I am loving the Beautiful Feet Books curriculum, “Around the World with Picture Books” which we are using this year. With this post, I hope to highlight some of the reasons why…
Once we finished North America with My Father’s World (you can read about that here), it was on to Africa. This is where I put down MFW and picked up Beautiful Feet Books. MFW’s “Exploring Countries and Cultures” curriculum walks through the continents geographically: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. But I wanted to travel based more on the ecosystems we are studying. So while we were talking about deserts, Africa was the next logical choice; that way we could continue our desert mural we started while in Mexico.
MFW only covers Kenya in detail, but Beautiful Feet Books has units on Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania. These units are so beautifully done; using quality picture books as the backbone to almost every lesson, incorporating educational videos from online, and encouraging artistic notebooking on everything learned from geographical features to samples of cultural artwork to indigenous animals. The book, Maps* by Aleksandria and Daniel Mizielinska, that is used is a unique “atlas” that presents the special features of each country with lovely artwork that resembles something like an “I Spy” book. I think that’s why my kids love it so much! They can spend an hour or so just staring at a country’s page and finding all the fun features (animals, cultural costumes, geographical sites) it shows. Each page is as interesting as the country it’s representing.
For me, the notebooking has been the most fun. I bought three Japanese notebooks* of high quality and I am loving adding to my own! And while my kids don’t necessarily appreciate the value of the notebooking process yet, I’m confident that one day they will! For now, they really enjoy practicing water colors and making their own maps of each country. I believe they are learning so much more by creating their own maps than by simply studying one in a book. They get to pick which features of the country are most interesting to them and add those to their map. And in the notebook it goes, along with their own examples of artwork and animals from each country.
Some of our favorite books from Africa were Mirror* by Jeannie Baker (Morocco), The Day of Ahmed’s Secret* by Florence Parry Heide (Egypt), Emmanuel’s Dream* by Laurie Ann Thompson (Ghana), and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears* by Verna Aardema. Our favorite crafts were recreating Kente Cloth (using paper) from Ghana, and painting animals in the Tanzanian “tinga tinga” paint style.
If you know me and my love of food and cooking, you won’t be surprised that I set out to make a meal for each country we “visit.” While studying Africa we made a lot of chicken and rice and enjoyed some fried plantains. We even had an elaborate Moroccan feast and invited my parents over to sit on pillows in our living room surrounded by candles and Moroccan music while we enjoyed a five-course meal.
African animals are fun to learn about! And although we didn’t add as many details to our desert/grassland mural as I would have liked, we took field trips to the zoo and Worcester’s EcoTarium, where they have the African Communities animal center. Our pastor and his wife go to Rwanda every year and she agreed to talk to us about their trips and what life in Rwanda is like. She even brought in lots of trinkets, jewelry, and native clothing, which was awesome! I gave us an extra week in Africa to wrap up any unfinished notebooking and fit in our field trips. (I’m determined to not keep a super strict weekly schedule so we can take extra time in interesting places if we want.)
A Brief Word on Nature Walk and Collecting…
Even though we are not studying forests anymore, we are continuing our weekly nature walks. They are their own entity. I find that scheduling and making them a priority has helped all of our mental and emotional healths. So rather than say we’ll try to fit it in after school, we often do it almost first thing on Thursday mornings. (Thunder Thursday, remember?) Then we come home and drink tea and do the rest of our school work. Because we had an extra week in Africa, it also allowed us more time to do nature art. We had a great time collecting interesting things in nature and then putting them together to form animals and designs. We’ve also started listening to Chopin’s piano concertos but haven’t talked about his life, yet. We’re easing into our music study while we do other things. This is why we homeschool. Days like this are beautiful.
Here are just a few extra photos from our time in Africa… playing a geography game, Mancala (believed to have originated in Africa), and an afternoon movie party of the “live-action” Lion King complete with animal cracker snacks and spicy popcorn!
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