Tag Archives: Teacher

New Free Read: Living a Story

6 Mar

This month’s free read is a short story that first appeared in The Pansy magazine in 1893.

The story is about three school friends who pass a snowy afternoon by making up stories for each other. For two of the girls, the stories are simply fun diversions; but for Sarah Brewster, one of their stories strikes a little too close to home.

You can read “Living a Story” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device. Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

To begin reading, just click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

Inside Pansy’s Classroom

12 Sep

Isabella Alden taught Sunday school for decades. It was one of her favorite things to do, and she was widely considered to be an expert in the field of teaching very young children about the Bible.

A chapter heading from the book “How to Teach the Little Folks” by J. Bennet Tyler, 1875.

Her favorite age-group to teach was what she called the “infant class”—children who were not yet old enough to read, or were just beginning to read.

She wrote many articles and regularly conducted classes on how to teach children about the Bible and God’s promise of salvation through Christ.

From the book “Chautauqua: Historical and Descriptive,” 1884.

She once said:

“My ideal Sunday school classroom is bright, well ventilated, curtained, carpeted, with low, easy seats, flowers on the desk and in the windows, ornamental pictures on the walls, a good sized portable revolving blackboard in a central position, maps and charts and diagrams, and whatever else will help to illustrate Bible truths gathered into that pleasant spot.”

While that may have been her ideal Sunday school classroom, the truth was that Isabella often taught her little students over the vestibule of a dingy old church. Instead of ornamental pictures on the walls, more often than not she had to use pictures cut out of a Bible dictionary to help illustrate her lesson, and a broken slate for a blackboard.

But Isabella did not suffer those situations for very long. She knew how to brighten a dingy spot and make it attractive:

“Home pictures and flowers are cheap, and tact and patience can transform any sort of a place into something like beauty. I always have the best room I can get, and make it as attractive as possible.”

Once Isabella had the physical location of her Sunday school under control, she was free to concentrate on teaching her little ones.

The Kindergarten Class, by Max Lieberman, 1880.

When she was just starting out, she once had a class that began very badly. The wee ones were afraid to even whisper, and she could not coax them to repeat their verses no matter how hard she tried. When she tried to talk to each little scholar individually, they were so frightened, they began to cry. Clearly, there was no point in trying to coax them into singing a little hymn. So what did Isabella do?

Late for School, by Julius Johann Ferdinand Kronberg, 1872.

The next week she brought with her half a dozen little girls from her regular schoolroom where she was teaching during the week.

“These little ones were good readers, some of them, but with pretty childlike ways. They knew their lessons and were not afraid to say so, and they sang like birds. The consequence was that my timid ones soon caught their spirit, and my class of infants which bade fair to be a dismal failure became a success.”

What do you imagine it was like to be in Isabella’s Sunday-school class? She gave us some hints in one of the articles she wrote about teaching. Here’s the agenda she typically followed:

Roll call
Prayer
Collection
Singing
Five minutes talk about the hymn just sung
Distribution of cards for next Sabbath’s lesson
Reading those cards in concert
Singing
Distribution of papers
Recitation of verses

She liked to keep the opening prayer brief; just a few simple sentences which she had the children repeat after her. Then they would close with the Lord’s Prayer in concert.

The Sunday School, by Robert McInnes

If any of the children remembered to bring their pennies for the collection, Isabella taught them to repeat this little verse as they deposited them in the plate:

Small are the offerings we can make,
But thou hast taught us, Lord,
If given for the Savior’s sake,
They lose not their reward.

Since the majority of her students were too young to read, Isabella found ways to teach them Bible verses and poems to illustrate a short lesson. One of her favorites was a poem that many children still learn today:

Two little eyes to look to God,
Two little ears to hear his Word,
Two little feet to walk in his ways,
Two little lips to sing his praise,
Two little hands to do his will,
And one little heart to love him still.

And she taught them to “point to the different portions of their body indicated by the words they speak.”

She always selected a verse for the children to memorize. She read the verse with her students aloud and reread it until the bright ones could repeat it from memory; then she talked about the verse with her class, and stressed the importance of reciting the verse correctly. The following week, she used that verse as the foundation for her lesson.

“I like to cluster my talk [around] one personal practical thought that will make clear the fact that the story is for each little boy and girl who hears it. “

Her “talk” was, in reality, a story. She used illustrations from little ones’ home, school and playground experiences to build a relatable story. Then, when she reached the point of the story when the lesson was to be revealed, she let her class bring in the verse they had learned the week before.

“The delight which little children feel in discovering that what they have learned fits in with what their teacher is telling them a story about, can only be appreciated by those who see it.”

The school Walk by Albert Anker, 1872.

When it was time to close the lesson it was her preference that no books or pictures should be distributed.

“No outside matter should be allowed to come in between the pupils and the impression earnestly sought to be made.”

She did not even like to close with singing unless she found a hymn that had a clear connection with the lesson.

