How to Be An Outlier

We’re in the midst of talking about education, and I thought it would be appropriate to throw in some words about a few good books. After all, at the end of the day, reading is the most profound form of education for the active learner.

Active learner is the key here. We can shove anything we want down our kids’ throats, and out of obedience or fear of a bad grade and subsequent disapproval (or fear that they won’t get into the right college), they’ll read the thing, but they may not learn. We kicked off this discussion by arguing that our kids are not containers that we can pour information into. They have to be actively engaged in the process if any real learning is going to happen.

That being said, I strongly believe that one of the GREATEST responsibilities of educators is to motivate kids to read and to inspire a love of reading. By the way, parents, whether or not you home school your kids, you ARE educators. In fact, you are your children’s primary educator; they will learn more from you than from all of their elementary, middle and high school teachers combined. Sure, they may get more raw data from their schooling, but they will actually LEARN from you (the good and the bad).

So fill your home with books. Become a reader yourself, if you’re not already. Read to your kids, no matter what their age. I still read to my high schooler, and it is truly some of the most valuable time we have together!

If you do that, you’re already on your way to becoming an Outlier.

Okay, so what is an outlier? It’s a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience.

In November 2008, one of my favorite authors Malcolm Gladwell published “Outliers: The Story of Success,” and in it, he took his readers deep into a handful of unique situations and people to discover some key elements of Outliers. I can not encourage you enough to read this book, if you haven’t already. And in spite of a few four letter words, it’s entirely worth having your teens read it as well.

In it, you’ll learn the magic of 10,000 hours. You’ll understand why our brains are more like rice paddies than wheat fields but also why many geniuses seem to have a propensity for failure. You’ll learn why a surprisingly large percentage of Canadian ice hockey players are born in the first few months of the year and why Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were destined for technology greatness. You’ll find out what a Mexican and a South Korean airline have in common that makes them more prone to crashing than other airlines. And why one town in Pennsylvania has an abnormally low incidence of heart disease.

Gladwell’s writing style is engaging and entertaining, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find Outliers to be a fun read.

Coincidentally, when I first read Outliers, it seemed to be a continuation of another book I’d just read, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. When I flipped to the back and checked Gladwell’s bibliography, he referenced the book. So, if you read Outliers and find yourself hungry for more, check out Talent is Overrated. It’s not as captivating as Outliers, but the information is great.

Talent

Then, later that same year (2009), I picked up Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, and my hunger for fascinating anomalies was fed once again. Freakonomics was as engaging as Outliers was, but I have warn you that the language is not appropriate for kids, and the opening segment that offers an economist’s explanation for the dramatic drop in crime rates in the 90s was horrifying.

freakonomicsThose issues aside, you will be intrigued, and you will learn and grow from all three of these books. And that will be a step in your journey toward becoming an Outlier!

Happy reading…

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Do Hard Things

I’m not sure how or when it actually started, but over the past 100 years or so, the word teenager has become synonymous with rebellion in the eyes of the Western world. And although I’m fully aware that this is a lie through and through (rebellion is NOT a natural part of the maturing process), there is one kind of teenage rebellion that I can get behind.

Do Hard Things, written by teen brothers Alex & Brett Harris, touts itself as “a teenage rebellion against low expectations.” They call it a rebelution, and with their book and their popular blog and traveling conventions, they are doing their part to fight against the prevailing caricature of the stereotypical under-achieving, apathetic, incompetent and impotent teenager.

They expose the myth of adolescence and compare the pathetically low expectations of today’s teenagers (make your bed, put gas in the car, do your homework) to the expectations of teenagers during the formation of our country. They introduce us to a young George Washington, as an example, who at the age of 17 was selected to be the official surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia. For three years, the adults in his life trusted him to measure and record previously unmapped territories. They expected young George to do his job with excellence in spite of the dangers and hardships of the uncharted frontier, brimming with dangerous wildlife and potentially hostile natives.

