Wednesday, March 22, 2006

You are what you read, Part II

I often found myself thinking of Charlotte Mason's methods of education as the kids and I read Little Women.

This excerpt is from Chapter 33, in which Jo is trying to learn German from Mr. Bhaer:

I took four lessons, and then I stuck fast in a grammatical bog. The Professor was very patient with me, but it must have been torment to him, and now and then he'd look at me with such an expression of mild despair that it was a toss-up with me whether to laugh or cry. I tried both ways, and when it came to a sniff or utter mortification and woe, he just threw the grammar on to the floor and marched out of the room. I felt myself disgraced and deserted forever, but didn't blame him a particle, and was scrambling my papers together, meaning to rush upstairs and shake myself hard, when in he came, as brisk and beaming as if I'd covered myself in glory.

"Now we shall try a new way. You and I will read these pleasant little MARCHEN together, and dig no more in that dry book, that goes in the corner for making us trouble."

He spoke so kindly, and opened Hans Andersons's fairy tales so invitingly before me, that I was more ashamed than ever, and went at my lesson in a neck-or-nothing style that seemed to amuse him immensely. I forgot my bashfulness, and pegged away (no other word will express it) with all my might, tumbling over long words, pronouncing according to inspiration of the minute, and doing my very best. When I finished reading my first page, and stopped for breath, he clapped his hands and cried out in his hearty way, "Das ist gut!' Now we go well! My turn. I do him in German, gif me your ear." And away he went, rumbling out the words with his strong voice and a relish which was good to see as well as hear. Fortunately the story was the Constant Tin Soldier, which is droll, you know, so I could laugh, and I did, though I didn't understand half he read, for I couldn't help it, he was so earnest, I so excited, and the whole thing so comical.

After that we got on better, and now I read my lessons pretty well, for this way of studying suits me, and I can see that the grammar gets tucked into the tales and poetry as one gives pills in jelly. I like it very much, and he doesn't seem tired of it yet, which is very good of him, isn't it? I mean to give him something on Christmas, for I dare not offer money. Tell me something nice, Marmee.

I, too, have found that teaching grammar and spelling through literature are indeed very much like hiding pills in jelly. The medicine is not noticed yet one is treated ... The lessons are not dry and torturous but rather become delightful.


Anonymous said...

What a delightful reminder from "Little Women" (one of my favorite books). : )

You've beautifully answered my question about too many workbooks plaguing my house lately. : )

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Karen for posting this. I have never read Little Women, but now I think I'll give it a read. I had no idea it contained such gems! "Like pills in jelly"... I think that will be my new mantra!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful postings on Little Women--my daughter is reading this book now,and you are making me wish that we were reading it aloud together!! I agree with you about teaching grammar and spelling through literature is so much more delightfu. My daughters have learned more this year, with this new-to-us way of homeschooling, through our lituature and pen pal letters than any workbook ever taught them previously...