Christian Character, Children’s Literature, and McGuffey Readers

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

William McGuffey’s Great Educational Legacy

mcguffeyreaderParents and Homeschoolers: These wonderful books not only teach children to read, but provide classic character education as well.

key“The Christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”[ “From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible I make no apology.” ~William McGuffey

From Wikipedia

William Holmes McGuffey (September 23, 1800 – May 4, 1873) was an American professor and college president who is best known for writing the McGuffey Readers, one of the nation’s first and most widely used series of textbooks. It is estimated that at least 122 million copies of McGuffey Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary.

Early years

He was born the son of Alexander and Anna (Holmes) McGuffey near Claysville in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. In 1802 the McGuffey family moved further out into the frontier at Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He attended country school, and after receiving special instruction at Youngstown, he attended Greersburg Academy in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he attended and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Washington College, where he became an instructor.

He was close friends with Washington College’s President Andrew Wylie and lived in Wylie’s house for a time; they often would walk the 3 miles to Washington College together.[1]

Professional life

McGuffey left Washington College in 1826 to become a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A year later in 1827, he was married to Harriet Spinning of Dayton, Ohio, with whom he had five children. In 1829, he was ordained at Bethel Chapel as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. It was in Oxford that he created the most important contribution of his life: The McGuffey Readers. His books sold over 122 million copies. He was very fond of teaching and children as he geared the books toward a younger audience.

In 1836, he left Miami to become president of Cincinnati College, where he also served as a distinguished teacher and lecturer. He left Cincinnati in 1839 to become the 4th president of Ohio University, which he left in 1843 to become president of Woodward College (really a secondary school) in Cincinnati.

In 1845, McGuffey moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. A year after his first wife Harriet died in 1850, he married Miss Laura Howard, daughter of Dean Howard of the University of Virginia, in 1851. McGuffey is buried in the university burial ground, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The School of Education at Miami University is housed in McGuffey Hall which is named for him and his home in Oxford is a National Historic Landmark offering tours on weekdays.


McGuffey is credited with the following quotation:

McGuffey“The Christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”[2]

The McGuffey School District in Washington County, Pennsylvania is named for William Holmes McGuffey. The industrialist Henry Ford cited McGuffey Readers as one of his most important childhood influences. In 1934 he had the log cabin where McGuffey was born moved to Greenfield Village, Ford’s museum of Americana at Dearborn, Michigan.

 More about William McGuffey in Wikipedia




Hillsdale College: Children’s Literature and Good vs. Evil

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Dinner Topics for Friday The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is … Continue reading

Capitalism: A Children’s Story

Dinner Topics for Thursday

Variations on a Fable: the Grasshopper Learns Capitalism and Free Enterprise

The grasshopper looked for Solutions

grasshoppersHe asked the bees, who said, “Hummmm, all we do is hum, because we don’t know the words. Can you teach us the words?”

He talked to the spider, who said slyly, “Come to my web, and I’ll show you how to get rich quick.”

Said the grasshopper, “Hmmm, I think I’ll pass on that. It sounds like a bridge I tried to buy one time.”


ladybugHe said to the ladybug:

I played all day when times were sunny

Now to buy food

I have no money.

Said the ladybug:

Use your talent! Be creative!

Let helping others be your motive.

You can make a living

By help to others giving.


antsHe asked the ants:

What can I do for you?

Said the ants:

Enough money we are earning

But our children? Life’s lessons

They are not learning.

Winter is dull! They claim.

It’s more fun to play a game.


The grasshopper got an idea.

Edu-tainment!* Cried he.

That’s what you need.

Make learning fun-

That’ll be my deed.


Education and entertainment, you see.

Winter days are cold and dreary.

I’ll lift their spirits

And make them cheery.

Yes! I’ve got it! I’ve finally got it!

The ants agreed, and they bought it.


The grasshopper learned a lesson, and now he has a new song:

We’ll have fun, but give instruction,

For money without character

Leads to destruction.


(tune: row, row, your  boat)

Oh, I owe the world my living,

(But I) happily live within my means

By help to others giving.

Related Post, Sociology and Culture: Fable Teaches Economics

*phrase by Rachel Hedmann

Copyright, 2011 by Christine Davidson

Parenting, Teaching, and Children’s Independence

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

Raising Resilient Children

By Lyle J. Burrup

LDS Family Services

family4How well children respond to setbacks depends largely on how well their parents helped them develop the attitudes and the skills of resilience.

Life is full of trials. The Lord says that He has chosen us “in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10), that we will be “tried, even as Abraham” (D&C 101:4), and that adversity will “give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good” (D&C 122:7). This sounds quite daunting. We may wonder, can we be happy and at peace in the midst of trials? The scriptures teach us that we can (see 2 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 5:7–8; D&C 127:2).

