Parenting, Reviews

For The Children’s Sake

I saw For The Children’s Sake often around my house as I grew up. I remember it clearly Cover art (Penguin Classics Edition/1989; The Illustrated Children's Library Edition/2002): <i>Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy</i> by Jessie Willcox Smith.because the cover illustration is by Jessie Wilcox Smith, who has been my favorite illustrator since I read her version of Little Women. The cover was the only part of the book that interested me until just a couple of months ago, when my mom held it up and asked, “Do you want this book?”

“Is it good?” I asked.

“I think so.”

“Okay, I’ll take it.”

Well. To say that “it is good” is an egregious understatement. It is very good. In fact, it is the best book I’ve read on educating children so far. It has already become instrumental in forming my home educating philosophy. And it’s really not only for parents who solely homeschool, but for anyone who has children or works with children.

For the Children's SakeIn For The Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Maculay (daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer) gives a basic of overview of Charlotte Mason’s thinking on what children need. She has ideas that go far beyond the three R’s. Here’s my favorite: Children are actually little people.

Some of you are going, “…and?” Yes, this seems like it should be very obvious, but it seems like children are so often treated like their intellectual skills are nonexistent.  I recently had a conversation with a someone whose granddaughter’s teacher told her that her granddaughter is so smart. She told this grandmother, “I couldn’t believe I was actually having a conversation with a six-year-old!” I’m sure most of you already are well aware of how conversational six-year-olds are.

Another one of my favorite Charlotte Mason points is that children do not desire or need “twaddle.” What is “twaddle?” You know those books that say things like, “I see Spot. Spot is brown. Spot has a tail”…those books? Well, those may serve some purposes, but mostly they are twaddle. Maculay points out that Mason is right when she says children need “living books,” books that will capture their imaginations and live on in their minds after the story is over. These are the kinds of books that will instill a love of learning and literature in children.

Another highlight of the book is the importance of reaching out to the heart and soul of a child. Education is not about just feeding children’s brains knowledge. They need to play. They need to be surrounded by nature as often as possible. And above all, they need to know love and a sense of being well cared for. This isn’t an environment that can only be found in homeschooling environments, but it is a far cry from most public schools. Because the majority of our nation’s children are in public school, it becomes even more important for parents to take their role in their children’s fully rounded education very seriously. I currently have my children at home with me, but I can see how important it may someday be for me to guard their time at home from educational TV, computer games, and whatever else may seem good but cannot replace the real-ness of experiencing the world around them. I also need to be more proactive, even now when my kids are always at home, about looking into their faces and truly listening to their thoughts. We can all get so preoccupied with our own activities. Mason believed children need to know that their value is inherent because they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and are “image bearers,” in body, mind, and soul.

There’s a lot more to this book, but those are the highlights for me on this read-through. It will be a book I’ll return to as my children grow. Charlotte Mason is a pretty popular person these days in home education circles. Maculay published this book about her ideas before Mason came back into vogue. There is a ton of resources for people who want to delve deeper into the Charlotte Mason method (which I’m not entirely sure Charlotte Mason actually invented…it’s more based on her ideas, if I’m not mistaken). Whatever you and your children do in the education realm, the questions Maculay raises and the ideas she presents in For The Children’s Sake are well worth considering.

If you’ve read it, post a comment! I’d love to know what you think. 

31 Days, Children's Books

Introducing Young Children to Art Through Picture Books

I don’t have a strong background in art. I was raised in the pre-Baby Einstein days, after all. Before my college art history class, I could recognize a Monet or a variety of children’s book illustrators (Mercer Mayer, for instance), but that was my extent of art culture. As I raise my children now, I am in awe of the wee ones’ art knowledge. The other day, Ella told me she was drawing a picture that looked like van Gogh. Holy cow! That child came from me? I think it’s awesome that there are so many resources for bringing art and music into our children’s sphere of interest. Yes, a lot of the credit for our art knowledge goes to the T.V. show Little Einsteins, which we stumbled upon by accident in our library’s DVD collection. Now we don’t leave the library without one, and if we do, well, there’s always Youtube.

392176There are some great books that have made my daughter fascinated by art, too. You’ve probably heard of the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner and illustrated by Robin Priess Glasser, but did you know that your child will talk to you about Jackson Pollock after reading Fancy Nancy, Aspiring Artist? Or that she will want to cut out shapes and make a picture like the ones by Henri Matisse? (true story). Our favorite book series on art is the Katie series by James Mayhew. It’s about a girl named Katie and her art museum adventures. Our favorite is Katie and the Impressionistsfollowed closely by Katie and the Spanish Princess. These books give readers a feel for a certain era or style in art. If you’re looking for books about specific painters, I’ve heard great things about the “Getting to Know The World’s Greatest Artists” series. The blog Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room has many more great ideas about books on artists.

I’m not set on force feeding art history to my children or anything. It’s something my oldest has become interested in, so I’m going with it. I think it’s fun and I can’t wait until she’s old enough to take really enjoy our city’s art museum.  At this point, I’m doing my best to pick out fun children’s books with quality illustrations. I know quality art is often a matter of opinion, and I want my children to appreciate all kinds. But for now, I try to stay away from elaborate stick figures or those books that remind me of that TV show Rugrats.

Yikes!

We’re going to stick with Jessie Wilcox Smith, Tasha Tudor, Virginia Lee Burton, and other great artists and Caldecott Medal winners and nominees.

What are your thoughts on teaching art to your kids and art in children’s literature? This is a new topic for me, so I’d love some advice.

This is Day 8 in the series 31 Days of Picture Books. To see the rest of the posts, go here.

31days

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