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How much focus on "classics"?

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

I just found the book What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know, at the thrift store for a dollar.  I'm looking through it now and almost the entire book is devoted to "classics", such as Aesop's fables and nursery rhymes.  Honestly, we haven't spent any time with these.  I don't feel the are important, and I don't particularly care for them.  

How important do you feel these classics are, and how much focus do you put on them? 

 

Thanks! 

post #2 of 34

I love the Core Curriculum What your ... Needs to Know and read a little bit from the Preschooler, Third and Fourth grade editions every day.  We study lots of other things and I wouldn't necessarily say that we focus on Classics in what we do as a whole, but I realized from our brief foray in a school that one of the things I thought was missing was a core of classical education. I think this was missing in my education also and I love learning things along with the kids.  For instance, just yesterday we read in the Third Grade edition about the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage.  I had heard of the wars and of Carthage (which happens to be modern day Tunis and very much in the news, so we were able to tie it to current events) but I had no idea what they were, even though I had a liberal arts education and was a history major in college.  Instead of seeing these things as bits of a classical education that have fallen out of our standard teaching, I see them as important pieces of human knowledge that I want my kids to have as part of a well-rounded education.  

I sometimes hear people say that these series are overwhelming or feeling like it pressures them to put an emphasis on classical teachings, but I really like what they add to our day.  They are certainly not the spine of our curriculum, though there is a whole homeschool (and public school) curriculum based around the Core Curriculum espoused by Ed Hirsch (the editor of the What Your...Needs to Know).  

 

Amy

post #3 of 34

omw out the door right now so don't have a ton of time, but i do read that kinda stuff to my dds. i don't exactly know why i feel its important, i just feel like it creates a good balance to a lot of the cartoony stuff that's out there now.

post #4 of 34

There are so many references to "classics" like Aesop's fables and nursery rhymes - in other literature, in casual conversation, etc. - that it's useful to be familiar with them.  If you hear someone talking about sour grapes or a dog in the manger, it's nice to know what they mean.  And those fables and nursery rhymes can be enjoyable just for themselves, too.  There's a reason they've become classics. 

 

But there are hundreds of other things that are also useful to know and interesting to learn about, and I don't think classics are any more or less important than most of those other things.  If your kid grows up without ever being exposed to Aesop's fables, there will be a little gap in his knowledge, but so will there be if he doesn't know what a monotreme is, or whether Chester A. Arthur was a good president, or how to read music, or how to play chess.  Everyone has gaps in their knowledge and it's no big deal.

 

If you're not interested in the classics, I think there's no harm in ignoring them entirely. There's certainly no need to learn about them in kindergarten.

post #5 of 34

I don't feel they're particularly "need to know" stuff for young children and I didn't read them to my kids much. I love nursery rhymes for encouraging the development of phonemic and rhythmic awareness, but there are other ways to do that and anyway we had pretty much moved beyond nursery rhymes by age 4 or so. We enjoyed reading some Aesop during times when the kids were into all things ancient, but if they hadn't had that interest we wouldn't have bothered. I think it's good to have a literary appreciation for fables as a genre, of which Aesop's are a wonderful representation, but I honestly think that comes best in adolescence or later, when one has the ability to compare and contrast different types of symbolism. 

 

"What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know" is just "What E.D. Hirsch Thinks ____ Graders Should Know." My kindergarteners certainly had very different ideas about what they needed to know than E.D. Hirsch would have suggested ... and I chose to follow their interests. Honestly, for a young child I think beautiful poetic books like "Owl Moon" or moral tales like "The Quiltmaker's Gift" and "Old Turtle" are better literary fare. 

 

Miranda

post #6 of 34

I think they are an incredibly important foundation for children.

post #7 of 34

I don't put a lot of focus on them because I'm not a fan of magic and witches and such. I put all focus on Bible stories.

Actually, a lot of those fables have terrible values imo. Like Jack and the Beanstalk, all I get out of that story is stealing.

post #8 of 34
Thread Starter 

thanks for the responses!  Now that I think about it, I do think that not knowing these things does lead to a gap in knowledge.  At the same time, I don't like many of the "lessons" in the stories.

post #9 of 34

E.D. Hirsch's deal is that he believes there's a base level of cultural knowledge that adults should possess in order to be functional members of society.  In order to understand references in books or movies, in order to understand current events, just plain in order to get a joke or a reference that someone else makes in a normal conversation.  

