Friday, June 11, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 5/31/21

This week we did school at Gran's! This was a bit more of a relaxed schedule than we have at home, but we still hit all of our subjects. 

Morning Read-Alouds

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read "May" by John Updike, "Finding Magic" by Eric Finney, "All in June" by W.H. Davies, "Bee! I'm Expecting You!" by Emily Dickinson, and "Bedtime" (Extract) by Thomas Hood. 

We read all of the articles in the digital edition of Vol. 20 number 5 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder edition): "Curing What Ails You" by Alex Greene, "Nature's Mysteries" by Lynn Brunelle, and "Lake Tour" by Beth Geiger. We also read one article from the digital edition of Vol. 20 number 4 of the same magazine: "Mishmash Mammal" by Lynn Brunelle. 


Each morning at breakfast, we listened to a piece of classical music. The selections were:  La Gioconda: "Dance of the Hours" by Amilcare Ponchielli, Symphony No. 94, "Surprise": Second Movement by Franz Joseph Haydn, Aida: "Triumphal March" by Giuseppe Verdi, and The Firebird: "Infernal Dance" by Igor Stravinsky. 

With Gran, M. and C. read The Magic Flute retold by Anne Gatti and illustrated by Peter Malone, and listened to selections from the opera. They also watched the OperaVox adaptation together. 

M. and C. both practiced their piano lessons on Gran's piano, which was a fun change from the keyboard at home. 

On Friday night, we had a sing-along on Gran's deck featuring all the songs the girls have been learning to sing. 


For art appreciation, we studied The Beggars (or The Cripples) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. M. and C. also discussed Monet with Gran and looked at some of his paintings in one of her books.

They also created some chalk drawings in the driveway. 


We continued working on the questions and answers in Lesson 5 of The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism


Gran has her own copy of D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants and she read to C. several stories: "Loki's Monstrous Brood," "Balder, the God of Light," "Heindall, the Watchman of Asgard," and "Njord, Frey, and Freya." 

M. watched The Machine that Made Us  and read From the Good Mountain by James Rumford, as well as several sections from Builders of the Old World: "Block Books," "The Printing Press," "The Making of Many Books" and "How Printing Helped Men to Be Free." 

M. also got a taste of family history by asking Gran questions about her school years. 


For science, M.and C. watched episodes of Mr. Wizard's World

E. and C. also brought their Kiwi Crates to do with Gran. C. made a treasure chest and treasure map and E. made farm animal finger puppets, a vegetable garden, and a cardboard barn. 

The girls also spent quite a bit of time exploring the garden behind Gran's house, and one evening they caught and studied some fireflies. All three girls also had the chance to bake cookies with Gran. 

Reading and Writing

In the car on the way to and from Gran's, we listened to the audiobook of Anne of Green Gables.

We started reading aloud The Four-Story Mistake at lunchtime. This turn out to be one of Gran's favorite books from childhood. 

E. practiced sounding out consonant-vowel-consonant words in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading and also started listening to a read-aloud of Winnie-the-Pooh

M. started reading The Borrowers and C. continued with Little House on the Prairie. 


M. and C. did some work on Khan Academy daily at Gran's. They also did their math flashcards a couple of times.

Physical Education 

M. and C. spent a lot of time running around outside. They also ran in the sprinkler, took a walk with Gran through her neighborhood, and played hopscotch. 

Special Activities

We all watched the original animated Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs together. The girls also ate ice  cream and played with their dolls that live at Gran's house. Each night when her siblings went to bed ahead of her, M. also played a make-believe game with Gran in which she pretended to be the mother of a young baby and had Gran play the role of great-grandmother. C. enjoyed playing Uno with Gran.  

Monday, June 7, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: May 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

I read 12 books for my own enjoyment during May, and read aloud 4 more to my kids. First, my own reading: 

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a wonderfully twisty thriller that tricked me not once, but twice. The audiobook narration contributed to the suspense and the elements of surprise. It wasn't quite five stars, but it was a very enjoyable four-star read. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
I listened to this collection of essays on the writing life and loved everything about it except the author's insistence on referring to God using female pronouns. 

Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
The writing in this audiobook was good, but the plot felt thin. I made it to the end, but had I known how disappointing it was going to be, I probably would have skipped this one. 

My Life as a Villainess by Laura Lippman (1 star)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I have enjoyed this author's detective novels, but the essays in this book were so angry and hateful (especially toward men) that I found myself completely turned off to her worldview altogether. After finishing the audiobook, I added all the books by her that I owned to our donation pile. 

A Place Like Home: Short Stories by Rosamunde Pilcher (5 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram
I love this cozy collection of domestic love stories. It renewed my interest in short stories and inspired me to want to write some of my own as well. I received a digital ARC of this book from Netgalley; it comes out in July. 

