This week was so ridiculously chaotic and stressful, it was a challenge to get any school work done, but we muddled our way through. I've been extra busy with work, last minute Christmas shopping, preparing for upcoming sacraments, and getting paperwork together for D's school next year (he'll be going to an excellent Catholic high school, hooray!). I haven't even started thinking about what I'll be serving for Christmas yet (we're hosting this year), and we've done almost nothing for Advent, yikes!

This week's report will primarily focus on history, since that has been the most interesting subject these days. ;-)


The theme for history this week was colonial homes. I had hoped to order a log cabin kit from Rustic Replicas that we could create period-appropriate furnishings for, but with Christmas looming and my budget maxed out, that didn't happen. I will most likely use Christmas money to purchase this for January because I think it would be fun to use over our next year of history.
Time Travelers: Houses of Early Settlers Pop-Up Comparison

Time Travelers: What Would You Find on a Colonial Farm?

Time Travelers: Straw Tick Mattress & Rope Bed

A Colonial Christmas: This week we started a mini-unit on Christmas in colonial times. I am using bits and pieces of this unit study: Celebrate Christmas in Colonial America (though it's not very well organized, nor is it overly helpful), as well as my own material.


We had no time for science this week, but I did hear something very cool on NPR today that I plan to try in the (near) future. Here is a video that shows you how to grow your own snow crystals and here is a video on the "secrets of snowflakes." These would be perfect to go along with the book Snowflake Bentley, which is based on the life of William Bentley (his official website is here).

Personal Notes

This past week, I became the proud owner of both a NookColor and a Kindle (Christmas presents from DH, who despairs that books have taken over our house!). On my Nook, I've read Life and Death in a Venetian Convent: The Chronicle and Necrology of Corpus Domini, 1395-1436, which was interesting, though not all I'd hoped for. Also, the 1890 classic How the Other Half Lives (Studies Among the Tenements of New York) by Jacob Riis (very good!). I am currently reading Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots by Scott Hahn.

On my Kindle, I am nearly finished with the utterly fascinating, The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain was Poisoned at Home, Work, and Play (the chapters on the Victorian obsession with Scheele's Green were especially interesting!). Next, I hope to start on The Library at Night.   

Shades of Scheele's Green

This is our first weekly report in awhile because for the past two months the kids have been doing much of their work independently. I got very busy with my job, but also needed to take some time away from our more teacher-intensive work to rest, reevaluate and recharge. Happily, the kids did really well during this time, though they missed the hands-on activities and read-alouds. Now, we're back to "school as usual," or at least, doing as much as is possible during this oh-so-busy time of year. 

  • We continued reading daily from Saints for Young Readers, Vol. 2.
  • This week, we resumed memory work from the St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism and are still on the first part of Lesson 2.
  • The kids are also now taking religious education classes at the parish school twice a week in preparation for the sacraments of First Reconciliation (Confession) and First Eucharist (Communion).

Language Arts
  • This week we set aside our Seton readers and workbooks to try something different. M began reading I, Coriander and J began reading Brendon Chase; they will be doing a report upon completion of the books. M also began reading Little Women.
  • For vocabulary, the kids completed one lesson per day (M-Th) from Vocabulary 5 for Young Catholics.
  • In Voyages in English, the kids started a unit on adjectives and completed one lesson per day.
  • Daily copywork from the Bible and George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, part of the Time Travelers: Colonial Life unit.
  • For composition, we studied sentence writing (primarily, ways of making sentences interesting) and the kids completed several exercises from Alhambra Denning's Methods and Material for Composition.  I also had them record examples of interesting sentences that they encountered in their reading and we discussed these.
We began a study of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). The kids read one chapter per day from Along Came Galileo. I had planned to include a few experiments from Galileo for Kids, but we ran out of time. Hopefully we'll get to those this weekend.

One lesson per day from their Singapore books.

Unfortunately, we didn't quite get to everything I had planned this week, but it was still an incredibly full and *busy* week!

© Country Living
The past couple of months have been unexpectedly busy, not affording me time for the usual fall/holiday planning and preparations. With things settling down and cooler weather forecasted for the next week (finally!), I've started searching for some new fall recipes to try. Here's what sounded good:


Also, from my newest cookbook, Holiday Fare: Favorite Williamsburg Recipes: Peanut Soup with Cranberry Sauce and Lardoons, Butternut Squash and Pear Pottage, Sugar and Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloins with Red Cabbage and Pear Compote, Gingered Pumpkin Muffins, and Applesauce Buttermilk Biscuits. Yum!

