Grapevine and Olive Shoots

growing in grace and knowledge.

Very Last First Time

on August 10, 2014

Our third “row” was a wonderful book I’d never read: “Very Last First Time,” by Jan Andrews and illustrated by Ian Wallace.  This book features Eva, an Inuit girl, who lives along Ungava Bay in northern Canada. In the winter, her people search for mussels along the bottom of the seabed. Although Eva has often joined her mother on these searches, today is the very first day she’s climbing down through the ice hole by herself.  We spent almost two weeks rowing this book, as there was so much to glean.

Very Last First Time

Since the weather was most cooperative on Monday of the first week, we kicked off our row with a field trip to Odiorne Point State Park and the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, NH.  Odiorne is a very rocky beach, so a wonderful place to go tide-pooling.  It afforded us a great opportunity to search for mussels (like the book) and other sea creatures.  It is also, incidentally, where I got married. 🙂

Our local library offers free museum passes to residents, so we got free admission to the Science Center — a big bonus for a homeschooling family.

My brave little explorer princess.

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We thought these seaweed-covered rocks looked just like the scene below in the book:

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A mussel shell!  We collected about 20 of them.

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Let me tell you, navigating these rocks for a mile of coastline was quite a balancing act with Ladybug in the Ergo.

But totally worth it when we spotted not only mussels, but clams, oysters, scallops, crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, snails, barnacles…even an eel some very brave boys had caught.

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Outside the Seacoast Science Center…

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Checking out the various ecosystem aquariums:

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A blue lobster, whaaaat?

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One of our go-along books was A House For Hermit Crab by the inestimable Eric Carle, so she was fascinated with this little guy:

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As usual, her favorite part of any excursion.

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Look!  I’m a whale!

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Learning how to fish for cod like it’s 1860; a valuable skill to be sure.

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The rest of the week was stormy and humid so we spent the majority of our days inside.  But we had plenty to keep us occupied.

Bible/Character Study

We focused on fear and courage, since Eva was frightened by the shadows and the returning tide, but was brave to go down in the hole in the first place, and then to light more candles and find her way out.  There are countless examples of this in the Bible; we took a look at Jonah and Daniel in the lion’s den.  We also talked about 5 steps to take when afraid, or “crisis thinking”: Calm Down, Don’t Panic, Be Quiet, Think Carefully, What Are You Supposed To Do?  We added “Pray” as Step 1, as courage is fear that has said its prayers!


A neat little book about courage and God from the Dollar Store:



The Magic School Bus again came to the rescue with an episode all about mussels and tides — perfect science go-along for Very Last First Time.  Most of our science study this week took place on our field trip.


The title of the book is very curious, and it led to a conversation about ordinal numbers, which coincidentally was also addressed in Lesson 3 of Life of Fred.  Peanut used one of her watercolors as the backdrop for correctly ordering the following terms, and we spent the two weeks referring to things ordinally in our everyday life (“he’s third in line,” “that’s the eighth time I’ve told you to pick up your toys!”, etc.)


I love that Life of Fred incorporates many different elements into each lesson, one of which is how to tell time.  Peanut can now accurately tell us the hour using an analog clock…an increasingly rare skill-set in a digital world.  Kind of like cursive (which we will also be learning in a few years).

Social Studies

 Geography (Ungava Bay and the Arctic Circle), and world cultures (the Inuit people) were our area of concentration.  We found Ungava Bay on our small map:

20140729_150939008_iOSas well as on our huge wall map.  Dovetailing nicely into this, after noticing the illustrated compass on the wall map, was a discussion of north/south/east/west and identifying where we live in relation to Eva (north of us), or Peanut’s cousin (south of us), or where Mommy lived as a child (east of us, in France).

We watched this really cool video of the Inuit people braving the extremely fast and dangerous tides to hunt for mussels, and then filled in a fact sheet about their culture.


Language Arts

We explored the concept of homophones, since Peanut was a little confused by the word “mussels” as used to describe shells with animals inside.   Actually, she had a hard enough time wrapping her head around the concept of shells housing animals that look like globs of saliva, but then again this is the child who thinks that the chicken we eat is different than the chickens we see running around.  I haven’t had the heart to disillusion her of that one yet.

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One of the homophones she came up with and spelled herself:

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We also learned a ton of new action vocabulary words from the story (peering, scrambling, groping, prying, grinning, stumbling, et al) and acted them out.  I’m not sure if Peanut enjoyed being dramatic herself or laughing hysterically at my enactments more.  Here she is “heaving” something.  It’s REALLY heavy.



Art was really fun this week.  Since Eva walked under the ice, we experimented with painting a big ice block.

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And discussed the idea of complementary colors as they are depicted on the color wheel, since the illustrator uses those combinations frequently (purple/yellow and blue/orange especially).

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We also experimented with salt melting ice and talked about the ocean (salt water) versus a lake or river (fresh water).
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Finally, we learned about pointillism (also employed by the illustrator) and she tried her hand at it.  Truthfully, she wasn’t too excited about this…but I did get her to complete attempt one picture.


My dad would be so proud of our little artiste.  Wish he were here to see her using his brushes.

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Finally, for the last day, we made octopus pastries using refrigerated croissant dough, cinnamon sugar and raisins.  We tried to make a mussel shell originally (see the lump in the lower left) but agreed it was pretty lame…and although I bribed convinced her to try real mussels, we never got around to buying them as I would have been the only one eating them.  So the octopi were born.  And they were delicious.

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And that was the last of Very Last First Time!


One response to “Very Last First Time

  1. Laura says:

    You are amazing!

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