What follows is the original story Katherine, Mary Beth, and I wrote several years ago to introduce the alphabet, the saints, and some wonderful stories to our little boys. We wove lessons of all sorts around an alphabet theme: science lessons, readings from childhood favorites, an author study for every letter, hands-on art and art history, and much more. Now, we have a new crop of 4- to 7-year-olds and some bigger sisters who are reluctant to be left out of the fun we have planned. So, it's time to dust off the Alphabet Path and to fondly re-tool it and bring it to life again. Below, will find enough to keep you and your little one busy for two weeks, working and reading at leisurely, cozy pace. I plan to use these lessons and revise them as I go, all in real time, about every two weeks or so. All the older lessons are catalogued here, every letter from A-Z. We've noticed some dead links and we're going to add some bright, new things, too. We'd be happy to have you along as we skip down this path and I hope you'll let me know what you are doing in your home. You'll find all the books recommended in the 52 weeks worth of lessons, organized and catalogued here.
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Michael who lived with his family in a cabin at the edge of a beautiful woods. One day Michael's mother was having a birthday and he set out in search of the perfect present. "What shall I give my mother for her birthday?" he wondered. He began to walk, searching for just the right thing. He looked in the flower beds that wound their way around the front of the cabin and saw beautiful tulips, roses and daisies. They would make a lovely bouquet for his mother, but he knew that he wasn't allowed to pick flowers from the beds.
As Michael continued to walk along the flower beds he heard a soft rustling in the woods behind his house. "What was that? Probably just a squirrel" thought Michael as he went about his search. Suddenly from behind an Apple Tree there appeared before him a beautiful lady. She wore a flowing dress decorated here and there with plump, red apples. They were so beautiful that Michael had trouble telling if they were real apples or only pictures. But whatever they were, there was definitely something familiar about her dress.
The beautiful lady held out her arms, bidding him to come. Slowly he began to walk toward her. "Who are you?" asked Michael in a small, shy voice. The beautiful apple lady lowered her head and Michael could see a band of green leaves holding back the loose curls which framed her lovely face. "I am Mrs. Applebee. I live here with my children in this magical woods." Michael couldn't believe what he was hearing. How could she live in the woods? There was no room for a house within all of those towering old trees. And what children was she talking about? Michael had never seen a child anywhere near the woods.
"I don't understand," Michael replied politely. "How could you live in the woods and where are your children? I've never seen any children around here." Mrs. Applebee smiled and answered, "That's because you don't know where to look." Suddenly there was a gentle flutter of what sounded like wings up above their heads. The soft sound came from the branches of the Apple Tree. Michael looked above and saw two tiny little creatures sitting on the branch among the apple blossoms. At first look they seemed to be beautiful butterflies, but as he focused his eyes he saw that they were tiny children with fairy wings and they sang a beautiful song.
"These are my children the Apple Blossom Fairies. They live in the Apple Tree and protect the sweet baby blossoms from the wind and cold" said Mrs. Applebee, before Michael had a chance to ask. The older of the two fairies flew down to Michael and when she landed on the soft ground, made a little curtsy and said in a high, sweet voice, "I am the Apple Blossom Fairy and my name begins with the Letter A. I am the first of my mother's children." Suddenly Michael knew what was familiar about Mrs. Applebee's dress. From the tip of her collar down through the lines of her dainty apron, the form of a Letter A was visible through the folds of her apple dress.
The little fairy handed Michael a beautiful Apple Blossom. "This would be nice to add to your mother's birthday bouquet. I'm sure my brothers and sisters will offer you many more if you like." Michael smelled the sweet, fragrant blossom and looked at Mrs. Applebee with hopeful eyes. "Of course I will take you to meet my other children" Mrs. Applebee agreed. And as she nodded her head her apple earrings bobbed up and down against her golden hair.
"But wait!" The Apple Blossom Fairy crossed her ankles, spun around and sat down gently on the mossy ground. "Before you go, first let me tell you a story about a special friend whose name also begins with the Letter A." The Fairy reached behind her wings and pulled out a red book. "This book is where we keep letters from our heavenly friends and the first letter is from the grandmother of Jesus and mother of a Blessed Mother. She's your heavenly grandmother and her name is St. Anne. "
Apple Blossom Fairy began to tell Michael the story of good St. Anne, who with St. Joaquin prayed for a child to raise and dedicate to God. The fairy smiled and said, "You know Michael, she is your special grandmother too and she likes to hear what' s on your heart. Talk to her often." Michael looked down at the sweet flower in his hand as it shone with the fairy dust, and the joy in his heart welled up into a great smile.
"Come along, Michael," sang Mrs. Applebee, "we have many more children to meet and flowers to collect. And this bouquet will be a most wonderful gift for your mother because five of the flowers are very special." Michael looked down at his Apple Blossom and realized that the stem of the flower was pure gold. "Five of my children have golden stems and the first is the Apple Blossom. A is a very special letter, you know."
With a wink Mrs. Applebee turned and as she stepped her dainty foot onto the floor of the woods, suddenly a grassy green path appeared. "Follow me and we'll greet my other children and you'll have a gift for your mother before the end of the day." She held out her graceful hand and Michael took it, one hand holding Mrs. Applebee's and the other holding the Apple Blossom for his mother. And all the while he was wondering who they would next meet along the grassy path.
