Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weekly Report

The week got off to a great start. Monday was a nearly perfect day. It didn't stick. Eleanor had a rough week. Not a bad week but she had no focus. We took Wednesday off because we had so many other things going and worked Friday instead.


  • Eleanor read about Ashurbanipal of Assyria and how he created the first library in Nineveh. Her reading was the Jonah and whale story and "You Wouldn't Want to Be an Assyrian Soldier". This was the only day we got around to French. Henry read about ancient Africa in the Sahara and read "Anansi the Spider". We actually had nowhere we had to be this day.
  • Eleanor learned about things you find in the ocean. Henry learned about leopards. They both watched videos on Discovery Streaming. Eleanor read, "Forty Fortunes" and "The Legend of the Persian Carpet". Henry read an African folktale from, "Starry Tales". We went to a homeschool group park day, Eleanor had basketball practice and I my UCSC class.
  • We took today off and I intended to really get a lot done in the morning but then a friend stopped by with treats and another friend called and the morning was gone but well spent. Then off to the Brownie's Christmas party and piano and I had book club.
  • Eleanor read about the Babylonians defeating the Assyrians and about the building of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. She read relevant portions of "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" and all of "The Persian Cinderella". Henry continued the chapter on ancient Africa which was two more Anansi stories. He also read another African folktale. We went out to lunch and did some errands halfway through the day and made it back just in time for Eleanor's ballet class so we were finishing up lessons at 6:30
  • Eleanor learned about coral reefs. Henry learned about tigers. Both watch videos. They listened to me read the first 2 chapters of "1001 Arabian Nights". Eleanor loved it and Henry, not so much. The girls went to a birthday party and Henry went to OT and then Henry and Eleanor and I met friends at a ceramics studio and didn't get home until after 9:00 which is way past our curfew.
  • Today Rick and I are taking Eleanor to an art history lecture on art of the Nativity. Its being given by the same professor that teaches the classes we're taking and he invited us to bring her. We're really looking forward to it.

Smooth sailing in our core subjects (except for attention issues). Eleanor and I continue to read and enjoy, "Little Women". I think we're on chapter 17. Her writing project for the week was a re-telling of, "The Top and the Ball" by Hans Christian Andersen.

At the end of our lessons on Friday I announced to them for the first time that they were officially on Christmas Break and would be for the next two weeks. Eleanor's face fell which was not the reaction I was expecting and she said, "I'm going to miss school!" I assured her that we would still do our reading and that there would be lots of projects and reminded her that Grandpa would be here on Monday and she seemed to recover quickly. I have to admit that I felt good that she was sad to miss our lessons. Henry, of course, barely reacted. I probably should have waited until "Charlie and Lola" was over to tell him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, December 7, 2007

Weekly Report

In spite of a topsy-turvy week in which I was extremely pre-occupied with non-schooling related things we managed to learn a lot and even have some fun. We usually school Monday through Thursday but as I was not available on Tuesday we took that day off and schooled on Friday, even though I ended up not being available in the morning. The substitute teacher, Rick, did a fine job.


We are now doing dictation 2x/week and copywork 2x/week instead of trying to do both 4x. Much better and really, I don't think we're missing out on anything. In history she learned about Moses and the Israelites. We even watched "Prince of Egypt" which is a fantastic movie. She was very taken with the story of the exodus and I've ordered "The Ten Commandments" (Charlton Heston version) because I think she's ready for it and she wanted to see a "live action" version once she knew there was one. She also learned about the Phoenicians and Dido of Carthage. We worked on the timeline which is something that we're really enjoying. In science she learned about mountains and seashores. In language arts she learned about sentence types and diagramming one word command sentences. She wrote a re-telling of "The Princess and the Pea":

Once there was a prince who wanted to marry a real princess but could not find one. The night he got home from looking for a princess a storm began. Then a knocking was heard at the city gates. The king answered the gates and the the lady outside said she was a real princess. The queen decided to have a test to see if the lady was a real princess. So she put a pea under twenty matresses and twenty eider down beds. That would be the princess' bed. If she felt the pea she was a real princess. In the morning the lady was asked how she had slept and she said something hard in the bed kept her awake. She had felt the pea! She and the prince married and the pea was put in the museum.

Hoping to make today our third day of French. Wish us luck.


Had a good week. He learned about ancient China: silkworms, pictograms and farming.

One day an empress, Lei Zu, was sitting under a mulberry tree. Then she called to her maid for lunch and said she wanted to eat in the garden. The maid brought the empress' favorite food. A silkworm cocoon dropped from the tree into Lei Zu's tea. It unraveled into a long thread of silk.

We used the "Story of the World" cd for the first time this week which the kids liked a lot.

In science he learned about polar and panda bears, and gorillas and orangutans. He continues to do well in math and pretty much everything except sitting still.


This. Child. I don't like to label children but if I did, I'd rubber stamp this one as "STUBBORN" and move on. I'd leave well enough alone but she INSISTS on doing school...her way.

One change that I've made recently that has really helped is to put together a "teacher's folder". I have all the different worksheets and copybook pages and notebook pages torn out and 3-hole punched and divided by day and ready to go at the start of the week. I read about it at the WTM message boards and what a great idea. I thought I was organized before but this has cut down on reaching for books and tearing out pages while the kids sit and wait. And as a waiting child is like a ticking time bomb anything done to minimize the amount of waiting is only going to make the day easier.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Weekly Report

Despite a number of interruptions we had a successful and fun week!


