Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Titanic and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Nautilus' route through the Atlantic [source].
Last summer, visiting my parents in Washington, D.C., we went to an exhibit about the Titanic at the National Geographic Museum called "Titanic: 100-Year Obsession."  I wrote last year about the rich learning opportunities that N.'s fascination with the Titanic sparked, and he enjoyed this exhibit a lot.  The exhibit featured a video in which explorer Robert Ballard described his quest to find the Titanic wreck site and his childhood fascination with all things submarine.  He thanked his parents for letting him indulge this passion fully in his youth.  As a child he loved to go to the aquarium, and he especially loved Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1871).   

Making the 6-hour drive home from D.C. after that visit, Tim suggested we read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  On our road trips, I always read aloud something we can all enjoy and I read from my phone after dark.  So I downloaded the novel free from Project Gutenberg on my iphone (I use the excellent MegaReader app) and started in. 

Since then, we've made two car trips to Minnesota and back, two more trips to D.C. and back, and at least one trip to Durham, N.C. and back and at the end of December we finally finished Twenty Thousand Leagues.  N. and Tim really loved it.  I enjoyed it, although I found reading aloud the long latinate catalogues of marine flora and fauna extremely tedious.  I haven't read much science fiction, so it was interesting to read this early example and we all learned a lot of unusual vocabulary from this strange tale.  The inconclusive ending surprised and maddened me, but N. and Tim were not bothered by it.  N., who never wants a book to end, liked that for months and months we had this book to return to when night fell in the car.  In some ways, it's the perfect book to listen to in the car with its evocation of entrapment in the hermetic space of the Nautilus.  I'm not sure any of us would have found it so compelling if we hadn't been on our own long voyage in a small vehicle in the dark!

Yet again, making connections with N.'s passions paid off in enrichment for all three of us.  In this case, the associative chain went from N.'s interest in transportation and disasters, to a bunch of magazines celebrating the Titanic last April, to a museum exhibit, to a nineteenth-century novel.  Although we don't formally do Project-Based Homeschooling, I like to think of the big topics that we keep returning to (trains, old buildings, music) as long-term projects that we circle back to again and again.  As homeschooling parents, Tim and I are always on the watch for ways to build on N.'s passions (our friends and family help with this too -- it was my mom's idea to go to the Titanic exhibit, and people are often pointing us to things they think N. will be interested in, which we really appreciate).  Where will the Titanic take us next? 


Erica MomandKiddo said...

When we are in the car (rarely since we don't own one) we like to listen to audiobooks. I can't read myself because it makes me carsick. I love the comparison of being in a submarine (something which triggers my Claustrophobia) with being in a car!

Fanny Harville said...

I am lucky to be able to read in the car without feeling sick. But I'd love to not have to own a car at all!

Anonymous said...

yes--i too love the comparison of riding in the car to traveling in the deep sea. Kudos to you for reading that whole book aloud!

Fanny Harville said...

Thanks, Mom!! :)