“I like better to close with a very brief prayer woven out of the words of the golden text, and so send the little ones away with a sweet and clear impression of the Bible lesson of the day.”

Isabella used the same method in crafting her stories for young people and adults. She chose a Bible verse and a lesson or theme she wanted to communicate about a specific verse, and wove a story around it. It was a process that served her well for the one-hundred-plus novels she wrote in her lifetime!


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 14!

For Day-School Teachers

18 Jul

As a teacher of young children for over forty years, Isabella Alden knew the power and influence teachers had over the hearts and minds of their students.

Here’s a story Isabella told about that very topic, in a column she wrote for The Christian Endeavor World magazine in 1901:

There is a teacher of my acquaintance, a cultivated young woman, who would be shocked and offended if she knew that I did not like to invite her familiarly to my home lest my little daughter should learn objectionable speech from her.

In the schoolroom, I am told, she guards her speech with care, and is thoroughly alive to the indiscretions of her pupils. But she frequents a home where two of her scholars live, being the intimate friend of their grown-up sister. Here she indulges in “Goodness!” and “My gracious!” on occasion, speaks of her pupils as “the kids,” and talks about “swell” neighborhoods and people, or mentions certain persons whose peculiarities of speech or manner make her “tired,” and in various other ways offends against good taste and true refinement.

And the young people in that home, who admire their pretty and vivacious teacher, are steadily copying not her school-room elegance, but her offhand vulgarities. Is that too strong a word?

Keeping in mind the fact that words like “swell” and “kids” were considered ill-bred slang in Isabella’s time, how would you answer her question?

Do you think the young teacher should not have used vulgar words?

Do you think Isabella was being too critical of the young teacher for using such words in front of her impressionable students?

Do you think, in general, teachers should be careful of their conduct inside as well as outside the classroom?

New Free Read: What She Could

16 Aug

It’s back to school time across the country, when millions of children return to the classroom.

As a teacher herself, Isabella Alden understood the tremendous influence a teacher had over the minds and hearts of young students.

In 1893 she wrote a short story about a young teacher, her sacrifice, and the rewards she reaped, simply because she did “what she could” for her students.

Now you can read the story for free! Just click on the book cover below to begin reading.

.

A Dozen of Them – Chapters 9 and 10

7 Feb

This week, Joseph deals with peer pressure and finds himself accused of another boy’s crime. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read them here.


A Dozen of Them

.

THOU SHALT CALL HIS NAME JESUS, FOR HE SHALL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.
HE DELIVERED ME BECAUSE HE DELIGHTED IN ME.
BRING FORTH THEREFORE FRUITS MEET FOR REPENTANCE.
THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.
HE IS ABLE TO SUCCOR THEM THAT ARE TEMPTED.

It was Jean who helped him choose his verse. She had a private notion that the Fourth of July was a rather dangerous time for a boy, so she hinted that of all the July verses the one which she thought the most helpful was the very last. It made some talk; Jean was sewing a button on his shirt and he was waiting for it, so there was time for a few pleasant words. Joseph said he remembered the lesson for next Sunday; he looked it over last Sunday afternoon, and that if a fellow knew as much about the Bible as Jesus did, of course it would help him, but that he, Joseph, would never expect to think of the right verse.

“But that,” said Jean, “is Jesus’ part; if you learn the verses, he has promised that the Holy Spirit shall remind you of them at the right time, if you depend on his help.”

This thought seemed new to Joseph, and held him dumb with wonder that the great God could actually take time to remind a boy of his Bible verses!

He chose the last verse, with a dim notion of putting the thought to the test of experience. There was never a day more full of temptation than that same Fourth of July. Turn which way he would, it seemed to Joseph that the tempter was waiting for him.

4th-of-july-2

It began the day before; the boys coaxed him to join them in a midnight frolic, when the bells of the village should be made to ring, and a wheezy cannon should bang, and various other noises should help to make night hideous.

It was really very tempting. Joseph had not much patience with people who wanted to sleep the night before the “glorious Fourth;” and it seemed to him that boys ought to have free license once a year to make all the noise they could.

But then, Mrs. Calland did not approve of such doings, and had expressly hoped that none of their family would be guilty of helping along the village uproar. Still, the boys argued that she need never know anything about their share in it; she would be in bed and asleep when they slipped away; and they would slip back, long before she was up in the morning; and there would be a noise, anyhow, whether they helped make it or not, and they might as well have the fun.

independence-day-boy

“Not with eye service as men pleasers.”

Where did that verse come from? Joseph did not know it was stored away in his memory, until someone brought it suddenly before him at that moment. He could not help speaking the words aloud, they fitted so perfectly, and he added, “No, you don’t! if you fellows want to do behind her back what you would be ashamed to do when her eyes were on you, why, I suppose you will, for all me, but I don’t propose to train in any such company.”

