Thursday, April 23, 2015

On the scarier kinds of toads (Parents' Review)

For your amusement, on the things we take for granted, including harmless little toads and whether gathering pickle material can be dangerous: a Parents' Review article by mathematician Mary Everest Boole.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From the Parents' Review: on children's collections

(posted by Anne White)

"As for the educational value of juvenile collecting, there are many sorts of collections which are instructive and quite harmless, which depend on contributions gathered by the children themselves, not bought in shops: shells, pebbles, twigs, seeds, mosses, and best of all, paintings of flowers. It is as easy to make a child look out in the map the country whence comes a plant, the flower of which he has painted, as it is to make him look for the town where a stamp was issued. The secretary of the Bayswater Branch of the P.N.E.U., in inviting children to send Natural History collections for the annual exhibition, expressed a wish that shells, seeds, etc., should be sent in boxes not bought, but made by the children."

("The Stamp Traffic As a Factor in Education." Letter to the Parents' Review by Mary Everest Boole, Volume 10, 1899, pg. 214.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Notes of Lessons from the Parents' Review: Joseph Chamberlain and the Last Crusade

"Churchill later wrote that 'Mr. Chamberlain was incomparably the most live, sparkling, insurgent, compulsive figure in British affairs ... 'Joe' was the one who made the weather. He was the man the masses knew.''" (Wikipedia, Joseph Chamberlain)

Parents' Review, Volume 15, Number 2, pages 144-147. (1904)

Subject: Fiscal Problem, 1846-1903.

Group: History.  Class IV.  Time: 45 minutes.



I. To arouse interest in the Fiscal Policy
II. To connect the present time with the period in English history which the girls have been learning.
III. To show how different ages may have different requirements.


Step I.--Introduce the subject of the lesson by asking the girls what they know of the Fiscal question and its importance. It may be a turning point in our history.

Step II. Ask the girls when Free Trade was established in England--1846. Then draw from them through whose influence it was brought about--Cobden, Bright and Peel. Show portraits of these people and tell the girls a little about each. Then draw from them as much as I can about the Corn Laws, whom they benefitted and whom they harmed. They had existed since 1463 in various forms. There had often been objections raised against them, but from 1840-6 there seems to have been the climax. Draw from the girls how this may accounted for by the condition of the country. Then show how circumstances made Peel change his opinions, and finally bring about the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Ask the girls to read extracts from two of Peel's speeches. (Knight's History.)

Step III.--Ask the girls what we mean by Free Trade, and whether they think the effects of "Free Importation" have been good for England. If they do, why was it good? We, as the greatest manufacturing nation of the world, naturally prospered if we could get our raw materials free of duty. Then if we have so prospered, why is there any thought of abandoning it now? Because we are no longer at the head of the manufacturing world. Cobden thought other countries would be content to continue supplying us with raw material and leave manufacturing to us; but they have not been, and now competition runs us close. It is said our exports are decreasing in proportion as those of other countries are increasing. There is another reason. In Cobden's age it was only necessary to think of England's good, but now we have also to consider our Colonies, and our Empire is so large it has been thought necessary to devise some means of binding it all together. The means advocated by Mr. Chamberlain is a Preferential Tariff. I wish to draw as much of this as I can from the girls.

Step IV.--Draw from the girls a very short sketch of Mr. Chamberlain's career. He was born in Birmingham in 1836. At the age of 40 he entered Parliament. He was under Mr. Gladstone and worked energetically for his interests. But when the Home Rule Bill was brought forward he resigned, saying he did not think it consistent with the integrity of the Empire. This step procured him the ill-will of his party and the distrust of his adversaries. In 1892 Mr Chamberlain was again in Parliament; three years later he became Colonial Secretary. In 1900 he did much to bring about the Australian Commonwealth Act. At the Colonial Conference last year, it was desired to devise some means of drawing the Colonies and the mother country near together. A Preferential Tariff was suggested. Mr. Chamberlain seems to have had the idea in his mind for some time; he announced his views in a speech at Birmingham some time ago. In  September last he resigned, that he might better be able to spread his ideas among the people, and also that his policy should not be treated as a party quetion. He has explained his views in his speeches at Glasgow, Greenock, Newcastle and Liverpool.