This book is both educational and inspirational, and it’s a must read for all parents, teens and pre-teens. If we can all join forces and join the rebelution, we are bound to make some mighty changes over the next few decades.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Have You Bought Into the BIG Education LIE?

Earlier this week I watched a quick video called The Truth About School, and I got all fired up! We just kicked off an extended series on education, so the timing was perfect for today’s rant about the big education lie. I hope you’ll stick with me through it, but even MORE importantly, I hope you’ll join the conversation by giving your two cents in the comments below. We need ideas. We need voices. But first, let’s look at the problem.

As I was watching the video, I had an aha moment. It wasn’t a new revelation. It was more like a sudden awareness. We send our kids to school for 13 YEARS! That’s a long time.

And wait…there are initiatives in different parts of the country to lower the compulsory education age. Really? The government wants my kids for even more than 13 years? To do what? I can tell you for sure what they’re NOT doing. They are NOT preparing our kids for life and no new legislation can convince me that that’s changing any time soon.

For five years my family lived across the street from an elementary school, and we grieved as we watched lines of innocent children pouring out of buses, filing lethargically into big stone buildings where they would be trapped for the lion’s share of the day’s sunlight hours having the love of learning beaten out of them.

Think I’m being dramatic? Why is it that a third of adults in the U.S. report that they have not read one single book in the past year? It’s because they do not love to learn. Ask anyone who loves learning how many books they’ve read in the past year, and I guarantee you’ll find out it’s way more than one.

Can you tell me why people applaud politicians who say we need to “invest in our future” by increasing education funding? We are a brainwashed society (probably because we’re also a product of the stupefying education system) who is standing by and allowing the government to take our hard earned dollars (dollars that our public eduction did NOT teach us how to earn, keep or grow, by the way) so they can squander 13 years of our kids’ lives.

What the heck are they doing with all that time? Again, I can tell what they’re NOT doing — they are NOT preparing our kids for life.

Does school teach kids how to start a business? Ask your middle schooler to explain the difference between a sole proprietorship, a DBA, an LLC, an S-Corp, a C-Corp and 501(c)3. Ask your high schooler how to choose which kind of business entity a new business owner should become and the steps it takes to do that.

Does the school teach our kids how to file taxes? Ask your tenth grader what W-2 is or a 1099 or a Schedule C. Ask him to explain the standard deduction.

Does school teach kids the steps between an idea and a successful product launch? Does it teach them how to sketch an idea, build a basic mock-up and then turn that mock-up into a prototype? Does it teach them how to turn their prototype into a working product and then take it to market?

Nope. Watch one episode of Shark Tank, and you’ll find out that our education system does not prepare our children to succeed in the marketplace.

Let’s talk about finances. In the course of that grueling 13 years, does the school system teach our kids about our banking and finance system? Ask your 9th grader to explain the principles of compound interest. Ask your 11th grader what steps you need to take to buy a house. For heaven’s sake, most kids don’t even graduate knowing how to open a bank account or how to balance a checkbook.

You might be reading this and saying, “Oh my son’s school did a lesson on balancing a checkbook. I know education is bad in other schools, but OUR school is good.” We actually hear some version of this all the time. I think parents are so desperately afraid to face the truth because they don’t have an alternative. Let’s face it, not everyone can homeschool.

But the truth is, schools are not preparing our kids for life.

Kids should be learning not just how to balance a checkbook, but how to comparison shop when they’re opening a bank account. What should they be looking for in a checking account? Should they open a money market instead? What is a CD and why or why not should they have one? What’s the difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA? What’s the difference between stocks and bonds? What are mutual funds? How do you evaluate whether or not an investment opportunity is a good one?

Does the school system even teach our kids how to be wise consumers? Does it teach them how to find independent product ratings and do cost comparisons? Does it teach them about extended warranties and why you would or wouldn’t want to buy them?

