A little history lesson

Many years ago I was an English Lit major at Uni. I’ve always had a love of reading and a love of words, and a love of how stories are told, in whatever form this takes. I’ve always tried to encourage this in my girls, and so far I’ve been well rewarded. The two eldest both have voracious appetites for books and stories, and hopefully Miss 1 will follow in their foot steps. Our formal lessons focus on practicing reading, sight words, practicing writing letters as well as drawing patterns to help towards pencil grip and letter formation. But the girls learning, the important stuff – the good stuff πŸ™‚ – includes me reading out loud to them (and we do this A LOT). We also sing and use the story stones that we made (the stones have pictures on them, and we take turns pulling a stone out of a bag and incorporating whatever is pictured into our story) which is great for strengthening the imagination and emphasising oral skills with traditional storytelling.
I have been thinking, lately, that I would like to introduce poetry to the girls and I decided to start with the Australian classic, Waltzing Matilda. This is a poem written by Banjo Paterson that was later put to music. There is not an Australian anywhere in the world who can’t belt out a chorus of Waltzing Matilda with pride. It has always been one of my very favourites and, embarrassingly, never fails to make me a little teary!
Introducing Waltzing Matilda to both Miss 5 and Miss 3 has opened up discussions and opportunities for learning that I didn’t expect, and it has been a great week of talking about, not only the words of the song and their meaning, but things like the tone and tempo of the music that it’s set to – Miss 5 and I both agree that the song should be sung slowly and meaningfully rather than like a happy hoedown πŸ˜€ – as well as more philosophical topics like did the swagman do the wrong thing by stealing the sheep, and does it make him a bad person (when the story is put into historical context)? It has been a fabulous introduction to Australian history, as we have talked about the discovery of Australia. The colonisation of Australia and how tough life would have been. We have talked about convicts, free men, the economy and the role of women in the colonial period. And, if I’m being honest, listening to my babies sing Waltzing Matilda has been a daily delight for me πŸ˜€

To support our talks and singing, I showed the girls how to make Damper Bread. Miss 5 and Miss 3 made a damper roll each, while we talked about the need to have a filling bread that was both inexpensive and easy to make on the road. We used the recipe below, and while damper is traditionally made over an open fire, they did a fine job using the oven.

1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
A good pinch of salt
Combine flour and salt. Add butter and rub between fingers until it resembles bread crumbs. Add milk and on knead into a dough. Cook in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius, for 30 minutes or until golden.

As a great stroke of luck, a festival was held in the WA town of Toodyay, celebrating the escapades and antics of a bushranger who plied his trade in the local area, moondyne Joe. Hearing that this festival was taking place, we made the hour long trip, west, to Toodyay. Miss 5 and Miss 3 were treated to a taste of all things colonial. There were street performers reciting bush poetry, singers with their guitars, a pipe band, a man playing the didgeridoo (an indigenous musical instrument), and some dancers. There were also reenactments of Moondyne Joe’s arrest, trial and subsequent escape, with audience participation, which just tickled Miss 5 :D. Miss 5 spent quite a while in the “colonial village” that was set up. She particularly enjoyed the blacksmiths workshop where she watched the Smithy making a handle for the billy can, and the general store where she was able to see old fashioned irons, milk jugs and a Coolgardie safe. She had a ball measuring out potatoes on the scales too.
Miss 5 has really enjoyed learning Waltzing Matilda and all that has come with it, and I think we’ve opened a door that will enable us to introduce more history and more poetry to her learning.
We are about to start a new chapter book, and Miss 5 is determined that the next subject that we will learn about is space. She has already committed the planets to memory and can tell me a little fact about each one, which is just astounding to me. She is like a little sponge. I have also registered her for Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds, as they seem to be ideal for her as a supplement to her formal work. Combined with sports class, musical theatre, swimming lessons and a couple of homeschool co-op classes we’re looking at getting involved in, we’ve got a busy few weeks coming up πŸ˜€

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