 

The "what your n grader needs to know" were written as supplements for parents of public schoolers to use at home, so parents can make sure their kids get that foundation.

 

Of course, it's really just what one person thinks is important.  But I, personally, am a hug fan of Hirsch and his core knowledge curriculum and his work in education.  I really like those books, and think that they're great supplements to whatever other curriculum or materials you use.  I've read most of the books he's written, and they've really profoundly changed the way that I look at learning and public education.

post #10 of 34

 

You can use them as a spring board for conversation. Ask you child what they think the "lesson" of the story is, ask them if they agree. Ask them how it relates to their life and what they notice about other people.

I think it's good to spend most of our reading time with our children with books we truly enjoy, but mixing it up a bit with other stuff can lead to interesting conversations.
post #11 of 34

I'm not interested in the fables or most nursery rhymes. I have little knowledge of them myself. Somehow I have gotten to adulthood, had a professional career, gotten married, been certified by the courts (and chosen by a birthmom) to adopt, purchased several houses, made many friends, had many interesting conversations, traveled to Europe multiple times and made friends there, and much more. I just haven't noticed any problems in my life because I don't know much about those particular pieces of writing.. So, my kids aren't being exposed to fables or nursery rhymes. They are exposed to rhymes in many of the books we read each day because of the importance of rhyme in learning to read. However, they are rhymes that we all enjoy.

post #12 of 34

I think they're very important to know if your kids watch mainstream TV shows.

 

It's a little embarrassing when your kid blurts out "I saw that on Backyardigans!" when someone references a well-known story ROTFLMAO.gif

post #13 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ocelotmom View Post

I think they're very important to know if your kids watch mainstream TV shows.

 

It's a little embarrassing when your kid blurts out "I saw that on Backyardigans!" when someone references a well-known story ROTFLMAO.gif


lol :)

post #14 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jennifer3141 View Post

I think they are an incredibly important foundation for children.



 ITA

 

there are things eveyone simply needs to understand -- the correct number of pigs, what it means to cry wolf, and so on -- it is simply foudantion knowledge.

 

and really -- sorry to be mean -- if you are NOT reading the classics (Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Little Red Hen and so on) what is there out there that is not cheap TV (dora and so on).

 

now to be bored by the "adult classics" such as Moby Dick, i can see -- and there is surely a lot more "out there" in the adult world -- but for kids *shrug* that is what there is that is good.

 

But if the version in what you ___ should know bore you, or the newers copies at the local store ... go for the older editions, better art, better text ...

 

post #15 of 34
Quote:

Originally Posted by Momma Aimee View Post

and really -- sorry to be mean -- if you are NOT reading the classics (Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Little Red Hen and so on) what is there out there that is not cheap TV (dora and so on).

 

now to be bored by the "adult classics" such as Moby Dick, i can see -- and there is surely a lot more "out there" in the adult world -- but for kids *shrug* that is what there is that is good.


I'd have to disagree with that.  Have you spent much time browsing your library?  There's a ton of good stuff for kids out there besides classic fairy tales, fables, and nursery rhymes.  And, as much as I love children's fiction and poetry, I don't think it's necessary for kids to spend time on any of it if they are or their parents aren't interested.  If a kid never hears a single fairy tale but spends hours observing birds and insects, building things, learning about outer space, drawing and painting, or whatever else he happens to be interested in, I think that's fine.  You don't HAVE to know what it means to cry wolf, any more than you HAVE to know how to tell true bugs from other insects, or how many light years away Aldebaran is, or how Monet's painting were different from Manet's.

post #16 of 34

Aimee, I totally agree with you on going waaay back to some of the REALLY old classics.

 

One of the best things we are going to take from this year is a study of fairy tales and their cultural impacts upon the world. For instance, there's a French Sleeping beauty and an Italian Sleeping Beauty. Both end differently and culturally both make me laugh when I read them. The French language is soooo well, florid. It's not just a beautiful day Belle is wandering through. It's gorgeous day with a flaming sun casting gentle shadows upon lily green fields. And the Italians? Who cares about the weather - tell us what Belle had for breakfast!!! lol

 

And darned if my two trips to Europe didn't seem culturally accurate to the stories. The Italian moms were preparing dinner whilst we ate breakfast. The French moms were chattering away about the beauty of their gardens, etc. etc.

 

My kids and I have had the most amazing discussions this winter.

