Learning Notes: All the World’s a Stage

The gang on the dome

The gang on the dome

According to my Facebook feed, all the kids who aren’t back to school yet are getting ready to go next week. We’re still chugging along, but we’re about to finish up Volume 2 of Story of the World and to move into SotW Volume 3. I’m also thinking about starting Sophie on Saxon 1 and Ben on Saxon K. Thinking about getting serious about weekly science lessons. And starting introducing Ben to the letters of the alphabet. In a gentle way. But I don’t think the kids will notice a new start to a new school year. We don’t really stop learning, even though we do take breaks. I find myself explaining this to random people quite often these days since people always love to chat with kids about school. It’s always a favorite conversation starter at this time of the year.

Saturday

Read a chapter of St Patrick’s Summer. Bella insisted. Seriously, she is begging me to read this catechism book. Win! We are all loving it so much.

Sunday

Watched a couple of videos about Fibonaci numbers. Bella and Sophie were both entranced.

Also the kids had an epic sword battle with Dom, all five of them attacking him. It was adorable and great exercise for all of them.

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Swordfighting with Daddy

Monday

Sophie sat right down and did a page of math and copywork. She read me a Bob book, but chose the first one from box 1. Not up for a challenge today, evidently.

Bella insisted she needed to have some time in the sun first. I gave her fifteen minutes and then called her in. She did a page of math, with help, and then basic copywork– four words. She did a reading review of the “ph” sound and initial “wh” but never got around to reading me a story.

We spent some time in the garden looking at flowers and bees. It occurred to me today as the kids and I stopped to look at the flowers and the bees pollinating them, that though we haven’t been going on nature walks, we’ve been doing plenty of informal nature study in our little plots of plants.

We went to the library and got books on Shakespeare and Galileo and Copernicus and came home and read and read and read. Bella is getting into Shakespeare in a big way. my dad read them the Bruce Coville retelling of The Tempest. I read the Coville retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I liked Coville’s retellings much better than the Charles and Mary Lamb, they didn’t abridge as much and they also kept quite a bit of the original language. And the illustrations are lovely. We also read Aliki’s excellent book about the Globe, that recounts not only a biography of Shakespeare and maps of London and plans of the theater, but also the story of the rebuilding of the Globe in the 1990s. The Aliki book was sprinkled with quotes from various plays and I read them all and was surprised that Bella recognized a few and was able to identify them by play. She recognized quotes from Henry V and MAcBeth and The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream. And then she talked Dom’s ear off in the car on the way to dinner.

Time to go watch some videos. Especially of original pronunciation and performances at the Globe.

We also read a Milly Molly Mandy story. Bella is really eager to re-read them all. And I insisted on a chapter of St Louis since it was his feast day.

Reading The Tempest with Granddad.

Reading The Tempest with Granddad.

Tuesday

Sophie sat down and did math and copywork while Bella was sitting in her bed trying to read a book to herself. I just realized that she never did read to me.

Bella worked her way all the way through Emma by Wendy Kesselman, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Many starts and stops, but she was insistent that she would not give up. She would finish the book. I think she’s got a lot of it memorized, but she did some impressive work.

After that I read her another book about Shakespeare, The Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema. Then she did a page of math. Then I read a book about Galileo, The Starry Wandered by Peter Sis. Then she did her copywork. Then we watched some Shakespeare videos: a repeat viewing of the video on the Original Pronunciation, which I thought she’d appreciate more now that she knows more about Shakespeare and which had nice interior shots of the Globe; and various other ones about the Globe and some clips of various plays. It was much easier to get her to do math and writing with the promise of reading her a book or watching a video afterward.

Anthony asked me to read Emma to him and I did. But otherwise it was just videos. I interrupted one for lunch. Then they played for a while before watching the last bit of the last video. Then I read another Shakespeare book to Bella, Welcome to the Globe by Peter Chrisp. After that I passed out on the couch in the office for a while

The kids did a lot of coloring and cutting and paper crafting. Bella also organized them into a Midsummer Night’s Dream game. Sophie was Titania. Anthony was Bottom. Ben was Puck. I never got to see a performance because Bella’s company of actors all got tired of the game. Still, it was fascinating to see how she’d latched onto the story. She’s also really loving the Tempest. And after seeing some clips in the video about the Globe, she really wants to see the full production of the Merry Wives of Windsor. I’m rather fascinated too. I think that DVD may be in our future.

Sophie's castle.

Sophie’s castle.

Sophie's castle

Sophie’s castle

Sophie's castle

Sophie’s castle

Wednesday

I had to take the boys in to get some shots this morning, so I urged the girls to sit down and get everything done before 10. And they did. I was so proud.

Sophie started off with reading, since she didnt’ do it yesterday. Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton was her book of choice. I don’t much mind if it is a board book, the main thing is that she’s practicing.

