Learning Notes Week of Feb 2

Learning Notes Week of Feb 2

Lucy teaches herself to use scissors
Lucy teaches herself to use scissors


It began snowing in the early hours of the morning and there was almost half a foot more on the ground, I’d guess, by the time I got up.

Sophie got off to a great start. She finished a page of copy work she began last week. She did a page of math. Then she read me a story from the Japanese children’s story book. Dom listened in as she read and was quite impressed at her proficiency.

I did a math lesson with Ben. He filled out his calendar and then put number cards in order and then played a game, “guessing” which card I’d taken out.

Bella labored over a page of math and kept getting distracted. She wanted to play guess the number with Ben. Finally, I let her go outside to play in the snow with Sophie and Ben, on the promise that she’d finish her work when they came in.

They were out for hours, making a snow fort as the snow kept falling and falling, and came in just as I was putting Lucy down for a nap. They had a late lunch and when I’d put Lucy down we had our story time. So Bella never did do any reading or copy work. But I’m rather glad they did spend so much time outside. Constructing a snow fort: not something I got to do when I was a kid. Bella had so much fun making “blocks” with a little plastic pot from her play kitchen and filling the chinks with snow. They made several rooms and had a fireplace and shelves and all sorts of things. I’m sort of sad I didn’t get out to see it. I hope it wasn’t all buried after they came in.

We read Little House in Brookfield, Plum Creek, and Story of the World. We have lost The Mitchells and I’m quite put out. Need to go deep clean the office to see if I can uncover it.


Sophie got on the ball pretty quickly this morning.She knocked off copy work (a verse from Luke illustrated with a lovely picture) and math and then, after I’d finished helping everyone else, she read me Grandpa Green. Ben did a brief math lesson that felt rushed. Anthony insisted on doing some workbook pages: shape and pattern recognition, practicing his writing skills and pencil grip.

Bella had a hard time focusing. She crawled through a page of math. Then got distracted. I made a tactical error and let Anthony use the iPad and then let Ben and Sophie and Bella have turns. They were doing some I finally got Bella back on track and she did her copy work and read me a board book and then did a short phonics lesson from Ordinary Parent’s Guide: reading some words off the white board and some sentences out of the book.

Afternoon reading: Little House in Brookfield, Plum Creek, Story of the World chapter on Peter the Great. I also rediscovered the Thirteen Days of Christmas book, which had been lost under the bookcase. So we read a couple chapters of that. And listened to Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day and Adam Lay Y-Bounden since they feature in the chapters.

Bedtime story: Fox and Crow Are Not Friends.


Sophie and Bella both did copy work and math, Bella is working on multiplication, Sophie on measuring with centimeters. Sophie read me half of a Brambly Hedge story and Bella read me several pages of the Smithsonian Backyard book about robins.

Lucy is teaching herself how to cut with scissors.

Afternoon story time: Mitchells, People in History: Montrose, St Thomas More, Brambley Hedge.

The three big kids spent a couple hours outside playing in the snow. Bella spent some time listening to either music or a book on her iPod.


Grocery store day. I’ve been making the tradeoff of leaving later for the store (around 10-10:30 instead of 9-9:30) so as to try to maintain a daily schedule of table work after breakfast. Today we started off with listening to the Divine Office podcast of Morning Prayer, Bella asking about the saint of the day, me reading the biography of St Agatha and Bella remembering a more complete account in one of her books. Then I read them the Gospel, today’s first reading, and the Gospel reflection, which was an excerpt from a life of St Francis. That reminded me of an article Dom shared about a new manuscript biography of Francis having been discovered so we discussed that briefly.

Then one of the kids mentioned Frankenstein, for some reason, and I asked if they knew what that was and it seemed they’d seen some image or video and Dom had told them something about the movie. So I found myself summarizing the plot of the novel and then talking about the injustice of creating a life without love, and of refusing to give love to those we are in relationship with. It’s got some really interesting theological meat in it, does Frankenstein. And then Dom came in and the two of us got to talking about the novel and then about Dracula too, which is really theologically interesting, I should write a blog post one of these days about those two novels.

Sophie did copywork and math and Bella did math. Sophie’s copy work was from 1 Corinthians, about the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Bella was under the mistaken apprehension that Corinthians was a part of Acts. So I pulled out my Bible and flipped through the New Testament and we had a quick lesson on the Epistles.

