Monday, October 27, 2014

Appalachian Week: Down, Down the Mountain

We spent a fun week with Down, Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle, another Appalachian book I had never heard of until using Five in a Row. It was written in 1934 by a teacher in the North Carolina mountains who wanted to see the lives of the children around her reflected in books. It's a lovely little story about Hetty and Hank, siblings who want to buy shoes, but there family is too poor. Their granny encourages them to plant turnips and take them to sell in the town to buy their shoes. They work all summer to grow turnips, but as they head down, down the mountain to sell them, they encounter many different people who need their turnips, and they end up giving them all away.When they get to town, they find that it's the county fair and their one turnip wins a big prize and they get their shoes after all.

So what did we do with that giant turnip I mentioned in my post: Serendipity Homeschooling? We had our own county fair. The kids wanted to gather up all of the vegetables in the house. We had turnips, squash, pumpkins, and onions. Thank you farm share! First we weighed them all to see which were the biggest. It was a great lesson in fractions.

Then we measured the circumference. More math!
You can see just how big our turnip is here. Then we picked some more winners and had an awards ceremony. The winners with the vegetables with the largest circumference were the pumpkins. Here are our own Hetty and Hank, barefeet and all, to collect their prize. Five copper pennies!
The next day we cooked an Appalachian meal for dinner. The kids loved learning how to use a vegetable peeler on the turnips and dicing them up. I decided to make the turnips into a casserole with cheese sauce to make them more kid-friendly. Casseroles are a very Appalachian way of cooking. I don't know how many different vegetables I've had cooked up like this. All that was missing was the cream of mushroom soup.

 We also made brown beans and cornbread to go with our turnips. At least one kid actually did like the turnips. She was also the one that decided during cooking that you had to like what you make yourself. Her older sister told her that you can like making it without liking to eat it.
To learn more about Appalachian culture, we colored in the Appalachian Mountains on our map, practiced building log cabins with Lincoln logs, and I played them some recordings of my great-aunts in Kentucky. I spent several years recording oral histories in West Virginia and Kentucky when I was a student and an Americorps VISTA shortly after graduating college. I pulled down an oral history book I had written to show the kids the pictures. They had no idea I had ever written this book, and insisted that I read it out loud, and had lots of questions.

I have been thinking a lot lately about inspiring your kids. It always seems to come back to the fact that if you want your kids to love learning, you actually have to love learning yourself, and you have to share that with them. But it had never occurred to me that the simplest way to do this was to just share my own projects with them. I recommend trying it with your own kids. Show them that sweater you knitted or play them a recording of your choral group in college or read them some writing. You might be surprised at how inspiring you are!

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