Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's all about Emma

Emma by Jane Austen that is.  So my teen is mid-way through the book (which I love) and I have discovered some interesting things and thought I would share them with you.

Emma (Fourth Edition)  (Norton Critical Editions)
Emma (Fourth Edition) (Norton Critical Editions)*
attached to my Amazon Affiliate link

1. When a teen balks at a reading assignment-say because it is not an era nor anything they thought would be "interesting"-persevere.  I wasn't expecting my teen to go all Jane Austen nutty on me, but I had hoped she would at least walk away with a broader sense of what good literature is, and perhaps a wee bit of "love" for Jane's writing style.  I wouldn't back down when the initial complaints started and I very glad I didn't. [I will get back to this in a moment]

2.  Austen's writing is still touching her audience generations later.

3.  There is something to be said about well-structured sentences, and delightful circumstances in one's writing that instantly draws you into the story and the time period. [and no I do not pen my blog posts like I would if I were writing a paper, etc.]

Learning Language Arts Through Literature: The Gold Book--British Literature
LLATL-Gold Brit Lit*
attached to my Amazon Affiliate Link

 Our oldest daughter loves, loves Jane Austen. In fact (this may sound odd to many) but she requested all the novels for her birthday last year (and she is 23)...she also read Emma in her literature class (I used the Gold Learning Language Arts Through Literature series) which I am betting started her love for Austen's writings.  Well that and the Wishbone episode where they did Pride and Prejudice (which is adorable-I miss that show. We watched it regularly and the kids were first exposed to Austen way back then)....anyway,  my heart is overjoyed to see my children actually want and request these "antiquities" because it points out the fruit of feeding our children good literature during their school years.

I am against giving children junky, poorly written, twaddle-type books (mind you I am not talking children's books that delight, or having a few fluffy pieces here and there. I mean for their main diet in their education, I am not a super purest but I do feel care should be taken in keeping the main course to good literature).

What is alarming to me is the destructive thought of "who cares what they read, as long as they are reading" which plagues the educational realm so much today. It does matter! The decline of our nation's children in regard to the exposure and knowledge of excellent literature is alarming and has great consequences-some of which are already rearing their ugly heads (have you looked over the national test scores lately?). I am speaking generally, as there are always exceptions within the PS/PS setting. Sadly too, even some homeschool families fall victim to this thought.  But if students are [continually] reading the hastily penned books that contain nothing more than "dumbed-down" sentence structure, poor grammar, weak plots [or no plot] and so forth-then more likely, that is how they will write and express themselves. They will be devoid of the skill because they have not had a solid foundation laid for them.  Charlotte Mason has a lot to say about this very subject-and I strongly urge folks to take the time to read her thoughts, and books from others who have studied Charlotte and her methods.  Even if you choose to not incorporate much of her style into your educational plan-this is one area that you should strongly consider adopting.
image from

That said-and back to what I mentioned in #1-my dear daughter has now been drawn into the world of Miss Austen. She delights in narrating to me the happenings of Emma and has even picked up a couple lines to toss around in every day life ("Badly done Emma." is one of them. When someone does something in error she'll [or actually any of us] will throw that line out but replace Emma with their is funny). The key to my post here is that she has a new appreciation for this writing and has discovered a liking for this era and for the author. What a loss it would have been if I had caved and not asked her to stretch herself to discover Austen (and even if she walks away not totally enthralled-she still has been exposed-and that is important). I don't think she'll be quite as enamored with Miss Austen as our oldest, but she definitely has a new love for her and her writing.  Actually, this daughter loves The Great Gatsby [she likes this time period better] and has requested to read other books by Fitzgerald.  That again is testimony to my point here-"feed" them great literature and you will reap a harvest of a love for the well-written word.

Product Details
Emma (2009 BBC Version)*
attached to my Amazon link-
but this is spendy. Check your local library!

And for an extra boost-we have watched 3 versions of Emma now on DVD.  We have found the BBC [2009] version to be the best.  It stayed the closest to the story line, and had the most believable actors.  I love it when she can say, "Hey, that isn't in the book." or "They skipped a lot here." and so forth too.

Also-a visual way to help out:
One of the difficulties in reading the "literature of old" is the complexities of them.  Lots of characters and situations abound in Miss Austen's stories-so we decided to use the white board as a diagram station to note the different (main) characters and situations in the story line.  If you need a way to help your student figure out the plot or to just simply follow the intricate craziness of it all...this is a good visual option for you and your student.

You can see how we put Emma in the center and branched out the family members and suitors, while adding little symbols to highlight the love triangles or should I say none love triangles?  LOL.  It is definitely helping in keeping everyone straight.  The pictures are for our Renoir study.  :)

Ah yes, "Well done Emma, well done."

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