Educator Charlotte Mason talked about living books – books that are written by a single author, with passion, books that make the topic come alive for the reader.
By living books, however, I mean living, everyday, in and out, as we breathe and talk and be, really living books. The books are so much a part of your life, they are who you are, they are who we are as people and as a family.
As we re-read Where the Wild Things Are, and I share the story with a new generation at work, everyone gnashing their terrible teeth and roaring their terrible roars, on the death of Maurice Sendak, then we share not only text but memory. Not only memory but rhythm and prose and poetry. Style. Which we take into our conversation, our writing, our reading, even, of more advanced texts.
As we climb trees today and look for Sam Gribbley trees, honouring the late Jean Craighead George and her imagination inspiring book The Other Side of the Mountain, we experience the weave and the woof of our lives as family, of reading together in childhood, of spontaneously exploring our world when connecting with the story. We remember the important element of story, in our lives and in our work.
As we look for the novel The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey today, and discuss its relevance to a talk last night by Professor Finnis on Shakespeare, Religion and Identity, we recall investigative method, connections, that feeling how-one-thing-leads-to-another, our knowledge of English history and Shakespeare. For, after all, it is connections that make learning. We connect, we think, we remember.
This is what is needed in education. Living books. A life intertwined with books and stories and texts and images and experiences.
One is never the same after having read, shared, experienced, followed up, a good book.
After a week of national Naplan tasting, a focus with parents at work and in the news on results and on tests, I look at our circle of readers. Young men who read, who live books, who are interested in learning, who do not fit the oft cited stereotype that boys do not like reading.
I realise that a life of books, of day to day happenings related to books, of living and breathing and cooking and climbing trees with books, has made their education. Not tests and bits of paper. But books shared and lived.
This is the legacy of life without school. Living books, living education, living memories.