Jean Craighead George ~ Author Study

Earlier this week, the kiddos and I cuddled up in bed and read numerous books by one of my favorite authors, Jean Craighead George. Before we began, I reminded them of the chapter book I read aloud to them during the summer, My Side of the Mountain. I asked them to tell me a few things they could remember. I was pleased with how much they could recall. It was certainly a book that we all enjoyed.

I then showed them the stack of books that I had checked out from the library, “All of these books were written by the same author. Would you be interested in listening to me read these books right now?” They replied with an exhuberant, “Yeah!”

  • To Climb a Waterfall
  • Firestorm
  • Nutik, the Wolf Pup
  • Snow Bear
  • Morning, Noon and Night

Before we began each new title, I asked each of them, “What do you think this book is going to be about? Use the picture on the cover and the title to help you.” This really helped to set the tone and build anticipation for the book. We also read more about the author on her website. When we finished we took a vote and we all agreed that Fire Storm was our favorite. I believe this is partly due to the fact that the kids have had experience white water rafting AND we live in Central Oregon and have seen the damage of recent forest fires. The first year we moved here, in fact, the area we live in now was on alert for evacuation.

The author study has been a great way to diverge from our current studies. We will definitely continue to do this regularly. My plan is to alternate with author and illustrator studies. I’m very excited about the possibilities that this opens up. In fact, I have also created a Squidoo Lens in an effort to encourage other families to do the same.

4-H ~ Leaves

Today was the day of our first official 4-H Adventurers Club gathering. Our focus was on Leaves – one mom brought a leaf press. Remarkably, iIt presses and dries the leaves within minutes in the microwave. I was very impressed and of course want one of my own.

We started out with a couple of everybody books – I mistakenly returned the one I had wanted to read ( ) to the library so I had to go with an alternative. Sweetie was delighted with my selection, In the Leaves by Huy Youn Lee. It is basically about a young Chinese boy who introduces his friends to several Chinese characters (grain, fire, autumn, field, sprout, pig, family, mouth, harmony, and rice). It is a cute story but it did not focus on ‘leaves’ as much as I had hoped. We also read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert – more for the artistic leaf collages than for the text.After the stories, everyone gathered around the table I explained how to do the leaf prints. Everyone worked so well – there were no conflicts despite 13+ bodies around our small dining room table (seats 6). I was very impressed with how attentive the moms were – everyone chipped in and helped assure that everyone’s needs were addressed. I didn’t even have to wash the brushes or anything once everyone had departed – another mom had done so on my behalf while I worked on our last activity. I was surprised and delighted! Thank you!
The last activity involved a set of leaf cards that I had made years ago for my classroom. There must be 20+ different leaves represented. We worked together to learn how a dichtomous key is used for identification. The key vocabulary I emphasized was the difference between simple and compound leaves.

Before everyone departed, I announced the focus for November – Handcrafts. My vision is to have several stations set up so the kids can make several simple crafts as gifts for family & friends this upcoming holiday season. I encouraged the other moms to bring an activity. Based on the feedback I received already, I know it will be a fun afternoon.

Jim Arnosky ~ Author Study

Without any advance planning or intentions on my part, I came across several books by Jim Arnosky that were set up on display at our library. It was a light-bulb moment and I immediately thought to myself, wouldn’t it be fun to read numerous books by the same author? Jim Arnosky is perhaps my favorite children’s book author ~ so he is the perfect author with which to begin.
The kids enjoyed his writing style and were even more impressed that he did all the illustrations as well. The titles we read were: Crinkleroot’s Guide to Animal Habitats, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees, Following the Coast, Drawing from Nature and Freshwater Fish & Fishing.

Sweetie, was particularly interested in Freshwater Fish & Fishing due to her recent fly fishing experiences. We were also inspired by a recent post by Serendipity to print our own Crinkleroot friend to join us on our nature outings.

For more information about Arnosky, visit his website Jim Arnosky’s Nature Journal. You’ll find coloring sheets, fact sheets, video links, drawing lessons and Crinkleroot!

Othello & The Hobart Shakespearans

Last week, DH and I attended a Shakespeare play in Ashland as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It has become an annual tradition, this being our 3rd year. In past years, we’ve seen A Winter’s Tale and Romeo & Juliet (the best production thus far). This year, I selected Othello.

As we had won a silent auction package at a Chamber function earlier in the year, our seats were good (Section A Row S). However, we were in the balcony and it was difficult to hear the actors. I don’t know if this was solely due to our seats or if the actors were not as audible as they have been in the past.

Othello is performed on the Elizabethan stage open to the air, my favorite. Last year, we attended the preface to learn more about the story, themes and characters of Romeo & Juliet. This year, we didn’t have the luxury of time. I wish we had, however, as I was less familiar with the story of Othello than I was of Romeo & Juliet.

In the playbill, the director writes, “The thing that makes Othello so very modern – and so frightening – is the way it takes us on a journey into madness. It is deeply psychological before the invention of psychology. Iago is a mesmerizing guide on this journey…” Dan Donohue, who plays Iago, is great! He is my favorite actor in the company.

Preforming in the courtyard, prior to seating, were The Hobart Shakespeareans, a group of students from Los Angeles. Inspired by their performance, I bought the book Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith. It is a fast read and is certainly inspiring!

After reading the reviews on Amazon, however, I agree that Rafe has a rather large ego. One of the biggest advantages he has over the typical public school is that he teaches in a year-round school and though it is an inner-city school, many of his students have previously been identified as ‘gifted’. Additionally, there is a big difference between the children of new immigrants seeking to make a new life for themselves and the children of impoverished families who have lived in American housing projects for generations, have little faith left in the system and are often unmotivated as students and parents.

