Learning Notes Week of August 10

Learning Notes Week of August 10

Two knights skirmishing.
Two knights skirmishing.

Monday August 10

Back from two weeks of vacation and getting into the swing of things. I was hopeful that today would go well because after a week at the lake, Bella got up on Saturday and declared that she felt like doing math and then actually pulled out the Miquon book and did some problems!
Though I put the school books out last night, I neglected to talk to the kids about today being a school day so I wasn’t shocked when I woke up to them playing in the living room. But after I coaxed them away from their game and got them to eat breakfast they were surprisingly happy to sit down and open up the books.

Sophie copied the final lines of a Bible verse she’d begun before vacation, did some cursive, and a page and a half in the Miquon book— a page of connect the dots counting by fives and sixes, and a half page of multiplication problems. Then she went back to playing until I told her that she was being too distracting to Bella. So I redirected her to getting out the sketch book and drawing some leaves and flowers. She was resistant at first and despairing of her ability to draw hosta flowers and then sunflowers, but I eventually redirected her to some leaves that we picked up and took into the house. I picked a cosmo and she picked a rose hip and we sketched them both as well as some leaves that Lucy collected. We both ended up with quite a few drawings we were happy with. And I showed her some pages of The Country Diary of a Victorian Lady, which she really liked.

Bella copied out part of a recipe from a cookbook. Then she asked me to make up some math problems for her. She wanted to add two and three digit numbers. So I made up a couple of pages and she did about six problems. Then she went back to her current obsession, which Sophie has joined her in: cutting out clothes from back to school catalogues, gluing them onto paper, and making paper dolls out of them by drawing in heads, hands, and feet. She then cuts out the dolls and gives them each a name, carefully writing the names on the edges of the paper. Her current read is All Things Wise and Wonderful, though she also seem to be dipping into Peter Duck and I saw her reading Understood Betsy today. She loves to dip into favorite books to read little snippets.

Ben practiced writing Ee and I printed off an August calendar for him to fill out since he seems to really enjoy doing that. Then we worked on counting by tens and identifying pennies and dimes and counting by ones and tens respectively.

Anthony traced a few letter Dds and we brainstormed some words that begin with D. He does not like writing very much, too much of a perfectionist? But he did freehand write a couple of capital Ds that were pretty good. He and I practiced counting to ten, twelve, and then twenty on his own initiative. And he joined Sophie and I in looking at leaves and rosehips and flowers. He’s very curious and asks questions and listens to our discussions but is not interested at all in drawing with us.

Afternoon stories: Peter Duck, two chapters because we had to find out Bill’s story. Then a chapter about King Solomon from the children’s Bible. Then two picture books about Lewis and Clark: Bad River Boys about an encounter with Lakota Sioux indians told from the perspective of three indian boys; and My Name Is York, a narrative voiced by a man named York, a slave owned by William Clark. I thought each book had an interesting and valuable perspective nd wer both grogeously illustrated but both were rather frustrating in that they assume the reader has a fairly sophisticated understanding of the subject. They were definitely aimed at a slightly older audience. Bad River Boys drops the reader into the middle of the story and seemed pretty sophisticated narrative structure. It was very interesting in that it highlighted how despite good intentions, miscommunication and misunderstanding almost caused a crisis. The author is a member of the Sioux and brings a sensitivity the subject matter, but something was a little lacking, I wanted more of a frame to ease the reader into the story, the pacing was a little slow, and the sprinkling of Sioux words was a little disorienting for younger readers. Call Me York felt a little thin. It really emphasized York’s desire for freedom but made him feel very flat as a character, as if his desire for freedom was all there was to him.

I thought I was done reading, but Anthony asked me to read him a chapter of Prince Caspian, so I started reading that to him. I can’t resist him when he looks at me with his big brown eyes. I really try to make read aloud about the desires of the younger boys as well as of the big girls, so I’m glad Anthony feels confident in asking for more Narnia. Also, I find it almost impossible to say no to Narnia.

Bedtime story: Ben picked Sheep in a Jeep. It was a pretty late night and we needed something short and he was thankfully compliant. I also read the final few pages of St Felix and the Spider for Anthony.

Paper dolls by Bella/
Paper dolls by Bella/

Tuesday August 11

Slow start this morning, we were all sluggish.

Sophie did a page of Miquon and a line of copywork in the Memoria book. She had some kind of breakthrough while doing her math and pulled out another sheet of paper and started writing out some sums: 100+100=200 100+100+100=300 200+100=300. Suddenly something had clicked and she was getting the idea of place value in a way that she just wasn’t before. I did a happy dance in the kitchen. And then ruined the moment by trying to push her to do the same thing with thousands. Oops. Too much. She frozen and buckled and there were tears.

