The World at our Fingertips and the Challenge of Brevity

After a day filled with highs and lows, as I suppose is the standard fare of parenting, I got a chance to go to the grocery store on my own. That trip included a detour into Barnes and Noble for a quick look-see, and finding a table of Beyond Drop-Dead Gorgeous reference materials on sale for 75% Off!!! The Atlas is mind-boggling. It is a staggering 18″ x 24″ and full of every type of map imaginable. It was originally $100 and I got it for $19.98 plus an additional 20% off for being a Homeschooler!!! Ridiculous.

As exciting as all this is to me, I have to remember that my son is one of those who believes from the outset that anything he is being taught by someone else is stupid. He learns all sorts of things on his own, that he finds fascinating, but his eyes glaze over quickly if I’m trying to show him something outside of his realm of interest.

Herein lies the challenge.

If I can always bring each lesson around to how it relates to motorcycles, bicycles, building, designing, art or daredevil behaviors, I will be fine. If I can keep the lesson riveting, he might stay with me. If I go longer than 10-15 minutes on a subject, he is no longer hearing me. He is off in his mind designing something.

I’m hoping that some of these books I picked up – with their oversized format, and rich photos will help. Capturing the imagination is the aim of education, encouraging a desire to learn more on his own would be a huge bonus.

The outline I am using to plan my lessons – the Core Knowledge Sequence, by the folks who write the “What Your _____ Grader Needs to Know” series – includes so many amazing moments in history to share. I have to remember that all I’m supposed to do is give the tip of the iceberg on these stories – just a smattering of the biggest, boldest, most dramatic moments – to keep him engaged. In years to come, we will go back and get to many of these same things in more detail.

Right now, it’s like a cartoon, it’s like Calvin & Hobbes, which he loves. So, we look at History from Calvin’s perspective. Let Ben be Calvin. I’ll be Hobbes. We’ll scribble and draw, we’ll make time machines out of cardboard boxes, we’ll suddenly speak in accents or see the world in blocks because we’ve been morphed into Cubists… If I can remember that this is about Him and not about Me…

Yesterday, we were reading the beginnings of the King Arthur story and how it fits into the study of Europe in the Middle Ages. Ben drew a knight in full armor kicking his legs up in the air and snapping his fingers because he had just won a horse in a joust. The picture had the flowing banners and flags of a tournament fluttering along the edges.

I can plan and calendar, but when it comes right down to it, if I am able to step back and let him play with the material in any way, its a win.


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