Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Savoring of Books

A homeschool is like a recipe. Some of the ingredients are essential or the name of the recipe loses it meaning. For example, you can't have 'Potato Soup' without the potatoes. Then there are the minor ingredients. They add various flavors to it. I happen to like potato soup with cream and celery seed. You may prefer it with milk and thyme.

Our homeschool has major and minor ingredients. Some of the ingredients are just my particular preferences, or my children's preferences. It's our special flavoring. But as I reflected this week on the major ingredients of our homeschool, a concept came up that I realized was the potato in the soup. We need this ingredient in our school. It is a major contributor to the amount of learning my dc are experiencing and the level of joy we all are able to share together. It the SLOW READING of their school books. This may seem like a simple and minor ingredient. I hope to show that it is more important.

Years ago, when my children were young, we devoured several books a week. It was a point of pride for all of us. "Wow! I thought, my children must be learning a lot. They have covered so many ideas this year." My daughter could finish a book a day.

Then, I read this:

"We hear of 'three books a week' as a usual thing and rather a matter of pride. But this, again, comes of our tendency to depreciate knowledge, and to lose sight of its alimentary character. If we perceive that knowledge, like bread, is necessary food, we see also that it must be taken in set portions, fitly combined, duly served, and at due intervals, in order to induce the digestive processes without which, knowledge, like meat, gives us labour rather than strength." (vol. 5 of CM's educ. volumes)

Now, I probably would have never listened to such advice, but living in Turkey has its drawbacks. I had no library and no bookstore with books available in the English language. My children, out of necessity, were going to have to spread out their books. I could never keep the supply up with the demand. I decided to try this with their most important books, the books that I considered ' the cream of the crop', over a several week period. So, instead of reading a book or two a week and then going on to the next one, my children started several books at the same time but read them slowly over a 10 week period or longer.

I began to notice that my children were talking at the supper table about the characters and episodes in the books they were reading . They were acting out those stories with each other and including them in their playtimes. They even began to write their own stories, without my prompting, by copying the main idea and style of the book they were reading. Wow! My children were enjoying their books much more since they had time to ruminate and live with the characters and ideas expressed within the pages. Not only that, they remembered, and still remember years later, little details about those beloved stories. I realized that deep and lasting learning was taking place in a delightful, non-hurried manner.

If you'd like a better idea how this may look, you can visit my 13 and 11 yr old daughters' blog and look at the sidebar, you can see the titles and amount of books each girl is reading this term. They are reading all of these books each week but over several weeks. I've noticed that they are making posts about their books too. I do not direct those posts. They write about their books because they enjoy them.

If you are hesitant about trying this, maybe you could test it with just a few of your children's books this year and watch for interesting results.


Post a Comment