Category: homeschool

For the first summer in a long time, I am not researching curriculum or making lesson plans. The laminator is unplugged; the handwriting posters are packed away. Big changes are underway at the Nebel house of learning…

NoTeacherEver

Jonas and Susannah are enrolled for the fall at Maximilian Montessori Academy.

If you’ve known me for very long, you know that I’m deeply passionate about education. Especially early childhood education. I’m an advocate for home education, and I believe that parents make amazing teachers. Our journey from birth through grade three (for Jonas) and birth through Kindergarten (for Susannah) has been full of delight and discovery.

I’ve watched my oldest two kids become readers and writers. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to spend my days teaching, guiding, and discipling.

Chris and I spent about a month in prayer before touring private schools, and we felt immense peace when we entered the doors of MMA. Both kids are ready for this step in their education, for different reasons and in different ways, but they are both excited and positive about this change.

We’re not anti-homeschoolers now, or even former-homeschoolers. Not really. After all, before we know it, Abigail will be ready to start Preschool With Mama and the cycle will begin again. 🙂

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I shared this blurry cell-phone snap this morning on Facebook, but I couldn’t contain everything I wanted to say about it on a comment or caption. That’s why I keep this blog — my long-winded tendencies need a place to roost!

Susannah and Jonas built a “soft slip and slide” this morning. A few hours after I took this pic, they had added even more pillow cushions, throw pillows, and blankets “for soft protection.” Susannah is shirt-less in the photo because Jonas realized her sweater was creating static electricity! (Well, he didn’t know the word for it. But he told her the sweater “made her shocky” and when she took it off, they stopped zapping each other.) They played nicely for hours this morning, climbing up and sliding down…. then pretending Susannah was Rapunzel on the stair landing, and Jonas her hero climbing the wall to save her…. then pretending there were crocodiles in the foyer and the cushions were the only safe (bridge? hovercraft? not sure what the storyline was at that point) conveyance.
A friend of mine asked if they were in trouble for pulling all the cushions out, and my reply was “Nah. I actually delayed starting school so they could keep playing.” As I typed it, I wanted to add that one of my favorite perks of homeschooling is that it very rarely looks like [institutional]school AT home. I really think I prefer the terms home educating / home education, but homeschool is more commonly found in our vernacular, so I try to go with the flow.
I have to admit: I have days when I fantasize about the yellow bus whisking my brood away. I could clean the house top to bottom, and probably do all the grocery shopping, in those hours they were away. I could finish my scrapbooks and sort through the piles of “to donate? to keep? to ____?” stuff that crowds our office floor. I would be able to bake and cook without sticky fingers trying to ‘help’ and making more mess. I would have HOURS without refereeing fights, explaining the distributive property eight different ways, or even fixing food. (Contrary to popular belief, I think I could live without between-meal snacks if I didn’t make them for tiny humans every day. Tempting!)

But then, there’s another side of that coin. [I’ll state this again for any readers who haven’t heard me say it before: when I wax poetic about homeschooling, stay-at-home-mothering, breastfeeding, or any other choice we’ve made for our family — I’m not slamming on families for whom other choices have worked. I like to think that I can praise the positive and vent the negative of my system without it being an inherent comparison to any other family. Shalom and namaste, people.] 

If I sent them off to school, I would miss –they would miss out on!– mornings like this. It would be rush and bustle and meeting other peoples’ deadlines. There would be no time to create, imagine, play, and bond. Would they still be siblings? Yep. Would they still love each other, and have times like this on the weekends and holidays? Sure. But for now, this is the fabric of our family life. We’re together: climbing towers, leaping crocodiles, and discovering static electricity on a cold November morning.

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This year’s curriculum choices are a little eclectic, but I’m really happy with everything so far (beginning week 3). I’ll try to remember to come back at the end of the year with an update. These are what’s filling Jonas’ 3rd Grade Workboxes.

