Today is anything but a typical day–we’ve taken this weekday off to get ready for a lot of things, the most immediate of which is tomorrow’s robotics competition for which Lulu and our homeschool co-op’s team has prepared for the last six weeks or so. However, my girls and I did take the time immediately after lunch to finish up our history read-aloud, Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. Since I’ve already reviewed it, I thought today I’d just make a note of some things I’ve observed after completing this, our twentieth (or so) read-aloud of 2015.
You know, I used to be a pretty philosophy-driven homeschooler. I stuck with the classical method as best I could until things began to slowly unravel (mostly within me) a couple of years ago. Oh, I’d never say I was a purist even in the beginning; however, I still saw it as a bar to set for myself and my children, and one that was sometimes quite impossible to reach. It required so much organization! Booklists! To-do lists! Whew. I was worn out with it. This year I’ve embraced something that’s a little less strenuous, at least (I’m sure) by many homeschoolers’ standards. Much of that is because of how busy we are this year with out-of-the-house activities, which is something that will likely change in the future. However, I hope to keep the go-with-the-flow, embrace the inspiration attitude even when I’m not so crunched for time. Also, some of my angst early in my girls’ education over the grammar stage and copious amounts of factual memory work and my eventual letting go of it was confirmed this week, and for that I am very grateful. Our focus with memory work has been on poetry, hymns, important documents and/or speeches, and Bible passages. I’ve always, always, always been convinced that reading (and especially reading aloud) is where it’s at for us as a family. All of this was strongly confirmed to me as we read Heart of a Samurai together.
- We were reading along when I read a phrase the girls immediately responded to: “Footprints on the sands of time;–”. This is, of course, from “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a poem we memorized last year. It was gratifying to them and to me for them to have that connection. We’ve made a lot of connections with that poem already, and that makes me happy.
- As we were reading, a Japanese fairytale was alluded to. Both of my girls immediately recognized it, though it’s not one I’ve ever read to them, so far as I can remember. It turns out that the girls read it themselves in The Pink Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (the story is reproduced here, but the whole book is available free for Kindle) and also in The Golden Book of Fairy Tales.
This connection was made with no instruction from me. All I did was buy one fairytale book and load the other free one on the Kindle. Oh, and give them time to read on their own. That’s it.
- Lastly, the girls “got” the Biblical allusion to Jonah that was in Heart of a Samurai. Sure, that’s easy–especially for children raised in the Bible Belt. 😉 It was but one more opportunity for me to use the word allusion with them and to make one more connection.
I use all of this as a reminder to myself and to anyone who’s reading that reading is powerful. I’ve jokingly said before that reading aloud covers a host of homeschooling weaknesses, but it’s really true. As someone who has spent a lot of time analyzing literature in an academic setting, I can say with utmost confidence that making these connections is excellent preparation for what young adults are expected to do in high school and even throughout college. It’s enjoyable, too, which is perhaps the most important part.
One thing more–Lulu re-read Shipwrecked! by Rhoda Blumberg while we were reading Heart of a Samurai. Shipwrecked! is a wonderful nonfiction volume about Manjiro, the boy on whose life Heart of a Samurai is based. Lulu would occasionally give us more details, etc., which was a nice addition to our discussion. Both girls also immediately recognized the cover illustration on Shipwrecked! as being by an artist we read about the first time Lulu read both Heart of a Samurai and Shipwrecked!
I would quote Hannibal from The A-Team here, only I really can’t say this was a plan–it was just another layer in a bookish life, and it’s the way learning happens. I do love it, though.