Posts Tagged ‘Jim Weiss’

Ancient Greece: An Incomplete & Rather Hasty Bonny Glen Roundup

June 20, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, History

800px-Parthenon-2008

I’m still answering questions in the Open Thread comments (and will continue bumping longer answers to new posts, like this one).  Stephanie wrote:

I would love some suggestions for my 2nd grader – we are going to be covering Ancient Civilizations (Greeks, Romans, China) this coming school year and I’m wondering what read-alouds or chapter books you would suggest to her. She is an advanced reader so I’m looking for both books that would challenge her plus ones I could read to her with younger siblings. I’ve never tackled Greek myths before and need some age appropriate guidance! : )

I replied with a list of things we’ve read & enjoyed. I know there are lots and lots of other good books on these topics; this is just a sort of top-of-my-head collection of standouts from my family’s experience. And linking things nicely takes more time than I have this afternoon, so pardon the dashed-off character of this post.

UPDATED 6/21 to add a book I forgot—possibly Rose’s favorite besides the D’Aulaire. Adventures of the Greek Heroes by Mollie McLean & Anne Wiseman, a book she read so often I had to buy a second copy to replace the tattered, brokenbacked, page-shedding first copy.

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is the main one, the book that has enchanted every single one of my girls from age four on. (Neither of my boys are ready for chapter books yet; see this comment for more on that.)

(D’Aulaire’s Norse Myths is another tremendously and enduringly popular book in these parts. Also the Trolls collection.)

Mary Pope Osborne has a lovely Greek myths collection as well. (And I’ll add, though off topic, a cheer for her Favorite Medieval Tales, a book I myself adore.)

A bit older, of course, and my kids go nuts for all things Percy Jackson.

Jim Weiss has several Greek myth cds—they + D’Aulaire are what sparked my Rose’s interest in Ancient Greece at age five, a passion that endures to this day. (Though lately she’s more into Egyptian mythology.)

Odds Bodkin has an Iliad storytelling CD—we checked it out once years ago after hearing many rave reviews, but I think I jumped the gun; the graphic snakes-eating-the-daughters-of-Laocoön part in the beginning terrified my tiny girls. I’m sure they would listen with relish these days, bloodthirsty lasses that they are. ;)

Oh, another big hit has been Famous Men of Greece by John Haaren (you can read it for free at Mainlesson.com). That one focuses more on historical figures (some legendary) than gods & goddesses.

Also, the Ancient Greece chapters of A Child’s History of the World.

As I said, there are oodles of other good books on Greek myths & historical figures, but these are the ones I can vouch for as having engaged my own children across a wide age span.

Oh, and for a while, they were crazy about this website where you can follow the adventures of some cartoony Athenians and Spartans.

Here’s a post I wrote in 2006 about Rose’s passion (age seven at the time) for Ancient Greece: What the Tide Brought In.

And one from another round of enthusiasm in 2009: This Week in Ancient Greece.

(That post reminded me, duh, of Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer, which Rose devoured that year. And that was the year I read huge chunks of The Iliad and The Odyssey to the girls—my college texts, not children’s translations, and they were so into it! Ages eight, ten, thirteen, roughly, I think? I can’t be bothered to do the math. Anyway, I mention this not at all in a braggy sense but quite the opposite: there’s a reason those cracking good tales have endured for centuries. They GRAB you, even if you’re little.)

I know the original question asked for Ancient Rome & China suggestions too; will tackle those in separate posts.

**UPDATE! Be sure to see the comments for great suggestions from other readers!**

From the In-Box: Best Jim Weiss CDs for Young Children

September 27, 2008 @ 4:32 pm | Filed under: Audio

A sweet reader named Jennifer writes:

I wanted to ask if you had any recommendations for the best Jim Weiss story CDs for littler ones (and/or O’Callahan—you’ve mentioned him a couple times I think?). We checked out Weiss’s Just So Stories from our library, and my oldest is loving it (as am I!), but many of the others look like they might be a bit past her comprehension right now, and certainly past her younger sisters’. Their attention for this one is spotty. We’ll be driving 10 hours next month to my best friends’ weddings, and I’d like some story CDs for the car. I’m just not sure what would best hold my girls’ attention! As I said, my oldest is 4.5, then my twins are 3, and the baby is nearly 18 months, but of course she wouldn’t really be listening anyway.

Unfortunately, Jennifer wrote me in July, so I’m responding way too late to be of help with that road trip. Sorry about that, Jennifer—I hope the weddings were fun and the drive went well!

As Jennifer had observed in my archives, we are huuuuge Jim Weiss fans here in the Bonny Glen. We even got to hang out with Jim and his wonderful wife Randi a couple of times at homeschooling conventions and once at their home in Virginia. But we were fans long before we met the Weisses in person: I remember buying our first Jim Weiss story CDs back in New York, when Jane was a wee thing. The night we had dinner at their house, my girls were utterly starstruck because Jim was a superstar in their universe. Listening to them chatter in the backseat all the way home, I was overcome with a fit of giggles—they sounded just like my high-school friend Caryn and I must have sounded when we used to gush about Duran Duran.

