Learning Notes for Week of Oct 13

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With three birthdays and Columbus Day always coming right around 6-7 weeks into our school year, it’s a good time for fall break. Also, the weather changed and everyone came down with a fever one after the other. But while we didn’t get much formal schooling done, we still learned quite a few things!

Monday, October 13

Columbus Day! Nathaniel was home from work, and two kids were sick. The well ones continued to work on the new pond and built a gated fence around the entire garden. Now Teddy can go back outside without Mama having a panic attack.

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Swimmer (the original pond inhabitant) did indeed die. They went to the pet store and got a dozen goldfish to replace him. Goldfish eat mosquito larvae, so they will always be welcome in my yard.

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Teddy waving to the fish

This afternoon we finished reading The Family Under the Bridge. I always have to pass heartwarming children’s novels on to someone else to read the last chapter. Nathaniel took over so I could finish crying.

Tuesday, October 14  

Different people were sick today. The ones who were sick the day before got to play in the garden and try to catch the poor goldfish.

Teddy and I did the birthday baking in hopes that everyone would be well the next day.

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William read two chapters of Story of the World vol. 4 and made a map of the Crimean War. I showed him the Tennyson poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  Since he isn’t doing much else this week, I hope to get him caught up in Story of the World to the Civil War, which we can start studying in more detail next week.

I read Halloween picture books to everyone who was sick.

Wednesday, October 15

The twins woke up feeling well and had a happy birthday.

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Marie got a very cool blue whale for her birthday and kindly shared it with Teddy all day.

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Nothing like a big Lego set to keep a pack of boys busy all day!

We broke up the Lego construction with a little walk to the bayou, and William read another chapter of Story of the World. Now he’s all caught up to 1860.

And, celebrations abounded when Louis read the very last story of The Beginner’s Bible!!  He has been reading this book aloud continuously for almost an entire year. It’s a great book, but we’re on to something else, yay!!!

Thursday, October 16

Back to school. It was a bit of a rough morning getting everyone moving. We went to Mass and then played outside for a bit. A couple goldfish are dead. No one was interested in play dough, so we got right to work with math and handwriting. Groan, groan.

Ben, Marie, and Louis all had birthday thank-you notes to write, so we got to talk about the three parts of a letter–salutation, body, and closing. Everyone remembered that “Salutations” was Charlotte’s first greeting to Wilbur.

Marie was writing a thank you for a pocketknife, which started a conversation about words with silent Ks. We made a nice list of them on the board.

Ben started reading Danny and the Dinosaur to me while he was sick, and he read a bit more of that aloud. It’s harder than books he’s read in the past, but he just picked it up and started going to town. Marie is on another Little Bear story, and Louis started a Frog and Toad book.

Before lunch, we all sat on the couch and read some picture books about the Underground Railroad. I don’t know how much I’ll include the younger kids in William’s Civil War study, but these books make the time period really come alive for them.

My favorite of these is Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.

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The book tells the story of her personal escape to the North, and then her decision to return to bring other slaves to freedom, all as a dialogue between her and God. The illustrations are amazing at depicting all the emotions on her face.

We are also reading A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I had remembered this book as being set during the Crimean War, and thought it would fit perfectly with the antebellum time period. Well, turns out it’s set in the Boer War in the 1880s instead, but we’ve already started it and everyone wants to find out what happens.

Friday, October 17

Ben and Marie went to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and the rest of us went to Mass. It was the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and the priest’s name is Ignatius, so he talked a lot about the saint in his homily.

Ignatius was martyred by the Romans in 107 AD. There is a tradition that he was one of the children that Jesus blessed in the Gospel, or even that he was the child that Jesus presented as an example of faith to the apostles. But at the least, he was an apostle of the apostles, most probably John and possibly ordained by Peter.

He wrote several letters on his way to Rome to be executed, and while I have not read them myself, I know that the strong devotion to the Eucharist that he expresses in those letters was very compelling to some of my Evangelical friends who became Catholic around the same time I did.

I meant to talk to William and Louis about what they understood from the homily, but as in weeks past, I forgot once we got outside. Some homilies at daily Mass are extremely short and forgettable, but a lot of them are really good. I hope some of it sinks in!

At home, another set of thank-you letters was written, and William did a math lesson. Louis and Marie read Dick & Jane board books to Teddy and their own books to me, but somehow Ben disappeared and conveniently missed reading aloud.