The boys “poohed” and “pshawed” a little, but the conclusion of it was that they gave up the plan. He had no trouble the next morning in convincing the boys that it would be mean to put a torpedo under Rettie’s crib and scare her awake. Because she was such a little thing, and was very much afraid, and the old verse “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” came in to do good service. It is true that Will Jenkins said Rettie wasn’t his “neighbor; “ that she roomed two flights of stairs below him; but he laughed, while he said it, and looked a little ashamed of himself, and no torpedoes were placed under Rettie’s crib.

independence-day-boy-and-firecrackers

But the next scheme held out strong temptations for a fun-loving boy. It was all very well for little Rettie to be afraid; but it did seem ridiculous for Sarah, the tall, pretty-faced, good-natured chambermaid to have such a horror of firecrackers that she would run and scream whenever she heard one snap. Joseph did not understand this in the least, and felt disposed to ridicule it. So when the boys hurriedly planned their next bit of mischief, he was on the very verge of joining them. It was such an excellent opportunity: Sarah was out under the gnarled old tree, with Rettie on one side of her, and the little daughter from the next neighbor’s, on the other, and they were having a grand frolic. What unutterable fun it would be to fasten the strings of her long apron to the tree, and then set fire to a bunch of crackers at her feet; and when she squealed and tried to run, she would find herself tied fast, and would have to stay and see what innocent things firecrackers really were. The boys rolled on the grass and laughed over the thought of how her eyes would look, and how she would squeal! Yes, Joseph was almost ready to help in this; because no one could possibly be harmed, and what sense was there in a grown woman being scared with firecrackers?

“Yes, sir, we’ll do it,” said Will Jenkins. “We’ll have one bit of fun this morning, anyhow. Luckily for us there isn’t a Bible verse that will fit it. There’s the Golden Rule, even, encourages us: ‘Do to others whatever they do to you.’ Didn’t Sarah sprinkle us with a dipper of water, this very morning? Tell me it was an accident! I saw by the twinkle in her eyes that she meant it.”

If he hadn’t misquoted that verse I am not sure that Joseph would have stopped to do any thinking; but the thought which struck him was that Satan had done that very thing at the temptation of Jesus! Was this a temptation? Ought he to want help to get out of it?

independence-day-firecracker

“Consider them that are bound as bound with them.” Was that Bible? Yes, he was sure of it; though when learned, or where found, he did not know. It was absurd for Sarah to be “bound” by such silly fears; but then she was; and if the words meant anything, they meant that we must try to put ourselves in other people’s places and see if we should like done to us what we were about to do to them, provided we felt about things just as they did.

“S’posin’ I was most dreadful scared at firecrackers,” said Joseph to himself, and that “s’posin’” cleared the air wonderfully. He told the boys decidedly that he couldn’t join them, and there was a rather heated argument, in which the Bible verse took a prominent part; and before it was concluded, Sarah’s frolic was over, and the opportunity for mischief had passed.

I have not time to follow my boy through the day, but he was really amazed at night over its history; almost it seemed to him that the Fourth of July ought to be named “slave” day, instead of “independence,” so many of the boys were slaves to fun.

independence-day-firecrackers

About their latest scheme he knew nothing. It was no more nor less than to take a pitch-pine stick, dress it in white garments saturated in benzine, set it up in a pine-knot seat on the stone floor of the dairy, and fire it at just the moment that Hannah the cook would visit the dairy for butter for tea. How royally scared she would be to see a woman in white all ablaze! This precious piece of mischief was planned most carefully, and finally abandoned, for the simple reason that Joseph was the only one of the scholars who could gain access to the dairy.

“And there’s no kind of use in applying to him,” said Will Jenkins. “He’s so chock full of Bible that all he will do will be to pitch a verse at a fellow. We’ve just got to give it up.” Which, fortunately for them, they did.

divider-05

THE PEOPLE WHICH SAT IN DARKNESS SAW GREAT LIGHT.
GRACE AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST.
THINK NOT THAT I AM COME TO DESTROY THE LAW OR THE PROPHETS, I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL.
MAN LOOKETH ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT THE LORD LOOKETH ON THE HEART.

.

It was little Dick who helped our Joseph into trouble. The fact is, little Dick was skillful in getting up trouble for other people. He liked apples; most boys do; but little Dick liked them so much that he could not help taking them from the tree by the garden wall, before they were ready to pick; and before the injunction had been taken off that not one of the scholars must so much as touch them. It is quite a long story, how little Dick reached the point where he felt as though he must have just one apple, whatever happened; and how he stationed his friend and constant companion in mischief, Rufus Miller, to watch that nothing special did happen, while he climbed the wall for just a taste.

children-under-an-apple-tree

 

Something happened. Hannah came to the back door and called John, the coachman. That was all; but it was enough to frighten little Dick so much that he lost his balance and pitched over the wall with a loud cry, carrying a branch from the apple-tree with him.

