>Dutch Trick or Treat

>Editing an article for an upcoming issue of the Magazine, I needed to find some information about Lucy Fitch Perkins’ The Dutch Twins, and found via Google a digital library which contained it. The Baldwin Project is a real time-sucker of a place–that’s a compliment–and after reading about the Twins and their ever-informative mother ( “I shall have milk enough to make butter and cheese,” said Vrouw Vedder. “There are no cows like our Dutch cows in all the world, I believe”) I found myself wandering around the place, which is apparently intended primarily as a resource for home-schoolers of a certain ilk, such ilk being those parents who believe anything worth reading was published before their own grandparents were born.

While I understand that the Baldwin Project necessarily only collects works that have gone out of copyright, and that we have much to learn from the past, I sure hope that no parent thinks these books will constitute an education. Along with digital editions of the books themselves, the site includes outlines for two curricula, Waldorf and Ambleside (based on the ideas of English educator Charlotte Mason) apparently in some repute among homeschoolers. But surely Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner and Charlotte Mason would take issue with the assumption that the world would not move on without them. Could they truly endorse the idea espoused in Ian D. Colvin’s South Africa, published in 1910, that, in considering the rival claims of the Boers and the English settlers of that country, that:

The British ideal has been in the long run a better one. We need labour for mines, and railways, docks, farms, and plantations. Therefore we give the native peace and justice, and a share of the land which is surely big enough for all. But at the same time we must be master of the black people. No good British Governor or British settler has ever preached equality: that has been left to the old ladies at home.

This is only an egregious extreme of a collection that is for the most part middlebrow and harmless (and valuable for those interested in an archive of what has been thought appropriate for the young) but do parents really teach from it? The world must look exceedingly strange to them, and let’s hope their kids get some unsupervised time at the public library.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    >I just want to mention something people may not know from reading the book lists of a Waldorf curriculum: the kids are being read to, not reading, in the earlier grades. They officially teach reading much later then usual. The eccentric content of the reading lists tells only part of the story: younger children are often unable to pursue independant reading even if they have access to other material.

  2. Occidental Girl says:

    >We tend to view the past with more sentimentality than within its actual context.

    I happen to agree, that while books such as these shouldn’t be texts, their existence would be interesting as an illustration of past prejudices, as to how society was constructed then, and not how it should be now or that it would be in any way ideal.

    What I find ironic is how, in the writings of Charlotte Mason that I have skimmed, she writes that the mother should be in charge of the children’s learning, guiding a governess if need be – but fully at the helm of educational decision making with regard to what the children should be learning and why. Ironic, because we’re talking about the Victorian era, where ladies were viewed as naturally dim and unsuited for higher education. And so, the thinking seems to have been, let’s task those nitwits with teaching the next generation!

    How amusing.

  3. >I had books like this lying around the house when I was a child– left over from my mom’s and aunts’ childhood collections, or picked up haphazardly at garage sales. I got some cultural references and knowledge of history (distorted, yes, but at least I knew the official story and the names involved) from them. I’m glad they were around as background relics, but not actively endorsed in any way.

  4. Roger Sutton says:

    >Books left lying around the house for generations (I grew up in a house originally owned by my grandparents) can offer truly fascinating examples of history, not so much of the world but of one’s family. I remember finding an old Honeybunch book in the attic that, given the 1920s publication date, probably belonged to my mother’s younger sister. It certainly wasn’t a book urged on me by my mother, and all the more intriguing for its being a “found object” from another time.

  5. J. L. Bell says:

    >I was a little startled to see that the Baldwin Project was named after James Baldwin. But then I was thinking of this James Baldwin.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Cheers to the Homeschoolers- Where there is no world outside their kitchen table or kitchen window…

  7. >Let’s not descend into homeschooler-bashing here. Roger’s post was about one web site and his concern about homeschoolers who might be using that site as a primary curriculum source. But I take exception to the comment by anonymous. It’s as unfair to stereotype homeschoolers as it is to stereotype any group of people. Homeschoolers are a diverse bunch, with widely varied values and educational styles. Undoubtedly there are homeschoolers who are sheltered from the larger world, but they are in the minority. Most are well-rounded people exposed to both the world of ideas and the world outside their kitchen window.

    As for the two styles mentioned, Waldorf is used in private schools as well as by homeschoolers, so it’s unfair to use that as a yardstick to judge homeschoolers. And from what I understand of Charlotte Mason, her philosophy was that children should learn from books that are well-written and engaging, not what she called “twaddle.” As far as I know, she never said that new books don’t qualify. If some homeschoolers choose to interpret it that way, that’s their loss, but I believe that the majority don’t.

    Disclaimer: We’re homeschoolers, although we don’t use either Waldorf or Charlotte Mason. We read a wide variety of books, both classic and new, and my son is involved in a wide variety of outside activities as well. And yes, he’s allowed to read any book he chooses to check out of the library.