When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This collection of deeply philosophical essays included many pieces that went right over my head, and others with which I disagreed, but I really appreciated the depth of this author's thinking about the writing life and the spiritual life. 

The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God by Ruth Pakaluk (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
This was my book club's pick for May. I liked the section of the book that collected Ruth's letters, and the biography was interesting, but the talks at the end were kind of repetitive. I also don't love reading about mothers dying of cancer and leaving behind small children and probably would not have chosen this book on my own. 

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
I listened to this thriller on audio as well, and even though I figured out what was going to happen long before the end, I still loved the writing enough to read eagerly to the end. Still, I would have liked just a couple of red herrings. 

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis (2 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This audiobook was ostensibly a collection of funny essays, but it was more crude than amusing. I think only one or two out of the whole set actually made me laugh. 

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I really loved this When Harry Met Sally esque romance, and it was especially great to listen to the audiobook read by Julia Whelan. The ending unexpectedly made me cry!  

We Are the Baby-Sitters Club: Essays and Artwork from Grown-Up Readers by Marisa Crawford (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was interesting to me as a piece of nostalgia, but I didn't particularly like the way the essay writers read so much into a series of books for children. 

The Fortunate Marriage by Meriol Trevor (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
Meriol Trevor is one of my all-time favorite Catholic authors. This Regency romance doesn't include as many references to the faith as some of her other books, but its views on marriage are 100% compatible with church teaching even if the characters' behavior isn't always. There are three more in this series, and several other similar series on my Kindle that I still plan to read. 

And here are the read-alouds, which I'm planning to review here on the blog at some point: 

Away Goes Sally by Elizabeth Coatsworth (3 stars)
This was a simple historical fiction story about a family moving their house over land to a new home. The writing was a little simplistic for me.  

Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (4 stars)
This one was a re-read for me, and I have already reviewed it. M. (7) liked it the most, but C. (5) and E. (3) were mostly invested in the story as well.  

The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley (5 stars)
I read this one aloud to E. as part of her daily preschool time, and she really liked it. The small adventures Milly-Molly-Mandy has in her village are just perfect for her age. 

Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess (3 stars)
This was another read-aloud with E. She didn't love it that much to start with it, but really warmed up to it by the end. (Animal stories aren't my favorite, but I'll read them aloud if necessary.)


I abandoned quite a few books in May as I struggled to find my new reading rhythm heading into summer. 

First, I decided not to read anymore cozy mysteries and abandoned the one I had been struggling with, Deadly Edition by Victoria Gilbert, then removed the others I had from NetGalley and on my Kindle from my to-read shelf.

I also DNF'd That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (I was bored and bogged down in too many characters and timelines), Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby (it was slowing me down because it's so long), The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams (I didn't like the writing), and Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (great premise, but again I didn't like the writing). 

The Best of the Bunch

My favorite books this month were...

People We Meet on VacationA Place Like Home

As for the rest of the family's reading...

On our trip to Gran's house last week we finished listening to the audiobook of The Hobbit and then started Anne of Green Gables.  

My husband read aloud Tal: His Marvelous Adventures with Noom-Zor-Noom by Paul Fenimore Cooper and also read a Choose Your Own Adventure story with the girls one night. He finished reading The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden, and also read The Book of Hob Stories and Underground Alley, both by William Mayne.  He is now reading The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken. 

M. (7 years, 6 months) read Rinkitink of Oz and started The Borrowers.

C. (5 years, 8 months) finished Ramona the Pest and moved on to Little House on the Prairie. We've also started reading picture books together in the evenings. She has enjoyed all my choices, but she  absolutely loved One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey.

E. (3 years, 7 months) is into a series of lift-the-flap books that includes Sophie's Seashell Scramble, which we recently received from the publisher for review, and the companion books of which my mom sent for her. She also just started listening to me read aloud Winnie-the-Pooh. 

R. and A. (14 months) have been enjoying ABC Cats and 123 Cats by Leslea Newman, which we received from the publisher for review.  

Up Next For Me

I'm currently listening to Fox's Earth by Anne Rivers Siddons, which is my first big book for Sue's Big Book Summer Challenge. I'm also listening to The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave, which was recommended in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide. 

With a friend, I'm reading Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, for book club I'm reading The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, and for a buddy read on Instagram I'm reading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. 

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 5/24/21

Morning Read-Alouds 

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read "The Poultries" by Ogden Nash, "The Way Through the Woods" by Rudyard Kipling, "Queen Anne's Lace" by Mary Leslie Newton, "Whispering Leaves" by Julie O'Callaghan, and "Buttercup" by Mandy Coe.

We read all the articles in Vol. 8 No. 4 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder Edition): "Nature's Solutions" by Leslie Hall, "Gold Fever" by Ruth Kassinger, "Spectacular Seahorses" by Twig C. George, and "Icebergs" by Luc Desjardins. 


