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From the Library

March 12, 2019

I’ve been on the road for the better part of two weeks now. I spent this last weekend teaching Clandestine Carry Pistol. I got home early this morning, and spent all of my free time today with my wife and kids. So, for this week, From the Library is all I’ve got for you for Mountain Guerrilla Monday. I know I also have a lot of emails to get caught up on, and will try to take care of that this week, as I get a chance. Bear with me, please.

Drill Subscribers: I’ve got a smoker of a pistol drill for you guys this week. I REALLY want feedback on how it goes for you as well, please. I’ve yet to manage to shoot it clean, and in time standards…(if you’re not a subscriber, check it out here.

(I did get to spend some time last week working on the new book. Completely outlined, and I’ve got the intro and the first draft of the first couple of chapters done, so there’s that. More on that next week though.)

For this week’s From the Library installment, I got a query from a reader. He mentioned that he knew I was homeschooling, and since I had mentioned a couple of reading choices for my kids, in passing, in other articles, if I’d consider doing a From the Library post about some of the stuff our kids read, since so much of what is currently marketed as children’s books is so biased.

1) To start with, while it doesn’t occur every single night, on most nights, my wife or I read to the kids before bed. This is just something we do, and we both agree it is critical. I will admit, my wife does it far more often than I do, mostly because she has chosen to read the entire Harry Potter series to them, and they have become huge Potter fans as a result. I’m well aware of some of the reservations people have against the Harry Potter universe generally, and author Rowling specifically, but we’ve been happy with the lessons the kids have verbalized receiving from the stories, so it works for us.

2) I have several old editions of the Robin Hood tales that I read to them from. Basically, any telling of Robin Hood that predates about 1940, tends to be really well done. Interestingly, from an historical and mythological perspective, Robin Hood and his Merry Men are considered, by some mythologists, to be derived from the same historical source material as the “Green Man.” (For those unfamiliar, this is the green faced, bearded dude, with his hair and beard made of leaves….if it still doesn’t ring a bell, Google it or something). That source material is the Saxon and Bretonic/Celtic resistance to the Norman invasion by William the Bastard in 1066, and subsequently. The Green Man is seen as a euhemerization of those resistance fighters who, like Robin Hood, in the myths, took to the forest to continue the resistance against the invaders….so….sort of the proto-guerrilla in a euhemerized form.

Additionally, we have the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder collection, which is also on my list for reading to them. In fact, that reminds me, we might take a break from Robin Hood and go back to that for a while.
I’ve also read excerpts from Beowulf and a couple of the Norwegian and Icelandic sagas as well.

3) The kids have basically learned to read, beyond individual words and sentences, by reading Dr. Seuss compilations, and some of the old “Little Golden Books.” I’m not particularly a fan of bowdlerization of classic tales for children’s benefit, but I also know—experientially—that introducing a child to a bowdlerized form of a tale can lead to their own pursuit of the original, source story (my personal introduction to Last of the Mohicans for example, was in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version. As soon as I had read it, and figured out what “Condensed Books” meant, I wanted to read the WHOLE novel. It’s still one of my favorite, perennial re-reads).

4) I also have copies of what I—and many others—consider classics in youth literature, such as My Side of the Mountain, The Education of Little Tree, and Hatchet, among others (see much of a trend there?). While it has become de riguer in some circles, both left and right, to belittle the importance of the classics, because “they’re only classic because someone else said they were,” this is untrue. I choose classics that I consider to have good messages that I want my kids to internalize, because they are moral messages that reinforce the morals we—my wife and I and our family and friends—share. As an avid outdoorsman, and someone who values Nature for Nature’s sake, one of those critical core values happens to be that we are part of Nature, and Nature is part of us. As such, I tend to lean towards classic literature that encourages a love and appreciation of the outdoors and nature.

Someone who views Nature as nothing more than an exploitable resource will not probably share my view on what constitutes a literary classic, and that’s alright….ish…

5) Additionally, I have a collection of original Boy Scout and Girl Scout handbooks, ranging from an original 1911 English printing of the Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys, and every Boy Scout Handbook produced by BSA from the beginning through the 1950s, including the Explorer Handbooks. The kids have full access to those, and I encourage them to read them. Currently, the oldest is reading Wildwood Wisdom, by Ellsworth Jaeger, as I’ve previously mentioned in an article or two, and I found an old copy of Tracks and Trailcraft by the same author, at a local used book store (mine was loaned out and lost years and years ago). I’ve yet to see a kid as excited about a book as our oldest two were when they realized they now had an entire book dedicated to little more than identifying animal tracks. We regularly find that they’ve taken off into the woodlot to go exploring, and if I walk out there to find them, I’ll find them poring over a set of tracks in the mud, and the book, trying to determine what type of animal made the track.

