MFW ECC Kenya

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After three weeks in Africa, we wrapped up this afternoon by reading through our favorite selections from our study, which was fitting because of all the great books we found for this study! I was nearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of excellent book choices available this time around. We had a great time drawing pictures, building model homes for the various regions in Africa out of clay and practicing our beadwork while I read aloud.

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One of our first books was “Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions” by Margaret Musgrove.
26 Traditions through the alphabet explored. This book sparked their curiosity in many different directions. We took a closer look at the Ikoma people of Tanzania and their use of small birds to lead them to honey for gathering. We read up on the Tuareg people and were fascinated by the veiled, largely silent males in the culture and the unveiled womens position of great respect as they told stories and recited poetry.

Next we read “Bringing the Ran to Kapiti Plain” by Verna Aardema and then we went full steam into our study of the African savannah.

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We were able to read 8 books while the boys drew out a landscape of the grasslands. Then the younger two went to work with modeling clay while the older two did some map work on their Pin it Maps. We made sure to pin all the regions we read about in the books we looked at this morning and it really helped solidify these places in their mind when they could trace borders and take note of local land water forms.

The boys also enjoyed looking through their Dad’s photo album of his months spent in Kenya. They loved seeing the great variety of animals and the sight of their Dad, young and free, exploring Kenya and making friends overseas.

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For the past four years we have raised money as a family to give to Heifer International each Christmas. With advent right around the corner, I was quite pleased to find the book “One Hen” which tells of the story of “how one small loan made a big difference.” This story had everyones wheels turning, not just about our coming donation to Heifer, but about other ways to help stimulate business opportunity and growth in poorer areas of the world. My eldest remarked that he wanted to find ways to help families become self sufficient and take pride and joy in their work. The boys each wrote out a small composition about small business loans and filed it away in their ECC notebooks.

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I recently posted about our Friday Exam, we split the three weeks of study between North and East Africa, West Africa and South Africa, holding a Friday exam each week to cap off. Things I never thought to see on my dining room table? Weaverbird nests, termite hill cross sections, secretary birds and long giraffe tongues.

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Our nature notebook has started to pick up steam now that the summer steam is lessening. We went for a lovely hike early one morning last week and had several new experiences even though it was a familiar trail. I love that about nature! We got very close to a blue heron and were able to hear its strange call. We found raccoon tracks, a few dragon fly specimens and photographed several specimens of wild orchid.

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We came home and journaled together, only to discover that on the same day last year we also saw a blue heron! An exciting moment for us! We are still using the nature journals from Classical Conversations and its wonderful to see how their work has progressed over time.

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“King if the Wind” by Marguerite Henry was our lunch time read aloud for this study alongside the Christian heroes Then and Now  edition of David Livingstone.  The days are slowly ripening into perfect outdoor reading weather and I have a feeling we’ll be doing the vast majority of our schoolwork outdoors this winter. We start Marco Polo’s account of his journey on Monday and I can’t wait!

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There are a few resources that we use for each study, without exception, that I do not mention every time I post. They are:

1) Planet Earth DVDs  and One Small Square series by Donald Silver for Biome Study. These two together have replaced Properties of Ecosystems for us. We journal and illustrate pages from the Square books and then watch Planet Earth. We still do all the experiments listed in the TM.

2) Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel*
3) Material World by Peter Menzel*
*These books have been much more interesting and engaging than the majority of the Geography pages assigned in our TM. Oftentimes we skip those entirely and just learn about the countries using these two books along with the book basket recommendations and…
4) Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin. This is a book of book lists organized by area and country. Its fantastic and has enriched our year.

5)  Pin It Maps. We use the individual country maps, world map, land and water forms and country flag maps.

6) Around the World in 80 Pages by Antony Mason. This little book takes the children through the countries on the various continents. The last few weeks we read through its descriptions of North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, South Africa and portions of the middle east. It really made the continent of Africa so much more vivid for my children and helped them understand that Africa is not one giant plain covered in grass and full of elephants and lions and giraffes. It gave depth and perspective and contrast. Such a great little book!
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Africa Book List

Rain School by James Rumford
Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrave
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema (also a Reading Rainbow episode!)
Two Ways to Count to Ten: A Liberian Folktale by Ruby Dee
Seven Spool of Thread by Angela Mediars
Owen & Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff
We all Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs
Africa is Not a Country by Margy Burns Knight
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill: African Mother Goose by Virginia Kroll
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela by Cristina Kessler
My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me by Maya Angelou
One Hen by Katie Smith Milway
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tolowa Mollel

I have dropped the ball on crafts, thanks to our focus on handiwork. We haven’t really opened Global Art much of late because of everything else we have going on, especially with crochet and knitting. But I do love some of the crafts in the book so I’m going to try and be a bit more diligent about setting time aside for the boys to make these things.

