Learning Notes: Peter and the Wolf, Riding a Bike, and other Adventures

Learning Notes: Peter and the Wolf, Riding a Bike, and other Adventures


Finally my notes from last week. I write them up every day, but it takes a bit of time to add the pictures. We had a busy weekend and this was the first chance I had.


I keep forgetting to note when we begin the day with reading the daily lectionary readings, reading about the saint of the day, or saying a prayer. I really should note it, though, to keep track for myself how often we’re hitting it. Today we began with a brief prayer– Our Father and the collect. Then we read the Gospel and I read to Bella about St Charles Lwanga and the African martyrs. Later inthe day I found Julie D’s post that had a photograph of the martyrs and we stared at it and marvelled. Then we talked about twhich saints we’ve seen pictures of. St Therese, of course, St Gianna Molla, St Damien of Molokai, St John Paul II, were the ones we mentioned. We could have named others, but we moved on to another topic.

Bella did Life of Fred math and read me a Bob book. Sophie did a page in Miquon and read an Elephant and Piggie book– We Are in a Book. It’s one she’d almost memorized but she very conscientiously would catch herself when she’d start to recite from memory and slow down and look at each word. I could tell because her pronunciation would change when she was trying to read the actual word on the page. She only needed a little reminder now and then to keep her on track. She’s more fluent than she thinks she is. The main task now is getting her to feel confident in her ability.

Afternoon stories:

A chapter from The Striped Ships, the historical novel about the Bayeaux Tapestry; The Far Side of the Loch; St Louis and the Last Crusade; and Francie on the Run. The last one I insisted on. Bella has been avoiding it because she doesn’t like the dramatic tension of disobedient Francie being far from home. Much too tense. But I haven’t read it before, I explained, and I desperately want to find out how the story works out.
Sophie exclaimed that she really does like chapter books because she gets to use her imagination and picture the scenes in her head. I’m noting that Ben and Anthony will often sit for several chapters in a row. Anthony remarked when The Far Side of the Loch had a short chapter and pointed out the hedgehog on the cover. They all adore Hilda van Stockum’s lovely pictures in Francie on the Run.

Ben requested Annie and the Wild Animals. This time we had fun looking at the mariginal pictures for the signs of spring. And tried to imagine what kind of animal Annie was hoping to entice with her corncakes: a rabbit, a squirrel, a chipmunk, a hedgehog, a mole? Anthony requested a book about planes and other flying machines that he had out from the library.

Dom came home early so Bella hurried to finish her copywork and then went out to practice riding her bike. She’s getting pretty good.

Bedtime stories: Sophie and the boys and I read the new Bink and Gollie book from the library and
Dom read Bella a book about a medieval village.

Lucy, Ben, and Sophie out to support Bella and enjoy the day
Lucy, Ben, and Sophie out to support Bella and enjoy the day
Sophie is Bella's biggest cheerleader. She's really awesome at encouraging words.
Sophie is Bella’s biggest cheerleader. She’s really awesome at encouraging words.


Started the morning early, taking Lucy to the dentist for an 8am follow-up on her knocked-loose tooth. The visit took all of a minute and happened in the waiting room. The dentist just took a peek in her mouth and was pleased at how the tooth has moved almost back into place all on its own. Toddlers are remarkably resilient creatures! It took more time to get there and come back, but it was still only a half hour all told. Lucy and I were both up earlier than we have been getting up. I actually scooped her out of bed still asleep and popped her into her carseat before she was fully conscious. Fortunately the clothes I’d put her in for bed were pants and a shirt that double nicely as jammies and daytime clothes.

I ate breakfast after I came home. Dom recorded a Star Wars podcast with Father Roderick– funny to think of him collaborating with a priest in the Netherlands. While he did that I read a chapter of Life of Fred with Bella and then Sophie and I sat down and she read me an entire Little Bear story: Birthday Soup. She was so very pleased with herself. No math for Sophie. Bella read a couple of sentences off the white board. That was it for morning school.

The furnace guy came by for the spring tune-up. Then the washer guys came to drop off the new washing machine. It was after lunch by the time they all left and time to put Lucy down for a nap. Then I read a few books to the big kids. First St Louis, which only Bella pays attention to. Then Far Side of the Loch, for which Ben, Sophie, and Anthony all drop their game and come gather round to hear. I don’t say anything to let them know I’m reading. They just tune in within the first page or so and are suddenly there squabbling over who gets to sit on the arms of my chair. Then the next chapter of Francie on the Run and after that I took a little nap myself, nodding off there in the chair for a while, occasionally waking to yell at the kids to be quiet, and then drifting back to oblivion.