While counseling missionaries at the missionary training center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, I noticed that the most common cause of emotional problems was a lack of resilience. When an intelligent, talented missionary with no history of emotional problems struggled, priesthood leaders and others often wondered why. In many cases, the missionary just hadn’t learned how to deal with challenges well. Parents can help their children avoid such problems by teaching principles that foster greater resilience.

Attitudes of Resilience

The original definition of the word resilience had to do with a material’s ability to resume its shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed. Today we commonly use the word to describe our ability to bounce back from adversity.

We know two things about adversity and resilience: First, there is “an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Second, obtaining anything of great worth often requires great sacrifice.

As children become resilient, they understand and accept these two facts. They see life as challenging and ever changing, but they believe they can cope with those challenges and changes. They view mistakes and weaknesses as opportunities to learn, and they accept that losing may precede winning.

As children develop resilience, they believe they can influence and even control outcomes in their lives through effort, imagination, knowledge, and skill. With this attitude, they focus on what they can do rather than on what is outside their control.

Another mark of resilience is to see great purpose and meaning in life and people. A sense of purpose will help our children avoid giving up, in spite of setbacks and pressure to do so. If our children are becoming more resilient, they will develop deep values that guide them: charity, virtue, integrity, honesty, work ethic, and faith in God. They will involve themselves in what is happening around them and opt for commitment to values rather than feel alienated and avoid struggle.

The gospel teaches and reinforces these values and perceptions.

Perfectionism Undermines Resilience

One thing that hinders the development of resilience is a misunderstanding of the commandment to be perfect (see Matthew 5:48). This misunderstanding is the most common factor I’ve seen undermining resilience in new missionaries. They want to be perfect in everything because they love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and do not want to disappoint Them. But they do not understand that the Lord works through weak, simple servants (see D&C 1:19–23) and that striving to be perfect does not mean we never make mistakes but rather that we become fully developed or complete through the Atonement of Christ as we strive to follow Him (see Matthew 5:48, footnote b).

This misunderstanding may also stem from what society teaches our youth: that their worth depends on talent and performance. In schools and communities, sometimes even at church or at home, youth see their peers get acceptance, admiration, approval, and praise for being talented at something. So they try to measure up. As they do so, they start to fear failure and mistakes. They choose what to do based on how successful they think they will be. They procrastinate when they do not feel confident. They worry about what others will think if they make mistakes. They fear loss of approval. They view their performance as the measure of their worth. Their perfectionism becomes a mean taskmaster, and it wears down their resilience.

For instance, because missionaries at the MTC cannot choose what they are going to do or not do as part of their training, they make mistakes as they learn how to speak a new language, teach gospel concepts, and perform other missionary tasks. They make these mistakes in front of strangers, and if they haven’t gained a sense of resilience, they feel distressed and overwhelmed.

Helping Children Develop Resilience

So how do we help our children develop resilience? Our Father in Heaven provides the model. He treats us with great love and respect, even when we make mistakes. He reminds us of our potential (see Moses 1:39) and our great worth (see D&C 18:10), which are based on our identity as His sons and daughters. He gives us laws so we know what He expects (see D&C 107:84), allows us to make choices (see 2 Nephi 2:15–16), and honors our choices (see D&C 130:20). He allows for learning and instruction to correct mistakes (see D&C 1:25–26) and for repentance and restitution to correct sin (see D&C 1:27–28).

Here are some recommendations for how we might apply these principles in our homes:

  • Pray to understand your children’s strengths and how to help them with their weaknesses.
  • Be patient and realize that children need time to develop resilience.
  • Strive to understand that mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn.
  • Allow natural, logical consequences to serve as the disciplinarian.
  • Respect children’s decisions, even if their poor choices lead to lost privileges.
  • Refrain from berating children for breaking the rules.
  • Do not discourage effort by criticizing harshly.
  • Rather than praising accomplishment, encourage and praise effort.
  • “Praise your children more than you correct them. Praise them for even their smallest achievement” (President Ezra Taft Benson [1899–1994], “The Honored Place of Woman,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 107).

As we prayerfully work on the challenging job of raising resilient children, the Lord will bless us with the guidance and inspiration we need to help them gain the emotional and spiritual strength to deal with life’s challenges.

