Learning Notes Week of Oct 4

Learning Notes Week of Oct 4

2014-10-10 09.17.27



Over breakfast I read the kids today’s Gospel and a meditation by St Therese. (via Bella really loved the poem by St Therese and declared that she wanted to copy out the last lines in particular. She wanted to do it right now. And Sophie said she did too. So on a Saturday morning I found myself copying out pages for them to copy. And they sat and did it. It was really hard to believe they were begging for copy work, but there it was. Proof that the daily habit of copying is really sinking in. Letting them pick their own pieces when they want to, giving them beautiful things to copy, bits of poetry that capture their interest and pieces from the books we’re reading…. it’s given them a way to really appreciate what we read and to make it their own. Oh my mother’s heart was so happy. And the passage was truly beautiful too.

Bella and I made it to confession this afternoon. Sadly, it’s been a couple of months. Summertime is definitely harder since the Saturdays tend to be packed. I could really wish we had confession offered regularly at other times. Sadly, all the parishes around only offer Saturday afternoon from 3 to 4. Still, we went and it was lovely.

While Dom was making dinner Bella read to him from Little House in the Big Woods. It’s definitely a project she’s thrown herself into. I felt bad to interrupt it so that I could wash her hair. But it needed to happen before dinner. Still, while I waited for her hair to set I read her tomorrow’s Gospel and then the other readings as well. We talked about the theme of vinyards and how the epistle doesn’t match but the psalm does. We discussed the meaning of some of the images and just chatted about the readings for a bit. Then I rinsed her hair and we went and had dinner. It’s nice to be able to weave these things into our days. Learning sometimes happens best over a meal or a nice bath.

Also, we’re getting pretty good at having the children help clear off the table at the end of dinner. They can help remove dishes, put food into the refrigerator. Bella has claimed the task of wiping down the table. Tonight Sophie and Ben worked together to sweep the dining room floor. Even Lucy helped put the cauliflower into a plastic container. And they all did it happily. It was rather amazing.

Bedtime stories. In honor of the feast of St Francis, I read them the Canticle of the Sun. I love the beautiful version illustrated by Fiona French. I wanted to read Tomie dePaola’s biography of him, but I didn’t find it till I was tucking the boys in. I’d forgotten to check the shelf in their room. Sophie requested The Dark by Lemony Snickett. And Bella requested a story out of her Big Backyard magazine.

Saturday copywork.
Saturday copywork.
Saturday copywork.
Saturday copywork.
At the farmer's market
At the farmer’s market
At the farmer's market
At the farmer’s market
At the farmer's market
At the farmer’s market
Purple cauflower
Purple cauflower


I spent most of the afternoon deliciously re-reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars. Usually we don’t do read alouds on weekends, but Bella got bored and saw me on the couch with a book and asked if I couldn’t read to her. So I agreed. We read two chapters of On Tide Mill Lane because we had to find out what happened with Lewis’s finger. Ick. Dom kept laughing at me for getting choked up, but those scenes hit too close to home. When I was in the ER after slicing my finger open, I joked a bit with the doctor about how 100 years ago I’d have had to endure the cleaning and stitching without the lidocaine. He responded that I’d possibly have died of infection and I agreed, remembering this scene. But I think what really made me tear up was imagining myself in Martha’s shoes as a mother with a child in danger of death.

Sophie decided she wanted to sew and so she stitched up a little stuffed bat out of black felt with orange button eyes. Perfect for Halloween. The pattern said it’s name is Batsy, which Sophie likes but can’t remember. She already had a little toy bat my mom gave her last year, so this gives her a bat family.

Bedtime stories. I read a bit of the Tomie de Paola St Francis book for Ben. And for Anthony some of Eric Carle’s Dragons, Dragons. Saints and poetry, feeding minds and souls.

Bella is listening to Narnia again, disappearing into iPod land a little bit each day. She’s being very good and asking for permission before she listens and only listening to one disk at a time.

