Learning Notes for Week of Sept 15


Linking up again with Melanie @ The Wine-Dark Sea for a week’s worth of learning at home.

Here’s my latest description of our curriculum, fyi.

Monday, September 15

I woke up early to plan the week because I barely had a chance to sit down over the weekend, much less plan.  I wasn’t quite finished when everyone woke up, and with runny noses all around, I decided we’d skip Mass today.

Knowing we weren’t in a hurry to leave the house, everyone dragged their feet on chores, and it was not our best morning.

I tried a different schedule today and had everyone play the piano first thing.  Then William could do his math lesson and the other three read.

Teddy’s still potty-training.  Now he wants to use the “Man Potty,” as he calls the toilet.

By lunch, all we’d done was piano, reading, and potty.

We squeezed in math before rest-time.

The Star-Spangled BannerIn the afternoon, my aunt called to remind me that today was the 200th anniversary of the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  My mom just gave me my childhood copy of the Peter Spier book so we read it at dinner!

In the evening, Louis read a story from The Beginner’s Bible to Nathaniel, and he read them all a chapter from Charlotte’s Web.

Tuesday, September 16

No Mass again this morning because the car was in the shop.  But, I had my game on and we started with play dough and memory work at 8:30am.


A crab!

Everyone’s runny noses called for some essential oils.  I told the kids how the oil blend I was rubbing on their feet is called Plague Defense or Thieves’ Oil. It was supposedly developed by 15th century thieves who discovered that these particular plant oils protected them from catching the Black Death from the dead bodies they robbed.  When they were finally caught, the graverobbers turned in their recipe in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Getting out the oils reminded me to put the Flea Blend on the dog and the Lemon Oil on the hyperactive boys, and soon our entire house smelled like a medieval apothecary’s shop.


Chocolate chips help boys focus too.

Marie was eager to do piano again after learning some chords yesterday.  We did reading in the morning.  Last year I ordered the 1st and 2nd grade readers from Sonlight, because they introduce real books to beginning readers as soon as possible.

Little BearWell, Little Bear and Dr. Seuss books are more fun to read than the contrived controlled-phonics stories, unless you don’t know all the sight words.  This year we are alternating between fun books and the orderly presentation of the phonograms in The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading.  I sorta wish I had All About Reading to use instead, but this will do.

IMG_1540A neighbor of mine, a retired teacher who has often retrieved our runaway dog for us, offered to help me with homeschooling.  Today I called and ask if she’d be up for listening to some kids read aloud.  She said yes!!

Louis’s copywork came from Charlotte’s Web: “On foggy mornings, Charlotte’s web was truly a thing of beauty.”

Without the van, we had to miss our afternoon park meet-up, so I sent the big kids outside to pull weeds and plant flower seeds in the front yard while I put Teddy down for a nap.  No accidents today!

I saved spelling for after lunch, which worked much better than reading.  All About Spelling is such a stress-free program for me.  Louis also did his first day of cursive handwriting using Handwriting without Tears’ Kick-Start Cursive and was very proud of how easily it came to him.

Today was Teddy’s Baptism anniversary, so everyone had ice cream for dessert.  Marie and I went to American Heritage Girls.  Late night but such great girls and moms.

Wednesday, September 17

I decided we are just going to stay put every morning until Teddy goes #2 on the potty.  We got started at 9am.  Today was the anniversary of the Constitution, and William could recite most of the Preamble.  The others worked on poems from Robert Louis Stevenson.  Ben and Marie are memorizing “The Cow” and Louis picked “Windy Nights.”


Play foam is a clean alternative to play dough.

Our play dough time was going well, so after Bible and memory work, I read some Mind Benders problems.  We are on the first level, which has questions like, “Brad’s hair is longer than Marlene’s.  Drew’s hair is shorter than Marlene’s.  Who has the shortest hair? Who has the longest hair?”

IMG_1542The kids all keep a calendar in their binders and find the date every morning.

It rained all day, and they put on swimsuits for recess and slid around the wet trampoline.


William’s grammar lesson

We had a lot of time inside today because of the rain.  In the afternoon, we made banana bread, drank two pots of tea, and a read a library book about dolphins.

