Homeschool Dad : Thursday

As I set out to make the schedule at the beginning of the year, I wanted there to be a day that offered the most flexibility, primarily to learn outside the home. The structure of our Thursday fits our lives well for this purpose.

Because #4 doesn’t have preschool, we are free to roam the town and learn in a different setting. We are free to head to the nature reserve to see creation, the museum to see history, the science center to uncover mysteries.

We sing hymns at night, so that subject can be flexed as needed. We can read a book over lunch in the city if the day calls for it. We can review spelling words during a van ride. Even a chess board is portable enough if we wanted to play on the road. This is true for most days (the beauty of homeschool!), but I seem to aim for Thursday.

07:45am – wake kiddos
08:20am – stretch
08:25am – catechism & prayer
08:35am – family walk
09:00am – hymn study
09:30am – literature
10:00am – language arts
10:30am – reading aloud #3 (#1 v. #2 chess)
11:20am – lunch
12:30pm – science
01:00pm – math #1 (#2 math app / #3 reading)
01:30pm – math #2 (#3 math app / #1 reading)
02:00pm – math #3 (#1 math app / #2 reading)

The hymn study is multi-faceted. It has an eye towards music, language, poetry, and history as we try to unearth the stories that inspired the hymns. As I mentioned earlier, we sing often as a family, and so this particular subject has immediate impact on the house, with obvious educational insights. I believe it’s possible to incorporate subjects that directly reflect and feed family life!

This is the first day that I’ve mentioned anything having to do with technology. Those who know me are probably surprised that I don’t have the kiddos writing on slates with chalk, given my general hesitations when it comes to tech in the classroom. But I am always on the lookout for apps that are helpful without pressing too far into edutainment. Currently, the math app essentially digitizes flash cards, so I’m willing to bend! (There’s probably a series of posts on the ubiquity of tech stewing somewhere in my feeble brain)

Four days in. The week is rolling downhill at this point. I’m looking forward to crystallizing a few thoughts on our current curriculum as well… even if it only helps me to set direction for the future!

 

 

 

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Homeschool Dad : Wednesday

Homeschooling while maintaining a work life outside the home presents unique challenges. Ministry, thankfully, is remarkably flexible and often operates during hours outside of school (especially when the focus of my particular vocational calling involves children, youth, and families).

Wednesday is a day of such challenges. Mentoring over breakfast, an afternoon staff meeting, and an evening study group are all specific challenges to the homeschooling day. However, this is why we’ve been given imaginations, is it not?

07:45am – wake kiddos
08:20am – stretch
08:25am – catechism & prayer
08:35am – family walk
09:00am – history
09:30am – reading aloud #2 (#1 v. #3 chess)
10:00am – literature
10:30am – language arts
11:20am – lunch
12:15pm – (take #4 to preschool)
01:00pm – (Dad’s staff meeting)
01:00pm – math worksheets
01:30pm – copywork
02:00pm – independent study
03:00pm – (pick up #4 from preschool)

Wednesday afternoons are interesting because my attention is required in two places at one time. The weekly staff meeting is necessary and often quite fruitful, and I’ve resolved to make that time fruitful for the kiddos as well.

With the kiddos being younger, a great deal of our math curriculum is oral (tables, problem-solving, etc.). I’ve chosen Wednesday afternoons to present them with the worksheets which adorn our state-mandated portfolio – evidence of growth in the craft. These also allow me to see that their developing mental acuity functions just as well on paper as it does when guided by the soothing sound of Dad’s voice…

We also use Wednesday afternoons for a bit of copywork, which most often is a reinforcement of our previous week’s Hymn study (see the Thursday schedule). I like having them write out the songs for a couple reasons. One, I appreciate their value theologically. But I also appreciate their value as poetry. The language of the past is often vivid and varied. I believe exposure to the words and ways of the past has benefits that far outweigh the difficulties.

Finally, I’m working out in practice what independent study looks like for younger children. The kiddos have selected a topic (all animals) that they are researching for a presentation at the end of the year. This concept is a work in progress, for sure.

