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!

 

Beautiful Feet Books and MFW Adventures

I spent forty minutes in the Beautiful Feet Books booth at our convention last year. Everything about their books and curriculum called out to me. I love reading, its my absolute favorite thing ever, and every book in that stand beckoned to my book crazed heart. Beautiful words, engaging illustrations, they are precisely what comes to mind when I think of Charlotte’s urging to read “many worthy books.”

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If you are planning out your Adventures year, you will find a list of recommended read alouds in the back of your MFW Adventures manual.  Several of the books listed there are part of various curriculums created by Beautiful Feet Books. You can read more about this delightful company here.

**Before I go any further let me state from the get go that the history portion of My Fathers World is complete as is. You do not need to spend another dime to “beef” anything up!** 

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While planning Adventures, I kept returning to Beautiful Feet Books (BFB). My boys love reading and they are obsessed with American history. I knew they would be game for more and that it would not overwhelm them to add in a bit more. We do a lot of journal style notebooking in our home and I loved what I found in BFB’s Early American History Guide (EAH).  Short, meaningful lessons with great heart and ripe with curiosity seed.  I ended up purchasing the EAH guide and the Geography Guide for $3 each when Mardel had their clearance sale last summer. I managed to glean the rest of the books from the list via online thrift sales. I had already collected several BFB books from other studies and we had received a few other BFB books from other homeschool families. I laid everything out and came up with a little plan to weave these books in with our MFW study.

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The first 1-11 weeks of Adventures had a BFB from the EAH guide directly corresponding with it, then there were many long breaks with only weeks 13, 20, 27, 28 and 30 fitting in with the EAH guide. We filled the odd weeks out with BFB from other studies.

We would finish MFW in the mornings and in the late afternoons the boys would come back to the classroom and we would read from our EAH along with the assigned book and then we would do the lesson. It would take around 20 minutes of time once the reading was completed. The boys looked forward to these lessons. They even remarked that it felt like a fun hobby, something extra that they enjoyed doing on the side.

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During weeks 14-16 we read through books from a few of the other studies. The character study books were so much fun we ended up deciding to use the character guide this summer!

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Weeks 21, 23, 26 and 34 correspond with the Geography study which I can not say enough good things about. If I had to pick one study to do, it would be this one. You can really do it at any point in the year but I chose to fit them in with their corresponding states. I can not believe how much my children learned from this study.  In “Minn of the Mississippi”  we engaged in biology, ecology, geology, hydrology, art, geography, language arts, math, dictation, narration, cartography and anthropology. When we studied “Tree in the Trail” we experienced history, cartography, geography, sociology, anthropology, botany, meteorology, arithmetic and biology. “Paddle to the Sea” and “Seabird” were phenomenal as well. Again, short lessons packed with such richness!

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Most libraries carry the majority of BFB, especially the d’Aulaire books. Be sure to check with your local library to see if any of these books are carried!

Beautiful Feet Books has a special offers page which lists discounts for lowest price finds, military and missionary families.

Beautiful Feet also has free printable note booking sheets to correspond with the EAH that you can use too!

You can also take a closer look at any of the study guides by downloading sample pages here.

Lastly, here is the link to the pdf BFB reading list I created: MFW Adventures Beautiful Feet Book List

MFW Adventures: Abraham Lincoln

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We have spent the last two weeks learning about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The boys picked up their Beautiful Feet Early American History Guide again and dove into Ingri D’Aulaire’s “Abraham Lincoln” which, like all D’Aulaire’s books, was a big hit with my kids. This book really brought Lincoln to life for them. Our conversations this week were centered around the importance of truthfulness, the discipline of hard work and the responsibility we have to stand up for justice.

My eldest son (age 8) was able to memorize the Gettysburg address over the two week period. We would spend 5 minutes at a time reviewing and adding a new line. This would happen on the way to the grocery store or before bedtime or while we waited for his brother’s soccer practice to wrap up. It was really great to see him accomplish a lengthier piece of work.

We spent so much time reading this week, desperately trying to catch up on the read alouds we missed while my throat was out of commission. I placed a large piece of kraft paper on the floor and the boys had their war plans laid out on it while I drank cup after cup of Throat Care and read. We did not make any fancy lap books or spend time with handouts. Other than a few coloring $1 coloring books from Dover on the various uniforms and weaponry of the Civil War, we mostly engaged with the battlefield below while listening to living book about the war.

