After taking a break over the holidays we picked up again with Another Celebrated Dancing Bear. I remember being under the impression that this story was somehow related to Christmas – which is why I placed it around the holidays – but it’s not. All the same, it’s a delightful story about friendship and persevering. It was also neat to learn about another country!
It was fun gathering materials for this book – reading lots of books on Russia; locating Asia and the country of Russia on the globe; making Russian flags; coloring pictures of Russian dancers, matryoshka and onion domes in Russian architecture.
Gwendolyn was fascinated by the nesting dolls and I found a neat interactive website all about Matryoshka where we could learn about their history, color online pictures and so forth. We even borrowed a small set of nesting dolls – along with some other wooden Russian toys – from Meme.
Max and Boris – the two bears in the story – are good friends. Max can dance but Boris cannot, a fact which makes him a bit jealous. Being the good friend that he is, Max promises to teach Boris how to dance, and throughout the rest of the story they meet regularly for dancing lessons, tea and Russian brown bread. At the end, they do a complicated dance and Max invites Boris to join the traveling circus with him.
We talked about what makes someone a good friend, how we can tell the two bears in the story are good friends. We took the opportunity to read about Tchaikovsky, the Russian composer, and watch a slew of Nutcracker performances on YouTube. The kiddos loved this, clapping their hands at the end of each one. While reading some books on ballet and other forms of dancing, they tried to copy some of the moves to Tchaikovsky music and later put on their own ballet and circus performances – so creative!
We discussed a bunch of vocabulary words from the story. I read them in context and asked if they could figure out what they each meant. For many of them we tried to act them out – wearing a “glum” expression, being “comical,” “embracing,” applauding as an “audience” might do. The kids loved it and, of course hamming it up.
It was neat looking at Russian architecture, namely the colorful onion domes that are prevalent in the country, especially on St. Basil’s Cathedral. Gwen drew a picture of her own colorful onion domes and we read a couple books on buildings and architecture.
We were fortunate that Daddy was home – he got out his graph paper and drawing tools and they played around with “designing” buildings, making squares and curves, learning about tangents, stuff that went way over their heads. But fun stuff! Gwen enjoyed using the compass and made some smiley faces with the circles she created. It made me want to get some spiral art toys, like when I had when I was a little girl.
Max agrees to give Boris dancing lesson at seven o’clock, three days a week. Time passes by and Boris gets better and better, until he’s ready for a complicated dance. We talked about the days of the week and units of time, discussing the hands on a clock, minutes, hours, etc. I know younger kids can’t always understand these concepts so I didn’t push it.
Read a story about bears, learn about bears! I had the kiddos gather all their stuffed animal bears and they joined us for some reading about the different kinds. We matched up some of their bears with pictures – like brown bears and polar bears.
Since Max is always putting the “samovar” on to boil for tea, we learned about boiling and freezing points of water. I had the kids get some snow from outside and we boiled it on the stove, watching the thermometer. They got overly silly watching their faces in the reflection on the pan so I gave up after a while.
One morning we had brown bread with strawberry preserves and tea for breakfast, Max and Boris’ snack of choice. I was really excited about the bread recipe I discovered, though it tasted different than I expected. It has a strong rye flavor so the kiddos weren’t crazy about it, but it’s still nice to try new things. Another day I used it to make grilled cheese, which was pretty good.
I have always wanted to make Beef Stroganoff and finally had a good excuse! Phil and the kiddos don’t like mushrooms, sadly, so we omitted those, but the recipe was so good I really didn’t miss them. At first I picked a really simple recipe using ground beef and sour cream, but opted instead for something that looked a bit tastier. My mom gave me Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Pasta Dishes: Easy Everyday Recipes That Children Will Love for Christmas, and it just so happened to have a stroganoff recipe. Not only does it call for steak, but it uses cream, beef broth, soy sauce and other savory ingredients. This will definitely remain on our meal rotation!
For dessert – Russian Teacakes! I used my childhood cookbook from which I have made the very same recipe numerous times, changing it up a bit using rapadura sugar instead of the white stuff. I love how these walnut-y cookies just melt in your mouth! Good thing I stuck with a half batch. Sure beats borscht!
Look What Came from Russia
Count Your Way Through Russia
Russia ABCs: a book about the people and places of Russia
“Music from the Nutcracker”
Moses Goes to the Circus
Iggy Peck, Architect
The Berenstain Bears’ On Time
Felix, What Time Is It?
“LeapFrog: Math Circus”
Little Panda: the world welcomes Hua Mei at the San Diego Zoo
Big Bear Ball
A Drop Around the World
A Drop of Water: a book of science
Homeschool Share’s Another Celebrated Dancing Bear resources
Homeschool Creation’s Russian Currency printable
Crayola’s Russian flag coloring page
Education.com’s Russian Dancer coloring page
Education.com’s Matryoshka Doll coloring page
Education.com’s St. Basil’s Cathedral coloring page
The Littlest Matryoshka interactive site
YouTube The Nutcracker videos (Ballet Lubbock were my favorite)
National Geographic’s Brown Bear Facts and Pictures
Smitten Kitchen’s black bread recipe
*For more inspiration see my FIAR Pinterest board.