Our Homeschool, This Year. (YEAR 3)

I meant to write this out much earlier and have now just gotten to it. I’ve written a homeschool plan post every year and it always helps me to think critically through our plan even if I have been teaching it for a few weeks now. It has almost been a full month since we started Year 3 and I am very excited about the selections and learning we will be doing together.

IMG_3439   Most will know that we are Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers. What this means, simply, is that we follow the Philosophy of Education that Miss Mason espoused. Charlotte Mason was a Christian, Classical Educator at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. She had a unique insight into the minds of children and was a passionate reformer of education to give all children a wide and generous curriculum. In here time only wealthy received a Classical diet or was educated at all and she wanted to not only spread the feast of education for all but make lovely and wholesome. I encourage you, if interested in learning more about Charlotte Mason to read For the Children’s Sake by Francis Schaeffer’s daughter, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay or to pick up the Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. The wisdom and love for education that Miss Mason speaks of is something worth reading about even if you choose any different form of education. It has helped me in my every day, with my children and being innately Christian has blended remarkably well with our Reformed Faith. In fact so well, I feel like I have some great secret since Charlotte Mason is not as widely know as others. A side note: There is a Reformed and Charlotte Mason group on FB for those that love Reformed Theology and Charlotte Mason’s love for the feast of education.

Education Is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.  -Charlotte Mason 

IMG_3334

So, back to our homeschool plan. This year will be in Year 3 according to our Ambleside Online ScheduleWe use Ambleside Online as a Charlotte Mason guide for each year and this year we continue that tradition. We follow the schedule exactly for everything except Bible and History, where we do some different selections that I will share.

I will discuss our daily schedule in a different post and that seems to be fluctuating because of my husband’s changing hours at work but generally we start school at 8 am and are done before lunch.

Here are our subjects and resources for each, everything unless otherwise listed is a selection from Ambleside Online:

Liturgy-

Bible: We will continue to use Long Story Short as a guide for reading through the Old Testament. We have been getting through the Old Testament for the last two years and we are now in Joshua and moving forward. By the time we are through we will have completely almost all the key readings in the Old Testament and will move on to Old Story New which is the same guide but for the New Testament until we complete the entire Bible. I really love this resource. I will say that I do modify it for my needs and to make it fit within a Charlotte Mason framework. I do not typically use the illustrations at the beginning of each week and will sometimes include narration and forego the questions. Emma enjoys a lot of the questions though and they are usually about how the story points to Jesus, etc. so I enjoy them as well. We also have a Bible that corresponds with the readings but it is not necessary.

Catechism and Scripture Memory: We continue with the North Star Catechism this year. I have a post in draft about why I think you should Catechise your children and will hopefully post later this week. We love this Catechism and are memorizing at our own pace.

Habits: Charlotte Mason was a big believer in Habit Training and we honestly all need some habits trained, do we not? We are walking through Laying Down the Rails for Children and are currently reading and discussing about a Sweet, Even Temper which covers tantrums and complaining and encourages joy instead. There are poems and stories to narrate and discuss. It is a great way to talk about these concerns. It truly is a help to myself as well.

Hymn: We follow the Ambleside Online Hymn schedule. We are on How Firm a Foundation this month and will be transitioning to I Bind Unto Myself Today for September and following the schedule the rest of the year.

History-

Early American: We are continuing with Beautiful Feet History this year and yes, are still in Early American. Last year, being the insane year it was, History typically took a back seat. Thankfully, Emma remembered a lot from where we left off and so we picked up in Jamestowne this year. We are now reading Pilgrim Stories from Margaret Pumphrey and Emma seems to be immersed in their world. What is cool that we have been able to trace back our family line to Early Colonial times and it is rumored that one member was one of the Mayflower Pilgrims but I haven’t been able to find who yet. There was definitely some Jamestowne Colonists in the line from our searches.

Church History: The selections from Trial and Triumph this year will be Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and more.

Biography: We will read biographies throughout the year. Da Vinci by Emily Hahn, Bard of Avon by Peter Vennema and Pilgrim’s Landing by James Daugherty.

