Learning Notes for the New Year 01/05 to 01/09


Despite my hope to start in on schoolwork right at 8am, the girls needed some extra rest to recover from a weekend sleepover.  We began at 8:45 with some stretching outside, some breathing in and “listening in” and “smelling in,” just to greet the day.  The weather is just lovely here this time of year.

After some handwriting practice we moved on to some Math warm-ups.  I knew that everyone would need a little help to remember what we had been working on before the Christmas break so I tried to ease us all in slowly.  Maybe not as easy as I thought, after all, oops.  Once we recovered from that, we conducted short “interviews” with the video setting on the camera and used those as our “writing” for the day.  The prompt was: “My ideal school day would be…”  They thought this was fun and we typed up the transcripts and will work on enriching, expanding and of course, multiple draft-ing, for the rest of the week.

We moved on to discuss options for fieldwork and I distributed the interview questionnaires the kids made up and we discussed possible options for sites: they are looking to interview folks with “ocean-related careers” which can include anything from seafood restaurant owners to scuba instructors to fish sellers to marine biologists…and anyone else who might fit the criteria of making their living from the ocean.  It has been harder than I expected to coordinate with local departments (Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Coastal Resources Management) for fieldtrips, but I haven’t given up yet.  I am trying to devote January to getting out of the house as much as possible for our learning.  We’ll see if it works out.

Next we had a quick lunch, quick swim (in a rainshower–surprise!), and then we read Johnny Tremain some more.  We are almost finished.

After quiet time, I did some read-aloud with the 2nd grader and finished up Journey to the Center of the Earth and then an art lesson on Kandinsky through this great site that was recommended by a friend here.

It was too gorgeous to want to stay home, so we went to a west-facing beach and watched the sunset in the evening and the kids dug around in the sand.  We never get tired of doing this, ever.


The school day started off with handwriting practice and today it was more successful and our dear students exhibited much less resistance.  The results were very good and they are well on their way to memorizing the verse they are copying over and over.

Math: that was a little bit rougher on the 2nd grader.  After multiple meltdowns and interventions from his papa, the little guy finally completed his work for the day.  I kept feeding the girls more assignments in writing and language arts in the meantime, which worked out really very well.  They love the little brain puzzlers in a book a teacher friend back home in the Great Southwest had lent me.  I will definitely use it again.

After their re-writes of yesterday’s prompt about ideal school days, we moved onto a discussion about ocean-related professions.  We perused this book


of simply lovely paintings and my artiste fifth grader was so impressed by it, especially when she learned that Jim Arnosky had had to paint quickly to capture the waves or the winging gulls just so.  We ended up sending him one of our interview questionnaires via email, in case he wants to share more with us about his life as an artist and author.

Here’s a fun thing that happened: I had scheduled to meet up with a friend for an ocean swim during her lunch break, so I snuck off to do that while Daddy taught a science lesson!  I came home to three happy children who were all eager to tell me about the “awesome” science class they had.  I should go for midday swims more often.


In the afternoon, they interviewed the owner of a beach equipment rental shack (even though they were shy and nervous) and then we went paddleboarding for fun and exercise.

We ended the day with some digging in the sand and running around on the beach.  Not too bad at all.


I have a tennis lesson on Wednesday mornings for an hour and I usually bring the kids along, but with Daddy at home, I left a checklist on the fridge and urged them to work through as many items on the list as possible during that hour.  Surprisingly, it was a complete success!  They were proud to present me with their work when I returned and we read their “free-writing” assignments (L.’s idea) out loud.

We moved on to reading about lighthouse keepers, in keeping with our focus on ocean-related professions.  It was fascinating stuff and prompted all kinds of questions so, at the end of our reading, we grabbed the laptop and worked through our questions one by one thanks to the Internet.  It was fun.

After lunch, I finished the last chapter of Johnny Tremain then rushed the 5th grader to her piano lesson where I managed to squeeze in some questions for my much-more-experienced homeschooling mama friend.

The third grader reminded me that I had mentioned sinking our great galleon from our Explorers week, so we set about prepping.  First, we read this fun article together.  Then we collected pennies and nickels and outfitted everyone in appropriate attire (we had a couple of reporters, some scuba divers, some shipwreck-ees and a videographer—everyone had several jobs).  The results were hilarious.  (See here and here)

We ended the day with a couple of chapters from Revenge of the Whale about the Whaleship Essex way back in 1819.  So far everyone is still enthralled although I have to paraphrase sometimes and skip ahead other times when it gets long.


Having to drive Daddy into work was a good excuse to start school “in town;” we had our Catechism lesson in the chapel at Kristo Rai.  We had a little snack at home that we picked up at a local bakery/coffeeshop that we are trying to support.  Our detour for a scone prompted my ten-year-old to request an internship day at the bakery, just to “see what it is like to work there.”  Sara thinks that’s a great idea and so do I.  I will try to plan that in during the next week or two.

At home we did some Math and the 2nd grader is really struggling this week.  To change it up a bit, I let him practice some basic subtraction facts with a simple online game.  I don’t usually let the kids use the Internet much during school hours, except for research that we all do as a group (like yesterday’s lighthouse-related searches), but now and then it might not be a bad idea to allow it, just to keep things interesting.

After this…things got a little harder.  No one was interested in my writing assignment suggestion and everyone was hungry for lunch.  I worked through it with the 3rd grader, one-on-one, but decided not even to try with the 2nd.  I am pretty sure that was the right decision, since it took over an hour to coax out a single page from her, even with me taking dictation.  So very many tears, so very much drama…

We tried to watch some of Stan Waterman’s ocean films online, but we couldn’t find much that was interesting.  It is hard for elementary aged students to fully appreciate how much went into filming some of the first underwater footage ever made.

We finished chapter 3 of Revenge of the Whale.

One of my son’s playmates came over for the rest of the afternoon so they ran around and played Legos and went swimming which is exactly what he needed.


Finally, finally, we got tickets to go on the free ferry to Managaha (a teeny tiny island off the coast of our slightly larger tiny island).  We read some Revenge of the Whale while we killed time before departure and the rest of the day we snorkeled and explored and did a little “nature walk.”

It was fabulous.  We can’t wait to go back sometime soon.


But wait, you might say, what is so fabulous about visiting a tiny tropical island, given that you already live on one?


I really don’t know!  It’s just that they don’t have any tall buildings at all, just a few picnic patios and a little beach rental shop and some white sand and coconut palms.  That’s it.

There is a reason they call this the “jewel of Saipan.”  Talk about picturesque.

(Linking up with Melanie.)

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