Homeschooling Pippi

One of our read-alouds this summer was Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, and we really enjoyed it. I got to thinking what it would be like to be Pippi’s mom, suddenly returned from the dead (not an angel after all!). Obviously, traditional school didn’t work for Pippi. She’s the perfect candidate for homeschooling. But which method to choose?

Mrs. Longstocking might try the Unit Study approach. Pippi could do a complete unit study of her trips at sea. She could make a lapbook of maps, animals she saw, pirates she met. She must include a drawing of the ship, all the various parts labeled, and she ought to fill in the points of a compass. Pippi’s mom could read her related books from the library, make her add and subtract fish, and memorize verses from the book of Jonah.

Well, how about the Montessori approach? Allow Pippi to explore her surroundings. Give her plenty of natural toys and tools. Wood is good. Start collections of acorns and pine cones. Get out her trunk and have her do a rubbing of the imprint on a bar of gold.

Perhaps Pippi would do well with the Charlotte Mason method. She’s already a natural narrator, but she must be trained to tell the truth. Take her for a nature walk, and instruct her to look for a minute, memorizing what she sees. Then have her close her eyes and tell you what she saw in detail. If she says anything ridiculous about robbers or parrots, she must be gently admonished. But try again the next day. Make her understand how truthful narration helps her remember important ideas.

Mrs. Longstocking might consider Classical education. But she would really have to get Pippi to sit still and attend to her lessons. A well-trained mind must be properly exercised every day.

The Brave Writer method is a more modern educational approach, designed to encourage Pippi and her mother. Since Pippi is still learning her letters, her mother can jot down those exciting stories for her. And then they can have a party! Invite the neighbors over! Celebrate!

Perhaps Delight-Directed education is the way to go. What does Pippi really love to do? Make a kitchen full of cookies? Great! Teach her fractions as she measures ingredients. Run off the local police? That’s the perfect opportunity to schedule a tour of the police station. Climb trees like her monkey? Compare and contrast her climbing abilities with those of Mr. Nilsson.

And then, of course, there’s Unschooling. Pippi is already doing a great job learning through life experience. Supply her with good books, take her along on errands, and find a local 4-H club for her to join.

So many choices! I’ve had fun thinking about being Pippi’s mom. As it happens, it’s just as tough to decide how my own children would best be educated. I see advantages and disadvantages to each of these methods. Charlotte Mason is what I’m officially doing, but I believe I’ll be borrowing from other approaches as well.

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