Monday, April 15, 2013

Car Schooling: Les Miserables Edition

I love it when people find out I homeschool and assume that I’m actually home with my kids all day long, every single day.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I mean, sure, I’m with my kids A LOT, but we are rarely just sitting around at home.
Take today for example---we got up late, went for donuts (a birthday tradition—my oldest just turned 13), swung by the eye doctor to pick up four new sets of glasses (stupid eyeball genes---sorry, kids!), ran to book club, went to piano lessons, and followed that with dance lessons.  We spent a LOT of time in the car. 
I was feeling guilty about it because we hadn’t gotten to any of the paper school work that I had planned: spelling tests, math review, research for oral reports on Central and South America (due tomorrow!) But then I realized how much the kids had been learning as we rocketed from place to place.
As we headed out to Krispy Kreme this morning, I turned on the new Les Miserables soundtrack. I hadn’t intended to turn it into a lesson for the kids---I had just been tagged by a friend on Facebook regarding this Grumpy Cat meme—and wanted to listen to that section of the opening sequence so I could laugh at it:
After I imagined Grumpy Cat speaking in Russell Crowe’s “Javert” voice, the kids wanted to know why I was laughing hysterically.  I explained, but they hadn’t seen the meme and didn’t really get it.  Nevertheless, Calvin commented that he really liked the opening sequence on the soundtrack, and one thing led to another---I was telling the story of Les Mis as we listened to the entire album.  I paused it in places to explain what was going on, or what the lyrics meant. 
The kids really got into it—we talked about everything from the themes in the story: justice vs. mercy, redemption, forgiveness, endurance, optimism, fear, etc., to literary things: rhyme, foreshadowing, the hero’s journey, and character archetypes.
We talked about music: instrument choice in songs, lyrics and poetry, rhythm, moods, major/minor transitions, singing voices, emotion, tempo, patterns, melody, themes, and anthems.
We talked about French history, language, and culture.  We talked about social problems and drew parallels between the struggles of the characters in Les Mis and people of today---we discussed social stigma, socioeconomic disparities, survivor guilt, monarchies and other forms of government, and more. 
By the end of our running around in the car---we had finished the soundtrack and talked about so much! The kids are beginning to see why I love the latest film version of Les Miserables—as well as the unabridged book, published by Signet Classics.  The kids had made all kinds of connections between Victor Hugo’s epic story and their own lives and the world around them. 
Today illustrates one of the beauties of homeschooling---learning anywhere you go, as you go.  In the car, my kids got some seriously in depth language arts, history, geography, social studies, and music lessons.  They also had a chance to form questions, hypotheses, and practice their observation skills—so they got a science class as well.  It wasn’t even PLANNED—the lessons just happened, and they were profound learning experiences for all of us.
I can’t wait to do it again!


  1. Awesome. I wish I'd been in the car, too. I probably would have learned something...

  2. That's actually pretty cool. I love teaching moments like that.