And we’re off. Another school year is underway. The getting-ready phase is always a crunch and a scramble, a holding-of-breath type of phase, and then when we actually arrive at the first day it’s like a sigh of relief. It’s like we can breathe again amidst the rhythm and routine of our days.
Two of the most interesting educational prospects for this new school year, to me, are two books. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the opportunity to include educational items that are of interest to me. I try do this with discretion, keeping the basics at the core of our studies. I also try to include studies that are of special interest to my students, when applicable.
The first book is American Pioneers and Patriots from Christian Liberty Press. I am using this as a read-aloud every day with my 1st and 3rd grade students. The three of us are enjoying it immensely thus far. In our first week and a half we have finished a story about pioneers from Spain, and are currently reading a story about pioneers living in Jamestown. These are fictional stories that immediately connect with younger ages; stories that talk about families and children and ships and storms at sea and pocket knives and pet squirrels… you get the picture. Learning history this way is effortless and completely painless. I’ve learned quite a bit myself, already. We have some maps on the wall of our school room, so naturally we have had to mark the points on the map that relate to our reading. I love how one segment of education naturally flows into another.
The other book is for my older students who are currently in 12th, 10th, and 8th grades. Last school year we started doing a study of well-written essays. I have heard the wise advice that if you want your students to be able to write a good essay, let them read some good essays first. As a result, we studied various essays last year, one per month. “Studied” isn’t really the right word. “Perused” would be better. I had them read the essay through twice, at two different sittings, and then fill out a simple one-page sheet about the essay. Nothing complicated. Just things like “two words and definitions that you learned from this essay” and “favorite quote from this essay” and “in one sentence, summarize the main point of this essay.” I don’t want them to over-think and over-analyze at this point. I just want them to experience the enjoyment of reading something that is well-written. I want them to be able to recognize writing that has been skillfully done.
I decided to keep our essay study going this year. I kept thinking about an essay by E. B. White called “The Eye of Edna” that I had read during my college days. I enjoyed it so much then, that I actually remember it to this day. Hence, this book, Essays of E. B. White, made an entrance into our school curriculum this year. We are going to study/peruse one essay per month from this book during the school year. [Disclaimer: I have not read every essay in this book. What I have read so far seems to be appropriate for high school ages. Side note: it’s much easier to screen one essay than to screen an entire book.]
E. B. White is the author of the beloved children’s classics Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. He was also a prolific essayist, who wrote for The New Yorker magazine throughout several decades of the 1900’s. While browsing this book of essays, I have found (just to name a few) a historical perspective on life during his time, new vocabulary words at every turn, captivating word pictures, lessons on small towns and big government and foreign policy, all wrapped into one delightful, humorous package.
Learning through a book like this, again, is effortless and painless. This cannot be said of all the subjects in our homeschool, of course. Learning often involves effort and pain and even tears along the way. But, learning should also be effortless at times, enough to provide some balance. Enchant your learners with books such as these, and their lives will be enriched, education will happen, and hardly anyone (except you, as the perceptive teacher) will even notice.♥