Learning Notes Week of Sept 22

Chair train

Chair train

Sunday

We went apple picking and it was delightful. I’m not sure how much learning happened, but really this epitomizes what I think childhood should be. A tractor, a hayride, apple trees, apples coming off the trees, joyful children plucking apples and learning that apples grow on trees, more hayride, cunning little playhouses, pumpkins, animals, pigs and chickens and sheep and terrify donkeys and goats and turkeys. (Lucy was the one who thought the donkeys were terrifying.) And a tractor you could climb on and kettle corn and cider and cider donuts and as many apples as you can eat.

Of course it meant we were all tired and out of sorts for Monday. But we felt like we’d been Doing Things.

Hayride at Berlin Orchards

Hayride at Berlin Orchards

Apple picking at Berlin Orchards

Apple picking at Berlin Orchards

Apple picking at Berlin Orchards

Apple picking at Berlin Orchards

Hayride at Berlin Orchards

Hayride at Berlin Orchards

Apple picking at Berlin Orchards

Apple picking at Berlin Orchards

Hayride at Berlin Orchards

Hayride at Berlin Orchards

Monday

Back into the swing of things after a busy weekened. When I woke, late as usual, Sophie had made a pirate ship out of legos and was sailing it around the living room floor. The pirates had captured “hundreds of slaves” who were represented by a handful of apostles. Anthony had made a big dock, whether for her ship or not I couldn’t quite make out.

Getting them to leave the game was a bit tricky, but I managed it without too much fuss. The only tears were Anthony’s when Ben broke his thing, I think he meant the dock I couldn’t quite tell what the fuss was over.

Pirate ship.

Pirate ship.

Anthony was actually the first to sit down to do school work. I’d bought him a dry erase Lightning MacQueen letter book and he is quite taken with it. He’s not up to trying to trace the letters, but he enjoys the game at the bottom of each page of finding the correct letters and circling them.

Ben immediately hunted down his new Saxon K workbook and so I sat with him and started to fill out the calendar. Much les tedious when you start at the beginning of the month, ut it didn’t come till Saturday, so it couldn’t be helped. He wrote the number one on the correct day and then as the other numbers are a bit hard for him still, I wrote them and he traced over them. He was dispirited at his “woggle-y” letters so I pulled out Bella’s K book from two years ago and showed him her first numbers. I think that made him feel better.

So then he started embellishing them with faces. The five became a little Ben man with a face and arms and legs. The three became Anthony, the seven Bella, even though I told him Bella is eight. He also did a face on the eight. We got as far as thirteen and then he was done. So I jumped ahead and wrote in the 22 for today and gave him the basket of pattern blocks to play with. He’s played with them before many time, of course, since Bella did Saxon K two years ago. But he had done enough for a day and the first lesson was just play with the blocks, so I figured he might as well. He immediately pulled out a bunch of yellow hexagons and then made matching red and blue hexagons out of the red trapezoids and blue diamonds. He knows the word hexagon. I’m thinking we’re going to be able to skip a few of the K lessons about identifying shapes and such. But I don’t think he’s quite ready to move to Saxon 1 with Sophie.

Ben's first math lesson, tracing the numbers I wrote on his calnedar and putting faces in them.

Ben’s first math lesson, tracing the numbers I wrote on his calnedar and putting faces in them.

Sophie found a page of unfinished copywork in her bin and completed it while I helped Ben and Anthony. She tried to do her Miquon on her own but I was distracted by Ben and Anthony and Lucy and couldn’t help her so she gave up in frustration halfway through. Maybe I’ll try to come back to it later. Most likely we’ll just do it tomorrow.

Bella likewise found a page of copywork, an antiphon from the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows that she hadn’t done. She copied about half of it, filling the letters with faces in imitation of Ben’s numbers.

