Learning Notes Week of Oct 20

Learning Notes Week of Oct 20

the unbearable cuteness of Lu


While listening to her iPod, Bella roamed around the house with a little notebook copying down words from various labels: olive oil, milk, bread, table salt, etc.

I made Sophie and Anthony saints costumes. St Anthony for him and St Therese for her. They were thrilled. It didn’t take long either. Though I think I want to hem Sophie’s costume so she can get longer wear out of it. Anthony’s won’t last that long and a Franciscan habit can look scruffy with no problem.

St Anthony St Anthony[/caption]

St Anthony outside St Anthony outside[/caption]

St Anthony and St Therese kneeling.
St Anthony and St Therese kneeling.


I’m starting to think that it’s easier to let Bella have her long, slow start to the morning and, instead of trying to get her up to speed, get Sophie and Ben through their lessons quickly and then hold her hand during her leisurely stroll through her work. At least that’s what happened today and it worked really well.

Sophie buckled down and did her copy work (with picture!) and math and read me most of The Snowy Day. Ben and I did a Saxon lesson.

Bella did her copywork during Ben’s lesson. Then she did two pages— or was it three?— of math, so at least she was focusing on that. Then she read me Each Peach, Pear, Plum. And then I taught a short lesson about words that end in -ke and -ck and how short words have a consonant double when made past tense if the vowel is short and a single consonant if the vowel is long.

Then she went to listen to the iPod. I made bread and did more sewing on Sophie’s scapular for her costume. Sophie decided she wanted to sew too and so started on a green felt dinosaur.

At lunch time I taught the kids the hokey pokey because someone on Facebook had shared that joke that’s been going around: “What if Shakespeare had written the hokey pokey?” and had mentioned me specifically, saying my kids would probably love it. I thought they would but wasn’t sure they’d get the hokey pokey part. So we danced crazy in the kitchen and even Lucy joined in. And then while they ate I read them the Shakespeare thing and Sophie loved it, Ben laughed, and Bella wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Afternoon stories: we read a chapter of the Robin Hood for children book, about Alan-a-Dale. Then Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore loses a tail. Then a chapter of Pyle’s Launcelot, the knight of the cart. Then the final three chapters of On Tide Mill Lane, the hurricane and Will’s homecoming didn’t allow us to stop. After all that I was hoarse.

Before dinner Bella was telling Dom about finishing On Tide Mill Lane and we got to talking about the War of 1812 and I found myself humming The Battle of New Orleans. So naturally I had to play it for the kids. I played three different versions, but I couldn’t find my favorite, which is evidently on a cd that never got loaded onto iTunes: Kips’ Bay Ceili Band’s Digging In. We talked about that particular battle and how the war started (Wikipedia is my friend) and then discussed the battle in Portland in which Will is injured in the story. It wasn’t on the main Wikipedia article, but Dom found brief mention of it elsewhere. So now the kids know two songs associated with the War of 1812 and we are still miles away from that in history since we’ve only just got the the landing in Plymouth. But it was delightfully fun.

Bedtime stories: Bella asked for a bit of The Fantastic Flying Journey. Sophie asked for Amanda and Her Amazing Alligator. Lucy wanted the book about swords.

Sophie with her latest creation: dinosaur
Sophie with her latest creation: dinosaur
Sophie with her felt animal collection: beara, dinosaur, bird, bunny, batty.
Sophie with her felt animal collection: beara, dinosaur, bird, bunny, batty.


Sophie started doing her school work before I’d even had a chance to prompt her. She did a page of copy work in the Memoria book and drew a nice ark in the rain. Then she did a page of Saxon math and we counted some coins. Then she read me Snuggle Puppy.

Bella dragged her feet over her math and ended up changing to a different page. For copy work I copied the last two sentences of Charlotte’s Web and she copied maybe half of it.

I didn’t do any work with Ben this morning.

We went to the store to get more thread. Actually I meant to go to the fabric store to get more materials for Halloween costumes, but I had a foggy brain moment and drove to Michaels instead, the opposite direction we needed to go. We listened to the end of Prince Caspian in the car and we got thread and found a king figurine on sale for Anthony who has been begging for one, so it wasn’t a totally wasted trip.

Lucy fell asleep in the car and took a micro nap and was awake before I’d finished lunch. I was too foggy brained to do much this afternoon. But I did make scones. I felt I needed a cup of tea and a pick me up.

