Usually when I'm quiet on my blog for a few days the problem isn't too little to say, it's too much. I don't know where to start, or, rather, I need to start with something that I'm not really proud of. I need to start with things that may not sound so nice, or so happy, or so perfect. That's where I am.
D and I are almost two months in to this homeschool thing. In case you're wondering, we haven't had any moments of "Oh, Mommy, I've always wanted to study (fill in the blank: birds, horses, ancient Sumer)! Thank you, oh, thank you!" First, my seven-year-old doesn't call me Mommy anymore, sadly. Secondly, she is completely uninterested in anything beyond about twenty minutes. Pushing string, I tell you.
There are times that I wonder why I'm doing this. And then there are times I am certain that it is a good way to spend our year. I compare it to what I know my other children are getting at their private Christian school. Some of what I provide is not as good: faith formation and religion, for example. I place a huge premium on surrounding my children with people of faith who can share their views either explicitly (in class) or implicitly (as they lead their lives). Not everyone can do both. I think I lean toward the second, and so I know D is missing out.
Science is another great example. My children's elementary science teacher is without a doubt one of the best natural teachers I've ever met. She has boundless enthusiasm and curiosity, although I suspect that it is easier when you don't have to live with your student. I guess I had thought there would be more natural curiosity from my daughter. Had there been, we might have been okay with the open-ended science curriculum we started the year with. Three weeks ago I broke down and bought a science curriculum, complete with "notebooking journal," so we could just fill in the blanks. It is fine.
But. That word. I have to share that the history we are doing is, without a doubt, light-years better than the social studies she would have had at school. We are doing real, live history, starting at the beginning--nomads, Mesopotamia, the beginning. We read myths and look up tours of ancient cities on the internet. We have a chicken mummifying on the kitchen counter (week four, no smell--remarkable!). She's written in cuneiform and hieroglyphics, and she can tell you the difference between a good king like Hammurabi and a bad one like Shamshi-Adad. (Ha--so can I!) She can find the areas we are studying on a world map. And today we were putting together a time-line of the things we've studied so far, giving her a picture of how the events fit together. Here is what is bothering me most: when did we as a society decide NOT to teach this, and instead to teach "My Community, My City, etc.?" And then--what have my other kids missed out by not learning history in this way? This bothers me a lot.
The other huge difference from school that I've seen is in our grammar/writing experience. The emphasis in our grammar curriculum is on memorizing (we are on our second poem of the year right now), and on looking at passages from books to learn parts of speech. Similarly, the writing curriculum places an emphasis on reading and imitating excellent writing, rather than serving up boring, banal passages that meet some specified word count or reading difficulty. For example, D's copywork this week was from the wonderful Misty of Chincoteague, and next week's study will include Robert Louis Stevenson's "My Shadow." D actually checked out Misty today from the library based on reading the selection in our text. This approach seems to me to make so much sense: how better to learn to write well than to read and copy well-written sentences? We do lots of illustrating, so creativity is still important, but the pressure is off the student to create original sentences from idea to word to paper until they are older. Why is this so different than the "mainstream" approach?
So there you have it, homeschooling as it looks at my house from the vantage point of an early Friday evening on the porch with a glass of wine. Some very good, some less good. I have more to share, and now that I've broken my writer's block I'll probably post a half-dozen things in the next two days. We'll see.