Best of all worlds

Somewhere, in the middle of February usually, I get discouraged with homeschooling. I want to stay in bed. I don’t want to send my kids to school, necessarily, but it would be nice to return to Christmas routines without the holiday part, when we had no schedule but played games and read a lot of books. Intellectually, I acknowledge that my funk is easily due to the weather, but each spring the first days of sunshine and daffodils surprise me.

After a picnic lunch today at a nearby park, G came home and instead of finishing up the last of his school work, decided to tack on an extra activity with some birding and journaling in our backyard…on top of our grill. It’s not the location I personally would have chosen, but he certainly looks comfortable, doesn’t he?

I think we will make it to the end of the school year.

Parsing sentences

“That grammar lesson was fun!” says no child ever.

Unless….it’s ok to be silly, and they are only incidentally labeling the parts of speech. Unless… they are not only using their memory skills , but also their creativity.

G is learning to parse sentences as he slowly builds his understanding of nouns and verbs, adjectives and conjunctions. Parsing sentences for us at this stage simply means we are reading sentences and labeling all the parts of speech and which words they are modifying. As a seven year old, he has a pretty decent grasp of how language functions. But then, being the talker he is, he certainly takes in enough practice!

We are using Level 2: First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. The book contains one hundred short grammar lessons, simple writing exercises and picture studies. It is an easy way for me to get in part of his language teaching without having to do much prep work. The lessons only take about 15 minutes, yet seem to be thorough. He has never complained about them, but if truth be told, I would never expect them to be the highlight of his day.

Until yesterday.

During his toddler years, I bought these magnetic words from a long forgotten vendor. We have only used them occasionally, but yesterday I pulled them out in an inspired last minute idea after we had discussed articles (a, an, the).

Sitting side by side, we got busy making up our own silly, lyrical sentences.

As the lesson progressed and G demanded “just one more,” the sentences just got ridiculous. However, that smarty pants labeled every single word correctly.

Things we learned:

1. Nouns can very often moonlight as adjectives. Especially if there are several of them in a row.

2. “Like” or “as” can wear several hats. In most of our sentences, however, they were adverbs.

3. It’s a good day if you are full out laughing at a grammar lesson.

Homeschooling with Homer

With no real plan in place, other than the fact that we had reached Greek civilization and the Trojan War in history, S and I have been slowly reading Homer’s Iliad. It is my very first time, and as has happened so many other times over these last several years, I find I learn at least just as much alongside him.

We found this fantastic version for children and young adults retold by Alfred J. Church. Originally published in 1907, it retains the epic style without being cumbersome to a modern middle schooler.

Here is an example, which must be read aloud for the full effect.

But Poseidon came to the camp of the Greeks…First he spoke to either Ajax, saying, “Hold fast, men of might, that you may save the people. For the rest of the wall I fear not, but only for the place that Hector rages. Now may some god inspire you to stand fast and drive him back.” And as he spoke he struck each with his staff, and filled them with courage and gave strength to hands and feet. Then he passed from them even as a hawk that rises from a cliff, chasing a bird.

Chapter 16, p. 156

In the course of our readings together, we have learned mundane facts such as Ilium is the Greek name for Troy. Thus, the Iliad is ” the ballad of Ilium,” or the song about Troy. We have shared our disappointment in Achilles’ whining. We have laughed at Ajax’s grandiose and lengthy speeches in the heat of battle, while wielding both a battle axe and sword. “Just finish them off!” S jokes. “Focus, Ajax! Focus!”

We prided ourselves on our independent discovery of the epic simile. Although considering their preposterous length and preciseness, it is hard to overlook them. When a figure of speech extends six or seven lines into a paragraph it is impossible to be blind to it. Here is our favorite example.

As when two torrents swollen with the rains of winter join their waters in a hollow ravine at the meeting of the glens, and the shepherds hear the crash far off among the hills, even so, with a mighty noise and great confusion, did the two armies meet.

Chapter 6, p. 46

S and I have discussed and debated Greek virtues, and we have contrasted them with what is lauded today. We have questioned why (spoiler alert) Patroclus’ death was so grievous to Achilles, and whether or not that was more a reflection on the one rather than the other. We discussed the nature of the gods, and their limited powers against man. Overall, this has been a worthwhile read for us. I feel we have both received a solid introduction into the blind bard who purportedly founded Western literature. The Odyssey awaits.

Pulling Tolstoy off the shelf

Pulling Tolstoy off the shelf one day I flipped through Anna Karenina while waiting for my son to collect his shoes. The hefty volume opened easily, and I was a little surprised to discover the following:

“You’re very, very funny,” Darya Alexandrovna repeated studying his face tenderly. “Well, all right, it will be as if we never spoke of it. What is it, Tanya?” she said in French to the girl who had just come in.

“Where’s my shovel, Mama?”

“I am speaking French, and you should do the same. ”

The girl wanted to do the same, but forgot what a shovel is called in French; her mother told her amd then proceeded to tell her in French where to find the shovel. And Levin found this disagreeable.

Now everything in Darya Alexandrovna’s house and in her children seemed less nice to him than before.

“And why does she speak French with the children?” he thought, “How unnatural and false it is! And the children can feel it. Teaching French and unteaching sincerity,” he thought to himself, not knowing that Darya Alexandrovna had already thought it all over twenty times and, to the detriment of sincerity, had found it necessary to teach her children in this way.

My thoughts instantly applied these words to my own parenting and home education. Living and teaching educational and moral integrity are a great concern to me. So often I fall prey to comparing myself to others, or even worse, comparing myself to unrealistic ideals, which live solely in my own head. In the end, my children may be the ones to suffer. Instead of allowing them to explore their own, genuine interests, I demand standards which do not honor who my children really are. I want to be authentic, full of integrity. I want to love my children for who they are, allowing them to pursue their own fields of study, despite the fact that they may be far from my own. Relationships before arithmetic. Sincerity and strong moral character before chemistry. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.

What parent doesn’t want their child looking to them with love and respect? First, I need to show them the same love and respect, perhaps in even greater quantity. Even if it entails encouraging the compilation of Hogwart’s spells. Or let’s say, baseball statistics.

As I speak and live for my children, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14.

Sliding Tolstoy back on the shelf, I help G tie his shoes.