Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Recent Reading in the History of: Music, Science, Railroads, Objects

The part of their day that Tim and N. call "school time" gradually evolved out of their daily reading together (Tim has been the stay-at-home parent in our family since N. was two years old), from picture books to fairy tales, to "random encyclopedia entry," to magazines like National Geographic, to James Herriot, to Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, to the Bible and the Odyssey, to a string of biographies and autobiographies.  In the morning, after N. has read in bed for a while, eaten breakfast, and read, drawn, or played for a while more while Tim eats his breakfast, they sit down together in the sun room, N. at his desk with his drawing things and Tim in his chair, and Tim begins to read aloud.  This signals the start of "school."  Since finishing Raymond Loewy's autobiography in November, Tim has read N. parts of a biography of Mozart and parts of a biography of Bach.  Then he started reading him a book called The Chronologer's Quest, which recounts the history of efforts to ascertain the age of the earth.  (This builds on the history-of-science reading they've done in earlier years via The Story of ScienceUncle Tungsten, and Madame Curie.)  They've also begun a couple other books, and now they are rotating, reading from a different book each day: The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America; Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America; and A History of the World in 100 Objects (accompanying website here).  After they've read from one of these four books, they also read a short section in the American history textbook they've been working from for some time, A History of US (obviously we all really like history!).  Then N. goes on to do some other schooly tasks: Daily Math, composition and/or grammar, sometimes a science experiment.

In addition to the variety of topics they cover, the four books Tim and N. are currently reading offer a range of approaches to history.  The Great Railroad Revolution is a big-picture, national overview of railroads and their cultural impact while Grand Central tells the story of one building and the company behind it.  Both The Chronologer's Quest and A History of the World in 100 Objects are as much about science and archeology as they are about the stories we tell ourselves about our origins, and about the continual modifications we make to those stories as we reinterpret or uncover new evidence. 

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