6) Because oldest child is on a harcore Bushcraft/Survival trend right now (she spends every available moment she can, in the woods, with a Mora on her belt, and a haversack full of survival gear on her shoulder, and when she couldn’t go outside this past weekend, my wife informs me that she insisted on watching The Hunger Games on two separate occasions because she is excited to learn survival and archery like Katniss Everdeen), I’ve found her a few books on survival and bushcraft, written for modern kids as well, that seem, thus far, to be good ones. These include:

  • Easy Wood Carving for Children: Fun Whittling Projects for Adventurous Kids. Absent some sort of major issues, my rule is, my kids get their first pocket knife on their fifth birthday, and their first fixed blade knife on their seventh birthday, along with a compass, firestarting kit, and other gear. They get a hammock, a pack, and a shelter fly, etc, at 7 also. My oldest, within a couple weeks of getting her first fixed blade knife, had proceeded to start whittling “spears” and “traps” out of any twigs she found, and if she needed to use her Bahco folding saw to “find” those twigs, she would do so without reservations. I decided, it might make more sense to guide her whittling endeavors into something more rewarding to her.

    This books is simply written and well-illustrated with bright, well-done photographs and instructions/guidance.

  • The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or Do with a Stick Some of the projects in this are just fucking dumb, even by seven and eight year old standards, but some of them are pretty cool, and it too is a hands-on project book, aimed at the youth reader. I liked it because, while I’m all about “free play” for the kids while they are in the woods or the yard around the farm, if they do “get bored,” (good fucking luck…), it can serve as a catalyst for ideas on new, simple projects.
  • Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide to Wilderness Survival This one is great. It serves as a reminder for the kids of the skills Dad has already taught them, when they are out in the woods practicing them on their own (which basically happens daily around this place, just as it did when I was a kid, on my folks’ place). It is written by a veteran of S-A-R, and is written for a child audience (although, it DOES say ages 9 and up, my seven year old reads it, loves it, and understands it, so….of course, she’s also not a public school educated 7 year old, so that could be part of it…). In addition to Wildwood Wisdom, which seems to have been relegated to backseat of my truck reading material, and Tracks and Trailcraft, which she packs around in her haversack, this one has become the seven year old’s other haversack book. She told me a few weeks ago, “Dad, I’ve been reading Survivor Kid before bed at night, and its really helping me with the lessons you teach.” She also, apparently, reads it on the shitter, so…it’s a hit with my youth reader sample size of one, anyway.

While I am sure there are good, non-technical books for kids out there, in the form of both novels, and general non-fiction, that are being written and published these days, I’ve found that, given my view of the world, and the future, these seem to be the two tracks that our homeschool reading follow, more often than not.

For fiction, while we have a couple of modern ones we like—The Hunger Games and Harry Potter—for the most part, we stick with older, mythological stories. Readers of my book, Forging the Hero (that’s the only book title in this article that is an active link) will, of course, find this somewhat less than shocking. For non-fiction, in addition to “classic” technical (by “technical,” I am referring to “technique” manuals, or “how-to”) books, like Wildwood Wisdom and Tracks and Trailcraft, we mostly hand them other technical books, like the above (I’m sure we have some other fields of endeavor on the shelf also, but I really don’t recall what, off-hand, and with their current interest, the others are irrelevant to them at the moment anyway).

In addition to this, any time we go into a used book store, I let them choose up to 5-10 books of their own, and in the new books stores, like Barnes and Noble, they generally get to choose one. Their personal choices run the gamut from dinosaurs and unicorns and trolls to horses and farm animals/equipment.

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21 Comments
  1. Norman permalink

    I do not leave a comment often. I just wanted to say “Thank you”.

  2. Denove permalink

    2 questions:

    1 – Is there a log of drills already sent out for those who are late to the party?

    2 – You’ve mentioned (a while ago) that language learning is an important factor to consider. Any thoughts on the subject (ie., what type of proficiency to aim for, language selection, etc.)?

    • Language learning can have practical benefits….if you work in a field that employs a lot of foreign personnel, and you study the relevant language, or if you live in an area with a large immigrant population.

      Far more important however, is the fact that practically conversing in another language requires the ability to begin thinking in that language. Anything that forces us to think differently is going to help develop our ability to think outside the boxes of our programming. As I mentioned in another comment, I’m currently learning Irish Gaelic, even though I have zero practical application for it, other than the fact that a quarter of my ancestors spoke it (which IS an important reason for me). While becoming conversational is probably a good metric, I’ve read and heard that a 500 word vocabulary will make you conversational, once you figure out grammar. I’m aiming for a 500 word vocabulary, and with the Duolingo app I’m using, I seem to be grasping some of the grammatical structure as well.

