Learning in Review: Week 6 and 7

Weeks 6 and 7 (the two weeks before Halloween week) were been busy ones — in a good way, and in a not so good way, too.   I am seriously contemplating going to a 6 weeks on/1 week off year-round calendar next year.  I’m not sure how to make that work around high school students who follow traditional academic schedules with outside classes, but at around 6 weeks I could definitely use a couple of teacher in-service days!

I have to warn you that this is going to be a somewhat longish post because I’m catching up a little bit… but I print these posts at the end of the year and store them in a binder as a sort of hard-copy journal.

(And another brief note about the photos: I’m still being forced to use photos from my iPad instead of my camera.  The trackpad on my Mac is not working now, so I’m also having to use one of our two Dell laptops — that are supposed to be dedicated to school use — to work on.  Because these laptops are often in use, I wrote most of this post on my iPad mini.  Using one finger to type.  So if you find any typos or formatting blips — like pictures that are turned the wrong way — that I may have missed, I apologize.)

First, the good: Gareth came home for fall break!  It was nice having him around this week, and it will once again feel odd and quiet after he leaves.  Not that he’s such a loud kid (that’s a bit of an understatement), but we sometimes used to have conversations while I was making dinner and now mostly I just watch grocery haul videos while I cook — because, you know, there is something fascinating about watching another mom show me the snacks she buys her kids at Costco.

(I am not kidding about this.  I really do like to watch grocery haul videos. I just wish more big families would make them.  My favorite grocery/meal planning/shopping videos are by Jamerill Stewart — who does have a large family — and How Jen Does It, who does not.)

Anyway, we took Gareth out to eat for his (belated) birthday and hit a bookstore last weekend.  George bought the long-awaited new Rick Riordan novel, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, and devoured it in about a day and a half.  The bookstore we like to go to is mostly new but does have a small used section, and I found a couple of books that I have been meaning to read for a while (and that are on Ambleside’s Year 12 list): Gifted Hands, by Ben Carson, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which probably almost everyone has read but me at this point.

Chipmunk picked out a book called Try This!: 50 Fun Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by National Geographic, and is keen to try out the lemon battery experiment. We have all the materials; it’s just a matter of Chipmunk not showing up to remind me at five minutes before lunchtime, “Can we make a lemon battery now?” and me remembering later on in the afternoon when there really is time.  And Leo chose Richard Scarry’s The Adventures of Lowly Worm, which we have been reading over and over again for the past several days. Rather, we have been reading the part called “The Broken Foot” over and over again for the past few days.

I don’t know if Richard Scarry actually wrote this one or not.  There are some typos in the text, and the caliber of the writing is a bit lower than it is in Richard Scarry’s classic storybooks.  But Leo loves Huckle and Lowly (and also reading about casts apparently) and he doesn’t seem to mind.

More good busyness: Altar Server Training, which is also helping us all with our Latin; ballroom dance and high school theology group for the older kids; band and choir lessons, which had a break last week but started up again this week; and FNE, which involved a camp out last weekend, the first ever for some of my boys. (Huck came down with a cold and couldn’t go with his brothers, so he stayed home and ate ice cream and watched old Doctor Who episodes instead.)  Andy was too busy supervising to get pictures, but there was canoeing and cooking on a campfire and sleeping in a tent on a cold, dark night and a heritage festival at a nearby state park where the boys got to dry fire a musket, throw a tomahawk, and watch a blacksmith make bullets. And Chipmunk sang 2 or 3 verses of the Battle Hymn of the Republic for everyone… Which he has memorized by listening to his favorite CD, the soundtrack to Ken Burns Civil War, over and over. So it was good, even without pictures.

The busyness that was just sort of “enh”: Andy was out of town for all of week 6, I had a doctor’s appointment, Chipmunk had vision therapy, we had to buy food, and Katydid took the PSAT. This year’s PSAT incorporated the changes that are coming to the SAT in 2016. The paperwork took longer, the test itself was longer, and all told, everything took a good four hours. Based on what Katydid reported, the changes to the reading section are maddeningly in line with Common Core, but she said the entire test seemed easier to her, and she didn’t think it was just because she was a year older. Scores won’t come back until after Christmas this year, which is later than in the past, so… We’ll just have to wait and see.

And the bad busyness: We have been busy trying to find a new home for our dog. When the boys run and wrestle, she often gets overexcited and plays much too rough with them, and her constant barking at night is annoying the neighbors. We got an angry complaint last weekend from one of our neighbors who turned out to be having a very bad day and who brought us some beautiful roses from her bush to apologize…. But the dog, erf. I think she’s still going to have to go. (If you know anybody who needs a giant outside dog who likes to bark and chew hoses and recycling, let me know. Actually, she’s a very friendly dog, and I think she just belongs on a farm with older boys who don’t wrestle quite as much.)

