Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 4

Adrienne: That sounds like a social studies curriculum I would have enjoyed. I was an avid reader when I was a kid, but I hated (and flatly refused) to read social studies textbooks in school, which led me to the mistaken impression that I wasn’t interested in history. It turns out that I just didn’t respond to that bits-of-information approach.

Valerie: Ditto.  :)

Adrienne: Living in another country is an education in itself. Did your family factor it into your homeschooling in a big way?

Valerie: Yes. As a fun example, many times when I took my daughters to their weekly riding lessons (and then back home, of course) when we’d drive back over the Rhein river on the return trip, I’d pretend I was an airline announcer, hold my hand over my mouth as if I had one of those push-button microphones and say something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now leaving Gaul. If you look out the windows, you’ll see the Rhein river flowing under the bridge.”

We also visited museums and historic sites. Ones that come immediately to mind are:

— the Hochalpenstrasse (High Alpine Road) in the Austrian alps

— a paleontological museum in Munich where we saw the bas-relief fossils of archaeopteryx

— a reconstructed Roman fort at Saalburg north of Frankfurt

— reenactments of everyday life in actual castles

— castles and palaces

— an open-air museum of relocated buildings from earlier centuries

— cathedrals and old churches… made of stone and with no heating whatsoever

— the criminal museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which made us glad to be living nowadays because the public punishments for what we’d consider minor infractions (gossiping) were harsh

— battle sites and memorials through the centuries, such as the Butte de Lion by Waterloo.  Napoleon’s headquarters is still there.

— the Somme, where my grandfather fought in WWI

— Nazi fortifications on the English channel

 
And of course, we familiarized ourselves with the language of the country we were living in.

Adrienne: How about libraries? Were you able to use libraries in the areas you were in?

Valerie: I used German libraries, the community libraries provided by the military system, and the resource library provided for the use of the Army’s commanding general in Europe.

The German library was mostly useful for language familiarization. I would check out audio tapes of stories that were internationally known. I specifically remember learning the German word for sidewalk from the German version of Pippi Longstocking (it’s “Burgersteig”). I found that listening to familiar children’s stories in another language eased the acquisition of vocabulary because context was already known. The learner doesn’t have to struggle to understand the action, and can easily pick up the thread again if the vocabulary temporarily disrupts the story line.

The Army community libraries were invaluable for money-saving (!) general information items. We ranged throughout the Dewey Decimal system in the books we used, from the 000 references, to the 900 histories. In Munich the military community was closing, so our library wasn’t linked by computer to other libraries, but the library in Heidelberg was well-linked.  I spent many (off-peak) hours standing at the computer catalogue looking for items and making wish-lists for ILLs. After we moved to Belgium, our internet connection improved, plus I found the military library system’s Telnet URL so that I was able to work from home. To be clichéd about it: hog heaven.

Also, the librarians were always there if I got frustrated in my searches. They were great for bailing me out — and for handing me those Christmas-present ILLs. 

The library specifically for the use of the Army’s commanding general, the USAREUR Library and Resource Center (ULRC), was a gem. I was overwhelmed by the variety of documentary video programs the library stocked. I was able to check out the entire series (week by week) of Cal Tech’s, The Mechanical Universe, which is now available from the Annenberg Foundation’s website: http://www.learner.org/resources/series42.html.

Another favorite series was a BBC series, Deutsch Direkt, a lengthy immersion course in German. Before we moved from Heidelberg to Belgium (French-speaking Wallonia), we were also able to complete Pierre Capretz’s series, French in Action (now also available from the Annenberg site: http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html).

I [heart] the ULRC.

Adrienne: How did you get books?

Valerie: We got our books from libraries, catalogues, the Stars and Stripes bookstores (the Stars and Stripes newspaper operated the bookstores in military communities before the service was sold to the Exchange system), return trips to the U.S., and from European bookstores. Again for language study, I liked buying translations of popular American cartoons. In German, the Spaceman Spiff character from “Calvin and Hobbes” is “Raumfahrer Spiff.”

In our last year of homeschooling, I was able to use Amazon as well, but that was in a more limited way. I found that homeschooling catalogues, such as the Holt Book and Music Store (named for John Holt, and now FUN Books: http://www.fun-books.com) targeted our interests better than the more popularly-oriented mass-market suppliers.

I was already a biblioholic, so getting books was second nature.

Adrienne: And, finally, do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share with librarians eager to serve homeschoolers?

Valerie: Thank you.

Without the librarians’ labor of love, my adventure in homeschooling would have been poorer, as would have I. Mark Hegener of Home Education Magazine puts it this way:  “Homeschooling is love and a library card.”

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