I am so sorry that are feeling so down regarding curriculum right now . I SO know what you mean! I really want to do more Charlotte Mason-y things this coming school year, too, but wonder how well my 8th grader will take to it. Another one of my children who I will be homeschooling just turned 5, so I feel good about him learning this way from the get-to. But my 13-year-old...I can already envision the attitude and arguments. She is a miserable person when things do not go her way. I know, I know: she's spoiled. But I do respond appropriately and do not let her get away with it. But it's so depressing, isn't it? You've got these great ideas, and your kids (like you said yours are with reading) are like, "You're kidding, right?" I think part of it is due to the breakdown of our society at large, wherein children anymore express every feeling they have every minute they're feeling it (-; . And we as parents let them do it b/c we know how stifled WE felt when our parents reacted that way. It's a shame that eveything seems to be in excess of one way or another, doesn't it? Something that's helped me, and I hope by sharing it, you will be helped, too, is that when I get attitude from my daughter, I try hard to remember that getting upset really just makes it worse. I (hopefully (-; ) tell her that ______ needs to be done by _____. If she gives me any trouble, I tell her that I'm sorry she feels that way, but ______ is the assignment and it is her job as a student and obeying child to do it. It's OK for her to ask me why she's doing it if her attitude is one of curiosity about the point of the assignment, not rebellion. Things go pretty well a lot of the time when I explain my reasons for what she is doing. I know, I know: she should just do it and shut up. But I've always hated that attitude and really understand as well as don't mind when she is RESPECTFUL with the way she asks. Who DOESN'T want to know why you're doing whatever it is you're doing? If a bad attitude develops, though, b/c she simply doesn't agree or doesn't want to do it, I repeat what I told her the assignment is, when it's due (i.e., before dinner, before she plays with friends, etc.), then LEAVE. Staying where she is just invites more "discussion" about it. And if she follows me, I calmly (if I remember (-; ) tell her that I'm done talking about it and have other things to do. This approach does seem to work most of the time. Staying CALM really seems to be the trick in situations like this. I know how tough this is, but I try to remember how yucky things get when we both start arguing.
Don't feel badly about "twaddle" books if that is all your children are interested in right now. Like you said, you're happy that they're reading ANYTHING! ENJOYING what they're reading is a HUGE first step! Good for them (-: (and you!)! These kind of books are terrific, too, for narration. I think that they would be happy to tell you what they're reading about, even if it is books about movies stars, Star Wars stuff, or anything else someone deems "twaddle." Remember, it's not twaddle if it's important to your children. My 5-year-old LOVES playing Mario on the Wii (I know, I know again (-; : Bad mother. But he is the youngest of five children who enjoy playing it with him, so I don't put up a fight; I just set limits as to when he can play it. Anyway, Johnny absolutely loves telling me about what's going on in his little Mario world and what he's done and who he's done it to. Am I interested in the subject? No, but I AM interested in my son and what he thinks is important and interesting, and to dismiss it and call it "twaddle" seems to go against the very thing Charlotte Mason upheld: respect for children. By the way, my reproachfulness is aimed at whoever said that this kind of thing is twaddle, not you (-: . Enjoying what you're reading is just laying the foundation to reading for the rest of your life. So my opinion is that if your kids are interested in what they're reading about, show your respect and enthusiasm for their reading by asking them what's going on in the book they're currently reading. You end-up showing your child that you're interested in what is important to HIIM as well as getting him, unaware of course (-; , to narrate to you. Let them do reading that way for awhile, then, when you can tell that they're pretty well established in the whole reading thing, introduce a book that's more CM appropriate. You might even be able to find one that deals with something they're interested in, even if it's just a little bit. I have found that baby steps in just about everything in life is a much gentler as well as more peaceful way to get into things. It might even help if you yourself read aloud to them (do they still like that?). My 16-year-old STILL loves it when I read to her, and let me tell you, the books she loves the most are the ones I read to her when she was little! They are very special to her, and your kids might have books like that, too, that you could share with them that way. Another way to get 'em enjoying reading is to have them watch the movie of the book, first, then read the book and have them talk about the differences and similarities. For example, my daughter watched "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," with Elijah Howe (did I get that right (-; ?). She loved it, then went on to read the book. I see more and more graphic novels out there, too. My daughter loved a "comic" book about one of our heroes, Blessed John Paul II. It was so interesting when put in that format! In the Timberdoodle homeschooling catalog, I've seen graphic science comic books. I think the hero's name is Max Axiom. They might be something your son especially might like.
I'm sorry I've rambled on here; I just felt so sad for you. And I totally know what you're saying about trying so many different curriculums. I hope that a least one thing I've shared here helps you in some way.
Good luck, little friend!