Saturday, September 24, 2011

FIAR: The Rag Coat

Warning: this may very well be the longest Gettin' Skooled post in history...(which isn't really saying that much since I just started this blog a few months ago)

Last week, we "rowed" a book for the very first time!  If you are confused by the "row" part, you're not the only one.  Apparently, there is an entire subculture of homeschoolers who use The Five in a Row curriculum and are die hard about it.  "Rowing" simply means we used Five in a Row to study out one book for the entire week.

The book we chose to start with is The Rag Coat.  This is such a touching, touching story.  I'm pretty sure that even the Grinch's heart would grow an extra size if he read this book.  It is a story of a young girl who is very poor and can not go to school because she can not afford a coat.  Her mother's friends, the "Quilting Mothers",  decide to make her a coat out of their scraps.  There is so much more to this story, but I'll leave it at that for simplicity's sake.

There were three main parts of this book that we touched upon: the Appalachian region, coal mining, and quilting.  Some of the subtopics we discussed were the relationships within the book, forgiveness, and art.

Here are some of the things we did this week:

Merrick put together his USA puzzle to help him identify the states in which the Appalachian mountains lie.  

After putting together the puzzle, Merrick colored a map for his lapbook journal.  The printables for the lapbook were found here.  

Since I grew up in North Carolina, and have many memories of enjoying the Appalachian Mountains, I couldn't wait to learn more and share more about this region's culture with Merrick.  On Pandora, a free internet radio, we listened to some Appalachian music.  We also rented the movie Christie, which lasted for about 5 minutes before the kids ran off to play.  There were also several books in the library on Appalachian folktales.  I loved this one, The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday.  

This is basically the story of the 3 Little Pigs told in it's original Appalachian form.  What that means, basically, is that the 2 pigs that didn't make their homes out of brick were eaten.  No mercy!  At first when I read this, I thought it was a bit harsh for children.  But, upon reading the author's note, I realized the wisdom in the original story.  Long story short, when told in its original form, it is a great tool for teaching stranger danger, being aware and cautious when we are outside our home, and that one should obey his mother (you know I like any book that teaches my kids to show a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t!).  

While discussing the Appalachians, we also made our own compass to reinforce learning about North, East, South, and West.  

One of the suggestions in the Five in a Row curriculum, was to make one of these little thingys.  I'm not sure what this is called.  It's basically just a circle of nails in a board.  Merrick was able to use rubber bands to build about any shape we could think of.  I used the info here to remind myself of the different polygons.  

To make the board, I just used a leftover scrap of MDF I had in the garage and painted it red (Merrick's favorite color).  I traced a plate to make a circle, then hammered in 3/4 inch nails around the perimeter of the circle.

Merrick has a blast with this board.  I love the fact that it will come in handy for future math discussions as well.

Coincidently, our bible story during this week was about Joseph and his coat of many colors.  I think many would call this a "godcidence" instead of a "coincidence."  This was perfect.  Joseph and his coat are actually mentioned in the book The Rag Coat.  Merrick's face lit up when he recognized the reference!

Learning about coal mining was one of Merrick favorite parts of the week.  Here are the two supplemental library books that were most helpful to us in learning about coal:

For fun, Merrick and I went coal mining under our breakfast area.  We got the idea here from my favorite homeschooling blog, Satori Smiles.  

Merrick went nuts all week over his coal mining hat (which was basically just a flashlight taped to the top of my rarely used snowboarding helmet).  He even wore it sitting in bed reading:

Merrick wanted to play "coal mining" over and over again.  We did just like we read on Satori Smiles with a few exceptions.  I turned the breakfast table and chairs into our "mine"...

We made three different types of coal (recipe also from Satori Smiles) each worth different points.  The lignite, or soft coal, was worth one point.  The hard coals, bituminous and antracite, were worth ten and one hundred respectively.

We turned out all the lights and drew the shades.  I hid the pieces of "coal" under the table and Merrick had 3 minutes to find as many as possible.  Believe it or not, it was a pretty decent challenge in the dark to find that dark coal.

After the 3 minutes was up, he had to line the pieces of coal up according to its point value. 

This was a great way to teach Merrick place value (hundreds, tens, ones).  He caught on right away.

We also made coal cookies.  Originally, I wasn't going to make these.  I thought it was just a fancy excuse to eat tons of sugar (not that I need an excuse to eat tons of sugar).  But, once I read that it was a good way to teach kids how coal was formed, I was in.  

Recipe found here.  


Lastly, and to my great joy, we discussed quilting.  As I love to sew, I was thrilled about this aspect of the book.  I started off my showing Merrick the quilts in our home, including a couple that were made for him when he was born.

Here is a quilt that I made for Sawyer, my boy twin, when he was born.

Merrick was three years old at the time.  For one of the patches, I traced his hand and had him draw on the fabric a bit.  

Of course, we had to take a few photos together.  :)

Naturally, Merrick can not get in front of a camera without making a goofy face.  

To help teach him about quilting, we made our own little rag quilted pillowtop.  Merrick and I went through lots of his old baby clothes as well as his dad's baby clothes.  We chose a few pieces that we felt were appropriate to cut up, and put them in the pillowtop.  We also used lots of my scrap fabric (yeah, gotta love getting rid of scraps!)  I did the cutting and sewing.  Merrick helped me baste.  

While I was on the sewing machine, Merrick went back to work making shapes.  I encouraged him to make polygons.  He ended up with pac-mans and funny looking duck things.

After two days of cutting, sewing, basting, and more sewing, we had our pillowcase.  

There are pieces of my husbands baby clothes and baby blanket in there.  There is also a piece from a onesie Merrick worn when he was a few days old in the hospital.  And, a piece from a shirt he used to wear all the time when he was two years old.  Also, a piece from a onesie I made for him when he was a newborn.

I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite things in our entire home (yes, I am a sentimental sap).  See the little red sailboat in the middle?  That's from a tiny shirt my husband wore when he was an infant!  

And, of course, the lapbook...

I definitely, definitely enjoying this kind of learning.  It was a really great and much needed break from the workbook kind of learning we had been doing in recent weeks.  Though I don't think we'll do this every week, I'm going to shoot for rowing at least 2 books a month.  Wish us luck!


  1. What precious learning moments! We really enjoyed our time The Rag Coat, too :)

  2. I can't find the site that has the recipe for the fake coal. I would love to make those! Is there anyway you can remember the recipe?

    1. If I can remember correctly, it was just a flour/salt ornament recipe. You can try this one: I think I just made the dough, rolled it in little balls, possibly heated it, and then painted them. I hope it works for you!