At Liverpool on 27 October, Chamberlain was escorted to the Conservative Working Men's Association by mounted police amidst wild cheering. Intending to enlist the support of the working class, Chamberlain assured his audience that tariff reform ensured low unemployment. When the Liberal-supporting Daily News used official import prices to demonstrate that a loaf of bread under tariff reform would be smaller than a free trade loaf of bread, Chamberlain arranged for two loaves to be baked based upon free trade and tariff reform prices. On 4 November 1903, Chamberlain spoke at Bingley Hall, Birmingham and put the loaves on display, raising them aloft. "Is it not a sporting question ... as to which is the larger?" he asked the rapturous audience.[12] (Wkipedia)

Step V.--Draw from the girls what I can of Mr. Chamberlain's proposals He wants a Preferential Tariff, that is, he would put a duty on all foreign imports, but allow some Colonial imports in free, in return for preferences from them. The consequences of this would be--

(a) That corn and meat would be dear; tea, sugar, coffee, fruit, wine, etc. would be free of duty. Mr. Chamberlain says that the changes in price would counterbalance each other, even to the advantage of the poor man.

(b) The time for Free Trade has come to an end, for ours is only Free Importation, and we lose doubly by it--we lose home trade and foreign markets.

(c) Our export trade with the foreigner is decreasing, that with the Colonies is increasing, therefore let us set up a Preferential Tariff between us and the Colonies and shut out cheap foreign imports.

(d) This done, there would be enough work for the home market to employ many of the men who now can find nothing to do.

(e) In the time of war, instead of being dependent on foreigners for three-quarters of our supply of food, we should have all we want from our Colonies.

(f) The Empire would be a self-supporting whole.

Step VI.--There are many objectors to Mr. Chamberlain, such as Lord Rosebery, Lord George Hamilton, Lord Goschen and others. Their objections have been partially answered by Mr. Chamberlain in his speeches, but some can only be answered by hypothetical arguments.

(a) They say our exports are not decreasing, and quote figures to prove this, which differ from Mr. Chamberlain's figures. It is hard to know which are right.

(b) Such an arrangement would strain relations with the Colonies; it would be impossible to be just to all alike.

(c) It would rouse the enmity of foreign powers.

(d) We should be dependent on the Colonies; if we wished to change any duty, we should first have to ask their permission and they might very well refuse.

Some people only object to the food tax. In England living is comparatively cheap. It is a question whether the producer or the consumer would pay the duty. Other people object to the whole idea of a Preferential Tariff; in England the wages are higher and the working hours shorter than in any other European country.

We must beware of comparing England with any non-European country, as the conditions would be different.

Also, we must remember there is another view of Protection, protection of home industries; laying a tax on the consumer for the benefit of the producer.

Step VII.--These are the chief points in the new policy. Tell the girls I should like them to read Mr. Chamberlain's last speech, if they have not already done so; and show them how the newspaper is our "present history book."

So what happened? See Tariff Reform, on Wikipedia.

Trivia: Who is Joseph Chamberlain's best-known son?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Parents' Reviews: A Grammar Lesson

Parents' Review, Volume 15, Number 3, pages 228-229. (1904) (This lesson also appears in the Appendix of School Education.)

Subject: Grammar.

Group: English.  Class II.  Time: 20 minutes.

By H.M.A. Bell.


I.  To increase the children's power of reasoning and attention.
II. to increase their knowledge of English Grammar.
III. To introduce a new part of speech--prepositions.


Step I--Draw from the children the names of the two kinds of verbs and the difference between them, by putting up sentences on the board.  Thus in the sentence "Father slept," "slept" is intransitive, therefore he could not "slept" anything, as "slept" cannot have an object.

Step II.--Put on the board the sentence "Mary went," and ask the children to try and make it more complete by adding an object. "Mary went school" would not be sense, but "Mary went to school" would be. Ask for other phrases saying where Mary went, as: for a walk, in the town, with mother, on her bicycle, by train, etc.