  8. Angela, MotherCrone says:

    >I am a veteran homeschooler, and have used Charlotte Mason’s methods. We surround ourselves quality literature, partake in nature study, use narration and copywork and all sorts of tips the make learning a natural process. I greatly respect her progressive theories on educating the whole child.

    Yet, I agree that just reading these lovely books cannot constitute the whole of an education. We still use traditional texts for math, science, logic, and grammar. We use a Latin tutor and take art/music classes. They are challenged, but their work is not all dull and dry, for our home is filled with living books and active conversation.

    This seems to be a successful blend for my children, and is the sort of education I wish I could have had.

  9. Mama Squirrel says:

    >Oh my. Where do I start?

    The Twins series is not part, never has been part, of the Ambleside Online curriculum. However, we do appreciate Lisa Ripperton’s work in making many lost books available online. If you perused Ambleside Online’s website half as seriously as you did The Dutch Twins, you would see that we use a wide variety of old and new books. One of our “graduates” has just been awarded a four-year scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas–not bad for a sheltered, out-of-date kid, no?

    “Cheers to the Homeschoolers- Where there is no world outside their kitchen table or kitchen window… ” And what’s this about, Anonymous? Obviously you don’t know too many homeschoolers.

    As for Charlotte Mason saying that parents (mothers) should be responsible for the teaching of their children–you have skewed that to some extent. For one thing, she was talking there primarily to upper-class mothers who could be presumed to have had at least some education; she talks to them about Plutarch and English chroniclers in a way that assumes they will know exactly what she means. Also, her organization provided a reading course for mothers, along with correspondence courses for children which were used all over the world. However, one other point which you missed there was that the “teaching” of which she spoke and which she did not wish to leave in the hands of less-qualified servants also referred to training in habits and faith rather than only to academic subjects.

    Frankly, I think you’re all talking out of your hats.

  10. Mama Squirrel says:

    >OK, I’ve calmed down a bit after wiping off all the tomatoes off my glasses, so I apologize if that last comment sounded snarky. Besides, I think the idiom is “through one’s hat” rather than out of it.

    But I still don’t understand–why are you and your commenters picking on CM, Ambleside Online and homeschoolers in general because we choose to use one book or another? What is your particular interest in this?

  11. Roger Sutton says:

    >Not to worry, Mama Squirrel, we’re used to heated debate around here. But I did look at Ambleside Online, mostly at the K-6-equivalent curriculum, and it’s really dusty–not the curriculum per se, but the books being used to support it. I have no quarrel with either of the Ambleside or Waldorf methods (and now I really am talking through my hat because aside from a single letter of appreciation I once got from John Holt, my knowledge of the movement is completely from a distance). Both methods have inspiring philosophies and are admirably child-centered. But here’s my question: if Rudolf Steiner or Charlotte Mason were developing their methods today, would they be using the same books they recommended generations ago?

    My “interest here” is that there is a wealth of literature, classic and contemporary, that children should get the opportunity to read, and the mission of the Horn Book since 1923 has been to “blow the horn for fine books for boys and girls.” Much of the literature at the Baldwin Project and Ambleside Online is just old and inoffensive to conservative tastes. I’m not at all bothered that children are reading it, but I do worry that they may be being kept away from books that signal the presence of a wider world.

  12. Headmistress, zookeeper says:

    >ladies were viewed as naturally dim and unsuited for higher education.

    If you’d really read Charlotte Mason’s own writings, you would know that she and most of her contemporaries did not view women as naturally dim and unsuited for higer education, and, in fact she stressed the importance of women keeping up to date on the latest in psychology, health, nutrition, current events, science, and more.

    We do use older books in our homeschooling because the writing is more complex and advanced than the short, choppy writing of many more contemporary books. However, we use more modern books, too.

    As for racial slurs, I white them out if it’s only a word or two, if it’s an entire stereotype we discuss the fact that no era has been perfect and without problems that humans have caused and need to overcome. It’s really not that hard.

  13. Headmistress, zookeeper says:

    >My, what a fine collection of strawmen here. If you’d actually asked some of the people you’re looking down your noses at why they were using ‘old’ books, you might have found your misconceptions corrected, but I realize it is much more comfortable to keep our cherished prejudices rather than correct them.

    ladies were viewed as naturally dim and unsuited for higher education.

    If you’d really read Charlotte Mason’s own writings, you would know that she and her friends did not agree, and in fact stressed the importance of women continuing to read and keep up to date on the latest in a wide variety of fields. If you’d actually read her, you might also have noticed her work with some of the leading female minds of the day, including such characters as Dorothea Beale, Principal of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, pioneer in women’s education, math instructor, suffragette; Anne Clough; Mary Buss, and others.

