Classical Conversations Cycle 3: Before Week 1.

We started our Cycle 3 American History year a week early because VIKINGS (+ other awesome explorers). Here is a look at what we did.

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First, we enjoyed some of our favorite viking stories which included:
Leif the Lucky by Ingri D’allaire
Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky by Barbara Schiller
Into the Unknown by Stewart Ross
Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla

We also used our wonderful history spine “A Child’s First Book of American History” by Earl Miers.

I read these books aloud while the boys made Viking longships out of modeling beeswax. This beeswax is a bit pricey BUT it lasts a great deal longer than playdoh, I had my last box for two years, and it smells amazing! I really love setting out a welcoming invitation for my kids to come and learn. I light a candle, put a few play silks on the table, I give them the beeswax, their composition notebooks and a bunch of art supplies. Then I step back and let them do as they wish with the materials. One boy made a mermaid (complete with seashell bra). This had absolutely nothing to do with Vikings, but he wanted to make a mermaid he could giggle over and he gave an absolutely lovely narration so I let it go. The mermaid was not a hill I wanted to die on. I’ve found that when I nitpick about too many things in their schoolwork, the boys shut down fast. They like to lead the way in learning, they love to make decisions, so I evaluate our time and find the crucial day-shaping decisions and I make those–the rest I leave to them. We are all happier for it.

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After I posted our Charlotte Mason Approach to Cycle 3 posts for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, I had a number of people asking for my list of rare living books. I didn’t post them earlier because some of these are extremely hard to find (read: ridiculously expensive) and I never want to send the message that you need to drop $125 on ONE book or else your child will have an inferior education. Cuz guys, you don’t need to drop all that money on one book. There is an ABUNDANCE of books available on these topics and you do not need to drop a fortune on one subject. If I had a limited budget I would purchase or borrow the Mier’s book and the D’Aulaire book and call it a day. But for everyone wanting the list of vintage living books we used, here is a handy dandy bookscape of all the book porn. Please know that most of these books came from our local living library and the others were rescued by me for just a couple dollars. We are not millionaires. We are a single income homeschool family. Keep your eyes open at book sales, library sales, estate sales for these gems. If you have the chance, be a book rescuer!
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By the end of the week we were ready to move on and we spent a nice chunk of time reading about the early days of Columbus. Remember that we spent this summer reading  “They Put Out to Sea” by Roger Dusoivin, which is the story of how our world map was slowly put together through expedition and discovery. This has sparked an Explorer Frenzy in our home. We have read in depth about everyone from the Phoenicians to Marco Polo to Henry Cabot. This week we read about Amerigo Vespucci, Vasco de Gama and Magellan. The boys were so captivated by these stories! They loved to hear the perspectives of other explorers in and around Columbus’ day. History told from several different perspectives is so powerful. The Genevieve Foster books are particularly wonderful with this idea.  We also read “The Story of Chocolate” to understand the history behind one of the goods being traded in this time period. We are big fans of chocolate and we were riveted by this story. The boys loved including two or three pages of illustrations and narrations on chocolate in their history journals. We enjoyed some while we read, of course.

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Most of our explorer research was done using Gerrard Discovery Biographies which the boys read independently. I found a box of 40 books at a library sale for $10 a few years ago. We adore the writing for this reading level. My eldest children (age 9 & 8) read for one solid hour each afternoon. They loved reading these biographies so much they would ask for them in the evenings as well, bringing their independent reading to almost 2 hours each day. It sounds crazy when I write that, but with little bits here and there added to that solid one hour chunk, they are getting a lot of reading in! A few years ago I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen for us, but I kept faithfully reading aloud to my children every single day and I have watched a love for reading grow within them. From a tiny flame to a full on blaze, it is the slow work of many days that has brought us to this place.