Every morning, after breakfast and before we begin our school work (much of which, these days, is done independently), we enjoy our "morning basket" time. This is an idea that I borrowed from Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles and is explained in great detail here.

While the routine varies slightly each day and is quite flexible, the essentials remain the same. We do not do each thing every day, the only constants are morning prayers and catechism.

  • Light a candle
  • Morning prayers
  • Saint of the day reading
  • Catechism
  • Devotional reading 
  • Seasonal story and poetry: Selections can be liturgical, nature or holiday-related
  • Character study and memory gem
  • Picture study
  • Review schedules for the day (assign independent work)
  • Blow out candle
Last year all of our morning resources fit neatly into one basket (hence the term "morning basket"). This year I'm not quite so organized, but most of our reading for the week goes into the basket shown above.

While I'm reading the kids usually color a page from my stash of vintage, Catholic, Bellerophon, and Dover coloring books (I'll be adding some from Pomegrantate Press soon also). I'm a firm believer that coloring is a soothing activity at any age, though some mornings they prefer to sculpt with clay or modeling beeswax. M, in particular, is very fidgety and this seems to help her stay "present."

Overall, our morning basket time provides a nice foundation for the day and allows us to get focused in a gentle and beautiful way.

I've elaborated a bit more on the details below.


Following our morning prayers, most days begin with a reading from Saints for Young Readers for Every Day and a picture from Saints: A Year in Faith and Art, unless it is a Marian feast day or we have a Catholic Mosaic selection to read. This is usually followed by lesson work from St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism No. 2 and sometimes a related story from the Angel Food for Boys and Girls series by Father Brennan. There may be other devotional reading as well; for example, we're currently reading from Our Lady's Book by Lauren Ford.

Seasonal Story and Poetry:

When we first started utilizing a morning basket, I included a variety of picture books (for example, see last year's September list). Many of these books were chosen from the excellent book lists in Cay Gibson's A Picture Perfect Childhood, liturgical books from her Catholic Mosaic.

Now, I alternate picture books with selections from several of the anthologies listed below (don't be deterred by the use of "kindergarten" in two of the titles, the stories are generally suitable for all ages). These are the books that I refer to most often, though I also pull stories and poems from 19th- and early 20th-century magazines, readers, and other sources. I am currently working on compiling most of my favorite material into four seasonal volumes for ease of use.
Holiday Stories:

These are the books I had printed from Google Books to have on hand for holidays. Right now I've only given thought to Thanksgiving since it's our next "major" holiday. I'll be selecting Christmas books most likely next month. A more complete list of holiday story collections can be found here.
Character Study:

Character study is something I'd hoped to incorporate into our morning basket last year, though never got around to it. Happily, this year it may actually happen. I've been pulling together my own program, again thanks largely to teacher's resources from the 19th- and early 20th-century. I hope to be able to write more about this shortly.

September's theme is kindness, with a more specific focus each week. There are related weekly "Memory Gems," stories, and poems. I'll be alternating these selections with the other nature/liturgical/holiday stories and poems that we read daily. We'll spend approximately five minutes per day on our Memory Gems.


Though music is not usually a focal point of our morning basket time, I do often have something playing softly in the background. Currently we're listening to Hildegard von Bingen's Canticles of Ecstasy, next up will be Biber's Rosary Sonatas.

Picture Study:

My selections for picture study this month were all borrowed from an old education magazine and were once quite commonly used in schools. I will generally display one picture per week to study and print the 8" x 10" pictures myself using Google Images and our color printer. When I'm not able to print the picture (which can happen for a variety of reasons), we view it on my lap top. Ideally however, the picture should be on display in the classroom for the week.

A quick search for any of these pictures in Google Books will bring up very specific study questions; for more general guidance, I've created this cheat sheet. Finally, an easier option altogether would be to have a copy of Picture Study in Elementary Schools by Williams Wilson printed (I may yet do that!).

September Pictures:
  • The Gleaners - Millet. Breton.
  • September - Zuber.
  • Harvest Time - L'Hermitte.
  • Harvester's Return - Seifert.
  • In the Field - Adam.
  • End of Labor - Breton.

Week four is done and it has been another tumultuous week. For the past month or so, J has been waging a campaign to return to public school. This week he was especially difficult, causing quite a lot of drama and disruption. Ultimately I will probably let him go back to school, since I let his brothers return, I can't very well justify keeping him home (especially when he's determined to make us all miserable about it!). However, I really hate giving in when he's been behaving so poorly.

