Totally Epic

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Written by Amy Barr

The first powered airplane only flew 12 seconds on its maiden voyage, and the first car could only move 2 miles an hour. The first Greek epic, however, was invented even before the finishing touches were put on the Greek alphabet in which it would eventually be recorded. Homer’s Iliad, and his smash sequel the Odyssey, have been moving the world ever since.

You probably have a copy of one of these epics on your bookshelf. You may even have tried to work them into your curriculum with varying levels of success or frustration. With a little background in place, most quickly learn that this three thousand-year-old literature still offers food for thought and potent words for modern ears.

Troy, known as Ilion/Ilium to the Greeks and Romans, is a real place you can visit in northwest Turkey. I worked with the excavation team at this well-fortified Bronze Age city and witnessed how most tourists climb the giant Trojan Horse replica for a fast photo before hastily leaving. The site of Troy is no Coliseum or Parthenon, because its claim to fame is its destruction. Archaeological evidence suggests that something calamitous happened there around 1180 B.C. when the city was nearly leveled. (more…)

Mason-Inspired Methods for Teaching Writing

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Written by Jessica Boling

“Time for writing!” My announcement silences the chatter of several young voices at the Charlotte Mason-inspired co-op where I teach. The students take their seats and pull out black-and-white speckled composition books. They listen as I read a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, our selection for copywork and dictation.

The Charlotte Mason approach enriches a student’s English education in many ways. Families who incorporate Mason’s ideas in their home school introduce their children to quality literature (what Mason terms “living books”) at a young age. Students thrive when they are encouraged to read interesting stories, firsthand accounts, and beautiful poems. On this rich foundation, parents can build their children’s writing skills by using several Mason-inspired methods: copywork and dictation, written narration, and literary analysis. (more…)

The Power of Enjoyment

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Written by Diana Waring

When it comes to education in our culture, there is a deep trench between the unpleasant, dentist-filling-cavity experience of school, which one endures by necessity, and the passion-driven endeavor of hobbies, which one anticipates with delight. For many of us who began homeschooling in the 1980s, this was a chasm we sought to cross. Our learners, no longer dreading school, could actually thrive in their studies since they were in the nurturing environment of our homes.

Rather than conformity to the standard model of education—a lecturing teacher, subservient students and rigid class periods—we tried new approaches: a tuned-in observer, interactive students, and freedom to conduct experiments or write stories or fashion clay figures, heedless of the clock. In this laboratory of learning, many of us discovered that our unique children could each find something that motivated them deeply. Amazingly, we saw that when our children are motivated they have a self-imposed zest for ferreting out information, a zest that extends beyond Legos and bikes to academic subjects such as science, history, and literature.

This discovery of the power of self-motivation, or “hunger to learn,” was like a new invention or a magic wand. Eventually, we discovered that as homeschoolers we were actually on the cutting edge of education—traveling a path of learning that educational researchers and scientists were also studying. What we had stumbled upon in searching for the best approaches for our children was being legitimized through academic studies on how the brain works and how people learn best.

Here are six general points from the researchers on increasing learning through environment and relationship. Read the list and consider how your home is the best place for this to happen: (more…)