Lucy wants bacon
Lucy wants bacon
Lucy wants bacon. Why are you making pancakes when she wants bacon?
Lucy wants bacon. Why are you making pancakes when she wants bacon?
Lucy loves bacon.
Lucy loves bacon.


Monday mornings are hard. Even having done copy work on Saturday and so only having had one day off really, still Bella halted through hers today and it’s a scrawly mess. It always is on Mondays. Oh well. I gave both Bella and Sophie the antiphon from yesterday’s psalm: The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel. No comment from them, but no complaints either.

While they worked I fixed the hem a dress of Bella’s. A wool jumper dress. I guess I need to face the fact that it’s October and get out the cold weather clothes. My kids went to Mass yesterday with the boys in shorts and the girls in sleeveless dresses. Oops. I didn’t even think about it until someone commented on it on our way out. After fourteen years here, you’d think I’d have learned but I still think like a Texan as my default mode. The need to change out clothes always surprises me.

Sophie did her copy work with only a faint protest about being called from her game. Then she drew a picture, then she did her math— a page of filling in clocks. It was clear she’d forgotten most of the clock work we did previously. I’d forgotten to keep it up.

Bella did a page of math independently while I nursed Lucy. Doing addition and subtraction using a number line. She had an epiphany: an odd number added to an odd number results in an even number, an even number added to an odd number results in an odd number.

Then she came in with a Bob book and read it to me. I had found a paper folded up in my book with a poem that she’d composed and I’d transcribed for her. I read it to her and she asked me to copy it out for her. Then, inspired, she composed a new poem. I wrote the new one and the old one and another old one down for her. Three poems to add to her poem book that she’s just decided to make.

Over lunch Bella found another easy reader and first read it to herself and then to me.

Afternoon stories: First Owl Moon with Anthony who was distressed at my not answering right away when he needed my help because I was putting Lucy down. Then Charlotte’s Web, two chapters. On Tide Mill Lane. All of the Coville Romeo and Juliet.
Bella and Sophie have worked themselves into a spooky Halloween mood. They spent the better part of the evening working on a Halloween flag: cutting out an orange felt pumpkin and stitching it to a rectangle of white felt.

Right before dinner Bella pulled out her telescope and everyone took turns looking at the moon. That counts as science, right?

Bedtime stories. A bit more of the dePaola St Francis for Sophie. And some of the Coville Twelfth Night for Bella.

Sailing around the kitchen.
Sailing around the kitchen.
Sailing around the kitchen.
Sailing around the kitchen.


I was the one who had a hard time focusing this morning. Sophie and Bella did their work well enough. Bella opted to work on her story for copy work. Sophie did a page in the workbook. Sophie did a page in the Saxon math workbook and Bella did a paye in Miquon. Sophie read me a board book. Bella didn’t read.

Then we had time. I could have done something with it, but I couldn’t decide what. I did read them Robert Frost’s October, and I copied it out so I can hang it in the kitchen and memorize it.

Then I signed up for the Shakespeare online course and watched a couple of the videos. I frittered away quite a bit of the morning. Maybe it’s because Dom was working from home? That always throws me off. Which is weird because he’s shut in the office. But it’s like I can’t settle just knowing he’s here.

Sophie and I worked on the first stanza of October while I prepared lunch. I’d read a line and repeat it five or six times then read the next one and repeat it five or six times then go back and recite the whole thing from the beginning and then move on to the next line. Then I recited High Flight and A Noiseless Patient Spider. (Bella doesn’t seem at all interested in memorizing and reciting that, but boy can she correct me when I miss a word.) Anthony and Sophie like to join in when I recite.

Then Bella and Dom had eye appointments. Bella’s vision is fine, though she’s a smudge farsighted. The doc suggested we try an off the rack pair of reading glasses to see if they help at all.