Wednesdays are perhaps my greatest challenge because of the level of independence, but the first eight weeks have proven quite nice.

 

 

 

Homeschool Dad : Tuesday

I’m still new enough in the realm of homeschooling that, even as I share the current patterns of our days, I am evaluating and asking myself if there aren’t immediate improvements that could be made.

One thing I have noticed to this point in the year is that the schedule is a work in progress. While I have made changes, I have tried not to make constant changes. I know I will have time to fine tune adjustments. Here stands our current Tuesday:

07:45am – wake kiddos
08:20am – stretch
08:25am – catechism & prayer
08:35am – family walk
09:00am – geography
09:30am – art
10:00am – literature
10:30am – language arts
11:00am – reading aloud #1 (#2 v. #3 chess)
11:30am – lunch
12:45pm – science
01:15pm – math #1 (#2/#3 silent reading)
01:35pm – math #2 (#1/#3 silent reading)
02:00pm – math #3 (#1/#2 silent reading)

At a glance, it would seem that we read a lot. And we do. Two principles are fixed in my brain which may or may not be entirely true, but which we pursue nonetheless.

First is that a great deal of learning is both taught and caught. I wake up Monday through Friday intending to fill my children with what little knowledge and wisdom I have to impart through a teacher-student paradigm. But I also recognize that their repeated exposure to varied forms of literature will leave varied and valuable imprints.

I can and will teach them spelling, capitalization, when to use quotation marks, when to break a paragraph. But I can also immerse them in books which will teach these rules without ever speaking an intentional word on the matter. And if I’m being honest, I recognize that a great many books do so in a far more engaging and interesting fashion.

(Obviously, literature leaves other imprints that can be positive and negative to their impressionable minds, which is why we are also trying to cultivate a family culture of discussing what we read!)

The second principle I keep in mind is that a life of learning is inextricably tied to the ability to read. Much wisdom comes from simply living, but exponentially more is also available on printed pages. I want reading to be comfortable and normal. I want to instill and train them for a life of learning that extends well beyond my ability to teach. I want their knowledge, and their thirst for understanding, to far exceed my own.

And so we read. I read aloud to them. They read aloud to me. They read silently. We talk about what we read. Tuesdays certainly highlight that. And, to this point in the year, I believe we are all growing as a result.

 

 

Homeschool Dad : Monday

While asking what homeschooling might do to my life, I also began to seek out typical schedules from across the web. I don’t say this often, but as I carried out this search, I was thankful for the internet. I was able to peruse a great many week-long breakdowns, among which mine will now digitally rest.

Since I’ve already shared a snapshot of a “typical” weekday from my perspective, I wanted to share the same from the perspective of the kiddos. I’ll discuss each day briefly, and then if I remember, I’ll post the full week in PDF format.

07:45am – wake kiddos
08:20am – stretch
08:25am – catechism & prayer
08:35am – family walk
09:00am – history
09:30am – chess
10:15am – literature
10:45am – language arts
11:20am – lunch
12:15pm – (take #4 to preschool)
12:45pm – science
01:15pm – math #1 (#2/#3 reading)
01:35pm – math #2 (#1/#3 reading)
02:00pm – math #3 (#1/#2 reading)
03:00pm – (retrieve #4 from preschool)

I’ve found stretching to be a great start to the day, as it gets everyone up and moving. I won’t lie, after going on my run, I welcome the stretches as well. It is a nice warm up into our family walk as well. At times, we’ll walk my wife to work (about 3/4mi away), or we’ll just wander the neighborhood. The kiddos have umbrellas, coats, and boots, and so far we’ve been able to get outside regardless of the weather.

With fresh air and a bit of movement under our belts, we start the day. I try to alternate word-heavy subjects with hands-on subjects in order to keep the kiddos engaged.

Catechism is a Q&A format of doctrinal instruction. It has obvious implications from a faith perspective, but it is also an exercise in memorization, which is helpful for the whole family!