The book is a fast read and provides several suggestions for fun games and challenging educational activities in all subject areas. Though I had hoped for more practical information on how to teach Shakespeare and integrate baseball into the curriculum, I was intrigued by the diversity of the projects he undertakes in Room 56. I would recommend this book to teachers both in the classroom and in the home.

Barb inquired about the production in a comment she left earlier; “I would love to hear about Othello. We were actually thinking about going to the Festival this year but couldn’t decide on which play to see. We thought Othello might be too dark for the kids.”

To answer her question, I think that older children would do well with the psychology of Othello. Many of the Hobart Shakespeareans were in the theater also enjoying Othello. If your children have been exposed to Shakespeare and are familiar with the stories – they’ll enjoy Othello.

In the Woods

Two families joined us for our monthly Roots & Shoots activity (three others called with apologies they wouldn’t be able to make it – we’re going to do a make-up session on Thursday). We started out with a read aloud, a great children’s book called, In the Woods, Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George. There are 4 books in this series and all are great. Each page gives little clues or details about an animal and asks, “Who’s been here?” The kids make guesses and when we turn the page, we discover the answer. At the back of the book there is a brief description of each of the animals that was introduced. I love these books and use them frequently. Yesterday morning, the kids and I lead our weekly nature walk at the museum and picked up In the Garden, Who’s Been Here? – the one book in the series I hadn’t yet acquired.

After the book, we did a fun activity from Project Learning Tree called Tree Factory. There is a similar activity in Ranger Rick’s Trees Are Terrific called Build a Tree. The kids basically act out the parts of a tree and in doing so, learn how a tree works like a factory. We all get to act a little silly. It is a lot of fun.
We also did an activity I call, “Secrets of the Forest”. I distribute to each child a small paper bag with assorted things that can be found in the forest (cones, a small rock, a stick, a feather, a beaver chip, an acorn, a tiny tree cookie, lichen, moss, a deer tooth, etc.). The kids put their hand in and try to guess the contents without looking into the bag. It can be varied slightly depending on age – today for example, we did one item at a time and after we went around the circle, each child revealed one item.
We went around twice and then we dumped out the bags to see everything. As the kids investigated the items in their bags, I asked them to pick up the Pine Cone. There were actually three cones in each bag (Pine, Spruce or Fir, and Alder). Most of the kids picked up all three… some picked up just one. I then revealed the secret that not all cones are Pine Cones. Cones on a Spruce should be called Spruce Cones, those on a Fir are Fir Cones, etc.
We had also planned on going for a walk but it was too cold and windy – odd, since we had 90 degree temps over the weekend! The other kids are not accustomed to cold nature walks so instead, we enjoyed a light snack and then allowed the kids to play while we visited.

For the next few weeks, I have asked the kids to draw a picture of a plant or animal that lives here in the community. We are then going to use their illustrations and any research they may do to create a field guide for our community (focus is on native species; excluding ornamentals that have been planted in yards as landscaping). I’ll also incorporate photographs and factual information about each species. We hope to sell the field guides to raise money to buy bird houses for the meadow and the park.

Our Iditarod Unit Study

With great anticipation, our Iditarod Unit Study has begun.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be following along with the mushers as we also learn about the history of the race, the ecology of Alaska, and integrating numerous other activities across the curriculum.

We made our course map or outline of the route with checkpoints marked.  I think it may be too small (we’ll use it but if we do it again next year, we’ll likely create a bigger map). Sweetie loves geography and shortly after we created the Iditarod map, she made a map of Oregon on her own. 🙂

We also selected our mushers. As we live in Central Oregon, we didn’t put too much thought into our selection, we knew we wanted to go with Rachel Scdoris. In fact, we hope we will get a chance to meet her soon. We also selected 2 other Oregon mushers, Cliff Roberson of Corvallis and Liz Parrish of Klamath Falls. As we have strong familial ties to Norway, I also selected a Norwegian musher, Sigrid Ekran. Next year, if we choose to do it again, we’ll likely be more statistical in our selection.

We have read a few books, most notably Woodsong by Gary Paulsen. I was a little sad to learn he has pulled out of the race this year. We read Whale in the Sky by Anne Siberell and Sweetie asked if we could make a totem pole. I’ll post more about this little project later, but until then, here is a sneak peak.iditarod unit studyAnother book we recently read is The Bravest Dog Ever, The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford. When we finished reading, Sweetie said, “I want to draw Balto. He is the best dog ever.” Here is her drawing;
Iditarod Unit StudyAs she worked, she narrated a summary of the book, “Some kids were sick and Balto was the leader of the dog race. He pulled the sled with the medicine for the sick kids. When he was pulling the sled, Balto stopped and the guy said, “Go!” but he didn’t go because the ice on the river was cracking. The man was happy. They got the medicine to the kids in 5 1/2 days. Gunnar and Balto were heroes.” A few inaccuracies but overall she nailed the basic idea.

Narration is one of the key characteristics of a Charlotte Mason education. Telling later without prompting is very characteristic. Your child should be able to tell Daddy what they read when he comes home or Grandma over the phone this weekend without referring to the book. You want to know what ideas caught her mind, not get a formal book report. This is a skill we’ve been working on more and more. Right now she verbalizes her narration but as her writing skills develop, I’ll ask that she also write her narrations.

We also try to incorporate daily copywork. I love the Draw Write Now! series of books and we are currently using the Polar Regions edition. Here is a sampling of her work;

To read of our later endeavors and activities in this unit study, see my later post Our Iditarod Unit Study: A Summary of Our Activities.