Homeschooling with Peter Rabbit and Five in a Row

We had a lot of fun this spring studying Beatrix Potter’s classic, _The Tale of Peter Rabbit_. Take a peek at some of our activities using a curriculum pattern called “Five in a Row.”

I’ve been enjoying using “Five in a Row”: this past May. It is a simple curriculum based on reading one story (like “_The Tale of Peter Rabbit_”: every day for five days. Each day, after reading the story, the children work on a related activity. By the end of the week, you’ll have covered things like math, language, history, geography, science, and world cultures. It’s a lot of fun! Here are a few things we did during our _Peter Rabbit_ week:

h3. Gastronomy

Early in the week, we had a Peter-Rabbit-themed meal. We made a list of all the foods in the story (mostly vegetables) and then billed it as “Mrs. Rabbit’s Picnic.” We couldn’t find any currant buns, so we made some later using “this recipe”:/news/2012/peter-rabbits-currant-buns/ (our “baking” unit for the week).

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Here are some of the foods we had:

* French beans
* cabbage
* black currants (dried)
* blackberries
* lettuce
* radishes
* cucumbers
* peas
* brown bread
* parsley
* chamomile tea
* milk

I served some olive oil and salt alongside the vegetables — perhaps not traditional for rabbits, but tasty for humans! And we had some butter available for the bread. We made quite a nice lunch out of this spread. I was impressed by the way the girls tasted everything much more willingly that they do when it is served at dinnertime as a salad.

h3. Cartography

After reading the story, we made a list of all the places Peter Rabbit went on his adventurous day. We then sketched out a rough map of the places. It was a little tricky, making sure the different vegetable patches in Farmer McGregor’s garden were in places that made sense with Peter’s journey. After we did our own sketches, I took a big piece of poster paper and roughed out a map with black ink, which the girls then colored in. %{color:gray}(Click photo to enlarge.)% We enjoyed re-reading the story while tracing Peter’s adventure on the map.

h3. Art

We spent a day studying Beatrix Potter’s illustrations. We noticed that she generally made a sketch with a black pen and then filled in with watercolors. So we experimented with this technique, creating illustrations of Peter’s house. Even Mama did one!

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h3. Language

We made some vocabulary cards highlighting the words “sieve,” “exert,” and “implore.” The girls were very cute throughout the week, quoting the birds who “implored Peter to exert himself” — get out of that gooseberry net, quick!

h3. Social Skills

This was a bit improvised, but we decided to spend part of a morning talking about how Peter got in trouble when he disobeyed his mother. I used this as an opportunity to work on a problem we had been encountering in our own household: slamming doors, especially when playing with them. I am always telling the girls not to slam or play with doors, but they will often try to push the bathroom door open while the other one pushes it closed. This is a recipe for broken fingers! So, we went to all the doors in our house and did some role-playing. We acted out different situations when one might want to slam the door, but practiced closing it slowly and carefully, making sure all fingers and toes were out of the way.

(We did not, however, talk about the fact that it was Peter’s disobedience that gave him the more interesting story! No one is very interested in reading stories about Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail picking blackberries. We’ll save that for a discussion a few years from now.)

h3. And more…

There were so many other activities we could have added in: some basic math (counting carrots), science (planting a garden), history (studying Beatrix Potter’s life), geography (looking at Potter’s England), and so much more. But even this list of activities required a great deal of preparation. For our next Five-in-a-Row book, I decided we’ll do the activities over a span of _two_ weeks. Live and learn!

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