On Monday, chess is a demonstrated lesson. This being our first year, we are working through the various pieces (with mini-games), terminology, maneuvers, strategy, etc. We apply what we’ve learned during play through the middle of the week.

We’ve settled on mathematics as one of two individualized subjects this year. It is a subject that can easily be customized, and this allows me to encourage and challenge the kiddos at their own pace. With three very different aptitudes, it only makes sense to focus this time for each kid.

This means that everything else is presented to the group (age 9, 9, and 7). We do most work around the dining room table, but we move around the house (inside and out), and around the town to change the setting when available and appropriate.

As a final note, the schedule has a wealth of time built in for the sake of flexibility. We walk around town a lot. We take breaks. We spend time in conversation. We make hot cocoa. We eat snacks. We use the bathroom. Lessons vary in length based on the day, the subject, and the material at hand. As I said in my last post, I give the day to my children. We have a routine, but we also have to leave room for life to happen!

I can talk more about specific classes and curriculum choices in the days/weeks to come. But for this week, it’s all about the schedule.

Homeschool Dad : A Day in the Life

Among the wealth of questions that ran through my brain as we considered the shift toward schooling at home was, of course, the selfish one: What will this do to my life? 

Ministry knows few personal boundaries (except those that are intentionally established, but that’s another post), and my wife has a very caring approach to her work as well, which means our lives are deeply intertwined at times with our vocational callings.

How can I work and teach? When will I find time to read? To exercise? To date my wife? These are all fair questions and worthy of consideration.

Seven weeks into the process, I’ve established something of a rhythm. That rhythm is currently being obliterated by a four-day-old, but at least there is a “normal” which I can now strive to regain before adjusting again.

What does a “normal” weekday look like? I will comment on the specific areas below:

04:55am – wake up
05:03am – out the door for a run
05:22am – return & shower
05:40am – sitting down for my time
07:45am – wake the kiddos
08:20am – begin the school routine
11:20am – lunch
02:30pm – finish school routine
06:00pm – dinner
07:15pm – family time
08:00pm – kiddos are in bed

The beginning of my day sounds ridiculously regimented. I didn’t schedule it with such particularity. I’ve just come to notice the clock, and these are pretty steady times if I move at the right pace.

In reality, I consider the snooze button daily.
In reality, I hate running.

I run 15 minutes each morning, which at this point is around 2 miles. I spend this time in prayer, and I find that it helps me to stay awake for my personal time. I am not aiming to break records, just to wake up and get a few endorphins flowing.

I spend my personal time in the Bible, and in personal reading, with the occasional work task. When the weather is above 50 degrees, I am on the porch with a yogurt and cup of coffee under the lights. It’s a peaceful time of the day. My focus is high, and I am generally ready when 7:45 rolls around.

I’ll share more on our school schedule later, but I’ll say that I decided early on to be 100% at school when we’re schooling. No distractions. No lingering work. No trying to finish early in order to get to another project. I am in those hours for the kiddos, and I’ve found peace in that decision. We take breaks, we move at a leisurely pace that fits our family.

Every day, there is a four hour window in the afternoon. We don’t run ragged with the kiddos. We try to say no frequently enough that we are not stressed and frustrated at the schedule. That is a family decision.

A portion of the afternoon belongs to work.  A portion belongs to the family. A portion belongs to the house. I work there as the day allows, and as my responsibilities demand. With five kids under 10, we do not lack variety.

We’ve managed to maintain a pattern that involves family meals most days of the week. Ministry gets in the way periodically, but we’re pretty consistent.

Family worship is the subject of another post, but building in the time that all six (now seven) of us are together daily is also something we value. We know these times are limited, and so we cherish them. The nights sometimes run later, but we aim for the same bedtime.

Post-kiddo-bedtime evenings belong to my wife and rest. I may read if there’s time and energy. I may watch an episode of Cheers. We may just enjoy each other. But I’ve found ending the day in peace to be just as important as launching in peace.