Geography: Marco Polo by Demi and Charlotte Mason Geography selections for the year, found on Ambleside Online.

Natural History and Science: We will be using Pagoo by Hollings , Secret of the Woods by Long , A Drop of Water by Wick along with Nature Studying in Nature Journals. We also do Nature in our local Charlotte Mason co-op.

Table Work-

Math: Math U See again this year, she loves the counting block manipulatives.

Reading: We will finish Explode the Code book we are in and then use the Discover Reading Lesson Plan and Activity Guide by Amy Tuttle. Emma struggles with reading and we have just been slowly prodding her toward Literacy. A little a day, I tell her and I encourage her to continue on. In addition, she reads a few pages from a reader of her choice daily because if there is no reading going on in our house then there is no screen-time either. At least that is what this year looks like.

Copywork: We use Handwriting Without Tears and it is very simple to follow and she gets through it quickly and without much drama, hence why we chose it.

Literature-

Poetry:  This year we will reading and memorizing from William Blake, Sara Teasdale and Hilda Conkling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. We also will be reemphasizing all learning within Poetry Studies in our Charlotte Mason Co-op.

Literature: The literature selections are usually the jewel of Charlotte Mason Education and this year is no exception.  We will be reading Parables from Nature, by Margaret Gatty, American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenburg (Emma is loving Paul Bunyan), The Heroes by Charles Kingsley,
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat, and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

Shakespeare: Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, selections from the Ambleside Schedule

Free Reading:

We Typically cuddle on the couch and I read aloud through these selections. It is such a sweet time of the day. As she gets older she will read independently, her free reads. Selections this year are A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald, Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll, The Bears of Blue River by Charles Major, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Unknown to History: Captivity of Mary of Scotland, by Charlotte Yonge, Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink , On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge , The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry, and The Wheel on the School, by Meindert De Jong.

Weekly Work-

Spanish: We are introducing Gouin Series’ at her own pace. We are using the book Speaking Spanish with Miss
Mason and François from Cherrydale Press.

Art Study: Along with our Co-op we will study Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Jacques- Louis David and Hans Holbein the Younger.

IMG_3239

Composer Study: Along with our Co-op we will study Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

Folksong: We will follow the Folksong schedule for the year by simply listening to the songs during Masterly Inactivity.

Art Instruction: We will be doing simple pencil and pen and ink instruction this year. Nature Journaling also overlaps into Art instruction.

Handicrafts: Emma is learning to sew softies and doll accessories with the book Baby Stuff.  It is a Japanese Book translated to English. I like it because it is not so much a Sewing instruction book but has step by step directions for doing a project including the types of stitches you need to make, etc.

IMG_3278

IMG_3266

I love the lovely thoughts and ideas on the schedule this year. I am excited to learn with Emma. I learn so much as well and Self-Education is one of the wonderful things about homeschooling and teaching homeschool. It is my goal to not forget though that “Education Is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life”. 

“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”
Charlotte M. Mason, School Education: Developing A Curriculum

I want to be wise and make an atmosphere of security, comfort and joy while we learn and live. That is so why I love a Charlotte Mason Education. The emphasis is put on the family and the atmosphere and growing together in Life. It is not how much she knows but how much she cares.


 

 

You can see our previous CM Years here: YEAR 1 & YEAR 2 and more Charlotte Mason posts in the CHARLOTTE MASON HOMESCHOOL tab.


We have an online Charlotte Mason community at CharlotteMasonLiving.com or on Instagram @charlottemasonliving. It is a beautiful space, come join us.

