Learning Notes: Week of July 6 (Ben’s birthday)

Story time.

Story time.


Pretty successful table time. Boys sat still for at least 20 minutes. Bella and Sophie did copywork. I read Bella the daily Mass readings while she wrote. Sophie did not like me to read while she was copying. Grr.

Then Bella ran outside to play while Sophie drew a picture. Then they both did a quick math page. I was impressed when Bella was able to add 16 and 16 and get 32. She’s definitely understanding place values. Bella read her word list off the white board but didn’t come back later to read sentences. Sophie didn’t read to me at all.

Mom read them a bunch of poems and several picture books. Hooray for Grandma! Lots more read alouds when family are visiting! Even Lucy climbed up and let Grandma read her a book.

I read a chapter of Beyond the Heather Hills. The last two chapters of Francie on the Run. And the last chapter of Who Was First? Also The Three Billy Goats Gruff for Anthony– it’s his current favorite and several pages of Charlotte in New York for Bella.

For bedtime Bella asked for the Smithsonian Backyard book about chipmunks and then waxed rhapsodic about how much she loves the series, listing off all the reasons they are the best books about animals. I don’t recall what Dom read to Sophie.

Anthony with a sword

Anthony with a sword

Tuesday: Field Trip Day– The Franklin Park Zoo

An awesome day at the zoo. On the way there we listened to The Little House on the Prairie cds that Sophie got for her birthday. This is the first time any of us have listened to them, even though it’s been four months since she got them. I rather like the narrator’s voice. She’s got a Southern accent and it is a pleasure to listen to. I like that they use fiddle music to bridge from one chapter to the next and try to sing the songs. (Though the tunes they use for the songs we’ve heard so far don’t match the tunes on the Pa’s Fiddle music cds we own and that bothers me.)

Bella was riding in the other car (We had to take two cars since my mom is with us this week.) and so didn’t get to listen with us. Which was a shame because my ears perked up when they crossed over the Mississippi River. Wait, what lake were they crossing? Because we’ve been reading Minn of the Mississippi and looking at maps of the headwaters. I wanted the map in Minn so bad so I could figure out where the Ingalls family’s path crossed Minn’s.

Dom says he and Bella discussed even numbers and did some mental math in the car. So that was good too.

The day was hot, but I’d had the foresight to pack a little spray bottle in my pocket to mist everyone when we got hot. And lots of ice water. And a nice filling lunch, much better than over-priced concession stand junk.

Once home we read a chapter of Beyond the Heather Hills and a chapter of Minn of the Mississippi. (And yes, looked at the map and found Lake Pepin where the Ingalls family crossed just before the ice began to break up.)

Bella Sophie and Anthony with swords

Bella Sophie and Anthony with swords

Wednesday: Ben’s Birthday

Table time was totally sabotaged by our after-breakfast opening of presents. I got Bella to read a few sentences and then declared a school holiday. I know when I’m fighting a losing battle. I did get the kids to do a little practical math. We cut lengths of string the height of Sophie, Bella, and me and then used them to measure our arm spans (it it the same or nearly the same?) and then the length of the kitchen.

Bella also helped me to bake Ben’s birthday cake and I made her do the math for cutting the recipe for a two layer cake in half to make a one layer cake. She has no problem with fractions and even asked a good question: how do you figure out half of a quarter cup?

Also, Bella spent some time perusing one of the Anno’s Math Games books. That totally covers math for today, even if it wasn’t my planned lessons.

Afternoon reading: First Ben’s new book Richard Scary’s Day at the Fire Station. Then Rose Red and the Bear Prince, both at Sophie’s request. Then Bella and I spent almost an hour reading Armor by Charlotte and David Yue, all about the development of medieval armor. This is a book geared at middle school or high school even with all sorts of technical details about construction, nomenclature, etc. She is a true geek, eating it all up.

We paused mid read to have a discussion about castles and fortifications with a good question from Bella about what happens when an army is besieging a castle and another army comes to the rescue of the besieged. We looked up a website and read a bit about Mont St Michel. Sophie joined in, asking about what if she built a castle on an island. Bella discussed several different castles she remembers seeing and various defensive points.

Then we read a chapter of Minn of the Mississippi, reaching Minneapolis and St Paul (Miss Meghan lives in Minneapolis doesn’t she? Bella asks.) and then two short chapters of Beyond the Heather Hills.

Discussions about whether an armadillo is a mammal or a reptile. Are horned toads poison?

Bedtime stories: Lucy asked for Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Sophie wanted Mouse Count. Bella’s request was Two Scarlet Songbirds.

Bella and Anthony sword fighting.

Bella and Anthony sword fighting.

