MFW Adventures: New Netherlands + Wiggle Room

IMG_5239Lots of new growth on the farm this month! Pineapples, bananas, watermelon, and avocados. What a great boost of encouragement for us as we lay out plans for our big fall garden.

We have wrapped up the unit on New Netherlands. Confession: I had no idea how to plan for this one. Not too many activities lurking around pinterest for this one. A trip to the library yielded a scant six books. I decided to keep the planner as bare as possible for the week. You know, keep a little wiggle room? I was tempted to take advantage of this “slow” week by adding extra geography or art, but I restrained myself.  Instead, at the end of each session, I would turn to the boys and ask, “Lets play what we learned! What should we do?”

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Well, these boys have zero problems being creative. They loved being in charge of our activities for this unit! We planned out settlements with our lincoln logs. We colored in maps of Old Boston and made a town meeting diorama.

IMG_5261We built windmills, sea port dioramas and Dutch step homes. We played with them during activity time.

IMG_5268We took the loom out to the backyard and did some weaving while we “watched the sheep.”  We had to bring our rifles along in case the wolf (our west highland terrier) showed up. We pretended to take long sea voyages while huddled in bunk beds.IMG_5291
Then we had this conversation:

Six year old: “Sooo how come you never make those crazy snacks that go with our Adventures stuff? Like that little cookie bear driving a covered wagon made out of marshmallows and graham crackers.”
Me: “Because toddlers.”
Six year old: “Can I make a cool snack for us?”
Me: “Sure, what do you have in mind for Dutch Pioneers?”
Six year old: “I was thinking crescent rolls stuffed with gummy worms. Ya know, for the moldy bread?”
Me: “Not bad kiddo. You should write out a line up for the whole year!”

Not all ideas were approved. For example, the suggestion: “Lets invent a Separatist’s Diarrhea Bucket for sea trips! You go mix some mud for the diarrhea…” was met with, “Hmmmm, lets rethink this game a bit.”

So we went on a very long sea voyage while summer rain pounded down on the roof of the farmhouse. Whenever lightning flashed we’d roll about on the bunk beds and pretend to be seasick while someone shouted out “Day 42!” or “Day 127!” The boys excel at feigning sea sickness, so I can check that off the list, “Things the Boys should learn in 2nd Grade.”  We sometimes read aloud from our book basket to pass the time during the voyage. Then the six year old began to direct things, “We’ll eat this moldy worm bread and Mom, you can be Trinka the cow. Go hide in the closet with the other cows and let out a sad, seasick, ‘Mooooo’ every once in a while.” (I have grown so much as an actress this year between my turns as Goodwife Misery and Trinka the cow). The six year old became a little overbearing and at one point my four year old rolled his eyes and said, “Ugh! You are such a Duke of York!” Guess the preschool gang has been absorbing more than I thought they would…

Have  I mentioned how much we love ” American Pioneers and Patriots?”  We are quite thrilled with it! Hands down our favorite part of Adventures so far. These stories about children throughout history make my sons wonder about their own place/story in history. Here are a few other books we read this week:

IMG_5294 James E. Knight books—so much information relayed through these engaging stories!

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We are also plodding our way through Betsy Maestro’s book: The New Americans: Colonial Times 1620-1689. We began last week during Pilgrims and we read a bit more this week about the colonists in New Amsterdam. The book does describe plenty of the violence between the settlers and the Native Americans. I am still not sure how much of the book we will finish in weeks to come. As always, I must balance informing their minds while still taking their young age into consideration and protecting their hearts. The fragility of their innocence is both humbling and terrifying sometimes.

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We watched Magic School Bus, baked bread and finished our yeast experiments. We churned butter and kept working on our handicrafts.

We completed our Beautiful Feet study of “The Courage of Sarah Noble,” well ahead of the MFW schedule, which allows us to read “The Matchlock Gun” next week, during Michigan Pioneers.  We snuck in “Sign of the Beaver” during our noon reading.  “Sign of the Beaver” carries many parallels to “The Courage of Sarah Noble,” but replaces a young heroine with a young hero. The boys were thrilled at the thought of being abandoned in the wilderness with only Indian neighbors for company.  They are currently wondering which part of the farm they can run away to and how long they might survive there.  Many votes have been cast in favor of “somewhere near the chicken coop so we can eat eggs!” We also managed to squeak in a few chapters of “Misty of Chincoteague.”  I had not planned to read this book at all for our Adventures year, but our language arts book, Writing With Ease, used it this week and the boy’s collective curiosity was piqued. After all, “American Pioneers and Patriots” featured animals brought over on ships to New Amsterdam. What other voyages did European animals take to come to the New World? My eldest is considering penning a small children’s book for his baby brother about just such a journey. Whether or not he ever does it, I am pleased that he is thinking about storytelling.

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This unit was 40% pretend play, 40% read alouds and 20% science experiments. Does it sound like we read a lot? Well, we do. If your family does not read out loud much, don’t feel less than. I love reading and it has naturally flourished in our home because I make a huge effort to read out loud as many times a day as possible. We suffer greatly in other areas because of that single minded effort (read: LAUNDRY). I encourage you to do what you can with where you are in life. Even if its just ten minutes a day. Don’t feel guilty, just start somewhere and be consistent!

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The boys always keep their hands busy while I read. The preschool gang made use of our sensory bins during story time. Mostly water beads, kinetic sand, corn and playdoh. They have learned to play quietly and are quite absorbed in what they are doing when measuring cups, magnifying glasses, scissors and toob figures are involved. Its taken training over the course of many weeks, but the stretches of quiet play are getting longer and longer each day!

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This week we used the book “Colonial America.” It provided the patterns for the projects listed earlier in this post. Dutch step homes, windmills, etc. This book was more challenging than the Pilgrims History Pockets book we used the week before. The boys had no trouble coloring in and cutting out all the pieces, but they were only able to independently assemble 2 out of the 8 projects we finished. I would not recommend this book if you are looking for independent work, unless your child is especially deft at constructing these sorts of models.

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Our favorite project was probably the “Look Inside Log Cabin.”
IMG_5339IMG_5337The boys loved seeing how simple these log cabin homes were. “No room for toys inside…so that means the outside world was where the kids played all of the time!” They seemed to be inspired by this prospect. During our Mom’s group playdate, my second-born eschewed the splash pad at the park in order to climb our family’s favorite giant banyan tree, far away from the group.
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When I asked him about it he responded, “I am a pioneer boy in my heart today. I want to only be in this tree with my thoughts and imagine whatever I want. I think its the best way to play.”  Little by little, his brothers joined him. When we arrived home, they quickly changed clothes and headed outdoors again; eager to collect eggs and mushrooms, scouting for places to build a log cabin, gathering pinecones and jasmine flowers to trade with neighboring Indian villages.

10915279_820075911018_1848104050298760662_nThese imaginative adventures are made of rich stuff, my friends.

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