So Mr. Boy’s first literature assignment this year (3rd grade) is The Tripods Attack! (John McNichol, 2008 Sophia Institute Press). This is not a third grade book – the stated target audience is ‘teens to adults’ — and it is not my usual type of school reading, I who have fantasies of our school being something along the lines of Charlotte Mason Meets Maria Montessorri And They Decide to Go Classical.

[Okay, so *maybe* Maria would let us read Tripods. Except, would she really have it lying around on her open shelves in her cheerful prepared learning environments? But Charlotte — I think not. And Mrs. Berquist and Mrs. Bauer, who do not read this blog, are most likely to use this admission of mine as a reason to keep on with not reading this blog. As if they didn’t have enough reasons already.]

Anyway, here’s the method we used in selecting this particular book:

  1. I heard about the book coming out this spring, via discussion at the Catholic Writer’s Guild. I was intrigued.
  2. I read, or rather, skimmed, the Curt Jester’s review. More interest generated.
  3. I saw the book at my local catholic bookstore. Oooh, book lust. Must.own.hot.new.catholic.novel.
  4. I resisted.
  5. Mr. Boy recieved a $15 gift certificate for same catholic bookstore, as a first communion present.
  6. After several false starts, we *finally* managed to both a) get to the bookstore and b) bring the gift certificate with us.
  7. I told Mr. Boy that if he picked out something *I* wanted, too, I’d cover the cost over and above the gift certificate amount.
  8. We decided we wanted to get a new Footprints of God DVD. (There are still several titles missing from our collection – we add one about every birthday or Christmas.)
  9. Bookstore did not have in stock any of the FOG titles we needed.
  10. I told Mr. Boy to look around the store to see if there was something else he wanted. I did, I really did. I did not, repeat, did not, point him directly to the book that *I* wanted.
  11. Mr. Boy, after an appropriately long search, reported that he could not find anything else he wanted.
  12. I told him that if he went in with me to buy Tripods, I’d buy him an FOG when the store re-stocked. No pressure here, but I did observe that he would probably really like the book when he got a little older.
  13. Mr. Boy agreed. We got the book. Woohoo!
  14. I read the book. It was a lot of fun, though kinda gross at points – aliens from outerspace – ick. I had to skim the slimiest parts.
  15. We started up our school year, despite my not being fully ready. I did not have a literature selection picked out. This did not seem like a good reason to skip studying literature.
  16. Week one: Had Mr. Boy finish the book he was already reading (Lily Quench – gift from a relative, I haven’t read it, sorry, can’t review. If my child is warped for life by reading an uncensored book, blame Uncle B.)
  17. Week two: Still no literature selection. What would Charlotte and Maria say?

  18. Meanwhile, Mr. Boy finishes Lily and picks up Tripods, which is laying around the living room with 400 other titles waiting to find a permanent home.  (Did I mention that I really was not ready to start school? But then, I’m never really all that ready.)

  19. I quiz Mr. Boy. He likes the book. He understands what he is reading. Yes, he’s just fine with doing this book for school.

  20. Problem solved. Tripods it is.

Now, lest you think I am a slacker mother who lets her child read sci-fi – from untested authors! Not Asimov! Not Lewis! — and calls it ‘school’, let me tell you how my sneaky homeschooling mind works. If you didn’t follow the links and find this out already, know that Tripods stars a young GK Chesterton living in an alternate history – he’s an orphan from America working in a factory – and Father Brown as borrowed from the mysteries. So I developed a scheme whereby I will use Tripods to introduce the original Father Brown, and then Father Brown to introduce the real GK Chesterton. All the while comparing and contrasting and developing critical thinking skills, etc etc etc.

If not this year, one of these years – C&M might always catch up with me and make me pull down Little House on the Prairie and Charlotte’s Web instead, especially since the follow-on works in my scheme really are a little more adult-y than my 8-year-old might be ready to appreciate.

Meantime I finally got the boy re-interested in writing by assigning projects such “describe what you think the aliens will look like when they get out of the tripods.” So, a win-win: GK quotes at the head of each chapter, hero who is inspired by the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, stinky alien guts spattering everywhere. Not such a bad way to develop the skill of reading something a little harder than comfortable.

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