Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Allie's Freshman Reading List

I spent a lot of last summer planning for this year.  I planned an Immigration Study for the first half of the year and a Segregation/Civil Rights/Race Relations study for the second part of the year based loosely around historical novels and non-fiction books, documentaries and movies with a fair amount of writing involved.  We really enjoyed the Immigration Study this fall, but Allie, a voracious reader, felt stifled by not having enough time to read for pleasure (like me, she has a hard time reading more than one novel at a time).  We took a break in late December and I let the girls just read for pleasure in January, planning to resume and complete the last few hours of our Immigration Study in early February and then begin the Segregation/Race Relations study.  A few weeks ago, Allie came to me and asked if we could talk.  She said she liked the books I had chosen, but she wondered if I could give her a list of books to read and she would read them and learn to manage her time (she knows this is a key for me, smart girl to include it in her argument) so she can read for pleasure as well and she would write reports or create a presentation or discuss it with me.  

I told her I had to think about this.  I had spent so much time planning the Segregation/Race Relations study.  It was already in my mind that we would do it.  I had it all planned out.

But then I started to think...
  • she wanted to take more responsibility in her education, which was one of my goals for her
  • she came to me with a well-thought out argument
  • project based learning seems to work best for her
  • if I gave her a list of 10-12 books and told her to read 4 by the summer, she would choose the books that interested her and there is definitely something to be said for coming to a book on your own and having a choice to read it
I have spent so much time thinking about this the last few weeks.  In so many ways, homeschooling has taught me a lot of life lessons and as much as I was looking forward to the Segregation Unit, I am opening my mind to the possibility of something different.

I thought about the books I read (or was supposed to read in freshman year of high school).  I spoke with my brother who is a high school language arts teacher.  I looked at book lists for various high schools across the country.

One of the things that stood out to me over and over was that a lot of the books freshman read are very dark.  My brother said that was because there needs to be a strong conflict in literature.  I have always felt I was pretty liberal in what I allowed my girls to watch or read or listen to.  I know they have heard profanity.  We have discussed making good choices in terms of sex and drugs.  I have allowed my girls to watch a lot of historically accurate (or mostly historically accurate) films, some of which had war scenes and violence.  But...books about parents getting killed or kids getting killed, books about suicides or rape...I am having a hard time with the reality of that.  There is a big difference to me in watching war scenes from ancient Greece and reading about a Cambodian government official's murder in 1975 from the point of view of his daughter (which my brother convinced me that we should read at some point as most of his students come back to him when they are seniors to say it was the best book they read in high school).  The girls love to watch movies and I have told them they can't see movies like Se7en and Saw because you just can't un-see them, they stick in your mind forever.  To me, it's movies and books like that that are a loss of innocence for our kids.  I have decided that since we homeschool and I do have some control over what my kids see and read that I am going to take a conservative stance on this and have them wait a little longer to read books that I fear will steal their innocence.  There are enough other books out there.

I struggled with both Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451 (both of which I read in ninth grade).  They have come off the list and been added back on numerous times.  I just don't know if I can do justice to discussing the political implications of Animal Farm.  This whole reading list thing has, at times, made me question whether or not I should send her to school; can I do justice to these books?  can I have these discussions with her--sometimes she does get that typical teenager annoyance at her mother thing when I try to have certain discussions.  I was SO RELIEVED to find that Moving Beyond the Page has a Curriculum Unit for several of these books, including Animal Farm.  My brother convinced me that he thinks she will love Fahrenheit 451 because she loves dystopic novels and I did let her read the Hunger Games trilogy which may likely be more intense and violent than Fahrenheit 451.

I have decided that I still want the girls and I to read and discuss The Summer of My German Soldier and To Kill a Mockingbird together this winter and/or spring.  I found wonderful study guides with good discussion questions and projects to use with these books.  Moving Beyond the Page has a unit for To Kill a Mockingbird that we may use, we have been very happy with their products in the past.  My blog friend, Sandra at School of Serendipity, pointed out a company I had never heard of, Garlic Press and they also have a study guide for To Kill a Mockingbird, which I think I may try.

 I have created a list of twelve books for Allie to choose from.  I am going to ask her to read at least four of them (at least 2 must be chosen from the first 7 books on the list, the books typically read freshman year of high school) and depending on which she picks, we may read them together and discuss or I may ask her to write a literary analysis expressing her understanding of some essential literary terms (which we will be going over in more detail) or I may give her an essay topic to make her think more in depth about the theme or another element of the book.  I am still thinking about all of this and a lot will depend on which books she chooses.  But, I have tried to pick books that I think will make her a better person for having read them.

Allie's Freshman Reading List

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - This novel is typically read in school freshman year.
Over seventy-five years since its first publication, Steinbeck’s tale of commitment, loneliness, hope, and loss remains one of America’s most widely read and taught novels. An unlikely pair, George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, grasp for their American Dream. They hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry  - This novel is typically read in school freshman year.
This groundbreaking play set on Chicago's South Side, revolves around three generations of the Younger family. When the father dies and his insurance money comes in, each member of the family has a different dream for a better life: a better neighborhood, a better home, medical school, owning a business. They face tensions and prejudice, but their love and trust and willingness to sacrifice for each other and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world has made this play a classic.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles - This novel is typically read in school freshman year.
Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - This novel is typically read in school freshman year.
In this unflaggingly suspenseful story of aspirations and moral redemption, humble, orphaned Pip, a ward of his short-tempered older sister and her husband, Joe, is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman. And, indeed, it seems as though that dream is destined to come to pass — because one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of "great expectations." In telling Pip's story, Dickens traces a boy's path from a hardscrabble rural life to the teeming streets of 19th-century London, unfolding a gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, and love and loss. Its compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding -- if you don’t read it, you really should see the movie!
Nature vs. Nurture in this tale of boys marooned on an island alone with no adults, struggling to survive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell - This novel is typically read by high school freshman in school.
Manor Farm is like any other English farm, expect for a drunken owner, Mr Jones, incompetent workers and oppressed animals. Fed up with the ignorance of their human masters, the animals rise up in rebellion and take over the farm. Led by intellectually superior pigs like Snowball and Napoleon, the animals how to take charge of their destiny and remove the inequities of their lives. But as time passes, the realize that things aren't happening quite as expected. Animal Farm is, one level, a simple story about barnyard animals. On a much deeper level, it is a savage political satire on corrupted ideals, misdirected revolutions and class conflict-themes as valid today as they were sixty years ago.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - This novel is typically read by high school freshman in school.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.  At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.
In these short meditative and sermonic pieces, some of them composed in jails and all of them crafted during the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. King articulated and espoused in a deeply personal compelling way his commitment to justice and to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual conversion that makes his work as much a blueprint today for Christian discipleship as it was then.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak

A young girl living in Nazi Germany during World War II steals books and shares them with neighbors as well as with the Jewish refugee hiding in her foster family's basement.
**Many of the synopsis were taken from Facebook.