Thursday, 29 March 2007

Very Last First Time

This week we started 'Very Last First Time' by Jan Andrews. It's a FIAR text.

However, before I start talking about our FIAR discoveries I want to show you the peg dolls Lily and Hermione made a couple of weeks ago as I think they are quite cool. We have moved on from peg dolls for the time being though. Lily has been crocheting a chain and Hermione has discovered a french knitting bobbin and is very enthusiastic.

Very Last First Time is about an Inuit girl who goes down an ice hole with her mother and walks on the bottom of the sea (while the tide is out of course) collecting mussels. It's set in Ungava Bay, North Canada. I have found it fascinating. I had never heard of the Inuits (in-you-its) nor had I heard of this practice of walking under the thick sea ice sheet in bay areas during low tides. Very interesting stuff!

On Monday we placed our story disc on Ungava Bay and also made a disk for the Atlantic Ocean. I have taken them off the map each night when they are in bed and they have taken turns putting them back on in the right places the next day. We already have a large world map on the wall but I think we need some thing bigger to accommodate all the discs. The map also needs to be robust for all the sticking and re sticking. Something to look out for!

I explained what a bay is and we all drew pictures of a bay type coastline. We chatted about how the sea freezes on the surface but not underneath. I know I have found it quite challenging to get my head around this idea that there are places where the sea recedes leaving a sort of underground sand and ice cavern which you can drop down into till the tide turns. I suspect the concept was even more challenging for the girls and we spent half an hour or more talking about this.

We looked at the pictures in the book and noted that there are very few trees. I explained that the cold weather conditions do not lend themselves to lots of lush vegetation and this has the knock on effect for the people of the region - since they cannot grow a lot of their food they hunt it.

We looked at pictures of caribou here and talked about how the people eat their meat, use their skins and fur for clothing and insulating their homes and may even use their bones for making tools or other implements - not a lot of waste on a caribou seemingly!

The girls were clearly quite inspired by the story and decided to write their own story books. Hermione's was called 'The Hamster of Ungava Bay' and Lily's was called 'Ungava Bay.'

On Tuesday we acted out words from the story - dragging, shoveling, heaving, peering, fearfully peering, grinning, prying, scraping, scrambling, stumbling and groping. They enjoyed this.

This was the girls first time to walk under the sea alone. We talked about ordinal numbers. They were both familiar with first, second and third but beyond this became a bit hit and miss. Made a mental note to revisit this casually whenever the opportunity arises.

Hermione wondered what they would find if they dug a hole in the garden. I explained that within the realms of their abilities to dig they would continue to find just more soil and rocks, however there are places where there are underground tunnels, caves and caverns. Quick chat about how people go pot holing as a hobby.

Just to be certain the girls knew what mussels actually are (you can never be sure about these things) we had mussels for lunch. Well, I should say Lily and Hermione pushed a mussel around thier plate and Soo and I ate mussels.

On Wednesday Soo and Nana took the girls to Tees Valley Home Ed meeting while I took Miles to the cranial osteopath. We did 'normals' before they left but we didn't touch on FIAR. I don't think it is something which can be hurried. It is in my view all about 'purposive conversation' and it is difficult to adopt that approach of passing on information when you only have fifteen minutes or so. They had a good time at the meeting. They came back with painted hard boiled eggs, cress egg shells and egg fridge magnets. They also came back with the Ladybird abridged My Secret Garden (the one I have been looking for for a couple of weeks) from the freebie table!

Today I decided we would start the session a little differently. I think it's important to approach a story from as many angles as possible. I filled a large bowl with hot water and a lot of salt. I took it up to the bedroom and invited the girls to join me. We sat around the bowl which I stirred and we smelled the vapour coming off - it stank and made me feel quite queasy. I asked them if it reminded them of anything. Hermione wasn't certain if it smelt like Sprite or the Sea but she was certain it must be one or the other. Lily felt she couldn't possibly guess without tasting it but I decided against that as there was a lot of salt in there. I explained it was tap water with lots of salt in it to make it smell like the sea - because sea water is salty! Feeling full of sea air the girls the lay down comfortably on the bed and I read a passage which I had written the night before about going on a journey to the sea bed. I think I can best describe it as a 'guided meditation' and I think it worked out surprisingly well. I managed to include in the passage far more factual stuff than I think is in the book (stuff about tides, animals etc). After the meditation they both drew pictures of what they had seen during their journey. It was great to hear them chatting as they drew. Hermione talked of how the caribou fur on her coat tickled her face, the strings of mussels were so long they wouldn't all fit in her mussel pan and how she had to watch out for the tide as it comes in twice a day. Lily was also very vocal. I think they had both taken lots of information on board through this approach.

We coloured the Canadian flag and stuck it up beside the map. Hermione chose to also colour the Cuban flag and Lily did a Union Jack.

After this we came back to the subject of underground caves. Craig had printed off two large coloured pictures for me which I stuck on the playroom wall. One was of a big gaping hole in the ground leading down to an underground cave system and the other was some spectacular stalactites. We looked at them, chatted and went on a virtual tour of underground caves here

We then settled down to watch a programme on BBC2 Schools television about winter. It featured a hotel in Scandinavia which is made entirely of ice. It was amazing and fitted in quite nicely with what we had been doing. It melts and is later rebuilt every year but the season is becoming increasingly shorter with global warming.

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