Rufus, much alarmed, ran away, leaving the sobbing little boy with scratched face and torn trousers to get along the best way he could. You will understand that he was not very badly hurt when I tell you that after he had gotten a little over his fright, he waited to pick every apple from that broken limb and stuff them into his pockets, as many as would go in, and tug the rest home in his hands. He meant to get to his own little corner closet before anybody saw him; and if he didn’t, it wouldn’t matter; folks were always giving him apples.

apple-single

 

So reasoned little Dick; but the scratched face smarted, and he could not help crying, which made it smart worse. In this plight Joseph found him, pitied him, comforted him, offered to carry some of his burdens, stuffed his own pockets with the, fruit, saying as he did so, “What pretty apples! Did Farmer Brooks give you these?” and did not think it at all strange that Dick cried on, without answering.

The scratches were soothed at last, the torn trousers, together with little Dick’s bump, reported to Mrs. Calland and properly cared for, and peace was restored; that is, to all outward appearances. Greedy little Dick ate every apple from the broken limb during the day, except a little red-cheeked one which lay in the bottom of Joseph’s pocket, unknown to anybody.

apples-and-boy-2

By six o’clock in the evening, trouble came. Farmer Fowler found the broken limb, guessed that some of the boys knew more about it than he did, told Mrs. Calland, and a search was the result. No trace of that peculiar kind of apple anywhere, except—Oh, dear me!—in the pocket of our Joseph’s school trousers, which he had changed when he went to drive Mrs. Fowler to town.

Can you imagine what anxiety there was in the home after that? Mrs. Calland declared that it could not be possible Joseph broke the limb, and Farmer Fowler admitted that he would almost as soon have thought of the minister doing it, but, after all, there was the broken limb, and there was the tell-tale apple. When Joseph-returned from town, and Mrs. Calland sent for him and told him the whole story, his face was redder than the little red apple.

“Mrs. Calland, you don’t think—” he burst forth excitedly, but she quietly interrupted him.

“I don’t think anything about it, Joseph; I am going to think just what you tell me. I know it will be the truth, even if you did, by accident, break a limb of the choice tree.”

“I didn’t,” he said, speaking more quietly. “I didn’t, Mrs. Calland, and I did not know one was broken, and I did not know that apple was in my pocket; but I can guess now, how it got there, and I’ll tell you, if you say so; but it isn’t about me; and Mrs. Calland, don’t you think folks would be a great deal better off if they would tell about their own scrapes?”

 

Mrs. Calland admitted that she thought they would; told him he need say no more at present, and the next morning took the apple with her into the schoolroom, told part of its story, then called on any boy or girl who could tell any more, to rise and do so. This did not mean Joseph, as she had explained to him, that when she called for information, he was not to speak.

No one rose; Joseph tried not to look at little Dick, but stole a glance at him, and saw that although his cheeks were redder than usual, he was busy with his spelling-book and did not mean to speak.

“Joseph,” said Mrs. Calland, that afternoon, “I will not ask you yet, to tell me what you can guess about this sad business; but you may answer my questions: were the persons who, you guess, know about it, in the school-room this morning?”

“Yes’m,” said Joseph.

“That will do,” said Mrs. Calland. The days passed, and no word was heard about the apple.

Joseph’s heart was very sore. Mrs. Calland treated him just as usual, but Farmer Fowler occasionally cross-questioned him—as much as his promise to Mrs. Calland not to make Joseph tell what he suspected would admit—and Joseph felt that when he shook his head, and said: “It is very strange,” Farmer Fowler thought he was in some way to blame. It was hard.

apple-branch-with-two-apples

Jean sympathized with him, but said very little; the fact is, she longed to have him tell the whole story and bring the right person to justice.

There was one evil result of all this, which none but Joseph knew. He could not feel right toward little Dick. As the days passed and the little boy seemed much as usual, but kept his lips tightly closed, Joseph glowered at him often when no one was looking, and could not help feeling that something dreadful ought to happen to him; and that he certainly could never forgive him. There were times when he wished that Mrs. Calland would command him to tell the whole story, so that he might see Dick brought to shame. But Mrs. Calland seemed to have forgotten about it. She asked no questions, and Farmer Fowler continued to say occasionally that it was very strange.

Matters were in this state when, one evening at the quiet hour when all the home scholars were gathered in the school-room and Mrs. Calland read to them from the Bible, she read slowly and carefully the verse which Joseph had, some time before, chosen for his own.

“Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

She closed her reading with that verse and began to talk—a few earnest simple words, to help the scholars to think of that solemn truth; then she asked them to bow their heads, and in utter silence look for a moment at their hearts, and try to think what God saw there at that moment.