Next up–the Middle East!

The Friday Exam

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A few years ago, I handed my two eldest children their very first math test. They sat together, side by side, and commenced. Within moments they were wriggling in their seats and soon the little game of “oops, I dropped my pencil” began. I asked them repeatedly to sit still, focus, and finish–to no avail. After an hour had passed the last answer was finally recorded. The boys were frustrated and cranky, I was overwhelmed and wondered what on earth I would do once they were middle school age. This pattern repeated itself throughout the fall of that year until we broke for our usual Advent rest.

Throughout Advent we would sit by our little electric fireplace (We don’t need a real one down here!) and read for long periods of time. One day my second born brought out paper and crayons after reading time and he began to draw the first story I read some forty five minutes earlier. I knelt beside him and asked him to tell me the story. Never taking his eyes off his work, he relayed the story with remarkable accuracy and feeling. Sure, he left a few things out, but I was amazed by all he recalled. He was able to narrate with greater depth and accuracy while drawing than when standing at attention during his narration lesson. His eyes and hands had purpose now and were no longer roaming about the room while he spoke.

This was the birth of our Friday Exam, though the children call it something else. Months of observing and adjusting and tweaking eventually produced our current methodology.A way to evaluate our children in a joyful and creative way.

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I begin by covering our table in butcher paper (our roll has lasted a few years).  I set out pastels, beeswax crayons and any other useful or necessary visual aides. Then I DO NOT say, “Come and take a test.” The word test is not used. Cuz… yuck.

I invite the boys over and say something like, “Lets chat a while” or “Show me…” or “Tell me about…”

Then they begin to draw their favorite concepts and ideas from our week of study. They love jumping in with something that excites them to get their creative juices flowing.

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While I have them engaged and eager, we work through our drills and memory work. Perhaps they will recite a poem or passage from scripture they have learned, or they will work through their classical conversations memory work.  Oftentimes I will have them spell words aloud (which is the best practice for my eldest son who is visually disorganized) or I will dictate ONE FAMILIAR sentence for them to write out next to their drawings. Then we move onto science. We are studying biomes this year under MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures scope and sequence. The boys draw the biome and relay its characteristics and then they get to make up a story about one animal that lives in the biome. I love hearing their creative storytelling! If the story gets off-track, I gently reel it back in by asking a question. Ultimately, I am looking for 3-5 facts about the biome and 2-4 facts about the animal. They have grown better at this over time. Next the boys will illustrate a scene from our family read aloud and we will discuss it. This is not a time for heavy handed literary analysis! We try and relate to the story, ask questions, work through difficult concepts or spend time comparing what we have processed to what scripture says. We are growing taste, discernment, and insight.

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History, anatomy, botany, geography, art—we touch on a variety of subjects during the week with our “chase the spark” method and the place where I really see the full tapestry of their work is during Friday exam. It is always ENCOURAGING to me. Imagine that!  An exam that brings consistent encouragement? Now, if there is a lull, which can happen from time to time depending on energy levels, sugar intake, will power of the preschooler to ignite anarchy or current lunar calendar, I will pick up a pastel and draw something and they have to guess what it is and then we discuss it.  I cap the exam off after an hour. No need to strain every bit of information out of their heads. I want the children to leave feeling confident and happy and full, the same way they leave the dinner table each evening, that is what I aim for when they depart after their exam. I praise them for their work that week. We do not address any misbehavior or disappointments, that happens at another time. We end on a high note, praising what they did well so that they go into the weekend feeling encouraged.

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As the exam progresses I take notes and once the boys leave I take more. These notes provide highlights from the exams and I am always sure to record what their current interests and delights are. I also jot down areas of struggle or things we need to revisit, perhaps in a new light or meshed in with one of the things they are currently enjoying.

The exam is not given to determine what they do not know. I already know what they do not know because my class is SMALL and I am with them everyday. Why give them a test I know they will not do well on? What does that accomplish? There is no room for a red pen and a bell curve here. Neither is the exam a way to ensure that everyone knows the same thing. As whole persons with unique souls, minds and hearts, the boys are naturally drawn to different aspects of subjects at different times—unstandardized! One brother may absorb his 11 times table rapidly through rote memorization at the beginning of term, another brother may embrace it six months later in song or story form. One brother will look at the Eiffel Tower and be drawn to its structure–the physics and mechanics of wind and steel. Another brother will look at the Eiffel tower and relate to the story of the man behind its creation, its history, and patriotic value. Both children have learned truth, goodness and beauty in ways that cannot be determined by bubbles or multiple choice. I do not need a paper trail to demonstrate who my children are becoming.

