Monday, March 7, 2011

Middle School Monday - Learning about Thoreau

Our Ancient China studies fizzled this term and I know why. Instead of sticking with Charlotte Mason principles- living books, allowing the children to make their own connections - I bookmarked an impressive selection of resources and planned projects. I chose a read aloud on the basis of where it was set rather than how good it was. About the only thing that worked was a trip to the gallery to  see the Chinese Warriors. That, at least, left room for wonder and imagination.

So it's goodbye China, hello Henry! And this time, I'm doing it right.

We're reading some books. My Contract With Henry by Robin Vaupel is our new read-aloud. It's the story of a group of 9th grade outsiders who learn from each other and from the natural world around them when they are forced to work together on a Thoreau-inspired  'Experiment in Living'.

Then there's A Mind With Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau by Gerald and Loretta Hausman. The girls will take turns reading this Young Readers biography. Both these books were very kindly procured for us by my Dad, the inspiration for this unit in the first place!

Of course we'll be reading from Walden. Selected chapters only - there's no need to drown the girls in the pond...

Then, the lovely Robin Vaupel has kindly provided us with this.
Yes, a whole set of journal writing activities for middle-schoolers based on her own novel and on Thoreau's life and words. Oh, happy, happy me - free, organised and  meaningful ways to extend the reading we will have done. A record of learning! Of progress! And something the children will quite enjoy doing!

It seems to me that this will also be quite a good time to read some Emily Dickinson and have the girls memorise, write out or illustrate their favourite lines or poems.

The simplicity of this plan - besides being well-suited to its subject - leads to a kind of learning that is calm and has time to go deep. Unlike the dry and scattered unit that was China!

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