 

A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six

There are so many lists out there of what children to should be doing at this age. Some of them are just plain silly, there is no reason a child should be doing algebra or able to read novels on their own at this age. We know through common sense and research that learning comes through play before this time. Here is the research: naeyc.org. This is why I love this list from Charlotte Mason because these are attainable and practical expectations for a child of six, who has just started formal learning.  Some of these we have mastered in our house already (like pressing flowers, printing from hand, adding and subtracting etc.), some we are working on organically, with little to no pressure, just through conversations. This is a great guide for those that would like a guide even if you do not follow Charlotte Mason, but do not need or want a list of common core standards to follow. Plus, these are much more fun than most lists I’ve seen. I just love this old style of learning in a gentle art, a way that creates interesting and curious children. I guarantee your six year old can already do a lot of these things and helps us to breathe a sigh of relief that we are not “screwing our kids up” if they don’t compare to all the other opinion noise out there.

alistofattainments6 copy

 

Download the above Free PDF here

 

A  Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six (with my notes added)

1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns

2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm

3. to add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters

4. to read–what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child

5. to copy in print-hand from a book

6. to know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows

7. to describe the boundaries of their own home

8. to describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach

9. to tell quite accurately 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English (or Early American), and 3 from early Roman history (length is not important)

10. to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views

11. to mount in a scrap book a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them

12. to do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees

13. to know 6 birds by song, colour and shape

14. to send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed

15. to tell three stories about their own “pets” –rabbit, dog or cat

16. to name 20 common objects in French (or Spanish), and say a dozen little sentences

17. to sing one hymn, one French (or Spanish), and one English song 18. to keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations

NOTE: Any mention of Early English History or French Language (substitute ex. Early American and Spanish Language) can be substituted for what you are learning, this list was specific to British Culture and may need to be different for others.

*original source: amblesideonline.org

What do you think of this list of attainments, what would you do differently, what would you add or take away? For me the one thing I am subconsciously adding to this list is for her to know and write her address and our phone numbers, I think that technically would fall under the “boundary of the home” a long time ago but not today. I’d love to hear from you.

Noted Listed Interview

Notedlisted.com

The lovely Laura at NotedListed.com has interviewed me about My blog and I for her blog. She asked some awesome questions, I think we may be related. I got to talk about Music, Books, Graphic Novels, Clothes, Organizing, living intentionally and Homeschooling. If that doesn’t intrigue you then I’m not sure what will. 😉 Take a sec and go check it out and give her some comment love. Here is the link to the Interview: Noted Listed interviews Ellie Benson

Also, check out this post of hers for some homeschooling humor. I laughed pretty hard, probably because I’m a nerd though. NotedListed.com : Back to School Shopping for Homeschoolers

Homeschool on the cheap (Charlotte Mason)

 

 

Screen shot 2013-08-14 at 8.55.53 AM

 

Amendment to original post: We have switched to MEP for math because we like it better for a well rounded Math education. Math Mammoth is a great program still but you learn your families needs as you go. With that being said you can subtract the 16.50 from the final total.

You can homeschool on a budget, there isn’t a need to spend hundreds of dollars if you do a little research and find the best frugal options. (edit- the original curriculum post is here: Charlotte Mason First Grade) Charlotte Mason has helped with this because the resources I use are classics, we can find a lot of the books in the public domain or rather cheaply at used book stores. My number one piece of advice, is to do your research. Also, you can find free curriculum guides online at Ambleside Online and Simply Charlotte Mason. The other is an e reader or an iPad will help to condense books that are in the public domain. We invested in one last year with our tax money and it has definitely been worth the cost. Also, check your libraries, I have found most things in the Library if you plan ahead.

Earlier I posted on our homeschool curriculum for the year (1st Grade), here’s where I break down what it cost this year. I was surprised.

Bible: Free for us because we already owned it (Guide $19.99 new and Bible $29.99 new) or you can just follow a Bible plan with whatever resources you have at home, or just buy the Long Story Short Devotional, which I actually recommend not using both for simplicity but Emma likes both the devotional and the Bible so Happy with it. – Long Story Short/Gospel Story Bible.

Memory Verses: Free- Simply Charlotte Mason Memory Verses

Character: Free- Parables of Nature. We are just reading through the Parables of Nature which you can find for free in iBooks.

Literature: Free Mostly (5.00)- We are doing the Ambleside Online Literature selections, these include; the Blue Fairy Book, Aesop’s Fables, Shakespeare for young children and many others. We already owned Aesop’s Fables but there is also a free app by the Library of Congress that you can download that has all the stories as well. I found a free copy of Just So Stories for the year on iBooks but will definitely be investing in a hardcopy from our local bookstore when I can. Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Readers was my first real cost, it is 5.00 for the e-book.