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I also want to share one of our favorite productions from Audio Adventures: “With Lee in Virginia.” You can follow the link for information on the all star cast and how the production came together. We are huge G.A. Henty fans over here and I was over the moon when I discovered that Audio Adventures was producing so many of his stories. (We also have “Under Drake’s Flag”, “The Dragon and the Raven”, and “In Freedom’s Cause” all of which get an enthusiastic recommendation as well!) The boys were riveted by the story “With Lee in Virginia” and they listened to it several times over the past two weeks.

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Another treasured audio CD is from Greathall Productions, read by Jim Weiss. “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America is a wonderful biographical CD. We could listen to Jim Weiss read all day long. His voice is just wonderful. (Last year, my son said he wanted to be Jim Weiss when he grew up!)

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Here are a few of our favorite books from the pile we read:

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale by Deborah Hopkinson
Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster *** This is a great book to flip through and read bits out of but it is definitely out of age range (2nd-3rd) as a main study. But we loved looking through it!

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Abe loved books. We decided to really celebrate that this week and the boys spent a lot of time enjoying their favorite books over and over. We had our monthly “PoetTreats” tea time this week to make sure we celebrated our favorite poems too. “PoetTreats” is always a special time for us. I decorate our table nicely and make their favorite tea and treats. Everyone gets to bring their current favorite poetry book and we go around the table reading poems out loud while we enjoy our snacks.

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To cap off our study of Abraham Lincoln, my husband took the boys out to the wood pile where they learned how to chop and split wood. They were all so eager to lend a helping hand and learn from their Dad.

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The second week of the study was spent learning about slavery and the Civil War. We enjoyed learning about the first submarines of the Civil War and the kids came up with some really fun designs for old war machines!

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I brought out a reproduction newspaper from the civil war era and we discussed how differently news traveled back then and how soldiers communicated with various camps and the people back home. Each boy got to pen a pretend letter containing important battle plans for another civil war captain to read. Then they had to be delivered by another soldier through the woods to the campsite. Lets just say, I am still finding bits of paper and the occasional wood rifle in the backyard. It was a busy day!

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We have taken a few “Civil War” field trips in the last year and half. Knowing that we’d be diving into Adventures and eventually studying the war between the states, I made an effort during our road trips to stop off and show the boys bits of history. Over Christmas we stopped off at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Last April, my Mom and I took the boys to Fort Sumter.

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We learned a great deal at the museum and this week I asked the boys to recall some of what they had learned. They remembered many, many details from the fort and the museum inside. My eldest described in great detail, the flag pictured below, which is the original flag that was flying over Fort Sumter when it was attacked.

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My youngest remembered passing by the old Slave Mart (now a museum).

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Slavery is a hard topic to explain to children. We are proud to be Americans but we also want to acknowledge the very terrible things our country has been a part of. Racism is especially heartbreaking to explain when your children are completely innocent that such a thing exists. They first heard about it last year during our Cycle 3 study with Classical Conversations. I read them wonderful books starting with the civil war era up through the civil rights movement and they were left feeling very confused. They would ask about their African American/African friends and family members and wonder what it was that subjected them to these horrible things. I was feeling a little anxious about starting that painful topic all over this year.

But this year, we had a few months of prior African History study in Cycle 1 of Classical Conversations. Hearing about the Songhai, Zanj and Zimbabweans, gave them a clearer picture of Africa and its history. We studied the start of the slave trade and its origins briefly to give them an idea of its full scope and long history.

We did read several books about the lives of slaves on southern plantations and their experiences in the underground railroad, but the most helpful book we read was, “Who Owns the Sun?” by Stacey Chbosky. Now at first my son could not stop saying “God!” in answer to the question so I had to start over and preface it by saying, “Yes, God owns everything. But this book is asking if any one man owns the sun?” and this helped us move on with the book.

By the last page there was not a dry eye around our table.