    All older books are not always better than all newer books, and I don’t think anybody has said so. However, many older books are better written- the writing structure and vocabulary are often more complex and advanced than many contemporary works. Most of our children could read Pilgrim’s Progress on their own at 8, so I don’t think contemporary fiction poses much of a challenge for them.

    When it comes to racial slurs, I white them out in many cases, discuss them in others. They are a perfect opportunity to point out that the past was just as flawed as the present.

    I wonder, are you all the type to censor Huckleberry Finn? After all, it’s an older book, which could also be said of the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Dumas, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and books such as Heidi, The Wind in the Willows, Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood, folk and fairy tales, nursery rhymes, Aesop, Pinocchio and too many others to mention.

    Talk about not seeing a world outside your window. The world outside *our* window includes a vast and rich literary domain stretching from Beowulf to the present. Keeping children ignorant of this rich past is akin to planting a garden with cut flowers, to borrow a metaphor from David McCullough (another modern author my teens have read).

  14. Roger Sutton says:

    >Headmistress, you’re being awfully defensive for someone who hasn’t been attacked.

    One thing I like about the public library is that white-outing words from the books is against the rules. I’m not clear what point you’re trying to make about Huck Finn, but together with the white-out suggestion it reminds me of how this very thing was done to old Huck when an African American educator published an edition with all the niggers changed to blacks. Talk about missing the point! (Twain’s, that is, and by the thunkheaded educator, Headmistress, not you.)

    You seem to be reacting to a lot of prejudices about homeschooling that have been expressed elsewhere if not here, and you are condemning my post and the follow-up comments without appearing to have read them carefully, indeed, without appearing to notice that the commenters have expressed a range of opinions that have frequently been at respectful odds with each other. (Now there’s a display of florid sentence structure that would be entirely at home in any nineteenth-century novel ;-)

    What I’m saying, Headmistress, is that we’re trying to have a conversation here. We, I hope, are all learning things we didn’t know before. Your participation is welcome; your sneering is not.

  15. Mama Squirrel says:

    >Roger Sutton said…
    “But I did look at Ambleside Online, mostly at the K-6-equivalent curriculum, and it’s really dusty–not the curriculum per se, but the books being used to support it. I have no quarrel with either of the Ambleside or Waldorf methods….But here’s my question: if Rudolf Steiner or Charlotte Mason were developing their methods today, would they be using the same books they recommended generations ago?”

    Okay…first of all, I never imagined that I’d be having a conversation with the editor of the Horn Book. Oh, the fascination of online technology! And since I like my friends to know each other, I’d also like to introduce the Deputy Headmistress, a dear friend of mine whose children (including two now-graduated Amblesiders, one of whom got fantastic SAT scores and is doing very well in college) have been a great inspiration to me. (She also has more books than just about anyone I know.)

    Your question about what books Charlotte Mason would use in this century is one we are constantly asking ourselves, and although you feel the curriculum is “dusty,” we’ve been striving since we began to keep a balance of the tried-and-true and the new-and-in-print. Just recently we added some quite-new science and geography books that have become favourites of many Ambleside users, although we’ve kept the old books as well for those who want to experiment with them.

    “My “interest here” is that there is a wealth of literature, classic and contemporary, that children should get the opportunity to read….Much of the literature at the Baldwin Project and Ambleside Online is just old and inoffensive to conservative tastes. I’m not at all bothered that children are reading it, but I do worry that they may be being kept away from books that signal the presence of a wider world.”

    It’s exactly that “wider world” to which we are attempting to introduce our children: a world that stretches back beyond our own generation and into places that many of today’s children will not be able to go. I can give many examples of what homeschoolers (parents and children) I know have said about that, but I don’t want to monopolize your comments section; some of their comments, out of context, might sound only precious or precocious (like my own little one telling me seriously, “Baldy (Vivaldi) is nice, but I like Mozart better”). If we choose to use Pyle’s version of Robin Hood, it’s because we think our children (even the ones with learning difficulties) are up to the challenge and because we have found nothing that we like better. On the other hand, we suggest Rosemary Sutcliff’s retelling of the Iliad (much newer), and if a contemporary writer offered something that we liked just as much, we’d suggest that. (One of the upper years suggests at least two fairly recent translations of Beowulf.) We don’t make frequent changes to the curriculum, but we are always open to new discoveries. The extra-reading lists for Years 6 and 7 suggest many un-dusty books that we felt older children should read (such as The Gammage Cup and Letters from Rifka).

    I know that some homeschoolers do choose to use “dusty” books for other reasons than we do at Ambleside. You will notice, for instance, that we do not include Elsie Dinsmore in our list of must-read books; we do not include Tom Swift; and we do not include any of the extremely sentimental Victorian religious fiction that is reprinted by at least one publisher catering to homeschoolers. We also don’t recommend hundred-year-old arithmetic books, although a few people have used them with their children. In other words, we are not attempting to use old books because they are old books, but because we do indeed want our children–to quote Charlotte Mason–to put their feet into as wide a room as possible. I don’t think that we’re as far apart on that point as you might think.