We read the first chapter of The Road to Roxbury and a chapter in Story of the World and I read Otis to Ben. I showed him how to sound out the letters O-T-I-S on the title page and he found them in the body of the text.

The Bella read me the Tale of a Fierce Bad Rabbit while I did the dishes and then disappeared into her iPod. There are plenty of days when I’ve written off her reading altogether but she hunts me down to read to me because she wants to listen to the iPod.

Sophie was being very inquisitive while I was cooking dinner and so we had an impromptuu cooking lesson. I walked her through all the steps of making my marinara sauce and the ziti to go with it. The way I cook there’s no measuring, so we were mainly talking about smells and colors— food tends to turn brown when it cooks— and how to judge doneness of the different steps by observation.

Bedtime stories. Dom read something to Anthony. Lucy asked me to read When Daddy Prays. Soon all the kids were listening to that. Bella said it’s one of her favorites, which I didn’t know. Bella formed a theory that there was one poem for each month since the last two poems are a December and a January one. But we counted and there are fifteen, and there’s no other clear seasonal pattern. I go back and forth on it, but tonight I really loved it. Then I read Ben an Inch and Roly book.

That kind of day
That kind of day
Anthony made a forklift
Anthony made a forklift


Sophie did copywork from the MP book and drew a lovely picture of Abraham. She did Saxon math and read me The Big Red Barn.

Ben and I did his Saxon lesson— filling in the calendar and making a tower of linking cubes in a brown-orange-brown-orange pattern and counting the cubes as he linked them. And then he did the first page in his new Kumon alphabet book. Anthony also did the same alphabet page. Anthony is quite eager to do school work, so I let him. But if he were disinterested in it, I’d not make him do any. Three is really too young for schoolwork unless the child is chomping at the bit and wanting to keep up with big siblings.

Bella did a page of copywork in the MP book, hiding in her room to do it. Then a page in Miquon math. No reading lesson in the morning block.

Instead we headed to Target for toilet paper and hand soap. Also I picked up shoes for Bella and Ben. Poor Ben! I’d bought him new sneaker at the start of summer and then had got him sandals too and he wore the sandals all summer. When fall came he complained the sneakers were pinching his toes, but it’s taken a bit to get round to finding him new shoes. The pinchy shoes were size 10. The foot chart at Target said he should be in size 13. No wonder they were pinching! Anthony inherited the pinch shoes, which are a size up from what he’s currently wearing. And he’s very happy to get them. Almost new sneakers!

Ben, Anthony, Bella, and Sophie all used their pocket money to buy things at Target. Sophie found a tiara in the $1 bin. Ben found a board book shaped like a tractor with real wheels. Anthony got a construction worker helmet. And I got Lucy a firefighter helmet because she asked for it. I let the kids put their items on the belt separately and pay for each purchase themselves, providing the tax when they didn’t have the odd coins. Then we had a cookie and juice treat at Starbucks, Lucy eating a packet of fruit and nuts and I having a small coffee and pastry.

In the car we listened to the first part of Prince Caspian. And at Target we discussed what kinds of roots people might really eat in the forest. I promised to look up an answer in the botany books.

Afternoon stories: Jerusalem Shining Still, a gorgeous picture book about the history of Jerusalem told in a mixture of poetry and prose. It’s neutral about religion, but not offensive. Bella picked up on the flatness of the portrayal of Jesus and speculated about the faith of the author. I explained it seemed to deliberately not emphasize one faith over any others so that anyone of any faith could enjoy the book. Then we read two chapters of The Road to Roxbury— one wasn’t enough when there was a baby waiting to be introduced. Then a chapter of Story of the World, about the slave trade. Then Anthony requested Amanda and Her Amazing Alligator.

Bedtime stories: The Ugly Duckling for Sophie, The Amazing Flying Journey for Bella, Each Peach Pear Plum for Lucy.

Lucy the witch
Lucy the witch
Queen Sophia
Queen Sophia
Bella the witch
Bella the witch


We had a huge storm overnight. It overturned our table, knocked down our gate, and woke up both my big girls. First Sophie came out crying, scared by the thunder and wind. Then after she’d gone back to bed, Bella came out. Bella was up for more than an hour. Maybe more than two. I was up much later than I intended— I was going to be good and go to bed early! As i headed to bed, Bella was still on the couch, calm but wide awake. I knew today was going to be mostly a wash.

Sophie did her copywork and math and read me all of the Seurat board book. Bella copied one word of her copy work and read a few words from the white board, did a few more with the moveable letters from the letter puzzles and then was done and went to take a nap. She didn’t even attempt math, despite having a mug of hot tea.

