We have begun a new unit study about India that should take us well into March. Its purpose is twofold:
1. to expose the boys to a completely different culture, its inner workings and curiosities.
2. to help me grow in knowledge for a trip there this summer.
These are my favorite studies to do; those in which we are all students together.
However, as I put my "teacher" hat on all of my lesson plan ideas were essentially me telling B what he needs to know about the country. Yet I have never been to India. Aside from a class in Hinduism in college, I have very little insight into the way the country thinks and works. Yet, I embarked to teach him.
We started out with the geography of India. B drew his own outline map of India (and did a beautiful job) and then over the next few days he filled in mountain ranges, rivers, bordering countries and bodies of water, major cities, listed all of the states, and drew the flag. That was a fair enough assignment for a fourth grader, but he was still relying on me to give him the resources he needed and I'm not sure he was super interested in the process. I was still at the center of the lesson and it didn't seem right to me.
As I was reading The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer, I had a brainstorm of sorts. In his chapter on teaching in community he said this:
Passion for the subject propels that subject, not the teacher, into the center of the learning circle -- and when a great thing is in their midst, students have direct access to the energy of learning and of life.I reviewed again the two purposes of our unit study. What would help B and I move into the subject itself so that we both take hold of "the energy of learning and of life?" And it hit me. He shouldn't spend his time doing what I think is important for him to do and know. He should explore India for himself.
I'm going to let him create and submit an itinerary for my trip. He can research and compare plane ticket costs, find locations of religious or cultural significance, tell me how to take the train, what the money exchange looks like, and how I should respectfully dress. He'll be my tour guide through India and present me with a little portfolio. Anywhere within a day trip on the train from Delhi is fair game. I'm certain the Taj Mahal will be in the mix.
We are reading YWAM's biography of Amy Carmichael aloud and will work on a journal project to go along with that. This week we'll also begin working on some Indian embriodery (yes, my son loves to sew). And for a culminating activity we'll have to splurge on a little construction project: These Nanoblock sets are perfect.