Because 4:55 comes quickly…

Homeschool Dad

As my wife and I considered the plunge into homeschooling, we spent time researching the options and the process. Knowing that nearly the entire formal teaching aspect would rest on my shoulders, I began searching to find out just how many homeschooling dads were out there. I sought high and low for thoughts, reflections, encouragement, ideas, and more. I am thankful to have found some that were particularly helpful in our decision-making process.

I wondered if, along this journey of ours, there might be value in sharing our experience… my experience… as a means of encouragement or entertainment.

And so, as I once again consider dusting off my blogging cap, I’m adding a page/category to the website… the homeschool dad.

I shan’t promise profundity.

I dare not promise wisdom.

I can only promise a story, with more than a hint of honesty. I am seven weeks into this journey. I am not a wily veteran. I am a dad who loves his kids and who is in a position to walk with them for this season of life, and maybe share a thought or two along the way.

For the last nine and one-half years, my office has been my dining room table, and I’ve been surrounded by my children. One of the greatest kindnesses of a life of ministry is flexibility. My vocational responsibilities allow me space to read and write from home, which means I’m also able to watch children.

I’ve spent the last decade dividing my daytime between family, ministry, and graphic design. We started with twins, then added another, then another. Two went to school, then three. And this was going to be the year… you know, the year. All four kids in school. Consecutive hours of quiet work. Coffee breaks with friends.

Glorious!

In January, we found out we were to receive another gift in our family. In the spring, we started kicking around the idea of homeschool. My prospective workday went from four children in school to five children at home in a matter of weeks! And, if this remains our reality, it will be so until I am fifty-six years old. That’s almost sixty. (Obviously I’m primed to teach math)

My surprise and my delight is the ease with which my heart welcomed the idea. My mind has entertained reservations all along the way, but only as speed bumps, never roadblocks. My heart has been leading the way.

Some of these days have been difficult. Today, I’m encouraged. I’m also exhausted, but that’s because we have a 3-day-old at home.

If it’s OK, I’ll post a few more thoughts as I find the time.

 

Curiouser and Curiouser : Alice #2

We started reading Alice with the kiddos last week. With the end of school and the merriment that accompanies, we’ve only made it through the end of chapter 2 together, though I suspect the pace will pick up accordingly now. We are reading the Reimagined version together. The artistic style is fantastic! Yet I find a bit of comfort when i pick up my Norton nerd version and see those old Tenniel illustrations. I hope you are enjoying the book.

As I set out to write this week, I find myself echoing Alice’s sentiments as she fell through the rabbit hole. Do cats eat bats? Do bats eat cats? For, “you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t matter which way she put it.”

In other words, while I’m enjoying the book immensely, I’m not sure exactly what to say yet. How strange that the absurdity of the book (and it’s utter apparent lack of profundity) is its finest quality.

In a letter penned to the children of an American family, Dodgson (Carroll) describes varied reactions to Alice, and his desire that children of varied backgrounds have access to the book. After Dodgson, a protestant Christian minister, commented that a Jewish audience (little Israelites, he says) would benefit, he adds this anecdote:

“Another – a ‘Lady Superior’ – wrote to ask to see a copy of Alice before accepting it: for she had to be very careful, all the children being Roman Catholics, as to what “religious reading’ they got! I wrote to say , ‘You shall certainly see it first if you like: but I can guarantee that the books have no religious teaching whatever in them – in fact, they do not teach anything at all.’ She said she was quite satisfied, and would accept the books.”

I’ve read the first two chapters numerous times, and each time I find myself smiling. I pore over the visual masterpieces, and again I’m smiling. I’m sure I’ll have more to say later, but for now, I’m delighted to smile and agree with our heroine…

Curiouser and curiouser.

A Note on Cats

If you know me, you’re aware of my general disdain towards cats. (I’m allergic, but I just use that as a shield to hide my true feelings) I found myself nearly laughing out loud as Alice and the mouse swam in the pool of tears, because I’ve been the mouse in numerous conversations… minus the pool of tears, anyway.

