I’ve been busy making a hornbook. Here’s how it turned out.

A hornbook was a teaching tool used by children long ago in England and early America to help them learn to read. As you can see, the alphabet, both capital and lower case, is printed on the front along with several short practice syllables and the Lord’s Prayer. The printed lesson sheet was originally covered with a thin sheet of animal horn (to protect the printed sheet from grubby little hands) which was attached to the wooden paddle by nails and strips of brass. In my reproduction, a sheet of clear plastic substitutes for the horn. Then, a strip of leather lacing is threaded through a hole in the handle so the student can easily carry his first book.

All the pieces to assemble this hornbook, along with numerous other projects, came in the Hands and Hearts Early American History Discovery Kit. If I had received this kit fifteen or twenty years ago instead of just yesterday, I know what this family would have been doing that day. After the kids finished assembling this first hornbook, I would have called it quits on the rest of academics, and we would have made up a lunch basket, piled into the car and spent the day at the University of Iowa Main Library special collections room observing some actual hornbooks. We would then have researched hornbooks, making sure we utilized any university librarian who happened to be an expert on the subject, and of course checked out several books to bring home. The next day we would have dedicated to mass producing hornbooks. The boys would have provided us with the wooden paddles and leather strips and the girls would have produced intricate variations of the lesson sheets, using their calligraphy skills. And then, after spending a few days on this project, we would have tried to figure out how to sell hornbooks.

These are the kinds of things which make me love homeschooling and will cure any case of mid-February burn-out. These are the kinds of things which help to develop creativity in children and flame that spark of natural inquiry which is present in all children but becomes watered down, washed out and extinguished through endless eight hour days, sitting at the same desk in the same room filled with masses of munchkins whose minds are filled with mush.

The hornbook project is only one of many projects in the Hands and Hearts Early American History Discovery Kit. I’m going to do the Dipped Beeswax Candles project next. Can you imagine the possibilities with that one! …..Wait, wait, wait….. I just found the Indian Bead project. How cool. That project alone could take us a week at least.

I’m afraid our Latin would have suffered terribly if these Discovery Kits had been around in the ancient days of homeschooling.



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