Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Book Review: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller (2020)

In When You Trap a Tiger, the 2021 Newbery Medal winner, Lily, her mom, and her sister, Sam, have recently left California and moved to Sunbeam, Washington to live with Lily's halmoni, her Korean grandmother who has always been surrounded by an air of magic and mystery. Upon arriving, Lily sees a tiger in the road outside Halmoni's house, but when she realizes it isn't visible to anyone else, she understands that something unusual is happening. In fact, after talking with Halmoni and learning that she is ill, Lily comes to believe that Halmoni has stolen stories and the tiger has come to take them back. If only Lily can bargain with the tiger, she believes she'll be able to save her grandmother's life. 

Just like the 2018 Newbery medal winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, this is a mediocre and surface-level story about a young non-white girl and a beloved grandparent, only this time with a bit of a fantastical twist. Compared with the high standard set by Newbery winners of decades past, this one is largely unremarkable and forgettable. The writing is very commercial and conversational, with lots of tween-friendly dialogue and not much in the way of figurative language, other than a beaten-to-death tiger metaphor. It is impossible for me to accept that this book was the most distinctive of 2020, even given the very small number of new middle grade books I read last year. 

As always, though, I can easily find all the "woke" elements that must have made this book so appealing to the committee. In the scene where Lily first visits the public library, the teen girl who works there (who later becomes the object of Lily's older sister's crush) tells her that she doubts they have any books on Korean folktales because "this town is pretty white." This makes sure to blame not the librarian who purchases the books, but the entire white population of the community for apparently excluding Lily's entire culture from the shelves. (I also don't buy that a public library doesn't have Korean folk tales. The folk tale sections of every library I've worked in have been robust and diverse regardless of the color of the majority of patrons' skin. If this specific library doesn't have them, the author needs a more nuanced explanation.)

A few pages later, Lily meets Ricky, an excitable middle schooler who doesn't have many friends and is awkward in social situations. Within two sentences, Ricky has been painted as sexist because he tells Lily he's "never met a girl who likes tigers before." Ricky is shown to be insensitive later in the book as well, when he mocks Lily's grandmother for her cultural customs. When he apologizes, he is not only portrayed as an idiot (he can't pronounce halmoni, even after being corrected) but he also actually uses the phrase "hostile environment." I'd hate to be a boy reading this story; with Ricky representing the male sex, he won't walk away feeling particularly good about being male. The talking tiger in the story also makes a comment about gender when Lily assumes she is a boy: "Typical. You hear one story about a male tiger and think we're all the same? Humans are the worst." Not the most uplifting message for the 8-to-12-year-old audience.

I also really felt uncomfortable with some of the story's messages. I didn't like the constant feeling that the reader was being led to reject old stories and to celebrate writing new ones to replace them, as it reminds me of the way libraries are starting to remove older titles for dubious reasons. I also really hated the idea that "sometimes people feel trapped in their own skin and they have to leave" as an explanation for why Ricky's mother (a stay-at-home mom) abandoned her family. Stay-at-home motherhood is not a trap, and I don't like being asked to empathize with someone for escaping it by basically neglecting her role as a mother entirely. I also felt that this book took a very bleak view on death, commenting that after someone dies, "the person you loved is gone" and not really leaving any room for Halmoni's suffering to have any meaning.   

A line from this book says, "Even if things aren't perfect, they can still be good." Unfortunately, this book's imperfections are so numerous that it's just not good. We own most of the Newbery medal winners from previous decades, but just like the winners from 2018, 2019 and 2020, we will not buy this one, nor will my kids be reading it. It's endlessly frustrating that an award given for high-quality writing keeps singling out middling books because they check the right political boxes. I'm more annoyed by the content than I would have been had this book not been awarded a Newbery. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

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

 My Month in Books

In February, I read 13 books, bringing me to 30 for the year so far. Here's the full list: 

Affairs of Steak
by Julie Hyzy (4 stars)
This is book 5 in the White House Chef Mystery series, which was one of the first cozy mystery series I started reading a few years ago. I took a break from it for a while, but decided to read one this month for the #fedbybooks challenge on Instagram.  

Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo (5 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
This was my book club book for this month. I listened to the audiobook read by the author, and it was very well done. I enjoyed learning more about an amazing Catholic woman and about the creation of EWTN even in the face of objections from clergy.