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I don’t think I will ever find an easy way to talk about slavery and/or racism, because it is a horrible and hard thing no matter how you approach it. Giving the boys a bit more background into the culture and discussing the topic of slavery in general, helped us understand the specifics of slavery in America a bit more clearly. Their tender hearts were pierced by this which was hard to watch but necessary for them to experience as they continue to grow in a world where racism is very much alive. We finished our time of study by praying to God and thanking Him for the life of Abraham Lincoln, who stood for up for justice and truth. We prayed for our country as we continue to be divided on issues of race. We prayed for our men in uniform overseas and here at home and for our leaders that govern our country.

MFW Adventures: The Trails!

 

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We are limping back to life at last! We’ve been sick for the last two weeks and I am ready to get back in the saddle again.  A few days before we fell ill, I happened upon a local listing for a huge solid wood hutch. I’ve been searching a long, long time for one of these bad boys. I was thrilled to find one so close for so cheap ($50). Within the hour it stood in our classroom. It was quite the beast to move! The boys helped me get everything settled before I sat down to finish organizing everything for the week. I had an unfamiliar moment of feeling like we were on top of our game. I was grateful for the way God had provided the hutch, I was grateful for our classroom and for our curriculum. I was finally allowing myself to feel ecstatic over the fact that we had not fallen behind all year long and that the kids seemed to be thriving with the rhythm I had set down for them this year. Really, the week had gone like clockwork. I realized that we had reached an all time high in our homeschool life and it felt really, really good.

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And then a day later, we all fell very, very ill.

We were a miserable, hacking, snotting, petri dish of ultimate yuck.

So now that we are once again, at the bottom of the barrel, allow me to share with you what we did for Unit/Week 26 of Adventures in US History.

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The American Pioneer and Patriots stories this week were fantastic. The kids loved them! The boys wanted to investigate a little further so we pulled out our Geography guide from Beautiful Feet Books and started a study of “Tree in the Trail” by Holling C Holling.
I purchased a bunch of blank books at the beginning of the year and the boys each pulled one out and started their own Tree in the Trail notebook. They drew cottonwood trees and diagrammed their features. We studied their life cycles and habitats. We studied various indian tribes and had a bit of zoology fun with buffalos, pronged deer and wolves. We charted out the trail and studied the arrival of the Spaniards and the westward movement of the pioneers. I am so glad we took on the extra work!

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Here are a few other resources we used and enjoyed:

Santa Fe Trail site has photos, an interactive map, timeline and historical info
Oregon Trail Museum 
Oregon Trail Journal of Francis Parkman

You can find the 1990 version of Oregon Trail HERE and play it on your browser. All the 4th grade feels. Totally played while my kids were asleep! I am so glad to be hauling 2000 lbs of Buffalo meat and be suffering from dysentery once more.

Another game we’ve been playing often is Ticket to Ride. My kids pull this one out all the time and they can play it by themselves which is fantastic!

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We’ve been using Walter Wick’s book “A Drop of Water” for our Liquid, Solid, Gas unit. Check and see if this title is available at your local library. This book really brought a lot of the concepts from the Usborne experiments to life!

We’ve continued with our nature journaling, even in the midst of sickness, thanks to the small collection of little odds and ends that we can study whenever our health or the weather prohibits our usual nature walk. This week the boys took a closer look at the seashore.

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I love their drawings. Its so much fun to watch them grow more and more specific with time and experience. I’ve mentioned before that we had a rough start with art. Its great to see them naturally progressing after such an uphill battle. If the above resonates with you, I encourage you—don’t give up on art!

We started Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War this week. I mentioned to the boys that we only have 6 weeks left after this unit. They were so sad! The rest of the afternoon was spent revisiting some of our old work and looking at our favorite read alouds from the year and reminiscing. My eldest flipped through a book on Native Americans and I found my second born tucked away in the book nook, battle helmet on, reading about his favorite viking. We love you, Adventures!

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MFW Adventures: Gold Rush & Geography Study

While most of the eastern seaboard was buried in snow, we were entirely inundated with rain this week. Nearly 6 inches fell in a 48 hours timespan. The zucchini patch has drowned, roots rotted through and through. Thankfully, the lettuce rows and kale patch do not seem to mind the rain. The turkey eggs continue to incubate, we are roughly one week away from hatch day(s)! Hubby spent all day today in the back hollow, digging holes for our fence posts. Its the first in a series of bays we are setting up for various animals. We are excited to see our little dream unfold.

