Learning Notes for April


Here’s what we have been up to this month…


William should finish his textbook by early June, which is my goal. Louis should finish earlier, and then we’ll work on multiplication and division facts in the summer. Ben and Marie might finish their workbook by June, and they need subtraction facts practice this summer.

Schoolhouse Rock songs have been helping Louis with multiplication facts,


as well as entertaining Teddy

as have these Lego models of the facts.


‘Tis the Science Season

A great field trip to the Arboretum (Papa was with us)



A challenging trip to the Zoo (Papa was not with us)

This was one of those grand plans that didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, but not all was lost. I want to teach the kids the basics of scientific classification this year. On a previous zoo trip, Louis, Ben, and Marie each chose an animal to write a paragraph about (snakes, all of them!), and William chose a plant (bluebonnets). This trip I wanted to see if we could find the scientific name of the animals.

First thing in the morning, I introduced the Linnaean classification system (Kingdom/ Phylum/ Class, etc). A good acrostic for remembering it is Kings Play Chess On Fine Glass Sets.

The system was a bit beyond 1st grade level, so while William and Louis tried to figure how to classify bears and wolves and people and cats, Ben and Marie made nature journal entries about animals they’ve caught recently. Marie’s entry was about the Texas Spiny Lizard she caught at Grandma’s over spring break.


The zoo has a little shop where the kids earn points by bringing in specimens or nature journals and then can spend their points on items in the Swap Shop.

By this time I was confident we’d missed rush hour traffic, so we set off on our journey. It usually takes us about 20 minutes to get to the zoo on a weekday morning. This day it took one hour with lots of standstill traffic and a CD playing gloomy Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales that were depressing all of us.

Then, there were no parking spots available. Another 15 minutes of circling lots and somebody got carsick. That poor child wanted to go home, but even he couldn’t stomach the thought of getting back on the highway. So we cleaned out the car, washed out clothes in a bathroom, and started on our one-mile trek from a faraway parking lot to the zoo.

By the time we finally arrived, we just had time to eat lunch in front of the meerkats (Teddy’s request), go through the reptile house, and head to the Swap Shop, which was closed for painting!

Everyone was feeling discouraged, so I splurged and got them all a treat, but even the soft pretzels were stale. Alas. The kids were also very annoyed that I wouldn’t let them climb loquat trees (which were roped off) to pick the ripe fruit. Amazingly no one (me) lost it!

To top the day off, when we arrived home, we found the spiny lizard had escaped her cage! Marie was devastated, having just spent all her money at the pet store buying a log for it to hide under. At least she drew the sketch before Spiky ran away.


The kids have spent the rest of the month catching lizards and toads around the yard and expanding our garden. William has read more detailed information about the classification system, and especially plant classification.

Ben and Marie went camping with Marie’s AHG troop.


Always the fascination with snakes


Baby copperhead spotted off the hiking trail

Another AHG inspired science project…Marie’s Geology Badge required an erosion project. The kids dug a stream in the sandbox, turned on the hose, and watched erosion happen.

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And lots of activity in the spring garden…




Our annual corny Titanic memorial on April 15, except that we had to delay it by about a week because some people kept losing dessert as a consequence for bad behavior.


William has started reading about World War II. He seems especially interested in how the war affected the rise of communism.

The Arts

One morning we had a little window of time before we needed to head out to a class, so I brought out the art appreciation cards we hadn’t touched in a long while.

Teddy matched identical cards. Ben and Marie sorted cards by subject matter, and William and Louis sorted another stack by painter.

Then I had them each pick one to describe to me while I drew a sketch from their oral description. It made for an interesting exercise in communication as well as noticing details of the painting.


Our parish had a talent show, and all the boys performed a poem or song. Marie was one of the youngest children who performed last year, so I didn’t feel like trying to make her do something this year. Maybe next time.




This is getting long, so I’ll save our April books for the next What We’re Reading Wednesday.

Gotta pack it in now so we can all relax when this baby arrives–due date 8 weeks away!