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Trouble in Paradise

February 22, 2012

Last summer, my family took a vacation to Hawaii.  As a homeschooling parent, I am often looking for ways to make learning fun.  Thus, vacation turns into an opportunity to learn new things (and justifies more frequently vacations!).  This whole learning thing gets contagious when you are a homeschooling parent, too.  I found myself craving adult learning about Hawaii, history, culture, and religion.  I very much enjoyed reading Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell on the plane to Maui.

Sarah Vowell is the perfect combination of super smart researcher and sarcastic commentator.  I enjoyed learning more about the history of Hawaii and had very mixed feelings about being a tourist in a land where people had suffered so much at hands of people who started out like tourists.

While I was in Maui, I visited a bookstore and found an excellent selection of books about Hawaii.  I read and enjoyed The Last Aloha by Gaellen Quinn.  It is a book of historical fiction about the last queen of Hawaii, Lili-uokalani’s, last stand as queen before Hawaii became annexed by America.  It’s a wonderful, heartbreaking store.

Back at home, still missing paradise, I picked up Molokai by Alan Brennert, which is my favorite so far.  It’s a bittersweet historical fiction story about a girl who is sent to the leper colony on Molokai.  It drew a poignant story of how difficult it must have been to be separated from one’s family and how a community grew up around those who were cast out of their communities.  I learned a lot about Hansen’s Disease (the current name for leprosy) and the history of persecuting people who were ill.  There are so many parallels between the experience those in the leper colony on Molokai had that can be related to the experiences of others who were forcibly removed from society (Japanese internment, for example) and those who are faced with illnesses that scare people (HIV is certainly a modern example, but even chicken pox can inspire that same fear and anxiety within a community).  I am looking forward to my book group discussion on this book!

So, on to educating the kids.  Of course, reading the adult literature helps me to be informed so I can answer their questions and tell them stories based on what I have read.  But they deserve literature aimed at their eyes and ears, too.

Here’s what we have been reading and are intending to read this year in preparation for more visits to Hawaii:

Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky, by Vivian L. Thompson.  This one is really good.  The kids and I are all enjoying the small bites of powerful stories from Hawaii’s earth-based spiritual history.

Kamehameha:  The Warrior King of Hawaii, by Susan Morrison.  This is a retelling of the exciting life of King Kamehameha, an important part of the history of Hawaii.

We’ll also try the How ‘Bout Hawaii Coloring Book by Carole Marsh

and Honu-ea and Honu Coloring and Activity Book by Yuko Green.

I would welcome your recommendations if you have any to add!

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