We officially started our new school year! We finished Adventures in U.S. History, then took a few weeks to just play hard (although we did continue with reading and Life of Fred). As soon as the weather got hot enough for the kids to no longer want to spend all day every day outside, we dove right into ECC. We found that taking an extended summer break last year was not ideal for us. Doing school “year round” allows for us to maintain a gentler schedule without getting behind. I feel like the term year round is a bit misleading, since I’m certain we take off just as much time as we would on a traditional schedule. We’re just able to take those breaks when we need them, a day or a week at a time. Flexibility is awesome!
Speaking of flexibility, I read on many blogs that the first two weeks of MFW: ECC are pretty overwhelming and that it is a good idea to give yourself some extra time to complete them. I absolutely agree! We did manage to complete Week 1 within a week, despite adding math (not required for week 1), kindergarten work, and extra read alouds. With that said, we easily spent double the time on schoolwork each day that we had been doing in Adventures. There is no way we could keep up this pace normally with therapies, field trips, and outside activities. It just happened to be a slow/easy week in every other way for us, so we were able to make the long days work.
On to ECC:
I hope to someday be one of those people who has an immaculately decorated school room that could be featured on Pinterest. For right now, I have a map and some Dollar Tree decorations on the wall, and I’m good with that 😉
On our first day of ECC, the boys completed passport applications. This was so fun! They had to complete the application, write a (pretend) check, and address an envelope to mail it. They will receive their passports in week 5, when we visit our first foreign country.
We searched through magazines for pictures of people from various cultures, and the boys made a collage of these pictures along with their memory verse, John 3:16. I can already tell that learning about other cultures is going to be really good for my boys. We purchased several additional books that highlight various aspects of the ways that people live all over the world, and it has sparked some really good discussions.
Our ECC pack came with an inflatable globe. This is my boys’ favorite thing, and my least favorite. It’s very hard to teach them anything when they are throwing a globe around the room, ha! I think we may need to invest in a real globe soon, because the inflatable one is just way too distracting!
Still, they are learning. After week 1, Cowboy (my oldest) can identify the North and South Poles, the equator, and the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. He’s working on the continents, but needs a little more practice there.
We used an orange to illustrate why flat maps are not as accurate as globes. We
drew attempted to draw the continents on an orange, then peeled it and put the peel flat on the table. This showed us why mapmakers have to stretch out everything on the top and bottom of the map to fill in the gaps (if you’ve never noticed this, compare the size of Greenland on a globe versus a map).
The Great Animal Search that was included in our Deluxe kit has been a big hit! Although it isn’t really necessary for the curriculum, the boys have definitely enjoyed pulling it from our book basket each day. Speaking of which, the Complete Book of Animals has also been a big hit in our house. I know it gets mixed reviews, but my boys ask for it every day.
One thing I love about ECC is that they actually give us direction for our nature walks! The nature walks are incorporated into our main science book, Properties of Ecosystems. For this week, we did “My Backyard Habitat,” where we made a grid in our backyard. The boys studied the grid with their magnifying glasses and then took notes on an observation page. It was a lot of fun!
One of the awesome things about living on land is that we have lots of places to explore on our nature walks! We explored a small part of our property, watching and listening for birds, checking out bugs with our magnifying glasses, and looking at different plants.
Sadly, the only animal we found was our cat, Francis. She tends to go wherever I go, and rubs up against my legs to remind me to pet her. 😉
We did discover an animal habitat though! We found a trail of corn cobs, along with some cobs stuck up inside of this tree. I knew that raccoons stole a lot of corn from the cornfield last year, but this was the first time I had noticed cobs up inside our willow tree. Raccoons are cute, but I would be happy to never see another one on our farm.
Our second PoE experiment was my boys’ favorite. We read about niches and each boy made an earthworm niche. This involved digging up earthworms, so of course they thought it was awesome. 😉
We took mason jars and layered them with compost, sand, and oats. We put worms on top. Then we placed lids (with air holes) on the top and wrapped the jars with black construction paper.
They are currently sitting on my kitchen counter, which I admit is a little gross to me! The boys will check on them each day and the hope is that they will get to see the alternating layers mix as the earthworms do their work.
PoE is easily the most controversial part of MFW: ECC. People seem to love it or hate it. So far, my kids have enjoyed it, and the activities have been worlds above the science in Adventures. I am not 100% sold on it yet though, although my reasons for that are different than what I normally see. I want to give it a few more weeks, then I may share my thoughts on it.
Well, that wraps up our first week of Exploring Countries and Cultures! Overall, we absolutely loved it! I can’t wait to see what next week holds!