Language: Use the Letter A on Mrs. Applebee's dress to teach letter formation to a beginning writer. Let the child trace the letter with a finger. Maybe the child would like to practice the Letter A by drawing a Mrs. Applebee of his or her own. (It's a fun artistic challenge for older children as well.) Use the Song as copywork for the week. And learn the song from the CD.
(Don't try to do it all--these are options for science and nature study)
- After the story has been told, spend some time on the Flower Fairy site. (if you need help navigating the new Flower Fairy site, click here for a tutorial) You can research the botanical information and plant idenification and record them in a sketchbook or main lesson book. Or perhaps you would prefer flower storybook paper for letter writing practice and copywork. (An older child can do this independently, but a younger child can give an oral narration which you write or keyboard for him or her.)
- With your older child, you might choose to work through Apologia's Discovering Creation with Botany. Read a section and then ask your child to narrate the information in his main lesson book. Always encourage your child to illustrate his narrations. Work on the experiments that you feel would be most beneficial for your child. Take a picture of the finished project and add it to his main lesson book. The pace at which you move through this book is not as important as the child having an opportunity to really understand the material. Go at your child's pace. I highly recommend the notebooks to go with the botany book, for both older and younger children.
- We've had great success encouraging older children to take their flower narrations well beyond what is provided at the Flower Fairy site. These children are able to truly appreciate the vast varieties of flowers and to see God's creativity when they consider the lilies of the field.
- For some children, a living books/picture book approach seems to resonate and be more meaningful than any other approach. Consider choosing meaty picture books to teach the same concepts. If you choose to pursue this course of study, here is a science-themed picture book study for this letter:
Storybook Science: A is for Apples:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a wonderful online story and lesson for all ages that further elaborates on Cezanne, the author introduced with this letter.
Using the illustration in The Flower Fairy Alphabet Book, ask the child to sketch the The Apple Blossom Fairy in the main lesson book. A younger child can color the The Apple Blossom Fairy in the Flower Fairy Alphabet Coloring Book . Perhaps on another day the child could model the fairy or flower with modeling beeswax. (Sources of excellent quality modeling beeswax can be found on the right sidebar.)
For this week's picture study, Museum ABC focuses on APPLE on the A page.
It's interesting to look carefully at just one segment of the painting in the book. The children can discuss what they think the rest of the painting might look like before you show them the print. The full image of Paul Cezanne's Apples is here .
Really look at the picture. Soak in the details. Ask your child to narrate with a prompt such as, "Pretend that I am going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time and want to find this painting. What details could you give me so that I could more easily find it?" Keyboard the narration and ask your child to sketch the work of art. A younger child can copy the painting while an older child can narrate from memory and discover how much detail he remembers by attempting to sketch it from memory. Over the course of this unit, consider collecting the narrations and sketches in a single album and create your own family art history book.
(The goal of Picture Study is to train the eye toward the beautiful. Biographical information about the artist is secondary. Set the work of art as your family computer's wallpaper or screen saver or print the painting on card stock and display it on the refrigerator. After spending time with a picture and really taking the time to look at it, your child will make a connection. There is no need to explain a great deal, especially to a young child. Allow the child to make his own connection with the art. )
An Alphabet of Catholic Saints: St. Anne. Learn the rhyme this week. (This book is temporarily out of stock as it is being reprinted to include the beatification of Kater Tekakwitha.)
An Alphabet of Mary: This lovely book is a new addition this year. We're so excited to create a Mary notebook, with the children making a page for every letter, learning titles of Our Lady and how to love her more as we go. Angel's Joy is the title for <<A>>.
Read about Guardian Angels in Letters from Heaven. Letters from Heaven offers a scripture verse at the bottom of the page. Look it up with the children and commit it to memory. (Letters from Heaven introduces saints from the Eastern Orthodox tradition.)
Each week we will be making a Wee Felt Saint or two. Or perhaps you'd prefer to paint saints as Jessica did.
There is much opportunity for narration and notebooking for all ages in reading lists of the Faith section. Read the selections aloud to all ages of children. Assign chapter book biographies to older children. Draw pictures and record narrations of the lives of each saint. Then, when the feast of that saint is celebrated in the life of the Church, revisit an old friend and have a a little party at tea time. These are stories to read and read again.
Read about these saints in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints:
St. Anthony of Padua
Read about these saints in the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes:
St. Albert the Great
The Flower Fairy site also offers an exhibit of Cicely Mary Barker's Christian art.
Suggested Books for Read-Alouds and Narrations
Meet the Author--Allen Say:
Read "Apple Song" on page 239 in Favorite Poems Old and New. Recite daily and make notebook page.
Young children are encouraged always to narrate aloud the stories which have been read to them. Occasionally, keyboard those narrations as the child tells it and allow him or her to illustrate the printed narration.
For more structured writing lessons for children who are in the 3rd-5th grades, IEW Fables, Myths, and Fairytales Writing Lessons dovetail nicely with the Alphabet Path theme.
Serendipi-Tea Time Recipes
Fun for the Little Ones