There are so many things we think our kids know, and then realize with a shock they don't. This week Jonathon brought home geography homework. His new vocabulary words were "hemisphere" and "Prime Meridian."
Thank goodness we have a relatively current globe on hand because the line drawing of the globe on his homework sheet was barely recognizable as continents and oceans.
Most of the learning done each year in Virginia schools is geared towards the unfortunately acronymed SOLs (Standards of Learning) given each spring. Jonathon will study different forms of government from Ancient Greece, Ancient Italy and Ancient... Mali. I think they mention Socialism and Fascism too, so hello France and, no offense, Spain.
I applaud the attempt to expand the children's minds with the study of democracy in Mali, but am not impressed that the surrounding lessons only go that far. For example, when learning about hemispheres this week, the kids needed to find the 2 hemispheres for an assortment of places (I'd say countries, but I can't). On the list were the obvious: England, France, Spain, Greece, Rome, Mali and Jamestown, VA. If you're like me you're wondering who wrote these assignments. Jonathon was irritated that all the countries were in the northern hemisphere, and rightly so. Then of course aside from VA, they are all clumped in one small area. I mean, even Mali isn't that far away in the global scheme of things. Then we get to the fact that 5 are countries and 2 are listed as cities. I can somewhat forgive them for Jamestown if you're trying to get them to make a connection to where they are now (kind of, we're several hours from Jamestown), but Rome? Rome, is not a country.
If there's work on hemispheres before the more in-depth study of particular governments, then pick a widespread net of countries. We have a huge hispanic community at school. Why isn't Mexico or Panama or Honduras on the list? I'm sure the kids could find China... South Africa (that one gives itself away for location)... or how about Brazil? They couldn't put Australia on the list of hemisphere searches? The kids are learning all the continents, connect the dots.
Obviously I'm nitpicking. It's what I do. It makes me happy, to a degree. With Jonathon we compared how close Chennai was to the Equator (less than 15degrees) with how close Virginia is (closer to 40degrees). Then we found Venezuela where some friends have moved on to and saw its proximity to the Equator too. We talked about the Prime Meridians and it's sister, the International Date Line. I told him how there used to be several Prime Meridians because several countries wanted their favorite city to be point zero but finally it was agreed it would only be in Greenwich. We talked about how polar bears live in the Arctic and penguins in the Antarctic.
It's times like these I definitely see the attraction and feel the pull to homeschooling.