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Studying the California Gold Rush, spurred the collaborative creation of the “Sunday Times Donut Gang” (pictured above). I briefly entertained the idea of panning for gold with the kids at the local fair but the constant downpour was a great deterrent. Instead, we chose to spend the week reading Sid Fleischman’s “The Great Horn Spoon.” We fell in love with Praiseworthy and wish we could go on an adventure with him. Jack and Good Luck and Mountain Jim were so endearing, we could not bear to put the book down. We are two thirds of the way done and will finish it up next week during our study of California. This book was a huge home run for the kids! If your littles are always begging for more books, this is a lovely one, especially on a rainy afternoon!

By Wednesday I realized that we were nearly out of groceries. I did not relish the thought of walking through a monsoon with the kids so we foraged and made the most of it. A meal of freshly baked bread, milk, jam, cheese and fruit made the cut. We brought out our favorite books and ate while we listened to the rain fall on the rooftop. A Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail picnic of sorts, but the boys had another take: “Mom, this reminds me of Plum Creek and the Ingalls family. Sometimes a simple meal made up of all you have tastes so much better because you worked really hard to put it together.” DSCN0926.JPG

We fell into a great rhythm this week with our school work. If you follow our blog, you know the boys like to play outside between subjects. This week they had to stay indoors and I loved watching what they gravitated towards for play. Our Pin it! Maps were reached for the most often.

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Six months of near daily use and these beauties are holding up wonderfully well! The Land and Water forms set is by far the most popular with the current age span.

This week, we also reached the end of our Beautiful Feet Geography study using “Minn of the Mississippi” by Holling C Holling.

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We followed the journey of a three legged snapping turtle named “Minn”  from the headwaters in Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico.

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We found extra study materials, maps and clip art on Little Schoolhouse in the Suburbs.

While this is a geography study, the boys ended up engaging in math, cartography, botany, biology, anthropology, archeology, paleontology, language arts, composition, drawing, water color, and spelling. I loved watching them engage with dictionaries, encyclopedias and various nature books as they conducted their research. We read two chapters per lesson and really enjoyed the questions and exercises provided in the Beautiful Feet Geography guide. The boys are eager to start “Tree in the Trail” next week when we begin our study of the Sante Fe Trail.

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If you are already feeling overwhelmed by the Adventures workload then I do not recommend the above study guide. If you are looking for something extra and have 30-45 minutes a day to spare, then I highly recommend looking into Beautiful Feet Books Geography through Literature Pack. We love Holling C Holling’s living books and look forward to finishing the series. It is recommended for 4th grade and up so we scaled back a few of the exercises. I will likely revisit this pack again when we return to US History.

 

MFW Adventures: States & Birds

We are loving our tour through the United States.
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The boys memorized all fifty states and capitols last year during Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations. They also tackled all the geographical features and memorized many different important pieces of American History in their weekly History sentences. I’ve loved watching all this information burst out of them at different points this year.

I was initially worried that the State Study would not be enough on its own for them. But once again, turns out what MFW has prepared is more than sufficient!

I comb-bound all our state sheets into one notebook for each boy and purchased a special set of Prismacolor colored pencils. The boys know these pencils are very special (aka mucho dinero) and are only to be used with our state sheets. I love seeing the special care they have taken with these new tools. Its made them work carefully and their trademark little boy sloppiness has diminished greatly as the days pass. They are eager to shade their state birds just so and capture the exact color of each state flower.

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While the boys work on their State Sheets and Lego State creations, I read from various books. We have been using the suggested book list from MFW, but I have also incorporated a book of collected poems by Lee Bennet Hopkins entitled, “My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States.” I also try and include readings from a few poets or authors hailing from the states we are studying. We usually glean these authors from the list of state poet laureates.  (PS There are FIVE states with Official State Poems).  Lastly, I read the next book off of our Beautiful Feet Books list. I will be posting our list and references soon so be on the lookout! We’ve read so many wonderful new books in the last two weeks. Its fun watching the boys play “raise the barn” or make knick knacks around the house to sell at Portsmouth Market like the Ox-Cart man.