The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis (2 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was another one I picked up with the #fedbybooks challenge in mind. I owned the paperback, but listened to the audio. I didn't really like it and I have decided not to read more from the series for right now.

Treasures: Visible & Invisible by CatholicTeenBooks.com (5 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I received a .PDF review copy of this book from one of the authors, and I just absolutely loved it. If you or your teens need something to read to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, this is a great choice.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is book 2 in the Renee Ballard series. It wasn't as good as book one, but I enjoyed it and will be reading book 3. 

Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chien (4 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
One more #fedbybooks read. This is book 6 in the Noodle Shop Mystery series. This series is still going strong, and I'm excited for the next one. 

Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last by Patience Bloom (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this one around Valentine's Day. Though I have nothing in common with the author, and would not have made any of the life choices she made, I really enjoyed listening to her read the story on the audiobook.  

Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson (2 stars)
[review coming soon on blog]
I read this aloud to my kids, who loved it. I felt like it went on forever and I have mixed feelings about some of the content. I am working on a full review to be published soon. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (2 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I read this book as part of my continuing quest to understand why majoring English was such a terrible experience for me. I'm pretty sure I've figured it out now: reading literature like a professor is something I never ever want to do. My review goes into greater detail as to why. 

Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
After enjoying Treasures and realizing how many wonderful Catholic authors I haven't been reading, I decided to seek out the novels of some of the authors. I started with contemporary romance because that is one of my favorite genres, and I absolutely loved this book. I was so invested in the characters, and I loved the way Catholic teaching about chastity was woven into the story in a very realistic and non-preachy way.  

Be Bold in the Broken by Mary Lenaburg (3 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
Mary is such an inspiring presence in the Catholic corner of the Internet. I love what this book has to say about the worthiness of all women in the eyes of God. 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West  (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this with the Everyday Reading book club on Instagram, and learned so much about life in the White House in the mid 20th century. I especially loved that this took a human interest, rather than a political, angle. 

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a re-read for me. It's still great. Gollum is still so intriguing, and Shelob is still terrifying. I've never read to the end of Return of the King, so I'm looking forward to finally doing that during this next month. 

The Best of the Bunch

Surprisingly, neither of my favorites were books I had initially planned to read this month, but both were clear five-star reads. 

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

My husband finished reading Zeb by Lonzo Anderson, a middle grade novel by the husband of illustrator Adrienne Adams. He gave it three stars. 

M., age 7, read a few titles in the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol, which inspired a lot of wandering through the house speaking in a faux British accent about "the culprits." She also started reading aloud White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry to my mother-in-law over Skype.

C., age 5, has been on a nonfiction kick with books from the '60s by Leonora Hornblow: Animals Do the Strangest Things, Reptiles Do the Strangest Things, Birds Do the Strangest Things, and Insects Do the Strangest Things. She also finished Betsy-Tacy and is now reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib.  
E., age 3 fell in love with Ezra Jack Keats this month after reading A Snowy Day. We have since read Pet Show, A Letter to Amy, Peter's Chair, and Hi, Cat. Other frequent requests have been A Birthday for Frances, the Mercy Watson books on audio (as always), and the first book in the Deckawoo Drive series (the chapter book spin off of Mercy Watson), Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.

A. and R., both 11 months, listened to Freight Train by Donald Crews, Hello Lamb by Jane Cabrera, and Goodnight Bear by Jane Cabrera and lots of nursery rhymes. 

Up Next For Me 

I started Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather, so I want to finish that up in early March. It's also Middle Grade March in the Instagram and Booktube communities and I have a whole stack of middle grade books I want to read, including a digital ARC of the newest Greenglass House book and Newbery winners like Sounder, The Hero and the Crown, and Twenty One Balloons.

Linking Up

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

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/15/21

Lenten Activities

Lent started on Wednesday. This year, we are praying a decade of the Rosary every school morning, and counting to 40 before we eat dinner. On Wednesday, the girls also did an Ash Wednesday coloring page. On Friday, we watched a full children's rosary from EWTN at breakfast, and in the afternoon, M. and C. watched a livestreamed Stations of the Cross from last year on YouTube. 

