We finished reading aloud The Wheel on the School by Meindert Dejong not too long ago. Enjoying it with me (us, by the time we finished -- I'll explain later) were children ages 6, 8, and 10. The toddler also did her part by causing the usual distractions at intervals long enough for us to get some reading in between them -- on good days, at least. The four year-old either hovered around us or the toddler playing quietly (in theory). Maybe sometimes she even listened. :)
The Wheel on the School is a story about amazing things happening when people have curiosity and interest in something, get really excited about it, and act to make things happen because of their dreams. It's a charming and sweet little story overall, I thought. The children of a small town in Holland, at the instigation of a small girl, begin to wonder about storks and how they might get some to come and nest in their little fishing village. Their quest ends up uniting the whole village, even the most unlikely of people.
There are a few things I might change, such as the attitudes and actions of some of the children in the story at times, and how the parents don't seem very involved in their children's lives throughout a lot of the book. However, I appreciated the main messages of the book, and although there were some things to discuss, I think it's a keeper. I also liked the teacher's methods in letting the children explore their interests and facilitating them -- a nice example. The setting in Holland was an added bonus because the story discusses things like dikes and wooden shoes, not to mention the concept of storks nesting on wagon wheels on rooftops. I wouldn't say this book is necessarily a "must read," but we enjoyed it and I may read it again with the younger ones someday.
One thing not directly related to this book that we learned while reading, is that it's best for us if Dad and Mom each read separate books to the children if we are both going to be reading aloud, unless we're all reading it together (usually the parent not reading does something besides listening to the story), or perhaps if the book is well known by us. We tried tag-team reading this one starting part way through, and both of us felt kind of disconnected from the story. I had preread it, but not in great detail. I found myself getting confused if John had read the chapter before the one I was reading to them, and at times would have to ask the children to remind me what had happened, and not just for a narration exercise! He had a similar experience. We've decided to read different books aloud now, and so far that's working well.
Another note I thought I'd tack onto the end here, as I was reminded when I looked at the Amazon link: We opted not to read aloud a different book by the same author, Along Came a Dog. I just didn't really like it. I found it uninteresting, and also didn't really think the subject matter was something we needed in our home at the time. It's told from the perspective of the animals, which can be okay in its place, but we'd read some other books (Burgess, and James Herriot, for instance) that were heavy on identifying with animals, plus watched a lot of nature videos, and John and I wanted to take things in more of a different direction at least for a while. Plus, there is a bad relationship between the man and the dog in the story, and we're not really big on the "men aren't nice enough to animals" type of message. Admittedly, I only kind of perused this one, so some may think I didn't give it proper consideration, and it's possible that by the end of the book that message is changed if you read the whole thing. The time may come when I look into it more carefully (although I kinda doubt it -- it didn't seem interesting enough). As it is right now, I definitely prefer The Wheel on the School.
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This post is part of the The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Fisher Academy International,
and The Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted at Raising Real Men.