As you probably have guessed by now, I love books, so do my kids. Travelling somewhere is another favourite, and the best thing is combining the two. So whenever we go somewhere, it will involve books. Partly because, as a homeschooling mum, I feel it is my duty to educate my children at every possible opportunity. It also stops bickering in the car.
Soon we will be going to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, so out came the books. To be honest, they’re all amazing books to read at any given time. It’s just that the kids and I feel it’s essential reading, holiday preparation, literary education and cultural something or other. (There’s bound to be a phrase for it. There always is. As a trainee teacher we were taught how to label activities. You didn’t simply read a story on Friday afternoon because the kids were past any sensible activity. No, it was called language development on your planning sheet.)
So the children and I have been having the most wonderful time lately. During the day we have been reading Crusade in Jeans by Thea Beckman, a Dutch writer. I used to read her books a lot, in fact, they were so good, I have read several of her books more than once. Fortunately, Crusade in Jeans has been translated into English. It’s a huge book, so I wouldn’t have started it otherwise. It’s basically about a teenage boy who time travels to 1212. He wanted to go somewhere in France where there was supposed to be a famous tournament at that time, but somehow lands in Germany, in the middle of the children’s crusade. Returning back to his own time doesn’t quite work out, so he decides to join the crusade with another student, in order to help the children.
The journey takes forever, not just in 1212, but in the book as well, but my kids have really enjoyed it. We’re nearly at the end, so hopefully we’ll do that before we leave. As a translated book, it has the most obscure collection of vocabulary imaginable. This seems to happen a lot, as whoever translates it is clearly trying to be conscientious, and finds the closest possible translation in the dictionary, double checking every word in the thesaurus. So I end up translating one English word into another English word, one with less syllables, and usually a word I actually know how to pronounce. I know the word ‘chamois’ but still hesitate to say it, as it sounds so un-english.
We’ll be visiting the castle in Bouillon, Belgium, home of Godfrey de Bouillon, leader of one of the first crusades, hence the book about crusades. Thea Beckman actually deals quite well with a lot of cultural differences between 1212 and the 80’s in the Netherlands. People’s worldview was totally different, so it has led to lots of interesting questions and discussions, making me feel I was earning my keep as a homeschool mum.
In the evening I decided we’d read Anne Frank’s Diary. We’d read several Piet Prins books, set in the Netherlands during WWII (he’s a famous children’s author, writing Christian fiction for children with more cliff hangers than you thought possible!). I found a copy in a charity shop, so we started, even though I hesitated a bit. It’s so tragic. Their questions whenever a book is scary or sad is, “Is it written for children?” They assume all children’s books will end well. But this one doesn’t. You could tell they grieved for her, like whenever Anne Frank wrote about her dreams of becoming a writer, teaching her children, or anything like that, their faces were sad, for none of her dreams went anywhere.
After a few evenings I actually ordered the young reader’s version, and it read a lot smoother with little ones… They loved looking at the photographs in the middle of the book. I was worried that they would find the book boring, after all, not much happens! It’s simple the diary of a teenage girl who doesn’t get on with her mum, and feels very alone in the world. Every time I said it was time to brush teeth, they begged for one more letter (and not even because they hoped to delay bedtime. They were rushing like anything to get into the pj’s, simply to read the book!). The most exciting thing of all was me finding out from my sister that it’s easy to visit the Anne Frank House at the moment. Normally you would be waiting outside for hours (Amsterdam isn’t known for it’s scorching hot weather!), but thanks to the virus, you now have to book! Non-European travellers aren’t populating the streets yet either, so my sister went with her daughter, and highly recommended it. I managed to get tickets for us! We’re so looking forward to it, and the kids couldn’t believe they would see her room, her real diary…it made it even more poignant as well.
On their kindles, they have all been looking at the National Geographic book about Anne Frank, and we ordered a few other, thin books, telling them more about Anne Frank as a person. I’m glad we read the Diary, but I’m even more looking forward to our next book, Corrie ten Boom, by Janet&Geoff Benge.
Did I tell you we read a lot? We do, and I’m constantly looking for good, wholesome, helpful books. So one homeschool mum/writer/adopter, Tricia Goyer, who I follow on Facebook, mentioned a podcast she was doing, interviewing biography writers. They’re husband and wife, and they write biographies of (mainly, I think?) Christians. I love Tricia Goyer’s books, many of them set around WWII, so when she announces that she’ll be recommending books for kids, well, the only reason I run in the gym is that it gives me a chance to listen to podcasts! She recommended this wonderful couple and their books, so for Christmas I bought the kids a book each. We got Thomas Edison (which we’re reading right now), Brother Andrew, George Muller and C.S.Lewis. Any excuse to buy more books, so I got myself a copy of Corrie ten Boom. (Tricia Goyer’s link is at the bottom of the page.)
Reading Anne Frank, it automatically reminded us of Corrie ten Boom. My kids have seen the torchlighter episode about her, so they know a little bit already. As soon as Thomas Edison has been read, we’ll be starting on Corrie ten Boom. Or maybe when the Crusade is finally done. I sat and flicked through the pages earlier, and was really drawn in. It’s very well written, and somehow seems more engaging than the Thomas Edison one (probably because telegraphy, engineering and machines aren’t particularly my thing…!). The Edison book has some really complex words in as well, which isn’t working wonders for my self-confidence. It also makes each chapter longer, “What does…mean? Why did the man do that? Why did he need to stay up all night?”
So, we’re going across the Channel well-prepared, our vocabulary has expanded, my kids now know a bit more about Crusades, and they also know that not all books end well. I also learned that my kids deal better with endless books than I do, maybe because they get to play with playdough or hama beads and I don’t, but still… I found that I prefer short chapters, as reading two or three shorter ones makes me feel we’re making great progress.
We still have so many wonderful books that we want to read together, and now that my kids will finally sit in one place and listen to a story, a whole new world has opened up for us. This has made me get Audible, which we can listen to in the car, as well as that sweet way to end the day together round a good book. I love watching them in their pj’s, hands busy with lego or stretchy toys, eyes staring off, drinking in the story. It’s not just cute, it means I get to enjoy some great books as well!
Do you read out loud to your children, and any wonderful books you would recommend?
Here is the link to Tricia Goyer’s podcast as well, for those interested!