But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.
― C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism
Of all the children’s picture books we have read or reviewed for our yearly Best of the Best, none stands out more dearly to me this time of the year than a tale about a family in the early 20th century in the American Wild West. They settled in one of the most desolate regions of the West, the open, wind-swept prairies of Wyoming, and the story opens with their yearly ritual at the onset of winter: saying goodbye to their community schoolhouse, buying gobs of paper and pencils at the town store, and raiding the local library for pounds of books to last them through the isolating months ahead of closed roads and home-bound activity.
Snowed In by Barbara M. Lucas is a story not just about the latent treasure available for plunder at the local library. It is subtly a story about homeschooling, long before this became an organized alternative to public education in America. This pioneer family from a century ago read avidly and tackled their season-long confinement as a cherished holiday. They read books, cooked meals, played games and went about their life as naturally as the snow falling outside their window. And when the snow finally melts in the spring, the children all return to their schoolhouse recognizing all the multitude of teachers that extend far beyond the ones commanding their immediate classroom.
When asked to describe our own family’s approach to education, I often say not that the children are home-schooled, but that they are many-schooled. Home is more of a base for our operations abroad in the world than a space merely to recharge our batteries. Like the children in the story, our children gather lots of resources and materials to home base to experiment and test them there, and then share our results with one of the many other communities we have become so fortunate to get to know. In this model of many-schooling, home is not a dreaded place of isolation which needs multiple electronic distractions to survive; it is rather a fertile gathering and growing place for the cumulative stories we have heard and want to share with one another in living community. Through pioneer stories like this one, may we learn the hidden and forgotten treasure that lies in the old books collecting dust on our shelves and start to share them with one another before we forget them entirely.