Step III.--Tell the children that these little words on, in, by, for, with, etc., belong to a class of little words which are very much used with intransitive verbs, and though they have not much meaning when used alone, yet in a sentence they cannot stand without an object.  You cannot say "Mary went in" without saying what she went in.

Step IV.--Introduce the word "preposition" giving its derivation.  Because these little words always take objects after them and because their place is before the object, they are called prepositions, "pre" being the Latin word for "before," and "position" another word for "place."

Step V.--Write on the board the definition:-- "A preposition always has an object after it."

Step VI.--Let the children work through the following exercises:--

(1.) Put three objects after each of the following prepositions:--in, on, over, by, with and from.

(2.) Put three prepositions and their objects after the following:--Mary plays, Mother sits, John runs.

(3.) Supply three prepositions in each of the following sentences:--The book is ____ the table.  The chair is ____ the door.  I stood ____ the window.

(4.) Supply three subjects and verbs to each of the following prepositions and objects: ______ in the garden, ___ ___ on the floor, and ___ ___ by the fire.

(5.) Make three sentences about each of the following, each sentence to contain an intransitive verb, preposition and object:--The white pony, my little brother, that pretty flower.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A thought about Plutarch

by Anne White

The decision to include Plutarch's Lives--or not--or in what translation--becomes a kind of touchpoint for how we view (or do) a Charlotte Mason education. Shakespeare is easy; everyone knows Shakespeare, recognizes Shakespeare. Nobody argues with teaching Shakespeare. But Plutarch belongs much more unmistakably to Charlotte Mason; if homeschooling was the world and CM was Australia, Plutarch would be a Vegemite sandwich. 

(Australians, what do you think?)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another early reading lesson (Parents' Reviews)

(posted by Anne White)

From The Parents' Review, Volume 15, Number 4 (1904)

Subject: Reading.

Group: English. Class: 1a.  Time: 15 minutes.

By D. Brownell


I. To improve E--'s reading.
II. To enlarge his vocabulary.
III. To make him think.
IV. To develop the habit of attention

Step I.--Tell E- a little about the piece of poetry- "A Friend in the Garden," by Mrs. Ewing--that he is going to read, so as to arouse his interest.

Step II.--Take the first line, "He is not John the gardener," and let E-- read the word "gardener," using the powers of the letters, and not their names. Write it up on the blackboard, in order to impress it appearance on his mind. Then take [teach] the word "John," and then [teach the word] "not," and from this last [i.e. only from not] make a column of words on the blackboard, by simply changing the initial letter, letting E-- furnish the words. Then let the line be read straight through.

Step III.-- Take the next line-- "And yet the whole day long," beginning again with the most difficult words, "whole" and "long," and from "and" and "long" write columns of words on the board.

Step IV.--Take the third line--"Employs himself most usefully," in the same way, beginning with "employs" and "usefully."

Step V.--Take the fourth line-- "The flower-beds among," in the same way.

Step VI.--Let E-- read the verse straight through.

Step VII.-- Read the other verses of the poems to him, and show him a picture of a "friendly toad."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

From the Parents' Review: An early reading lesson

(posted by Anne White)

From "Notes of Lessons," in The Parents' Review, Volume 17, Number 6.


Subject: Reading.

Group: English. Class Ia.  Time: 10 minutes.

By N. Dixon.


I.--To help the children to gain power in visualising words.
II.--To interest them in reading.
III.--To cultivate the habits of attention and accuracy.
IV.--To give practice in clear and distinct enunciation.


Step I.--Interest the boys in the picture belonging to the lesson to arouse the wish to read about it.

Step II.--Print on the blackboard the words from the lesson which present any new difficulty : cabin, lives, turrets, hammock, instead. Children to sound and read them, and then write them in the air with their eyes shut.

Step III.--Let them find them in the reading book, then make the words with their letters from dictation.

Step IV.--Children to read the first three lines of the lesson, from the book.

Step V.--Print on the board any words they still find difficulty in recognising, and let them make them with letters and find them in the book.

Ben is a cabin boy. He lives on a big ship with turrets and guns on the deck. Ben has a hammock in the ship, instead of a bed.