But the nap threw me off. I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself after I got up. i spent some time just sitting outside in the sun watching the kids and looking at the Field Guide to North American Wildlife with Bella. It’s her current favorite book to carry around and look at. She plays an elaborate game where she picks animals from the book to populate an imaginary world. But she also just loves looking at the plants and animals and finding out what they are and where they live. And since its organized with related species grouped together, I think she’s absorbing a better notion of taxonomy as well.

I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around dinner, which turned into a weird affair of leftover sides plus a few new entrees: quesadillas for the kids, kale and currant ravioli from the farmer’s market for me, (Sophie and Anthony ate some too), Thai basil shrimp for Dom, with a side of fiddleheads that I’ve been meaning to cook for days.

Bedtime stories were boys’ choice tonight. Anthony picked a dreadful Lego book from the library and Ben picked a story from the Japanese fairy tales book.

Lucy with her "baby"
Lucy with her “baby”


Somehow we got a late start, even though I got up relatively early. Bella did Life of Fred and read some sentences off the white board. Sophie did a page in Miquon and no reading. Neither girl did copy work.

I made banana bread and everyone helped. Then we had lunch, read some books: a chapter from The Striped Ships and one from The Far Side of the Loch. Then we took a trip to the library.

When we got back we ate banana bread and then I read each kid a library book. There was a Berenstein Bears book about moving. Ugh. Then something else kind of twaddly. Then a rather nice picture book version of Peter and the Wolf I picked up. I stumbled across two books and got them both so we could compare, but the kids have thus far only discovered the one. I consider that they hadn’t yet seen it to be a serious dereliction on my part.

After that I set them up in front of the television to watch the full performance of Peter and the Wolf on You Tube. It was delightful, the bits I saw. After that one of the suggested videos was a Micky Mouse and Donald Duck feature– in which Mickey is conducting the William Tell overture and Donald keeps interrupting with Turkey in the Straw. Oh the giggles and guffaws! (I was making dinner so didn’t watch the whole thing.) I let them watch a few more Donald Duck cartoons. They’d never seen Mickey or Donald before and were quite delighted. I grew up on them and had a hard time pulling away to go cook in the kitchen.

Bella discovered a book about armor I’d checked out for her and we glanced at the page on heraldry. She recognized the words were in French. I think she knew vert. Also a book about tipis.

After dinner we listened to the full William Tell overture.

Watching Peter and the Wolf
Watching Peter and the Wolf


This morning I was having such a hard time getting Bella to make the transition to school work. (Everyone was having trouble with transitions this morning. Ben and Anthony didn’t change out of their pajama tops until afternoon for some reason.) So I decided to try a different strategy and asked Bella what she wanted to start with instead of defaulting to math. She decided she wanted me to write out numbers for her on a piece of paper, making some of them with dots she can trace so she can practice writing them. She knows the shapes of them all but writes all of them backwards at least half the time.

It took me forever to make the sheet for her, though. Anthony was having a very hard morning and I needed to intervene and referee a squabble between him and Sophie. Oh he’s hit the peak of the terrible threes and tries my patience all day every day. I’ll take two any day over three!

Anyway, no one did math. Sophie started out by reading me the new Elephant and Piggie book that we got from the library yesterday and which I had not yet read to them. She read the whole thing! Then she wanted to do handwriting. So I wrote out an antiphon from today’s morning prayer and she neatly traced over it on a sheet of tracing paper and then decorated it with a little shepherd and a sheep. The shepherd had a halo with a cross in it. She’s been paying attention to iconography, clearly. I love how she does that. So sweet.

By the time we’d got through that it was lunch. Bella didn’t do any reading on her own, though she was looking over Sophie’s shoulder as she read and I can tell she’s reading along too, at least part of the time. Oh boy I need to get on the ball with the two of them. I’m really good at history and art and literature. But basic skills like math and reading and writing… it’s so hard to figure out what will work for us.

Over lunch I read to Bella and Sophie about St Boniface and then read them the days’ Gospel, a Gospel reflection by St Therese (from the Evangelizo app on my phone) and then the reading from Acts and the Psalm too. Bella imposed a moment of silence after the St Therese piece before we could go on to the reading from Acts. Then I read them a Mike Venezia book about Michelangelo since we’ve been learning about the Renaissance. And had to go to the Vatican website to look at the virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. The pictures in the book were pre-cleaning, even though the book mentioned it had been cleaned.

After lunch I read them a few library books. Then finished the last chapter of The Far Side of the Loch. Then a chapter of St Louis and the Last Crusade. Then read the first chapter of Tipis by Charlotte and David Yue. (We loved their Wigwams and Longhouses book and are going to read the whole series, I think. Next Pueblo and after that Igloo.)

Bedtime story was Bone by Bone, a picture book of comparative anatomy, looking at the similarities and differences between the skeletons of various vertebrates. The kids all loved it. A perfect mix of entertaining and educational.

