22 Apr Togas in the Backyard
And while I’ve been at this for over 20 years, like the Velveteen Rabbit, I sometimes sit still in the bracken of stacked teacher’s manuals and hope that the other homeschool moms won’t notice. As they hop sideways, on their hind legs and whirl round and dance, I am longing to join them, but am keenly aware of my lack of artistic legs. So while scope and sequence recommendations and Common Core standards do not intimidate me, I have always longed for the creative flair.
Above all, teaching history requires imagination. While I generally detest for-classroom text books with their “read the chapter, answer the questions approach,” left to my own devices I can never seem to fully launch into the “living history” method that homeschooled kids love.
This is where belonging to a homeschool support group really pays off. With all sorts of talented homeschoolers — left-brain, right brain, and menopause brain — you are sure to find people who will complement your strengths, compensate for your deficiencies and create magic for your students.
Ancient History assignments had my kids merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day. We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?)
Birthed in the crucible of necessity, the modern homeschool co-op harnesses this diversity (sorry, I usually avoid this word) and yields a blend of arts & crafts, literature, research, home-ec, drama, composition and public speaking — all rolled into performance art. They don’t teach history to your kids, they invite them to discover history.
I experienced textbook-free, blended-age learning in an Ancient History co-op with families from Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon. My first clue that I was onto something special was my kids asking, “When do we get to go to co-op?” They were actually begging to do history! Soon, they became the enforcers of the schedule, hounding me for assistance as they prepared for the Big Day each week. The younger kids would listen to stories read out loud and maybe draw a picture while the older ones would work on reading a novel or encyclopedia article. Their Ancient History assignments had them merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day.
My math brain boggled at the cornucopia of offerings: carpentry, cooking, plays, painting, pottery, sewing, singing, sculpture, science, weapon making, architecture and games. No one mom could hope to teach such a series of classes, and not collapse in exhaustion. And yet, joined together, the burden was light as our kids experienced a culture distant in both time and space in a way that no text book could compete with. It was memory-making magic.
In studying Ancient Rome, we examined the five century development of the Republic and worked through the Pax Romana. But instead of only reading, we immersed ourselves. Tarquin brutally ruled over all in the household chores one day, which led to Brutus leading his overthrow, and the tension between the patricians and plebeians which led to a workers strike and no dishes getting done until terms of tribune representation were agreed upon. We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?) and constructed catapults and armor.
When our Ancient History adventure was over, we celebrated. The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin. We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.” We ate with our fingers off a common platter, dipping figs in honey and bread in olive oil.
We will never forget these lessons and memories that our co-op adventures have brought us. And while my legs remain as inartistic as ever, to my kids I am a dancing real homeschool mom.
The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin. We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”
ROMAN ‘SLAVES’ PREPARING FOR A BACKYARD FEAST: AnAncient History homeschooling co-op by parishioners at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon culminated in a ‘feast’ for all who taught their kids about the legacy of ancient Rome.
by Dorothy Gill