  16. Roger Sutton says:

    >Hey Mama Squirrel, send that kid over here and I’ll get the Mozart effect knocked out of him in no time. ;-) (And talk about your precocious little monsters–there’s a reason he’s Maurice Sendak’s favorite composer.) I like Bach better.

    But your post is a perfect example of what I mean by people learning from this conversation. I had not even heard of Charlotte Mason before yesterday and I’m glad to have made her acquaintance. And yours.

  17. Mama Squirrel says:

    >And the same here.

  18. Readitagain says:

    >I know that Beverly Cleary said that a turning point in her life was reading The Dutch Twins. (She knew then she was a reader!) She also had a Mother who read and read to her. Whether your child is Home Schooled or goes to Private or Public Schools they need good books!!! What wonderful books there are today and it’s fine to read the old dusty ones-Too!!! Children need to develop a love for reading and if books are promoted the childen will read!!! Just ask Beverly Cleary!!!

    Oh, We will be celebrating her Birthday on April 12th!!! I do believe it’s National Drop Everything And Read- Day!!!

    Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!!!

    Thanks Roger for this BLOG!!!

  19. rindawriter aka Rinda M. Byers says:

    >Wow Anonymouses (since I don’t know which mouse you are), have you EVER got it wrong about homeschoolers and homeschooled…and I quote from above “Cheers to the Homeschoolers- Where there is no world outside their kitchen table or kitchen window…” Isn’t cut-and-paste a wonderful invention?

    Let me tell you, you not-know-it-all,limited, little squeaky stereotypers, that MY homeschooled world was number one not in the kitchen (the hottest place in the house in a country with an already hot climiate, Thailand); nummber two, I don’t know of any more ENRICHING experience any child could ever have had than the world I had outside of our house (a whole other culture) because I spent more time in reading and playing outside and reading outside than I ever did inside learning official lessons, and number three, my mother made up her own curriculum and taught as she thought best; number three, she did an excellent job as she had six children all different grade levels more than able to enter public school when we returned to the States; number four, two of us were a grade level AHEAD of our ages because she did such a good job; number five, my parents never forced us to read anything, never stuck their noses into what we chose to read, never censored what we read; and they always left nteresting old and new stuff to read lying around the house for curious children to get into even if it was sometimes Newsweek or National Geographic or Fox’s Book of Christian Martyrs or the Golden Bough–or the Bible, uncensored; number six, yes, my parents were religious and yes they were christian missionaries and they did a pretty good job raising us–my Dad in particular is the most unracist person I have ever known; number six, we only had to to school half-days and got the whole rest of the day free outside for group games and group sports and dinking around, and I pity the child in American public schools today from the bottom of my heart, forced to sit in tidy little rows, less and less recess, forced to read what’s on somebody’s else’s curriculum and agenda for educational purposes…stuffed to gills with multimedia stimuli…in school and out…oh, it breaks my heart! Not that I don’t equally pity a lot of the homeschooled children as well in equally awful classroom situations.

    Lastly, you seem never to have heard of homeschooled folks or folks who never did well in public schools who went into the arts and got famous like Stephen Spielberg, whose mother actively promoted his getting exscused from school so he could goof off with his camera…and that oh, yeah, that young Eragon creator that’s been on the bestseller list for ages and ages…..there are plenty more, plenty more…

    I was also taught, Anonymouses, by a college professor to always, always, ALWAYS sign my proper name or whatever name I’m using to identify muyself to what I write because it’s the HONEST and brave and HONORABLE thing to do…and it’s past time you squeakers started using some identifying initials if you’re going to play in the sandbox.

    P.S. I also did not have glass in the windows of my house as a child…and not a lock on any door anywhere….

  20. Roger Sutton says:

    >You know, Rinda, I was kind of with you until you got to Eragon as evidence for the superiority of homeschooling. ;-)

    But smugness about homeschooling, whether to denigrate (as Anonymous did) or brag (as you are kinda doing, Rinda) is really not the point. At least not my point. I’m only interested that kids get intellectual space away from the authorities, whether they be parent-teachers or schoolteachers. I admit to being partisan to the idea that public education allows a child’s mind another place (besides home and the values and thoughts prized therein) to roam. At the same time, public or otherwise institutional schooling can be terrible, and a given child in a given situation will get far more intellectual stimulus and freedom by being taught at home. Homeschooling as a way to keep ideas out–that’s what I can’t support, but you and other posters here offer ample examples of how that ain’t necessarily so.

