Tuesday’s Choice: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I know, I know…when it says Classics on the book it is a good clue that it is a rather good read, but for some reason there are plenty of classics that I have never read or even desired to read. Our Ambleside Online booklist is showing up the gaps in my reading (did I ever actually get beyond Enid Blyton and Anne of Green Gables?) and has put so many delightful books in my path, leading me to ask how can I possibly have never read this before?!  Here is our current read which I would wholeheartedly recommend to any of you dear readers who happen to have the same gaps.

I always envisaged Wind in the Willows as being rather dull, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find it has a lovely mixture of beautiful descriptions of the best of our countryside, great characters that you can really recognise and relate to, and lots of humour and depth.  Who doesn’t know a fellow like Toad who throws himself into new activities with great zest that quickly peters out, having dragged his long suffering friends in his wake? And who wouldn’t wish for a loyal friend such as Ratty, who heads into the Wild Woods in order to find Mole who has foolishly headed there alone, or who heads back into the dark fields with snow on the way to help Mole find his home? And as our history studies take us through a sweeping look at the rise and fall of many civilisations throughout the history of time, Badger’s wise words that men come and go but that the animal kingdom carries on regardless rings true.

I am reading a chapter a week to LissaLou and she narrates back the gist of the story – she has improved greatly in this skill but is stronger on giving a detailed account rather than a short and concise one. Sometimes her narrations are so vivid that it is as good as hearing the story all over again! I don’t think she would be happy reading it to herself just yet though, as there are lots of unfamiliar words. I asked her what her verdict of it so far is and she replied great characters, like you really know them and they give a great example of being good friends. So there you have it!


And Finally – Books We Are All Enjoying

Nothing beats sitting down together on the sofa and reading a book that grips or enchants each of us, on different levels.  We have tried to bring more French into our days and these two fairy tale collections were much appreciated.  The Book of Heroes has some marvellous stories in it, especially one at the end with two brothers who…, you will need to read it yourself!  But I think the all time favourite is possibly Little Pilgrim’s Progress.   This is a particularly special book as it just comes out on Sunday evenings when we usually read one (or possibly two if they are very lucky!) of the short chapters.  The children just love this time and are always clamouring for more, and it has led to so many deep and fascinating discussions on life, faith, the universe…. Highly recommended!

This Term’s Reading For …CassCass

Again, a bit of French reading, a few books that I read and she narrates, and then Six by Seuss which she is enjoying reading to me (JoJo loves sneaking next to us to listen!).  Can I just say how much we love the Fables (and the illustrations in this book add to our pleasure)?  All three look at them over and over again, even JoJo narrates them as they are so simple, and so often does someone comment that a particular situation is “just like that fable”.  Go ahead and savour them!


This Term’s Reading…For LissaLou

Here are the main books that LissaLou has been listening to and narrating, except for Babar which she reads (not easy, as it is all written in the French swirly whirly cursive writing that we are trying to learn!) and translates.  We have both enjoyed them all, but LissaLou’s favourite was undoubtedly Understood Betsy, a great tale about a young girl who leaves a life of being fussed over in town for a very different one of responsibility and challenges in a small farming village.

There has definitely been a Viking theme going on, with the Vikings covered in Discovery of New Worlds, then their arrival in Britain in Our Island Story, and finally the story of the third generation Viking Richard the Fearless and his early life in Normandy in Little Duke.  Now our conversations are full of mead and Valhalla!

Homeschooling – Reading

Having given the background to how we got to where we are now, I thought I would go through what we are actually up to this year.  As we are nearing the end of the school year and I am in a reflective mood, I may also highlight what has and hasn’t worked for us, so that I can remember for future reference – bearing in mind that I will be walking this path with two more children!

I mentioned that we use the Ambleside Online curriculum, and are following Year 1, so you will see a lot of the following on their booklist.

We have an awful lot of reading in our day – wonderful!  At the moment, I am reading anything school-related out aloud, but this should change in the next couple of years as LissaLou takes on her own reading by about the age of 10.  All three are very happy lone readers, and will pick up a book during the day (JoJo just ‘reads’ the pictures for now!), LissaLou has been working through the Famous Five series (finally at the end!) and CassCass has a very eclectic approach!  I also try to read before bed. 

We do a lot of reading together, and I love how much the younger ones take in, despite the comparatively advanced level.  We are reading a chapter of the original Pinocchio by Carlo Colludi each morning and they love this one, despite it being so different from the Disney version.  We found a lovely hardback copy in the charity shop with beautiful pictures which add to their enjoyment.

Every breakfast time Bertie reads us a section from the Bible in English – we are working our way through Matthew right now.  Then for our Circle Time, we read another story from one of our Children’s Bibles.  For our poem a day, we really loved the Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa.   Not only are the poems beautiful and varied, so are the accompanying pictures.  We also enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and are currently reading through When We Were Very Young by AA Milne.  Sometimes the girls read, and whilst it comes naturally for LissaLou, CassCass has been working a lot harder to pronounce all the letters and read clearly and loudly.

