Christopher starts Kindergarten today! We decided to go for it and try full time homeschooling after he had been at preschool on Notre Dame’s campus two afternoons per week for the last two years. I have been reading about homeschooling and philosophy of education nearly since he was born and, while I had always been trepidatious about taking on full-time homeschooling, I felt that as he got older, we saw his temperament develop, his enduring intense interest in everything we read to him, and the general rhythm of our family becoming more home-oriented, it was completely reasonable to homeschool. Ultimately, we are homeschooling because I think we can give our kids a rich education.
I am a devotee of Charlotte Mason, an early twentieth century British educator, whose first principle of education is that “children are born persons”. Children, like adults, have a mind that feeds on living ideas. Often we think children need children’s things – and to an extent that is true. But children appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty instinctively and to deprive them of fine art or good books or direct experience of nature is to starve the mind of its rightful food. Mason wrote that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, and this resonated with how I intuitively thought about education.
Mason’s methods depend largely on what she calls living books and narration. Living books are written beautifully and communicate “living ideas” that can be apprehended and assimilated by the child. This doesn’t mean cheap moralism, but instead communicates something real about the world. Narration consists of the child telling back what they have heard or read and is the mechanism by which he assimilates the ideas communicated. Mason also emphasized lots of outdoor time and nature study as another way for kids to encounter the Real. This all sounds very lofty. Getting down to brass tacks, this means we read a lot and go outside a lot, two things we are really into anyway.
Some Mason purists argue that there should be no formal education before age six. Christopher is five, but it is also important to me to remember that homeschooling is a year-by-year discernment and is also a privilege. There could be a time when I am not able to stay home full time or that Christopher would be better served by attending a conventional school. Most of his peers are getting some formal education now and while I think the over-institutionalization of Kindergarten is a detriment to healthy child development, I don’t want him to be totally behind should he need to go to school for first grade.
So all that said, here are our plans for this year! I thought I’d put it on the blog because I like reading these kinds of posts from other moms and also for my own memory and reference to see what worked and what didn’t for the future. Much of it is drawn from the Mater Amabilis Kindergarten syllabus, but I have made my own additions/substitutions.
Chris and I have learned from any travel involving jetlag to anticipate “third day syndrome”. On day 1, you are literally on the plane or just arriving. Day 2 is still exciting and adrenaline-fueled and you don’t quite feel the effect of weird sleeping or you were so tired that you just pass out when you decide to sleep, so jetlag doesn’t really catch up with you. Day three though…day three. It’s the “were we idiots for doing this?” day. It’s the “I’ve ruined my children” day. It’s the “I’ll never sleep again and I want to go home” day. Day three of our last Eurotrip enlightened us to this phenomenon, so we thought we were ready this time.
Uh, we weren’t.
Germany is experiencing a heat wave right now called the “Saharan Bubble”. We woke up on Sunday morning anticipating a high of 96 degrees F, which didn’t sound great for a place with no air conditioning. We also had to find a place for Mass and the Catholic Church in our village shares a priest with other parishes and did not have Mass this morning. Chris found a Mass time in Emmendingen, about a 4 km walk away and we decided to go for it, so after some breakfast, we headed out for a stroll/march on the bike trail between the towns.
Mouse of the World is back at it again.
I am reviving the blog – now just a travel blog I guess – for our six week stay in Germany this summer. The next four weeks, we will be in Freiburg, a city in Black Forest region in the southwest while Chris takes language classes at the university and my mom, the kids and I explore, have quiet time, say “Danke” like we know German, etc. I am sitting in the living room of our AirBnB in Kondringen, a charming town outside Freiburg, with my Aldi coffee and the windows open, waiting for the Saharan Bubble to heat up the apartment and I’m very happy to be here.
This morning I peered out the window past Christopher, red-faced and jolly, playing in the snow to our peach tree, just beyond our back-fence line. I thought about how we’ve seen it through all four seasons now: green branches, heavy with fruit; colorful leaves falling until there is no indication that it is a peach tree at all. I didn’t grow up with seasons and I’m still resisting conversion to my northeastern husband’s unabashed love of winter, but my love for our own first little place with our cheerful little children may push me over the edge. Continue reading
We wrapped up our time in Oxford with meetings with friends. We had breakfast at Gail’s for the third(!) time with the Askonases. Boy, I miss that English muffin with eggs and bacon and some tasty sauce.
Lawn Mouse: a capture by Jon
Should I feel guilty about liking England more than Italy? I feel like a terrible graduate of the renowned School of Foreign Service; wasn’t it supposed to make me a citizen of the world, indifferent to the inefficiencies and cultural differences between the Anglos and the Continentals? I’m half-Italian and almost-half-Cornish; I suppose the WASPy predisposition doesn’t leave a girl even if she goes Rome.