  21. Anonymous says:

    >Rinda, uou were very lucky to grow up in that manner, but you seem to take it for granted. Many mothers and fathers would love to homeschool their children, but simply cannot afford to leave work, especially if they are single parents. While my public-schooled children are pitied by many and we’d gladly exchange the sympathy for a large cash donation, no one has offered such a thing yet. :(

    The original topic of this post was that the recommended reading books were old. Despite the many posts, no one has offered a reasonable explanation as to why they have not been updated. Last year, I looked into the Ambleside first grade reading list and wondered if the purpose was to isolate rather than educate. Not that anyone I know ( who uses the curriculum) does that—they all supplement with trips to the library, museum, etc. But you must admit, teaching a child from only eighty-year-old books would be an effective way of isolating him/her, especially because many young children believe everything their parents say.

    I am not sure if I believe that the complex language in the old books is more educational. I prefer books with intelligent meaningful language and ideas—sometimes the writing is complex, sometimes it isn’t.

    Rose

  22. Melissa Wiley says:

    >Roger, I agree this has been an instructive conversation. I think perhaps what the deputy headmistress was reacting to was the tone of statements such as:

    “I found myself wandering around the place, which is apparently intended primarily as a resource for home-schoolers of a certain ilk, such ilk being those parents who believe anything worth reading was published before their own grandparents were born.”

    No offense, but I do hear a bit of a sneer in that; at the very least you jumped to conclusions. I think Mama Squirrel did a nice job of clarifying just how broad the range of literature included in the Ambleside curriculum really is. An appreciation for certain specific “old books” does not preclude an appreciation for the best of what is being published today (a truth nicely illustrated, in fact, by a perusal of the blogs of the two ladies mentioned above–blogs which contain many reviews of contemporary literature).

    I have yet to find any one collection of literature which impresses me in its entirety. I love to explore the Baldwin Project and have found several gems I was delighted to share with my (yes, homeschooled) children; I also found a number of books there I don’t like at all. Same goes for trips to the bookstore and library. If you formed conclusions about me (or my parenting style, or my educational philosophy) based on a single shelf of my library, you’d wind up with quite an incomplete picture. Suppose you picked the entire shelf full of Showcase Presents superhero comics collections? You’d have no idea, just from that, that I’m a Chesterton addict, a raving Tolkein fanatic, nor a huge fan of Kate di Camillo.

    My 11 yr old daughter’s nightstand stack contains, at this moment (I peeked): Dickens, Jeanne Birdsall, Famous Men of Rome, and the Usborne Dictionary of Math. I believe one of those books did come to us via the Baldwin Project…

    I have yet to meet any Ambleside users who “believe anything worth reading was published before their own grandparents were born.” The Ambleside users of my acquaintance (and if you explore their blogs, you can see for yourself) believe that what is “worth reading” is good writing, no matter when it was published. Luckily for me, since my own books were published well after Mama Squirrel’s grandmother’s day!

  23. Roger Sutton says:

    >I can see now how inflammatory that was, and rife with assumptions. I’ve learned a lot about Ambleside in the past few days.

    I am still interested in how so many of the Baldwin books seem to have skipped over generations to gain an audience, books that “were read so widely just a few generations ago” as the Baldwin website says. I’m guessing the out-of-copyrightness (and subsequent internet availability) is attractive, and the perceived “old fashioned” virtues would have appeal to conservative parents. But what did they grow up reading?

  24. Krakovianka says:

    >I’ve thought about this discussion a good deal over the past few days, and I may have to blog about it at more length. I do want to make one comment here. I would never suggest that a child read only older books, but it is even more dangerous to suggest some arbitrary “contemporary” cutoff date and imply that children should only read current literature. We have centuries of literature, philosophy, history at our disposal, which has already been sifted by time and thought so that the best (and most relevant) has survived. Not every book written 150 years ago is worth our time or consideration, but by choosing recognized classics, we can be somewhat assured of their quality.

    Further, early exposure to older styles of writing, with their deeper vocabulary and more complex sentence structure will open up doors that will remain woefully shut if a child reads nothing more than contemporary literature written within the past fifty years.

    I know too many adults who will classify books as “too hard” if the writing is dense, there are more than 500 or 800 pages, or if the language seems the least bit outdated. It takes a tremendous amount of personal discipline to overcome this, and too many adults are hampered because they weren’t encouraged to stretch their minds when they were younger, and lot more elastic.

    We may be doing children a disservice if we expose them only to older books (although I don’t personally know anyone who has done this), but we are doing them an even greater disservice if we leave them unequipped to read the rich heritage of literature that the centuries have left us. The Baldwin Project is making older books available in part because most children would otherwise have no chance to read them. Libraries seem to have little interest in making older books–very worthy older books–available on their limited shelf space.

