Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Gemma’s Texted Narration

Just read genesis narrate so ...Esau returned from his hunting and went home and took the meat 
to his dad and asked for the blessing and his dad said he had just had some

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Hansel & Gretel at the LA Opera

Sunday afternoon we went to see Hansel & Gretel at the LA Opera. Here is Gemma with two of the creatures from the woods.

Prior to the show, there was a scavenger hunt all around the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

And, at intermission, there was gingerbread cookie decorating.

After the show, children got to meet the performers...

...and twirl around the empty lobby.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Our Walk Home

Pajama Saturday

Some things we did...
  • listened to Scott Joplin’s Bethena and a song from Treemonisha
  • played Forbidden Island (and won)
  • finished reading Leif the Lucky
  • played Prodigy side-by-side
  • dusted dollhouse rooms & rearranged dollhouse furniture
  • added stitches to embroidery project
  • drew (I drew a chaffinch and Gemma chose a pig)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mid-Year Update: History

I overscheduled history.

So, I’ve decided to press the pause button on our readings from Discovery of New Worlds and Our Island Story (and Trial & Triumph, and Hillyer’s A Child’s History of Art), and spend a month reading Leif the Lucky and The Little Duke.

Update: We spent the past week reading Leif the Lucky (1/5 of the book each day for five days), instead of the history readings I had scheduled. It went really well. Gemma seemed to enjoy it. She retained a few details, had some curiosities, and didn’t complain about reading it. (This is in contrast to her reaction after reading it in one sitting when it first arrived months ago; she didn’t like it.) I’m looking forward to having her reading The Little Duke this way over the next three weeks. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Pajama Saturday

Today was Pajama Saturday.

Gemma and Pete went for a father-daughter bike ride down to the beach.

While I made breakfast, Pete taught Gemma how to play Gin Rummy, and then, as a family, we watched Fellowship of the Ring. (I wore my Hobbit slippers.)

Gemma and I did some Life of Fred: Fractions together, in bed, because bed is the best place to do math.

We baked chocolate chip banana bread muffins (that may have been more chocolate chip than banana bread) while listening to Scott Joplin’s rags.

Gemma and I played Prodigy  (I had no idea I could eat the salad in my backpack and get more hearts until Gemma told me.)

Another best day ever.

Mid-Year Update: Math

In math, Gemma is almost done with Life of Fred: Fractions. There are 32 chapters and the final “Bridge,” and Gemma’s on Chapter 30. After she finishes LOF: Fractions, we’ll start LOF: Decimals.

We’re also both loving the game Prodigy. The online game is free and so much fun. For homeschooling parents, I recommend creating a Teacher Account by going to

You can set up a classroom with one or more students. If you have multiple children, I would set up a classroom for each of them, because the game asks for your class’s grade level. So, if you have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader, you can set up a 4th grade classroom and a 2nd grade classroom. (I also recommend creating your own account because playing in the same “world” and helping each other on quests and in battles is a fun way to bond. A really fun way.)

The game starts with the player customizing his or her avatar. You choose a hair style, hair color, eye color, and skin color. Then you choose a first name for your math wizard. As you battle creatures, you’re actually completing the game’s diagnostic test, which determines what grade level you’re working at. While this is going on, you get to choose math wizard last name - something high fantasy and multisyllabic (Gemma’s last name is Rivermaster, and mine is Windlemon), and a pet (I got a baby dragon named Dragic, and Gemma got a Peeko).

After you finish the Placement Test, the game will assign you math skills at your grade level. So, if you’re a 6th grader who placed in 4th grade, the game assigns you 4th grade skills, but if you’re a 2nd grader who placed in 5th grade, the game assigns you 5th grade skills. And the wonderful thing about having a teacher account is that you can see where your child placed and what skills he or she is working on. Even better, you can assign specific skill by creating a quiz. For example, tonight, I wanted Gemma to work on multiplying fractions to reinforce what she learned in LOF, so I assigned that skill. The student doesn’t get a message telling them that the teacher assigned them a quiz; they just keep having battles and going on quests, and as they play the game, they complete the assigned problems. It’s brilliant.

If you have any questions about homeschooling math with Prodigy, let me know. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Friday, November 9, 2018

Why are we so hung up on narration?