Morning Time 

  • Poems 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): "Owl" by Anonymous, "Winter Scene" by Archie Randolph Ammons, "Night of Wind" by Frances M. Frost, "Shiny" by James Reeves," "Afterpeace" by Patrick McDonough, "Winter Morning" by Ogden Nash, "Thaw" by Eunice Tietjens 
  • Articles from Vol. 17 No. 7 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder edition): "Sailing with the Blue Fleet" by Brenna Maloney, "In Search of the Lost City" by Douglas Preston, "The Ups and Downs of Ramps" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: Bull Jumping from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster
  • Music Appreciation: Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Catechism: Lesson 18, "The Second and Third Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • C.: "The Tiger" by William Blake, planets, four directions, marks of the church, oceans, continents, days of the week, months of the year, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • M.: "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, seven sacraments, monarchs of England, Great Lakes, books of the Bible, countries of Europe, address, phone number, multiplication and division flashcards
    • E.: "Portrait" by Marchette Chute, alphabet flashcards, number flashcards 


M. is continuing to manage life with a cast. This week, we figured out how to bathe her without getting it wet. She and C. also watched some Operation Ouch videos about sprains and strains and about our sense of taste. 


We focused on muscles this week. We read Muscles by Jane P. Gardner on Hoopla, and watched Muscles Experiments from Operation Ouch and How Muscles Work from Kids Health. M. and C. each labeled the major muscles on a worksheet as well.

On the weekend, M. and C. watched the Perseverance rover land on Mars. 


M. studied Renaissance Art this week. She read Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd and Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley with my husband. They also watched some snippets of BBC art history shows together. 

C. continued reading in History Can Be Fun (we are almost done), and she watched the Weston Woods video adaptation of Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. 


C. did another worksheet of double-digit addition with the soroban. She finished Life of Fred: Butterflies and we have decided to take a break from Fred, probably until the fall when she starts her first official year of school.

M. did some more work in Singapore 3B, finishing Review 5 and starting Review 6. She also did a chapter in Life of Fred: Honey.

Reading and Writing

We finished our lunchtime read-aloud of Islands of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson and started a new read-aloud, The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker.

C. continued reading Betsy- Tacy and Tib. M. continued reading Dr. Dolittle's Return and she read several books from the Encyclopedia Brown series. 

Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder each weekday. M. still can't practice because of her arm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Catholic Book Review: Treasures: Visible and Invisible by CatholicTeenBooks.com (2021)

Treasures: Visible and Invisible
is a brand-new collection of Catholic short stories from a variety of authors and genres, all centering on St. Patrick. In each story, regardless of setting, a shamrock-shaped stone plays an important role. Included here are eight stories, presented in chronological order based on setting:
  • "Treasure in the Bogs" by Theresa Linden tells of the spiritual coming of age of a young man named Magonus Saccatus in 4th century Ireland, and how Magonus comes to use the shamrock as a symbol of the trinity when explaining his faith to others.
  • "A Single Day... Or Not" by Susan Peek follows Brother Dearmad, a 16-year-old monk living several centuries after St. Patrick who wishes he could speed up his path to holiness.
  • "Lucy and the Hidden Clover" by Antony Barone Kolenc is set in 12th century England, where a young girl works to unearth the treasure that will fulfill an elderly nun's dying wish in a surprising way.
  • "Lucky and Blessed" by Amanda Lauer takes place in 1540 in England and brings together Honora, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a baron who finds herself in desperate circumstances and 18-year-old Ambrose, who has recently fled during the dissolution of the monastery where he lived. 
  • "Danke" by Carolyn Astfalk jumps ahead to 19th century Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where we meet William and his large Irish Catholic family, the youngest member of which is very ill with scarlet fever. William needs a miracle for his family, but he's not sure his weekend job at a lake club will be enough help. 
  • "Grace Among Gangsters" by Leslea Wahl is set in the Midwest in the present day, when three teens visit their grandmother and hear for the first time a story from her childhood about a close encounter with mobsters and a surprising source of help.  
  • "In Mouth of Friend and Stranger" by T.M. Gaouette takes place around the year 2000 in London. When Hannah runs away from a dangerous family situation and finds herself on the street, she is befriended by a kind young man named Pat who makes it his mission to see that she finds a safe place to stay. 
  • "The Underappreciated Virtues of Green-Fingered Monsters" by Corinna Turner follows Kyle through a futuristic England in which faith is outlawed and to practice Catholicism or consider the priesthood is a matter of life and death. 

Each story is accompanied by an author's note and a brief author bio. Several of the stories feature characters who appear in full-length works of their own. 