We all live in some kind of house or apartment and drive some kind of vehicle, right? Does school teach our kids how to maintain or repair those things? Nope. We have to depend on other people for everything. Obviously there are some things that we would want to call an expert to do. But after 13 precious years, most kids graduate from the public education system not knowing how to change the oil in their car, repair the brakes, or replace a worn out belt or a broken water pump. These are all fairly simple tasks, and during lean economic times, it can be a big help to do them yourself and not have to pay someone.

We all have to eat right? So does our school system use a portion of those 13 years to teach us how to grow or prepare food? Ask your 4th grader what hardiness zone you live in. Ask them when it’s the best time of year to plant vegetables in your neck of the woods. Ask them what kind of soil you have and what kind organic material and mulch they should add. Ask them to explain the difference between annuals and perennials and how to decide between tilling or building a raised bed.

I remember my first trip to the grocery store as an independent adult. I had no clue what to buy. Hmmm….I should get some milk and some bread, people buy those things, right? School never taught me how to plan a menu, make a shopping list and cook the food, and that was back in the day when we were still required to take HomeEc. I remember reading a recipe that said I needed to make a roux. What the heck is that? Or a bechamel? If your high schooler was asked to bring a crudite to a party, would she know what it was? As it turns out, these are not advanced food preparation things. These are the basics! But unless their parents are foodies, most kids have no clue how to really cook. No wonder fast food places are so successful in this culture.

So, the education system doesn’t prepare our kids for the business world, our finance system or consumerism. It also doesn’t prepare us to be effective members of our government system.

Does your kid know how to effectively lobby for something that impacts their daily life? Do you? Does your kid even know the difference between federal, state and municipal government? Do they know which lawmaking branch deals with education? Do they know who is responsible for the traffic laws? Do they know how to track their representative’s voting records? If not, how on earth can they cast an educated vote?

Aren’t you starting to feel like we’ve created a society where all the important information is elusive? It’s as if everything that we really need to know is a big secret.

So what the heck is our government doing with our kids for 13 YEARS?

There’s been a big push toward foreign language. As Jody and I talk to college admissions officers, we’re hearing that they want to see quality foreign language credits. But the fact is, we are still a nation of people who speak only one language. My family members in the Middle East all speak multiple languages, and they learned them at school. But in spite of the policy changes, we are not producing multilingual kids.

So what are we teaching them? A bunch of facts? Well, not even that!

Here’s a fun test for you. No peaking, okay?

How long did the Pony Express run in the U.S.?

50 years?

100 years?

Most people we ask give us one of these two answers.

Are you ready for the real answer? The Pony Express ran a single mail delivery line from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacremento, California (it didn’t deliver mail all over the country as most people believe) for a year and a half. That’s it! Basically, the Pony Express was a big flop. It was a business failure. So how come we all know about it, and we all think it was tantamount to the U.S. Postal Service of the 1800s?

Because one of the Pony Express riders, William Cody (better known as Buffalo Bill), who was out of work when the Pony Express went belly up, began touring the U.S. and Europe with his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows that depicted the exciting perils of riding the Pony Express.

As I’ve done history with my own kids, I’ve learned so much that either I’d missed in my own public school education or was never taught. Do you remember learning about the Dust Bowl migration? I don’t. But it was the largest human migration in the history of this country. From 1931, when the drought in the Plains states began, through 1940, 2.5 million people relocated. Not only did the Dust Bowl stimulate the most seismic movement of people in our country’s history, but it also played a part in the economic downturn of the Great Depression. Yet, I’m not sure that I had even heard the phrase Dust Bowl in my public education.

So what are our kids learning? English is now called Language Arts in most schools, but it seems to me it’s more about the arts than the language these days. Ask your 7th grader the difference between a verb, a participle and a gerund. Ask him what a semi-colon is and how it’s used. Ask him to list the six basic verb forms and explain the proper use of each one. Forget your 7th grader, how would you do on that test?

