I recently ran into a post on a home education forum that dealt with a mother's dissatisfaction with a simple and charming book about Pioneer life for one family. She was looking for a book suggestion that showed no negative behavior on the part of the characters in the book. The book she objected to is called A Pioneer Sampler and it was written by Barbara Greenwood. This is a book we have in our collection and in fact I have used it with 4 of my 5 homeschoolers since 1996. Our copy is well worn and well loved.
Of course I will now have to go back and reread the book since I am unable to think of anything that would ever raise an eyebrow in this book. And yet it seems the posting mother took offense to the fact that one of the children was sassy and the other rolled his eyes at his mother.
Oh shock... sassy pioneer children!... Honestly this seems pretty honest to me. I have a hard time thinking that pioneer children actually lead the sanitized life that we were fed in the form of Little House on the Prairie. I am sure that over the course of history thousands of pioneer children mouthed off, slacked on their chores and had a moment or two of sassy mouthed behavior. To say they didn't and edit it out of history all together is just another form of the white-washing of American history and this does little good for our children or for ourselves.
For our children the removal of any traits that involve negative actions makes these characters so far removed from their life that it makes them difficult to relate to or to learn from. I mean if little Sally pioneer never whimpered a tear even after a rabid raccoon bites her how is the average child to feel when they fall and skin their knee and feel the need to sob about it for a bit?. Are they less than that little girl of *oh so fine Pioneer stock* who is reported to be stoic beyond measure and just fine with helping pa plow the back 40 with just a simple bandage to stem the flow of blood? Of course this is an exaggeration but there is truth hidden in my snide commentary and when children are exposed over and over again to overly perfected characters they are not bettered for it. Better we should see little Sally work through her problems, cry a little, perhaps even say a sassy word or two then work through to a more realistic answer to her problems.
For mothers I think the subject is even more complex and even deeper and darker for those who homeschool and spend their time reading to their sometimes sassy mouthed children about children who never do wrong. It's subtle, but soon after reading to much of white washed childhoods you start to wonder why your kid grumbles when asked to take of the trash when young "Jeth" in the book you are reading to the kids can spend 5 hours chopping wood with nary a complaint. Why are your kids begging for yet another transformer, Lego set, water gun while acting like they are dying when young Pioneer children were happy with just an orange and a new pair of socks at Christmas? Well is obvious your children are ungrateful, spoiled and you yearn to go live in the woods and teach them a lesson!!
Let's get real, Pioneer children bitched, they ditched, and at times I am sure they rolled their eyes and had a sassy mouth. It's what children learn from our response to these expressions that shapes them into the people they become. And I am sure the same was true to pioneer children.