People of Words and Traditions
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The Dark Ages
I am not a history buff. I consider my children’s classical education a sort of re-education for me. I love it. So when I attended the Classical Conversations area practicum back in June and heard an historical analogy, I got kind of giddy.
The “Dark Ages” refers to the time of the Early Middle Ages in the area of the Roman Empire in Europe, when *it is said that* human civilization saw a decline in intellectual, cultural, and economic progress. Now, I am not sure how “backward” this time period was in actuality; modern scholars have found evidence of noteworthy accomplishment, perhaps enough evidence to debunk the “Dark Ages” term. However, that period in history was considered “dark” because of the idea that the written word was sub-par.
At any rate, the written word that was kept and developed during that time between 400 and 900 AD was preserved by a few people: the monks, the Holy Roman Emperor’s court, and perhaps some select others (I am not an expert and do not pretend to be). The general population was illiterate, right? But, why? After all, there are only 26 letters in an Anglo-Saxon alphabet. How hard would it be to learn to read?
The Romans had papyrus, which rots in the damp European clime. So, after the paper and documents had rotted and the “dark ages” were in full swing, the main types of “paper” were birch bark, parchment, and vellum. That was probably hard to come by, especially for the common person (my own inference, so do not take it as fact). So, if you do not have anything on which to write, your literacy rate is going to plummet.
When paper as we know it first appeared in Spain in the 12th century, literacy increased. Read more about it here.
What does this have to do with our MODERN society, where words are everywhere, in fact, written and spoken information can be found in just about every corner of the planet?
I think it says a lot. We are inundated with images every day. Social media has done this. I surmise that we are exercising our literacy as a society by PRODUCING written words. But how good are these written words, really? What kind of ideas are we putting forth into the world?
Preserving the Words
How does a homeschool parent make the time to soak in the good ideas, the ones worth retelling? Living books: picture books, classic literature, biographies, poetry, living geography narratives, living science narratives, etc. Maybe we can be the monks of this age, preserving the ideas in the form of written words. I would like to think my home library is a treasure. As for our libraries, we can try to influence them with good recommendations of books they can lend, but let’s face it… society is changing. There is a narrative out there that I for one do not agree with. I digress… When good literature is hard to come by (and one day it might be a little bit harder than it is now) a home library seems almost imperative. In the meantime, we can try our best to be like the monks of the “Dark Ages”.
If you’d like to hear my thoughts on how classical education and Charlotte Mason methods support the idea that we are created “persons” of words, watch my 7-minute video here!
A Family’s Traditions
So, we can all hopefully agree that reading living books is great! Let’s aim to read them together with our children. Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival Podcast has devoted a lot of her work to supporting this idea: reading aloud to children has emotional, social, and mental benefits. It also can be a wonderful thing for the relationship between the parent and children. As Sarah so sweetly puts it, “You are the best person to help your kids learn and grow, and home is the best place to fall in love with books”.
Can we start some new traditions? I cannot wait to read this book, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids
From what I gather, cultivating faith in the family takes more than just teaching them about our faith. Traditions hold the family together. What are your traditions? I love a good meal with the family. A friend of mine recalls her mom declaring every Friday the 13th a family celebration. Other friends have an extended family pizza night every Friday. Maybe you like to do handicrafts with your kids, or have them cook with you. Whatever it is, I bet you’ll think of something fun.
Here are some titles of books that contain these kinds of “traditions”: family cooking, handicrafts, reading aloud to each other, things to do together. I think you’ll love looking at them! All of them happen to be on sale until September 24th. No matter what ages are represented in your family, you are sure to find something worthwhile doing… together.
|The Highlights Book of Things to Do: Discover, Explore, Create, and Do Great Things (Highlights Books of Doing)|
|The Maine Farm Table Cookbook: 125 Home-Grown Recipes from the Pine Tree State|
We went through a soap-making phase!