Friday, April 2, 2010

Visiting Russia


Another country that didn’t excite me.  But I had to dig in and find “something”.  Because of course, what comes to my mind is the cold war, communism, and Stalin.  I wasn’t diving into those topics with my 7 and 5 year old.  LOL!

The first fun thing we discovered was Baba Yaga.  She is a character that appears again and again in Russian stories.  Sometimes she is mean witch and other times she is only misunderstood.  In most books she lives in the woods in a house on chickenlegs.  She is often seen flying around in a mortar and pestal looking for little children.

Oh we enjoyed Baba Yaga.  We read a ton of books that included Baby Yaga.  A few favorites were:

Baba Yaga retold by Katya Arnold

The Flying Witch by Jane Yolen

Baby Yaga and the Wise Doll retold by Hiawyn Oram

Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco.

Then we focused on music and arts.  We began with Tchaikovsky.  Using, “The Story of Swan Lake” performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, we learned about the story behind the music.  Then we listened to, “Tchaikovsky Discovers America,” from the Classical Kids Series.  Of course, we watched many scenes from the Nutcracker as well.  Later we returned to Tchaikovsky at our get together because I was having so much fun with his music!  (I think he is my favorite classical musician now)

When we joined up with our friends for a day of fun, we began by painting eggs.  (inspired by Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco)  Ukraine egg painting is an amazing art.  There are some wonderful YouTube videos of the process.  We simplified it to just wooden eggs.

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The finished products:

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To prepare for our next craft, Mrs. Michelle read the book, The Littlest Matryoshka,  by Corinne Demas to the kids.  They enjoyed this story SO MUCH and it really inspired them for the next activity.


We had planned to have them make these paper Matryoshka Dolls.  We had no idea how much this story would inspire them to invest in this simple activity.IMG_7982 (1)

My girls LOVED this.  They worked hard on making their little dolls.  And then, after friends left, we printed about FIVE more sets for each of them.  Oh my!

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Sadly, I didn’t have any good shots of the next activities.  Most of them involved music.  We listened to the characters from Peter and the Wolf played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  (The girls and I had read it at home earlier in the week)  The CD includes a section that introduces each character (instrument).  The kids acted out each character as the instrument was “playing” it.  We had a GREAT time.  The story of Peter and the Wolf is a excellent way to introduce children to the orchestra and the “story” behind the music.  (kids acting as Peter, skipping along, below)


Next, we acted out the “Overture of 1812” by Tchaikovsky.  I explained a brief history of the battle between France and Russia during the War of 1812.  (my dad is probably laughing his head off while reading that…history…not my thing)  Then, thanks to THIS Wikipedia information, I had a lovely history lesson.  Using the information, I played exerts of the music for the kids to listen to and act out the battle scenes.

*I think my favorite part of this was learning that the nation of Russia cried out to God in prayer.  People were told by the government to gather in the churches and to pray for God to rescue them from Napoleon.  Sounds of church bells are incorporated into the music.  I loved teaching my kids about God’s hand in history this way.  Because, if I am honest, I associate Russia with communism and the Cold War.  I never considered the nation as one who would cry out to God collectively.  This is why I LOVE homeschooling.  My kids will see history as the story of ALL of God’s people, not just Americans and our history.

So to prepare for this event,    I sat and listened to the Overture of 1812 in its entirety on the previous night so that I could mark down the sections to fast forward to.  (My dad is probably laughing at that as well)  But I gotta tell you.  I am truly becoming a fan of classical music.  It just takes an understanding of the music to appreciate it.  I hope to pass that on to my kids as I learn!

Finally, we ended with food!  The Russians LOVE fruit and honey, so we had some melon with honey and walnuts.  Of course, there was beet soup with bread that some brave children tried. 


Another GREAT study!  K (age 7) still declares it as one of her favorites!


Ticia said...

We just read Rochenka's Eggs. Patricia Polacco has so many wonderful books.

Debbie said...

We're doing Russia later this year, too. Great activities--I'll add them to my list. Thanks for sharing!

Debbie said...

I so have to admit that I'm looking forward to studying Russia with my son. I don't necessarily just think of Communism, but maybe it's because I love history and geography, and I've studied other aspects of Russia (and Germany). I know what you mean, though, about trying to find stuff for a country that doesn't excite you. We did Saudi Arabia earlier this year, and I didn't think I would find anything interesting to last us one week, let alone 2. I was surprised, though, at how much I ended up finding, and my son still remembers several months later what he learned. So, if you ever get to Saudi Arabia in your studies, look me up! : ) Again, though, I do love reading your geography posts. I'm glad I've read these before doing Germany and Russia, so that I have more ideas. Thanks!