A peek in our homeschool: studying Jamestown
There are two things I did not like as a classroom teacher and determined not to use as a homeschooling mother, should I at all be able to avoid it: textbooks and workbooks. Textbooks provide a general overview of a subject, but do not go beneath the surface to give the child a true understanding and appreciation. Workbooks practice skills, but do not promote understanding. Personally, I think more can be learned by studying fewer subjects in depth than every subject on the surface. History, for example, is both the story of us, and a method of reasoning to learn more about the subject. The former may be adequately shared by a good textbook, although the child is still dependent on the author's pre-digested view of what happened and why. But to truly learn the principles of the subject and understand how to study history, a child must also gain experience with primary source documents. This can be done at a very young age, with a little creativity and patience.

We are currently studying the birth of America, made all the more interesting since our quadricentennial is fast approaching as Jamestown celebrates 400 years since its founding. I'd love to organize a field trip half way across the country to join in some of the festivities, but somehow I think me alone with four children (one being a newborn) might not be the best idea. The cornerstone of our studies is to be a book I recently acquired that is quite good, Jamestown Narratives. It is its own library of all surviving documents from the first ten years of the Jamestown settlement, with some commentary, pictures and reproductions of old maps.

We also will be learning a little about the education of a young lady at this time, and I would like to embark on a study of the role of women in America's founding through the Revolutionary War. That may have to wait until we go through these materials again four years from now, because it is a rather large, but interesting topic. For the moment, we are focusing on what young ladies did in their education, and to start with, we learned about the sampler. My daughter is starting her own, which at the moment is a strip of cross stitch cloth where she practiced her cross stitch and backstitch. She will add a few rows of any new stitches I teach her over the years. She also recently finished her first project.

I think the hours we have spent in conversation about what life was like back then and how a young lady was prepared for life in colonial times while working on our projects has been far more meaningful and has left a more lasting impression on her than any number of workbook activities I could have given her to fill out with the help of a text book. And she has learned an important skill that will be with her for the rest of her life. Now that she is finished with the ladybug, she has chosen to begin stitching a bib for her new baby brother or sister when the time comes.

Here is my sampler, I worked on while teaching her.

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