I was completely blown away by how good every single one of these stories is. Most of the time, collections of stories will have highs and lows, stories that work really well and others that don't quite accomplish their goals. This collection, however, is consistently excellent from beginning to end. Every story is engaging. Genres that I typically don't enjoy drew me in anyway, and each of the characters is so memorable I'm still thinking about them weeks later. I loved that each story had the common element of the stone, and of St. Patrick's presence either physically or spiritually, but that each author did such different things with these central themes. 

There is also something so comforting about reading an entire book that aligns with Catholic teaching. I didn't really appreciate how much my guard is often up when I'm reading mainstream fiction until I felt myself relax into the world of these stories. It was so rewarding to be able to settle in fully and trust that the authors were never going to lead me into offensive or blatantly anti-Catholic content. I had a personal affinity for this collection, too, I think, because my father's family is Irish and many of these characters had experiences similar to those I imagine my ancestors must have gone through.

I loved this book so much that I immediately went on Amazon and downloaded the Kindle editions of the two previous collections Catholic Teen Books has published: Secrets: Visible and Invisible and Gifts: Visible and Invisible. I also started making a list of other titles I want to read by these authors. I have mistakenly been of the opinion that Catholic fiction would somehow be boringly pious or otherwise saccharine, and this collection has opened my eyes to all that I have been missing in the world of YA Catholic writing.  I also feel like I want to take another crack at Catholic fiction writing myself and see if there might be room for me in that world. 

All Catholic readers, adults and teens, and even younger kids who are ready for a bit more sophisticated content, need books like this one on their shelves and in their reading lives. I truly cannot say enough good things about this book. There are not many new books I would allow my kids to read because either the content is objectionable or the quality is poor. This book I will absolutely allow - and definitely even encourage - my kids to read when they reach the target age range. 

I was sent a .PDF review copy of this book by one of the authors, Carolyn Astfalk, in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (2014)

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster was originally published in 2003. I read the revised edition, issued in 2014.  This book teaches the reader how to look for symbols, themes, and patterns in works of literature in the way that is expected by English professors. Using widely read examples by authors such as James Joyce, Toni Morrison, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Flannery O'Connor, and Katherine Mansfield, Foster highlights the meaning hidden between the lines of literary works and explains the commonly understood significance of everything from heart disease to highways. 

I have long wondered why so many of my college classmates seemed to get such wildly different things out of reading assignments than I did, and I suspected this book held a lot of the answers. I was not wrong. This book does indeed unlock a secret code that true English majors seem to know and happily follow. If I had read this book before applying to college, I would have done things very differently because there is one thing I now know for sure: I never want to read literature like a professor. 

I think one of the most irritating aspects of my college English classes was the obsession with sexual imagery. I started college at 17, coming from a (happily) sheltered background and honestly I don't think I fully realized that an author would put sexual content into a book on purpose. Even now, 20 years later, I think there was still a part of me that felt the same way the author of this book says many people feel: that English professors just have dirty minds. This book, however, makes it pretty clear that 20th century writers, at least, were writing about sex whenever they mentioned bowls, keys, waves, and/or staircases, and that a part of the job of the reader is to find these subtle cues and make sense of them. I don't like the idea of spending my time that way, and if my ignorance of sexual innuendo is a reason that I wasn't a better English major, that is fine by me. 

Another thing that struck me was in Foster's chapter on Christ figures. He writes: "[I]f you want to read literature like a professor, you need to put aside your belief system, at least for the period during which you read, so you can see what the writer is trying to say." For better or for worse, when I was in college, I did not do this. Refusing to set aside my beliefs while I read was not a conscious decision, but I think my established worldview was such that it would never occur to me to assume anyone thought certain topics were appropriate to include in books, or that it was appropriate for me to discuss those topics with other people in front of a professor. Obviously, we need to be able to empathize with points of view other than our own to make sense of certain books, and I think I am better at that now, but I definitely was not about to go looking for immoral subject matter in my homework assignments.

This book also disagrees with me about authors as authorities. When I wrote my thesis on Flannery O'Connor, my chief argument was that she wrote her stories to fulfill a particular mission which she stated over and over again in her lifetime. I was specifically refuting a collection of essays which argued that her book could be read without a religious lens. Foster, though, argues that what an author intends isn't relevant and that if we see something in a text, that means it's probably there. This way of thinking opens the Pandora's box for every self-important undergraduate to rewrite texts in their own image, and I hate that. What the author means matters. If he hasn't conveyed it well, so be it, but to use the author's words to tell whatever story you wish to read is obnoxiously narcissistic and represents everything I hated about majoring in English. 