  25. >Ambleside Online is just one of various online Charlotte Mason curricula/schedules (and the Baldwin Project isn’t a curriculum, just a free online resource that lists those of its titles that dovetail with AO, as well as Waldorf). Another is the Catholic 4RealLearning, which has its “Read Around the Year Booklist”, which starts with this proviso, “I was very hesitant to include a booklist with this book. By their very nature, lists are limited. Fortunately, good literature is limitless. However, we have to begin to choose somewhere. This list is intended to be such a beginning. With the list below, the parent educator can apply the principles outlined in this book. She can begin to craft and to plan a curriculum tailored for her children. The list is designed to offer both structure and freedom.” Most of the various Charlotte Mason curricula are (evangelical) Christian or Catholic (unlike Miss Mason herself, who was Anglican) but are easy enough to secularize for those who wish to do so, and various online groups exist, offering members the chance to find or suggest additions and substitutions for a variety of subjects — such as titles on Canadian history and literature.

    Homeschooling of any stripe, whether Charlotte Mason, Montessori, E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge series (the “What Your First Grader Needs to Know” books), classical, eclectic, or unschooling, is rarely static, and almost all of the homeschoolers I know, adults and kids alike, are keen book lovers (and buyers and borrowers). That could be the reason there seems considerable overlap between the kidlitosphere — Melissa Wiley’s term, if I remember correctly — and homeschooling blogs. We’re always eager to hear, and share, about the best new titles, from The Penderwicks to Octavian Nothing to the latest from Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. Quite popular among home educating parents for themselves as a teaching resource this last while seems to be Deconstructing Penguins (2005).

    I tend to consider all curricula and schedules, from Ambleside to The Well-Trained Mind (which is what we use primarily), as a framework rather than a mandatory list, and I’d hazard a guess that the majority of home educating parents probably do, too. It’s just impossible to expect that one person’s (or one group’s) list or book or method could contain everything to suit every family (including single working parents) — we’re all so different, with varying beliefs, and kids (even within the same family) with different abilities and interests. One of the benefits of homeschooling is its inherent flexibility. The one thing we probably all do share is a fondness for Yeats’s quote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire”. I don’t know anyone who uses the Baldwin Project’s “e-books” exclusively. Or anyone who would use Ian Colvin’s 1910 book, South Africa, published the year the Union of South Africa was formed, uncritically. I would think that the usefulness of the book, written by an early 20th century English journalist, lies in its being a unvarnished contemporary (in the original sense, meaning “of the time”) English account, that gives a student an unparalleled chance to discuss and understand the role and attitudes of the British in the South African Wars and after. How much easier to understand Botha, Buthelezi, and Mandela, when one has already read Jabavu, Rhodes, and Colvin?

    I don’t know what others grew up reading, but when I was a child in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (still occupied by my parents with wall-to-wall books), my shelves included lots of the “Baldwin books” — Padraic Colum, Howard Pyle, the whole rainbow of Andrew Lang’s fairy books (courtesy of Dover), Hans Christian Andersen, Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children and The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, Thornton W. Burgess’s animal stories (more Dover), Frances Hodgson Burnett, Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales and Wonder Book for Girls and Boys, Joseph Jacobs’ marvellous Celtic Fairy Tales, George MacDonald’s Princess & The Curdie, E. Nesbit, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome, Ernest Thompson Seton, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kate Douglas Wiggin. And shelves and shelves full of other books, bought and borrowed, including Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, Ant & Bee, E.B. White, Judy Blume, Beni Montresor, all of the Nancy Drew/Paddington Bear/Great Brain series, Roald Dahl, Harriet the Spy and Freaky Friday and their sequels, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Madeleine L’Engle. Yes, and comic books too. Sort of a free-range approach to children’s reading, which is as it should be.

    As to less than eminent Victorians, just to skim the surface — Mary Kingsley, the Brontës, Clara Barton, Mary Anning (the subject of a whole crop of children’s books, including a couple of very nice picture books), Julia Margaret Cameron, Marianne North, Jennie Churchill, Dinah Craik, Millicent Fawcett, Mrs. Gaskell, George Eliot, Fanny Kemble, E. Nesbit, Christina Rossetti, Ada Lovelace, Frances Trollope, Mary Augusta Ward, and Jane, Lady Franklin, not to mention Strachey’s own Florence Nightingale as well as his mother, the suffragist Lady Julia, and Victoria herself, who certainly wouldn’t have been amused to find herself in nitwit territory…

