There are two things that I simply have adored throughout this academic year: the concentration and literature suggestions from A Gentle Feast for learning about the 1800s… and my time sharing some of those enchanting stories with our dear co-op, EspritGVL.
I’ve had the delight of teaching Language Arts for both primary (1st-2nd) and lower elementary (3-4th) grades this year, and our sweet primary class is finishing up our time with Buffalo Bill next week– and will be having our own Wild West show(case) to celebrate our learning. (I’ll be doing another post about our activities, Wild West poster replicas, and our party once it is all done.)
The book that we used to learn about Buffalo Bill was the d’Aulaire’s version of the tale. They have a whole series of beautiful books that are lovely to learn from. (Sidenote: as will many books that cover historical characters, you might find some political views that you don’t agree with in there. If that’s the case, take the opportunity of those moments to discuss and learn why we do things differently now.)
To help my little learners in guiding narration and storytelling, copywork, and even a touch of spelling, they got to work through these Buffalo Bill journaling sheets that I created for them. I’d love to share them with you as well! We split the story into two weeks-worth of reading, so had a set of 5 pages per week to work through.
Feel free to download these sheets for your own personal use and share this post with others that might like to use them as well. 🙂
As a part of this unit, our class loved learning about buffaloes! We found out something pretty amazing about them. Unlike cows, who turn and run away from storms because they are afraid, buffaloes turn west and charge right into the gale to get through it faster! I wrote a little poem for our class about this new buffalo fact and shared it with them. Afterwards, the kiddos drew prairies with buffalo on it and also role-played the poem with some stuffies and a storm cloud. 🙂
I made the little poem into an animated video , if you’d like to learn more about the remarkable feature buffaloes have of facing storms.
(It must be mentioned that I have no idea how to animate anything, so I just winged this. No judgement, ha!)
Our class time doesn’t leave room for a lot of clip-watching, so I often send extra enrichment links to the parents if their student wants to learn more at home. If you are reading about Buffalo Bill now (or soon), these videos are great ones to add to the facts (and fiction) behind the tall tale.
We have now reached the part of our story process that I love the most! Once we finish a book, the students get to spend a week creating something that connects back to what we learned in some way… and then they get to showcase it to the entire class!
The creativity and excitement I see from them is just so encouraging, especially as a communication teacher. Most of my communication students are high school and college-aged, and somewhere along the way, fear and intimidation takes root and many students just hate the thought of getting up and sharing anything in a “formal” way. To give children opportunities to share and present in the smallest, but most pleasantest of ways, does a lot to preventing public speaking from turning into something scary and intimidating.
I’m looking forward to seeing what all my students bring to share with everyone, before we have a fun Wild West party! (I’m making some Western-themed carnival-like games… so wish me luck!)
I hope these few tools and resources add extra enchantment to an already exciting character and story!
(Let’s just not talk about the price of eggs currently, shall we? But let’s just say if my husband gets me a chicken coop and a starter flock for V-day, I won’t be disappointed. HA!)
As we all know, Valentine’s day is right around the corner! I’ve made fun little freebies for the day of love before, with ideas for the week of Valentine’s– including our “I love you fondue” dinner. It’s a special little tradition that’s evolved over the past few years, and now I couldn’t imagine February the 14th without it.
We like to take a few days to celebrate all things heart and love themed, and this year it looks like we will be starting tomorrow and bringing it through the whole week instead of stopping on Tuesday. We have a Valentine exchange in our co-op on Thursday, and then will probably do some love-themed fun in “cousin school” the next time it comes around.
In the meantime, I threw together a few little journaling pages for us to use this week, as we take time to look at 1 Corinthians 13, say “I love you” in a few languages, “find our heart” in a maze, and make love notes full of all sorts of food puns.
I’d love for you to download this freebie and use it in your home! You can break it apart over several days, or use it all on one; with a read aloud or two and narration, some heart math, and a science video about the heart itself … it could be a full day of “loving” school.
My mother-in-law grows her own raspberry bushes. Rows and rows of them.
The kids love going to Wisconsin in the summer and just walking out there and stuffing their faces with these brilliantly red sweet snacks anytime they want.
