My friend Lisa called me the other day to talk about lesson planning. It turned into one of those conversations that I’m still ruminating over several days later. We live in state that requires us to tick off a box to say that we will cover certain subjects — reading, spelling, geography, math, etc. So when I’m choosing what we will work on in a year, I definitely choose materials that will cover all those areas.
But covering all those subjects is not my primary goal in home educating my children — not by a long shot. Here’s my goal: Facilitate learning for my children so that they will have an understanding of humanity, in its myriad facets, by the time they graduate high school. What does this mean? Well, as Lisa and I discussed, it has to do with making connections.
We were talking about the differences in how we approach literature study. I attempt to choose some (not all) of our reading selections to roughly line up with our history studies. I choose historical fiction and folk tales, for instance. I was telling her that in doing it this way, without even trying, we are bombarded with identical themes and reinforcement of information. Lisa doesn’t worry about lining up with history and just chooses good, classic literature as the base, with tons of other reading as the topping. Lisa was concerned that her (brilliant and adorable) daughter might not make connections between some aspects of history or other subjects without having them explicitly pointed out to her. I told her that I thought she didn’t need to worry about that at all.
People who read the classics will acquire the ability to make connections just by reading those books. It doesn’t really matter which titles you choose. In my limited experience of reading timeless literature, I have found that an entire education is contained within the pages of these volumes. If you spend your energy on reading books that have endured throughout decades and centuries, you will see the story of man unfold. You will see the path of human history. You will see the references and influences of other great literature. You will experience history in a first-person voice. You will learn geography through rich descriptions of landscape and setting. You will understand that humanity is continually in conflict. You will understand that love and sacrifice are what make life worth living.
I’m not excluding modern literature in that assessment, either. There are some recently published books that I know will stand the test of time and become legend in their own right.
Can you learn math through great books? Maybe; maybe not. Math is important. I’d spend a little time learning the basic functions of math to help you out with your daily life and finances — unless you plan to be an engineer or an architect or an estimator, for example. Then, I’d pursue higher math. But what you can learn from great books is to not be concerned with money over people, not to be a spendthrift, not to count your chickens before they’re hatched. These are valuable lessons, too.
In any case, I assured Lisa that her daughter would be able to make these connections on her own. I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic library patron than Lisa’s daughter. With the amount of information she has absorbed through reading, I think she’ll be just fine.
We also talked about education with a purpose. Lisa and I spend a significant amount of time thinking about how we want our kids to learn, what we want them to learn, where we want them to learn. We aren’t haphazardly throwing materials and information at them. We are carefully planning and voraciously reading in order to provide our kids with a solid base that will get them through college, should they choose to go, and more importantly, through the rest of their lives.
I really don’t care what my children score on some test. It’s meaningless to me. My kids do okay on most standardized tests because they’ve been exposed to a variety of material, but those scores are not my goal. My goal is to have kids that are familiar with the general scope of human history, the path of scientific development, and the everlasting themes of language and literature. Those things will remain with them always and provide them with the groundwork to grow and learn even more.
Photo courtesy of Vickie Mathews at freeimages.com
Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school. Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment. Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio. Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature. She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables. You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.