Learning Notes First Week of September 2019

Sunset viewers.

Learning Notes first week of September 2019

New Academic Year overview

I didn’t take daily notes this and honestly I’m very rusty and out of the habit of recording learning notes; but I’d like to get back into the habit, perhaps with a slightly different format this time. I’ve been looking over my learning notes from the first few years of homeschooling and they were much more narrative, much more like journal entries and much more entertaining to read and write. I think I got a bit burned out because I forgot how to do that. So here we go. Reboot and rediscover the joy.

Even though we do school year round, I still think of fall as a time of new beginnings. I have to report to our school district and give them an education plan and well, having to write up a plan puts me in planning mode and why do it more than once? Especially as all curriculum providers pretty much assume a standard academic year. So here we are at September, time for fresh starts…

Chaos, as usual.

As a family we are currently reading through Melissa Wiley’s Little House books. We finished the Martha books, about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Scottish great-grandmother Martha Morse, and are now reading the books about Martha’s daughter, Charlotte Tucker, who grew up in Roxbury Massachusetts. (Sadly these are out of print. Sometimes you can find used copies, but they’re rare The publishers have reissued them in abridged format— abridged!?!? It’s not like these books are terribly long or hard!!!— but I eschew those. I’m lucky to have a full set of both the Martha and Charlotte books (though I harbor a secret wish that someday Melissa Wiley will get to write more of them… I really really want more about Martha and Lew marrying and coming to America!)

I decided our main focus for now will be history of Britain and so we are reading Our Island Story and a History of England for Catholic Children. We also just started reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel about Roman Britain, Eagle of the Ninth, to go with our history component. I may or may not add in Story of the World Volume 3 at some point this year. I might wait until we get to that point in Our Island Story. I think I need a bit of a break from our World history component, though I don’t want to drop it completely.

I’m hoping to add a Shakespeare play as well to round out of literature component. Sophie and Ben are doing a lot of poetry copywork these days. And Lucy is too. Anthony is currently working on Bible verses, but will probably pick up a poem when he’s done with that. I should probably do more poetry, but since I’m a poetry fanatic, I figure that’s a subject that we probably end up unschooling pretty well. Since my primary focus is just poetry appreciation this is probably sufficient, though I always feel like I should probably make memorization and recitation of poetry more of a Thing, I end up rebelling against making poetry an assignment— which is totally weird because I have fond memories of memorizing poetry for school.

We are working our way through Richard Haliburton’s Book of Marvels for our geography study; currently in the Orient volume having finished Occident. Haliburton is a great storyteller though at times very dated. Oh so very very dated. But we like his style and so persist with some discussion that puts some of his exploits and language into context. After we finish that I’m not sure where we will go. Maybe more Edwin Way Teale? 

And in science we are reading Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest (more about that later), and Secrets of the Universe. I plan to add biology to our readings as well, but I’m going to wait until after Uncle Albert goes back to the library. We’ve also got a biography of Isaac Newton that we are slowly making our way through for a little history of science component.

We are reading a book about St Elizabeth Ann Seton that I picked up at her shrine in Emmitsburg, MD this summer. And we are continuing to read the daily lectionary readings. And I’m contemplating resources for catechism lessons. Lucy should probably be beginning to prepare for first confession and first communion.

This summer’s trip to Gettysburg has got Bella on a MAJOR Civil War kick. She’s also discovered the Time Life series on the Civil War at our local library. She’s systematically working her way through the whole series. She loves it because it’s chock full of stories, photographs, maps, and works of art. She was reading parts of her favorite volumes to Sophia and I was very impressed by the high quality of the narrative prose as she was reading. These are definitely “living books” by Charlotte Mason standards. We’ve supplemented with a few other library book selections (some of which are picture books and are allowing the other kids to get caught up in the experience as well.) Dom has also jumped into the Civil War mania and has been watching the Ken Burns series and the Gettysburg miniseries.

Both before and after this she was also very interested in revisiting World War II and spent some time reading various books on the subject.

She got interested in finding out about subatomic particles and quantum physics so we ordered a bunch of books from the library. She settled on one called Alice in Quantum Land (which Anthony also read). And that pretty much satisfied her curiosity. She narrated from it a few times and we decided to call it a short unit study and not to continue much more. Among the books I checked out was Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest, which I’m currently reading to the whole gang (I think Bella, Anthony, and Sophie have all also read it on their own.) This is a sequel to The Time and Space of Uncle Albert, which we read earlier this summer and which was very much enjoyed by all, and understood at varying levels of comprehension.

Bella is reading Endurance, the story of Shackleton’s expedition. And she’s starting a book on the Bible. I’m hoping to get her started on reading some Jane Austen this fall as well.

Bella is continuing in Latin. She’s read her way through Minimus and the Little Latin Readers (we skipped a lot of the grammar in those, but she’s starting to get more interested in grammar now.) So she’s working her way through a Latin book that my younger siblings used in high school Ecce Romani. It’s perfect for Bella, having cute stories about a couple of Roman families. Like I said, she’s more interested in grammar and we are doing all of the exercises, though she’s doing them orally, not in writing. For her writing continues to be a struggle.

Sophie continues to plug away steadily at reading the Bible. You might remember that she read her way through the entire New Testament and then immediately flipped back to begin reading the Old Testament. She’s up to Job now.

She’s also reading a book about St Francis Xavier by Louis de Wohl.

She’s almost finished with Child’s Geography of the World, which she really wants to finish reading. And she’s been reading This Country of Ours. Her science is mainly what we are reading aloud as a family. I need to work on finding a catechism reading for her— I’m thinking maybe Faith and Life.

