Loud Emily (Literature-Based Unit Study)

Five in a Row is a wonderful introduction to teaching your child at home using living books. Five in a Row is my FAVORITE resource to recommend to new homeschooling families with children 8 and under. The idea is to read a delightful book 5 days “in a row,” concentrating on certain lessons or activities that revolve or spring from the book. Five in a Row taught me so much about homeschooling in an organic, living way.

When our family first discovered homeschooling, I tried the school-at-home route (recreating the classroom experience here at home). Five in a Row jumped in and rescued me from becoming too “schoolish.” What a wonderful introduction to how “real” learning can be, how wonderful it can feel.

Five in a Row taught me that learning happens without textbooks. A good picture book delights the imagination while teaching us. We soon began to learn from picture books on our own, eventually finding a true Living Books education and basing most of our curriculum on real books. We have spent the last several years learning about American history, and find ourselves today in the mid-1800’s. A particular fictional story recommended by Truthquest History for young children on the subject of “whaling days” caught my eye as a Five-in-a-Row type book. LOUD EMILY by Alexis O’Neill is a charming and fun book that seems just perfect for a little unit study.

Here are some of the ideas we played with. Feel free to use any and all of them in your own educational activities!

LOUD EMILY by Alexis O’Neill, Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Social Studies: Geography/History

In the Author’s Note found at the end of LOUD EMILY, O’Neill suggests this story took place in New Bedford, Massachusetts, during the 1850’s. Find Massachusetts on a map or globe. At the time, New England was the whaling capital of the world. Cities that whalers took off from and came back to became busy, wealthy centers. Note how the location of cities along the East Coast could have become bustling whale cities.

A whale voyage would last 2-5 years with a crew of up to 35. They would sail to South Seas or the Artic Ocean. Find these on a map/globe as well.

A nice summary of American whaling may be found at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (Click on Overview of American Whaling – if you keep following the links, you can learn about the different types of ships, what supplies were needed on whaling ships, what a voyage was like, how they captured whales, etc.)

Science: Uses of Whale Products and the idea of Recycling

Americans made several products from different parts of the whale; they did not waste anything but found uses for everything. Eventually, new inventions and discoveries (such as petroleum) gave less need for whale products.

Whale bone – fishing poles, buttons, umbrella ribs, skirt hoops

Whale oil – lubricating machinery and lighting lamps in houses/lighthouses

Spermaceti (fatty substance) – used to make smokeless candles

Ambergris (waxy gray material) – used in perfumes

This could be an opportunity to go over with your student the idea of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. You can find practical ways to observe these 3 R’s this week.

Science: Extinction of Whales, Whaling in Modern Times

This college report demonstrates how the population of whales has been hurt since modern whaling, and which whales are making a comeback.

Click here to read about current laws and programs to protect whales.

You can surf the World WildLife Fund website to learn about endangered species in general.

Science: Varieties of Whales

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has nice descriptions of several types of whales.

Search Google Images for specific whale photos/illustrations.

Language Arts: Literary Device – Capital Letters

Explain to the children that authors may use all capital letters to express that a character is speaking loudly or yelling. Have your child write (or dictate to you) a sentence or paragraph using this technique.

Language Arts: Development of Language/Slang

One of the first pages of LOUD EMILY lists common phrases whalers used along with their modern-day translations. E.g“All hands on deck!” means “Everyone must come up to the top platform of the ship!” After reading through LOUD EMILY at least one time, it might be nice for your child to hear what some of the whaling phrases actually mean.

Speak with your child about how people from same geographical areas often develop their own words for things. Wikipedia has a long list of the dialects of the English language, including one for Southern EnglishCalifornia English, and African-American English. Here’s a really fun quiz you can take. They will guess which region of the USA you are from based on what words you use for different objects and how your pronounce words.

Just for fun, you might want to check out Talk Like a Pirate website!

Art: American Folk Art

The paintings created by Nancy Carpenter in LOUD EMILY were inspired by American Folk Art. Many artists would travel around towns painting portraits and scenes. (See the last page of LOUD EMILY, under Illustrator’s Note for more interesting information. Nancy Carpenter also illustrated the lovely Apples to Oregon book!)

Click here to see examples of folk art from the Metropolitan Museum.

Click here for a list of 19th century artists and their works (follow links of folk artists for more info on those that interest you, e.g. Edward Hicks)

Art: Scrimshaw

In New England whaling towns, people would pay a lot for portraits. Many sailors took up art as a side business, spending long hours on the boat carving pictures onto whalebone. This type of art was called scrimshaw.

You can create your own version of scrimshaw, without hurting any whales! You will need IVORY soap, sharp knives or other carving tools, and shoe polish. Click here for more details!

Social Studies: Individuals and their place in the Community

“GOOD MORNING!” Emily said in her Emily voice.

Every single one of us has a individual approach to life and unique gifts to share with the world. Sometimes (often!) our “good” points and “bad” points are flip sides of the same coin. That friendly friend of yours who is also flighty, or the detailed co-worker who knows where everything is might also be bossy. Learning how to harness our individuality for the good of ourselves and others is a lifelong task.

Optional Bible Study: The Body of Christ and Its Members
If your family is Christian, you might expand on the above Social Studies idea by talking with the children about the Church being the Body of Christ — how the individual parts have varied functions and different purposes, yet work together to glorify God. Talk about the importance of different roles in a family, in a business, in the community at large. Discuss how should not all strive to be exactly the same as each other, but instead strive to become what God has intended for us individually, so we can work together corporately. Refer to I Corinthians 12.

Optional Bible Study: Jesus Calms the Sea

At the end of the story, Emily has power over the waves and fog with her loud voice.  This may be a good time to read Luke 8:22-25 and discuss how God is the only One with power over nature, and imagine how incredible it would have been to be with Jesus the day He calmed the sea.

Addendum:  A Few More Ideas!

As we were studying this book/era, my kids wanted to know more about boarding schools (Emily is almost sent away to one).  This may be a good time to talk with your children about education through the ages and modern choices in education.

You may also want to look into lighthouses, their purpose and locations.  This could be a great field trip, if you live near the coast or are visiting the coast for family vacation.

If you enjoy learning from Loud Emily even half as much as I did, you’re in for a real treat.