I read Sophie the story of Joseph and his coat from the Bible to help her understand her copywork. Then Bella got out one of the Bible story books after lunch and we read the rest of Joseph’s story and then all about Moses to boot.

Then we read two chapters of On Tide Mill Lane, Amanda and Her Alligator (again!), and Little Fur Family. And we were all done. Ben and Sophie played some games on the iPad.

I made two loaves of bread, one my standard honey whole wheat sandwich loaf and the other a nice whole wheat peasant loaf.

Spelling lesson
Spelling lesson


Sophie had another really on morning. She got out her books all on her own and did copywork— and a picture of Moses and a sheep and the burning bush— and two pages of Saxon math, and read me a board book: Counting Kisses.

Bella limped through a few words of copy work and I gave up after about half an hour of trying to get her to focus. The work was a mess and we needed to get to the grocery store.

But she took her notebook to the grocery store and wrote down a few words there. And they were neater by far.

We listened to Prince Caspian on the way there and back. Anthony and Ben are as fully invested in the stories as Sophie and Bella. Anthony is always the first to ask if we can listen to a book in the car.

We didn’t get to the store till late and got home quite last. But Lucy fell asleep in the car so as soon as I had lunch and the kids had some pretzels and peanut butter, we sat down to read.

Bible stories today, continuing where we left off yesterday, except in a different Bible story book. We read about Gideon and Sampson and David and Saul. Anthony and Ben and Sophie and Bella were all very attentive. After Bible stories we read two chapters of The Road from Roxbury. Then a chapter of Stories of Robin Hood told to the Children. I also read a Richard Scarry book about firefighters to Anthony.

At dinner I told silly stories to try to get the boys to eat the falafel. Anthony tired his and liked it. Ben still refused. In the stories I made the boys knights and gave their swords names. So after dinner we were talking about why swords have names and trying to remember the name of Beowulf’s sword. I was blanking on the name and so I picked my new Tolkien translation of Beowulf off the shelf and turned right to the page and the read a passage about Hrunting. It was fun to read aloud to the kids.

Bedtime stories: Bella is still having Dom work through The Fantastic Flying Journey. Sophie wanted I Lost My Hat. I fell asleep reading Lucy a boring library book and Dom had to do both stories for the big girls.

Sophie brings in the groceries
Sophie brings in the groceries


Sophie decided to do a page of copy work this morning. And illustrated it.

Bella decided to copy out a sentence from the children’s Bible story book, about Jacob and Esau and illustrated it quite neatly.

If we hadn’t been leaving for the farmer’s market, I daresay Sophie would have done her math and reading too.

It was such a glorious day that after the farmer’s market we stopped for sandwiches and had a picnic at the park. The kids and I took a brief walk through the woods and picked up some leafs and looked at mushrooms and Anthony was proud that he was able to climb the rock the big kids had climbed. And Dom got the best pictures of the kids in a tree.

Bedtime stories: Ben asked for The Story about Ping. Anthony wanted the Richard Scarry fire station book again. Lucy asked for Comet’s Nine Lives, which I’ve just about decided I detest even though I usually love Jan Brett. It’s just too weird. I think maybe it’s time to thin the children’s books again.

three kids in a tree

Laughing lucy in the tree

four kids in a tree

Bella Ben and Anthony in a tree

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  • I was staring at your neatly copied out phonetics and thinking, I must have taught Nat that, but I don’t remember. So I called him over and he read all the words correctly. He’s going to be sunk, though, if he ever has to explain the pronunciation rules to anyone else.

    We just banned the boys from using the computer today. It is sad, and I wouldn’t survive it and stick to it if Geoff were still working. But every single day is Nat trying to steal the computer from Thomas, Thomas whining for Nat to help him, and Nat trying to quietly and sneakily Google things and go to games websites we’ve forbidden. And then screaming arguments and tantrums. Sigh. They need to detox.

    I’ve been thinking about buying Nat a cd player and starting to get audiobooks out from the library. Most of the families I know do them in the car, and we’re on the transit or on foot, so we lose that opportunity. But I’d like to do more long stories aloud and I don’t have the uninterrupted time in long chunks.

    • I do phonics haphazardly. I’m still slowly going through the lessons in Ordinary Parent’s Guide just to make sure I’ve covered them all. And then sometimes I make up lessons when I notice the girls struggling with particular rules. I need to do more drill, but I’m lazy about it.

