One of our favourite family times is when we read stories aloud together. We've been steadily working our way through the books of Laura Ingalls-Wilder (the 'Little House on the Prairie' series, and the parallel books about her future husband Almanzo's childhood). It's great! The boys are fascinated as they learn how to build different styles of house with different materials, how to produce maple sugar by boiling up the sap over an open fire, how to slaughter animals and use every single part for a specific purpose - different cuts of meat to eat, leather for shoes, fat for lard or candle making and so forth. There are so many lessons there - about where food really comes from, about how dependent we are on the climate and the harvest, and also just how many advancements there have been over the past 150 years. Life was tough (read 'The Long Winter' for quite graphic descriptions of this!) but also rich. Children did not attend school every day -for example if there were more pressing duties at home and tasks that required their help, but there was no question that the children were learning the skills they needed, and were taking mature responsibilities from a much younger age than children today. This is quite similar to childhood in many parts of the world today; not all is good - I am aware of the problems of child labour and abuse - but in many places, children take a real active role in the running of the household and family businesses.
My reflections on all of this include:
2) Children appreciate being given increasing responsibilities
3) We should not 'shield' children from the realities of life and only give them happy, fluffy stories
4) Read-aloud time as a family is wonderful and I hope it continues for many many years
5) Living books really do teach children without them even realising it
6) We should not pack every day full, but rather give children time to explore and imagine