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CAT Testing and Weekly Reading & Movie Viewing Round-Up

July 26, 2010

Whew! We’ve survived 99 degree temperatures plus the kids’ annual standardized tests, required by Virginia homeschooling law. Our proof of progress is due at the superintendent’s office August 1st, so we’re making it just under the wire.

I already got DS’s results back. Even though he stressed himself out about it — he’s a perfectionist and lacks confidence — he did fine. His highest scores were in reading comprehension and vocabulary (93rd percentile for grade 6). (In case anybody’s wondering, he attributes his high reading scores to “Calvin and Hobbes.”)

This is a kid who was a “late reader” — he taught himself to read when he was eight. My efforts to teach him before that frustrated him — he had to do it his own way.Β DS isΒ a very “right brained” learner, and he still prefers comic books and audio-books to reading print material.

This is something to add to my list of things to remind myself of when I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering whether “delayed academics” and “honoring my kids’ learning styles” is double-speak for “I’m an idiot who doesn’t know what I’m doing. πŸ˜›

The funny thing is, as I’ve said before, I’m not a big believer in standardized tests. I think they can be a useful tool, but in our society they’re treated with a sort of reverence that approaches idolotry. I mean when was the last time you heard a politician come up with an idea for “educational reform” that didn’t revolve around “more tests?”** I’m just sayin’. But I always glean a few useful things from my kids’ testing experiences. And I guess this is one of them.

**They sometimes talk about “better teachers” too — which sounds kind of insulting to me. In limited experience, we already have great public school teachers. We need a system that allows their talent as educators to flourish. Crap … I’m getting on my soap box again, aren’t I? AGH! Moving on …

Well, then … back to our regularly scheduled programming.

This weekly meme is hosted by the fabulous Sheila at Book Journey. I didn’t post last Monday, so I have a bit of catching up to do.

Books I Reviewed in the Past Two Weeks:

Other Books I Read (and will get off my ever-widening duff and review soon):

The Black Flower by Howard Bahr — This is a civil war novel, set during the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee. Though this isn’t a particularly famous Civil War battle, it was one of the bloodiest, and one of the most devastating for the Confederacy. It seems to have been thoroughly researched and was written in a richly lyrical style. Incidentally, Howard Bahr is — like my mom — an English professor and a graduate of Ole Miss.

The Trouble With Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante — This is a YA novel about a girl coping with grief and drastic changes in her family after her brother’s death. It also explores poverty and has a multi-cultural slant. It’s the author’s debut novel — I’m looking forward to sharing it with y’all.

Movies: Hmmm … let’s see. I watched Michael Clayton, which was terrific. I am quickly becoming an avid admirer of Tom Wilkinson. There were many great performances in this film, but he really made the movie for me. I watched Ponyo, which I really liked — I fall in love with everything Hayao Miyazaki creates. The motion and music in this movie was what enthralled me the most. And Sleeping Beauty, ‘cuz Trisha hadn’t seen it yet. My earliest cinemetic memory was of my dad taking me to see Sleeping Beauty in the theater when I was three. Oh and the first season of the True Blood Series. Vampires, blood, rednecks, and some lewd sex scenes. What can I say? I guess we all have a few guilty pleasures.

Reading Now:


The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan — recommended by James, who says it lives up to the Percy Jackson series. (I bought him the audio-book and a print copy for myself). Wouldn’t it be totally sweet if Rick Riordan followed this up with a series on Norse Mythology? And Celtic Mythology?

Synopsis: When a magical accident unleashes the Egyptian gods on the modern world, siblings Carter and Sadie Kane discover that they are the only ones who can put things right. As descendants of the greatest Egyptian magicians, they must find a way to defeat the evil god Set before he can destroy them.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2010 6:07 am

    Congratulations to James!

    Calvin and Hobbes has some high-level stuff in it, and it’s highly motivating material. Any of the other comics could have this effect. (I prefer the four panels, because they have a clear story and they carry on. Favourites include Non Sequitur and Zits, and Wizard of Id. I also liked For Better or for Worse. And The Far Side really got me into comic reading, after the Disney characters: beautiful absurdities in there).

    At the present time I am reading Barbecue at the Monster Hotel, a very alternative vampire novel which stars Milagro and her vampire husband Oswald. She is working as a screen-writer.

