Thursday, April 16, 2015

Notes from Today

I don't normally post two days in a row, but I guess this is your lucky day. J  I had a couple of thoughts today that *I* wanted to be sure to remember, and so I thought I would share them here.  Maybe they will be helpful or encouraging to you too.
Grand Discussions Don't Have to Be Hard
The idea of the grand discussion is what it sounds like – after reading a selection and narrating it, you discuss.   Together you ask questions, dig deeper, draw out the bigger picture ideas, make connections.   Sounds great, right?  Of course it does.  I love the idea of having rich conversations about books and ideas with my children.  But I have also felt very overwhelmed at times to know where to start.  This kind of thing doesn't come naturally to me.  How do you know what questions to ask?  I've read books and listened to talks and seminars, and for the most part have still not really felt any better equipped to be able to do this. 
Today I realized, though, that it doesn't have to be hard.  That maybe, just maybe,  I've built it up in my mind as something more complex that it needs to be.   That maybe it's as simple as "should….?", "what if….?", and "did that make you think of anything else?"   (Those aren't original questions, by the way – credit goes to Andrew Kern and various Ambleside ladies. J)
Michelle finished reading The Princess and the Goblin today – the novel for Term 1 of Ambleside Year 3.  After she had narrated the final chapter, I asked her a couple of these questions as she thought back over the story as a whole – Should Irene have trusted her Grandmother?  Was that the right thing to do?  What if she had not?  What about Curdie…should he have….  You get the idea.  We chatted about that for a few minutes.   I ended by asking her if this story made her think of anything else.  Her response?  "It made me think about the part in Prince Caspian where the others didn't want to trust Aslan because they hadn't seen him -  only Lucy had and they didn't believe her.  But later they realized they should have.  They should have trusted Aslan even when they couldn't see him."
Now that's not to say that this will happen with every book.  And that's OK.  But the point is that this discussion was not borne out of any intense preparation on my part. I did read the book before the term started because I was unfamiliar with it and I was passing it along to Michelle to read on her own, but did not analyze anything or plot out discussion questions ahead of time.   This discussion did not take a long time – 5 minutes tops.  It was not forced.  It was not contrived.  I started it off with a couple of very simple, open-ended questions and away we went.   The thinking, the connections – all hers.
It really was that simple.
When You're Feeling Blah About Nature Study, Go for a Walk with Your Preschooler
We live in an unpleasant urban environment.   At times this makes staying inspired about nature study really, really hard.   We are headed Stateside next month and I admit that I have been fantasizing about parks and proper nature walks and four distinct seasons and….anything but the same old stuff in our compound yard.  Again.  
Today, I was running an errand with five-year old Elizabeth.  We were walking along the familiar dusty road in our neighborhood – the road I've never bothered walking for a 'nature walk' because I didn't think there would be anything there worth seeing and observing.   As we walked along, though, she chattered away – mama look at this!  mama look at that!   We saw a really interesting green insect on a flower bush.  We saw a tiny spider on its web.   We talked about the rooster, hen, and five baby chicks walking along the side of the road with us.  We saw some corn plants and talked about where corn seeds came from.
There's a wealth of discoveries out there.  Even on my fairly unpleasant, dusty neighborhood road.    It almost made me sad to think of what we may have missed by dismissing that as a possibility these past 2 years simply because I assumed there would be nothing to see.    I'm making a note-to-self to try this road out as a regular nature-study route when we return next year.   There are things to be discovered even in the most unexpected places.

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