Other books we have read together this year include the Little House in the Big Woods, the Little House on the Prairie and By the Banks of Plum Creek.  All marvellous!  Some of my favourite books from my childhood are Enid Blyton’s trio: The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, The Children of Willow Farm and More Adventures on Willow Farm.  They were my source of learning about the countryside and farming (uneducated city girl that I was!) and have been equally informative to my three city children.  We have nearly finished the second, but disaster struck in Scotland when we left it on the bus.  We hastily ordered a replacement and were so relieved when it arrived, thanks Amazon!

We recently read The Velveteen Rabbit which CassCass particularly enjoyed.  It reminds me of LissaLou and her little dog Hamy who she is devoted to, as it is all about a rabbit who becomes ‘real’ by being loved, then real by magic at the end.  Definitely one that has me sniffing and surreptiously wiping my eyes towards the end! 

A recent addition was Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L Taylor, which we are keeping as a Sunday evening treat.  The chapters are really short and accessible for children and it is a great read.  Woe betide me if I forget to get it out!

LissaLou and I read through several of the CS Lewis Narnia series, I think we are up to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader but are just taking a rest from it.  We also enjoyed Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome last summer, though all the nautical language was very hard going, and I have Swallowdale ready for this summer. 

Finally for now, another must-read author, Patricia St John, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and getting her autograph when I was at Spring Harvest as a ten year old!  LissaLou and I have enjoyed Rainbow Garden, all about a girl who is shifted to rural Wales from London to cope with life in a large family having been a rather spoilt only child, and her discovery of faith and gradual transformation.  I have really appreciated Patricia St John’s beautiful detailed descriptions of nature in her books, which I must have glossed over in the speed reading of my youth.  A definite advantage of reading out aloud!

Now we are enjoying Treasures of the Snow, which is possibly even better, set in the Swiss Alps and all about forgiveness and transformation.  I gave a copy as a Confirmation present recently, I hope that the recipient enjoys it as much as we are!

To finish, I always think how nice it would be to have kept a record of all the books I have read, so I have started this with the girls and they can decide whether to keep it up in their adult years.  We just write the year and then the title and author, with a tick if it was by themselves.  I am keeping it to proper chapter books, but CassCass has slipped a few others in!

Tuesday’s Choice: Pollyanna

Now that LissaLou is a bit older, she really enjoys a special time in the evening snuggled up on my knee (at what age do they grow too old for that?!) reading a chapter of a long book. We struggled through Peter Pan (you try it!) and managed a bit of Heidi in french (not sure who worked harder, the reader or the listener!) so Pollyanna (Eleanor H Porter) was a bit easier, though we still had to discuss a lot of what was going on and I left out a few bits here and there. Even I picked up a new phrase – anyone else know what a porte-cochère is? We were then thrilled to find a real one at Valentine’s House last week!

In any case it was a big hit – her response to what she thought of it was that it was exciting and nice, her favourite part was when Aunt Polly and the doctor got married (sorry for that spoiler, but it is quite easy to guess!!) and there was nothing she didn’t like!

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Pollyanna, it is based on an 11 year old orphan going to live with her cold and distant aunt and melting the hearts of everyone in the entire town through her generally delightful personality and her special “glad game”. I love the idea of the glad game, based on her minister father discovering God tells us in 800 bible texts to be glad and rejoice (one day I shall try and find them all!). There is a tendency to be moany and complaining in our family, so it has been lovely to hear LissaLou come out with reasons to be glad recently.

The book was published in 1913 and it is also interesting to read about small town American life a hundred years ago – that too led to great discussions about our perspective. Pollyanna was amazed and overjoyed at her rich aunt having carpets and mirrors in her house, not to mention ice cream – we tend to overlook such luxuries around us all the time! I have heard criticisms of Pollyanna’s constant optimism (it does wear out sometimes!) but I like it, and it can be very inspirational for children and adults alike!

Right, a little girl is waiting for my knee – happy reading!

Tuesday’s Choice: Tiddler

We only really got acquainted with the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler books last autumn and this is our latest – so popular that even as I write Jojo is shrieking “tiddler!” and pointing at the screen!

The rhymes (I do love a good rhyme!) are great and pictures full of detail with lots to look at. This particularly story sees a fish called Tiddler (small, but with a tall imagination) creating all sorts of amazing stories about his journey to school, then a real adventure actually happens and it is thanks to the way his stories have spread that he is able to find his way home from the middle of the ocean…

I love the different approach of each child to a book: Jojo loves pointing at all the different types of sea creatures in this one and saying their name whilst CassCass adores the final line where we find out how the book Tiddler came to be written – she will get me to read that one line all over again! LissaLou can now read it for herself, and we had fun discussing whether this story was a) true b) based on a true person but a made up situation c) made up but could have happened or d) totally made up and no chance of happening! It was most decidedly classed as d)!

If you haven’t read any others by this duo, then do read the wonderful Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s Child as well as Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book. If you have, let us know which you enjoyed!