    The fairy tale Sleeping Beauty is great. I remember reading it in a Golden Book, with Sleeping Beauty as Briar Rose and getting the needle stuck in her and sleeping for a 100 years. And the fairies and their wishes. Great cultural experience.

    (Probably first Disney movie memory is Bambi. Then there’s Robin Hood and The Rescuers Down Under. Nurtured an early appreciation of Don Bluth).

    • July 26, 2010 1:51 pm

      Hi Adelaide! Yes, the vocabulary and ideas in Calvin and Hobbes are often quite complex. He used these comic books to teach himself to read, about 3 years ago, and he’s still learning from them. πŸ™‚

  2. July 26, 2010 10:30 am

    Yay for James πŸ™‚
    Just quietly, True Blood is a guilty pleasure of mine too lol. Have a great week and happy reading!

  3. July 26, 2010 11:25 am

    Kudos to James for testing so well. I don’t like tests either but It’s nice to have the validation that they are all on track and doing just fine. I’m sure Owen would concur with James on Calvin & Hobbes developing his vocabulary :0)

  4. July 26, 2010 12:51 pm

    I LOVED Fingersmith! Have you read her other books? I think my favorite of hers was Tipping the Velvet, which I read eons ago but can remember like it was yesterday. If you haven’t tried it, you should…it’s incredible.

    • July 26, 2010 1:49 pm

      I haven’t read any of Sarah Waters’s other books yet, but I’d like to — Tipping the Velvet has been on my wishlist for a while. πŸ™‚

  5. July 26, 2010 2:48 pm

    I have heard such good things about Fingersmith! I must get to that one! πŸ˜€

  6. July 26, 2010 4:25 pm

    I enjoy reading about your home school experiences and congratulations to your son on a job well done!

    All of the book titles above are new to me – can’t wait to read your reviews to see which ones are wonderful.

    Have a great week!

  7. July 26, 2010 4:37 pm

    You’re an avid admirer of Tom Wilkinson? Amazing. He’s easily one of my top five favorite actors. He usually can enhance a film just by being on screen. His bit part in “The Ghost Writer” was a very pleasant surprise and supplied the exact amount of controlled menace that was needed. I was very creeped out. “Michael Clayton” really proved him as an actor for me.

    I didn’t much like “Ponyo.” Miyazaki for me is “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” and even “Princess Mononoke,” a.k.a. films that have beauty AND an adroit plot. “Ponyo” had the former, but not the latter. Plus, English dubbing may have ruined it.

    And yes, “Calvin and Hobbes” is stunningly complex and, as a friend noted, well-worded for a comic. I prefer “Garfield” and “Peanuts,” but “C and H” works for me.

    • July 26, 2010 6:28 pm

      Calvin and Hobbes is far and away my favorite comic, followed by For Better or For Worse. I like Peanuts too — I used to devour collections of the Peanuts strips when I was a kid.

      I agree that the plot of Ponyo wasn’t as complex as some of the other movies this director has done, but I still love it.

      I really liked Tom Wilkinson in The Full Monty, The Eternal Sunshine, and in some episodes of Prime Suspect, and I loved him in Michael Clayton. I’ve never heard of The Ghost Writer — I may need to add it to my list. πŸ™‚

  8. July 26, 2010 6:32 pm

    True Blood dirty fun. Love it. The Red Pyramid is on my radar, but I want to wait a while since I am so impatient waiting for the next book in the series. πŸ™‚

    And I love it when you get on your soap box; many of our ideas about education are so similar!

  9. July 27, 2010 3:33 am

    I have one of those big Calvin & Hobbes books in our guest bedroom bookcase where I keep all of my children’s books. I was so thrilled when one of our friends’ son told me this next morning that he enjoyed discovering it and reading in bed before he fell asleep. Something about that imaginative boy and his stuffed tiger that the child inside all of us relates to!

    I enjoyed Michael Clayton too – I thought it was too short though. But then again, I could watch George Clooney forever.

  10. July 27, 2010 2:34 pm

    I’m loving True Blood too. I have also loved some of Hayao Miyazaki’s films but just couldn’t get into Ponyo. I’m not sure why.

  11. July 28, 2010 2:22 am

    LOL on the testing rants. You’re starting to sound like me. πŸ™‚

    We loved The Red Pyramid, but we are geeks with a lot of knowledge of Egyptian Mythology. I hope you enjoy it! We also thought he should do Norse Mythology next.

    Thank you for the anniversary wishes!

    Peace and Laughter!

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