Sophie read me Five Little Monkeys and Lucy echoed the repetitive verses. Then Sophie ran off to play, satisfied she’d done her work. I had to change Lucy then and she shocked me by retelling Five Little Monkeys in her own words: Five monkeys jump on bed, monkeys fall down. Monkeys hurt. Ok then.

Bella announced she was too distracted to do her math so we had a little discussion about perseverance. She asked to do math outside and I agreed. I helped her to pick a page, decide what materials she’d need and then let her take the stuff outside. I realized I hadn’t said morning prayer and so read that with them. Bella was a bit impatient at first and bustled around pulling up a chair and bringing out her materials. She admired the hymn and asked a question about one of the psalms: What’s Lebanon and Sirion? The reading from 2 Thessalonians seemed quite apropos: Earn the food you eat by working quietly. You must never grow weary of doing what is right. The children all joined in when I sang the Our Father, even Lucy chiming in with the last word in every phrase. It was a beautiful chorus. The final prayer offered more wisdom to counsel my reluctant scholar: “Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your saving help. Let our work always find its origin in you and through you reach completion.” Another little discussion about how even math begins and ends with God and that we rely on him to give us strength to do it.

She pushed through and did the math, with frequent redirection from me to keep her on task and many interruptions from Anthony and Lucy. When she finished I gave her high five and praised her perseverance. I told her it’s a virtue and important in the spiritual life and a gift from the Holy Spirit. We talked about how the martyrs need the grace of perseverance to meet their death and I reminded her of St Cecilia from St Patrick’s Summer. So doing your math work gets you closer to heaven, I told her. That seemed to make her much more reconciled to math.

Bella reading outside

Bella reading outside

Then we went to look a the spider webs in the hosta and I hunted down the Comstock Handbook and read to them about spiders in general and orb webs– and many digressions to talk about vertebrates vs invertebrates and spiders vs insects and what are mandibles– and then when I’d finished reading, we went back to look more. We found several webs in the clump of hosta and spotted three orb webs and a couple of funnel webs. One of the orb spiders was much bigger and differently colored so we noted the differences. We poked the web gently and found the sticky and non-sticky threads. Then I had to read a book to Anthony. After than back to the spiders. We noted that one spider’s web had been broken and she was in the center of what remained and seemed to be eating something. It looked like sticks. Bug legs? I kept going back to the spiders later in the day and at one point one of the three had dismantled the web. Another had caught a couple of honeybees and we got to watch the spider sitting in the middle of the web wrapping it’s prey in silk.

Then Bella and Sophie made and furnished a house in the dome. And Lucy, Ben, and Anthony all joined in the game or played nearby or something. They were all outside and let me sit down and write up my notes from the morning.

Afternoon readings. The first chapter of On Tide Mill Lane. Then Bella wanted a picture book that I couldn’t stay awake for. I finally told her I’d read something else. Something I found interesting. So we started Charlotte’s Web. Because what with the cute frisky pigs at the orchard yesterday and the spiders this morning, I was in a Charlotte kind of mood. I thought they would all enjoy the story pretty well. Bella’s old enough not to freak out over death.

Then I read about today’s saints– the Theban Legion, a Roman Legion that was martyred because they refused to slaughter innocent Christians. Then today’s Gospel and the commentary by St John Chrysostom and we talked about it for a bit, how silly it is to hide a light under a basket and who does the light symbolize. And when did they receive their own lights, discussion of baptism and Easter candles. Also about being missionaries, carrying Christ’s light to everyone we meet.

While I read Ben and Sophie played with the train tracks and Bella bopped around. Anthony spent most of reading time on the toilet. Potty training is having its ups and downs.

Then more outside play. Then Bella listened to some of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

While I was making dinner Bella decided she really wanted to work on her story that she’s writing about the Fairy of the Animals and the Battle with the Witch– I think Narnia inspires her to want to write. Of course she doesn’t really feel confident enough to write it, so she is writing lists of words that may be useful, looking at books and finding words she can read and copying them down. So she’ll write down “grapes” because she says they will need food at some point in the journey. She doesn’t quite know what to do about the gap between the story in her head that wants to be told and her inability to write fluently. So the lists are her answer to be doing something productive when I’m too busy with dinner to transcribe her story for her. Maybe I should get her a voice recorder so she can tell her story at will and I can transcribe when I have the leisure.

