We are well on our way into this school year in which we are all doing Winter Promise’s Children Around the World curriculum. Our grade levels are Kindergarten, 3rd, and 6th. The 6th grader is also doing Sonlight Core F because she can never get enough books, but we are moving the books around in it to correspond with the WP curriculum so she will actually do the bulk of it later in the year when we get to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Because of this, I’ll be adding a lot of books for her to go along with the Europe and Americas portion of our travels during this first half of the year.
The first few weeks are an overview of the world and then Europe, and to be honest, we found them less than inspiring. I had previewed the curriculum and knew that in each of our stops, we would be “meeting” a child who would tour us around their country. I had talked this up and the kids were so excited only to find that we didn’t meet any tour guides in the first two weeks. (This is one recommendation I would make if WP ever does another edition of this curriculum is that they add a child that the kids meet right off the bat who goes with them throughout the year. I think this would have helped our first couple of weeks a lot.)
But, we got through the intro and have now completed weeks 3 and 4 in the British Isles and Ireland. And we had loads of fun! The curriculum is full of information and pictures and recommendations for crafts and recipes. It was all my kids had been hoping for. After visiting a new place, each week of the curriculum’s studies culminate in a cultural gathering (party!) for which the children make decorations and food and do presentations based on what they have learned. I thought it would be good to document our year with a blog post each week so you can have a glimpse into our cultural gatherings and fun! Plus I can jot down any extra books, videos, and activities we added so that when I do this curriculum with my boys in a few years, I’ll remember what we did! And maybe some of you will enjoy our extras too.
So without further ado, here are the extras we added in our study of the British Isles and Ireland (we studied these separately since they are separate countries, but I didn’t get a chance to post last week so I’m lumping them together):
- We found lots of great YouTube videos with tours around London. Here’s our playlist. The favorite was the song by Pancake Manor. It’s still being sung with some frequency around here!
- I came across a YouTube video of Madeline going to London and since my older girls had read the first Madeline book (which is set in Paris), we decided to introduce the kindergartner to Madeline through the first book and then watch the video in London together. This has turned into a Madeline obsession for both the kindergartner and the two-year old boy. All the readers in the house have read aloud every Madeline book we could find at the library too many times to count, and the videos (Paris, London, and any others they can find on YouTube) get asked for daily.
- My 6th grader read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, a very British author in my opinion despite his being born in South Africa.
- Said 6th grader is an avid reader so I asked her to help me make me a list of any chapter books about the UK and specifically London that she had enjoyed for her 3rd grade sister to pick from for her week’s reading assignments. Here’s what we came up with:
- The Littlest Detective in London by Suzy Brownlee – The second book in this series takes place in Paris which will be perfect for our study of France in a couple of weeks.
- Splodge Gets Lost in London by Richard Bullivant – not a chapter book, but a big hit for the three middle children, ages 8, 5, and 2
- Buddie, the Trampolining Bear by Sarah Cooper – This is the one the 3rd grader chose to read, and she absolutely loved it. I liked that there was nothing particularly “different” or culture-focused about it; it’s just an imaginative story about a British kid. This book won’t win any awards, but it’s clean, well-written, and enjoyable for newbies to chapter books. My kids are also loving the coloring sheets available at the author’s website.
- Brave Emily American Girl book – This one might be a bit of a stretch, but my daughter mentioned it because Emily comes from England.
- Thea Stilton and the Secret of the Old Castle – This one takes place in Scotland which was a nice addition to our study of the British Isles since almost everything else was about England.
- We are using Sassafras Science Adventures Botany for our science curriculum and we just happened to be on a chapter where the twins are in the British Isles and learning about English and Scottish gardens, and roses and moss in particular. This was an unplanned tie-in that made this homeschool mama’s unit-study loving heart sing!
- Winter Promise’s adventure reading for this curriculum suggests this biography of George Mueller be read while studying the British Isles. I didn’t have the one they suggested but did have YWAM’s biography on his life so we read it instead. It was wonderful! Every single one of us, myself included, found it inspiring and came away challenged to pray with more faith. I loved hearing my 8-year old end her prayer, “…like you did for George Mueller. Amen,” one night this week.
