Of all the extended projects on the Mothers' Companion Flashdrive my favourite is the one that covers Pilgrim's Progress on Volume 4. This book is part of every child's heritage and a child brought up in an environment where he daily hears the Bible read should have less difficulty understanding its language than other children. When we did this project ourselves I found that, as with many good educational experiences, the “teacher” learnt as much as the “pupil.”
The project consists of five elements:
the “how to use” file,
the picture-map and associated figures,
The “how to use” file goes through the project step by step guiding you through the other materials with detailed hints and suggestions for each session. This is the first place to look if you are thinking of working through the project. It will also enable you to estimate how much time you want to devote to doing the project each week and how long you want to spend doing it over all.
The book is simply the complete Pilgrim's Progress in very large print divided up into forty-four portions each the right size for an individual lesson. The only editing I have done is to the sections where the book is set out in dialogue form. Here I have retained the “play-script” structure and placed the “he said,” “said she,” etc. in square brackets so they can be easily omitted if the dialogue is read by children and “teacher” taking the various characters' parts. I was amazed at how easy it was for a young child to read the part of one of the characters from the script set out in this way. Most of the speeches are shortish and the sense of achievement at the end of each lesson was very encouraging.
The map is the key to the whole project. It consists of nine A4 sheets which are designed to be put together to form a poster. This is the creative part of the project and you can use as much imagination as you like here. The various incidents and the background to them can be depicted on the map however you wish, using any materials that seem suitable. We used water colour paint, felt tip pens, felt, paper, flattened straws, wall paper, pictures cut of calendars, coloured foil, pencil, tissue paper and even (for Vanity Fair) images cut out of an Argos catalogue! The results were eye-catching. They worked very well as a simple method of impressing the incidents of the story on the memory and when we came to the end we had an enduring piece of artwork. Every family does the picture differently and over the years I have seen some truly delightful results which are now treasured possessions of their creators.
As you go along you can add the figures reproduced from old Victorian editions of Pilgrim’s Progress supplied on the flashdrive. These can be put on with blu-tac so that they can be moved along as required by the story-line. Many of them are designed to be double-sided so that they can be turned to face either to the left or to the right as the journey meanders across the map from right to left, turns and crosses higher up left to right then turns again to cross still higher right to left and so on.
Each session is covered by a simple worksheet that has words to be filled in and sometimes colouring pictures. The worksheets reinforce the topics covered in very simple language and are handy when you need to give the child some work to do while you concentrate on something (or someone) else.
The songs are a bonus which came in surprisingly useful. There are several little poems in the book and I went to some trouble to find tunes in a style I think Bunyan would have recognised to fit them. The flashdrive has scores, words and audio to help you learn the songs. Having learned some of the songs, and also Who would True Valour See we personally decide we would make use of this at the a local Christian Home Education group concert. We used a child’s Welsh hat and removed the white lace to make a Puritan-style hat. I made a cloak out of some old brown velvet curtains and we bound some brown cotton tape criss-cross round the legs over black trousers to look like leg-thongs. Footwear was a problem so we went for bare feet. A staff and a roll were easy to provide. The little pilgrim was able to march up to the front, remove his hat and sing three songs, “cribs” for which were written on the roll. Grandparents or other family members might enjoy seeing some dressing-up like this or you could be more ambitious, given the dialogue style of much of the book, and act out one or two scenes.
I hope you enjoy the project and when you've finished I'd love to see a photo of what you've created.