She’s got some great insights into story. She told me that she thinks people who read fairy tales want to read about adventure and not the blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure she meant not too much backstory, description, and introductory material.

When Dom came home the boys and Lucy were filthy so he bathed Lucy, stripped the boys naked and hosed them off and then bathed them in the tub as well.

Bedtime story was Ben’s choice as Anthony fell asleep before story time. Another reading of a stupid library book I hate. I need to round up the annoying ones and hide them until we go again.

Gosh today was a busy day with so much wonderful stuff going on. It could be a whole blog post in itself.

Tuesday

Another buys, busy day.

I did a Saxon 1 lesson with Sophie, I skipped ahead to Lesson 21 or 22 or something because the early ones seemed too easy. It took much longer than the Miquon, but i think it was helpful nonetheless. She did a page of copywork from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Ben did his Saxon math with me, filling out the calendar and then playing with pattern blocks. We reviewed the names of the shapes and their colors and made some pictures with them.

Anthony was having a terrible morning and eventually I just had to stop school and take him into my room to read books. We read Mother Goose and then Madeline goes to London and he was much happier for all the attention and snuggles.

Bella dragged her feet. First she had to color all the pictures in her Fairy story. Then she did half a page of copywork– a bit of verse about spiders that we found in the Comstock Handbook– and then gave up. (She’s decided she wants to go through the whole Comstock Handbook and copy out all the verses because She didn’t get her math done until lunch time. She did half a page while I was trying to eat lunch and console a cranky Lucy. Then the second half of the page went much more smoothly, being done in a matter of minutes now that we’d eaten and didn’t have a screaming toddler or other kids whining all around us.

We looked at our spiders again and I read about the funnel spiders. And fate handed us a fine specimen of spiderhood to examine, though in a rather unpleasant way. After I’d finished reading to Anthony, I grabbed my bedside water glass to take a swig and after I’d drunk a good mouthful I noticed something floating at the bottom of the glass. A big brown spider, made much larger, of course by the magnifying power of the water. Bella took the glass outside and dumped the drowned spider out on the table. She was quite thrilled to notice a line of wet silk coming from the spinnerets. We examined the legs, found the spinnerets, looked at the mandibles, and wished we hadn’t lost the magnifying glass.

2014-09-23 11.39.48

Also, Bella found a leafhopper and put it in her bug box. And a stick with a lot of little eggs all up and down which we put into a jar to see if they hatch.

Afternoon storytime. First we read the final chapter of St Patrick’s Summer. A very happy ending. Then Roxaboxen, delightful. Then The Kitchen Knight. And that reminded Bella of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Ben asked me to read it and I had to tell him that sadly it was a library book and we didn’t have it. But I pointed out that Sir Gawain is actually the older brother of Sir Gareth the Kitchen Knight. And I recalled that I had another King Arthur book and Bella fetched it off the shelf. It turned out to be Howard Pyle’s Tales of Sir Launcelot and I read them the Prologue about Queen Guinevere being taken by Sir Melagrans. The language is so rich, it reminds me of how Lewis has the Pevensies speak when they are kings and queens in Narnia. It’s fun to read dramatically, but I can only take it in small doses.

I overheard the children having an argument about which play to perform: Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or maybe The Tempest: “You could be Trinculo!” Which play do you want: Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, or Hamlet? Anthony doesn’t want to do a play, but Bella really wants a play to be performed. It’s like Mansfield Park in miniature.

