Back to Work (Week 10)

The only problem with waiting until the end of the week to write things up is that I forget things.  Like what picture books I read to Leo.  And sometimes my own name.  JM is in that stage that most of my kids have gone through as toddlers, in which sleep is like a punishment because the world is so interesting.  On Tuesday night, I finally wrestled him down to bed at around 10:45 PM.  He woke up at 3:45 AM.  I gave him to Andy at 4:45.  Andy got him to sleep on the couch with him for a little while. Andy gave him back to me some time between 5:30 and 5:45.  I nursed him and tried to put him back to bed. But no dice.  He was up for the duration.  And then — then! — he didn’t want to take a nap on Wednesday.

When my oldest was a baby, I used to “amuse” myself sometimes by computing how many hours of sleep my child got vs. the average child.  It usually turned out that he was missing at least four hours of sleep every day.  The practice was fruitless, so I soon gave it up.  Now I just try to avoid reading about kids who go to bed at 8 PM.

Anyway, this week has been rocky for me, due to lack of sleep and allergies and asthma and a generally twitchy immune system.  (But I’m working on that.)

Cicero and Kumon

(I thought this picture summed up life in a large, homeschooling family; the teenagers are translating Cicero next to the four year old who is practicing his cutting skills on Kumon books.)

We kind of brought things around this week after our brief “break” as we officially began our second quarter.  A discussion with Andy firmed up the daily expectations for the boys:

1)Read something.

2)Do handwriting.

3)Do some math.


We switched to straight copywork this week, which got a better reception, especially since I am letting the twins copy anything they want, even sentences from their Lego books.  I’m writing sentences for Chipmunk that he can read.

We pray every day, so prayers are assumed.  And I’m not sure the boys regard the reading aloud we do in the mornings as “school”.  But this is what we require of the younger boys, leaving them a lot of time to mess around on their own.  In addition, I try to do some Latin with the 9 and 11 year olds, and this week we began KISS grammar but we didn’t do it every day.  Ditto for the Latin: we’re using Prima Latina but we do a lot of it orally, except that the 11 year old does the exercises in the workbook on his own.  (This week we worked on Lesson 7, but we’ll probably continue next week because we only did Latin aloud one day.)

As for KISS grammar: It uses sentences from real books, doesn’t repeat the same sequence of topics over and over again ad nauseum, and it’s free.  Win, win, win.  I printed out the first two lessons from the 6th and 3rd grade level 1 workbooks for George and the twins, respectively.  I had George work independently this week, but the workbook kind of chunks the kids in deep water relatively quickly as far as verbs go, and George had a hard time picking everything up.  The 3rd grade book was the same, and I have to be careful because when the twins don’t understand something, instead of asking for help they just frown and make X’s and scribbles all over their papers.  So the twins and I did their grammar out loud together, with me doing the underlining on one page.  Possibly they might have even enjoyed it.  Or at least later Dennis was identifying verbs and subjects over my shoulder while I read a speech that Gareth wanted to turn into a college application essay.

The teens and I also had some discussions about how to fit in all the work that they need to do.  Gareth did an exercise in which he kept track of a couple of days so that we could see where his time went.  He isn’t the sort of kid who spends all his time on Facebook or playing video games, but it was instructive to see that with a little reordering of his day, he could probably balance his workload better.  Because his 10th grade year was a little light, he’s having to make up for it now, in his senior year, which he’s trying to do along with taking three languages and studying linguistics and doing Eagle Scout projects and applying to college.  It’s a little on the breathless side.  Latin IV at Memoria Press Online is also proving to be a tough class.  They’re both having to work harder at the quizzes this year.  So we had a discussion about different methods of studying for foreign language classes, and then we turned toward tweaking the structure in other parts of their day.

For both Katydid and Gareth, that has meant moving away from the Ambleside-style terms and back to what worked so well last year — online lesson plans.  Last year, when both Gareth and Katydid were studying the ancients, I did a combined lesson-plan blog based sort of loosely on Sally Thomas’ Western Civ I lesson plans. This year Gareth is studying the Modern era and Katydid is doing Medieval/Renaissance.  So what we decided to do is this: Katydid is going to use Sally’s very helpful online Western Civ 2 lesson plans.  Now, I looked at these over the summer and I can’t remember why I decided to go with the Ambleside Year 7/8 chart.  Possibly because I owned most of the books already. Anyway, we’re the sort of people who tweak a lot, and of course we will make tweaks here, but Sally has gone to the trouble of including a lot of links to lectures, videos, and supplementary material, and Katydid — who does not really like history that much — does like checking out links. (And Bede.  She has enjoyed reading Bede.)  She also set up a blog as a sort of notebook for the humanities course, a place to keep notes and narrations where I can also read and comment on them.