Obviously, I have a big chip on my shoulder about academia, so I went into this book with negative preconceptions and that colors my reading of it quite a bit. Just to counteract my criticisms, I do want to mention the positive aspects I saw in the book. I really appreciated Foster's willingness to consider books through the lens of the time period in which they were published. Too often nowadays books fall out of favor because they don't express contemporary beliefs on a given topic. But a book is a product of its time and to understand it, we have to stand in the shoes of the characters in the story and/or the reader of that time period. I also loved the way he used "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield as a case study. The analyses of the story were so interesting, and though I could never have come up with them on my own in a thousand years, I enjoyed them. Really, though, the moments I enjoyed most in this book involved Foster's thoughts on Ulysses. He says two things that validated my experience with that monster of a novel: 

  1. "The only thing that can really prepare you to read Ulysses is reading Ulysses."
  2. "Ulysses is not for beginners. When you feel you've become a graduate reader, go there. My undergraduates get through it, but they struggle, even with a good deal of help."
Last year, I concluded that it would be impossible for an undergraduate to really get Ulysses and it does make me feel better to realize that I'm not alone in this opinion.

Ultimately, I think this is a great book to read for high school juniors or seniors who are considering majoring in English because it will help them decide whether they'll be able to stomach it or not. This book accurately represents the kinds of things that were discussed regularly in my college-level English classes, and had this book been available prior to my applying to college, I might have made a different decision. I despise the kind of literary analysis that attaches symbolic meaning to everything and insists that what the author is "really" saying is never on the surface and has to be coaxed out through endless debate and argument, and that any reading is valid so the author doesn't actually matter anyway. I learned that about myself during a very expensive four years. Even in hardcover, this book would have been a much cheaper investment.

I usually love a good book about books, but I didn't love this one at all. If anything, it made me want to stop reading altogether because there is no hope of my ever getting it "right." Readers who genuinely enjoy dissecting the books they read will probably love this book, but if that's not your thing, there isn't much this book can do other than rain on your reading parade.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/8/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems 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): "Winter Morning" by Angela Topping, "Icy Morning Haiku" by James Carter, "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, "When" by Dorothy Aldis, "White Sheep" by W.H. Davies
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 2 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Why Birds Matter" by Jonathan Franzen, "Out of Eden" by Paul Salopek, "The Magic Behind Their Movement" by Brenna Maloney
  • Art appreciation: Michigan Avenue with View of the Art Institute by Richard Estes from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (This was the last painting in this book. The girls loved that it looked so real that it could be mistaken for a photograph. We also reviewed all the previous paintings.) 
  • Singing: "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster, Ave Regina Caelorum, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Music Appreciation: William Tell Overture: "Finale" by Gioachino Rossini
  • Catechism: Lesson 17, "Honoring the Saints, Relics, and Images" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • From Picture Book of Saints by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SV.D. (Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1979): St Bernadette (for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on 2/11)


This was our main subject this week, as M. got her cast on Monday morning and had her regular check-up at the pediatrician on Tuesday. She told the whole story of her injury and treatment to us, and to Gran, and then we recorded a more formal narration for school. 


We were meant to discuss muscles and tendons this week, but we missed a couple of days and only really started at the end of the week with a few notes from EESE. We also read aloud You Can't Make a Move Without Your Muscles by Paul Showers and watched a video from Operation Ouch

C has been reading Sea Creatures Do Amazing Things by Arthur Myers, and she developed an interest in coral reefs. She did a coral reef coloring page and watched a National Geographic video about the Great Barrier Reef.


M. finished A Picturesque Tale of Progress: New Nations II with chapter VIII "Italian City-States and the Renaissance." She watched some related art history lessons on Khan Academy. She also learned about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and about perspective. 

C. read up to the time of Columbus in History Can Be Fun. She watched Marco Polo from PBS World Explorers. 


C. is practicing double-digit addition on the soroban with worksheets from WorksheetWorks.com. She also completed Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 18 and worked on Khan Academy every day. 

M. didn't do much math in her Singapore book because she was out and about for medical appointments, but she did Khan Academy every day and flashcards drill of multiplication and division on Friday. 