Then I gave them all the choice of either painting with tempera paints or sketching the pond in their nature journal. To my relief, they unanimously chose sketching the pond.

After lunch we read another book about slave escapes called Follow the Drinking Gourd. In this book, a white or maybe mulatto man named Peg Leg Joe works on plantations as a traveling carpenter all the while teaching slaves his song about following the North Star to a spot on the Ohio River where he can row them to freedom.

According to Wikipedia, it’s not known if Peg Leg Joe was a real person, or if his was a name used by several people on the Underground Railroad.

Then while I read to Teddy and put him down to sleep, the older kids listened to an audio of another Follow the Drinking Gourd picture book.

The book was read by Morgan Freeman, who has one of the best speaking voices in the world.  Another guy sang the song, and it was very moving.

William started reading a book my mom brought him from Gettysburg called Will at the Battle of Gettysburg. (How perfect is that?) It is not as dark as some of the others I looked at, but it still tells it like it was.

Will is the son of a doctor in Gettysburg at the time of the battle. He and his family have several encounters with Confederate soldiers (and boys) where they have to face their own prejudices. At the end, Will does a heroic deed for the Union side.

Nathaniel and I have been watching the film Gettysburg with Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, and we may show William part of that movie next week. Also part of Gone with the Wind.

But tonight we watched Old Yeller. The book does not drag out the terrible tragedy like the movie does. In the book, Travis shoots Old Yeller immediately after his fight with the wolf. I told the kids that it was going to be a little worse in the movie…oh man, oh man!  But still, one of the best dog films ever.

Old Yeller

Saturday, October 18

In the morning, Nathaniel took the big kids to the Gem and Mineral Society for the youth meeting. They are all polishing rocks that they will be able to display at the group’s annual show next month.

They are all now headed to the bayou with nets in hopes of ridding the bayou of more invasive fish. I should go put my feet up!

Linking up with Melanie for your weekend blog reading. :-)

About Writing (a BlogHop) and 7QT

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Amelia kindly tagged me in the bloghop about writing. I’m supposed to answer these four questions about writing and then tag more bloggers to do the same.

1. What am I writing?

My tagline says “Faith, Family, Books.”  That about sums it up! Homeschooling is a big part of my blogging, but that counts as family.

2. How does my work differ from those in my genre?

Well, among mommy bloggers, I’d say I probably don’t post as consistently as most. I might be on for a few weeks, and then get overwhelmed and let the blog lie fallow for awhile. But maybe that’s not so unusual for busy mommies.

I really don’t even try to be tech-savvy with this blog, or write like a real writer. Some mommy blogs look pretty professional now, which is wonderful but not something I have the time to aspire to. I still like the old, “this is what we did today and here are my random musings on that” style.

I receive requests to do product reviews, but unless it’s a book, I’m not going to accept it.

And, I now differ from most mommy bloggers because I’m no longer gluten free!

3. Why do I write what I write?

I write book reviews because it helps me process what I read, and I find lots of book recommendations from other bloggers. Also I sometimes get free books out of the deal from Blogging for Books.

I think about my posts about our family life as a love letter to my children. I know that sounds corny, but I do hope that they will treasure the memories and photos I’ve recorded here when they’re all grown up. Maybe it would be better to have it all in a paper scrapbook instead of online, but the reality is I’m over a year behind in putting together a paper photo album and a scrapbook with detailed descriptions of our days is probably never going to happen.

I also get tons of ideas about homeschooling from other homeschool bloggers, so I’m happy to contribute to that conversation. The Internet is like the homeschool mom’s water cooler.

4. How does my writing process work?

I always blog in the afternoon when my kids take a rest time, and if I’m on a roll, into the evening while dinner burns or something like that. If I have a chance to get away alone Saturday mornings, I will often blog then too.

I take notes on my phone when I think of a book to review or something I want to write about. Then when it’s time I just sit down and write until I have to get up. I do a lot of proofreading. I even go back and edit a few times after publishing. Perfectionist.

5. Now I get to tag some other bloggers to join the Writing BlogHop!

Rosie of A Blog for my Mom

Blair of Blair’s Blessings (who I am blessed to know IRL)

Jessica of Housewifespice

Melanie of The Wine-Dark Sea

6. Now that I’m so close to 7, I may as well go ahead and turn this into a 7 quick takes post.

We celebrated our twins’ 7th birthday this week. Two very different babies have grown up into two very different kids!