Some days the reading outlasts the work at hand. On those days the boys rush to pull out their much adored US History Geo puzzle.  Some days the work outlasts the reading. On those days I rush to find a bottle of my much adored Essie nail polish. IMG_7143

The littles stay engaged by coloring their own states sheets and then making states out of play doh.  Other times they prefer to stick with their own motor skill/sensory play activities.
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I have honestly spent more time in the last two weeks preparing activities for the younger boys to engage with so that our older boys can focus well on their work. Of course, this means that when the older boys finish their work they rush over to see what their younger siblings are up to and the join in the play!

Our study of birds is progressing beautifully. I am in love with this portion of Adventures! Having the Everglades nearby blesses us with a large variety of birds year round. This gentle introduction of state birds has blossomed into a new hobby for my children.We’ve started collecting feathers and nests. The eldest has asked for several new books on Audubon’s life. We are eager to learn about the birds in our area and are planning a field trip to our local Audubon base.  Pretty much everyone was happy… until they realized we would not be making a delicious chocolate nest treat every single time we studied a new bird.  Oh, the drama!
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Training the boys to observe nature quietly is not easy. I’ve armed them to the teeth with binoculars, notebooks, cameras and colored pencils, hoping that occupied hands would silence voices that lack volume control. This plan met with mixed success. I finally realized that merging the toddler’s snack time with our nature walks was the way to go!

BEHOLD!!!

A recipe on my blog. This may not ever happen again, so enjoy it….


Audubonbons

Ingredients:
Granola bars
Chocolate Bar
Wax Paper

Step 1: Cut granola bar into bite sized squares.
Step 2: Place granola squares onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper
Step 3: Melt the chocolate bar and drizzle it onto the granola squares
Step 4: Place in fridge until hardened. Or place in freezer as an extra treat for teething toddler or as a tooth loss motivator for your 7 year old and his loose tooth thats been hanging in there for two months without falling out. Sigh.
Step 5: Place in baggie and take along on your nature hike.
Step 6: Hand it to your toddler and say “stick some Audubonbons in your pie hole and let your brother draw the mockingbird!”


Next week, we will be writing up a more thorough look at our bird watching activities. It will most certainly not be a “how to” guide, more like a “don’t you feel better about your nature walk/life in general now?” kinda thing.  Tears and laughter abound.

Speaking of life in general. The humidity is starting to dissipate! Its still warm, but its bearable. As in, I no longer feel like I am walking in a can of soup when I walk outside. From this point on, any schooling that can be done outside—will be done outside! Hooray! Time to bust that picnic basket out of storage.

IMG_6924Anyone else adoring “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Its inspiring the boys to get even more involved on the farm. Training the new pup to guard the chickens, pulling weeds and helping mark out garden plans. Its going to be a lovely, all hands on deck, kinda Fall!
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MFW Adventures: The New Nation & The New Routine

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We are gearing up for growing season! All around the country people are getting their harvest on, but we are prepping for planting season. The avocados, bananas and pineapples are just about done and the kitchen garden is in the works!

We have lots of little hands eager to help around here. Hubby graciously agreed to build a potting table for our science lab. The boys are so excited to plant seeds and watch them sprout.

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But first: rocks, weeds and grubs! Turns out our new pup, Trusty Banjo, loves to pull weeds. We are well matched and well pleased.

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We wove in as much MFW to our farm routine as possible this week. As we pulled weeds and readied garden beds, we looked for bugs that birds might eat, saving grubs for our chickens while we turned over rocks and caught tiny green katydids. We walked the property, searching for abandoned birds nest, knocked down by squirrels. We found four lovely little nests and enjoyed studying them in all their intricate, thrifty glory. We read five or six books on Audubon and the boys drew a zillion pictures of the birds in our yard. We do have a bald eagle that makes the rounds here on the farm. We love catching sight of her in the early morning. What a powerful bird! She has been featured repeatedly in our sketches this week.  We searched for our local Audubon chapter and found tons of field trip opportunities and information on local birds. Last but not least, a rainy afternoon snack of “dirt in a cup” (chocolate pudding, crumbled Oreos on top with a gummy worm or two tucked inside) helped round out our first bird week.

