Book Review: Cleaning House

Hello Happy Readers!  One of the books from my personal library haul last week was Cleaning House: One Mother’s 12-month experiment to rid her house of youth entitlement by Kay…

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What I’m Reading

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(Disclaimer- I read these books of my own volition.   Nobody made me read them, there wasn’t a test involved, and nobody wants to pay for my reviews.)

Hello Happy Readers!  I’ve had the opportunity to read a few good books in the past couple weeks, so I wanted to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on them with you!

First on my pile was Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids. This book from 2009 is a straightforward, easy to read how-to on overcoming parental anxiety, and hacking off the apron strings.   Skenazy’s book shoots from the hip, breaking scary statistics and “I had a friend that told me” anecdotes into fun topics such as “Play dates and Axe Murderers: How to Tell the Difference”.

OK, personal confession time?  I have a LOT of parental anxiety.   I’m working through this, but I know that I hinder Geekling in things because of it.    One of my biggest anxieties is (like many parents) somebody taking the Geekling.   I solved this problem in our own yard by getting a gigantic dog.     In other situations I’m trying to take a step back, a deep breath, and just let go a little bit.    I really liked this book, because it very clearly explains the risks that are out there, helps relieve some of the worry from the over reactive ones, and gives some easy to follow “baby steps” to help start you on your free range journey.

Next up was The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.    Miller is a middle school reading teacher whose focus on turning kids into readers, rather than just skimming them through a required reading class is a refreshing change in schools today.   Students completing her class can boast an impressive 40-50 book reading list from the year, and many go on to enjoy a lifelong love of reading.   A line in the book that struck me early was this one, in which Miller describes her own love of literature: “I am a reader, a flashlight-under-the-covers, carries-a-book-wherever-I-go, don’t-look-at-my-Amazon-bill reader.”   I too confess to being a devourer of books.   I read every chance I get, both old favorites and new material, guilty pleasures and high brow intellectual tomes.  I’m most interested in developing a similar love of reading in the Geekling, so I’ll be using some of Miller’s Do’s and Don’ts as we move forward in our reading journey.    In the next few weeks we’ll be beginning our own “reading log”, first for me to write in, then as writing becomes easier for the Geekling, he’ll be responsible for keeping up with it.    

I rounded out my reading on our trip with Quinn Collins’  The Year of Learning Dangerously.     Collins’ book is a fairly irreverent look at a new on the scene mom’s exploration of homeschooling.    When traditional schooling wasn’t working for Quinn’s daugher “Alice”, the family pulled the trigger on what can be a scary journey for even the most knowledgeable families- home schooling.    Throughout the book Collins explores a variety of teaching methods, from correspondence type public school, to unschooling.     She spends the year careening through ideas, trying to find the best fit for their family, all the while searching for her “tribe”, a group of other homeschoolers where she can find the support she feels she needs to know she’s doing things the right way.    Eventually she comes to realize that no one method is going to work for her family, any more than it really does for any of us.   My only complaint about this book is that I feel Collins focused her time too much on the extremes of the homeschooling community (from radical unschoolers, to the ultra conservative Christian) and left out a whole lot of valuable people in the middle, people who really chose homeschooling not for some religious mandate or a desire to give their children more freedom, but for the same reasons that Collins did.    I understand the entertainment value in focusing on these extremes, but in all honesty, this is not a book I would recommend to someone who is trying to decide if home schooling is for them.     I appreciated the humor, it was a fast moving, easy read, and Collins’ writing style is one I enjoy, very forthright and conversational.    I also enjoyed the message I got from the book which was essentially “if what you’re doing now isn’t working, CHANGE.  Try something else, move on, no harm, no foul.”  This attitude is one I feel many homeschooling parents could use a dose of throughout the year.

There you have it Happy Readers, those were my favorites from my recent trip to the library.   Do you have any reading recommendations for me to look for tomorrow?