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.


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).


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.


2 thoughts on “Learning Notes for Week of Sept 15

  1. Oh I need a copy of that Star Spangled Banner book!

    I loved your synopsis of St Joseph of Cupertino’s life. I didn’t know about the autistic-type behaviors. Makes he seem rather like St Kevin and the Blackbird. It would be nice to have a picture book that good about St Joseph. The Tomie de Paola is cute, but not so meaty.

    We concur about the dryness of Ordinary Parent’s Guide. and yet, the lessons make so much more sense to me than 100 Easy Lessons. But I have to break it up with real books. We’re getting through it at a snail’s pace. I really wish I could find something that gets the same phonemic awareness into Bella without so much frustration.

    Oh I wish we had a CGS atrium near us!

    “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” I love this idea. As a native Texan, I’m a bit skeptical, though. But maybe I’m just not good at obtaining appropriate clothing.

    • I’m not familiar with St. Kevin and the Blackbird–will have to look into that.

      100 Easy Lessons–starting with the long sound of e? That book made no sense to me. I think All About Reading would cover all the phonograms and be a lot more fun, but having already shelled out the cash for All About Spelling, I’m not willing to buy it yet.

      I know, I have to admit the Germans have no idea what a Texas summer is like. There’s no clothing that could make a nature walk in 100 degrees bearable.

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