Our homeschool had been in high-tide mode for much of the fall semester, with lots of written number work, handwriting practice, and more formal learning (along, of course, with lots of play). Then right at Thanksgiving N. got quite sick, and all he wanted to do was lie on the couch and listen to one of us read aloud to him. Like, all day. In the first few days of his illness, he only wanted comfort-reading: favorite chapters from favorite books re-read -- no new books. I spent most of the Thanksgiving weekend on the couch with him, reading The Railway Children, the Betsy-Tacy books, and Homer Price. Then as he started feeling just a little bit better, he and Tim resumed their reading of James Herriot's books, which they've been working their way through all fall. They've read All Creatures Great And Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and they are now on The Lord God Made Them All. N. just loves these stories, and he loves the serial nature of them; like the fairy tales Tim read to him nearly every weekday last year, these books offer seemingly endless episodes.
As N. continues to feel under the weather, and with the disruption of the holidays, most of Tim and N.'s "school" time lately has been primarily long stretches of James Herriot reading and piano practice. I've been so grateful that we can change pace to suit N.'s needs as he's been sick. N.'s immersion in James Herriot's Yorkshire in the 1940s has been just as valuable as his more formal learning. Of course there's vocabulary; N. used "subcutaneous" in a sentence the other day, and we all learned that the term "husky voice" comes from the raspy cough that animals get when afflicted with "husk." There's history and geography; for example Herriot enlists during WWII and in the 1960s he travels to Lithuania where he encounters Soviet life. Most important, there are countless nuggets of life wisdom as Herriot interacts with the complicated people whose animals he treats. Herriot's gift as a story teller is to render that complex humanity in such rich color that it is fascinating both to a six-year-old and to his dad. We've all really enjoyed our James Herriot "curriculum" and are grateful for his books, as well as for the opportunity homeschooling gives us to immerse ourselves deeply in them.