Monday, September 3, 2012

Calvin—My Boy Reader

First, I have to report that I finished another book that I loved yesterday. It's a slippery thing, why I loved this book. It doesn't fit into the kind of book I would normally love. It's sort of historical fiction, though not much history at all—short—about a twelve-year-old girl living on the grounds of an insane asylum in the late 1800s.

I started reading it because I was at an amusement part on Saturday with my family and while stuck waiting for kids in lines, I needed something to read, and for some reason, the book (from the library) was in my purse (Fate maybe? I don't know...)

The Locked Garden by Gloria Whelan
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It wasn't perfect. I kept trying to find things wrong with it as I read, and I found them, but I kept on reading anyway, and I kept on reading, and I stayed up past midnight last night to finish it. That's saying something for me, nowadays.

How do I know I loved it?

Because I sighed when I was done. And I shut the book. And I felt wholly alive, tingly alive, my head full of thoughts and ideas and images. I didn't want to immediately open the book again, there were no romantic passages I wanted to read over. I didn't feel hungry for more. I felt satisfied. And that is my new definition of a great book: when I am done and I feel new and complete all at once.

Now, for Calvin.

He's in the middle—and, okay, this picture is three years old. But it's cute...

Name: Calvin Neil Eyre
Age: 8
Interests: Bugs, animals, nature, art, drawing, clay, writing, funny books, animal movies, rats (training rats, rat enclosures, rat amusement parks, rat circuses...)

We're actually a little worried about Calvin right now. I am currently homeschooling my oldest who is in seventh grade. Lucy, Calvin, and Shaemus are in elementary school, and Flannery will go to preschool this year.

Traditional school doesn't serve Calvin very well. He is bored TO DEATH. TO TEARS.
Why? They only do science for half the year—the other half of the year they do social studies. And they only do science for forty-five minutes a day when they actually do it.

What do they do at schools here?

Two and a half hours of literacy among other things.

This should be wonderful, right? I should be thrilled. Two and a half hours devoted to reading and writing!

I am thrilled with the writing, and that is hands-down, Calvin's favorite part of the day. This boy could write stories in his sleep, and he thrives on it. He makes animal encyclopedias for fun. He makes alphabet books for his little sister. He loves to write.

But the reading portion of literacy time at our school has nothing to do with books. It has everything to do with reading—the science of reading. Reading strategies. Answering multiple choice questions about passages. Comprehension. What to do when you don't understand a word? What do you do when you don't understand what you are reading?

But what about the kid who understands everything? What about the kid who reads constantly at home and doesn't need strategies to figure out tough words? What about the kid who just asks his mom when he doesn't know a word?

What about the kid that just wants to read his animal encyclopedia, and leave him alone please!

On Friday, I went to Lucy's classroom to do Character Education (it was super fun—loved those kids), and I walked by Calvin's class on my way. There was an hour left of school. His head was down on his desk. I could tell he was reading, so that was good, but I could also tell that he was reading The Lightning Thief for like the fifth time. And I could tell from his body position that he was just passing the time. That he was bored, even as he was reading. The other kids were scuttling around, doing work. He looked so very sad to me, and that image was burned into my brain.

I asked him about it later. He said that he was already done with his work, so he just read that book for the rest of the day. He just wanted his day to end.

I don't know what we're going to do about this problem. We're afraid of homeschooling him, because he might turn into a hermit. Those are decisions that will have to be prayerfully made, but in the meantime, we are doing all we can here to keep his love of science and the world around him alive.

I recently got him this:

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Leslie
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It's full of illustrations and tips on observing everything in nature, tracking animals, learning from your observations. He loves it. It is a book that can be flipped through at your leisure.

I also got him this. My Nature Journal by Adrienne Olmstead.
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To record his observations.

Crinkleroot is one of our favorite guys. His real name is Jim Arnosky, and he is a naturalist with a big fat beard, exactly as you'd imagine. He has a nature book for everything you can imagine.
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We are also loving the books about the different animal scientists out there. Mary loves these too.

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The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell
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Emi and the Rhino Scientist by Mary Kay Carson
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The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner
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The Manatee Scientist by Peter Lourie

And many, many more.

So in case it isn't obvious, my strategy with Calvin is to figure out what he wants, what he is craving to learn about, and get those books for him. He doesn't like to go to the library, so I always bring home stacks of non-fiction books, stacks of novels about animals, stacks of funny books for him to look through. He doesn't read them all, but he reads many of them, and he does not read every word in the book, not at all, but what is wrong with that? That's a flaw in our educational system: this insistence that kids read every word of something and understand and comprehend every part of it. Do we do that as adults? When I read an article, I tend to be searching for something in particular, and that is what I get out of it. I don't worry about the main point of the passage or the subpoints or what the author's intent was in writing the passage. I just read it and learn what I need to learn at that moment.

Instead of telling our kids what they must infer from a passage—instead of telling them that what they learn must be the same as every other kid in the room—we should ask them what they got from a text, help them to develop those ideas further, ask them why it was important to them. Let them become their own kind of readers, instead of dictating to them what they should think and feel after reading a novel or a nonfiction text or a passage.

That is the problem with Standards.

I've recently ordered National Geographic for Kids and Ranger Rick for Calvin—hoping those are good, and this is his favorite animal encyclopedia.

Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia by DKAnimals: A Visual Encyclopedia

We've also found a new graphic novel series that is cute and funny and great for fluff:

Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye by Colleen Venable

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That's Calvin!

1 comment:

  1. It has been ages since I checked the blogs and I am so glad I did. Lindsay, you're wonderful! I miss you! Want to come to Ohio for Christmas or something?