Can a person spend his childhood savoring knowledge, gaining wisdom and cultivating a lifestyle of intellectual growth without the presence of thousands of one dimensional tests marking the way? Yes. Yes, of course he can. There is more than one way to demonstrate competency just as there is more than one way to educate a person.

This is not to say that my children will never take a “normal” test. I am sure as the years pass we will have occasion to take a few. But for my children, especially in their tender growing years, I see little need, purpose, or joy in issuing tests for each subject every ten lessons.

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So we unroll the paper and cover the table where we our minds  and hearts meet throughout the week. A button is pressed and music floods the room. We spill pastels upon the table and with the guidance of our hands they convey the treasures we have gleaned that week. We laugh and color and sing and recite and tell and share and discuss. It is not a time for fear or nervousness. Its a time for joy and celebration and the formation of new questions.

MFW ECC: France

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We had a spectacular sunset on the last day of our France study. It was just after dinner when my son noticed the brilliant orange and red shadows on our living room curtains. We ran outside together, jumped the back fence and raced out to the water’s edge. Whenever we have dry lightning storms at sunset, the sky becomes incredibly rich in its contrasting colors. We saw intense red, gold, orange and yellow against brooding black and charcoal gray. It looked ominous and glorious all at once. We saw a flock of ibis flying east and a flock of roseate spoonbills heading west. A kingfisher made his dinner dive and we were nearly ecstatic over the sight of a rare snail kite soaring over our heads. But that sunset, of that sunset made us giddy. We had looked through some of Van Gogh’s work as we were discussing the Montmartre earlier that day. The minute my son saw the full scope of this sunset he let out a joyous little whoop and called to me, “Mom! Its a Van Gogh! Look! We just read about him and now the sky is a Van Gogh!”

Homeschooling is hard and sometimes I wonder/worry what the effect will be on my relationship with each of my children. Moments like the above are a gift from God. Granted, they are not always so flashy and obvious, but He still gives them to me. I tuck them in my heart to remember on days when feelings are hurt, tears run and personalities are at war. I love that we were able to share such a glorious moment together. A few days after this sunset we were reading another book that briefly mentioned Van Gogh. Immediately I raised my eyes and looked at my son, he grinned and gave me a little wink. We are now permanently bonded over Van Gogh. We’ll never be able to look at his work again without remembering that moment.

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In our effort to learn French culture, I told the kids we would be slowing down even more than we already have. We would learn to linger well over truth, goodness and beauty. This resulted in some epically long morning time breakfast gatherings. We read so many books together (booklist at the end of the post!), enjoyed at least three pots of tea at each sitting and ate way more treats than we should have.

After reading a lovely little story about life in the french countryside, we decided to have a countryside day. We baked fresh bread and chopped veggies for soup, made a batch of lotion and some chapstick, diffused lots of lavender and read about the production of essential oil, and hand rolled beeswax tapers for our table this autumn and winter (while learning about bees!). The boys loved this particular activity. The smell is so warm and comforting and they loved getting to work on something meaningful for our home. Its good to feel useful, isn’t it?

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A few readers have asked about our “unstandardized testing” method, so I thought I would share a bit on this recap about how its done at our house.

First, I cover our table in butcher paper (I purchased a very large roll on Amazon nearly 3 years ago and have yet to run out). Next I give the boys several pastels and beeswax crayons. I choose 7 topics for them to illustrate and work on. This week they illustrated: Heidi on the Alps, a coniferous forest, acid rain effects, the cathedral in Rouen, a cave and its lifeforms, trabecular bone structure grid, and the Eiffel tower. While drawing, they recited their poetry work, scripture memory work, Classical Conversations memory work and they narrated portions of our reading from Spyri’s “Heidi.” I also gave a verbal spelling test to each child. Once the illustrations were completed, the boys went through each one and explained what they were, what they learned and the significance of each one.

My second born (age 7) explained the white stone structure of the cathedral in Rouen. We studied Monet’s painting of this building earlier in the week and then read through David Macaulay’s “Cathedral.” My son pointed out a few architectural elements, their purpose and significance and then talked about Monet’s painting, use of light and its effects on the white stone. He then talked a bit about Monet and the impressionist movement. We studied Monet for close to three months so he is now able to talk about him comfortably. There is great benefit to a slower learning that promotes savoring.