As a writer, these things happen to be my wheel house (but don’t ask me anything about sines, cosines and tangents). I can tell you that few adults understand the grammar rules of our language. I’m consistently aware of glaring syntax and punctuation errors in emails, blogs and Facebook posts. But I don’t judge the people. It’s the school system that should be ashamed! We graduate kids from high school with just enough writing ability to skate by.

So, what’s the answer to all this?

We have no idea!

But it’s time for us to wake up from The Matrix that is our public education system and start searching for real solutions.

Let’s talk about it and brainstorm and make calls to our leaders.

If you’ve got any thoughts to share, we want to hear them! If you had a say in what our kids learn over these 13 years, what would it include?

Let’s keep the conversation going…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Kids Are Not Containers

This coming Saturday, we’re launching a series on educational choices, so for the next few weeks, we’ll be talking mostly about learning and education here on the blog.

Education is one of the things we’re passionate about. So this is going to be a fun time for us.

But before we dive into the topic, we want to talk about how we view the learner.

Learners are active, not passive. Kids are not containers into which we pour information. They have to be totally engaged for any real learning to happen.

Sometimes they’re like mountain climbers, stretching and straining and carefully considering and planning how they’re going to get to the next level. I have one daughter in high school, and at the start of the year I told her that this was going to be a year of stamina building. Education requires stamina, and building it is hard work.

She wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like from day to day, but she knew it sounded hard, and she was reluctant to sign up for it. But then I reminded her of what stamina is worth in education.

This past summer we did a book club on dystopian novels. The kids had to read nine dystopian novels in nine weeks. Some of them were easy reads, like The Giver, but others were more dense and difficult, like 1984. For Skyler and for Jody’s girls, this was a breeze. A book a week, even a dense one, is easy for them because they have stamina for reading. But for other kids in the group, this was not only a struggle, it was impossible.

When I talked to Sky about the differences between stamina levels in the group, I reminded her that although for this school year, the workload is going to feel overwhelming at times, she’ll be building stamina, and by next year, the same workload won’t be so difficult.

But the truth is, she has to be on board because I can’t force her to learn — I mean really learn. I might be able to coerce her to store information in her short-term memory for a moment or two, but to make the kind of physiological and psychological changes that happen with authentic learning, she has to fully participate. And sometimes, that looks like mountain climbing.

Jody and I believe that the best education looks like desire and enthusiasm. When Amelia Earhart figured out that she loved flying in her early 20s, she did everything she could to get flying lessons. There was no commercial airline industry then, so it was very unlikely that this hobby would ever generate an income, especially for a women in the 1930s. Actually, it cost money — a boat load of it, and this was the during the Great Depression.

When Amelia didn’t have money for lessons, she spent her free time reading books, hovering around air strips, picking the brains of airplane mechanics — learning! I’m sure not everything she read was riveting. She probably had to push through some of the harder and more dry material, but she had a goal. She wanted to be a pilot, and she wanted to be taken seriously.

Sometimes education looks like life. The Dugger family, of the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, built their own house. You can bet those kids gained a boat load of knowledge and skills from that experience.

Want to teach a kid how to cook? Cook with them. Want them to learn how to use a microscope? Use a microscope. Experiences are great teachers, especially when the learner is fully engaged.

Two of my sons are interested in film making. I can’t afford to send them to the awesome summer programs offered by great film schools like NYU’s Tisch. But for less than $30 a month, they can have access to all of Adobe’s creative product suite, and for another $30 a month, they can take online courses on virtually any software through Lynda.com. Their passion to learn the material, coupled with hands-on experiences are making for a pretty good education at this point in their life (middle school and early high school).

 

Take a moment to leave us a comment and tell us what education looks like to you, and come back throughout the week as we continue this conversation.

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Grooming the Next Generation for Success — A Book Review

Yesterday I reviewed The Circle Maker, and I said that although it was great when I was reading it, very little stuck with me. Today’s book is the TOTAL opposite!

