When we first started out, I had this dream that Esa would learn to read quickly, love to read, love to write, love grammar, love foreign languages…in other words, I wanted him to like what I liked. Although he loved being read to, and had an amazing working vocabulary, he was very interested in history and science during first grade and we spent a lot of time on history. Science was a little hit and miss, unfortunately. Reading was a hard slog and not enjoyed much. He didn’t mind writing, but learning to read was slow and painstaking.
Gradually, towards the end of first grade, I began to notice some changes, and over the last few months those changes have become more pronounced. He still enjoys history and science, but he seems more engrossed in words- reading and writing. (Remember the book?) He’s even picked up my habits of list-making and eating during meals, and he almost always has an audio book playing.
And he writes. A lot. Last week, for instance, he said that instead of doing science, he wanted to write and draw a comic. He spent hours on this project.
He’s also loving math. It’s pretty much his favourite subject and he’s asking to do more and more. He’s also making up his own math problems and adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing any numbers that get thrown his way.
And this got me thinking…
When he asked me if he could ditch science to do this writing, I hesitated…but only for the merest fraction of a second. Yes, science is important (and it will get done), but we need to have a focus. I’m not terribly worried about well-roundedness. I don’t want him to just touch on things lightly. I want him to dig into something and not just be good at it, but be great.
I think part of this stems from the fact that I, myself, am fairly well-rounded. I’m good at several things, but I’m not great at anything. I can write, draw, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, bake, sew, read music…but I’m not fantastic at any one of those things. I don’t have a focus. And although I’m happy that I can do all of those things, I’d love, really love to be truly proficient at just one of them.
I’ve also been thinking about a Latin-centred curriculum again. The Well-Trained Mind is very well-rounded. It has everything. Its focus is more on language and history, but it covers all the bases, and covers them well. Once you reach the high school years, however, the child does get to specialise and drop a few things.
But I want to take it further than that. I want to pick just a few subjects and really dig deeply, savour, and master them. I want for us (and I do mean US) to be fluent in Latin and maybe another language…to not just read, but immerse ourselves in the best of the great books and be able to discuss them intelligently…to understand mathematical concepts and go beyond basic algebra and geometry…I want us to have a good grounding in logic, and most of all…I want us to be able to write…really write, proficiently, persuasively, and with authority.
In order to do that, we must be focused. We cannot give equal attention to all subjects. I’ve been trying for too long to dig into science and history as much as we do math and English, and it just won’t work. I get caught up in others’ enthusiasm for science and history and think we must be missing out on something. But by trying to do it all, we’re missing out on almost everything, because we haven’t the time to get to the cream of any one thing.
As for myself, I think I know why I haven’t settled on any one thing and really pursued it. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of only ever being mediocre. Some of my hobbies haven’t become passions for good reasons: waning interest, cost, practicalities. But for a few of them, writing and painting in particular, I’m terrified I’ll never really be very good.
This is a guarantee if I don’t focus on something and apply myself. (I’ll be addressing this in another post.)
Let me ease up on the octane for just a minute to make something clear. I don’t intend to become a pushy, obsessive teacher who insists on academic perfection. I’m thrilled that he has a bent for writing, but I’d be just as supportive if his interests laid elsewhere. And if his interests do change, well, I’ll be right behind him. I may not pursue the subjects with the same vigour, but I will help him to.
I’m also not saying that we’re dropping science and history- certainly not. They are very firmly placed in our schedule…they just won’t be the focal point. We probably won’t do much in the way of supplemental activities or reading. And I still love the WTM…it certainly isn’t getting pushed to the back of the shelf.
So, what changes will we be making? I’ll talk about that in part II.