FIAR – All Those Secrets of the World

This week we began our second “unofficial” year of homeschooling with my version of the FIAR program.  I didn’t want to follow the order of books suggested in the manuals, opting instead to plug various titles in throughout the year, seasonally where I was able.  Since All Those Secrets of the World had some beach elements, I thought it would be perfect for the end of Summer.

Geography/History/Social Studies
The story takes place in Virginia, so the kiddos picked out VA on the map and colored a state bird and flower coloring page, using some of Homeschool Share’s FIAR resources.  They enjoyed doing the states puzzle, but I’d rather look for one where each state is its own pieces – perhaps GeoPuzzle?  I’ve heard mixed reviews on them.

Since we’ve begun incorporating more maps and referencing the globe I thought it would be a great time to do Me On the Map, a craft that helps kids understand and visualize where they live – from the planet earth on down to their street address.  It was fun finding different printables for the planet, continent, country and so forth, and we pasted them onto separate pieces of construction paper and talked about each location.  Ours didn’t turn out as pretty – or round – but it’s still a neat learning tool.

Since the story revolves around a little girl watching her daddy go off to war, we briefly talked about what that means.  We watched a YouTube video of the song “Over There,” which is not only mentioned in the story but also has old war photos of men in uniform, ad posters and so forth.  I pointed out that the fashions in the pictures are different from today, from the outfits to the vehicles. 

A simple concept, we talked about families and all its different members, specifically those in the story – moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas and grandpas, and cousins.  Then I asked if they could think of any other family members – like aunts and uncles. 

Language Arts
Considering the kids’ ages, I didn’t go into depth with literary devices, but we did touch on some vocabulary words.  I read the story and had Gwen tell me if she didn’t know some of the words (and of course I suggested others).  We came up with this list, which we then defined: docks, war, handkerchief, tuba, lapped, horizon, sycamores, stranger, peace.  This didn’t take up much time, but some of these words are very important!

Fine Arts
As the kids get older, I point out that every time we read a book at storytime, someone had to write that story.  In addition, someone had to draw or illustrate the pictures.  I asked if the pictures in this book looked like real photographs, and concluded that someone painted them – probably with watercolors.  I was eager to try salty watercolors, which was really fun – I think I had more fun doing this than the kiddos!  But Gwen especially was fascinated with the watercolor seeping into the salt and glue mixure. 

After playing around with that, I suggested we do a simple watercolor – maybe of the sea, a boat, or children, like in the story.  Gwen was delighted to sit there and paint her scene – she painted the water, the sun, and a cradle with a baby (yes, in the water). 


A number of times the story mentions “hundreds” – hundreds of people, hundreds of butterfly kisses.  I told Gwen this also means “a lot”!  At the end of the story the little girl and her cousin are two years older, and there are some other aspects in the story involving the number two, so we discussed those. 

The kids had so much fun with the visual perspective of “how big is it really?”  I had this under “fine arts,” but we also used a ruler so I suppose it transcends traditional subject categories.  Gotta love homeschool!  One of the “secrets of the world” in the story is that things seem smaller when they’re farther away – like the warships that are specks on the horizon.  Just like the two characters in the book, we took turns walking farther away, getting smaller and smaller.  I had the kids use a ruler (or hand, finger, whatever) at each interval to note the change in size.  They got such a kick out of this exercise and wanted to do it over and over “until Daddy comes home!”


I honestly don’t know much about the Chesapeake Bay, but the story notes that it’s oily, so we read Oil Spill!, a Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out science book.  We also did a couple science experiments from the Usborne Book of Science Activities, volumes one and two.  First, we tried to wash butter (a type of oil) off a plate, but it only came off once we mixed in detergent.  I explained how scientists have to wash off birds that get oil in their feathers from oil spills.  Then we tried mixing things into water – first olive oil, which just sat on top (even after trying to mix it in), then flour, which dissolved and became a solution.  The kids really enjoyed this and wanted to do more, but I couldn’t think of what else to mix into the water!

For a sensory beach-related experience, we had our first foray into cloud dough.  There are many different variations out there, and I tried this Glittery Cloud Dough, specifically for making little sand castles and playing with shells.  I honestly think I enjoyed this as much as the kiddos!  I was going to use vegetable oil, but decided to buy cheap white flour specifically for the project (so I didn’t use up my expensive white wheat that I use for cooking and baking) so I went ahead and got the baby oil too – it makes it smell so good!  The oil and flour mix together easily and form this soft, pliable “dough” – it doesn’t stick together like traditional dough but it holds its shape for a little bit.

Math & Phonics
Since the FIAR program doesn’t capitalize on phonics and math, it suggests supplementing with other materials.  I have a slew of workbooks that I was more than eager to introduce.  I worry about activities that are too structured, especially since Gwen can become impatient with tracing and trying to write, so I decided to rotate workbooks to keep it interesting (and use up my huge stash!). 

Some of the titles we’re working on:
School Zone Uppercase and Lowercase Alphabet Grade P
Home Workbooks Beginning Math Grade K
MATH – 101 Things Every Kindergartner Should Know About Math
PHONICS – 101 Things Every Kindergartner Should Know About Phonics
BrainQuest Workbook Pre-K

I loved the idea for preschool journals and let the kids decorate their own composition notebooks.  I’m hoping to do at least one or two pages in there a week, depending on when the mood strikes. 

As a sort of go-along with the me-on-the-map and journal, I was going to have them make “all about me” lapbooks but opted instead for mini-books (I printed some of the pages at half the size and stapled them together), which I helped them fill out.  They had fun drawing pictures in the boxes; I got a good laugh out of their answers.  A couple times when I laughed at his answers (e.g., what are you best at?  eating peaches), Josiah said, “why so funny?”

I’m looking forward to when we can include multi-cultural meals into the week, when they coincide with the story, but this week the only thing I could pull from the book was ice cream with jimmies.  No complaints here!

The kids were with their grandparents two days this week, which is unusual, so we crammed everything into three-days-in-a-row instead of five.  Not sure yet if we’ll do anything on Saturday, but I have some of the printables from our O is for Ocean week sitting amongst the pile of workbooks.  It would be neat to capitalize on the beach setting – learn about fish, take an actual trip to the beach, run along the sand and collect shells.