Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Charlotte Mason and Living Books: Part 2

Yesterday, we talked about what a living book is. Today, we're going to talk about some living books we've used and loved, beginning with some that are important for young children.

Ambleside Online is a wonderful online curriculum guide, free to use, with a goal of being as close as possible to the curriculum Charlotte Mason would have used in her own schools. The wonderful ladies on the AO Advisory have read countless books, seeking the best possible literature to use in their curriculum. Their website is a wealth of information, and if you have an interest in Charlotte Mason at all, I encourage you to visit the website. They have a forum there, too, where you can ask questions and receive answers from wonderful, experienced folks using Charlotte Mason's principles.

Ambleside Online had been recommended to me by several people I knew who were Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, and it's the first place I looked to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. The booklists they have are fabulous. If you take a look at their list for kindergarten (Year 0), you will see that there is an abundance of excellent stories: Winnie-the-Pooh, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, et al, and Brer Rabbit, just to name a few. They also recommend nursery rhymes (Mother Goose) and classic folk tales like "The Little Red Hen" and "Three Billy Goats Gruff." Some of these books I knew, and some I did not. My girls loved them all!

Year 1, or around age 6, is when Charlotte Mason recommended beginning "seat work" for children. In AO's list for this year, as well, there are wonderful stories like fairy tales, Aesop's FablesJust-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, and Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. There is some history, but AO points out that it focuses on people, rather than events.

Young children connect with stories. Fairy tales can seem rather grisly, but children are able to process big ideas through listening to a story in a way that would otherwise be impossible, I think. Also, young children are better able to connect with people rather than events and facts, which is why biographies are so important. Reading about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus, hearing their stories, stepping into their worlds through the pages of a book - these things mean so much more to a child than simply memorizing the facts of their lives.

Another thing I love about fairy and folk tales is the insight they give into different cultures. You could add local legends to your reading for anyplace you study, and gain a whole new dimension in your understanding. One year, we read Tales of Ancient Egypt by Robert Lancelyn Green, while we studied Ancient Egypt, and Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire at the same time as part of our early American/Viking studies. Not only did we find it fascinating to read the different stories with regard to their nations of origin, but contrasting them brought about a lot of great discussion. I'm not sure you could find two cultures more dissimilar in their thinking than the ancient Egyptians and the Vikings!

I'll never forget when we read Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. We'd been listening to the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis at the same time. When we read "The Sword of Damocles" and heard about the king named Dionysius who was known as a tyrant, Abbie piped right up and said, "Just like King Miraz in Prince Caspian!" It is just delightful to watch children making connections, isn't it?

Simply Charlotte Mason has a great article on The Power of a Story. I encourage you to go over and read it for yourself.

Tomorrow, we're going to talk about using living books for history.

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