      I’m close to or above the 500 word mark in Spanish, still, and can work my way through a conversation in Spanish. My Mandarin and Arabic are nowhere near that anymore, and I’m basically limited to causing an international incident in either of those languages. My German is *probably* in the 250-300 word range. I can get laid, find the airport and police station, and teach a basic training course in German.

  3. Lindsey Ross permalink

    Our 4 yr old absolutely loves Mikey and the Dragons by Jocko Willink. Certainly can’t go wrong with the message in it either.
    Same goes for his other kids books, though she’s just getting old enough for them.
    Thank you for all the other great suggestions!

  4. Andrew permalink

    Hatchet…
    I remember reading that in Junior High.
    The local clothes store that sells “gently used kids stuff” has a book rack.
    I always look through it and I try to steer him from “the toys” to “the books”.
    They had Hatchet there, and since it was a novel, $2 wasn’t bad.
    I picked that up a few years ago.
    Harry Potter he got from the school library and I’ve been reading a chapter or two to my boy before bedtime.
    Hatchet will probably be next if he’s interested.

  5. oughtsix permalink

    The Dangerous Book For Boys

    All the normal stuff we took for granted in my youth, now shunned, shamed or forbidden to boys along with healthy aggression:

  6. KJE permalink

    For very general educational type topics; pick up merit badge pamphlets from the Boy Scouts of America.

    They come in a variety of topics, many of them are STEM oriented. I believe they cover over 120 topics. Some are craft and handiwork. Some are basic skills related like cooking or personal finance.

    As a for instance, I’m teaching my 12 year old about orienteering with a map/compass. The content in orienteering is written at a level he can understand. And practice.

    And that’s the important part of learning. The “do” part.

    Let’s adjust for declenation. Let’s establish a pace count. On flat ground. Up hill. Down hill. Etc.

    Best part is that each of those books is about $5.00. And they usually include bibliographic content if you desire to continue learning on the topic.

  7. SamSam permalink

    Robert Louis Stevenson: The Black Arrow. And of course Treasure Island.

  8. somedude permalink

    2nd the Laura Wilder series. I’m 45 wife is 48, we know why they want them banned in public scams..I mean Schools. Long Winter is a good one.

  9. BRVTVS permalink

    @ Denove

    I’d suggest that Latin is a good language for training the minds of the young. The best Latin books, in my opinion, are those from Orberg’s Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata series.

    • If I wanted good little imperial subjects, I would agree. I’d rather they focus on either practical language skills for the here-and-now, which for us means Spanish, Laotian, or Vietnamese, or ancestral languages (I’m currently using Duolingo to learn Irish Gaelic, on a lark.

  10. BRVTVS permalink

    Aesop’s Fables are worthy of consideration. At 2,500 years old, they are the most classic of classics and convey excellent moral lessons.

  11. Roseman permalink

    Diary of an early American farm boy by Eric Sloane

  12. Garry F. Owen, Trooper permalink

    I urge you to check out Stephen R. Lawhead’s Hood trilogy, Hood, Tuck, and Scarlet. It is a wonderfully imaginative retelling of the familiar story, thoroughly Christian without being “preachy.”

  13. Walter MItty permalink

    Are they learning any computer systems stuff? Creating files, accessing files, saving documents
    etc, etc. Unless something drastic happens the future is coming and robotics and computer controlled systems are not going away. Technology is involved even in the solar system you have
    installed. Like Heinlein said, a person should be able to program a computer and make their way in the woods. (And no I cannot program a computer) . Just wondering what your thoughts are.

    • My kids, like most kids these days, can pick up an electronic device, and figure it out intuitively in about two minutes….

      I’m not particularly worried about that aspect yet, and consider basic human living skills far more important than computer skills, which can be learned reasonably easily, with effort.

  14. Chad henschen permalink

    Evening sir,just wanted to say thankyou I look forward to reading everything you put out.i do intend in the future to purchase your books.ALso I did want to mention have you ever read the survivalist by Jerry Ahern or the ashes series by William johnstone.I started reading them when I was about 12,and have since reread them a couple times as an adult.excellent fictional series.anyway,thanks for what you do sir.

  15. anonymous permalink

    I think Gary Paulson, the author of HATCHET is a good outdoor writer. The entire HATCHET series has teachable points and I think worth reading. The same author wrote GUTS, where he describes where he learned the lessons he wrote of in HATCHET.

    If the kid is a little more mature, Cody Lundin’s books are also very instructive. 98.6 in particular is good. I was lucky enough to find this one in a Salvation Army book rack – $1. This book has some ‘descriptive language’ though but nothing over the top.

    Good topic – finding books that keep the young engaged is difficult in this era of electronics. That you are lucky to have children who enjoy being out of doors and learning about it is a blessing – you and your spouse are doing a good job !

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