Rarely has so much of a book stuck with me and actually impacted the way I do things.

Jody and I study parenting techniques and philosophies. We read as much as we can, listen to teachings and scour magazines and websites. A lot of what we read is very good in theory but doesn’t work so well in practice — like having a calm conversation with a 2 year old who in is the midst of a full-blown tantrum. That sounded lovely when we read about it in a recent blog, but it will only make the tantrum worse.

The total opposite is true of this book. When we first got our hands on Grooming the Next Generation for Success: Proven Strategies for Raising the Next Generation of Leaders, by Dani Johnson, we devoured it, and throughout the book, we got revelation up revelation. I’m not sure there is any other book on raising kids that we would recommend as strongly as this one.

We happen to love the work of Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. We’ve read many of their books, listened to their audio series, read their blog and seen them speak in person, but I can’t say that any one of their books has had the impact that this single book has had on us.

Johnson covers everything from discipline techniques to purity to work ethic and financial responsibility. She writes in a way that makes you feel like you know her and her family, and gives practical tools for real life situations.

In a nut shell — we urge you to get a copy, and read it cover to cover. Then pass it on to someone else. You won’t be sorry!

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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A Pocket Full of Websites Every Parent Should Know About

I don’t care how computer savvy you are, if you’ve ever had to stick your finger in a dial and spin it around to make a phone call, you are digital immigrant. Our kids, on the other hand, are natives. I never taught my baby how to use a touch screen, but before the age of two, he could open apps, spread his fingers to make pictures larger and swipe from screen to screen.

We immigrants can use all the help we can get. So I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of super useful websites.

Inspiration

The first one might be really obvious to most parents, but on the off chance that someone reading this has been living under a rock for a while, I have to mention Pinterest.

This is the ultimate hub for inspiration and ideas. From design ideas for your house to tips on the best birthday parties ever, you can find inspiration for just about anything here. Once you find something you love, create a virtual bulletin board for it and “pin” similar ideas to that board. You can have bulletin boards for sewing projects, recipes, gardening tips, photography tips…you name it.

Cool Digital Stuff

Have you heard about Adobe’s Creative Cloud? This one seems too good to be true, but we’ve been using it for about a month, and it’s the real deal. Basically, for a monthly fee, you can have access to the full versions of the whole Adobe Creative Suite. We’re talking Photoshop (about $700 if you were to buy it), Illustrator (close to $600), InDesign ($650) — these are all the graphic design tools that the pros use. Plus you get professional video editing software, pro web design tools, animation software, game design software and even an audio editing product.

Now, I’m not talking about paired down trial versions. You are getting the full blown software. It’s $50 a month, BUT if you’re a student or educator, it’s only $20 a month!

You might be thinking, “Yeah, I’d love to be able to use Photoshop, but it’s like the most complicated program on the planet. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” Enter Lynda.com. For about $30 a month, you can have access to video courses on nearly every kind of software and app you can think of. Your kid wants to do a presentation using Prezi? No problem. Lynda.com can show her how.

What’s Prezi, you ask? It’s like the newer, cooler, more innovative PowerPoint. Check it out.

How To’s

Want to learn how make hand-dipped candles or tie a real bow tie or steampunk a Mr.Potato head (we’ve actually done this thing) or make a marshmallow gun out of PVC pipe (we’ve done that one too)? Check out Instructables or Howcast.

Let’s say, you want a cool Facebook cover but you’re not the Photoshop Type. Got $5? Head over to Fiverr, where you can find a whole bunch of cool services for just $5.

Free Education

Are you a TedTalks junky yet? Their slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” If you find yourself with a spare 20 minutes (waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting on the pick up line at your kid’s school, waiting for dinner to cook), grab your smart phone or tablet and download the TedTalks app. Invest that 20 minutes in a talk that could change the way you live and think. Get your kids hooked on it too!

