For those unfamiliar with Five in a Row, it is a wonderful introduction to teaching your child at home using living books. The idea is to read a delightful book 5 days “in a row,” concentrating on certain lessons or activities that revolve or spring from said book. Five in a Row taught me so much about homeschooling. When our family first discovered homeschooling, I tried the school-at-home route (recreating the classroom experience here at home) — yuck!
Five in a Row rescued me from becoming too “schoolish,” and was a nice introduction to how “real” learning can be, how wonderful it can feel. I highly recommend this resource to beginning homeschoolers or parents of pre-school children.
Anyway, we have spent the last several years learning about American history, and find ourselves today in the mid-1800’s. A particular fictional story recommended by Truthquest History for young children on the subject of “whaling days” caught my eye as a Five-in-a-Row type book. LOUD EMILY by Alexis O’Neill is a charming and fun book that seems just perfect for a little unit study.
Here are some of the ideas I thought of…feel free to use any and all of them in your own educational activities!
LOUD EMILY by Alexis O’Neill, Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Social Studies: Geography/History
In the Author’s Note found at the end of LOUD EMILY, O’Neill suggests this story took place in New Bedford, Mass, during the 1850’s. Find Mass. on a map or globe. At the time, New England was the whaling capital of the world. Cities that whalers took off from and came back to became busy, wealthy centers. Note how the location of cities along the East Coast could have become bustling whale cities.
A whale voyage would last 2-5 years with a crew of up to 35. They would sail to South Seas or the Artic — find these on a map/globe as well.
A nice summary of American whaling may be found at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (Click on Overview of American Whaling – if you keep following the links, you can learn about the different types of ships, what went on whaling ships, what a voyage was like, how they captured whales, etc. etc. etc.)
Social Studies: Individuals and their place in the Community
(Bible Study: The Body of Christ and Its Members)
“GOOD MORNING!” Emily said in her Emily voice.
Talk with the children about the Church being the Body of Christ, how the individual parts have individual functions and different purposes, yet work together to glorify God. Talk about the importance of different roles in marriage, in a family, in a business, in the community at large. Emphasize that differences that glorify God need to be celebrated. Discuss how should not all strive to be exactly the same as each other, but instead strive to become what God has intended for us individually, so we can work together corporately.
Study I Corinthians 12.
Language Arts: Literary Device – Capital Letters
Explain to the children that authors may use all capital letters to express that a character is speaking loudly or yelling. Have your child write (or dictate to you) a sentence or paragraph using this technique.
Language Arts: Development of Language/Slang
One of the first pages of LOUD EMILY lists common phrases whalers used along with their modern-day translations. E.g. “All hands on deck!” means “Everyone must come up to the top platform of the ship!” After reading through LOUD EMILY at least one time, it may be nice for your child to hear what some of the whaling phrases actually mean.
Speak with your child about how people from same geographical areas often develop their own words for things. Wikipedia has a long list of the dialects of the English language, including a nice little piece on California English.
An excerpt from Wikipedia:
One difference between California and most of the rest of the U.S. has been the way residents refer to highways, or freeways: where most Americans may refer to “I-80” for the east-west Interstate Highway leading from San Francisco to the suburbs of New York, or “I-15” for the north-south artery linking San Diego through Salt Lake City to the Canadian border, Southern Californians will typically say “the 80”, “the 15”, etc. Northern Californians will typically say “80”, “101” to refer to freeways. Similarly, California State Route 1, which runs down the coast, is called “Highway 1” or simply “1” in Northern California, but “PCH” (for Pacific Coast Highway) in Southern California.
Just for fun, check out Talk Like a Pirate website!
Science: Uses of Whale Products and the idea of Recycling
Many products were made from different parts of the whale, Americans didn’t waste anything but found uses for everything. Eventually, new inventions and discoveries (such as petroleum) gave less need for whale products.
Whale bone – fishing poles, buttons, umbrella ribs, skirt hoops
Whale oil – lubricating machinery and lighting lamps in houses/lighthouses
Spermaceti (fatty substance) – used to make smokeless candles
Ambergris (waxy gray material) – used in perfumes
This could be an opportunity to go over with your student the idea of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. You can find practical ways to observe these 3 R’s this week.
Science: Extinction of Whales, Whaling in Modern Times
This college report demonstrates how the population of whales has been hurt since modern whaling, and which whales are making a comeback.
Click here to read about current laws and programs to protect whales.
You can surf the World WildLife Fund website to learn about endangered species in general.
Science: Varieties of Whales
The New Bedford Whaling Museum has nice descriptions of several types of whales.
Search Google Images for specific whale photos/illustrations.
Art: American Folk Art
The paintings created by Nancy Carpenter in LOUD EMILY were inspired by American Folk Art. Many artists would travel around towns painting portraits and scenes. (See the last page of LOUD EMILY, under Illustrator’s Note for more interesting information.)
Click here to see examples of folk art from the Metropolitan Museum.
Click here for a list of 19th century artists and their works (follow links of folk artists for more info on those that interest you, e.g. Edward Hicks)
In New England whaling towns, people would pay a lot for portraits. Many sailors took up art as a side business, spending long hours on the boat carving pictures onto whalebone. This type of art was called scrimshaw. (Type in “scrimshaw” to Google Images to see many photos of these carvings).
You can create your own version of scrimshaw, without hurting any whales! You will need IVORY soap, sharp knives or other carving tools, and shoe polish. Click here for more details!
Addendum: A Few More Ideas!
As we were studying this book/era, my kids wanted to know more about boarding schools (Emily is almost sent away to one). This may be a good time to talk with your children about education through the ages and modern choices in education.
You may also want to look into lighthouses, their purpose and locations. This could be a great field trip, if you live near the coast!!
At the end of the story, Emily has power over the waves and fog with her loud voice. This may be a good time to read Luke 8:22-25 and discuss how God is the only One with power over nature, and imagine how incredible it would have been to be with Jesus the day He calmed the sea.