Learning Notes Week of January 18

Learning Notes Week of January 18

Big sister reads to little sister
Big sister reads to little sister


Our car was dead and so were our brains. It didn’t occur to us to take Dom’s car and go to Mass in shifts. Oh well. We read the readings and then watched the papal Mass in Manila.

Curious about all the images of the Baby Jesus, I did some googling and found that the Philippine devotion to the Christ Child goes back to an image that Ferdinand Magellan is supposed to have left with the wife of a tribal chief who accepted baptism along with her husband and more than 800 of their people. So that was a fun little trivia fact that Bella more than took to heart. She knows the story of Magellan! (My friend Enbrethiliel shares a gorgeous not to be missed story about the image of the Child Jesus and his sojourn as a pagan rain god. So, so good. Go read it now and come back here when you’re done.)


Dom had a holiday but we had to get the car fixed I had to do the shopping, so we just stayed home. Boring.

The girls didn’t get started on school work until late, but when they finally did sit down it went pretty well. Both did a bit of copy work. Sophie’s copy work, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” led to my getting out the children’s Bible and reading them the story of Cain and Abel. And then a discussion about why God approved Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. Dom and I agreed that Abel offers first fruits, a perfect lamb while it seems Cain just offers some produce. So we explained about following God’s directions about what makes a pleasing sacrifice.

Sophie did a page of Saxon math and did it well. Then she tried to do a page in the Miquon and picked on that she really needed help with but I was already engaged in helping Bella. Sophie got frustrated so I just told her to come back to the page another day. Once she gets into that frantic mode, it’s so hard for her to calm back down and I needed her to wrap it up so I could go shopping.

Bella did two pages of Miquon math. For the first she actually went back and corrected a page on clocks that she’d done sloppily the first time. She’d written in several wrong answers. It was very nice to see her able to see her mistakes and fix them— all on her own with no prompting. The second page she was not interested in focusing on at all. I finally grabbed a pencil and wrote down her answers. It was some very simple multiplication, review of problems I knew she knew how to do. The issue was clearly not understanding the problems but simply being able to focus on the task at all. It was so frustrating. She wasn’t being defiant or deliberately resisting. But the task wasn’t her own idea and her mind was elsewhere and she wasn’t invested in trying to marshall her thoughts to the task at hand. She wanted to draw. But she did answer all the problems eventually. With each one the struggle was getting her mind to engage with the numbers as soon as they had any traction, she saw the answer immediately. She’s so very clever, just caught up in another world.

Sophie read me several pages of Calvin and Hobbes, the new family obsession. I got Ben a new book for Christmas and everyone loves it. Bella says it’s really helping her with her reading. She stares at the pictures and eventually gets around to deciphering the words. Sophie did quite well even getting through several of the multi-syllable words with no hesitation. She did need a few pointers here and there, but boy she isn’t afraid to just jump right in.

Bella read me Sheep in a Jeep.

Afternoon stories: We read two chapters of The Mitchells Five for Victory, which I thought I’d read before, but I really have no memory of any of it. We read two chapters of On the Banks of Plum Creek. We read one chapter of Little House in Brookfield. And after than everyone was done with listening to read alouds.

Bella's pointillism picture
Bella’s pointillism picture


Sophie was feeling under the weather this morning so Bella took her under her wing and set her up in the top bunk to do her school work there, in Bella’s cozy bed. “Because it is lighter than Sophie’s bottom bunk, being near the window.” Bella helped her do her math and copy work and generally played teacher. Sophie was happy and it kept Bella focused and gave Bella a much-needed math review. Win all around.

Wit h the girls supervising themselves, I was free to pay more attention to the boys. So we pulled out the alphabet flashcards and determined that Anthony pretty much knows his alphabet and all the letter sounds and Ben is almost as solid. Anthony is much more eager to learn this stuff than Ben, who seems interested enough to go along with it, but never pushes like Anthony does. Anyway, having reviewed the alphabet, I then did a quick little reading lesson: at, an, ad, an, pat, pad, pan, pam. Then a quick letter sound review for Bella, hard and soft g sounds.

Sophie seemed to be feeling better and read me a few pages of Calvin and Hobbes. I read them a few more and that took us up to lunch time.

At some point Ben pulled out the art cards and did some matching.

After lunch we read a picture book about the Aztecs. Then a chapter of the Mitchells, a chapter of Plum Creek, a chapter of Story of the World about Prussia, and then, to Sophie and Ben only, a chapter of the Faith and Life with a discussion about mortal and venial sins.

About the history. Sophie and Ben groaned when I pulled out the book and Sophie complained that history was boring. But they did stick around after all and at the end of the chapter Sophie exclaimed that it was rather exciting and she really enjoyed it and was so glad we’d read it. I reminded her that she often does like history and she agreed. So I think that was a definite win. And rather surprising. I found it to be one of the less interesting chapters.

Then the kids asked to watch Blue Planet.

Bella offers sick Sophie a refuge in her bed
Bella offers sick Sophie a refuge in her bed
Ben matches art cards
Ben matches art cards


I read today’s lectionary readings to the girls and the story of St Agnes. No discussion, but at least they were read.

The girls’ copy work was wonderfully neat this morning. They each did only one page of math, and Sophie had a fit in the middle and had to be removed to the other room for throwing the Cuisinaire rods on the floor. But when she came back she calmly finished the page.

