Blurring the lines between education and entertainment

by Mr. Sheehy

On the way home today I stopped at the library to pick up more materials for the girls’ current unit of study, which is France, and which means my wife is attempting to broaden their minds to a realization that there is more in France than an annual bicycle race (that obsession would be my contribution—our favorite racer is Michael Cavendish). In one book on France the girls discovered a picture of the Tour, so every time my wife attempted to turn to a new page and share something else, A– would ask to return to the page with the bicycles. What can I say, that three week study we did on bicycle racing this summer was effective (Did I just call watching a sporting event on TV a unit study?).

They’re working out of the Five in a Row series for Kindergarten/pre-school, or at least, that’s where they begin. When the topic is particularly interesting we kind of go wherever it takes us, which means, for example, the girls now know quite a bit about China, more than their dad knew when he graduated high school, anyway.

Among the things I picked up at the library was a CD for learning French. That might sound insane for a family where the oldest child is five, but the reality is that neither of us parents could speak the language, so we needed to a CD to expose our children to the accent. I cannot express how sorry this situation is. I took four years of high school French and I have to buy a CD for my children simply to hear a few basic phrases and an accent. I am a pitiful man.

Before dinner E– began showing me what she’d read earlier in the day about Paris, and then I asked her if she wanted to hear French a bit. We popped the CD in the stereo and E bounced around the living room repeating every few words the folks on tracks said while A laid on the floor flipping through a children’s book about the Palace of Versailles. While brushing teeth tonight E and I played French, telling each other “Bon jour! Comment ca va?” and “Ca va bien!”

A beautiful thing about educating your children at home—a beauty that our home schooling friends with older children also affirm—is that the line between entertainment and education is rather blurred. Not that our children will always have these hyperbolically eager attitudes about learning (When does it generally wear off—7th grade?), but by filling our lives with learning, and by making learning our lifestyle rather than our 8-4 obligation, the jaded edge does not seem to develop as easily or as hard.

In my classroom, my students generally wear that edge, and how I can plane it off even a hair is a question I am asking but cannot answer. At this point, my main attempt is to blur that line between entertainment and education, between normal conversation and learning, as much as I can, thinking that somehow we might discover that learning is better suited to be a lifestyle than a duty. I don’t know that it’s possible—there are some mighty big obstacles out there—but I’ll give it a shot anyway. It’s another one of these areas where it’s the best thing for my own children, so why can’t I bring it to the classroom for other people’s children?

We’ll see.

Thanks for reading.