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We studied history every day because we are geeking out over it right now. Other subjects we did every single day? Math, Latin, Spelling, Writing and 2 minutes of Geography.  Our current lunchtime reads are  1) The Burgess Bird Book for Children and 2) Sherlock Holmes.
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We are continuing to move forward in our mathematics with Right Start Math and I am still singing its praises. Teach multiple levels with this curriculum is so doable! Here is how we do it:

We all sit down with our math  materials and we open up with a game that all three children (9,8 and 6) can play using our Right Start Math games book to build our math fluency. After a couple of rounds (5-10 minutes) I hand my six year old a slate of sums to practice while my eldest children run through their skip counting and the opening portion of mental math questions found in each lesson (>5 minutes). By the time they are done my 6 year old is usually finished with his sums. I take his slate and hand him his wooden pattern blocks to build large geometric shapes or animals with. As he plays and explores shapes, I teach the new material to my older children. This takes about 10 minutes, 15 at most. They open their workbooks and complete their sums practice or work page as needed. I turn to my six year old and admire his creation. He explains what he has made and we look for and name geometric shapes he has made. The I open his book and we run through mental math and skip counting. I teach his new lesson which takes about 10 minutes. By this point the older children have finished their work and they are ready for it to be checked. My six year old dives into his workbook. I check the older children’s work and we walk through any corrections that need to be made. Once this task is complete the six year old is ready for his work to be checked.  We wrap our time together by playing one more game.  Math takes about 45 minutes total for both levels of math. This include 2-3 games, skip counting, mental math problems, two new lessons, worksheets if applicable, pattern block play, and sums practice.  Guys, I never ever ever thought I would say this, but math is fun! I’ll be sharing a bit about our favorite lessons each week from here on out!

We devoted 20 minutes to our Latin studies each day. The boys practiced their respective instruments for about 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.  We also take about 20 minutes to work on our Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A Spelling program. Between each subject they are still racking up 15-30 minutes of play time depending on their age. Multiply that by 4-6 learning block each day and you’ve got a nice chunk of free play!

The boys worked on their independent loops which included:
Handwriting (cursive)
Typing
Handicrafts
Pin it Maps

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Our Morning Time for this cycle opens each morning with prayer, scripture meditation (one verse that changes every three weeks), recitation of the creed and prayer requests.  We take a couple minutes to work on our CC Geography (Literally two minutes). We eat breakfast and then dive into our morning time loop.
This week’s loop:
Poetry– The Lamplighter by Robert Louis Stevenson (older boys)
Celery (IEW Poetry Memorization) for youngest son’s speech therapy
Spanish- Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E Nesbit
Architecture- A Child’s History of Art by Hillyer
Hymn- O God Our Help in Ages Past Verse 1
Art Study- Leonardo daVinci
Character Study from Animals in Nature

On Fridays we use Beautiful Feet Book’s Music Study in the morning. We are enjoying this study ever so slowly (I anticipate a two year time frame on this one) and we simply adore it.  I’ll be sharing more in depth about this one next week! Their Geography study, History of Science study and Horse study are gorgeous as well. Check them out!

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The CM week is not complete without a nature walk. Its hot as blazes here right now and usually “nature walk” = “sit in lukewarm water” but this past Friday was nice and overcast so we took a walk.

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We spent the first half of our walk tracking a raccoon. For my boys this was the highlight of the day. Follow a raccoon around, find a pile of his scat and feel like a king. Find the remnants of his crayfish lunch and loose your mind with excitement. We also found gorgeous mole cricket tunnels (which look a bit like subnivean tunnels for all you northerners) and we raced around trying to find the point of origin.

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We rounded out the week with lots and lots of baking. Have I mentioned that my children are officially British Baking Show junkies? They have become food critics overnight and love to whip things up in the kitchen. My splurge for the year was a subscription to Raddish kids and I am loving the resulting  independence and confidence in my children’s cooking skills. They each took a turn baking something fun while I taught the other children their new set of chores for the year. My eldest children are doing their own laundry start to finish now. I love writing that sentence as much as I hate doing all the laundry for six people. The six year old is almost done learning how to unstack the dishwasher and my little guy is in broom bootcamp right now.

We are so excited to dive into our Week 1 material for Cycle 3 this week. Who else is doing cycle 3? What are some of your favorite reads leading up to this cycle? Share in the comments below!

Year 4: Ancient History Term 1 wk 3-4

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And we are back!

April was a crazy month. Easter, the end of our CC Year, science fair, closing program, music recital, family vacation, wild + free book club, practicum training and licensing training all took place within a three week timespan. All of it was wonderful but utterly exhausting. I am beat.