Another potentially addictive site, especially for those families who really dig peeking behind the scenes of everyday life, is HowStuffWorks.com.

While we’re on the education kick, let’s talk about Open Yale Courses. This site gives you access to 35 full-blown downloadable Yale courses in video and audio form — all free for the taking!

Have you heard about Khan Academy? Check out their mission statement: “We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.” And with funding from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve got the resources to keep this site growing!

Kid’s Educational Sites

Edheads lets kids do virtual knee replacement surgery. Wonderopolis has fabulous articles for kids on cool topics like “How Do Locks Work?” and “Do You Need Water to Make Waves?”.

Do your kids need help with reading? Check out Starfall. Founded by the owner of Blue Mountain Arts (the popular digital greeting card company), a man who struggled with reading for the better part of his early education, this is non-profit, award winning site was created to help kids become successful readers.

Although only slightly educational, I had to mention Poptropica for it’s sheer popularity. With games and puzzles set on 20 themed islands you can guess why 10 million kids hop on this site every month. And with a chat feature that doesn’t allow free-form conversation, parents tend to like it too.

Speaking of sites that parents can feel more comfortable about, try Duck Duck Go for an ad-free alternative to Google.

Fact Checkers

We all know we can’t trust everything we read online, right. If you’re unsure, head over to FactCheck.org. For a kids’ fact hub, try FactMonsScience Sites

If you don’t know Steve Spangler Science, today’s the day to be highly entertained in a science-y kind of way! The Old Farmer’s Almanac For Kids is another great science resource. Got a science fair coming up? Looking for ideas? Check out The Science Fair Project Resource Guide.

Got a Kid Who’s Interested In Design

Graphic design, fashion, animation, interior design, film and theater, architecture, product design…Kids Think Design is an awesome resource for kids interested in any of these creative industries and more.

Fund Their Dreams

Have you heard about the new trend called crowd funding? Kickstarter is an example of how it’s done. So if your design-minded kid invents the next greatest thing, this could be an avenue for funding the project.

Too Cool to Leave Out

Okay, this one doesn’t have much to do with parenting and kids, but it’s so cool, I couldn’t leave it out. Don’t you hate when you have to call a big company and it seems like there’s not a single human to be found? Before making the call, go to Get Human. They’ll help you find just the right combination of numbers to get you to a real live person!

Well, that’s about all I’ve got today. Leave a comment with any great sites that I missed.

 

 

 

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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50 Great Reads for the Emerging Adult

We are HUGE fans of pumping our kids full of good books, especially in the teen years.

Unfortunately, our culture has sold us a bill of goods that says adolescence is a person’s last ditch effort at enjoying life’s bounty and sewing their wild oats. What a lie!

The truth is you reap what you sew. Wild oats produce untamed fruit.

And this mindset robs our kids of an important truth as well. It says, “Enjoy life now because soon the harsh realities of adulthood are going to come, and then you’ll have no fun.” Think about it — it’s a play-now-work-later mindset.

But that’s not how life works. It’s actually the total opposite. Life is really about work-now-play-later. Play is the fruit of work.

And adulthood doesn’t have to be drudgery. When you know your purpose in life, and you live intentionally, your life can get better and better with each passing year.

The teens years are really the final preparation for independence. Instead of focusing on making sure our kids are having maximum fun, we should focus on making sure they’re ready to go out into the world and be wise, resourceful, compassionate, creative and fulfilled adults.

Here are some great reads to help that process along.

