The Demise of Literature

In thinking about the demise of the bookstore, I got to thinking about the books that are sold there. And I think that may be a big part of the problem–there is very little true literature being published anymore.

This has been especially obvious to be when shopping for books for my children to read. There are plenty of fluff choices–Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, etc. But these are all books that are not welcome in our house. Aside from the fact that they often feature characters that we don’t want our children to emulate, they’re just poorly written. Poor sentence structure, simplistic vocabulary–it’s the dumbing down of America in one neat little package. Children are no longer being encouraged to read books with rich storylines and complex sentence structure and vocabulary–now they’re just encouraged to read the latest gross-out story, or something that, while it may make them laugh, won’t make them think.

But how are children supposed to learn to be good writers themselves, if they don’t have good writers to model their work after? They say that one of the best way to encourage a child’s skill in writing is to give him something well-written to read. Doing copywork based on good literature is an excellent exercise for children in discovering how a good sentence is constructed, learning new words, learning how to write himself.

And how is a child supposed to be prepared to read adult classics, if he’s only been exposed to fluff as a child? I suppose the short answer is, fewer and fewer adults are reading the classics–they’re just reading the adult version of fluff. This, too, is painfully obvious in bookstores–it seems that anyone can get a book published today, regardless of ability or creativity.

We don’t just give children candy to eat–some parents don’t even give their children any. Rather, we focus on healthy, balanced nutrition. So why don’t we take the same approach to children’s minds? Instead of filling their brains up with the literary version of candy, we should be filling them with the protein and vegetables of the literary world. Perhaps if we raised our standards on what makes acceptable literature, books, (and by extension bookstores), would experience a renaissance, and more people would want to buy, and read, good stories.

Why We Homeschool

It may be easier to start with things that are *not* reasons for our decision to homeschool.

We do *not* homeschool primarily for religious reasons. I am very grateful that I can share Scripture readings with my children every morning, that we have catechisis right in school, that we can talk about God when we discuss science and history and art and any other subjects where He is brought up. But this was not the top reason we chose to homeschool.

We do *not* homeschool to shelter our children. Yes, I will decide when to introduce some concepts, and I may filter certain things for them, but we will (and have) discuss tough subjects. I feel that our children need to know about things they will encounter out in the real world (such as evolution), so that they know how to respond. But I will make sure that I share that information in age-appropritate (and individual child-appropriate) ways.

We do *not* homeschool because I can’t let go. I had to send Moose off to school when he was barely three, which was very hard for me, and goes against my personal belief that barring special circumstances (autism, in this case), children that young belong at home. I did it anyway. And if I *had* to send Turkey, Bunny and Ladybug to the public school, I would, just as I send them off to Sunday School, VBS, Fall Bible School, and for some of my children, mornings at MOPS, even when they were only a few weeks old.

We do *not* homeschool because the public schools are intrinsically terrible. Actually, we think we’re pretty fortunate to live in the disctrict we’re in, because Moose has received so much help. I have met caring teachers, great adminstrtors, and a good support staff at our school. Just because the public school is not the best choice for Turkey and Bunny doesn’t mean that I think it’s a cesspool unable to meet students’ needs.

We *do* homeschool for several reasons. First of all, we *do* homeschool to give our children an individualized education. Yes, we follow a standard curriculum. But when it comes to special themed units, field trips, and spontaneous moments of study, I can tailor our studies to Turkey and Bunny’s particular interests. We’ve learned about space and heroes of the Revolutionary War. We’ve traveled around the world at Christmas, learning about countries that are interesting to us, or that represent our family heritage. If we want to learn about something, we do it.

We *do* homeschool to challenge our children. By having school at home, I can once again tailor their education to where they are at, academically. They don’t have to stay behind on a subject because that’s where the rest of the class is at. I don’t have to cater to the lowest common denominator. We’ve stepped up Language Arts in a big way for that exact reason. When I see that they’re bored because they already know something we’re studying, I can just move on, and we can learn something new.

We *do* homeschool because Bunny is gifted. I don’t say this to brag; it’s simply the truth. And she is a large part of the reason we chose to homeschool. I can’t imagine how bored she would be in a regular first grade class (the grade she *should* be in–at home she gets to be in second grade, which is appropriate for her ability level), and how little she would be learning at this point. And since most gifted programs have been axed in the school district, I think it’s even more important that she can learn in an environment where she can truly flourish.

We *do* homeschool because we want to provide our children with a classical education. I’m not saying I follow The Well Trained Mind to the letter, but that book *was* what pushed us over the edge for homeschooling (because that was something we were *never* going to do!). I do think it’s important for children to learn Latin at a young age (we get to start our Latin curriculum in a few short weeks!), and I think it’s also important to memorize at a young age, because children are such little sponges. As I don’t know of any public schools that offer classical education, and since the one Lutheran school around here that does is too far away, and way out of our price range, I’ll just have to provide that education at home.

We *do* homeschool because we want to provide a literature rich education. This is what I love most about Sonlight. Yes, it’s great to have the curriculum assembled for me, and I do love the instructor’s guide. But the most important thing about Sonlight, at least for our family, is that it provides such a rich foundation in literature. My children have read more books, both on their own, and as read-alouds in school, than I ever dreamed possible, and I know that aside from a few highly motivated individuals, their public school counterparts aren’t receiving the same introduction to literature and the pleasure of reading.

There are many reasons we homeschool, and many reasons that were not a factor in our decision. We may not look like the typical homeschooling family, but what *is* typical, anyway?