Now, the verse had for some time been Joseph’s greatest comfort; he had repeated it perhaps oftener than any other verse of his during the year; as often as Farmer Fowler had sighed and spoken of his injured apple-tree with its choice graft, Joseph had thrilled with satisfaction over this thought:

“Oh, yes! You sigh, and look at me; and I know you think I am to blame; and God can see right into my heart; and he knows I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

And as often as he thought of something which would displease God’s all-seeing eye, it was found in little Dick’s heart, not his own. But on this evening as he bowed his head with the rest, under pledge to look into his own heart, he started as though a thorn had pierced him. What did he see? Why, an ugly weed named “Hate.” Yes, actually, he almost hated little Dick! What a dreadful thing this was; almost as bad, perhaps to God’s sight just as bad as poor little silly Dick’s unspoken falsehood! Yet how could he help it? He could not feel right toward little Dick!

The silent minute was passed, and heads were upraised. I do not know but Joseph in his distress would have begged to be excused and have gotten to his room, if little Dick had not at that moment taken all the attention. He came with a sudden rush to Mrs. Calland’s side, bowed his head in her lap and sobbed:

“I don’t want Him to see it in my heart; I did eat the apples! The branch broke; I didn’t mean to break it; and Joseph didn’t take one, and he didn’t know where the apples came from; and I don’t want to be a naughty boy.”

You can imagine what a time there was after that.

It was late when Joseph went to bed; he stayed a good while with Jean, talking things over, after all the other scholars were quiet for the night.

“I oughtn’t to have any trouble in forgiving him,” he said, in answer to a question of Jean’s. “I don’t suppose weeds of hate look much better than weeds made out of lies. When it comes to hearts, I guess maybe little Dick’s looked most as well as mine.”


We’re nearing the end of A Dozen of Them. Join us next Tuesday for the final installment!

 

A Dozen of Them – Chapters 7 and 8

31 Jan

This week, Joseph learns to be a help instead of a hindrance to one of his teachers; and Mrs. Calland shares a story with Joseph that has an immediate effect on him. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read them here.


A Dozen of Them

.

HE INCREASED HIS PEOPLE GREATLY; AND MADE THEM STRONGER THAN THEIR ENEMIES.
THE LORD IS THY KEEPER.
I WILL BE THY MOUTH, AND TEACH THEE WHAT THOU SHALT SAY.
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER, IS SACRIFICED FOR US.
WHEN THOU PASSEST THROUGH THE WATERS I WILL BE WITH THEE; AND THROUGH THE RIVERS, THEY SHALL NOT OVERTHROW THEE.

.

Several of the boys were listening and laughing.

“And he drawls his words,” said Joseph, “and loses his place, and drops his lesson leaf; and never by any luck or chance asks a question that isn’t right before him on the leaf. Oh, he’s a rare teacher! I tell you what it is, when I get to be a man I won’t teach Sunday-school unless I have an idea of my own to give out now and then.”

Joseph’s sister Jean overheard this; it made her sad. She knew very well that Joseph’s teacher was one not calculated to win the respect of a bright boy like her brother. He was a good man, but he did not seem to know how to teach a class of wide-awake boys. She talked with Mrs. Calland about it, and wondered if anything could be done. This was the way Mrs. Calland came to have her talk with Joseph.

“How much time do you give to the preparation of your lesson, Joseph?”

“Why, there isn’t anything to prepare. He just asks the questions, and we read the answers, when we can find ’em.”

“I know; but suppose you should come into my history class with as little preparation for reciting as you give to the Bible lesson; what would be the result?”

cover_bible-stories

Joseph shrugged his shoulders. “Mrs. Calland, if you should come into the history class and do nothing but put on your spectacles and read from the book, ‘What is the name of this lesson? What did Moses then say? What did Moses do next?’ I don’t know what kind of lessons we would get.”

“But I want you, for the moment, to forget about every person but Joseph Holbrook, and tell me what he does to make the lesson interesting.”

“I!” said Joseph, astonished. “Of course I can’t do anything.”

“I don’t quite understand why. You certainly asked some good questions in the history class yesterday, which helped the interest very much.”

“Oh, that’s different,” said Joseph.

“I know it is different; you were interested in history, and wanted to know more about it; and you were interested because you had carefully studied the lesson.”

“I should not know a thing to ask in Sunday-school,” declared Joseph stoutly, but Mrs. Calland only smiled on him and went away. It was because of that talk that he stopped, astonished, over the third verse, when he went to his little book to select his next one.

“I will be thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”

“Queer!” said Joseph aloud. He meant, it seemed queer to him that those words should be there just then. Was it a possible thing that the Lord might mean him, Joseph Holbrook, to consider them as spoken to him, about the Sabbath-school lesson, for instance? Was there anything he could say which might help?

It was this thought which made him read the next lesson over carefully, that very night. There were some references in it which he did not understand, and he resolved the next day to look them up; this he did, and found himself growing interested.

He read the lesson over each day that week, and thought much about it, chiefly because he had become so interested that he could not help thinking about it.

On Sunday, as soon as the lesson was read, he asked, “How many Israelites do you suppose there were at that time?”

The teacher looked astonished, but pleased, and was ready with his opinion.

