October 15, 2015

Atheist Mama: Some cool books we've found

I figured it was time for a light, non-preachy post, aye? So I'm going to make this quick and just tell you about some awesome books we've run across recently.

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy sharing what we are reading!

Who Was...?

We recently instituted a new screentime system. I've never worried about it before, but it finally
occurred to me that my kiddos have access to way more screens than I ever did at their age, and that I needed to be guiding them in how to make responsible decisions about them. #ScoreOneForTeamParent

Anyway, we start with a base time--30 minutes--and then the kids can earn extra. They can either use it that day (up to two hours total including their base time, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations), or they can bank it for later. We use different colored poker chips to track time.

One way my older son earns time is by reading. Five pages is a minute, an extra minute for ever chapter finished, five minutes for each fiction, poetry or short story/essay book finished, and ten minutes for each nonfiction book. This encourages him to both read longer books and to read different types of books.

Well, it quickly became apparent that we did not have many nonfiction books on hand for kids. We made our library trips, but I was still looking for ways to bring some into our home. One date night, we were browsing Barnes and Noble (because we are wild and crazy like that) and ran across the Who Was...? series.

This is a series of biographies for kids. DK also has a comparable series, but our kiddos love the whacky illustrations on the front of the Who Was...? books. So far, we've procured J.R.R. Tolkien, George Lucas, Marie Curie, George
Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.

The cool part has been integrating them into our home life. We get the Tolkien book because Hobbit Day was September 22, so we celebrated by reading about the author. Recently, I have been absolutely hooked on the Hamilton: An American Musical cast album (that's a story for another day, but if you haven't listened, you definitely should!). It's been playing around the house, in the car, etc, and my older son in particular has been particularly interested in the Founding Fathers because of it, so we added Washington and Jefferson to give him some history, although I wish they'd had a Hamilton so that he could compare the details from the tracks to the historical record. #LeSigh

 Anyway, the series is awesome. They also have the What Is/Was...? and Where Is...? series which talk about historical events and major landmarks, respectively.

Click HERE for more information on this series.

Minecraft Modding For Kids

We haven't tried this one yet! Just spied it on our last date night this past weekend (because again, we apparently spend wild and crazy date nights in book stores....I'm starting to rethink this whole personal blogging thing, as I don't know that I like the mirror it just held up to my sense of spontaneity and adventure! :-P), but it looks awesome, so I'm going to share.

A word of warning: I did notice on the cover that it requires a specific framework. Buying the book gives you one year access, but after that, it's a charge per year. I found this Amazon review helpful:

This book is HEAVILY tied to an online framework at [...], access to which is provided by a code inside the front cover. Based on a quick response from their support line, that code is good for one year of access for one person. Additional years or additional people cost $30/ea for just the code so it's currently a better deal just to buy multiple books for the first year for each person.
Lots of questions can be answered here: (Amazon removes URLs so see my comment outside the review below.) 
Essentially to make best use of this book you need individual Minecraft accounts and individual learntomod.com accounts for each person both teacher and student. 
With that said, the framework they use looks really nice. It's essentially Scratch for Minecraft Mods. This would be especially good for younger programmers who may not grasp the concepts of loops and conditionals without the visual reminders languages like Scratch provide.

So, we will probably do a book per kid ourselves and see how they like it. I don't know if we will renew for the next year or not.

The only thing holding me back from purchasing it as soon as I saw it was the required computer access--we don't currently have a home PC and I do not share my laptop well. :D But Spousal Unit and I are talking over options because that's how cool this looks.

This is part of a series, which also seems like a great way to encourage elementary and middle school kids to take an interest in computer science, coding, and programming. This is, in fact, my retirement plan. :-P

One of the really awesome parts of this, in my opinion, is that it seems to be a great compromise on screentime. Minecraft is an addictive and enjoyable game, coding is a useful skill. I imagine it also encourages kids to be creative and problem-solve. It's a win all around, really.

 You can find these at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or through the For Dummies store. It is significantly cheaper on Amazon.

Minecraft Handbooks

Can you tell the kids have a new interest 'round here?

Yes, they've caught the Minecraft bugs, so we're leveraging it to continue to encourage them to read. One somewhat surprisingly successful find was Scholastic's Minecraft handbooks.

Every time I express some trepidation over my kid being obsessed with these books, my mom--a National Board Certified teacher with her Master's in children's literacy--reminds me that the important part is that he is reading. No, it's not the classics, and yes, I should suggest those and have them around, but if he is reading and enjoying it...that's the important part.

So I'm going to sing the praises of this set of four books, which he reads and keeps right next to him while playing his game. They are surprisingly dog-eared for having only been in our family for about two months, but who am I to complain? He's reading. :)

You can find these through Scholastic, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Also, Scholastic has exclusive paperback versions that they sell only through their book fairs. These are significantly cheaper and benefit your school if it participates in book fairs, BUT...I don't think they would have held up in our house. They are taking quite a beating, and the hardcovers are really sturdy.

Living The Secular Life

This one's for the grown-ups. I have really enjoyed reading this book, which looks at what secular life looks like right now. It's been refreshing both as a parent and as a nonbeliever. It's reminded me that we are not the only family that is walking this particular path, and that's been encouraging.

I highly recommend it to any secular people looking for some great information about what secular life looks from different angles. Zuckerman incorporates not only research, but also interviews with secular citizens, which gives it a really unique human angle that I enjoyed.

Available at your favorite book seller, naturally. Well, major book seller, I don't know about the smaller book sellers where you are.... :)

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen

This has been a long, slow read, not because of the content or length of the book itself, but because it's both a parenting tome and a workbook in one.

Spousal Unit and I have been reading a chapter every week or so and then working on the skills that the chapter focuses on. For me, a book this size I'd usually finish in a day or two if I was busy, but taking it slow like this helps us to really internalize the information and apply it.

As we are shifting our parenting, it's been a great guide to opening up communication with our kiddos and decreasing frustration levels across the board.

After some of the success we've had so far with this, I'm highly looking forward to attaining some other parenting books on my list that are in a similar vein.


So, there's what we've been reading or will be reading.

What's on y'all's recently read list? To read? Currently reading? I NEED MORE BOOK IDEAS, FOLKS, because I am a book addict.

No, really, here's a snapshot of my GoodReads:

On further consideration, perhaps you shouldn't feed my habit...........

I hope you are all having a wonderful week. It's almost over. Thursday's just one spot over from Friday. Take care out there.

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