Free Reads: Free- I am using the suggested reading lists from both Ambleside and Simply Charlotte Mason and the books so far are ones we already own, we purchased a really lovely copy last year because of daughter Alice being born. I started this year with Alice in Wonderland and we have since moved to Alice through the looking Glass. Next up will be Winnie the Pooh. Do not forget how valuable the Library is for these Classics.

Poetry: Free- A Children’s Garden of Verses. We own a hard copy of this book which we bought in set when Emma was a baby. You can find all the book and all the poems in the public domain with having to buy a hard copy. I would suggest it as a Library staple though for those that read it and love it. You can also find this in any Library.

Math: $34.00 for the entire year- Math Mammoth. I have only spent 16.50 so far because you can purchase the part A e-version from their site. We use an abacus I bought during Emma’s pre-K years, but you do not need one you can use anything on hand you can count with; beans, buttons, blocks, etc. So far I have no complaints about Math Mammoth and it really was the most affordable option for us that met our educational needs.

Phonics/Reading: Free-McGuffey’s Primer. We started the McGuffey’s Primer last year and we had found a free version to print and put into a notebook. We are continuing thisyear with McGuffey’s and so far so good.

Copywork: Free or $1.00- Worksheet Works or McGuffey’s Copywork Set. You can make up your own free copywork sheets to correspond with the Primer or you can use anything else you choose, a verse, sentences about the child, poetry, etc. If you don’t want to do that work there is a Copywork set that corresponds to McGuffey that costs just $1.00.

History: $15.95 but I already owned it – Beautiful Feet Books- Early American. I bought this last year with the intention of starting it in K and settled that she would get more benefit by waiting a year. So far that has been true. We check out the books from the Library so is no extra cost for us and the books are rich Living Books that fit our Charlotte Mason style nicely.

Spanish: We are using a sequence of the Gouin Series, this happens to be completely free if you can find a native speaker to translate. I translated myself and had my Mother, who is a native speaker double check the Spanish. I talk about here: http://ellieeugenia.com/2013/07/22/homeschool-this-year-first-grade/

Art, Composer, Nature, Folksong and Poetry Co-op: Free- Augusta Charlotte Mason Co-op. We started a Co-op starting in September that will use our pooled resources and knowledge to teach these subjects to our children. I am very, very excited, so is Emma.

Piano: Free because we already own it, $8.46 new– My First Piano Adventures. If you do not know how to play Piano or teach it and want your children to learn without affording a Piano tutor this is a great option. My husband plays piano but he plays from ear and that is almost impossible to teach, this way she gets real lessons in a fun way.

Handicrafts- Free- Sewing and Baking. We will just be using the things I already have here at home. She is learning hand stitching first and moving from there. Baking wise, She just helps in the kitchen, measuring and doing anything that needs doing.

Total Cost for Homeschool for us this year: $41.00

If you used this plan and had to buy a few things listed new: $64.41 or $114.39 if using the Bible sources above.

I can’t imagine doing homeschool any cheaper than this unless you just digested Living Books from the Library, which is a great option actually. Anyways, I hope this is helpful for those that are homeschooling on a budget like we are.

Please let me know if this have been helpful to you or how you have utilized this in your own home schools.

Check out other posts in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Check out other posts in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

 

Homeschool This Year – First Grade (Charlotte Mason)

Emma reading the McGuffey's Primer

Emma reading the McGuffey’s Primer last year.

 

Added: Since this post we have done YEAR 2 //plan here// and are now in Year 3 //plan here// 

I like to share what we are doing for homeschool each year because I think it helps to dialogue with others. As many of you may know we follow a homeschool method call Charlotte Mason which is a more a way of doing life/school than it is a curriculum. It is more about atmoshpere, discipline and living examples of literature and resources (twaddle free) than it is about textbooks and dry facts. Outdoors and Nature are also a big part of the Charlotte Mason method, which can be so lovely, learning about birds and species and the natural world around us. I fell in love with Charlotte Mason’s ideas of how to instill a love a learning in children that never dies and I can already see it in work in my little six year old as she embraces things I was scared of as a child, like Math.