I think we are on our way to trimming the fat in her days and thus reducing the amount of time we spend on lessons. In language arts we continued to work on memorizing her poem and learned about the predicate nominative and the predicate adjective and how to diagram them. In history she learned about the Middle and New Kingdoms of ancient Egypt. She read biographies of Hatshepsut and Tut along with other books and watched some "film strips" (remember those?) Math was much smoother this week and keeping my cool really helped. In science she learned about rivers and floods. She got to watch a "Magic Schoolbus" show and we watched most of the fresh water portion of "Planet Earth". She spent a LOT of time on her illustration for this but she liked it so the time was not an issue. In writing she retold the story of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse to good effect.

New things we implemented this week: History Scribe notebooking pages and their Time Line. Both were big hits. I even printed out blank notebook pages to use for our science pages. Perfect.

French - let's not talk about it.


Still chugging along in FLL...glad to be done with nouns. He is still enjoying Explode the Code although he's not *as* anxious to do 5-7 pages in one sitting. I'm fine with about 3 so it's all good. He hated simple cutting SO much that I, being the warm and tender mother that I am, added in simple folding! Wheeee! Truth be told, he has warmed up to both activities so there goes my fun. Math goes smoothly as usual. In history we covered the Indus Valley. He did not love it but he was sporting about it. In science he learned about dolphins & killer whales, rabbits & bats. He also got to watch a "Magic Schoolbus" episode pertaining to bats so all was well.


This 2-year old girl was so excited to start school this week. We just did pages from various Kumon workbooks. Tracing, coloring, stickers...she loved it. We also worked on letters and numbers. She's really got most of the letters and their sounds nailed which I'm hoping means that the process of teaching her to read won't be too terribly difficult. I've yet to teach a child to read so I'm nervous about that. When I tried with Eleanor it was an abysmal failure and I just let her learn it on the streets. Since then I've been gun shy about the process. Oh, Susannah also insisted on doing her "poems" which means she stands up and recites. She can recite "Work", "How Doth the Little Crocodile" and she considers "A noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea" a poem so she says that too.

On Friday I really wanted to do a craft but we had to do errands. We did discuss another painting, "The Oddie Children" by Sir William Beechey:

So ends another week. Next week sees a number of unpleasant interruptions as well and I'm really hoping that that will be the end of that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goals for the Week

My primary goal this week is to reduce the amount of time Eleanor and I spend on school. I think its still too long of a day for her. Now that we are up to the right spot in her spelling workbook and that we are adding in spelling/vocabulary from CW Aesop we are going to cut back to one spelling unit per week. I toyed with the idea of eliminating her copywork/penmanship entirely as we are also doing dictation but I've decided against that. Typically her dictation is only 2-4 lines from a poem and her copywork is only a few sentences as well. That's not much for someone just beginning cursive writing.

I think the key is just to tighten up each subject a little bit. Math is taking way too long and the more I ponder it the more I think this is the fault of the teacher. I have expectations that might be reasonable but no matter how reasonable they are that doesn't mean that Eleanor is always going to meet them. I need to instruct when there's a lack of understanding instead of going on about why there should be understanding. New tactic: count ten, inhale, exhale, teach.

There is a continuing goal to do more French. This should be easy as its something she and I enjoy but because it is and will remain low on our priority list it often gets bumped by extracurriculars.

This week I will be adding Susannah into the mix. She will start a "formal" preschool program in January (I'm putting it together now) but tomorrow she will start with some of the early Kumon books and we will continue to reinforce her letters and numbers. She just insists on being at the table with us and we need for her to be doing something other than yelling at us and force feeding us plastic picnic food.

And as always, my personal goal is to keep a lid on my temper.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Weekly Report

We had a truncated week because of Thanksgiving. We didn't bother with our usual history and science schedules, opting instead for Thanksgiving related activities. I really overestimated how many we'd be able to do. There was a dentist appointment for the older kids on Monday and by the time we finished our core subjects after that I had to decide between projects and letting them play. Play won. On Tuesday, Eleanor had an early practice and we did some errands so that was where that time went. We finally did our "Thankful Turkeys" on Wednesday and we managed to read most of "If you Sailed on the Mayflower" and watched "This is America Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers" and "Its Thanksgiving Charlie Brown". The Charlie Brown holiday cartoons being the backbone of any good classical education, of course.

In our core subjects we did fine work. Henry started phonics work using Explode the Code 2 which he LOVES. Especially the very silly sentences with very silly drawings. He actually begged to do one more chapter. We also started doing Kumon's "Let's Cut Paper" book to try and help his fine motor skills which seem to be backsliding a bit. Even though its fantastically simple and designed for 2-year olds its hard for him and he hates it. In other words its perfect. Just the challenge he needs.

Eleanor is now memorizing the first part of the William Wordsworth poem "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" and learned about some of the different types of verbs. The helping verbs were learned in the form of a 'chant' with claps which I called a 'cheer' which made certain sparkly, bejeweled ears perk up instantly. Go Verbs!:

Am (clap)
Is (clap)
Are, was, were (clap)
Be (clap)
Being (clap)
Been (clap clap)

etc, etc...

We continued to read, "Little Women" aloud and she read, "Thanksgiving on Thursday", and the companion guide, "Pilgrims", from the Magic Tree House series. Math has turned into a struggle for her which I don't understand as it came so easily to her before. Maybe its just a phase. Most of her errors strike me as just her being careless but maybe there's more to it than that. We only managed 2 measly days of French.

