I read the introduction thoroughly. It is written from the perspective of a public school administrator, who is concerned about children who move about in our country. Ed Hirsch believes we need a core knowledge curriculum, standard across all schools and states. While I understand the need for schools to be on the same page, so to speak, for each grade, the underlying philosophy is at odds with the way we are created. (See this great post from Letters From Nebby about educational philosophies.) I think each of us will pick up different things from the same stories, and are ready to learn different things at different times. Just because every second grade class in the country is covering Daniel Boone, for example, doesn't mean that they are all learning the same thing from it, nor are they necessarily ready for third grade. I have friends who are public school teachers, and they are in favor of the Common Core Standards, so that they don't have to figure out where to begin teaching each year. (To be clear, I'm not against it - I just don't think it should be legislated.)
As I started through the body of this book, I felt a bit overwhelmed, thinking I would never be able to teach all this in one year. Second graders "need to know"
- the parts of sentence and parts of a word
- common sayings and phrases
- folk tales, tall tales, poetry and comedy
- good literature about character
- Greek and Roman gods, specifically Jason and the Golden Fleece
- Geography map work - drawing, coloring, naming and shape matching (they mentioned checking out Dover publications for some resources)
- Find the seas and continents (teacher names, student points)
- Know why the 50 states have the shapes they do and be able to point out TX and CA and the 13 colonies
- Understand the Incan, Mayan and Aztec cultures
- Know the geography of Mexico, Central America and South America
Now, Hirsch does not ever say that his book alone is a curriculum, nor should it be. In fact, he emphasizes that it is the core, the basics, and should be added to in many ways. However, he does include stories that children "should" know at this age, to be read straight from his book. I read one or two of them, and was even more thankful to be following the Charlotte Mason method. Instead of using watered-down, childish versions of the great classics, shortened so much that they are dry and uninteresting, we are actually reading the great classics and getting to know the characters like old friends. Instead of drilling through geography, we are taking a smaller portion of the world and really focusing on it, on the stories of the people that live there.
We will be resting more in the literature itself, then learning bits and pieces about the literature. Which do you think is more important?