Unfortunately, Sally doesn’t yet have any plans for the modern era up, so Gareth and I are on our own.  I went back to our old high school history/lit/religion blog from last year and started adding to it.  Right now I am working on World War I.  I have the reading assignments up, but I’m still working on all the links.  Also thinking about how to share since this is all sort of in process, and I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that’s ready for public consumption.

A few pictures from our week…

CHC 2nd grade religion

I finally got out the CHC 2nd grade religion lesson plans for Chipmunk, who will make his First Communion this year.  I realize that the Prayer and Mass book projects are supposed to be done slowly, over weeks, but Chipmunk, like Katydid who also used these plans — sort of, made both books this week.  And enjoyed it.  And used them to play Mass “with the candles lit”, the way he usually wants to.

Dennis drawing

We switched from following Drawing with Older Children and Teens to Drawing with Children.  This week we drew the simple birds.  Some of us got frustrated even with the simple bird.  But Dennis spent a long time drawing a complicated natural scene.

mallard fishing

It’s a picture of a duck catching a fish.  Because it was drawn by a boy, there is blood.  In the very top corner, too blurry to make out, there are wolves beyond the lake, howling over a downed caribou.

K's simple bird and robin

The teenagers played along, too.  But Katydid couldn’t resist drawing a real bird, just because.


Katydid took George and Chipmunk birding with her once this week.  She saw the first juncos and white-throated sparrows this week, which seemed a little early to both of us.  Does it mean that a cold winter is coming?  If this weekend was any indication, the answer is — not here.  It was 85 degrees today.

On Friday night, Andy took Katydid, George, and the twins down to Strawberry Plains Audubon Center for an owl program and night walk.  Unfortunately, there were too many people there to hear any owls, but apparently the owl program was interesting and Katydid got to talk to the presenters about volunteer opportunities.

making muffins

Leo helped make pumpkin muffins for breakfast Friday morning.  “It’s like we’re being chef-es!” he told me.

And last but not least… Books, Books, Books

First, the picture/board books:


I had high hopes for Reuben and the Fire, which is about an Amish boy who helps fight a fire on a neighboring farm, but the writing was clunky and the story fell flat.  The boys didn’t ask for it again, in spite of the high-interest (to Leo and Chipmunk) subject matter.  Of course, they didn’t ask to read In the Belly of an Ox again either, and I thought that was a really stellar book — about two English brothers who published the very first book of nature photography, a guide to birds’ eggs and nests.  The title refers to one of the blinds they made — a fake ox, with one of the brothers hidden inside.  Two pages in the back include their original photos, as well as photos of the brothers doing their photography, most of which are reproduced as illustrations in the main text.  Chipmunk chose it out of a stack one night, but it drew in his older brothers as well.

Most of the picture books this week (including the small Beatrix Potter books) were Leo’s choices, because early in the week I pulled this book off the shelf for Chipmunk:

Chipmunk is a huge fan of storybooks.  He doesn’t care much for chapter books yet, but he likes storybook anthologies with a theme.  I wasn’t sure how he would feel about Uncle Wiggily because it only has a few black and white illustrations and he seems to prefer reading the big, lavishly illustrated hardback anthologies.  But he really likes Uncle Wiggily  and will usually ask for more stories than I can read in one sitting (because I have to read to his brothers, too, or because the toddler needs to take a nap).  The older boys — and even the teenagers — have been drawn into listening to these stories, too, although I think the teens find them a little bizarre and the general consensus among the boys is that Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy is too bossy and should leave Uncle Wiggily alone.

Other books from this week…

Pinky Pye, Eleanor Estes (read by George)

Rufus M, Eleanor Estes (read by Huck)

The Winged Watchman, Hilda van Stockum (finished by Dennis)

Christian Liberty Nature Reader 2 (finished by Huck this week)

Lives of the Musicians… Good Times, Bad Times, and What the Neighbors Thought (Dennis and George were both reading this one)

America’s First World War: General Pershing and the Yanks (read by Huck)

These in addition to the “school” books they’re still reading from previous week.

So that was our week… mostly… I think.  There was a lot of college application stuff going on, too, though, and there will likely be a lot in the coming week, too, as Gareth tries to get all his applications out in the next few weeks.  Then we will take a really big deep breath and maybe — maybe — relax for a little while.