The fruit is so abundant, Mom makes pies and cakes and jam galore… and then sends us back south, coolers packed with ice and her famous freezer jam. Throughout the year, we pull out a jar at a time for bread and sandwiches and even ice cream topping here and there. It’s divine.
The other day, I saw a picture of some beautiful raspberry thumbprint cookies, and knew that that our jam would have yet another application. I used this recipe as a base, but did make some tweaks, and will use them here. 🙂
We made a batch of these cookies for our poetry tea time, and the kids loved making them… and eating them. Because they were so very cute and festive, they will definitely be a part of our Valentine’s week coming up. ❤
raspberry jam thumbprint cookies
Ingredients 4 oz soften cream cheese 1/2 cup butter (room temp) 1/2 cup sugar + 2 Tbs 1/2 cup flour + 2 Tbs (all purpose) jam (to fill the thumbprints)
Steps 1) Blend the cream cheese and butter together well. (As in fully incorporated.) 2) Mix in the sugar. 3) Mix in the flour, a “sprinkle” at a time. (The dough is going to be dense and not like “regular cookie dough.” 4) Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. (We were impatient and waited 30 minutes.) 5) Put parchment paper or a silicon sheet on a baking sheet before making cookies. (We use something similar to these.) 6) Take tablespoons of dough and roll them into little balls before placing them on the sheet. The won’t really rise/spread, so you don’t have to worry about spacing much. 7) Once the cookie balls are placed on the sheet, press your thumb in them to make a “pool.” Don’t go all the way to the bottom. 🙂 8) Use a spoon to place some jam of choice into the divots in the cookies. 9) Preheat the oven to 350*. While the oven preheats, place the cookies in the fridge. 10) Once oven is preheated, take the cookies out of the fridge and into the oven, baking them for 10-12 minutes, until they are gold around the edges. When you take them out, they will still be soft, but they will harden as they cool.
They are simple, taste amazing, and look impressive. Create this colorful cookie (with or without the kiddos!) and enjoy.
Although we aren’t tucked away in a small cabin in the Wisconsin woods, I believe that this sentiment from Christmas in the Big Woods is exactly what we all still want, a couple hundred of years later.
The picture books of Little House in the Big Woods were new to our family this year– and I’m a little sad I didn’t discover them earlier! But better late than never, as they say.
The pictures in these excerpts from the chapter book are so great for little learners. My 4 year old and 1st grader love reading and re-reading these. I’m the Language Arts teacher for the primary grade in our Charlotte Mason-inspired co-op, and I included both Winter and Christmas books in the last couple of weeks to finish our semester up before our Winter break. They have been a perfect way to wrap up! In fact, our Pioneer Christmas celebration is this Thursday, and I’m so looking forward to it! (I’m thinking I’ll have a separate post, just for that!)
I created our some journaling pages for the class for both weeks, and I thought I’d include them as a freebie here! You’ll find activity pages, copywork, suggested spelling, and narration prompts for each picture book. Feel free to copy and use for your kiddos at home!
If you are looking for some guided time suggestions for the pages and the book, this is what we do at our co-op. 🙂
During the week at home, parents and their children enjoy the stories and fill out the sheets together at their own pace. Once we are all together, we read/review some poetry… and then jump right into the other 2 things per week: sharing our pages together and then the weekly literature-based activity.
For our Winter week, we borrowed from Ma’s Work Rhythm in the book… and since our co-op meets on Thursdays, we did the Thursday activity: butter churning! Each child got a chance at churning, and we watched the whole process of the cream turning into whipped cream before evolving into butter and buttermilk! They also observed how the closer to butter it becomes, the harder it is to churn it!
Last week for our Christmas day, we practiced our Poem Play that we will be performing for parents this week, shared our pages and showed off our stocking designs… and then went back to what we knew about the story to discuss how gifts were simple, handmade, and often made from ordinary things to create something new and beautiful. We then passed out brown paper bags, got some markers and crayons and ribbons, and used these few simple things to learn how to make gift bags! They are so simple and customizable… and are a perfect way to design gingerbread house and manger scenes as a gift bags to wrap small things or use to give away Christmas cookies!
Here’s a little snippet of the gingerbread house version I made as an example. I also made a nativity one in class itself, but cutting the back a bit shorter and makes the roof lower and steeper. It also turned out great!
