Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekly Round-Up: Books, Films & Homeschooling (No Zombies)

There has been a little too much crazy around here lately. Sometimes I feel like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day. Waking up every day to the same old mess, hoping something changes yet powerless to make it happen. :-P Things are starting to look up, though.

In Our Homeschool This Week:

First of all, my teens are so inspiring! My 14-year-old son is working with a mentor to actively explore his career goal: becoming a video game designer/programmer. My daughter is almost finished with her first complete screenplay and has an idea for a second one. Kudos to them for going after their dreams. And I love hearing what teens want to do "when they grow up." Because at 46, I'm considering "growing up" soon myself, and I'm always looking for ideas. ;-) Better yet, I love to see them not waiting 'til they "grow up" and pursuing their chosen work now.

The teens and I have been working on short stories, in English, as a way of exploring literary techniques. We have been discussing different kinds of conflict in literature. So far we've read and discussed these short stories:
  • "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant
  • "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell (there is a 1932 film based on this story) (Conflict: Man vs. Man)
  • "To Build a Fire" by Jack London (Conflict: Man vs. Nature)
We've also talked about irony, suspense, mood, foreshadowing, figurative language, character development, descriptive writing, and more.

For history we started a brief unit on the French Resistance during World War II.

We're reading this graphic novel, which is the first in a trilogy:

Paul and Marie’s bucolic French country town is almost untouched by the ravages of WWII, but the siblings still live in the shadow of war. Their father is a Prisoner of War, kept hostage by the Germans. When their friend Henri’s parents disappear and Henri goes into hiding because of his Jewish ancestry, Paul and Marie realize they must take a stand. But how can they convince the French Resistance that even children can help in their fight against injustice?
I learned of this series on a book blog I read regularly. I wish I could remember whose blog, so I could give her a shout out. :-) My memory is rubbish lately. The teens and I are enjoying this so far. We don't read many graphic novels, and this is a lovely change of pace.

We also watched Au Revoir Les Enfants, which I reviewed here.

I kind of coerced my son into watching this film -- he objected to watching an artsy foreign film -- a DRAMA -- with subtitles, no less.

-- "It's not going to be so bad," I said, knowing his interest in the military aspects of World War II. "There are Nazis!"

-- "Nazis don't make everything good. ZOMBIES do."

And he continued complaining about being forced to watch this classic French film, in which he had to read subtitles, and there are NO ZOMBIES." Nevertheless, I felt he needed to expand his horizons a bit, and I think he ended up enjoying it.

This movie, Louis Malle's autobiographical view of the German occupation of France and the Holocaust through a child's eyes, is a terrific "history lesson." In addition to giving us a glimpse of life under occupation -- and letting us see the role of French collaborators -- it gives us a sense of what life might have been like living on the fringes of his conflict. It offers a hint about the French resistance and clearly shows that while the Vatican didn't speak out against the Nazis, to its everlasting shame, individual priests risked everything to do what was right.

Another thing I appreciated was the way it made it clear that anti-Semitism was very much part of the fabric of life before the Nazis arrived. Many of the French felt more threatened by Communists and Jews than by German fascists -- this is mentioned in the film.

I am annoyed by the tendency of books and movies to pose the anti-Semitic Nazis against the "good guys," who harbored no such prejudices. This is far from the truth. Things don't happen in a vacuum, and I don't see how you can learn about history without understanding that. Furthermore, I wish history classes didn't paint things in simplistic terms: "We went to war to defeat the Nazis. Period." We need a citizenry who can think critically about our leaders' stated reasons for going to war, understand the myriad issues involved, and not accept explanations that fit into 30-second sound bites.

Reading Now:

Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach -- A young mother realizes her son has autism; many of you know the autism spectrum is a subject very close to my heart, and I am really liking this novel so far.

Curiosity Killed the Kat by Elizabeth Nelson (for a book tour) -- Time for a thriller! "Katherine thought she had the perfect marriage to International Lawyer Steven Flynn. Until he tried to kill her."

Posts This Week:

Book Review: Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Film Review: Au Revoir Les Enfants (Written & Directed by Louis Malle)

14 Really Bad Movie Husbands -- Now I'm working on my list of horrible movie wives (and girlfriends). I got up to six and then, for some reason, I stalled. I may be soliciting suggestions.

Other Movies I Watched:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets his ass kicked a LOT in this movie.

Brick (the link goes to my Letterboxd review)

Other Recent Posts:

Film Review: Traffic (recommended by Alex)

Film Review: Rosemary's Baby (recommended by Josh & Alex)


Film Review: God Bless America

Some Links to Share: 


Linking To:


Favorite Resource This Week hosted by Susan at Learning All the Time










It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


  1. Thanks for linking to my post! Looks like you had a busy week.

  2. Wow. You've had plenty to keep you busy. Thanks so much for the links! :)

  3. Thank you for the link!

    Homeschooling sounds so great, your children actually get to learn stuff that will be necessary for them in their dream jobs. Regular schools fill kids' heads with so much inofrmation they will never need. Unfortunetly that is the case for college too, though to lesser degree.