- Our British friends who live nearby raided their picture book library and gave us the following books that they consider quintessentially British:
- Mr. Noisy by Roger Hargreaves
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Favourite Paddington Stories by Michael Bond
- Charlie and Lola: My Best, Best Friend by Lauren Child
- Dogger by Shirley Hughes
- Peppa Pig: Tooth Fairy
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. – this was an interesting choice to me since both the author and illustrator (Eric Carle) are Americans and I would consider this to be a quintessentially American picture book. I love that it has made such a full transition to the UK that our friends, at least, would include it in this list. One other interesting note is that the teacher from our book has been replaced by a monkey in the British edition. This made for some giggly kids in our house!
- Postman Pat and the Secret Superhero
- Mog on Fox Night by Judith Kerr
- Kipper’s A to Z by Mick Inkpen
- Does the Queen Wear her Crown in Bed? A Children’s Book about Buckingham Palace by Marion McAuley
- Saint George and the Dragon, Retold by Louie Stowell
- and our favorite of the lot, The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson
For our cultural gathering for the British Isles, we did our best at having a proper English tea. I am not very formal, especially at meal time with five kids, but I tried. We all dressed up, even the baby, and we made scones and cucumber sandwiches and tea, of course. Then we ate bangers and mash (sausages or hot dogs and mashed potatoes) and had brownies that the 6th grader had arranged to look like Stonehenge beforehand. We used my new teapot and teacups, and the 6th grader had also hand-made paper doilies to go on all our serving trays so we felt fancy indeed.
(An aside, I follow a low-glycemic diet called Trim Healthy Mama, and I was very proud of myself for adapting our menu to work with my diet as an S meal. Our scones were made of almond meal and my husband said they were amazing with my homemade sugar-free berry jam. I had a lettuce salad with chicken rather than the mashed potatoes, and our Stonehenge brownies were adapted from this recipe which uses only cocoa powder for the flour.)
As for Ireland, we were absolutely entranced by all the pictures of Irish countryside included in the Winter Promise ebook. What a beautiful country! All of my children now place it very highly on their list of places they would like to visit someday.Our Irish dinner menu included baked potatoes (I passed on these) and cabbage with chicken with a lovely THM-friendly apple cinnamon oatmeal cake. The highlight of the week for everyone was watching Irish step dancing videos on YouTube and then trying it themselves. We were all very impressed with Littlenificent’s attempts!
A few extra books we added included:
- Fairies and Folk of Ireland by William Henry Frost
- Larry the Lizard Tours Ireland by Larry the Lizard (?)
- Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Ireland by Patti Wheeler – We actually decided to wait on this one as it’s the fifth book in the series. This is a dilemma that has already come up a few times – how to handle books that happen in the place we’re studying but come later in a series after books happening in a place we will study later. We’ve decided to start series when we study the place the first book takes place in. Then if someone enjoys them, they can continue with the rest of the series on their own and either get previews of places we haven’t been to yet or reviews of places we’ve already studied. This was the best plan I could come up with because I refuse to read series out of order. I’m weird that way.
- Thea Stilton and the Secret of the Fairies – My kids are big Thea Stilton fans so anytime they can make one be “school,” they get very excited!
While the Winter Promise Children Around the World curriculum does come with a Prayer and Personal Involvement Journal that I really like, I was disappointed to see that it is quite general and does not really follow along with each unit. I decided to assign a journaling activity at the end of the week we studied Ireland asking the girls to write out a prayer for the children of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Since we have close friends from both places, I also assigned the eldest girl to write a short email message to our friends early in the week telling them we were learning about their country and asking them if there were any specific ways they would like us to pray for the children of their country. Both of these friends responded quickly which was fun! I hope to continue this journaling prayer each week whether or not we have a friend to give us requests. When I read the girls’ entries, I was moved to tears by their heart-felt prayers. This little addition may well turn out to be my favorite part of this year!
So there you have it – a very long summary of our two weeks in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Hopefully, my future posts won’t be quite as long! Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for books or activities I could add on our next go-round! See you next week for Switzerland and the Netherlands!