Me: Would YOU like cats if you were me? (hiding behind my allergy)
Cat Person: Ah, but if only you could meet MY cat…
Me: Low, vulgur things! Don’t let me hear you speak of them again!

Apparently cat folks have been using the “if only you could meet MY cat” line for well over a century. Who would’ve thought?

 

(Check out more about Summer Reading : Alice)

The Imaginative Edgar Cuthwellis : Alice #1

I can still remember the season in which my wife, over a series of nights spanning several months, would lay in bed with the kiddos, devising a story extemporaneously that featured our brood as the main characters. (As I recall, there was a healthy infusion of Star Wars phrasing employed at the time…) The children were delighted to be made a part of the story, and they would rush halfway down the stairs to tell me of their latest adventures.

Stories improvised in a moment often take exciting twists and turns, the kinds of maneuvers that keep children wide-eyed and wondering. It should not come as a surprise, then, to know that Alice in Wonderland began as a series of on-the-spot tales devised for a group of children by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Lutwidge became Ludovic became Lewis.
Charles became Carroll.

Or so says the diary of C.L. Dodgson from February 11, 1856.

(A transposition of the name Charles Lutwidge was also considered, but who knows if he’d be nearly as famous had he gone with the name Edgar Cuthwellis.)

The Liddell children were the first audience of the adventures in Wonderland. Alice Liddell served as the muse for the adventures and received the first written copies of the tales. For 20 years, Alice (Liddell) Hargreaves held the original autographs of Wonderland, complete with Carroll’s ink illustrations. Only after 120,000 copies were in print did he request permission to share the originals with the world. What a special treasure to have held for so long!

Atop his gift for clever and fanciful tales, Dodgson was a mathematician (a big fan of Euclid, he was), a logician, a theologian, and a gifted photographer. The word genius is thrown around quite often in Carroll’s biographical sketches. He was an outstanding student and teacher. Yet it was fiction that would dominate his earliest legacy.

It is necessary to acknowledge, even as I am still reading and processing, the somewhat questionable side of Charles Dodgson. Admittedly, I approach my summer reads without much preparatory research. After all, part of the point of the summer read is to do the research in community! As such, I have only begun to read the essays concerning Dodgson’s “artistic and emotional obsession” with little girls.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re sitting exactly where I was at the beginning of the week! Yes, there is an underbelly to Lewis Carroll that is debated and oft-discussed among those who have endeavored to study the man behind Wonderland. Having only read the classic nonsense stories in my younger days, I have wavered between fascination and disappointment this week! And yet the summer will roll on.

I’m no biographer of Lewis Carroll, nor am I a scholar of the Victorian era or the “child-worship” that is attributed thereto. But I enjoy a journey, and I’m ready to engage. I’m thankful for my nerdy Norton Critical Edition. 

Thus far, I’m hooked. I want to know the man and the method behind Wonderland. I’m thankful to know that the stories were all but made up in a moment expressly for the enjoyment of children – and a particular Alice. I’m hoping to find greater clarity regarding the story behind the story.

If nothing else, this week has been a constant reminder that no man is holy unto himself. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – even those who spend their lives in service of his Kingdom. Dodgson himself expressed such a thought in numerous journal entries and letters.

I hope you’re ready to jump in! I hope you enjoy the classic nonsense! If you’re local and you’re reading along, I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about this summer!

 

(Check out more about Summer Reading : Alice)

Flappers and Fancy: Gulliver #9

If you are following along in the Summer Read, it would be helpful if you’ve read through Chapter IV of Laputa in Gulliver’s Travels.

This week was slow for reading. Our schedule (and a couple nights of illness) didn’t allow for the same time in the story. That makes me sad. It happens, though. I’ll catch up with the kiddos tonight, and then we’ll be off for voyage #3. I hope you’ve been able to enjoy your time in Gulliver. I know our family has found reasons to smile throughout. Even our three-year-old asks for it by name (I’m not sure he knows what’s what, but that doesn’t stop him from asking for “Gover”).

