All Roads Lead to Rome (Even for Bunnies)
The Sabine Women, Jacques-Louis David, 1796-99
Over at Bonny Glen I’ve been talking about the connections my kids are making during our read-aloud of Famous Men of Rome. This is for me one of the best things about homeschooling: watching the light bulbs go off, seeing pieces of the big puzzle of Life, the Universe, and Everything fit together in the kids’ minds.
We just started reading this book last week. Today Romulus finished building his city and then had to do a little creative marketing to find inhabitants. On the lam? Facing criminal charges? Australia doesn’t exist yet, so give Rome a try! It’s got a wall and everything! River views available. The world has never had a shortage of scruffy, disenfranchised males, it seems, for a paragraph later Romulus’s town is bustling with happy outlaws. Oops, not so happy after all: it seems no women answered the cattle call.
I get this far in the reading and Rose gasps. "It’s like the rabbits!" she shouts. For some reason, connections must always be shouted around here. "It’s like Watership Down!"
Scott is reading them Watership Down at bedtime. Last night they reached the part where Hazel & Co. have just gotten nicely settled into their digs on the down, and they suddenly realize their new warren has no future if they don’t find some nice lady rabbits to join them. Rose is right: it’s the founding of Rome all over again.
The bunnies, however, are a little more gentlemenly with the ladies, as my girls will discover a few nights hence. When I continue the early Romans’ tale, the kids are outraged by the abduction of the Sabine women. Then Beanie says, "Hey, this remembers me of a movie," and Jane shouts, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!" That charts our course for the rest of the morning: we hunt for the DVD and eventually remember where we left it. A short bike ride to the neighbors’ house later, Jane is brandishing the movie in triumph and we eat lunch to the tune of "And the women were sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’…"
The last week of May might seem like a strange time to start a history read-aloud. We don’t keep a traditional school-year schedule; we tend to follow a seasonal rhythm with our studies. For the new readers who are just getting to know me here at ClubMom, I thought it might be helpful if I gave a bit of background on our homeschooling style. Here’s how I have explained it before:
People often ask me what kind of homeschoolers we are: Classical? Charlotte Mason? Eclectic? Delight-Directed? Unschoolers? How, they want to know, does learning happen in our home? Am I in charge, or do I let the kids lead the way? And what about math?
Over the years I have written with enthusiasm about the Charlotte Mason method (which is highly structured) and unschooling (which is not). These educational philosophies seem to have intertwined themselves in my home, so that the what we do—read great books, study nature, dive deeply into history, immerse ourselves in picture study and composer study—is highly influenced by Charlotte’s writings and their modern counterparts; and the how we do it—through strewing and conversation and leisurely, child-led exploration—is influenced by the writings of John Holt, Sandra Dodd, and other advocates of unschooling. But I couldn’t say we’re "real CMers" because I don’t carry out Miss Mason’s recommendations in anything like the structured manner she prescribed; and I probably do too much behind-the-scenes nudging for us to be considered "real unschoolers."
The truth is, I couldn’t find any label that completely fit my family, so I made up my own. I call us "Tidal Learners" because the ways in which we approach education here change with the tide. Now, this doesn’t mean that we’re flighty or inconsistent, changing direction haphazardly. We aren’t Fiddler Crab Homeschoolers. What I mean is that there is a rhythm to the way learning happens here; there are upbeats and downbeats; there is an ebb and flow.
Lately I have been reading a lot about Latin-centered classical education, and I am increasingly convinced of the merits of steady and intensive Latin studies. Because we have such a relaxed approach to the rest of our learning, it is no burden to make Latin lessons a regular part of our day. When planning our family routine—whether it’s the summer routine revolving around the neighborhood swimming pool or the winter routine which must allow for abrupt changes of plan in the event of good sledding weather—I keep a loose "rule of six" in the back of my mind. There are six things I try to make a part of every day:
• meaningful work (this includes household chores, which are "meaningful" because they make our own and others’ lives more pleasant; it also includes pursuits requiring daily practice, such as piano and, yes, Latin; and of course for Scott and me, writing is meaningful work)
• good books
• beauty (art, music, nature)
• big ideas (discussions about what we’re reading or encountering in the world)
• play (including time spent with friends)
Honesty compels me to admit that for myself I privately add a seventh component to my daily Rule of Six:
• a footrub from my incredibly sweet husband
Oh, and also:
But for the family as a whole, the top six items are what shape our days. So this summer, Romans and Sabines and Latin and bunnies will be waiting for us whenever we come home from the pool.
What a cool connection – rabbits and Romans! That’s the funnest part about teaching; hearing these cool connections that I’d never have made on my own :o)
I’m enjoying your blog Lissa! Keep up the good work!
On May 27, 2006 at 9:42 am
I love that painting of the Sabines. Previously I have seen only paintings of the Sabines cowering in fear, rather than defending themselves as they seem to be in the painting you referenced.
A friend recommended both of your blogs; I am enjoying reading them, interspersed with toy decluttering. I wish Christmas only came every other year!
On May 27, 2006 at 12:19 pm
That sounds very inspiring. I’m hardly a homeschooler at all, those my 13-year old twins do school at home, but I do admire your approach. (My 8 year old goes to public school, my 3.5 year old plays all day.)
On May 27, 2006 at 2:31 pm
Love your top six. Perfect. And I’ve always loved your Tidal Learning moniker. Make sure you Trademark it. 😉
On May 28, 2006 at 9:17 am
I love your six things list…we are classical unschoolers, maybe a bit more structured than most because my son seems to function better that way. I am looking for a prayer/bible study/character resource for my 9 year old. He’s a deep little guy ad everything I have ever thrown at him is too “baby”. Any ideas? Love your blog, Siouxjoe
On June 7, 2006 at 8:02 pm
Lady S says:
I teach elementary school, and applaud your efforts to make learning all it should be for your children.
I am commenting, because one of the things we stress in our Literacy program is making connections. Last year we did a study group on “Strategies that Work” (by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis), what good readers do for comprehension.
My second graders really loved the idea that adults ask questions, make connections, and visualize while reading. We write down our questions and connections and look for the answers or deeping meaning. We also stop to draw pictures.
There is so much we know now about learning and use in our teaching that I wish had been encouraged when I was a kid.
Keep up the good work.
On June 29, 2006 at 8:39 am
Vanity is not a valid reason for cosmetic plastic surgery
On September 29, 2007 at 3:02 pm