His reasons for wanting to go to middle school are mostly social - he misses his friends and is jealous that his brothers are at the school while he is not. He also feels that I assign too much work and work that is too hard (ridiculous!). However, he did return for part of last year and quickly returned home, hence my hesitation in allowing him to go back. This back and forth nonsense is tiring and really doesn't benefit anyone. Meanwhile, M has no desire to return to school and really loves homeschooling -- something that aggravates her brothers to no end!

Morning Basket

This was our first week to utilize a morning basket, a lovely idea I borrowed from Jen at Wilflowers and Marbles. I'll be writing more about this later, but this week our work included the catechism/liturgical work below, reading from Nature in Verse by Mary Isabella Lovejoy and a picture study/comparison of "The Gleaner" by Jules Breton and "The Gleaners" by Jean-François Millet.

  • Each day began with a reading from Saints for Young Readers, Vol. 2, followed by lesson work from St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism No. 2. This week, the kids were still on Lesson 1...M mastered it two weeks ago, but J is still struggling with the memorization which is not something he enjoys! Next week we will be moving on to Lesson 2.
  • Nearly every morning I read a little from Our Lady's Book by Lauren Ford.
  • On Wednesday, we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary with vanilla birthday cupcakes. We read that, "The birth of Our Lady was like a dawn. When the sky starts to turn a rosy pink early in the morning, we know the sun will soon come up. In the same way, when Mary was born, she brought great happiness to the world. Her birth meant that soon Jesus, the Sun of justice, would appear." For this reason, M thought that the cupcakes we made ought to have pink frosting - "just like the rosy dawn."

Language Arts
  • Handwriting: Two worksheets per day (M-Th).
  • Spelling: One lesson per day (M-W) from Word Power Through Spelling, spelling pre-test Thursday and final test Friday.
  • Vocabulary: One lesson per day (M-Th) from Vocabulary 5 for Young Catholics.
  • Grammar: One lesson per day from Voyages in English and one lesson per day from Vital English [Composition-Grammar], Intermediate.
  • Reading: Two lessons from This Is Our Heritage (6th) and These Are Our People (5th), two lessons from Reading 5/6 for Young Catholics, Comprehension Skills and one lesson each from Reading 5/6 for Young Catholics, Thinking Skills.

History has been a bit dry these past two weeks because we've been moving through our material at a breakneck speed, thus leaving no time for the fun extras. In quick succession, we've studied:
  • Alfred the Great
  • William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings
  • The Bayeaux Tapestry
  • Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane
  • King John and the Magna Carta
  • Richard the Lionheart
  • Knights
Every day there is some reading, followed by discussion and a worksheet. I've learned that having to do a worksheet encourages the kids to read more carefully.

It seems that, thanks to my decision to pick up the pace in history, we've already abandoned our read-aloud, Adam of the Road. This wasn't intentional; I'll need to re-visit our read aloud schedule this weekend to make some adjustments.


This week we continued to review basic math facts - especially multiplication and division. Next week we'll be diving into our new Singapore books (finally!).

Friday Fine Arts

This week we celebrated our first Friday Fine Arts "Fiesta", beginning our study of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Because Amazon took their own sweet time delivering our books (they arrived on Thursday), my planning time was minimal. Fortunately, one of the books, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Their Lives and Ideas, 24 Activities by Carol Sabbeth was all I really needed. It is an awesome resource, perfectly suited to our semester-long artist study. The biographical information is excellent and every single one of the activities is really good (unlike many similar activity books where half are unusable).

We read the first eleven pages, learning about the childhood of Diego Rivera and the influence of artist Jose Guadalupe Posada. We examined Diego Rivera's mural, "The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City..."

I had planned to make Sugared Fritters, but then realized these Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Crisps were much quicker and easier! Unfortunately, they were a little too well done, but they were still pretty good.

Our art project for the day was Jose Posada-inspired printmaking. I had wanted to do it this way, but didn't get the scratchboard in time, so we had to follow the alternate instructions (using styrofoam plates) in Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Their Lives and Ideas, 24 Activities. The results weren't that great, probably because we used Crayola markers rather than the permanent markers suggested in the book, but everyone had fun regardless.

While working on our art project, we listened to the lively music of Los Lobos, "La Pistola y El Corazon" - the kids very much enjoyed this CD!

We did not begin our Pablo Neruda poetry study yet because I was not expecting the books I'd purchased about him to be chapter books (yikes!). Clearly I need to pay more attention next time I'm ordering resources! I'll be determining our schedule for those books this weekend.


Handwork was another new addition to our schedule this week. M has been begging me to teach her how to sew for the past year and after reading through some of Soule Mama's sewing posts last weekend, I was in a serious sewing mood myself. We have Sewing with Saint Anne, but I also have a huge stash of Japanese craft books which looked far more tempting! 

