Homeschooling with the Romans
Once again, with moving and other things, my grand ideas for homeschooling have fallen a little by the wayside. Luckily, Axa spends lots of time every day practicing writing, and they both roam the yard studying the plants and animals in it with as much detail as little scientists. Charlotte would be happy that I’m not put together enough to do all the academics I would like to do with my two little under-sixes.
They’re also beginning to use quite a few Italian words. I don’t even know where they’ve heard some of these words. One of their favorite activities in the car is to quiz each other about Italian vocabulary. Between the two of them, they can go on for quite a while. And they hardly ever get a word wrong. “Orkin” these days contains quite a bit more Italian than it used to. And I hear them repeating little Italian conversations to themselves when they’re alone. Not always the most useful words, but I guess it’s what they find useful. The other day Axa was in the bathroom repeating the Italian pronunciation of “O.K.” to herself over and over.
And they talk to other people too. We made a rule a few weeks ago that they must answer a certain set of questions when asked (e.g. how old are you, what’s your name, how are you, etc.). But yesterday at Church I heard them both having spontaneous conversations with people. It really helps that in Italy adults love talking to children. I think that’s why Italians seem to have such good self-esteem. From the time they are children, everyone they see likes them and is interested in them.
To me it is just magical to listen to my children speaking Italian. It is like hearing them learn to talk for the first time. But it is more, because it means our life is really shifting its center to Italy. I guess I harp on that subject a lot. I’ve been thinking about it as I plan curriculum for next term. Axa will be officially beginning the Ambleside Online curriculum in January. I’ve already been tweaking plenty, because Ambleside is pretty light on Classical history (they have issues with polytheistic religions). My children can identify all the Greek gods at the Uffici Museum, and they haven’t started a Diana cult yet, so I’m not too worried. And now that we live in Italy, I’m ready to start Roman history with a vengeance. I know Axa will adore it because it’s full of battles and conquests. I wonder if I could find a children’s version of Caesar’s Gallic Wars . . .
Ambleside’s history for Year 1 does include a few stories from Roman history, but their main history text is Our Island Story, a history of Great Britain. I have been pre-reading it lately, and it’s good. I like it. The only thing I don’t like is that it is a bit myopic. Well, more than a bit. I know all histories have a bias, and there are some things I like about the 19th century British bias. The main thing that bothers me is that this book basically equates virtue with British patriotism. The only mention that, for example, Eleanor of Aquitaine gets is that she “was not a good woman.” I suppose this is why Charlotte Mason always had her students read French history (from a French textbook) along with their English history.
In any case, the bias is not a deal-breaker for me. It’s par for the course in when it comes to national history. But I need to add in some Italian stuff. I think we’ll read Alfred Church’s The Aeneid for Boys and Girls. Axa loved The Iliad for Boys and Girls, and Troy is her number one place she wants to visit. She’ll be thrilled to know she’s descended from the Trojans. We’ll probably add in a few biographies like Hannibal and Julius Caesar, to go with George Washington and Squanto. Julius Caesar, Hadrian, and a couple of other Roman emperors also make cameo appearances on the shores of Britain in Our Island Story, so it will be good to hear both sides of the story there.
We picked up a book of fairytales in Italian for Tony to read to the children at night. And I will probably find a children’s book about the Unification of Italy so that we can be ready to party all next year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italy. I’ll post more details on the rest of my curriculum for the term in a few weeks when I get everything worked out.
The other thing I need to do (once we know in exactly which little town around here we’ll be living long-term) is to notify the local school that we intend to homeschool and ask for permission. Of course, in Italy I expect this to involve multiple trips to various offices, being told what I want to do is impossible, and piles of paper, probably covered in official stamps. Luckily, this helpful blog explains in detail the whole process to follow. And you thought we were done with the red tape of Italy!