Here’s their birth story, which I posted earlier this year.

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With three birthdays in five days at this house, you can understand why Benedict requested a pie instead of cake.

IMG_17237. More thoughts on blogging vs. other forms of communication

I have a friend who I communicate with via paper letters only (and a few in-person visits over the past few years). I don’t think she even knows about my blog, now that I think about it. We have such infrequent contact, but it is obviously so much more in-depth than I ever have on Facebook or blogs. Sometimes I wonder if I should just scrap all the social media and write one long letter to a different friend or family member each week. Really, I wish I did both.

Spooky Storybooks

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The weather just changed here in sunny Texas, and it’s time to warm up a homemade pumpkin spice latte and read our stack of spooky stories.

Here are our Halloween favorites.

Pumpkin Moonshine, by Tasha Tudor

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Little Sophie Ann goes to visit her grandparents’ farm and picks a runaway pumpkin. Definitely the prettiest book on the list, and not a bit spooky, actually.

The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin, by Margaret Wise Brown

Not a day goes by that Teddy fails to ask me to read either Goodnight Moon or The Runaway Bunny. So I’m happy to introduce another book by his favorite author. Apparently this manuscript was left unpublished by Brown upon her death. It’s about a yellow pumpkin that wants to grow up to be very scary. Best prose on the list!

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, by Margaret McNamara

Fun Halloween math-themed book with some interesting facts about how pumpkins grow. Hint: the size of the pumpkin has nothing to do with how many seeds are inside.

By the Light of the Halloween Moon, by Caroline Stutson

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Silliest book on the list! Marie loves books like this that show girls who aren’t afraid of goblins and witches.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams

Self explanatory and again, Marie approves! This one has “pale green pants with nobody inside ‘em” just this next favorite,

What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

A little guy learns a pair of disembodied pants are just as scared of him as he is of them.

The Story of the Jack-O-Lantern, by Katherine Tegen

This book tells the Irish legend of a very greedy man named Jack who makes a fateful bargain. Did you know it was the Irish who brought jack-o-lanterns to America?

The Magic Pumpkin, by Bill Martin Jr. & James Archambault

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This one by the authors of Chicka Chicka ABC has the same kind of unusual beat. A tricky pumpkin deceives his owner. Definitely the strangest on the list.

That Terrible Halloween Night, by James Stevenson

After all that spookiness, we need to lighten things up a bit. This one cracks us up every time. A grandpa with a very dry sense of humor tells about his most frightening Halloween ever.

Now to open up some windows and pretend that the cool breeze is here to stay!

Learning Notes for Week of Oct 6

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Here’s how our homeschool rolled this week.

Monday, October 6

We had our monthly co-op today. It’s run like a VBS for the elementary school kids, with skits, crafts, and activities based on a theme: this year, the miracles of Jesus. Today’s miracle was the turning water into wine, so for snack, they turned milk into ice cream (ice cream in a bag).

Another mom and I were teaching the middle school kids, our first time to have this age group in our co-op as the kids (such as William!) are growing up. We had five 6th graders, planned a skit for next month, and talked about the corporal works of mercy. We also bagged up snacks and water bottles to hand out to the homeless.

Co-op started mid-morning, so we were able to go to Mass and have William practice piano before we left. We ate lunch there and then came home to crash.

The Family Under the Bridge

In the evening, we read a chapter of The Family Under the Bridge, a very sweet story we’ve read before but which everyone was happy to read again.

Tuesday, October 7

We didn’t make it to Mass this morning because I was still pretty worn out from yesterday’s co-op. I am a serious introvert and have to pace my outings, even ones I enjoy.

I opened the back door to let the dog outside and heard a bird (wish I could identify it) singing the most beautiful song. I had visions of all of us sitting out there reading the Scriptures amidst heavenly twittering, but when we all came thundering out the door, the bird flew away.

We read an Old Testament story from our children’s Bible and the psalm and gospel from the day’s Mass readings.

The gospel was the story of Mary and Martha. Everyone wanted to look it up in The Beginner’s Bible because these are some of their favorite pictures in that book.

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We came inside for math, writing, and penmanship.

