Thursday, February 18, 2016

Celtic Goddesses, Limericks, Morphology and Mindfulness

Epona. Celtic goddess of horses, donkeys, mules and nature. She leads your soul into the afterlife. Drawn by my daughter.

Random title, right? Such has been our home-schooling week. As you can see from my daughter's picture above, our lesson manual introduced her to Celtic myth and folktales. I love folktales. I try to collect them from every place we visit or live. Fortunately, I had a sizable tome of Celtic folktales to meet the lesson requirements--the curriculum preparers took for granted that their students would have access to a library. I miss libraries--what remarkable institutions they are.

My daughter also wrote an opinion essay on the Celtic tale, Guleesh, which is a perfect example of Celtic lore blended with later Christian thought and practice. Below is a (rather long) video of the tale if you are interested:

My son's language arts lesson for this week focused on poetry. We started with limericks, an easy poetic form and open for all sorts of kid humor. He wrote the following:
There was a small cat named Bonzito
Who liked to eat mouses poquito
They stuck in his teeth
And said, "Aye, good grief!" 
That mouse-eating cat named Bonzito.
Okay, so I let him stretch it a bit with "mouses," but I'm claiming poetic license on his and my behalf. We had so much fun learning poems (we actually recite one every morning), that I roped my daughters into joining us for our next poetry writing session. 

We did acrostic poems using each child's name. My children surprised me with their cleverness. My littlest one even pulled off a beauty of an acrostic poem with her name, but was rather overwhelmed when I asked her to try another one with a different word. She started to cry, so we sat together and came up with an acrostic for the word "cry:"

Cheeks wet
Red Eyes
Yes, I feel better now.

And she did feel better. Poetry soothes the wounded soul. 

We've been learning new words as well and struggling with spelling many of them. Spelling for me was easy, but not so much for my kids, so I've been searching for ways to help spelling make sense and found a great resource by blogger Anne Marie Morey. 

She posted a podcast with Pete Bowers, a teacher who uses, morphology (study of word formation), orthography (the spelling system), etymology (study of word origin), and other "scientific" type approaches to clarify why a word is spelled a certain way. The podcast is long, but enlightening, especially if you have a child who struggles with spelling.

Now after all that, we needed a stress break--I needed a stress break--so we did some mindfulness exercises today. Teaching children to tune into their own strength and block out negative incomings sounded good to me, so we watched a video that showed us how to "find a happy place" and tried it out. 

After what felt like mere minutes, my littlest one nudged me to ask if we were done. I guess it worked--for me at least. Below is the video we used:

Of course we did science, math, p.e. and other fun things, but my love is still the written word and its magic. I have enjoyed learning new things along with my children and returning a bit to my own childhood.

Have a great week.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Chocolatey Valentine Field Trip

My son's chocolate factory diagram

I nearly forgot that Valentine's Day is peeking around the corner. I started home schooling my kids three weeks ago and the days have all blended into one. Teaching my own children is challenging and refreshing. I get to learn along with them.

I actually got to sit down, well stand because no chairs were left, and do a water color with my kids during their art class. We also toured a chocolate factory yesterday--the perfect field trip for a Valentine weekend. 

My son really enjoyed it, as you can tell by his diagram above. I don't know if my cravings for dark chocolate during my pregnancy with him influenced his rapacious desire for the fruits of the cacao bean, but he Valentine-triple-hearts his chocolate. 

My friend owns the factory and the story about how she ended up with a chocolate factory is a book in the making. In fact, I've already talked to her about turning her story into a picture book, so yesterday's tour was a writing journey me as well. And wow, did I learn some cool things.

Cacao pod. I apologize for the lousy photos!
Did you know the cacao pod, the one with the tasty chocolate beans inside it, has a fruity, white coating over each bean that is scrumptious in its own right?

The beans are covered in a white, fleshy pulp that tastes a bit like a banana and melon mixed.

I didn't know it until we visited the ruins of a volcanically preserved Mayan village and encountered cacao trees. The guide was kind enough to knock a pod down for us, split it open and let us taste the fruity pulp surrounding the beans.

The locals in Central America use the fruity pulp to make their chocolate extra yummy. They ferment the cacao beans inside the fruity pulp before drying it for processing. The sweetness from the fleshy pulp imbues the beans with a richer, sweeter flavor. It must do something extraordinary, because my friend's chocolate is some of the best I've tasted.

I wish I could hand you piece of chocolate through the wire, but I at least hope you can enjoy your own sweet treat this Valentine's Day.

Have a great week and Happy Valentine's Day.