This year our curriculum is a hodge podge of different things, mostly Charlotte Mason friendly, some that I can make more Charlotte Mason friendly. Also, I will recommend something that we are using for scheduling and to keep track of attendance and our daily/weekly schedule. It is an ipad app called Homeschool Helper. It helps me when I am pulling from many resources for school, to keep it all organized and us on track.

We started school two weeks ago and it has already been a lot of fun for Emma who was itching to start back all summer. So far this year these are the things that we have been doing:

Bible: We are continuing forward with Long Story Short which is a 10 minute devotionals that cover all of the old testament, with a following volume that covers the new testament. The lessons are very short, they are meant to do in 10 minutes or less which fits in well with Charlotte Mason’s concept of short lessons no longer than 15 minutes. The lessons give you the corresponding verses to read in whatever version of the bible you choose. We use the ESV for the verses and read from a Children’s Bible as well to tell the story more plainly.  There is an accompanying Story Bible, that you can choose to use or not, the Gospel Story Bible, that has all the stories that you will do in Long Story Short. It is an excellent text with wonderful language and beautiful pictures that helps Emma and I really get it sometimes. I highly recommend as it is a beautiful living text that blends well with Charlotte Mason and any style really. This Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible are two of the best illustrated Children’s Bibles I have seen.

Scripture Memory: We are using the SCM Bible memory guide at a slow pace. As soon as she has one verse down, we move to the next. They have a memory system that you can read about on this page, we are not moving fast enough right now that we have actually utilized much of it yet, but that’s what is great about CM, is that you can move at the pace of a child on purpose.

Character: Last year we did a habits training book but this year I wanted to do something more literature based to discuss with her since she is getting older and starting to grasp these concepts better. We are just reading through Parables of Nature, it uses animals to espouse certain lessons in a story formed way. For example the first story is called Lessons of Faith and it shows us a Caterpillar that learns to have Faith that they will one day become a butterfly, even though it doubts the wise Skylark that brings Her this news. Emma seems to enjoy it so far and it opens a natural dialogue for us.

Literature: We are doing the Literature portion that is lined up for Year 1 from Ambleside Online. The selections are solid classics and you really can’t go wrong with things like Aesop’s Fables, Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and Shakespeare.

Free Reads: These are books that we read aloud daily through out the year at our own pace. Right now we are reading Alice in Wonderland and it has been a true pleasure. I am actually surprised how much my daughter will sit for considering the language isn’t common 21st century language. Ambleside Online (AO), has great recommendations for free reads as well as Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM). I am incorporating most of their suggestions and adding a few modern twaddle free contemporary selections of my own.

Poetry: Reading selections from A Children’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. We just read poetry daily and talk about it if we are up to it.

Math: Math Mammoth is cost effective and easy and encourages the use of an abacus for a tactile learning experience. Emma has exclaimed that she loves Math now and makes up her problems in her free time, so that sounds like a win for me since Math was always a struggle for me in school.

Reading/Phonics: McGuffey’s Primer, McGuffey’s Primer, McGuffey’s Primer! McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer is the only text that you need initially to teach reading. My daughter calls it the cat book because of the picture of a cat on the front of the lesson notebook. You can spend a lot of money buying reading curriculum or you can spend a little time teaching basics, phonics and occasional sight words one sentence and paragraph at a time. You can find this online for free, it is a tried and true resource for teaching children to read. Modern Day Public Schools have lost the beauty that is Primers and it would really serve them well to move back to Phonics based teaching so that children can build skills that will help them with reading their whole life. Emma gets so incredibly excited when she can read a new lesson all the way through. Here is an example of the text from lesson 2:

The cat has a rat.

The rat ran at Ann.

Ann has a cat.

The cat ran at the rat.

There happens to also be a Mcguffey’s app in the Apple app store that has the same lessons. We are going to use fridays as a slow day for reading lessons and I’ll let her do a lesson in the app for review at the end of the week for a change of pace.

