Sunday, August 31, 2014


This is the time of year when people pick out curriculum and resources, so I wanted to share which publications we subscribe to, and which ones got the boot.

National Geographic. When I was in highschool, one family I knew had the whole wall dedicated to old issues of National Geographic. I got to browsing the issues, enjoying vintage stories, and hungering for more. We have been subscribing for a few years by now. 10 yo thoroughly enjoys each issues, usually taking it before me. I used to prescreen them and remove the ones with disturbing content (graphic story on child brides comes to mind), but the kids read faster than me now. We also got a few years' worth from a homeschool acquaintance, so now we have our own huge stack. The subscription is pretty cheap, and if you have an iPad, it might be worth it to get digital edition. For a few bucks more, one gets access to archives.

Cricket, Ladybug and Spider. When 10 yo was leaving school, the librarian there was getting rid of a huge box of old periodicals, full of these child-friendly titles. The boys loved the magazines so much, that I asked my MIL to get them the subscription for a birthday gift. It is a fun publication, and I like how each issue mixes it up. I could consider it literature, but I will leave it in "fun" category. The subscription is pricey, though.

Time. I subscribe to Time for myself, but I found 10 yo browsing through as the articles catch his eye. Most of the material is way above his head, and is definitely not of interest to the younger ones, but I do find that here and there an article will spark a good discussion. Moreover, as I debate different topics with my husband (we are on opposite ends of political spectrum), he listens in. It is a good starting point to converse and be in the general know of where the world stands. For me, it is a must, as I do not listen to or watch the news.

Discover. Again, this one I picked for myself, but 10 yo also reads it. It is a science-lite publication, but it brings in cutting-edge material, just of the kind that sparks a kid's imagination.

Wall Street Journal. This is a recent addition to our house, a real newspaper with sections spread all over the kitchen table. The only reason we ended up with it had to do with some miles expiring, otherwise I do not want to think how much it would cost. I looked at the list of possible subscriptions, and since I know that I will not read beauty or star-watching magazines, WSJ looked particularly good. (I did get Martha Stewart too, but it just feeds into my insecurities about keeping a proper house). Our subscription started right before Gazan war, and the coverage by the Journal was pretty good. 10 yo has read some of it, and looked at some articles here and there. Again, this one is more of a grown-up publication, but there is a trickle-down effect to the kids.

And here is a list of publications that we have tried and nixed.

National Geographic Kids. For the price, there was not enough content and too many ads. Also, the ads masqueraded as information, which made it even more deceptive and confusing. If you want to subscribe, subscribe to the real thing.

Time for Kids. If I were not getting regular Time, I would consider it. However, there are two strikes against it. The price is quite high for a single copy going out to a household. If you are getting multiple editions, the price is getting ridiculous. Also, the different editions are supposed to take into account the different levels of reading and understanding. There is a clear reason to get a kindergarten edition, or a 1st grade one. However, last year when we subscribed to 3-4th grade edition and 5-6th grade edition, there was very little difference between them. They often covered the same news, frequently printing identical articles in both editions. The little quizzes in the back were different, but I cannot justify spending that much money on the same content. As much as having news tailored for kids sounds appealing, it is probably better done the old-fashioned way: select an interesting article from a grown-up publication and read it together.

This Boy's Life. In that box that we got from the librarian there were a few issues tucked in. The boys enjoyed them so much that I thought subscribing would be worth it, and it would encourage them to join the scouts. Well, joining the scouts never happened, and I found that the magazine has a strong Christian tone. I do not know whether others overlook it, ignore it, or explain it, but I did not like it. If the boys were an actual part of the scouts, I could see how the publication might be necessary for morale, but otherwise I felt it was voyeuristic to subscribe and not participate.

What are your family's favorite subscriptions?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

books found on the couch

At some point during Shabbos, when I had to move yet another pile of books off the couch to find a place to sit, I thought: what an interesting assortment we have here!

First of all, there was Time magazine, draped over the back.

 10 yo was doing parsha question research

Both boys have read the series, but this one is from the library

My anxiety-evoking reading on how to deal with anxiety in kids.
1 yo's book, handed down from the boys.
Pajama Library book that 1 yo picked out, but 4 yo actually wanted me to read.

Boys' new obsession with Percy Jackson. I didn't think I will miss "Oh My Gods!", but I do.
1 yo's current favorite book. 4 yo picked it out in the library, 1 yo loves the pictures and the absolutely crazy vocabulary. We all learned a thing or two. Defenestration, anyone?

A friend just brought this over, and I submerged myself over Shabbos. I miss my Houston book club any time I read a great book.
This was also part of 10 yo's research, specifically, a proof of how cases are settled.

Our random book selection lead to interesting questions. 10 yo wanted to know how Greek understanding of gods  is different from malachim (angels). 8 yo asked a good question on the parsha: if a Levi is a judge, can you bring him a gift as a Levi?

My house might be messy, we have books strewn everywhere, and we do not nearly have enough book space to contain everything we own (not to mention everything I want to have accessible). I have a dedicated book shelf just for library books, in vain hope that they will not be mixed in with the rest. My kids know that I like to read, and I will make time to read to them. In fact, every time I plop on the couch, I usually have to nudge one of the boys to move his reading over so that there is space to sit. As soon as I sit down, either 4 yo or 1 yo will bring a book over. Both younger kids will spend quite a bit of time looking at the pictures, "reading" to themselves. I have so many cute moments of 1 yo clambering on the couch and sitting with the big boys, imitating reading, because that's what big boys do!

I do not know what my kids will be when they grow up, but they will be readers, and they will be people who love books.