I spend a lot of time working on my curriculum. And a lot of time in between unschooling. Axa has begun to do a fair amount of reading and writing lately. Two days ago she discovered that the small rocks in the park (which they use instead of sand here) can write on the sidewalk (“sidewalk” in Florence actually consists of tastefully arranged flagstones). She knows how to write quite a lot of letters. She’s been writing her name for years, but around Christmas, she asked Daddy to help her write people’s names on her gifts to them, so she added more letters to her repertoire than just “A” and “X,” and now spends some time each day writing, whether it’s in her notebook or on the ground. She also reads some things. But she’s so good at intuitively getting stuff from context that she doesn’t have the patience to sound things out if she can possibly avoid it. Is that going to cause her problems later? I’m not sure. She doesn’t like at all for me to sit down and “teach” her reading, so I guess I’ll leave her alone for a while and just answer her questions. She’s taught herself quite a bit already.
Tony likes to give her little story problems with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. She’s quite interested in fractions, and she takes the opportunity to think about halves of halves and quarters and wholes with every orange she eats.
So much for the three r’s. Seems like they’re coming pretty naturally. For history and literature, I have a slight handicap, in the fact that the only books we managed to pack were entire sets of Little House on the Prairie, Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia (along with two Italian dictionaries, the new Gospel Principles Manual, our Italian hymnbook and children’s songbook, Tony’s and my scriptures, Axa’s and Raj’s Books of Mormon, and our Italian Triple Combination). So now you know which book I would take with me if I were marooned on a desert island. I’d probably have to go naked.
So, in lieu of having my library, which is carefully packed in storage in San Diego, I have delved into the online Baldwin Project, which contains classic children’s books that are in the public domain. It is quite a treasure. Here’s what I’ve found:
World History – Our spine is On the Shores of the Great Sea. We’re reading two chapters per week, which should bring us almost up to the Greek/Persian wars. Along with that, I’ve taken the history tales from Fifty Famous people that correspond to the time period and put them in. Also, the beginning chapters of Famous Men of Greece, minus the mythology with which she’s already very familiar (although she was quite disappointed to find I’d taken out the Trojan War, so maybe we’ll read that chapter just for fun).
Since we are back in Italy, I’ve also included stories on Giotto and St. Francis. For Italian history/literature, we’re reading a children’s version of Dante, which I think she’ll enjoy, especially since she already has the background in the classical epics. So far we’ve just read the short biography of Dante at the beginning. He spent much of his life in exile. The author quotes him as saying, “How salt the savour of another’s bread, how hard the climbing by another’s stairs.” You might think that’s a funny way to describe the trials of exile. Until you move to Florence and discover that ALL THEIR BREAD IS SALTLESS! Luckily, I had read this beforehand in a guidebook, so it didn’t come as a shock to bite into one of those delicious-looking loaves and find it totally bland. However, I can’t say that saltless bread is really to my taste.
Geography – A Book of Discovery. This is by Synge, the same author as On the Shores of the Great Sea. It’s an account of the famous explorers through history.
Natural History – Among the Meadow People and Wild Life in Woods and Fields, both containing charming descriptions of the behavior of animals, told in story form. Raji likes these books when he’s around to listen to me read them to Axa.
Italian – We continue to give them several hours of outside time every day. Now we do it at the park down the street. As a bonus, they hear lots of Italian all around. We’ll also learn some basic conversational Italian out of my thematic Italian book.
Artist Study – I’m excited for this. We’re going to go to one museum per month, so I’ll get a list of paintings at the museum, and we’ll study those during the weeks leading up to our visit. I’m also going to get them each a postcard in the gift shop as we go in, so that they can find it in the museum. Our first museum is the Uffici.
Composer Study – I’m still waiting for La Scala to come out with the ’10-’11 season. I want to take Axa there for her sixth birthday, either to an opera or a ballet, depending on what is playing.
That’s all we have for now. Tony’s reading them On the Banks of Plum Creek. And I’m reading Axa The Two Towers. She’s quite pleased at how “battly” it’s getting.