Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rowing Papa Piccolo {FIAR}

Rose and I finished up our first row of the new year last week: Papa Piccolo. This is a book that I remember rowing with Grace and Christopher; they enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy of the book at that time. It's about an independent bachelor cat who ends up with a couple of cute kittens...who totally change his life. Rose absolutely adored this story - and as a bonus, the artwork is beautiful and we learned a lot about Venice, the story's setting.

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • She found Italy on the globe, and we talked about how it looks like a boot. 

  • We talked about Venice, especially the streets of water and the gondolas, which play a prominent role in this story. Rose was very interested in the idea of getting around by boat - something we certainly can't do here! The book has a nice section right at the beginning that gave us a lot of information about Venice. We agreed that we would like to visit one day. 

  • We discussed the Italian phrases in the book and what they mean ~ such as bambini (infant) and buon giorno (good day). These were reinforced each day as we read the book. I had bookmarked a site where we could learn Italian phrases, but decided to keep it simple and only focus on the words and phrases mentioned in the story. 
  • After several readings, I asked her to remember the many lessons Papa teaches the kittens.  She did a pretty good job. Among other things, he teaches them how to eat spaghetti!

  • As the manual suggested, we briefly discussed adoption and who Marco Polo was - the kittens are named Marco and Polo. 

*Language Arts*
  • We went over some of the vocab in the story - like canal, trinket, and sardine. We don't do a whole lot with the suggested vocabulary words, just discuss and move on. I do notice though, that the new words "stick" in her mind.
  • We talked about the song Papa sings the kittens... he sings to them about stardust, moonbeams, and goldfish. I asked her what she would sing to put her puppy to sleep, and she thought of things like bones, toys, and bacon treats. 
  • As suggested in the manual, we read The Fox and The Sour Grapesthen I had her tell me what part of Papa Piccolo it reminded her of. There is a scene where Papa misses out on a pastry - and then decides he doesn't like pastry anyway. 

  • We looked at the lovely double-page scene following the title page and made a list of all the colors we could see. 

I am afraid that we weren't terribly imaginative with the names of the colors, but we were impressed at the sheer numbers of shades used in the illustrations throughout the book. 

  • We discussed "live eyes" - adding a little highlight to the eye to make it seem more life-like. This is something she learned and practiced while doing Mark Kistler's drawing lessons. 

  • We discussed how the illustrator gives the illusion of speed, as the cats race for Piccolo's pastry, then Rose tried out the technique. 

  • We discussed using yellow to show light, and then she did a watercolor painting of a thunderstorm over the ocean. We had also discussed the concept of complementary colors, so she chose to use purple and yellow, which provide a strong, interesting contrast when used together. 

  • As suggested in the manual, we tried counting the windows throughout the book - I can't even remember how many we got to - there were a lot!
  • We talked about peripheral vision (because Piccolo sees something out of the corner of his eye). We then tried the experiment suggested in the manual. I had her look straight ahead while I moved a pencil from the back of her head toward her face. Her job was to tell when she could see the pencil in her peripheral vision. 

  • We had a brief discussion about breeds of cats, because this story features a Siamese cat. We also discussed what "calico" and "tabby" mean. 

*More Fun*
  • We made two of the recipes from the FIAR cookbook - a ricotta cake, which I thought was very good and easy, like a cheating way to make cheesecake.  I would make it again, but James didn't really care for it. And, we made the marinara sauce recipe. Rose helped with this and was very proud of "her" sauce. It made a ton, so I put half away in the freezer to use next week. It was quite good!

We just began our next row, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, so that will be my next FIAR post.


  1. I love all the posts I'm seeing from you!

    May I ask how old Rose is? I am starting to slightly panic about what resources to use for my middle daughter next fall, who turns 7 in July. I think you do such an amazing job with FIAR, and it might be a good fit for her. Thank you!

  2. She is 7 - she'll be 8 in June, and I do plan to use it with her next year too - we have only used volume 1 so far, so lots more books to get to!

    1. Thanks, Kim. So is Sonlight Core B like BookShark 1? I am also trying to figure out where to start my oldest in BookShark -- she turns 9 in August.

  3. Yes, BS1 is the equivalent of SL Core B - there look to be a few differences in book titles, but I also have an older version of Core B that I am reusing with her. With my last 9 year old, we did BS 3 (the first American History core) - he is 10 now and doing BS 4. You could definitely start with BS1 though, if you'd rather do world history; it's very easy to double up on readings if they are too light - that is what my oldest is doing this year for BS7. I'd be happy to try to help if you have questions about any of the levels!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm wondering putting my 9 and 7-year olds together for history and science, so I'm not sure whether I should go with BKSK 2 or 3. But, I'm leaning towards 2. Then maybe I would need to do the 2nd-grade advanced readers for my oldest. She read all of the Sonlight summer readers last summer, and her favorite was Baby Island, which I think might be more on par with 2nd-grade advanced?

    2. I would lean towards 2 for science also - the TOPS work in 3 goes better with a slightly older child I think. Less work for you that way, because they'll be able to do more of it on their own.

      I would also agree that if your oldest is reading well by herself grade 2 advanced would be the way to go for the readers. I have pretty much all of the grade 2 books at this point, and most of the intermediate ones are still fairly simple, larger print, very short chapters, so probably wouldn't be much of a challenge for her.


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