(Begin with Part 1 The World Cup: Get Up, Stand Up!)
Preposterous as it sounds, M&K began to assert themselves & discover personal connections to the world through means other than sports. Naw, really, no foolin.' Alongside the Sports Illustrated for Women's Mia Hamm poster, thoughtfully handpicked & affixed to her bedroom wall by Dad, Mikaela scotch taped a glossy spread of her actual hero, Jane Goodall, taken at the Gombe Reserve in Tanzania. (Indeed, Chris' is a common mistake - this parental urge to Hamm it up - often referred to as a Mia culpa.) Then, during her little sister's soccer matches, if not passing the time by conducting sideline interviews for the Texas Gazette, she'd pull out her supplemental reading, Peacemakers: Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Once the game finished, we'd go further afield to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which just so happened to have a temporary exhibit on Nobel Prize recipients. (Though their display was rather small, the kids still thought it was dynamite.)
Whoa! no way, how could we ever have let it come to this? Now see where being lax about little league legacies leads? Well yeah, straight to the Nobel Prize! Via the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Bill of Rights & Civil Rights movement. With the United Nations + Africa in hot pursuit...
It started out innocently enough, merely when Mikaela decided she'd grow up to be President of the United States. Naturally, that necessitated a quick homeschooling unit dedicated to a perusal of the US Constitution, in order to acquaint herself with its tenets & thereby allow ample time to strategize ways to circumvent them. (Never too early to start the process, after all... just ask Dick Cheney, that trailblazer.) This coincided with The Declaration of Independence's American tour, which we heard was putting on quite the live show, so we caught a performance at the LBJ presidential library on the University of Texas campus. (This original copy of the Declaration, one of just 3 privately owned, was bought at auction by Norman Lear, who might've just kept it All in the Family but instead sponsored a cross-country 'road trip' to bring democracy's most esteemed document into fair & equal-opportunity viewing for all the people. Subversive Hollywood liberal. Gee whiz, could he learn a thing or two about patriotism... from an Archie conservative, am I right?)
Wrapped it up with a visit to the Houston Print Museum, so M&K could roll out some d-i-y D-o-I broadsides (now that's impressive), intently watched democracy in action on
But no, wouldn't get off that easy. Couldn't seem to shake those pesky discussions about the meaning of "justice for all" with its nitpicky nuances, ie does "all" = sum or some? (Alas, proving that smart as they were, even the founding fathers had difficulty with equations.) So it was on to Seneca Falls for a consultation with Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony about women's suffrage. Soon followed by study of segregation and the Civil Rights movement. Although M&K already knew quite a bit about Martin Luther King, Jr, it seemed a different civil rights leader might best resonate with our young daughters. In particular, a courageous giant of the movement who marched at the very forefront of integration, but was of slightly lesser stature. Primarily because she was 6 years old & around 3 ½ feet tall. We read Ruby Bridges' own account, Through My Eyes, as well as Robert Coles' analytical insights, plus watched & talked at length about events depicted in the movie. It was also the kids' introduction to Norman Rockwell, his poignant portrayal of Ruby taking on even greater meaning after an afternoon first spent viewing his many endearingly lighthearted depictions of the American lifestyle & human interactions worth celebrating.
OK, after describing listening to a perturbed Rosa Parks recount her experiences in person* & then convincing Mikaela to check out Jackie Robinson's story (ha! snuck in sports), it seemed we had the faltering progress of equality covered. Not quite. From there, our focus expanded to the concept of universal human rights, the efforts of the United Nations, and finally Nobel Peace Prize winners. We read more about its 1964 recipient MLK, adding his sister's remembrance My Brother Martin to reading the Heroes of America chapter book + DK biography, but also learned about Ralph Bunche, Mother Teresa, Clara Barton's Red Cross, the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, Jimmy Carter and, because even altruism recognition is political, Mahatma Gandhi's notable omission.
Here was another link in the natural progression of our studies. Gandhi was not only the leader of the Indian Independence movement against British rule & one of MLK's models for civil disobedience (in 1959, King visited Gandhi's birthplace to gain insight & inspiration), but the young attorney initially solidified his commitment to satyagraha (firmness in truth) and ahimsa (total nonviolence) strategies to resist the discrimination he faced while living for twenty years in South Africa. A noble, prize-worthy philosophy carried on by Desmond Tutu, '84 recipient, and dual '93 awardees Nelson Mandela and - for his willingness to acquire power in order to cede it - FW de Klerk, winner of the Golden Boot (out Botha).
