Friday, May 09, 2008

Context Culture

JoVE at Tricotomania wrote in More on History:

I like the way that whenever Steph writes a planning post and you click on links to her planning forms she has book lists not only for each of her kids but also for herself. This post is in that spirit — book ideas for adults who may be thinking about history because we are teaching it to our children (or think we ought to be).

This fired off what my daughter calls the “sparklies” (aka synapses) in my brain. I realize I tend to do that too and now that I can see it in my conscious mind, I can build on it more intentionally.

There were several years in our homeschool when I was working just to stay on top of things. I developed a lot of functional strategies to pretend I knew what I was doing when planning academics for the year. One of them was bringing in books that I had gotten something out of in my growing up or young adult years. Therefore, the kids got JRR Tolkien, Flannery O’Connor, CS Lewis and lots of the 19th century classics like Treasure Island.

Now, I have more time to actually dig into the background of a new topic and it is very rewarding. I don’t tend to preread the books I plan for my kids to read because that tends to spoil (for me) the enthusiasm about tackling a new book. Rather, I look for books to read around the fringes of the subject, things I would like to bring to the discussion or that might be of interest if the child asks questions or gets interested in a topic and wants to pursue it. That’s why my reading and planning lists are always more extensive than what we end up using.

This is true in a larger sense, too. I like the unschooling concept, also mentioned in the Thomas Jefferson Education materials, that it can be enriching for the whole family for a mom to follow her own interests to some extent. I’ve always tried to carve out a bit of time, if only just before bedtime, when I could read or research a bit. Others might knit or sew or play music — these things are slightly more stressful for me and take more energy, so I haven’t done them as much. The point is that a family seems to benefit from the background interests of the parents and the other children or near friends or relatives. I just finished reading two biographies of Jane Austen — her formal education only lasted from ages 7 to 11 but she was obviously very literate and clever. As the second youngest of eight children in a large, busy family, she grew up on conversations, impromptu dramatic presentations, sharing writings in a group setting, music, and country life.

As far as academics — ordinary day. I managed to put together the outline for Kieron’s last few weeks. I haven’t done one for Sean because he is basically wrapping up most of his books and I want to leave space open for some kind of intensive, either for writing or for geometry or for both, so he is in gear as much as possible for next year at the school.