Guest Post: Using “A Donsy of Gnomes” In First Grade Homeschooling

My original post on the book “A Donsy of Gnomes” stirred quite a bit of interest!  You can read the original post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/07/09/a-donsy-of-gnomes-7-gentle-gnome-stories/ .  One of my wonderful readers wrote in with her story of how she used “A Donsy of Gnomes” in her daughter’s first grade experience.  Thank you to my reader Kristen from Vermont for sharing with all of The Parenting Passageway’s readers!

Here is what Kristen wrote, and I hope it will spark some creative ideas for your own homeschooling experience:

At the end of my daughter’s first  grade year, I decided to incorporate Sieglinde De Francesca’s sweet book of gnome stories into our Nature Block.“How to Create a Spring Nature Block for Grades  1-3”.  I loved her ideas but being the busy mama that I am with a small farm  to ‘manage’ and two  young girls under my constant care, I couldn’t possibly figure out how to find time to write my own stories.  Here in northern Vermont, we have seven to eight months of winter and relative ‘rest time’ but once it warms up, we are like crazed squirrels running here and there trying to fit everything in before it snows again!  I learned an important lesson this first year of homeschooling:  don’t leave any planning for spring undone before spring arrives.   You will never find the time once it’s warm enough to venture outside again and enjoy longer stretches of fresh air and the warmth of the sun.

So, I cheated.  I’ve been telling Sieglinde’s stories all year, with needle felted characters for each story, and my daughters have enjoyed them immensely.  (In fact, when I told the last story of the book, which occurs in late spring, my girls cried and I had to reassure them that they’d hear the stories all over again beginning in late summer!)  My plan was to tell the last two stories over the course of a month and tweak each story just a wee bit, adding bits of natural history here and there.  For instance, when I was in graduate school studying forest ecology, I loved reading about microhabitats and the ‘pillows and cradles’ you often see on the forest floor in mature stands.  Why not have the gnomes enjoy a rollicking time running up and down that lumpy ground, just for fun?  I also love wildflowers, especially the ephemeral ones in spring that look really groovy, like Jack-in-the-pulpit.  So why not have a gnome take shelter beneath a Jack-in-the-pulpit “roof” during a quick rain shower?   And, since I’m a bit obsessed with birds, why not have the gnomes comment on some of the bird songs as they scampered through the woods during the story?

The rhythm of our weeks was simple and was basically the same as telling the fairy tales, except that we incorporated nature walks into our afternoons to look for pillows and cradles and Jack-in-the-pulpits and notice what birds were singing their springtime songs.   We kept a nature journal which included a picture of the story and a short summary.

I also drew my own picture for story and hung them below our blackboard.  On these, I wrote words that my daughter could learn to write in her MLB and then practice reading.  We also incorporated a game in Peggy Kaye’s wonderful book “Games For Reading”.  It involved writing a short sentence related to the story, cutting up the sentence into pieces so that the words or phrases were separated, and asking my daughter to put the pieces back together in the right order to make a logical sentence.

She had already seen most words on my drawing and written many of them in her main lesson book so this was not as difficult a task as I thought it might be.  She is having a hard time learning to read and is not the type of kid who will sit down and try to figure it out herself.  A late bloomer, perhaps, but a child who loves to hear and retell stories!

Overall, I think this block was a stunning success and for weeks afterward my girls played with the needle felted gnomes (and other animal characters from the stories that I needle felted).    They both attended a garden camp this summer and during one of their walks in the forest  they gleefully showed their friends how much fun it is to run up the pillows and down the cradles in the forest, just like little gnomes do!

Many blessings, and much love,

Carrie

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Using “A Donsy of Gnomes” In First Grade Homeschooling

  1. That is a STRIVING Mama! Wow! I love what Kristen has done, and I’m now pondering getting a Donsey of Gnomes and needlefelting characters for my future grandchildren, LOL.

  2. Kristen,

    Thanks for sharing this. Its helpful to see how others are using great resources available.

    I have a question: Did you memorize the stories? I’m having a hard time memorizing stories, much less long ones like these. If you memorized the stories, any tip on developing my memory?

    Thanks,
    Samantha

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