Monday, 16 September 2013

All the President's Men!

I found a jigsaw of American presidents in the charity shop the other day and I thought I’d buy it.The idea was to use it in home education.As it happened, I sat at the kitchen table piecing it together whilst my son would amble through, see how I was getting on, read about one of the presidents, find a jigsaw piece and stick it in, then  amble off leaving me to it!

I’ve found that's how education works.You can’t plan learning, at least, not ‘real learning’. It’s possible to learn for tests by memorising facts but they only stick if you're interested.

Despite my son not sitting down to complete the jigsaw with me (my plan) it has already led to various discussions. We have already discovered where New Hampshire lies in relation to the other states in America (relevant because his cousin's have just moved there). We have discussed the Boston Tea Party, which it, transpires he knows more about than me. Then there have been the Wars of Independence- it seem’s I have a lot to learn!

Whilst mulling over my jigsaw, I began to see a possible project on American presidents for this years history. It suddenly dawned on me that we had in fact unwittingly already started it as my son had recently watched two documentaries about the assassination of JFK  and also part of the recent film about Lincoln. I realised that I knew that JFK died in November 1963 and that Lincoln had also been assassinated. None of these facts had been ‘learned’ they had come randomly like the jigsaw I was putting together now.

Then yesterday an  email appeared in my in box from a self education website called It contained an oil painting of Abraham Lincoln and in the corner of the painting was a map of the state of America over which, the artist had said Abraham Lincoln spent many hours pouring over. The map was one of the earliest to reveal statistical information and the darker the states were coloured in the more slaves there were. From it Lincoln was able to see which states were most likely to resist emancipation.

I had just finished reading my email when the post plopped through the letter box and there on the door mat was a travel brochure from New Hampshire, complete with a more detailed map of the state. I learned that the poet Robert Frost had a farm there, that Thoreau wrote about it and I realised that this project was getting big. I had moved from history to geography, to literature and I hadn't even finished the jigsaw! Who know’s where it will lead- we shall pursue the path to it’s natural conclusion. What I do know however is that we will have learned WITHOUT any teaching!

The bigger picture.

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