Learning Notes Week of Sept 21

Learning Notes Week of Sept 21

Bella sits on the doorstep and reads.
Bella sits on the doorstep and reads.

Saturday September 19

I went to the library with Bella and Lucy and came home with a haul of books. Bella checked out a book on swans and one on black bears.

Sophie read Sophie’s Squash to Ben and Anthony. She read A Delicious Dessert to herself and then was so excited about it that she came and narrated it to me.

Bella designed a holy card.
Bella designed a holy card.
Bella composed a prayer for her holy card.
Bella composed a prayer for her holy card.

Monday September 21

Sophie did half a page of Saxon math, a couple words of copywork. She was having a wretched morning.

Bella did half a page of Miquon math. She’s still working her way through filling out times table charts. It’s fussy work and she doesn’t like it, but she’s also getting it, I think .

She’s been languishing over copywork so I decided to take a new approach. Well, actually sort of a return to what was working before but with a tweak. I’ve noticed she does much better writing smaller than larger. Her lists and letters to friends are generally more legible than her copybook work. Also, she has seemed to do better in the past with copying passages that matter to her. So I bought some wide ruled notebook paper and copied out the first stanza of the poem that Bilbo uses to taunt the spiders in Mirkwood. I know she likes that one because I’ve heard her reciting a bit of it. As expected, it was a hit. She copied out two full lines and her handwriting was meticulously neat, almost as good as my own. Really almost indistinguishable.

I did part of an MEP lesson with Ben and Anthony. We skipped a few things and they definitely did not do all the optional problems in the book. Also Anthony wrote out a line of capital As on a page. Pretty neatly too.

We went to visit my friend Zina. Got to meet her newborn daughter and play with the two year old. Her older kids are in school, so we missed them, but we had a nice lunch and all the kids seemed to enjoy themselves. Bella was thrilled to hold the baby and so was I for that matter.

We listened to The Silver Chair there and on the way back.

When we got home I read a chapter of The Hobbit. Then the kids played outside while I made dinner. Oh and Sophie and Bella talked to my sister on the phone for a good long while.

Bedtime stories: Calvin and Hobbes. And a picture book telling of an Indian folk tale about a proud peacock.

Sophie is more than halfway through A Little Maid of Narraganset Bay. Bella picked up A Little Maid of Virgina, I think. I also spotted her reading History of US: Liberty for All?

Bella with a baby.
Bella with a baby.

Tuesday September 22

Another tough morning. Bella and Sophie were tired and out of sorts and there were lots of tears. But Sophie did half a page of math, copied a couple of words in her poem, and did a little cursive. Then I let her play math games on the iPad. Bella did half a page of math, copied a couple of words, and fell apart. She also played some iPad games after a bit.

I did math with the boys, halfway through the lesson Ben found a glue stick and started building things out of the construction paper bars we had been using as counters. Anthony followed suit and I declared the lesson over.

Today’s nature study in the backyard: I took my sketchbook outside and drew a bunch of different leaves. Sophie was having a very hard day and didn’t draw anything in her sketchbook but spent ten minutes crying at the very thought, Bella drew one stem with seeds from a plantain plant. But… I pointed out some of the things I observed, noted to them the margins of the leaves, smooth versus toothed, my surprise that the white clover actually have a toothed margin, looked at the veins a bit, pointed out that a fern frond is a compound leaf, that what Sophie was thinking of as leaves are really leaflets. We looked at the spores on the underside of the fern.

And then when Sophie was being silly and asked if the sun was alive we had a discussion about the difference between living and nonliving things. And I looked up a list of seven characteristics of living things and read it to them.

And when Sophie asked if a bean is a fruit, we discussed what is a fruit and the difference between the way botanists use “fruit” and the way it’s used in cooking, grocery shopping, and nutrition.

To me any one of those conversations would have been enough to check off the science box for the day. And all it took to get started was taking my sketchbook outside and drawing a few things.

Later the kids noted that there were more pumpkins growing on the vine that has sprouted from a dropped seed and taken over our front bed. We looked at the little growing pumpkins, gave the vine some water after determining where the root was, looked at the curling tendrils and the way it’s climbing.

After lunch story time: a chapter of The Hobbit, Elizabeth Seton, then a short, illustrated chapter book about Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet and the Runaway Book, that all the kids really really liked and that generated a good discussion about slavery and Abraham Lincoln and the power of literature to change the world. Ben played with clay while I read, Sophie built with blocks. Anthony rolled about on the floor or cuddled next to me. Bella rocked and squirmed.

Then legos and building with blocks. And then running about outside, riding bikes, etc.

