Friday, November 07, 2008

The Importance of Literature

(Although I originally wrote this for home schoolers, it would be easily implemented by any parent and child in any educational system.)

I have never been able to use a 'packaged' curriculum . There are some great ones available, but I find them all, a little ...stale. Exciting as eating chalk! I have used syllabi of publishers to see if I was on track with my children, but, until High School , it is pointless.

One day I realized that I have taught my way through High School five times, and now for the sixth, and I might know a thing or two about it myself! What freedom! It seems to me that if a student graduates and has a love of learning, can read with discernment, write something that another person is willing to read...he's a success! No packaged books , no boring texts! Real books about real life!!! And there was my son who read his way through the encyclopedias...

I have home schooled six, including my two Ye'kwana children, I have tried to set up my goals in such a way that the child will become a 'student for life'. I don't want to spoon feed information to the child and have the student regurgitate it back to me. In real life we are rarely given the answers to problems but must spend time and thought to figure out for ourselves the answers. So... if you want to see a teacher who stands up and lectures all day, don't come to my house!!! I do not enjoy work books, although they have their place.

Certain subjects require the,' line upon line, precept upon precept' approach, such as Mathematics and the upper level sciences. In most cases, once the basics are down, the student can apply knowledge learned towards understanding new concepts and rarely needs input but rather a sounding board to listen to ideas and give feed back.

All students need to know they are being held accountable and that their work will be seen and judged! I can tell very quickly, usually just at a glance, whether the student has given me something done lazily or if time and thought went into the work. Content is not all that matters. Many bright students learn early on that since things come easily to them, they need not apply them self to get a good grade. Grades are not the point or purpose of learning. The student must apply his self and present to me a knowledgeable presentation of what they have learned. Being a home school mom allows me to push each child according to his ability and not be tied down to the restraints of the class as a whole.

I usually give my child a book to read, or when younger I would read to them, then we discuss it informally. Depending on the age of the child, I will ask for a project or paper. This has worked well. Four of my children have gone on to higher education without any problems. (|Dhangwa, Woodi, Jackie, and Josh. We raised two ye'kwana indians and both went to college in the US.)

Literature can not be left out of the students life. I am amazed at the lack of quality literature in most High School curriculum. Our children are being raised with out the wonderful advantage of all the learning available to us on the written page. Pages written by great minds! What a waste of time for the student to be studying 'fluff' when there is so much more to delve into!

My children are all avid readers. I am as well, so is their father. From a very early age, I began reading aloud to the children and carry on to this day. Their father also read aloud to them. My children each have a book for 'pleasure reading' on their own time and a list of required reading for school. No one has ever complained about the reading. Some of my children have a book for each room of the house! We often share with each other what we are reading.

It is good mental stimulation to have several books going on at the same time. You learn to store information and will find your self comparing ideas from one book, to another that perhaps are not seen as related, but you will begin to see that so much in the world is connected! Cause and effect. History repeating. Think outside of the box! Or as my daughter says, "Box!? What box?"

It is important to realize that when reading aloud to a child, make sure you are choosing books above their own reading ability. Children can comprehend much more than they are able to read for themselves. Choose classics, choose books you can make come alive for them and leave them wanting more! If you are not enjoying the book, the child probably is not either! A true work of literature can be enjoyed by all ages and is timeless.

The child who reads will learn to compare information to related concepts in his memory. This will give him the mental flexibility to come up with new possibilities. By seeing these patterns of information, the child will then be able to ask questions , develop mental schemes, and realize there is often more than one correct answer to many problems. This child will be a THINKER! That is my goal.

Aside from our indian friends, the thing which most bothers me concerning having to have left the jungle so quickly, is the fact that we were forced to leave behind our library. Books are like friends and to think of the many volumes sitting and molding with out use is sad. To this day, I find myself searching my book shelves for a title only to recall it was left behind.

C.S. Lewis says… read old books!

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook - even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united - united with each other and against earlier and later ages - by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century - the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” - lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.


Brenda said...

I used lots of tricky, maybe manipulative ways to get my children to read (in English) when they were young. I would bribe them with Nintendo time, coke and ice cream. Now we spend time talking about good books we read. It brings us together and keeps us sharp. No regrets on what I did.

firepig said...

Good morning JM.I love the theme of childhood education; it is my passion.

My method of teaching Literature was largely based on getting children to cherish their own imaginations so that they could become actively curious about the world around them and about the books that they read.So many children start out with a great deal of passivity,and 'out of touchness' with their inner selves; but once that inner curiosity and aliveness is found, it opens their world to books and learning of all kinds.
With small children, music is a powerful tool for that, and as children grow, it is important to encourage them to create, as they will eventually discover that there is a big difference in passive and creative imagination.When children use their own creativity, nothing is boring.When they depend only on passive and non engaged listening, they are often bored.

Old books have a lot to teach us about proper use of language, and about worlds that in being "other", can expand consciousness greatly.

