Sunday, April 29, 2012

Four Elements Nature Block

Mother Earth, Mother Earth, take our seed and give it birth
Father Sun, gleam and grow, until the root begins to show
Sister Rain, Sister Rain, shed thy tears to swell the grain.
Brother Wind, breathe and blow, then the blade all green will grow.
Earth and Sun and Wind and Rain, turn to gold the living grain.
Eileen Huchins

I have been meaning to post an in depth record of how I approached the Four Elements nature block with Jacob.  This was a block I put together myself, pulling stories, poems, craft ideas from various sources and it all started with a simple idea put forth in Eric Fairman's Path Of Discovery Grade One.  The goal of this block was to gently introduce Jacob to the four elements through imagination, art, poetry and even cooking! There was a lot of hands on exploration and only a small amount was documented photographically, but I will share all that we did (and some things we didn't get to but fit in nicely).

I began the block telling a story I made up for Jacob that would carry us through the whole 4 weeks, each week introducing us to a new element: Once upon a time, there was a little boy, much like you, who lived in a far away kingdom.  This kingdom was a beautiful place to live.  The King was kind and fair and treated the people with much love and for this, all the people wanted to please the King.  There were many fields that grew large bountiful crops- enough food for all the people to share.  A beautiful rive flowed next to the kingdom and its waters sparkled like crystals under the warm sun.  There was also many wide open fields where flowers grew by the millions.  In these fields, the breezes would gently blow and the flowers would bend their heads as if nodding for joy.  Many children went to these fields to fly their kites high above the kingdom.  Oh! the boy loved living here and because it was so beautiful, he and all the people were always happy.  Now it happened one day a dark cloud settled across the kingdom.  The land became cold and dark and everyone grew sad.  The flowers and the crops seized to grow and the river began to dry up.  The King called a meeting and all the townspeople gathered in the courtyard.  He began to tell the people how an evil sorcerer had placed a spell over the land, stealing its treasures.  The King said that in order to break the spell, a special child must venture across the Earth, learning its secrets and gathering wisdom along the way.  This child would find the sorcerer and tell him a magic rhyme which would break the spell and free their kingdom from darkness.  When the boy heard the King, he knew immediately that he was the right one to help his people.  So the boy shouted "King, I will do it!"  Everyone cheered for the boy's bravery.  The King was happy and thanked the boy for offering to help.  He told the boy that he would not have to travel alone- he would send his most beloved companion Foxy to travel with him.  The boy smiled as he knew there was no cleverer creature than Foxy.  After the King had spoken, he sent the boy home to rest for his journey.

The next day, I continued my story and the boy met Mother Earth and learned all about how important earth is.  He was also given the first line to the magic rhyme:
Mother Earth says I grow.

Some of the supporting activities for this week were: creating a terrarium, taking a woodland walk, planting a garden, and digging in mud.  Our poem for the week was the Mother Earth poem found in POD 1. 

During the second week, the boy and Foxy continued their travels to another new land and met Brother Wind (air).  After learning the secrets of the wind, the boy was taught the second line to the rhyme:
Brother Wind says I blow.
Supporting activities for this week were flying a kite, making a pinwheel, modeling birds out of beeswax and blowing bubbles (I had also planned on making windchimes or a windsock, but we didn't get to it!).  Our poem for the week was The Wind found in POD 1.

In our third week, the boy and Foxy once more traveled to another new land and met Sister Rain (water).  Sister Rain (water) shared her secrets and taught him the third line of the magic rhyme.
Sister Rain says I flow.
Supporting activities for this week were: playing in a water tub, creating a creek in the backyard, exploring the creek at a nature preserve, and playing in the rain.  Our poem for the week was Silver Raindrops found in a A Child's Seasonal Treasury.

In our fourth and final week of the block, the boy and Foxy venture to a new land and meet the last character in our story, Father Sun (fire)!  Father Sun taught the boy his secrets and the final line to the magic rhyme.
Father Sun says I glow.
Supporting activities for this week were: making candles, feeling the warmth of the sun, roasting marshmallows over the fire and creating a sun weaving (idea found on the Twig and Toadstools blog).  I had also planned to paint fire using red and yellow, but ran out of time.  Our poem for the week was The Sun from POD 1.

After we finished our activities and on the very last day of our week, I told the ending to the story- the boy and foxy travel to the sorcerer's castle, speak the magic rhyme and break the spell while also destroying the sorcerer.  The sorcerer's castle then turns to gold and the land becomes alive and bursting with life.  When the boy grows up, he returns to the castle to rule as the King.

I had a lot of fun creating this block!  At first I wasn't sure how I was going to weave it all together, but in the end I was pretty pleased with how I approached it.  The most reassuring part was how Jacob was lingering on my every word for each telling of the story and he couldn't wait to hear the end!  I call that a huge success!

edited to add that we did make our own small lesson book.  Jacob illustrated a page of each of the elements and wrote a line of the magic rhyme.  But this wasn't my main focus for this block- it was much more of a hands on approach.

Friday, April 27, 2012

From our week

It was a cold and rainy start to our week which meant more indoor time than usual.  The kids have been having a lot of fun making up different games using jump ropes, bean bags and pinky balls.  Of course, Kenna needs to join in too.  With May Day coming up soon, we have been singing May songs and skipping around the house with silks in hand.  MaKenna LOVES it as I knew she would.  She definitely enjoys the more traditional circle time activities and it has been a lot of fun doing them with her.

The boys became preoccupied with building a fort in the backyard one afternoon.  They spent about 3 hours working on it-adding a brick paver patio, nails to hang shoes and coats and soft "carpet" for sitting on.  It was great watching them playing so long together peacefully and cooperatively.  And they were really, really proud of it in the end.  I tried to let them have free range with any materials they wanted and I think that helped with the excitement.  They also have been digging a very large hole near the swingset.  Jacob told me they were going to dig to the middle of the earth and then hang there on a rope!  When Peter saw what they were doing, he looked at me and said "you are just going to let them dig a hole in the yard?"  Um, yeah, pretty much!