Bella was traumatized by the eye dilation. Afraid her brothers would mock the tinted glasses. I somehow thought homeschooled kids would be spared the trauma of being made fun of for those. I was wrong.

While Bella was at the eye doctor Sophie, Ben, and Anthony all watched the video Melissa Wiley shared of the drop spindle.I wanted to show it to Bella, but videos with dilated eyes didn’t make much sense. Saved for later.

Sophie, Ben, and Anthony wanted to play outside during story time. So I read Bella the rest of The Igloo. And then we read all of the Aliki Shakespeare and the Globe. The library books are overdue and we need to take them back tomorrow. The library’s new computer system locked me out so I can’t renew them online. The old system let me renew books even when they were past due. This is going to put a major crimp in my library borrowing if I’m going to have to call or go in when I miss the deadline. Oops. My years of slacking are catching up with me.

Ben and Anthony discovered they’d missed story time when it was too late. I needed to go make dinner. Lesson learned, I hope.

Other notes from today. Sophie made a Globe theater out of legos. Well, she made just the stage, really, but it had a musicians gallery and everything. And a bunch of groundlings watching the play, which was The Merry Wives of Windsor, naturally.

Also, overheard today, Sophie riffing on the prologue to Henry V: “Oh for a Muse of skunks! Oh for a Muse of horses! Oh for a Muse of guhgas! Oh for a Muse of Fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of inventions.”

Ben: “Oh for a Muse of fiery burps.”

You know they’ve absorbed something and made it their own when it comes out in this kind of word play. And this is one of the goals I have with introducing Shakespeare: I want them to begin to absorb the language and the stories so that they aren’t scary foreign things but are as common and comfortable to my kids as, well, whatever pop culture things other kids are absorbing and talking about and playing at. We aren’t really studying Shakespeare. We’re just living with Shakespeare and absorbing Shakespeare. In very small doses. Which will get bigger and bigger as time goes on until they just know Shakespeare’s plays as a familiar terrain into which they can go deeper and deeper as they mature. Shakespeare isn’t an academic subject but a friend and companion and teacher and, well, a wonderful amazing poet who enriches life. We enjoy Shakespeare and want to know him better and better.

Bedtime stories: Anthony wanted that annoying library book about doughnuts. I let Dom read that one and I read Blueberries for Sal to Ben. Give me the classic McCloskey every time!

I haven’t done math with Ben in ages. I meant to do something about today’s feast of Our Lady of the Rosary/Our Lady of Victory and the Battle of Lepanto. Well, maybe next year. Sigh. When I said this morning it was Our Lady of the Rosary Bella said we should pray a rosary. At least her heart was in the right place even if we didn’t have the follow through.

I keep meaning to actually follow through on a daily Bible reading plan. Or some kind of catechism study. And we didn’t get to history either. Well, maybe tomorrow. Yes, that’s it. Tomorrow.

Even homeschoolers feel self-conscious about the dark glasses.
Even homeschoolers feel self-conscious about the dark glasses.
Sophie's Globe theater
Sophie’s Globe theater


Sophie did copy work in her workbook. Then a page of Saxon math. She seemed tired and listless this morning.

Bella read me two pages of Ginger and Pickles. Sophie read me another page. Then I read them the rest.

Bella copied out some lines of poetry from the Comstock book about flowers. Then did a page of Miquon Math.

Then Sophie made Anthony a little book about Fed-Ex trucks. Good spelling and writing practice and a sweet gesture.

We went to the library to return all our overdue books and met the new children’s librarian. Who is a homeschooler! She showed me some great books and we had a lovely chat. She helps run a co-op and seems very involved in the homeschooling community. This is so cool!

Then home with huge piles of books.

One of the best library finds was a beautiful alphabet book called The Queen’s Progress about Queen Elizabeth. It falls in line with presenting the glowing picture of Elizabeth as the perfect monarch and Mary Queen of Scots as a plotting schemer, but most of it is just nice cultural history with details about what life was like during one of her progresses. And the illustrations are just gorgeous. The clothes are fabulous.

