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I did it! (Chapter Books)

Pat me on the back:  after almost sixteen years of raising kids, I finally, FINALLY read my kids a chapter book!

Oh, I have started many over the years.  But finished?  Zero.

The fault is partly mine, and the credit is partly due to Charlotte Mason.  ;-)

When the older kids were little, I was working full-time and they were in daycare, then school.  We were all just too busy and exhausted to do chapter books.  Since learning about Charlotte Mason homeschooling, I’ve come to realize how very important it is to sustain a child's attention far beyond the "twaddle-length" of most kids' books.

I chose Little House on the Prairie, specificially the first book, Little House in the Big Woods.   Or perhaps I should say WE chose, because Naomi loves the fact that Elisheva also enjoys these books.  In fact, they’re great for all ages, and I suspect the big kids enjoy listening in and/or picking up the books when I’m not reading them, just to browse through.

The Little House books are a recommended part of Ambleside Online’s Charlotte Mason-based homeschool curriculum because the writing is of a fairly high quality, plus the books reflect what I suspect most CM homeschoolers would call “good, Christian values.”  Now, it’s true that some of those “values” include calling black people and native people what are considered today to be some pretty rude names.  At one point I had to skip reading the words to a song altogether because I felt it was offensive.

But for the most part, the stories are interesting, and the bits that do come through about actual Christianity – observing the Sunday Sabbath, celebrating Christmas, etc. – are largely seen by my kids as anthropological curiosities.   If anything, the Little House Sunday experience makes our Shabbos experience look like a veritable amusement park:  the girls in the story have to sit on a bench, read the Bible, and are forbidden to laugh, run or have fun.

The first book focuses on the passing of the seasons from a young child’s experience, and the agricultural nature of the story – different crops, foods, celebrations, labour, at different times of year, cycles from which my city children are almost completely alienated (except in our garden).

We started our NEXT chapter book last week, On the Banks of Plum Creek, which is actually Book 4 of the series, because I the library didn’t  have #2 or #3.  So far, so good.  The kids are fascinated by the little dugout house the family moves into, hidden under the creek bank.

My sister helpfully pointed out that the books are kind of miserable if you read them from the mother’s perspective.  It’s all well and good for the kids to have adventures and move around to settle America in brand-new prairie lands. 

But for the mother (Caroline), she just had to keep shlepping around and the second they’d start to get comfortable somewhere or maybe make friends, she’d have to pack everything up into the wagon and go live in some dirt house where she was forced to haul water in sacks she’d stitched out of oak leaves, or make clothes out of straw, or cheese out of mud.  I admire the woman’s resourcefulness, but her patience?  She must either have been a saint or a moron.

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