  26. Mike Morris says:

    >Tuesday, the 10th of April, 2007

    It occurred to me that I had had to concoct a transcript for my oldest son (now 17)
    in order that he might enter the IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis)
    SPAN division program this last fall. It’s a college courses-for-highschool-students
    thing, and he’s just about completed his first year of both a composition class and a
    beginning Japanese course. Anyway, I’m a homeschooling father of 3 and I became
    interested in this exchange by being directed to it on Headmistress’ blog. Anyway,
    I happened to have all these books listed for my son’s “highschool” transcript, and I
    figured it might prove illustrative of something. I’ve kept the transcript groupings I
    had in the spread sheet, but I frankly regard “literature” as inclusive of history, philosophy,
    and writing about art and music. “Philosophy” was a subject area we began last
    year, and “art and music” should be considered “appreciation” in these categories,
    and we have used various approaches to them each year. (This year for music we
    have watched the 10-DVD set of the Ken Burns “Jazz” documentary, supplemented
    by lots of CDs. Hence, no music books read recorded for this year.) In any case,
    pretty much everything listed (except for some of the separately listed plays, dialogues,
    and essays) is a whole, unabridged book read cover to cover.

    Grade 8 Literature:
    Othello by William Shakespeare; 1001 Arabian Nights (tr. Richard Burton); The Aeneid by
    Vergil (tr. By Allen Mandelbaum); Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

    Grade 8 History:
    Backbone texts: The Story of Civilization IV: The Age of Faith by Will and Ariel Durant; The Story of
    Civilization V: The Renaissance by Will and Ariel Durant; The Story of Civilization VI: The Reformation
    by Will and Ariel Durant
    Supplementary texts: A History of the Crusades I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of
    Jerusalem by Steven Runciman; A History of the Crusades II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish
    East 1100-1187 by Steven Runciman; A History of the Crusades III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later
    Crusades by Stephen Runciman; The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci; Saint Joan by George Bernard
    Shaw; St. Joan of Arc by Vita Sackville-West; The Black Death by Philip Ziegler.

    Grade 8 Art & Music:
    Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish by Martha Zamora; Magritte by Marcel Paquet; Georges Seurat by
    Mike Venezia; Georges Seurat by Pierre Courthion; Verdi with a Vengeance by William Berger; The Merry
    Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare; The Romance of Tristan by Beroul, Volsunga Saga; The Ring
    of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner (tr. by Stuart Robb)

    Grade 9 Literature:
    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky; The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien; The Art of War by
    Sun Tzu; Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift; The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler; The Trial by Franz
    Kafka; Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino; The Great Gatsby by
    F. Scott Fitzgerald;Plays of Moliere; Fables of La Fontaine (tr.Marianne Moore); Phaedra by Racine;
    Paradise Lost by John Milton; Samson Agonistes by John Milton; Lycidas by John Milton;
    Areopagitica by John Milton

    Grade 9 History:
    Backbone texts: The Story of Civilization VII: The Age of Reason by Will and Ariel Durant; The
    Story of Civilization VIII: The Age of Louis XlV by Will and Ariel Durant; The Story of Civilization IX: The
    Age of Voltaire by Will and Ariel Durant Supplementary texts: The King’s Peace; The King’s War; A
    Coffin for King Charles; The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood; Glencoe by John Prebble; Culloden
    by John Prebble; Frederick the Great: A Military Life by Christopher Duffy

    Grade 9 Art &Music:
    Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung Graphic Novel by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane; Illustrations for
    Wagner’s Ring by Arthur Rackham; Wagner without Fear by William Berger; Wagner’s Ring: Turning the
    Sky Round by M. Owen Lee; Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, The Suppliant Maidens,
    The Persians, Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus; Athena Sings: Wagner and the Greeks by M. Owen Lee

    Grade 10 Literature:
    Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier; Catch 22 by Joseph Heller; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger;
    The Inferno; The Purgatorio; The Paradiso by Dante Alighieri (tr. John Ciardi); What Are the Seven
    Wonders of the World? And 60 Other Great Cultural Questions by Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond
    Pinkowish; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; The Metamorphoses by Ovid (tr. Allen Mandelbaum);
    La Ciudad de Las Bestias by Isabel Allende (in Spanish)

    Grade 10 Philosophy:
    Backbone text: A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (beginning through Book
    Two, Part I, Chapter iv “St. Augustine’s Philosophy and Theology”); Supplementary texts: Lysis,
    Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Protagoras, Phaedrus, Symposium, Republic, Theatetus,
    Timeaeus by Plato (tr. Benjamin Jowett); Categories, De Interpretatione, Prior Analytics, Posterior
    Analytics, Topics, Sophistical Refutations, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, Rhetoric, Poetics by
    Aristotle (ed. by Jonathon Barnes, various translators); De Rerum Natura by Lucretius (tr. Anthony Esolen);
    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius; City of God by St. Augustine.

