Saturday, November 5, 2016

Five in a Row: Down, Down the Mountain 2016

This year I didn't spend time in the summer planning out a schedule for which Five in a Row books we would do, but instead I've just been choosing the books as inspiration strikes. In the Fall, I always like to study one book about Appalachian culture before we make our annual Thanksgiving trip to my home-place in West Virginia. There are several Appalachian books, which you can choose from in the Five in a Row curriculum, which is awesome.

During our impromptu Fall Break, there was one day that was predicted to be in the 70s, so my friend and I decided to plan a hike up Mt. Sugarloaf. We are novices at hiking, but we had a wonderful time climbing a mountain in shorts and t-shirts on a glorious Fall day. We made it all the way to the top!The fall foliage was at peak and the view was fantastic. 
After the hike, we picked up our farm share and the kids couldn't resist  picking up two giant turnips. My four-year-old son is obsessed with turnips. He thinks they are the funniest things due to these two books:

 I bet you didn't even know books involving turnip humor were a thing! 

That night at dinner, as we were eating our beans and cornbread. I laughed and said, "Hey guys, we went down, down the mountain today. We picked up turnips and we're eating Appalachian food. I think I know our next book..."

We rowed Down, Down the Mountain two years ago and had a lot of fun with it. It's a wonderful story about two siblings: Hetty and Hank, who work hard planting a turnip field to buy themselves pairs of shoes. On the way to sell their turnips, they are generous with everyone they meet, giving away all of their turnips. They have only one turnip left, but they decide to enter it in the County Fair. They win and have enough money to buy their creaky-squeaky shoes and gifts for their family.

We began the week with art. We listened to all the details in the story and drew pictures of the inside of Hetty and Hank's cabin.
On Ella's birthday that Monday, we had gone to Old Sturbridge Village, a 1830s historic New England village. It is one of our favorite places, and it tied in really well with our discussion of log cabins, as many of the houses had dried apples, herbs, and hams hanging from their rafters just like in the book. Ella had just received a new Lego set for her birthday, so we spent the rest of the morning building a cabin. 
I don't think there was a moose in the Blue Ridge mountains, but that's okay!

For Social Studies, we learned about Appalachian culture. I told the kids stories I knew about my grandparents and great-aunts and uncles making molasses, washing their clothes at the creek, and making lye soap in a kettle outside. We also watched several educational videos from KET. They have a wonderful series called Old Music for New Ears that features folk performers like Jeanne Ritchie, Mike Seeger, and Odetta singing traditional Appalachian, blues, gospel, and Native American songs. This week we watched Bob and Susie Hutchison singing and playing lap dulcimer. We also watched KET's show Telling Tales, which features Appalachian storytelling. We enjoyed Jack and the Magic Mill and Ashpet: the Appalachian Cinderella.

We had an Appalachian-inspired poetry. Earlier in the week, we had planned a fun day to make fried apple pies with our friends, but several of us were laid low by a cold. We had made all the pies ahead of time, so we baked them up and had apple pies all week. It was perfect for our Appalachian tea along with apple cider and some wonderful poetry from Louise McNeill's memoir The Milkweed Ladies. Louise McNeill grew up in the county in West Virginia where I grew up and later became the West Virginia State Poet Laureate. This memoir is written in verse about life in Appalachia on a small farm before industrialization.
We also read from another favorite poet of mine: Wendell Berry. We read from his books The Timber Choir and Farming: A Handbook. We decorated with this beautiful basket made by  Jessie Martin, an elderly mountain woman who I knew in eastern Kentucky. She was a true mountain woman who knew all about all of the plants and herbs to be found in the forests. I was very blessed to get to talk with her and my mom bought me this basket she made for Christmas a few years ago.
For science, we studied mountains, and did the Mystery Science Lesson: Will a Mountain Last Forever? Word to the wise, if you have a terrible headache, it is not wise to do a science lesson that involves shaking sugar cubes in little containers. But on our next hike, my four-year-old was able to identify a rock fall, so there is that.

For the grand finale of our week, and our language arts activity, we acted out the book. The kids had a ball!
Hetty and Hank were so sad that they didn't have shoes. 
So Granny told them they should plant some turnips.
They took their turnips down, down the mountain to sell them at the store. 
They gave some turnips to a man who was cutting sugar cane and to a woman who was making soap. When they got to the store, they only had one giant turnip so they couldn't buy their shoes.
They took their turnip to the County Fair.
The judge chose their turnip as the best of all! They won a Five-dollar gold piece!
Hetty and Hank were so happy. They were able to buy their creaky-squeaky shoes! 


  1. What a fun story. It looks like everyone had a good time. Thank you for sharing.