I’ve noticed something recently in education. I’m not sure if its old or new, a growing trend or perhaps I’m only just now noticing, but I believe we are offering up dry, stale goods to children with appetites for delicious, whole, rich, and colorful food. Fill in the blanks and worksheets and drills occupy much of the stuff that our children are being fed, while teachers and busy mothers alike, nick off boxes and breathe a sigh of relief that the day’s information has been duly tucked into young minds, that the regimen is carried out, and preparation for standardized tests has been accomplished. Check.
Formulas reign. Methods have become madness. Childhood wonder walks out the door.
This is not education.
What are we as parents to do? Regardless of what type of education our families have embraced, is there a way for us to support what they are working on in the class room or at home, to educate our children in the necessary disciplines while also inciting greater curiosity? Is there a way to get the business of learning done while simultaneously forming attachments between students and their subjects? I think there is.
I have much to say on this subject, as it occupies my days and my thoughts with my own children, but I thought today I’d offer a peek into what language arts looked like one day with my eleven year old this week. I am not an expert, and this is not an exhaustive explanation- but rather the musings of a mother who wants to capture wonder in the midst of the mundane. Its a chance for you to have a seat at my dining table and see how we have extended learning a bit to breathe wonder. I hope it gives you an idea for ways YOU can explore deeper and creatively with your own children!
So, spelling and grammar must be taught using lists and explanations of rules at times, but we shouldn’t neglect to capture some of the beauty of language with our children. The following poem embodies Autumn on the page and so we decided to soak it in!
October! Orchard of the Year! Ripened seeds share their pods. Apples drop in the stillest hours. Leaves begin to let go when no wind is out, and swing in long waverings to the earth, which they touch without sound, and lie looking up, till winds rake them, and heap them in fence corners. The woods are thinner, so that we can see the heavens plainer. The days are calm. The nights are tranquil. The year’s work is done. She walks in gorgeous apparel, looking upon her long labor, and her serene eye sayeth, “It is good.”
-Henry Ward Beecher
My daughter read the passage above and then compared it with another poem about fall (by a different writer, albeit also written in the 19th century). She set out looking for common themes, imagery, and lyrical patterns. I wrote a few key lines on the board and we discussed their meaning, closed our eyes and tried to imagine our selves in the world described. I love watching my children be immersed in great writing! They are apprenticing themselves to the masters.
Next, we dove into the method of dictation: I read aloud a line at a time while my daughter wrote what I read in her notebook. She had to display proper punctuation and spelling on her own, as well as work on focused attention. Any mistakes were marked by me and added to a list of words and grammar rules to continue to focus on this week. In our home, words that are “trouble spots” in any child’s spelling or reading, get put on a board and when a child uses them properly in a sentence or a piece of writing, or catches someone else using it, they earn an imaginary “point” in our ongoing language game. We don’t give out any proper prizes, but just holler a few “gotchas” and cheers when the word is used. Its a little like yelling “slug bug” when you see a VW Beetle 🙂
A further activity could be to have the child memorize the passage and recite it for the family (oohing and ahhing are a wonderful encouragement!) or have the child write it from memory. A student with an inclination to art could also paint or draw a picture to accompany it.
What are you doing to bring wonder to the studies occupying the minds of your children? Share with us today in the comments? I’ll be taking notes on all your ideas.
Thankful we are in this together,