Educational Philosophy, Home Education

Don’t Drop the Book

October 20, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

[The mother] must brace herself to see her child suffer present loss for his lasting gain.
–Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, p. 148)

I have already written about the fact that homeschooling requires doing hard things. Homeschooling includes meltdowns and messes and how we handle those things is the curriculum. Sometimes our children aren’t going to like the things we assign to them, but we need to assign them anyway.

What I haven’t yet said, but which I think is an important piece of this discussion, is that tastes change.

Your daughter thinks she hates a book you assigned? Don't drop the book. Tastes change, skills grow, and, more importantly, character develops.

One of my daughters began the school year with a serious dislike for a couple of her books. I’m not going to name them because I don’t want any personal thoughts anyone may have about the specific titles to cloud the discussion of the principles that come into play here — sometimes we lose the proverbial forest for the trees (we lose the overarching principles because Details).

We can, however, talk about why she didn’t like the books. One of them was on a topic that she really isn’t interested in — or maybe I should say she didn’t realize she was interested in. Another one was a tad too difficult for her to read on her own.

Naturally, there were two different solutions for these two different problems. For the former, I shrugged my shoulders and told her to read it anyhow. For the latter, I am reading it aloud until we reach the point where I know the book gets more interesting and I think she might be able to read it on her own.

With the one I’m reading aloud, it seems to be slowly growing on her. I mean, if you asked her if she liked it, she would probably tell you no (but she would also say “nothing” if you asked her what she did for school today). But she’s shown many signs of interest — she has asked questions about what is happening in the story, and wondered aloud why certain characters didn’t appear in a chapter.

It’s a tough book, yes. But, truth be told, reading levels only rise by reading tough books. It’s like how muscles only get stronger by lifting things that are heavier than we’d prefer. A hard fought victory through a difficult book is an important part of learning at any age.

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that books teach you how to read them. The first chapter may be difficult, the next one a tiny bit easier, until suddenly you are halfway through and it’s not nearly so bad as it was at first.

With the book she’s reading on her own, it’s been a bit of a different story. One subject was a little interesting, so the book wasn’t so bad. A little later, and she was back to not being interested. Then, last week, there was a part that really caught her attention. “I guess this book isn’t so bad,” she said.

That’s right. A book she thought she hated is growing on her.

Guess what? Tastes can be acquired through repeated exposure.

Children have a lot of emotions, and some children have more than others. This little girl of mine, she can be a roller-coaster when it comes to her school books.

Why in the world would I let her emotional roller-coaster dictate my curriculum choices?

As her mother, my job is to stabilize her. To teach her to persevere. To communicate that I know she can do it … and then to do all that I can to help her succeed.

No, it’s not always easy. I know it. And I’m not saying to never change a book out.

But I am asking why, three or four weeks into school, are we tempted to drop a book?

If it’s because it’s obvious the child is in way over his head, well then fine. We made a mistake in the assignments. But if it’s just because little Sally is throwing a tantrum about a book that is hard, but not too hard, or not on her favorite subject, and she only wants her favorite subject, well then, let’s think about what kind of character that is building.

Ideas have consequences, after all.

Am I teaching her to quit when things get hard? Because heaven knows how I felt about motherhood at times in the early days. How I would have loved to have thrown in the towel! Is that what I want? A daughter who gives up?

Frankly, I want my daughters to have a fighting spirit. My sons, too, but with them I worry much less because, if you have boys, then you know it’s often inborn.

It’s a tough world. They are going to have to make hard choices, keep going when they want to stop, persevere when no one else will, stand when they’d rather sit, stay awake when they’d rather sleep, and think before they act when they would rather be slaves to their passions.

Our school lessons? Our home? It’s a training ground.

I don’t ask them to do hard things all day long, no. But I ask them to do hard things some of the time, and I’m not going to apologize for that. You see, I’m the adult in the room. I can be an immovable oaken door, rather than shaken by their childish emotional outbursts.

So my advice? Don’t drop the book.

Instead, help them.

You’ll be glad you did.