We listened to The Firebird: "Infernal Dance" by Igor Stravinsky, Album for the Young: "The Happy Farmer" by Robert Schumann, Tritsch-Tratsch Polka by Johann Strauss, Jr., L'Arlésienne Suite: "Farandole" by Georges Bizet, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2: Movement 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach.

We practiced singing "Sweet Betsy from Pike", using the music from Go In and Out the Window: An Illustrated Songbook for Young People and had a sing-along of all the songs we've been learning on Friday night. 

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.

Art Appreciation

This week we studied "Portrait of Anne of Cleves" by Hans Holbein the Younger, which complemented M.'s history reading about King Henry VIII. 


We read about Saints Philip Neri and Madeleine Sophie Barat on their feast days. We reviewed Lessons 1 to 4 in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism, and I introduced the questions and answers in Lesson 5, "Our Own Sins."

Memory Work

C. reviewed the planets, four directions, 50 states, and marks of the church, worked on the countries of Europe and books of the Bible, and continued learning "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear. 

M reviewed the countries of Europe and 13 colonies, the books of the Bible, and the 7 sacraments, worked on the monarchs of England,  the countries of Asia, and continued learning "The Goat and I" by Robert Service. 

E. continued learning "First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and she started working on memorizing the continents, oceans, months of the year, and days of the week.  


We finished all the BFSU work we had planned for this school year and also spent a little more time on cicadas. At the end of the week, we watched a few Operation Ouch videos just for fun. We won't start formal science time again until September, but we will do some informal nature study, read-alouds, and videos through the summer. 

E. and I started reading Little Kids First Big Book of Reptiles and Amphibians by Catherine D. Hughes (National Geographic Kids, 2020). We read about snakes and lizards. 


C. continued reading D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants

M. has switched  her history text to Builders of the Old World and she read sections called "The Struggle for Freedom to Worship" and "Men Create New Forms of Beauty," which involved King Henry VIII and his wives and the Protestant Reformation. She also read Good Queen Bess by Diane Stanley and some of Rulers of Britain by Plantagenet Somerset Fry. 


M. and C. both worked on Khan Academy. M finished fourth grade math and was allowed to take a break after that. C. and M. also both worked on Singapore Math in their respective workbooks. 

Reading and Writing 

We finished our read-aloud of Gone-Away Lake and my husband finished reading aloud Tal

E. and I finished Old Mother West Wind. C. and I read some picture books at bedtime, just the two of us, and she absolutely loved my choices: In the Middle of the Night by Aileen Fisher and Adrienne Adams, Town and Country by Alice and Martin Provensen, One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey, and The Great Blueness by Arnold Lobel. C. is also still reading Little House on the Prairie. M. finished Rinkitink of Oz

Physical Education

We were getting ready to go to Gran's house, and she asked us to quarantine the kids, so we stayed home from playdates for the week. M. did get a chance to take a bike ride with Daddy one afternoon.   

Homeschool Update: Week of 5/17/21

Morning Read-Alouds

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read: ""Only My Opinion" by Monica Shannon, "The Heron" by Gregory Harrison, "Sneezing" by Anonymous, "O Dandelion" by Anonymous, "Yellow Weed" by Lilian Moore. 

We read all the articles from Vol. 7 No 5 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder edition): "Doctor Bugs" by Mark W. Moffett, "Rock Stars" by Beth Geiger, and "Wild Cats" by Dana Jensen 


We listened to Appalachian Spring: "Variations on a Shaker Tune" by Aaron Copland, Lt. Kij√© Suite: "Troika" by Sergei Prokofiev, Aida: "Triumphal March" by Giuseppe Verdi, Nutcracker: "Dance of the Reed Pipes" by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Comedians: "Galop" by Dmitri Kabalevsky. We continued practicing singing "The Ash Grove."  

Art Appreciation

We looked at St Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata by Giotto di Bondone from The Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World's Most Popular Museum by Anja Grebe and Erich Lessing. We also watched the video about it that is posted on Khan Academy. 


We reviewed Lessons 2 and 3 in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism and moved on to Lesson 3, "The Blessed Trinity" and Lesson 4, ""The First Sins." 

Memory Work

C. reviewed the planets, four directions, 50 states, continents, oceans, months of the year, days of the week, and marks of the church, worked on the countries of Europe and books of the Bible, and continued learning "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear. 

M reviewed the countries of Europe and 13 colonies, the books of the Bible, and the 7 sacraments, worked on the monarchs of England, thirteen of the countries of Asia, and continued learning "The Goat and I" by Robert Service. 

