Thursday, August 20, 2015 the Beach!

Charles Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why has been a hit so far with my two Year 4 students this term.  It's no surprise, as they were already familiar with and quite fond of his humorous asides and conversational tone.  (We read The Water Babies and Heroes aloud last year; in terms of tone, I think this one falls very close to the former, but the content, being non-fiction, is more straightforward.)

My daughter in particular appreciates Kingsley because he always anticipates her follow-up questions before she even has a chance to comment.  She'll open her mouth to object or ask a question, and the next words I read are, "What! you have a question more to ask?" or "I see you are astonished at the notion."  Gianna just eats all that up.  And how could you not?  His voice shines through with such charm, and we're happy to spend twenty minutes or so with him each week as he shares insight into the hows and whys of the natural world.

But we weren't expecting to find him at the beach last week, though I suppose we should have!  After all, Chapter 1 of Madam How and Lady Why--and the whole book, really--is all about "water, water, you stupid man."  (Yes, according to our house rules, you are only allowed to call someone stupid if you are writing in the nineteenth century.  And yes, that is another reason Kingley's writing invokes lots of giggles.)

Back to the beach:

Vincent spent twenty minutes or so digging a long, narrow tunnel connecting a sand castle he was making to the water (see him there on the left working away?).  He noticed that the deep, narrow tunnel gradually began to grow broader and shallower at the end as the water flowed in and back out.  "It's like The Glen!" he happily reported.

He dug another tunnel to show me.  Sure enough!  It started off with high sides...

And as the water moved in and out, that end of the canyon grew shallower and broader.

And then these crests started to form which reminded us of another bit:
"You know what an odd, and indeed of what a pretty form all these glens are: how the flat moor ends suddenly in a steep founded bank, almost like the crest of a wave--ready like a wave-crest to fall over, and, as you know, falling over sometimes, bit by bit, where the soil is bare." (14)

Of course we were using just sand and not combinations of earth layers, but the concept became clear to the children all the same.

Kingsley encourages us to not to take his word for it but to investigate ourselves:
"But I do not want you to merely depend on what I say.  If you want to understand Madam How, you must ask her questions yourself, and make up your mind yourself like a man ... The Bible says, 'Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.'  So do you prove my guess, and if it proves good, hold it fast." (19-20)
And later in the chapter he makes this point which I think is just lovely:
"For the safest way to learn Madam How's methods is to watch her at work in little corners at commonplace business, which will not astonish or frighten us, nor put huge hasty guesses and dreams into our heads ... So do you be humble and patient, and watch Madam How at work on little things.  For that is the way to see her at work upon all space and time." (23)
We were happy to take his advice without even meaning to, and we are waiting with humility and patience for what Kingsley and Madam How have to teach us through the rest of this year.


For those of you who are also doing Year 4 science, here are a few helpful parent guides that I look over each week during my weekly planning and pre-reading session:

Story-Book of Science Notes and Activities at the AO Forums
Madam How and Lady Why posts by chapter at Journey and Destination
Carol's Pinterest boards on Earth Science (including MHLW) -- thanks for the tip, Dawn!
Katie Barr's Madam How and Lady Why study guide from the AO website

I hope you are enjoying this year's science selections as much as we are!


  1. When I first pre-read MHLW, I was skeptical and wondered if my children would enjoy the book. I was pleasantly surprised. They loved it! Even though we were new to AO at that point, and it took a little while for them to really appreciate Mr. Kingsley, it has now become a favorite in our home. :)
    Love the connections that Vincent made. :)

    1. I too was skeptical and am glad to have be proven wrong so far. :)

  2. This is great! Do you follow Carol M's Pinterest feed? She curates really carefully. Her Science board has great ideas for MHLW and SoS!

    1. Thank you--I will edit the post to add Carol's link! I hadn't been on Pinterest in a long while, but I love what she has put together.

  3. This is wonderful! The delights of sand and water just never change.

  4. I would love to spend a day at the beach with you and yours. I am particularly looking forward to MHLW this year with my oldest. We loved Waterbabies, and are often making connections with that book.

    1. That would be so lovely, Heather. And if you and Dorothy enjoyed The Water Babies, I'm sure you'll love this title too.