I knew Nathaniel was coming home late that night, so when the rain slowed down to a drizzle, we walked over to visit an elderly neighbor.  She is 84 years old and doesn’t remember who we are from one visit to the next, but she is always happy to see us.

She reminds us all of my grandma, who we visited in Oklahoma last summer.  Two of her daughters were home with her and invited us in.  We stayed for about 15 minutes, talking about their growing up in this neighborhood.  We watched part of a Gunsmoke rerun, and the kids played that funny game from Cracker Barrel with the golf tees.

Thursday, September 18

It was pitch black outside and pouring in the morning, and everyone was all excited about that.  We spent a long time talking about the saint for the day, St. Joseph of Cupertino.

St. Joseph was a contemporary of St. Peter Claver, who we learned about last week, but he lived in Italy.  He was a difficult child, prone to extreme tantrums and fits of starting off into space, and he was a terrible student.  Some people now think he had autism.  He was clumsy and unreliable until he got a job as a stable boy for a monastery.  There he began to calm down and develop a deep relationship with Christ, marked by extreme humility about his many faults.  Eventually he became a priest, but then his religious visions increased, and he began to levitate during prayer and while saying Mass.  His fellow priests were annoyed and embarrassed by his strange talent and excluded him from community life, eventually taking him before the Inquisition for suspected witchcraft (he was cleared).

There is a very touching old movie about him called The Reluctant Saint, and we watched clips of it on YouTube.  The actor does a wonderful job of displaying the winsome holiness and innocence of St. Joseph against the jealousy and pettiness of his fellow priests.  I could tell the kids were moved watching it.  Later one of them kept asking me who the most humble person is in our family.  I said Teddy.

After the Bible and the Mass, I think there is no better way to teach children about God than the lives of the saints.

Here was William’s independent work for the day:

  • Saxon Math 7/6 Lesson 13
  • Copywork from Charlotte’s Web
  • Complete one Latin exercise in workbook
  • Practice piano for 10 minutes
  • Read two pages in science book and copy definitions of four vocabulary words
  • Read a chapter of By the Great Horn Spoon!
  • Complete one Grammar exercise orally to me
  • Practice memorizing Constitution Preamble

He never got to the piano practice that day because we were preoccupied with the rain and saint story in the morning, and we were cleaning in the afternoon (ie, I forgot to make him do it).


In the afternoon, Ben and Marie went over to our neighbor’s house.  They had a great time reading to her and hearing about her childhood in Germany.

Then, the kids cleaned the house in an hour and a half and were out the door to play with their friends.  Teddy and I baked oatmeal-raisin cookies William had mixed up after mopping the floor (what a guy!), and we had a late dinner after they played and played in the puddles outside.


Friday, September 19

Ben and Marie had their first Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-style religion class.  I was planning to take the boys to Mass at the church where the twins were in class, but by the time we dropped Ben and Marie off in the still pouring rain and took Teddy to the bathroom, Mass was over.  We went to Starbucks instead.  The boys got a little work done, and Teddy got to try out the Starbucks potty.

Ben and Marie loved the atrium, as the class is called.  “It has bean scooping!” they said.  I don’t know much about Montessori education, but I know they have young children scoop beans into bowls and learn how to use very sharp paring knives.  So whenever I needed to keep Ben and Marie busy as preschoolers, I got out some dried beans, a couple bowls, and some spoons and called it Montessori preschool.  I did know to have them do it from left to right, just like reading.  Sometimes I also let them cut up vegetables.  Those were crazy days when our fun-loving twins were 2 & 3 years old!

In Boys Adrift, I read about this movement in Germany called “Forest Kindergarten” where kindergarten classes meet in a park every day of the year instead of a classroom. The author said the first question Americans ask about Forest Kindergarten is, Where do they go in bad weather?  To which the Germans reply,There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.  To which William replied (when I told him about it), Where is Forest 6th grade???

He was none too happy when I wanted to cancel our planned Arboretum trip because of the rain.  He argued that it wasn’t thundering like it was last Friday, so I relented and we decided to do Forest 6th grade today.


And 3rd and 1st.


Mercifully, it stopped raining shortly after we arrived.



Teddy: “Look at all those plates in the water!”


