Thursday, August 30, 2007

The "organic" nature of learning

One of the topics I really wanted to delve into with the sweet girl during this, our first "formal" homeschool year, was history. That's primarily what I'm using the Sonlight materials for: their "introduction to cultures" for kindergarteners, which does a nice job of introducing history, different cultures, timelines and geography. Because the materials are compiled and distributed by Christians, there's some definite emphasis (at least in part of the term) on Christian history and on missionaries. I liked that too, church history teacher that I am.

I was a little surprised, however, that the instructor's guide indicated that for this first week, we'd be studying a couple of specific "heroes of the faith," Martin Luther and William Tyndale. Initially I thought it seemed a bit odd that we'd be majoring in specific people so soon rather than doing some of the more general introduction to history (which begins next week). As I looked over the materials, I was also a bit doubtful as to whether or not they would engage my little girl's interest since a lot of it looked potentially over her head. Having read and taught church history a lot in recent years, I knew I could supplement some of the book (which frankly needed a little supplementing) and help explain things more simply for her. But I honestly wasn't sure she would "get it."

Boy, was I wrong! As much as she's loved math and reading and art this week, all stuff she's has plenty of practice with already, and even begun to relax a bit with handwriting (more on that later!) history has been, far and away, the subject she seems most enthusiastic about. She's listened well and asked good questions.

Late Monday morning, near the end of our first day of school, we sat on the bench under one of the big sycamores across the road and read the introduction and first chapter about Martin Luther. I prefaced it with some initial comments about history in general, but mostly we jumped in feet-first. At first it felt like a real swim upstream. "What's a monk?" she wanted to know. We dog-paddled for a while, with S. seeming to meander in and out of the material. Was she even really listening? I wondered.

Then her Daddy came home for lunch. "What did you learn this morning?" he asked, after they hugged enthusiastically and she exulted in her first morning of kindergarten. And much to my jaw-dropping surprise, she began to talk excitedly about Martin Luther. "Mommy, what were the three times he almost GOT DEAD?" she asked, and in a daze I talked about Luther's near-death experiences (when he cut himself on a sword, lived through a typhoid epidemic, and was almost struck by lightning) and how God helped him and healed him and called him to serve him.

But Monday evening was best of all. She got to choose the hymn for family devotions and chose "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." And I asked, oh so casually, "do you know who wrote the words to this hymn?" She said no. When I told her Martin Luther, her eyes got round as saucers. She was thrilled. She's insisted on listening to this hymn every night this week.

And yesterday my issue of Christian History magazine came in the mail. This issue is focused on J.S. Bach, and there was a whole article on Bach and Luther, including a picture of a rare edition of one of the first German hymnbooks with Luther's "Mighty Fortress" in it. I watched my daughter pore over this picture, which led to a discussion of organs (she's never seen one or heard one) which led me to dig up an old tape I had of Bach organ music, which we listened to for awhile.

Connections, connections. Natural and wonderful connections. This is part of the "organic" nature of learning (argh! sorry for the pun!) at home that I've always appreciated. Watching my daughter's face alight with interest about topics I didn't even know she was ready for, I think I am coming to appreciate it even more.


Erin said...

That is an interesting place to start! Glad it resonated so well; it sounds like you have quite the budding historian on your hands! Have you seen the recent movie about Luther with Joseph Fiennes? The adult Sunday School class at church watched it; I thought it was pretty decent...

Beth said...

Yes, I actually reviewed the Luther movie for epinions...a couple of years ago, I think. I liked it, despite some of the liberties they took with his life. Definitely some good food for thought though, and well-acted...

I've been totally surprised by S's love of history. But I don't know why I should be. Her daddy loves it, I love it, and a love of history runs deep in my family too --my grandfather was an historian!

Beth said...

Yep, found my review of the's at I think I reviewed it in early 2005. I gave it three stars. :-)

One of the most interesting things about the film, which I'd forgotten, is that it stars the brothers of both Ralph Fiennes AND Colin Firth!!

Erin said...

Ah, off to read your review, then! ;) That's interesting about the brothers; I knew about Joseph but didn't realize about Colin Firth's brother!