We read the Seven Chinese Brothers and Owl Moon and Amanda and Her Amazing Alligator and a bunch of other library books. Additionally, a chapter of Charlotte’s Web and the story of Priscilla Mullins and John Alden in People in History. Bella really liked that one because we’ve been to Plymouth and seen the Mayflower II. We really need to make a field trip to Plimouth Plantation soon.

While I was making dinner I worked on memorizing October. Sophie came and sat int he kitchen with me and asked what the poem meant, so I explained it line by line. This is what it says, this is what it means, defining key words and talking about the imagery. This is the stuff I enjoy, talking poetry, having an interested audience to listen to me chatter about poetry and to ask thoughtful questions. I don’t know how much of the poem she will memorize. Some or all, I suspect. But the main thing is just that we’re enjoying it.

Bedtime stories: Bella asked Dom to read her The Queen’s Progress again. She knows I’m not a fan of reading the same book twice in a day. Sophie asked for Dom to read her one of her library books. Something short and silly. I read to Lucy and Ben, a little Margaret Wise Brown book about a fur family, I can’t recall the title, but I picked it up because I remembered Lissa’s Huck reading it to her in a video.

Anthony with the FedEx book Sophie made for him.
Anthony with the FedEx book Sophie made for him.


Over breakfast I read today’s Gospel and we discussed God as a loving father who give his children good gifts, the necessity of praying untiringly for the things we want, the fact that God doesn’t give us everything we ask for. A good discussion.

As today was grocery store day and I wanted to leave early, I challenged Bella to get all her schoolwork done by 9:30, that meant do it in 45 minutes. 15 minutes each for reading, copywork, and math. She and Sophie goofed around quite a bit, chattering and laughing; but managed to get it done right on time. Well, Sophie didn’t actually read to me. But Bella got all her work done. And then it only took another fifteen minutes to get out the door. In the car and on our way by 9:45! It’s so much easier when most of them can get their own shoes on and do their own buckles.

Afternoon story time started out with picture books from the library Ben, Sophie, and Anthony all had requests: Amanda and Her Alligator, Seven Chinese Brothers, something about a race car. Then we read a book about the Discovery of the Americas that was a nice overview of exploration from the first people to cross the Bering Strait through Magellan. The storytelling was smooth and lively and the pictures were nice and it was a good review of information we’d already covered but that I felt could use a bit of reinforcement. Sophie and Ben and Anthony all tuned in too and they usually don’t pay so much attention to history. Then we read a book about the Narraganset tribe. I don’t know much local history since I didn’t grow up around here so this was a nice overview for me as well. It started with prehistory and went up through a court case that reestablished the tribe in the 1980s and current disputes within the tribe over gambling. I’m hoping there are more books in the series about other local tribes. But at least this gives us a nice foothold for seeing the intersection of the global with the local. We definitely need field trips as we’re getting into Massachusetts history.

After dinner Bella read to Dom from Little House in the Big Woods. It got her out of having to clean up, which I felt a little torn about. She should have to pitch in with clearing the table and picking up toys, but getting her to spend time reading feels more urgent. And she throws herself into this so wholeheartedly I can’t get her to read half as much to me. So I bit my tongue and marshaled the other kids to clean up and let it go. Afterward, she did say that she’d helped pick up some toys in the living room before she sat down to read— and I couldn’t disprove the claim. And she did wipe down the table after she’d finished reading. That’s become her particular chore and I was proud that she did it without prompting.

I have no idea what the boys requested as bedtime stories. Probably library books.

Ben with his leaf necklace.
Ben with his leaf necklace.


The girls both did the first page of copy work in their new Memoria Press copybooks. And loved it. Sophie drew a picture to go with “And God said, let there be light. And there was light.” Bella did not. Sophie did a page of Saxon Math. Bella did part of a page of Miquon. They each read me a few pages of the Fur Family book.