Note: the book is unnamed, but it might be The Happy Reader, by E.L. Young.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Synthetic Thinking and Math

by Karen Glass

Education is the science of relations. That’s the principle that underlies what I call synthetic thinking (explained more fully in Consider This). The principle applies even to arithmetic, which is, although we don’t usually fathom the reason, one of the liberal arts. An art is not made up merely of information to master--it is meant to used. Arts are “practiced.” We want to foster a relationship between students and the world of mathematics, and that is most readily accomplished when we treat mathematics as an art to be practiced.

There is going to come a time, in math, when a child is going to have to sit down and work through some complicated equations. That is either going to be a challenge met with confidence and a lift of the chin-- “I can do this!”--or with boredom and despair. We often speak of wanting children to love reading, love literature, love books, maybe even love history or science. We rarely speak of wanting to them to love numbers, and this is probably a reflection of the reality that few of us formed that relationship in our early years of education. Whether or not that relationship is formed will determine the response a child--and even an adult--brings to those complicated problems.
The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders. There is no one subject in which good teaching effects more, as there is none in which slovenly teaching has more mischievous results. Multiplication does not produce the 'right answer,' so the boy tries division; that again fails, but subtraction may get him out of the bog. There is no must be to him; he does not see that one process, and one process only, can give the required result. Now, a child who does not know what rule to apply to a simple problem within his grasp, has been ill taught from the first, although he may produce slatefuls of quite right sums in multiplication or long division. (Home Education, p. 254)
We often speak of a "Charlotte Mason education" being a paradigm shift, and nowhere is that shift greater than in the area of math. Charlotte Mason knew that math was about much more than getting the “right answer.” There is a relationship between math and the natural life of men, and it was this relationship that she wanted to foster first.
How is this insight, this exercise of the reasoning powers, to be secured? Engage the child upon little problems within his comprehension from the first, rather than upon set sums. (Home Education, p. 254)
In practice, this means that children should begin with what we call “word problems,” and those problems should be based upon real-life experiences that the child might expect to occur. For the smallest children, these math problems occur easily in course of living.

Home life is full of easy little arithmetic problems that bring the importance of numbers, as well as concepts such as quantity, equality, and one-to-one correspondence within the grasp of even quite young children. A family of four is joining us for dinner. How many chairs to do we need to add to the table? I can only find three clean spoons--how many will we need to wash so that we have enough? There are six cookies left in the box. How many can each child have?

Older children can figure how much five cans of corn will cost, or whether there is enough money for everyone to get double-scoop ice-cream cones, or if singles will have to do this time.

Older children may be given more complex, multi-step problems, such as “Joe gathered 87 walnuts and Tim gathered 28. They plan to share the nuts with three friends. How many will each of the five boys receive?” Charlotte Mason says that a child will perceive exactly what must be done in order to solve the problem, although “Care must be taken to give the child such problems as he can work, but yet which are difficult enough to cause him some little mental effort.” (Home Education, p. 255)

The more occasions a child has to use math in real life--and that might include playing games in which counting, adding (or subtracting) points, or other arithmetic plays a part--the more likely he is to develop an interest in and a relationship with math.

Math is needed for cooking, for science, for travel, for planning and purchasing, and the more integrated a child’s exposure to math is, the greater will be his appreciation for it. Once that appreciation is established, the extra effort needed to memorize math facts or unravel complex equations will be entered into more willingly. The child has no need to whine, “why do I have to learn this?” If he has developed a synthetic understanding of math, he already knows the answer to that question, and will likely also work out the answer to the arithmetic problem at hand.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"What if we miss something?"

Charlotte Mason explains a result of some forms of education, a result she calls 'deplorable:'

So that 'maimed existence' is what we don't want.  Many parents think we can ward it off by not having any 'gaps' in our curriculum.  We don't want to miss anything, so we try to stuff everything we can into our children's days and years.  I am prey to this myself.  And I am definitely not alone.  We often are asked something like this:
 "I'm starting late.  I don't want him to miss anything.  Should I go back and work in all the Shakespeare plays and composers and painters we've missed in the previous five years?"

The short answer to this is simply, "No."

