The Klipfish Code ~ Book Sharing Monday

The Klipfish Code
by Mary Casanova

Synopsis: When German bombs shatter Marit’s peaceful village life in Norway, she and her family begin a long and harrowing wartime-occupation experience that will test their strength and courage. Her parents begin work underground in the resistance movement as Marit and younger brother Lars are sent to a coastal island to live with their grandfather, Bestefar, and their aunt, Ingeborg.

Though Norway was occupied for five long years, Norwegian resistance efforts were strong. For refusing to teach Nazi propaganda, one of ten teachers was sent to a concentration camp. Tensions arise when Marit’s grandfather seems unwilling to rock the boat and stand up to the Germans, even after her aunt (his daughter) is taken away one day.

When Marit happens upon a wounded Norwegian soldier, her own fear of what could happen if the Germans caught her assisting him almost causes her to turn her back on the man. Somehow she finds the courage to hide him, and to finish the mission he begs her to take on.

Evoking the grim reality of war and its effects on ordinary citizens, this suspenseful historical tale is also noteworthy for drawing attention to a region of Europe not commonly featured in children’s fiction about World War II. The author, Mary Casanova, appends an enlightening author’s note, a glossary (with pronunciations) of foreign words, and suggestions for further reading about wartime Norway. Casanova lives in Minnesota. Her ancestors are Norwegian.

Manfish, A Story of Jacques Cousteau

I love this new biography of the one and only Jacques Cousteau, Manfish, by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by French illustrator Eric Puybaret. Berne sets out to tell us the life story of Cousteau—but only to some extent. Her bigger purpose is to convey his passion for conservation and teaching conservation to the world, particularly children. Berne opens it on quite the lyrical note:

Bubbles rising
Through the silence of the sea,
Silvery beads of breath
From a man
Deep, Deep down
In a strange and shimmering ocean land
Of swaying plants and fantastic sea creatures,
A manfish
Swimming, diving
Into the unknown,
Exploring underwater worlds no one has ever seen

The story is written poetically, starting with Cousteau as a curious little boy wondering about the sea, and traveling with Cousteau through his life and adventures, ending with his passion to love, protect and save the underwater world, its creatures and our planet Earth.

To those of us who remember him, this book will remind us all of how Jacques Cousteau first introduced us to the mysterious wonders of the ocean and its remarkable creatures. Now, the next generations will learn to love and care for the sea, through this exceptional, beautifully presented story.

The stunning illustrations were painted on linen by Eric Puybaret, creating underwater panoramas though which the reader can enter and experience the fascinating world of Jacques Cousteau. He plays with perspective, bringing to vivid life the beautiful blue-green underwater world of the sea.

Click here for more information about Jacques Cousteau.

Change of Direction – Mid Year Review

When I first started homeschooling, I devoured print and online materials about teaching styles, approaches to education at home, and curriculum. Along the way, I came across the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and soon thereafter, The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Bauer. I was immediately drawn to the style of Charlotte Mason – her blend of practices includes narration and copywork, nature study, fine arts, languages, real-life applications, and a Literature based curriculum instead of textbooks. I knew this was how I wanted to educate my children. When I discovered The Well-Trained Mind, I suddenly had a plan – a road map that would lead us along our homeschooling journey.

I spent hours devising our Master Plan. Planning. Listing the subjects and skills I wanted my children to be exposed to and eventually master. I began a list of curriculum and books that I would use as resources. I noted programs and certification opportunities that I wanted my children to take advantage of as we progressed (Junior Ranger Programs, Scouts, 4H, Roots & Shoots, etc.).

One of the most exciting components of the Well-Trained Mind was the 4-year cycle. To me, this was the perfect way to approach science and history. It provided me with an open-ended calendar or planning template. I thereafter created a cycle for nature study as well. Keeping in mind that I wanted to be flexible – allowing the children’s interests and questions direct us in our studies. History
Our history study is going slowly – we explore each culture / country as it is introduced in The Story of the World extensively before we move on to the next chapter. Life has also gotten into the way. We have frequently neglected history, set aside our study of the ancients as we have focused on other subjects. We are renewing focus this week. I hope to finish the text by June – assuming that we’ll go faster as the book revisits regions.

Nature Study
Though I am fastidious about taking advantage of teachable moments and imparting nature knowledge to the kiddos as opportunities present themselves, I haven’t been approaching nature study in any organized manner whatsoever. I need to do better. I can do better.