As early as tonight, I will begin the process of learning Latin in preparation for next year when Eleanor will begin her Latin education. I'm looking forward to it. I'm still on the fence as to which program I'll get for her. I have two in mind now and they have very different approaches (and prices!) so I need to think about what my goals are for the next year and for the long run.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Aquitaine Academy Unveiled

Here is the Aquitaine Academy (housed in the area formerly known as 'the dining room'). Thanks to Dr. Fredlund at the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization for the donation of the art work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekly Report

We had a pretty good week. Not our best but not our worst by a long shot.

Henry :

I did something new with Henry this week. Typically, we do language arts first thing in the morning which consists of one or two lessons from First Language Lessons and then some copy work which also serves as our printing practice. Then he might have a break or we do our read-aloud (typically based on the history we're learning) and then he has a break. Then he'll come back and do history or science depending upon the day and then break for lunch and then math. Based on the experience of other homeschoolers from an online community, I cut out the morning breaks and just powered through all subjects until we were finished. This typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Remember, part of his time is spent listening to me read and then doing coloring and map work so its not 2 hours of instruction. This now means that instead of his school day ending at 1:oo or 1:30 he is done no later than 11:00 am. Not to mention that it just works better for everyone. He is more focused with fewer breaks and with less moving back and forth between kids everything is more streamlined.

He started learning pronouns this week and memorized his poem, "Mice" by Rose Fyleman. We read from "God's People: Stories From the Old Testament" retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (see what we're reading in the sidebar for all titles in this post), specifically the Jacob stories up to Joseph. Some of these stories are highly nuanced with adult themes so even with the cool pictures they didn't catch his interest and we struggled with that. We did look at different artists' renderings of the sacrifice of Isaac which interested me him. We also read, "The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story". He liked this one a lot.

In history he read about Hammurabi from Babylon and Shamshi-Adad from Assur. He didn't love either of these units but seemed to understand the contrast between the two ruling styles. He only did one narration for history this week:

Hammurabi was the king of Babylon. He wanted to make fair laws. Hammurabi was the first person to write down laws. He called these laws the Code of Hammurabi.

He studied otters and whales one day in science and monkeys and baboons on the other day. The only rhyme or reason to our animal studies is that we're covering mammals right now. He read from our text and watched some videos on He did narrations and coloring pages for each day.

In math we're trucking along with 3 days of Saxon and one day of Singapore. I did add a few Singapore Challenging Word Problems in everyday which has gone well.


Eleanor was just not fully present this week. As a result, we struggled a bit. We like having the late morning and afternoons to work together with the new schedule. In the early morning she does her independent work: piano, cursive, spelling, directed reading.

She continues to diagram sentences in FLL3, this week adding adverbs and direct objects to the mix. We do dictation most days. Lately we've been working on poems. Just a couple of lines from the poem each day.

We did lesson 3 of Classical Writing Aesop, "The Crow and the Pitcher", which is going very well. I'm pleased with the program. Her outlining and retellings are getting really tight and controlled.

There was once a thirsty crow who found a pitcher with a little water left in it. He tried to reach the water but he could not. He almost gave up when he came up with the idea of dropping pebbles in one by one until he could reach the water.

Do things little by little.

In history she studied the Yellow River Valley and ancient Africa. She read, "The Ch'i Lin Purse" as well as various short stories from ancient China and Africa. We continue to read, "Little Women" aloud.

In science she studied earthquakes and volcanoes including short videos on both from She really got into both topics so a lot of time was spent on them. Math was fine. We only did 3 days of Saxon and missed our Singapore day although we did add some Challenging Word Problems each day.

We only did one day of French. Too many afterschool things this week.


We looked at and discussed Goya's "Manuel Osorio de Zuniga" and the kids colored a coloring book version of the painting (in the sidebar on the right). Then we did some errands and came home and made Assyrian sebetu rolls which we used for our Assyrian feast dinner (grapes, dates, rolls, apple juice and grape juice...we added cheese to bulk it up for our American dinnertime sensibilities). The rolls were really good (flour, water, salt, milk, baking powder, garlic, olive oil) but Eleanor burned herself (not present again). While she soaked her fingers in ice water we played Othello and Go Fish.

I'm not sure what's going on with Eleanor. Maybe too many lectures. We sometimes get in these cycles of her being hard to deal with and us reacting to it which makes her anxious and even less present and we react to that and so on and so on. I'm going to try to back off and make sure she's having fun and getting lectured at a more reasonable ratio (which is why we played games today).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekly Report-ish

When I first imagined our homeschool I pictured a stream of consciousness kind of learning that would play to my children's creative energies. There I was, in my thoughts, a fresh faced young nun with a pixie haircut and a pert little nose and the voice of an angel; leading my flock through the fields of Austria, their sweet voices raised in song as we learned. Sure, we were wearing the drapes but did that stop us from putting on elaborate puppet shows? No. Only the Nazis could put an end to that.

I suspected, even then, that this might not be our reality. I was all for field trips but Austria seemed ambitious and I adore a pixie haircut but even if I had one, I'm a little too creaky and scowling to pass for a maiden governess. I also suspected that my children didn't need to learn to be creative. In fact, I learned very quickly that my children needed to learn how to put their business ends into a chair and be quiet.

Now that we've made some progress in the area of proper comportment for lessons we are back to sprinkling in some directed creativity. Is that even a thing? I think so. Today we spent about 10 minutes looking at a page in, "Come Look With Me: Enjoying Art with Children", which is a cool little book with beautiful representations of classic works of art. It includes a brief discussion of the artist and the piece and some questions to get them thinking about thinking about art. Henry looked bored, Susannah fell out of her chair twice (I think on purpose, out of boredom) but Eleanor played along.