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They all worked on their October calendars while I read some Mind Benders logic problems and a chapter of The Family Under the Bridge.

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Lunch, then a nap for Teddy. Each of the younger ones did a spelling lesson with me, and Marie read Little Bear’s Friend to me. William read his Abraham Lincoln biography.

We had to drag Teddy out of bed to go to the park at 2. I kept trying to pick him up and he kept shaking his head and rolling back onto his tummy. He’s such a good napper, but we had a party to go to!

It was the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and our little group prayed a large rosary and had some sweet snacks together.

When we came home from the park, the big kids went out to play with their friends, and Teddy listened to Blueberries for Sal while I cobbled some leftovers together.

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Marie and I had an AHG meeting that night, and Ben and Louis read aloud to Nathaniel. Ben read part of Caps for Sale.

Wednesday, October 8

Nathaniel and the three big boys got up at 4:30am to see the lunar eclipse. They met up with others at N’s school to view it through the big telescope there. Marie likes her sleep and declined to join them.

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William’s photo

I woke up at 6 and saw the blood moon, but it was obscured by all the trees in our yard.

We went to pick up the boys before 8, and they had of course been playing outside for 3 hours by then! Louis was drenched in sweat, and William was covered in dirt from the waist down.

Got home, washed everyone off, and had breakfast. They all said the eclipse was awesome!

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Ben did his morning work in record time. I guess I know what he needs every morning–too bad we don’t live on a farm.

The gospel reading was Jesus teaching the disciples the Lord’s Prayer. We say “trespasses” when we pray it, but the Bible translation used in Mass said “sins.” I told them “debts” is another translation, and William remembered that debitum means sins in Latin. So we talked for a minute about what all three of those words have in common.

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Marie’s retelling of the Bible story

Before lunch, we watched some clips from an examination of a colossal squid found a few months ago near Antarctica. William cut a bouquet from the garden.

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After Teddy laid down, I did spelling with Ben, Marie, and Louis, and then took my own rest time. William read his books and finished the first chapter of The Story of the World vol. 4. I think this book is going to take a long time to get through. It contains more information than I think is necessary to learn in 6th grade, but he won’t skip a page.

After nap time, I asked William the comprehension questions from the Story of the World activity book and he filled out a map.

Marie read more Little Bear to me and went outside. Within 5 minutes, she had caught a big bull frog.

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William had caught a frog at N’s school that morning, and they set up a habitat in our old recycling bin.

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Teddy sat outside and watched the frogs for at least an hour.

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Ben and Louis rode bikes for awhile and then watched reviews of Lego sets on YouTube. We all took a little walk before dinner.

Thursday, October 9

After Mass, one of the ladies there talked to William about serving at the altar during daily Mass. He is open to it. I think it would be great, although I know it means we will then have to be on time. We’ll talk more about it next week.

Louis wasn’t feeling well when we got home, so he laid down in my bed. I think the lack of sleep the night before was getting to him.

With just one child missing, we were able to fly through our school work. Louis tried to do a little work later in the day, but he wasn’t up for it. He was able to listen to the Bible story and a chapter of our read-aloud.

Ben read the rest of Caps for Sale to me, and Marie finished Little Bear and Emily.

While Louis was watching videos on my bed, Ben and I wrapped his birthday presents because tomorrow is Louis’s birthday!

William took a math test and learned what a direct object is and how to diagram it. He wanted to diagram the entire sentence Louis wrote yesterday: “I saw a lunar eclipse, also called a blood moon,” but I had to be honest and say that I didn’t know how to diagram the phrase. I am learning along the way too.

He finished copywork from Charlotte’s Web and a Latin chapter, and he read about Commodore Perry’s ultimatum to Japan. William also baked Louis’s birthday cake because by then Louis was running a low fever.

We read a chapter of Family Under the Bridge before bed and hoped Louis would be better the next day.

Friday, October 10

The birthday boy woke up feeling great, and we had a happy holiday from school celebrating Louis’s 9th birthday.

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We took a little break from Legos to walk to the bayou,

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where Marie collected two bags of trash.

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Saturday, October 11

Nathaniel and the kids planted some more seeds in our garden and went back to the bayou with fishing poles.

They caught two fish, which turned out to be grass carp, one of the most invasive animal species in Texas.