Satire knows no rest. At least, not in the world of Lemuel Gulliver. A mere ten days after arriving home from two extraordinarily strange journeys, he is invited yet again to sail the seas. Two months later, he is adrift. If I’m being honest, though the first two voyages are perhaps the most well known, it is the final two which stand as my favorites. They are, in many ways, the most absurd. And yet, at the same time, they offer us an even larger mirror through which to view humanity – sometimes in particularly relevant ways.

The floating island of Laputa, unusual as it may be, doesn’t hold a candle to the natives in terms of absurdity. Two particular features scream with modern application… flappers and fancy.

Flappers

Laputans are known to drift mid-conversation into a world of their own self-important imaginations. (We know nothing of such problems here in the sophistication of the 21st century!) What happens when an island is entirely inhabited by humans incapable of sustained focus on other humans?

Flappers.

Flappers, or Climenoles in the native Laputan tongue, follow the natives, carrying a pea-filled bladder strung from a stick which is used to flap people on the ears and mouth (and occasionally the eyes) in order to reset their span of attention and welcome their inflated minds back to earth. Swift is believed to be jabbing at London’s Royal Society, a learned group of scientists established sixty-six years prior to the publication of Gulliver which still exists today. While Swift may have had a target in mind, I think it’s safe to say his commentary extends comfortably into our modern context.

It would seem that these Laputans do have the capacity to dial in and focus… just not for another human. They are content to chase their own thought processes, their own calculations, their own discoveries. But along the way, it is the inclusion of another member of the species that requires an extra jolt. In other words, it is in relationship that they most desperately fail. In communication.

Think about the last person you met, for the first time for the last time. (Sorry, Spaceballs was on last week). What was their name? I am excessively guilty of this. I meet a person. I get their name. I immediately forget their name and go back to thinking about myself. What do I want to say next? How can I make this person like me? How can I get rid of this person? (Hint: forgetting their name helps) So often in conversation, my mind drifts to the next thing I’m going to say – and in the process I stop attending to the living, breathing human in front of me. This is probably why I need 2-5 quality interactions (preferably at my house, for some reason) before I remember anything of value.

Personally? I could use a flapper. How about you?

 

Fancy 

Another key feature of the Laputans is their apparent inability to bring their brilliant encounters in the clouds down to earth in any practical way. For example, they are renown for their mathematical prowess, yet they cannot use simple geometry to craft a shirt. The illustrated version pictures limp third sleeves, baggy proportions (and horrid colors?!). All the intellect in the skies over Balnibarbi is useless without practical application. Somehow, their servants are able to carve food into geometric shapes – a clearly useful skill – but they cannot properly clothe themselves.

This is probably something of an extension of the whole flapper business. But here I am convicted of a very basic principle… a killer reading list, a puffed-up noggin, and a top-notch vocabulary (anybody knock out the vocab assessment on facebook this week?) are useless if the knowledge attained never finds its way into practical application. At the same time, I would emphasize that I view this as no reason to avoid study, but rather as a clarion call to pursue studies that produce practical fruit in our lives.

As I write this, I am preparing for my summer run of camp preaching. I’ll be speaking 23x in 26 days. I am thankful that 19 of those occasions allow for me to overlap material, but there is still a ton of preparation involved, which means (for me) a boatload of reading. Regardless of my audience, I choose to challenge myself deeply in preparation. I will read biblical and systematic theologies, scholarly papers and books, commentaries and novels… to teach children. (for the first 10 messages, anyway!)

Now granted, I will never share 97% of what I read, but I’m always feeding the conversation inside my head in order to gain a better understanding. I chase knowledge to the exclusion of everything around me, at times beyond my own comprehension, just so I can stand in front of a group of kiddos and say “Jesus loves you” with an extra measure of confidence.

If I’m not careful, I pay closer attention to the conversation in my head than the one in my living room. If I’m not careful, I spend so much time reading that I forget to apply the most simple expression of truth to my own life. If I’m not careful, I confuse more than I instruct, failing to pass on the wisdom I’m called to impart.