Then Bella grabbed my Bible and started flipping through it and realizing she could really read bits of it. For the next hour while I tried to get everyone ready to go, she kept plopping down with it in the laundry room on the flour bin, on the couch, on the floor, and reading a verse here and a verse there. She was looking for short verses that looked easy and was so please with herself. So very, very pleased with herself. She announced, “I’m cherry-picking verses that are easy.” She kept exclaiming that she was reading a real Bible and could read it for herself. The real Bible, not a story book! And she can do this all the time now! “And I’m reading it quietly to myself, not saying it out loud!” (Which led to a fun little digression about how the Ancient Romans didn’t read silently ever— except that Julius Caesar did and people thought it was weird and creepy. So I mentioned the possibility of getting her her own Bible and you’d have thought I was giving her the moon. Her very own!

So yes, Bella is hitting that sweet spot of realizing that she’s actually literate. She reads signs and labels and is thrilled to be able to do so. It’s a whole new world opening up for her and it’s so very thrilling. I rather suspect being able to read the Bible will push her to a whole new plateau of reading. I had faith that this day would come, but it’s been a very long slog and I’ve been tempted to despair many times. It’s hard having a kid who’s developmental timeline is different than everyone else’s. It’s so easy to second-guess yourself and her. But i’m really feeling affirmed in my decision to take it slow and steady with very, very, very small increments daily, breaking up already short lessons into micro-chunks and letting her have a very free reign with choice of reading material. I think letting her find her own way has been key, she does not do well with pressure.

Anyway… we did go to the grocery store, in the midst of the falling snow. And a little adventure it was. Then we got home around 12:30, I think. Had to put away groceries, make lunch. I don’t think I ate till around 2, by which point I was cranky and so was everyone else and Lucy, who fell asleep in the car on the way home, had woken herself up and was cranking too.

So I read Little House in Brookfield and Plum Creek (another fun parallel in the question of wearing shoes with holes to church. Makes me wonder if Maria Wilkes didn’t pattern her novel in part on Plum Creek. Hmm.) Then the Inos Biffi Catechism, section on the Ten Commandments, with lots of discussion. The language is often (usually?) over their heads, but that itself leads to questions and engagement. Finally, a Christmas story book that Anthony found laying about because I still haven’t done a full sweep for Christmas books.

After stories the kids watched the second half of As You Like It.

Bedtime story: Thunder Cake.

Oh and at some point we did a reading lesson: adding s to words that in in y: try/tries, cry/cries, etc.


Began with Morning Prayer podcast. Then I read Bella the account of the martyrdom of St Paul Miki and companions from the Office of Readings, one of my favorites.

Actually even before that, the very first thing we did was Dom boiled some water and then threw it in the air so we could watch it vaporize instantly into a little cloud puff. At least there’s some upside to waking up to -9 degrees.

Sophie and Bella did math and copy work. Sophie’s math was a matching exercise with simple multiplication problems in one column and addition problems in the other. Her conceit is she worked was that each matched pair was getting marries. Little happy number sentences. For copy work she did a passage from the Gospels, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” She illustrated it with a lovely picture of Jesus knocking at a door. I thought it an especially appropriate passage as she’s preparing to make her first confession on Sunday.

Bella really struggled with focusing on the math. I had to redirect her attention multiple times for each problem. It’s not understanding the work, it’s making herself focus on something she doesn’t want to do. While I don’t want her frustrated with math all the time, I think in small doses the discipline of doing what she doesn’t like is good for her. She should have to do hard things. For copy work she had me write a favorite line from As You Like It, (How now, wit, wither wander you?) which she copied quickly and fairly neatly. (Funny story, she told me that was a line from the play and I thought she was misremembering A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “How now, Spirit, wither wander you?” But Bella insisted. Dom was amused when she turned out to be right and me wrong. Well, she has seen the video more times than I have since I let them watch it while I’m making dinner.)

I did a spelling/reading lesson with the girls, homonyms: mane/main, pane/pain, etc. And then they read some sample sentences. We also talked about when ch makes a k sound like in school and Christ.

Lucy took a really early nap, poor tired baby, down at 10:30 when she usually goes to sleep after lunch.

