Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On Literature Based Education

As we approach the mid-summer mark (yikes, really?) I am pondering literature-based education.     After all, the idea is embedded in our blog statement of purpose.     Chari has written about the literature based life, and I have written about literature based learning:  Literature Themes, more on literature theme approach, some questions about literary learning.

I just recently rediscovered that almost any aspect of life goes way better if there is a book involved.    What KIND of book, depends on what aspect of life and how I am approaching it.

Though as I mentioned our homeschool is moving along fairly well right now, I feel like we're skimping a bit on the literature part of it.   There is no doubt that Paddy reads a lot --  there is a pile of books wherever he habitually spends quiet time -- but it's separate from our regular homeschooling time, and that makes our lifestyle feel less literature-based to me.

The problem is with priorities and the fact that I have more than one set of them : ).    I want Paddy to have the basics down well enough so that he isn't dragged backwards by lack of them.     This means mostly math and formal English and the like.   I want him to have general cultural literacy -- a sense of the flow of history and the basic topics of science.    This means non-fiction books and some reviewing and follow-up type activities to make sure it stays in his mind.

Perhaps above all,  I want him to love reading and remember his childhood as literature-soaked.   When I was a child, I practically lived in literature-land (as much as I could, at least).  Though sometimes I wish I had developed more practical skills and paid more attention to formal academics,  I wouldn't trade this early ticket into our cultural heritage for anything.    It was also an early gateway into religious devotion (though I didn't realize it at the time), a lifelong sense of wonder and curiosity, and an appetite for the good.    And paradoxically, literature gives you a sense of reality, of balance in complexity, of the ring of the genuine, that you can't easily get anywhere else.

Literature, just because it has this potential, is like life -- it can't easily be packaged into compartments.    It takes leisure time, an attitude of openness and freedom.     A study guide can be helpful, but it can also close doors before you even know they could have been open.    Narration is better.  The best of all, in our family, is discussion and  spin-off creations -- a homemade form of what Jesuit educators called "imitation" or "synthesis".      But great discussions and creativity don't just come when they are called, though they are more likely to show up if you have already showed up -- that is, if I have made room for them in our homeschool day, and provided lots of literary soil for them to grow in.

So I think I am going to be touring our shelves during these mid-summer days.
Also, since a book is the road to almost everything to me, including positive habit changes, I am going to be scanning my shelves for books that focus on the importance of literature in a child's formation.

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