Thursday: Field Trip Day– Museum of Fine Arts

Of course a day at the museum is chock full of learning, but we didn’t do any formal school work not have an afternoon reading time. We did buy the catalog for the quilts exhibit and when we got home I looked through it with Sophie and Bella and we noted how the photos didn’t really do the quilts justice. The colors seemed off, the textures were missing and the details of the stitching couldn’t be made out.

I did buy a color-themed toy at the museum gift shop. A set of 100 little wooden cubes painted in ten colors, a gradient from orange to purple. The cubes have magnets on one side and adhere to the lid of the little tin they come it. The children loved making patterns and pictures with them. Lucy too.

Bella and Sophie with swords

Bella and Sophie with swords


My mother left this morning, we are all sad to see her go. As a parting gift she left us four toy swords, two rustic wooden blades and two heavy duty polypropylene blades which are longsword size in little kid hands.

It was a grocery day and I didn’t even try to get in any formal lessons. We just did the shopping, came home, had lunch, and read some stories. We began Pegeen. Read a chapter of Beyond the Heather Hills. And a story from the Princess Tales book.

Ben and I read a bit from a book about the archaeology of the Bible. Bella and I identified a new species of bee buzzing around on our sunflowers: the metallic green bee.

Bedtime story: Five Chinese Brothers, and Smithsonian Monarch Butterfly book.

This has been a busy on the go week. The house is a shambles, the kids are tired and cranky, but we had some great adventures. And maybe Bella and Sophie will be more eager to tackle reading and writing next week after a week of true vacation.

Bella and Sophie drawing at the Aquarium

Bella and Sophie drawing at the Aquarium

Bella with jellyfish

Bella with jellyfish

Learning about moon jellies

Learning about moon jellies

Photos: some of the pictures my mom took while she was here.

8 Responses to Learning Notes: Week of July 6 (Ben’s birthday)

  1. Jenny July 12, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    I would guess that an armadillo is a mammal. We have four living beside our house up in the weeds. They are the strangest little creatures. Did you see our pictures? Yours might be interested in seeing them.

    • Melanie Bettinelli July 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

      Jenny are they on Facebook or Dave’s blog?

      We were just looking up the range of the armadillo to see what states have them and I was surprised to find they had expanded their range as far as Tennessee.

      • Jenny July 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

        Both I think. Going to look…. Maybe not. Just FB, I guess.

  2. Ellie July 12, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Re: doing copywork and not letting you read. Speaking strictly for my own self as well as for my kids: if i am writing i absolutely cannot have someone talking to me or reading aloud right there beside me as all of the words cancel each other out. My kids have always been the same way. So for us, writing is one thing (classical music can be playing during writing time, whether copywork or any other sort of writing), but reading aloud is separate.

    So anyway, maybe for Sophie that’s a factor: her brain is already focussed on a different set of words?

    • Melanie Bettinelli July 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      If they’d been doing sentences, I wouldn’t have tried reading aloud. But it was just tracing and copying a list of words. I thought that would be fine. Evidently not.

  3. Mary July 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Love that they are into Little House on the Prairie. I’ve been to De Smet, SD twice and saw all the Laura places. The first time I went, it was 1991. They have a museum with all sorts of Laura memorabilia and the guides are very informative. I drove out to the old homestead site on the prairie and there was a plaque marking the spot. I sat there for a while in the peaceful stillness of the prairie, looked at the dogwood trees that Pa had planted (of course they are gigantic now), and it wasn’t difficult at all to imagine covered wagons going across the prairie. I felt the hot winds blowing and saw the sunsets that Laura wrote about — they truly are magnificent! And then I went back in 2001 and it had become much more touristy. They had a replica of the log cabin on the site, a gift shop, etc.

    De Smet is still a lovely small town (named after Father Pierre-John De Smet, a Jesuit priest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Jean_De_Smet) and the people are warm and friendly, all the things that you hear about Midwesterners. 🙂

    I also went to Walnut Grove, Minnesota when I was there in 2001. It’s about 100 miles from De Smet. They have a museum/gift shop of sorts there, also, and I drove over to the “banks of Plum Creek.” It’s on private property and they ask for a donation of a few dollars (on the honor system) to drive onto the property. I stood on the banks of Plum Creek and my most vivid memory was that if you opened your mouth, you would swallow flies. They were EVERYWHERE!! I must have looked like a windmill, flailing my arms about. I didn’t stay there too long. lol

    • Melanie Bettinelli July 13, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

      Mary, Oh how lovely. I really hope that some day we’ll get to those places. I didn’t get so into Little House when I was a girl. I had them, I read them once or twice and really liked them, but it wasn’t a huge attachment for me. Though the books I’m reading my girls are the ones I had when I was a girl which I got from one of my older cousins. So they are ancient.

  4. Mary July 13, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    The TV show was so fictionalized — I watched it for the first few years and they did depict many of the events that Laura wrote about, but they set them all in Walnut Grove, which was incorrect. I suppose they didn’t have the budget to show the family moving around every few years.

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