She whipped through a page of Miquon Math– beginning multiplication (twos, threes, and fours). Then a page of copywork. She and Bella are almost done copying out High Flight. Bella is a couple lines ahead. I guess I’ll have to pick another poem soon.

Bella started off with copywork and then moved on to math. She did a page of greater than and less than problems. She’d never done it before, but seemed to have no problems. Then she tackled reading. She read me the first page of the Smithsonian Backyard book about robins. I told her she just had to do one page– we didn’t actually have time for more, but she was game for pushing on. She’s still saying she loves reading. The fact that things have finally clicked and she now has confidence to read real books seems to have made all the difference. She’s still stumbling over words and needing lots of help. But she’s doing it. She’s looking at the words on the page and trying to make sense of them. She’s committed and engaged. And oh it feels so good for both of us.

The shots weren’t a big deal. Anthony just flinched a tiny bit and said, “ouch.” Ben whimpered and cried a bit, he’s not nearly so stoical as Anthony. But that’s ok. He was brave too. Lucy was glad she didn’t have any and even flirted a bit with the doctor. I love our pediatrician and don’t mind visits at all.

When we got back the kids ran off to play. We didn’t do much reading this afternoon. Bruce Coville’s MacBeth and The Tempest were the two requests. I think MacBeth was a bit dark for them. Bella wasn’t sure she wanted it, but the boys insisted. We didn’t discuss it much. I’ll just let it be, I think, unless they want to talk about it. It’s such a dark play.

Bedtime stories: Ben wanted Owl at Home. We read the story about the moon. Anthony requested Mother Goose.

Sophie's Fairy of the Sea

Sophie’s Fairy of the Sea

Thursday

Sophie started off the morning reading another board book: A Magical Day with Matisse. Then she did her copywork and then I let her go play for a few minutes, hoping I could listen to Bella’s reading. She started building a structure on the coffee table. A pueblo, she informed me.

Bella did a brief page of copy work, just four words and that pretty sloppy. Some days she’s on and some days she’s just not able to settle. I know the ideal is for her to focus on making them very neatly, but getting her to do it at all seems like such a monumental struggle. Some days I pick my battles. She did a quick page of math– addition practice. She was a bit thrown by adding three numbers instead of two. I reminded her that in real life you often need to add more than two numbers. I gave the example of trying to figure out the number of guests for a party, adding up the number of people in each of the families we had invited to her first communion. She immediately saw the necessity.

Bella opted to do her reading next, which I thought she could do while Sophie did math. She wanted to read the next page in her robin book. She got about two sentences in when an altercation arose between Ben and Sophie that totally grabbed my attention away. Ben had destroyed Sophie’s pueblo to make a castle. She was so angry. Both of them felt wronged and both threw gigantic tantrums. I tried to distract them by going out to water the garden, hoping we could sort out the quarrel when they had calmed down.

Bella had completely lost the thread of her reading and Sophie couldn’t settle back to her math. So I decided to play a math game. I based it on one in one of the math texts and then tweaked it for three players (then later four when Ben decided to join in). I stripped the deck to just the A-9 cards. Then every one got two cards. For the purpose of this game one represented tens and one represented ones. The person with the highest number got a white Cuisinaire cube. After a couple dozen hands Bella had only one cube while Ben and Sophie and I each had more than six. Bella was getting discouraged. So I decided to tweak the scoring. Instead of winner take all, I made a graduated system so everyone got something. The highest hand got a purple 4 rod. The next highest a green 3 rod. The next got a red 2 and the last got a single white cube. This way the scores were not nearly so lopsided. And each child was accumulating rods much more quickly and so it became attractive to turn their lower rods in for higher ones. Bella was quite adept at figuring out how to exchange them. So we got a lot of practice with greater than and lower than, place value, and basic addition with Cuisinaire rods.

After than the kids all played with the playing cards and then the big girls took over the button jar that Lucy had been playing with and they made little button families and played an elaborate game with them.

Anthony asked me to draw him pictures. Lucy wanted me to push her in the swing. I chatted with my dad about compost. Ben played with some dry erase activity cards.

The aftermath

The aftermath

Bella's computer

Bella’s computer

Playing cards

Playing cards

After math.

After math.

Button families.

Button families.

Ben with the story cards

Ben with the story cards

Lucy took a monstrously long nap and I spread out a blanket under the trees so as to be able to enjoy the cool breezes and Bella and Anthony and I settled in with a pile of books. Sophie and Ben were doing something inside and joined us later. We read Little House by Boston Bay and Milly Molly Mandy. Pagoo and St Louis and the Last Crusade, and St Patrick’s Summer. Story of the World, the chapter about the French exploration of North America. A picture book about Nicholas Copernicus.