Then we did our art project. We made sugar cube step pyramids to go along with our studies on ancient Egypt. It was not very challenging which made it perfect for me. Henry, again, was less than taken with it and when I said, "Well, if you don't want to do this you can go and stand in the corner instead." he said cheerfully, "Ok", and went and stood in the corner. Well played. That's my kid for sure.

I don't have much to add to the last post. I haven't discussed math very much. Probably because it hasn't been a problem. They get it. I don't. Good enough. This week, however, Eleanor really had a time with the Singapore math day. Easy stuff was tripping her up. 9 + 2. Just couldn't figure that one out. And forgot about borrowing in subtraction. That's not good. She was doing borrowing in 2nd grade at school but Saxon 3 hasn't incorporated it much, if at all. Was she having an off day in general (9 + 2 is certainly something we covered earlier in the week) or is she backsliding? Any ideas?

I'm so ready for soccer to be over. This Saturday is the Jamboree (aka disorganized last day of games) and its the weekend of the big dance recital. That's always equal parts great fun and tremendous ordeal. I would love to have ONE week off from extracurriculars. ONE. What would happen, do you think, if I just enforced one?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sing Verdi Very Loud

The week is zipping along. Rough start for Henry on Monday but he lost computer privileges because of it and that straightened him out but good for Tuesday which went a lot better.

In the first half of this week we're all reading the Gilgamesh story. The particular version we've chosen is a three picture book series by Ludmila Zeman. Its just lovely and the kids are really enjoying it.

In history, Eleanor is covering Assyria and India this week. Henry is working on Abraham and Joseph.

I'm going to try to make Friday our arts and crafts day. It just does not seem to fit into our week at all. I'm really hoping to make pyramids this week. I'd also like for them to start art appreciation. I've got some things ordered that I think will help kick start that.

One of the things I do miss about Eleanor's old school was the music program. The teacher was just first rate and Eleanor learned a lot. A lot more than she's going to learn here because I'm just not going to invest my time into learning about it (attention Mother of the Year panel judges, I think we have a winner!) What I will do is play music in the van (I know, its like I'm some sort of tireless, living saint). I've put some items in the sidebar to show what we're listening to but they really deserve some further attention.

We're listening to two series right now. Classical Kids and Beethoven's Wig. Classical Kids contains a story about the composer laid over tracks of the composer's pieces. In 'Mozart's Magnificent Voyage' there are equal parts fantasy and history while "Beethoven Lives Upstairs' is a poignant exchange between a young boy, whose mother has rented a room to the composer, and his uncle in letters. I actually found this CD to be incredibly moving. Click on the link to listen to clips.

Beethoven's Wig is a series of silly lyrics set to classical pieces but wait the writing is so clever that the concept ends up being far less annoying than it sounds. In fact, we've listened to the first two CDs almost constantly for the past two weeks. Some of my favorites with sample lyrics for those of you familiar with the pieces:

  • 'Sing Verdi Very Loud' set to 'La Donna e Mobile' from 'Rigoletto'
When you're an opera star
With a large repertoire
How do you please the crowd?
Sing Verdi very loud.
You may appear aloof
But you must raise the roof,
To keep the public wowed
Sing Verdi very loud.
Study your libretto,
Start with Rigoletto,
Raise up your falsetto,
Sing Verdi very loud!

  • 'It's the Same Every Verse' to 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' from 'Peer Gynt Suite'
Here's a piece that's quite perverse,
Its the same
Every verse,
So for better or for worse
We've 17 to go.
One by one we'll count them all,
It might seem
Off the wall
Just in case you don't recall
We've 16 more to go.
(skipping ahead)
Note that this recurring tune
Is performed
By bassoon
It will be repeated soon
14 to go!
Next the cello and the bass
Keep the pace
Just in case you lost your place
We've 13 more to go!
(more skipping)
Here's a bit more of the same
There is just one
Man to blame
Grieg is the composer's name
8 more to go!

You get the idea...there's a great one about the Viennese penchant for waltzes set to 'The Blue Danube'. Priceless.

I didn't expect my kids to like these as much as they do. Its worth a listen if you have the time.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Weekly Report II

Its been a good week. We got a lot done at a nice pace. Monday ran really long but because we didn't have to be anywhere until basketball at 6:30 it didn't really matter. Tuesday we finished up fairly early and had time to squeeze in a trip to Target before heading to our park day with the home school group. Wednesday was a little rushed with lessons but the welcome trade-off was a play date with good friends. Thursday was a surprise holiday. I'd forgotten that I'd planned for us to spend the day with friends who had a day off of school. We did lessons on Friday, our usual day off, instead.

Eleanor did two more chapters from Story of the World. She read the stories of Abraham and Joseph and did corresponding map work and narrations. We also covered Hammurabi and his code with more map work and a narration. Science was about weather. Spelling continues to be no problem as does language arts (adverbs and more sentence diagramming).

Cursive has taken a new path as Eleanor has requested ditching our plain but tidy script style for something more traditional and loopy. I downloaded a clever program that let's me print out practice worksheets using my own words and sentences in a variety of fonts. So now we can really overlap cursive with other subjects. Her practice sentences now reinforce other concepts she's learning. I can use it for Henry's printing and his copy work so it feels like it was a good investment.

We started our new writing program (Classical Writing: Aesop) which I had intended to alternate with the one we were using but I like the new one so well I might use it exclusively. We'll see. The new program teaches by employing the progymnasmata which are "An effectively graded sequence of exercises, from the simple to the more difficult or complex, from the concrete to the more abstract, that introduces speakers and writers to a genuinely rhetorical understanding of the invention and composition of arguments." In other words, blahblahblah blahblahblahblahblah. Give me a break, I was not progymnasmata'd.

