Sunday, February 4, 2007

More Brain in Overdrive

The other part of my brain is deep in the process of revising the Classical Education model’s curriculum. There is much that is deeply inviting to me about the model, but I think it has one giant flaw: it is wildly Eurocentric. Now, if you’re of European descent that might be fine. Learning history, art, math, music through the filter of our dominant culture supports who you are and boosts your confidence of your place in the world. But imagine for a moment that you aren’t of European descent and everything you learn comes through the Classical model. Almost everything you are taught is important in the world and important to the world comes through the cleverness of white folk. And when do the people who look like you show up? Suddenly in the early 18th century as slaves? The mid 1800s as Chinese railway workers? Pearl harbor as the enemy?

Honestly, the reason this is at alarm state in my brain is Rosie. Were all our children of European descent, I’m sure this would show up as a challenge to include other cultures into our studies a bit rather than hyperventilatingly important. But, I want her to grow up having great pride in who she is and her cultural roots. I don’t want her to see herself as a just a descendant of African slaves, but as someone whose genes include the ingenuity, power and intellect of great civilizations. Which means the whole model is broken for us.

So here’s what is brewing. I like the Classical model’s format of breaking studies into chunks of time around the world and then visiting those time periods in increasing levels of depth as the children develop and mature. I really like the idea of 4 cycles, revisited 3 times. I think this means I’d like to stick with cycles: Ancient (pre-5th century), Medieval (5th century until the 16th century), Modern times (16th century to now), and American history. Of course, we can’t call the Medieval time Medieval because that’s a European division of time. But it seems to me that each civilization has a cycle, so following the ebbs and flows on the different continents I’m hoping this would break out to something like those periods.

Within each civilization there are specific areas that are interesting and valuable for us to study. Of course there is the standard literature, art, basic history. Geography and food play an interesting part in the growth of civilizations. Religion and type of government play a huge part of how and why these civilizations came about, survived and declined. And… much to my shock, different civilizations had different maths. Different ways of counting and classifiying. (I figure I am supposed to know this and some poor teacher tried to communicate the idea to me, but somehow that never even began to sink in.) Each time period has it scientists and medicinal gurus. And of course, weapons. I’m sure we’ll be studying in depth the types of weapons made and used across the ages and continents.

All of this sounds well and great in theory. But a quick 10 minutes looking up Ancient Civilizations on the web yields TONS of really interesting pages about all sorts of things ancient. It is overwhelming to say the least. Somehow I have to prioritize a few cultures over the rest because we can only cover so many in a year, and my primary values in examining them are helping us define who we are today. In an attempt to keep life simple and home schooling easy, there is something to be said for accepting the cookie cutter version of what is out there. But, as usually, I also think there is a deeper importance of seeing each of my kids for who they are and creating a world of information for them that supports all they can be.

I think I feel another spreadsheet coming on!

1 comment:

Tera said...

Sara, have you read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe? My book club read it recently. It's not a book for Rosie yet, however you may find it a really great book to read with her when she is much older. I found it to be a wonderful and sad depiction of the culture in one area of Africa. It struck me most because of the perspective of the African author did not forget to show us as the reader that the African people in the villages visited by missionaries thought that the ideas of the European missionaries were just as crazy as the European missionaries thought the ideas of the Africans in the villages were. It had a beautiful way of showing that different cultures hold different perspectives and that they indeed thrive under their own perspectives and traditions, but can be completely dismantled by outsiders who criticize them. It has lovely depictions of many of the African characters, and certainly some less than favorable depictions, but they struck me as very genuine and very sympathetic - not as charicatures, which is what we often see in books about other cultures. Your post reminded me of this and I am afraid I won't remember to mention it to you when Rosie is 15 and ready to read it. :)