E. continued learning "First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. 


We started BFSU Lesson B-8: How Animals Move III: Coordinating Body Movements (The Nervous System). using EESE as our guide. We read Use Your Brain by Paul Showers and watched an Operation Ouch video about the nervous system. On Friday, we took a break from this topic to go on a cicada hunt. We found a bunch and M. collected some exoskeletons to examine under the microscope. She is working on writing about her experience and observations. 


M. read "The Great Awakening" section of A Picturesque Tale of Progress, which included these topics: "The New Spirit," "Religion Takes New Forms," "A Monk Brings Changes in Religion," and "Reforms Within the Catholic Church." 

C. started reading D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants. We read five sections: "Introduction," "The First Gods and Giants," "The Creation of the World," "The Creation of Man," and "Yggdrasil, the World Tree."


M. worked on more time exercises in Singapore 3B. C. worked on greater and less than in Singapore 2B. Both girls did flashcards and Khan Academy. M. also did a chapter in Life of Fred: Honey.

Reading and Writing 

M. is now reading Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum. C is still reading Little House on the Prairie. Our read-alouds of Gone-Away Lake and Tal are still ongoing. E. is still hearing Old Mother West Wind. She also began working in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, sounding out consonant-vowel-consonant words. 

Physical Education

M. went on a long bike ride with Daddy. We also had two playdates with friends, one of which included jumping on a trampoline. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Big Book Summer is Here!

Back at the end of March, Sue from Book by Book commented to let me know about her Big Book Summer Challenge, and I've been looking forward to it ever since. It started on Saturday, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, and runs through Labor Day. The goal is to read at least one book that is at least 400 pages long. 

My original plan was to read two big books, but it actually looks like, if all goes well, I may end up reading three. 

I have just started the audiobook of Fox's Earth by Anne Rivers Siddons, which is 480 pages in print. With a friend, I'm reading Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, which is 569 pages. Later in the summer, hopefully on our beach trip, I also plan to read The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, which is 592 pages. I also have Centennial by James Michener, but I'm not quite ready for another long book about the American West after reading Lonesome Dove this Spring so that one is on the back burner for now, especially since it's over 1000 pages. 

Are you reading any big books this summer? 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (1984)

The Hero and The Crown is a 1984 fantasy novel starring Aerin, the daughter (and only child) of the king of Damar, who is not allowed to inherit the throne due to the dubious magical roots of her late mother, who died during childbirth. Alienated from the royal family, Aerin discovers instead her capabilities as a dragon slayer, and she begins training to defeat a dragon that often torments the people of Damar. Through her unique approach to killing dragons, Aerin fulfills her true destiny. 

I put off reading this book for a long time because of how much I typically struggle to understand let alone enjoy the fantasy genre. I finally listened on audio, hoping that listening would help me get into the story better. At first it was successful. All the family connections and disconnections were intriguing to me, and I was invested in Aerin's desire to win over the people of Damar and to gain her father's pride and approval. 

Halfway through the book, though, the fantasy elements really ramped up, and I got lost. I was weirded out by the magical romance storyline with the semi-immortal Luthe (which shocked me by turning sexual), and I was completely confused by all the scenes involving him. I went from thinking my oldest  daughter might like this book in a couple of years to telling my husband no child of mine is reading it on my watch. 

I read The Hero and the Crown solely because it's a Newbery winner and I wanted to cross it off my list of unread Newbery books. It would have been nice to enjoy the story, too, but I'm okay with the fact that a book in a genre I already dislike didn't work for me. If you are a fantasy reader, your mileage may vary. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Book Review: It's Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville (1963)

Fourteen-year-old Dave Mitchell lives in 1960s New York City, and he has recently adopted a cat whom he has named Cat. As Dave cares for the cat, he also pals around with his best friend Nick, going to Coney Island and on double dates, and he becomes friendly with a college student named Tom who, while in the midst of robbing a building, helps Dave rescue Cat from a basement, and who is trying to work out what he will do with his life. 

I first read this slice-of-life story when I was in library school, and I remembered really liking it, but it had been so long that I didn't feel I could mark it as read on Goodreads without a re-read. This time around, I gave it a solid four stars. It has a lot of the things I like in middle grade books: a strong narrative voice, an interesting setting, and a coming of age plot line. 

I never read this book as a kid, but I can definitely imagine my younger self really liking it because it doesn't have a lot of heavy conflict or sad moments, and it's just about an ordinary kid doing ordinary things. In that sense, it's a lot like Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, which I read not long after this one. It also reminds me a bit of Beverly Cleary's Strider, especially in its treatment of boy/girl interactions at this age, and its involvement of a pet. 

Interestingly, the copyright on It's Like This Cat was never renewed for some reason, and therefore, due to the way the copyright rules were structured prior to 1978, the book is in the public domain in the U.S. even though it was published in 1963. This makes it very easy to find, and it means there is even a free audiobook version on Librivox!  This is a great choice for readers who prefer character-driven stories and for those who love vintage stories about New York City.