Then we pulled out some winter clothes for them. It was a chilly morning and they were complaining that they had no long sleeved shirts and pants. Doing the clothes switch is so much easier with helpful six and eight year olds. Also, this spring I just dumped all the cold weather clothes into a bin in their closet so all we had to do was pull them out and sort by child. Then they handed me their summer clothes to put back into the same bin. At some point I’m going to have to really sort and organize clothes. But for now they have things to wear.

Schoolwork being done and it shaping up to be a glorious October day, I declared a park day for a picnic lunch. We threw some food into a bag and the children put on shoes and we went. Life really is much easier with no baby.

We had a lovely couple of hours at the park, cut short by an urgent need for a toilet. So we headed home and Lucy took a nap and the rest of us read piles of books. The boys asked for a couple of library books. Then we read a chapter in the Book of Angels, a chapter of Charlotte’s Web, a chapter of On Tide Mill Lane, a chapter of history about Samuel Champlain and Henry Hudson. Then a picture book for Sophie. Then part of a chapter of something about Indians of New England. Then a bit of the Lamb’s version of As You Like It. And I feel like I’m probably forgetting something in there.

Over dinner we discussed Latin lessons. We reviewed Sum nauta I wrote it on the white board with a picture of a sailor. Then I added a second boat with Lucy the pirate saying, “Sum pirata. Lots of discussion of Latin grammar, vocabulary, roots. We went crazy. Dom is interested in learning Latin too. A whole family endeavor.

For bedtime story I read them a new book that a friend sent in the mail. I was falling asleep, but it seemed like a really good book.

Once more unto the breach.
Once more unto the breach.
FIve in the frame.
FIve in the frame.
Climbing a big boulder.
Climbing a big boulder.
Lovely fall color
Lovely fall color
Lucy's grape has a seed! Yuck!
Lucy’s grape has a seed! Yuck!
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    • The bacon? It’s not really on the stove. Well, it’s actually an electric griddle that is, yes, sitting on the stove surface because we lack counter space. It’s very handy for making pancakes and bacon for a big family. So much faster than using the stove.

  • I’d be pretty estatic too if my children begged for copywork!:) Ooh lots of reading happening, my favourite part of homeschooling:)

  • I have a sudden burning need for an electric griddle. Although, now that I think about it, I use the oven for making bacon.

    I really need to start doing occasional copywork with Nat. Thomas can’t until we get him literate.

    • I don’t like the way bacon in the oven turns out as compared to the griddle. And you can make all sorts of things on an electric griddle. Well, I think you can. We really only do pancakes and bacon. But if we had counter space so I didn’t have to put it on the stove I could probably make naan on it.

      My thoughts on copywork are: start with letter formation. When they can make letters, give them words. When they can make words, give them very short sentences. Gradually make them longer and longer. At some point we’ll transition to dictation. Though right now it seems impossible that Bella and Sophie will even master spelling enough to write from dictation. It really shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Longer than that and they’re just going to be sloppy. I do find that in general they are much happier with copywork that’s pulled from what we’re reading.

      • Have you looked at All About Spelling? I love it! They even include short phrases for dictation, to begin with, then sentences. You say the sentence, then the child repeats it aloud to help him remember it, and then he writes it. You could use a whiteboard if it makes it easier, (or for a novelty,) and it is only using words for which they have already learned the “rules”. I had wanted to mention AAS to you before, when you wondered if spelling would help with Bella’s reading, to say yes! I believe it would; as for us, AAS has basically also taught my littles to begin reading. I do have another reading program with it as well, but my 4 year old wanted to do school just like her big brother, and started reading simple words because of learning how to “segment” words.
        I love your idea for copywork pulled from what you’re reading.
        My 6 year old usually draws a picture, and his copywork is a couple sentences about his drawing.
        I apologize for incoherent sentences!

