Wednesday, November 13, 2019


There is a particular homeschool curriculum that has been suggested to me several times, but which I simply can't...stomach. I'm sure it's fine; it just feels a little rote, a little simplistic, and a little too...censored...for my tastes. I've been looking at the book lists the curriculum offers and, I mean, they're fine, but the list of books explicitly not recommended is making me gasp like a fish out of water.

I mean, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency? I'm pretty sure my mom left that book (or one the series, anyway; maybe even a couple) at my house in Egypt when she visited us years ago. Wonder. Farewell to Manzanar. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. many books. For so many reasons. Angelina Ballerina, guys, which makes it "seem normal to complain about family members being annoying." Also, Angelina Ballerina is self-centered and impatient. know...most four-year-old mice I know.

The thing I love about Angelina Ballerina, though, is that she always seems to come around to things in the end. She is a mouse who learns lessons. So my hat is always off to Katharine Holabird for pulling off such delightful tales of an endearing, though dare I say...annoying...little mouse.

The Magic Treehouse Series is also not recommended because the "family is not supported." For example, on one of the few pages the reviewer deigned to look at, Jack laments having to play with his sister, saying, "Oh, brother. This is what [I get] for spending time with [my] seven-year-old sister."

Like, can you even imagine a family member thinking another family member was being annoying? Because that never happens fifty times at my dinner table every evening! We are loving towards each other unrelentingly, 100% of the time. How dare authors include characters who at times exhibit such abominable traits such as feeling short-tempered every once in a while, or being annoyed at a sibling!? That's not the way families should be.

But, unfortunately, that's the way families are.

At least...that's the way my family is.

We fight, guys.

Just the other day, Benjamin stabbed Alexander with a pencil—left a long gash in his leg.

It was an accidental stabbing (because Benjamin had forgotten he had a pencil in his hand when he tackled Alexander and squeezed him to keep him from repeatedly hitting Benjamin in the head) but it was a stabbing nonetheless.

And *wince* this isn't even our first pencil-stabbing....

There have been...other...incidences.

I mean, you throw this many people with wildly different personalities into a box and expect them to keep close proximity for, you know, decades at a time and, yeah. I mean, there are going to be some conflicts.

And that, in my opinion, is the beautiful thing about literature. It teaches us that we all have a bit of the natural man in us—even the protagonists of our stories who feel vexed about having to play with their siblings rather than their friends or whatever the case may be. And I suppose that the natural man is a little ugly, a little less than what we want to be. But, see, that's the beauty! All of these characters develop. They have a character arc. They change and they grow and they—usually—become better people.

That's the very thing we're on this earth to try to do!

And what's neat is that we don't even have to experience everything in life. We can learn from other people and, because we're such clever beings, we can learn from stories. We can read Magic Tree House and hear Jack say his sister is annoying and that he doesn't want to spend time with her and we can think, "Oh, boy! I feel ya, Jack! Because I, too, have a seven-year-old sister and—boy, howdy—is she ever annoying!" And then as we read on (and on and on because that series is...long) we see that Jack and Annie go on fabulous adventures together and they become good friends. They learn to depend on each other's strengths to help one another out of tricky situations. They begin to look forward to spending time with each other—and, while their quirks might still ever-so-slightly annoy the other, they really grow to love each other.

So, I don't care that Jack rolls his eyes at Annie in the beginning. Because at the end he doesn't.

If my children read these books (which they have), I hope that they'd pick up more on the character arc than make a snap judgement based on a single interaction.

So we go to the library and go wild. I mean, I checked out Calvin and Hobbes for Benjamin today because he wanted to read it and, like, even though it terrifies me that he relates strongly to Calvin, like, whatever, dude. Calvin is a pain, but he's well-intentioned, and at least you're reading and loving it. I'm pretty sure Calvin and Hobbes is not on the recommended list.

Anyway, I think it's important to expose my children to flawed characters. I think it's important to discuss how the characters grow and change. I think it's important that my children learn that they themselves are flawed—but can grow and change and become better. I think it's important that my children realize that literally every other person they come in contact with is flawed (and has been through some tough times)—but is also working on growing and changing and becoming better (and on healing).

But that's just me.

Also, in one of the stories I'm working on (that I spent some time editing today) I chose to keep in the line where the big sister rolls her eyes (even though one of the reviewers in my critique group said it was an unnecessary part), so catch me on this not-recommended-books list in the future!

(But, like, seriously, Rachel could rival Angela Merkle with her eye rolling. It's not that she doesn't love her siblings (or, you know, me (because I have earned my fair share of eye rolls from her); it's just that she feels that twinge of annoyance and lets it show in her face for a brief minute before lovingly doing whatever it is she's been called upon to do. And, that's more important to me than an eye roll or two.)


  1. I also love this! And I LIKED the eye-roll in your story.It might not have been necessary, but it gave Mabel some character.


  2. What is wrong with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency?? I can't remember anything offensive in these books. I've actually been reading some of them just this year, and I love the characters!

    1. The complaints are that sometimes the Lord's name is taken in vain. Also, there is a description of a rape at some point. I can't remember which book this is in...? But it's a thing that happens in real life and shows up in news (or, you know, just IN LIFE) obviously didn't raise any flags for me. *shrugs*

    2. Hmm, I can only think of Precious's first marriage and her terrible husband in re: to rape, but that's it. I mean, one of the characters might have fathered twins at some point so he obviously doesn't have the same no-sex-out-of-wedlock standards that some do, but it's not like this is unusual in the world. It seems most people DO have sex before they are married, and the folks who wait are the weird ones.

      And I honestly can't think of anyone taking God's name in vain. It's a rather clean series, IMO. I'm used to books nowadays with the F word on every few pages so those books by Alexander McCall Smith are a welcome break from all that.


  3. Beyond the Bright Sea: "A Kindle search shows one instance of taking the Lord's name in vain."

    Ummm...? Alrighty then. Don't read it. YOUR LOSS.

    *Closing this list now because I just can't even*

  4. For a great sampling of flawed characters, there is the Bible, after all! Judah's behavior to his daughter-in-law Tamar. Rahab the prostitute. Joseph's brothers sold him! I hope the Bible isn't on their safe reading list, if they are looking for no contention and perfection in all the characters!