The kids got so creative, decorating wreaths and snowflakes over their houses! Some even drew cats in Christmas hats in the windows.
I know that there are a lot of things to pull for our time and attention this time of year. Maybe you have the heart for all the Christmas things and 25 days of Winter Fun and Jesse Trees and a New book a day. Maybe you have the desire, but not the time or energy.
Maybe checking out these two books from the library, enjoying some free handouts and making memories around handmade, simple things is just what you need.
I hope this helps so much! ❤
__ Additional Resources:
Youtube read-aloud versions of the stories mentioned 🙂
Spring and summer is the perfect time to bring out those bug books and studies… considering we can observe them all around us again. (Guess we’ll be doing a mosquito study soon. Sheesh!)
It was on our agenda a couple of weeks ago to study ants… and as I was perusing the library shelves for some fun reads to include, I came across Two Bad Ants. What a delightful little read, and it led to really great learning and play… and curiosity! Win win win!
If you have read other learning posts of mine, you know I’ve been a classroom teacher for years– and that time has shaped how I wanted to teach my own kiddos at home. We are Charlotte Mason/Classical-based (eclectic a bit) in general, but something that I find really shapes learning time well– inside and outside of the classroom– is remembering the Big Four: imagine, encourage, educate, and enjoy. (Note: Charlotte Mason herself was not a huge fan of “lesson plans” as she believed the best education–even only education– was self-education. I don’t disagree. Think of The Big 4 as a framework to hang principles on, not a lesson plan to stick to rigidly or you fail, okay?)
With that said, let’s walk through the Big 4 with this book, shall we?
What’s so amazing about fun, living books is that they foster imagination in and of themselves! We don’t have to “try” to make the imagination come alive. Children are born with curiosity and imagination; our biggest challenge is to not get in the way! Two Bad Ants is SO fun in this department. It forsakes familiar words with descriptive language in a way that can made the book a series of riddles for the kids to mentally answer (especially younger ones!), and the perspective of the pictures make the book so fun to “enter” in. As your kiddos are listening to the story, don’t be afraid to pause and let them get curious! My kids asked some really great questions here, like “why do the ants call the grass a forest?” and “how do we know they landed in sugar?” and “why did the ants fly through the black slits in the wall?” What great opportunities to ask them questions back and get them thinking to answer their own questions! You can even take time here to “imagine” being ants or seeing how height and angles change perspective. Crawl on the floor and observe what you see differently, now that you are lower than normal. How about standing on a stool or chair? What do you see now?
Another way to incorporate imagination is to basically allow them to get creative.
Do they want to make up their own story about the ant?
Put on a play?
Design their own ant playground… which makes me think of Honey I Shrunk the Kids…
Draw an ant? Great! Let them! This book made my 9 year old want to grab our Natural History book and check out all the ants there before deciding to draw her favorite. Awesome!
When it comes to this principle, I take it different ways at different times. The main way I try to think of incorporating encouragement is seeing what the Bible has to say about what we are learning/observing. What does it tell us about the object we are discussing, or the character we see in the story?
The Bible actually does talk about the ants and what we can learn from them. It tells us to consider the ants and be like them. Why? (Ask your kiddos!) Because they work hard and prepare well. What are some ways we can do that? That question led to a lot of good responses, and their answers included some things that we do as a family and some that we can improve on.
Another way that I like to think about encouragement is making sure that I’m seeing where my kids are growing and improving and making a point to encourage them in that. This isn’t lesson specific, per se. But even as we doing some activities with the book, and the kiddos were asking questions, I make a point to use positive feedback: “What a great question! Let’s see what we can learn about that!” Or “That’s a good observation; you looked really closely to see that!” I want to encourage their effort without making it about me and my “pride” or happiness in it– although I am both proud and happy when they are giving great attention and adding to their own learning!
