Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Forcing Kids to Learn Stuff We Think They Should Know

Even the earthiest of us all sometimes have an agenda.

My husband, for example, memorized all of the Prime Ministers of Canada.  If he was homeschooling our children, he would probably want them to memorize the Prime Ministers because of how it immeasurably enriched his own life to know this information.

I have always wanted music to be part of the curriculum, even though it can be expensive, time consuming, perhaps not some children's particular bent, but I feel that I am somewhat arrested in my development because of my lack of musical training.  There is a desire for our children to know or understand particular things whether we recognize it or not.

When it comes to educating our children, depending on the the local laws, or our particular bent, we have our own desires for their education, or we need to conform in some way to the requirements that they must meet.  But, fortunately, there is more than one way to skin a cat.  We need not be "heavy handed" in guiding our children.  We can foster interest in almost anything.

Do you know this expression?  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

Unless you salt the oats.  Salt creates thirst.  So much salt.

Create some interest.  Go on a great field trip.  Watch a great Imax.  Get out all the books from the library you can on a topic.  Buy an amazing Eyewitness book on something you want to jazz them up about.  Read some great novels.  Talk to someone really interesting about what they do for a living.  Go to a living history museum.

Make them thirst to know.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Forming our Children

How do we bring our faith into an organic study of history?

How do we catechize our children?

What program/workbook/curriculum/syllabus do we use to teach our children the faith?

Oh.  Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.  Be the person God wants you to be, and when you fail (FYI, I do daily), get up and and do it again.

Every. Single. Day.  Make your mistakes and apologize for them.  Let them see you pray.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable.  Ask hard questions.  Answer hard questions.

ALWAYS answer hard questions.  If you don't know the answer, tell your children AND tell them you will find out, to the best of your ability.

Learning is modelled.

Faith is modelled.

Joy is modelled.

Goodness is modelled.

Disinterest is modelled.

Apathy is modelled.

Life is a vibrant, organic, precious, ever-changing, intoxicating, dangerous and amazing gift.

It takes one's breath away.

The best method - the only real method - is sharing our faith, discovering our faith alongside our children, living our faith.  In the context of Mass, our daily home life, of the big decisions we make, in the books we read together, in our conversations with others, in how we spend our time, in the discussion that ensues in the process of learning, wondering, knowing, debating.  All other semblance of formation, is, by and large, enrichment.  Programs and books (and many are excellent) whether directly catechesis, or our faith in history or science or any other "subject" are merely a jumping off place for formation.

They are not formation.

Curriculum is not formation.  Like science textbooks aren't science.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Teaching History, using resources well

When we read together, learning is fostered primarily through discussion and example.

Most frequently asked question at our table..."What do you think?"
Most frequent comment..."Let's look that up."

Our go to...every single day, several times a day...are the encyclopedias.  They are the most direct route to concise information and a guide to gathering further information.  Often, something we look up, we just read a paragraph about.  Sometimes I skim an article to find the relevant information on a topic.  Sometimes we read the article, it's complementary articles on related topics, the recommended reading.   Encyclopedias give us an opportunity to take an interest as far as is desired or necessary.

And to share and discuss our varied interests.  Best reads ever are the ones where there are half a dozen encyclopedias scattered on the table, and everyone is looking at what the others have discovered.  There are some other resources we have found incredibly helpful when studying history as a Catholic family.

A Catechism of Church History by Father Robert Fox is an amazing book.  It has chronological entries on the Church's history, and involvement in world history as well as commentary on common misconceptions and perceptions of the Catholic Church.  The entries are all short, like an desk encyclopedia, a paragraph to a few paragraphs. 

The Pocket Catholic Dictionary by Father John Hardon is also a resource book we would never be without.  It has dictionary entries of all things Catholic, so that words or ideas can be instantly accessed to aid discussion and also to help with the context of the story.

One other recommendation that I'd like to make is a beautiful book of saint's quotes.  They are organized by virtues and vices, so it can be an opportunity to bring the saints on board in an easy and natural way by looking up what THEY had to say about certain actions, sacrifice, temptations...

More resources next post.