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Archive for January, 2010

Our study of Russia continues. This “simple” explanation of day and night at the same time in different places is an interesting one. We have also been discussing the northern and southern hemisphere and the changing seasons in different parts of the world. We continue to examine the book Russia’s ABCs and speak of the many facets of Russian culture. Most of the friends are familiar with matroyshkas (Russian nesting dolls, literally “mothers”). We have begun coloring a series of them that we will later make into a mobile.

We worked on our Peace Traveler’s Alphabet book and the letter “P”: “Peace, pig, porcupine, pony, poinsettia, penguin, and pansy. Both “p” and “b” are known as “puffers” because of the action of the lips as we pronounce these sounds.

Whenever possible, name and review these letters and sounds with words from your environment. See how many words you can come up each week when family members offer as many words as possible! This is a great review for repetitive sounds in combination with familiar words!

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Day 31: January 26, 2010

In honor of the crazy rain that actually forced a school cancellation for Conway (on Monday), we read Miss Twiggley’s Treehouse by Dorothea Warren Fox. It is a wonderful story about an older woman and her dog that live up a tree and are not accepted by the townspeople because they are “different.” Of course, in the event of an emergency (in this case, a flood), Mrs. Twiggley and Puss (her dog) get to save the day. Their true colors of generosity and forgiveness shine through, and the townspeople get to know them, not the idea of who they thought they were. The book is written in a sing-song rhythm, and the friends enjoy it. It also leads to all kinds of discussions about how all people want to be seen, known, and accepted for who they are….

We are continuing our dice notation with handouts and getting to know counting up. If you play games at home, use a die or two and review dice face. Soon we’ll move on to dominos with higher values. Gwinna, our chapter book continues, and friends cozy up on the couch in the afternoon before we end our day with sledding outdoors.

Books We Read:

Russia by David Cumming

Miss Twiggley’s Treehouse by Dorothea Warren Fox

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We began our day by saying goodbye to the very hot (just north of the equator!) country of Senegal, and “traveling” to one of the coldest and largest countries on the planet—Russia! We began our studies with Russia’s ABC’s, an exciting book loaded with beautiful illustrations that depicts the unique architecture and artifacts of the Russian people. We began to speak about sun’s travels and time zones. They are interesting concepts to try and explain! We also spoke of Russia’s huge wilderness and some of the animals unique to this part of the world.

Today we began our day with our Peace Traveler’s Alphabet book and the letter “B” (bear, beaver, buttercups, and Black Elk).  Be sure to look for the Russian words and pictures when you see your friend’s Peace Traveler’s Alphabet book!

Books We Read:

Russia ABCs by Ann Berge

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Today we say goodbye to Senegal and begin our journey to Russia. (How’s that for extreme climate change?) We also welcomed our new friend, Kate. We began our sand art projects of giraffes, tigers, monkeys, and elephants, using tissue paper (red sand or brown sand) on card stock. Eventually, they will be glued to rolled/worn paper bags to look like sand art on a clay-like desert floor.

We are practicing recognizing dice and linking them to their number notation. We are playing a game pronounced “Bernslie” (The Bean Game) as taught to us by members of our Swiss extended family. Each friend begins with ten beans hidden in her hand. The object of the game is to be the first to get rid off all ten beans before any of the other players. In the middle of the playing area is a bowl with the same beans each friend has in her hand. Players take turns (another skill we are working on, as well as remembering who has the least amount of beans as the game goes on!) Before we begin, we each roll to see who begins (highest roll) and then proceed clockwise. If a friend rolls a “one,” she takes a bean from the bowl. If a friend rolls a “five,” she gives a bean to a friend, and if a friend rolls “three,” she puts two back in the bowl. The first to be asked (by a roll of the die) to put a bean in the pot or give a bean away and has none wins the game. We call out the names of the faces of the die as we play to learn familiarity. As friends get better at this game, we play with two dice, and we can add more rules.

We have begun work in workbooks and learning number order and number writing.  Friends work at their own pace as I visit each one. If you would like to practice writing numbers remember to practice/remind re: the correct grip (a “pincer” grip with support from the middle finger) and writing numbers from the top down.

