Monday, September 26, 2011

A Book That Fits

Since we started homeschooling I've loved the idea of providing living books to supplement the history text my oldest was working out off.  Transitioning to a whole living book education has not been very difficult.  As I mentioned in my history focus post, this is our most involved subject.  I really try to approach the subject as a family.  I chose a spine for my oldest, which she is loving, and decided on a family spine as well (this is another big hit).  Along the way the younger kids have looked at and listened to a couple of picture books.  As a family they've also enjoyed some of our DVD selections.  We just finished watching Nefertiti Resurrected and the kids were completely captivated.  My oldest has a list of books to choose from for the year besides her spine for extra reading.  First on her list was The Gift of the River by Enid Lamonte Meadowcroft (which I purchased several years ago at a used library sale).  After just a few pages she came to me and suggested that this was a more appropriate book for her younger sister because it looked a lot like her spine; just easier reading.  Hmm...I hadn't picked a spine for her.  I just assumed she wasn't ready for a narrative all of her own.  Well, I followed my daughter's advice and had my younger daughter read a few pages aloud to me.  She's over 1/4 into the book : D

I recently read an article in the last Home Educating Family Magazine that made me think of her.  The article talks about parents being focused on finding particular titles (both in print and OOP) and not straying from their course.  Curriculum's out there will have their book lists and only those on the list are appropriate because of course those are the books that go with the plans.  The author was making a point of how there are so many books out there that are just as good as the next one.  One child might just love and engulf themselves with a particular title while it might not be the next child's spoonful of sugar.  The parent just has to be open to finding appropriate and good books that their child will enjoy.  Not being tied to someone else's plan has allowed me to do this for my children.  I know that there are wonderful titles out there that some of my children would just not enjoy.  I've quickly discovered that is the case in our home.  I underestimated my daughter's ability to focus on a complete book for her history studies because I was just concentrating on what some book lists suggested for her age group.  She almost missed experiencing a treasure on the history of Egypt.  I'm so glad that we have given ourselves that freedom from a must be this way or it won't be right mentality.  

On the specific issue of history (although she also makes this point with almost every other subject) Ms. Mason said:
"For the matter for this intelligent teaching of history, eschew, in the first place, nearly all the history books written expressly for children; and in the next place, all compendiums, outlines, abstracts whatsoever.  For the abstracts, considering what part the study of history is fitted to play in the education of the child, there is not a word to be said in their favour; and as for what are called children's books, the children of educated parents are able to understand history written with literary power and are not attracted by the twaddle of reading-made-easy little history books."  pg 281 Volume 1 Home Education
Don't misunderstand the quote.  I still think there is a place for many wonderfully written picture books that all my children enjoy; from the oldest to the youngest.  I think that Ms. Mason would agree with me that if it is a well written book even a children's picture book is worth introducing when studying history.  My point is simply that I almost missed an opportunity with my eight year old because I thought our family read aloud was all she could handle.  I even contemplated getting some of the books that Ms. Mason would have deemed as twaddle to supplement our family spine.  Well, my daughter has proved me wrong.  The Gift of the River is such a good living narrative of the era that she enjoys having this spine to give her the following experience:
"...[I]s a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behaviour of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation." pg. 279 Volume 1 Home Education
Her narrations have been so vivid that I know she is not only understanding the history of Egypt but enjoying it as well. I have been very pleased with this book selection for her.  History as a subject is one of the most living book rich subjects that we have.  There is just so much of a selection out there.  Don't get to hung up on a list;  just be mindful that it meets your criteria for picking a good book.  Of course you are always in charge of what those parameters might be.  There is always a good living book that fits.

* I should disclose there is language/terms in The Gift of the River  you might want to make sure you discuss with your child.  For example how people of other countries are referred as.


amy in peru said...

excellent! I think I would do a lot more searching for living books if I didn't live library-less :)

there really are SO many out there! Nancy @ Sage Parnassus is amazing with living books... her house is FULL of them! she'd be an excellent resource :)

amy in peru

Shirley-Ann said...

Brilliant post Jenny! I so agree with your thoughts. We have ventured into Sonlight this year but already I am wanting to add our own finds to the reading pile (and leave some of the 'booklist books out).

Thanks for the reminder.

Shirley Ann
PS - any chance at a peek of your crochet leaves?

Jenny said...

Thanks Amy, I can just imagine Nancy's library ; )

Shirley Ann, I've always enjoyed looking through Sonlight's book list for some inspiration.

Nancy Kelly said...

Tossing this one up at Amy - Thanks for the nod! My door is always to open to anyone and everyone who wants to talk about living books. Now, if Jenny lived closer, her love of living history books and my collection...we might not leave for days!

Jenny - we love Enid M.! She is soooo worth collecting and using in your school. Sometimes, a particular author can help us out for years and years.

This is a great post, thanks for sharing. (And your header is adorable!)

Admiration, Hope and Love


Jenny said...

Ooh Nancy, a visit would be wonderful! I just picked up China's Story for her so I'm glad to hear you give this author a thumbs up :D