Learning Notes First Week of November

Learning Notes First Week of November

Five surprised monkeys in a bed.
Five surprised monkeys in a bed.
Five happy monkeys in a bed.
Five happy monkeys in a bed.


Last night was horrid. Ben woke up coughing around 11:30. He could not stop. Stupid asthma. I couldn’t get him to use the inhaler. He was just sobbing hysterically and coughing uncontrollably. It was terrible. He ended up vomiting into the inhaler. Anyway between him and Anthony and Lucy I was up until 2 and then Lucy, who was in our bed because she was having trouble breathing herself, kicked me and tried to take my pillow away most of the rest of the night.

I was therefore not very focused this morning. I got the girls to do copy work and math. Sophie read me a couple of pages of a board book. Ben was too busy with clay to do any work. Just as well.

So then the one big accomplishment of the morning: I used the Billy Collins essay on Yeats’ Lake Isle of Innisfree to do a loose lesson. (I shared the link to that interview here.) I played Collin’s reading. Then read it to them. Then read them the bits about Collins in the MRI reciting the poem. Then played them the Yeats reading. Then I went over the poem line by line with lots of repetition, trying to get it down in my memory. Also talking about each image and unfamiliar words. By the end I could recite it and the kids could correct me though none of them tried to recite it. Anthony was especially hanging on it. He asked questions and repeated lines. And smiled and sighed.

So there was that.

After lunch story time: two chapters of The Road from Roxbury, two were necessary because we had to find out whether Mary drowned or not. Then a chapter of Robin Hood, the one about the silver arrow. (Bella pointed out that it’s gold in other versions.) Then the chapter on Daniel in Marigold Hunt’s Book of Angels. Then In the Belly of an Ox. And Ben wanted the Five Trucks book.

I overheard Bella narrating the St Crispin’s Day Speech. None of the same words, but she knew the basic idea.

The kids played while I wished I could take a nap.

Lucy has decided this one is Dada's sword and so is taking it to the office.
Lucy has decided this one is Dada’s sword and so is taking it to the office.


Much better sleep last night and I didn’t feel so tired today, but still sort of disengaged.

Sophie ripped through copy work and then Saxon math and then read me a board book. Bella did copy work and I walked her through two pages of Miquon, doing the writing for her. She didn’t read to me until right before dinner when she wanted to listen to the iPod. But she did a short reading lesson on the white board, hard and soft c.

I did a Saxon lesson with Ben: calendar and pattern blocks. He’s starting to get the days of the week down. It’s not strenuous for him and doesn’t take very long.

After schoolwork I rounded them up and we went down to the school so I could vote. Discussion about voting and such ensued, of course. Then dropped a bag of donations off for the parish bazaar. And back home for lunch, nap for Lucy.

Afternoon reading: a chapter of The Road from Roxbury, a chapter of the Book of Angels— Ezekiel and Isaiah and the cherubim and seraphim. Also St George and the Dragon and Five Trucks. And then I fell asleep and that put an end to story time.

Bedtime: I read about koalas and kangaroos in The Fantastic Flying Journey.

Sophie, Ben, and Anthony doing their school work.
Sophie, Ben, and Anthony doing their school work.
Bella's upside down school work
Bella’s upside down school work


Lucy took forever to fall asleep— maybe because Dom was working late and didn’t come home till after the kids were all in bed— but she slept through the night in her own bed. I’m still feeling like a zombie though.

It wasn’t too hard to get the girls on task this morning. They did their copywork. Sophie drew a nice picture of a city on a hill. She really loves illustrating her work. Bella does not generally draw a picture. Each did Miquon Math. Bella even did two pages of Miquon. Sophie read me a board book. Bella continued with the pattern of waiting to read to me until just before dinner. I did some copy work myself, copying out The Lake Isle of Innisfree and illustrating it with a little sketch of the island with the cabin and bean rows and bee hive and bees and linnets and heather and Yeats in a chair.

Then I spent the rest of the morning trying to figure out how to make doll clothes for Sophie’s rag doll. My first attempt was too small. The second one was a bit too big, but not unacceptable as an informal sundress. My third attempt worked fine as an open long vest, but not as a dress. I need to enlarge my template.

While I was sewing the kids found a huge praying mantis on the shed door.

Afternoon stories: another two chapters of The Road from Roxbury. We’re whizzing through it because we almost never read just one chapter. Then the first part of Merlin and the Making of the King. Then Don Quixote and the Windmills.

Don Quixote led to a little You Tube rabbit trail, watching clips from Man of La Mancha. And Bella and I talked a bit about Cervantes.

Bella gets the mantis on the yardstick.
Bella gets the mantis on the yardstick.
Praying mantis on the shed door.
Praying mantis on the shed door.
Sophie with the dolls wearing the new dolly clothes.
Sophie with the dolls wearing the new dolly clothes.