That meant she was awake for stories, but she was less disruptive today than yesterday. We opened with my reading the passage in John: I am the vine and you are the branches. A long discussion about it with a digression into horticulture and grafting, which delighted Sophie very much. Sophie made the connection herself that grafting is like confession. I was quite proud.

Lucy requested Johnny Townmouse. ThenI read Little House in Brookfield, Plum Creek, and then the story of Ruth from the picture Bible. Then two chapters from the sort of anemic Faith and Life book about forgiveness and penance. I like to use the chapter as a springboard for conversation, it reminds me of what bases I need to cover. So we had a discussion of the Prodigal Son. Long discussion there, I added a lot about how Christ’s healing the sick and forgiving sins aren’t really two different kinds of thing but how confession is like going to the doctor to be healed of a soul sickness. We went through the Act of Contrition line by line so I could explain the words and phrases Sophie doesn’t understand. That led to some good conversation too. I rounded out the catechism session with another analogy from real life: going to confession is like getting a poopy diaper changed. And then I ended the afternoon story time to go change Lucy who reeked to high heaven.

The kids watched Blue Planet while I made dinner.

Bedtime stories, I read a Japanese story about a sparrow to Sophie. I don’t recall what Dom read to Bella.

+ +

Something I forgot to note at the time. On either Tuesday or Wednesday, I think, the kids did an impromptu poetry recitation for Dom at dinner. Bella started it, speaking her own poem about waiting for spring: “The trees are lonely, dark and dim / above their only ___ rim. / Awake, Spring! Where are you? / The only chirping sparrow…”

Dom was impressed. I’m not sure he’d heard it before, or if he had he’d forgotten it. She then sang it to a little tune she’d made up. It was very sweet. Then she recited the beginning of The Lake Isle of Innisfree. And then Dom asked if anyone else could recite. So Sophie recited most of the Ogden Nash poem about Belinda’s dragon, I can’t recall the title. She needed only minor prompting and the other kids joined her now and then, but she really carried it off, a dramatic recitation. Then Anthony and Lucy wanted to join in so I helped them do A Noiseless Patient Spider (with me providing most of the lines, and Anthony repeating them) and we all joined in on High Flight. Oh it’s moments like that that I cherish so. Dom told them as much, saying It makes your mother so happy to have all her children memorizing and reciting and enjoying poetry. And he’s right. It does. And even though he’s not a huge poetry fan, he tries to appreciate it for my sake. And sometimes really does like the poetry I recite at him.

Ben tries to dig out the slide, unsuccessfully.
Ben tries to dig out the slide, unsuccessfully.
Ben and Bella harvesting icicles.
Ben and Bella harvesting icicles.
Ben and Bella harvesting icicles.
Ben and Bella harvesting icicles.
More snow!
More snow!
The boys make cherished friends out of Duplos, this can only lead to heartache. Seen here: Shooty and Jetty and Jetty's forklift.
The boys make cherished friends out of Duplos, this can only lead to heartache. Seen here: Shooty and Jetty and Jetty’s forklift.
Sophie's math page involved matching addition and multiplication problems. She pretended the numbers were getting married.
Sophie’s math page involved matching addition and multiplication problems. She pretended the numbers were getting married.
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  • Oh! That snow! I’ve lived in the south so long (most of my adult life), pictures like those always shock me.

    You make me want to read Frankenstein and Dracula. I don’t think I have. I’ll have to add them to the ever-growing list.

    • Having grown up in Texas, living with snow like this is like living in storybook land. The classic New England four seasons in the picture books never mapped to my lived experience. It’s so very satisfying to me now that the weather works the way all the books told me it should. (The literature I read did seem to be skewed toward a more northern clime.)

      Oh do add Frankenstein and Dracula to your list. They are such good books. Everyone should read them, I do think.

      • ” (The literature I read did seem to be skewed toward a more northern clime.) ”

        That reminds me when I would read as a child about the return of the robins being the sure sign of spring. I was totally confused because we had robins all year long. Were the robins supposed to leave?

        • Exactly! Robins leave? The first spring I was here in Massachusetts it was so exciting to see robins returning. Though it seems we have some around here that have gotten confused because we’ve seen them in January.