Literature is written or spoken material that is the work of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Through the current curriculum I'm using with the girls (Sonlight), we've been introduced to wonderful literary works in each of the genres mentioned.
Sophia and Olivia on "Box Day" - when the books
for the upcoming school year are received.
They enjoy looking at all the books they'll be
reading or listening to during the upcoming year.
In addition to using the books that are part of the Sonlight curriculum, I'm also using several lists of books to introduce the girls to a wide variety of literature (e.g., Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal).
The Association for Library Service to Children has a website that has information about different awards that are given each year to children's books that are of high quality. Each award has a different focus. The ones that we're focusing on include:
- (John) Newbery Medal - honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
- (Randolph) Caldecott Medal - honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
- (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal - honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.
- (Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award - honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.
Reading is such an integral part of homeschooling for us. Since the girls were young, I have read to them daily. Once Sophia began reading on her own, she spent more time being able to read independently which expanded the number of books she listened to/read each day. The girls both listen to books on CD as well.
In addition to reading inside, the girls enjoy reading outside - on blankets on the ground with the clouds and trees as the backdrop...or in one of the climbing trees in the backyard.
Sophia reading outside on an early-fall afternoon.
Literature has introduced the girls to historical facts, given them insight into different cultures; and provides the inspiration to learn more about different times and traditions other than their own.
Some of our favorite homeschool memories center around literature-based unit studies. The first series we did was the American Girl one that focuses on ten year old girls from a variety of ethnicities and time periods in the United States.
We started with the Kaya series which was set in the 1700s with the Nez Perce and finished with the Julie series that was set in the 1970s and had a Chinese-American sub-theme (this was nice for the girls who are both Chinese-American).
Olivia taking a look at one of the American Girl books
under the willow tree on the nature trail
in the back part of the farm.
The girls and I did crafts, cooked/baked food that tied into each series, and took field trips to places to bring alive what they were reading in the American Girl Series.
The girls learned about rations, the Victory pledge,
and Victory Gardens when we did the Molly unit study.
Here, at Fort Snelling, there was a homeschool day
focused on WWII (when the Molly series took place).
This display shows rations at the time (e.g., food, gasoline, shoes).
The other series that we enjoyed was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Starting with Little House in the Big Woods and ending nine books later with The First Four Years, we not only read the books but did hands-on activities and took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura spent the early part of her childhood).
We visited Pepin once when we started the series and were reading Little House in the Big Woods to see where Laura's childhood home was located, saw the cemetary where some of the people mentioned in her book were buried, and visited a museum focused on the Ingalls family/Laura Ingalls Wilder.
In 2010, we went back to Pepin with the girls' grandparents; and stopped at the lake and went through town.
Sophia, Olivia, and Papa (the girls' grandpa)
on the shores of Lake Pepin (Wisconsin).
Children's literature also has opened up the girls' imagination and fostered an enthusiam for learning about things that they normally wouldn't have thought or known. For example, I read to the girls a long time ago a book called Mailing May in which five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff begs to visit her grandmother, but her parents cannot afford to send her.
In Idaho in 1914, the train is the only way to make the 75-mile trip over the mountains. The Pierstorffs come up with an unusual solution - mailing May. Sending her as a package is a third of the cost, and since her mother's cousin Leonard handles the railroad mail car, she does not have to travel alone.
So, we were on a trip up north a few years ago, and visited a train museum. There happened to be an old, restored mail car at the Duluth train museum. This brought to life this book which the girls clearly remembered and made the connection to; making the visit such a fun experience for the girls.
The girls in a restored mail car a train museum
in Duluth, Minnesota.
Another way that literature has been a part of homeschooling is by sharing the gift of reading and quality books with others. We have donated many books to the local second-hand shop. All the proceeds from the sale of the books help fund programs that serve those in need in the community.
The girls also donated some books to Books For Africa through the 52 Weeks of Giving program that we're doing this year.
And, perhaps, most meaningful (on a personal level) is seeing the gift of reading and literature shared between generations. One of my father's favorite books that his mother read to him when he was a boy was The Story of Ferdinand.
The story, written in 1936, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.
Sophia reading Papa one of his favorite childhood books.
At the time (August 2010), he was able to still read the book.
Now (June 2011), with Alzheimer's Disease,
he struggles with reading,
but enjoys being read to and listening.
Literature has been and will continue to be an important and central focus of homeschooling for us.