Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Having and Reading Little Men

"Yes, I know many people think boys are a nuisance, but that is because they don't understand them.  I do; and I never saw the boy yet whom I could not get on capitally with after I had once found the soft spot in his heart.  Bless me, I couldn't get on at all without my flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads, could I, my Teddy?" and Mrs. Bhaer hugged the young rogue, just in time to save the big inkstand from going into his pocket.
Nat, who had never heard anything like this before, really did not know whether Mother Bhaer was a trifle crazy, or the most delightful woman he had ever met.

At a recent trip to the used bookstore I picked up a copy of Little Men, by Louisa M. Alcott.  When I brought it home I realized that I already had a (sadly unread) paperback copy on my shelf which then led to a purging of my bookshelves of doubles and other books that probably weren't worth reading again as well as promises to myself to do a better job at actually reading the books that I already own, but all of that is neither here nor there.

The important thing is that I am so glad I finally sat down and read this book.

I'm going to go ahead and say that Little Men should probably be required reading for any mother who finds herself entrusted with her own "flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads" but especially if she's also attempting to homeschool them.  When I read Little Women as a girl I obviously wanted to be Jo, but now reading this follow up book about the school she founded, grown up me desperately wants to be grown up Mrs. Jo.

Since I finished reading it I've found myself asking, WWMBD (What would Mrs. Bhaer Do?) daily.

When David wanted to set up a popsicle stand in the front yard on a random weekday, WWMBD? Well, obviously she would encourage him and his entrepreneurial endeavors.  When I find myself about to scream at my unruly brood, WWMBD? Um, probably she would not scream--that was never actually addressed in the book but I'm going to go out on a limb and say no, Mrs. Jo is not a screamer.  Should I spend a(nother) *quick* five minutes (hahahaha) checking in on social media instead of engaging with my little ones?  WWMBD?  Also not explicitly addressed, but again I'm thinking no.  

"It takes so little to make a child happy, that it is a pity in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands or lonely little hearts."

I am so glad I listened to my inner Jo and let David run his overpriced popsicle stand.  He was able to earn the twenty dollars he was shooting for so he could finally buy the lego train set he's been begging for since he found out there was such a thing as lego train sets and he's so proud of himself.  It was also adorable to watch him take his scissors and cut the tops off of the popsicles for his customers.  Incidentally, Henry wanted to earn money too, but instead of selling anything he asked me if I would take the label off of the mail box he had made earlier that day and replace it with one that read "Poor Box."  Um, no.  It would have been interesting to see the differences in earnings between the two of them had I let David slave away selling popscicles in the sweltering heat while Henry lounged in the grass beside him with his poor box looking for donations but in the end I thought not.  In our neighborhood Henry might have actually come out ahead and that's not exactly the lesson I was attempting to impart.    
In short, if you're looking for a little mothering or homeschooling inspiration I would definitely read Little Men--also, my own little men have very different temperaments :)

Have you already read Little Men?  What did you think?

"I am not so ambitious as that, father.  I only want to give these children a home in which they can be taught the few simple things which will help to make life less hard to them when they go out to fight their battles in the world. Honesty, courage, industry, faith in God, their fellow-creatures, and themselves; that is all I try for."
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