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Morning Time
Rich + Rooted Passover by Jennifer Naraki
Genesis 21-50
Herodotus and the Road to History by Jeanne Benedict
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lamber
Ancient Egypt by James Baikie
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Hymn: “Fairest Lord Jesus”
Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolio: Giotto
Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Poem: “To Be a Pilgrim” by John Bunyan
The Apostles Creed
Biography: Mathematicians are People Too by Luella Reimer
Geography: Visits to Africa by Simply Charlotte Mason
Composer: Vivaldi
Latin: Memoria Press

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Ancient History
My boys have been begging to study Ancient Egyptian History for quite some time now. They were so thrilled the day we hit lesson 5 in the Beautiful Feet Book’s guide and I asked them to decorate an Ancient Egypt Page for their notebooks.
We broke up the readings for “Pharaoh’s of Ancient Egypt” since they are too lengthy for the stage of narration that they are at. Splitting each chapter into three sections has been helpful. They illustrate and include a small written narration for one section and give oral narrations for the other two sections. “Tales of Ancient Egypt” by Roger Lancelyn Green has been a great hit. Its interesting to see the kids dissect the creation story, flood story etc and compare and contrast it to Biblical history.

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We found several wonderful books to add depth to areas of interest within our studies. We broadened lesson 8 with “Pharaoh’s Boat by Weitzman, David L. [HMH Books for Young Readers, 2009] Hardcover [Hardcover]“>Pharaoh’s Boat” by David Weitzman, which tied in perfectly with our study of Pharaoh Cheops and the construction of his pyramid. The book outlines how the Egyptians built boats for the Pharaohs to use in their journey to the afterlife and how they were disassembled, then buried at the base of the pyramids. The latter half of the book walks us through the archeological discovery of one boat and how it was reconstructed and preserved.  Its a bit pricey to track down so check your local libraries first for this wonderful gem!  I’ll list additional books in our book list at the end of the post. I’ll also include a new tab in our Shop tab with links to some of our favorite Ancient History resources.

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The Student Bible Atlas has been hit or miss with the boys. Last week for lesson 6 we decided to do some more advanced map work using our homemade plexiglass easel from The Homegrown Preschooler.  The boys painted the map on the plexiglass using a mixture of tempura and dish soap (with a tiny bit of acrylic added in!) I printed out labels and the kids were able to label their map together. We gathered around the map as we read and they pointed out cities and features as read along. Diving into the map and bringing it to life really solidified everything for them.

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Math
My long time readers know that I like to spend time with a curriculum before writing about it. I am almost to the end of my “observation period” with Right Start Math and I am so excited to share more in-depth about our experience with the curriculum. For now I will simply report that we are loving it! We used Saxon for our entire homeschool experience until the day I realized that my children knew how to answer questions correctly without understanding why they were right. I knew we needed a new program and when I looked at Right Start, I had a feeling it would be a great fit for us. We had to humble ourselves and pick up a lower year package because I knew my children had missed a number of foundational things and had even learned a few things out of order.
I am so glad we did this. The kids flew through the first 40 lessons in the book but now they are really starting to grapple with some of these concepts. Its beautiful to see them understanding math to such a degree that they are PLAYING with their math. They are loving the logic and structure of numbers. They are begging for math everyday—that says a lot to me.
My eldest son really struggled with place value. I’m not sure if it was a dyslexia thing or if the Saxon script never explained it in a way he could understand, but the simple exercises in RSM along with the use of the abacus, finally clicked place value understanding in his mind. What a joy to witness!

IMG_4808.jpgFriday Exam
We have really gotten into a beautiful groove with our Friday exam. The last two weeks the boys have launched right into sharing their favorite stories with each other and teaching their younger brother some of the best things they learned that week. A lovely peek at some rhetoric level sharing. In fact, all the classical education stages are usually present at the table. My youngest proudly rattling off terms and the older two bursting with dialectic questions and once in a while that beautiful burst of rhetoric reasoning as they teach their younger brother something valuable that they learned. I have really come to value these afternoons. Its encouraging to see what sorts of things they are taking away from their lessons, what they are internalizing and what is shaping their character.