Eleanor has even done 3 days of French. On a tip from Sarah I added an online component to our French lessons and the incentive of computer "games" in French has helped a great deal. Which is to say that she's motivated to learn French in theory but in practice she's reluctant and I can't blame her since its sometimes already been a long day by the time we get to it.

Her new directed reading is "The One-Eyed Giant", which she just finished and, "The Land of the Dead". These two are the first two in a series of re-tellings of "The Odyssey". She's really enjoying it. Her current free read is "Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand". I've started doing a read-aloud with her and our first is "Little Women". I have a coloring book that goes with it and I'm hoping to have it read in time to watch the movie this Christmas season. She also does some reading of picture book re-tellings of Middle Eastern folk tales.

Henry struggled a bit this week. He's still in a very grumpy cycle. But, he learned "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost. He finished his printing book. In history he learned about the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx as well as Sargon and Akkadia. Our current read-aloud is Old Testament/Torah stories which he's really enjoying. For science we studied: beavers, raccoons, aardvarks and armadillos.

In other news, I have deconstructed the dining room/office by amputating the dining room part and I've turned it into the new school room. The whole thing was done on kind of a whim so let's hope I don't regret it. It solved a lot of problems. We no longer need a new kitchen table because the brand new barely used dining room set just happens to fit into the kitchen. Its a little snug but it gets the job done. I now have shelves and cabinets in the classroom and I'm waiting for a table and chairs, some bulletin boards and other accoutrement I've ordered. Pictures to follow.


M - E basketball practice.
T - Park day.
W - Play date, E piano, Halloween!
Th - Play date, E dance, E soccer.
F - H - OT, piano concert.
S - E basketball, E soccer.
S - E basketball, birthday party!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekly Report

We had a good week. Eleanor got through 2 chapters of SOTW (Ancients) which is good because I'd like to have her getting closer to working at grade level. She finished her cursive workbook. Still needs work on remembering the capitals but she's doing well otherwise. We did three days of Saxon math and one day of Singapore. Well, we did a day and a half of Singapore. On Wednesday we tried to do it but I didn't get it and then I realized we were doing the wrong lesson so I scrapped it. She did two days of science. One day I let her play with the internet links instead of doing a narration.

She's learning a new poem for memorization. "A Tragic Story" by William Makepeace Thackeray. She read, "Cat Mummies", "Who Built the Pyramids" and finished her free-read pick, "American Sisters: A Titanic Journey Across the Sea...". She finished the last one at bedtime. I know that because she came storming out of her room, handed me the book and said, "I never want to see that book again!" She was very unhappy that one of the main characters died. She is starting, "Lugalbanda" for directed reading and Usborne Illustrated Stories for Girls for free-read. She did three days of Writing Strands and is doing a great job building upon a core sentence. Her writing was dodgy in the beginning. Its amazing to me how far she's come in such a short time.

What we didn't do is a fun art project and French.

Henry did even more copy work this week. He copied the names of his aunts and uncles and his cousins. We learned a new poem but its pretty uninspiring so I'm dropping it and will pick something else. He did three days of Saxon and one of Singapore. It was his first time using Singapore and he liked it. I was glad to see that I could understand the first grade level Singapore math. There's hope for me after all.

He did two days of history even though I was thinking about cutting back to just one. It worked out just fine as long as he had things to do or look at while I read to him. We read several Greek myths including the Twelve Labors of Hercules. I tried to read something else one day but he insisted on the myths. He did two days of science which means we read about four animals this week. He was suprised that prarie dogs are a kind of squirrel. So was I.

Extracurriuclarly. Wait. Extracurricular-wise. Well. Whatever. It looked like this:

Monday - E Soccer game.
Tuesday - Park Day.
Wednesday - E Brownies, E basketball practice.
Thursday - E dance, E soccer practice.
Friday - Birthday party for a friend.

Thank goodness piano got canceled and we opted out of OT.

Goal for next week: more French.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stymphalian Birds, Sargon, Still Sewing

Is it possible that things are starting to gel? I hardly dare to suggest it lest I jinx us into another two week stretch of horror like we had recently.

I've taken a break from doing reading narrations with Eleanor. Its interfering with how much reading she actually does and if we're doing narrations for history and science I can address reading comprehension at that time. Our days are zipping along without them and I think that's a good indication that it was time to let it go...for now.

I'd love to eliminate cursive as its own subject entirely and just incorporate it into all the other written work she's doing but its her favorite part of the day so we'll soldier on. In language arts she is beginning to diagram sentences. Its actually been fun to learn that again. Yesterday was a science day. She did a killer narration on the sun and the moon and shadows. Today was a history day and he learned about Sargon/Sumer/Akkadia. Her reading as all been related to the history.

Henry spent the last two days finishing up the story of Heracles/Hercules. I devised a clapping method to remember the 12 tasks. We clap when we say the numbers:

1, 2, 3, 4
The man-eating lion.
The nine-headed hydra.
The stag with gold antlers.
The huge wild boar.
The Augean stables.
The Stymphalian birds.
The great bull of Crete.
The man-eating horses.
The Amazon Queen.
The cattle of Gyrion (you have to jam that into beats but you can do it).
The three golden apples.
The three-headed dog.