Also, I decided that Whitman’s A Noiseless, Patient Spider is our next memory work. It was in the Comstock and though I’ve read it countless times before, this time it clicked. So I wrote it out and stuck it on the cupboard door, moving High Flight off. Though I asked Bella if she could recite High Flight and she did, almost perfectly the errors being replacing “of” with “with” and that sort of little lapse. It was fun to hear Anthony and Ben chiming in on the phrases they know and Ben exclaiming on how much he loves the final lines. He’s really starting to tune in and to enjoy the poetry and language.

Anyway, I started off with memorizing the Whitman a phrase at a time and Sophie and Anthony joined me. Bella was listening to Narnia again so she didn’t start the memory work with us as I was doing dinner prep. She was all excited, however, to spot a reference to Bottom in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I love those connections being made.

Bella did tune in for a bit of today’s Office of Readings and we discussed the meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” and the equivalent “Son of Adam.” She totally understood that Christ fulfills the promise made to Adam, and is the new Adam. And she saw the literary connection quite quickly: how the Pevensie children also fulfill a prophecy. (My policy is still to let them discover the Narnia parallels on their own, this is the closest I’ve come to giving her a nod in the right direction. It’s hard but I think better when discovered for yourself.)

Bedtime stories: The Tale of Tricky Fox for Sophie and Ben. Bella wanted A Winter’s Tale– Dom read about half of the Coville version. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t know most of these plays and so is encountering them for the first time too. I’m loving his commentary and we’re having great discussions about them. It’s great for the kids to see that we’re both excited and interested in the reading, I’m sure that’s a major factor in how much they are latching on.

Lucy drawing. "I draw aysch, Mama."

Lucy drawing. “I draw aysch, Mama.”

Lucy drawing. "I draw aysch, Mama."

Lucy drawing. “I draw aysch, Mama.”

Lucy drawing. "I draw aysch, Mama."

Lucy drawing. “I draw aysch, Mama.”

Lucy drawing. "I draw aysch, Mama."

Lucy drawing. “I draw aysch, Mama.”

Lucy drawing. "I draw aysch, Mama."

Lucy drawing. “I draw aysch, Mama.”

Wednesday

Grocery store day, but we got off to a late start and didn’t leave for the story until nearly 11. Bella and Sophie did copywork and a bit of Saxon Math. Bella read me Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Anthony got obsessed with his workbook and filled out a dozen or more pages. It’s all things like trace the line and follow the path and connect the matching things and circle or x according to this rule. He loves feeling like he’s doing school. While I was nursing Lucy and getting everyone ready and who knows what I was doing, Bella and Sophie picked a bunch of leaves out of the yard and traced them onto tracing paper and then colored them in. We also looked in on our spiders and saw they’d caught more bees.

Over both breakfast and lunch prep Sophie and Anthony and I worked on memorizing A Noiseless Patient Spider. I made up a little song to sing the words to. This is entirely voluntary on their parts. I’m just repeating it our loud to memorize it myself. But they like the sounds of it and want to know what words mean. We talked a bit about the sound patterns and let them frolic on our tongues: “filament, filament, filament.” It’s just so fun to say! Do you hear all the Ss? Do you hear all the soft sounds? Do you hear how that word isolated sounds kind of funny at the end of that line?

Afternoon story time: First the second half of the Coville A Winter’s Tale with Bella. Then with everyone a couple chapters of Charlotte’s Web to get us up to Charlotte’s first appearance. Then a chapter of the other Charlotte, On Tide Mill Lane. Then time to make dinner.

Bedtime stories: A Medieval Feast for Ben. The Tale of Tricky Fox for Anthony.

Bella's leaf tracing

Bella’s leaf tracing

Sophie's leaf tracing

Sophie’s leaf tracing

2014-09-24 12.35.29

Thursday

Bella and Sophie did copy work in their workbooks. Sophie and I did a bit of Saxon 1 math: working on doubling numbers. Bella did a page in Miquon, greater than, less than, and equal too. (Well, she did half the page before lunch and the other half after lunch.)