Linking up with Melanie again at Guilt-Free Learning Notes!











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  1. Note you went back to your conversation chat for these posts, my favourite:)
    Yes college applications take up alot of energy!! Daresay once it’s all behind you there will be more breathing space.
    I used to read those, children need x sleep and get all down too{{}}
    Most interested to read about the KISS and the word Free grabbed my attention.
    We’re using Paul Johnson’s Modern Times for Modern History, meaty and readable, for the late highschooler, bought it on Willa’s rec (I think)
    Would be so wonderful if Katydid could volunteer there!!!
    Yes picture books I can see extra appreciation in the children aren;’t impressed with.
    Erin recently posted…Main Bathroom Thus FarMy Profile

    • I’ve really just begun exploring the KISS site, because there are an enormous amount of resources there for all grade levels. But so far so good. What I like most is that the sentences are all real sentences from real books (like Heidi), instead of the usual boring grammar-textbook sentences. For my older kids we used the book Our Mother Tongue in 6-8 grades, but that book is tough, and I think it’s a little beyond where my current 6th grader is right now. He needed something a little more basic, but putting him back in younger books did not seem appropriate either since they’re written for younger kids.

      re: modern history – We decided to go with a set of American history books since he needs that for his transcript, but I have the Paul Johnson book on my list of books to read myself. :-) G is using America: The Last Best Hope set of books this year. I think that Simply Charlotte Mason has them in their Charlotte Mason Book Finder? But probably I first saw them on Jen’s lesson plans. G says he likes them, and they go all the way up to… 2011 or 12, I think.

  2. In the Belly of the Ox sounds like it might appeal to my nature study girl, Bella. I’m adding it to my library list.

    I’m also interested in checking out the KISS. Grammar! free!

    And I’m curious about the CHC books. I love the idea of making a prayer book and Mass book. It sounds like the kind of projects Sophie would be thrilled with.
    Melanie Bettinelli recently posted…Learning Notes Week of Oct 20My Profile

    • Here’s the link to the CHC plans: Preparing to Receive Jesus. I should have linked it in the post; sorry about that! They used to be part of the regular 2nd grade lesson plans, but now they’ve produced them separately as a supplement. I used them with my daughter a long time ago. There are stories to read and several sort of crafty projects that aren’t terribly crafty, if you know what I mean. In addition to the Prayer and Mass books (which are made by cutting out papers with prayers, etc. printed on them and then gluing on appropriate holy cards), there is a Rosary book, a Confession bookmark (with the Act of Contrition printed on it), and at least one game. It’s nice to have as a package for kids who enjoy cutting and gluing, etc. And the holy cards they sell separately as a set to make the books are really beautiful. You could make your own little prayer and Mass books, though, with a set of holy cards and some heavy paper.

  3. I looked at Ambleside a bit this week. Do you plan to use it for all your kids or just certain parts for certain kids? I love that it’s free (of course) but it looks complicated.
    Melanie recently posted…Learning Notes – Week of October 20My Profile

    • I mainly use Ambleside for their booklists, but we don’t necessarily follow their schedules year by year. For instance, this year I found that the Year 3.5 books fit pretty well with one of my 9 year old twins, so many (but not all) of those books are in the stack for him to choose from for his reading time, and the books from the beginning of Year 6 fit my 11 yo. (We did some Year 5 books with him last year.) I’m reading to all of the younger boys (11, 9, 9, and 7) from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare which is on the schedule for many of the younger AO years. I know that some people are able to do the schedules for multiple children in different years, but I’ve never been able to do anything remotely similar without combining kids and years. Their high school years are a “salad bar”, which means you’re not supposed to do everything they list but instead you should pick and choose. I originally tried to pull a lot of our high school books from their lists this year and I initially scheduled them out myself using a term spreadsheet like the ones they have up on their site for Years 7 and up, but it didn’t work as well for us as I had hoped. On the other hand… I really like their Year 7 and have had a lot of success with those books in that combination. (But not necessarily for a 7th grader… My oldest was in 7th grade when he read most of the Year 7 books, but my daughter is in 10th. I just moved some of the lighter fare to her free reading shelf.)

      If you’d like to get a peek at someone using AO almost as written, you should check out the blog Joyous Lessons. I don’t think that Celeste makes too many modifications to AO. Her oldest kids are in Year 3 this year, I think. Oh, and A Peaceful Day. They have been using AO as written from the very beginning and are now on Year 8 (I think!)


  1. […] like Angela, now that I finished the week, I can’t remember what we did. Note to self to have a draft […]

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