# Learning with Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

This week we read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.  Here are some of the fun activities we did:

• Went to a construction site and watched houses being built.
• Made a chocolate cake with Mike Mulligan (a teddy graham), Mary Ann (a small red digger toy, closest I could find to looking like a steam shovel), crumbled Oreos for dirt and more teddy grahams for the people watching Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann dig the cellar for the new town hall. (Found this idea here.)
• Used a tea kettle to make steam, held a mirror in front of the steam.
• Measured stuff.  We started with squares, like the cellar Mike Mulligan dug, to understand the concept of four equal sides and four equal angles.  We just so happened to be doing “farm school” that day, wherein we brought our school stuff for the day to the local farm where we have a share of produce.  The most fun thing we measured was Elmer, the pot-bellied pig. He is 17 inches long by 9 inches high.
• We talked about the literary element of personification, how Mary Anne has a face and feels happy and sad.  Firefly drew a personified Wii remote control with attached nunchuck and named it Scott.  This was silly and fun.
• You can find some more awesome ideas for rowing Mike Mulligan here.

Making steam from the tea kettle to a mirror.

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### 11 Responses to Learning with Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

1. My guy is younger, but he goes back and forth on worksheet type work. He’ll eat them up for days/weeks like they’re the best thing ever. Then he won’t touch them. I go with the flow. In my opinion, this age is all about instilling a love of learning, including reading and writing. If you push too hard and he loses the joy, I worry that could have lasting effects. Does that make sense? Maybe he could narrate the worksheet to you and you can write it? I know that doesn’t get him writing….but if he can prove he understands the information, isn’t that the most important thing? Could you find other areas to get him writing? Like more of his crosswords or something else non-worksheet-like? But you have to go with you mama instincts on this one. You know him best! Good luck!!

2. Natalie says:

I don’t have a boy, but just reading your words, and thinking about my experience with my girl (so, different, I know) I’m thinking what I would do in this situation (and do in our situation) is have basically 1 written “worksheet” a day. For us, only doing it once a week, would just not be routine enough – but once a day, well, my theory is you get used to your medicine and get good at taking it. Like you, I always make it a quick one (5 minutes top if they just do it) and position it right before an extremely desireable activity.

1 worksheet a day won’t kill him. My girlfriend whose daughter is in K this year in a GREAT school district, said that the ONLY thing her daughter has brought home are worksheets printed from the internet and coloring pages – that’s it, nothing else, and I believe they are 6 weeks in. With that in mind, I would not feel at all bad about asking the child to do one short sheet a day, four or five days a week.

This may seem silly to you – so feel free to just ignore. I appreciated you posting your MM week – we will do ours in a few, and I loved seeing your week!

3. Janet W says:

I wouldn’t worry about the writing yet. My youngest is 12 now & looking back I really wish I had done less pushing. A lot of 6 years old haven’t even started Kindergarten yet.

4. Jenny says:

I enjoyed this post! Fun activities with FIAR. I have had similar conversations already with my 5 year old. My 10 year old was a dream to homeschool for 4 years (but he’s in public school right now due to his special needs); he was so compliant and loved worksheets. HOWEVER, he never liked to write for long periods – hated practicing writing letters or anything, but after a few months in school, I could see how much more capable he was to write. I just hadn’t pushed him enough. So either look at that as 1) push him; he’s capable or 2) if he ever had to go to school, he’d probably catch up just fine, anyway so enjoy homeschooling for what it is. I’m hearing what you’re saying, though, about the behavior issues related to schooling. It’s one of my goals to keep the headbutting between my stubborn child and his equally stubborn mother to a minimum when it has to do with schooling.

5. Jocelyne says:

Sounds like you had a GREAT week with Mike Mulligan. My son loved Mike as well

I wanted to comment on the worksheet / writing. My vote would be don’t push. Give him a chance to fall in love with learning. Make sure he knows where to find blank paper, lined paper, mini books, pencils, markers, etc. I definitely come from the camp of better late than early. However it is never too early to set an example and inspire him to document his learning and to read.

My son, six-and-a-half, loves to read and write. He always has. But I have never forced him to do either one. It was all him, with me as an example. For reading all I did was read to him and make sure he saw me reading both for pleasure and for learning. I offer up lots and LOTS of opportunities. And I inspire him by keeping a notebook myself. I’ll do an experiment with him and draw a simple diagram and jot a note down. Not every single experiment, but occassionally. I also started writing down my favorite quotes from books and poems that I loved. He followed suit and started doing the same thing and suddenly he was practicing his handwriting by way of copywork.

He doesn’t like worksheets at all, but he likes to document his learning in a notebook. He prefers blank paper, not something to fill in. He likes to draw his own diagrams and write down what he thinks is important enough to remember. He draws pictures of the experiments that excite him. He researches in books and draws pictures and labels them with interesting information. Basically, he owns his learning.

If there are worksheets that I think he might enjoy I offer them up. I might leave them sitting around to inspire him. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I don’t really care. He loves maps so I print lots of blank ones of the country we are reading about. He likes to label them and draw on them and such.

I am asked often at what point I would begin to require worksheets/writing/reading. Honestly, if he is showing growth and learning and reading a wide variety of genres and understaning concepts and on and on I might not ever. My goal is to teach him how to learn and use what he learns. Not everyone will catalogue their learning the same way, nor will they use it in the same way. So I have no clue if I will ever require more. Only time will tell.

I’ve written a novel – sorry!

6. Alicia says:

Stopping by from the Weekly Wrap Up … loved reading about your week. I have used Five In A Row before with my oldest two and now I am going back through it with my 5 year old. I just love FIAR so much!! Your activities to go along with Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel were great! I am going to use some of those ideas when we row that book.

Have a great weekend!

7. Diane Kirkwood says:

As an old primary school teacher, I can tell you that many six year old children do not like to write and do worksheets. Especially little boys!

Make an agreement for a set number (perhaps 1 per day) of worksheets that he will do and then relax about the matter.

If he CAN write and read, then he doesn’t need to demonstrate it all the time. I had a student once who would only do the first question or problem on a page. When I questioned him about that, he would reply, “But you know I can do the rest of them!”
And I did!

I love following your blog. You are doing an impressive job with your kids in every way!

8. Thank you everyone! Truly appreciate all of your comments and wonderful ideas!

9. Just popped over from WUH Weekly Wrap-Up. I enjoyed your summary so much, I looked at your blog in general and enjoyed it very much. I will be back again to see what things you will be up to.

10. Michelle says:

Love that cake! That is way cool.

11. Rivka says:

Wow! We’re doing Mike Mulligan this week, and I am SO TOTALLY making that cake! Thanks for the great ideas.