Bedtime stories: A Fine Dessert, a delightful picture book that follows the way a dessert, blackberry fool, is made in 1710, 1810, 1910, and 2010. I really like the way the parallelism highlights differences in technology and tools and culture. The same dish prepared in slightly different ways. For example the first mother uses a bundle of wooden twigs tied together to whisk her cream, the second mother uses a wire whisk, the third a rotary egg beater, the contemporary father uses an electric blender. And the same is true for the method used to chill the dessert: a cave with ice in it, an ice chest, an ice box, a refrigerator. The mother and daughter in 1810 are slaves on a plantation in the South, so that part of the book tied in nicely with our current discussions about slavery. It’s a problem that all the kids are grappling with, it’s being acted out in their games, they’re asking questions and noticing and exclaiming over it. This book is beautifully illustrated and the story is very well told. And I really appreciated the note from the illustrator, about making her own wooden whisk, researching the clothes and tools, about staining the end papers with blackberry juice after making her own blackberry fool.

Balancing with blocks and a truck.
Balancing with blocks and a truck.

Wednesday September 23

Discussion about St Padre Pio, I brought out the framed picture of him that a stranger gave me in the church parking lot some years ago. I told the kids I think he adopted our family. Mental note: need to read his biography to the younger kids. Bella and I did it a couple years ago, but they weren’t paying attention back then.

Sophie got through math and did a bit of copywork, I think it was days of the week?

Bella did math, nines times table, and copied out another line of her Attercop poem.

I did math with Ben and Anthony. And did a little reading practice with Anthony.

The kids all played on the iPads. Sophie did a math game. Ben and Anthony did phonics games.

Afternoon stories: The Hobbit; St Elizabeth Ann Seton; Bible story, the calling of the apostles; Story of the World story of the Mexican American War, aka the War for Texas Independence, kids were a bit mystified as to why I got so excited about it. Um, because I’m a Texan; Bats! Strange and Wonderful.

Then we watched the papal Mass. Which led to all kinds of wonderful conversations about the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception— Do you remember when we went there?— about Pope Francis and of course about the canonization of St Junipero Serra.

Bedtime stories: Talking Leaves: The Story of Sequoyah, about the Cherokee who created an alphabet for the Cherokee language; Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, a really nice picture book about a garden and the bugs that live in the dirt under it. Lots of lush details of both plants and animals, the kind of book you can really linger over with a good section about the animals at the end of the book, I like books that give you more to dig a bit deeper.

Sophie is almost done with A Little Maid of Narraganset Bay. Bella wants her to read A Little Maid of Ticonderoga next. I’ve spotted Bella reading books about Harriet Tubman.

Bella collected goldenrod and asters and bedecked herself like the Spirit of Autumn, I told her it was appropriate for the equinox. And that was all that we mentioned that, oh well.

Bella looks like the Spirit of Autumn, appropriate on the equinox.
Bella looks like the Spirit of Autumn, appropriate on the equinox.

Thursday September 24

Sophie did part of a page of Miquon math, after collapsing when I tried to explain a different page (but I think that she’ll go back to the first page tomorrow and be able to do it fine, she just gets frustrated sometimes with new material and needs time to let her brain catch up) and a line of copywork in the Memoria book. She’s still feeling a bit under the weather.

Bella was in the school groove. She finished one copywork page (Attercop poem) and then started another (Far over the Misty Mountains poem). She did a Miquon math page, fractions.

I did a MEP math lesson with Ben and Anthony, when they hit their limit of what they could do I let them run out to play. I’m not about to make them finish all the problems on the page, and I’m glad the teacher’s instructions make it explicit that they aren’t expected to do it all.

Anthony played a matching game using lower case letters from a Melissa and Doug puzzle and upper case letters from the Scrabble game. First he alphabetized the lower case letters and then matched them to the capitals. Ben played with the rest of the Scrabble tiles, mainly making roads. But he did ask, “What does this spell?” at one point and I rearranged the letters on his board to make some words. And then he decided to copy a couple of the letters onto a sheet of paper. So hooray for indirect methods of easing into reading and writing. Just getting him to look at letters and to think about making them into words is a huge step.

Kids played on iPads for a bit. Sophie did math games and then just for fun games. Ben and Anthony played game and maybe did a bit of phonics.

Bella read me a little bit from Charlotte’s Web.

Afternoon stories: The Hobbit, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Bible story: the Wedding at Cana, two books about the USS Constitution, one that focused mainly on construction, but with a prologue and epilogue that framed it with Barbary Pirates and British impressing and the War of 1812, battle with the HMS Guerriere. The other focused on the conflict with the pirates and how it was resolved and the War of 1812.

Bella measured the circumference of our little pumpkin, 9.25 inches. She’s also been collecting seeds from various flowers in the garden and saving them in ziplock bags. This has been her self appointed task the last several years. We had a nice discussion of how plants flourish in the wild without people to fertilize them and plant the seeds and water them. I pointed out that many of our garden flowers are growing outside their native habitat. She totally understood that.

