We always begin our school year with an inspirational quote. My goal is to allow my students to see themselves as part of the greater continuum of intellectual efforts and metaphysical thinking. That was a mouthful!
This year we are bridging the fun of summer with the seriousness of school with a wonderful novel, A Single Shard, written by Linda Sue Park. The story takes place in 12th century Korea and teaches the values of friendship, honesty, integrity and hard work within the context of creating beautiful Celadon pottery.
The protagonist, Tree-ear, is a young orphan boy who desires to learn the art of pottery. His mentor, Crane-man, is a homeless man who instills values by asking difficult questions which can only be answered through personal introspection.
When Tree-ear is presented with the question of facing hunger or stealing rice, Crane-man’s voice echoes in Tree-ear’s mind, “Work gives a man dignity, stealing takes it away.” Tree-ear ponders, “Does a good deed balance a bad deed?” He knows that Crane-man would say, “Questions (of morality) serve in two ways…They keep a man’s mind sharp, and his thoughts off his empty stomach.”
A Single Shard is a walking, talking vocabulary lesson. The following is a sample list of the vocabulary words that Bounce (Grade 3/4) needed to learn in order to properly understand the story: Perusal, Urchin, Garner, Sluggardly, Deftly, Emboldened, Impudence, Precariously, Ministrations, Diligent, Insolence, Parched, Felicitous, Vicious and Suffice. Bounce’s actual list was much longer. He rewrote every word, looked up the definition and wrote the definition along side each word. Bounce was delighted to learn such interesting and unusual words.
Eventually, through hard work and self-sacrifice, Tree-ear is given the opportunity to represent the work of a famous potter, Minn. He accepts the task, with encouragement from Crane-man, to carry Minn’s work to the faraway town of Songdo, where it will be viewed by the royal court.
This journey is so long that Tree-ear has grave doubts about his ability to carry out his mission. But to not go is even more impossible.
Crane-man presents the journey to Tree-ear in the following manner,
“Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo. But you must not tell your body. It must think one hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to walk.”
Happymess kids immediately recognized this quote as applying directly to their own lives. Each child at our impromptu book club was able to think of a way in which this applied directly to themselves. The group agreed that they had all grown weary of many school-related tasks long before the task had been attempted, yet alone completed. They committed to taking a more cheerful, thoughtful and dedicated approach to this year’s enterprises. In short, they recognized that often fear of hard work is greater than the actual work itself.
And so there you have it, our 2012 school year quote with which we will commence our studies. Our journey may be long and arduous but we will embark upon it one day at a time, lest our souls grow weary before we even begin.
Let Me Count the Days: Homeschooling is seeking inspiration in novel venues.
Filed under: Art, Geography, Humanities, Literature, World Awareness | Tagged: A Single Shard, classic children's literature, homeschool, homeschooling, inspiration, Linda Sue Park, literature, middle school, reading, vocabulary lessons |