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Extra Curricular
Speaking of character, the amount of habit training and character training that occurs within the realm of handwork never ceases to amaze me. Slow, methodical, meaningful work does wonders for our habit training. Then there is the added bonus of handwork as processing space. I shared about my children’s various thinking styles on instagram a few weeks ago. They each have a different way of processing their lessons, but something they all need is TIME to ponder what they have learned. One child needs to verbalize as he thinks, another needs constant outdoor motion (usually time on a skateboard or bike will do) and another needs to work with his hands. I call him my “build it out” thinker. On the day I snapped this photo we had just wrapped a morning of studies containing Shakespeare, Giotto, and the Rosetta Stone. He was sawing wood and working quietly at his work bench for a while and suddenly piped out, “I like how everything we learn is connected and I am a part of it all.” It was a great reminder that after feasting on great ideas, children need that protected time, gifted time, to think and ponder what they have taken in.

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We did not do any formal science during this study period. GASP! We had formal science for a solid 10 months and once our busy end of the year season hit, I felt comfortable letting it go because of all the NATURE STUDY we are constantly immersed in. The children have plenty of time outdoors to observe nature, ample opportunity to interact with insects and animals and other creatures and a never ending desire to read books about all kinds of nature. To be honest, they’ve got this covered. We will probably start up again in June once I am home from convention.

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Ancient History Booklist (lessons 5-9)
Pharaoh’s Boat by David Weitzman
Egyptian Boats by Geoffrey Scott
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert 
The 5,000-Year-Old Puzzle: Solving a Mystery of Ancient Egypt“>The 5,000 Year Old Puzzle by Claudia Logan
The Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones
Mummies, Pyramids and pharaohs by Gail Gibbons
Egyptian Mummies by Henrietta McCall
Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki
Cat Mummies by Kelly Trumble
Building History Egyptian Pyramid by Gillian Clements
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie dePaola

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Stay tuned for our next installment of The Road to Morning Time!

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!

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: 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 Kindergarten: Us!

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I was thrilled that MFWK’s U-Us unit coincided with our first week of MFW ECC. My little guy vividly remembers when his older brothers did this unit because our whole family joined in on the fun. We played all kinds of sensory games and laughed so much that week. Their favorite was an old youth group game called, “What is Your Foot Touching?”  <—pretty self explanatory/traumatizing. The minute I said, its time to learn about “U-Us” he said, “Can my foot get to touch the tuna, Mom?”

We played many of the games again. Blindfolds, mittens, taste tests, listening games.
I pretty much recreated every single game from this page. We loved using our sensory doh from The HomeGrown Preschooler and we used the book “Can You Hear It?” for many of our touch, sight and listening activities as well. Who doesn’t love running around to “Flight of the Bumblebee” wearing only your underwear and a set of fabric wings from Magic Cabin?

But our favorite add-in this week was a celebration of my guy and what a special kiddo he is.

Before he was born I was advised to abort him.

I look at him now and I cannot fathom life without him. What a joy and a gift he is!

So we decided to turn the U unit into a party. I started by telling him the story of his life, which he already hears from time to time. He loves the part when I say NO to the abortion and YES to life with him. He asks all kinds of questions about his birth and what he was like as a baby.

As part of the celebration he got to pick an activity every day on top of what we already had planned. These activities would be led by him.

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First up, he wanted his own cursive book just like his brothers. I had an empty Classical Conversations Timeline Prescripts on hand and he has taken to it like a duck to water. He likes to teach me how to form the letters after his brother teach him. The next day he asked to bake his own bread.

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A day later, he asked to play in the mud. “Its for sensory reasons, Mom. Don’t forget I am supposed to study the five senses and mud is something you can use all five with.”

Let your child pick an element and then show you how they can investigate that one item with all five senses, though we don’t recommend mud. He says its a bit too crunchy.

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Our favorite kid’s microscope ever on the face of the planet is the Brock Magiscope. Definitely pricey, so we asked for one last Christmas. We use it several times a week and it was out quite often for this unit. So many things to look at up close! A strand of hair, a nail clipping, a drop of saliva, a drop of blood and since injuries abound amongst my children- cells from an almost healed scab (yuck).

