Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Homeschooling Looks Like for Us.

In history we are approaching the start of the Civil War. We are reading Lincoln: A Photobiography. It is very good. As expected it has great pictures and spends a lot of time on Lincoln's early years. Hilde especially likes the series of pictures about the progression of Lincoln's beard. I like learning more about his family.

In our house, we do "school work". Every day the girls have a set of work to accomplish: math, grammar, reading, history, cursive, vocabulary and science. Then we have "learning". Learning has a much broader definition than "school". Maeve and Hilde learn during their schoolwork, but it doesn't stop there. One of the great things about being their teacher is being able to connect there lessons to our family life. We actually enjoy learning; geeky I know. Learning takes place through out life, not just during school.

Since Daniel found out that we are studying the Civil War, he has been bringing home DVDs for us to watch. If you work in Newark you can get a library card, so he did. Even more geeky I know.

All the history Daniel has ever learned has taken place post school years. He will be the first one to say he was an adult before he realized that history was interesting. He was a junior in high school before he knew that England was an island. This is particularly tragic since he was a "gifted" student all his life. Somehow he managed to do enough to get good grades and promptly forgot everything.

Anyway, we have been watching great history DVDs from the History Channel and PBS. Kudos to these great documentary makers, they do make history exciting.

One video that Daniel and the girls watched was about Sherman's march to the sea. I haven't seen it yet, I had a previous engagement.

When I arrived home the girls and Daniel were eating in the kitchen and the conversation went like this:

Maeve: I think Sherman is my favorite general.
Daniel to me: We watched Sherman's March to the Sea this morning.
Me: Really, Sherman is your favorite general?
Maeve: Yes, I even like him more than Robert E. Lee

At this point I was starting to worry about her Machiavellian tendencies. I hadn't seen the video, but I was a history minor, I had a reference point.

Me: Well, why do you like Sherman so much? You know even thought Lee fought for the Confederacy he was a great man.

I didn't want to let on that her choice was troubling me.

Maeve: He was very smart and clever and in the whole march he only lost 600 men.
Me: Yes, true but he also let his men do some not nice things to people who were innocent bystanders.
Maeve: Yes, well the troops had to eat.
Daniel: He did let up on the burning when he reached North Carolina.

At this point I was really starting to worry about Maeve and Daniel.

Hilde: My favorite general will always be George Washington!

That's my girl! Good 'Ole George, war hero, President, humble. The man who freed his slaves after he died, well before it was "fashionable". Mythological father figure of our country. I would much prefer if Maeve chose someone like that.

As an aside, Hilde likes the colonial period and the Revolutionary War better. She loves Williamsburg and asks at least once a month when we are going again. So, her affinity for Washington has to do with the fact that she likes the time period. She is learning to like Lincoln too. We will see what she thinks of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond and Gettysburg. I have a feeling they are not going to measure up to Williamsburg.

Me: Well Maeve, I don't think generals could do that today. Since there is so much media coverage of wars, I am pretty sure he would have gotten in trouble.

Daniel: Funny, they mentioned that in video. Apparently Lincoln and Grant "lost" Sherman's whereabouts. So that when asked they could say, "We have no idea what is going on." Sherman justified his men's actions by saying he never ordered them to be so violent in their pillaging.

Some things never change.

Daniel: The movie even said Sherman might have been crazy, really crazy.
Maeve: Well, crazy is helpful when you are general.

Out of the mouth of babes.

So, we went on for a few minutes eating and discussing Sherman and war and media and the meaning of innocent civilians. We even talked about how Sherman's march was kind of like dropping the bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. No one thinks it's right, but it did help end a war that was going to drag on a lot longer.

All this took place around the kitchen table on a Saturday afternoon.

This is what I consider real learning and this is what school looks like at our house.

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