Until I can get myself organized, I decided to start her out with some simple embroidery. I found a squirrel pattern in Simple Stitch Life that she happily practiced on plain muslin. I'm thinking that our first actual sewing project will come from Linen, Wool, Cotton and then we can ease into the Japanese books. M's already picked out some adorable Heidi Kenney fabric while I've got my eye on this gorgeous Kokka linen.


BEFORE the sun had risen above the hills, and while yet the dew lingered on the grass, the harvesters were at their work. With their hook-shaped sickles they cut the grain, handful by handful, and laid it in uneven swaths upon the ground; and as they kept time with one another they chanted a song of thanksgiving and praise to the sender of the harvest, the giver of good gifts, the Lord of earth and sky. After them came the boys and young men who had not learned to handle the sickle,— some to gather the swaths up into bundles and others to bind the bundles into sheaves.

Following these were the gleaners, the poor people of the village, and the strangers who were without homes in the land; for it was a law of that county try that all the loose grain that was upon the ground and all that was left uncut by the reapers should belong to the needy and homeless. —James Baldwin.

Read this selection over carefully.
  1. What do the words, above the hills, help you to picture?
  2. Tell how the sky would look before the sun had risen.
  3. How would the air feel?
  4. What sounds would you hear?
  5. Do you think the harvesters noticed these things?
  6. Describe the way in which the grain was cut.
  7. Tell how the reapers kept time with one another.
  8. In what way may the chanting of a song have helped them?
  9. Why was the song one of thanksgiving and praise?
  10. Describe the work of the young men and boys.
  11. Tell who the gleaners were in this country.
  12. What did they do? Tell what the law of the country gave to them.
  13. What do you think about such a law?
Write five sentences telling things that you see and hear early in the morning.

(Source: Language Lessons by John Benjamin Wisely)

The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet

(Click on image to enlarge)

Sensier's Interpretation of Millet: "For Millet, the man of soil, represents the whole human family; the laborer gave him the clearest type of our toil and our suffering. Millet is, however, neither a discouraged nor a sad man. He is a laborer who loves his field — ploughs, sows, and reaps it. His field is art. His inspiration is life, is nature, which he loved with all his strength. . . . And if before a painting or a drawing by Millet, we are shocked by the roughness of his hand, the unusualness of his subject, the unexpectedness of his composition, let time do its work. Let us go and look at the plains, the forest, and the sky; let us forget our fashions and our traditions, and we will feel the same strengthening breath that animated Millet. . . . He that understands him will say, Here is a painter who has given a place to the humblest; a poet who has raised to honor those whom the world ignores, and a good man, whose work encourages and consoles."

Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) was the son of poor French peasants. His father was a man of beautiful character, a natural musician, and a lover of nature. He said to his son often, " Look at that tree, how large and beautiful; it is as beautiful as a flower," or "See! That house buried by the field is good; it seems to me that it ought to be drawn that way." He tried sometimes to model in clay or to carve a bit of wood. But he died ignorant of his own worth and gifts.

Millet's grandmother named him Jean for his father and Francois for that charming Saint Francis of Assisi, whom even the birds loved and to whom they talked. She loved her little godson and grandson, rocking, caring for him, and singing to him all day long. In the morning she wakened him gently with, "Wake up, my little one; you do not know how long the birds have been singing the glory of God!"

The little Millet was a handsome, hearty, strong lad, quite able to hold his own against the other boys both with his fists and his head. The clergyman of the village taught him Latin for the pleasure of it, and he studied it for the same reason.

His father sympathized with his craze for drawing and helped him to find his first master. Finally, Millet went to Paris, and there entered the studio of the famous painter, Paul Delaroche. The city students could not understand him. They nicknamed him the "Man of the Woods"; but they soon learned that he could draw. " It is easy to see that you have painted a great deal," said Delaroche. But he had never touched the brush before.

Nevertheless he had a hard struggle to get along. His pictures did not sell. He was ready to print signboards even, but the market for them was not inexhaustible. At last he moved from Paris to Barbizon, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

At first a small peasant house with three rooms answered for his wife and three children, but as his family increased the house was lengthened, and a studio, wash-house, and chicken-yard built in the garden.

"He had two occupations," writes Sensier; "in the morning he dug or planted, sowed or reaped; after lunch he went into the low, dark, cold room called a studio. . . . His first vision was a Bible subject, Ruth and Boaz, which he drew on the wall in crayon."

