Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.
— Louisa May Alcott
When I first read this book as a young girl, I immediately identified with Jo (the sister most like Louisa), an aspiring writer who is trying to find her voice. I often felt the same way. Once again, this universal connection transcends historical time period to make this a classic book today.
We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.— Louisa May Alcott
I also felt a little jealous of the fact that there were four sisters with a close bond — something I didn’t have as an only child. It was fascinating to me to read about growing up with a sister to share experiences together. Now I’m raising my own “little women” in my three girls, though I’m probably not as meek and mild as their dear mother, Marmee. I’m so glad to see my girls form that sisterly connection that will last their whole lives, Lord willing. As I share this book with Big Sis now, I know we’re making the kind of memories that she will return to with fondness in the years to come.
What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?— Louisa May Alcott
As we raise our daughters to find their worth in Christ, not in the external things of this world, Little Women sets another good example to follow. We see the folly of Amy’s vanity and selfishness contrasted against the steadfast faith and selfless devotion of Marmee. We can see clearly what we are to become through that role model. We also see again the themes of family, responsibility, growing up, faith, and love as were evident in the Little House series.
Yesterday we focused on pioneer times with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiographical Little House on the Prairie series, but today we go back further to the days of the Civil War, the time period of Little Women. For those of you who enjoy literature-rich Charlotte Mason-type studies, this novel could easily be worked into a living history lesson on the Civil War.
Admittedly, the style of Little Women is not as easy to read as Little House on the Prairie. It’s the style difference between a book written in the 1860’s versus the 1930-1940’s, which is when Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her books. However, Little Women is more than worth the effort of any reading challenges. It makes an excellent read aloud for mom and daughter. The good news is you can read Little Women for free online from Project Gutenberg as well as listen to the audio version for free on Librivox. Sometimes the audio version makes it easier to finish the book in a timely manner when you’re especially busy with other homeschool lessons.
Louisa May Alcott wrote other books as well, such as the sequel Little Men. She is an interesting historical figure to study in her own right. A PBS documentary movie was recently made about her life. If you live in New England, you could enjoy a field trip to see Orchard House in Massachusetts, where she grew up and wrote Little Women. Louisa worked as a nurse during the Civil War and came from a family that believed that women should be encouraged to use their talents. That was rare during those days! Her mother was a suffragist and her father was an education reformer who taught his daughters at home. The idea of writing stories not just for enjoyment, but for profit as a career was not the norm of the day for women.
Her quotes or passages from her novels make excellent copy work if you use that type of tool in your homeschool. You can also find a literature unit study for Little Women on Currclick, a Louisa May Alcott study on Lesson Pathways, and my Pinterest board for all things Little Women/Louisa May Alcott. There is a SparkNote available for Little Women, which provides a summary overview and other details like an online version of Cliffs Notes. Like many classic books, Little Women has been made into a movie (1933, 1949, 1994).
Reading classic books with your daughters is a worthy endeavor that will pay dividends for generations to come. As Louisa said,
Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.