    1. I agree with what you said about traditional schooling (and -- to a lesser degree -- college). Of course it's difficult to know in advance exactly what knowledge and skills you'll need in life. But if you're primarily following your interests, at least there's a good chance it will stick with you and mean something to you. And if you miss some essential knowledge or skills, you can learn it at *any* time in life.

      You're in law school, aren't you? What kind of law are you pursuing?

    2. I want to be public prosecutor - it's a job for state so it's pretty secure, you don't need to seek your own clients - you have the ones assigned to you. I had legal training there few times and i really liked it - criminal law is pretty much the thing that interests me the most during my studies. I'm also writing my dissertation from criminal procedure - about evidence experts.

      Problem is that even though it's the last year of studies and we should be learning for bar exam and writing dissertations, we have all of those subjects like Law Theory or European Law which is all pretty additional stuff, yet there is so much material to learn.

      Some universities let students decide early on what their obligatory subjects will be, for example mostly the ones from civil law, yet on my university pretty much everything is obligatory :/ And it's all pretty crazy considering we have to learn details of legal acts and in our jobs we can pretty much just check the acts we need at the moment, without memorizing them. Not to mention until I actually get to practice law there will be million changes to those already.

    3. That is really impressive. :-) Being a prosecutor is definitely an honorable profession; I'm speaking as a police officer's wife here. Cops risk their lives every day to apprehend criminals, but if there isn't competent prosecution, it's all for naught. I laughed at what you said about job security and not needing to seek out clients. So true!

      I agree with everything you said about your studies. Memorization is largely a waste of time. When preparing for a case, you'll look up everything you need to know. Sometimes I think a lot of higher education is making us prove ourselves by jumping through a lot of hoops. Kind of like putting soldiers through boot camp. *LOL*

      I have a feeling someday you may use your legal expertise, in some way, to advance the cause of animal rights. ;-)

  4. My good friend is homeschooling her daughter, she seems to enjoy it very much and her daughter is one smart kid!

    Btw, I think I've read "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant in college, my memory of it is hazy. Isn't there a film made of that w/ Hilary Swank? Have you seen it?

    1. I think I may have heard of that movie. I need to check it out. Thanks, Ruth! :-)

  5. Thank you for the shout out! I'm really glad you found the Terry P post useful :)

  6. Thank you for the link, and apologies for cutting your quote! :( Something had to give though, all so good but had to make way for Scorsese! :)

    1. You're welcome! :-) And no apology is necessary, of course. ;-) Making room for Scorsese is definitely a good thing. Glad I discovered your blog.

  7. Homeschooling sounds interesting Stephanie and I'm sure the added bonus of being with your children so much more is wonderful too.
    Thanks for all the interesting links! it's Monday...and Mondays tend to feel like the movie Groundhog Day for me :P

    1. Hah! Good point about Mondays. Thanks, Naida.

  8. I first watched Au Revoir Les Enfants when it came out in theaters. It was a French class field trip and I remember being absolutely blown away by it. Might be time to pull out the copy I have here and sit my crew down to watch it (although I might need to get it converted from video to DVD first). My French teacher at the time had actually delivered messages for the Resistance (she was just a child riding a bike as far as anyone was concerned) so we learned a lot about French and WWII in France that year.

    1. That must've been fascinating -- one of those teachers you never forget. And it's such a wonderful movie! We got it from Netflix.

  9. Thanks so much for all the links! Glad you liked Traffic and re-liked Rosemary's Baby. Also glad you dug the Cheadle article!

  10. You definitely had a busy week, Steph!
    I think my favorite sentence in this whole post is this: "Better yet, I love to see them not waiting 'til they "grow up" and pursuing their chosen work now". I find myself getting more and more annoyed lately with the idea that kids have to wait until they're "grown up" until they can do anything worthwhile.
    Thanks so much for sharing at Favorite Resouces :)

    1. "I find myself getting more and more annoyed lately with the idea that kids have to wait until they're "grown up" until they can do anything worthwhile." -- EXACTLY! :-)

  11. I wonder how WWII would have been HAD there been zombies. I think I saw Au Revoir Les Enfants ages go but remember almost nothing about it. I always admire home schooling parents -- can't imagine the effort that goes into that so hats off to you.

    1. *LOL* My son plays a video game in which there is a "Nazi Zombie" level. He finds that incredibly exciting.

      Homeschooling is actually easier than most people think. There is time and effort involved in the kids' education, of course, but I don't have to supervise homework at night when everyone is tired, attend parent/teacher meetings, participate in PTA, or sell candle and wrapping paper. :-) In some ways, this lifestyle is actually easier. Like everything, it's just a trade-off.

  12. If she hasn't already heard of it, you should tell your daughter to check out ( You can get lost on there for hours, reading about cliches and plot devices used in film, tv, books, etc. I think it's a fascinating look into how stories are constructed and might provide food for thought on how to subvert some of those tropes :)

    1. That sounds awesome! Thanks. :-)


Hello, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts -- reader comments make this blogging gig worthwhile. :-) Due to excessive spam, we are now moderating all comments. Like that dude in the Monty Python skit, we just Don't ... Like ... Spam. I will try to post and respond to your comments as quickly as possibly.