Sep 22, 2010

Great Books!

The subtitle of this blog makes reference to raising twelve children. Intertwined with the 'raising' for us has always been 'teaching'. We knew years before the our firstborn Katarina arrived that we would be homeschooling. Tim and I each received what could be considered a very solid education which included private schools for both of us as well as well rated public schools yet as we looked back over our time in school we both felt that there were large areas of knowledge missing, ways that we felt unprepared. As we grew into our roles as homeschooling parents we realized that not only that was homeschooling a natural extension of parenting we also came to realize that it was a fantastic means of filling those gaps that we perceived regarding our own education.

Our belief is that if we can create in them a desire to learn and put at their disposal the means to gain knowledge, that learning will be a joy. In light of the kind of education that we wanted for our children we were drawn to a teaching style that heavily uses primary source documents, biographies and excellent children's literature to teach history, philosophy and faith. A natural consequence of this approach to education is that our home is, shall we say, resource rich. We love books. Bookstores are one of our favorite places to go for relaxation and refreshment but even more than that we love library sales and although we delight in our acquisitions, we are often sad to see such wonderful old books leave the libraries for good, simply because they haven't been checked out enough probably due to not being "modern" enough. I fail to understand why a library would rather lose such treasures than highlight them and seek to make the next generation aware of them. They work so hard to build displays to one modern author of twaddle after another and pay homage to this cause or that but cannot make a single display to adventures and dramas of the past that might do far more to open one's eyes to the world than a display on "the world of chocolate"! That being said, even we have found it absolutely essential in the last few years to schedule regular "purgings" of our stash of books, lest we find the need to add shelves in the dairy to help house the exponentially growing collection, having outgrown the shelves in every other room of the house save the bathroom. (The bathrooms became exempt from holding bookshelves when we realized that the moisture tended to make the books musty before their time.)

That being said, when I learned we were to receive books from Salem Ridge Press we were pretty excited. They sounded like they would prove to be the kind of resource with which we love to fill our shelves and I was right!

Salem Ridge Press is "dedicated to bringing back children's books of the 1800's and early 1900's for a new generation of readers". While not every book is explicitly Christian, they are explicitly "moral" which stands to reason, considering the time period in which they were written. It may be hard to fathom that these books--with their detailed descriptions and attention to detail coupled with a scarcity of illustrations were actually children's books but this is a sad commentary on what we demand of our children--very little when it comes to reading and imagination. I like it when my children are forced to paint pictures in their heads rather than wonder how "Marie" will look when the movie comes out!

We received three books to review, one print book, the other two being e-books. The books that we received were "From Bondage to Freedom" and by Emma Leslie as well as "Marie's Home" by Caroline Austin. "From Bondage to Freedom" and "Gytha's Message" are from the church history series. I expect them to be devoured when my oldest returns from her 4 month internship in New York as she loves church history. My goal is to keep her younger siblings from ruining them for her by divulging every jot and tittle! These two remind us how easy we have it as believers in this time and country. We like to tell ourselves that it is persecution when someone is less than polite to us when they learn we are a believer. No, persecution is what the characters in these books experience and they learn through it how to truly trust Christ. Beyond the faith lessons learned in these treasures, we also learn history in a way that causes us to think harder and dig deeper for understanding (what does it look like when a civilization crumbles?).

"Marie's Home" uses the time-honored literary technique of parallel story lines when a Marie receives for her fifteenth birthday, her great-grandmother Marie's fifteenth birthday gift--a journal. Whereas the first Marie's journal first came into her hand pristine and ready to be used, the later Marie finds it filled with harrowing and heartbreaking accounts of the bloody times that her great-grandmother lived through during the French Revolution. She also learns what it takes to have character and courage.

I read "Marie's Home", I have not yet had my children read it as I wanted to save it for when we study the French Revolution later this year. Sara (17) and Emma (12) read "From Bondage to Freedom", Sara twice as can be seen by the less-than-new appearance of the book when I went looking for it yesterday. Grace (18) claimed "Gytha" and gave it her whole hearted approval (after the observation "I don't think there has been a book written about Saxon England that isn't named Hilda!"). Each book we found to be deserving of a place in our homeschool and they will be used to supplement our history studies as we move through those periods of history in the upcoming years. (Even though we have now been homeschooling for seventeen years and have seen two of our children graduate we are guaranteed to repeat teaching historical eras as we have at least eighteen more years ahead of us thanks to baby Dixie who is asleep next to me as I type this!) Thankfully these books were enjoyable enough that I need not fear grumbling should anyone have to reread one of them--in fact Sara tells me that she has read "From Bondage to Freedom" twice already!

We received our copies free in exchange for this review by being part of the This Old Schoolhouse review crew. The books we reviewed retail from $12.95 for softcover to $24.95 for hardcover. For our household this might make the hardcover books a family Christmas gift as I suspect that they will be read many times and we try to get hardcover for books that we know will be loved for years as these will be.

Oh! And I also see that they have a new biography of one of my children's favorite authors, G. A. Henty. I think we may have just rounded out our Christmas list!

No comments: