Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Creeping Eclecticism

Slowly, we have altered how we are "doing" history. Yesterday we altered how we are "doing" science. I think we have creeping eclecticism going on here. I am still using some classical methods and I am using ancient history as the theme for our unit study, but I am altering the process by which we study.

When I started this Homeschooling journey, I began by planning an ambitious schedule according to one method: Classical Homeschooling. However, almost immediately, I made some changes. We are Jewish, so I began ancient history with a Jewish history spine. Jewish history is actually a very good way to focus all of world history because Jews have been around for a long time and have encountered most of the western civilizations in that time.

However, when we started, I did history with the recommended text, the Kingfisher Atlas of World History. I added James Michener's The Source as a supplementary text and we have been reading it aloud. I am still using Kingfisher and I am having N. do some outlining--but we are doing less of it and I am choosing the parts we read with more care. We did Ancient Egypt and now we are doing Ancient Greece and Rome. Instead of following every chapter of Kingfisher, N. and I are focusing on the shifting centers of Jewish civilization and the impact that our people have made on western civilization. We are keeping up the timeline but we are outlining less and discussing more. This fits better with N.'s learning style.

We finished reading the first 10 chapters of The Source in January. The first chapter tells the story of an achaeological dig in Israel, commenced in 1964 at a fictional location called Tel Makor (The Source) in the Galilee in Israel. Michener then tells a very well researched story of the history of the Jewish people by centering the story of each chapter around a particular artifact found at Tel Makor. Some of the information is out of date, but that is easily corrected and the stories are compelling.

Today, we decided that N. would draw the artifacts discovered by the fictional archeologists at Tel Makor, and explain how they relate to the ancient history of the land of Israel. Although the stories are fiction, the artifacts themselves can all be seen in various museums in Israel. N. traced three of the nine, expanded their size and then wrote a short caption below each in which he tells what each one is, the approximate date at which it was deposited, and what it tells us about the history of Israel. To the right is a picture of N. cutting paper for his drawings. The Source is open before him.

To the left is N.'s drawing and explanation for the artifact described in the chapter "An Old Man and his G-d," which is about the initial conquest of the Caanan by the Hebrews between the time of Abraham and our later adventures in Egypt. He did drawings of the artifacts for the first two chapters as well.

The caption reads: Two clay pots made in ~ 1419 B.C.E. They were damaged by fire. They are evidence of the Israelit(e) conquest of Caanan.

I think it was important to choose a path and make plans for how we would do homeschooling. It is important to have a plan if only so that it may be altered as needed. The plan gives structure and direction. However, it is also really important for parents and child(ren) to collaborate on how best to manage the process so that the goals of education are reached. I like the intellectual rigor of the classical method of education. However, there are other important human characteristics that have to be nurtured as well. What about the spiritual and social and emotional needs of the child? I have been looking at ways to incorporate methods that address these needs as well.

I have ordered a book on the Waldorf method. I do not like everything about it. The narrow focus on Christian holy days and celebrations would not work for us. However, I do like the emphasis put on the times and seasons of human life and on community. These can be used in concert with the classical intellectual rigor to meet the needs of my particular child.

Over the past six months, I have had good days and bad. I have had worries about whether I was doing the right thing. However, the beauty of teaching my son myself is that I can adapt the curriculum to his needs instead of trying to change him to fit the curriculum. This is not news--it is supposedly the premise of IDEA and special education. However, the increasing rigidity of the current school reform makes it impossible to really carry out this ideal. Homeschooling is making my son into an autonomous learner--he has a say in what and how he is learning. And it is making me into the teacher that I always wanted to be!


Megan Bayliss said...

Your last paragraph covered me in goose bumps. It is my thinking exactly.

And...if I may, are you able to give me a Jewish lesson and explain why G-d leaves a letter out? Is it because His name is considered so holy that it cannot be uttered. I ask because I am genuinely interested, not because I disagree or want to have a theological argument.

Christy said...

I'm finding "creeping eclecticism" becoming part of my homeschooling experience, as well. Every year, I start off determined that THIS will be the year we "do" classical -- and every year, I'm reminded of the fact that I do not have especially classical children.

I am interested, also, in the reason for using "G-d". My daughter studied the name "YHWH" in Sunday School recently; there was something about leaving out the vowels. Like the other poster said, I am genuinely interested. For some reason, I have always had a strong sense that I am of Jewish descent (I was adopted at birth, so there's no way for me to really know). I can't explain why, but it just resonates somewhere within me. Having typed that out, I realize how odd it sounds, but I'm going with my gut instinct that perhaps you won't think I'm a complete lunatic.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I love the way you said that, Christy. "...every year I am reminded of the fact that I do not have especially classical children."
That's definitely where I am.

An explanation of the way I write "G-d" for both of you:
The Hebrew word for G-d's name as given in Exodus (Shemot)2:2 is spelled YHWH. It appears to be a contraction of three different ways to conjugate the Hebrew root for "being" into the action completed (like the English past tense), action at the moment (like English present) and action in the future (like the English future). There is no way to adequately translate the word, and there are no vowels in Torah, so we don't know how it is pronounced. Jews do not say the name of G-d for that reason and also because it seems kind of presumptuous to try to define G-d. That is the same reason that I do not spell out the word G-d in English completely.
G-d is infinite and we humans are not. There are definite boundaries on our power and the length of our days. So to write G-d without all the letters is a way of reminding myself that I cannot put boundaries on G-d. I cannot define G-d. And I have no right to think that my concept of G-d is the be-all and end-all of what G-d is.

christinemm said...

What a great post. Thank you for submitting it to the Carnival of Homeschooling, which I am hosting, and writing right now!

I have been asked recently about some resources and alternatives for sources to homeschool Jewish students recently. I love how you shared how you adapted the materials as well as the methods to meet your family's beliefs and your son's learning style. I am going to refer people to your post on this topic.

The drawing and the writing a bit of what was learned is considered a form of narration, I don't know if you know that. So far as I know it is a very 'classical' thing to do.

We use some of the Charlotte Mason methods of which narration is one recommended method. I know Susan Wise Bauer wrote of narration in The Well Trained Mind but what they ask of narration, especially in the "Story of the World" Activity/Curriculum is not exactly the same as the narration methods described by Charlotte Mason. And from what I understand the narration method has been used since the times of Aristotle and Socrates, so Mason didn't invent it.

Sometimes I think too much about labels for homeschooling. I could label our family as classically educating, eclectic (because I design our own studies subject by subject), Charlotte Mason (as we use mostly living books and not textbooks--other than math), and also since I'm not rigid, maybe we are also 'relaxed' homeschoolers, I'm not sure on that one. LOL.

Waldorf is definately not classical. I looked into that back when my oldest was three and we did a little influence of Waldorf preschool. It changes a lot as they get older and is very teacher-dependent and at some points you really have to take Waldorf teacher training to be able to 'get' the materials and methods of how they teach. In the end it is not for us. I also thought some of the teachings were religious in nature, Steiner's own made up thing, which made no sense to me. I don't know if you've delved into that issue with Waldorf yet.

Have a nice night.