn't help thinking, wow, she has all this free time, and she cooks like someone who doesn't.

So I figure, I get to have my kids at home, I get to help them learn things in the way they do it best, at their own paces, with plenty of time in the day to explore their own interests... and I can still make dinner just like moms who are home all day in empty houses.

I'll keep the kids, thanks.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Morning Miscellany

Still haven't finished any books this week, still working on three: Little Women, Crocodile on the Sandbank, and The Joyful Homeschooler. All good.

Saturday Review of Books is up, though, with 89 reviews of books as of this moment. J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism caught my eye first thing, which led me to PalmTree Pundit's review, which includes a few links to previous blog posts with must-read quotes from the book. I am particularly fond of this one, as the Seminarian read it to me just recently.

Yesterday we introduced the sick 11 year old boy to MacGyver, via dvds from the library. What fun. The 10 year old girl had a great time too. We were supposed to have a girl weekend while the boy and dad went camping with the scouts. But sickness kept them home. Today she and I are sewing an Easter dress and then will lock him in his room so we can watch Pollyanna. Or maybe she'll prefer more MacGyver.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Conversations at the pool

My kids are taking swimming lessons at the YMCA now, and I've struck up a pool-side friendship with one of the other moms. So far, we have had the typical public-school-mom to homeschool-mom conversations. It's always so funny to me, how predictable these conversations are. It's also a little sad, in a way.

I started by asking about her kids' school and how she liked it. She went on at great length about the large classes, the busywork in the classroom, the lack of PE, the homework. In short, she wasn't too happy with it, but, hey, she said "it's free." I wanted to ask what school district she lived in, where she doesn't have to pay taxes that go to the school system, but I refrained. I didn't think she'd want to be lectured on the difference between "free" and "taxpayer-funded."

So she in turn asked about my kids' school; I correctly anticipated her response to being told that we homeschool: "Really? Wow, you must have a lot more patience than I do! I couldn't do it. My kids fight all the time." It was just about at that moment that my boy gave his sister a big hug of praise and encouragement after her first ever jump off the diving platform. What great timing. The woman's eyes popped out and she asked "do they ever fight?"

I thought about telling her that homeschooled kids have lots of opportunity to develop close relationships with their siblings because they are not separated all day into age-specific groups. But I didn't have a chance because she suddenly asked "does this count as PE for your kids?"

Think about this. Her kids are in swimming lessons because their public school doesn't give them enough PE. And she is asking me if the swimming lessons count as PE for my kids.

So I reassure her that yes, they count, and so does the homeschool PE class my boy participates in, and Little League baseball, and the exercises he is doing for Boy Scouts every day. And so does soccer in the fall, and walking the dog around the block, and doing morning stretches, and hiking in the park.

She didn't say anything for a minute; she looked a little confused. Then she said "Really? It counts?" I should have been ready for this because I've heard it before, at baseball and soccer. The moms of schoolkids that I have run into just don't get how sports can count as PE, even though PE often includes... sports. At least it did when I was in school; that was why I was always cutting PE. I guess it's because there's no grade attached to it, no consequences if they don't do well, and, of course, no state-certified teacher involved.

The lesson ended then, so we jumped up, quickly said goodbye, and tried to hustle our girls into the showers before the line got too long.

The following week I was surprised when she sat down with me again. This time she was ready with her homeschooling question - a classic: "Do you have ways to get your kids, you know, out with other kids?" (She must not have heard the s-word.) I always want to say "you mean around other kids, like NOW?" But I don't. I just say yes, between Scouts and other classes and church and Sunday School and neighborhood friends and homeschooling activities and, you know, swimming lessons, yes, they are around other kids.

So, it's sort of funny, like I said, because the conversations are so predictable. That's OK, because homeschooling is kind of weird to most people, and I don't expect them to know much about it. This woman at the Y isn't challenging me, or asking me why public schools aren't good enough, or telling me I'm warping my kids' minds. She's just asking questions.

But the sad part: she doesn't really like her kids' school, or the education they're getting, but it doesn't occur to her that there are other ways to educate her kids. I wonder how many parents are sending their kids to schools they don't like, to get an education they find inadequate, and doing nothing about it, because the "free" public school is the default position. I don't find that sad because they're not homeschooling. I don't think homeschooling is for everyone. I find it odd, and sad, that there's no decision there. No "critical thinking" which is supposedly a big part of education these days. I'd love to hear one of these moms I meet say "yeah, we thought about homeschooling, and private school, but we decided public school would be better for our family" even if "better" is code for "we can't afford private school and we need two incomes so homeschooling is out." I'd have a lot more respect for someone like that than someone who shrugs and says "oh well, it's free."

