We have a winner!

We’ve started our “History of English” study, and so far it is going great!

Not only is Violet delighted with her lessons, but twice they have ended with us on the computer trying to puzzle something out. Today, for example, she was coloring in a map of Europe according to the branch of Proto-Indo-European spoken in each country. We couldn’t find Finnish or Hungarian on the PIE family tree. A quick trip to Google taught us that in fact these languages are from the Uralic family, which spread from the north down — though Hungary is kind of an isolated island of Uralic decent. Then we tried to figure out Turkish, which led us to discover the Uralic-Altaic controversy. Looks like some linguists think Turkish may belong to the same family as Korean and Japanese.

We were so excited looking at all the “family trees” and reading about different interpretations. Violet was standing next to me, at one point jumping up and down and saying, “This is soooooooo fascinating!”

For our texts we are using Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue and The Story of English, by Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil, and William Cran. As we go on we won’t be using The Mother Tongue, but it had some nice reading on how spoken language came about in the first place, with the dropping of the larynx, and some differences between Neaderthal and Cro-Magnon man. Both books are dense, difficult reading for Violet, who is butting up against some unfamiliar words and having to rely heavily on context. It’s definitely been a vocabulary stretcher.

Violet reads and I give her a “reading comprehension” worksheet to lead into working with the ideas of the day. Today we talked about the Celts and the conquering Anglo-Saxons, then practiced writing in the Celtic alphabet. The day of the color-coded map she also drew some individual “family trees” and found of English’s “cousins.” Our first day we learned about different theories of the origin of language, including the Ding-Ding theory and the Bow-Wow theory. After further Internet research, Violet chose the Eureka! theory as the most plausible.

I’ve been trying to drive the reading questions toward some kind of creative or original thought, like imagining creole phrases for various appliances. (Did you know that a submarine, in some form of creole that I don’t recall, is a bottom bottom wata waka)? But I also ask questions that she can answer directly from the reading, to make sure she’s comprehending what she’s reading and also to give her more practice in identifying main themes in a reading.

— A side note: I’m thinking that improving Google pages with additional references would be a cool homeschool project and good research practice. —
I’m sure this would seem painfully schooly to some, but please, keep it to yourself! We are having a great time, with sparks of interest flying in every direction.



Filed under Curriculum, Schoolday Doings, unit study -- history of english, Why Homeschool?

6 responses to “We have a winner!

  1. J

    So cool! She’s a future linguist for sure 🙂 Historical linguistics was one of my favorite aspects, and I especially loved the homework assignments when we were given two sentences from related dialects from different time periods and we had to reconstruct the steps that probably took place to get from sentence a to sentence b. I’m not sure where to find an exercise like that (except in a meaty historical linguistics text) but I bet Violet would have fun puzzling one of those out.

  2. My parents and I once started watching a series on TV Ontario by Melvin Bragg about the History of the English language. Apparently Mom already told you about it but for others it is called The Story of English or something like that. I think TVO has a website but I am not sure what it is. You could try Google.

  3. That sounds fascinating! I really like the different “theories.” Now I might have to go out and lear about that.

  4. It sounds like it is going really well. I love it when we have days like this.

  5. OMG!!! Grace did the “History of the French Language” for her foreign lands class last year! Each kid had to pick a topic for the country they were doing, and Grace chose that…Not the Tour Eiffel, or baguettes…The History of the French Language. The librarians gave us some pretty major weird looks when they asked me about “My” book on the French Language, and Grace piped up that it was for HER project on the History of French that we had even taken it out. LOL

    Good for Violet!!! I am TOTALLY behind her efforts to tease it all out!

  6. adsoofmelk

    That sounds so cool. I loved The Story of English, myself — it’s fascinating to see that evolution and then pair texts like Beowulf next to poetry like “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard M. Hopkins and see the line of descent, as it were, from one text’s language to the other’s.

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