This story is set around 1880-1890 by my best guess and is about a 9 year old orphan girl who at first lives with her emotionally smothering aunt and great aunt. When illness strikes the household, frail timid Elizabeth Ann must be sent away to stay with the Putney cousins in Vermont, whom Elizabeth Ann has always been warned about as "horrid." Instead, she finds a warm, loving home and becomes a more independent and happy child. The day she is sent off on her own to the school in town she begins to understand what learning for learning's sake is all about and the benefits of a small school with only a dozen pupils. When the teacher puts her in books that suit her aptitude, she feels dizzy,
"'Why-why,' said Elizabeth Ann, 'I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?'
The teacher laughed. 'You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in? And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication tables?'"
This is the beauty of homeschooling our children today, tailoring grade levels and subjects to our children's strengths and weaknesses. Our Mary is 9, the same age as Elizabeth Ann, and has the same academic talents by being a very strong reader and having an aversion to learning the times-tables. After we finish Farmer Boy this week we will certainly be reading aloud Understood Betsy, a beautiful story about expanding a child's heart and mind.