Oh, yeah, and I think we did some schoolwork, too…


While my 2 and 5 year olds don’t precisely do schoolwork, I thought I would start with them because I didn’t mention them last time. I have to tell you that what my 5 year old is doing will probably look a lot like pre-k to many of you (except for the fact that he has taken over the bulk of kitchen clean-up on his own these days.) Most of what he’s doing would be considered “Practical Life” , or art:

  • loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • emptying trash cans
  • swiffering (dry and wet)
  • collecting and sorting laundry
  • vacuuming
  • helping cook and bake
  • sawing and nailing wood
  • punching paper with punches of different shapes
  • playdough
  • making things out of cardboard boxes with tape, scissors, yarn, etc.

Many of you are looking at that list and wondering if he’s assigned all those chores. The answer is, he’s only assigned to collect and sort the laundry. The rest of his activities are completely voluntary, and don’t think I don’t appreciate the fact that he does more work around the house than the big kids on many days! But, he’s 5, and this too shall probably pass.  Unfortunately.

He also gets 30 minutes of iPad time every day, which he uses to do Starfall apps and Montessori phonics and handwriting. That’s also completely up to him.

My 2 year old is still spending a lot of time coloring on the same piece of cardboard.  When he finally decides he’s done, I think I’m going to frame it.

Coloring the cardboard

(At this point, there are so many layers of crayon and oil pastel on the cardboard that it’s like one of those scratch art projects.)

And of course we read books… although not as many as I would like.

Picture Books (read to the boys 8 and younger multiple times)

All of these except Arthur’s Halloween (which, honestly, I am not terribly fond of) are family favorites. Too Many Pumpkins has lost both covers at this point, and Petunia — while a more recent acquisition — was one of my favorite books as a child.

Board Books for the Two Year Old


2nd/3rd Grade

Chipmunk is working steadily through Singapore 2A, and would probably be able to go faster if I could get my act together.  He had apparently figured out how to carry on his own but not how to borrow.  So we have been working on borrowing this week.  We’re also continuing with our homemade reading lessons. Chipmunk participates in our morning time and I read aloud to him and to his younger brothers two other times a day (usually), but he also spends a lot of time outside.  And he likes to play chess on the iPad.

We just finished up The House at Pooh Corner as our read-aloud.  Technically it was for Chipmunk, but Leo and the twins also listened in.  No one much liked the ending.  Not because it was bad, of course, but because it was sad, and all of us wanted more Pooh.

4th grade (Ambleside Year 3.5… ish)

Men who found America

The Men Who Found America has officially made it onto my favorites list.  This is an Ambleside Year 3.5 selection, but I don’t know why it hasn’t been included in one of the regular years.  I find it to be a very balanced and highly readable treatment of some of the most important explorers of North America.  I also like it a lot for copywork selections.  All of Huck’s copywork is coming from this book right now.  I choose a paragraph from each chapter and write it down on Handwriting Without Tears paper for Huck to copy.  A paragraph usually ends up being a few days’ worth of work for him, since he’s only required to copy one page a day.  (He still has problems with handwriting, which is why we are not using cursive or smaller paper.)

4th grade copywork

The other books Huck is reading right now:

  • Loyola Kids Book of Saints (He finished up Saints & Heroes by Ethel Pochocki.)
  • The Incredible Journey by Shiela Burnford (I know this is included on the Ambleside lists somewhere, but I can’t remember for which year.)
  • The Secret of Everyday Things (Farbre, Year 3.5)

Plus a bunch of books about chess.

We also wrapped up all the topics from Singapore 3A that I wanted to cover with him, and next week we’ll begin 3B.

4th grade (Ambleside Year 3.5/4… ish)

Dennis finished several of his books in Week 6 and needed new ones, so we went back to the list and the shelves and found some more.  He finished up:

The Cure of Ars: The Priest Who Out-Talked the Devil
The Struggle for Sea Power by M.B. Synge
Crossbows and Crucifixes: A Novel of the Priest Hunters and the Brave Young Men Who Fought Them by Henry Garnett

Although some of M.B. Synge’s books are given as alternatives on the Year 3.5 and 4 book lists, The Struggle for Sea Power (which is largely about England’s battles with Napoleon) is not one of them.  Dennis enjoyed it and learned not only quite a bit about Napoleon from it, but also some bits and pieces of poetry, too. But when it came time to pick a new history book, his one request was, “Can we read a book written by an American?”  I have heard this same complaint before about some of the books Ambleside recommends as history spines, especially for the first part of American history; they are largely written by British authors in the early 20th century (This Country of Ours comes immediately to mind) and, as Dennis informed me,  they “usually think the British are better than everybody else.”  In particular, I think Dennis took issue with how Synge handled the War of 1812.  I had been going to hand him This Country of Ours, but instead we settled on George Washington’s World and H.A. Grueber’s The Story of The Thirteen Colonies and The Great Republic, which is used by Memoria Press.

