Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Back Online

Had an interesting experience yesterday: the Internet broke.

Ok, all right. The only part that broke was the part that comes to our house.

More specifically, it was this little box sitting right next to me with the blinking lights and all those wires sticking out the back.

And, it didn't so much break, as it... um... hiccuped. So after spending a whole day with a bad case of involuntary shakes, I discovered the secret: I turned it off, waited a few minutes, and turned it back on. Problem fixed!

(Maybe it's a good thing that we aren't encouraged to fix our own lawnmowers anymore.)


Ahem. Anyway, I'm back online, with the link to this week's Carnival of Homeschooling! Unfortunately I didn't have anything in it this week as I was spending all my time and energy debating Objectivists and needling Hungarians. But there were some articles that caught my eye. I liked this one from Barbara Frank, in which she relates a story about how she tossed her lesson plan and schedule out the window to let her daughter finish a project; she realized that the project was educational, it was more important than what had been planned, and her daughter had become obsessed with it. Anyway, they just went with it, and everyone wound up satisfied.

There was another headline that caught my eye, about teaching speaking. This is an important skill to have, and one that we've been thinking about a lot, given that the Fairy is about to hit first grade. Anyone who's come in contact with the Fairy can tell that she talks a lot as it is; it's making her get to the point of her story that's the hard part. (She gets that from her uncle.) So I clicked over to this article, hoping to glean some new and exciting wisdom.

Meh. The article had good, solid, dignified, stolid advice. It was pretty much a decent reminder of what everyone already knows: you need to practice a lot, in different social settings, keeping in mind enunciation and avoiding horrendous grammatical mistakes. Yeah, yeah.

But just seeing the headline got me thinking: how will we be teaching the Fairy to speak? One thing we'll be doing is daily Narration, similar to what Charlotte Mason recommends. The idea is that the student reads something of high literary quality once, and then--from memory--relates it back in his or her own words, in as much detail as can be remembered (subject to reasonable time constraints, of course. This is an important caveat where the Fairy is concerned). This exercise, if done a whole lot, helps buttress concentration skills, helps build comprehension, helps build memory, and helps build elocution. I've tried it on occasion--it's actually a very mentally demanding activity, even if the passage in question is no longer than one of Aesop's fables.

But thinking about the teaching of speaking, reminded me of something I read recently. For some unknown reason, I was looking at the Wikipedia page of the Baron Münchhausen--being interested in classical literature that could some day be read to and appreciated by children--and I came upon this little section, that sent me into a fit of giggles:
In 1998 a multi-player storytelling game entitled The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Münchhausen was produced by James Wallis of Hogshead Publishing.[1] Players of the role-playing game assume the role of a noble person and challenge one another to relate an improvised tale based on an opening line given by another player (for example: "Grand Poobah, please tell our assemblage about the time you singlehandedly defeated the entire Turkish army using only a plate of cheese and a corkscrew!"). Players are able to interject and introduce a limited number of complications to the tall tale at any time ("But, my dear Grand Poobah, is it not true that you have a horrible allergy to cork?), and eventually all vote for the best storyteller.[1]
Now that sounds like a fun game. It sounds like it would be hard, but it would be an absolute blast, if you were to play it with the right kind of people. And my guess, judging from the kinds of stories the Fairy tells now, is that she'd be a natural for this kind of thing, when she gets a little older.

And I started thinking of all the people I know who would have a ball while doing this kind of game.

And then I started thinking about how it was that I would have managed to thwart the entire Turkish army with nothing but a corkscrew and a plate of cheese. It's not easy coming up with a story like this on the spur of the moment. But playing this game until one actually got good at it, would give a speaker some powerful oratorical skills, I'd bet.

No comments: