Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Difference a Couple Hundred Years Can Make . . .

I probably mentioned a month or so ago that we have entered the world of American Girl Books. We've now read all 6 Kaya books and are more than halfway through the six Felicity books. When I went online to reserve the Felicity books from the library I was thrilled to see that they also had the whole set of Felicity books on tape. I originally got them figuring the girls could listen to them in the car. But the downside of tapes is it's quite difficult to figure out where to start if we've read a couple chapters at home already. So the girls have just been listening to whole books here at home. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to hear them exclaim "this is so much better than TV!!!"

But anyway . . . the point of this post, is how intresting I find the diference in what was & wasn't considered age appropriate 200+ years ago (Felicity is set at the beginning of the American Revolution, so 1770s, Kaya was set earlier then that, but I think still in the 1700s).

At age 9, almost 10. A doll is still considered an appropriate gift for Felicity. Likewise Kaya (age is never stated in the Kaya books, but I THINK all the AG books are assumed to be around age 10) continues to play with homemade dolls and create and play with "dollhouse" type stuff she creates out of sticks & such. Felicity enjoys playing with a wood Noah's Ark set along with her younger brother & sister (age 6 & 3). Felicity's grandfather brings a guitar & her teacher comments that "when you're old enough to learn to play . . ." implying that age 10 is too young to seriously study a musical instrument. On the other hand the cooking, cleaning, babysitting (siblings & cousins, etc) and other chores entrusted to these girls are certainly greater than is the norm in today's society.

I just finished reading a set of books called "Mangers of Their Homes" and "Managers of Their Chores" (both available from and while overall I found them informative & useful books (though MOTH is written more toward large families, I found much didn't apply to our "small" family of 2 (soon to be 3) children) one thing I had a hard time with in MOTC was a thread running through the whole book that criticized the theory of "let children be children" and implied this was in direct conflict w/ their belief that "children must be taught to be responsible adults". I kept feeling, every time I read this idea, that these 2 are not mutually exclusive. That children DO need to be CHILDREN (and not miniature teenagers) but they also need to learn responsibility & to have an active part in the household. Listening to Felicity & reflecting on the differences of children back then, cements. I believe children should be allowed time to be children AND expected to do chores. And that is one of many reasons we have chosen to homeschool, because homeschooling allows us the time for both. It's also a reason I don't feel it's a good idea for children to be involved in multiple classes, clubs and other "structured activities". Time is, in my opinion, better used letting children play. I thought it was sad to read in the above books that "older children won't have time for art projects" (though I'm still abit unclear on WHY that is, since, my children seem to do as many or more chores than are listed for children their age in the example. I'm just not following how, in a homeschool environment, school needs to take the HOURS that it is represented as taking in the sample schedules, especially if "school" doesn't include extras like art & cooking).

So, those are my musings for today. Perhaps something we could learn from previous eras is to let our children be children, not encouraging them to grow up so fast, while still expecting them to do chores and help with the household.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

What a wonderful post. I have read MOTH as well - though, as you said, with a smaller family, it doesn't apply as much. I agree that there are not many sources out there that grasp the great need to give children room and opportunity to play - they need space and "scope for the imagination" to quote Anne of GG. They also need to learn to be a productive part of the family, in ways and times that are appropriate to their age and place in the family. As my kids get older each year, I try to find those things which will train them to become the people God created them to be, and then get out of the way while they work it through in play. Such balancing acts we engage in!
We love to read the Little House and Anne and American Girl books as well, for they remind us that less is more, play is good, and simple is, ah, lovely.