One of the irritating things about being in a backwards part of the country is that the Language Arts classes in the public schools are pretty much garbage.* We thought last year that it was just that DC1 wasn’t in advanced language arts, but no, it’s a thing. K-4 was at a private school and they used standard texts and read novels and it seemed pretty much like what we had growing up in the midwest. 5th grade we did in Paradise and while it wasn’t as hard-core as 5th grade would have been in the Midwest it wasn’t so bad. We have no idea what DC1 did in language arts last year, but they didn’t read any books as a class.
This year, in 7th grade, most of their assignments, which are done in class, are just drawing pictures and doing crafts, but it’s not like an art class where they’re getting instruction on arts and crafts, they’re just asked to do them. At the first open house, the teacher spent her entire time talking about the rules of the course (no talking for the first 10 min when doing the bellwork, then talking with a neighbor for the next 15, etc. etc. etc.) but did not talk about the curriculum at all. DH asked what books they’d be reading as a class. She said they wouldn’t be reading anything as a class but they would be picking out books that they could bring from home or check out from the school library to read individually.
Later we found out that the 2#$23ing reading log is back. We had a lot of trouble with the @#$@3ing reading log back in 5th grade. It is @#$23ing hard for a reader who loves reading to track every minute read.
This time there are additional wrinkles. They have to finish one book that they have chosen for this purpose each month. That book has to be the one that they read in class during their reading time. But they also have to read this book for at least 20 min per day, and they don’t get a full 20 min in class to read it. So that means that they need to take the book home and definitely not leave it at home next to the bed where they’ve fallen asleep reading it. It has to be a book they’ve never read and it has to be one that wasn’t meant for kids in 4th grade or below. The first month, DC1 picked The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett.
It boggles my mind that they don’t read a Shakespeare play each year starting now. That their junior year is the first year they start reading books together as a class AND it’s the same @$#@43ing terrible list of whiny male protagonists that we had back 25+ years ago when we were FRESHMEN (I guess at least they’re reading Fahrenheit 451?). Their senior year is a subset of what our school’s sophomore list changed to being after I complained about the lack of women. There has been no change in their reading lists in 2+ decades, and they’re two years behind what we had back at our small middle-income midwestern farming towns.
Anyhow, it came to me that although we can’t add to the experience of reading a book as a class and learning way too much about symbolism and foreshadowing and plot and character development and all those other things we spent so long on, maybe we could get DC1 to read some important books that we would probably never have read if they hadn’t been part of the curriculum.
We’re going to start with October and DC1 will be reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which was part of our language arts curriculum in 5th grade, but an important book. November we’re going to do As You Like It (I’m getting hir the Folger version that comes with explanations on every page) which we read as our first Shakespeare play in 7th grade. At the very least, DC will have to figure out what’s going on in order to draw illustrations for their class assignments. I’ll have to decide if we add books that I didn’t personally like but might(?) be important like The Pearl (8th grade) or The Red Badge of Courage (8th grade).
What other recommendations do you have for must-read middle school reading lists that are important but aren’t as fun as what a kid would generally choose on hir own? Note that it has to be something finishable in a month, so Tree Grows in Brooklyn isn’t going to make the list even though I spent most of my 6th grade “super sustained silent reading” time on it. What are kids in blue states reading in school these days?
*#notallbackwards But they certainly do want to minimize parent complaints from crazy racist religious zealots as well as parents who aren’t crazy racist religious zealots. That’s my best guess of why there’s so little humanities learning. There’s no problem with the math curriculum!