Sophie read me the Hail Mary board book, which I thought not much of a challenge since she has the prayer memorized. So I added to the lesson by talking about the meaning of some of the words and reciting it for them in Latin.

Anthony did two pages in his little workbook— he kept throwing temper tantrums when I made him wait for me to finish with his sisters. The book is causing more trouble, but he’s so happy to be doing school like they do.

Ben and I filled out his calendar and then he did cursory play with the teddy bears. We counted them a bit and added a few more. Then he ran outside to play.

Anthony is eager to count his fingers and keeps asking, “Is this 3?” and “How many fingers is this?” He can successfully count six. Sort of.

When math was over, I picked up a pencil and sketched a still life: my tea mug, some leaves the kids hd brought in to draw, and a couple of pencils. Then I colored it in. Fun.

cup and leaves and pencils

cup and leaves and pencils

cup and leaves and pencils

cup and leaves and pencils

Bella followed my example and drew the honey bottle and colored it in.

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella sketches the honey container

Bella wanted me to find her a version of Henry V and I can’t find a children’s version. Weird. But she and I watched the final scenes of Henry V between Henry and Katherine, some of my favorites. I even wrote a paper on it in college: Wooing France with a Soldier’s Tongue. Then after that we watched a few scenes from Much Ado about Nothing— the final scene, the tricking on Benedick. And then I read Bella the Lamb’s Tales version of Much Ado, which worked really well when the scene was fresh in her mind.

Afternoon story time: Charlotte’s Web, On Tide Mill Lane, Marigold Hunt’s A Book of Angels.

The girls and Anthony helped make applesauce. I peeled and quarters and cored the apples. Anthony ferried the big pieces to the girls. They cut them into smaller chunks. We processed maybe half of what we picked on Sunday. My soup pot full of them.

While they worked they played. They were maids getting ready for a royal feast. A wedding feast. Bella was gossiping about the queen and her new horses. Anthony was the cook’s helper. He was so very happy to have a task to do.

We practiced A Noiseless Patient Spider again. Talked a little more about some of the word meanings. Why are they more likely to ask meanings when doing this? Maybe because during read alouds they don’t want to break the thread of the narrative? That’s probably it. I’m not terribly patient with interruptions, either.

Bella read to me while I was making dinner, a board book. Well, I got half and then when we were interrupted, she read the second half to Dom.

Bedtime stories. I read part of Bearskin to Sophie. Dom read I have no idea what to Bella.

Drawing day

Drawing day

drawing day

drawing day

Friday

We had the annual Homeschooling Opening Day Mass, so no school work. We listened to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader there and back, though. That counted as our read aloud for the day. By the time we got back home, after lunch and a lot of socializing, we were all too tired to do anything more. I collapsed on my bed and the kids ran around outside until dinner time.

For bedtime stories I finished Bearskin. What a weird story. I can never decide if I like it or not. I have no idea why Bearskin doesn’t just go back to the castle with the princess and claim her hand. Is all the stuff about demanding the food some kind of test of her loyalty or honesty or generosity? And why did the princess go along with the steward who claimed to have killed the dragon?

Bella at homeschooling Mass

Bella at homeschooling Mass

Ben at homeschooling Mass

Ben at homeschooling Mass

At homeschooling Mass

At homeschooling Mass

Anthony at homeschooling Mass

Anthony at homeschooling Mass

Saturday

Bella learned that Dom has never read any of the Little House books and decided that must be rectified. So she set out to read them to him. While he did the dishes she painstakingly read him the first page of Little House in the Big Wood. And had a splendid time and was so very proud of herself.

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

Spinning Sophie

12 Responses to Learning Notes Week of Sept 22

  1. Jenny September 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    “When she finished I gave her high five and praised her perseverance. I told her it’s a virtue and important in the spiritual life and a gift from the Holy Spirit. ”

    I think I just realized that my gift might be perseverance. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

    Anyway, scrolling back up to read the rest.

