After Christmas, I decided to change up our homeschool curriculum just a smidge. We’ve been using Story of the World for history for Casey (who is 10) for the last two years, but we are in year four of the books and it’s not as easy to pull Mace (who is 5) into the lessons. From September to Christmas, I worked very slowly with Mace, who, as regular readers of this blog know, is somewhat of a blasé learner. (That’s a new learning style in case you’ve never heard of it. I invented it, actually. I’m thinking of doing a workshop on it at the homeschool convention this year. I’m going to call it, “How to Un-Blah Your Blasé Learner.” Unfortunately, the workshop might be somewhat premature since I don’t have any handy tips to share yet.)
We’ve taken a more classical approach with Casey’s schooling — memory work, Latin, chronological history, etc.
With Mace, I’m just trying to counter the “meh” factor. (Not familiar with the “meh” factor? Try shrugging your shoulders as you say “meh” and I think you’ll have it.)
“Mace, let’s count by 2s, ready?”
Mace immediately wilts and slumps with his face turned in towards the back of the chair, so that I can barely hear him sing/whisper counting by 2s to the tune of Jesus Loves Me.
“Mace, write the letter that makes the /puh/ sound.”
Mace writes a squiggle on his paper that in now way resembles a p, nor is it meant to.
“Really, Mace? Is this how we’re going to do this today?” (This is inevitably the time when Flamingo Joe walks in the door and watches Mace refusing to participate, then raises his eyebrows in a wow-you’re-the-worst-teacher-ever-in-the-world kind of way. Don’t worry, I don’t rely on Flamingo Joe for my teaching self-esteem. I rely solely on Casey’s ability to conjugate latin verbs.)
Over our extended Christmas break I was dreading starting back up with the same routine, dragging Mace along toward the goal of reading and plodding through our mornings. I started thinking that if I was able to include Mace more in Casey’s history and science lessons, maybe his enthusiasm for school overall would tick up a notch or two.
One evening near the end of our break, I started trolling through Facebook one evening when I should have been creating lesson plans. I came across a Facebook post from Hip Homeschool Moms, where they posed a question from one of their followers asking if anyone knew of a curriculum that used the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. Most of the replies in the Facebook post mentioned The Prairie Primer, which is basically a year-long unit study using all 9 of the books.
Aunt Nanny got the boys the first five books in that series for Christmas because we had read the first one and the boys wanted to read the rest. For those of you who think the Little House series is for girls because the main character is a girl, you’ve got another think coming. The books are full of boy things – bears, guns, maple syrup, cattle, warring Native American tribes, agricultural machines, flying hordes of grasshoppers. What little boy doesn’t like flying hordes of grasshoppers?
So I bit. I ordered The Prairie Primer on the Wednesday before we were supposed to start school the following Monday. My classical-loving heart justified the diversion by saying that the books are set during the time period we’ve been studying this year (the Modern Age). Each day, we read a chapter of whichever book we’re on (we started back at the beginning with Little House in the Big Woods), answer the reading comprehension questions and then do whichever of the activities I’ve selected for the day that are included in that day’s options. Each day, you can choose from an assortment of topics — literature, science, writing, Bible, cooking, etc. If a science topic is listed, we almost always do that one, because Mace, like most five year old boys, loves science.
Well, Mace loves science kits. Which really is different. Anyone with young boys can tell you that science kits are far more appealing than science itself.
We are not currently working with any science kits, so Mace has to be satisfied with plain ole’ science.
One day this week we studied sap because the chapter we read involved making syrup from maple tree sap. The science activity for the day included an experiment using a potato. It is past 9:00 on Friday evening when I am writing this, so allow me to cut to the chase and tell you that a tree uses osmosis to convert nutrients it soaks up from the soil into the sugar it needs to make energy to grow and flourish.
Mace helped me cut the potato in half and then cut the ends of the halves off and otherwise get the experiment all set up.
We put the same amount of water in each bowl and the same amount of dyed water in the potato indentions. Then we added a teaspoon of sugar in one of the potatoes.
The potatoes represent trees in this experiment, the water represents nutrients and the sugar represents the tree sap. We let the potatoes sit for a day and marked them so Flamingo Joe wouldn’t eat them (oh yes, that’s a risk):
The next day, when we uncovered the potatoes, this is what they looked like:
As you can see, the indention of the potato with sugar was able to pull more water up into its well than the potato without sugar. Voila! The function of sap is to facilitate osmosis.
No. Mace didn’t really understand it.
But Casey did.
All in all, we’re happy with The Prairie Primer so far. Mace likes it well enough and it’s helping me increase his attention span for school-related things. We may stick with it just through one or two of the Wilder books and then come back to it later, or we may use it through the summer.
We’re definitely going to stick with it through the flying grasshopper hordes.