About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.

Monday, 23 February 2015

A childhood on the prairie (Laura Ingalls-Wilder books)

I love watching how children learn and develop. My middle son (aged 5) can get a bit restless at times, and does not always know how to express himself well. But when he needs to calm down, one of the best things for him is to get a sharp knife and come into the kitchen and help me prepare vegetables. He does this with an intense focus which would be surprising to those who only see him in a more lively mood. As well as the physical capability, I think he thrives on having a job to do, having a purpose for the activity and feeling special. And as likely as not, he will then want to go and write about it in his diary, despite having resisted writing earlier in the day. I read an interesting article from the Washington Post discussing these things (just a shame the author didn't take the plunge and de-register her son!).

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:

1) Children often learn best by active learning; particularly being active out of doors.

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

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