France, Week Two

Well, this week we’ve had a relapse on the stomach front (D4) and an invasion of colds, but we soldier on.

On Monday the big kids and I made homemade sketchbooks for their France studies. D1 immediately started filling hers by copying favorite pictures from the different books we have read. D2 had more trouble feeling comfortable with putting something in it, although he did start drawing a maze. (I didn’t initially see any connection between that and France, but then when we watched *Cathedral* we saw that cathedrals often had mazes drawn into the floor as a kind of mini-pilgrimage.)

Actually the week has been full of such serendipitous connections. D2 had also wanted to learn more about heat and cold–again, great, but not necessarily connected to France. However, one of the books we got about France, *Hot Air*, was in fact about the first hot air balloon. On Tuesday we read that and did some experiments related to the weight and volume of air, plus effects of heat and cold on it, using our science book for reinforcement and discussion.

We’re not forcing connections or trying to pull things into a true unit–just exploring and following where the trail leads and finding they do indeed all interact.

*The French Twins* continues to be a big hit, and we are also enjoying *The Family Under the Bridge*. (I explained the “starlings” allusion in the old hobo’s attitude toward the children, and they were delighted. “Yes! We are loud and eat a lot! We are starlings!”) I finally just told D1 that after 6 years of reading to her, I deserved payment in knowing she was listening, so she had to tell me back enough of the story that I would know she was listening. Every time. She seemed to accept that.

After “Roland and Oliver” was such a big hit, I decided to read the next legend in the book, “The Battle of Roncevalles.” OK, so I knew the general idea and I’m not sure why I thought it would be appropriate. (Brief summary: Roland gets betrayed, refuses to call for help, and he and 20,000 of the best knights of France are slaughtered by the Saracens.) But I read it. They listened. They cried. I felt bad. I offered them tea with honey. They recovered and went on with their lives. I guess you have to learn sometime that the good guys don’t always win.  DOB thinks it was fine.

They are still obsessed with Robin Hood after watching the movie last week and reading the picture book last month. Now they are begging for the original Howard Pyle version. And planning a play involving their cousins (They have not yet informed the cousins). I want to provide more support for that next week.

I am really pleased with how naturally the twins are integrating with this study. D4 is still obsessed with “My I-fuh Tower!” He recognizes it everywhere and the afternoon when he was so sick we looked through a book about it a dozen times. The twins are also still interested in zoo animals, and in winter. (Oh, yeah, it snowed this week, too! Changed to rain overnight, though, so there wasn’t much chance to play in it.)

And–perhaps at D1’s instigation–they insisted they needed their own sketchbooks. So I helped them select pages and tie them together. On Friday morning I got up to D2 and to some extent D1 building beautiful towers obviously inspired by the architecture we have been seeing. Miraculously, my defunct camera started working again and I was able to get some pictures. Later in the day we assembled those and some pictures from Google of the Eiffel Tower and the Rheims Cathedral (featured in *The French Twins*) and printed them out for everyone to cut out and paste in their sketchbooks. The twins insisted on participating with this, too, and actually did quite well with the glue although I did not permit them the scissors.

Friday afternoon the big kids and I watched Cathedral, by David Macaulay. It was well done and quite enjoyable. We have the book for further browsing.

Oh, and they all have “Frere Jacques” down already. Maybe it’s time to start “Allouette.”

I’m still finding it tricky to fit in school, outside time, and my work, even though the babysitter came two afternoons this week. Basically I need to get moving faster in the morning. Until all sickness is out of the house and DOB is feeling better, though, that’s going to be hard to do every day. But somehow we are getting through.

I have put up a map and cut out the cardboard for a quick timeline, but have not made use of either yet. Would like to bring those in more next week. Also we have a biography of *Joan of Arc* now and I would like to read that at some point, although D1 may be reading it on her own. (Or she may just be carrying it around intending to read it and actually reading *Calvin and Hobbes*.) Asterix has also been popular–I should maybe get another one or two of those.

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