This Laputan business is not stuck on another continent, in another century. This is my life.

I laugh at the flappers. I think about sending flappers to friends and family. But who needs the flappers more? Could it be *gasp* me?

I laugh at the thought of a three-armed shirt. But how often do I misapply the knowledge I am fed?

More and more, I’m thankful for the light Mr. Gulliver is shining!

 

In the Shadow of a Giant: Gulliver #8

If you are following along in the Summer Read, it would be helpful if you’ve read through Chapter V of Brobdingnag in Gulliver’s Travels.

The more I think about our journeys with Gulliver thus far, the more I’ve realized how I struggle to sympathize with the giant. Maybe it says something about my view of humanity. Even though I know we are supposed to assume the vantage point of Gulliver throughout the voyages, I just couldn’t be Gulliver the Man-mountain. I couldn’t allow myself to make everyone else the butt of the joke while I stood above them. My foolish heart is all-too-prone to prideful outbursts to allow for such an exercise. I was more drawn to the eyepiece of the Lilliputians. Maybe it says something about my view of humanity. Maybe the historical popularity of the Lilliputian story (almost to the exclusion of the next three episodes) says something about humanity.

I point this out to say I recognize that I then put forward something of an inconsistency when I so easily assume Gulliver’s vantage point on Brobdingnag. I am inclined to sympathize with the small. I’m not sure where everyone else is at this point, but I’m actually enjoying Brobdingnag more, because the goal of the voyage is to hold up that big ‘ol mirror to show Gulliver (and, by extension, you and me) how silly we and self-centered we can be.

Consider for a moment Gulliver’s reaction to the giant king’s perspective on England in Chapter III.

“This prince took a Pleasure in conversing with me, enquiring into the manners, religion, laws, government, and learning of Europe… after an hearty fit of laughing, asked me whether I were a Whig or a Tory… and thus he continued on, while my colour came and went several times, with indignation to hear our noble country… so contemptuously treated.” 

Gulliver’s country, his way of living, were called into question in a mocking tone. Like any of us, he was offended… at first. He couldn’t bear the thought of his very existence being ridiculed in the hands of a giant. Gulliver takes pride in his sight, his ability to engage wisdom and reason. And now, in the shadow of a giant, it is all fair game for laughter.

BUT… Gulliver has a quick change of heart.

“I began to doubt whether I were injured or no. For, after having been accustomed several months to… these people… the horror I had first conceived from their bulk and aspect was so far worn off, that if I had then beheld a company of English Lords and Laides… acting their several parts in the most courtly manner… I should have been strongly tempted to laugh as much at them as the King and his Grandees did at me.” 

Why the swift (pun intended) change of heart? Why the near instant reconsideration? Gulliver explains with comments peppered throughout this situation.

“as I was not in a condition to resent injuries…” (because of his small stature, what good would come of being offended?)

“(as) I observed every object upon which I cast my eyes to be of proportional magnitude…” (not only the people, but this world was bigger than he)

“So that I really began to imagine my self dwindled many degrees below my usual size.” 

Lemuel Gulliver, through this voyage to the peninsula of the giants, had the chance to see himself as small. And the smaller he became in relation to everyone and everything, he found freedom. Freedom to laugh at himself, his culture, his history, his future. He found freedom to let go of injury when someone was picking near his heart. He found freedom to live beneath his neighbor (whereas in Lilliput, he was of the utmost significance and far above even the greatest of their nation). Even if just for awhile.

Again, there are no footnotes of epic significance in this story. Other than to clarify explicit references made in the chapters, the story stands alone, and Gulliver is made quite small.

I believe Lilliput, if read through the eyes of the Man-mountain, serves to lower our defenses and prepare us to be examined on Brobdingnag. Through those same eyes, we now get to feel small, exploited, mocked, and mistreated. But, through the efforts of a young nurse named Glumdalclitch, Gulliver also experiences the kind of love that guards the weak… even if imperfectly.

Oh, that we would all feel so small as to be humble…
… and so loved as to be lifted up.