or “I’m Baaaaack!”
Well, I tried to stay away. I really did. But the outcome of my experiment is clear: Internet, we likey. Doing a one-month blackout (June), possibly two (June/July) is just right for my family. In August, I start wanting to do more research to prep for fall homeschooling, and the kids like to have a little time in the summer mornings to watch clips of “Horrible History” or “Magic Schoolbus” or whatnot, which during the school year is just a Friday morning luxury.
We intended to watch the Olympics online, a perfect cap to our year of Ancient World studies, but since NBC has monopolized the coverage and apparently lobbied so that Canadian and British sources are not allowing me to view their streams, we’re forced to do with clips and glimpses. I’m kind of bugged, actually. NBC would let me view the stream if I also had satellite or cable… but the whole point of watching it online is that I don’t have satellite or cable. We did catch a few hours of swimming, track’n’field and gymnastics this week with our awesome cousins who are in town (vacation house has satellite).
Anyway, on to the point of this post, which of course is education-related. Education is now my life, and quickly becoming my one expertise, so what else would I write of? A few weeks ago I wanted the kids to understand the idea that all Truth is part of one great whole, that it all works together for our good. Remember, I started down this road with their planners — we stopped referring to core subjects of math, reading and writing, and ended up grouping things loosely between the arts and the sciences. But I wanted to go deeper. I wanted them to feel comfortable putting scripture study on their list, or the tutoring of a sibling. I wanted them to include the work they do around the house, or other life skills they learned. I wanted to reinforce the life pyramid I introduced last year as well.
The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. –Albert Einstein
There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. –Buddha
So, I remembered that the sciences are referred to by the acronym: STEM, and that made a useful image pop into my head. I shared it on a whiteboard during Amber’s Mine and the discussion went something like this (warning, lengthy rambling coming up):
Me: (draw green line on board) Guess what this is. (add another green line to make it thicker, then add a leaf to the side) Now?
Kids: A plant!
Me: Okay, what part of the plant? Elias?
(they guess leaf, bottom, and finally stem)
Me: Yeah, so have you ever heard the sciences called STEM?
Me: It’s an acronym, know what that is? (Grace explains) So what parts of the sciences are represented in this word, I’ll give you a start — the “S” stands for science.
(they guess and are mostly right. Elias surprises us by guessing Engineering first.)
Me: Right, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s sometimes called STEM, and it provides a structure for the flower, a structure for our society to build on. We’ll come back to that. (draw a red top above the stem with five petals) What’s this?
(they guess top, flower, rose and finally blossom)
Me: yeah, the top of the flower- the pretty part- is the blossom, also called the bloom. And I made up an acronym to represent this part. Now, if the stem is sciences, what is the top?
Me: yeah, so my acronym is kind of silly, but here it is. B is for beauty, L is for language (including literature), jump over here to M, what do you think M is for?
(after a few tries, they come up with music)
Me: And here’s the silly part. The best I could come up with to really encompass all the wonderful variety of the arts is this: Observations and Orchestrations. With the arts, we observe the beauty, or language, or music of something, and then we create something of our own. Orchestrate is a synonym for create. Define “synonym” Noah?
Noah: The same kind of word. Means the same thing.
Me. Thank you. So we look at the beauty of our world and then create more. That’s the BLOOM of the arts. I might go so far as to say it’s what the STEM exists for. For instance, is this house we live in, that Dad built with his own two hands, is this the STEM or the BLOOM?
Me: Well, yes, it is beautiful because he chose to make it so. But could we school in this house if it were well engineered but not pretty? Sure. Could we enjoy The Hobbit and study memory verses and write stories and take photographs and illustrate heavy artillery if we had no house? This house provides the structure, the environment that frees us to enjoy the BLOOM in life. You following?
(nods of ascent)
Me: So, is this picture complete? It has a stem and a bloom. Is that all a flower needs?
Grace: It’s missing it’s root system.
Me: Right, we’re not talking about a flower that has been cut off from everything, but a living flower. What else completes this picture?
Noah: The ground, the dirt.
Me: (I draw roots and dirt) What else does a flower need?
Me: (Draw a watering can with droplets and a yellow sun) Now let’s label these, but without the acronyms. Just keeping with the metaphor we’re building. What is the root system in the dirt?
(they decide it is the core values, the base of our Life Pyramid) I had not specifically thought through this part of the lesson, just winging it now -because I’m most interested in getting to the “Sun”– so I label the dirt “Core”)
Me: Okay, so what is the watering can?
(they instantly decide it is the work, the effort. I label the can “Work”. They also decide we could add weeds to the metaphor, and I agree but don’t draw them because I like positive imagery better than nasty old weed images. :))
Me: And here’s the easy one, what is the sun?
Me: Ah! And here’s the fun part, what do they call Jesus, in relation to our Heavenly Father?
Grace: the Son.
(I label “Son” by the yellow orb, and pause. They are quiet.)
Me: Now, does this picture feel complete?
Me: Okay, let’s give it a title. What flower is this? What type?
(they come up with several answers, school, education, learning, knowledge. I tell them I like all those answers and that one word encompasses all of the good of that, and more. We read Psalm 85:11 — “Truth shall spring out of the earth” and discuss that chapter a bit. I finally label the drawing, TRUTH, and place the small whiteboard on a display shelf)
I don’t know why exactly I typed up that whole lesson, but I hope you find it helpful. Maybe I’m trying to answer the questions I get a lot lately: “But what do you DO all day?” or “How to you make ’em do their work?” or some derivative. 🙂 This whole lesson took maybe 15 minutes, and I rarely do Amber’s Mine for more than 40 minutes, but if I do it right, it inspires their learning for the day, the week, the month, or, often it makes it into our family culture and is remembered always. I don’t need to bore them for six hours to hammer in concepts. Once they have the correct principles written in their hearts, they govern themselves. I think a wise man might have said something like that, once.
Since that Mine, we’ve been talking about the Flower of Truth no matter what they are learning. For instance, we read this scripture together:
77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
Suddenly, every one of us knew that the doctrine of the kingdom didn’t just mean churchy things. We felt decompartmentalized. “Mission” didn’t mean wearing a black name tag for two years. It meant “life mission”. And the doctrine of the Great Scientist and Most Creative Being in the Universe is all truth, not just what might be covered in sunday school lessons. We’re really getting somewhere now!
Truly, can’t wait for fall. Gonna be an awesome year. Stay tuned — next post I’ll share some plans.