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We don’t have to take the fish back to the bayou, and our kids are hoping to keep their new pet (one already died) in a pond in the backyard. But I’m afraid little Swimmer isn’t long for this world.

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I’m guessing we’ll be closing out the week with a little circle of life lesson.

Read more Learning Notes with Melanie @ The Wine-Dark Sea!

Happy Birthday, Lou!

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When Louis was a preschooler playing T-Ball, his coach nicknamed him “Sweet Lou” after a famous ball player from the ’70s who was fast and furious like our Lou.

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9 years ago tonight he sailed into the world in a record 90 minute labor, at home, almost turning Nathaniel into my midwife.

He’s never met a person he didn’t like, or a dessert.

Today he helped make his homemade ice cream cake,

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which we are about to enjoy!

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We love you, Louis!

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WWRW: Bedtime Stories

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It’s Wednesday, and I have a book post. I don’t think Jessica is hosting today, but I’ll link up with her just in case. :-) Hopefully she is enjoying a beautiful afternoon with her little ones.

Anyway, do you remember how Peter Pan first came to know Wendy, John, and Michael? He was drawn to their window by their mother’s bedtime stories. I don’t tell very good bedtime stories, but I can read them. Here are some of our favorites these days.

Prayer for a Child

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This book is a Caldecott Medalist, so the illustrations are lovely. Teddy almost has this book memorized, which means I can use it for reading practice for the beginning readers. If they can’t sound out a particular word, Teddy will fill it in for them.

My Little Golden Book About God

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The prose in this book is just as sweet and comforting as in Prayer for a Child, but the illustrations are not as nice. Some of them are downright strange.

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Is it just me, or is something a little off?

 We still like it though.

The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose

This is my favorite of all our Mother Goose books, and I think we have at least five. It’s got every nursery rhyme you could ever remember, and then a hundred more. The illustrations are colorful and funny.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

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and

The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums

William has been enjoying reading these books before bed. I’m fine with this as long as I never have to listen to them read aloud. Seriously, take a look at that second title. Now imagine every sentence of the entire book containing just as many redundant, multi-syllabic words, and being read very sloooowly, and you’ll know why I will lose my mind if I ever have to hear about Mr. Benedict again.

Peter Pan

Everyone enjoyed Peter Pan. They loved the adventure story and didn’t seem to notice the sad parts. But I did. Wendy’s meeting with Peter once she has grown up is called “the tragedy.” Wendy can no longer accompany Peter now that she has a husband and daughter to tend. Then we find out that Peter’s eternal youth requires he have absolutely no memory, because to have a past is to be grown up. When the adult Wendy realizes Peter doesn’t remember any of their adventures, or even who Tinkerbell was, it isn’t clear who is the more tragic figure.

At least I thought I was the only one affected by the melancholy. Then one of our children started crying at bedtime about being afraid to grow up (“It’s the only thing I’m afraid of in the whole world!”), so it must have hit a nerve.

I read a little about the childhood of J. M. Barrie, which had some real tragedy in it. Also Barrie was very short, always immature, and attached himself to various different motherly figures throughout his life.

He fathered no children himself, but he half-adopted the sons of one of those motherly women he was attached to, and he told them great stories. And that’s how Peter Pan began.

Learning Notes for Week of Sept 29

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Linking up, once again, with the wonderful teacher of Shakespeare, Melanie, with our learning notes for the week.

Monday, September 29

Today was the Feast of the Archangels. In the olden days it was just the Feast of St. Michael, or in Olde England, Michaelmas. Never ones to turn down a feast, my children were very interested in all the old European Michaelmas traditions so after hearing all about angels at Mass, we read a bit about the traditional festivities, as well as the passages from the Catechism about the fall of Lucifer. Satan is not the opposite of God (although he fancied himself such), but of St. Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?”

They always want to stay up late in their beds with flashlights, and so Louis suggested that this would be a great night to do that, since we are celebrating the victory of light over darkness today. A clever child!

We started on a new Bible verse, the last one on this CD from Sonlight. We memorized the others last year.

Sing the Word: From A to Z - CD AB02

The music for this verse-set-to-song sounded very Jewish, so we talked about how St. Michael was considered a protector of the Israelites in the Old Testament as well (Daniel 10 & 12).

Everyone took a turn singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” for the videocamera, including Teddy.