1. The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss

2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

3. 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, by Suze Orman

4. The 80/20 Principle, by Richard Koch

5. Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins

6. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

7. The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel

8. The Christian Atheist, by Craig Groeschel

9. The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson

10. Crazy Love, by Francis Chan

11. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are Highby Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

12. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

13. The Definitive Book of Body Language, by Barbara and Allan Pease

14. Developing the Leader Within You, by John Maxwell

15. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, and Roger Fisher

16. Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris

17. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White

18. The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman

19. Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

20. Getting Things Done, by David Allen

21. Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart, by Kyle Idleman

22. Good to Great, by Jim Collins

23. I Am Second, by Dave Sterrett, Doug Bender and Colt McCoy

24. I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris

25. The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham

26. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein

27. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

28. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, by Mark Goulston

29. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch

30. Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, by Christopher Gergen

31. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl

32. Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches, by Winston S. Churchill

33. On Writing, by Stephen King

34. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

35. Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern

36. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

37. Passion and Purity, by Elisabeth Elliot

38. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

39. Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business and Influence Othersby Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

40. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt

41. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

42. See You at The Top, by Zig Ziglar

43. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary, by Joseph Michelli

44. Talent is Overrated, by Geoffrey Colvin

45. The Tipping Point, by Malcom Gladwell

46. Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

47. Tribes, by Seth Godin

48. The Warren Buffet Way, by Robert Hagstrom

49. We Hold These Truths, by Randall Norman DeSoto

50. Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Great Reads for Kids at All Levels

We have all heard that leaders are readers, and in everything we do, leadership is our focus. We want to help families build leaders for the next generation.

We can (and should) start reading to our kids at an early age. Reading out loud to our little ones helps increase their phonemic awareness, which allows them to recognize sounds and blends when they learn to read. Reading out loud is one of the GREATEST steps we take toward building lifelong readers.

But what should we read? Below is a list of suggestions at different age levels. We want to hear your suggestions too. Leave a comment and help expand our list.

Birth to Pre-K

  • Nursery Rhymes are GREAT at this age. Read the same ones over and over and over.
  • Beatrix Potter books
  • Dr. Seuss books
  • Eric Carle books
  • Sandra Boynton Books
  • The Amelia Bedelia Books
  • Berenstain Bear Books
  • The Corduroy Books
  • The Madeline Books
  • Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type, by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin, and Randy Travis crc
  • Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratny
  • Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
  • The Hoppameleon, by Paul Geraghty
  • The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • I Love You Stinky Face, by Lisa Mccourt and Syd Moore
  • Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch
  • Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • The Pokey Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren
  • The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
  • The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Saggy Baggy Elephant, by K. Jackson
  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Early Readers

This is a list of books that budding readers can read to you. You may want to consider supplementing reading education with “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, available at Amazon.

  • Bob Books
  • Little Bear books
  • Step in Reading Series
  • Eric Hill Books
  • Dr. Seuss Books
  • I Can Read Books, by Harper Collins
  • Stephen Cartwright books, from Usborne (these are super fun because on every page, your child is challenge to find a little yellow duck hidden in the picture)
  • Dick and Jane books
  • Whose Mouse are You?, by Robert Kraus
  • Who Took the Farmer’s Hat?, by Joan L. Nodset
  • Nate the Great, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

K- 3rd Grade

Many of the books on this list are meant to be read by an adult to a child. We have found that if you put white paper and markers in front of a young listener, the right brain will be occupied enough to allow the left brain to hear the story. Don’t be concerned at first if they do not follow the storyline. The ability to see “a movie” in their mind as they imagine what’s being read comes in time.

  • Beverly Cleary books
  • Shel Silverstein books
  • Magic Tree House books
  • A-Z mysteries
  • A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond
  • Because of Winn Dixie, by  Kate DiCamillo
  • The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  • Horrible Harry in Room 2B, by Suze Kline
  • How to Tell Time (A Little Golden Book), by Jane Warner Watson
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
  • Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  • The Polar Express, by Chris VanAllsburg
  • Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
  • The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley
  • Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon
  • Stuart Little, by E. B. White
  • Super Fudge, by Judy Blume
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
  • The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
  • Verdi, by Janell Cannon
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
  • You Are Special, by Max Lucado