Books We Read:

Martin Luther King, Jr. by Courtney Baker (Scholastic Books)

“The Clever Spider” (a story from western Africa) in Favorite African Folktales as retold by Nelson Mandela


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Our study of Senegal continues. We discussed jungle animals native to the Senegal preserves, and what animals feel special to us. We spoke about what preserves are (like giant zoos without that caged-in feeling), and how animals are protected from hunting in these special places. We spoke of the diversity of Africa as a continent, and explored city life and village life in a book entitled Africa is not a Country by Margery Burns Knight & Mark Melnicove.

Today we read a book on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream of having all people get along. We spoke about being left out, and how badly that feels, and then we spoke about being able to be treated with respect. We spoke briefly about civil rights and treating each other with kindness—everyone included, no one excluded.

We also practiced sums with dice again, adding sums up to 12, working with a partner. Remember to reinforce “counting up.” (Beginning with identifying the larger number of the two dice, and then begin counting up from that number. Afterwards, say the sum aloud.)

Today we also had our visit to our friend Ruth’s Home. We ate lunch together, sang some songs (The Valley of Vegetables, The Four Directions, and May No Harm Come to Us), and we read a couple of chapters from Gwinna. On Tuesday, we will have another new friend—Kate—join us.

Books We Read:

Africa is not a Country by Margery Burns Knight & Mark Melnicove

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Today we welcomed a new friend—Stella—to our circle of friends, and began helping her learn our Peace Travelers’ culture. Each friend offers suggestions about important rules, procedures, and helping strategies for new friends.

We have begun a new ritual—sending peace out to each other, and into the world at the end of morning circle (or the end of the day.) This is a part of the Center for Sacred Studies request to begin a forty-day practice of sending peace to each other and our larger world by each beginning with our selves. We sit in a circle and begin with our hands open supporting other friends’ hands. Then one of us begins by saying our name. We send peace around the circle to that friend with our eyes closed, imagining light traveling through each of us. At the end of a half-minute or so, we do the sign for peace, saying it aloud, and then move to the next friend. At the end of our three to four minute ritual, we pause and then say, “Peace to the World.” Friends do this as naturally as singing and signing our circle song (Sing to the Earth by Sarah Pirtle), and seem comfortable in thinking about and being peaceful.

We worked on the letter “R” (rose, roadrunner, rainbow, rooster, reindeer) in our Peace Travelers Alphabet Book. Please remember to use your ASL alphabets to practice the signs and phonics of each letter. (They have all become receptive signers and can pick out letters that I do. The challenge is for them to become expressive signers as well, so they can remember the finger alphabet and the sounds associated with them. This assists in early reading skills being in their bodies, and gives them one more way to begin decoding words.) Remember that if you are working in getting your friend to be a fluent reader, it is important to practice at least 20 minutes per day. That means your child reads to you with your assistance. If your sign alphabet is posted somewhere convenient, you can refer to it as you decode (“sound out”) the more difficult words.


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We reviewed our facts about Senegal after a long hiatus from our cultural studies. Thus far we have discussed that Senegal is an African country on the west coast of Africa. It is very hot there in that it is located north of the equator. Senegal surrounds Gambia, so the two nations work together in their use of the huge river (the Gambia River) that runs horizontally across Gambia, dividing the country in two. Fishing and tourism are important for Senegal, in that there is a long coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Peanuts and corn are important crops for Senegal. We continue to discuss Ballel, the little girl we met in the book, Ballel: A Child of Senegal

We talk about how she washes clothes with her mother, in their courtyard, and how she is one of the fortunate children that have running water in her home. We have also talked about the presence of animal preserves in Senegal that house many native African animals—tigers, lions, zebras, elephants, monkeys, and alligators.  We also spoke of the cave artifacts—sand drawings—that have been found and preserved in Senegal and neighboring countries. (We will recreate some “sand/cave paintings” (on paper bags—our cave-like settings) for our Senegal art project and passport pages.

Books We Read

Ballel: A Child of Senegal by Alain Gioanni


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