As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Moments With Living Books

Oh I suppose that there is a textbook somewhere that would teach us about badgers. Or I suppose that we could do a google search and gather some information. But better still is to glean from what Charlotte Mason called "living books"—those that are rich with ideas and literary language.

On a recent homeschool day, I read to Bekah from The Burgess Animal Book for Children, the chapter about Digger the Badger and Glutton the Wolverine.

Peter Rabbit says of Digger,

"I visited him, but I didn't find out much. He's a regular old grouch. He isn't the least bit neighborly. It took me a long time to find him. He has more holes that anybody I ever knew, and I couldn't tell which one is his home. When I did find him, he gave me a terrible scare. I didn't see him until I was right on top of him, and if I hadn't jumped, and jumped quickly, I guess I wouldn't be here this morning. He was lying flat down in the grass and he was so very flat that I just didn't see him. When I told him that I wanted to know all about him and his ways, he replied that it was none of my business how he lived or what he did, and that was all I could get out of him."

So much learned about the badger in that very first paragraph of the chapter! But it got better.

While reading the chapter from Burgess, we remembered the passage in the Little House book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, in which Laura encounters a badger. Although it wasn't a part of the "lesson plans", Kati ran upstairs to get her copy of Plum Creek, and we had an impromptu reading of Chapter 5.

Pa had given Laura strict instructions never to go near the deep shady pool alone, but as she is playing one hot, dusty day, the water keeps calling to her. At first she dismisses the idea, then considers going just to look at it, then considers just wading in the edge of it...then she is on her way. As she nears the water hole however, a mysterious-looking, furry, flat animal is in the path and it snarls at Laura. Frightened, she leaves the swimming hole and runs back home.

But in the quiet of that night, as Laura lies in bed listening to Pa and Ma outside the cabin, Pa playing his fiddle, her conscience begins to prick her.

"Everything was beautiful and good, except Laura. She had broken her promise to Pa. Breaking a promise was as bad as telling a lie. Laura wished she had not done it, and if Pa knew, he would punish her."

"At last Laura could bear it no longer."

Laura crept out of bed and out of the cabin and quietly confessed to Pa what she had done, and told him about the curious animal who had stopped her.

"Then for a long time he did not say anything and Laura waited. Laura could not see in the dark, but she leaned against his knee and could feel how strong and kind he was."

The next evening, after Laura had spent the day being "watched", Ma said to her,

"Tomorrow you and I are going to look for that badger. I am sure that he saved you from drowning, for if you had gone to that deep water, you would have gone into it. Once you begin being naughty, it is easier to go on and on, and sooner or later something dreadful happens."

There. We had begun the lesson learning about the curious badger, but along the way we had seen much more. The beauty of a tender conscience. Pa's kind, gentle strength. Just consequences for disobedience. Laura's submissive spirit in receiving those consequences. The principle that one sin often leads to another.

So many ideas that are powerful and noble and true are found in "living books."


  1. Gavin and Maddie say they have never heard of Digger the Badger! And they know their Burgess animals well. When I asked, Maddie got an attitude face and said, "No!" Imagine that.

  2. Oh Cheryl .... you have reminded me of why I became so enraptured with vintage children's books all those years ago. I really can't add much to what you have said. You have expressed it so perfectly. The beauty of the language; the sweetness; the more innocent ways; the deeper lessons, etc. You have melted my heart, and you have made me want to go grab one of those long-neglected books sitting inside my bookcases. They should be in my hands instead. I just love your blog. It's so inspiring.

  3. So, so neat! How learning about badgers can lead to such spiritural truths! I can't wait to homeschool. :)

  4. Kristin, I wonder if Burgess ever wrote an individual book about Digger. You are welcome to use this book when we are finished, but these chapters are longer and may not keep the younger ones' attention.

    Frances, again, your words are so kind and encouraging! We certainly share a lot of loves, don't we?

    Sarah Jean, homeschooling is an absolute delight! You will love it!

  5. thank you--i enjoyed your lesson within a lesson.

  6. Oh what a great Charlotte Mason example of education being a science of relations. I love this way of homeschooling! It goes well with what I read in the CM vol. 6 this week about "moral feedings". Thanks for sharing.


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