Learning Notes for First Week of Advent


After a welcome Thanksgiving break,


At our homeschool group’s Thanksgiving potluck

I was ready to try to salvage a bit of our academic year before the holiday rush hit. November was a survival mode month, thanks to this sweet little new one coming along.  Academic survival mode means math, penmanship/copywork, and reading, plus one other thing on a good day–usually phonics for the younger ones and Latin or grammar for William.

We’ve been following the baby’s development along with the What to Expect App, which, while cheesy, is also fascinating. The kids were super excited to find out at the beginning of each week what size fruit the baby had grown to.  It gave me some perspective on how I was feeling to see that in a very short time, the baby grew from the size of an orange seed to a large plum.  And developed every single vital organ and system. So there was definitely some science learning going on here too!

Over Thanksgiving break, we did some Advent prep, namely rolling the beeswax candles for our Advent wreath.

IMG_1855 IMG_1857

Now we’re into Advent, and that means we’ll stay in academic survival mode. But, with me feeling better, we’ll add some fun Advent activities as much as possible.

Here’s how last week went:


We went to Mass and then our monthly co-op. The theme for the day was gratitude. As the kids had a snack, the leader told the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Only one, the Samaritan, returned to say thank you.

At the end of the snack, all the kids were busy picking up and running around, and Teddy spontaneously walked up to the leader, who had prepared the snack, and said, “Thank you.” She was so excited she gave him a huge hug and told everyone that Teddy was just like the tenth leper! It was a very sweet, Holy Spirit moment, as I’m pretty sure he could not have comprehended the point of her story. But you never know with this kid.

That night, while the kids told Nathaniel what had happened, they kept referring to Jesus healing the ten leopards. 🙂

In the car, we are listening to Strawberry Hill, which is a novel about a Jewish girl in New England in the 1930s.

Strawberry Hill

The Great Depression is in the background, but the story mostly deals with the pettiness of little girls and their non-stop best friend drama, which I can completely relate to from my childhood. That world is foreign to my kids though, and they find it strange and interesting. Allie, the heroine, overcomes the drama, however, and the book has a lovely ending.

In the evening, we started reading Elin’s Amerika aloud.

This is a novel about Swedish-American immigrants to New Sweden (now Pennsylvania & New Jersey) in the late 1600s. We’ve read several wonderful books by this author, Marguerite de Angeli, and I was happy to find this lesser known one. The story takes place during Advent and is going to culminate at Christmas.


We went to Mass and then to a new co-op we’ve just joined. Louis, Ben, and Marie are taking an art class and another class that rotates each month. This month is music, and they studied The Nutcracker. I am doing next month, and I don’t know what I’m teaching yet!

William and Teddy come with me to a friend’s house where we have a Bible study. William did his school work in another room, and Teddy played with the other toddlers.

We skipped our afternoon park day because it was cold and because I wanted Louis to start his new regimen of listening to an audiobook and following along in a print copy for 45 minutes. He started Winnie-the-Pooh and seemed to enjoy it.

In the evening, Marie and I went to an American Heritage Girls meeting.


Today I started having William and Louis watch the IEW Student Writing Intensive videos. We have been doing copywork, dictation, and narration for all the time we’ve been homeschooling, and I have found that that method alone has not yet produced very organized and confident writers in our homeschool.

Nathaniel has used IEW with his tutoring students and now they are using it at his school, and it seems like a very organized way to learn to write.

Marie wanted to join in too, which I said was optional, and Ben chose playing with Legos. They read a paragraph about sea snakes along with the teacher on the video and then made an outline of key words from each sentence. It took *forever*, like more than an hour, but it was good learning.

We had time for a math lesson then before lunch.

Ben, Marie, and Louis read aloud from their various books to me in the afternoon, and Louis listened to more of Winnie-the-Pooh, with the twins playing around him so they wouldn’t miss the story.

William finished up his Civil War unit by reading about Lee’s surrender in the Landmark History of the American People and  Lincoln’s assassination in The Story of the World.

We took a long walk in the afternoon and read more of Elin’s Amerika in the evening.


We went to Mass in the morning. The boys are serving at the altar three days a week now, and that has become a good rhythm for us.

At home, William, Louis, and Marie wrote their own paragraph about sea snakes using their key-word outlines. That also took more than an hour, and Marie dictated the last half of hers to me.  It was a lot of writing.

Once they were done, we watched some YouTube videos of sea snakes and did a math lesson.


That afternoon, Louis finished Winnie the Pooh and William read a biography of Louis Braille, who, it turns out, was a devout Catholic and a church organist.

When Teddy got up from his nap, we went to the library and cleaned the house and I collapsed the moment Nathaniel walked in the door. 🙂


I took the twins to the Atrium and the rest to the grocery store. We’d finished Strawberry Hill by then and started listening to Cheaper by the Dozen in the car.

At home the kids did math, handwriting, reading, and laundry.


Race Car Math

Louis started listening to James Herriot’s Treasury for Children.

The boys packed up for a camping trip and we went to a football game at N’s school. Before bed, they all set out candy cane cookies and milk for St. Nick and oats and carrots for his reindeer!


Linking up with Melanie for Guilt-Free Learning Notes!