I am so proud of myself—if I felt any better, I’d be twins! We are leaving on tomorrow to make a slow trek over to Mississippi to add to our Civil War studies. So, I actually put away our history studies today. Me, suspending a subject? Stepping into the abyss of uncertainty known as delight-directed learning( no offense intended to those who do this on a regular basis)?Talk about being transformed by the renewing of my mind, and what a break from school will do!
In all seriousness, there is method in my madness, and some very valid reasons for our deviation from the norm. The kids have been far more interested in this period of history than I would have thought (who knew?), which prompted the upcoming trip. I will also take the opportunity to show them one of my personal favorite movies of this period, Glory, which tells the story of the all-Black 54th Regiment out of Massachusetts (Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and the gorgeous Denzel Washington in his Academy Award-winning role). Yet, my more structured, linear thinking side also recognizes that we’re once again behind where I think we should be. We finished World History well into the 2007-2008 school year, so we completed our 1st year of American History well into this school year, and I want to begin next year’s work on next year. So, we may skip a few chapters in Hakim’s text, even though they are thoroughly enjoying it, and capitalize on some of this enthusiasm in other ways.
Another reason I’ve tried to embrace doing some things in a non-traditional way has everything to do with my awareness of the youngest’s association of the word ‘school’ with activities that are stale and boring. I talked about this in an earlier post, and so won’t dwell on it, but she loves to be creative in her education, and I don’t make time for creativity because of the other school and non-school related tasks that demand my attention. So with baby steps, I tried something new. One idea that I found in my teacher’s guide (once I decided to open it) was the creation of a dictionary—totally developed by her. We still break her books out, but I also allow her time to work on her dictionary, selecting one thing she can draw for a given letter. We’ve also completed mosaics of each letter, which we did on last year and she enjoyed enough to get excited about again. Today’s lesson was the letter ‘g,’ and here is her dictionary page (handwriting is mine):
The final reason for our suspended formal learning is much more intangible than anything else I’ve shared, but of far more value to me personally. It all started when our dance center decided to celebrate Halloween. Though my husband and I both celebrated this time as children, we’ve chosen as parents to make a stand for Christ as we’ve become more educated as to the history of this ‘holiday.’ We also realize that what was considered a celebration in our day—cheap, plastic masks among neighbors or a schoolroom teacher you knew and trusted as if they were family—has taken a whole new darker and more gruesome tone in this day and age. We have explained our reasoning to our children, and our willingness to be peculiar as a part of our own witness. The older two have readily accepted our decision, and it’s really not been a problem as the dance center didn’t do anything special in previous years, and the church would hold a tremendous fall festival. Unfortunately, this year the church is in a financial bind between trying to relocate debt-free and repairing a destroyed nursery/toddler wing (thank you very much, Ike), so no fall festival. The dance center has a new instructor this year, who is wonderful in personality and expertise, but I have no doubt that she was also the catalyst of this year’s parties, as she even went to the trouble of printing out for each of her classes the number of students and how many “treats” to bring (no other instructor did this). We informed the kids that they would not attend dance practice this week because of the parties. Missing the party wasn’t an issue for the older two, although they love to dance and missed not being able to attend the class. However, the dynamics of our decision have been different with the youngest, who sees this as both keeping her from having fun at the party with nothing else to do as a substitute. So, I intentionally pared down our school day to my version of the absolute essentials, and did the unthinkable—we went to a movie. You’d have to appreciate a previous post from me after we saw Amazing Grace to appreciate the significance for us of going to a movie theatre. Nevertheless, we had a ball at High School Musical 3—a weak plot, but a great soundtrack, fantastic dance numbers (for the dancers at heart), and most of all, some great family fun. Dad even rearranged his day to join us, which was perhaps the best treat of all.