We’ve spent most of this school year focusing on life sciences. Throughout the summer, we focused on plants. In the fall, we began an extensive look at the animal kingdom beginning with vertebrate animals and most recently invertebrates. In doing so, we have integrated ecology studies learning about forest ecosystems and most recently, ocean ecosystems: open ocean (sunlight, twilight & midnight zones), coral reefs, kelp forests, rocky shores, sandy beaches and estuaries(eel beds, mudflats & salt marshes).

Over the past month or so, the kiddos have been asking more and more questions about the earth. What are the names of the planets? How are rocks made? How does a volcano erupt? What happened to the dinosaurs? What is it like on the other planets? Do animals live on other planets? Their interest and curiousity about geology has grown. Last week Sweetie asked me, “When are we going to learn about the earth? I am tired of animals.”

I had originally intended on spending the winter and spring on the human body and additional ecology studies. However, I can not delay their interest any longer. I need to take advantage of their passion and follow their direction. I feel strongly this is just what Charlotte Mason would have advised. Allowing the children’s interests to direct our learning. We’re thereby going to jump to earth sciences with the new year. I’ll keep you posted of developments as we proceed.

Becoming a Junior Ranger at Haleakala National Park

While we were in Maui, Sweetie completed several activities at the Haleakala National Park to become a Junior Ranger. When we arrived, the ranger at the counter gave her a booklet and explained that for her age, she would need to complete 4 booklet activities (as there were no talks scheduled for the time we were there). The activities we selected were:

#1 What is Wilderness?
Whereby she learned about what activities are permitted in the wilderness area.

#2 Who is Native to Hawai’i?
Whereby she learned about the species that are native to Hawai’i and those that are not.

#3 What Animals Live Here?
Whereby she learned about habitats.

#4 Where is the Volcano?
Whereby she learned about volcanic rocks.

#5 Ancient Ways and Words for Today
Whereby she learned two Hawaiian words: malama ‘aina (to respect and care for the land) and alu like mai (pull together, work together)

Upon completion of the activities, Sweetie sat down with a ranger and was interviewed about what she had learned. I videotaped the interview and hope to post it here as soon as I can figure out how to download it off the video camera. During the interview, Sweetie described to her what she had learned about invasive species before our arrival. “I want to go to a luau so that I can eat bad pig!” (We didn’t explain to her that the kahlua pig isn’t likely the wild pig that is destroying the forests.)

Sweetie also told her about a snail that she had helped get across a trail so that it wouldn’t get stepped on. The ranger asked us to describe the snail and in doing so, we learned that based upon it’s size and color, it was likely the invasive African Cannibalistic Snail. “The native tree snails are found higher in elevation.” Sweetie was distraught, “Oh no! I should have stepped on it then!” The ranger got a chuckle out of that.

Most National Park Service sites that have a Junior Ranger program award participants a plastic badge for completing the program. Some award a patch; a few award a lapel pin. Some do both. Haleakala awarded a badge. However, they had patches available for purchase so we bought one as they are our preference. As she completes future Junior Ranger programs, I’ll make a banner for her to display her badges & patches.

Click here for more information about the National Parks Junior Ranger program. Another very informative site was created by a teen… Sam Maslow’s Junior Ranger Site.

Discovering Ancient Egypt: Activities for Kids

After a couple of months of vacation we are back in the groove. It feels good to have a plan… a schedule. I like having an outline… a map to guide us along our journey.

Since we initially read about historical discoveries in The Story of the World: The Ancients, Sweetie has wanted to be an Archeologist. So she was delighted to start our studies again and is so immersed in Ancient Egypt, she wants to have an Ancient Egypt themed birthday party.

Ancient Egypt Activities

Reading & Narration

This morning, we read Chapter 4: The Old Kingdom of Egypt. After reading each section, I asked her to tell me what she could recall from the chapter. Right now, I play scribe and record her words on the back of the map work that accompanies the chapter. When she gets older and is more comfortable writing, she will do written narrations. Here is her oral narration of the the section on Egyptian Mummies:

“The Pharaoh Cheops died so they [the priests] took all his organs like brains, heart and stuff and washed them and put them in special jars with heads of goddesses. They then wrapped his body in linen. They saved him for 40 days. They then washed everything again, wrapped him in linen again, and put his body in a silver case. They put that case in a wooden one. Then they carried him across the street to the pyramid. Inside the pyramid was a special place called a burial chamber. They put food and a boat for him to use in the Afterlife. Later, he will discover his chamber is filled with treasure.”