Then we talked about what makes the wind and the tides. I need to get some good books or videos about that, I think. My explanations aren’t the most coherent.

I chatted with my dad about St Patrick’s Summer and catechesis in general and he told me several spiritual direction stories– did you know my dad is a trained spiritual director?

All in all a really stellar home learning day. We improvised a lot, everyone got dirty and had fun and we all learned something.

Reading outside

Reading outside

Friday

Grocery day so I tried to get the girls to settle down and get their work done before we left. Both did math and copywork but not reading. Bella finally finished copying our poem, High Flight. I said we needed to pick another poem to memorize now. And she thought about it, but we haven’t picked one yet.

Isabella has pretty much taken over the task of getting Lucy dressed in the mornings. They both love it and it’s so nice for me to have one less task. We’ll see how long it lasts before Bella gets bored with it.

This afternoon Bella read me a few of Jack Prelutsky’s haiku from the collection, If Not for the Cat. There were some really hard words and the phrasing was hard for her to predict. It’s a book we’ve read before but that she has not memorized. So this wasn’t reciting from memory. It was hard going, but she persevered and I was impressed. Finally I was interrupted to take care of Anthony or Ben and then we were sidetracked.

Then the new history book, Story of the World vol 3, came in the mail. Bella immediately wanted to start reading it. I reminded her we still had a final chapter in the second book. So we read that. We got about halfway through the chapter when Sophie drifted in and I remembered that I want her to start paying attention to every chapter of history. So I asked her to come and listen. At about that time Lucy needed to be changed so I asked Bella to tell Sophie about the chapter we’d read so far. Thus I got narration done because Bella was much more willing to narrate to Sophie for a purpose than to me just to keep tabs on what she remembers. I am remembering to stop and ask questions more often and catching what she recalls and what she forgets. She’s not always good at remembering names even when she does remember the main ideas and actions.

After that we read a Milly Molly Mandy story and then Anthony wanted Town Mouse and Country Mouse.

Then Ben asked if he could paint and soon all five of them were painting. Bella did a couple of watercolor pictures and the others played with finger paints, though mostly using brushes. I don’t think we’ve done any painting at all in the past year. Now that we’re going into the colder months, I foresee more painting in our future. Especially now that Lucy is old enough to join in and now that I have a nice big roll of paper from Ikea. I may need to buy more finger paints, though. Next time I hope I can join in. I was making salmon cakes as the kids painted tonight.

Lucy and Anthony paint

Lucy and Anthony paint

Lucy paints for the first time.

Lucy paints for the first time.

Bella watercolors.

Bella watercolors.

Lucy paints for the first time.

Lucy paints for the first time.

Sophie creates a house

Sophie creates a house

Ben paints broken trains

Ben paints broken trains

Anthony is painting wrapping paper for me.

Anthony is painting wrapping paper for me.

We had a birthday cake for my dad for dessert, since today was his birthday. Yay for dad being here on his birthday, even if he never really likes anyone to make a big deal of it.

Also, Lucy learned how to climb into her crib this morning. But she can’t yet climb back out, her legs are too short. So she is all proud and claps for herself and demands high fives from everyone. And then fusses till someone gets her down. Fortunately Bella can do that. Also, She climbed onto the changing table and down from it. She’s a little monkey. And when I picked her up to put her on the changing table, she fussed at me, “My do it.” On a whim, I corrected her, “Let me do it, please.” And she gamely parroted the whole sentence back to me. No baby talk for Lucy. She can do the big girl sentences. Now I’m going to hold her to it.

Lucy knelt down at the start of prayers and inspired all the other kids to join her. She also enthusiastically led them all in saying "AMEN!"

Lucy knelt down at the start of prayers and inspired all the other kids to join her. She also enthusiastically led them all in saying “AMEN!”

Ben with his broken trains picture which Sophie helped him hang over his bed.

Ben with his broken trains picture which Sophie helped him hang over his bed.

Anthony with his painting.

Anthony with his painting.

3 Responses to Learning Notes: All the World’s a Stage

  1. Ellie August 31, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I love the Lucy painting pictures 🙂 I can’t remember, is she two and a half or one and a half??

  2. Mary September 1, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    I think what I love most about reading your stories is seeing your kids playing. Real games, imagination at play. Not parked in front of the TV or videos or Xbox or whatever it is that kids use these days. I know you’ve mentioned them watching videos or using the iPad, but clearly those are not every-day-hours-long events. Brava to you, Melanie, for teaching and raising them as you are.

  3. The Sojourner September 3, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    I love the Lucy painting pictures.

    When we move in a few months I am thinking of converting J’s crib into its toddler bed form, since lowering the mattress will only postpone the inevitable in terms of learning how to climb out. I will have to ask people if transitioning from cosleeping is easier when the baby is confined or when he can climb in and out on his own.

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