We started listening to Old Yeller in the car. Oh dear. I better be careful to plan when we listen to the end of that one.

By Friday afternoon, I was totally beat, so I think that means it was a good week.

Curriculum Line up


For all those curriculum junkies out there, here’s something to rev up your weekend!

Curriculum Fall 2014

William is in 6th grade, Louis is in 3rd grade, and Ben and Marie are in 1st grade.

Our curriculum is compiled out of my favorite materials from The Well-Trained Mind, Mother of Divine Grace School, and Sonlight.


Our most important subject!  Attend Mass during the week when possible, or read the daily readings.  Memorize Bible verses, Latin prayers & hymns, and Baltimore Catechism questions.  Learn about the saints as they come up in the church calendar.

We are also reading through Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, which we started last year.  I like this one better than the Golden Children’s Bible, although it’s very similar.

Ben and Marie take a Catechism of the Good Shepherd class during the week, and they all four go to CCE on Sunday.

We also are part of a fun VBS-style monthly co-op at our parish, which is one of their favorite activities, and we do some regular service projects with a couple other families.

The goal of religious education is a personal relationship with God, so except for the memory work, I want it to feel a little bit separate from “school.”  I never say, “Now it’s time for your religion lesson.”


Second most important subject, for now!

Ben, Marie, Louis, and I are working through the Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading.  It’s very dry, though, so I try to break that up with fun, easy readers from Sonlight.  Louis likes The Beginner’s Bible for reading practice.

William is reading historical novels from Sonlight Core E this year.

Add to this lots of classic children’s read-alouds from our kids’ book club list or our own shelves.

Spelling/ Vocabulary

All About Spelling Level 2 for Louis, and Level 1 for Ben and Marie.

William hasn’t used a spelling program since 4th grade, where he scored 100% on almost every test, so I recently tested him on the words used in the highest level of All About Spelling.  He spelled every word correctly.

I got a vocabulary workbook from Seton press for him this year, so he could have practice looking up definitions in the dictionary.


William is using Voyages in English 6 from Lepanto Press for grammar.  I have not found a contemporary textbook that seemed thorough enough, in my opinion, so I found this one, which was used in the 1960s.  Grammar is a cinch for William as well, so I wanted a text that would challenge him.  This book has concepts I do not remember learning in school, and I love it.  But even this text doesn’t have enough diagramming in it for my taste, so we are also using Elementary Diagramming, by Mary Daly.

Louis has the Voyages in English 3 text.  The first lesson was on speaking properly on the telephone (it included instructions for giving the number you are calling to the operator!).  Ben and Marie will join in on Louis’s English lesson if it’s relevant to them.

They all four recite poetry and Bible passages, which give excellent practice in English grammar and sentence structure.


William and Louis do copywork every day.  Louis also does dictation every day in All About Spelling.

William writes one sentence summaries of his history or science reading for the day.  Later he can compile them into a paragraph.

Ben, Marie, and Louis all do oral summaries of stories I read to them.

Ben and Marie have the Seton Grade 1 handwriting book for penmanship practice.  Louis is using Handwriting without Tears’ Kick-Start Cursive workbook.  He’s really liking cursive writing!


Latin study improves English language skills, so it really falls under the Grammar & Vocabulary categories.  William did half of Latina Christiana I last year, so we are reviewing that now and planning to finish the book this fall.

I have a goal of working through Henle Latin I (a high school text) myself this year, so I can better understand what William is learning.  I have read the first lesson so far…in 2 months.


William is in Saxon level 7/6 now.  It’s been working very well for him.

Louis is in Singapore level 2B.  It’s also a great fit for him.

Ben and Marie are whizzing through Singapore 1A.

Ben, Marie, and Louis have to find the date every day on the calendar they make at the beginning of each month.  Louis also has to copy the date onto paper.

I’m grateful math concepts come easily to our children, since we seem to need so much work in reading and writing!  Math facts recall is not always so easy, but we keep practicing those with a 5 minute drill at the beginning of the day.

History & Geography

We have been studying history in the 4-year cycle used by the Story of the World curriculum.  Well, we haven’t actually cycled yet; this is our fourth year to study history, and the time period we have left to cover is 1849-present.