Lessons of Resilience from Childhood

—Lyle J. Burrup

childwkgardenWhen I was a child, many adults in my life—parents, neighbors, teachers, and Church leaders—taught me and my brother and sisters the following lessons. These five principles may be helpful for your children:

  1. Paying the price for privileges. I knew that freedom to play with my friends in the coming days depended on whether or not I came home on time.
  2. The law of the harvest. If I wanted money, I had to deliver the newspapers for my route and collect the money each month.
  3. Personal accountability and responsibility. I had to complete my own homework, science fair projects, and merit badges.
  4. The law of restitution. I could make up for misbehavior by apologizing and repairing the wrong. My parents sometimes suggested that I complete extra chores, such as pulling weeds.
  5. Learning from mistakes. If I made my bed poorly, did not wash the dishes properly, or did not pull weeds properly, I had to redo these tasks correctly.

Recommendations for Raising Capable, Resilient Children

While parenting requires a personalized approach for each child, some principles seem to be nearly universal. The following principles have proved effective.

Instead of Doing This …

Do This …

And Get This Result …

Set random or arbitrary rules and consequences. Discuss rules and set logical consequences that are reasonable, related to the behavior, and respectful of both parent and child. Children know what to expect and learn that choices have consequences.
Allow children to avoid the consequences of their choices. Allow children to experience natural and logical consequences of their choices. Children learn accountability and responsibility for their choices.
Give mostly correction. Give mostly praise. Celebrate small steps in the right direction. Children learn what parents want. They feel encouraged, worthwhile, and appreciated.
Be arbitrary and inconsistent in requiring obedience. Consistently offer desirable rewards for the actions and behaviors you would like to reinforce. Children learn that they don’t have to want to do hard things; they just have to do them.
Praise only outcomes. Praise for effort regardless of outcome. Children feel encouraged, confident, and more willing to take on challenges.
Send the message to children that their self-worth depends on outcomes. Tell children they have inherent worth because they are sons or daughters of God and have divine potential. Self-worth will be attached to the child’s eternal potential instead of temporary success or failure.
Talk about failures or successes as being connected to luck or talent. Define failure as temporary and an opportunity to learn. Define success as a product of hard work and sacrifice. Children are less discouraged by or afraid of setbacks and are more willing to be persistent.
Try to solve children’s problems by giving them all the answers. Help children (1) identify what happened, (2) analyze what contributed to the outcome, and (3) identify what they can do to avoid this problem next time. Children develop perceptions of being capable, will address and solve their problems, and will see that they have control in their lives and can overcome challenges.
Make children feel dumb by criticizing them, their effort, and their accomplishments. Listen and be supportive and encouraging so your children will want to come to you again for help. Children feel more comfortable discussing their mistakes and problems with you.

Children’s Literature and Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote classics in children’s literature like Treasure Island and Kidnapped

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world.[3] His works have been admired by many other writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Marcel Schwob, Vladimir Nabokov,[4] J. M. Barrie,[5] and G. K. Chesterton, who said of him that he “seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins.”[6]
Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson[7] at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 13 November 1850 to Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829–1897) and Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), a leading lighthouse engineer.[8] Lighthouse design was the family profession: Thomas’s own father (Robert’s grandfather) was the famous Robert Stevenson, and Thomas’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Smith, and brothers Alan and David were also in the business.[9] On Margaret’s side, the family were gentry, tracing their name back to an Alexander Balfour, who held the lands of Inchrye in Fife in the fifteenth century. Her father, Lewis Balfour (1777–1860), was a minister of the Church of Scotland at nearby Colinton,[10] and Stevenson spent the greater part of his boyhood holidays in his house.

“Now I often wonder”, wrote Stevenson, “what I inherited from this old minister. I must suppose, indeed, that he was fond of preaching sermons, and so am I, though I never heard it maintained that either of us loved to hear them.”[11]
Lewis Balfour and his daughter both had weak chests, and often needed to stay in warmer climates for their health. Stevenson inherited a tendency to coughs and fevers, exacerbated when the family moved to a damp, chilly house at 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1851.[12] The family moved again to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six years old, but the tendency to extreme sickness in winter remained with him until he was eleven. Illness would be a recurrent feature of his adult life and left him extraordinarily thin.[13] Contemporary views were that he had tuberculosis, but more recent views are that it was bronchiectasis[14] or even sarcoidosis.[15]
Stevenson’s parents were both devout and serious Presbyterians, but the household was not strict in its adherence to Calvinist principles. His nurse, Alison Cunningham (known as Cummy),[16] was more fervently religious. Her Calvinism and folk beliefs were an early source of nightmares for the child, and he showed a precocious concern for religion.[17] But she also cared for him tenderly in illness, reading to him from Bunyan and the Bible as he lay sick in bed and telling tales of the Covenanters. Stevenson recalled this time of sickness in “The Land of Counterpane” in A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885),[18] and dedicated the book to his nurse.[19]