Sunday, November 23, 2008

An Idea

How do you convey the idea of large numbers to young children?

At our homeschool co-op this past week, I was teaching the 2 & 3 year old class about the reason for Thanksgiving. I was telling them that the first Thanksgiving was almost 400 years ago. (Ok, so it was easier than explaning 380 years!) To a 3 year old, 400 years and 1 year are equivalent - they don't comprehend such things. In order to convey the idea more clearly to them, I had 403 pieces of dried corn (my children counted them out for me). I held 3 pieces of corn in my hand. "Most of you are 3 years old. This is 3 pieces of corn." Then I showed them the rest of the corn in a bowl. "In here are 400 pieces of corn. That's a lot more than 3. Just like 400 years is a lot more than 3 years!"

Their faces showed understanding. I'm sure they still don't have an overall concept of time, but they understood it for that lesson.

Do you have any other ideas for conveying the concept of time? I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good-bye, Egypt! Hello, Greece!

Well, we have officially completed our study of Ancient Egypt. I must admit, though I was excited about beginning unit studies, I was looking forward to just getting through this topic so I could get on to one that really interests me. Ancient Egypt just didn't sound very appealing to me. You know, eat the spinach so you can have cake? I'm amazed at how much I did enjoy the "spinach!" Not only did my children learn much from our study of Egypt and deserts but I did, as well!

We concluded our travels in Ancient Egypt with a Passover meal. We had read the Exodus story and learned the history of the Passover and the meanings of the various foods and traditions of the Seder table. So, if you had come to our home on Friday night, you would have observed our children searching for the 10 pieces of leaven left throughout the house. Once found, each child threw their leaven (bread) into the fire. The next night, we prepared a Seder plate including 3 pieces of Matzo (representing the fact the Jews left Egypt before their bread was able to rise), onion (bitter herb - representing the bitterness of slavery), an egg & parsley (representing new life that was begun once the Jews left Egypt), and a bowl of salt-water (representing the tears shed by the Jews during their slavery). In the middle of the table was "Elijah's Goblet" - a goblet filled with grape juice waiting for Elijah to enter our open door (which remained open throughout our meal) and announce the coming of Messiah and drink the juice waiting for him. The juice (wine) represents the joy of the Hebrew's freedom.

Eric took one piece of Matzo and broke it in half. He wrapped half of it in a napkin symbolizing the bread packed in the Jews' knapsacks during their flight. Anna asked him questions concerning what we were doing - in the tradition of the youngest child asking the questions of their father so that they may learn of their heritage and how God saved their people. We then named each of the ten plagues taking a sip of juice after each one was mentioned. Eric left the table for the ceremonial washing of hands and then hid a piece of Matzo for the children to find after dinner. When he came back, he broke matzo and gave each family member a bit of it to eat.

Once the ceremony was finished, we ate our dinner of Chicken & Matzo Ball Soup, Potato Latkes, Baked Asparagus, and Hard Boiled Egg. It really was a good meal. Before you begin to think that I must have over-done myself with grating potatoes and mixing matzo meal for the balls, think again. You'd be amazed at the convenient instant Passover foods you find at the local supermarket!

After dinner, the children presented the play Cassia and Anna wrote (for Language Arts) illustrating the story of Moses' birth through the time of his escape from Pharaoh who sought to have him killed for the murder of an Egyptian. It was quite good and the kids had a great time performing it.

What an incredible adventure Ancient Egypt was! I look forward to beginning our adventure in Ancient Greece tomorrow. I've always been fascinated with mythology, the Greek way of life, and their architecture. On top of that, the science study for this unit is one of my favorite topics - the human body! We are going to have such a great time with this. Will 30 days be enough? Obviously not. But that's what is great about these unit studies - it wets the children's appetites and encourages them to continue learning even more long after the study is "finished."

Good-bye, Egypt. I'll actually miss you. Hello, Ancient Greece! Can't wait to get started!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

As we are studying Ancient Egypt, I wanted to read the children a biography of a missionary to this country. Obviously, there were none to Ancient Egypt (unless you count Moses), so I Googled "missionary to Egypt - biography" and came up with very little. In fact, the only name that was consistent in popping up was Lillian Trasher. As I couldn't find anything about her in our county library system, I went ahead a bought this biography from - a missionary biography is always a good investment.

I had never heard of this woman, but after reading about her, I wonder why I never have. Lillian Trasher was a remarkable woman of strength and faith. She cared for over 20,000 orphans in her lifetime. She had nearly 900 orphans in her home at one time. She cared for these orphans (as well as some widows) as a single woman throughout both World Wars and a cholera epidemic that ravaged the whole of Egypt. She and the children often lived day to day not knowing where the next meal was coming from. In my opinion, Lillian Trasher is the female equivalent to George Mueller in many aspects.

Everytime I would finish a chapter, the children would yell, "Read more! Read more!" The girls can frequently be found playing "orphanage" and whenever I would pick up the book to read in the evenings, the children would excitedly exclaim, "LILLIAN!!!!!" Definitely worth the $8.00 I spent for this book!

We finished "Lillian" last night. Today, I perused the orphanage's website with the children. It was so interesting to them to see the orphanage their new-found heroine began and that it is still taking in and raising children in Egypt. We also watched a short documentary about Miss Trasher which was filmed in the mid-1950's. How intrigued they were to actually see this woman and hear her speak!!

Whoever said nothing good came from the internet?

I believe the most profound statement came directly from one of Lillian's quotes that was at the end of this biography. When asked what was the greatest thing she ever did, Lillian answered, "I just stayed! I did not quit. I stayed with the work God gave me to do."

Oh, if each of us could just do what she did - stay with the work God gives us!

"Lillian Trasher...The Greatest Wonder in Egypt" - 189 pages that will stay with my children for the rest of their lives.