We had a bit of a late start on math, and Ben and Marie got frustrated with their assignment. They were supposed to look at pictures of a few items going away from a group, like balloons flying out of someone’s hand, and make a subtraction equation out of it. I don’t like it when books make simple math confusing. Both of them thoroughly understand the concept of subtraction but had no idea what to do with the pictures of balloons flying away and flowers being taken out of a bouquet.

I wanted to have the three kids read to me before lunch, but the stories we chose (Little Bear Goes to the Moon for the twins and the next chapter in The Beginner’s Bible for Louis) had all sorts of words they didn’t know. Then someone found a wasp’s nest on the swingset. I really didn’t have time to root it out right then so I told everyone to just come inside. Then Teddy fell over trying to climb out of the swingset and started screaming (frightened, not injured). Mayhem was breaking loose, so I brought everyone to the couch and read aloud their reading stories for the day. Later in the day they will probably be able to read them back to me.

William started reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln.

I have a couple more Civil War novels to prescreen, but all the ones I’ve looked at so far are just too sad for this age (brothers fighting brothers or best friends dying, etc.).

After spelling, I did piano with those who hadn’t squeezed it in the morning and then watched William’s Latin lesson on DVD with him. We didn’t use the DVDs last year, but they have more information in them than the teacher’s manual so I’m glad we started them.

We had a little Michaelmas feast at dinner, with some of the more easily prepared traditional English foods (ie, no roast goose). I got all my inspiration from Haley.

Tuesday, September 30

Today we had a field trip to the cathedral downtown to learn about the big, beautiful organ that was installed there a few years ago.

We had a picnic lunch at a park near our old city apartment before heading to the cathedral.

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I used to bring William to this park almost every day when he was a toddler. He called it the “fig farm” back then because of this plentiful fig tree.

William and Louis each played for a few moments on the organ. I had to tear William away, literally.

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In the afternoon, it was raining. William watched a short video about the parts of an animal cell. Then they all watched an episode of Liberty’s Kids.

That evening we kept talking about the organ at dinner, and how the piano developed and was different from the organ.  We watched Youtube videos of the biggest organ in the world, and the oldest, and the one at the church where I was baptized, which is pretty magnificent.

Wednesday, October 1

At Mass a young seminarian deacon gave a great homily about the Gospel reading and spirituality of St. Therese (feast day today!). He looked about 20 years old and was full of joy and enthusiasm, just like St. Therese! On the way out, he shook Louis’s hand and said, “Have you ever thought about becoming a priest?” :-)

We’d finished listening to Peter Pan, and next up was an audiobook about the Oregon Trail I picked up at the library. It turned out to be poorly written and even macabre–I turned it off after 3 deaths happened in the first 20 minutes and the family heading out on the Oregon Trail heard a news report about people freezing to death and cannibalizing each other on a stranded train in the mountains. Yuck.

I popped in a CD that William’s 1st grade teacher gave him when we withdrew him from school. It’s all about the seasons and the calendar, and they listened to it every day in his 1st grade classroom. He (and all the kids) love it and were thrilled to hear it again. I always find it amusing when my children get so excited about songs about raking leaves in the fall and building snowmen in the winter!

I had started All About Spelling with the twins together at the beginning of the month. Marie had been begging to do spelling since last year, but Ben was not interested. So I decided to let him off the hook for a few weeks and just went ahead with Marie in Level 1 and got Louis going on Level 2.

Last week I reintroduced it to Ben and he was ready to start. He’s very quick with phonics, actually. After a week of playing with the letter tiles he wants to start spelling some words. I need to do this separately with each child, rather than trying to keep Ben and Marie on the exact same step. This program may be able to completely replace our super-boring phonics textbook we have been using, but I’m not sure yet.

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Constructing a car with moveable parts will probably always be preferable to learning the phonograms.

William and I started a chess game that went throughout the day. I can’t sit down with him, but I can move a piece every time I walk past the counter.

Afternoon piano: I’m experimenting with teaching the children how to make chords and imitate simple songs I’ve played, rather than read sheet music.

Last year we did the piano workbooks, and they were very tiresome.

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Making music should not be boring, right? Instead of buying four new theory workbooks this year, I got a DVD called Piano for Quitters that I’m slowly watching and implementing.

