Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sometimes You Gotta...

drop a few books out of your educational repatoire. We did that this past week with The Story of King Arthur and His Knights and Of Courage Undaunted. They were living books, but we were not feeling the fire. So we moved on to other living books.

We use a literature study method for homeschool because we want to learn through living books. Charlotte Mason advocated reading living books versus books with cold, boring facts.

It took me a while to understand what a living book is. Still, sometimes, it seems like it escapes me philosophically. But the finest way I can venture to explain it is like this: your son is 8 years old and needs to eat. You have a choice, as a parent, of what to feed him. You can feed him some cold chicken nuggets and salty french fries and a coke from McDonald's. He might thoroughly enjoy tasting this nutritionless meal with all its salt and oil and preservatives, but as for what it does for building his body, I think we all would agree if we have seen the documentary on McDonald' is not best for the healthy. Have you seen the experiments people do where they take a home-made meal and a McDonald's meal and see how they decompose? Three weeks later...McDonald's french detereoration. That tells you how preservative-rich it is.

Or you can serve him some home-made, preservative free baked chicken, iron-rich spinach, mashed potatoes, whole wheat bread, and a cold glass of farm-fresh milk. This meal is going to be digested by enzymes and be able to carry actual nutrients through his blood stream out to nourish the rest of the body, support organ function, improve eye sight, etc.

This is what Charlotte Mason advocated in living books. We could give children all the same cold facts books we read in school that are supposed to help them perserve dates, names, wars, titles, anatomy (but they forget by the end of the school year or sooner). We can give them twaddle (life-less reading material). Or we can give them something sustaining, life changing, rich, comforting. Instead of a cold-facts easy read on wolves we can read a book where someone has a life-long relationship with a pack of wolves, can tell you first hand about their spirit, their customs, their diet, their charm, their brilliance, their obstinacy. You can read a book on wolves and walk away with two or three hard facts, your can feel like you are there with the wolf in a living book, and never forget what you read.

Charlotte Mason advocated children reading books that come alive, that light a fire in you and alter your life. Books that make you think. Why would we give our kids SpongeBob when we can give them Shakespeare and Thoreau? Why would we not want our children to be challenged? Why would we want a watered-down education?

I, too, was afraid my kids would go, "Plutarch Who? Shakes...huh?" A few days before school started I worried they would completely reject classic literature. I worried they would find it irrelevant, boring, and too difficult.

What I found is that they find it extremely relevant. They are alive with ideas. They are insatiable readers. Our biggest problem these days is having to say, "Please put your book down!" Hannah read over 1,000 pages in less than 7 days, not including everything we read in school. They have a fire lit within them.

But I need to challenge them more. I need to alter our homeschool even more toward Charlotte Mason's tenants. I see how I held on to a few chicken nugget and cold french fry mindsets and I have suddenly become of aware of that this weekend. I think sometimes God has us see changes we need to make a little at a time. I am one quarter of the way through the school year and we have made terrific changes. It is better than what I ever imagined possible for my children's education. But I see more...we can do more.

1 comment:

Jimmie said...

Brilliant post! Wonderfully expressed. I love your analogies to McD food. Living books are truly nourishing to our minds and souls.

I've linked to this post on my CM Basics page.