Curled up by the wood-burning stove with book in hand and reading was my son. Jacob reading a book. It’s such an odd sight that I paused for a moment and delighted in the scene.
Alexandra is currently on page 300 of the 1278-page complete collection of Jane Austen’s novels. She’s reading it for pleasure, not as an assignment. Larissa has been spending this snowy winter break perusing my books on gardening, daydreaming what we’ll plant and what gardens she can create in her own far-off future home. Normally, though, she’s devouring a book a day about anything from horses and dogs to the Rwandan holocaust and current-day slavery in Sudan. But Jacob and books – they’ve never been friends. So to see him reading delights my heart.
Mind you, it’s a book I assigned him that he’s reading – The Yanks Are Coming: The United States in the First World War by Albert Marrin. But he seems to be learning a lot from it. “Jacob was telling me things about the war that I’d never heard before,” said my husband George. I probably hadn’t either. You can learn so much more by reading an interesting book than studying a textbook.
So last night I came up with an idea.
Next year in eleventh grade, the state requires that Jacob learn American History - again. Our kids study American History about every other year, I believe, since they learn to read – at least in our local public schools, where my kids have been studying until now. So I was rather upset when I read this mandate: a full year of American History is required during the high school years. Another year of studying ourselves, of looking in and not out at the world. Ugh.
My passion is the developing world – the Zimbabwes and Haitis and Indias of the world. History of Sudan, colonization of India, the rise and fall of communism in the Soviet Union – these, not the American Revolution, are my interests! I read volumes about theses countries and events for pleasure. I visit developing countries on mission trips every chance I get. Yet I’m a rule-follower. I have to teach American History. So how can I teach it from a new angle when we’ve already read a series of 48 books tracing the history of the US from the Mayflower until the Second World War just for fun? When he's studied and studied again all about Plymouth Rock and Gettysburg and women's suffrage?
That’s when Jacob’s curled up figure came to mind. I won’t use a textbook! (OK, maybe I’ll buy one American History textbook just for reference.) I’ll research and find books about personalities in American history, such as biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin and Nixon. Who knows? Jacob will learn some selected events and personalities in depth as only you can from a book! Now if I can just find a list of well-written, gripping books about these topics. Why, homeschooling does have its advantages!
Now I’ll have to search the Internet and bug all my friends. Suggestions?