Learning Notes from 12/1 to 12/5

This is my first time to follow my friend Catherine’s suggestion to link up with Melanie and write out the week’s learning successes.  I did not know what to expect, but besides the extra time it took me to compose the Notes, I found that I also found more to log than I thought I would.  Instead of fretting about all the learning goals we did not reach this week, this has been a positive way to count the ways we did.


Post-travel recovery day.  A low key day.  After waking up around 10am (our flight arrived at 1am in Saipan), we dropped off Daddy at work then ran some errands, re-stocked the fridge, paid the rent.  In the afternoon, after a late lunch we went for a swim.  I made our first home-cooked meal in well over 3 weeks then watched some Candid Camera on Youtube, just for fun.  Our house guests returned around 8:30 and so I whisked the kids off to bed and stayed up for a chat and to say goodbye.


I planned a “transition” school day for today and I so glad I did.  I would have been a control-freak mess otherwise because of the late start.  The jetlag is evidently still not overcome: two of the kids didn’t roll out of bed until almost 9am!  It also seemed unrealistic to expect any of us (primarily myself) to dive back into a full schedule.  So instead, after throwing in some more loads of laundry, we congregated out on the deck and debriefed about our travels for a little while.

We talked about the journals each of the kids kept while we traveled and whether or not they enjoyed keeping them.  Would they like to continue?  Were they aware that there are different journaling styles available to them (for ex, instead of logging your activities and movements, you could write about some thoughts or feelings you had that day, I suggested.  “But wait, how would I know what I did that day?”)  No one liked my ideas.


All photos courtesy of candid-photographer L.

For writing prompts, I consulted the brainstorm list I had composed while on the road, scribbled down in a notebook during some downtime at a cafe in Bangkok: “If you could travel by any mode of transportation at all, what would it be and why?”  The 5th grader’s choice: a portal.  The 3rd grader made up a fictitious flying vehicle.  The 2nd grader chose a camel (“because of the two humps”).  As usual, I took dictation from the 2nd grader to help him along with his.  This is a tip I ran across on a homeschooling blog somewhere, and it has worked very well for this very imaginative boy whose hand, and patience, do not keep up with the flow of ideas.

For Math, we did some mental exercises and became reacquainted with the abacus from Right Start.  No written work today.

Our current Read-Aloud is Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes.


It’s a nice change from Swiss Family Robinson which was long, and dull by the end.  Johnny Tremain is neither and although I have to “translate” some things for the sake of comprehension, it is still a good read.  At a later time, we will use this as a springboard for the 5th grader learn about the Revolutionary War in greater historical detail.

Art: I pulled out an activity booklet about Japan and the kids oohed and aahed and took turns looking through it and making origami hats and coloring kimonos.  The 5th and 2nd graders moved on from there to photo collages while the 3rd grader worked on a photo essay on the family blog about the various uses of bamboo in Myanmar.

Advent:  We read the First Reading from Isaiah 11 and talked about the “root of Jesse” and about the Jesse Tree we won’t be putting up this year since it is at home back in the US and in storage.

Music: the 5th grader practiced for her Christmas recital.


Daddy had the day off so we took advantage to spend the rest of the afternoon swimming at the Grotto, though it turned into a safety lesson on how important it is to turn around and head home because water is just too rough and unpredictable.  We ended the day at a beach in the lagoon and we all enjoyed the sunset and played in the sand while we became acquainted with a newly arrived physician who is here temporarily.


I made sure to wake up the kids today instead of letting them sleep late.  It is time to get over the jetlag and back to a regular schedule!  We managed to start school just after 9 so that was better than yesterday.

We began with math: the “Corners” game from RS.  Part of the concept of the RightStart approach is that math is better learned through games.  It seems to work pretty well, and it’s a heck of a lot more fun this way.

I meant to continue with some word problems for the 5th grader but I forgot.

The writing prompt also doubled as part of our “Travel Expedition” and helped the kids reflect on the trip a little: “What did you learn that was entirely new to you during our travels?  What did you leave Saipan not knowing and then return knowing?  Write a page describing a place/event/custom that is new to you, as if you were writing for the benefit of someone else who still doesn’t know about it.”  The girls each chose to write about a fruit (rambutan & mangosteen) and the 2nd grader wrote his as a letter to a friend back home in the US and explained the rules of the game of takraw.  Later in the day, we typed up his letter as an email message and sent it to his friend.

For our Expedition, we also remembered something else that was a new discovering for us: lotus weaving.  We watched a video tour of a textile factory on Inle Lake similar to the one we visited while there.  Then we tried to have our own weaving session, with paper and watercolors, but we got delayed because the paint would not dry for several hours.  (Yay for tropical climes!)

While we were waiting for the papers to dry, we did our journaling and then read some Johnny Tremain.  I forgot all about the Advent reading of the day.

We did a little better with personal chores today and everyone earned their “ticket.”  (five assigned-chores tickets plus a “V” ticket for a chore they volunteered for = $1, which is what they can earn in a week, if they choose to.)


