Monday, April 04, 2011

There are no guarantees...but it's still worth our time.

Do you ever feel like you're wasting your time reading all those books to your kids? 

What if you spend the summer reading oh, I don't know, something BIG to them...maybe the entire Chronicles of Narnia...and at the end they know the stories, but don't seem to have made any particular connections, at least that you can see, with the symbolism or character examples?  What does Lucy learn about the dangers of eavesdropping after looking into the magic book?  How does Aslan's ripping off an enchanted dragon's skin (in Voyage of the Dawn Treader) symbolize our need for submission to Christ's sometimes painful cleansing of our sins?  Why is it such a puzzle about who gets to go into the New Narnia at the end of the last book?  (Wasn't that a bit unfair on Susan? How about Emeth the Calormene?)  What if all this seems to go over their heads?  What if they never grasp the world's desperate need for more Puddleglums, those who will not be lulled by false logic and propaganda, even if it means sticking one's foot in the fire?

Charlotte Mason says that's a necessary risk that we take when we tell (or read) stories.  The mind feeds on ideas, not dry information; to use her food metaphor, we may not get exactly what we need from any particular meal, but it's certain that we won't get anything at all from a meal made of sawdust.  Even when we read the best books, we (or our hearers) won't receive or understand everything, all of the time; but that still gives us a better odds of getting (or giving) at least some nourishment, than in presenting what she calls "pre-digested" or sucked-dry material.

In Philosophy of Education, she writes of the child:

He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that;

our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety

and his to take what he needs.

Urgency on our part annoys him.

He resists forcible feeding and loathes predigested food.

What suits him best is pabulum presented in the indirect literary form
which Our Lord adopts in those wonderful parables
whose quality is that they cannot be forgotten though,
while every detail of the story is remembered,

its application may pass and leave no trace.

We, too, must take this risk.


Jennifer said...

Oh yes- Especially as I am about 1 1/2months from finishing up school for this year. As I'm reading through AO's Yr 1 for the 3rd time, and my middle son, who's in Yr 4, occasionally blurts out a resounding "Oh that was one of my favorite stories" and plops down to listen once again. It reminds me that the great books do make a difference and do settle into the hearts/minds of our children.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I've been reminding my daughter that one can read the same book to her children one year and then a few years later, it will be something new to them. I guess their world grows bigger as they do, giving them more ability to comprehend differently.

Steph enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia being read to her at about age seven and eight but her brother didn't get them as much when she read them to him at about that age.

However, he LOVED having his big sister read to him. :)

I even had the same thing happen as an adult reading the Lewis Space Trilogy. The first time I read through the third book in the trilogy, I didn't care for it. Then a few years later, it was like I suddenly understood what he was trying to say in the book... go figure.

Richele said...

Mama Squirrel, your post didn't come to me nor was it in the html block at the carnival hq. Don't know what happened, unless it got sent to the next host. I'll be sure to insert this asap - you know I love the sawdust analogy.

I found CM's words reassuring about our children as eclectics and the rejection of force fed ideas. That's a bit of a relief, really.


Aylin said...

I like your focus on the risky aspect of living books. It can be concerning sometimes when you feel that the ideas found in them go in one ear and out the other. But they do often return when you least expect them!

Mama Squirrel said...

Thanks, Richele!--I appreciate your taking the time to add me in.

Traci's Teaching Times said...

Sometimes when we sit down to eat at our table we don't always get what we are wanting, but we are receiving some nutrition. That is the way it is with our children and books, receiving some is better than none. Great post.

Bethany said...

Thank you for these thoughts. Just today we were ready Christina Rossetti's poem #45 on the Ambleside's list of Year 2 poetry.

The second verse says, "There are bridges on the rivers, as pretty as you please; But the bow that bridges heaven, and overtops the trees, and builds a road from earth to sky, is prettier far than these."

When asked my dear to narrate the poem, I got a story about the tops of the trees.

I sighed (hopefully it was inwardly) and we moved on. I will remember, "Our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs."

Thank you!