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My eldest discussed the Eiffel tower. Happily, our morning time history book, “Stories of the Nations” by Lorene Lambert, gave us a fascinating account of Gustave Eiffel’s life and his construction of the tower. This story captivated my son to such a degree that we spent an entire afternoon learning all about the construction of the tower and its similarities to the human trabecular bone structure. (Aside: I know I have mentioned “Stories of the Nations” before, but I must once again express just how meaningful and enriching this book has been in our ECC study this year. Each chapter is only 2-3 pages long and takes just a few minutes to read at the table each morning. It has captured even my 5 year old and the children have had this beautiful experience listening to the history of the world spread out in an engaging way.)

Our entire “test” took a little over an hour and the boys were so proud and eager to show off what they knew and what they had absorbed throughout the week. The idea of testing to find out what someone does not know is a bit foreign to them and so they look forward to these afternoons of sharing. Once the paper is unrolled I have an opportunity to listen and evaluate what they have retained, what peaked their interest, what was valuable to them and exactly why certain pieces of information were deemed important by them. This helps me in my future planning and gives me a great gauge for where we have been and what we have moved forward with.

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For this country study, we decided to really focus in on Art and Food. Big surprise, I know! I tried to tempt them to look at fashion (how cute are these Chanel paper dolls?) but no one took me up on it. One of my favorite Instagram accounts belongs to Terri Woods of @Woodsermom. A few weeks ago she recommended a beautiful book called, “Painting Pepette,” about a little French girl that wants a portrait done of her stuffed bunny. She ventures out to the Montmarte and encounters an assortment of artists that each paint a portrait of the little bunny and very different styles. The book is quite charming. Woodsermom had asked her children to paint on subject in the style of four different painters, so we followed suite. We chose my son’s stuffed hummingbird “Hummy” as our subject and once again the butcher paper and all the art supplies came out.  We listened to beautiful music and spent several hours (I was bit shocked at how long they lingered over this) painting, drawing, watercoloring, sketching and sculpting. We took a virtual tour of the Louvre afterwards.

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The internet is incredible (and horrible). How neat to be able to find 360 degree tours of buildings in France or a view of the city from the top of the Eiffel tower? Check out Napoleon Bonaparte’s house!

Lastly, we just had to watch “Ratatouille” and make our own recipe for lunch one day. They wanted to eat their meal with crusty bread and hot chocolate. This would be a fun activity to pair alongside the marshmallow Eiffel Tower, or an apple chunks Eiffel Tower is you want healthy disgruntled children.

Confession: I am a bit behind in posting, we have already finished Germany! I’ll be sure to post our recap of that study soon. Thanks for following along!

France Study Booklist:
Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock
Anatole by Eve Titus
Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Grey Ruelle
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Monet by Mike Venezia
Paul Cezanne by Mike Venezia
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit  by Judith Kerr
Twenty and Ten by Claire Bishop
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson
Kate Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew
Joan of Arc by Demi

MFW ECC Norway

Norway! Quite possibly, our favorite unit so far. Surprising because on the eve of this study’s inauguration, my husband had to call an ambulance to come get me after I began to experience sudden and horrific pain. Two days in the hospital, lots of prescription meds and a slow recovery had me forecasting a pretty dreadful, overwhelming and miserable few weeks of school, but the exact opposite happened. Our village lovingly reached out and made meals, came to visit, took over some of my responsibilities and encouraged us. My husband even went in my place to our Classical Conversations community day and wore the Director’s hat on my behalf.  It blessed me deeply to have such thoughtful love and care poured over us. Even the boys were extra helpful and diligent in their work. While we did not have as many outdoor adventures as usual, we still had a lovely time with our study!

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We spent many, many hours reading this time around. The D’Aulaires have a wealth of books for Norway study and we read them all. Many cups of tea and several knit dishcloths later, we went through the pile and chose our favorites and read them again. We also enjoyed Joanna Spyri’s “Heidi” as one of our overall European books.

Norway/Scandinavian Booklist: 

Welcome Back Sun by Michael Emberly
D is for Dala Horse: A Nordic Country Alphabet by Kathy Jo Wargin
Once Upon a Northern Light by Jean Pendziwol
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
Norwegian Tales by Ingri D’aulaire
Ola by Ingri D’aulaire
Children of the Northern Lights by Ingri D’aulaire
Leif the Lucky by Ingri D’aulaire
Book of Trolls by Ingri D’aulaire
Katie the Windmill Cat by Gretchen Woelfe
Boxes for Katje by Candace Flemming
Hans Brinker, the Silver Skates
Hannah’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx
My Tour of Europe by Teddy Roosevelt Age 10 by Ellen Marx
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan

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Science with ECC continues to be a bit shaky at times. The kids love the science experiments (don’t skip them!) but POE is still hard to get through. So we do what we can and then we take off on our own. The BBC Planet Earth series is phenomenal and we loved the episode on forests. We used tree cards from Tanglewood Hollow and a beautiful crochet tree ring I received from a Montessori Materials swap. My son and I have been knitting tiny crochet bowls like mad lately and we have been using them to hold some of our favorite nature finds.