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On Thursday, he asked to go to pottery class for a visit with his teacher and friends. I love watching him work in this class. He is gaining confidence every time we go and its amazing to hear him relay what he has learned.

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Nature walks and poetry tea time with his brothers rounded out the week. The regularly scheduled nature walks are one of my favorite things about MFW. Don’t skip them!! pretty  please?

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Since the week coincided with his older brothers lessons, I set his table up with eeBoo Children of the World cards along with a few other books and toys of interest. This was a nice spot for his older brothers to come and visit between subjects. I love how well everything fused together.

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Heres the whole crew working on different things for school all at once. Lest you think I have it all together, when I snapped this picture I had a three year old on the floor by my feet screaming his head off and a load of clothes in the wash that needed to be rewashed after sitting in the machine for three days. Cheers.

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MFW Kindergarten: Apple

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Our first vowel week was a great deal of fun! My little guy has been quite taken with water color drawings lately.  I had selected a few crafts off of Pinterest a couple of weeks ago in a moment of weakness. The true motivating factor behind the choices? I just needed him to be busy for a couple of minutes so I could hammer out a few phone calls for the Classical Conversations practicum I am hosting next month. The crafts were cute and required zero mental effort on my part (or his). Then I stumbled across this article, and resolved once more to let my son go through his own art process. Letting him think and be messy and creative and free is a better use of his time and energy. So I let him go and he surprised me by focusing quite intently on reproducing several pictures from “The Life and Times of the Apple” by Charles Mecucci on the life cycle of an apple. He fashioned the pages into a book and by the end of the week was able to give a thoughtful, brief narration on the stages of apple growth.

He also had a marvelous time slicing apples this week. I purchased a large sack of juicing apples from the store and he practiced using our apple corer and slicer, the apple peeler, a crinkle cutter and a sharper knife for cross-section cutting. He loved finding the star points made out of seeds in each slice.  We dried a few sheets of these slices in the oven at its lowest temperature setting over the course of the day and once the slices were dried, the boys strung together beautiful apple garlands to hang in the classroom.
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One of the new responsibilities on my kiddo’s list is feeding the chickens and gathering their eggs each day. He is always incredibly eager to do his job. This week, however, he had a few missteps in the execution of his work. I am always reminded that I must be vigilant in correcting these missteps immediately to ensure that his habits are well formed as they are being cemented. It is tricky to do this without crossing into legalism. I don’t want him to feel like he cannot make a mistake, but at the same time, this responsibility requires his careful attention. We ended up scaling back for a few days. I accompanied him on his trips and kept an eye on him as he worked. By the end of the week, we were back on track. I am currently working on the next set of life skills that he will be working on over the next few months.

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Back in the classroom, our work with his letters marches on. He is reaching for this set quite often during his free play as well, so I know he enjoys the challenge. His sand books, tactile letters and white board cards are seeing a lot of use. All of his literay work is presented as a game. He is so proud of his play/work.

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Another great activity we set up this week (and I failed to snap pictures of) was our “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World”  sensory tour. We laid out a spread of all the ingredients and he had the chance to try and figure out what each ingredient was using only his sense of smell, touch and taste. (Though he was not allowed to taste the raw egg yolk/whites). We giggled a lot and ended up making the most lopsided pie I have ever seen in my life.

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Are you taking advantage of the weekly scheduled nature walks? This is my favorite part of the week! While we try and get out in nature every single day, our Friday excursion is specifically geared for my K student. This week we were on the hunt for pond apples. We found zero pond apples. But we did spy roseate spoonbills, cranes, egrets, ibis, and our favorite, anhingas! We found nests, five-lined skins, apple snail eggs laid out in careful order on the stalk of some pickerlweed, and we were even chased across a wooden bridge by wasps. Oh, the thrill!

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We came home and had a feast of apple turnovers (baked earlier that morning) and vanilla chai tea. We read our favorite versions of the Johnny Appleseed story and closed out our afternoon making apple stamp prints. We halved our apples, dunked them in paint and stamped away! We’ll keep this paper to use as gift wrap later on in the year. My guy was proud to accomplish something that would be used by our family later on in the year.

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On to Nn-Nest!!