  • That griddle is very cool! And I know what you mean about not wanting to change out the clothes. In TX you can sometimes get away with just shivering for a few days until it warms up again rather than getting out a bunch of winter clothes!

  • I love reading about your days. What is your new Memoria Press copybook? We are starting Prima Latina very soon and I can’t wait for the copybook to come in!


  • I read the bit about life being easier with no baby along and thought, “Wait, did you leave Lucy at home?”

    I have been feeling nostalgic enough already about Tad’s birthday being in a little more than a month; Lucy isn’t allowed to be a toddler too!

    (Never mind that she’s almost 11 months his senior. They should ALL stay babies!)

    • Lucy is almost 2! Less than three months away!

      I still refer to her as a baby sometimes, but practically speaking she acts like a toddler. She climbs into her carseat all by herself and even tries to do the buckles. And sometimes she even gets one of them to click.

      Today at lunch time she brought me a can of refried beans and a can opener and told me to open it and give her some beans. This means she pulled the step stool over to the drawer and climbed up and opened the drawer to get the can opener! She also got her own bowl and spoon.

      And when I ask the kids to help pick up the toys, she’s often the first one to start putting things away and is usually the most diligent too. She knows where toys go and puts them in the proper bins.

      She’s also very perceptive. When I’m sorting clothes in the laundry room she knows who almost everything belongs to. She even knows which khaki shorts are Ben’s and which are Anthony’s. Dom wouldn’t have a clue. I’m not sure even Bella and Sophie would know.

      • I already refer to Tad as “a toddler” in most parenting conversations, even though he doesn’t actually toddle. But he eats meals like a toddler and has moods like a toddler does many other toddlerish things. But he is also still “the baby”. My sister Teresa was “the baby” until she was well into preschool. Basically, they’re “the baby” until you have another. 😉

  • Melanie,

    Just know that the Prima Latina copybook is in cursive…so we are also starting cursive now (a bit “late” in 2nd grade).

    They MP website has a article about the reason for staring cursive in 1st grade. I like their reasons! Kids are more interested (than in 3rd) and that you can “move on” to other subjects when cursive is done.


    • Kim,

      That’s good to know, thank you. Frankly, I find that a bewildering decision. I’d never mix cursive and Latin. When I took Latin in both high school and college, I always wrote out my Latin in neat print and almost always printed my translations too. I have very good cursive handwriting, or I can if I focus, but print just seems more suitable for readability while learning a second language. I might be tempted to skip the copybook altogether if they don’t offer a print version.

  • Melanie, my kids loved MP’s cursive Latin copybook! They write all of their work, certainly Latin included!, in cursive. Cursive is beautiful. (I’m biased: I am a big fan of cursive). I always wrote my French and Latin in cursive, back in school.

    I definitely don’t think it detracts from learning a second language. At least, it was never an issue for me, and hasn’t been for my kids.

    When the time comes for your kids, maybe give it a whirl? Maybe some of them will prefer writing their Latin in cursive.

  • My husband works from home on some days, and I feel the same way. The boys are constantly aware of his presence. Even though Dave is way down in the basement, the days never feel quite right. But I do love having him at home, which is a contradiction of sorts.

    Copywork and handwriting. My oldest is 11, and we don’t plan on homeschooling through high school. He will start junior high in 2 years. And I’m really nervous, as I’m seeing all his gaps. And so many of the failures come from my lack of discipline. That’s the hardest part of homeschooling, feeling so responsible.

  • I have also noticed on the few days I work at home (which happens almost never these days), the whole schedule of the household gets thrown into chaos and I’m not sure why that is, but it happens. I’m just sitting in the corner on the computer, but it does make a difference.

  • I am catching up on my blog-reading late, but I just had to say… I have fallen behind on my Guy Gavriel Kay books! I used to be a big fan. Had several that I reread all the time 🙂