They both read me a bit of Calvin and Hobbes and I read everyone some more. Dom thinks its funny to hear me read Calvin and Hobbes to them because I stop to explain the context for all the jokes that they don’t get.

Afternoon stories: more of the Aztec book.* Also more Mitchells (I can see a big reveal coming the kids can’t see and I really want to race ahead, but I’m not doing so.) And another chapter of Plum Creek. Then Lucy ÷wanted me to read the book about St Lucia and so we did to her delighted clapping and crowing: “That’s me!”

* We had a good conversation the other day about the Aztecs and human sacrifice and why the conquistadores weren’t entirely wrong to be horrified and want to wipe out their civilization. Talked about why Christians have historically thought of Greeks and Romans as virtuous pagans because they also were horrified at human sacrifice— Carthago delenda est and all that. And then I brought up Our Lady of Guadalupe and how she appeared to Juan Diego who was an Indian and how after her appearance vast numbers of Indians covered where previously not so many were becoming Christians. How Mary appeared as an Indian maiden and told him she was his mother.

Smiling Anthony
Smiling Anthony
To a boy every pretzel is a gun
To a boy every pretzel is a gun


I read bits of Morning Prayer out loud during breakfast and as they started doing school work.

Sophie started off with copy work. Which led to Bible reading since she didn’t recognize the verse about Joseph the dreamer. We read several chapters and they would have kept going, but I needed to get to bread baking and they needed to do math.

Bella didn’t want to do copy work but finally asked me if she could write down my bread recipe. So I wrote down the first part, the ingredients list. She copied out the headers: “Honey Whole Wheat Bread” and “Ingredients” and I said that was enough for the day.

Bella did a reluctant page of math. Her brain was so very disengaged. She couldn’t focus on simple problems like 2+2. I don’t know what to do when she’s like that.

Sophie struggled with and gave up on a page in the Miquon book that she’s given up on several times before. So I suggested she find something else. She switched to the Saxon book and did a page with no trouble.

I sat and did a Saxon lesson with Ben, for the first time this month. Eek. I really want to get back into the habit of doing work with him. If for no other reason than to develop a habit of daily work. He didn’t complain much, just a little grumble that stopped as soon as he got started. He even seemed to enjoy the task, but he doesn’t ask for work like Sophie did at that age. And I’m spread thinner than ever.

I did a short phonics lesson for the girls. It was words than end in -ge. Looking at the word list, I decided to replace the lesson’s sentences with something of my own: “All the world’s a stage” went over nicely. As did “Mistress Ann Page” a favorite character from The Merry Wives of Windsor. Then Bella got into it and suggested another line from Merry Wives that I wrote out for them. And then I wrote out a few more. So some good practice with reading and fun discussion of Shakespeare.

Afternoon stories: We began with a chapter of the new book about St Thomas More. Then a chapter of The Mitchells. Then An Otis Christmas. (Since the Christmas picture books haven’t been put away yet.) Then Plum Creek. Then a chapter in Story of the World about King Philip’s War, the French wars with the Indians and William Penn. Then a chapter of the Faith and Life catechism, but it was the one on the nativity and Advent and the kids were bored, so I just jumped to asking the review questions. Anthony loves it when I go back and ask the questions for all the previous chapters, so I do that at the end of each lesson. The kids take turns answering them and it’s a good review. We always have interesting little discussions as they ask questions and grapple with ideas. Lucy wanted me to read The Legend of the Poinsettia. Fortunately, she was satisfied with me turning pages and giving her a quick recap on each one.

Finished the day with an episode of Blue Planet.

Lucy and Anthony scale the washing machine
Lucy and Anthony scale the washing machine


We went to the monthly adoration for homeschoolers today. No school work, we barely got out the door in time what with all the dragging of feet over breakfast and getting dressed and doing hair and finding shoes. And then needing to pack a lunch.

Adoration was awesome. Of course it was. There weren’t many of us there. Well, really just us an two other families, each of which had just one kid today. Father Riley is one of my favorite priests. He does a wonderful catechesis with the children. He teaches them, draws them out and asks them questions, leads them in intercessory prayer, helping them to think of people to pray for. And then the adoration itself, helping them to be aware of Jesus’ presence. We sang O Salutaris Hostia, Tantum Ergo, and Holy God We Praise Thy Name and we prayed the Divine Praises.

After adoration proper we removed to the sacristy and did a Valentines craft, making a card for someone who is lonely and sad (we also prayed for them in advance during adoration.) Then down to the basement for lunch and running around like crazy. Mostly running around, a little bit of eating.

We actually got home pretty early today since all our friends left early. We got home just after 2 instead of the usual just after 4. But Lucy woke up when we were getting out of the car and so refused to take more of a nap. I was tired and decided to skip afternoon reading time and just hung out with Lucy and then read while I let the other kids play.

at homeschooler's adoration
at homeschooler’s adoration
at homeschooler's adoration
at homeschooler’s adoration
at homeschooler's adoration
at homeschooler’s adoration
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  • Oh I wish we had a homeschoolers adoration! I think I am on Fr. Riley’s email list and I wonder if he does these in W. MA?

    I love the pictures of your children. So happy and blessed.

    Happy snow!

    • I doubt his duties at the seminary would let him get out to Western Mass very often. But it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Maybe you could find a local priest who’d be willing to do one for you? It’s such a beautiful opportunity for the kids and moms both.