SF/Fantasy Gifted Homeschoolers Series: Dune

I am going to do a series of reviews on books that have gifted homeschoolers of one variety or another as protagonists. Now there is a caveat here: I haven’t included stories where the protagonist didn’t get an ‘education’ because of deprivation, i.e. like Dragonflight’s Lessa. These will be stories where education and homeschooling actually are talked about within the story, and if possible, form an integral part of the storytelling.

A few of these books are also actually sequels or one in a series. If so, I will say. And explain why the earlier books don’t count! (Though they’re usually also a great read).

Not all these books will be suitable for children to read. This is not designed to be a list to hand to your child. But will, I hope, open the door for books that most will not think about as ‘homeschooling’ books. I hope it’s fun too. Enjoy!

So to kick this off, I’m starting with a classic.

NB. This post has links to buy books – because if you want to read awesome books (or consume their media derivatives) , I want to make it easier for you – I am a book-enabler. . But you can always hop over to your local library instead – libraries are cool.

Title: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
Genre: SF

SF/Fantasy Gifted Homeschoolers Series, Dune, yellowreadis.com Image: Old photo of stars

Gifted Homeschoolers: Paul Atreides, possibly Alia Atreides

Homeschooling Style: For Paul, it’s curriculum-based, with unit studies, and learning from mentors. Paul has a number of tutors who also work for the family in other capacities, each tutor him in a specific area: Guerney Halleck – baliset (music) and fighting (physical education); Jessica his mother – Bene Gesserit observation and body control (physical education, social studies); Thufir Hawat – Mentat calculation (logic, mathematics and data analysis); Dr Wellington Yueh – knowledge of Arrakis (history and geography); and the weapons master, Duncan Idaho (sport?). Alia Atreides teaches herself – radical unschooling? How on earth do you classify born-knowing?

Depiction of Homeschooling: Paul is seen as a well-honed knife – but he also suffers from extreme loneliness. This has less to do with homeschooling though, and more to do with the fact that he is the only heir to a vast Ducal estate with many enemies – as the many assassination attempts later in the book ably demonstrate. He is encouraged to explore ideas for himself, but his tutors insist that he attend to lessons even when he is ‘not in the mood’. “Mood’s a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It’s not for fighting.”

Depiction of Gifted: Paul is considered to be a possible Kwisatz Haderach- the one who can be many places at once. He is extremely bright, and he has an intuitive grasp of social conventions and people’s emotions. He also has the ability to have ‘true dreams’ – i.e. prescience. Alia is born with the knowledge of all of her ancestors – she is a true old soul.

Possible Sensitive Areas: Death, death of family members, casual violence of some characters, torture, drug use (spice), and assassination attempts.

Dune, Frank Herbert

Incorporating into Homeschool: This book could easily be used in unit studies on SF – it is a Hugo and Nebula award winning classic after all. But it could easily fit into studies on nature, ecosystems and the environment, and studies on the influence of Islam on western culture (much of the narrative style, terms and culture owe a heavy debt to the Qu’ran and Hadith) . It could also be used for comparative religion studies – particularly in regard to how belief systems change over time. (For example, one of the main religious text referenced in the book is the Orange-Catholic Bible, which would naturally lead to a discussion of the Irish conflicts between Orange men and Catholics in history). It would also work well in any philosophy or realpolitik units or courses.

Age Range: Designed for adult audience, but I read it at 11 years old and it is still one of my all-time favourite books. Perhaps an adult pre-read for sensitive tweens.

Series: First book in a long-running series that did not even stop with Frank Herbert’s death. My own opinion is that the first three books are the classics: Dune, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. After that, though they have merit, the other books are no longer at the same standard. And they get very, very strange.

Review: If you are looking for a non-biased review here, you will not get it. This book is an all-time favourite of mine. As a child, I would memorise the little quotations at the front of the chapters – who wouldn’t? They’re so quotable…and I often still use the litany against fear.

The story revolves around a young teen in a future society – Paul Atreides. His family are space-travelling aristocrats – his father is a Duke who has been ordered to move to a new planet and takeover from their hereditary enemies, the Harkonnen. This does not go well, and Paul ends up having to learn and survive in a new culture among strangers – the Fremen of Arrakis – who see him as the Mahdi – a saviour for their people.

I’m not going to tell you any more of the story- that would spoil it! But the actual narrative is only a small part of the story – the mythos, machinations of court politics, and sheer weight of plans within plans within plans adds so much to the atmosphere of the story – it so steeps you into the culture of these wonderful alien worlds, that they start to feel real, with real history and motive behind every move. An easy place to get lost.

Adaptations: ┬áThere have been many adaptions into many different mediums: One terrible movie by David Lynch, one excellent TV mini-series, numerous award-winning computer games, even a hard-to-find board game. There are probably many more…it’s one of those stories that spawns others like a sandworm in the deep desert.

So, what’s your favourite Dune moment?


Other books reviewed in this series:

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

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