Friday, September 18, 2009

Unit Study: "The Story About Ping"

This week kicked off our first "true" homeschool adventure. While many people reminded me that I've already been homeschooling all of my children's lives, this is the first week we used a curriculum, lesson plan, and a flexible, kid-friendly schedule.

We chose a delightful, book-oriented curriculum called Five in a Row. It's funny...when I began researching homeschooling a year ago (has it really been that long?!?), I would never have considered this unit study method as a good way to learn. That's because I have been indoctrinated into thinking that learning happens ONE way: in a classroom, with a usually over-dry textbook that's organized into units and chapters, and occasional hands-on experiences that are...sort of relevant to what the textbook was talking about. In my opinion, this is not a natural way for very young children to learn, and it isn't prone to encourage a love of learning.

After speaking with several families who are using/have used Five in a Row (or FIAR)--and speaking to their very intelligent, thoughtful, and fun-loving children--my perception of unit studies completely changed. It just makes so much more sense to tie the subjects together to a common theme, because this is more of the way real life works. And the really cool part? These kids remember what the learned. They retained it, and they ENJOYED learning about it all. Well, that was the kicker for me.

So we began our first unit study this week, which was, happily, a book that I remember fondly from my childhood--the curriculum has quite a few books in it that I read and enjoyed as a child. The stories are all of good-quality children's literature, not fluff books like Sandra Boynton or picture books (not that those kinds of books aren't valuable--we have ALL of Sandra Boynton's books and love them. But the FIAR series uses books that have a lot more "meat" to them.)

Unit Study Title: "The Story About Ping"
Author: Marjorie Flack
Illustrator: Kurt Wiese
Copyright: 1933
Category: Classic

Monday: Social Studies
Geography, Culture
- Located China on the world map, placed our "Ping" story disk on China
- Discussed cultural differences between Chinese and Americans: Food, family living, traditional dress, etc.
- Visited the library and checked out children's fact books and picture books of China, the Yangtze River, and ducks

Tuesday: Language Arts, Music
Literature, Fiction, Literary Devices: Repetition
- Discussed how the author uses repetition to make parts of the story stick out
- Discussed quotation marks and why they are used in books and stories
- Violin lesson

Wednesday: Applied Math
Counting, classification, introduction to multiples
- Using homemade cards, counted all of the ducks in Pings family (including Ping himself!) that live on the "wise-eyed boat on the Yangtze river." (There are 68 ducks.)
- Classified all the family members into groups
- Set up Ping's 42 cousins on a graph to show multiples of 10 (with a remainder of 2)

Thursday: Art, Music, Co-op Preschool
Medium, drawing water
- Discussed the medium that the illustrator chose
- Talked about how illustrator showed different expressions on the animals' and peoples' faces by changing the lines ever so slightly
- Drew our own renditions of Ping and his family
- Returned to our beloved Music Together class for the first week of the fall semester. Bonus: This semester's Music Together CD theme is Fiddles! :-) We like fiddles in our family.
- Attended our first class at our homeschool co-op, geared especially towards preschoolers! The class is called "All of God's Creatures." Today we discussed how to classify mammals. Then we talked about how bears are mammals. Made a craft--bear paper bag puppets--had a teddy bear parade (the girls were excited because their teddy bears were "starting school" as well), and did a finger play with Eric Carle's "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See."

Friday: Science, Social Studies
Animal Kingdom
- Visited the Franklin Cider Mill* to observe ducks. Discussed the 3 kind of ways ducks can get around: Walking, swimming, and flying. (Most animals cannot do all three!) Fed the ducks and observed how they "stretch" by standing upright and flapping their wings. Discussed how to tell the difference between a male and female Mallard duck.
- Serendipity lesson! Got to watch the cider press in use. Stayed there to watch for a solid 20 minutes at Liesl's request.
- Visited a Chinese restaurant to talk to the hostess for a few minutes--learned to say "thank you" in Chinese ("xie xie ni".) Ate cashew chicken and rice for lunch (at home: Mommy wasn't quite brave enough for the restaurant.) Everybody used chopsticks. I ate my entire meal with chopsticks, and, watching me, Ava made a very studious and whole-hearted attempt at them. She was successful in her own way.

* Ok, I'd be lying by omission if I didn't fess up to buying cider and donuts. But to my surprise, the girls weren't overly focused on that and stayed with the ducks for a solid 30 minutes before we went and bought our cider and donuts. Really. I was surprised. (Because *I* wanted the #$*&@ donuts.)

All in all, the first week showed me that my plans and my preconceived notions about how my kids learn will need tweaking. But snuggling up to read the story together each day, and then moving on to a loosely-structured lesson that connected to the story--I can see why this method and curriculum are so popular.

First day of school picture! 9-14-09

Math: Sorting Ping's family into classes before counting them

Done! This lesson actually lasted a solid 45 Liesl's request. Ava had her own set of counting cards, slightly larger, with her name on them instead of family classifications.

First day of homeschool co-op preschool class

Ava really dug being a "real" student--she's registered--and sitting at the tables to work with the "big kids."
(Hi, Daniel.)

Teddy bear puppet craft

Lining up for the Teddy Bear Parade (which was performed to a nice, rousing march)

Feeding the ducks! Even Ava, my non animal-lover, really dug this activity

Ava had her eye on one particular duck, and when he disappeared under the bridge, she was quite upset

Half-eaten donut on the left is mine.

Those ducks are really stupid brave

Chopped apples being prepared for the press

Cider press in motion. It was NEAT! It was loud and fun to watch, and it smelled darn nice, too.

Giving me the "you gotta be kidding, Mommy" look...

...but she gave it a really good try, regardless

Humoring Mommy (and then Mommy caved and gave her a fork and spoon.)

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