But we don't want merely to tell moms what to do, we want to equip them to make Charlotte Mason compatible choices and to feel confident about them.  Knowing the why, looking at the bigger, long term picture helps one clarify the immediate picture.

Know that this is not a new question.  It only gets asked becausae parents care.   I'm pretty sure if I took the time to research it I would find versions of parents asking this question on scrolls from ancient Rome, in letters written by Victorian mothers to each other, to the editor of the paper, and their schools, and in ancient Chinese philosophy writings.    So don't feel bad if you're one of those parents.  So am I. 

What follows is an email list response I gave back in 2005 to one of our members who asked a similar question:

Even if you had been with this program from the beginning, after a full twelve year rotation, there would still be worthy composers, artists, and hymns that you would miss. It's just not possible to cover all of them.
 But the beauty of a Charlotte Mason education is that it isn't 'done' when the child turns 18. 
The goal is not to do 'all the things,' but to introduce them to the liberal arts, poetry, art, music, nature, science, the world around them, their fellow man, creation, and most of all, the King of Kings.  We want to set their feet in that wide and spacious room, provide that beautiful banquet with an array of intellectual delights, turn them on to the rich beauty that is out there.  Then,  when you are done homeschooling, they continue on through life learning new things, finding new discoveries, and maintain their interest in the arts ( and other subjects, too).

Childhood is a beautiful time when our children are discovering and developing those first affinities which will serve them in good stead for the rest of their lives, so more than covering it all, the most important thing is to give your young people a taste for the delights that are available to enrich them all their lives, to give them... self sustaining lives.

They are going to continue to read, to fill those gaps, to build on their knowledge.  
They are going to reread, as well.  That first and single reading Miss Mason talks about is for their school books, during school.  You will find that for most of our children, this will not be the only time, ever, they read any of the books in the curriculum:

 ...Having found the book which has a message for us,  let us not be guilty of the folly of saying we have read it. We  might as well say we have breakfasted, as if breakfasting on one day  should last us for every day! The book that helps us deserves many  readings, for assimilation comes by slow degrees. 
Education is a journey.  We are setting our children's feet on a wide path- and it's a long path.  We are starting them off on this journey.  We don't need to try to stuff it all in one short school career.  It is a road that goes ever on and on.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ralph Waldo Emerson on the popularity of Plutarch

"But this neglect by his contemporaries has been compensated by an immense popularity in modern nations. Whilst his books were never known to the world in their own Greek tongue, it is curious that the Lives were translated and printed in Latin, thence into Italian, French and English, more than a century before the original Works were yet printed. For whilst the Lives were translated in Rome in 1470, and the Morals, part by part, soon after, the first printed edition of the Greek Works did not appear until 1572. Hardly current in his own Greek, these found learned interpreters in the scholars of Germany, Spain and Italy. In France, in the middle of the most turbulent civil wars, Amyot’s translation awakened general attention. His genial version of the Lives in 1559, of the Morals in 1572, had signal success.

"King Henry IV. wrote to his wife, Marie de Medicis: “Vive Dieu. As God liveth, you could not have sent me anything which could be more agreeable than the news of the pleasure you have taken in this reading. Plutarch always delights me with a fresh novelty. To love him is to love me; for he has been long time the instructor of my youth. My good mother, to whom I owe all, and who would not wish, she said, to see her son an illustrious dunce, put this book into my hands almost when I was a child at the breast. It has been like my conscience, and has whispered in my ear many good suggestions and maxims for my conduct and the government of my affairs.” 

"Still earlier, Rabelais cites him with due respect. Montaigne, in 1589, says: “We dunces had been lost, had not this book raised us out of the dirt. By this favor of his we dare now speak and write. The ladies are able to read to schoolmasters. ’T is our breviary.” Montesquieu drew from him his definition of law, and, in his Pensées, declares, “I am always charmed with Plutarch; in his writings are circumstances attached to persons, which give great pleasure;” and adds examples. 

