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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Read-Alouds: A little more Charlotte if you please...

I've been thinking about read-alouds lately, among other things, and I've realized that I am naturally drawn to the books available at and James Baldwin, Jennie Hall, Alfred Church and others have been enticing me for months now. Meanwhile, I've struggled to decide what children's literature to read next aloud to Camille.

We have wonderful books on our shelves and it is very hard to decide what is good for her at her age now and what will razzle and dazzle her. I also have a little problem with lack of imagination in Camille. She's very sequential and structured, always wanting to know what is next and what to expect. I don't know if Mary Poppins by Travers will be a good pick for her or which books are a little too old for her at her stage. I know without a doubt I want to read James Herriott's Treasury for Children after we finish Milly-Molly-Mandy but what next?

What exactly is the "plan"? I guess I'm a little sequential and structured myself. I need a plan or at least a path. Lol. I want to know what I'm reading to her and why. This makes everything a little harder for a mother who hasn't read the books herself in over 10 years.

I'm contemplating mixing The Well-Trained Mind's literature list and Ambleside Online's literature list for each year. Ambleside Online uses the books I've been drooling over and I feel my goals spiritually for my children are addressed by AO's selections. However, I need to use the books I have on hand too. Hmm. I know without a doubt I am adding more of a Charlotte flavor to our homeschool, at least with picture study, literature selections and poetry study. Nature study is touch and go with us, it hasn't been the blazing success I envisioned in my mind when we first embarked on this journey but I hope that it will become a standard in the months to come.

With poetry, I am eagerly waiting for the opportunity to purchase The Harp and the Laurel Wreath (along with the rest of our 2nd grade year books and curricula). I want to create a poetry copybook for Camille that will have a place to draw a picture narration of the poem and then tackle the poem two lines at a time. This has worked beautifully for us so far. We are both loving having more poetry in our day that Camille reminds me if I forget to read a poem before I read Story of the World or if I don't read a funny poem before our math lessons. I have a math poetry book coming from my recent splurge at the dollar for dollar sale (ends Dec. 30th).

I want to tap into as much goodness as I can with our readings and I feel most comfortable using older books to accomplish this. Milly-Molly-Mandy is a prime example of this, MMM exemplifies character traits that I would like Camille to emulate. Camille is soaking this book up and is enjoying reading a chapter a night aloud. I want to continue this, although I could do it with a book that doesn't twist my tongue all into knots. *grin*

On a homeschooling message board I participate in, we recently had the discussion about whether the Magic Tree House series was worth reading. It was interesting to find out what my fellow classical homeschoolers thought about these books and although I left with the impression- "I have them on the shelf, if Camille wants to read them they are there." I don't really want her to read them. I don't like series books, in fact I'd like to stay far, far away from them with the exception of Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. I like these mostly because the children grow and their experiences change and they are faced with growing pains and overcome them. Books like Magic Tree House where the characters stay the same and the surroundings change are a little too much twaddle for my tastes.

Just to clarify, I bought the Magic Tree House books 1-29 from Scholastic while Camille was in public school kindergarten. I thought it was a great buy considering the price of these separately. I did not know what twaddle was or even consider these mind-candy at the time. I thought they were great readers, easy on the child but added in a little dash of history and adventure. Now, that I know more about good literature for children, what is available out there and keeping our goals in mind, these really don't fit us.

I don't have a plan of action yet for the read-alouds, maybe after I get back home and compare the WTM literature list, Ambleside Online's list and our books that are currently on the shelf, I can piece together something wonderful. All I know is that I would like a little more Charlotte, if you please.



Kelli said...

Merry Christmas Jessica! Have a Blessed day.

JOYfully in Him,

christinemm said...

Dear Jessica,
I know exactly what you are going through as I went through the same stage as you when my oldest child was younger. Right now my boys are 6.5 and 9.

I also began being influenced by the read-aloud recommendations of AO back in 2002 and 2003 when my oldest son was 5 and 6 years old.

I also felt torn about finding the best books and finding read-aloud's that were not just not-twaddle but that were enriching and worthwhile plus of course, enjoyable.

I have learned some things and will share them with you. I feel strongly each family should do what is right and best for them so please don't think I am dictating what you must do.