 

But not only that, we have had a ton of interesting stories about "fairy tales" of the past. Randolph Caledcott (from the Caldecott book award) was a lovely illustrator but who writes an epic poem about two kids whose parents both die, are dropped off on an uncle who wants their money so he pays a couple of hunters to kill them? And oh, the kids die lost and alone on the woods. I mean, when was that appropriate to read to kids? Before bed? At lunch? Were kids just tougher then??

 

We treat fairy tales like we treat the bible. There are some lovely myths in there but times were very different in the past. And you can know fairy tales without believing your next door neighbor is a canibalistic witch.

post #17 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momma Aimee View Post


and really -- sorry to be mean -- if you are NOT reading the classics (Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Little Red Hen and so on) what is there out there that is not cheap TV (dora and so on).

  



Hmmm...this is definitely open to what people believe is "valuable" literature. Personally, using Jack and the Bean Stalk as an example again, I don't find it valuable. I rather read Bible stories to my kiddos.

 

Like the other poster suggested, check out your library. Check out some of the booklists like Peak With Books and the "non-fairy tale" books on the Sonlight booklists. Or authors who won The Caldecott Medal, The Little House series, Dr. Suess, books on the Scholastic website, Eric Carle, etc.

 

I don't think you NEED to include fairy tale type stories to give your child well rounded literature exposure.

 

And there are some "Classic" stories that we do include - we like The Little Red Hen, for example.

post #18 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momma Aimee View Post

 

and really -- sorry to be mean -- if you are NOT reading the classics (Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Little Red Hen and so on) what is there out there that is not cheap TV (dora and so on).

 

 

Hmmm.. I don't understand this.  Like I said, we haven't read the classics yet.  But we have also never read anything from television (well, she does have a Blue's Clue's book).  We also never watch those shows.  She watches 1 hour of tv a week, and the only choices are Kipper and Signing Time dvd.

We read beautifully illustrated books, poetry (both children's and adult), standard children's literature (the Snowy Day, Good Night Moon, Only the Cat Saw, Dr. Seuss).  Of course we also read some of the fun and cheesy books- Biscuit series, Sandra Boynton, etc.  I don't think that it's either classics or crap.... 

 

post #19 of 34

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Momma Aimee View Post

and really -- sorry to be mean -- if you are NOT reading the classics (Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Little Red Hen and so on) what is there out there that is not cheap TV (dora and so on).

 


Wow, Momma Aimee, have a look. There's some simply awesome modern children's literature out there. Visually stunning, poetically evocative, thought-provoking, value-laden. We've never owned any Disney or Nickelodean books or merchandise and we've found no end of wonderful modern books for young children. 

 

Miranda

post #20 of 34

I think what Aimee means is that there is an awful lot of "junk" literature right now. We read at least 100 books a week, many form our local library system and I have a generous Amazon budget so we get to view most of the newest literature and there are some really garbage type books for kids. What is up with all the darn farting animals??? It's as if kids (boys particularly since these books are definitely geared to boys) had interest in only one end of veterinary medicine.

 

There are a lot of books out there depicting school as either full time recess or this horrible prison where they make you learn math which clearly no sane person could ever want to learn.

 

And the character stuff, OY the Spiderman books and the %$#!%$# Disney princesses.

 

The biggest library in our system has a 40 foot long 2 row shelving system for the $3.99 easy reader books. Many of the most recent ones are deeply copyrighted character books like Iron Man and the Frog Princess but even the ones that are not are rather vapid. They're using simpler language that Seuss ever thought of using with kids, even as a joke. A lot of new stuff is downright condescending.

 

We have fallen in love with William Steig, P.D. Eastman, Tomie DePaola, Cynthia Rylant, and a few others. It seems sometimes you have to go back a bit to find authors who wrote for the sheer joy of writing for kids. We like Fancy Nancy too but Fancy Nancy isn't just books. She's got dolls and dresses and a DVD or two.

There are no Mudge stuffed dogs. I think Rylant was too busy writing to worry about marketing cereal too!!!

 

I love children's literature like Dickens' Magic Wishbone. The language is old-fashioned but so darn good and Dickens clearly didn't believe children should be spoken down to.

 

Our librarians smile like crazy when we check stuff out. And we communicate like crazy about what we liked and hated and what they recommend. They too have seen a trend toward some really dumb being written and consumed and parents happy because "at least the kids are reading." The operative phrase in previous sentence is "at least" IMO.

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