Bella and Sophie did copy work and then Miquon Math and then Sophie read me a board book. I had to write Bella’s math lessons because she could not focus. Bella read to me at the end of the day as usual.

After our formal school time we pulled out the modeling clay. I recited The Lake Isle of Innisfree and then Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and then couldn’t remember all of The Road Not Taken and so looked it up, mentioning it was by Robert Frost and connecting it to Stopping by Woods and Anthony connected it to Frost’s October, which we recently memorized. And then Anthony asked, “What else did Robert Frost write?” And we were off. I read another and another and another and another and Anthony and then Ben too kept asking, “What else did Robert Frost write?” Like a refrain. We talked about some of the poems and I defined some words and explained a few things. But mostly I just read the poem and then read the next one and then the next one. More than an hour of reading poetry and making coils with the clay. With a few interruptions from Lucy, who didn’t like us all sitting around reading all morning.

Sophie tied a sting around a bristle block and was pretending it was a drop spindle.

Bristle block drop spindles.
Bristle block drop spindles.

Sophie asked how to make fire without matches so I let them watch the video Kyra shared recently. I didn’t follow up with a discussion about other methods because I had to put Lucy down for a nap. But at least they now have some idea. Maybe.

Sophie learned the word “stanza” today. I’m not sure she really understands what it means, but she knows it has something to do with poetry.

While I was putting Lucy down Bella gave everyone a history lesson. Or lessons. I think one was on the Middle Ages, about the battle of Agincourt, one was on pueblos, and one was on oh something else. Bella loves playing teacher.

Afternoon stories: We read a bunch of poems from the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, Ben’s choice of book but everyone picked a poem or two or three. I guess it was a poetry sort of day today. We read the last two chapters of the Road from Roxbury. Then Robin Hood and then Sir Launcelot.

Then as it was rainy and getting dark I let them watch some of The Merry Wives of Windsor. I need to get another Shakespeare dvd.

Clay spirals
Clay spirals


Before we went grocery shopping, Sophie and Bella did their copy work and Sophie did a page of math as well.

At the grocery store Sophie and I had the following conversation:

Sophie: What does “dainty” mean?
Me: pretty, delicate
Sophie: What does “dainty duck” mean?
Me: Was that from Shakespeare? From A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Sophie: No, from Merry Wives of Windsor.

As we were discussing which play it came from an old woman passed by and smiled and said something laudatory. I wondered if she’d heard our conversation and understood I was arguing about Shakespeare with my six year old or if she was just joining the chorus of admiration for my big brood.

Afternoon stories: two Brambly Hedge stories; the final chapter of Robin Hood; the first chapter of Across the Puddingstone Dam; the next section of Merlin and the Making of the King; Clam Bake, a library picture book about a Wampanoag boy; a chapter of Story of the World about the 30 Years War.

Then they watched the end of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Bedtime story: Frog and Toad, the one about Frog’s bathing suit.

Lucy with running Anthony
Lucy with running Anthony
"Lucy, time for bed." "I reading Gospel."
“Lucy, time for bed.”
“I reading Gospel.”
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  • That picture of your Lucy “reading the gospel” is just too cute. Also, my 7 yo saw your clay spirals and was inspired to try to make some of his own, except we only have white Sculpey. Am I right in thinking that you used Sculpey? Not having any colored Sculpey here I can’t try it out myself, but how did you keep the colors separate like that? (Apparently we have not had colored Sculpey here in a long time, because I’m dredging my memory and can’t remember if the colors usually smoosh together or not.)

    • Yes, it’s sculpey. So the way we made the spirals was this. I kept trying to make them keep the colors separate to no avail. They would lump them all together. So I’d grab a lump that was several colors and I’d roll it into a smooth ball. Then I’d roll the ball out with my palm until it was a snake. Then gently grab each end of the snake and twist and twist until the colors swirl like a candy cane. When it was all swirly I’d make it into a coil. Sometimes I’d take two snakes and twist one round the other. That gives a nice effect too. It totally made me less grumpy about the mixed up colors, seeing how pretty they looked when twisted.

      • That sounds easy! Guess I need to stock up on colored Sculpey again. My 7 yo settled for building a Sculpey airplane last night using an aluminum foil and unbent paper clip armature. The moment of truth will come after it bakes; I’m not sure how well it’s going to hold together.

  • Yeats’ Lake Isle of Innisfree was committed to memory with no effort on my part as a result of hearing Judy Collins’ recording.

    It is lovely to be able to recall it at will. The first line reminds me of “Arise my love, my fair one, and come away” from the Song of Songs. The tone is different; Yeats’ poem so wistful and the Song so full of hope.