I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world. Jo Marsh in Little Women
During our home-educating years my children gobbled-down books --- each at their own rate but I would still call it gobbling.
One of the stories was E. Nesbit's, The Railway Children, gobbled silently.
"Did you like it," I would ask when the story was finished.
"Yes," would be the reply, coexisting with a smile and a sparkle of an eye. That was that.
Years later we rented the Masterpiece Theatre version of the story. The film is a beautiful adaptation staring Jenny Agutter and Jemima Rooper. I own the CD (for myself) and so I can share it with my grandchildren, next visit. "Trains" are my eldest grandson's hobby.
The film was my only exposure to The Railway Children, until I read it for the first time, just recently. Had I read it in my youth I would have chosen it as a read-aloud. And chosen it for narration, too. The Railway Children nourished my soul.
The courage and kindness of the characters is what I found so nourishing.
We meet Father in the beginning. He too-soon mysteriously disappears. Mother (a character I quickly became fond of) keeps the secret from her children that Father is falsely accused and imprisoned. She is shaken (secretly.) I could feel her tremble. But Mother musters up courage for the sake of her family.
To cope with living with reduced means, she and her children, Roberta (12), Peter (10), and Phyllis (7), "play at being poor for a bit." They move out of the well-off working-class suburbs of London to live in a little white cottage in the countryside.
The children really don't mind fixing breakfast or tea, doing chores they hadn't done before, because they love and admire their mother.
|My fireside kettle like the one above.|
In a bare upstairs room with a candle, Mother strives to write fiction for their bread-n-butter (bread that is now rarely bakery-bought.)
What makes the summer of these Edwardian railway-children so enjoyable? It is a summer of childhood innocence. The children meander around their village unsupervised. This is what children were free to do in the summers of yesteryear, when mothers worked at home, when neighborhoods were safe, entertainment scarce, and a child's activity wasn't rigidly scheduled.
Finding-things-to-do for the railway-children, becomes getting to know the adults who work for the railway. They poke their noses in other people's business, with a sincere desire to be friendly and helpful - and a wish not to be annoying - although this combination isn't always possible. The village station is just down a hill and across the meadow from their cottage - an easy traipse.
|Hollyhocks on the sunny side of the house.|
|Dean's photo of a dragonfly in our back garden.|
|I liked seeing our tall hollyhocks through a first floor window.|
Although published in the Edwardian era (1906) E. Nesbit's writing is not overly sentimental - or, as Mark Twain said of women novelists, "sadful." I already knew the ending, but I'll admit the last chapter produced one tiny tear to my eye. That's all. Just one. I wiped it away, closed the book, turned off the light, and fell asleep soundly - glad there exists a story in the world, such as The Railway Children. But would there be if E. Nesbit's husband didn't suffer a similar tragedy and suddenly loose the means of supporting his family? Good can come out of adversity in real life as well as stories.
For both girls and boys, grades 3-7. For your convenience these links take you to Amazon.
Note: The short commentary before and after the film is unnecessary and unwholesome. I would skip it. Young children do not need to know that E. Nesbit was an active socialist and didn't live the morality she penned.
The Railway Children
The Masterpiece Theatre Film
A Writing Exercise
Inside the pages of my creative writing curriculum, Story Starters is Exercise #55 - At the Railway Station. What episodes could your student add to the story?
|A doll quilt for my granddaughter pieced from scraps from the toddler quilt.|
Charlotte Mason's The Saviour of the World
If you relish reading about the fine points of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, Art Middlekauff's articles will satisfy. I esteem the height and depth of his contribution. I've recently discovered his blog. Here you will have access to the volumes of Miss Charlotte Mason's impressive poetic work: The Saviour of the World.
|A four-patch, hand-quilted with comfortable stitches.|
Happy for your visit.