The new, long-awaited Ben Hatke graphic novel: Mighty Jack and Zita the Space Girl.

Sophie reads the new treasure.

Ben is still struggling with reading. He’s making progress, slow and steady, but his school work really depends on read alouds for all subject content— thus a lot of our reading aloud is focused on his needs. He’s starting to feel more comfortable with short narrations, but he’ll probably always be fairly taciturn and reluctant to speak at length.

Anthony is a bookworm. He’s loving his Beast Academy and tolerating a few history reads— Child’s History of the World and People in History are books he’s reading aloud to practice his reading aloud skills and because they’re fun. On his own he reads a lot of science books and he reads many of the novels the big girls read in their for fun reading. He loves building and how things work and wants to learn the Greek alphabet.

Lucy is learning to read and doing first grade math and daily copywork. She loves narrating from our read alouds. Often the big girls will help with her reading and math lessons.

Everyone continues to love backyard nature observation: birdwatching, insect observing, plant identification. We’ve had bats and bunnies and groundhogs, rats and hawks and skunks. I’m pretty proud to say that seven years into our homeschooling journey informal nature study is a way of life. I might not be good at getting them to do formal journaling and observations, but they enjoy nature hikes and can all identify the most common local species.

This last week we had friends in Boston visiting from out of town (Hooray for meeting the lovely Erin and her family, you can read all about their Boston adventures on her blog). Last weekend we hosted them at our house and then on Friday we met them at the Museum of Fine Arts. I love the MFA, it’s my happy place. And I’m lucky to have friends who want to go there with me. It’s always fun to see your favorite places through the eyes of a friend. Especially one you’ve known for years but have not yet met in person. We had a delightful visit. It was fun to see Bella cementing her own long-distance friendship, sketching a fun cabinet. And we got to see a couple of gorgeous new exhibits: Kay Nielsen, a Jackson Pollack, and a exhibit of contemporary photographs with a Make Believe theme.

I met Erin of Bearing Blog!

Meeting new friends and bashing them with swords!

Sharing our favorite museum with new friends.

Sketching buddies.

End of a long day.

5 Responses to Learning Notes First Week of September 2019

  1. LeighAnna September 11, 2019 at 10:42 am #

    I love reading your learning notes. Seeing how other people home school keeps me energized and in perspective. But most all, bless you for sharing that picture of your chaotic living/school room. I am hyper sensitive to our mess, and always so glad to find out we’re not alone!!

    • Melanie Bettinelli September 11, 2019 at 10:54 am #

      Thank you. I’m so glad to be helpful to other homeschoolers.

      When I was first setting out on our homeschool adventure what I most craved were the glimpses into the daily life of homeschoolers that made it seem do-able. And even as a veteran homeschooler I still find that seeing how other people do it helps me to be focused, and often sparks new ideas. I’m glad to help with the glimpses of chaos. It is a good life, but it is very messy and chaotic. My talents do not lie in housekeeping anyway. I was ok at it before kids, but with kids it is a daily stand off with the powers of chaos.

  2. Suzanne September 26, 2019 at 8:35 am #

    Thanks for sharing your notes! It helps so much to see what works for your family and the challenges you face in tailoring to each child.

    I do have a question about Latin(or other languages for that matter). How did you start and what did you use? Did Bella start young with it? I have the best intentions every year to do a language, but my kids hate work books and I get intimidated by other programs. We are doing Greek and Latin roots this year, but I am not sure how to make that into a complete course.

    • Melanie Bettinelli October 9, 2019 at 1:20 am #

      With Latin we’ve taken a pretty scattershot approach. We did a little bit from Getting Started with Latin. I’d put lessons on the whiteboard and the kids and I would go over them. Lots of cartoons with pirates and farmers. (I added bits to the book’s lessons from my own store of Latin.) Then we got the Minimus books and she really enjoyed that format. She worked her way through the Little Latin Readers (mostly skipping the workbooks because she wasn’t really ready for grammar). She had fun with playing about with The Hobbit in Latin since she loves the novel in English. And now at 13 she’s decided she’s ready for something more grammar intensive so we’ve started with Ecce Romani and are slowly working our way through the lessons. We have no time table and she’s always worked at her own pace. We tried to aim at five days a week, but realistically have never done more than maybe 3 days a week, if that. But slow and steady makes progress. I keep reminding myself I didn’t even start Latin till I was in high school so anything she does before that is a huge advantage for her.

      I’ve had a lot less luck with French and Sophie. I’ve still not found an early French book that I like so we’ve flailed at it and she’s got to the point where she doesn’t want to mess with it any more. Anthony’s been scared away a bit because his sisters have seemed to own French and Latin, but he’s kind of curious. This fall he’s decided he’s curious about Greek, so I got him a couple books to play with.

      As much as I’d like to be language intensive… it’s not a very realistic goal for me when I’m still working intensively with a beginning reader and a struggling for proficiency reader. Bella’s own drive to learn Latin has really been key. She’s the kind of person who is very resistant to being pushed in required readings and assignments but will often follow an interest on her own with a lot of strong internal motivation.

  3. scotch meg October 14, 2019 at 10:55 pm #

    As far as French goes, why not take a more organic approach – use LaFontaine and compare to Aesop (of which he is a translation). It rhymes! You can figure out all sorts of vocabulary and grammar, plus you can have a little poetry memorization.
    I still remember big chunks of “Le Corbeau et le Renard” from sixth grade French in public school.

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