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June 7, 2010

Well, it’s the first official day of summer vacation in that it’s back to work for Mr. Spy and I and AJ has nothing on his schedule. And it’s been … wonderful. Despite my perennial dread of the lack of schedule, we’ve had a great, easy first day. AJ’s had some time to kick back but we’ve had some scheduled stuff too — just enough to keep him going, but not so much that he feels like he’s not on vacation.

Mr. Spy took AJ to the library this morning so he could do some research and I could have some time to myself to work. I commissioned him with finding some books about Ancient Greece. A few days ago, I was looking for something to read with AJ at bedtime. I was trolling our bookshelves and came across and I started reading Roger Lancelyn Green’s The Tale of Troy. This is a terrific retelling of the story of The Iliad, as it includes a bunch of the backstory. It does help to have read some mythology already, though, as there are a lot of names. In fact, what persuaded me to pull it out for AJ in the first place was that when I pulled it off the shelf, a piece of paper fell out with a list of all the characters, a list I’d written when I was exactly AJ’s age. After he critiqued my handwriting (dreadful) he asked to read the book. And so we launched into it. After a couple of chapters of wife-stealing and confusing comments about city-state governments, I decided it was time to get some background information. So our first summer project has presented itself: we’ll be looking at the history, literature and mythology of Ancient Greece and also, because it’s of interest in this house in general, the origins of our own governmental structures. See, this is the thing I love about summer: the opportunities for stream-of-consciousness learning. A question is asked and you have time to run with it and see what happens.

AJ and Mr. Spy spent a full two hours at the library, finding books and reading. AJ also worked on some math problems. AJ came home with a big stack, including three books on Ancient Greece. Paul Fleischman’s Dateline: Troy, is another retelling of the Iliad illustrated with facsimiles of American newspaper articles, mostly from the early 90s (a couple are from the 50s and 70s), which resonate with the Ancient Greek story, thus attempting to build a case for the timelessness of the story. It looks interesting, but I haven’t had time to look at it too carefully. Linda Bailey’s Adventures in Ancient Greece is of the genre we call “wordy picture book” around here and emphasizes political and especially cultural history with engaging, cartoonish illustrations by Bill Slavin. The third, Kim Covert’s Ancient Greece, from the Early Civilizations series by Capstone Press is a more standard, classroom type book on the subject with lots of maps and photos and the imprimatur of a University of Chicago history professor. That should do us for the moment.

He also came home with a pile of novels, including one we’d read about in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

Afterwards, we all had lunch and discussed the rest of the day. AJ got a half an hour of video time while I finished up a project, and then we headed out to the post office and the local library (not the same one where AJ and Mr. Spy went) to sign him up for their summer reading program and to pick up still more books, including one for me (Anne Lamott’s newest novel) . AJ is now reading for four different programs, and when we came home again, we sorted out what needs to be done for which (public library: measured in minutes; Barnes and Noble and Borders, each measured in books; School’s Accelerated Reading program, requires weekly tests on Wednesday mornings). Then he practiced piano and curled up in the comfy rocking chair in my office with his stack of books until Mr. Spy came down and invited him to go play baseball. While they were gone, I got a few emails sent, made some copies, packed up my gear and headed to School of Rock to teach a couple of lessons, which went exceedingly well. And now I’m back. AJ’s at a birthday party and I’ve got an hour before I need to pick him up. I think it’s time for a walk in the sun.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2010 8:58 pm

    question– do you let him use the same books for all the different reading programs? I know you CAN, but I’m tempted to make mine read new books for each. They’d each read the 8 for B&N before even getting the form.

  2. June 7, 2010 9:04 pm

    I let him overlap if he wants to. But he has to keep track of the books himself, which can be a challenge for him. In years past, there actually hasn’t been much overlap, because he would lose a form for a while and then find it again, and often because it was unnecessary. The kid tends to go through 6 books a day. I’ll be keeping a bit closer eye on it this year since school is in the mix. I think it will help him to have a weekly deadline.

  3. Ron permalink
    June 7, 2010 9:38 pm

    Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliffe is also an excellent retelling that AJ’s almost certainly ready to read. We have a version beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee. It was published posthumously, but is a potential entry point to Sutcliffe’s other wonderful children’s/YA novels.

  4. readersguide permalink
    June 8, 2010 3:23 pm

    Sounds like a perfect summer to me —

  5. June 8, 2010 5:04 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation, Ron. I just looked it up on Amazon and it looks terrific. I thought I was unfamiliar with Sutcliffe, but after looking up her other books, I realized I read Tristan and Iseult some time ago when it was on display at our library and it was lovely.

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