a six year old’s academic education: part two

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid“.

Somebody exceptional said those words: Albert Einstein. There need be no standard education to which our children should be judged, for there is no standard child to whom we teach.

If our world was filled with individuals who did what they were meant to do, followed their deep and unique purpose, our world wouldn’t be such a high-wired, boastingly busy, unhappily exhausted, materialistically focused, letter-after-your-name striving, treadmill. We’d all know each other more authentically. We’d not have to strive after meaning. We’d intrinsically know we were born into it. And of course, we’d all be happier.

My six year old is an example of a six year old. He also has a particular mother, with penchants for different interests and life goals. Neither parent, nor child is replicable.

I hope part two of  ‘a six year old’s academic education’ can be a place of spurring ideas for your child’s education…

6. My six year old writes, but doesn’t prefer it. He is six after all. And since reading, and rereading, Better Late than Early by Raymond Moore, I’m not worried. We are a reading household. He’ll read fluently and write freely soon enough.

Charlotte Mason has a few pre-printed sheets available on-line of sentences to trace, then space to draw a picture. The next day he prints the sentence on his own again. Not his favourite activity, so I keep it short. But frequent.

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Explode the Code is a great way to approach reading, spelling and phonics. Easy to follow for parental use. As time passes, reading and writing, and really anything initially difficult, gets easier for each of them. So mama’s patience is required. Otherwise, it sends them into a fog, frustrated, and they typically underperform under mama’s stressed out forcefulness. Or stressed out because they’re attempting to be painstakingly, compliantly perfect. Either way, slow and steady wins the race. Not that I know this from personal experience…

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7. He’s being exposed to French and Latin. I expect he’s around to listen to the French and Latin lesson. And hilariously, he injects occasional words into his playtime during the day. But I am not bilingual, despite years of conjugating French verbs in my Canadian education. When we’ve travelled, he’s expected to participate in the courtesies in the local languages.

8. He plays a lot of strategy games. Playing Stratego with him one afternoon, he tells me that he’s trying to ‘evade’ me. Really, evade? Yup, his choice of word was correct. He also really loves playing Settlers of Catan with his teenage sister’s friend. And everyone likes Scotland Yard, Bang! and loads of card games.

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8. He likes history. He wants to know why World War 1 started. Just cause someone killed someone else? he asked before bed one day. So we went to Ypres to tour the sites. Okay, our choice wasn’t directly related to his question–we bookended it onto another trip, but his question did help to fuel his interest in this tour of World War 1 sites in Belgium. Flanders’s Field Museum was a bitterly sorrowful, but profound backdrop to the stories we’d read just a week before Remembrance Day last fall. If interested, I shared those days on my travel blog:

Many evenings we sit with a great novel through our Sonlight history curriculum. We just finished Witch of Blackbird Pond. Though I’m not expecting my son to understand the historical context of the English arrival to Plymouth, I am expecting him to sit and draw while he listens. It always surprises me when he begins a discussion about something historical he’s heard us read or discuss. But it shouldn’t. Kids are absorbent learning sponges.

9. He follows along with his sisters in science. The chemistry and physics National Geographic science kits, or Apologia science workbooks, that his older sisters use twice a week capture his attention too. He helps his nine year old sister prepare chemistry experiments on acids and bases and his eleven year old sister create machines explaining forces, like centrifugal force.

10. He comes up with some hilarious questions:411…is that Obama’s wife’s number?” Add to his serious chess-playing, world history discussing side, he’s also a practical joker, blasting me with water from the outdoor hose when he was just two. He attempts to learn jokes and card tricks like his older sister. He is just a fun-natured kid.

There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as there are fingerprints“. John Taylor Gatto

There are particular books I have chosen to employ in the pursuit of teaching him to read, write and do mathematical reasoning. Presently, it’s working. There are a 1001 ways to approach academics. I make sure to mix it up, so that it doesn’t get boring, or at least too boring, and he gains a core exposure.

Since he is my last child, my fourth child, I am more carefree. I know he’s learning. I’m not expecting that traditional lecture-based, workbook-based education will light his fire, but obviously I incorporate this style for a couple seasons each year.

And now, only a half hour ago, he has come to ask if he could make dinner. I’ve given him basic instructions about cooking pre-made perogies and sausages and frozen peas. So far, I’ve heard two spills. I still sit here. Uh, oh, I’m just getting a cloth. Okay, it’s okay, I say as I look over across the family room. This wasn’t my approach, or response, when my eldest was six.

Lucky for me, I learned a few things with my three older daughters, because my last kiddo is a boy, and I’ve heard they’re a lot more difficult to harness in both staying still and applying themselves to book learning. Lucky for him, I am a much more relaxed mama.

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