FIAR – The Clown of God

I didn’t think we had ever read any of Tomie dePaola’s books until I was talking with a friend about some of his other titles.  We’ve read The Cloud Book on numerous occasions, Strega Nona, The Legend of the Poinsettia (which we got from the library over Christmas) and Charlie Needs a Cloak -just to name a few.

While looking for ideas for this week I noticed that some mamas shied away from this story because the main character dies at the end.  I think these instances are great learning opportunities for children, especially since they are so receptive and accepting at a young age.  And you can keep the explanations simple!

This was a delightful story, filled with wonderful pictures that I now realize are typical of all Tomie dePaola’s books, as he both writes and illustrates.

credit: Amazon

Geography/History/Social Studies
Giovanni, the main character, is an orphan growing up in Italy during the Renaissance period.  This gave us a wealth of information to work with – locating the boot-shaped Italy on the map and reading about their culture, making an Italian flag, discussing and looking at pictures of the Renaissance period, etc.

We talked about what it means to be an orphan and both Gwen and Josiah prayed and thanked God that they had parents, otherwise they would be “sad.”

Giovanni loves to juggle, using it as a means to earn food, and later joins a group of travelling actors.  One day he meets two monks on the road and, while he’s kind to them and shares his meal, he laughs at the idea that what we do glorifies God.  We talked about different kinds of religion – specifically monks, or “brothers,” that live in monestaries and “sisters” that live in convents – and how we also believe that we should do everything to the glory of God.  On the flipside, if our words and actions are not kind, it displeases God and hurts other people.  Since I’m always trying to get the kids to keep their attitudes in check, suggesting other ways to handle what might otherwise be an unpleasant situation, this gave us an opportunity to practice.

As Giovanni gets older, people tire of his talents and scoff at him.  The ending to the story is a beautiful one, probably open to interpretation, but I believe he finally finds his way “home” to God and uses his last act in life to glorify him.  We talked about aging, elderly people, things we can do to help them out.  And we talked about Giovanni’s “path of life,” how God was with him the whole way even though he might not have been aware of it at the time.  Gwen took the opportunity to create her own Path of Life, very detailed for the short life of a 5-year-old!  I was surprised how much she enjoyed this.

Language Arts
The story is full of Italian words such as “maestro,”  “signor” and “signora,” “grazie” and so forth.  We talked about what each of the words meant while re-reading the story.  I even pointed out how Giovanni has an Italian name.

Fine Arts
Giovannia has an order in which he juggles, starting with one color and ending with another.  We made some rainbows, and Gwen decided to make rainbow circles like juggling balls.  Of course, the kids just had to try juggling.  At first Gwen tried juggling her paper circles, which of course just floated to the ground.  I got out some plastic Easter eggs, then the fabric ones I made for Easter last year.  It was funny to watch – they couldn’t even get the hang of tossing one from one hand to the other!

The highlight of the day, one that inspired them to do their schoolwork, was jellybean graphing.  They took turns figuring out which columns of color had the most/least jellybeans and I told them about different ways we can use graphs or grids.  They were mostly concerned about eating the jelly beans, of course.  Every so often I would tell them that they could eat one of the jelly beans that they had the most or least color of.

We did a few math worksheets – using the jellybeans with them as well – and the kiddos watched LeapFrog: Math Circus, a new favorite.  We also pulled out an old favorite, Roll-a-Rainbow – the kids want to play it over and over.  They try to throw the dice just right to get the number they want – lil’ cheaters.

Other than talking about rainbows and aging, we didn’t really get into anything scientific.  I had some ideas planned – talking about eyes and eyesight, what makes a mixture and so forth, but just didn’t get around to it.

Friday was a really busy day!  After a morning doctor’s apt, the usual things around the house and a few school activities, we had fellow homeschooling friends and neighbors over in the afternoon.  We had been to their house just down the street a few times but this was their first visit and we had a wonderful time.  Good thing Daddy was home because he took the kiddos outside for a while so the ladies could chat.  They had a great time playing and it’s so nice that they have nearby friends.  After dinner they went to AWANA and got to recite the verses they’ve been memorizing.

I had really hoped to make an Italian meal – not lasagne or pizza, since that’s nothing new – but had planned on pasta bolognese.  I kept forgetting to defrost the meat, though, so it’s on the agenda for the next week!  I love incorporating international meals as part of our school week because not only is it educational – I love to eat!

Go-Along Books
Italy ABCs
Exploring Countries – Italy
The Renaissance
Medieval Life
Orphan Train
Special Friends
Moses Goes to the Circus
Tree Ring Circus
The Usborne Book of Juggling
The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow (there’s a movie, too)

Homeschool Share’s Clown of God resources
Homeschool Share’s Italy video’s Italy Landmarks worksheet’s Italy paper doll
As One’s Path of Life activity’s Circus Math worksheet
2 Teaching Mommie’s Jelly Beans Graphing
Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Roll a Rainbow

*See my FIAR Pinterest board for more ideas & inspiration.