I’ve enjoyed having history be a whole family subject so far (the medieval period was the biggest hit with all ages).  But The Story of the World Vol. 4 specifically says that you shouldn’t read it to children under 4th grade.  The details of the 20th century wars especially are just too dark.

But between the Old Testament stories, saints stories, and historical novels we read, Ben, Marie, and Louis won’t be missing out on history.

William has both an American history textbook (A Landmark History of the American People, vol 2) and The Story of the World vol. 4, which is a world history textbook.  He loves history, so he’s not complaining.  He has already memorized the Preamble to the Constitution and is going to start on the Gettysburg Address next week.

We all sing this state capitals song every morning.


William has a textbook this year, Harcourt Science 6.  It’s a little dry, but that’s okay, we’re not going to read every page.  This is for him to fill in some of the gaps in his science knowledge and to get some practice copying vocabulary words from a textbook.

Science is also covered through our garden, nature walks, camping, field trips, library books, Legos, and all their backyard inventions.  I also read a Seton health book to them when we’re in between novels.

Nathaniel’s doing a monthly stargazing night at his school, and you can bet our kids will be there for that too.


Ideally, I teach them the piano.  William can work through the practice books on his own, but everyone else needs my help.  Since everyone else still needs my help for almost everything else, it’s pretty tough to fit a practice session in for everyone in one day.  It’s happened once so far this month.  But, I’m not giving up yet!

We will go to a couple symphony concerts for children too during the year.


This is my unschoolingest subject.  I have several how-to-draw books around, and the kids use them occasionally.  We play with play-dough!  They also always do an interesting craft at our monthly co-op.

Nathaniel is a self-taught artist, but when he has free time with the kids he usually takes them outside to dig in the dirt.  Once or twice a year, he will get out the watercolors and lead them in painting a picture.

I think we are going to do another art museum field trip this spring.  Last year’s trip was stressful, so I’m not going to think about that yet.

Thoughts for the fall

I had hoped (unreasonably) that last year would be the last year everyone would need a lot of help with reading.  I miss the days when they were all little and we had time to make our own play-dough or cook recipes based on a saint or story we were reading about (we never did do crafts!).  We also did no extracurriculars at that time, I had no volunteer commitments, and Nathaniel had a much less demanding job.  We also had no Teddy then so I definitely don’t want to turn back the clock!

Now we are part of two wonderful homeschool groups and have field trips, park days, American Heritage Girls and a Boys’ Club getting us out of the house pretty frequently.

I get the “how do you do it?” question often.  William does almost everything independently; that helps.  I’m very happy when I see them all playing together in the afternoon instead of doing homework and when we have time to enjoy a great story or long walk together.  No day is perfect, but it all comes together in the end.

I meant to add pictures and links, but I’ve already taken way too long and burned dinner writing this post–so it’s time to just post it!

WWRW: The Holy Trinity, boys, and children’s books


I’ve got a backlog of books to share since I’ve missed so many of Jessica’s Wednesday book posts, so here are a few quick reviews.

Large 31 inch wall crucifix

“This is what it took for us to believe God loves us.”

That’s what our priest said at Mass on Sunday, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  That’s also a good summary of the book I read this summer with my homeschool mom’s book group: The ‘One Thing’ is Three: How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything, by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

I loved this book and can’t recommend it enough for spiritual reading.  Bottom line: the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the basis for every single Christian truth.  Fr. Gaitley explains the significance of the Holy Trinity for worship, for family life, for devotion to Mary & the saints, even for culture and politics.  It’s amazing.

Boys Adrift  -     By: Leonard Sax<br />
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<p><a href=Boys Adrift, by Leonard Sax

I talked about this one last time, but now I’ve finished it.  The tagline of the book is The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.  There’s so much fascinating research in here about ADHD medications, synthetic estrogens in plastic water bottles, video games, changes in education, and the loss of strong communities of men.  Required reading for parents and teachers.

By the Great Horn Spoon

By the Great Horn Spoon!, by Sid Fleischman

William is enjoying this one right now.  I haven’t read it, but Nathaniel’s teaching it and just finished reading it.  Thumbs up from both of them for a funny, fast-paced story about the California Gold Rush.