We never got all the way through without stumbling (I fumbled around a bit typing it just now) but we could stumble our way through all twelve. He did a narration just so I could be sure he understood the story outline (he did) and he picked one task to illustrate. I was sure he'd pick the Cerberus but he went with the Stymphalian birds. We also had an argument over how to pronounce Cerberus and its still not clear even after a google search. Anybody? Anyone?

Henry is a few chapters behind Eleanor is the history text now. He read about mummies today. Yesterday for science we read about squirrels and skunks.

I introduced Singapore math to Henry. It went okay. I also did Singapore with Eleanor and once again, I just didn't get it. I'm going to have start reading it well ahead of time.

Eleanor had a Brownie's meeting today and basketball practice this evening. Thank goodness piano, which would have landed squarely between them, was canceled. Yesterday we attended a park day with the South Bay Free Scholars. It was such a lovely day.

Time to get back to the costumes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Founder's Day

Sarah has suggested that I make next October 22 a Founder's Day holiday. Hmmm...

Today went well. Henry was mostly cooperative and when he wasn't he had a choice between losing a computer day and copying some "I will not" sentences. He picked sentences. So, there was extra copy work to make up for the lack of a narration. I'm thinking about cutting way back on the amount of narrations he does. Today he didn't do any but I still feel like he got a lot of out the history lesson (hieroglyphs, cuneiform, papyrus, Mesopotamia). Since the goal of history at this age is simply exposure I think we can do narration on a case-by-case basis. He did some map work and a coloring page.

Henry and I read further into the Tasks of Heracles/Hercules. Eleanor read almost two Magic Tree House books about mummies and pyramids. She didn't quite finish the second. I don't love MTH books but I don't mind the occasional one that's pertinent to our lesson. Eleanor was fascinated by mummification (and found the word 'mummified' to be hilarious). Our history activity book has a chicken mummification activity that we might have to try. She did a narration for history along with map work.

Eleanor did a lot of cursive. She's a page away from finishing the third grade text. Starting tomorrow we'll switch her over to full time cursive writing and to the cursive practice book en Francais! She did some dictation.

I need to keep working on teaching instead of proctoring. I need to find ways to engage Susannah instead of shooing her away all day. She's made a lot of progress with number and letter identification. She's walking around singing, "M says mmmmmm. M says mmmmmm. Every letter makes a sound, M says mmmmmm." You know the one right? Her favorite thing to do is practice her "poems". She knows, "Work" by Anonymous:

Work while you work,
Play while you play,
This is the way,
To be happy each day.
All that you do,
Do with your might,
Things done by halves,
Are never done right.

She knows snippets of "The Caterpillar" by Christina G. Rossetti and can recite most of "How Doth the Little Crocodile" by Lewis Carroll (including the authors). She hangs out with us all day just listening and trying to interject herself into everything. It reminds me of when the kids were babies and would stare down the food on your plate with that, "You gonna finish that?" look on their faces that let you know they were ready for solid food. I think she's ready for solid food.

Henry found a $10 bill in his dresser. He requested that we use our recess time to go to Hallmark and buy another Webkinz. We did just that. Which is probably where the time for French went. Ce qui sera, sera.

Here's an exchange that went on between Rick and I last night:

Zelda: I found an arm in the dryer.
Rick: Whose is it?

Only after the exchange did it occur to me how completely alarming that would sound out of context.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Technically, we don't have school on Friday but we do some school related things. Eleanor has her weekly spelling test and I'm hoping to get to a point where we will be doing Friday Field Trips.

Yesterday, the public schools were off so we met up with friends. We went to Starbucks, Border's bookstore and a local park. In the late afternoon Henry had OT during which time Susannah napped, Eleanor did French and I tried to read "Oedipus the King" for my class. We're having varying degrees of success doing French in the car. Yesterday was a bust.

In general, French gets far fewer days than I was hoping. But, until we tighten up the three Rs that won't change.

I'm trying to figure out what to do about reading for next week. We're moving into ancient Egypt with our history lessons. I was thinking about starting our Hebrew Bible/Torah reading. Not sure I'm ready to give up Greek Mythology just yet though. So many great stories still to be read. But, I have to check my natural tendency to obsess over a single subject until I've exhausted my own and everyone else's interest in it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Webkins Field Trip brought to you by Hallmark

Another pretty good day. I think we can do better. Henry is in a down phase with his behavior. Everyone's kids do this, right? Go through 2-week phases of atrociously bad and uncharacteristic behavior in-between months long stretches of more typical behavior? Please say yes.

Our story today was "Orpheus and Eurydice". I found my ire raised by Eleanor not being able to remember the name Eurydice in spite of having (1) read the story (2) been present when I read the story to Henry (3) participated in a discussion in the van on the names Orpheus and Eurydice (4) watched a short about Orpheus and Eurydice and (5) listened to Henry do his narration on Orpheus and Eurydice.

Now, I know some of you are thinking that I'm being too harsh. After all, Eurydice is not a name she's encountered before and she is only eight. Let me defend myself by telling you that this is a child who has nearly memorized the latest Barbie movie after only two viewings. I read somewhere, in a book suggesting that very young children could and SHOULD learn ancient history first, that a child who could say "triceratops" could also saw "Hammurabi" (I'm paraphrasing wildly). I agree and I apply the same logic to this situation. A child that can recite the entire catalog of episodes of "Winx Club" can remember the name Eurydice after hearing it about 200 times in a 40-minute period.

Both kids did a narration and a coloring page and both chose to color the same scene, "Orpheus crossing the river Styx".

