Updated: Oct 25, 2019
I had little exposure to Charles Dickens as a child outside of the famous A Christmas Carol. However, in our home growing up, A Christmas Carol was a treasure. Every year we enjoyed the tale of Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. This stingy man spoke volumes to my child heart. "How could someone be so mean?", I thought. Poor Tiny Tim, crippled from birth, represented the poor of England and elicits sympathy from the middle class readers.
When we think of a A Christmas Carol, fond memories are often in our minds. Many of us have formed a relationship with this beloved story.
Charles Dickens grew up in England during the Victorian era. With little formal education, he is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. At a young age, Dickens was small and weak and spent most of his time in a secluded room reading and pretending to be the characters he read about. This time to imagine is undoubtedly where his most famous unwritten novels took root. Remember Charlotte Mason's words:
"Wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education."
Charles Dickens was given this "letting alone" and Charlotte Mason was right.
My Reasons for Reading Dickens in our Homeschool
The stories of Charles Dickens invite the readers to form an opinion of what is right and what is wrong. This discerning spirit is needed in children as they grow, children need to practice discernment and form opinions and be heard. We all hear the phrase so often, "He is being a scrooge", instantly we know a grumpy person is being describe. Children relate to characters and admire the heroes.
Charles Dickens loved children and often exposed the flaws of society through is writings. In the era Dickens lived, school masters were overly authoritative and physically abusive. The English proverb "Children should be seen but not heard" was the mantra of the day. It is interesting for home educators to note, this is the atmosphere Charlotte Mason was combating at the time. Remember this as you read her original writings.
Charles Dickens is a model of self-education. With very little formal education, his writings display what can come from a boy and a stack of books. I agree with Albert Einstein in saying, "Imagination is more important than intelligence".
As mothers, we need to remember this give space for imagination in the every day. Have you noticed,like me, how little original literary work is produced anymore? Where are the Charles Dickens of our day? I fear modern education, home environments, and overly busy schedules snuff out imaginations. Charlotte Mason educators must make space for imaginations and protect our schedules to afford our children this precious time.
You will notice big words and sentences in the writings of Charles Dickens. That's okay. As we have said over and over again, children do not need to comprehend everything they read. It is the "over and over again" exposure to unknown language that teaches them what each word means.
If I encounter new words in literature I randomly use those words in our home. Recently, I asked my kindergarten student to "clean up your room with haste". He looked at me funny and asked what that means. The following week I heard him tell his baby sister, " I am getting the mail with haste!" Bingo. Children that hear new words in sentences will eventually understand the meaning and use the word themselves. This is how we all learned to talk.
Don't be afraid to read unknown words and long sentences...
Advice for the younger years:
I believe Charles Dickens is best suited for children 4th grade and up. I do believe casual listening to A Christmas Carol will be beneficial to a young children ( age 5 ) but I wouldn't put any pressure on young ones during these readings. Be aware the ghosts in
can be scary and are a representation of one's conscience.
A free recording of A Christmas Carol can be found here