4th – 6th Grade

  • 39 Clues Series
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
  • Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Bridge to Terebithia, by Katherine Paterson
  • Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen
  • The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The Chronicles of Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis
  • Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Flush, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Guardians of Ga’Hoole, by Kathryn Lasky
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • Gossamer, by Lois Lowry
  • Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, by Gladys Aylward with Christine Hunter
  • George Mueller: He Dared to Trust God for the Needs of Countless Orphans, by Faith Coxe Bailey
  • Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar
  • Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell
  • The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
  • James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  • A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
  • Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson
  • The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman
  • Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIHM, by Robert C. O’Brien
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • No Talking, by Andrew Clements
  • Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Redwall, by Brian Jacques
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Scat, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
  • The Warriors Series, by Erin Hunt
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

By 7th grade, you can begin introducing students to the 101 Books for the College Bound Reader list, which we will post tomorrow. The list was originally compiled for and posted by the College Board, creators of the SAT exam.

Students aiming for higher education (college and beyond) need to increase their stamina, vocabulary and thinking skills, and one of the best ways to do that is to begin tackling this list and digesting as many of these books as possible. Aim for 2-4 books per month from 7th through 12 grade, including (and especially) the summers. And keep track of what they read. It might be the one thing that sets them apart in the college application process. If you are purposeful, your child could feasibly conquer great 120 titles.

We’ve added some other titles that are not on the College Board list.

7th – 9th Grade

  • Charles Dickens Books
  • J.R.R. Tolkien books
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • Abraham Lincoln: Selected Speeches and Writings, by Abraham Lincoln
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • Foxes Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe
  • Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Hiding Place, by Corri Ten Boom
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson
  • The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Night, by Elie Wiesel
  • Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  • War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  • What Smart Students Know, by Adam Robinson

10th – 12th Grade

  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Confessions, by Saint Augustine
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon
  • Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
  • The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, by A. W. Tozer
  • Josephus: The Complete Works, by Josephus
  • Mans Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Saras’s Key, by Tatiana de. Rosnay
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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College Bound Reading List

This list was originally published on the College Board website. For some reason, we can no longer find it there, but it’s out there on a variety of blogs.

It’s such a treasure that we had to repost it. We recommend having your student keep a record of everything they read, and encouraging them to read at least one or two of these a month from 7th grade on.

101 Books For the College Bound Reader

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain 
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque 
  3. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
  4. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  5. Antigone, by Sophocles
  6. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  7. The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow
  8. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  9. Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis
  10. Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville
  11. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
  12. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  13. Beowulf, by the Beowulf Poet
  14. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  15. Call it Sleep, by Henry Roth
  16. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  17. Candide, by Voltaire
  18. The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
  19. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  20. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  21. Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko
  22. The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov
  23. Collected Stories, by Eudora Welty
  24. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  25. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  26. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
  27. The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon
  28. Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
  29. Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand
  30. A Death in the Family, by James Agee
  31. Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
  32. A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
  33. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
  34. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  35. Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  36. Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev
  37. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  38. The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams
  39. Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
  40. A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor
  41. The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford
  42. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
  43. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  44. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  45. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
  46. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
  47. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
  48. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo
  49. The Iliad, by Homer
  50. Inferno, by Dante
  51. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  52. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte 
  53. The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper 
  54. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman 
  55. Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill 
  56. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding 
  57. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare 
  58. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
  59. The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann
  60. The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka
  61. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare
  62. The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
  63. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
  64. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass
  65. Native Son, by Richard Wright
  66. The Odyssey, by Homer
  67. Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
  68. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  69. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  70. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  71. The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
  72. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
  73. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  74. Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
  75. The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
  76. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
  77. Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
  78. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  79. Selected Tales, by Edgar Allen Poe
  80. Selected Essays, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  81. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  82. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
  83. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
  84. Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
  85. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
  86. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
  87. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  88. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe 
  89. The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas 
  90. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  91. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf 
  92. Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding 
  93. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson 
  94. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James 
  95. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe 
  96. Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray 
  97. Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
  98. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
  99. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  100. The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston
  101. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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