Fleischman won the Newbery Medal for The Whipping Boy, which we read a few years ago.  William has also enjoyed the McBroom books by Fleischman too; they are shorter than this one, not historical, and very entertaining.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart

As I mentioned already, we listened to this one in the car.  William needed to read it for our homeschool group’s middle school book club.  I was into this story for the first 100 pages.  The premise was intriguing, the main character Reynie was likable, the Problem (how to pass a puzzling test in order to join a special group of gifted children) was compelling.  But, once Reynie passed the test and joined the Mysterious Benedict Society, the book got old fast.  The villain isn’t terribly frightening, and his plan for world domination isn’t compelling.  Except for one initial chess riddle (which apparently inspired the series), the puzzles are too easy to figure out.  And at 495 pages, the book is in need of some serious editing.

But I think what nailed it for my children was that I started to complain that I wasn’t really enjoying the book, and that I wanted William to finish reading it on his own so we could listen to something else in the car.  From that moment on, The Mysterious Benedict Society was the absolute best story any of them had ever heard.  Also, they thought it was neat to point out how this part was exactly like A Wrinkle in Time, and this part reminded them of Harry Potter.  I thought it was annoying.

They hung on every word towards the end and have been studying Morse code (used in the book) daily since we finished it.


Teddy learning Morse Code

But I think the mark of a truly great children’s novel is that the parents can’t put it down either.


Learning Notes for week of Sept 8


Melanie @ The Wine Dark Sea is hosting a Guilt-Free Learning Notes Link-up to share what we do in our homeschools each week.  I know these “day-in-the-life” or in this case “week-in-the-life” mega-posts can epitomize both the best and the worst of blogging minutiae, but I love ‘em, so please humor me.

Monday, September 8

It was the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mary’s Birthday), and we had a party planned with our parish homeschool group.  Before we went, we practiced memory work and did a math lesson.  We met at our parish playground for lunch and birthday cake and went to Mass.

At home that afternoon, the younger kids read aloud to me, and William read By the Great Horn Spoon, by Sid Fleischmann.  It’s about the California Gold Rush, and William must like it because he asked me to “check out from the library every single book Sid Fleischmann has ever written.”

That evening Nathaniel had to stay late at school for Open House, so the kids and I had dinner and started Charlotte’s Web before bed.  I think this is the first classic book where the kids have seen the movie (many times, actually) before reading the book.  I’m not sure how that happened.  But anyway, we are all delighted to be reading it.

Tuesday, September 9

We went to Mass in the AM and learned it was the feast day of St. Peter Claver.  At home we looked him up in our saints’ book.  St. Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit in the mid-1600s who was stationed in Cartagena, Colombia, where slave ships often arrived from Africa.  Most of the slave ships took off from the area in Africa where Atlantic Ocean wind currents that form hurricanes begin.  William showed everyone that on the map and we marked Colombia.  We looked at pictures from William’s history book of slave ships.  This was upsetting to everyone.

Then we read more about St. Peter Claver.  He was often the first to go onboard the ship and tend to the people’s immediate needs–binding wounds, administering medicine, and bringing food and sweets.  Through the use of a translator and pictures of the life of Christ, he also evangelized the new slaves.  We talked about how the slaves becoming Christians eventually contributed to them seeking their freedom.  You can’t learn about God and miss the story of the Exodus.

Then we did our memory work.  I’m gradually introducing one new thing each day.  Eventually we will be practicing a Latin prayer, a Latin hymn, a question from the Catechism, a Bible verse, a poem or speech, and the state capitals.  It sounds like a lot, but it only takes a few minutes a day once they become familiar with the material.  Memory work is such an efficient way to cover a lot of subjects at once.

We did handwriting and math and took a break outside.  I introduced All About Spelling Level 1 to Ben and Marie and reviewed it with Louis.


We had lunch and then got ready to go to our monthly children’s book club.  Teddy had to survive with a short nap in the car on the way there.  The younger kids did a skit based on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and William discussed The Mysterious Benedict Society with the other middle schoolers.  We’ve been listening to The Mysterious Benedict Society in the car together.  I don’t like it very much, but the children love it.  I’ve already told them we are NOT listening to the next two sequels (each one at least 500 pages long) in the car.

