Cultural Literacy – Master Inspire Plan Part 3

by Mary Ann on July 12, 2010

I am sure that you can think of times when you have been reading a book and it mentioned a word or event and you had the feeling that the author just assumed that the reader would know what he was talking about, but you didn’t. That happened to me recently. I was reading a book about the wives of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, specifically Mrs. Robert Morris.

Mrs. Robert Morris

Mr. Robert Morris The Financier of the Revolution

The book mentioned the land speculations of her husband and signer Robert Morris. Here is the quote I am referring to, “The history of the unfortunate wild land speculation of Morris….is too well known to need retelling here.” I had never heard of that and had no idea what the author was talking about so I had to do some research to find out.

That can and will happen to your children. There are all kinds of information that they should have at least a bit of knowledge about to make getting along in life easier and more enjoyable. Here are some examples, idioms such as “when it rains it pours”, “bite the dust” and “can’t hold a candle to”. Proverbs like “April showers bring May flowers” and “beauty is only skin deep”; parts of the English language, for example what is an exclamation or what is a bibliography. It includes literature which is common to the culture you live in such as Brer Rabbit, Superman and The Brothers Grimm in the USA. Think about music, art and architecture for examples of cultural literacy such as Big Ben, Beethoven or the Mona Lisa. Knowing and understanding things that I have mentioned and others is called cultural literacy.

Let’s consider the second area you might want to include in your Master Inspire Plan – CULTURAL LITERACY, breadth and depth. Here is a further definition.

Cultural Literacy is a common core of knowledge that we share with others in our nation. According to E. D. Hirsch “about eighty percent of the knowledge commonly shared by literate Americans has not changed for more than a hundred years and is not likely to be quickly outmoded.” I suspect that this would be true for whatever nation one lives in.

Take some time to think about cultural literacy. What facts and events do you think your child should know about? There are some great resources to get you thinking about this.

Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

A First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Our Children Need to Know

What Your Kindergartner Needs To Know (There is a book for grades K-6)

These books are all by all by E. D. Hirsch.

You will find many other excellent sources to get you thinking.

Create a list of the areas you would like to inspire your children with from both a survey standpoint as well as depth. You will provide the resources and the mentoring.

Why not start with your family culture. Do you have volumes of family history that you can read with your family or tell stories from? Make a plan for collecting family genealogy and stories of your ancestors. It would be very helpful to write out your best family culture, and how you can provide opportunities for your family to gain from their rich heritage. This is core to your family’s cultural literacy. Your plans can include journal keeping and scrapbooking special mementos, so that there is a means to pass your family culture onto the next generation.

Next, make a list of the resources you would like to use to cover the fields of knowledge that constitute literacy. What books, trips, pictures and activities will you need to provide?

The last part of this element is a list of the fields of knowledge that may constitute parts of your older children’s scholar study program. What do you want to inspire in the future. It is vital to look ahead even if your children are small. Here is an example of what might be found on your list, what you hope to inspire your young scholar to engage in:

Scholar Study Program

• Architecture

• Art

• Poetry

• Technology

• Wars

• Presidents

• Constitution, Declaration of Independence and other founding


• Geography

• Science (major fields)

• Government forms and which forms are specific to which countries

• Philosophy

• People of Influence throughout history

• Music Periods

• Eras in history

• Foreign languages

• Current events

• Future trends

• Foreign affairs

• Law and major Supreme Court decisions

Does this seem a bit overwhelming? Let’s take a look at my one year plan for myself and my grandchildren who range in age from 6 months to fourteen years.

Ancient World History

Jewish History and Culture

Greek Mythology

Family History

Founding Fathers and Mothers

Albert Schweitzer and other great men and women in Math, Science and Medicine

The first two fields are where I want to be studying this year. As I read about interesting people and events I will relay that information to my grandchildren, geared for their ages, through my Spark Station letters. This is a way for me, as a grandmother, to share my love of learning with my grandchildren. Parents can do the same for their children. Remember it is always “you not them”. You have to model what you want your children to do and be.

I plan to tell my grandchildren stories from Greek Mythology as well as write about them in the Spark Station letters.

Each year at our family reunion we have a special genealogy event for the children. I use that to help fulfill part of our family heritage. I also relate stories from our family books through telling stories in person as well as in Spark Station letters. Having this on my plan helps keep it in the front of my mind so that I actually follow through.

I keep items in my Spark Station about people and places in America’s history and other great people so when my grandchildren are here they can choose to engage with that information. I also relate stories and use the Spark Station letters. When they are coming to visit my Master Inspire Plan helps me choose activities and field trip I want to do with them.

So you see, despite how challenging it sounds, you just pick things that you want to use to inspire your children and then you think about ways to incorporate that in your family reading, family travels, yourSpak Station and field trips, etc.

So begin making your long term list and then break it down into your list for the next twelve months. Take some time and write out your own “best family culture”.

Let’s begin by reiterating some of the key points about a Master Inspire Plan. It is a guide to help you become a master at inspiring and responding to your children. It is not designed to insure that your children must or will do and learn everything in it. It is a guide to help you consider areas you would like to focus on in inspiring and responding to your children. Remember that some of the greatest educational experiences you will have with your children will be unplanned.

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