Here for years he was wretchedly poor. "But," said he, "let no one think that they can force me to prettify my types; I would rather do nothing than express myself feebly. Give me signboards to paint; give me yards of canvas to cover by the day like a house painter, but let me imagine and execute my own work in my own way."

But recognition came to him at last and in his own lifetime. The knowledge of him, and reverence and love for his teaching have been increasing ever since his death.

Method.— What do you think that the girl in the foreground is saying? What are the others in her group doing? What is she carrying in her left hand? Why? What do you make out of the group toward the right? of the left background? Where is the sun? How do you know? What is the time of day? the season of the year? the country? (Source: Picture Study in Elementary Schools by Williams Wilson; Story and Notes)

The Gleaner by Jules Breton

(Click on image to enlarge)

The picture is a favorite with the painter. "Ceres of France" he calls it in one of his poems. "How royally," he says, "is the golden wheat carried on thy shoulder."

"Jules Breton wrote many poems, and a vein of poetry runs through his pictures. They tell of the sadness of the land when the fields sleep dreamily beneath the shadows of the evening, touched by the last rays of the setting sun; but they tell of it in verses where the same rhymes are repeated with wearisome monotony." — Richard Mather.

Jules Breton (1827- ), one of the most popular of living French artists, was born of wealthy, intelligent parents. His mother died when he was but four years old, so his uncle, a genuine nature lover, came to live with his father and helped to bring up Jules and the other children. At the age of six Jules determined to be an artist. This was the more remarkable in that there was no art in his native town. The only painting that he had ever seen was the restoration, by means of bright green paint, of the four statues of the seasons which adorned his father's grounds. This made upon him so vivid an impression that in later years he wrote a poem in commemoration. He was sent to a religious school at the age of ten. While there he made a drawing of a favorite black dog named Coco, representing him in a cassock on his hind feet with a book in his paws. Underneath he wrote, "The Abbe Coco reads His Breviary." Unfortunately this was seen by one of his teachers. "Did you do this through impiety or to laugh at your masters?" he asked. Poor little Jules did not know at all why he had done it. He only knew that it was certainly wrong to laugh at his masters, and so he answered, trembling, "Through impiety." His master whipped him. These undeserved blows caused his family to send him to another school, where, fortunately, the atmosphere was more favorable to his artistic ambitions.

He has always been a hard worker, and his great successes have been well earned. His brother, Emile, and his daughter, Madame Demont-Breton, whose picture of the "Frightened Bather" will be remembered, are both his pupils, and both excellent artists.

Method. — Secure, if possible, a large framed copy for the room and smaller copies for each of the pupil's desks.

The message of this picture is the beauty, the dignity of labor, the health and real wealth that it brings. Therefore, let the study of the picture be preceded by the nature study for the month, by the thoughtful reading of such poems as his magnificent "Songs of Labor," "At Harvest Time," from "Lilliput Levee," etc.

Let the children give their own interpretation, but direct their observation, and thought, too, by leading questions, as they may be necessary.

Of whom is this a picture? What is she doing? What was she doing? How do you know? What time of the year is it? (July.) Why do you think so? Is it hard work or easy work for the girl? Would you find it hard or easy? Why? How would you carry the large sheaf? What will become of the wheat? Why is she barefoot? Was the picture painted in this country? Why do you think not? 1 Who painted the picture? Why did he call her "Ceres of France"? Does she look like a goddess? How? Why? What other harvest pictures have you ever seen?

Stimulate the children to bring other pictures for a loan collection.

Just as soon as possible let them have the keen pleasure and great intellectual stimulus of deciding which picture of several they like the best, and why they prefer it to the others.

The teacher must remember that it is impossible to force into the consciousness of the children artistic feeling, knowledge, and wisdom. Its development and growth is from within outward; therefore it is not a bad plan to let the children shape the course within reasonable limits. Show them either a number of Breton's pictures, or else

Select a number of harvest pictures by other artists. Put them about the room. Then let the children choose each for him or herself which one she wishes to keep on her desk for a day. Give them the opportunity thus silently to study several.

It is a good plan to let the children write an account of the artist or the picture, or both. Give them each a copy of the picture, thus starting them with an art note-book, to which should be added the appropriate poems; or, if possible, give them each the opportunity to buy the picture, or, if nothing better can be done, openly start a note-book of your own in the hope that some of them will feel disposed to follow your example.

(Source: Picture Study in Elementary Schools by Williams Wilson)

The Conquest or Arrival of Hernan Cortes in Veracruz by Diego Rivera

Hernán Cortes and the Aztecs
Hernando de Soto, Francisco Pizarro, and the Inca
Francisco Coronado
Coloring Pages: