Saturday, May 21, 2011

To feast, or not to feast? That is the question.

A large part of the educational focus in our homeschool is on quality literature.

I am a firm believer reading good books can increase vocabulary, strengthen awareness of grammar and structure, inspire imagination, and stir a hunger for more learning.

So many books out there tend to be thin, both in plot and language.  Just like pushing back from the table after a skillfully prepared, nutritionally balanced meal, reading a robust, hearty book leaves one satisfied and feeling healthy.  With this being the case, why would we ever spoil our appetites on lacking imitations? 

When we consistently feed ourselves these heartier books over what Charlotte Mason called 'twaddle', we begin to crave them, and lesser selections no longer satisfy.  

An excellent example of choosing between substantial literature and a dumbed-down version presented itself this week when we began our new read aloud, The Swiss Family Robinson.

Here is an excerpt from the first page of the copy we had at home:

"For six days, the wind howled and tore at the sails, while the waves pounded against our little wooden ship, tossing it high in the air.On the seventh day, the masts ripped apart and fell into the sea.  Several leaks appeared, and the ship began to fill with water.  Realizing that the storm had driven us far off course, the frightened sailors fell to their knees in prayer."

Swiss Family Robinson is classic literature, so you can't lose, right?  Wrong.

Now read this excerpt from the first page of the copy we have checked out from our library (Grosset and Dunlap, Illustrated Junior Library, 1949):

"For many days we had been-tempest tossed.  Six times had the darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene, and returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost."

Hello!  What a difference!

Let's read on, shall we?

"We were driven completely out of our course; no conjecture could be formed as to our whereabouts.  The crew had lost heart and were utterly exhausted by incessant labor. The riven masts had gone by the board, leaks had been sprung in every direction, and the water, which rushed in, gained upon us rapidly.Instead of reckless oaths, the seamen now uttered frantic cries to God for mercy, mingled with strange and often ludicrous vows, to be performed should deliverance be granted."

Sure, we could read the first one and get the idea of the story of The Swiss Family Robinson.  Or we could read the second, and feed our brains a diet rich in imagery and vocabulary.  

I bet you can guess which one we have our bookmark in. :)

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1 comment:

Lisa said...

I think your savory oatmeal may have scared away all your commenters! ;) They are still speechless. Probably afraid of "feast" in the title.
I find the comparison of the literature fascinating and applaud your choice of reading.
The only thing condensed that's worth much is soup and eagle brand. (Just not in your oatmeal! ;) )