Of course, “education” is something that can happen anytime, anywhere. We don’t have to plan or force it to happen. But in the “educate” category in my head is about me figuring what tools I need to give them and what goals I have for them. Basically, it’s asking myself what plates, napkins, silverware, and ingredients are needed for the “feast” that day. And just like every “feast”/buffet doesn’t have every single cuisine represented, I don’t think we need to feel the burden/obligation of making sure every. single.learning.moment has every single type of academic “food.” In other words– if I want to focus on science/nature during that time, I totally can without including fine arts and all the other things. 🙂
Here’s what I did after reading this book: I got out salt, sugar, and our little magnifying glasses. When my buddy asked how we knew the ants landed in salt, we used the book to answer that question for us– but then we decided to take a closer look at salt and sugar itself. It’s looks pretty similar when we look at it our “normal” way– but what if we take a closer look? At closer inspection, we can definitely see that salt and sugar AREN’T the same. We talked about the differences we could see with a little magnification– which ants would have naturally, being smaller and much closer and with different kinds of eyeballs!
We also did a taste test and observed those differences, too. 😉
Later that night for dinner, when we chatted about what we learned with daddy (hello, extra narration!), the kiddos were so excited to share what they learned– all on their own!
Meanwhile, I had plenty to jot down in my planner that day under “science.”
As I’m sure you can see, there were so many things that were “enjoyable” about what we had done so far that this “box” basically checked itself! Crawling around on the floor, tasting and seeing salt and sugar up close, and reading a fun book all felt and were enjoyable to my kiddos! However, you can always bump this up even more by pulling out any bug games you might have! We actually played a dice game called People Vs. the Ants. We played two variations of this: doubles and odds & evens.
We divided a paper in half and labeled one side People and the other Ants. The idea behind the game was that we are at a picnic and the ants are coming. If we win, we don’t have to move to a new picnic spot; and if the ants win, that means they took over our picnic and could eat all of our food. (Hello there again, Imagination!) Any time we rolled a double, we had to add them together, and that score was added to the ants side. Anytime it wasn’t a double, we added the score together and put it on the people side. Whoever got to 50 first, won! (We won, because we didn’t roll a lot of big doubles.)
We played it again with odds and evens. If the numbers rolled added up to evens, it was put in the People column, and if it added to an odd number, it was an ant score. (This game worked on head addition for my early elementary student, and my kinder boy is learning odds and evens, so he got to work on that, too!)
The kids got an extra dose of “enjoyment” because they love any kind of game… and I got something extra in the “math” section of the day.
Well friends, that’s it! That’s how I took this book and applied the Big 4 to it. If you are wanting to read Two Bad Ants and plug these ideas in, I hope you find your experience with them enchanting and delightful to your family… but more than that, I hope you see how the Big 4 are ideas that can be applied to any book and any day! They definitely help me to create an atmosphere of education in our home. 🙂
*** If you want to read more about the Big Four, go here, or watch this video that I recently did about it. 🙂
A little note: the amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means you don’t pay any extra pennies if your buy through them, but I might. Maybe. 😉
If you go back over some of my education-themed posts (in the essential learning section), you’ll notice “the Big 4” pop up here and there. As a recap, my essentials— a checklist, if you will— that I try to incorporate while we learn together at home are: imagination, encouragement, education, and enjoyment.
In this new video, I chat more about what each of those look like during my day, give an example about how I used a living book to weave the 4 together, and most importantly, the big picture as to *why* I try to place each one purposefully in our day.
If you want some sort of structure to your learning time that leaves room for wonder, try using these 4 in your own home. I trust you will find them a beautiful way to think about and shape your time together. 💛
If you have been here for a while, you’ve heard me talk about “the Big 4” that I try to place within each homelearning day (or each lesson plan I create when I teach). Those big four include: imagination, encouragement, education (the actually content of the lesson), and enjoyment.
Instead of going through what that has looked like for us so far this week, I want to share with you how I’ve “repurposed” some ideas to keep things fresh– and therefore, fun– for my kiddos this week.
Last week, I introduced a scouting game for my kiddos, incorporating fox walking with stalking/tracking. The basic premise is this: someone stands in the middle of a yard/space with a blindfold (or promise of keeping their eyes closed <<good luck with that one, ha!>>) while the other players spread out several feet away from both each other AND the person in the middle (who is the animal being observed/stalked). The observers must quietly walk closer and closer to the person in the middle, and the first one to read and tap the person wins.