We went to the park with the group afterwards but could only stay 30 minutes because Marie had an American Heritage Girls meeting that night.  I loved seeing my mom friends from book club and AHG, but Marie and I got to bed pretty late that night.

Wednesday, September 10

Even though I was still exhausted from the day before, I attempted to have a full, normal day.  I don’t think I’ll try that again next week.

At Mass that morning, a woman came up to me and told me she had homeschooled her son and it was the best thing she’d ever done.  Now her son is in the seminary.  That was nice to hear!

At home we read a Bible story and illustrated it.  We have just picked up where we left off last May, at the time of King Saul.  William doesn’t illustrate anymore but does his copywork at that time (the Preamble to the Constitution this week).

I could tell it was getting harder every day for the boys to stay quiet enough to hear the story.  Teddy’s been playing with play dough while we read, and all the kids are drawn to it like magnets.  I told them we could play with play dough when I read again during Teddy’s nap.

Retell the Bible story, memory work, math, and handwriting.  Break, then spelling for the youngers and grammar for William.

Lunch, then break while I put Teddy down.  Time for play dough with Charlotte’s Web, and then Ben, Marie, and Louis each read to me.  All of this is good learning but it takes too long, and it’s 2:30 by the time each child has taken their 20 minutes or so to read aloud verrry slooowly.


That afternoon, I let the kids play with the hose.

Thursday, September 11

At Mass this morning, a different woman gave me a box full of art supplies she had used when she was a day care provider.  The older people who attend daily Mass are very friendly and happy to see children in church.

At home, we talked about Patriot Day.  Nathaniel’s aunt posted a picture to Facebook of N’s family at a park in front of the Twin Towers when he was about 9 years old.  That was nice to show the kids.  They asked to hear the story of the plane the passengers crashed in Pennsylvania to save Congress or the White House.  The hero behind that effort was an alum of my college, so they’ve heard this story before.  Were they saints?  (Definitely heroes, maybe saints)  Why aren’t there any Protestant saints?  (Actually there are some Anglican and Lutheran ones, but Evangelicals don’t focus on saints)  Why did the terrorists want to kill themselves? (It is hard to believe but that’s what their religion taught them)  How is it their fault if someone else taught them that? (They have a free will and only God knows the level of their culpability)  Okay…on to another topic!

Today I just decided to let everyone play with play dough while we sat at the table together in the morning.  They loved it, and it helped with the boys listening and not getting silly when it’s time to tell the Bible story back to me.  That was great, but it took forever to scrape off the table afterwards.


I’d explained the gravity of King Saul offering the sacrifices instead of Samuel as if I decided to get up and offer Mass because the priest was running late. So they all drew a church for their Old Testament illustration. :)

We had a typical day with me feeling like reading in the afternoon took way too long.  I so desperately need a break in the afternoon while Teddy’s napping, and when time is dragging on as the kids are reading aloud to me, I start to get anxious that maybe I won’t get my break today and then I’m going to die!!!!!  Maybe I need to have the kids read to me first thing in the morning instead.

We cleaned the house this afternoon.  The kids all have their assigned tasks, and they are getting more and more efficient.

Teddy got a huge diaper rash in the afternoon after keeping a dirty diaper secret from me while I was busy cleaning.  This was the second time this happened this week, so I decided to put him in underwear.  He was very excited.  We’ll see how it goes.

Friday, September 12

At Mass this morning, a man told me his children had been homeschooled, and that it was the best thing his family had done.  It is hard to get the kids out the door every morning, but going to Mass every day is turning out to be a real pick-me-up.

Feast day of the Name of Mary.  Did you know this feast came into prominence after the decisive victory of Christian Europe against the Ottoman Turks on this day in 1683 at the Battle of Vienna?  The Christian troops had placed themselves under Mary’s protection and attributed their victory to her prayers for them.  Many people assume that the 9/11 attacks were deliberately timed to occur on the eve of this anniversary of the victory of the West over Islam.

Later I learned from a friend that the croissant (the crescent) was created in Vienna to celebrate this victory over the Turks.