In the afternoon, we had piano practice with the 5th grader’s tutor while the 2nd grader and I did some read-aloud together (we alternate paragraphs so he doesn’t get too tired or discouraged), and then made a visit to the children’s section of the library where everyone found something new to check out and I collected books for the next phases of our ocean careers study: whaling and exploring.

Oh, and the 3rd grader squeezed in some cursive handwriting practice, too.


We started off the day with some Advent readings and the St. Lucy Novena.  Didn’t forget this time!

Math took us a full hour today.  But only because we were having fun!  Learning how to write and add quantities of money using the decimal point ($2.36 + $5.03).  The 5th grader did her own review and luckily Daddy was on hand to answer her questions so I could devote myself to the younger two.  They loved this lesson!  Who knew this would be such a hit.

Writing:  Today we switched from our “Travel” theme back to the “Ocean” theme for our learning expedition.  The 5th grader is still working on her “Swiss Family” report.  The other two had begun a simple comparative piece on Island of the Blue Dolphins and Swiss Family Robinson for their journal prompt but we were all interrupted by a Skype call from the grandparents.  Those are so few and far between (because of the time difference) that they merit a pause in schoolwork.

After a quick lunch, we dove into Seabird (Holling) for our study of whaling-for-oil.


During our tidal pool case study on hermit crabs, we had read Holling’s Pagoo and enjoyed it.  But we had to move slowly, and barely covered a chapter or two a day over the course of several weeks.


This is a much more action-packed book, with a real story and the science bits are tucked in ingeniously; its not nearly as difficult to plow through.  We finished a third of it in one sitting.

During the heat of the day, we had to slow things down a little.  2nd grader and I did some read-aloud from our current chapter book, Journey to the Center of the Earth (Verne, Illustrated Classics abridged version). We went for a little swim.  Then we sliced up our only potato and made some stamped Christmas wrapping paper.  It took a good long time to gather up gifts for cousins and once again, our plans to speed through a simple project were foiled, waiting for paint to dry…

We ended the day with more Johnny Tremain.  The kids are just loving this book.


There was some bickering around breakfast time, so I opted to start the day by gathering us all on the couch for a read-aloud from Seabird and a short youtube clip by a young student about Nantucket’s role in the whaling industry.  I hoped this would help foster some sort of peaceful and harmonious feelings.  It worked SO well that everyone was so sleepy and comfy by the end of the half hour that they had to drag themselves over to the table to buckle down for Math.

Math took a full hour again today, but not because we were having fun.  There was a little more discouragement, and a bit more whining, but once that was overcome, it was smoother going.  The 5th grader continued with her mental math strategies practice and the 2nd and 3rd practiced adding sums of money with the help of the calculator which, it turns out, is not as easy as I thought it was and there is quite a lot to learn about typing in the decimal points and leaving out extra zeros and all of that.

For writing assignments, the 5th grader finally completed the critical essay on The Swiss Family Robinson.  The 3rd grader worked on a creative photo-essay piece and the 2nd grader lagged a little behind on his sums.

The Catechism lesson of the week was on “Generosity,” the virtue of the month according to our “Virtues in Practice” series from the Dominican Sisters of Nashville.  I like this curriculum for a lot of reasons, only one of which that it offers plenty of suggestions on activities and reflections but it is still very wide open to creative additions by instructors or parents.  We seem to inevitably end up in long conversations that take up the whole of our “class time” and rarely get to any of the suggested activities!


The afternoon we spent at the beach, mostly because of a transportation issue, but I am so glad we did.  Not only did we get to read books, play in the sand and hit a volleyball around, but we also got to swim.  Ha!  So many of our favorite things to do.  We all really wanted to be able to attend the First Friday Film event at American Memorial Park and since we only have one car, this was our chance to get a ride into “town.”

The evening program was not too far above the kids’ heads and they said they enjoyed it: there was a slide show by a local marine biologist about the coastal marine area of one of the CNMI’s northern-most islands, then two films about the Mariana Trench (one by the local organization called APASEEM, and the other by CBC).  Very cool.


I was inspired to choose this week as my first to try out “Learning Notes” because I knew I would have one less day to log since we took Monday off to recover from travel.  And guess what: I just heard that Monday is a school holiday!  Yay, another short work-week.  Smaller, more manageable chunks of time are so much less intimidating for me right now.

2 thoughts on “Learning Notes from 12/1 to 12/5

  1. It’s fun to read what you’re doing–you all accomplish a lot in one week! I often take dictation from my kids for writing assignments.

    I hope you’ll add your link to Melanie’s site!

  2. I’m so glad you decided to link up to Melanie’s site! (Although, just FYI, the actual link to the page seems to be broken; I had to click on your homepage to find your notes.) I am going to be showing my kids many of your links. Also, I didn’t know that the Sisters of St. Cecilia had made a religion curriculum. (Small world — I was actually taught by the Sisters in a small Catholic elementary school in a little town in Tennessee.) I’m going to be digging into those books this week!

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