(You’ll also note that this is all somewhat out of chronological order. This happens because I let my kids choose their reading from a handful of titles that I approve. I do find that they usually can keep things straight, and it certainly doesn’t seem to hurt the connections that they make.)

Dennis also started The Blessed Friend of Youth – Saint Don Bosco and Hornblower Goes to Sea, a condensation of the Hornblower books for young readers. (HT: Jen’s booklists.)

7th grade (Year 6.5)

There is no Ambleside Year 6.5, but that’s kind of what we’re working on this year for George in 7th grade.  Last year he expanded the modern focus of Ambleside Year 6 to last all year instead of just one term, and now he’s going a little more in depth into Greece and Rome.  I started out the year asking him to read The Iliad (Lattimore translation), but it proved a little too tough for him.  Since really all I was after was an introduction to the real story (he’s read or listened to many adaptations for children), I am letting his listen to the Iliad on Librivox.  The recording on Librivox is the Samuel Butler translation, so it’s somewhat archaic and also uses all the Roman names for the Greek gods — which is a bit confusing.  But I couldn’t find one of the other, more modern translations online.  While Gareth was here, we had some interesting lunchtime conversations about the Iliad and the Odyssey, since he had just finished reading both (again) in his freshman literature class.

Other books George is reading for school:

As far as science goes, we were going to follow AO’s Year 7 science, but George has been reading so many books about animal behavior and wilderness survival on his own that I haven’t worried about science at all yet for him.  (I should sit down and do a compilation of all the books he’s gone through in the past several weeks.)

Other books George is using:

My goal is to get back on track with grammar and to phase out the handwriting book, which George has been using to refresh his knowledge of the cursive alphabet, and to phase in actual copywork.

11th grade (timeframe corresponding to AO Year 9)

Katydid’s schedule finally started to click during these two weeks.  It took a long time this year, which seems to be the pattern with junior years, at least in my house.  (Or anyway, she’s the second kid who’s had this problem with juggling junior year.)  But she finally seems to have gotten things sorted out with her German teacher, Environmental Science seems to be moving along fine, and I can’t say enough good things about the teacher of her Precalculus class at Wilson Hill Online Academy.  The quality of the teacher is making a huge difference for her in math.  Her grades haven’t changed too much, but her attitude toward math is much, much better.

Outside her classes, we’re still struggling to make the proper time for reading and writing.  Katydid handles her own schedule (a practice which I believe has helped Gareth in his first year in college).  I don’t give her prescribed times to do anything, but I do give her deadlines for narrations, papers, etc.  I hope to wrap up our first term work around Thanksgiving, but right now Katydid is still working her way through The Scarlet Letter, Pope’s Essay on Man (AO Year 9, and easily the most difficult thing she is reading right now), C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, primary source selections from Seton’s American Literature for the colonial period, and selections from Prose and Poetry of America (St. Thomas More, Volume 3)about the colonial period.  She has also been reading from William Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War.
And so that’s where things stood as we went into Halloween week, a week in which we always (every year) get sick.  This year was, unfortunately, no exception, although the cold was pretty mild.  But more about that in the next Learning in Review post.









  1. Thanks for mentioning The Men Who Found America — I haven’t taken a close look at the 3.5 list since we didn’t use it, but I’m going to hunt that one down, I think. It sounds great.
    Celeste recently posted…Fourth Grade in Our Home :: Exams, Term 1My Profile

    • I really like it. It’s hard to find a balanced view of the explorers anymore, and the storytelling and illustrations in my edition (full color plates in the N.C. Wyeth style) are wonderful. Publication date is 1909 for my book; I’m not sure if there are other editions.

  2. Always so much I want to comment on, would love to be able to write directly under each paragraph as I read through.

    Gareth- Wonderful to have him home!:)
    I have a very quiet one too and their presence is still missed.

    Shopping – you are so funny, wish I could do a periscope of my monthly shop for you, alas app doesn’t work with my phone.

    All your parish events sound wonderful!! and ballroom dancing, oh I so wish.

    Thinking of going back to Singapore maths if I can find an affordable supplier, online maths is hard to keep my finger on the pulse.

    Still smiling to see Dennis and George read, remember well when you had all the boys learning to read and felt like it went on forever!

    Ah your big girl is growing up!
    and how is your pregnancy going?
    Erin recently posted…Leaping into Literature: An Interrupted WeekMy Profile

    • Lol It does always seem like learning to read goes on forever in our house! Having 4 going through the process at the same time was tough.

      Pregnancy seems to be going ok. About 28 weeks now, though, and I’m feeling it! On one hand, I think I’m doing better at 43 than I did in my 20’s, but on the other hand – I am tired! Maybe it has something to do with having 8 kids now, hmmm….

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