Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Caving in to a Homeschool Digression

Yesterday was a decent, diligent homeschooling day.

Today we started out with science, and about 9:30 I made the horrid mistake of reading Susan Branch's blog post. I say horrid, not because Susan is horrid, but because her blog is spelled "t-e-m-p-t-a-t-i-o-n." I clicked on her "musica" for the day, and the sound of loons and lilting music filled the house. Soon Julia snuggled up near me on the couch, listening.

"Ahhh!" she said. "It sounds like fall. We should paint today." (Autumn has this effect on us both.)

And we did. How appropriate that Susan Branch, a wonderful watercolor illustrator, prompted this digression!
Julia hunted in a small poetry book I have, for Robert Frost's poem, "October," which we've read many times. But she came across this poem and chose it instead, to include in her painting. We all love trees.
 I loved the final stanza of the poem Susan Branch began her blog post with, so I used it.
 I am unhappy with that border. Oh well. It seems to be missing something and I may approach it with my brush once more.
The text for Julia's poem is this:

Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As softly as summer: summer's loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
Winter and night; awaiting these
We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
Beneath the drear November trees.

Those are the first and last stanzas of a poem by Ernest Dawson. Not particularly happy, I think, but she loved it and chose it. We noted the use of the verb "garner," and looked it up to be sure we knew its  exact meaning . I guess you could call this a roundabout literature lesson. I didn't think of it as such; we were just painting and having fun. We did, however, avoid Book 3 of the Odyssey today, I'm sorry to say. It's a trade-off. My regimented self (who has been dominant all my life) says, "No! You must shove through and never miss a day!" I've learned, though, that it's very good to ignore Little Miss Regimental sometimes and cave into an educational digression. There is never a danger of doing this too often because Little Miss Regimental won't allow it, and Julia is often disappointed. 

The text for my poem:

There is something in October
Sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls
Each vagabond by name.

And that lovely stanza is the end of a poem by Bliss Carman. He (yes, a man!) lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and his first name was William, but like a true artist I suppose he chose to go by Bliss.

For me, caving into schooling digressions is much safer when homeschooling. When I taught high school English in the classroom, Little Miss Regimental always reigned, and hundreds of students learned a lot. When they pleaded, "Mrs. Christiansen, can we please go outside today for English class?" I faithfully, always said "No." Without exception. I knew my students and I knew at least three in each class (and often more) could not be trusted outside to stay focused on the material. Everyone's learning experience would be compromised for the sake of "fun." I wasn't paid to provide fun. I was paid to educate.

But I can trust Julia, and she knows this and knows this trust, if not offended, will yield occasional opportunities to miss Homer and enjoy watercolors. The digression becomes enriching. In homeschooling, this spontaneous enrichment is more likely to occur, if the child is willing. In a class of 25 students, you're very likely to have several unwilling children, and that's all it takes to rob everyone of enrichment. 

I do not enjoy Little Miss Regimental, and I'm happily throwing her under the bus more often these days. When grandchildren arrive, here's hoping she will be gone altogether!


  1. MK, sometimes the best laid plans are best gone astray. Sounds like a delightful day!

  2. Oh, I love that about homeschooling, too! I loved Susan's post as well. Her Autumn book is delicious.

  3. I struggle with this too, and often wonder why we place the arts under the basics labeling creative work as less important? What's up with that?

  4. I love this! I try to plan a Fun Friday every week, just so I can tell my own inner Little Miss Regimental where to get off. ;-)


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