Today was a science day. Henry read about Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils (one page) and moles (one page). We skipped a narration and just did a coloring page. Eleanor read about satellites, space stations and space shuttles and did a bang up job on a narration that I had her narrate and then write for herself. The spelling was dodgy but the content was right on the mark. Baby steps.

Eleanor did Sinagpore math today. I was nervous because I wasn't sure I totally understood the number fan thingy I was supposed to teach. Luckily she figured it out immediately, corrected me once and finished it on her own.

We took a field trip to Hallmark today because Henry wanted to use his money for a Webkin. Eleanor got one for her birthday and we have Webkin fever now. Only one person, a rather senior lady, asked if schools were out today. Eleanor said, "I do homeschool." The woman had a killer poker face and just asked a bit dryly, "Oh, how is that going?" and then without missing a beat, "Do you like your teacher?" I wanted to bring her home. I bet she has a great blog.


  • Printing "b" - 15 minutes.
  • FLL - review "How Doth...", nouns, copywork - 20 minutes.
  • Hallmark Field Trip
  • Reading - awesome music video, narration, coloring page - 55 minutes.
  • Science - reading, coloring page - 20 minutes.
  • Math - 40 minutes (he was frustrated by tangrams for some reason then it just seemed to click and he sped through them).
  • Spelling - 20 minutes.
  • Reading - music video, narration, coloring page - 55 minutes.
  • Writing from a core sentence - 30 minutes.
  • Cursive - 20 minutes (she wanted to do 6 pages so I let her. She's anxious to know the whole alphabet so she can do all her work in cursive).
  • Field Trip
  • Science - narration - 30 minutes.
  • Math - forgot to time it...25 minutes I'm guessing.
No school on Fridays!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Icarus, Osiris, papyrus & Lewis (Carroll)

I think today went well. Still some blips to iron out but for the first time I'm starting to see some light at the end of the long tunnels called "no reading comprehension" and "rambling sentences". Eleanor has really figured out how to tighten up her sentences.
Today's myth was "Daedalus & Icarus". They seemed to really like and get this one. Henry's history lesson was gods of ancient Egypt most of which was just the reading of an Egyptian myth about Osiris and Set. There was a coloring page so I let him color it while I read. Brilliant! Thank you, Penny! We got through it with just one reading and he really got it. The narration was a piece of cake. Both Icarus and Osiris drowned today so it was kind of a weird unintentional theme. Eleanor's history lesson was hieroglyphs and cuneiform with a brief introduction to Sumer.

Eleanor still struggled with reading for content instead of speed. She had to re-read the materials for both reading and history with instructions to stop after every paragraph to make sure she understood what it was trying to say. Then she got sent back again after I explained the difference understanding and memorizing. I think we're breaking through it though.

The highlight was a visit from Sarah and Maya!


  • Printing - 15 minutes
  • FLL - review "Work" poem - learn "How Doth the Little Crocodile" - more proper nouns - copywork - 15 minutes
  • Break
  • Reading - "Daedalus & Icarus" - narration (so easy today!) - play the Icarus game - 20 minutes.
  • Break/Lunch
  • History - Gods of ancient Egypt - coloring page, oral questions, narration - 25 minutes.
  • Math - written and oral assessments - 15 minutes.
  • Piano
  • Spelling - 3 pages - 20 minutes.
  • Writing thank-you notes - 15 minutes.
  • FLL3 - adjectives, sentence diagramming, dictation - 15 minutes.
  • Cursive - 10 minutes.
  • Reading - "Daedalus and Icarus", narration - 50 minutes - TOO LONG!
  • Play with Maya!/Lunch
  • History - supplemental reading, narration, map work, coloring page - 1 hour - TOO LONG...did not finish coloring.
  • Math - 30 minutes.
Tonight I'm hosting Book Club here. We read "Rebecca" and one of our readers is bringing a copy of the film. I'm really looking forward to it. The next book is my pick and I'm still up in the air about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Persephone, hedgehogs, Osiris and the moon

Caveat: If you're not me this might be pretty dry reading.

Today started well. I've been timing the kids to see how long things are taking. My goal is to keep each lesson to about 15 minutes for Henry and 20 minutes for Eleanor. We were on track all morning even with a bit of trouble during language arts with Eleanor during which there was a minor flare up on my part. Let's face it, a person can only say, "Please look at me while I'm talking", so many times in one life and I maxed out last week.

So we trucked along up until the morning break and then when we reassembled it wasn't quite as smooth riding anymore. Henry, who usually loves science, didn't pay attention during the reading on hedgehogs and mice (one page per animal). He had trouble during the narration (3 -4 sentences per animal) and had to re-read some bits for basic information that usually really sticks with him. Still, it wasn't *so* bad until we got to the notebook page.

The notebook page is just a drawing of something from the reading. Its easy and fun but there are rules; it isn't free-form. That is, it has to look like the animal about which we learned using information from the reading. If the reading doesn't mention flying hedgehogs then no flying hedgehogs. If we already know that mice aren't cherry red then no cherry red mice. Also, no rushing through it. It has to be thoughtful. He had to start over 4 times. He seemed to think I wasn't going to follow through on making him do it by the rules. By the time I took out the fourth sheet of plain paper he was convinced and the final product was quality work.

Since the day was going well and we were doing great on time, I had Eleanor get ahead in history. The reading was extremely short and easy. She banged it out and answered the questions without a problem. The narration wasn't quite as smooth. At her grade level, part of the purpose of the narration should be to come up with concise, explanatory sentences. I'm trying to teach her to trim the fat by asking prompting questions which she will often ignore in the hopes that I will give up and tell her the answer. Or, she thinks she has a better approach than my question. It was a struggle of this sort over one small point that dragged out the narration. It was resolved but not without some unhappiness.