“Seems to me they had forgotten Joseph very soon,” said young Joseph again. “It wasn’t so very long after he died, was it?”

This started more talk. Then the treasure cities grew very interesting; Joseph had been studying in history that week, something which was connected with them, and the talk which was started was pleasant and profitable.

cover_the-story-of-joseph

“Do you think it was a very wise plan which that old king had?” Joseph asked. Then the boys each described the plan which he would have tried if he had been king; and altogether, the superintendent’s bell rang before they were half through with the list of printed questions.

“Didn’t we have a good time today?” said one of the boys, passing out. And the teacher pushed his spectacles on his forehead and told Joseph it did his heart good to see how carefully the lesson had been prepared.

Joseph thought about it a good deal. He said nothing to the scholars at home. None of them were in his class; but he had a little talk with Jean, that night.

“I forgot my verse,” he said. “Didn’t think of it once till Sunday-school was out; but I asked lots of questions, and answered some, and had a real good time; I only did it because I was interested and wanted to. Do you think, Jean, that the Lord might have put into my mind some of the things to ask? Because the others seemed interested in them right away.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it,” said Jean heartily. “He helps us in all sorts of quiet little ways, as well as in great ones. Besides, He promised, you know. You don’t suppose Moses was the only one He was willing to tell what to say?”

Joseph had no answer ready. He sat silent and thoughtful for some time; it seemed a wonderful thought that the Lord could possibly care what questions he asked in Sunday-school. Yet the “verse” had been chosen by him for the month, and in school as well as out, he was bound to trust the Lord for words to speak.

“I know one thing,” he said suddenly, “I shall always study my Sunday-school lesson after this; it makes Mr. Stevens a much more interesting teacher!”

divider-05

.

JESUS SAID UNTO THEM I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.
JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THEY HEART.
THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.

.

Rettie was seated on the bright rug in the schoolroom. It was Saturday, and it was raining. Joseph had been, for the last half-hour, entertaining Rettie, making a building for her out of spools and buttons, with scissors for the big gate; now she was absorbed in a lovely red paper heart which he had just cut out for her, and he had time to glance over his verses and decide which to take.

“Nobody ever does it; I never saw or heard of a fellow who did.”

Mrs. Calland came into the room at the moment.

“What is it, Joseph, that nobody ever does?” she asked.

Joseph looked up astonished, then laughed; he did not know he had spoken aloud.

“I was thinking of this verse,” he answered: “‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!‘ I don’t believe people ever do that.”

“I’m not sure; I heard of a little boy, once, who loved a very little girl-neighbor of his so much better than himself that he gave up a whole hour of his Saturday afternoon to her, because she could not go out in the rain.”

“That won’t do,” said Joseph, laughing again, though his face flushed and he looked pleased. “I didn’t want to go with the boys, and I had nothing in particular to do, and would rather amuse Rettie than not; so you see, I just pleased myself.”

arm-chair-1911-ed“I see. Well, I knew a man once, who in a small matter carried out the rule. He was a poor man and he wanted a certain kind of easy chair for his daughter. A neighbor of his who had lost a great deal of money and was selling his goods, and going to move away, had a chair of the kind wanted, and offered it to this man for five dollars. It was worth a great deal more money than that, but its owner did not expect to get what it was worth, and needed money; so the poor man bought it for five dollars and was to bring the money for it in the afternoon and take it away. In his shop that morning, he heard a gentleman say he was going to offer ten dollars for that very chair. ‘Now,’ said the poor man to himself, here is something for me to think about; I can’t afford to pay ten dollars for the chair, but this man can, and is willing to do it, and its owner needs the money; to be sure I have bought the chair and can claim it if I choose, but then, if I were in his place, what would I want done?’ The end of the matter was, that he went at noon and told the man that he would not take the chair away, because he thought someone was coming to offer ten dollars for it. The other man appeared, just as he said he would, and the owner of the chair got his ten dollars. What do you think of it all?”

“Why,” said Joseph, “I think the first man had a right to the chair for five dollars.”

“I don’t doubt it; at least, what we call a legal right; but judged by the verse you have just repeated, I am not so sure of it.”

Then Mrs. Calland went away, leaving Joseph more thoughtful than little Rettie liked.

He said no more about the chair or the verse, neither did Mrs. Calland; but she smiled to herself when she heard Joseph’s voice in the hall that evening, talking to little Dick Wheeler:

“Here, little chap, is your knife. I really don’t think you ought to sell it for a quarter; it is all I can afford to pay, but if you really want to get rid of it, I know a boy who would pay as much as forty cents.”

1924-magazine-ad-for-remington-pocket-knife

A 1924 magazine ad for Remington’s “official” pocket knife of the Boy Scouts, featuring Scout Howard Burr of Hayward, California.

“Why!” said little Dick, “I did sell it fast and true.”

