We wrapped up our Germany unit and are officially on Christmas break! Germany turns out to have been a perfect unit for the Christmas season. I was tempted to drag it out another week or two to do a little more exploration here, but truthfully it was time to put things on pause and regroup.
Our visit to Germany began with Youtube travel videos of the country. You do have to be careful when searching for Youtube videos, but I’ve found them to be such a great way for us to get a better visual of the countries than pictures alone. We particularly enjoyed seeing Germany’s many castles! Neuschwanstein Castle is a true fairy tale castle, and was the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in DisneyWorld. The above link has an online tour you can take with photographs, it is worth a look! We also read several books about castles and the boys drew their own imaginary castles. My youngest invited me to be a princess in his and told me that I could have hot cocoa every single day and wear beautiful dresses and ride a pony. Sounds good to me! My oldest is getting this 3D Castle puzzle for Christmas. I had a hard time not giving it to him early!
If you follow our school at all, you know that I am all about fairy tales, so of course we spent a good deal of time reading some of Germany’s most famous stories. The Grimm brothers were German, so we pulled out our copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and read to our hearts delight. I also added a beautifully illustrated copy of Rumpelstiltskin to our collection and shared the gorgeous copy of Snow White that I’ve kept since I was 5. There are so many beautiful German fairy tales!
For our longer read-aloud we began Pippi Longstocking, which isn’t German but still fit within our European studies. I had actually never read Pippi Longstocking! I have been enjoying it as much as the boys. As an adoptive mom, I do read it with a little bit of heartache for this brave girl (if you’re unfamiliar with the story, as I was, she is an orphan who lives alone, takes care of herself, and gets kicked out of school for her behaviors). I can see elements of her in one of my sons, and I’ve had to hide the fact that I get a bit choked up reading parts of it when it is supposed to be a comedy. The boys don’t make any connections between her and themselves though, so there has been no issue there. They have completely enjoyed it, and love it even more than our Book of Trolls.
For art, we stuck with our Draw Write Now books. I’ve actually been using these as art, nature journaling, and copywork. They are such a fantastic resource! I put away our “nice” nature journals for now because the boys just weren’t feeling successful with them. I purchased Handwriting Without Tears notebooks instead. Half of each sheet is blank for drawing, half is lined for handwriting. We’re calling these their “nature journals.” They choose a DWN picture that goes along with our biome and draw it in their nature journals. Then my oldest copies down 2-3 sentences about the animal for copywork. This is working so well for us! My oldest son really struggles with his fine motor skills and visual perception due to his genetic syndrome. Art has always been a challenge for him. He loves watercolor painting and actually has a gift for color usage. But drawing, coloring, and handwriting are exceptionally hard for him and he gets very discouraged. The DWN books have been so helpful to him and have greatly increased his confidence! This has led to him doing much more drawing and coloring in his free time, which has strengthened his hand muscles, making it easier for him to be successful. I’m seeing wonderful improvements in his fine motor skills and visual perception! We still have a long way to go, but I am so happy to see his progress.
For German culture/history, my boys enjoyed learning about the German Shepherd Dog and how the breed began in Germany. We have our own beloved GSD, which they had never associated with Germany. They are convinced now that the reason he doesn’t obey them is because he speaks German, ha!
Two of my favorite composers, Bach and Handel, are from Germany. We enjoyed listening to some of their music during our unit. Handel’s Messiah was a particularly good choice with the Christmas season approaching. One of our atlases also connected Germany to Christmas, as did our Celebrations book. Germans celebrate Advent, just like we do as a family. It’s fun when you discover connections with what you are studying and what you are doing, and none of it was planned in advance. I think those accidental connection are often more meaningful than the ones we teachers try to create for our students.
We finished our two weeks in Germany with a German-inspired meal of chicken apple sausages, sweet potatoes, and sauerkraut. I absolutely love sauerkraut when it is prepared properly, so I was thrilled about it. The boys, not so much. 😉 It was nice to sneak in a food that even my husband usually vetos because it’s for school!
Now our books are put away and we are officially on school break through December. Unofficially, we have quite a bit of “school” going on that the boys simply don’t realize is intentional. 😉
Merry Christmas, everyone!