I planned to keep Fridays open for nature walks, but it was thundering all morning so we had to stay inside.  We did go through all the seeds William has collected and made a plan for the fall garden.


After our emergency readiness day a few weeks ago, N. has been calling us on the landline during the day for telephone practice.  We keep the landline so the kids could use it in an emergency, but I’ve realized they barely know how since we use Skype and mobile phones to communicate with friends and family.

Ben, Marie, and Louis all read to me before lunch.  That and keeping Teddy dry in undies was enough for the day.

After Teddy’s nap, we went to the library, and then I dropped the big kids off at N’s school to play while I went to Costco with Teddy.  We had a potluck dinner at the school with other faculty families.  The kids played in the rain.

On the way home, we finished The Mysterious Benedict Society.  Huge sigh of relief for me.  Morse code figures prominently in the book, and William and Louis begged me to print out a copy of the code for them before bed.

Saturday, September 12

I went out, and Nathaniel and the kids dug up the dying summer garden and set up a new one.  They didn’t find any garden snakes this year (a big disappointment to Marie and a big relief to me), but they did find a frog and lots of worms.  William planted carrots, beans, brussels sprouts, and lettuce.


He couldn’t bear to dig up these baby peach trees that sprouted from the compost.

In the afternoon, they gathered up their neighborhood friends and created a spy club that communicates by Morse code.  I have to admit that MBS passes one of my tests of a good children’s book: inspiring imaginative play.


Thoughts from the week

Most subjects went well, but I am frustrated at how long reading aloud takes.  I think I need to accept that it’s going to be another “phonics year” and not a year full of all the “extras” that I like to think about all summer.

We didn’t get to piano at all this week.  I’m not sure where to fit it in.  May need to wait on piano until everyone is reading more fluently.

Thanks for your patience if you made it to the end of this!

Homeschool Fire Safety & Emergency Readiness


This year we spent the entire first day of school on something I always intend to cover but rarely do: fire safety and emergency situations.

One of my college housemates was badly burned in an explosion in Kenya (where she is a missionary) earlier this summer, and she has been on my mind and in our daily family prayers.  When that happened, I remembered some lesson plans on burn safety I’d seen online, which were put together by a homeschooling mother from Oklahoma whose 4-year-old son was terribly burned last year.  My friend is expected to heal completely, but the little boy will have lifelong scars.

Also, it had been a long time since we’d done a home fire drill.

We discussed what to do if the fire alarm wakes you up at night.  It’s scary to talk about, but the children need to be able to get out of the house even if N. and I are no where to be found.  William shares a room with Teddy, so he has to be able to get him out of the crib and out the window.


I timed them, and after a few tries, they could all get to our designated meeting place in the front yard in less than one minute.


Of course, in a real fire, they would not wake up instantly to the fire alarm, so we also practiced checking the door, crawling through smoke, and stop-drop-coveryourface and roll.  Don’t be afraid of a fireman in full gear (we looked at pictures), and no bringing along toys or trying to save pets. :(


Posted on the backs of all their bedroom doors

This summer I took a CPR class, and I realized that CPR or the Heimlich maneuver could look scary to a child who doesn’t know what it is.  It might look like I am trying to hurt the person who can’t breathe.

So, while I wouldn’t expect my kids to perform CPR on an unconscious person, I wanted them to know what I would do in that situation.  We watched YouTube videos of CPR and helping a choking infant or child and I practiced on a doll and (gently) on each of them.

They also each took turns pretending to call 9-1-1 and actually calling N’s mobile phone from our landline telephone.  We keep the landline for emergencies, but since we hardly use it, most of them didn’t even know what the dial tone was, much less how to call anybody.


Posted next to the telephone

All this information became very useful later in the day when a certain child tried to taste something cooking on the stove when I left the kitchen for a moment.  He got burned (first degree, he could identify) and set a potholder on fire!  I sure hope that lesson set in for life.

We might have a safety review day on May 4, which is International Firefighters Day, or, in Catholic countries, St. Florian’s Day.  St. Florian was a Roman firefighter and martyr and is the patron saint of firefighters.  Another option would be to make this a summer activity on August 11, the feast of St. Lawrence, another Roman martyr who is the patron saint of burn victims.  This would be a good day to pray for all those who are in the path of summer wildfires.