"Saint-Evremond read Plutarch to the great Condé under a tent. Rollin, so long the historian of antiquity for France, drew unhesitatingly his history from him. Voltaire honored him, and Rousseau acknowledged him as his master. In England, Sir Thomas North translated the Lives in 1579, and Holland the Morals in 1603, in time to be used by Shakspeare in his plays, and read by Bacon, Dryden and Cudworth."

You can read the whole essay  here: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Plutarch.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pray for the children to prosper in good life and good literature- Dean Colet

Why is that book in the curriculum?

This was a legitimate question asked recently in the forum (please visit!). Homeschooling moms by default are involved moms, and they care about their children's education.  They want to know why.

So it's not the first time we've seen some variation of this question. In this case, it was specifically referring to a year 7 literature selection: Watership Down, by Richard Adams.

 I was a little loathe to answer (I explain why below), but I stepped in and made the attempt.  My reply was off the cuff and hastily written.  While I had been reluctant to answer, once I got started, I got excited about it and got a little carried away.  Our moderators seemed to like it and they asked me to share.   So what follows is my (somewhat) edited reply:

 Because we said so. (cheesy grin)   No?

Because David Hicks said so, which is closer to the truth.
David Hicks included Watership Down in his curriculum list in the book Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education and with his gracious and generous permission we relied heavily on his suggestions for the upper years.

 But that answer is like many origins theories- it doesn't answer the question of biogenesis- why did David Hicks include it in his list in the first place? Why did my college room-mate tell me her teacher-mother required all her 8th grade students to read it and she was shocked that I had never even heard of it, since it was one of the greatest children's books ever? Why is it still in print after all these years? Why?

There are reasons.  However, we on the Advisory  are getting older and I know I am forgetting more and more details these days.  It's many years now since I last read it and we discussed where and how to add it to our year 7.  In fact,  I had to look up Watership Down at Wikipedia to remind myself of some of the details so I could explain.

     It's a struggle for me to explain our reasons sometimes.  I don't feel capable of giving the answers the books and the askers deserve- partly that's my own personal frustration with myself and my own inability to explain things adequately. It's hard for me to put my ideas about the books into words sometimes.

 Also, I cannot be succinct. This is all me, a deep flaw. I am reluctant to start because I don't know when I'll end.

But the biggest reason it's hard to explain?   It's  the books. The more-than-merely-good books,  the living books- they are amazing. While with some programs you can say, "This book is listed because it is about a family living in Japan and we study Japan this term. This book is listed because it is about peanuts and we study George Washington Carver this term. This book is about a family in the Civil War, and that's where we are in history... etc."

It's tidy, neat, simple-  and you will have said pretty much all there is to say about the reason to read those books.

With living books? You cannot pigeonhole true living books like that. 

They are not one-note songs. I'm getting excited now, skip with me through a daisy field of badly mixed metaphors here (and analogies, and similes). The living books are nuanced orchestra pieces. They are dishes at a king's banquet, richly flavored with layers and layers of aromatic goodness, spiced and seasoned throughout with ideas about at least fifty different things.

So perhaps I can tell you the big things that stand out about a particularl book, but sometimes that is like pulling one thread out of a tapestry and telling you that is the most important thing. It's not- all the threads work together. There may be thirty yards of green thread and only 2 yards of white in that tapestry (I'm making up the numbers), but if you left out the white, you lose some key details that are part of the larger picture.

It's like asking somebody to pick out the most important ingredient in a fine pico de gallo, a perfect roll of sushi- the end result is greater than the sum of the parts. 

 All living books have many, many living ideas, and I don't know which one will mean the most to your children or you- and neither do they, right now. The things they can narrate right now are good and wonderful, but they will also have feelings, resonating chords in the heart that they aren't even aware of yet- ten years from now they may think- 'this reminds me of what Fiver said in Watership Down (this, btw, pretty much never happens with twaddle or one note song stories).

 I can say that Watership Down is about... epics, about worldbuilding, about thinking 'what if' thoughts, seeing the world through a completely foreign point of view in a way that will also (I hope) some day give a student the idea that, 'you know what? I eat with a fork and a knife, but eating with chopsticks is not so weird- there are reasons why different cultures might develop different customs and stories and courtesies...'