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While the older boys finished cataloging tree rubbings and leaf samples in their nature journals, my youngest children went with me to the kitchen to make The Homegrown Preschooler’s Herbal doh recipe. We had a lovely time practicing math and practical life skills. The older children went outside and collected pine needles and pine cones to decorate the table. I set out some natural materials like acorns caps, sweet gums, petals and walnut shells. The boys sat and played with doh while I read through books and eventually we switched over to enjoying various Scandinavian composers and musicians.

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Its encouraging to witness the engagement that takes place through living books. Dry textbooks just do not impart the same connection and inspiration. The boys were utterly captivated by the life of the Lapp children and spent many hours learning more about reindeers and the midnight sun and of course, the northern lights.

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Even during their quiet time, I caught them reading in little corners all over the house. I think we all needed to be still for a few days. Don’t get me wrong, by the time my husband returned home they were always bouncing off the walls with pent up energy, but overall, they were content to snuggle on my recovery bed, drink tea, knit and listen to stories. Or at times, day dream while I read and make incredibly accurate laser gun noises under their breath while they battle evil forces in a galaxy far, far away. Ah, boys.

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Towards the end of the week we experienced an actual beautiful weather day! Granted, a massive tropical storm was providing cloud cover for the entire state, but hey! it was nice and cool! So we jumped on our chance and headed outdoors for a picnic. But first, the boys had to get incredibly dirty. They caked on the mud, made leaf crowns, painted each other’s faces, adventured in other realms and had a marvelous morning. They settled onto their blanket as I read aloud from a stack of books I brought outside with us. They watched the clouds for a bit as I read and eventually, they each closed their eyes and just listened to the story. They looked so peaceful all cuddled up together. This only lasted a few minutes before someone threw a punch or tooted or threw grass in someone’s face and the equilibrium was lost. But still, those fleeting moments of silence and peace were magnificent.

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Lastly, we marked the anniversary of our faithful friend’s passing on September 6th. Our beloved pup, Frankie, who was with us for 8 years. It was a hard day for everyone. I am thankful that the boys have had time to grieve his death and I recognize that they are still sad and grieving. Its the biggest loss they have encountered so far and it was a heavy day in the midst of our study. I am glad that we could honor that day the way these boys needed to. Reindeers, Dutch cookies, Norwegian myths, poetry tea time and a walk to our friend’s grave with a fistful of purple flowers.

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Norway was beautiful and its one of those studies I will treasure in my heart because of all we experienced as lived out our week.

We’ll meet again in Paris!

 

MFW ECC Brazil

On the night before we began our study of Brazil and South America, the Olympics began. Totally unplanned. It was so much fun to see the opening ceremony and watch a presentation of Brazil’s history unfold before our eyes.

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We loved hearing the music too! The boys asked me to find some more Brazilian music and we began by listening to Putumayo Kid’s Present Brazilian Playground and the Bossa Nova tunes of Sergio Mendez.

Of course another highlight was the world parade. We tried to find each country on the map as they were announced. I was greatly encouraged to hear how much the boys have already retained.  It also peaked the boys interest in the world flags.

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In an effort to avoid an enormous post covering three weeks worth of school work, I will share how we did our Geography & Culture work for this unit and then a few tidbits and other resources for a few other subjects.

Geography work for South America consisted of several things. First, I made extra copies of a map of South American with clear black line borders and little else. Every day the boys would sit down, and fill in all the countries they could remember onto their maps. Then I would hand them a correctly filled out map and they would check their work. Then they would add two new countries and we would recite the countries again and I would switch back and forth between asking, “Show me ____” and “Tell me what this is?”  I would only quiz them on countries they had filled in so far. The next day, they would receive a brand new map to fill in from memory, check their work and add a few more in. By the middle of the second week of Brazil study, they could fill in the entire map correctly. I learned of this method from Sonya Schafer at the last homeschool conference I attended and its really worked for us.

