Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: For the Love of Literature

For the Love of LiteratureFor the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann

I've had this book on the shelf for a few months and finally pulled it down to really read.

The first few sections discuss how the book is organized, recommendations for building a home library (or using the public one) and brief descriptions of some common homeschooling philosophies (classical, Charlotte Mason, unit studies). I'd certainly recommend reading more on any of the philosophies that seem appealing, but the introductions are straightforward and she provides a sample of titles for additional reading, all of which seemed familiar to me by name even if I hadn't already read them. (I'm beginning to feel like I've read a lot of homeschooling books...)

The bulk of the book is devoted to lists of books for Art and Music Appreciation, Math, History, Science and Books About Books. For each book (all of which were in print at the time of last editing), Ms. Wittmann gives a brief description and recommended age ranges. She provides the publisher for some of the titles less likely to be found in large bookstores. A small cross indicates the books that are Catholic. Each section has subdivisions, too, so it's easy to flip through and find books on Ancient times in the History section.

One of the best features is the At A Glance section at the back where she lists some titles from each grade, particularly helpful for someone like me with only one official student and no need for three or four books of different levels for a particular subject.

The Appendix is also full of valuable information: links to websites with book lists with different foci, websites with aids in understanding and teaching literature, used book stores, email groups for more information and even a list of blogs. It's amazing how much information can fit into a few pages when websites and publishing companies are involved!

If you couldn't tell from our history series this year, I believe strongly in vibrant, informative, living books for our subjects. Other than history, I haven't included them as part of a specific plan this year because we read books like these all the time: science, math and history picture books abound on our shelves. Frankly, if I had the money, I'd buy just about every book recommended in this one just to have them around.

To simplify my life, and because we have some flexibility in our homeschooling budget (though I may see more flexibility there than my husband at the moment), I have purchased some curricula that already include recommendations for books, living books. For someone without that flexibility or with more ambition, this book could be a marvelous resource in building a unit study or a library full of living books for art, music, math, history and science.

I know I'm biased, but I think non-homeschooling parents could use this book as well. If your child is struggling in a particular area, of if he or she is fascinated by a topic or era, this book could direct you to some quality books. The characteristics that make a book a wonderful living book for teaching and learning are the same ones that make books fabulous birthday or holiday presents.

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