What if the reason for narration was not because it was the best way for children to process a reading, but because narration was a reaction to the educational methods being used in Victorian England? In Victorian England, instructors did the talking and students did the listening. Because students were viewed as containers to be filled, they weren’t explicitly taught how to process new learning. But if this isn’t effective, then maybe students aren’t containers. Maybe this understanding of what a student is not leads us to an understanding of what a student is, and maybe this understanding brings us to the realization that a student needs to process new learning. This realization leads to the need for a method, a method which can be explicitly taught, for processing new learning. Narration was a method. Could it be that the real lesson here is not that narration is the right way, the only way, but that a person needs to process new learning? Could there be other ways? More organic, more enjoyable, more effective ways?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mid-Year Update: Literature

We finished The Hobbit a couple of nights ago. I decided to move The Wind in the Willows from school read to bedtime read because I was feeling behind; I was too ambitious with the number of readings I scheduled. She likes the book, and bedtime reads should be pleasurable. The book I was planning to have Gemma read - as a literature book - during the last trimester of 2nd grade is Robin Hood, but now I think we’ll do it as a bedtime read, too. Now, instead of wondering how on earth we’re going to get through it, I can just look forward to enjoying the story with her.

*Gemma Quote: Last night, Gemma said, “I wish we had a hearth so I could warm my feet.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Gemma earned her 30th lesson star patch ⭐️ 

Jiujitsu Halloween Party

Gemma and the jiujitsu studio’s mascot


Gemma carved her jiujitsu studio’s logo into her pumpkin all by herself.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Year 2: Week 12

This week included a Sunday afternoon field trip to the Getty.
Some of what we read this week:

  • Genesis 17
  • Luke 8
  • Wind in the Willows - chapter 1
  • 50 Famous Stories (Alfred)
  • Our Island Story (Alfred & More Alfred)
  • Trial & Triumph (Guess who?)
  • Viking Tales - chapter 12
  • Pilgrim's Progress (2 pages)
  • Lamb's Romeo & Juliet (3 pages)
  • Tales from Troy & Greece (4 pages)
  • Christina Rossetti poetry
  • The World By the Fireside (1 chapter)
  • Spark of Life (chapter 8)
  • Life of Fred: Fractions

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Year 2: Harvest Festival

We’re currently in Year 2: Term 2. Today was the annual Harvest Festival at church. Gemma ran around, eating frozen yogurt with sprinkles, getting her face painted, making fall-themed crafts, petting animals, bouncing in the inflatable obstacle course, choosing which pumpkin we should buy, all while I ate tacos and chatted with friends. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Year 2: Week 14

Today in jiujitsu, Gemma earned her first life skills stripe on her gray & white belt.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

To slow read Shakespeare, or not to slow read Shakespeare, that is the question...

Over the weekend, Gemma told me that she doesn’t like the way we do Shakespeare.

At that moment, she was sprawled out on her tummy on the bed with two books open in front of her. One book was Usborne's Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare and the other was a book in Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop series - The Skull of Truth. The skull, she said, was the skull from Hamlet, the “alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio” skull.

"Really?" I said.


"Ooh," I said, "do you want to read Hamlet as our next Shakespeare tale?"

"No. I like reading Shakespeare. I just don't like the way we do it - three pages a week. I like reading a whole story."

Ugh. I get it. There is part of me that wants to do Shakespeare the way Gemma wants to do it because, ultimately, the goal is for her to have a good relationship with Shakespeare. But the other part of me sees the importance of slow reading.

Does everything need to be read slowly?

Do we need to continue slow reading Shakespeare tales because, in a couple of years, we'll be slow reading the full-length plays? Is it a habit-thing?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Gemma's Understood Betsy Narration

This is Gemma's final narration from Understood Betsy. She dictated it to me while looking over my shoulder. The parentheses, sighs, arrow, bolded letters, etc. are all Gemma's.

Betsy, I know this is going to be hard to tell you but I'm going to have to take you away from Putney Farm. I'm coming to get you today...(sigh)..I've married someone. We are going to travel around the world. My husband's business, and your father's, is going to be worldwide because it moves place to place. Love, Your Aunt Frances

Eleanor gave birth to kittens and Molly went to give Betsy the letter (which you can see ↑). Betsy opened the letter and almost started crying and she ran out of the barn.