However… if the person in the middle hears a sound but can’t identify WHAT they heard, they turn towards the location of the sound, and people in that area have to freeze. If they make a sound while they are supposed to be frozen, they have to go back to their original location. Once the person in the middle hasn’t heard anything for a few seconds, they turn back around. If the person in the middle hears a sound and CAN identify it, they turn towards the sound, and say exactly what they heard (a stick break, a nose sniff, whatever), and the person has to go back to their original spot.
I played this with my kids as a part of their nature study last week and they LOVED it! We played it several times, and whoever tagged the middle person got to take their place. Since we played it, they have asked SEVERAL times to play it again.
That led me to thinking… how can this game be used in other ways?
Right now, we are concentrating on the Revolutionary War in history and have recently studied Francis Marion– aka “the Swamp Fox.” If you are familiar with the warfare of the South during that time, you know that it was not the traditional “line up in a battlefield nicely and all agree to start marching and maiming each other at the same time” kind of warfare that had been popular up until that point. The Southern Theater did NOT have the manpower or resources that the British in the area had… so they got creative.
I think you might be able to guess how this game evolved from science to history.
Yesterday, we went out into the yard… but the center player wasn’t an animal being stalked. It was the British in a swamp in the South, hoping not to be bombarded by the rumored Swamp Fox. The “stalkers” were now Continental militia… sneaking up for a surprise attack.
The kiddos LOVED the variation… and it made incorporating enjoyment into the day easier to be able to tweak a game their already knew instead of finding a new activity to introduce and have them learn from scratch. (More time playing + less time explaining = more fun.)
(Bonus: the game can be played practically anywhere with no equipment. )
The second thing that I started doing a few weeks ago and did again this week was not be afraid to make my own videos to simplify our routine. We absorb a lot of literature and also believe in the benefit of committing things to our memories. In an ideal day, we’d be able to cover the memory work altogether with the original books… but that’s not the way things are sometimes. Instead, I make playlists on youtube and also in Amazon music that I can connect via bluteooth in the car or can pull up to play/review while waiting somewhere.
In making playlists, I’ve realized something. A pet peeve of mine is not being able to find brief recordings that make playlist making easy. I don’t want someone speaking for 10 minutes about a poem before getting to the recitation of it. And I also don’t want someone reading the poem in a flat voice, as I want my children to love the listening of it.
Recently, I’ve found some poems and info harder to find… so I’ve made them myself. These videos are completely amateur. No fancy movies or graphics. Just me, sometimes only me, reading. Sometimes, I’ve drawn little pictures to go along with my words. The key for me right now is for them to accomplish the purpose I have for them without taking a lot of time.
This is hard for me, friends.
Because when I want to do something, I want it to be my absolute best. I do.
And these videos that I make just aren’t.
BUT they serve the purpose, and they are a tool that I can actually use– versus waiting on all the time and energy it would take to do them “right.”
Maybe I’m beginning to see (and agree) with G.K. Chesterton more, the older I become: that “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”
Meanwhile, if you are looking for a short little poem for your young children to memorize and just need a simply reading of it, feel free to use this 30 second version of A Child’s Song.
It won’t win any production awards, but it might just help you get the “job done.” 😉
If you have come across Charlotte Mason at all in your research about homeschooling– or if you would describe your own homelearning style as Mason-leaning– the term “narration” is probably one you are familiar with.
There are a lot more articles and even books that go into a lot more detail about what narration is and why it is important, and I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here.
The point of this post isn’t to take the time to define what it IS, but to remember what it is NOT. Narration isn’t just a regurgitation of the facts or plot-line of the story. It isn’t just us getting to see what the student knows–or doesn’t. I mean, it CAN (and probably should) include both of those purposes. But that is not all it is.
The purpose of narration is an invitation– and invitation for the student to make the information, the story and the lessons and impacts of it… his or her own.
Because there are ALL types of learners, it stands to reason that there will be all types of storytellers and all kinds of ownership.
A danger that we can fall into when we ask our kids to narrate is to accept– and maybe even encourage, because of time, energy, etc– that we get the “easiest” version of narration from them: basically, a simple retelling. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a retelling… but sometimes, some learners own stories in different ways.