I can't wait for the next swimming lesson to see what kind of questions I'll be getting.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"How's that mindfulness coming along?"

As she sat happily typing up inconsequential blog posts, reveling in an evening without obligations (or, with obligations pushed firmly to the back of her mind), she noticed an odd sweet smell. "Hm, like sugar, or fruit... or burning sugar... burning fruit... ack! The blueberry syrup!" She ran up the half-flight of stairs to the kitchen and removed the steaming pot from the stove. As she gazed in dismay at the blackened, shriveled mass in the bottom of the pan, her husband came into the smoke-filled room. "What are you cooking?" he asked. He glanced into the pan and murmured, "Huh. I thought you were making some kind of yummy caramel dessert." She silently handed him the box of store-brand gingersnaps, and started scrubbing out the blueberry-encrusted pan...

Poor disillusioned boy

Last week I was flipping through a magazine I'd picked up from the library, as I often do. It was about a year old. I stopped at an article about blogs, with a few lists of the best blogs on various subjects: fashion, celeb gossip, news, food...

My boy asked if there was a top ten blogs list. There wasn't, but I asked him why he wanted to know. He doesn't read blogs, unless there's one on lego.com. He replied in a puzzled voice: "because yours would be on it."

Poor kid. He didn't understand why I was laughing so hard I was falling off the chair. He looked at his Dad, who was convulsing in laughter too.

We had to tell him the hard truth: my blog is not in the top 10. Not in the top ten thousand. Maybe even the top ten million.

We told him that there are blogs that get hundreds of thousands of readers every day. I get... some.

He was astonished. Poor boy. Another disillusionment in his young life. It reminded me of the day, so many years ago, when he learned his Dad did not drive a dump truck for work. He brightened up at hearing that his Daddy was an engineer, till we clarified that his work did not involve trains...

Wherein I embarrass my children in public

Little League season is here! And that means new cleats for the boy, who is a man now, in terms of shoe sizes. We decided to check out the offerings at WalMart before heading to our local Expensive Sporting Goods store. I do hate going to WalMart. I liked this one when it first opened a few months ago, but it is already smelly and cluttered just like every other WalMart I've ever been in. But, sometimes we have to shop in stores we dislike.

So we went to the shoe area and there were cleats! Lots of cleats, in lots of sizes. Of course the size we needed was way up high.

I looked around for someone to help me. No people in sight, but there was a rolling stepladder at the end of the aisle, so I went over to fetch it. Hmm, there was a sign with "ASSOCIATES ONLY" in big forbidding letters chained across the steps. But the sign wasn't blocking the steps... I started to wheel it toward the cleats. The boy grinned conspiratorially at me. "Mo-ommm, it says 'associates only' on it..." The girl looked uneasy. "Mom! Don't do it! You know you'll hurt yourself." Such a lack of confidence. Why it's been almost a week since I hurt my knees ice skating (the bruises and swelling are nearly gone), and right now my hands are band-aid free - I've avoided cooking injuries for a while now!

But I stopped and went looking for an associate to climb for me. No one around, except for two ladies shootin' the breeze in the next aisle. Could they be -? No, they weren't wearing the blue vest of the WalMart associate and were quite intent on their chat.

Determined to get those $7 cleats, I moved the ladder. The boy chuckled nervously under his breath. The girl watched anxiously. I stepped on the first step. She flinched. "It's OK, honey, the wheels lock down when you step on it." I knew she was worried I'd go flying across the back aisle and into the row of men's work boots at the back of the store.

I reached up for the top box. The one I wanted was the 2nd one down. I almost had it... and then it fell. Did that girl scream? No, it didn't hit her. I got the box I wanted. "Hey, pick that up, willya honey? You OK?" I asked as I climbed down and handed the desired box to the boy.

She was fine but the crash woke up the two ladies chatting next door. They rushed over indignantly. Ah, so they were associates!

"What are you doing? That says it's for associates only!" one hissed at me. "You could have gotten hurt."

"Well, I couldn't find anyone to help me, and I needed shoes that were on the top."

"Well, we were right there in the next aisle!" Boy was she was mad! Then she turned to my girl and softened her tone just a little: "Are you OK?" My good girl gazed at her suspiciously and nodded silently.

"I had no way of knowing you were employees- "

"Well, actually, I'm off the clock now" interjected the 2nd lady smugly. Ah ha, I thought, I see... she's on her own time, but the other is hacked off at me for busting her while gossiping instead of working. I went on: "You looked like two customers chatting. I had no way to know you work here."