Reading and Writing 

C. finished Betsy-Tacy and moved onto the second book. She also read Birds Do the Strangest Things and Jenny's in the Hospital,  a book from my childhood about a girl who breaks her arm and hits her head and has to stay overnight in the hospital for observation. 

M. read The Valentine Party by Pamela Bianco to Gran on Sunday. She's still reading Dr. Dolittle's Return by Hugh Lofting and Ereth's Birthday by Avi. She also read Stella Batts: Broken Birthday by Courtney Sheinmel, which was a get-well gift from my mom.  

Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder, though not as often as she was supposed to. M. didn't practice because of her cast.

Other Activities

On Tuesday, we had lunch over Skype with Aunt B. On Thursday, all three girls made valentines for each other and for friends with whom we had a quick exchange on Friday. On Saturday, we had our annual Valentine tea party. On Sunday, we attended the Latin Mass. We also got to Zoom with my brother- and sister-in-law so we could see their new baby. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/1/21

Morning Time

  • Poems 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): "When Skies Are Low and Days are Dark" by N.M. Bodecker, "Snow Toward Evening" by Melville Cane, "Red Fox" by Coral Rumble, "February Twilight" by Sara Teasdale, "Spellbound" by Emily Bronte 
  • Articles from National Geographic Explorer magazine (Trailblazer edition): Vol. 18. No. 3: "Extreme Plants" by Lynn Brunelle, "Living with Lava Domes," "Something Screwy Going On" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: Mountains and Sea by Helen Frankenthaler from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: Simple Gifts, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Memory work: C.: continents, directions, planets, months, days of the week, "The Tiger" by William Blake; M: marks of the church, 7 sacraments, oceans, Great Lakes, 50 states, 13 colonies, first 16 books of the Bible, "A Christmas Carol" by Kenneth Grahame, countries of Europe; E: numbers 1-10, letters of the alphabet
  • Catechism: Lesson 16, "The First Commandment of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Music Appreciation: Orpheus in the Underworld: "Can-Can" by Jacques Offenbach  



This week, we did the first two sections of BFSU lesson B-6: "How Animals Move I: The Skeleton and Muscle System" using EESE as a guide. On Monday, we labeled the bones of the human skeleton using a blank labeling sheet from Twinkl.com. (The answer key they provided didn't use scientific names so I didn't bother printing it out.) I modified this game so that all the bones were included. Drawing one card at a time, I had M. and C. take turns pointing to the bones on their own bodies. On Tuesday,we read Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman and again had the girls point to the bones as they were named, and we also read Skulls by Blair Thornburg. 

I also showed these videos: 

E. did her next Koala Crate, Glowing Nature, which involved making a mushroom lantern, a stuffed firefly, and a jelly fish game. 


M. read about the Holy Roman Empire in Germany from A Picturesque Tale of Progress.  She has also started The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff. C. watched National Geographic videos about Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Ancient Egypt 101, Ancient Greece 101, Ancient Rome 101. She also watched Castles for Kids: What is a Castle?


M. and C. continued working in their respective Singapore books. Both did review sections with word problems, and C. finished Singapore 1B. M. completed Life of Fred: Honey Chapter 12 and C. did Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 17.

Reading and Writing 

M. read aloud to Gran from Cricket magazine over Skype. She also practiced putting words into alphabetical order. She also read a few books in the Poppy series by Avi, a few chapters in Schoolhouse in the Woods by Rebecca Caudill and a few chapters in Dr. Dolittle's Return.

C. read The Rackety Packety House by Frances Hodgson Burnett, then attempted to read a book called Angela, Private Citizen but it was a little bit too hard so she has switched over to Betsy-Tacy.

E. is still on an Ezra Jack Keats kick, but she also asked to hear The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Alfie Gives a Hand by Shirley Hughes. 

Instrumental Music

Both girls practiced piano and recorder.

Other Activities

The girls played in the snow on our deck on Monday and Tuesday. On Friday, they worked with geoboards. 


On Sunday morning, M. was "planning a jump" from the bunk bed, and she fell and fractured her arm above the elbow. She had x-rays at urgent care, and learned some new vocabulary, including "supracondylar" and "humerus." This happened on the heels of me saying to my husband that I should probably just go ahead and publish this post because "What could possibly happen on Sunday?" Famous last words.