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We would reinforce our work by building  geography puzzles (note: We purchased ours on Zulily for $19) and using the Geography game that comes with ECC. I love this simple game. The boys have learned so much using it and I like that I can walk away and they are confident enough to play and learn on their own while I work with the other two kids. We often close out Geography time by reading “Around the World in 80 Pages“which gives us a closer look at all the other countries in the continent we are currently visiting.

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Cultural study has taken many forms this year. Again, we have to acknowledge that they cannot walk away from this year experts on every single world culture, so I am not stressing out about reading  every single “Welcome to >Insert Country’s Name<” book the library has to offer. I am looking for my kids to make heart connections with the people in these far away lands. So in the first few days of encountering a new country/continent, I spread out the “delectable feast.” A variety of books about the country. Culture study, a cookbook, travel books, biome information, indigenous peoples book, and a books about crafts or fine arts. I play some culturally appropriate music and they sit down and dig in. Its really important to me that they get to follow their interests and seek out treasure to dig out and claim for themselves. Its so much more meaningful than randomly reading out statistics. They get to notebook whatever they have discovered and then they get to present the information to us.  They often go in completely different directions. This week my eldest went from tapirs to butterflies to brazilwood to the Yanomami tribes to homemade dye. He had to make his own a few days later and paint a rainforest picture with it afterwards.

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As the days progress I incorporate living books about the country. We had several favorites this study that really drew us in and made us feel like we were there! Check out our book list at the end of this post.

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The boys have been keeping science notebooks this year with illustrations and narrations from our work with the Usborne Living Science Encyclopedia. We continue to use Biome cards and animal ecology study work from Pin it! Maps. (Check out the free teaching materials tab!)

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Based off of their interest, they spent several days learning about the variety of bird beaks in the world, while I avoided all of the laundry in the house. They were fascinated by all the new information garnered and when we went for a visit to our local zoo’s Amazon section, they were calling out all the different kinds of beaks they saw.  Some of their new artwork for their ornithology albums came out so lovely. Its especially encouraging to this art challenged mother to see our diligent work paying off little by little. We are still using Drawing with Children since we had to hold off for a long time on it until we were ready. I am so glad we waited! Its been much more fruitful now.

We also got a bit of sensory fun added in with a prepared “Smells of the Rainforest” Tray featuring things like cinnamon, cacao, coffee, hibiscus, etc. (Check out Mirus Toys for sensory activities and bird beaks study)

Last bit of information for science, we found these beautiful insect and butterfly cards for FREE here. (Thanks Eltern Vom Mars!) which we used during our brief look at entomology. We also spent time with our CC Science work, learning all about biomes and consumers.

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During our second week we decided to catalogue all the edible natives in our farm along with all other fruit bearing plants on the property. It was so grand to realize how many dietary options we have should political anarchy ever shut down all grocery stores. Our nature walks have been so brief lately due to the tremendous heat index down here. We are doing our best to get outside in some way, but the time is always short. Unless…

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We hit the beach.

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Now that is my kind of nature walk in the dead of August!!! I know once the tropical weather calms the heck down we will have plenty of time to do more nature walks. Until then, nature walk = farm and beach and books. And that is ok! Next month we will resume our walks and we will be starting “Blaze New Trails” an adventure guide by Holly Giles of The Giles Frontier as part of our nature study experience. We’ll let you know how it goes! (PS If you are studying Little House in the Big Woods this year at all, check out Holly’s “County Fair” study. Its darling and I can’t wait to use it over summer break next year!)

Brazil was a three week behemoth. It was fun, but we were so excited to move onto Norway. A few other things that happened outside of Brazil during our three week study?

LOTS of practical life work. How to change a lightbulb, how to sew a button, how to load the dishwasher, how to get a cookbook and finish a recipe from start to finish (Check out Mollie Kazan’s Honest Pretzels) to name a few.  I am reminded that there are many, many things I do doing the day that could really be taken on by someone else now. Someone much shorter than me and way eager to help and learn. It takes time to teach new skills, but this intentional investment of time is so very worth it!

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The boys are still working on their pottery skills with their teacher and I love the glow they get when working at something difficult and worthy.

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Our knitting projects have all but wrapped up and we are starting to venture out into the world of knitting socks. Four needles!? Yowza! And my second born has started embroidering, which is fun but a bit maddening when he gets stuck and I have to jump in and figure out where he is. My eldest still shows very little interest in this sort of handiwork so he has picked up more Paper Sloyd and is enjoying completing some beautiful work on his free time.

I am grateful once more that my children get to fully experience that wonderful, fleeting bit of magic known as childhood. Not everyone gets to and I am so thankful they have one.  I continually remind myself to make time for them to just be children–to have joy and wonder and space to ponder.