Copywork: We are doing very simple copywork sheets from Classical Copywork based on our Mcguffey’s lessons. Check them out, it’s only a dollar for the set.

History: Beautiful Feet Books has one of the nicest History curriculums out there, I’ve talked about it here before when decided to push it back from K to First Grade because I thought she would get more out of it a tiny bit older than she was last year. We started back at the beginning with Vikings and Leif the Lucky and she is in love with it. The books are living books that you can find in your local library, so you can purchase the Study guide from Beautiful Feet and check out the books or if you have the finances to, you can get the guide and the books in a bundle for purchase on their site. We needed a cost effective method for our non-existent budget so we are doing the first option. I am so grateful that it is even an option and that we are able to still use this quality curriculum. This is a Charlotte Mason approach to History that I have fallen for, I expect to stay with Beautiful Feet as a resource for Emma as long as I can, which is all the way through High School if things go as expected.

Spanish: We are doing a very simple method that I read about in Charlotte Mason texts called the Gouin Series, originally used to teach French, the concept can be used for any language. You simply use dialogue and translate it into the language you are learn each phrase at a time. So far Emma has learned “My Dad is Kenny” (Mi Papi es Kenny) and is learning “He is a librarian” (El es un Bibliotecario). With the help of a native speaker, if you don’t already speak the language, you can choose any simple paragraph that would interest your child such as paragraphs about their favorite shows like Transformers or Avengers, what a great way to hold their attention and learn a language.

Read more here: Fisher Academy

Handicrafts: The plan this year is to use fridays for handicrafts and piano lessons, we have yet to start handicraft lessons but will doing sewing as our main handicraft and cooking as a secondary. We will just be going through simple stitches starting with chain stitch by hand until we are ready to move to a real sewing machine (hopefully we can get her her own for Christmas). Cooking lessons are helping in the kitchen and learning to bake simple desserts.

Piano: We are continuing with the resource, My First Piano Adventures which uses a fun illustrated workbook and audio cd with catchy songs to teach the basics of the Piano. They learn posture and technique from a host of multicultural characters that sing their instructions for the Piano. This one was a no brainer and we will continue with it as long as she doesn’t get bored with it in the higher grades. A great alternative to hiring a piano teacher.

Art, Composer, and Nature Study: This is the thing I am most excited about this year. We are starting a local Charlotte Mason co-op with local moms to do Art, Composer, and Nature Studies. We will pool resources and knowledge to teach these things in a CM friendly way and also have plenty of Masterly Inactivity and Socialization in the process. Emma and I both cannot wait for co-op to start in September.

This has already started to be a great homeschool year and we are enjoying each and every day, I hope this post can be a good resource and makes a lot of sense for those interested. Leave me feedback or let me know what you guys are doing, I’d love to know.  I’ll continue to post about the year as it progresses.

For more information about Charlotte Mason, look here:  Ambleside Online (AO) and Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM)

Check out other posts in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Check out other posts in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Contemporary Twaddle-Free Books – Picture Books Part 1

You may already know what twaddle is or you may never have heard the word before. Twaddle is a term to describe dumbed down literature or really anything subject that is a waste of mental time. If you are familiar with the Charlotte Mason approach to Schooling, you would be very aware of this term and her views on Twaddle.

Twaddle is something that does not add value, that is lacking in substance, it may talk down to the reader and is most likely mindless and predictable. For example in television terms, twaddle would be watching The Kardashians
versus Planet Earth, both are television programs that people find interesting but only the latter is mentally challenging and leaves you enriched. When it comes to adult literature it’s much easier to distinguish Twaddle from what isn’t. Most dribbly romance novels are Twaddle, I’d argue that Nicholas Sparks novels are twaddle, they fit a lot of the criteria, but something like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice transcends time as a quality romance story. Don’t kill me over my opinion of Nicholas Sparks novels.