(If I’d been invited to dinner at John Taylor’s house in 1985, I might not have survived to tell the tale.)

Anyway. The best Jim Weiss for very small children would be, I’d say:

Uncle Wiggly

Tell Me a Story (that one’s a folk and fairy tale collection—includes stories like The Little Red Hen and Rumplestiltskin)

• the one with The Twelve Dancing Princesses, what’s it called?  :::::hollers to children:::: Ah, yes: Best Loved Stories in Song and Dance

• and the Stone Soup one, um, Fairytale Favorites, I think is the name.
I can think of others (my girls loved the Shakespeare CD from the time they were tiny), but a list that goes on forever isn’t of much use to anyone, so I’ll stop with these.

We actually haven’t heard some of Jim’s most recent CDs, sob—that’s what we get for moving out of Virginia. Jim and Randi were kind enough to let my kids raid their shelves when we visited, and gracious enough to be pleased with a stack of my books in return.

As for Jay O’Callahan, whom Jennifer mentions in her email: we are mighty fond of him as well! Although we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jay in person. I first encountered his work the summer before my sophomore year in college, when I was a camp counselor at a theater camp in Missoula, Montana. One of the girls brought an O’Callahan story tape with her and I remember the girls—this was the high-school bunk, not the younger set I was in charge of—laughing their heads off over a story about two children who encounter the King of the Raisins in a strange underworld. Half-remembered phrases from the story were still haunting me almost twenty years later when I began this blog. I posted a plea with a vague description of the story—

The raisins are amiable enough despite their aversion to the strange wiggling things at the end of the children’s arms—

“What you got there, worms?”

“No, they’re fingers! See?”

(Sound of raisins screaming.) “Ahhhh! Horrible, horrible! But I like you anyway.”

And a short while later, the marvelous Lesley Austin of Small Meadow Press chimed in with the answer I’d been seeking so many years: the storyteller we were looking for was named Jay O’Callahan. I Googled accordingly, and there he was. The Raisins story is on his Little Heroes CD. To this day it remains a family favorite. Sing it with me: Raisins, raisins, all we are is raisins; big one, small ones, short ones, tall ones…

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum

August 6, 2008 @ 7:32 am | Filed under: Art, Curriculum, Fun Learning Stuff, Games, Homeschooling, Science, Unschooling

Particularly Cool Stuff My Kids and I Have Learned a Ton From or Just Plain Had a Good Time With:

Settlers of Catan, the board game. Jane got this for Christmas last year. We’ve been obsessed ever since. Except when our friends hijack it and keep it for weeks because it is that great a game.

Signing Time DVDs. Catchy songs, immensely useful vocabulary in American Sign Language. I trumpet these wherever I go. We talk about Rachel like she’s one of the family.

Prismacolor colored pencils. Indispensable. I was amused to see that Jane mentioned them in the first line of her “I Am From” poem. She’s right; they have helped color the picture of her life.

Uncle Josh’s Outline Map CD-Rom. Because maps are cool, and maps you can color (with Prismacolor pencils, hey!) are even cooler. The kids are constantly asking me to print out a map of somewhere or other. You can find other outline maps available online (for free), but I like Josh’s for clarity. And once when I had a problem opening a particular map (it’s a PDF file), I called the help number and it was Uncle Josh himself, a most amiable gentleman, who quickly solved my problem.

The Global Puzzle. Big! Very big! Will take over your dinner table! (So clear off that laundry.)

Set. It may annoy you that your eight-year-old will be quicker at spotting the patterns in this card game than you will. There’s a free daily online version as well.

Quiddler. Like Scrabble, only with cards. This, too, can be played online.

Babble. Like Boggle, only online and free.

Chronology, the game. Like Trivial Pursuit, only with history.

Speaking of online games: the BBC History Game site is awfully fun.

And Jane was fairly addicted to Absurd Math for a while there. Need more free math puzzles? Nick’s got a bunch.

A Case of Red Herrings and Mind Benders. Logic and problem-solving puzzles: a fun way to pass the time on long car trips or in waiting rooms.

Zoombinis Logical Journey computer game and sequels. Stretch your brain trying to get the little Zoombinis to a village where they can bounce in peace.

Oregon Trail. The game that launched a massive wagon trail rabbit trail for my kids a couple of years ago—and they still aren’t tired of the game. (Now there’s a Wii version, too!)

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots : Gardening Together with Children. Plant a sunflower house! Up-end a Giant Bucket of Potatoes and dig through the dirt for your rewards! Grow lettuce in rainboots! Boots! With lettuce growing in them!

Wild Goose Science Kits. Fun experiments with a low mess factor. Note to self: remember the Wild Goose Crime Kit come Christmastime. (Sadly, these are no longer available. Wild Science offers similar kits.)

A microscope. Sonlight sells a nifty set of prepared slides with paramecium and other fun stuff for the kids to peer at.