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I am also thankful God brought us to homeschooling. There will be many dropped balls and missed academic goals and fumbled parenting moments, but I am so secure in walking this path God has called us to because of His merciful reaffirmations and bountiful grace in leading us. I have complete faith that Christ has a plan for my children and their lives. They belong to Him. Our calling is not conditional upon how many lesson plans are completed or how many baskets of laundry are completed each week.  I get to beat back the devil’s lies and whispers with the TRUTH of victory already won. Thank God for that! See you all in Norway!

Brazil Book List:
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
The Rain Forest Grew All Around by Susan Mitchell
Up and Down the Andes by Laurie Krebs
Biblioburro by  Jeanette Winter
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
The Tapir Scientist by Sy Montgomery
A Mango in the Hand: A Story told through Proverbs by Antonio Sacre
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (4th grade +)
Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen
The Umbrella by Jan Brett (Costa Rica, but we were late in reading it. Rain Forest Biome fit though)
Nature’s Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons
Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle

Rain Forest by Ben Morgan (SUCH gorgeous photography!)

MFW ECC: Mexico!

Hola! What a fantastic week we had in Mexico. This week’s boarding passes appeared on the boy’s breakfast plates as usual. I cut a long green chile shape out of construction paper to place on top of each ticket. The boys asked, “Why is there a long booger on my plate?” Yup. I am always successful when trying adorable pinterest things. (sigh)

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We got an ENORMOUS stack of books at the library. While I read aloud to the boys they did the following:

Yarn Art (Global Art p. 120), Bead Work, Desert Biome Box (pictured below), Sculpy Clay Sun faces (Global Art p. 122), chopped fruit for our paletas recipe (see recipe section), colored Mexico landmarks like Chichen Itza and used bright pastels to color in some famous Diego Rivera murals and a few Frida Kahlo paintings.

Also, never underestimate the power of tea and snacks. If I feed them, they will come and they will listen. If their mouths are full then they wont be making laser gun noises while I try to read about Teotihuacan.

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We continued using our two Peter Menzel books, which are really giving us an intimate and in depth look at daily life in the countries we study. Hungry Planet p. 218-225Material World p. 144-151

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While looking at our Peter Menzel books, the boys found a new word they had never encountered before—Bahidaj. The fruit that comes from the saguaro cactus. Hmm, what’s that? Out came the dictionary and from there we pulled out “Cactus Hotel” and “Desert Giant” the boys drew pictures of various animals living in the saguaro cactus and then they diverged. The eldest wanted to learn more about saguaro shoes, the hardened nests of woodpeckers left behind once the saguaro cactus falls and decays. This then led to a deeper look at the decaying process and the animals involved–mostly insects. My second born looked at the harvesting of the Bahidaj fruit by the O’odham people. My eldest chimed in, “sometimes they use the saguaro shoe to carry things in!” The younger one wondered, “what happens to the fruit left behind? ” Those hundreds of abandoned seeds spilling out from the red fruits exposed core. And so we studied how the cactus grows, oh so slowly, until they are 50 years old and can flower, which must then be pollinated in order for fruit to grow. Wait? Pollination? What are the most common desert pollinators? And off they go again! They were at this or nearly two hours. We ended with an effective Cacti Simulation Experiment I found online and then the boys made Gila woodpeckers out of Sculpy clay.

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The boys are starting to document their own pages for their ECC Geography notebooks and have decided to choose one animal, one plant, one tree, one custom and one historical story to research on their own each week (one for each day of the week). This will be a time of independent research for each boy. I agreed to the idea and I am interested to see what they discover on their own!

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We have also decided to undergo a year long project, based off of their main interest this year. We are calling it “World Village.” Its a miniature scale village filled with homes from around the world. I’m mildly surprised that we didn’t end up doing “Weapons of the World” since the boys are always so fixated on such things. But as we read our North America books and later our Peter Menzel books, the boys became increasingly intrigued by how different each culture lives, yet how many things we have in common. How people live off the land, what they eat, where they live, what they wear and how they approach life—questions about these things abound. And so we settled on “World Village” as a way for the boys to put their research into visual form. As an added bonus, they often work to construct these homes while I read aloud. Its nice to have busy hands while I read.

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We worked on our Adobe home this week. We used sculpy clay to form our adobe and then we baked the pieces in the oven. Once the adobe cooled down, we painted it a terra cotta color and painted the window frames and door turquoise.  The landscape for the adobe home will match the more arid regions of Mexico.

