Diving Into Our First History Unit of 2019
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Oh my gracious, it has taken me so long to finish this post! I promise that, once second grade launches and our spring sale is underway, I’ll get back into our regular schedule for these “homeschool journal” posts. I really love writing them and sharing them with you!
Kicking Off Our Ancient Egypt Unit
We began our unit on Ancient Egypt with a field trip to the museum of nature and science, so the girls could get a sense of the world we were about to enter. It just so happened to be a free day at the museum (hooray) because schools were out (ugh!) Therefore, it was incredibly crowded. We still had a great time, though, and spent the good part of an entire day exploring the whole museum.
Our good friends were in town from Utah for a quick visit, and they joined us for the day. I don’t have a lot of “in person” friendships, and the time I got to catch up with my beautiful friend and her sweet daughter was priceless. Our girls loved exploring the children’s area of the museum, the animal dioramas, and the Native American exhibit together.
Playing with Fabric and Thread
One evening, Blake sat watching me work on a needle-felting project and asked if she could make something out of my supply cart. I told her to go for it, and we enjoyed a peaceful hour working side-by-side. Blake created her first completely-independent fabric craft–an inspired felt mini-quilt for her stuffed rabbit.
This was a big moment for both of us. For Blake, she realized she could bring an idea to fruition without my step-by-step guidance. For me, I realized that, not only could I trust her to explore these materials on her own, but she benefitted tremendously from the space I had given her. The problem-solving, the trial-and-error, the playfulness, the ownership–these were all things she was missing whenever I directed her sewing and crafting.
More Inspiration Strikes
The night of the felt quilt must have opened a floodgate of some kind. For the next two weeks, I kept finding projects and stories all over the house. This particular book was my favorite. Blake used to write stories all the time, but for the past six or seven months, she hadn’t been. I wasn’t worried. As a writer, I know creativity does what she pleases, when she pleases. But I was so happy when she came back for Blake again. To honor that special presence, I eased up on a lot of our homeschool work for awhile–keeping our lessons as short and sweet as possible.
Outfitting a Proper Space for Creativity
One afternoon, the girls were with my parents and I was working from home. As I took a break to stretch my legs, I found myself standing in the doorway of my daughters’ bedroom, and realizing that I never set up a “creation station” in our new home after we’d moved. Listening to The Brave Learner on Audible had reminded me of Dotty’s art table all over again.
Back in our old apartment, I’d converted an old IKEA play kitchen into what I’d called a “creation station.” Its perennially messy presence was a joy to both the girls, especially Blake. Their new room, beautiful and orderly–too orderly–lacked the magic that the creation station had brought. A quick trip to Target for fresh supplies and a cheap cart for organizing, an afternoon stocking and stacking, and the creation station was back–bigger, better, and with so much more mess-potential.
Needless to say it’s been a huge hit. 🙂 Many a morning, I’ve found Blake buried in some project or another, her tongue sticking out in concentration, pipe cleaners and scraps of crayon wrapper all over the floor. I’ve continued to find little projects all over the house, but they’ve gotten more elaborate. A paper axe made with a giant popsicle stick for a handle. A distinctively Greek-style mask made from craft foam and markers. A rolled-up scroll, bedecked with stickers, tucked between the canned soup and the Cheerios in the pantry that reads, “I slummle swar I am up to no good.” Another win for the Brave Writer lifestyle we love so much.
Blake’s First Fireside Nature Camp
When we moved to Highlands Ranch, I was really excited to enroll Blake in some of the excellent nature-based programs that are offered by the community association here. Her first one–a fireside astronomy camp–came up at the end of February. I had not prepared myself for the moment I dropped her off for her first “big kid” event without me. It felt surreal, I wanted to watch from some hidden spot and witness all the fun she was having. I think it was three hours long, but it felt like forever.
I picked her up with a cup of hot cocoa in hand to warm her little self up. All the way home, she talked excitedly about the adventures she’d had, the constellations she’d learned, the friends she’d made, the horse she got to pet, the chickens she got to peek at as they slept in their coop. She smelled like campfire. Three hours ago, she’d been afraid to go outside in the dark. Now, she couldn’t wait for the next fireside camp, when she would get to prance around in the fields again, wild and free, making moon shadows on the pale blue of the grass and snow.
How this happens so quickly, how suddenly your baby is a kid, I cannot understand. And while part of my heart aches even now as I write this, the bigger part is so excited for this girl and all that is to come.
Ancient Egypt Unit Highlights
We continued exploring the world of Ancient Egypt. We read about the mummification process and wrapped up dolls per the instructions in one of our books. We painted replicas of tiles found in King Tut’s tomb. We watched documentaries on Curiosity Stream. I nixed the Ancient History pockets I’d purchased months ago. I just couldn’t bring myself to do another round of them–they’re just not our style. Instead, I borrowed some inspiration from the world of Waldorf. Blake will make her own “textbook” documenting her learning as we go along. I even ordered beautiful main lesson books from A Child’s Dream.