I still remember the fireman who came to my 1st grade class to teach us to stop, drop, and roll.  I think this day was a pretty memorable one for my children too!

New Homeschool Year


We decided to go with simple uniforms this year, after both a real-life friend and a favorite blogger gave me the idea.  We actually have had an unofficial uniform the past few years which would be considered a PE uniform at most schools.  Now we are attending daily Mass frequently so they need to look a little sharper.  We decided on single-color collared shirts and single-colored shorts.  I found some very soft cotton polos on clearance at Target for my most sensitive kids, and some very soft elastic shorts from Land’s End.


First day of the 2014-15 homeschool year

 What was I thinking when I purchased white shirts??


Off on our first nature walk of the year–now we really look like we’re playing hooky!

In the past I’ve started off the day after Labor Day with a full schedule, and it hasn’t gone very well.  My thought was always that since we homeschool, we don’t need to mess with the “wasted” first week or two of learning procedures like institutional schools.  Now I think those beginning days serve a psychological purpose as well as procedural, especially for the kids who don’t love doing schoolwork (in other words, the boys!).

This time around, for the first week we did fun, active work the first couple days, just a bit of seatwork the next few days, and then a nature walk with drawing on the last day of the week.




We forgot our field guide, but William has most of it memorized, and he said it was a juniper.

I’m going to try to keep Fridays mostly open for nature study, at least for the beginning of the year, because slow-paced walks tend to fall by the wayside as our schedule fills up.

The second week of the year we eased into math, reading, and handwriting for the youngers/ grammar for William.

This week it’s the real deal.  Monday-Thursday, unless we have an outside activity, we aim to complete all main subjects before lunch.  We read together after Teddy goes down for a nap, and then have the rest of naptime for the younger kids to play in their rooms while William completes his reading and Mama recuperates.  After Teddy’s nap, the kids tidy up the house and practice piano, and then play until dinner.

We have a weekly park meet-up, a monthly book club, a monthly co-op, and a monthly field trip, so it will be a rare week that we actually follow that schedule four days in a row (at least until cold & flu season starts ruining all our plans).

Fridays are still in the works.  Besides nature study and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class for Ben and Marie, we might also do some extra art or history & geography.

This year William will study the Civil War-Modern era, and I’m not sure yet how much I want to include the younger children in all those dark events.  But coloring maps and listening to Geography Songs is always a hit.

As the course load grows in our homeschool, more and more errands and housework get pushed to the weekends.  Happily, each year the kids become more and more capable of taking on housework themselves, so I think it all evens out.

Nitty-gritty curriculum post coming soon, so I know you will all be waiting with bated breath!

A Theme for the Year


Last year N. suggested we cure the kids’ end-of-summer blues with a big celebration for the start of our homeschool year, and he themed a party and scavenger hunt around The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  The kids had been complaining that school was “hard,” and this party gave us a chance to talk about being courageous in learning: writing paragraphs one sentence at a time or playing soccer even if you’re not the best on the team.  It’s wonderful how great literature can delight and inspire virtues at the same time.

This year we want the kids to focus on being helpful to one another.  We started out by working together to make homemade mango ice cream.  We ate it so quickly I didn’t get a picture beyond this first taste.


Then we watched the film Seven Alone, based on the book On to Oregon! by Honore Morrow.

Image credit: Amazon.com

This book tells the true story of the seven Sager children orphaned on the Oregon Trail.  The oldest child, a 13-year-old boy who starts off as a defiant brat wreaking havoc on the wagon train, steps up to the plate after his parents die and leads his six younger brothers and sisters, including a newborn baby, through ice and snow to the end of the trail.

Then came the Oregon Trail scavenger hunt!




A tropical version of an Oregon apple tree

We decided mid-summer that we are going to keep all the kids at home again this year, rather than send one or two of them to N’s school.  The boys both told us they didn’t want to be away from their siblings all day, and as wonderful as the school is, it can’t offer the one-on-one tutoring that they benefit from so much in the elementary years.  Maybe some of them will go another year, but for now, we’re all together again.


Choristers for the Cardinal’s Mass of Blessing for Homeschoolers

And that’s something to celebrate!