Yesterday we had an opportunity to go to a friend of a friend's farm.  It was such an amazing day!  Not only was the family really, really sweet, but the farm was just beautiful and all of us were wishing we could stay forever.  We didn't even make it out of the driveway before Jacob asked when we were coming back.  And then there were plans being made to move into the country and have goats, cows, horses, chickens and bees (mama said bunnies too).  I have been planting the "farm" seed for a while hoping one day they would be open to it (there is fear that they wouldn't have anyone to play with), but after this visit, they were really excited.  Yay! It is definitely a dream of ours that we hope to make a reality within the next few years.

And now, the big boys and Daddy are away camping for the weekend and it is just the two littles and I.  It always feels strange when some of us are missing.  At first Parker seemed a bit lost, but after 10 minutes he said it was going to be fun without the big brothers.  I think we will definitely have a fun weekend!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Moments from our week

It was a busy week, but a great week!  After taking a two week break, we jumped back into our lessons with renewed energy and excitement.  I was nervous as to how it would go as we had been so busy over those two weeks, but things went really well.  It is times like these that I realize how important our rhythm is to our family and how much it carries us from day to day!  While it is nice to have those spontaneous moments from time to time, what our family needs is a more consistent day.

 On the side of the house is a young crepe myrtle tree.  I had done a bit of pruning to it last fall, opening up the base of the trunk a bit more allowing it to take on less of a tall bush shape and more of a tree shape.  MaKenna discovered that it made the perfect climbing tree for her.  The smaller branches were still strong enough to support her and she was able to climb up and down it very easily.  She was pretty proud of herself!

For lessons this week, Jacob and I are going over some word families.  I told a story about a little boy and his mother who are traveling in search of a new town to live.  They come to a quaint little village and decide to meet the people who live there, knocking on the doors of the homes and learning about the family that resides there.  Each family member's name is a part of that word family and Jacob helps with coming up with the names.  He then copies them into his MLB and sometimes we come up with a silly sentence using the words we wrote.  The big boys have also been doing some math jump rope games (that they created themselves) and a game where they sit in a circle, feet joined, and they roll a ball back and forth to each other. Blake and I are finishing up his Man and Animal block-this week we covered birds from all over the world.

 This week we explored a new part of the nature preserve.  The trail we took led us to the remnants of an old rock house.  We all had fun imagining the different parts of the house-where they cooked, slept, sat in front of the fire.  That part of the preserve also had these amazing clusters of trees that intertwined among themselves.  It was quite magical and we can't wait to go back again!

 Jacob has been showing an increased interest in cooking and asked to make eggs for breakfast.  He still needed guidance as to knowing when they were done, but otherwise he cooked them all by himself.  I have grand visions of the kids cooking a meal from start to finish one day soon!

 And would you believe that we are in the peak of strawberry season!  We went to a new to us u-pick farm in hopes to pick 2 gallons.  Of course when we got there, they only took cash, so we needed to head back into town to find an atm.  Blake had asked me if the farmer was grouchy (which he wasn't).  When we returned to pick berries, he directed us to the other side of the "patch" where there were plenty of berries and no one was picking.  So we got in the car to drive over to the other side and Blake said "you were right- he looks grouchy, but he is really nice"!  After we picked (which only took us about 10 minutes!) I asked the boys if they wanted to come back and they said yes "because we like the farmer".  We have been to other farms where they have lots of extra "to dos"-hayrides and animals, play equipment and photo ops, but by far this simple, down home farm was our best experience!  We will definitely be back to pick more!

And to end the week, we went to the Raptor Center.  It fit in nicely with Blake's lessons plus the kids had been asking to go for quite some time (we hadn't been in over a year).  We went at a great time- they had just finished feeding all the birds so we got to see quite a few eating their lunch!  The kids were a bit grossed out, but also thought it was pretty cool.  I even got to see an owl cough up an owl pellet!  All of the birds here are birds that were injured in the wild and would not have survived if left alone.  Most have wing injuries and are unable to fly properly and a few have lost their eyesight in one eye.  Everytime we visit, we leave with a greater appreciation for mother nature's creatures.

This weekend we will have a quiet family weekend.  I am hoping to squeeze in some small sewing projects between catching up on chores.  I am trying to get a head start on birthday crafting as our May is going to be quite busy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Hike

Today we took advantage of the warmer weather and headed out to explore a new to us greenway off the Broad River.  As soon as the kids saw the river, they were pretty much overwhelmed with excitement and it stayed that way the whole time we were there (3 hours!).  We had such a great time exploring the different areas along the shore, meeting lots of "friends" along the way-several different species of butterflies, two different species of lizards, a water snake, a dragonfly, and too-many-to-count turtles basking in the sunshine.  The boys really, really wanted to get in and swim, but it was still a bit too early in the year to do that.  I definitely see us coming back later in summer when the cool river water will be a nice respite from the scorching heat!

Around here

Whew!  It has been a full week (and then some!).  Following our Easter trip to Georgia, my mother in law and father in law came down from NY to spend the week with us.  They kept the kids busy with trips to paint pottery, swimming in the hotel swimming pool, bouncing at Monkey Joes, and playing mini golf.  I am not sure who was more tired- the kids or them!  It was a wonderful visit and once again, many great memories were made.  Now it is back to life as usual.  After a two week break from home learning, we will pick up tomorrow where we left off.  I am sure it will take us a few days to get back into the swing of always does, but we are all craving our regular rhythm right now!