Most days, she ends the lesson by recording what she wants to in the main lesson book. She can flip through the books we read if she needs visual inspiration, or she can wing it from her imagination. It’s basically a variation on notebooking, I guess. But it’s working very well for us.
Fun in the Snow at Gigi’s House
We spent a couple of chilly, snowy days at my grandma’s house in Monument. It was too cold and icy to go on any field trips this time, so we cozied up and embraced it. We played in the snow, we watched movies, we played games and ate soup. We love our field trip weekends with Gigi, but we also love weekends like this! We even tried out the ice lantern we’d made on our last visit, which had waited patiently for us in Gigi’s freezer.
Shapes & Money Math
We continued moving through the Moffat Girls First Grade Money Math unit. Blake has really hit her stride with this unit and is doing a great job at counting coins. There were a few weeks when quarters had been really throwing her off, and she couldn’t distinguish between them and nickels no matter what I tried to help. But things clicked into place with practice and now she has no trouble at all.
In our casual shapes study, we tackled spheres. I showed Blake how to shade a circle to give it a sphere-like appearance, we searched for spheres around my grandma’s house, and we talked about how to distinguish a sphere from a circle. I will be putting away our three-dimensional shapes study for now, and picking it back up in late March / early April when we study prisms with our Blossom and Root Book Seed issue on rainbows.
Blossom and Root First Grade Language Arts
In language arts, Blake finished out the fairytales unit with Cinderella, and its many variations from around the world. Her favorite version was “The Rough-Faced Girl,” which is a Native American iteration of this classic story. We began our world folktales unit with “The Fly,” an amusing tale from Vietnam. We happened to be at Gigi’s house when we read it, and Gigi took out her big photo album of her trip to Vietnam for us to look at.
Blossom and Root Early Years Vol. 2
Brice has been especially math-driven lately, so we’ve spent a lot of time just exploring shapes and numbers. Brice built neat things out of our shapes blocks, I showed her how to make a circle and a sphere out of play-dough, and we learned how to count edges and corners to identify two-dimensional shapes. The girls also enjoyed playing ABC Animal Bingo, another fun (and cheap) little game we picked up from a Scholastic catalog.
I realize Brice has reached a point where she’s pretty much finished with the more academic threads of Early Years Vol. 2. She’s got letters and letter sounds down solid. She can count SO high that the math activities in the guide aren’t really practical anymore. But it’s just not time for kindergarten yet.
She’s still enamored with the beautiful picture books of the Early Years curriculum. In fact, we’re only halfway through them because she loves to hear them over and over again, sometimes for weeks, before moving on. She loves the STEM challenges, the nature study prompts, the composer studies, the picture studies, and the art projects. She loves our weekly cooking projects. Everything about Vol. 2, besides the letter work and most of the math, fits her perfectly for this developmental stage. So I have a choice–I can let her just be five, and enjoy this time. I can let go of the pressing need to “march steadily forward” right into our kindergarten now that she’s mastered the reading and math at this level, and just let her play with shapes and patterns and numbers and letters and words. Or I can pull out the kindergarten curriculum, six months before I’d planned to start.
It hasn’t been a difficult decision, especially since she’s my youngest, and my last baby. Brice isn’t pulling on my sweater, begging me to teach her to read right this minute. She’s not crying in frustration because our math play is too easy or unstructured for her five year-old self. If she was, I would definitely listen! But she’s not.
She’s dressing up in five different outfits a day, jamming on her little acoustic guitar with the broken string. She’s riding on her scooter up and down our little backyard patio. She’s playing out adventures with the peg dolls and play mats in our storytelling basket. She’s painting, she’s smushing all the play-dough colors together. She’s singing at the top of her lungs and exploring Hogwarts with her sister in the pantry under the stairs. She’s right where she should be. What right do I have to interrupt that?
These early years, they are so very precious. Not just for our children, but for us. I want to soak these years up, store them in my heart, and keep them there forever. And I hope she does the same. <3
Resources We Used This Week:
- A Child’s Dream (this is where we got our main lesson book to use for Ancient History)
- Brave Writer
- Blossom and Root Early Years Vol. 2
- Blossom and Root First Grade
- Blossom and Root Book Seeds
- The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
- Moffat Girls First Grade Money Unit
A quick shout out and thank you to feedspot.com for featuring us in their list of Top 10 Secular Homeschool Blogs! Be sure to check out the list–some of my favorite blogs are on there. I feel honored to be in their company. 🙂
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