  2. scotch meg September 29, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    I’m so impressed that Bella wanted to read a favorite book to Dad – that desire to give may turn out to be the key to reading! Once she realizes she can do it, you won’t be able to stop her.

    I’m also impressed at your sang-froid. I’m not sure I would have been so calm about the spider in my glass, even if it was dead. Isn’t it amazing what we learn to do for the sake of our kids?

    I’m so sorry we weren’t able to make the homeschool Mass this year. Or rather, I wasn’t able, and Rick wasn’t interested, so I didn’t arrange a ride for him. High school is a tough time to put up with something he perceives as aimed at “little kids” – and as the youngest in our family, he is desperately determined NOT to be “little.”

    What a wonderful week you had!

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 30, 2014 at 12:19 am #

      ” that desire to give may turn out to be the key to reading” My thoughts exactly. It’s amazing how when she decides she wants to read something she’ll really plug away at it. It’s just that for the most part text doesn’t have any fascination for her. It’s rather baffling to me since I’m a compulsive reader of everything including cereal boxes. I have a hard time imagining going through the world not puzzling out every word and sign and bumper sticker.

      I shrieked pretty loud when I spied him and I did have Bella do the dumping. But once he was outside on the table, I was able to see him as an interesting specimen. I am glad that Bella doesn’t flinch at bugs. It’s been a conscious effort on my part not to turn her off them.

      We did miss seeing you at the Mass, even though I figured it wasn’t likely you’d show. I understand Rick’s feeling on the matter, though there were several other teens there so he’d not have been alone.

  3. Heather September 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Where are the poems in Comstock? Just scattered about? We refer to it fairly often but I have never come across any poems!

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 30, 2014 at 12:21 am #

      Yes, just scattered about. I think they’re all in italic font. Many of the lessons have a line or two of verse and there are a few full poems. There’s the spider one. And one about flowers in the lesson on goldenrod that we stumbled upon today. It’s one of my favorite things about the Comstock.

  4. Catherine September 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    What a lovely church for your Homeschool Mass!

    I hear you on the library books. I always try to screen out the inane ones while we’re there, but when some make it home I have to do a second sweep. They drive me nuts.

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 30, 2014 at 12:23 am #

      Isn’t it lovely? Such a treat!

      I also try to screen a bit, but I refuse to have pitched battles in the library, so quite a bit gets through. I figure it’s much easier to disappear books after reading them once or twice.

  5. dweej September 29, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    One of these weeks I’m actually going to keep notes all day every day. I swear! No…really. Because this is really lovely to read through and it will be especially lovely for them to look back on.

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 30, 2014 at 12:26 am #

      For me the key to daily notes is finding short bits of time during the day. I use it as my introvert recharge time: hide in the bathroom with my laptop around lunch time and write up the stuff from the morning. Or after putting Lucy down for her nap I take an extra fifteen minutes to sit in the quiet and write while the big kids play outside. I do a bit more before dinner (thus making dinner run late!) and then again after the kids are in bed. Not too much writing at any sitting and everything is fresh in my head. Though today I forgot and didn’t write anything until after bedtime, so that does work too.

      • Jenny September 30, 2014 at 8:55 am #

        Not that my routine is terribly helpful to yall, but I take a few minutes at work every day to write up the previous evening. If I tried to do it all at once, I would never, ever remember.

  6. Jenny September 30, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    So what is it with kids and hexagons, pronounced heck-a-gon at my house by the interested parties. All of mine have latched onto this shape. Maybe because it is unusual, but not seen out and about like an octagon? I don’t know.

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 30, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      Hexagon does seem to be the polygon that math books and sets of shapes for kids always include. But in our case they pattern blocks that came in our math kit have yellow hexagon shaped blocks and then blue diamonds and green triangles and red trapezoids that can all be used to build hexagons. Hexagons are nice because you can make honeycomb patterns with them.

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