Maybe he won't even be able to put it into words. Maybe he won't even know that the first little nudging of that idea was from stories he read in first grade, and then the idea picked up a little emphasis and moved forward and gained speed with another story he read in year 4, and that idea was reshaped and given wheels with Watership Down, and then.... another book added another gentle layer on another layer.

 Or I could say Watership Down is in the curriculum because of what it teaches about governments, leadership, statecraft, freedom and tyranny- perhaps this child reader will notice the different forms of government the rabbits meet in different warrens, the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.  Perhaps your child will absorb some of the statecraft of one of the rabbit leaders, or think big thoughts about politics. Or perhaps he will just notice the problem with the lack of does and how the rabbits try to solve that issue, and maybe he will make connections with the Sabin women story in Plutarch, or the population problems in China thanks to her one-child policy.

 It might be that he (or she, I'm old-fashioned and still use 'he' as a gender neutral pronoun) will note the character of the different rabbits and how that relates to the things they do, their successes, strengths, weaknesses, and failures. Perhaps he will connect to Hazel and want to be a leader like him, or maybe this child will recognize Hazel's traits in another leader and throw his support to that candidate who most resembles Hazel, or maybe he will connect to Blackberry- withinnovative mind with a bent toward discovery beyond his fellows.  Maybe this child will just learn something about recognizing when friendship extended is not truely friendship at all, as the rabbits learned from Cowslip's warren.

I could say we have included Watership Down because it will help children understand anthropology, the study of customs, culture, peoples, and politics. Maybe the hints of those topics, rustling through the pages beneath the obvious parts of the plot, will whisper in your child's ears and he will discover an interest in those topics as he grows up, he will be able to make connections in ways he might not otherwise have been able to do if he had never met the various rabbits, read their stories, songs, poetry, and beliefs in WD.

 Perhaps the children will make connections between this story and the story of Abraham, told by God to leave everything and almost he had known in Ur, and journey to a new land and make his home there. Perhaps the reader will one day be called to become something of a gypsy himself- a missionary, a member of the military, a travel writer.

Perhaps he will find in this story a germ of an idea about what life is like for refugees, the struggles they face, and the home they miss and the one they hope to create. Maybe nothing greater will come of that but that he will be sympathetic toward refugees in general, and pray for them when he reads their stories in the news- and he will never realize that reading Watership Down is what first lit that little flame, created an affinity, if you will.

 Perhaps your student will discover he wants to be a fiction writer, creating a world like the author of Watership Down did, using animals as characters, or it will be the writing style that strikes the bell in his heart, or it will be something else I haven't even thought to mention.

 Interwoven into all this richness are true facts about real rabbits, real-life experiences the author had in a battle in the Netherlands in WW2, and stories he told to his little girls to amuse them on car trips. Maybe something there will connect with your reader.

I haven't even touched half the veins of ideas a child could mine from this book.

 It can be this way because Watership Down is a living book, in good company with Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings, The Oddysey, and other epics. Living books are written in interesting, complex language with challenging ideas, and excellent characterization and plotting.  They defy easy categorization. Watership Down is richly endowed with many, many living ideas, too many to list, and so it is difficult to label it with one 'cause' for including it in the curriculum. Like a Charlotte Mason education, it is full of wide and generous ideas.

 We could say that about any of our literature selections.

Ironically, or serendipitously, or providentially, or because this is the thing about connections, about the great ideas, about literature, a day or two after I wrote the above explanation for Watership Down, Auxiliary member Naomi shared this link with me.  you should read it all, but here's what caught my attention:

"But it is in the schools that perhaps the deepest confusion exists about the purposes of children’s literature. This year my husband and I attended several open houses at top“ranked private schools. At some of these events, tables for each grade were set up with frequently used materials, books read, and work produced. Very few of the classic children’s books were in evidence. Instead, the children were reading books chosen not because they were beautifully written or had stood the test of time, but because of their relationship to “appropriate” subject matter. In the lower grades at least, books were seldom understood as literature; they were merely aids to teaching social studies." 

There is a time and a place for books that are aids for teaching specific subjects. But literature is a worthy cause on its own merits, because good literature is a treasure trove of good ideas.