Friday, August 19, 2016

We're Obsessed with J.R.R. Tolkien

We are a family who has a nightly read-aloud.

Well, not nightly. We skip nights that Will and I have fencing, and many nights lately we've been choosing to watch the Olympics instead (who knew that women's weight-lifting would be so AWESOME!?!), and there are some weeks that we just forget about it entirely, but we always find our way back to it, because it's family tradition.

I don't remember what we read before The Lost World, but after that we read The Hobbit, and now we're reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, because of course.

I say "we", although it's Matt who, as a rule, does the actual reading out loud. The kids and I sometimes brush each others' hair, or work a puzzle, or fiddle with something quiet, or just sit and listen (although I am in serious danger of falling asleep if I just sit and listen--perhaps I need Matt to wake up and read to me when I'm perennially awake at 3 am!). A few weeks ago a publicist sent us a free copy of this Tolkien coloring book, and since then it's been the favored activity to do while listening to Lord of the Rings.

Because of COURSE!

Here we are from a few nights ago. Will and I are coloring pages from the Tolkien coloring book, Syd is playing with kinetic sand, and Matt is on the couch, reading to us.
This particular coloring book has actually sneaked into the rest of our days, as well, lately--here's a photo that I snapped of our work table one school morning. It wasn't until I was editing the photo that I noticed that while Syd is deep inside her Book of the Day, Will is totally working on a Tolkien coloring book page, the little rascal!

Years ago, I got the entire family into the habit of photocopying whatever page they want to color. I like to buy nice coloring books, particularly nice ones in the topics of history, biology and botany, and the arts and humanities, and I want to be able to re-use them. It's also nice because we copy our pages onto cardstock, which is really good both for high-quality markers and colored pencils. Here are some of the pages that we've completed in the last week or so:
Will: she chose this one for the giant crystals.
Syd, WIP
Syd, completed.
Although we pause often during the read-aloud for conversation or ready-reference, Will has lately become VERY interested in Tolkien, and so we've been exploring him more outside of our evening reading time. Matt and I gave her a bit of a summary of the Silmarillion when she noticed that she was coloring a page from it and asked about it, and she didn't mention it again for a few days, but the other day at fencing, when we had to go around and say our names and one interesting thing that we'd done this summer, one of the high school saber fencers said that he'd read the Silmarillion.

Well, it was ON.

One thing that I should mention right now is that the kids have not seen the Lord of the Rings films. Matt and I LOVE them--hell, I adore them!--but I am deeply adverse to letting a child see a film before she's read the books. Do you know how, when you read a book, the characters come alive in your imagination, and you know exactly what they look like? It doesn't happen that way if you've seen the movie first, I declare. I think that if you see the movie first, not only will the many subtleties in the book be spoiled for you, but you will forever read that book and picture the film's actors as your characters.

We did watch the Hobbit films after we finished the book, and although I attempted to pass on my great love for John Watson in the title role, everyone was disappointed in them. I have also screened the following resources that I'm going to share with you, and I let the songs pass, but I won't let the kids read anything that tells the plot of the Lord of the Rings further than we've read.

For Friends, my children are, as yet, unspoiled in the plot of the Lord of the Rings. I have done many things wrong as a parent, but this? My children are going to journey with Frodo, have nightmares about the Ring Wraiths, call out to Tom Bombadil for help, and fall in love with Sam.

This I am going to do right!

Anyway, here are some of the Tolkien resources that we've been enjoying. Some are for the kids, some for the adults, some for the whole family. Pre-screen them so that you don't spoil any plot points for your kids!

  • Following the Hobbit Trail. I haven't shown this to the kids, because it's full of spoilers, but it's a really cool infographic. You know that we love infographics!
  • Interactive Map of The Hobbit. This is based on the movie version, so you can play with this after you've read The Hobbit and seen the movies.
  • LOTR Project: Interactive maps, timelines, genealogies, and more!
  • Minas Tirith paper model. The entire family is going to have to work on this one together.
  • Astronomer Recreates the Middle Earth Solar System: This will be cool to bring up when we're studying astronomy next semester.
  • Our Fabric Wall Hanging. Have I shown this to you yet? I bought it as a present for the entire family after we finished The Hobbit, and it's hanging in prominence in our big family room.
  • Syd's Skirt. Here's what I did with the rest of that fabric!
  • "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates." Friends, Tolkien sings this himself. It's a treasure.
  • The Tolkien Professor: They're a little dry for kids, but I enjoy these streamable lectures on Tolkien and his works.
  • The Tolkien Society. You can find more resources for studying and teaching Tolkien here. I'd highly recommend going off on the rabbit trail of Old English and Anglo-Saxon runes, as this was a major interest of Tolkien. I actually studied Old English in grad school, and read Beowulf in its entirety in the original language, so I will for sure be encouraging the kids in this!
  • The Unexpected Party Menu: We are totally doing this when we eventually get a working oven again.
  • Elevenses and Then Some. Yes, it's another menu of Tolkien-themed food. I don't know if you know this by now, but my kids and I share a deep love of our noms, and we often happily discuss the hobbits' six meals and the necessity that we model ourselves after them on this.
  • Unit Study. If you want to turn this into a literature study, here's a complete one from Houghton-Mifflin.
  • Common Core High School Study. This is more focused on strategy than content, but it has some good, usable methods.

P.S. Two things:

1. I'm on the lookout for a vintage hardback copy of The Hobbit, the one with the pull-out map in the front. Tell me if you see one for a good price!

2. It occurs to me that although I've written about it on CAGW, I've never shown you here the hallway where I like to keep mementos of our travels. I stenciled a quote from The Lord of the Rings above it. Here it is!


kirsten said...

We are, too, my 11yo loves the book 'Mythmaker' also, a biography. Since I don't see it on your list... :)

julie said...

Okay, I just requested it. Thanks!