    Grade 10 History:
    Backbone texts: The Story of Civilization X: Rousseau and Revolution by Will and Ariel
    Durant; The Story of Civilization XI: The Age of Napoleon by Will and Ariel Durant; The Age of
    Revolution: 1789-1848 by Eric Hobsbawm; The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 by Eric Hobsbawm
    Supplementary texts: The Seven Years War: A Study in British Combined Strategy by Julian S.
    Corbett; The Oxford History of the French Revolution by William Doyle; The Campaigns of
    Napoleon, Volume I: The Rise, February 1793-September 1805; The Campaigns of Napoleon,
    Volume II: The Zenith, September 1805-September 1812; The Campaigns of Napoleon, Volume III:
    The Decline, September 1812-June 1815 by David Chandler

    Grade 11 Literature: Selected Essays and Stories by Lucian; El Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges (in Spanish); The
    Panda’s Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould; The Decipherment of Linear B by ; Dubliners by James Joyce;
    El Reino del Dragon de Oro by Isabel Allende (YA in Spanish); Orlando Furioso by Ariosto (tr. by Barbara Reynolds)

    Grade 11 Philosophy: Backbone Text: A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell; Supplementary
    Texts: The Rule of St. Benedict; Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas

    Grade 11 History: The Age of Empire by Eric Hobsbawm; The Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm; The Birth
    of the Modern by Paul Johnson; Heaven’s Command by James Morris; Pax Britannica by James Morris

    The last three works listed in the Grade 11 categories he’s still in the middle of reading. And of course,
    I’m not listing mathematics and science and language textbooks he’s read and completed, or DVDs watched
    (all of the avaliable-on-DVD operas of Verdi and Wagner, for example), or CDs listened to, either. Also,
    my son reads a lot on his own, mostly science fiction and fantasy novels. I’m not listing his personal
    reading, only his assigned reading.

    Roger Sutton wrote:
    “While I understand that the Baldwin Project necessarily only
    collects works that have gone out of copyright, and that we have
    much to learn from the past, I sure hope that no parent thinks these
    books will constitute an education.”

    I take exception to this. I’ve long used a private definition for “education”,
    and I can think of no better illustration of my preference for my definition
    than this point in this discussion. I think “education” is the life of the mind one
    may lead in one’s leisure time when one is 40 years old. “Education” is
    not to be confused with “schooling”, which is the provision to the child of
    the tools which may implement and ease education later in life (should one
    choose education and not sitting passively in front of a television set
    for one’s leisure time). I grew up on the suburban eastside of Indianapolis.
    I graduated a pretty much all-white college-bound high school there in 1978.
    I was ranked number one in a graduating class of over 800. I went on to get
    an honors degree in physics from Purdue, attend one year of postgraduate
    study at Churchill College, Cambridge, and spend five years at Caltech
    getting my PhD in theoretical physics.

    Here is the point: I will swear that if we count
    whole, unabridged books read because they were assigned reading
    in grades K-12, I read fewer than 10 books in those 13 years for
    school. I learned to read on my mother’s lap when I was four
    years old, so I was always an avid reader. I’m just differentiating
    between those books that I read on my own and the books assigned
    for school.

    Maybe things have improved a bit in schools nowadays: But I’ll
    lay money what my son has read for homeschool (and spending
    2-3 hours a day of “seatwork”, including math and science and
    languages) beats the pants off of any curriculum
    offered in any public school in the United States. Moreover: delete any
    and every 20th-century book I’ve listed above from my son’s curriculum
    (which is probably half of what I listed), and I’ll *still* bet it beats the pants
    off of anything done in any public school.

    What I think, Mr. Sutton, is that schooling is not education. I think
    also there are wonderful new books that have been written, and
    which continue to be written. But, old books have been judged and
    filtered by generations of readers. And the good ones have left a web
    of recommendations by those readers. And that time-tested nature of
    older books is something newer books cannot match. Moreover, older
    books are the real multicultural trip. Chinua Achebe and Maya Angelou
    and Rigoberta Menchu and Amy Tan all likely share knowledge of the
    taste of Coca-Cola. Lucian and St. Augustine wrote and lived before
    there was such a thing as Coca-Cola. One can read _Finnegans Wake_
    after having read lots of pre-20th century books. One is unlikely to be
    able to read it having had the tokenistic smattering of mostly short and modern
    books the public schools are likely to provide. And works like
    _The Federalist Papers_ or Daniel Webster’s “Second Reply to Payne”—absolutely
    essential to an active and responsible citizenship in this republic at this moment,
    are unlikely to be accessible to children who have not been steeped to eyebrows
    in old books, and the higher demands of vocabulary and syntax that old
    books make on them.

    I think the one point where I disagree with Headmistress is about the white-out.
    I can’t imagine whiting out anything in any book. She’s Christian and I’m atheist,
    but there is something sacreligious in the act of whiting out a book that I
    shudder to even think about. (To Headmistress: This is a far, far ickier image
    for me to have in my brain than the other “icky” one we were
    discussing.)

    Mike Morris
    (msmorris@netdirect.net)

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