Learning Notes Week of February 5 and Escher at the MFA

Anthony doing copywork.

Monday February 5

Pretty good considering the children were all up very late watching the Super Bowl.

Anthony did math, copywork, and read from Stories of Great Americans.

Ben did math, copywork, and Explode the Code.

Sophie did math and copywork and French.

Bella did math, copywork, Latin, and updated her Book of Centuries.

After everyone finished their morning work we took a long walk. Took a lot of tears and very firm persuasion to get everyone out the door, but eventually everyone had a good time. We explored a part of the neighborhood that we’d never been to and found a sewage pumping station and a little stream. There were lots of puddles and some ice and snow, which made for some fun exploration. We picked up some interesting sticks and spruce cones to draw and some bunches of privet berries.

Read alouds: Adam of the Road, St Margaret Mary, Book of Angel’s, Story of the World, Augustus Caesar’s World.

We discussed Lent and talked about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and what we might like to do individually and as a family. No decisions were made, but a good preliminary discussion.

Bedtime: Howl’s Moving Castle.

Anthony organized the cans and plastic containers on my pantry shelves.

Kids on a nature walk.

Trying to think of a name for the stream we found.

Tuesday February 6

Anthony did math, copywork.

Ben did math, copywork, and Explode the Code.

Sophie did math and copywork and French and Geography.

Bella did math, copywork, Latin. She spent some time going outside to look at snowflakes with the magnifying glass and asked to look at some of Snowflake Bentley’s photographs online.

Read alouds: Adam of the Road, Book of Marvels, St Margaret Mary, Augustus Caesar’s World, Doorway of Amethyst.

Bedtime story: Therese Makes a Tapestry.

Sophie copying.

Lucy’s copywork.

Wednesday February 7

Anthony did math, copywork.

Ben did math, copywork, and Explode the Code.

Sophie did math and copywork.

Bella did math, copywork, Latin.

Read alouds: Adam of the Road, St Margaret Mary, Story of the World, Augustus Caesar’s World, North with the Spring.

Bedtime story: Howl’s Moving Castle.

Ben and Lucy play Uno in Ben’s bed.

Ben and Lucy build a palace.

Thursday February 8

Everyone did math and copywork and then we headed to the grocery store.

Oh yeah, Bella did Latin too. She’s looking ahead at the next book of Little Latin Readers and is enchanted that it’s basically a European geography text. She’s got plans to pretend to be a medieval princesss learning about geography— in Latin, of course. So a huge upswing in the Latin interest. It sort of took a nose dive at the beginning of book two because the stories were boring. So I’m glad we’ve hit a patch of more interesting stories and Latin is fun again.

Afternoon read alouds: We finished Adam of the Road and are sorry to say goodbye. We desperately want more of Adam’s adventures. 

St Margaret Mary had difficulty eating cheese but forced herself to eat it anyway out of love of Christ— and I keep thinkingI need to leverage this anecdote with my picky eaters. Especially as Lent is coming up. 

We began Heroes of the Middle Ages and read about Rome in the late Emprire, the waves of invaders from the east: the Celts, the Goths, the Huns. 

In Augustus Caesar’s World we read about the death of King Herod the Great and the rise of his sons. 

We finally— finally!!!— finished Minn of the Mississippi and left Minn sitting on a treasure horde like a miniature dragon. 

In Book of Marvels: Haliburton goes to Yosemite and once again his facts are outdated. Yosemite falls, which he believes is the tallest in the world is today not listed in the top ten tallest waterfalls. (It’s number 20.) So we are left wondering when were the heights of these various falls certified? Were they all discovered or measured after 1937? And for that matter where was Haliburton drawing his data from? An almanack or an atlas? And it calls into question a lot of the things we take for granted as certain and incontrovertible. Haliburton couldn’t imagine that a longer bridge than the Oakland Bay bridge would ever be built in the next thousand years. What other body of water could we even find to span? And yet the Bay Bridge today isn’t in the top 20. He couldn’t imagine the world as it is today. And we? As we long to the future, what can we not imagine?

