My goal is to post our morning basket every month, but I haven't done it since September...trying to be more organized with this space but life continues to get crazy and hectic. I call it our morning basket because we always pull out it out during breakfast, but we read through the books in it several times during a school day.
Every month I choose a poet, a composer, and an artist for us to study. My goal is not for my kiddos to have mastery on these people/topics but for them to become acquainted with them. I want to help them develop an affection for what is good and beautiful.
Our poet this month was Robert Frost. Both my boys have been reluctant readers, but one of their stronger skills is their ability to memorize poems. At breakfast I have them read the same poem for a week or so and that usually leads them having it memorized. Poetry has helped improve their vocabulary and helped them develop a cadence when reading other works.
I really enjoyed Poetry for Kids: Robert Frost. It's a collection of thirty-five poems with beautiful painted illustrations. There is also a short biography in the front and an a short synopsis of each poem in the back. Papa is a Poet, is a charming picture biography told from the view point of Frost's oldest daughter Lesley. We had a lot of fun examining the details of Caldecott winner Susan Jeffers' illustrations in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
Our composer for the month was Beethoven. My go-to biographies for composer is the Great Musician Series by Zeezok Publishing. These are a joy to read aloud; I also like how much detail is given about the composers' childhoods. Another favorite is the CD series, An Introduction to the Classics; it mixes in narrative biographical information along with pieces of the composer's work. Additionally, my boys are fans of Mike Venezia's biographies. They are factually accurate, but he includes some funny comics that makes them giggle.
Vermeer was our artist of the month. Simply Charlotte Mason is a great resource for getting inexpensive prints. We use these to do a picture study a couple times a week. Since the boys enjoy Mike Venezia we also read one of his biographies on Vermeer. I appreciated the The Vermeer Interviews; it's written a bit like a play, with the author asking the subject of the painting questions about him or herself. It lead to some great discussion that I don't think we would of had otherwise. I randomly stumbled upon Chasing Vermeer while doing a library search - it was such a happy find! The story is a bit of a mystery, with two kids drawn into a hunt for a stolen Vermeer painting. We listened to the audio in the car, and Big Buddy was immediately hooked. The story is not the highest of quality (it won't ever by considered a classic), but it did give Big Buddy a new excitement for art. He spent more time examining Vermeer's painting and noticed more connection in them that he has with any other artist.
In addition to the books we read on the 'greats' I also like have a couple chapter books that we are reading through each month. Since February was Black History Month we read through Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. The book is narrated by of a 100 year old black women looking back on her life and the tales of her ancestors. With heart breaking and heart warming prose and exquisite oil paintings you walk through the history of Black Americans from the Declaration of Independence to the election of Barack Obama.
In the kids' history class they were studying westward expansion so we also read a few books on that topic. Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aularie are one of my go-tos for historical biographies. Like all of their books, Buffalo Bill was not only well researched and well written but also has beautiful illustrations. Caddie Woodlawn is a coming to age story of an adventurist-tomboy-pioneer girl. It was my first time reading it and I think I enjoyed it almost as much as the kids...it is one of those books that we all would of been happy spending a whole day reading. Moccasin Trail is the story of a white boy, Jim, who ran away from home and ended up being raised by Crow Indians. His biological family reaches out to him for help as they journey west. It's also a bit of a coming to age story, as Jim reunites with his family and tries to decided where he fits in and who are his people.
Our favorite book of the month was probably Green Ember...we all quickly became devotees and have now read four of the books in the series. We may or may have not canceled part of school one day so we could finish a book. It's a fantasy story of a brother and a sister rabbit who get caught up in a tumultuous war for a throne and for freedom. It's packed with lots of PG action but also had moments that brought me to tears. Plus, there are these pockets of beautifully written eternal truths that I just wanted to read over and over again. If you have a child who is eight or above you need to add this book to your read aloud list.