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The boys are eager to start marking out our kitchen garden plot. They are not eager to take more pictures with the sun shining in their faces. Soon, we will have time in the garden each morning as part of our Fall-Spring schedule. There is talk of a Darth Vader scarecrow. I can not wait!

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The nature journals are ready to come back out now that the heat is finally becoming bearable again. The boys were quite taken with all the new mold patterns on our towering slash pines. In fact, all new growth immediately caught their attention. We drowned in our doggy grief for so many weeks, we failed to notice all the new life outside our windows. The changes took us all by surprise. I love that even in a place with only two seasons, we can see change in the nature around us.  The boys have their special trees that they visit regularly. We may not ever see them change color or drop leaves, but they are still living, growing wonders, with plenty of subtle changes for attentive eyes to discover.

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Along with a new farming season, we have now officially incorporated all the components of our year. We began Adventures in June and added in new things each month. This month was the final add in, our preschool curriculum, “A Year of Playing Skillfully” by The Homegrown Preschooler. Before the week was out, I noticed something strange…

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Team B, the two youngest in our crew, were behaving like angels in the schoolroom. Playing quietly with their resources. Listening well to directions.

It was weird.

It was a miracle.

It was a wee bit disconcerting.

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Why is this happening? Are they plotting something? Will there be an ambush later?
I’ve previously shared about our rhythm. I teach in block schedule format. If we begin arithmetic at 8AM, we do not begin our next subject until 9AM. If the boys only take 15 minutes to complete arithmetic, then they have 45 minutes of free play until they return for their 9AM subject. It they finish arithmetic in  58 minutes, then they have two minutes before the next subject starts.

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Well, the boys were certainly focused this week! Team A finished each subject with at least half an hour to spare for free play. Team B played quietly on the sidelines, waiting for the all clear signal.

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Why was everything suddenly working so well?  They were behaving with exceptional dedication and focus because they knew what was waiting for them on the other side of responsibility….

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Play. Play was waiting. Beautiful, glorious, child-led play. My 7 & 6 year old need time to play. Lots and lots of time. I am giving them the very intentional gift of time. The hours are not packed to the hilt with lists of things to do. They finish their work and then they are released to enjoy their play. What a gift free time is for them.  Time to be a child, time to pause and wonder how to employ new skills and test the world around them during that precious half hour of leisure.

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Wonderful things are happening on the farm. Confidence and happiness. Less stress and more mess. They are learning more than ever through these invitations to play and discover. The preschoolers rush outside and engage everything head on. Sorting, measuring, testing, creating, evaluating, gathering, thinking, wondering and learning how things work. They all come back to the schoolroom, refreshed and ready for more work. No complaints.

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I used to look over my planner at the end of each day, to judge how successful our day had been. I measured in check marks.

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The rubric has changed. I walk up to my boys and flip their precious hands over. I look for marks of happiness and wonder and discovery. I look for dirt under fingernails and paint stains on the soft pads of their fingertips.  These are the marks of a good day.

New Nation Resources!

This week, our reading list did not stray from the book basket recommendations made by MFW. We finished up another book in our Beautiful Feet books study, 1801: Year of the Horseless Carriage by Genevieve Foster.

STATE STUDY-
Coloring Sheets: My four year old is quite keen on joining in the state study. I’ve been printing out free state coloring sheets from crayola.com and he loves them! They also have smaller state shape cards that he is enjoying as well.
Legos: My older children love building state Legos after completing their state sheets. I flip their sheet over and begin reading about the state. They grab the Legos basket and begin building the state shape while I read. So far, I’ve made it through each sheet and at least one book from our state book basket. 

New Jersery
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (DVD) A portion of the film takes place in Atlantic City
Adventure Aquarium: One of our favorite aquariums in the country. My boys love to go on here and read about the different animals in the exhibit. We will be returning for a visit this winter, so it was good to refresh our collective memory and take stock of which exhibits we want to spend the most time at. 
New Jersey History Kids: a fun website to explore!
New Jersey Historical Maps: This website contains historical maps of New Jersey that are interesting to look through.

Pennsylvania
Mr. Nussbaum’s Learning & Fun!: Another fun website with several resources.
Historical Maps of Pennsylvania:   site of historical maps.
Virtual Liberty Bell

Georgia
Georgia Peach Festival 
Colonial Georgia Images