The off-the-clock lady slunk away. The one on the clock changed her attitude. "Are you finding everything you need now? Do you need any other sizes?" She busied herself with the stepladder and straightened up a shelf or two.

No, we didn't. The cleats were fine. I handed her the box I'd knocked off the stack. "We don't need these. Have a good day!"

The boy was trying to hold in his laughter; the girl was quiet and, I think, embarrassed, though she denied it (way too much). He wanted to talk about it. "Wait till we get to the car" I muttered.

OK, I said later, I was wrong. I should not have climbed up the associates-only ladder. I should have wandered around that store, for hours if need be, till I found someone authorized to climb the ladder. But that associate was wrong too, and she knew it. She was mad at me because she knew she was wrong, standing around chit-chatting when she was supposed to be stocking shelves and fetching shoes for customers. And she was probably worried she'd get in trouble.

Yeah, yeah, OK, OK, Mom. (Translation: Quit the lecture.) "What does off the clock mean?"

"I really wasn't embarrassed Mom. Really. Really I wasn't."

On blog neglect, books, and random links

It wasn't so long ago that I had a goal of submitting a post to every Carnival of Homeschooling and to the Saturday Review of Books. This week I did neither. I didn't even have a chance to check out the Carnival at all. Ah well, it was a busy week. But there's no reason not to go now:

Saturday Review of Books has 142 book reviews to peruse! I haven't finished any books in a few weeks. Right now I'm reading Little Women and discussing it with my girl (who is a few chapters ahead of me, always), The Joyful Homeschooler, and Crocodile on the Sandbank, which looks like fun.

The Carnival of Homeschooling at Life Nurturing Education has beautiful pictures of a homeschooler's favorite things: school supplies, along with lots of reading.

Kerri at Rambling the Old Paths has an interesting video about public education.

Yesterday I found Self Made Scholar and have a whole new way to eat up buckets of nonexistent time. But I'll be educating myself there! Loads of articles and links to free education. Not just for homeschoolers, for everyone.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The threat of company...

is almost as good as actually having company.

We thought we might have a dinner guest tonight (a prospective seminary student come to check the place out) so we hustled around getting the joint cleaned up. We tend to have piles of stuff around - books, papers, sweaters cast off as the day warms up, shoes dropped at the front door and beyond, a bucket of sidewalk chalk in the middle of the living room floor (don't ask me why, I just live here), parts of craft projects. I don't mind the piles of books, really, but they have to be neatish piles, not falling down and spreading all over the floor.

Of course this is yet another benefit of homeschooling. The kids have more time to learn important life skills like cleaning the toilet, vacuuming dog hair off the stairs, quickly moving the dog blanket off the "foot table*" without dropping dog hair all over the place, making an impromptu glaze for a bundt cake, moving piles of books, papers, and other educational materials, responding to a "Mrs. G alert!" when the neighbor calls and says "I'm stopping by in a minute."

(* Toddler term for a hassock or ottoman.)

But the communication wasn't so great, and the student is not our dinner guest tonight.

But the house is clean! And now we have a free evening. What could be better?

Friday, March 06, 2009

O Brave New World!

Critical reviews of Brave New World abound. Reams of analysis can be found via the google touch. This is not a review or analysis. How presumptuous it would be for me to attempt either! This is just an admonition to read - or reread - the book. These are just random thoughts about the book, in no particular order.

How can you read "Everyone works for everyone else" and not hear Joe Biden telling "rich people" to pony up and be patriotic by paying more taxes.

The term "mother" is nearly pornographic and "father" is slightly less obscene but also sort of funny. Hm: Here's a headline: IVF mothers can name anyone "father" on birth certificate.

The idea of "family" is gone, replaced by casual, impermanent relationships. Sexual promiscuity is encouraged; close, loving relationships are not. The society is the family now. Are we there yet? Not quite, but remember Obama's Zero to Five plan. Get those kiddies out of the house and in school! We're not quite to the hypnopaedia stage. at least.

Solitude is discouraged. Everyone belongs to everyone else. Consumption is critical: Old clothes are beastly. We always throw away old clothes. Ending is better than mending.

Reading? Books are gone. You can't consume much if you sit still and read books. Sports - always involving equipment, remember consumption is critical - and "feelies" fill everyone's non-working hours. Everyone's happy in their work because they are bred to be. No one breaks out of their "caste." No one wants to.

Unpleasant thoughts are whisked away with a good dose of soma. No one gets old, ugly or fat...

Just read it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Is the Brave New World coming soon?

