Colin explores past ways…

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This week in Five in a Row, Colin is studying Cynthia Rylant’s lovely picture book memoir, When I Was Young in the Mountains. The text and detailed illustrations show what life was like in rural Appalachia fifty or so years ago, without modern conveniences.

This morning, after our first reading, we took a lengthy detour to explore the foreign-to-Colin concept of baptism, which is mentioned in the story. We discussed what baptism means to Christians, how Mommy and Daddy were baptized, why Alex and Colin don’t need to be, and what we do instead (child dedications). We even watched a YouTube video of baptisms being performed in a river. Colin found it strange but interesting.

Then we paged through the book again, looking for details of how the children’s lives were different from ours. Oil lamps instead of electric lights, an outhouse in the back yard, water from a pump carried to the house in buckets, baths in a tin washtub in front of the stove, handwashing with a bowl and pitcher, shopping from an old-fashioned general store, swimming in a swimming hole… all of these were fascinating details. We even did a Google image search to find out more about what outhouses look like. Then we thought of aspects of their lives that are the same as ours: they like cornbread, for example, and they eat dinner together sitting on chairs around a table, and the grandparents love the children and care for them.

This afternoon Colin tried washing his hands without modern conveniences. He used a little metal pail to fetch water from the outdoor tap, and filled a pitcher with his pail.

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Then he poured water from the pitcher into a bowl and washed his hands in the bowl using bar soap. He was tickled when I sent him out to get his hands especially dirty first!

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He poured the dirty water out of the bowl and replaced it with clean water to rinse his hands. While he did that, we talked about how cold the water was, and how much trouble it would be to get warm water for washing if you had to heat it up on the stove first. We agreed that the family in When I Was Young in the Mountains probably washed in cold water most of the time, except for baths.

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That led us on our second detour of the day, because Colin wondered how we get hot water from our taps. We went down to the basement and examined our hot-water heater. Colin knows that water comes to our house through pipes under the streets. We saw how water goes into the hot water heater, how it gets heated by burning gas, and how it is pulled up through interior pipes to come out our faucets. He was fascinated. I think he’ll definitely appreciate his next warm handwashing!

I love When I Was Young in the Mountains. I adored studying it with Alex – it was her first official kindergarten FIAR book – and I am delighted to be studying it with Colin now. It’s just a really beautiful book.

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5 Responses to Colin explores past ways…

  1. Zelda says:

    Useless pieces of information – in Australia an outside loo can sometimes be called a thunderbox and many people have memories of the “dunny man” who used to come and change the loo pans.

  2. Ian Osmond says:

    I think what I love most about your form of child-directed homeschooling is that you CAN take a detour from Appalachia to looking at how your own house works when it’s appropriate to do so. I doubt I would have thought of that transition for a lesson plan, nor would it necessarily be a good transition for all kids, or even for Colin on all days. But it DOES make sense, and it DOES lead to more learning, and it DOES lead to greater understanding of the first point in the first place.

  3. Jennie says:

    You have great ideas for hands-on learning. I also enjoyed how you discussed similarities and differences in your lives from when the book was written. That perspective is helpful.

  4. plainjane says:

    Zelda – in Canada for campers a “thunderbox” is a outdoor box without the walls or ceiling (i.e. just the seat with a lid to cover the hole, but no larger enclosure for the privacy and comfort of the user). If it has the walls and ceiling then it is a proper outhouse.

  5. Sara says:

    This post reminds me of how much fun Five in a Row was for my kids when they were younger. Yay for learning through good picture books!

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