Those two blips set us back in terms of staying ahead but we were still doing well for time. However, my handling of the situation was once again not helpful. Instead of being angry and annoyed I should have come up with a way to get them back on track. I hope that by writing this down and then reading it again, I can reinforce the idea that I'm supposed to be teaching them and not just managing their books and assignments.

Eleanor didn't follow directions for the science portion but I let it go and accepted her work which was actually quite good in spite of not being what she was told to do. Math went along easily except that Henry was being insanely silly and got a time-out which took up some time.

Here's the breakbown:


  • Printing - 2 pages - 17 minutes
  • Break - 45 minutes while I worked with E
  • FLL - Lesson 18 - Review "The Caterpillar" & "Work" poems for memorization. Discuss place names/proper nouns. Copywork - San Jose, California x 2 - 18 minutes.
  • Read aloud from UGMfC, Demeter and Persephone. Watch the cool short. - 20 minutes.
  • Break - 45 minutes
  • Science - Hedgehogs and Mice - read, narration, coloring page - 50 minutes - TOO LONG
  • Lunch
  • Math - 35 minutes - includes time-out and lots of goofing

  • Piano - about 15 minutes (I didn't time this one)
  • Spelling - one page - 20 minutes.
  • FLL3 - Lesson 12 - Review "The Land of Nod", discuss how to do narration. Copywork. - 20 minutes.
  • Cursive - 3 pages (she requested the 3rd page) - 10 minutes.
  • Writing Strands - Build on a core sentence - 15 minutes.
  • Read GMrbGM, Demeter and Persephone. Watch the short. - 20 minutes.
  • Break - 45 minutes
  • History - Egyptian gods & goddesses - read, oral questions, narration, coloring - 55 minutes (did not finish coloring)
  • Science - The Moon - read, watch clip of moon landing, narration, coloring page - 25 minutes
We were finished by 2:15-ish. Then, we went for our weekly park day with a local home school group. On the way there Eleanor did some French. We stayed at the park for about 2 hours. Eleanor finished her French on the way home and we listened to a few more chapters of "Despereaux" (it was rush hour).

I had dinner in the crock pot already which was good because after I stopped to pet the Guinea pigs (more on that later) I only had enough time to get changed and go talk Iliad at class.

Which brings me to now, finishing this blog post while Rick brings me a bowl of soup. Its not a 401k but I understand that there will be cake to follow and in my world that's just as good.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Perseus, King Narmer & The Land of Nod

Today was a long day. I'm not sure what went wrong. We did use one break time to go to Hicklebee's to do an exchange but it didn't take *that* long (even though someone parked us in). On the way home we listened to "The Tale of Despereaux". I may need to buy this book. I'm loving it.

So, longer than necessary but no blow-ups and not too frustrating.

Henry is still covering nouns in First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind (hereafter, FLL). He did some copywork and reviewed the poem he is memorizing. He has it down cold so we might move on to a new poem before the end of the week.

Sadie should have it memorized by tomorrow. Eleanor and I happened to overhear her reciting the whole poem while she was coloring nearby. Kinda super cute.

Eleanor was introduced to sentence diagramming in FLL3. She did dictation and worked on her poem, "The Land of Nod" by Robert Louis Stevenson. She should have it down by Wednesday.

Henry did some printing review and Eleanor learned cursive 'n'. She did 3 pages in her spelling workbook.

Directed reading for both kids was the story of Perseus and Medusa. Henry read the version in Usborne's "Greek Myths for Young Children". Eleanor read the version in "Greek Myths" retold by Geraldine McCaughrean. Then they watched a super cool online short of the story. Each kid then did a narration. That's when they retell the story in their own words and I write it down for them. Typically, this is a painful process with directed reading. Their reading comprehension is not great. Today was no different but we didn't fight and I was more generous with my prompts than usual. So it took a looooooong time but it ended well.

Then we did a funny project:

History today was set in ancient Egypt and discussed when Egypt was forcefully united by King Narmer. They did a narration and map work. This generally does not go well with Henry and I was about to let history go until next year until I got a super suggestion from Penny. She said I might let him do the map work while I read to him. The nature of the map work didn't allow for that but I found things for him to look at while he followed along including maps and pictures. He really listened and narration was a breeze. Eleanor is using the same text as Henry but then reads additional pages and I require a longer narration.

Map work:

Henry is learning his doubles facts in math. Eleanor learned about the fraction bar. Easy peasy as usual. That's why I save math for last. We always end on a good note.

A Very Good Place to Start

Welcome to the official blog of The Aquitaine Academy housed in the humble yet charming Repent-at-Leisure. If you're here that probably means you're me, in which case, let me take a moment to say that you're looking especially lovely today. In the event that you're not me, let me explain the purpose of our blog. I'm hoping to keep a record of our goings-on and use it as a way to help me track our progress. Sounds simple enough.

We are following a classical education model based on suggestions from this book:

Click on the book to learn more.

Here is the typical (ha) daily schedule for each child:


We don't hit all of our goals everyday and in fact, we don't hit them most days. I'm being introduced to the concept of "carschooling" which is where we have done some of our French lessons and some "read alouds" via the cd player. I'm also being introduced to the concept of ending the day crouched in a dark corner, rocking back and forth like one of Maslow's monkeys. Dinners aren't what they used to be and my toenails are still wearing the end of summer's last pedicure but at the end of the day, I still question if all this is really worth it. Let's find out.