Wonderful! She is so detailed (though a few minor errors – it was a gold coffin, not a silver one). We frequently practice doing narrations – for movies, recapping the days activities for Daddy at dinner time, of books I’ve read aloud at bedtime, etc. I hope her narrations continue to be as accurate when she begins writing them on her own.


She loves crafts so she was delighted to create a Canopic Jar of her own. Using an empty creamer bottle for the base, she covered the bottle with paper maché. Once they were dry, she painted them to look like cats and other animals revered by ancient Egyptians.

She also added what she learned to her Book of Centuries notebook, pictured above beside her finished jar which she plans to exhibit it the county fair next week!

We Are Just Beginning ~ SOTW

I’ve seemingly been absent from the homeschooling/blogging realm lately. Marathon training and an online art class I’ve been taking to renew my teaching certificate have been overwhelming me a little lately. This is, perhaps, what I like best about homeschooling… the ability to relax and allow life and learning to happen naturally. We are not forced into some arbitrary schedule. Though I consider ourselves now to be a Classical/Charlotte Mason Homeschool, I am also very flexible and occasionally, our schooling looks more Unschoolish. For this reason, we won’t be taking the summer months off. We are a year-round school and take advantage of all learning opportunities that we are presented.

After recently reading The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, I did a little research online and was intrigued by The Story of the World. It is a four-volume series of books (with accompanying activity guides) that introduce the student to the history of the world. It is designed to be a read-aloud for parents and teachers to share with elementary school children.

The history of the world is divided into four time periods and ideally, the student would cycle through each time period three time during their school years (grades 1-12). We begin grade 1 with The Ancients and will revisit the same time period again in 5th and 9th grades. As we do so, more indepth (grade level) readings will be integrated and by the third cycle, she’ll be reading original works (i.e., The Odyssey)

Volume 1: Ancient Times

Volume 2: The Middle Ages

Volume 3: Early Modern Times

Volume 4: The Modern Age

I purchased the first volume and planned to get started when Sweetie would unofficially start first grade (Fall ’08). [Because her birthday falls after the Sept 1st cut-off, she would officially be in Kindergarten this fall, however, we started in Aug ’07.] She saw the books in our new homeschooling classroom and immediately started asking questions. She found images of Chinese script and Emperor Qin in the book and was excited (we did a small unit-study on Ancient China in January). She started begging me to start now! I thereby gave in and we got underway last week.

Each chapter is divided into two sections. I read-aloud each section and then stop to allow her time to narrate (re-tell what she heard). Narration is a learning method that can be used for any age and for any subject. The child simply ‘tells back’ what she just had read to her. This simple concept is the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason homeschool. Essentially, after we’ve watched a movie or educational program or read-aloud a book, I will ask Sweetie to tell me what she can recall. As she does so, I write down her words. When she pauses, I read back what she told me, inquiring if there are any details or facts that she would like to add.

Occasionally, a weak narration can be the result of simple misunderstanding. There may be key vocabulary words that she is not understanding. Maybe a key event was not grasped. When this happens, I ask questions to identify where the problem lies and we may re-read the passage.

Here is a sample narration that Sweetie did after we read “The Earliest People” from The Story of the World, Volume 1: The Ancients. The purple indicates her words. The black italic typeface indicates areas where she paused and said, “That’s all I remember.” When she does this, I try to illicit more information by asking questions. I may also review key vocabulary with her if she uses a word incorrectly.

Indians moved their tents a lot to get food. They looked for lizards, honey, eggs, nuts, seeds, berries, and roots. [We reviewed the term ‘nomads’.] A nomad is a person who moves around a lot looking for food. [When do they decide to move on to a new place? How do they know when to move?] They move when there isn’t as much food anymore.

In the Fertile Crescent and other areas, nomads kept coming back because there was a lot of food there. So they stayed there and started building houses and walls to keep bad guys out. These were the first villages and cities. [What about the animals?] They also started planting crops, raising animals for food, and trading with other people.

Narration also provides a foundation for good writing skills. Right now, as her writing skills are just beginning, she gives oral narrations. But later, those exact same skills of articulation, analysis, application, and comprehension are used in writing expository paragraphs and essays. We will begin transitioning into written narrations (instead of verbal narrations) around age 10 or 11, when she is comfortable writing.