Meanwhile, amid all this, life was constantly stepping in to distract us. Consequently, we'd investigated aspects of Africa quite inadvertently, by pursuing interests that had evolved independently of any "academics," eg origins of early man & civilizations, archaeology, geography, and everything animals, including wild games of every description; hundreds of "Safari" identification cards, sorted & classed off by their Latin surnames (found that one particularly taxaing); voluminous tomes of Vertebrates so massive that simply picking one up risked spine-snapping invertebrate transformation; and weekly zoo visits timed to attend keeper-led talks or, even better, synched to the newest baby giraffe's or infant elephant's bottle feedings. Thanks to the Kratt Brothers & PBS' Zoboomafoo, Katrianna also became enthralled with lemurs -- oops, excuse me, "Coq-uer-el's Si-fak-a," she'd insistently enunciate. Her mad about Madagascar two year phase was all-encompassing & threatened consultation with travel agents until finally, and not coincidentally, it subsided with the premiere of DreamWorks' Madagascar animated movies, which no billboards, toys in cereal boxes or Saturday morning cartoons could persuade M&K to care for one bit. Topping it off was that zany Tanzanian troupe-r Jane Goodall, Rwanda's own famous band member Dian Fossey, as well as the continuing adventures of Chris' client & our family friend who leads charitable projects throughout Africa, aka Bob, The Solar Power Superhero! Granted, these were wholly elective activities, quite enthusiastically thought up & guided by the children, thus quite reasonably cannot be considered valid "schoolwork."
For straight up geography, memorizing the country of Africa can be daunting even for the experts. (O, sure, it's fun to act superior to Sarah... yet, honestly, who hasn't suffered with occasional in continents problems?) Therefore, in order to meet our goal of correctly identifying Africa's many nations, it became a contest, the challenge to find 2-3 phenomenal facts unique to each. Eventually, however, we discovered that the most mundane or oddly irrelevant statistics proved surprisingly entertaining, too, as outdoing one another in mind-boring minutiae has its own irresistible appeal.
Nevertheless quite a few countries remained, demanding we employ a slightly different memory trick technique:
Where do folks go to settle a dispute? The Rift Valley
What's Ethiopia's all-time favorite show? I Love Lucy
Who was trippin' over Dr Livingstone, I presume? Queen Victoria Falls
Where is Zoboomafoo not just a passing fady? Madagascar
Who's the biggest band in Nigeria? Indigo Girls (they're to dye for)
Where's Al Gore's least favorite place for hanging out? Chad
What river runs between Zimbabwe & Zambia? Aw, that's too Zambezi!
Or these, just 'cuz they're fun to say:
She sells seashells in Seychelles.
I'll be Dogon. Siriusly? (Well, it's got a good Mali-dy.)
I'll match that & raise ya a Timbuktu.
An elephant, a rhino & a cheetah
walk sail into a Zanzibar... No lion.
C'mere, my sweet baobab-y.
Suddenly, recalling locations was easy, familiar & most effective. (Uh huh, never underestimate the motivation to make Mom's 'helpful hints' stop.) We drilled each other in all sorts of spontaneous games using wall, book & homemade political and physical maps. Plus, M&K really enjoyed "demonstrating mastery" (showing off) by surfing for numerous online timed quizzes to identify countries by outline shape, natural features, famous landmarks or customs.
Pretty soon, this morphed into an engrossing unit study ~~
Writing: preparing & presenting reports on endangered animals, native insects & plants
Reading: folktales - summarize, illustrate, plus practice oral storytelling with & without props
Art: craft traditional masks based on virtual tour of masks representing 100 ethnic groups; loom weaving; experiment with dyeing fabrics naturally; bead bracelets based on traditional patterns; charcoal, pastel & color pencil drawings of animals
Home ec: Mikaela researches vegetarian dishes & cooks
Math: play strategy games such as mancala, butterfly (Mozambique), Senet (Egypt) & others found online or in Games From Around the World; create Kente cloth geometric designs; write & exchange facts 'n figures-based word problems; interpret animal stats charts & graphs
Science: review classification system & make pop-up charts for variety of animals; sketch representative biomes on posters & then place 3-D animal photo stickers in correct zones; watch Planet Earth dvds & PBS programs about wildlife (+ culture + history) paying renewed attention due to the region's greater resonance; consult numerous African national parks & reserves guidebooks to plan "someday" trip
Current events: read about Obama's journey to Kenya to visit his grandmother & other relatives in Dreams from My Father &
Field trips: zoo & museum exhibits, particularly the Menil Collection and HMNS' Lucy
Finally, while reviewing the symbolism of the African flags' colors, M&K decided to make a few mini flags for their binders. So blown away were they by this flagging interest (winded its way into their hearts, did it?) that they produced enough for Katrianna to turn it into yet another game, writing the countries' names on back & taping them onto theme dividers as look-see, interrogation-ready décor. (Not to be flip-up-pant about the thrill-a-minute excitement that is homeschooling, but for us this was a Banner Day.) Wanna play? At the top of this page, rest cursor on each flag til its name appears.
