Monday, June 06, 2011

Slow reading

Hi all... I'm back.  I'm ending a crazy weekend and starting a crazy week.  Yes, it's the last tech week of this school year (and M.'s last one ever -- sniff).  I'll pester you more about coming to the shows (which are on Thursday and Friday) later, but, today is for homeschooling.  You can't expect me to spend the weekend at a homeschooling conference and not have several things to say about it, can you?

It was an alright conference.  None of the speakers that I heard were exceptional, and more than a couple of times I was hearing a speaker suggest things that I have already been doing.  I suppose that's what happens when you've been homeschooling for 13 years.  I did hear one session where I picked up some great ideas and where it gave me some new insight into how I do things.  I'll blog about that later, as I'll want to play show-and-tell, and currently I have nothing for the show part.  I have to spend time with a laminator first.  There were also a couple of things I heard over the weekend that have got me thinking because I'm not sure I agree with them.  This is also where I'm afraid I'm going to step on some toes, so if I happen to disagree with something that works really well for your family, please don't take it personally. 

Each family is unique and the way each family homeschools is also unique.  What works for one is not necessarily going to work for another.  But to hear some homeschool speakers, you would think that there really is only one way to homeschool... their way, or more accurately, the founder of their chosen method's way.  (I'm sure some of you see where I'm heading here.)  Now, I like Charlotte Mason's ideas a lot and incorporate many of them into how we 'do' school.  I like her emphasis on good books, that children are capable of learning at a high level and we should not talk down to them, that being in nature is important, and that narrating (or telling back in some way) what you've learned helps to cement the ideas in one's head.  I think she was remarkable in her thoughts on children and learning.  (And, yes, I've read her actual Towards a Philosophy of Education and not just someone's interpretation of it.)  But (you may want to move your toes aside), I don't think that she was completely correct in everything she wrote.  To hear some proponents of her method expound, it's as if the Almighty guided every stroke of her pen and consequently we should (indeed must) follow her method exactly as she laid out.

The idea that has always made me raise my eyebrows a bit is that of limiting children to just 15-20 minutes in each subject a day, but the way this idea was presented in the session I was sitting in really made me want to disagree vehemently.  This was mainly because I had never heard the idea presented in its negative... that is a child should be limited to just 15-20 minutes because Miss Mason believed that it was never good for a book to be devoured.  It was to be doled out in small increments in order to have time to really ponder and digest what had been read and consequently retention of the subject matter is greater.  I know I react so negatively to this idea because it seems to be the polar opposite of how I know I learn.  I do devour books (and lots of them) on a particular subject and the idea of only being allowed to read very small bits of them would not satisfy my need to learn about a subject.  The presenter then went on to say she tried reading this way with a novel by Dickens and she remembers more about the book she read than any other.

I like a good experiment, so I've decided to take up the challenge and see if Miss Mason was correct.  I'm going to read a book in the manner she prescribes and see if I find I have a better retention rate than I normally do.  I think my retention rate is pretty high with the current way that I read, just ask my poor husband who has to listen to my discourses on whatever I've been reading.  Which brings me to the point that I'm not going to narrate each section in a purposeful way, but continue with my current method of talking at my husband about my current reading.  (I feel if I were to narrate differently... writing it out for instance... it would affect the outcome of the experiment.)  And what book am I going to read?  Well, I decided it had to be on the shorter side, because the thought of choosing a long book that could take months to read through does not fill me with joy.  I chose the book, How to Read Slowly by James W. Sire.  It is one I have been wanting to read and it seems to relate to the topic at hand which fills me with a ridiculous sense of contentment.

I'm going to break the book into 'assignments', so it looks as though it will take me about 11 days to get through.  (Normally I would read a book of this size in two to three days depending on how much time I have and my level of interest.)  So, expect a report on my experiment in a couple of weeks.  We'll see if I have to eat crow or not.

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