I have found that my oldest isn’t a fan of simply retelling– she wants to create something. She will use figurines, peg dolls, playdough, etc. to create scenes. She wants to put on little skits and give lines to her smaller siblings (bless their hearts, ha!). A simple re-telling? No thanks.
I think it is hard for us as parent-teachers to come up with narration ideas on the fly if our kiddos are being a bit… hesitant. Sometimes all our children need is a germ of an idea and the freedom to run with it.
So, I’ve made up some bookmarks to print out and place in your books and read-alouds. Your child can choose off of the list or you can have a fresh idea rotation, come narration time! Several of the ideas I tweaked from the following post by Simply Charlotte Mason, but I intermingled several ideas of my own that we have done over here. ❤
Happy storytelling, friends! May we be encouraged by how the power of story and living tellings of them shape our students and ourselves!
As term 2 of our school year comes to a close, I get the exciting privilege of planning our end-of-year home learning trip!
Our history with A Gentle Feast centered around the Revolutionary War this year. Initially, I had grand plans of driving up through VA and up into the Philly areas, hitting several of the things and areas that we had learned about: Mt. Vernon, Monticello, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross museum… even up and over to Valley Forge. My brain was in high gear, planning all the things!
But then something else happened to hit a high, too.
Hello there, gasoline… I’m looking at you.
Between the high fuel prices and planning a long road trip to Texas later in the summer for a family wedding/reunion, it looks like we will be postponing that long trip for the next time we hit this history rotation. (My younger kids will be able to appreciate it more at that point anyway. Three is a little young to appreciate being in the same room that the Declaration was signed in, I think. Ha!)
Fortunately, my family lives in a state that was one of the original 13 colonies… so I started to really dig into the Revolutionary war close to home. I knew of a couple of battle fields quasi-close by, and knew that Nathanael Greene and the Swamp Fox had been up and around our state… but for living in this state all of my life (and going to state schools growing up), I was incredibly surprised about ALL of the Revolutionary history here in SC. (Truth be told, my memories in school of war and our state all seemed to be about the Civil War and fighting against our country vs. being a major contributor to its creation, but that’s another thought for another time.)
So now, my brain is back into high gear, plotting at least 5 battlefields and museums within an hour of our house… and planning an overnight closer to the coast.
I’m a huge fan of journaling and recording thoughts, questions, etc., as they come up… and find that my 3rd grader still needs a few prompts to help her write out her observations. I went ahead and designed some pages for our days out and about for her to use to help document what she learns along the way.
For fellow South Carolina homeschool/homelearning families, I’d love to have you use the pages I created to document your own trek of learning across our state. Just download and use the pdf below!
I’m going to share a few super helpful links below if you are interested in plotting your own weekend field trips! (Click the images for more information.) The Southern Campaign Animated Map is great for a general overview/review… but the other links below are geared towards an Piedmont/Upstate focus of the state’s involvement. I’m hoping to do a part 2 of it with more of a midland and coastal focus, if/when we get around to doing that soon.
It’s super crazy how fast the month has gone. The stores went straight from Christmas to Valentines two weeks ago, bless it!
And even though I’m not going to buy the pink-iced cupcakes on the endcaps at the store, I can still take a hint: it’s time to start preparing.
I’ll admit: we do like to stretch our holidays a little bit over here– even more so with this one, since we felt like Christmas fun was cut short. (Thanks, Covid.)
Anyhoo, I’ve gone ahead and compiled a week’s worth of activities and ideas. Use one or use them all– totally up to you! The underlines link up to videos, recipes, and suggested items to check out, in case you don’t have random craft stuff jammed in drawers like we do. Ha!
Want the actual links to work? Ha! Here’s a pdf download with all the clickables!
I’ll be bluntly honest; we might not do every thing I have on this little weekly calendar, but I do plan on doing several. A sure-thing though, is our “I love you” fondue. We have done that every Valentine’s Day for 3 years now, and we are keeping that for, oh, forever. (My husband and I don’t actually like to go out on the actual date because it’s just too crowded and all of that. Instead, we celebrate love together as a family on the 14th– and the hubs and I head out the weekend after, when it is a bit easier to find a sitter and a seat at a restaurant. 😉 #worksmarternotharder)
Here’s wishing you a day, a week, a whole month full of sweet moments and memories of loving well. ❤