      We don’t have a computer that the kids use, but they do have games on the iPads. (One is the “school” iPad and the other is an extra one Dom had from work.) We do occasionally detox because yes the competition can get fierce. They know the rule is that if there’s fighting I’ll put the iPads on ban for a week or so. They go through cycles of using them and not using them. Detox is hard, especially when it’s so easy to let them play when you’re tired and stressed.

      I think getting Nat a cd player is a great idea. Bella and Sophie love listening to audiobooks on their iPods (their refurbished iPods were gifts courtesy of my parents). Ben’s been clamoring for one too. I find it especially helpful as a carrot to get Bella to do her work too. Often the only reason she completes her math and reading is so she can get to listen to her iPod. And since all that’s on it are Narnia and Little House books and some music I selected, I consider the iPod time “schoolish” too. Just don’t tell Bella that.

  • Am really enjoying these link ups:)
    Most wise to let Bella go with her own rhythm, though wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had the same rhythm;)

  • I’m curious — did you finish listening to Prince Caspian and then start it over the next day? Or do you just listen to it in bits and not in order because they already know the story?

    • Ah I mistyped. We listened to the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and then began Prince Caspian. I’ll go back and correct that.

      We generally listen all the parts of each book in order, but are listening to the books out of order. I read all the books to the girls last year, but the boys listened only haphazardly. I can’t even keep track of which of the books we’ve listened to in the car. I think this is our second go round with PC in the car.

  • Lucy the Witch is too cute.

    Do you have a recipe for your bread? I have tried to make sandwich bread a few times and the bread always turns out very tasty but not at all sandwichy.

    • My recipe assumes a mixer with dough hook. You can do it by hand, though I never have.

      Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

      Dry ingredients:

      1 pound + 2 ounces of flour (or 3 cups if you don’t have a scale. Any combination of white and whole wheat you want. You can even add half a cup of rye.)

      2 tsp salt

      2 tsp yeast

      2-3 Tbs ground flax seed (totally optional, but I love the depth of flavor it gives the bread. I stole that trick from Darwin Catholic’s pizza recipe years ago.)

      3-4 tsp vital wheat gluten. (Also optional. But especially handy if I use the rye flour. Gives the bread a much better structure because rye doesn’t have as much gluten.)

      Wet ingredients:

      1 cup milk

      1/2 cup water (or more if needed)

      (you can use all milk or all water, milk helps make the bread more tender.)

      3 Tbs honey (tip: coat your measuring spoon in oil so the honey drips right off. I usually measure out a tablespoon of oil into the bowl I’m going to let the bread rise in and then use the tablespoon to measure out the honey.)

      4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted


      1. Whisk dry ingredients together in mixing bowl– I use my KitchenAid to do the mixing and kneading, so I just measure directly into that bowl.

      2. Mix the milk and water and heat in microwave until it’s lukewarm, about 1.5 minutes. Add melted butter and honey and whisk until all the liquid is thoroughly mixed.

      3. Slowly add the wet stuff to the dry stuff while the mixer is running at the lowest speed. Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, turn the Kitchen Aid to 2 and let it knead with the dough hook until the dough comes together in a ball with nothing left on the sides of the bowl and starts to look quite smooth, satiny almost and quite elastic. Maybe 10-15 minutes, depending on humidity. If I use rye, I sometimes have to add a bit more water to keep the dough from being too dry and I find that rye takes more kneading than just wheat. I have no idea how long the kneading would take by hand, I only ever make this one with the mixer even though I do other breads by hand.

      4. When the dough looks smooth and flexible, stop the mixer and remove the dough hook. Form the dough into a ball, folding the sides down and tucking them under. Oil the sides of the bowl and roll the dough ball around until it’s coated in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes. Especially in winter I turn on the oven to the lowest setting and let it preheat to temp then turn it off immediately. I let the dough rise in there so it takes much less time; but you have to be careful because if the oven is too hot it will start to cook the dough.

      5. When the dough has roughly doubled, remove from the bowl, turn onto a wooden board and punch down lightly. Starting at one end, roll into a long tube about as wide as your loaf pan is long, pinching the edges to make it tight. Then place dough seam side down in greased loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap.

      6. Place a pan in the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350. Also, put on some water to boil (I use my electric kettle). Let dough rise in loaf pan for about 20 minutes then pour boiling water into the pan in the bottom of the oven, place the loaf pan on the middle rack. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.