A Week, Briefly (In Which We Focus on Studying Africa)

We finished The Green Ember on Sunday night.  After all of our debates over its merits and faults, we placed an interlibrary loan request to borrow the second book in the series.  I won't read it aloud, but I'll bet it will be passed around from kid to kid for individual reading.  I appreciated the message that a person who fails doesn't have to be defined by that failure--that with effort can come success.

We focused on geography for symposium.  While the kids made collages inspired by butterfly art of the Central African Republic, I read aloud about African animals from A to Z.  Then I turned on Youtube videos (here and here) about Africa that they listened to while they kept working and working and working, so that I could put the babies down for naps.

Mister Man



Working hard . . .

 . . . even for days in a row.

Nature Angel finished her meerkat on Thursday

We also did all of the regular stuff we do on a normal school day:  Morning Meeting, Spanish, poetry memorization (we're still working on "Hope is a thing with feathers"--why on earth are we taking so long?), individual school work (Nature Angel got to paint clouds and Little Princess worked on her report about Greenland), outdoor play, chores.

Dad spent the day working on fixing one of our outdoor lights, so the babies followed him around for hours.  In the quiet house I helped Rose Red and Belle with math, did laundry, did dishes, made dinner, and checked completed schoolwork.

Whew!  That was a productive afternoon!

The morning got way off track when I pulled Nature Angel over for what I thought would be a quick minute to choose a book for our next Cousins' book club meeting.


Over an hour later, I finally sent a text to my sister with Nature Angel's chosen title.

I took many deep breaths as I reminded myself that getting "back on track" was not my most important task.  "Just move forward," I whispered under my breath, "Just move forward."

And the day was fine.

Continuing with our Geography Through Art lessons, we used this video to draw a zebra.  It was an 8 minute video . . . it took us over 90 minutes to complete our drawings.

Little Princess

Nature Angel

Super Star



We pulled out unlabeled maps of Africa and tried to fill them in.

It was embarrassing and funny for us all, but it gave us a great starting place for realizing just how much we have to learn.

I thought we'd have to go shopping in the afternoon to get dresses for next week's dance performance, but we found dresses in the girls' closet that will work!  I used the time I would have shopped to tutor Rose Red in math and Spanish.

Ladybug didn't get her individual school time because she's choosing not to.  I wish I knew what's causing her current flare up of self-sabotaging behaviors.

We started reading Around the World in 80 Days for our family read aloud time.

The brightest part of the day was when we pulled our our maps of Africa and checked to see if we could accurately label more countries than the day before.  The energy and joy was palpable.

"Come on, Mom!  Let's get our maps out!"
"Can we start yet?"
"I'm so going to get a better score today than yesterday!"

Little Princess grew from being able to correctly label 3 countries to 12;
Nature Angel increased from 6 to 13;
Pixie went from 5 to 18;
Super Star jumped from 11 to 25;
Belle rose from 8 to 18.

I cracked up when Pixie asked, "Is Albania even in Africa?  I can't find it!"

"Albania is in Europe."

"Oh.  Oh man!  I mixed it up with Algeria!!!!  I can't believe I did that!"

Belle made the same mistake. :)

I made 2 ginormous batches of playdough, and after locating Mt. Kilimanjaro on a map and learning 10 interesting facts about it, we used the playdough to make our own models of that famous mountain.  We also looked up lots of other famous mountains in the world to compare heights and climbing difficulties and ecosystems.

Mister Man and his model mountain

I'm not sure whose Mt. Kilimanjaro this is, but it will suffice to represent everyone's work.

I meant to talk about topography with the kids, but Rose Red called from school to tell me her bike chain had fallen off and could I please pick her up.

Then it rained.

The playdough kept Mister Man, Little Brother, Little Princess, and Baymax happy for hours. My favorite part was when they made imprints of their ears in the playdough. :)

Ladybug and Brother went to therapy.

Nature Angel painted . . . after she finished her first essay!  She was guided through the writing of it over the course of at least 10 lessons, and they were well done.  Her essay is a charming first effort.

Lola took a nap.

The big girls worked on their individual school assignments.

Super Star wrote a 500 word story called Herbert's Great Day.  It is about the adventures of a 1-year-old when his mom isn't looking.  It is so, so, so cute!  She's asked me to look for a short story contest for her to enter.

I took Super Star and Belle to a local thrift store to look for dance shoes.  We struck out in that department, but I was able to purchase just about everything Ladybug is going to need for her wardrobe this winter, and I found a few odds and ends for other kids.

After Morning Meeting I called kids to my room in groups so that we could check to see that everyone has a base costume for dance that fits and is ready to wear for next Thursday.  We found 5 holes:

Ladybug needed pants
Little Princess needed a shirt
Pixie needed undershorts
Super Star needed tap/clogging shoes
Belle needed basic black shoes

We managed to borrow the pants and shirt from the dance group stash, and we're waiting to see if we can borrow the undershorts that Pixie wore last year, but they were in a different bin in the costume director's garage, so she's still working on that for us.

The shoes are turning out to be a problem.

I knew I should have started working on this earlier in the semester!!!

There was just enough time after all of the trying on and organizing and note-taking to help Little Princess and Nature Angel with their math lessons, pull the babies off the dining room table 12 times, print more blank Africa maps, and find some plastic knives before calling the kids to Symposium.

