Started off the morning with a big argument over whether the instant oatmeal would be heated in the microwave or with boiling water. Kids eat breakfast while I check the email and read around. Reading around takes longer than it ought; kids are running around and baby is crying by the time I finish.
Take baby upstairs to nurse, while yelling at kids to come up and read in my bed. Kids take their time. Finally everyone is assembled, but Jack won't hush, and Isabel won't hush hushing him. It irks me no end to read aloud when there's so much noise it seems like no one is listening, so I order them out of the room, but they won't go. We reach compromise level and read: Sts. Monica and Augustine, and then some selections from Confessions. Lots of good stuff in Confessions for the kids (we read St. Augustine's ponderings on his infancy) -- I wonder if anyone's ever done a picture-book version for kids. Eleanor listens and is able to tell me what we read; Julia is busy making place cards for her birthday part. I notice in passing that she's spelled almost every one of her friends' names wrong; that's our spelling work for later.
We've been talking about the late Roman Empire, hence Augustine. Trying to buy some quiet time so I can take a shower, I assign Eleanor a chapter from a book about St. Helena ("Did you know that St. Augustine was born about forty years after Emperor Constantine decreed that Christians would not be persecuted anymore?") and tussle with Julia over what's she's to do. She doesn't want to read, she's tired of hearing about saints, she wants to do crafts. Fine.
I take my shower, though I don't get any privacy -- all five kids make their way through the bathroom at some point. Julia has done art: she's drawn a portrait of Eleanor with vacuum. Eleanor has read all of three pages of her book. Time to change gears and write.
Mutiny at the table. Julia refuses her copywork outright, glowering at me under angry brows. Jack scribbles on her neglected copy book and tears out a page. Eleanor doodles and misspells her way through her report on what she's read. Isabel sasses and pouts so much that she's sent to her room. I finally get it out of Julia that's she's not pleased about copying a nursery rhyme, so I write out for her Psalm 117, which we memorized last week. She's still angry but copies the first line. We discuss how even in regular school you don't get to do whatever you want and sass the teacher and refuse to work.
While they write, I call Isabel down and read to her on the couch. Jack tumbles all over us, but finally settles. Eleanor finishes her corrected paragraph and brings her math work (writing out some multiplication tables) into the living room, using a book on cheese to bear on. I realize I've gotten all the copy work out of Julia that can be expected, so I ask her to bring that in and I'll circle my favorite letters.
Julia is prancing and wriggling around as I read, and I realize that although she's tall for her age and mature about some things, she's young for the grade work I'm setting her. I need to revise down and make sure I'm not overburdening her with a constant stream of school work that's too hard for her.
After a multiplication bee, I give into Eleanor's request (formed upon flipping through the book on cheese) that we do a cheese-tasting. We compare Parmesan to Cheddar, and then we taste Cheddar by itself and with apples. Seizing the opportunity to make it educational, I have Eleanor write down the our descriptions of the cheeses and the apple. At last everyone is cheerful and engaged -- the way to a kid's heart is through her stomach.
Good Story 152: The Little World of Don Camillo
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