Connecting the Dots

July 30, 2007


One of the best things about homeschooling is the ability to take something you love (or just something that is very accessible) and make as many connections as you can. This ability is called ‘The Science of Relations.’ It is especially pronounced in Charlotte Mason learning. For example…you love Gene Kelly. First you watch Singin’ in the Rain. Then you go to IMDb to see what other movies he’s in. While printing out that list you notice he directed this movie that you really like with this other actor in it. Then you go to that other actor’s page and notice that he was in a movie with Gene Kelly at one time. Now you’re right back where you started, but in a good way because you have gained a lot of knowledge.

My most recent science of relations adventure centers on Gilbert and Sullivan, so first let me explain how I got started with good ol’ G&S. My experiences with Gilbert and Sullivan started over three years ago with a book version of the Pirates of Penzance. Since we liked the book so much, we bought a VHS performance of PofP, starring Linda Ronstadt, Kevin Kline (yes he can sing), and Rex Smith. It was hilarious, a perfect intro to Gilbert and Sullivan operettas–being casual and professional. Now, if you are from a Charlotte Mason/4real learning family, then you will probably recognize what happened next. My Mom scoured the web finding almost everything there is to know about PofP–she found lyrics, games, the soundtrack, articles, word lists and –Voila!–we had ourselves a Unit Study!

The next step was a McIntyre Family Production of – you guessed it – The Pirates of Penzance. I played Mabel (Ma-a-a-a-a-A-b-b-b-b-e-e-l-l-l) and Major General Stanley (he is the very model! and I can still sing the first two verses of his signature song by heart…that doesn’t mean I will, though.) Ian played Fredrick (I was born in leap year!), Aiden played the Pirate King (and it tis,’ it tis’ a glorious thing!), Mom WAS Ruth (which within my brain did gyrate!) and numerous stuffed animals played pirates, policemen and fair maidens (no, no, not one!). It went over very well and we still joke about it today.

The play was almost like a last ‘Hurrah!’, because after we put away our costumes we slowed down on our attention to Gilbert and Sullivan. The next laughable finds were a Pirates of the Caribbean version of ‘I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.’ It was changed to ‘I am the Very Model of a Modern Pompous Commodore’ (though this was before Norrington grew a beard and got a tan, so it is based on the Pirates 1 Norrington). I also came across a story that was a mish-mash of Pirates of Penzance, Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings. Both were very funny, and courtesy of Meg.

Then, at the beginning of July, the wickedly witty world of Gilbert and Sullivan (furiously, in a good way) reared its head. It all started when about half of all the Gilbert and Sullivan DVDs on Netflix were placed in my queue. Then Mom picked up The Complete Plays of Gilbert and Sullivan from the library and, being a undisciplined and voracious reader, I put down my Biology text and read seven plays (not in one sitting, it took me about a week with all my other stuff thrown in). At first I was just going to read three (I had already read the Pirates of Penzance), Patience, HMS Pinafore, and the Mikado because those three were the one we would be receiving from Netflix…but then the science of relations came into play (pun unintended.) I watched Chariots of Fire (a absolutely incredible, amazing movie…but that’s another post) and Iolanthe was mentioned so -obviously- I had to read it. Another connection was made when I put in Sumo of the Opera for John Paul to watch. Sumo of the Opera is a VeggieTales spoof of The Mikado and Rocky rolled into one…it was one of the first shows made after Phil Vischer left, and you can tell the difference…Mike Nawrocki is…Larry!…and that’s enough said. Then, just for fun, I read Princess Ida and The Grand Duke…then the book had to be returned–but never to fear! I’m ordering it from Amazon!

In a attempt to close, the science of relations is a beautiful way of really learning your stuff. In a public school setting there may be opportunities to make connections, but so much is breezed through so quickly that you only learn the most basic facts (not always the most important or helpful). The science of relations is all about knowledge, you know the stuff…because you own it. It wasn’t plopped down in a text before you pre-packaged and somewhat broken down. If something interests you…take the bit of knowledge you have and run with it! I’m sure I’ll never forget the story of Pirates of Penzance, or that Pinafore came before PofP or that Major General Stanley is NO orphan.

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