Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Learning in Narnia

When it comes to homeschooling there is no compulsory education until first grade in the state of Virginia. I don't send my children to preschool, but we did recently join the local recreation center. I signed both boys up for swimming lessons, tumbling for DS1 (who goes by Peter right now), and some fun holiday themed events at different rec. centers around the area.

I have also read about Better Late Than Early, and how starting formal education later can help avoid learning problems.  My little brother and my husband have struggled with learning issues, this approach seems to make the most sense to me. This article from the Huffington Post about how perhaps we have things backwards and we need to place less stress on academics and more on childhood confirms theses ideas. I like that the author also linked a Wall Street Journal article about the more relaxed style of education in Finland.  It shows "by one international measure, Finnish teenager are among the smarter in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules." At least for now, I'm going along with this relaxed approach to learning. Letting it organically happen, no flash cards, although we have them at the house for the boys to look at if they want. We read. We read a lot. All roads to successful students start with reading.

I love themes. I noticed in the homeschooling world there is a thing called unit studies. Unit studies immerse us deep into a theme. A unit study works by capturing their attention and helping them understand the pieces of the whole as they fit together. It integrated disciplines together, rather than dividing them into separate "subjects" to be pursued at different times during the school day. Literature, history, science, mathematics, art, music, history, and so on are all studied through their relationship to a core organizing principle. They seem to organically happen with me. Right now we are immersed into the world of Narnia.

This is our current desktop background on the computer because it is Aslan. We are listening to the audio books, we watch Disney's version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I read from The Chronicles at night. 

I have made rich, creamy hot vanilla, and Turkish delight - the treats the White Witch, Jadis, gave Edmund on his first visit to Narnia. We have also tried new foods like buttered toast and sardine sandwiches from when Lucy visited Mr. Tumnus. I borrowed a book from the library called, "The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook" by Dinah Bucholtz, she also wrote "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook" - I can't wait to check that one out next!
I also have several books on hold about mythical creatures that we are going to pick up from the library today. The boys ask about the different mythical creatures and I don't know very much about them, so we will be discovering them together. I love learning with my boys!

At night we read at least three books as part of our bedtime routine, lately they have been requesting met to read from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
last week they wanted me to read from "the ship one with the mouse" - "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader". During the day they are Peter and Edmund and use lots of imaginative play. Last night after prayers I asked Peter what his favorite part of the day was, and his response was sword fighting outside with Edmund, and he went on to describe how it all went down in great detail until I had to ask him to continue the story tomorrow. We paint, color, and draw and the themes of what they are immersed in tend to come out in Peter's artwork. 

If we breakdown what we are doing into actual schooling here's just the tip of the iceberg of what we have:

Literature - part of Language Arts/Reading/Writing/Spelling: we discuss how letters are symbols that make sounds, when we put letters together in special ways they make words, and when we put words together we get stories. As they get older they will better understand character development, symbolism, protagonist/antagonists, settings, climax…and all the parts of a story.

History - the book is set in history - we learn little bits about World War II - air raids, good vs. evil, how children went to live with relatives out in the country to be safe. We also relate it to how Daddy's in the Navy, as well as his grandfather, my grandfathers serve in the military to help keep us safe. We also tied it to a book we borrowed from the library, Bessie Smith and the Night Riders by Sue Stauffacher, it's about a soul singer and how she scared away the night riders (KKK). I tied it into Narnia by telling them how the KKK are really bad and confused people who got their ideas from a bad man, Hitler, who started WWII. 

Maps - there are maps in the book, the boys love drawing maps about the places in Narnia, we also look at maps and identify the USA in relation to Great Britain, the Oceans, etc. 

Religion - we learn about Free Will, redemption, sacrifice, penance, forgiveness, virtue and vice with Edmund, Peter, and Aslan. These discussions also brings about logic and critical thinking

Gross Motor Skills and Creative Play - When they role play through sword fighting and insist on being called Edmund and Peter they are using both their left and right sides of their brain.  

Science (more specifically, biology, weather, chemistry) - we are learning about different types of animals - lions, jackdaws, bull dogs, beavers, rabbits, robins, etc. When we meet Narnia in the second book it's stuck in winter, then we see the progression to spring. And this translate directly to our weather outside that they see. And let's not forget the science of baking - when we make scones we use baking soda, a leavening agent - chemical reactions.

Home Economics - they help me shop and bake.

Math - when baking we use fractions in measuring, following directions are essential not only in baking, but figuring out word problems, but also in figuring out different ways of doing things. 

Even though I'm not formally homeschooling, when I look at what I'm doing with my children, not only are we having fun, my boys are joining me in laying a strong foundation for a love of learning in their life!

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