Of course, as usual, the very best part was sharing the music. Tracing the roots of American tunes - spirituals, blues, rock 'n roll, peace music, protest songs, zydeco - back to African rhythms & messages, a rigorous curriculum requiring listening to a variety of traditional African groups (tho I'm ashamed to admit, at that time we somehow overlooked indigenous blond Shakira) & crossover 'pop' artists including Ladysmith Black Mambazo with (or w/o) Paul Simon, Alpha Blondy, Majek Fashek, King Sunny Ade, Fela, and Rocky Dawuni, mixing in The Specials, Steel Pulse & Sweet Honey in the Rock for good measures. Yet the overriding instructional incentive was even more fundamental to providing M&K with a proper education: Got to regale them with an epic tale known as The Legend of Mom's Fall.
Exhilarated by a Johnny Clegg & Savuka** concert celebrating Nelson Mandela's freedom in 1990, I was graciously demonstrating to an appreciative audience (our dog, Picasso) several of the moves gleaned from close observation of that evening's performance. Duly impressed, Pico immediately began his own show of solidarity by running ever-accelerating circles around the perimeter of the backyard. As you can imagine, it was a revelry of merriment! That is, until my glorious finale - a flurry of dead-on-authentic Zulu kicks - came to an abrupt, spinning-heels-over-head halt in a spectacular collision of centripetal force. An unanticipated audition for Dancing with the Stars, my hip-stir status was validated upon landing, dislocations notwithstanding. "Once again, kids, demonstrating that the personal sacrifices Mom has made for South Africa are truly stunning."
So this extra meaningful World Cup, we honor Madiba Magic, responsible for bringing the World Cup to South Africa and Africa to the world. It's been a chance to celebrate not just nationalism, but internationalism! (Hey, wait just a second, doesn't MLB do the same thing in its aptly named 'World Series'? Why, take last year's contest of global proportions, spanning the widely disparate ends of the New Jersey Turnpike -- going the distance, Philly to NYC! Aw, c'mon, just sayin'... no assault on battery intended.) Overall, it was a hugely successful tournament, Fate's failings aside. (Struggling to cope with misinterpreting Destiny here... thought for sure they were Ghana go all the way.)
Plus it's also infected each of us with our own symptomatic cases of World Cup fever. For Dad, it's all about soccer. His primary goalie now being to call in the
plays posts for soccerblog.com from a bench couch-warming position. (Altho to Chris' his football-lovin-pals-turned-bloggers' credit, it does fit the inclusiveness criteria, receiving 5,000+ visitors a day from all over the world. Hardly a blip compared to that psychic octopus' reach, but still.) For Mikaela, it's been an opportunity to relive her soccer days of yore - yup, she took along a library book for our communal (big screen) sports bar visits, content to be chaperoned by The Vicar of Wakefield. For Katrianna, it's served as a great culmination to our studies, an occasion to display global geography preeminence while actually watching some games, as long as we kept those pub fries & pineapple Crushes comin.'
And, lastly, for me -- well, isn't it obvious? As no doubt this World Cup blog series underscores, I believe we homeschooling parents deserve a lot more credit than we're given. For clearly it demands an enormous amount of dedication & patience... to bring each & every subject around - sooner or later - to a story about me. "Organic learning" at its finest! Truthfully, why else would we so self
ishlessly homeschool our children? Oh, that's right, to teach them to embrace connections, understand that ultimately everything is related, and realize that discovering the ties that unite us all is what makes learning worthwhile, fascinating & fun. Yeah, well, I guess those are OK reasons, too....
*Ironically, this occurred at that same 'liberal' college freshman year... Her bold reaction to its audience was much more outspoken than mine, after which she collected her speaker's fee, thank you very much.
**Clegg was repeatedly jailed for performing in a racially mixed band, an illegal act in apartheid-era South Africa. Banned by state radio, "Asimbonanga" ("We haven't seen him") called for Mandela's release & named activist martyrs Neil Aggett, Stephen Biko, & Victoria Mxenge. In 1988, Michael Jackson cancelled his Lyon, France concert due to Clegg & Savuka's attracting a larger audience. Savuka translates "We have risen/awakened."
And now for an extra Specials treat:
From his BMOC days, the song Chris cranked up on his Chevy Chevette (whenever it would start) ~