Betsy told Uncle Henry what had happened and he was filled with tears too.

He helped Betsy into the wagon and then he and Betsy went to meet Aunt Frances.

Aunt Frances's train pulled up and Aunt Frances stepped out.

Aunt Frances said, "My Betsy, how you've grown so much!"

Then they went to meet Uncle Henry in the wagon and they just kept looking at each other all the way home they didn't see anything outside the trees kept trying to get their attention because they kept waving their branches but all they saw was the inside of the wagon.

When they got back to Putney Farm, Aunt Frances said hello to Aunt Abigail and Cousin Ann, and when Shep came over from the couch she was like, "Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!"

And she said to Betsy, "How can you live with that big dog around?"

And she told Aunt Frances that it was just Shep, a lovable dog.

And then the big cow came out and she hit the cow and she told Shep to take the cow into the barn.

Then Aunt Frances said that Betsy could stay here if she liked, and Betsy said, "That would be wonderful!" And Aunt Frances asked the Putneys if they wanted to keep Betsy with them, and they said, "Well, we've sort of gotten used to having her around and we'd love to."

Aunt Frances said, "Well, it's settled, Betsy. You're staying here. Well, I'm going to miss you very much." (sigh)

Then Betsy said, "Don't worry, Aunt Frances, when you're close by I can always visit you."

Then Aunt Frances hugged Betsy and said, "I would love that."


By Gemma

Once upon a time there was a village that was under attack by a dragon.๐Ÿ‰
the draginn๐Ÿ‰ (<--get it) was a nice dragon๐Ÿ‰ . the villagers๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ซ didn't know that the dragon๐Ÿ‰ was a nice dragon๐Ÿ‰ . the king told the villagers๐Ÿ‘ซ๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต to attack the dragon๐Ÿ‰ .  the villagers๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ‘ฎ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ‘ท๐Ÿ‘ฐ๐Ÿ‘ฑ๐Ÿ’ƒ accepted this task gratefully.
the villagers did what the king ๐Ÿ‘ธ๐Ÿ’‚told them to do . ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿค๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿก๐Ÿข๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš๐Ÿš๐Ÿš‚๐Ÿšƒ

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Year 2: Week 11

Friday was “Admission Day,” which meant that I had the day off from work, and Gemma got an extra day with mommy. I surprised Gemma with a trip to the Science Center to see the IMAX movie Pandas 3D.

It was wonderful! Yes, it was about pandas, and yes, the pandas were too too cute, but it was also about the humans who have made it their life’s work to care for pandas and black bears. It’s a must-see.

After the movie, we spent the rest of the day in the Science Center. 

Here is Gemma checking out a cockroach’s circulatory and respiratory systems... the kelp forest ecosystem exhibit...

...drawing with heat...

...building with Tinker Toys...
A teeny tiny little sample of what we read this week:
  • Bedtime: The Hobbit
  • Genesis 16
  • Luke 7
  • Understood Betsy ch 11 (the end)
  • Discovery of New Worlds (ch 15)
  • Hillyer’s Sculpture ch 11
  • 50 Famous Stories Retold (Alfred and the Cakes)
  • Trial & Triumph (Alfred)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Year 2: Notetaking

Gemma took notes while I read today. It looks like something from A Beautiful Mind, or a word search. If you look closely, you can find:
  • Charlemagne
  • abbot ruled monastery
  • Latin
  • in France
  • the old monk
  • studied books
  • The Dark Ages
  • hallway connected
  • Empire
...and more.

The mountain represents “What goes up must come down,” and stick figure wielding a sword is an illiterate Teuton.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


GEMMA (age 7): Mom, what kind of school does an 8 year old go to?

ME: An elementary school.

GEMMA: What’s that?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Year 2: Week 10

This week included a field trip to the California Science Center to see the King Tut exhibit.