We're getting pretty good at singing this song in Spanish about autumn.  And we learned about the Salvation Army in our American History book.  For our main lesson we shared this traditional Zulu story as we sculpted African animals--some from soap, some from playdough.

Mister Man's giraffe

Brother's eagle

Ladybug's zebra

Super Star's turtle--it was an elephant until the trunk broke, so she was creative and found a new identity.

Pixie's elephant

Belle's wolf's head

Little Princess's rhinocerous

Little Brother's snake

Nature Angel's lioness

As it was dance day, I needed to get the babies down for naps early.  How grateful I am that I was able to leave the kids working at the table, get both babies down, and come back nearly an hour later to find them still happily working with projects either completed or nearly so.

Such a sweet blessing!

We managed to clean up and bolt down a quick lunch before getting out the door for a completely uneventful rehearsal.

While I made dinner, I quizzed Rose Red in preparation for her Spanish exam on Friday.

We read 1 chapter of Tree of Freedom and 3 chapters of Around the World in 80 Days before calling it a day.

Ladybug and Little Princess were scheduled to attend a birthday party in the evening.  This threw Ladybug even deeper into the emotional pit she's been in.  By 9:30 am we'd had 3 destructive incidents--one included broken glass that landed on Brother and Little Brother as it shattered. 

I sent her to her room.

She screamed for an hour.

During that hour I tried to simultaneously clean up the broken glass, help Nature Angel with her language arts, help Little Princess with her math, dress the babies, and text both the mother who was throwing the birthday party and Ladybug's therapist.  Oh, and I was fielding texts about that afternoon's book club meeting for our teen girls--I needed to organize schedules so that I could get kids to 2 locations (20+ miles apart) at once.

By 10:20 when we finally sat down to start Symposium, I was emotionally exhausted.

So was Ladybug.

I scrapped the art project I'd wanted to do and just had the kids fill out their final Africa maps.   Super Star and Belle correctly labeled every single country in Africa!  Pixie wasn't far behind--I think she missed just 1 or 2.  Nature Angel and Little Princess were able to label between 18 and 24 countries correctly. 

I'm really pleased.

And so are they.

We did a survey history of the African continent.  It turned into a very lively discussion that was a joy to all of us involved.  The littlest ones colored a map of Africa and went back outside to play.

As I took Lola off to put her down for a nap I assigned Pixie, Super Star, and Belle to write a page or so about everything they learned about Africa. 

I have yet to read them.

But I will.

We'll be heading off to Asia when we begin the next geography unit.  For sure we'll be using the map labeling technique right from the start instead of waiting for the last week of activities.

By the time we finished Symposium, it was time to hurry and get lunch ready, hurry and get a treat and a salad made, and hurry and get out the door for the first teen book club meeting.  It is a small group (on purpose)--only 10 teens--but that makes it all the easier to get each member to participate instead of being overwhelming. 

They read Fahrenheit 451.  A great introductory book about books.

The discussion showed that the teens are clearly young and of their own generation--used to books with lots of action and lots of plot, two things Fahrenheit 451 is short on.   I bit my tongue to keep from interrupting with a lecture.  I was impressed with the mom who led the discussion because she stayed neutral, letting the kids vent their complaints without talking over them.  The discussion was not as meaty as I'd hoped it would be, given what I thought the teens were capable of, but it was funny and engaging and a good start to the year.

I left just as the discussion ended and they took a break before watching the 1966 movie version of the book.

Sir Walter Scott and I had a hard conversation about whether Ladybug should go to the birthday party or not, and in the end we gently let her know that she would be staying home.  We worked hard to get her to express her feelings in words, express our love and concern for her, and to frame her staying home as a way of showing our love rather than a punishment.

She seemed to believe us.

Little Princess went happily off to the party and had a great time. 

Sir Walter Scott spent the whole evening on the road picking kids up, and I spent the whole evening at home tucking kids in to bed.

Even though it was a good week in general, I'm still exhausted this (Saturday) morning.

The kids all got 4-5 math lessons done each (Rose Red did 3), and everyone read a lot and wrote at least a little and explored various science concepts.

He climbed in himself.  He loves to read in the crib he's never slept in. :)
 I'm especially tickled to watch Little Princess finally get sick of all of the rainbow fairies and candy fairies and pet detective stories that are so mindless and pick up The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  She's enjoying it so much!

We've had lots of political discussions, and the teens seem to be taking seriously the responsibility of the people in choosing a government that will govern wisely.  They are worried about what will happen in the coming years before they are eligible to vote, and they wonder what freedoms will be left once this election is over and subsequent consequences follow.

We are practicing faith and prayer and obedience to principles of righteousness.

The kids raked leaves and jumped in leaf piles, and the temperatures are gently falling.  It is a truly lovely autumn.

(linking here)


  1. It always amazes us when we study a continent or country how much we don't know! Looks like a good week of learning amidst the struggles of daily living.

  2. I remember when I tried to learn the counties of Africa. I love the crafts. You get so much done in a day. Poor little Ladybug. I'm sure you will be led to the answers. Love you.

  3. I love those collage pictures and the zebra drawings; you can tell they all took a lot of time with them.

  4. The collages and drawings were beautiful! And they did a great job with the soap and playdough animals too!

    Have a great week!

  5. Love to hear about and see all the amazing accomplishments!


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