Sifting through children’s literature can be confusing, because a lot of it can be subjective, which can leave disagreement about what is and isn’t twaddle. Some say to stick only with the classics, that you can’t go wrong. I love the classics and they should definitely be a part of your children’s reading lists but I worry in the quest to give our children quality literature we aren’t allowing them to access whole new worlds and aren’t equipping them to sift through the twaddle amongst modern offerings, as they grow. What I mean is there are millions of books in the World and every year there are really good books put out, let’s not forget them. Now don’t get me wrong we aren’t a completely twaddle-free family, although we attempt it, reading the occasional twaddle story will not be detrimental to your child, kind of like one fast food meal a month won’t ruin them forever, yet you wouldn’t want them to live off fries and burgers, that would be harmful for them. I am just trying to sift through some of the children’s literature muck for homeschooling and reading in the home. My six year old is learning to read and so she isn’t at the point yet where she reads on her own, but I hope by keeping quality books at home, she will choose quality books on her own as she grows.

So I wanted to start a series of posts discussing contemporary authors and books that I consider twaddle-free, subjectively. This first in the series will be on Picture Books, My favorite kid of children’s lit. These are a few Twaddle-free authors and titles we love:

1. Author – Oliver Jeffers
Book- The Heart and the Bottle (Also any title by this author)

Oliver Jeffers is an artist that became a children’s author so the visuals he creates matches the words beautifully. The first book I ever read by Jeffers was Lost and Found and as a family we fell in love, truly. We own almost every title by this author and follow each upcoming book with anticipation. The Heart and the Bottle is a gorgeous story about loss, real loss, the loss of a parent. We watch how this little child deals with her loss by putting her fragile heart in a bottle and how she eventually learns in the best of all possible ways to use it one again.

The Heart and the Bottle spread from littleelfman.blogspot.com

The first time I read this to Emma I wept, sloppy, loud weeping, it is that good. It is genuine through and through, and not dumbed down even though the topic is a difficult one. This will always be in the top of my favorite picture books.

2. Author-Jimmy Liao
Book- The Sounds of Colors

Cover and a couple spreads

The Sound of Colors is a multi sensory experience through words. A blind girl explains how the world feels, smells, sounds as she gets lost in her city. You learn about her desires in such a beautifully aching way as you peek into her world that is colorful and inviting, despite knowing she cannot see anything. I love reading books to my daughter that show us how different the world is, we can dialog about hard truths in safe ways, and the next time she sees someone blind she will know a little bit about what life must be like for them.

3. Author – Neil Gaiman
Book- Crazy Hair

mousecircus.com

Some people use the term silly to refer to Twaddle, I think you have to be careful in using the word silly, because it doesn’t mean silly in a fun sort of way it means silly in an empty headed way. For example Shel Silverstein’s books are not Twaddle but they are beautifully silly, just like this title above. There is value in fun and far fetched fantastical stories. Crazy Hair is a family favorite, in fact Neil Gaiman is a family favorite, my husband and I have been enamored with his adult books for a long time even the comics he lends his voice to (He’s just awesome), So we were excited to introduce our daughter to his work. Crazy Hair is not a scary book, in my opinion but Dave McKean’s illustration style is sometimes described as dark like seen in MirrorMask, I personally love it. Although if your child is easily frightened you could possibly wait a year or two on some of Neil Gaiman’s other children’s titles for example The Wolves in The Walls. Emma is not easily startled and loved The Wolves in the Walls, so it’s up to you.

4. Author -Alvin Tresselt
Book-The Mitten

harpercollins.com

A beautifully illustrated Ukrainian folk tale about how a little boy’s lost mitten provides shelter for animals on the coldest day of winter. This is not to be confused with other children’s stories titled The Mitten, I almost ordered the wrong one from our local bookstore, so make sure you remember the author’s name.

5. Author- Peter Sis
Book-The Wall

NY Times

This award winning book describes life for one boy behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War and how he perseveres by secretly listening to the Beatles and reading banned books to foster his creativity. Lovely Illustrations and a lot of facts intermingled into a narrative of hope that shows us that you cannot squash creativity regardless the circumstances.

So, there are a few titles that you can look into and I hope to continue this series as long as people are interested. Next will be another selection of Picture Books, with posts about books all the way up to YA. There is good YA and there is definitely Twaddle YA, so hopefully this is intriguing to some out there.