William has been practicing a simple chord progression from the DVD, and today he played the entire progression backwards with his left hand while playing it forwards with his right hand. Then I told him to play Ode to Joy in C major, which he figured out pretty quickly. Then I said, kidding, “Now in F# major!” Haha, right? He ran his fingers over the keys for a second and played the melody just like that in F# major.

Marie Therese got her Name Day Blessing at dinner, and afterwards we finished Charlotte’s Web. I held back the tears until the last paragraph, when I had to turn the book over to William to finish reading aloud.

Thursday, October 2

This morning we had two well-check visits scheduled at the pediatrician’s–the two summer birthday kids. So we packed up some coloring books and worksheets, and headed out.

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Afterwards, I stopped by Trader Joe’s because it’s close by the doctor’s (and not close to our house) and because taking all my children to the grocery store is almost as much fun as spending two hours in an exam room with them. Actually, they all did a great job and got to pick out a box of cookies from the store. Just what I need in the pantry.

Then we swung by the library and exchanged one huge stack of banal easy readers for another. Screening out Superman vs. Screech-O books is not my favorite aspect of parenting. We did find a few audiobooks, and Marie got a stack of books on marine mammals, which she looks through constantly. We also saw that Jean Craighead George (or her estate, as she’s now deceased) has just published a new novel about an Eskimo and an bowhead whale. I would have got it to read aloud, but we have too many others in the queue right now.

With all this driving around town, and everyone’s continued interest in the organ, we listened to this book all day:

A better title would be The Dictionary of the Orchestra, because it’s not a story. The first part of the book has a page on maybe 10 famous composers. The accompanying CD plays an excerpt from one of their famous works. The excerpt from Beethoven was the Ode to Joy with full chorus, so William got to hear all that is going on underneath the melody he’s been practicing.

The second part of the book has a page on most of the instruments in an orchestra, and the various keyboard instruments, with the CD playing an orchestral excerpt that highlights each instrument. The kids tried to be the first to guess each instrument in the excerpt. They either know it immediately or they start guessing wildly: “Harp? French horn? Triangle??”

At our field trip to the cathedral, the organist explained how the air pumps fueling the pipes work. Everyone was excited to see in this book that in the very old days, organists hired children to jump and down on enormous bellows (massive trampoline!!) to keep the air flowing into their organ pipes!

When we got home, I was so worn out the younger ones got off for the rest of the day. William watched his Latin DVD, read a chapter of his book, and beat me at chess.

I decided to reschedule the October birthday kids’ well-checks for Christmas break.

Today was the Feast of the Guardian Angels. At one point last week, I thought it would be nice to plan to make an angelfood cake today. Nice thought!

Friday, October 3

After Ben and Marie went to the Atrium, we got our doughnuts for good behavior all week and went to a park.

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While there, the kids wanted me to time them running around the walking trail that circled the park.

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The one with the slowest time (by just a few seconds) was very despondent, so I thought I might make him feel better by running the track myself. Louis timed me, I did my very best, and I got the slowest time. The one who was formerly last felt much better.

Then Teddy insisted on “running” the track, and I was reassured that I can still outrun one of my children.

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At home, I read a few Lego books from the library to Ben, Marie, and Louis.

Not my first choice of reading material, but better than the Superhero or Diego ones.

Some kids practiced piano; others read Lego books to me.

William and Louis did an examination of conscience, and when Teddy woke up from his nap, we drove over to Nathaniel’s school and the boys made their confession. Their favorite part is coming home and burning their list of sins!

Saturday, October 4

The kids had completed all their September reading requirements for the Book-It program, so Nathaniel took them to Pizza Hut for their free pizza.

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Their weekly reading checklist

I sure don’t follow the parenting rule of not using food as a reward.

At dinner, we read about St. Francis, and William Francis got his Name Day Blessing. The dog and cat got a pet blessing too. Then we watched the Charlotte’s Web film. Fern and Wilbur are perfect, but I don’t care for all the non-E.B. White narration.

Sunday, October 5

This afternoon Nathaniel won the Superdad award. He took the kids to the park while Teddy and I napped, and he made that angelfood cake I didn’t have time for during the week.

Marie caught a few frogs at the park and set up a frog habitat at a friend’s house. Sorry, no slimy things allowed in this house. Her friend is also keeping the skinks she caught last week. They are still alive!