Some stuff we read:

  • Understood Betsy ch 10
  • Genesis 14 & 15
  • Trial & Triumph (Boniface)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Year 2: Week 9

This week included a trip up to Central California to visit grandparents, and to see one of my best friends perform as Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
Some stuff we read:

  • Understood Betsy ch 9
  • Our Island Story (about Gregory)
  • Trial & Triumph (about Gregory)
  • 50 Famous Stories Retold: The Barmecide Feast
  • Genesis 13
  • Luke 6
  • Hillyer's Architecture ch 10
  • Viking Tales ch 9
  • 2 pages of Pilgrim's Progress
  • Finished Lamb's The Taming of the Shrew
  • Tales of Troy & Greece (a couple of pages)
  • Christina Rossetti poetry
  • Elementary Geography ch 23 (a poem)
  • One chapter of The World by the Fireside
  • Spark of Life ch 5
There was also piano, a little Spanish, a little French, a little Life of Fred: Fractions, a look at a da Vinci, some songs sung...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Year 2: Week 7

This week included a field trip to Santa Monica College’s production of the musical Madagascar. It was super wacky and Gemma loved it.

Daddy gave Gemma another bike riding lesson.

Stuff we read:
  • Understood Betsy ch 7
  • Spark of Life ch 3
  • Genesis 9
  • Luke 5
  • Tales of Troy & Greece (The Stealing of Helen)
  • Viking Tales ch 7
  • Our Island Story (Hengist and Horsa & Hengist’s Treachery)
  • Trial & Triumph (Patrick: Missionary to Ireland)
  • Discovery of New Worlds ch 12
  • Christina Rossetti poetry
  • 3 pages of Lamb’s Taming of the Shrew
  • 2 pages of Pilgrim’s Progress 
  • Elementary Geography ch 22
  • Bedtime Reading: The Hobbit
Two especially neat-o things that happened this week...

The first was while I was reading aloud Tales of Troy and Greece. I was reading “The Stealing of Helen,” and when I got to the part about Oenone’s reaction to Paris and Helen, Gemma asked why, if Oenone had the power to heal any wound, couldn’t she heal her own broken heart?

The second was while reading aloud Our Island Story about Hengist and Horsa. Gemma said, “Wait! I bet Hengist wants Vortigern to marry Rowena so he can be Vortigern’s father-in-law!!!” I knew of several good reasons to read fairy tales, but being able to predict the motivations of historical figures was not one of them; it is now.
Gemma had daily swim lessons, attended a magic show with animals (note the hedgehog) at the library...

...and completed another step of her sewing project.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Year 2: Week 8

Gemma got to play giant tennis with a juggler. 

After the show, Gemma walked up to the stage (I didn’t know why) and politely asked if she could have the self-portrait he drew while juggling.

Some of the stuff we read:
  • Understood Betsy ch 8
  • 3 pages of Lamb’s The Taming of the Shrew
  • Genesis 11 & 12
  • Our Island Story (about Stonehenge, King Arthur, and The Round Table)
  • a chapter of Discovery of New Worlds
  • Spark of Life ch 4
  • The World by the Fireside (South America)
  • 1/3 of a chapter from Tales of Troy & Greece
  • Christina Rossetti poetry

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Year 2: Weeks 5 & 6

In literature, we read Chapters 5 & 6 of Understood Betsy, some Christina Rossetti poetry, Chapter 3 of Tales of Troy and Greece, some Pilgrim’s Progress, and some Lamb’s The Taming of the Shrew.

In history, we read Chapters 5 & 6 of Viking Tales (Chapter 6 has been my favorite chapter so far because it has such a vivid description of a Viking hall), Trial & Triumph (about Constantine, Athanasius, Ambrose, and Augustine), Our Island Story (about Vortigern), and Synge's Discovery of New Worlds Chapters 9 through 11.

In Bible, we read Genesis 7 & 8, and Luke 4.

In geography, we read a couple of chapters of The World By the Fireside (South America). One was about pampas grass, which we are now seeing everywhere.

In science, we read two chapters in Spark of Life (about everything coming from seeds, and living things being able to thrive in certain environments). We also went to two science shows at the library. The first was Mad Science...
The second was Bubblemania.

For handicrafts, Gemma experimented with my sewing machine, sewing various stitches.

We also went to a 3-D printing class at the library. Gemma learned to make a star lantern using Tinkercad. (The teacher pre-printed the lanterns because each one takes 3 hours to print!)