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19 Comments

  • Reply Reading Hard Books Slowly – humble adoration December 26, 2017 at 10:45 am

    […] Don’t Drop the Book […]

  • Reply Lisa November 5, 2016 at 7:49 am

    I completely agree. When I first started using Mason’s Method it was easier for me to decide right away if the book wasn’t working. I’ve learned to give it a chance or bring it back later. For example, my kids disliked the Little House Series (? I know right!) so I waited over a year and brought them back and guess what they LOVE them and we are almost done with the series. You are right we need to persevere and trust the Method!
    BTW it was great meeting you and listening to you at Grace to Build!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 5, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Ahh! I met two Lisas, so now I’m wondering which one you are. 🙂 Both were delightful, though, so I can honestly say it was great meeting you, too. 😉

      • Reply Lisa November 5, 2016 at 10:54 am

        I’m originally from California so we talked a little about that 🙂 if that helps jog your memory. I was one of the hostesses.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel November 5, 2016 at 11:22 am

          Yes! I had breakfast with you, right? Oh, you were a joy to talk to! Thank you for your kind hospitality. 🙂

  • Reply Kathy W. October 22, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Excellent!

  • Reply Friday Five » Simply Convivial October 21, 2016 at 7:28 am

    […] Don’t Drop the Book […]

  • Reply Today October 20, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I agree. It is so hard, though. My son (11) is addicted to Magic Tree House series. To me it’s twaddle but that is what he likes to read in his free time. We are almost done reading Kipling’s Mowgli. We are on the last chapter. My son’s comprehension is not that great. We are a bilingual family so maybe that has something to do with it. I always pushed myself to read hard books as a child and teen. I knew it was good for me and they always ended up being really interesting. My kids, it seems, prefer easy books and it really frustrates me. I am not sure what to do. I wish it was more self-driven than me making them read these harder books… You know how C. Mason talks about our constant prodding…

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 20, 2016 at 8:18 pm

      Not that you were asking for advice, but I think I’d push the hard books during school time or read alouds, and then not worry as much about the free read choices. I guess I *have* required this child to read a number of the AO free reads, but she still reads easy readers and picture books for fun, and I really do think that is okay. 🙂

      The bilingual aspect is interesting. I have always wondered how that changes the situation — the brain works a bit differently in that context, I think…

      • Reply Today October 21, 2016 at 1:20 pm

        I just happened to open up volume 6 p. 191. “We do not say that children should never read well-intentioned second-rate books, but certainly they should not read these in school hours by way of lessons.”

        You said pretty much the same thing 🙂 Thought I’d share.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel October 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm

          Ha! That is why this blog is called Afterthoughts — any good thoughts I happen to have came from elsewhere. 😉

      • Reply Sarah Badat Richardson October 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm

        We are a bilingual family as well and I have not noticed this. Is his comprehension different when you read books in one language vs the other? It could be that he understands well but is unable to retell. You know how you ask a kid what did you do today and they’ll answer: “Nothing”. Instead of formal narrations, right now, I ask her to go tell daddy about the book if she was particularly excited about that story. That seems to work better than her retelling me… (she’s 6). Hope this helps.

  • Reply Kristi October 20, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks, this is helpful to think over. Can I ask at what age (is there a bottom-level age) where they start having to stick with a book in this way? Asking for the future since my kids are still young. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 20, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      I have never had an age where I *didn’t* do this, to be honest. With the little girl I’m talking about in this post, when she was in Y1, I really, really had to hold her hand to get her through it. We had to stop and narrate after almost every paragraph for the whole year. Still, in the end, she had advanced so much in a year’s time! And she did love the books. 🙂

      • Reply Sharron October 21, 2016 at 11:47 am

        What if you were having to do the same thing with an 11 yo, struggling learner, girl and she hates the book. Basically, she hates most non- fiction, like history books. But loves Pagoo, which is much harder. I want to press on, but man am I weary!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel October 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm

          I’m writing a post on this!

          • Sharron October 22, 2016 at 12:27 pm

            Woo hoo! June, it does take longer and I made my peace with that. But I can’t seem to make my peace with the fact that she hates it so much. I need to say, I went back to look at whT Ambleside recommended a d what I substituted and the fault probably is not all hers! We may be switching books Monday!

      • Reply June October 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

        Doing narration after every paragraph – doesn’t that take too long to finish the lesson then? I tried this and we were sitting forever to do one reading 🙁

        • Reply Brandy Vencel October 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

          In a post coming out on Monday (if all goes as planned), we will discuss that issue. 🙂

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