Bella is still carrying around the North American Plants and Wildlife book. Every day when I go to tuck Ben in I’m amused by the piles of books on Ben’s bed. I think he’s got about twenty books piled against the wall. Bella remarked tonight that his current hoard is the size of a medieval nobleman’s library.

Bella was asking about the first books. I gathered after chatting a bit that she meant the first codexes because she didn’t think scrolls were books. Actually I couldn’t tell if she meant printed or handwritten. Or paper vs parchment.

Also, after learning they first came to America from Spain in the 1500s, Bella was wondering where horses originated. We didn’t look it up, but recalled the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Babylonians all had horse-drawn chariots.

Anthony and Lucy
Anthony and Lucy
I was brushing out Sophie's hair and it was so pretty I had to take a picture.
I was brushing out Sophie’s hair and it was so pretty I had to take a picture.


Despite Lucia having a very rough night and insisting on sleeping in my bed with me after fussing for more than an hour– I think she’s getting four teeth right now!– I got up in good time this morning. And as breakfast was simple bagels with cream cheese there was little prep time involved. I wrote out today’s Benedictus antiphon for Sophie to copy and Bella copied the antiphon that Sophie did yesterday. Both girls diligently wrote out their copywork and then illustrated them, Bella beginning with a vine and then drawing a shepherd with a sheep standing near him and a lamb in his arms. Sophie decorated hers with a picture of Jesus on his throne and Mary standing nearby.

After that we had to go to the grocery store. Bella is helpful, fetching things I’ve forgotten off of distant shelves. We came home in time for lunch. I had to nurse Lucy down for her nap and then again half an hour later. The second time I gave her some tylenol– poor teeth!

We watched a short video about a great white shark tagged off hte coast of Australia that was eaten by who knows what. We pondered the mystery. Fascinating.

The afternoon reading was outside in the back yard. First, Here in the Bonny Glen because Bella had to know how much time had elapsed from the end of the previous book. Then, Tipi and we learned about the preparation of the poles and skins and the physical construction. Complete with lovely technical drawings. Sophie, Ben, and Anthony, who crowded around to hear about Martha’s adventures, grew bored with all the technical details and wandered off to play. Then Bella and I read the end of The Striped Ships. Farewell, Bayeaux Tapestry and Norman conquest!

Then dinner: homemade bread, chakchouka for the adults, eggs without hot pepper sauce for the kids, roasted cauliflower for all.

Bella’s bedtime request was the Smithsonian Backyard book about robins. Sophie’s was the new Bink and Gollie book.

We continue to be highly amused at Lucia, who is smart as a whip. If you ask her where she left her crust of bread or her toy or her shoe, most of the time she knows exactly where it is and will run straight for it. And she often knows where other people’s stuff is too.

Sophie's copywork with Jesus on the throne and his mother Mary
Sophie’s copywork with Jesus on the throne and his mother Mary
Sophie's Good Shepherd. Note the halo with cross on the shepherd.
Sophie’s Good Shepherd. Note the halo with cross on the shepherd.
Bella's copywork with vine and Good Shepherd holding a lamb.
Bella’s copywork with vine and Good Shepherd holding a lamb.
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  • You can tell Miss Bella that wild horses generally ranged across the Eurasian continent. There is still a separate species of truly wild horse that lives in Mongolia, Przewalski’s Horse. It had to be reintroduced to the wild, but it didn’t go extinct. The Brownsville zoo has some, which is where I learned about them.

  • I don’t know if this would help you but I use this website for printable handwriting worksheets. It prints with the trace letters. I usually use the paragraph option even for sentences or words because if you hit enter you get a blank line or two for them to copy it underneath.

    • I suspect that dealing with the computer and printer and all would make it take longer than just writing it out by hand. I really don’t mind the writing. I just need to remember to do it ahead of time. But then I would struggle with that part no matter what method I used.

  • I don’t know if the products from Memoria Press interest you at all — I love MP — but their scripture and poetry copybooks might be just the thing? My kids loved and used their Latin/English cursive copybook when they were older …. Just a thought! Then it’s all right there, each girl simply pulls out her book day by day or week by week, no need for you to make them up? With my eldest I hand created …. With my younger ones I just couldn’t do that any more and so felt the financial output was well worth it!

    • Those are really nice! I love doing the seasonal antiphons with Sophie and Bella, it ties their work to the liturgy. But it would be nice to have copy books to fall back on days when I can’t keep up with the liturgical stuff. Especially in Ordinary Time when the antiphons will be less seasonal and more repetitive. At least right now Sophie does like having something faith-oriented to copy. How did she put it? “Holy things” maybe? She wasn’t very interested in my idea of copying out some Dickinson for them.