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On our last day of Mirette, we studied the geography of Paris. I didn't have a lot of luck finding age-appropriate non-fiction books, but found several nice picture books that gave a good overview of the geography of Paris. We started with Everybody Bonjours, which I nearly didn't check out at first because the text is so basic, but then I flipped to the back and found the detailed guide of all of the Paris landmarks pictured in the book. Highly useful. From there, we read a few more books and looked for the landmarks we had already learned about. We did a brief detour to learn a bit about gargoyles, then watched a few videos on Paris aimed at tourists. Since Mirette takes place in the 1890s, we've been reading a Magic Treehouse book that takes place during the World's Fair of 1889, for which the Eiffel Tower was built.

Then we moved to the hands-on portion of the lesson. First, I had K cut out a paper model of Paris that I found on the Web, which was great fun to play with. Then we made a wooden model of the Eiffel Tower from one of the many kits available at Michaels. We've done a number of those kits and they're surprisingly good for $5 or less. They're marketed as 3d puzzles, but with some glue (and I highly recommend using glue if you want it stay together), they become very nice little models, or in a couple cases, lovely little dollhouses with functional furniture. It became clear quite early on that K inherited my interest and ability in working with her hands. I did a lot of the model (there were parts that just would not have fit together and stayed without adult strength), but she was very good at spotting how the pieces should fit together. Altogether, it was a very pleasing project.



Our next book is going to be The Duchess Bakes a Cake, largely because it came in the mail the other day and once I said the word "cake," K was set on it. I wouldn't have necessarily chosen right now for it because we have plans for two other books to take advantage of grandparents being around for Christmas who can help with certain topics. The medieval theme of Duchess lends itself to a more extended study that we won't have time for if we want to cover the other books while grandparents are here. Life is also pretty distracting right now, which is why I haven't been pushing heavy academic work right now. But we can always find another book to cover the Middle Ages if we want to come back to it later.

Books used today:

Everybody bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman
Babar Loses His Hat by Laurent de Brunhoff
Come fly with me by Satomi Ichikawa
Night of the new magicians by Mary Pope Osborne
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We did what was essentially two different activities over the course of three days, so I'm just going to talk about them in terms of activities as opposed to what we did when.

Mirette on the High Wire is the story of a girl in Paris who learns how to walk on the high wire after a retired high wire artist, Bellini, comes to live at her mother's boarding house. Through teaching Mirette, Bellini manages to work past the fear that had forced him to retire and they end up on tour together. I chose this book because I had sold K on the idea of studying Paris, but not on Madeline, and this also takes place in Paris. But you can't study Mirette without covering the circus, which has added huge amounts of excitement to our week.

After reading Mirette, the first book on the circus we pulled out was Peter Spier's Circus. Peter Spier has long been a family favorite for the fascinating level of detail he puts in his illustrations, and Circus is no exception. We spent a long time looking and pointing out interesting things. Then two non-fiction books on the circus, and The Greatest Elephant in the World, which on cursory inspection was about a circus elephant, but actually reading it revealed it had almost no information on the circus and was pretty depressing to boot. We ended with Olivia Saves the Circus, a Mr. Rogers dvd on the circus and a Reading Rainbow episode with a section on high wire artists.

I found out last weekend that Philadelphia actually has a circus school, but I was sad to discover when I checked their website that it was a couple weeks too late to see any performances this year. I will definitely be keeping my eye out next spring for anything I can take K to, since the circus is by far best experienced in person.

Our second activity was exploring the physics of balance. We read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, the story of a man who disguised himself as a construction worker to snuck up to the top of the Twin Towers and string a rope between them so he could walk it (I was a little worried about the awkward questions that might come up since the book does end by saying the towers are no longer standing, but thankfully, K was too incensed by the injustice of Philippe being arrested to really register that part). We looked at the pictures in that and Mirette, and looked at the poles they used for balance. I pulled out a marker and first asked K to try to balance it on her finger standing up, which she couldn't do, and then with it lying down, which she eventually got. I took the cap off the marker and had her look at where it balanced versus where it balanced with the cap on. I think she got a pretty good understanding of balance without having to use terms like "center of mass."

Then we went to a local playground where there are some balance beams so K could try some balancing herself. She needed a bit of help to walk the beam initially, but she was fairly successful with the pole from our Swiffer. I asked her to try to lean as far over as she could and still stay balanced, and we saw how her hips leaned out in the other direction to compensate. Then her brother made his lack of nap known and we had to go home before she could spend as much time as she wanted perfecting her high wire act.

Tomorrow, Paris!

Books used:

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily McCully
Peter Spier's Circus! by Peter Spier
The World's Greatest Elephant by Ralph Helfer
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein
Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer
Big-Top Circus by Neil Johnson
The Circus Comes Home by Lois Duncan
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I think we are going to try to do Cranberry Thanksgiving again next year, the week before Thanksgiving, because nobody was focusing well last week.

Today, I tried to finish up a little with some talking about Thanksgiving foods and nutrition, largely because it gave me a sheet I can include in our portfolio that shows we engaged in nutrition/health and wellness education. So first, I showed K a sheet I made up with pictures of typical Thanksgiving foods - turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans and pumpkin pie. I asked her what these foods might have in common and why they might get eaten at an American Thanksgiving, as opposed to harvest festivals in other countries. K didn't know, so we started looking up the foods in Wikipedia, and over and over, native to the Americas kept coming up. K still felt tha the thing these foods had in common is that they grew on farms, but I managed to get across that we eat those foods for our Thanksgiving because they're all native foods.

Then I had her cut out the pictures and we placed them on a printout of a plate with the food groups from myplate.gov by what food group they belonged to. And lo, we had one sheet to stick in the portfolio. I really don't feel first grade should be about output, but it's always in the back of my mind that I need to purposefully create some for the sake of the portfolio.

Tomorrow, Mirette on the High Wire. I had initially planned on Madeline, but while K liked the idea of learning about Paris and loved the idea of building a model of the Eiffel Tower, she didn't want to do Madeline. I looked at the FIAR list and strongly considered The Giraffe that Walked to Paris - K loves giraffes. But ultimately I decided that it wasn't a good idea to do that book when we wouldn't be able to go to the zoo, and also couldn't quite stomach the idea of talking about the Eiffel Tower while doing a book that takes place 50 years before it was built.

So that left Mirette on the High Wire. It's actually quite a good choice for getting K engaged, because the circus is always a fun topic. And I admit, I didn't plan this at all, but we went to IKEA last weekend and K begged us to buy her this set of circus finger puppets and now she's really excited by the circus. Really, I wish I had thought of it, but no, it was just dumb luck. This should be a lot of fun.

Other things accomplished today: read to the end of Progressive Phonics beginner book 1, did an MEP 1a worksheet.

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