Thursday, August 28, 2014

Distracted by Dulcimers: Daniel's Duck

Ella discovered the shelf where I have all of our new Five in a Row books, and picked out Daniel's Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla. It's a sweet Easy Reader about a boy living in the mountains of Tennessee in the 19th century. His family members are all preparing items to display at the County Fair, and he decides to carve a duck. When the people laugh at his creation at the fair, he takes his duck and runs away. A famous local woodcarver reaches out to him and convinces him that people were laughing because they enjoyed his artwork.

One of my favorite aspects of the Five in a Row curriculum is that it encourages your kids to look closely at books and notice things. Once they notice things, they begin to be curious and want to learn more. Before you know it, you've followed a rabbit trail that has your kids passionately interested in Jean Ritchie and other mountain folk musicians. At the beginning of the week, we were learning about cabin life and making lists of all the items in Daniel's cabin. The kids noticed that there was a dulcimer hanging on the wall. My husband bought me a dulcimer for my birthday the year before last and I really meant to learn to play it, but then I got busy with life and my hundreds of other ideas and it's been sitting on my dresser ever since.

The kids encouraged me to get out my dulcimer and we all tried to learn to play. It's a very simple instrument with just four strings and no chords, so the kids could learn a little. After playing a bit, I decided the kids should hear how a dulcimer really ought to be played, so I found a video of Jean Ritchie playing her dulcimer. KET has a series called Old Music for New Ears, which you can listen to for free online, and it is absolutely fabulous. It's like having a wonderful old-time musician come to your homeschool and give a concert. They have 21 episodes with old-time musicians like Ritchie, Mike Seeger, Malcolm Dalglish and Odetta. By the end of the video, the kids were singing along, and begged to watch again. By the end of the day, Ella had memorized the song "Lazy John" and taught it to the other kids. Then they began begging to sing her songs at bedtime. We ended up watching the show during lunch each day, and pulling out the dulcimer to play afterward. Halfway through the week, Ella said, "I don't know if we're learning about Daniel's Duck or Jean Ritchie!"

But we did pull things back around to Daniel's Duck and learned about the changing seasons. The kids were thrilled to make four seasons headbands with trees on them and rotate around the driveway. 

Then we did the art activity that the kids had been looking forward to all week: carving soap. We bought a few bars of Ivory Soap. I was skeptical, but it really is soft enough to carve with a butter knife. All four kids (with a little adult help on the toddler side) enjoyed drawing their designs on the soap with a toothpick and then hacking away at it with their knives. Here we have Mabel's pig and Ella's fish.
Then they decided that since soap was a temporary thing, they should recreate their carvings in playdough and let it dry out so they could keep it. They rushed off to do that exact thing while I made dinner.

Here is some free parenting wisdom for you: Never joke with your kids that they should take a bar of soap and run out into the rain to get clean that night if they actually are in possession of a bar of soap! To quote Ella, "Daddy has the best ideas, and then he lets us do them."

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