When Good Books Pay Off or What to Read at Lunchtime

Dear Reader,

I did a post recently on how you know if your CM education is working. Well, I have one more way to you can tell (and I needed ideas for another post so why not give it its own?). As I said in that earlier post, a Charlotte Mason approach to education is a long term investment, not of money, but of our time and resources. We don’t do a lot of testing and reading comprehension questions and the like. There are no grades and no multiple choice exams in our homeschool so it can be hard to see and measure progress in the ways our society usually does so. But I am finding as my kids get older that there are little hints coming through that our efforts have been worthwhile.

I usually read to my children while they eat their lunches (captive audience and all that, you know). I don’t generally choose school books for lunchtime, though occasionally a book will be set in the time period we are studying (they often pick up on this and squawk about this as being an underhanded and unfair move on my part), but prefer to choose books that are fictional, fun and possibly even literary. We have been through E. Nesbit’s books. We have found some recent gems like Mary Rose Wood’s Incorrigibles series. We have read easier books like The All-of-a-Kind Family and Rabbit Hill. We have read harder books like Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. It has gotten hard to find new books which interest us. I recently got a couple of free books on my Kindle so when we finished David Copperfield which was quite a long journey I started in on one of the free Kindle books. The first one I tried sounded good. The blurb compared it to the Penderwicks series which we love. But it was clear fairly early on that this was not on the Penderwicks’ level. It was just so very obvious. One girl is vain and into her clothes; her cousin is a more free spirited country girl. It is hard to describe here but I really just did not even enjoy reading it (which is a great test for living books, btw). So I was not displeased nor surprised when my kids asked after one sitting to drop the book. I was mildly surprised (and also pleased) when they informed me that it was poorly written.

Well, not to be discouraged, we began on another free Kindle book. This one was a little better. The kids even commented on this fact early on, as in “this book is better than that last one.” But after a week the story was just not moving along though it is a mystery and the plot itself could have promise. As one child observed, way too much time was spent describing how the characters in the story would go ice skating or tobogganing. It felt like one of those craft classes where you have to do every step along with the teacher and can’t get ahead or be creative at all. So we decided to abandon that book as well.

But that left me with the issue of what to read to my kids. I have a little time to decide as two are in camp this week and I am not reading aloud anyway. Today as we went into the library and I mentioned needing to find something new, my daughter asked me, “Does Dickens have any other books?” Of course I said yes, quite a few. Upon further inquiry it turned out this was her recommendation for the next read aloud. I had not considered it because I thought after 6 months or so on David Copperfield that they would not want more Dickens for a while. And really if the book we had most recently rejected was too slow and spent too much time describing characters, well, Dickens might also be out. He is a wordy fellow, you know. But I am pleased that they can apparently recognize that one sort of book, while so very long, is good reading and that these others are not. This is not something we ever discussed — what makes good writing? But on some level they have picked up on this simply by being exposed to good books.

And this is really a key cornerstone of a CM education — that we spread a feast of good materials and leave the children to consume what they may. And (who knew?) it turns out it works!

Now — any good book suggestions??


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