First off I feel that AO is way too light on recommendations for picture books. Now there are just so many wonderful picture books and some are worthwhile also for their artwork. Sometimes trying to use only 100 year old books is not a good idea.

I recommend and found for myself that it was best to try to hold onto picture books as read aloud's as long as possible, say until age 8 or 9! For example read many picture books aloud in one day then if you insist on reading a longer chapter book have one going at a time and read 1 or 2 chapters a day. (Like Milly, Molly, Mandy) Some people may try to talk you into early pushing of chapter books in order to help build a child's concentration. I am not keen on that as at least with my kids they have long attention spans.

"Honey for a Child's Heart" by Gladys Hunt is a great book, if you have not yet read it. That book addresses books for prek and also for picture books then also some chapter books. Some of the other very good book list books focus ONLY on chapter books.

While I do love so many of the AO books I feel some either completely did not 'click' with my children at the age or "AO Year" that they recommend. One example is an unabridged classic like Robinson Crusoe. Why push a child of 6, 7, or 8 to hear it read aloud when you could use your read aloud time on something else very good then when the child is 9 or 10 if they have a strong foundation in independent reading skills, they may use that as one to read to themselves. Or if you take some people's advice you will still be reading aloud to your children when they are teenagers and you can read that when your child is older and they are more interested in the topic. Once I tried to read Swiss Family Robinson and the old language and big words couldn't hold my children's interest. I refuse to believe it is some deficiency of their intellect (contrary to what some on the AO chat list may say).

Please enjoy this time with your daughter and don't push the chapter books so much. Just one at a time is good. And lots of picture books. Okay so now I am giving advice, LOL.

Also about books like "Magic Tree House". Those are NOT literature. Those are books IMO for children to read to build their reading fluency. They have a very different purpose than the great books to read aloud to your child now or in the near future or something you hope they are reading aloud when they are 8, 9, 10 or older.

Children do need a lot of reading practice of easier to read stuff. Those formula books like "Magic Tree House" are IMO not harmless and so they fit the bill for that practice reading. I draw the line with books that introduce more problems or bad charatcter traits (i.e. "Junie B. Jones", "Captain Underpants").

When a child is learning to read on their own every single thing they read should not be above their level and challenging. They need a little above their level to stretch themselves and they need practice with "on their level" stuff and some even say some practice with reading material "below" their level.

Lastly I will plug audiobooks. It is those that I credit to helping my children listen to long readings. We mostly listen while in the car, and also as a family, then I can multi-task by driving and listening at the same time rather than only having stories read aloud on the couch at home. By using audiobooks and stories (i.e. Jim Weiss) my children have heard more books than I have time to read to them.

I use the public library for the audiobooks. In my state we can borrow from any other library in the state so long as we have a current library card in our own town. I drive to a bigger, (wealthier town) where they have a huge audiobook collection and borrow them there. I also borrow the Jim Weiss stories and others like Odds Bodkin and other storytellers recordings.

My children also sometimes listen to these stories while playing with LEGOs and while drawing and making art for fun. I also enjoy listening to the stories while I am cleaning up or while I also am doing artwork and the children are right there with me.

Another debate with different takes from Charlotte Mason and AO vs. Susan Wise Bauer is whether or not abridged classics for younger children are worthwhile but I won't digress to that topic right now!

Merry Christmas!
(After so much holiday celebrating it feels easy and good to sit down and read your blog and to leave a comment!)

christinemm said...

Hi again Jessica, I just blogged my thoughts on your post on my own blog.

Two things to add, first I misspoke when I said that "Magic Tree House" books are not "literature" what I meant to say is they are not "living books" IMO. Of course in the publishing industry they ARE children's literature and hey, they are bestsellers, but I just don't consider them "living books" but IMO they are not "twaddle" either. They serve a good purpose.

Secondly I also thought since you mentioned reading stories that touch upon character traits, I don't know if you know about "Boos That Build Character" by William Kilpatrick that lists books by the character traits. They give a good long paragraph per book as a description so you really get a good feel for what the story is about (unlike some other book list books).

Hope this helps.

Lori Carr said...