Yesterday I started reading Brave New World. I've been thinking about it for a long time as references to it keep coming up. It's actually a re-read but high school was a while ago and I don't remember much about it. I've only just gotten through the first couple of chapters, which focus on the brave new way of procreation. Babies are created in a lab and "nurtured" by various methods to ensure they will fit into their predetermined "caste." It's all very sci-fi (OK, yeah, it is a sci-fi novel) and impersonal. The idea of "mother" and "father" is considered nearly pornographic, and a discussion of a typical family life back in the unenlightened days is met with shock and disbelief.

And then this morning I read this in the Wall Street Journal:

A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles -- Hold the Colic

Laboratory Techniques That Screen for Diseases in Embryos Are Now Being Offered to Create Designer Children

A Los Angeles clinic says it will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo a form of fertility treatment. The clinic, Fertility Institutes, says it has received "half a dozen" requests for the service, which is based on a procedure called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.

While PGD has long been used for the medical purpose of averting life-threatening diseases in children, the science behind it has quietly progressed to the point that it could potentially be used to create designer babies. It isn't clear that Fertility Institutes can yet deliver on its claims of trait selection. But the growth of PGD, unfettered by any state or federal regulations in the U.S., has accelerated genetic knowledge swiftly enough that pre-selecting cosmetic traits in a baby is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Reading up

Last year I lied to my school district about my homeschooled kids' reading.

Pennsylvania law required homeschoolers to submit a portfolio of work to the district to verify that our kids are getting an "appropriate education." (Whatever that means - what if we disagree on what's appropriate?) After the school district representative reviews and approves the portfolio, she sends a letter to let us know we "passed." Last year was my first time doing this, and I was surprised that it wasn't simply a form letter - she included some comments about the work.

For the portfolio, I include all the books we've used, separating out books each child read on his/her own, and books I read aloud or we listened to. (I also separate fiction from nonfiction.) Apparently I wasn't clear about that because the letter approving my girl's third-grade portfolio commented on her reading list, including Oliver Twist. Now that girl does have a pretty good reading list, but she didn't read that one. I read it to her - and to my boy, and, of course to myself, which is a good thing because it had been many a year since I'd read that story.

Though I had a vaguely bad feeling of having misrepresented my kids' reading in their portfolios, it didn't take me long to get over it. It really doesn't matter that they didn't read Oliver themselves. They probably will, someday, possibly because I read it to them last year. So often people express surprise and wonder that I am still reading to my kids, who are perfectly fine readers now. Why? they want to know. They can read. Don't you have other things to do?

Sure, I have lots of other things to do. And yes, they can read on their own. They read a lot. But I like to read up to my kids - read to them above their own reading level. My kids could read Oliver Twist, or Robinson Crusoe, or Treasure Island - books that are on this year's list. But would it do them any good if I just handed the books off to them and said "go read?. Is it enough that they are capable of reading and comprehending most of the words in the book?

What about the many words that need explaining? What about the cultural context that they don't know yet, but that is essential to truly understanding the story? What about the boring parts, scary parts, parts that are difficult to follow?

So we read, and we stop to explain and talk: about workhouses in Victorian London, cannibalism, pickpockets, sailing ships (the boy explains a lot about sailing ships to me). They learn a lot of new words and how to use them. They broaden their knowledge in ways that they just couldn't on their own.

It's funny that no one questions reading to a prereader. Of course we must read to our little ones - they can't do it themselves. And it doesn't seem odd to stop and explain the meanings of words and phrases, or give context to help the child understand. But as soon as children can read - poof! - no more reading to them. They're on their own.

Some people say, well, they need to read hard books too, and look up the words themselves. Sure they do. Kids should be reading books that challenge them (so should I, for that matter), but if they are stopping on every page to look up a word, or can't understand what's going on because the language is a little dense, they are going to get the impression that hard books are, well, just too hard to bother with. And boring. How many times do we hear that the classics are boring? If the kid gets the book handed to him and told read this, it's a classic that everyone should read and the kid goes off to read and quickly gets lost, he is going to decide that the book is boring.

So readers need to be read to. They need to be read hard books. They will love having hard books read to them, and they will learn from them. Don't think of reading aloud as a thing for little kids, and a waste of time for Mom and Dad. It is a really good use of time; even better for those like me who are deficient in their classics-reading. I was an English major and I never had to read one single Dickens novel in college. (I had to read some horrid feminist lit that I won't be reading to my kids, but that's another story.) So we might read Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities soon. Or maybe not. But we'll be reading something, a book that they could, maybe, read themselves, but is better read by me.

What kinds of books do you read aloud to your kids?