Thursday, April 13, 2017

Around the World: Poland

In March, we traveled to Poland with our Five in a Row studies with the book Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco. This is one of my favorite Five in a Row books. It's such a touching story about a young boy named Larnell, who befriends his elderly, Jewish neighbor. She shares stories with him about immigrating from Poland, vacationing in the Catskills, and the Jewish festival of Passover. He, in turns, gives her a kitten with no tail, which she names Tush. Over many years of friendship, she becomes like family to Larnell. Such a person!

This is our second time through this book. We first studied it when my oldest was in first grade. We found large family tree we had made that year,  with photos of several generations of our ancestors. It was fun to look over the pictures and talk about our ancestors in Poland, Latvia, Russia, Kentucky, West Virginia (and way back in England and Ireland). We also found a gap in our tree and put in a call to Grandma to send pictures of her grandparents who immigrated from Poland. She found some nice pictures for us.
We also got our our world map and found all the countries in our ancestry. We talked about why people would want to move from one country to another and how it would feel when you get there, not knowing the language or ways. When we first rowed this book, we were able to go and record interviews with the kids' great-grandmother and great-great-aunt who were Latvian refugees during World War II. These recordings are such treasures to us now that both of these beloved women passed away in the last year. We talked about some of their experiences as immigrants.
Since Mrs. Katz was from Poland, and the kids are a quarter Polish, we enjoyed reading several books about Poland. Ella and Mabel also tried their hand (with some help) at the traditional Polish Wycinanki folk art, made by cutting paper into fancy designs. We had a yummy Polish supper of kielbasa and pierogies.

Patricia Polacco, the author of Mrs. Katz and Tush, is the author of many other favorite books like Rechenka's Eggs, The Keeping Quilt, The Bee Tree, Thunder Cake, When Lightning Comes in a Jar, Chicken Sunday, and Just Plain Fancy. We tried to read as many of our books as we could. We also got to know Ms. Polacco a little more by watching an Author interview with her at the Read Aloud Revival Membership. It was really interesting to hear about her struggles growing up with learning disabilities, how she makes her art, and about all the animals she has collected on her farm. 
We also watched a really neat episode of Reading Rainbow on Rechenka's Eggs, which featured Ms. Polacco decorating Pysanka Easter Eggs. Since Rechenka's Eggs is Ella's all-time favorite, we also designed some paper pysanka eggs. Later my husband helped the kids blow out eggs and paint them with watercolors.

For science, we learned about yeast, and did an experiment to see what makes yeast grow most quickly. We made four bags with different combinations of yeast, water (warm and cold), sugar and salt.We discovered that yeast, warm water, and sugar made the yeast grow most quickly.
  Since we didn't want to waste all that yeast, we decided to make one of our favorite Jewish breads: Challah. We made the dough, let it rise, and kneaded it.
Then we braided it, put on an egg wash, and baked it.
In addition to learning about our own ancestry, we also learned a lot about Mrs. Katz's Jewish heritage including the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt, the symbolism of the Passover meal, and why Jews eat matzo during Passover.  We also learned some Yiddish words. For dinner, we had matzo brei (scrambled eggs with crumbled matzo), applesauce, sour cream, and Challah. The kids thought it was one of the yummiest meals we've had.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hearth Baking at Old Sturbridge Village by Ella

 One day, I went with my family to Old Sturbridge Village. My two sisters and I went with our Mom to a class about cooking on a hearth. We made cookies.
 We mixed flour, maple sugar, butter, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and rose water. The cinnamon and nutmeg smelled good.
The teacher put them in a reflector oven by the fire.
 While they baked we made lemonade. It tasted so good. While the cookies baked, our teacher let us see some old tools they used to cook with. The cookies were so good, we brought back some cookies for my brother and Dad.    

Around the World: France

For our next trip around the world, we visited Egypt and France with the Five in a Row book: The Giraffe That Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton. This is a true story about a giraffe given as a gift by the Egyptians to the French King in the 1800s.

These are the only pictures I managed to take of our weeks studying the book, a quick French breakfast with croissants, sausages, and tea before church one Sunday.

We found Egypt and France on the map and traced the route La Giraffe would have taken to her new home in Paris. We also read several non-fiction books about Egypt and learned about the Pyramids and Ancient Egyptian life. For science we learned about giraffes and their habitat. We also learned about climates around the world.

In the book, a scientist tries to draw a picture of a giraffe without ever seeing one. So, we decided to draw our own funny animals. Ella remembered a game where you take a sheet of paper and fold it into quarters lengthwise. The first person draws a head and then folds down the paper and the next person draws a torso, folds it down, and draws legs, and then the fourth person draws feet. The drawings came out super funny. Then we used the drawings to do a close observation exercise (inspired by Brave Writer). One person had to choose a drawing at random, and try to describe to another person how to draw the crazy creature. The drawer would do their best to recreate the picture just from the description and then we compared the two drawings. We had lots of fun with this activity.

We also learned more about the 19th century by attending Home School Day at Old Sturbridge Village. The girls took a class in baking on the hearth (which Ella will describe in my next post). We also got to see them boiling maple sap, and attend a fun presentation on old and new ways of preserving foods.