If the scope sparks an interest in dissection, there’s a way to do it online with no actual innards involved: Froguts! The site has a couple of free demos to occupy you while you save up for the full version. (Which I haven’t seen yet, but it does look cool.) HT: Karen Edmisten.

Klutz Books. Over the years, we’ve explored: knitting, embroidery, origami, magic, Sculpey, paper collage, paper dolls, beadlings, and foam shapes. Look under any piece of furniture in my house and you will find remnants of all of the above.

Which reminds me: Sculpey polymer clay. Is it possible to get through a day without some? My children think not.

Usborne’s calligraphy book and a set of markers.

But while I’m on Usborne, my kids also love and use at least weekly: Usborne Science Experiments Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

Muse magazine. The highlight of Jane’s month. From the publishers of Cricket. We also like Odyssey, Click, and Ask.

Classical Kids CDs. Beanie’s favorite is Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery.

Refrigerator poetry magnets. I gave Scott the Shakespearean set a couple of Christmases ago. Note to self: You are not as brilliant as you think! You were an English major, for Pete’s sake, with a minor in drama. Thou knowest full well old William was a bawdy fellow. If you don’t want your little ones writing poems about codpieces, stick to the basic version. But oh how I enjoy the messages Scott leaves for me to find and then pretends he doesn’t know who wrote them:

I am
so
in love
with my
delicate
wench.

And of course of course of course, Jim Weiss story CDs. I rave about these every chance I get because they have added such riches to my children’s imaginations. For years, they have listened to Jim’s stories after lights-out. Greek myths, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, folk and fairy tales, the Arabian Nights, the Jungle Book: of such stuff are dreams woven.

Check out my Giant List of Book Recommendations too!

The Temper of the Shrew

February 12, 2005 @ 12:01 pm | Filed under: Audio, Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Shakespeare, These People Crack Me Up

In the car today, Beanie launches into a story about “Bonny Kate.” She says it fast, one word: “Bonnykate.” It takes me a minute to figure out what she’s talking about; until she mentions Bianca, I am flummoxed.

“Bianca is the most beautiful,” she tells me. “Bonnykate gets mad. That’s why it’s called ‘The Temper of the Shrew.’ ”

Aha. Suddenly I understand. My four-year-old is narrating Shakespeare. Okay, she’s a little off on the title, but as her tale continues it is clear that she has a firm grasp of the plot. Thank you, Jim Weiss. His CD of stories from Shakespeare has been a favorite of the girls since before Beanie was born. This got me thinking about how many threads Jim’s fabulous storytelling CDs have woven into the tapestry of our life.

We discovered him in the Chinaberry catalog when Jane was a toddler, and many years (and many hours of enchanted listening) later, Scott and I had the great pleasure of meeting Jim and his wife Randy in person at a homeschooling conference. When we introduced the children to Jim, they were dazzled: he is a big star in their universe. It was Jim’s fluid voice that introduced them to Paul Bunyan, Scheherazade, Rip van Winkle, Theseus, Puck, and Percival. Much as I would like to take credit for the many literary allusions peppering my children’s talk, I have to admit that the plum goes to Jim and Randy Weiss.

I can always tell when the girls are listening to Jim’s retelling of the Archimedes story: it’s when a burst of laughter explodes into the post-bedtime hush of their room. Beanie will narrate that tale with gusto to anyone who’ll listen—after all, what small child can’t relate to a person so excited about an idea that he runs naked through the streets to share it?

Jim’s Sherlock Holmes stories inspired Jane, at age eight, to tackle the Arthur Conan Doyle originals. Rose requests The Jungle Book over and over again. All of them, at one time or another, have chattered away to me about the doings of Titania and Oberon and their crowd of fairy attendants…I recall a time when I was under orders to address Rose as “Peaseblossom,” thank you very much.

I’m pulling into the driveway, and Beanie is still going on about “Bonnykate-whose-weal-name-is-Katewina” and her hot temper. “When I’m a mommy I will name my daughter Bianca,” says Bean thoughtfully. “But I like Katewina best because she gets mad. That’s why it’s called the Temper of the Shrew. Oh, wait. Mommy, what does ‘taming’ mean?”

And another great discussion is launched. Thanks, Jim and Randy.

This Tickled My Funny Bone

February 3, 2005 @ 2:47 pm | Filed under: Audio, Fun Learning Stuff, History, These People Crack Me Up

Rose, who is obsessed with Ancient Greece these days, was sitting at the kitchen table when she heard Scott’s footsteps on the stairs.

“Listen!” she announced in a stage whisper. “Here comes the mighty Zeus!”

Speaking of Ancient Greece, here’s a website the girls have been enjoying. Thanks to the creative folks at Snaith Primary, we are following the adventures of two families, one in Athens, one in Sparta, during a war between the city-states in 430 B.C.

 

And of course no visit to Ancient Greece would be complete without some Jim Weiss stories on CD. Rose’s favorite tale is “Atalanta and the Golden Apples,” while Beanie is partial to the story of Hercules.