Employing A Mother’s Prerogative
In the home school:
Do some of what you have to do
With some of what you like to do
The Lady-of-the-house has listened to mothers confess sadly that their home school amounts to little more than dull routine. After determining where the trouble lies, she came up with the above motto.
We are aware of the required subjects. But, do we stop to consider what we want our children to know? Is there anything we’d like to teach?
How lovely is the freedom to use all kinds of odd and interesting books and experiences in the goal of knowledge. This is why the Lady-of-the-house has shelves full of a hodge-podge of books and her spring-cleaning mainly consists of a war on dust. Books collect dust. Books create dust. With a dust-cloth in one hand she took a book off the shelf. “It’s been ages since I’ve read a poem by Emily Dickinson,” she thought. One of the poems she had committed to memory – something she probably wouldn’t have thought to do outside of home educating. Inside the 1893 edition of Poems – Emily Dickinson she discovered something delightfully mysterious. A handwritten letter tucked between the pages for more than 100 years. It reads:
Dear Miss Van Pelt,
Why do you never write to me?
The book was once in the possession of the grandfather of the Man-of-the-house because his name is penned inside it. The Lady-of-the-house mentioned this to her mother-in-law who said, “I remember that book. It was the 1940s. I was twelve years old. My mother and father and I were with a realtor looking at a big Victorian house for sale in New Jersey. In the basement was a small pile of abandoned books. My father, who had a love of old houses and all things antique, picked up a book with gold-edged pages, blew the dust off the cover and looked at it closely. The realtor told him to take it and that the house had once been a girls’ school.”
“How intriguing! And what did Grandma and Grandpa think of the big house?” asked the Lady-of-the-house.
“My mother was put off by the tall ceilings and enormous windows. She imagined herself doing half her housework lugging around a ladder.”
“Yes, quite wise. Dust, certainly, must be considered in the bargain,” the Lady-of-the-house affirmed.
Gazing at the letter in her hand her mind wandered. How long did Miss Van Pelt save Mr. Ingalls’ letter? Did she reply? What was taught in that 19th century girls’ school? Were the poems leisure reading or mandatory school curriculum? Why was the book and letter left behind?The answers are not knowable but the poems in the book are.
Because her daughter made an entry of a verse by Emily Dickenson in her Nature Notebook when quite young, the idea to incorporate the same entry into the story of Pocketful of Pinecones surfaced on page 116. Sharing the poems of Emily Dickinson all those years ago were, for the Lady-of-the-house, a “like-to.” By sharing a “like-to” with her children a mother takes on a shade of satisfaction in home education not otherwise enjoyed.
A Brighter Garden, illustrated by Tasha Tudor, supplies a sampling of choice poems by Emily Dickinson. Picture books of this sort have always made a strong appeal to the Lady-of-the-house. Another title is Poetry for Young People - Emily Dickinson by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin.
Picture books can be enriching resources that give any subject introduction. They also create a pleasant learning atmosphere. Mom’s study “like-to” entailed only a week of short after-lunch readings. She wonders. Will her children one-day share the same poems with their children? Whatever the case, she hopes that they will use their prerogative and:
Do some of what they have to do
With some of what they like to do
Click book title if you are interested in Emily by Michael Bedard sold at Rainbow Resource Center.
First Lines of Emily Dickinson’s poems on Mom’s Like-to List:
(Among her other poems are some Mom doesn’t understand.)
A bird came down the walk
Dear March – Come in –
Eden is that old-fashioned House
Hope is the thing with feathers
Hope is the thing with feathers
I’m Nobody? Who are you?
I never saw a moor (committed to memory)
The bee is not afraid of me
The morns are meeker than they were
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee
The Lady-of-the-house wears the pink-as-can-be Laura-Ashley floral for the Man-of-the-house who purchased the dress for her on e-bay. She hasn’t the courage to be seen in such a flamboyant thing outside the house. Emily Dickinson would say that’s okay and would approve of the existence of a private home life.