I found a fun site with 360 degree views or “tours” from different countries. On the Mexico page you can find Teotihuacan, Mayan temples and pyramids, Tenochtitlan, cities, deserts, villages, beaches, caves, mountains, etc. We had fun exploring these! (Disclaimer: I did not look at every single picture. So be present with your kiddos as they surf just in case!)

This is the best recording for Ballet Folklorico that I could find, from a gala honoring the work of Amalia Hernandez, founder and choreographer for Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. The dancing starts after the 12 minute mark and goes on for close to two hours! Singing, dancing, folk tales, etc. Check it out!

Gala del Ballet de Amalia Hernandez en La Paz

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Here are some links to music by Mexican Composers that we listened to while making our Global Art selections this week.
Silvestre Revueltas- La Noche de los Mayas
Carlos Chavez: Sinfonia India
Conlon Nancarrow: String Quartet No 3
Blas Galindo: Sones del Mariachi

Our Favorite Books from the Enormous Library Stack:

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
P is for Pinata by Tony Johnston
Off We Go to Mexico by Laurie Krebs
What Can You do with a Palleta? by  Carmen Tafolla
Desert Giant by Barbara Bash
Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson
Desert Scrapbook by  Virginia Wright Frierson

Here are a few delicious recipes to try:

Coconut and Pineapple Tamales
Pineapple Cucumber Lime Palletas
Homemade Tortillas
Mexican Drinking Chocolate
Churros

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We fell into a great rhythm this week. I think we have our groove back! We also squeezed in a fantastic field trip at an arts center with our Wild + Free group. The kids were able to help make sandcasts for some glass art. It was HOT, but so much fun.

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We also finished collecting for our Nature Pal Exchange group. This time we are trading with a family from Colorado and we are so excited to see what they discovered.

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We are off to Canada next. See you there! 🙂
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MFW ECC: North America/United States Part 2

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Our second week of United States study happened to fall over the 4th of July! Love when things work out that way.

The boys used their Pin it! Maps every day this week! It woke up one morning and found them hard at work on their maps. I drank my tea (while it was still hot) and just stared at them.  Getting to this place felt like the longest, messiest road trip ever and yet it felt like only minutes had transpired. They can start their day without me. They can start their lessons without me. An idea sparks and they know how to chase it and explore it. It took a lot of intentional repetition to get them here. We still have a long way to go, but we see the light! woo-hoo!

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Let me establish something before I get into the hard stuff. I love My Father’s World. I love the company, I love their dedication to spreading God’s word and their work in Bible translation. I love that my boys first years in education have been spent with this company. Ok, now that I have said the above….

I have mentioned in other posts that Exploring Countries and Cultures has already been a bit of a let down. I was bummed with the science but as time marched on I realized that the “Exploring World Geography” book would also be a “no go” for us.  We tried to do several of the worksheets and the kids never remembered what they were about the next day. I may take a few ideas from the book and use a few pages for group activities, but I definitely will not hand each child an enormous stack of handouts and ask them to mow through it all. (UPDATE: Just fond out the EWG is meant for slightly older students, which makes sense. It was scheduled in the regular learning cycle schedule so it looked as though they were recommending it for lower level students. So skipping EWG is not a big deal at all!)

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So the boys will be exploring the world this year on their own terms. We will still follow the ECC schedule, use POE as a guideline, complete the student sheets and recommended reading and of course, use MFW for Bible.

Last night I let them stay up late with all of their library books and they took notes and drew pictures and dug for treasure in those pages. I came back in and they were so excited to tell me all that they had discovered!

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We are midway through our Morning Time materials. Our Simply Charlotte Mason studies of Chopin and Monet are going so well. The boys have learned two hymns by heart, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” and “To God be the Glory.” They are working on their sculpting together and my seven year old is making strides with his knitting. We are about to move on to hats and hand towels because we only need so many scarves here in South Florida.

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We had so much fun learning about trees this week! The boys really enjoyed taking a close look at different species of trees in the various forests and learning about the ecosystems they are a part of.

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Of course there is nothing like experiencing the real thing. This guy is about 30 feet in the air. He has always been a climber. Once he started crawling, he started climbing and he has never stopped.

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My husband and the boys traveled up to Philadelphia, PA for the 4th of July weekend. It was so wonderful to celebrate the birth of our nation where it all started. They even snuck in a Phillies game with their grandparents!

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So with all that I shared in this post I’ll end with saying that its hard when expectations are not met. But homeschooling requires constant evaluation and reevaluation. We know our children best and I am so glad that I can make changes as needed for my children. I love that they can really dig into their learning and make it their own. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks to come about how we “chase the spark.”

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