This is one of the most exciting changes we made this year. Instead of doing A Beka’s math (which is wonderful, thorough, arithmetic instruction; albeit a bit on the busywork side of things and a tad dry) we decided to purchase a computer-based math book. Jonas has a huge, spiral bound math text to accompany 4 CDs (and an answer key). His daily math lesson is taught on-screen by a narrator while illustrations and examples pop up, questions are asked, and his answers are checked immediately. We have a small table off to one side in the school room, where I’ve hung a set of headphones. Each morning I turn the laptop on and log in; when it’s his time for math Jonas sits down with his book and a pencil and logs himself in to the program. He watches a lecture, works problems in his book and on-screen, and some days takes a quiz as well. (And yes, I realize that says “4.” Not a typo – A Beka is kind of advanced, so he tested into the fourth grade TT level.)
This is another new choice for us. We’ve done A Beka for science the last two years, but I felt like their “cover everything” approach meant we were just skimming science topics and never getting into much of anything new. BJU’s Grade 3 science also covers all the major areas, but from my previews before purchase it appeared to go into more depth. Now that I have the materials here, I really appreciate the way the activity manual is laid out with a variety of pre-lesson, review, and extension activities. The reading level of the textbook is perfect – a few challenging words, but not so many that he cannot read the assigned paragraphs on his own. I also purchased the tests and quizzes to accompany the textbook; this will be the first year Jonas gets a percentage grade in Science. 
Language Arts – Can you say, “eclectic?” I knew you could!
Grammar: Language Smarts Level D by Critical Thinking Press
                Word Roots Beginning, by Critical Thinking Press
Spelling: Building Spelling Skills Book 3 by Christian Liberty Press
Penmanship: A Reason for Handwriting C by Concerned Group, Inc.
Reading Comprehension: Read & Think Skill Sheets 3 by A Beka Book
Composition: Writing Aids by Tapestry of Grace*
Literature: lots and lots and lots of real literature!*
The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything [for our family, at least] – Tapestry of Grace, Year 2
       I blogged about our decision to start using Tapestry of Grace last year, and I’m still completely enamored by this curriculum. It is demanding of my time and my attention (especially since this year’s slice of history covers the Fall of Rome through the Presidency of John Adams – we’ll be doing the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, the explorers and colonizations and then the New World. This is probably my weakest area of historical knowledge. Or it might be better to say that I know lots of these facts and people, but I don’t know the connections very well. I have a lot to learn this year!) and it is demanding of students, too. As a third grader, Jonas is on the cusp between Lower Grammar students and Upper Grammar students in the Classical education model. He is a strong reader, and can handle the independent reading work for UG; but he is still a rather concrete thinker and not always ready to make abstractions the way a 5th or 6th grader would. 
       Tapestry moves chronologically and weaves together the threads of History, Geography, Literature, Fine Arts, Writing (composition), Church History, and Worldview. It’s incredibly exciting stuff!

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I was thinking this morning, with only two weeks to go, how it’s getting harder for Jonas and I to sit still and do our work. Then I remembered how much of our first-grade workbooks we left undone (that was a nutso year, with a birth and a death and a relocation for our family) and realized: I’m really proud. Even if we’ve got the Spring Crazies, we have hit our stride and have had an amazing school year. 

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Earlier this morning, I posted this on Facebook:

It’s been keeping me up at night for the last few days. It’s constantly on my back burner. And I truly don’t know the “right” answer for us, yet.

Some of the possibilities we’ve talked about:

 (1) Preschool at Settle Memorial. They offer a two-day-per-week class at our church, and several of her little friends attend. Some of the kids she is in class with right now at PDO will likely “move up” to the preschool in the fall. I’m sure she’d love the bright lights and colors and kids and teachers — that is her favorite part of the Parents’ Day Out program! Negatives: I don’t know if the academic part will challenge her, and I believe she’s ready for a bit of a challenge in this arena.

 (2) Continue attending Parents’ Day Out. This does nothing for her, academically (it really is a play, social, fun-oriented program). She loves it! But she is already one of the older kids in her group and has become, I am told, quite bossy. I worry about the dynamic of being a 4 1/2 year old in a room with 2’s and 3’s. However, this past year I have used those hours she’s at PDO to do the bulk of Jonas’ schoolwork, so I also worry that keeping her home will mean Jonas would struggle with constant interruptions.

(3) Looking into other preschool options. Chris suggested the public school in our neighborhood, but I don’t want to jump into public school waters right now. I don’t want to be tied down to the public school calendar and I don’t want to “send my baby away” for a full-day program. There are other private and/or Christian preschools around; I just need to investigate.

 (4) Homeschooling for preschool, much like I did with Jonas. The thing is, even if I cover the same concepts for prekindergarten with Susannah, I know I’ll need some new approaches. Jonas was a “traditional” sort of student, in that I could tell him about a new topic, read a book or engage in an experiment or lesson, ask him questions or work on paper to be sure he understood, and move on… On the other hand, if I try to tell Susannah something new, she replies, “I already know that!” 😛 It will be VERY necessary for me to put on my “guide by the side” hat with her (instead of my “sage on the stage” hat, for those of you who sat through Dr. Walker’s early childhood ed classes with me). I would also need to have good plans in place for physical & social outlets and experiences for her (possible: dance, gymnastics, karate?, swimming, continue at Homeschool Gym, continue with Homeschool Primary Play).

I think I need to keep a few things in mind, moving forward into a decision:

  • Susannah is not Jonas. Nor is she Ezra or Samuel or Azahn or Semaj or Natalia or Zachary or any of my other former students. I can’t put her into a mold (and I really don’t want to!). I need to be mindful to turn my comparison/contrast mode to OFF. 
  • I need to pull out some games, cards, and sheets to conduct a decent assessment with her. Susannah is kind of sneaky smart! There are things she knows that I have never “taught” her and they don’t cover at PDO, but she has absorbed a metric ton of information. That girl is observant and keen. It is actually possible that she might be ready for the types of things I did with Jonas during his first Kindergarten year (the fall when he was 4.5, we started with preK materials and then switched to Kindergarten stuff halfway through; the following year he had Kinder & 1st materials by subject for the full year). 
  • Hey Guess What!? Not only will Jonas be starting 3rd grade and Susannah starting preK4 in the fall, but little Abigail will be turning TWO. So. Best laid plans and all. It’s possible that I’ll get a whole game plan set out and find that I have a crazy two year old on my hands and end up rebooting the whole thing. 🙂 The takeaway there is not to get too attached to whatever I dream up right now, because in another six months our needs could shift.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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