Written by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy.
Last week, our 10-year-old surprised us at dinner when she said, “I memorized something. Want to hear it?”
And then she recited The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in its entirety, without missing a word.
I was floored.
Now I know many of you study poetry in depth with your young students, and rely heavily on memorization for your homeschool curricula. At 6 stanzas, 260 words, it’s not completely daunting. But it’s not something we do in our homeschool. At least not right now.
So of course I wanted to know: how, and why, Sarah had memorized that poem.
The answer came out: our babysitter challenged her to.
My kids need diverse role models
My husband and I are deliberate about creating a content-rich environment at home. Our shelves are stocked with good books and we have piles of great audio by the CD player. We hit the library regularly. Reading is a family value: it’s part of our identity.
But as important as the family influence is for our kids, they need more role models.
Sure, we have extended family and friends, grandparents and neighbors, teachers and coaches—but the person my kids see the most each week is our regular babysitter, whom they adore.
(You know you’ve found somebody special when at your first meeting, she introduces herself by saying: There’s something you should know about me: I love reading and always bring a pile of books along when I babysit. Are you okay with that?)
I appreciate that my kids spend plenty of time playing and studying and learning—with someone who’s not their parent.
My kids need content that I don’t choose
Our babysitter always brings books along with her when she comes, and reads them to the kids. She brings over her library books and cookbooks for the kids to peruse. And the kids are always listening when she and I compare notes about what we—the adults—are reading this week, and loan our favorites back and forth.
If I wanted to pick a poem for Sarah to memorize, I wouldn’t have chosen a piece about an ill-fated, bloody military battle. But our babysitter loved that poem, and was excited about it, and got Sarah excited about it, too.
Our babysitter has good taste, but it’s not my taste, and that’s a good thing for my kids. Their experience shouldn’t be limited to just those things that their parents are interested in.
My kids need different expectations
I wouldn’t have challenged Sarah to memorize that poem: I would have been afraid it was too hard, too long, too overwhelming.
But that didn’t stop our babysitter, and Sarah was determined to wow her by learning it cold. She practiced it by herself, over and over, and enlisted her older brother to help her learn it. (I knew they were quizzing each other but I thought it was for their cottage school homework!)
I didn’t have the opportunity to nag: I didn’t even know about it. But I wouldn’t have needed to, anyway: Sarah was highly motivated to meet someone else’s expectations, and someone else’s standards: highly valuable things for a kid homeschooler.
Because we homeschool, my kids spend a lot of time at home. Or at least, with their parents. But I think the homeschooling experience is richer when it’s a team sport: I’m grateful that my kids have other people in their lives as well.
As important as our influence is as parents, my kids need more role models, more diverse content, and different expectations than we can provide on our own.
What has your experience been like in this area?