Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Edith Schaeffer's Subversive Family Reading (Hidden Art of Homemaking)

And first he went through Waste-paper-land, where all the stupid books lie in heaps, up hill and down dale, like leaves in a winter wood; and there he saw people digging and grubbing among them, to make worse books out of bad ones, and thrashing chaff to save the dust of it; and a very good trade they drove thereby, especially among children.  ~~ Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies
In Chapter 10 of Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer writes that there are "four kinds of books."  Fantasy, realistic fiction, biographies, and the Bible.

Well, I should think there are a few more kinds of books than that in the world!  I'm not even sure where, in that list, she'd put some of the books she names elsewhere, such as books of poetry and Pilgrim's Progress.

But as a start for read-aloud books, it's not bad.

The read-aloud staples for Edith's own children included "Winnie-the-Pooh...Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows and The Water Babies...the 'Anne' books..." and "The Pilgrim's Progress on Sundays."

Interesting, interesting, interesting.  These are NOT, strictly speaking, yer usual evangelical Reformed-type favourites.  Lucy Maud Montgomery had a few religious quirks that show up throughout the Anne books.  The Wind in the Willows has a couple of chapters (like the one about Pan) that get skipped in some families..besides, it's full of talking animals. Even Charles Kingsley, dull and moralistic as his reputatation has become, was not exactly smack in the center of theological acceptability (somewhat like George MacDonald).  (According to Wikipedia, he was one of the first to publish praise of Charles Darwin's work.)  The books of Charles Kingsley and "Lewis Carroll" are fun (often), educational (sometimes), satirical, thoughtful, and definitely somewhat subversive.  Not what Kingsley called "stupid books," but not what you might find in a Christian bookstore, either, unless it's an unusually open-minded one.

Perhaps it's a good thing the Schaeffers ended their weeks with Pilgrim's Progress.

She says they also liked the Little House books, Gene Stratton Porter's books, Louisa May Alcott.  All books full of sweetness and light?  No, not exactly...how about illness and death, blatant racism, psycho landladies with knives, and a kind of Emersonian-naturish take on Christianity?  "And there is no better starting point for the father and mother to discuss Biblical answers," says Edith.  "Many of Fran's deep discussions with our own children had this very natural starting place."

Her paragraph on C.S. Lewis (the Narnia books and, later, the Space Trilogy) is illuminating too.  "Of course these are imaginative and not 'real' but C.S. Lewis's idea of what the heavenly country may be like.  Young people who are really well grounded in the teaching of the Bible will not get confused, and Lewis's approach really does something to make the supernatural seem not so far away and impossible."

Being on the Charlotte Mason end of the homeschooling spectrum, our family has explored a number of books that make some people nervous, and simultaneously avoided a few that everybody seemed to be reading.  It's only recently that Dollygirl (finishing sixth grade) has been allowed to read the Harry Potter series; we have been cautious with Madeleine L'Engle's books, and although Mama Squirrel loved The Dark is Rising years ago, it's not a series we've encouraged the girls to read.  "But you're reading me The Lord of the Rings, and the story of The Aeneid," pointed out Dollygirl.  "Look at all those wizards and goddesses and everything.  So why didn't you want us to read Harry Potter?"  Marketing, I told her.

Related posts:
Notes from a Book Talk (2007)

Linked from the Hidden Art of Homemaking linky for Chapter 10 at Ordo Amoris

4 comments:

hsmominmo said...

"Marketing, I told her."
Love this answer! from a mom who has not brought Harry Potter into her home.

A great summary, once again, Mama Squirrel. Always enjoy your thoughts and insight. Thank you!

Mama Squirrel said...

Hi, hsmominmo! Thanks for stopping by!

Heather said...

I always appreciate your book insight!

Beth Starr said...

I love your thoughts. We have read many of these books also. It is probably why I usually pass up the children's books at the Christian bookstore.

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