Monday, June 14, 2010

Delivered to Our Door

Newspapers and magazines (home delivery, not online) are a major homeschool resource for us.  We subscribe to our local daily paper, and even though it has declined shockingly in the past few years and beyond local coverage is barely a worthwhile news source for adults, it is a perfect newspaper for a 5-year-old boy.  N. and I read the paper together every weekday morning over breakfast.  There are almost always front-page stories with lots of big photos about local road work and other construction projects as well as stories that help us learn about the history of our city and upbeat local stories about kids and cultural events.  The national and international news is very basic, and thus just at N.'s level.  Through reading these stories we've had lots of good introductory civics lessons on elections, protests, forms of government.

Even though our newspaper is politically right-leaning, it is still relentlessly cheerful in tone, and nothing like TV news (which we don't watch).  Depressing stories are buried deep in its very slim pages, making it easy for me to censor what N. is exposed to (for example, I shield him from photos of bombings in Afghanistan or elsewhere).  Although I don't want him to think the world is perfect, I am very wary of exposing him to images that are too disturbing for a five-year-old to process, that will make him too worried and sad about the future he is growing into.  The other downside of the newspaper is the huge ads.  Tim and I have always found Rousseau's exhortation in Emile (1762) so compelling, if hopelessly romantic: "form an enclosure around your child's soul at an early date."  I would love that enclosure to be ad-free; I wish N. never saw an airbrushed face, a lingerie model, or a brand logo, but that is obviously impossible.  I fold the paper down to get large ads out of our sight-line when I can, and when I can't I explain what I don't like in the images.  We also get the Sunday New York Times (though not everyone in our household agrees that this is a worthwhile expense), which right now is much less useful as a homeschool resource for N. precisely because it is an adult newspaper with adult content and even more inappropriate ads.  N. and I do, however, enjoy the Travel section! 

We get other magazines, but our National Geographic subscription comes in N.'s name and plays an important role in our "curriculum."  He looks forward to getting it every month and Tim and/or I read through it carefully with him, learning what we can from it as well as using it as a point of departure for many other inquiries.  Science and nature, history, geography, and anthropology are just some of the academic subjects that the magazine regularly spans.  We like the adult magazine rather than National Geographic Kids because the photography is so compelling, the articles have much more depth, and the approach doesn't pander to kids' supposed interests or supposed short attention span.  Again the magazine has ads, and they are ads that are particularly hard for a kid to distinguish from editorial content, which is more pernicious (luscious photography of a luxury car in an exotic locale, for example).  But we still think it's a good resource.

So, reading the newspaper daily and National Geographic monthly has become part of our learning routine, although we didn't exactly set out explicitly to make this happen.  I read the paper every morning over breakfast, so I started sharing that with N. from an early age whenever there was a story I thought he'd like, and the habit has grown as his interests have expanded.  We subscribed to National Geographic when N. was born, hoping he would like it, and it too has become habitual.  The daily newspaper is so important to N. that if I am running late for work and skimp on reading the paper to him (or God forbid, try to skip it all together), he gets extremely upset.  He loves routines and regularity, so it is easy to make anything he enjoys a regular part of our daily life.  Too bad journalism is a dying industry.  N. will probably grow up to be the last American reading a print newspaper.

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