I’m loving how the kids are eager to tell Dom all about each day’s chapter of The Hobbit over dinner.

Bedtime stories: the story of the Shining Princess from an anthology of Japanese fairy tales by the same name.

Bella's copywork.
Bella’s copywork.
Sophie made up some math problems of her own.
Sophie made up some math problems of her own.
Sophie spells words while Lucy draws.
Sophie spells words while Lucy draws.

Friday September 25

We woke up late and everyone was sluggish. Too late to get any table work done and get to the grocery store too. So to the store. All four big kids helped weigh the produce and print labels for it. We managed to get the shopping done in just an hour.

Afternoon stories: The Hobbit, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Bible Stories, from the library: Sophie’s Squash and Harriet Tubman picture book, a book about black bears. My Family and Other Animals.

Kids watched most of Pope Francis’ Mass at Madison Square Garden while I cooked dinner. Kids looked up New York in the atlas.

Bella talked to me about the black bear book, her selection from the library, and about the bats book, which is in the same series. It’s a good series, she told me. And then she talked about how much she loves learning about various animals, how surprising they are, how little she knew about them before, how little most people know about them, and about popular misconceptions.

Bedtime story, another story from The Shining Princess. One about a clever white hare who outsmarts some crocodiles and then makes a near fatal mistake and taunts them.

Anthony builds with popsicle sticks and modeling clay
Anthony builds with popsicle sticks and modeling clay
Blueberry girl
Blueberry girl
Anthony's house has horns on it to protect the people who live there.
Anthony’s house has horns on it to protect the people who live there.
Sick Anthony.
Sick Anthony.

Saturday September 26

The kids watched part (all?) of the papal Mass in Philadelphia.

I found the postcards we bought at the Worcester Art Museum and got them out so the kids could hang theirs on their bedroom walls. In the process Ben found the card with a samurai that he’d chosen and he decided he wanted to send it to Auntie Treese. So I helped him write it. He dictated to me, I wrote it on a piece of paper, and then he copied it onto his card. He wrote 12 words, then Sophie pointed out he’d made a mistake. He had to erase part of a word and after that he gave up and went to play outside, leaving the card unfinished. But still, he wrote 12 words! My boy who doesn’t want to have anything to do with reading and writing. And he wasn’t just blindly copying, either, he was saying the words he knew were there and pointing at each word on the paper as he said it. “That says ‘pumpkin’ he declared, pointing at it. I know he didn’t really read it, but he is associating words he says with letters on the page, we’re making progress, slowly but surely. This is good pre-reading stuff.

Bella chose a postcard from the bunch and decided to send it to one of her penpals and sat down to begin it. She was doing very well on spelling on her own. She did have one question that led to a little impromptu spelling lesson on the whiteboard: how to add -ing to a word that ends in a silent ‘e’. She didn’t finish. I was also prompted to sit down and write a note to a friend. Funny how one person’s task will inspire everyone else. Makes me think I should try to set the stage for informal letter writing days more often.

After I put Lucy down I asked the kids if they wanted to read The Hobbit. There was a bit of a groan from Sophie, who has to do the token protest and who is a little nervous about the story and needs a lot of reassurance, but they all want to know what happens. And so I read them a chapter and we discussed it a bit: What’s going to happen next? Do you think Thorin is right to refuse help to the Lake Men who helped him? I should follow up with do they think Bilbo was right to keep the Arkenstone and do they think the Lake Men and elves were right to approach the dwarves armed and ready for a fight? Maybe some fault on both sides?

After The Hobbit Anthony begged me to read another chapter of Story of the World. More protests from Sophie, but I have a hard time refusing Anthony anything. It was the chapter about New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi. Before I read it, I pulled out the globe and we found New Zealand. After we read I asked them a question or two. No narrations.

After that Bella wanted me to read The Microbe Hunters. I read the first part of the chapter on Spallanzani, stopping to ask them to form a hypothesis before I read about the results of his experiment which disproved the theory of spontaneous generation.

Bedtime stories: Dom read Anthony Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

Ben writes a card for Auntie Treese.
Ben writes a card for Auntie Treese.
Slip sliding in the kitchen, it's sock weather.
Slip sliding in the kitchen, it’s sock weather.
Sophie builds a castle.
Sophie builds a castle.
Sophie's castle.
Sophie’s castle.
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    • Since Lucy and I are dairy free right now, I haven’t really been tempted to make it, sadly. My fear is that I’d go to all the trouble and none of the kids would could eat it would like it. Normally I’d have made it planning to eat whatever the kids won’t. Oh well. I’m sure Lucy will wean soon enough and then it will just be a matter of finding an equivalent dessert for her.