Some Miscellaneous Cybils 2011 Books

This is my last week and last post of sharing Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees, so I’ve got to go for a miscellany this week. Sub-topics: Dealing with Life; Kids’ Fashion; Roads and Trucks; Fine Arts; Non-Western Traditions; and, of course, Christmas, Christian, and Winter Books.Continue Reading

Short Story Monday: The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke (Brief Thoughts)

For my book club this month, we decided to take it easy and read a holiday short story, since many of us feel overwhelmed and limited on time during the holiday season. We settled on “The Mansion” by Henry Van Dyke, a Christian short story about a wealthy man who has a life-changing dream, much as Ebeneezer Scrooge did in Dicken’s classic.

In “The Mansion,” however, the main character is not a “grinch” being greedy. John Weightman is a very generous man, having donated to charities such as hospitals and orphanages throughout his life. Yet, as the opening scenes with his grown son reveal, he’s still missing the meaning behind the giving. He believes himself to be a Christian well-worthy of a mansion of heaven, but he gives because he expects financial return or a social “Thank You” that recognizes him as such.

In his Christmas Eve dream, John Weightman gets to see his mansion in heaven as he walks with some of the people he knew throughout his life. As I mention, his dream changed his perspective and while I don’t want to reveal the end, let’s just say, yes, it’s a bit predictable and dramatic, but satisfying nonetheless.

My book group enjoyed discussing the ways in which we can adjust our attitudes toward giving; are we giving for that Christmas morning “reaction? are we giving for worldly recognition? What does it mean to give selflessly? Is a generous John Weightman selflessly giving when he’s giving as he thinks about that mansion in heaven that he hopes will be his reward? How can we adjust our attitudes the year round to be more generous and sincere?

The story is a predictable, somewhat sappy one, but it was perfect short Christmas story to talk about this holiday season. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Read The Mansion” online.

Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners by Cindy West

I feel a little silly having requested and then won from LibraryThing EarlyReviewers not just a book about homeschooling but one about homeschooling “gifted” and “advanced” learners.

My son is just four years old and has more than 18 months before he’ll officially enter school. While I feel ridiculous assuming my child is a brilliant one, I must say I’m regularly at a loss for answers to his questions already, and he’s only four. I am, of course, biased, but I certainly think he’s a quick learner: he can read and do basic addition/subtraction (counting fingers, not really on paper yet), and he’s fascinated by everything, always asking questions about what he sees around him.1 He’s currently interested in the planets, electricity, and the human body (what’s inside and how it works).

But, that said, I have no idea if I do plan on homeschooling, if he’ll remain an eager learner throughout his life, if homeschooling would provide the best opportunities for engaging his inner spirit, and even if he truly is “gifted.” That term has a lot of connotation associated with it. Maybe I can just settle on “advanced for now.”

Nevertheless, I initially requested Cindy West’s Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners (Prufrock Press, 2011) because I thought it might help me gain a better idea of what homeschooling entails and how a parent untrained in education might be able to meet the needs of a brilliant child.2 Ms West’s book, although slim, certainly gave me a lot of things to consider in relation to my questions, and while I remain unsure what I will do in the coming years for my son’s schooling, I now see the possibility of homeschooling as a reality, while before it was just an overwhelming concept.Continue Reading

  1. His only real problem area is he refuses to practice handwriting. He can write his letters but finds it “too hard” and frustrating most of the time.
  2. That “untrained parent” would be me, of course.

The Scarlet Letter, Part 3: Confused Thoughts on Transcendentalism + “The Transcendentalist” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the risk of sounding ridiculously naive, I now turn to the transcendental context for Hawthorne’s novel, since I read it as a part of Jillian’s Transcendental Month. As I read The Scarlet Letter, I struggled to place the novel within the transcendental framework, and I’ve come to the conclusion that The Scarlet Letter is rather anti-transcendental.

As Hawthorne reveals in his novel, people are often consumed with guilt, sin, or desire for revenge. I talked yesterday about the different ways that Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, and Hester Prynne succumbed to the pressure to conform to society. And although Hester later tried to abandon the moral structures of Puritan society, her prideful ways of doing so were not positive.

Jillian commented the other day that she didn’t see it as anti-transcendental, because Hester celebrated her individuality. I disagree with that, but I struggle to explain myself. Maybe I am wrong. This post is just my ramblings trying to put the novel in context with the transcendentalists. Jillian posted on the essay “The Transcendentalist” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and that prompted me to read the essay myself to try to better explain myself. Although I can’t guarantee that this post will explain anything, I’m certainly trying.

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