Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teachable Moments

I started the homeschool year with the idea that my philosophy of education fits with a model termed classical: involving the systematic use of memorization, dictation, narration, and copywork to organize the assimilation of knowledge across language, history, and science. The trivium seemed an efficiently appropriate way of presenting this type of education through the three stages of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It all made so much sense.

Only real life happened. My primary student entered the homeschool arena due to her non-traditional learning style. And we have had quite a journey. As a non-traditional learner who learned how to cope by organizing information, I find my fragile organizational abilities tested by the effort of trying to find the order in my child's world. Or impress the order upon her.

Here at the end of the year, I start to recognize our group learning style may tend more toward the opposite end of the spectrum, toward the philosophy of unschool. Or perhaps the two are not so far apart as I once understood. Today, for example, we probably had a terrible day by classical standards; but I think it was a pretty stellar example of unschooling in action.

We did spend twenty minutes before lunch discussing the First Triumvirate, the three-person ruling group that formed the beginning of the Roman Empire in 60 B.C. But one of those rulers, Pompey, was known for getting pirates under control across the Mediterranean. Did you know that in a single 40-day period, he destroyed 1,300 pirate ships? We found that impressive.

To commemorate, we declared the rest of the day Pirate Day. So the kids built a giant fort in the back yard. In the face of an imminent thunderstorm. And spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between the fort and catching tree frogs at the pond down the street. Which has nothing to do with pirates whatsoever; but when Rooster brought home a gloriously huge wolf spider, I had him look at it and observe it. Which counted as a science lesson. Check.

Meanwhile, I finally roasted the Thanksgiving turkey today, to make a few more meals for my freezer. I don't understand my obsession with filling that space, with four weeks to Moving Day. But there I was, preparing a bird for the oven, and the kids suddenly crowded around to see what they could see. And one asked about all the different anatomical parts, while the other asked for a bone at the end, "Because I always read about people sucking the marrow out of the bones, and I want to see if it's really all that great."

Conversation then turned to what we will do once we move and get chickens. "Our chicks will grow up and have baby chicks then we will eat the momma and daddy birds and play with the chicks until it is their turn to grow up and get eaten."

So much for worrying about whether their "fragile constitutions" will comprehend the difference between pets and food. These kids make me proud more often than not. And again, I can chalk up that entire conversation to learning.

I am fairly sure we will find ourselves challenged yet well suited to the requirements of running a homestead. We may already have a running start between the 12 quarts of spaghetti sauce I put up over the weekend, and the six turkey-based dinners I am assembling tonight and tomorrow. We probably won't eat all that before June.

Now I suppose I had better get packing so I can be the right kind of ready for that day when it comes. I wonder what kind of educational experience we can roll into packing boxes tomorrow?


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