“I know you did, but I’ve brought it back. You see, I’m sure you can get forty cents for it, and I’m sure it is worth it, and I’m sure if I were in your place I should want to have it; so here’s the knife, as good as it was day before yesterday, when I bought it.”

“Joseph has discovered that little Dick is his neighbor,” said Mrs. Calland softly. “I hope he doesn’t imagine that I knew anything about the knife. How strange it is that I should have happened to tell him that story! And how steadily the dear boy grows!”


We’re nearing the end of the story; only two more installments to go! Chapters 9 and 10 will post on February 7. See you then!

.

A Sunday School Lesson and a Free Read

4 Jan

Though we often think of her as a writer of Christian fiction, Isabella Alden had another demanding career: she was an acknowledged expert in developing Sunday-school lessons for children. In her years growing up in a Christian home and, later, as a minister’s wife, she had plenty of opportunities to judge the effectiveness of Sunday-school programs.

sunday-school-classes-ed

She knew that many Sunday-school teachers had no training at all.

She had seen teachers who didn’t know what the Sunday-school lesson was until Sunday morning when they sat down in front of their class to teach.

She had also seen teachers who didn’t even know the Bible verse on which the Sunday lesson was based.

Isabella knew there was a better way to teach young children the lessons of the Bible in a way they could understand; so she developed a program of education for Sunday-school teachers of young children, in which she gave teachers step-by-step instructions, telling them everything they needed to know … from what to write on the chalkboard, to when to have the children stand and sit.

Undated photo of a teacher and her class.

Undated photo of a teacher and her class.

She shared her program at the Chautauqua summer assemblies, and she spoke at churches about the method. Her Sunday-school lessons were published in regular weekly columns in Christian magazines, such as The Sabbath School Monthly and The National Sunday-School Teacher.

sabbath-school-monthly-title-page

Click on this link to see an excerpt from an 1877 issue of Sabbath School Monthly with one of Pansy’s lessons.

Isabella was convinced that children should be shown that the Bible had meaning for them. She believed children were not too young to learn that the Bible could be a help to them in their day-to-day lives.

cover_hedge-fenceIt was that premise that inspired her to write three of her most popular children’s books. In Frank Hudson’s Hedge Fence, Frank (a boy of about ten or twelve years old) is constantly getting into trouble. One day an acquaintance convinces him that learning a Bible verse a month will help guide him through the temptations he faces and help him make wise decisions. The story tracks Frank’s progress for several months as he learns the Bible really can help him make good choices in his life.

cover_we-twelve-girls-05We Twelve Girls is similar to Frank Hudson’s Hedge Fence. In this story, twelve young teenaged girls, all close friends at boarding school, are separated over the summer months; but they each pledge to learn a new verse every week and find a way to apply the verse to their lives. Over the course of the book, each young lady learns what it means to live a God-centered life according to the Bible.

Another example is A Dozen of Them. In this book, twelve-year-old Joseph has many challenges in his life; but he made a promise to his older sister he would read at least one Bible verse each month and make it a rule to live by. To Joseph it’s a silly promise—how can reading one Bible verse a month make any difference? But to his astonishment, Joseph begins to see changes in his own life and in the lives of those around him, all because of the verses he reads and memorizes.

Frank Hudson’s Hedge Fence and We Twelve Girls are both available as e-books on Amazon. A Dozen of Them was originally published in 1886 as a serial in The Pansy magazine, and we thought it would be nice to reproduce it on this blog, in the same serial format as the original.

Each week you can read a new chapter of A Dozen of Them here and here’s Chapter One:

A Dozen of Them

Chapter 1

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore.

divider-05

Young Joseph sat on the side of his bed, one boot on, the other still held by the strap, while he stared somewhat crossly at a small green paper-covered book which lay open beside him.

“A dozen of them!” he said at last. “Just to think of a fellow making such a silly promise as that! A verse a month, straight through a whole year. Got to pick ’em out, too. I’d rather have ’em picked out for me; less trouble.

“How did I happen to promise her I’d do it? I don’t know which verse to take. None of ’em fit me, nor have a single thing to do with a boy! Well, that’ll make it all the easier for me, I s’pose. I’ve got to hurry, anyhow, so here goes; I’ll take the shortest there is here.”

And while he drew on the other boot, and made haste to finish his toilet, he rattled off, many times over, the second verse at the head of this story.

The easiest way to make you understand about Joseph, is to give you a very brief account of his life.

He was twelve years old, and an orphan. The only near relative he had in the world was his sister Jean aged sixteen, who was learning millinery in an establishment in the city. The little family though very poor, had kept together until mother died in the early spring. Now it was November, and during the summer, Joseph had lived where he could; working a few days for his bread, first at one house, then at another; never because he was really needed, but just out of pity for his homelessness. Jean could earn her board where she was learning her trade, but not his; though she tried hard to bring this about.

At last, a home for the winter opened to Joseph. The Fowlers who lived on a farm and had in the large old farmhouse a private school for a dozen girls, spent a few weeks in the town where Joseph lived, and carried him away with them, to be errand boy in general, and study between times.

