Monday, June 8, 2009

Teaching Without Lecture

I saw something come to fruition before my very eyes last week. I felt like a promise was kept even though a formal oath was never sworn. My kids really learned.

I do remember having teachers who made learning interesting. Mr. Lewis had a way of telling stories that made me sit with my mouth open, to wish I didn't have to go home at the end of the 5th grade day, to chatter endlessly about World War II and the Battle of 1814 at the dinner table, and my older siblings say, "Yeah, Mr. Lewis...." even though they hadn't been in his classroom for 8 years. Oh, how many conversations we had about dear Mr. Lewis.

He loved what he taught. It showed. Teaching wasn't a chore. It wasn't an occupation. It was as if he dearly loved learning and his goal was just to share his passion. And that passion caught fire. Of course, that was quickly extinguished in 6th grade with the dry note-taking, points earning, mid-terming EOG type learning. Learning which basically means memorizing, passing, and forgetting. It lacks any sort of passion or joy, really. If there is some, it will not be remembered in 20 years, not like Mr. Lewis' singing Old Man Tucker.
This is the first year we have used Ambleside Online and followed the principles of Miss Charlotte Mason. Wow. That's all I can say. I had no idea that my daughter who was behind in reading comprehension and decoding would be able to read high school and college level one year. I had no idea things would stick, that they would enjoy learning, that their skill levels would grow to such a one year.

But mostly, I had no idea we would all enjoy learning together, that homeschool could be a joy. I left behind the workbooks and adapted to a reading-together, learning-together type learning environment. No lecture is necessary. No need for me to elaborate. No need for drawing on a marker board or waxing eloquent. Our books take care of that.

Last week, I experienced something magical. In both our science and greek mythology books, I finished reading the selection for the day, and there was a little silence. Before I even had a chance to say a word about narration or anything, my daughters launched into a discussion on the moral and ethical complications of the passages.

Think about this. I simply read aloud to my teenagers on our porch swing. Sure they could read it themselves and report to me, but there is something about our deepening bond and enjoyment of reading it together. I finished. I was thinking. They were thinking. They learned things from these passages other than the story, the facts, the history, the critical analysis. They could apply it to their own lives without me having to give them a worksheet, to ask them, "What did you learn?" The two of them began to discuss the morals of the characters, the strengths and weaknesses of their decisions. My eleven year old said she felt like the father (a greek god) made a catastrophic mistake in giving his son the license to act on his impulses freely. The father ignored his better judgment and the whole world (in the story) suffered the consequences. Days later she brought it up. Days later we were in the car and they brought up the science lesson, which included a powerful example of hardwork, persistence, the fruit of one's labor, disrespect, crushed dreams, and resilience.

Thank you Charlotte Mason. Thank you.

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