Bella was having a very unfocused morning. Finally she took her math book into the office and seemed to get through the page. I only checked one problem and she’d made a small error. I need to go back and check the rest of the page. I don’t know if she did copywork. She must have, but I don’t recall checking it. She then tore through the book she started yesterday morning, a Dear America book about the Revolutionary War.

Ben was totally disinterested and I was too tired to force him to do the work.

Anthony was more than happy to have me help him. I handed him the number cards I was going to use with Ben and he happily put the numbers 1 to 10 into correct sequence and then with a little help did 11-20. He also wrote a few credible capital Ds.

Afternoon stories: a chapter of Peter Duck. A chapter of My Family and Other Animals. And that was it, we were done.

Bedtime stories. Both Bella and Sophie wanted the book about women and space, we read about Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar.

Paper doll by Bella.
Paper doll by Bella.
Sophie adds hundreds
Sophie adds hundreds
Bella finished a book.
Bella finished a book.

Wednesday August 12

Sophie had already done her math and copywork and cursive under Dom’s supervision before I got out of bed. I had her read Space Walks, a book about astronauts, to me midmorning while I was making bread. She’s currently very into space and astronauts, so we’re feeding that itch.

Bella read a chapter or two of This Country of Ours in bed before breakfast.

After breakfast Bella did her math and found an old copywork page to do, an antiphon from a Lenten set that she’d never completed.

I pulled out the Scrabble set and taught Bella how to play while I set Ben and Anthony to work simultaneously. First I created an alphabet set with the Scrabble tiles and Anthony alphabetized them while Ben ordered cards from 0 to 20. Then they switched and Ben did the alphabet while Anthony did the numbers. Anthony did the alphabet perfectly and Ben did the numbers perfectly. Ben needed help with the alphabet, I pointed him to a chart on the wall and he used it to help him order them. Anthony needed a bit of help with the numbers. Bella needed some help making words, but enjoyed the game for a while.

When the boys were done with the ordering exercises, I set Ben to sorting coins, counting pennies and dimes by ones and tens. Anthony worked on tracing Es then Ben traced some Gs and thought of some words that begin with G for me to illustrate his page.

Then all the children gave up on schoolwork at once and went to play a pirate game that involved making maps and flags and crew lists and dressing in costumes with swords and running about. I had to retie a bunch of scarves on heads multiple times.

Afternoon stories: a chapter of Peter Duck, a chapter of Story of the World, about Tecumseh and Tippicanoe. We then looked at a US map and found Indiana and the Tippicanoe River. And then talked about maps in general.

Sophie and Ben created their own version of chess, a complicated game that I’m not sure had fixed rules. It was more chess as RPG. It used checkers men and snail shells in addition to the chessmen.

Bedtime stories: Papa’s Mechanical Fish, One Square Space: Arctic Tundra, The Magnificent Erie Canal.

After bedtime: Bella was still awake so I took her out for some Perseid gazing. I saw four, Dom saw four or five. Bella saw seven. We identified the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia and saw some satellites moving across the sky. She was full of wonder and amazement. My first meteor shower and hers too. Delightful. Sorry that Sophie was already asleep, she’s so space crazy right now.

Sophie reads to me, Ben and Anthony listen in.
Sophie reads to me, Ben and Anthony listen in.

Thursday August 13

I took Ben to the dentist this morning to have a cavity looked at and Bella and Sophie did their school work with Dom to supervise.

Sophie did cursive, math, and copywork. Bella did math and copywork.

Afternoon stories: Peter Duck, Story of the World— Napoleon and the War of 1812, My Family and Other Animals.

Bedtime stories: Papa’s Mechanical Fish for Sophie, One Square Space: Backyard for Bella. Lucy had a pile of board books. I’m trying to break her of the habit of needing the iPad with the nebulizer and replacing it with books. She protested a bit, but as long as I kept the books coming she wasn’t too upset.

On her own Bella read about the War of 1812 in This Country of Ours. She’s also re-reading The Road to Roxbury, at least parts of it. I’ve seen her paging through several of the Little House books of late.

Ben the warrior
Ben the warrior

Friday August 14

Bella got the ball rolling, finishing her math page from yesterday, doing cursive, and copywork. Then she read to me from one of the Martha books, I think The Far Side of the Loch.