Poor, anxious Jean drew a few breaths of relief over the thought of her boy. That, at least, meant pure air, wholesome food, and a chance to learn something.

Now for his promise. Jean had studied over it a good deal before she claimed it. Should it be to read a few verses in mother’s Bible every day? No; because a boy always forgot to do so, for a week at a time, and then on Sunday afternoon rushed through three or four chapters as a salve to his conscience, not noticing a sentence in them. At last she determined on this: the little green book of golden texts, small enough to carry in his jacket pocket! Would he promise her to take—should she say each week’s text as a sort of rule to live by?

No; that wouldn’t do. Joseph would never make so close a promise as that. Well, how would a verse a month do, chosen by himself from the Golden Texts?

On this last she decided; and this, with some hesitancy, Joseph promised. So here he was, on Thanksgiving morning, picking out his first text. He had chosen the shortest, as you see; there was another reason for the choice. It pleased him to remember that he had no lambs to feed, and there was hardly a possibility that the verse could fit him in any way during the month. He was only bound by his promise to be guided by the verse if he happened to think of it, and if it suggested any line of action to him.

“It’s the jolliest kind of a verse,” he said, giving his hair a rapid brushing. “When there are no lambs around, and nothing to feed ’em, I’d as soon live by it for a month as not.”

Voices in the hall just outside his room: “I don’t know what to do with poor little Rettie today,” said Mrs. Calland, the married daughter who lived at home with her fatherless Rettie.

“The poor child will want everything on the table, and it won’t do for her to eat anything but her milk and toast. I am so sorry for her. You know she is weak from her long illness; and it is so hard for a child to exercise self control about eating. If I had anyone to leave her with I would keep her away from the table; but everyone is so busy.”

Then Miss Addie, one of the sisters: “How would it do to have our new Joseph stay with her?”

“Indeed!” said the new Joseph, puckering his lips into an indignant sniff and brushing his hair the wrong way, in his excitement; “I guess I won’t, though. Wait for the second table on Thanksgiving Day, when every scholar in the school is going to sit down to the first! That would be treating me exactly like one of the family with a caution! Just you try it, Miss Addie, and see how quick I’ll cut and run.”

But Mrs. Calland’s soft voice was replying: “Oh! I wouldn’t like to do that. Joseph is sensitive, and a stranger, and sitting down to the Thanksgiving feast in its glory, is a great event for him; it would hurt me to deprive him of it.”

“Better not,” muttered Joseph, but there was a curious lump in his throat, and a very tender feeling in his heart toward Mrs. Calland.

It was very strange, in fact it was absurd, but all the time Joseph was pumping water, and filling pitchers, and bringing wood and doing the hundred other things needing to be done this busy morning, that chosen verse sounded itself in his brain: “He saith unto him, feed my lambs.” More than that, it connected itself with frail little Rettie and the Thanksgiving feast.

In vain did Joseph say “Pho!” “Pshaw!” “Botheration!” or any of the other words with which boys express disgust. In vain did he tell himself that the verse didn’t mean any such thing; he guessed he wasn’t a born idiot. He even tried to make a joke out of it, and assure himself that this was exactly contrary to the verse; it was a plan by means of which the “lamb” should not get fed. It was all of no use. The verse and his promise, kept by him the whole morning, actually sent him at last to Mrs. Calland with the proposal that he should take little Rettie to the schoolroom and amuse her, while the grand dinner was being eaten.

I will not say that he had not a lingering hope in his heart that Mrs. Calland would refuse his sacrifice. But his hope was vain. Instant relief and gratitude showed in the mother’s eyes and voice. And Joseph carried out his part so well that Rettie, gleeful and happy every minute of the long two hours, did not so much as think of the dinner.

“You are a good, kind boy,” said Mrs. Calland, heartily. “Now run right down to dinner; we saved some nice and warm for you.”

Yes, it was warm: but the great fruit pudding was spoiled of its beauty, and the fruit pyramid had fallen, and the workers were scraping dishes and hurrying away the remains of the feast, while he ate, and the girls were out on the lawn playing tennis and croquet, double sets at both, and no room for him, and the glory of everything had departed. The description of it all, which he had meant to write to Jean, would have to be so changed that there would be no pleasure in writing it. What had been the use of spoiling his own day? No one would ever know it, he couldn’t even tell Jean, because of course the verse didn’t mean any such thing.

“But I don’t see why it pitched into a fellow so, if it didn’t belong,” he said, rising from the table just as Ann, the dishwasher, snatched his plate, for which she had been waiting. “And, anyhow, I feel kind of glad I did it, whether it belonged or not.”

“He is a kind-hearted, unselfish boy,” said Mrs. Calland to her little daughter, that evening, “and you and mamma must see in how many ways we can be good to him.”


Next week: Chapter 2

 

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

%d bloggers like this: