Learning Notes 01/12 to 01/16


We began the week by starting a “Gratitude” poster.  I got the idea to keep an ongoing list of things to be thankful for from Ann, of course, and the kids wanted to draw it in rainbow colors (of course).  The goal is to keep it going until the spiral reaches the center.

Math: we were off to a good start, with me devoting my attention to the 5th grader while the 2nd and 3rd did some simple online practice with games.  When all of a sudden, the noises from outside along with the smell, triggered something in my brain and I sent the eldest outside to investigate.  The crunching sound I thought I was hearing was actually a crackling sound: the field at the end of our driveway was on fire and the winds were so strong that I was afraid the flames would leap up onto our roof.  After calling 911, I grabbed my purse, our laptops and passports and nothing else, and jumped into the car.  I figured that even if the house burned down, we and the car would be saved.  Besides, the last time I phoned in a fire here on Saipan they sent an ambulance, so I did not want to wait around to see what might happen.

We relocated to a coffeeshop where we were able to get online on our laptops I fudged with our lesson plan a little to keep us moving in a school-ward direction.  We read about women oceanographers and others who work in ocean research of some kind, as well as the support staff that makes their work possible.  The younger two didn’t find much to be inspired by, career-wise, but the 5th grader got into it and started googling one of the marine biologists she encountered in order to learn more.

From there we headed into town and made a few stops to inquire about future interview or fieldtrip options.  We set one up for the following day at the NMI Museum on Middle Road.  Mr. Hunter is the curator there and always eager to share his knowledge with visitors.  We want to visit with him so he can tell us “everything he knows” about Tinian.  Tinian is the closest neighboring island to Saipan and second-largest in the CNMI; there isn’t a lot of information about Tinian out there, but we want to be prepared for our upcoming visit there.

In the afternoon, the kids worked on some free writing pieces, which they loved and couldn’t wait to share out loud. 

And my log says that we read a chapter of Revenge of the Whale which I don’t remember now, but we must have done so.


We went to the NMI Museum in the afternoon and had a great visit with Mr. Hunter, learning all about the ancient Chamorros up until the sugar cane era on Tinian and then more recently, when the island was near a major fishing grounds for Russians and Japanese.  Evidently, in the ’80’s and ’90’s they had so much success catching sizable bluefins that they used to toss them off their boats when there got to be too many which then attracted various sharks.  Swimming in Tinian has been very dangerous up until the last decade or so because the sharks still hung around, hoping for the feasts they had become accustomed to.

That was really the highlight of the day and the rest of it I would frankly rather not remember.  It was the kind of homeschooling day that makes you want to quit and maybe ship your kids off to boarding school instead.

Nothing some apologizing and a good night’s sleep couldn’t repair, however.  So I can postpone the boarding school research for now, at least.


We started the day with a visit to some west-facing cliffs.  The wind had been howling through the night and we guessed that the waves would be large and worth seeing.  The kids entered their observations into their nature logs.


Afterwards, we visited the Saipan Zoo for the first time.  We have wanted to for a long time but I never seem to remember to schedule it in.  It was a cool and breezy day so it was ideal weather for a visit.  It is a small zoo with a surprising variety of animals: bengal tiger, rabbits, coconut crab, various tortoises, macaws, a hawk, a vulture, a kinkajou, a couple monkeys, a lion, a bobcat, a leopard, some deer, monitor lizards, lots of chickens, pigs, an emu, some koi.  Evidently they used to have a red fox and a black bear, too, but no longer.

I can’t say I recommend this zoo.  With the exception of the monitor lizards, very few of the other animals seemed well cared-for, or happy.  The cages were tiny and often dirty.  The lion seemed particularly depressed.  This was a one-time visit for us.

After lunch, the kids did some reading on their own and then we went for the weekly piano lesson.  The 2nd grader and I read aloud from Call It Courage which the girls had already finished over the weekend.

To compare with the other coast, we then went to visit Kagman beach (since we were only a few blocks away, at the piano lesson).  It was almost scary it was so rough.  But beautiful.  The kids took photos and collected hermit crabs and the 5th grader experimented with trying to float a coconut away, but it kept washing back up.  We laughed to think that had it been a shoe, or something personally valuable to us, the ocean would have sucked it right up, never to be seen again…


Kagman Beach

We stopped by the library briefly and then the track at MHS where everyone got some much-needed exercise.

Our friend Neda came over to keep us company for the evening while we ate “brinner” picnic-style on the livingroom floor and watched part of the movie Whale Rider.


We began the day with journaling prompts about the fieldtrips of the day before and each one produced a solid single-page report.

Math was difficult for the 5th grader and I realize now that we need to do a lot more work on understanding fractions.  The 2nd and 3rd graders had subtraction card games on the docket and it is a little on the easy side for the 3rd and still frustratingly difficult for the 2nd grader.  It is hard to find a balance to suit them both and I may need to separate their work even more.

With the winds being so strong this week, it seemed appropriate to read Energy Island.


It is very inspiring to the kids (so much so that they wondered if it might be fiction!) and then we finished the rest of Whale Rider.  They were NOT impressed with that movie.  They felt misled by the title, they didn’t understand the accents, they didn’t see the point of the story…the list of complaints was long.  We discussed mythology and the sea again, but even that failed to interest them.


We did something else this morning but I just can’t remember what, anymore.

We read a chapter in Revenge of the Whale over lunch and then headed over to the library for the next few hours.  I found some resources for our Tinian trip, read a half dozen picture books to the 2nd grader and tried to collect as many chapter books for the girls as I could for our week on Tinian.  I understand that their library is not consistently operational so it is best to be prepared.

In the evening after dinner at home, we went to Thursday Market, just to meet up with friends and enjoy the vibe.  It’s always fun to go there, even if you don’t want to eat.


We had a very, very late start to the day.  A combination of me feeling sick yesterday and then a pretty rough night with the kids.  We started school around 10am, no joke.

The kids each have a book they are writing (my son informed me that I am the “only one” who doesn’t have a book in the works right now) so they each spent some time typing away at their books as their writing practice today.  My second opted to work on hers outside, sitting peacefully in the yard on a blanket.

They continued to work on the “Gratitude Spiral” after that.


(that one over there on the right looks too bored to be grateful, doesn’t she…)

We moved on to Catechism and discussed the Sacraments and read and memorized a portion of the Baltimore Catechism.

Math: I gave them each some practice work in areas of particular weakness.  Reducing fractions for the 5th grader, multiplying by a number in the hundreds (3rd grade) and some lengthy sums and subtractions for the 2nd.  It was a challenge for each of them but I think they are finally getting the hang of it.  The 2nd and 3rd grader and I then played a subtraction card game from RS.

We don’t usually do this, so I had them practice reading aloud.  We used Around the World in Eighty Poems and Sea to Shining Sea for material.  On their turn, they each had to stand up and read clearly and through their mouth (not their nose) and try to do the “voices” if applicable.  This is especially challenging for the 5th grader but she is getting there.

We got a chapter of Revenge of the Whale in before a late lunch.

I read aloud with the youngest from Call to Courage while the girls had their own free reading time.

The girls did a “mirror symmetry” painting project but the Boy didn’t want to.  That was it for today.

Linking up with everyone else as soon as possible.  Being 17 time zones ahead makes me look like an over-achiever, heh heh…

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