Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Ships under my feet

I got back from taking Big Guy to his residence last night to find the living room covered in Playmobil. Andrew had read more of Black Ships Before Troy to Little Guy, and my boy set up the battle camps and made ships out of black paper and acted out the story.

This made me happy. I mean, stepping on tiny swords in the dark is no fun, but play is a child's sixth sense, and I think it's what cements learning. Someone once asked me what history curriculum we use for the elementary school years, and I replied, "Costumes and props." I mean, if you're going to read Johnny Tremain you'd better own (or at least make) a tricorn hat. And if you're going to spend a whole year on American history, you need to spend a bit of money at Jas. Townshend & Sons on important things like candle-making supplies and tin cups.

In my experience, kids will play whatever it is they've last read. That is, if you give them time to play. Way back when Eldest and Big Guy were small we did a unit on Greek myths, and they happily taught an entire urban playground how to jump off the climbing equipment, flapping, crying, "Don't fly too near the sun!" (I'm sure that night there were some baffled parents who wondered how their children suddenly learned about Daedalus and Icarus.)

One of my favorite subversive homeschooling techniques is to collude with the moms of my kids' friends, so that the children all read the same book at the same time. A gaggle of girls who meet in the park and discover they've all read Little House On The Prairie needs no prompting on what to play. A group of first graders will play whatever Magic Tree House story someone remembers. And as long as the birthday parties are themed on The Lightning Thief instead of The Hunger Games, I'm good with it. (Hunger Games was good, but I wouldn't want to see my kids act it out!)

So of course tripping over Playmobil soldiers and wooden blocks (used to make Troy) and blue blankets (used to create the sea) and print-out triremes (though they should be biremes) is part of reading Black Ships Before Troy. It's proof that the story's been heard, and is worth re-telling.

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