Jungle Mom said...

firepig, thank you for your input! It is well appreciated. I have observed my daughter using art and creativity with her girls and can see the richness of it.
I have been blessed with very creative children! Writers, artist, music. I am blessed!

John said...

I would love to hear about the two Ye'kwana children you raised, if you are willing to share. You have mentioned them before, I know. Perhaps I have missed a post about this in the past, though?

Jungle Mom said...

John, I do not write much about them for their protection as they remain in Venezuela. If you would like to leave me your email(which I will not post as I moderate comments) I would be glad to tell you more.

Bob said...

I like your ideas. Your children are very fortunate. Congratulations to you and your husband!

Anonymous said...

is this if your goal is to be just a missionary or pastor's wife that stays home with the kids in the future?.

Jungle Mom said...

anonymous, I am not sure what you are implying or asking.

Anonymous said...

i am a mother of four, all grown, who is striving toward a second career as a teacher. it was i who taught my children to read, something they didn't learn in public school. they are all now adults for whom reading is a daily part of life, like brushing teeth, or breathing.

i'm passionate about the stunning legacy of spoken and written words left to us by all of our forefathers.

language is a precious thing and i feel very grieved when i hear of a language that has been extinguished or is in that danger.

how utterly BORING our world would be if we all spoke the same language, sang the same songs, produced the same art, looked all the same, wore the same costume, had all the same festivals etc...

i don't WANT a homogenous world.

i want to teach children through stories and texts of all the generations that have come before us.

i truly believe that only from learning about the past can we even attempt to formulate a better future.

but first and foremost, a child must learn to read. not skim, not recognize words but READ. Read and digest, compare & apply.

i want to make letters, sounds, spelling & context second nature for my students.

our poor children are being robbed of a proper education. i want to teach at least one more child in this world about the world of words.

i'll have to enter the public school system like a wolf in sheep's clothing!


Jungle Mom said...

ShyAsrai, I agree!

Anonymous said...

This morning, I opined at another blog that if parents truly loved their children, they would never send them to a public school. I know . . . it’s harsh, but I actually believe it. High School literature includes Romeo and Juliet . . . at the worst possible time in a student's life. These young people then proceed to act it out for themselves. Most teachers think that literature is something for the English Department to worry about . . . but I incorporated literature into history, geography, and government classes. It seems that the further along in school our children go, the dumber they become. Not much bang for the buck, so they say. Great post, JM.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time visiting your blog and it's very interesting. I wish I read a lot more in HS because I feel I would be a better off writer than I am now. It is important to read and write as much as you can.

If you are interested in adding my blog to your blogroll let me know because I will gladly add yours.

Z said...

what a great piece, are SO right.
I grew up reading the back of the Cereal box during breakfast...reading anything I could get my hands on at all times.

It gives one SO MUCH more than 'just' the story! And, I even think the loss of memorization of passages and poetry is a loss...remember when older people could recite whole poems from childhood? it's SO beyond just rote, it's cadence, and beauty and appreciation for the language.

I think it's sad more kids don't read ABC let alone stories...what do you do with generations who can't read in high school? Now I see there's some school district wanting to graduate kids after the 10th grade. I guess if they're learning nothing, why continue!?

So sad! really nice post and beautiful picture!

Findalis said...

I have a list of books that I call my "old friends". They are all classics and should be manditory for every student to read. A short list of them is by author:

C.S. Lewis
Jane Austin
The Brontes
Robert Lewis Stevenson
Robert Heinlein
J.R.R. Tolkien
William Shakespeare

Like I said this is a short list. I read many of these books on a yearly basis and enjoy the feel of holding these old friends in my hands.

Harry said...

You are so right. Both of my kids have gone through my library and read some of my old books. Now they're at the point when they're discovering their own authors.

With my fourth graders, in addition to reading classic literature (instead of the assigned basal readers) I introduce food webs in Science with a quote from Hamlet. Like mustang said, there are rewards from the classics that go beyond literary value.

Mrs. C said...

I still don't know how much is safe and shareable on your blog, but I am sad that you had to leave as well.

Jungle Mom said...

Harry, Your students are blessed to have a teacher such as you. Although my children were never in the public school system, I am so glad teachers such as yourself are there to teach the next generation.

Tammy said...

Wow, that is so liberating! I went to a public school, checking off everything I had to do in order to get an "A", and did well compared to others (but hardly ever doing my best).
I don't want that kind of "education" for my children, but I have a hard time knowing how to break out of the mould, even though I'm homeschooling them. I would love to see more posts from you about the practicalities of how you taught your children.

Anonymous said...

Great quote by CS Lewis.

Many Leftists call for a multi-cultural curriculum, but none I hear today call for a multi-temporal one. I guess they don't anyone to know the secret of the western canon, that there are discernible patterns in history, and that it constantly and consistently repeats itself.

Ixion's wheel just spins and spins.