Last week Five in a Row took us to Appalachia with When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant. It’s a sweet story that sparked several questions from Ian and Elijah. So in addition to the lessons we did from the Five in a Row (Vol.) 2 manual, we took a few rabbit trails, which led to lots of learning!
Every time we read the first page, about how the little girl’s grandfather would kiss her on the forehead because he was so dirty from working in the coal mines that only his lips were clean, Ian asked, “Why was he so dirty?” Finally I went hunting for a video on coal mining. The best thing I could find was an episode of the show Dirty Jobs, which was available to watch streaming on Amazon (free for Prime members). Episode 30 features a segment about coal mining. (PARENT ADVISORY: the first half of the episode is on a different job and contained some rough language. It was really too bad, because I think my boys would both really enjoy this show, but with a few bad words thrown in occasionally, it’s just not suitable for children. I did end up letting my boys watch the coal mining segment with me, but we talked about using pure words and not copying people who don’t. I know many parents would choose not to show it to their children, so definitely watch it first. If you know of a better video to learn something about coal mining, please comment below!)
At one point in the story, the girl talks about hearing the call of a bobwhite. The boys wondered what that was, and since I knew nothing beyond the fact that it was a bird, we did a little research together. The boys enjoyed seeing pictures of bobwhites and especially listening to recordings of a bobwhite’s call. After that, every time we read this part of the story, Ian would imitate the birdcall.
The children’s lives in this story are very different from ours in many ways. After we had read through the story a few times, I had Ian point out differences. We talked about how the girl was poor and yet she seemed very content with her life. I wanted to find a video that brought the Appalachian world alive for the boys, so we watched the pilot episode from the old television series Christy. It’s about a young woman who goes to teach in a one-room schoolhouse (which doubles as a church, like in When I Was Young in the Mountains) in a small community tucked back in the hills of Tennessee. Elijah lost interest after a while, but Ian enjoyed watching it with me.
For our last activity, Ian wrote his own story in a style like Cynthia Rylant. I asked him to share about things remembers from when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa in their house in the hills. I typed out his memories and then he illustrated the first one.
Such fun memories!