As many of you know, I have been reading some books that children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, and not because I like kiddie books! I am taking an online course which examines the different aspects of this literature and how it was written, edited, re-edited, marketed and sold during a time when people weren’t buying very many books, the 1930s. Regardless, Mrs. Wilder became an legend in children’s literature. If you haven’t read the books, or at least watched the 1970’s television show "Little House on the Prairie," LOOSELY (I am learning) based on her life, I don’t know what planet you live on.
I also have a book of samplers written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Stephen W. Hines, called “Little House in the Ozarks.”* This is a compilation of her writings for the Missouri Ruralist, a local farm publication. These writings preceded the Little House Era.
They are fascinating. I have “1992” written on the front cover. I don’t always do this, but it’s so enlightening to place my first reading of the book in my own lifetime frame. I was a homemaker/preschool administrator and I had a child that was 9 and a child that was 4. And yes, I found time to read.
Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say my blogs are inspired by LIW, I am impressed by the topics and length. They are longer than most of my blogs, which is a sign of the times. Today, people simply don’t read more than 800 words. But to say that these writings incorporate more of her person than her Little House books just MIGHT be accurate.
So, of an evening, I was reading an entry entitled “The Findleys Strive for an Education.” In an era, where children were needed on the farm, it was unusual to educate them beyond the basics, if at all. Many people were illiterate. Although there are other points I might discuss—this is the statement that stood out to me as a young mother. Mrs. Findley said: “We are doing something worthwhile, for in raising the standard of our children’s lives, we are raising the standard of four homes of the future, and our work goes on and on, raising the standard of the community and of future generations.”**
I had an AHA moment, for I realized, that although I only had two children, this is exactly what I was doing and my purpose in life. We certainly did not live in the impoverished conditions that Mrs. Wilder describes—taking in laundry to purchase one reading and writing book—but we also placed our priorities on the two homes of the future. I do not complain that I did without, because our needs were always met; but sacrifices were made in wants so that our children could participate to the fullest in what they wanted to do.
First of all, I agreed with Mrs. Findley that the parent is the first teacher. I always believed that the home is where education begins. I remember telling my daughter’s first grade teacher, who was wonderful by the way, that every parent is a home-schooling parent and that some of us “sublet” to public, to private, and to parochial schools; and if they aren’t getting the job done for whatever reason, then it falls back to the parent to finish the job. I get very annoyed when I hear people say “the schools aren’t doing this and the schools aren’t doing that,” and I want to say SO LOUDLY, “Parent, what are you doing to make up the difference? It’s YOUR job!”
Mrs. Findley believed that the children’s studies should be started at home. She lists an age of 6-8 to send children to school, but that doesn’t matter. The child matters. I taught my children from the time they were about 18 months old, real educational stuff! (Not “what does the cow say?”) I sent the boy to kindergarten reading. The girl didn’t have a great kindergarten experience, but that wonderful first-grade teacher did make up for it. I volunteered for the teacher and I was involved! I knew where to fill in the gaps.
It’s important to be involved during the elementary years, where the basics are being taught. As the child grows into that “middle school” timeframe, it is time to start backing off and letting them take responsibility for their own lessons. As parents, we were still there, but not in the foreground.
There is nothing that disgusts a high school teacher more than a “helicopter” parent, but it’s so easy today, to login and keep track of what is going on in the student’s work (homework being done?) rather than nag. If there’s an issue, it can be nipped in the bud. It may be a difficult subject, and help beyond what you can give may be needed. The only weaknesses that we as parents had were Spanish (but the kids had an epic teacher!), Chemistry, and Higher Math. The rest we could handle. My husband literally re-taught my daughter Biology II at the dining room table. I swore child #2 would not take that subject as long as the same teacher was teaching it.
We knew we were building for the next level—life and college. Hopefully, two more homes that would educate more children and future homes that we would never see. If every family could duplicate itself twice—in the realm of education—what a world we would have.
Just as Mrs. Findley said in 1922.
*”Little House in the Ozarks,” A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler The Rediscovered Writings, Edited by Stephen W. Hines. © 1991 by Stephen W. Hines, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.
**Ibid. Page 55.
Until we "connect" again.....