This marks week #4 in our studies of the Renaissance. In week #1, we did general research about the time period, getting an overview of the exciting things happening during that 300 year time span. In week #2, we studied Renaissance art, playing The Art Game and reading stories about the lives of Michelangelo and Raphael. Week #3 was all about the scientific achievements of the time, highlighting Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. The kids love astronomy, so that was great fun.
But how can you give Leonardo da Vinci less than his own full week? He encapsulated so much of what we’ve already been studying – he was the “Renaissance Man,” after all. And I thought it would be a great opportunity to slow down and do some hands on activities.
So today is Day 1 of da Vinci. I’ve been talking a lot about my general education philosophies, and I thought da Vinci week would be a good opportunity to show the practical application. I’m going to do a short entry each day this week and walk you through our time studying this great man.
We start history at 8:00 am. The three of us gathered in the basement, and I asked Eva (8) to give an oral report on the Magic Tree House Research Guide about da Vinci that she’d been reading over the past week. It was an informal report, and I let her make reference to the book whenever she liked. She illustrated a few things on the white board, and Ian (11) and I asked her some probing questions. She took about 20 minutes to report all she knew (though as she warmed up, she got excited to tell more and more!).
After her report (and during), Ian and I participated by listing the interesting facts we already knew about da Vinci. Since we’re a family of vegetarians, we loved the fact that da Vinci avoided eating meat. He was a bird lover too, which is also something we had in common. And he was left-handed, like my kids. But he wrote most everything backwards! Now that’s a feat.
Once we finished our discussion, we moved upstairs and snuggled in on the couch with blankets and hot apple cider, and popped in a 30 minute video giving an overview of da Vinci’s life. It reinforced a lot of the ideas we had talked about, and provided beautiful images of Florence and Milan and some of the 7,000 pages of da Vinci’s surviving notes.
Over the next two days, we’ll be working with some of da Vinci’s machine inventions. I have procured two fun looking models that we’ll be building. The kids have been drooling over the intriguing boxes for 2 months now, but I have been uncompromising and haven’t even let them look inside yet. I think I’m as excited as the kids!
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