Sophie did a page of math, copywork— books of the Old Testament, cursive. And read me a Bible passage from her copybook, a verse of Psalm 23.

Ben filled out his calendar and counted and sorted coins and we played store, him purchasing toys for different combinations of dimes.

Anthony traced some letters.

I did the first lesson in Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding— organizing and categories— with Ben, Sophie, Anthony. Looking at organization in our home and organizing various objects by different categorization schemes. We’ll do a follow-up review activity later, a game with memory and organizing.

Ben spent some time looking at my new book: Arthur Ransome’s Lake District.

Afternoon stories: two chapters of Peter Duck with more maps and looking at Arthur Ransome’s Lake District. And then some Calvin and Hobbes. Story time seems to be waning these days. Kids do not have the attention for it. They want to go run around outside. And I’m rather tempted to let them as I know these summer days won’t last.

Bedtime stories: more Calvin and Hobbes; A Drop around the World: One Small Square: Arctic Tundra.

Lucy counts coins
Lucy counts coins
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  • Thanks for the reminder about Building Foundations! I think I remember you writing about this book before, and now that I have an actual rising kindergartener, I am going to add this to my purchase list for the school year!

    If I may ask, have you ever done a handwriting workbook, or do you always just give them samples to copy, even at the very beginning?

    • I’m still struggling with Building Foundations, but I’m going to give it another try. I love the idea of it, but the execution tends to give me a bit of a headache. The scope and sequence are awesome and it’s very Socratic Method. But it’s all written for classroom teachers and so outlines how a classroom discussion with a large class might go and I hate trying to translate the outlines of that group discussion into me and one kid. And I’m not good at the demonstration stuff either. Getting materials together and doing stuff is not my forte. I’m good at reading books. But this time round I’m treating Sophie, Ben and Anthony as a class. I’m sort of at sea as to what to do with Bella. She’s already done some of these lessons, but not enough of them to go on to Book II. So I guess let her skip the stuff she’s done and try to get her to participate in stuff that is new to her? I’m making this up as I go along.

      Yes, we’ve done a variety of handwriting workbooks, mostly just things I picked up at the grocery store. Sophie, Ben, and Anthony have loved them. Bella did not. For Bella I just got a big packet of elementary ruled lined paper and wrote out words for her to copy. For a while I let her and Sophie use tracing paper to trace the sheets I wrote for them. It really eased the transition for them when they were too self-critical. Right now Ben and Anthony are working on alphabet pages I printed off from the computer. I’ll try to get a picture of one in my next learning notes post.

      • Thanks for the responses, Melanie! I didn’t see it until now. Hmm, that doors sound challenging about the science book. I already ordered it but may have the same struggles. Oh well. Doing a mini class sounds good! My first two are 3 years apart, so I wonder if they will ever be at the same or close enough level….

        Trying to decide what to do for handwriting! And don’t want to frustrate my boy who wants to achieve perfection immediately.

        • Oh yes, I have a couple of perfectionists too. I try to remind them of times they’ve struggled to master a skill and how they failed at first but eventually succeeded. We’re learning to deal with failures with a bit more humor. Every time Sophie tries to master a new letter in cursive, she seems to end in tears, but then pick it up the next day with no problem. And I also found this week when Sophie was crying yet again over a sloppy Z that when I picked up the pencil and wrote with my left hand and talked about trying to learn to write with the non-dominant hand when I was in high school and I’d hurt my right hand and it was bandaged for three weeks. Seeing me writing in very wobbly letters made her laugh and definitely defused the situation.

    • It really was. Nice to feel in the swing of things. This week is going to be rough since my mom is coming on Wednesday. Nice, but probably not very schoolish after tomorrow.

      Lucy is now such an easy toddler. She fits right in and hardly interrupts the day at all. Such a change from this time last year when I was in despair from all the neediness.

  • The girls might enjoy the “A Little Maid of….” series by Alice Turner Curtis. Originally published c. 1915, there are about 12 books in a stand alone series. Each one features a “Little Maid” of some significant place during the American Revolution (Provincetown, Philadelphia, Boston etc.) who manages by her bravery and intelligence to help out the Americans. The girls in the story are all about 8-10; the stories are gentle, but don’t shy away from hard topics like being an orphan, grinding poverty, death, betrayal. They are definitely from a time when books were aspirational, rather than politically correct. I enjoyed them immensely 50 years ago; they have been reprinted and I am now acquiring them for my little granddaughters, who happen to be both U.S. and British citizens and live outside of London. We’ll see how that goes…