Bedtime story: A Saint and His Lion: St Tecla of Ethiopia. 


Frozen puddle.

Sophie investigates the frozen puddle.

Friday February 9

Field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. Usually what spurs me to plan a trip to the MFA is a cool new exhibit that I don’t want to miss. Today’ trip wasn’t sparked by a desire to see any particular exhibit so much as the February blahs. We didn’t have any big field trips in January, though I’d planned to. The weather, sickness, post-Christmas budget constraints, all combined to keep us home. As usual, it seems. (Though at least we did get out of the house for some park days, which is unusual for January.) So it’s dark and dreary and I needed some art and beauty.

Then as we were getting ready to depart this morning in a flurry of filling water bottles, organizing snacks, and braiding girls’ hair, Dom texted to let me know there’s an M. C. Escher exhibit that he’d been meaning to tell me about. I thought the kids would appreciate Escher, so that was our first stop. And sure enough, they were delighted by the whimsy and optical illusions. The favorites were the impossible buildings.

After Escher we wandered with no particular aim. Bella wanted to see the newly acquired Dutch masters and we did. I couldn’t remember which of the Dutch works were new and which I’d seen before.

What enchanted us most in the Dutch exhibit was a cunning doll house built into a 17th century clothes press. The explanatory sign was curiously hard to comprehend— surprising in a museum where the signage is usually very well done. It didn’t contextualize the piece very well or explain clearly, but poking around online after we got home I learned that keeping fancy dollhouses like this was a common passtime for well to do Dutch women of the merchant class. They were not children’s playthings at all; but a way of showing off wealth. As far as I can figure out, the dollhouse at the MFA is built in a real period clothes press, but is of modern construction, meant to show what the typical Dutch dollhouse of the period was like. But the silver and Chinese porcelein furnishings are period pieces. I wish the signage had been more clear as to who put the display together and why and which bits were modern and which bits were period. I hope in the future the MFA writes something much less opaque. (I also wish I’d had the presence of mind to snap a photo of what they did have so I could be more precise in my critique.) Nonetheless, we were all enchanted and spent a long time exclaiming over all the details. My children really, really wanted to play with this dollhouse.

After lunch we wandered more, flitting aimlesly through the European and American wings, though not hitting the ancient art, which I did want to see because I think there’s a new exhibit on daily life in Ancient Greece. There’s so much to discover and everyone found at least one new favorite piece and was able to revisit one old favorite. I love being able to come to the museum again and again. It’s my happy place and I love sharing it with my kids and seeing how much they have come to enjoy spending time there. (Despite protests that “paintings are kind of boring” by the younger set. I notice they all chose at least one postcard of a painting at the gift shop.)

The boys had a cub scout den meeting after dinner so we just read some poems by A. A. Milne for bedtime stories, a selection from Now We Are Six.

M.C. Escher at the MFA.

Looking at Escher.

Looking at Escher.

Looking at Escher.

Ben and Anthony looking at Escher.

Anthony shows me his favorite work.

Sophie gestures.

Bella is captivated.

Bella sketches her own impossible space.

Bella sketches her own impossible space.

Bella shows off her sketch.

Sketching.

Sketching.

Bella shows off her sketch of the painting behind her.

Balcony scene.

A room in the dollhouse.

Looking out the window at the Japanese garden in the snow.

2 Responses to Learning Notes Week of February 5 and Escher at the MFA

  1. Stephanie February 12, 2018 at 4:35 am #

    What a fabulous day! The doll’s houses look amazing. It reminded me of Rumer Godden’s The Doll’s House and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.

    • Melanie Bettinelli
      Melanie Bettinelli February 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

      Yes! It reminded us of Rumer Godden’s books too. The kids so wanted to play with everything in it.

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