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“What better education can we offer our children than the shaping of their hearts to love others as we have been loved by God ourselves? Charlotte Mason, a nineteenth-century educator, said as much when she taught that it’s not how much children know that matters – it’s how much they care. Education is put to its best use when it teaches us how to love.”
Sarah MacKenzie, The Read Aloud Family
I’ve always known the importance of books.
Growing up, my father was a Professor in Children’s Literature, and in our home there was always a library. Thousands and thousands of children’s books at our finger tips. Of course, when I finally got hooked into reading, it was through The Baby Sitter’s Club
(much to my Dad’s despair), but hey, I was reading, right? Those girls were my friends, got me through some lonely, friend-less years at school. And, they got me into other books, so I knew – first hand – what meaningful connections books could give.
Watership Down, The Halfmen of O, Snowfall, My Friend Flicka
– those books had lasting effects on me as a child. When I left school and went to university, history and books were what I pursued.
Words and literary worlds are my thing. So, of course, I knew that they would be my children’s thing also. I don’t think my father would let it be otherwise!
Becoming a homeschooling family has taken this to a whole new meaning.
“It’s tempting to idolize certain aspects of education. We value good grades, high test scores, elite college degrees, and lucrative careers. But our obsession keeps us from remember what education is for. Education is for love.” ~ Read Aloud Family
Starting to homeschool brought me a lot of fear. The invisible standards of our school system, peer levels, and my own lack of confidence meant I have yo-yoed through philoshophies and ideas and what works for us. But one thing has been a common thread these last two years: books.
Whether we are pursuing interests, rabbit holes, or I am planning my own lessons for the children, books are the centre of our learning. Often a book will be the anchor of a unit study. Sometimes, a book will spark a new interest in the children. More often than not, we’re just reading all the new books we get from the library each week. And we’re talking and thinking about those books.
Through all these books, and all the love we have pouring over them together, I have come to see what Sarah MacKenzie says above: education is about love. It isn’t about tests or grades or how much my child actually knows. It is about helping them care about themselves, their family, the wider community, and the world beyond.
“Is the main reason we want an excellent education for our children so they can outperform their peers? So they can rank higher, get promoted faster, become more financially successful than their collegues and friends? Or do we want our children to become educated so they can follow the two greatest commandments: love God and love one another?”
~ Read Aloud Family
Why do I think books, as a core curriculum, will provide a better education than anything else?
I think, above all else, books and stories enable the world – people, history, experience, ideas, scientific facts – to truly and deeply come alive to children. Charlotte Mason’s term ‘living books’ is so apt – if a book is written well, anything and all things can come alive in a child’s mind and heart.
From within, then, and not just head-knowledge, will a child be educated.
A child can experience a time in history that could otherwise just be facts, say in Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
The reader can understand, not just what life was like in the late 1930’s, but what it was like for Anna, a Jew, escaping Germany and learning to adjust to a new life for being ‘hated’.
A child’s creative ideas could be planted and grown through reading all the Harry Potter
books. Imaginary worlds and characters that spill out into play and creative pursuits expand a child’s mind far more than the typical reading comprehension exercises
. Not to mention the inner warmth the reader has as they read Harry’s courage, good characters against evil ones, and the difficulty of choosing what is right when the odd’s are against you.
I could go on and on about how truly wonderful and life-giving books can be for children. And I think really using books – picture books, novels, reference books – can be absolutely sufficient for a homeschool curriculum. (I have already reviewed the Five and a Row curriculum, which is literary-based and which we love and use.)
“We read with our children because it gives both them and us an education of the heart and mind. Of intellect and empathy. We read together and learn because stories teacg us how to love.” ~ Sarah MacKenzie
If you need some more encouragement, I highly recommend the Read Aloud Family book that I have quoted – it is excellent.