I am going through the same things here! My daughter was in public school until she was through with 2nd grade. I had no idea what she should have been reading and I was just glad she was reading. Now I am having the hardest time getting her to read anything but twaddle. She doesn't want to have to think at all when she is reading. Anything that is on her reading level or above she won't even attempt to read. I think this is because I didn't make her read good literature when she was younger. I can get her to listen to me read the harder books but she doesn't want to do them on her own. She is only 9 so I am hoping I have time to change the way she feels about books. Plus, I have boys 5 and 3 that are starting at the begining so I am hoping I can get her to help them read their harder books and she can get some good literture books read that way. I would love for my daughter to read the Magic Tree House books. She only want to read Junie B. Jones books which I don't think there is any books that are more twaddly than them!:)

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I love reading your blog. It really helps me stay focused!

Lori Carr

Leigharev said...

HI Jessica,
Looks like you have a nice new spot for your blog. I loved seeing your Christmas pictures.
Can't help with your book search, since my boys are still too young.

5atkins said...

Hi Jessica,

I am glad to see you are well and enjoying the holidays! I recently read A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola so our second semester is going to be a little different too! I am also struggling with reading lists because of our very limited library with an ever so slow loan process! We just orderesd for Christmas a three G.A.Henty books (1 audio) and Pilgrim's Progress for family reading. (Did you know that books starts out with a wonderful poem? :))
Any way I am looking forward to a little more Charlotte Mason in my classical too! I look forward to reading more about your journey since we seem to be on the same path! Happy New Year! In Him, Eva

Holly said...

Hi Jessica,
I hope your family had a wonderful Christmas. I was wondering which book you preferred The Well Trained Mind or Teaching The Trivium? I can only afford to buy one, so I thought I would ask you which is preferable. ~Holly

Barb said...

Dear Jessica,

My best advice is to draw from what you have and give things a try and if they don't seem to fit at that particular time, put them on the shelf for another read later on down the road.

I made great use of the Sonlight catalog for suggestions in the earlier years. I would take the list and glean from my bookshelves and then the library. My boys loved just about everything we tried. Email me privately if you have any questions about a specific book.

Pirates Past Noon (MTH) was the first chapter book that my youngest read on his own. It was just a stepping stone for him. I consider MTH to be on the order of the Bob books....they annoy me to no end but they serve a purpose. This particular son loves to read series of books. His favorites are the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, Hardy Boys, the My Side of the Mountain series, the Horatio Hornblower series, and when he was younger, The Littles series. He reads these alongside other pieces of literature that I choose. I think our children need some time to read what they want as long as it's not harmful. I would never recommend series like Goosebumps or Captain Underpants because they are too far into the twaddle trap. So I guess I am saying to not throw out all series of books but to just be choosy.

I'm sure you have checked out Sonlight but I wanted to add that into your thinking. I look at their catalog as one great big reading list.

Harmony Art Mom

Jennie said...

Dear Jessica,
I agree that each family has to decide which method works best for each child. Here's an article that Susan Wise Bauer wrote in Issue #11 of TWTM newsletter.

Issue #12 has a follow-up:
In this article, SWB recruits the help of CM homeschool mom, Karen Glass.

You may be able to tailor a classical education using the Charlotte Mason methods. Of course, you do not have to follow the AO recommendations. If you have something else you'd like your children to read instead, by all means, read it! The main thing to consider is the quality of the book. Is it a Living book that will enrich the minds and lives of your children? Or is it mental junk food. Junk food is fun to eat but not much nutrition. Its the same with books.

I just began reading "When Children Love to Learn" by Elaine Cooper. That's what I ultimately want my kids to do: love learning!

From my very limited understanding, there are some differences between CM and Classical that you have to decide for yourself whether you want to do one or the other. For example: dictation or spelling lists, short lessons or lengthy lectures. AO doesn't seem to follow chronological history but uses instead, a Book of Centuries. Out of doors time and handicrafts are essentials as are math facts and grammar rules.

I tend to want to drill facts, but my kids would rather inspect the skink that wandered into our playroom. :)

Either way or both, I consider it such a joy to teach my kids.
To God be all the glory,
Jennie, NC