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Benjamin Franklin

There are about as many ways to homeschool as there are ways to diet.  If one were to use the google oracle to search ‘homeschooling philosophies’ one would be faced with this:  “Results 110 of about 1,310,000″ .   Yowza…where does one start?!

There is a wide range of curriculum in the spectrum between classical homeschooling & unschooling.  Each has it’s own ‘leader’ or source of inspiration…Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise wrote “The Well Trained Mind“.  John Holt is widely considered the founder of the ‘unschooling’ movement.   Dr. Oliver DeMille wrote “A Thomas Jefferson Education“.  These are just 3 examples (which I personally have read and loved!) in a sea of many other approaches to the subject of teaching children.  A nice comprehensive list of the variety of theories for learning/homeschooling can be found here.

So, what does this have to do with Benjamin Franklin?  Back a year or so ago, when we were still using an online homeschool curriculum, one of the assignments was a reading on Benjamin Franklin.  I am embarrased to admit that even though I was an American Studies major, I never delved more into his life beyond the whole kite/lightning experiment and his contributions to developing our new country.  However, one thing led to another, and the kids and I fell in love with Ben.  Head over heals, go to the library and check out every book they had on him, read about him every night, LOVE.  We were neglecting our other ‘studies’ to make time to learn about this extraordinary life, to the point where I became a little anxious.  “Let’s read about Benjamin!” the kids would beg.  “First, we have to get these worksheets done!  Focus!  Sit down!  Learn!” I would tell them.  They would sulk off, halfheartedly doing their work, until it was finished and they would come alive again.  “Benjamin before bed!” they’d shout.

It didn’t take long for my oldest to make a connection.  “Hey Mom.” she said one day.  “Benjamin is a pretty good example, isn’t he? I mean, he was smart, funny, and always thinking of stuff to do and experiments to try, right? He did a LOT of good things.”  Walking blindly into her trap, I enthused, “Yeah, he really is amazing, isn’t he?!”  “Mom, I really want to be like that.” she explained.  “I mean JUST like him.  Because he did all of that without going to school.  He taught himself the things he wanted to know.  He talked to different people, and read lots of books, and looked around at life. I think I have a lot in common with him!   I think of things all the time, and I always find things to do, and I want to learn the things that interest me, not the things you want to teach me.”  Finally, her evil plan was made clear.  And she was making such a good arguement, darn it.  She was happy to be out of school, but would be even happier (& productive!) one more step away from a curriculum. 

Benjamin Franklin

There are about as many ways to homeschool as there are ways to diet. If one were to use the google oracle to search ‘homeschooling philosophies’ one would be faced with this: “Results 1 – 10 of about 1,310,000” . Yowza…where does one start?!

There is a wide range of curriculum in the spectrum between classical homeschooling & unschooling. Each has it’s own ‘leader’ or source of inspiration…Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise wrote “The Well Trained Mind”. John Holt is widely considered the founder of the ‘unschooling’ movement. Dr. Oliver DeMille wrote “A Thomas Jefferson Education”. These are just 3 examples (which I personally have read and loved!) in a sea of many other approaches to the subject of teaching children. A nice comprehensive list of the variety of theories for learning/homeschooling can be found here.

So, what does this have to do with Benjamin Franklin? Back a year or so ago, when we were still using the COVA homeschool curriculum, one of the assignments was a reading on Benjamin Franklin. I am embarrased to admit that even though I was an American Studies major, I never delved more into his life beyond the whole kite/lightning experiment and his contributions to developing our new country. However, one thing led to another, and the kids and I fell in love with Ben. Head over heals, go to the library and check out every book they had on him, read about him every night, LOVE. We were neglecting our other ‘studies’ to make time to learn about this extraordinary life, to the point where I became a little anxious. “Let’s read about Benjamin!” the kids would beg. “First, we have to get these worksheets done! Focus! Sit down! Learn!” I would tell them. They would sulk off, halfheartedly doing their work, until it was finished and they would come alive again. “Benjamin before bed!” they’d shout.

It didn’t take long for The Naturalist to make a connection. “Hey Mom.” she said one day. “Benjamin is a pretty good example, isn’t he? I mean, he was smart, funny, and always thinking of stuff to do and experiments to try, right? He did a LOT of good things.” Walking blindly into her trap, I enthused, “Yeah, he really is amazing, isn’t he?!” “Mom, I really want to be like that.” she explained. “I mean JUST like him. Because he did all of that without going to school. He taught himself the things he wanted to know. He talked to different people, and read lots of books, and looked around at life. I think I have a lot in common with him! I think of things all the time, and I always find things to do, and I want to learn the things that interest me, not the things you want to teach me.” Finally, her evil plan was made clear. And she was making such a good arguement, darn it. She was happy to be out of school, but would be even happier (& productive!) one more step away from a curriculum.

To make a long story a little bit shorter, that was the start of our disconnection with a formal curriculum. It’s amazing the power that one man, who lived 300 years ago!, can have with the present. He’s our ‘mascot’, if you will, and inspiration. DeMille has the Thomas Jefferson Education….we have a Benjamin Franklin Education going on.

Imagine our excitement when we noticed that the DMNS was sponsoring a temporary exhibit in honor of the 300th anniversary of his birth! You cannot possibly imagine the nerdy glow of happiness that enveloped me to see The Naturalist and The Golfer so excited and bouncing around the displays in the exhibit going, “Oh my gosh! Is that his actual signature?!” “Look at this! An almanac!” “Check out what he wore to visit France!” “Look at his glasses!”. The icing on the cake was the whoopie cushions they sold in the gift store (did you know he signed an essay on passing gass: “Fart Hing”? Love, I tell you, nothing but love for this man.).