Saturday, September 3, 2016

Five in a Row: Gramma's Walk

Occasionally you will come across an idea that transforms your thinking about how you educate your children. For me, that was the moment I realized that schooling didn't have to happen on the same schedule as public schools, and it didn't have to look the same in every season. Even my homeschooler friends look at me a little skeptically when I say we're back to school in July, but to me it means we can stay inside in the A/C when it's too hot and get ahead on our schooling, so when's it beautiful in Fall, we have time to play! 

A few years ago, I read this excellent post from Jamie Martin at Simple Homeschool: The Case for a Seasonal Education.  It made so much sense to me that the outdoor months are perfect for nature study, while the winter months are perfect for reading aloud by the fire. Spring is perfect for gardening, while Fall is a perfect for time for jumping into new subjects with energy.

Later, I learned about the idea of Tidal Homeschooling from Melissa Wiley, and I loved her idea that there are tides to homeschooling. During high tide, Mom is captaining the boat and using curricula and charting a course and during low tide, you might follow more student-led approaches. She describes it well here: What is Tidal Homeschooling? 

So after a very tough summer, August has been all about low-tide homeschooling and seasonal fun. Appropriately, we went on a road-trip to our favorite seashell beach. We discovered this beach a few years ago on a quest to find the closest Rita's water ice stand. It happened to be in West Haven, CT, and across the street was this small beach that no one seemed to use for swimming or anything really. As a result, there were thousands of shells. You could literally scoop them up with a shovel if you wanted to.

We limited ourselves to one bucket this year.

Most people see seashells as beautiful, interesting things. Teacher moms see them as math and science manipulatives.
So we sorted and counted all of our shells, which was great for all ages.We tried to identify them. (Well, that was mostly me, but I was interested, for sure.) I printed out this gorgeous free coloring sheet from Jan Brett to compare to our shells. We had some that matched including: jingle shells, periwinkles, boat shells, quahog, and knobbed whelk.

Then my nine-year-old and I graphed our results. We made our graph using Microsoft Word. We went to the Insert Graph function and explored the different kinds of graphs and settled on a bar graph. When we selected our graph, a spreadsheet popped up and we inserted our information. We collected the most Jingle Shells (75) and the least crab shells (1) though our crab did have a lot of legs.

We read Gramma's Walk by Anna Grossnickle Hines. This is a lovely Five in a Row book that I have had trouble tracking down until this year. Recently Purple House Press reprinted it, and I am so grateful for the work they do to reprint Five in a Row books. It's a very gentle story about a boy and his grandmother who is wheel-chair bound taking an imaginary walk on the seashore. My daughter asked if we could take an imaginary journey too. My son decided we should walk through the jungle. So we closed our eyes and took turns taking a walk through the jungle and talking about what we saw, smelled, and heard.

My kids also loved the language arts lesson about the ribbon roll plot. Basically the story unrolls like a ribbon, they see a lighthouse, build a sandcastle, find shells, see an otter, etc. and then they walk back past all of these things. The plot is set up much like the story We're Going on a Bear Hunt. So we made a long ribbon of paper and drew pictures of each object they passed and then rolled the ribbon back up as we walked by, saying goodbye to each object. It was a great demonstration of this style of plot.

The kids were so inspired that they decided to make ribbon roll art as well.
Mabel, of course, picked her favorite theme: pigs. She drew out the life-cycle of a pig. Ella made hers into a puppet theater and wrapped the moveable background around the back of a chair and made little sea life puppets to tell the story.

The kids were also inspired to make a craft from a craft book from the library. They made miniature hermit crab aquariums for dolls. A few months ago, I taught the older girls how to insert clip-art in Microsoft word. There is a searchable database of clip-art inside Microsoft Word, and you can find so many pictures. It seems much safer than google images. They have been writing stories and books of facts and inserting clip-art to go with it. Originally, they were going to make a hermit crab out of a shell, but we didn't have all of the right materials, so they printed one out instead and laminated and added sandpaper, and blue and green paper for food and water. We used a plastic apple box to cut out the aquariums.
We're excited that we're going to be able to join some friends from our church in a science class on underwater creatures this year, so this book was a lovely introduction. 


  1. Thank You for the nature tour. You and your children make school work interesting and exciting.

  2. I enjoyed your nature walk. I felt like I was there with you and the children.