Category: homeschool

It’s been six years since my last post about homeschooling. (You can see everything on the subject here.) In the summer of 2014, we made the decision to enroll our kids –then 4th and K/1st graders (with a tagalong preschooler) — in school for the first time. Over the years since that enrollment, our family has experienced private Montessori schooling, private Christian schooling, and public schooling.

In every environment, my kids had teachers who loved them and who loved education. In every environment, my kids made friends and learned a lot.

And then the early spring of 2020 hit, and everything went crazy in the world and in our nation and state… and in my kids’ schools. I’m sure yours had a similar experience as administrators, teachers, and staff pulled off the most amazing pivot ever to bring non-traditional instruction to every family. I have nothing but kudos for both schools we were enrolled in!

However, this fall brought a few changes to our family.

Our 6th grader, 10th grader, and 3rd grader. On a first day of school where no one leaves the house, no one wears shoes!

Our son is still at the same school — now a sophomore, he’s been told to plan on distance learning at least until Fall Break, and that’s 100% okay with him. (It turns out that he really likes NTI. Managing his workload from home really appealed to him. An introvert by nature, he hasn’t been too rattled by the social shift — as long as he can text and in-game chat with a few buddies a few days a week, he’s fine.)

Our older daughter finished up her 5th grade year with a very mature appeal to her father and me. She wanted us to consider a switch to public school for 6th grade, because she has a long-range plan that includes an engineering degree (which she wants to work toward starting in high school at our county’s engineering academy, for which she’ll need to take the ACT in 8th grade, for which she thinks she’ll be better prepared by the public school. Plus, our county school offers a number of STEM classes and electives. It was pretty hard to argue with that! We took time to pray about it, then toured the school in January and made our decision). It wasn’t ideal, starting at a new school with digital learning, but at least all the 6th graders are in the same boat. And our district is sending K-8 back to in-person classes next week, so she is over the moon to be headed to school! However — that will only be 2 days a week. The other three, she’ll still be at home doing NTI.

And our youngest is a 3rd grader this year. For a whole variety of reasons, we decided to pull her out for a year of traditional homeschooling. I am so looking forward to spending this time with her. The years I spent teaching her older siblings were so rich and rewarding, and still number among our fondest memories.

We have a little spot upstairs that is perfect to use as a schoolroom. Susannah has a station for her Chromebook and supplies, and Abigail and I have stations that are nearby (in case Susannah gets stuck with homework, or has a technical difficulty during her class times).

For 3rd grade curriculum, we are using:
*BJU Press Math 3
*HMH Trunity Science Dimensions 3
*Vocabulary from Classical Roots 4
*Zaner-Bloser Handwriting 3
*Tapestry of Grace: Year 2, Unit 4 through Year 3, Unit 3 (literature, history, geography, fine arts) — Upper Grammar level
*Writing: mom-created curriculum
*Spanish: Duolingo 3 days/week
*Typing: Mavis Beacon 3 days/week
*Law & Debate: mom-created curriculum 2 days/week
*Logic: various sources 2 days/week

Several of these resources were chosen because they are what her private school used last year (and our current plan is for her to return there next year for 4th grade, so with transitions in mind I kept her in the same math and handwriting curricula). However, some of what we’re using is because she has a very particular interest right now. Did you notice the less-common-for-a-third-grader materials on her list?

Right now, she says she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up; she wants to be a lawyer so she can become a judge, and work in family court, and help kids. I’m honestly not sure where this particular passion came from, and I don’t know much about it myself. So we are going to be learning a lot together this year!

One thing I do know: lawyers need excellent reading, writing, and research skills. A familiarity with Latin and an ease with logic and debate couldn’t hurt, either. So I’m cobbling together a special interest corner of our weekly rhythm to help her explore those areas. Eight-years-old feels a long way off from taking the bar exam… and you never know, she could change her mind a dozen times between now and heading off to declare a college major. But no matter what she ends up doing, I think the skills she’s covering this year will stand her in good stead.

How does school look at your house this year? Do you have kids doing virtual schooling, in-person school, hybrid options, traditional homeschooling, or some combination of all of the above? I’d love to hear about it.

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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’ll admit, Sunday night I was pretty stressed out about my preparations for our first day of school. Abigail wasn’t sleeping well, I didn’t get to bake muffins, and I was just nervous that it would be a crazy-hard day.  Chris hung the streamers,
I got the circle time rug ready,
and the workboxes ready to go. We’re doing a slight adaptation of the workbox system this year — it’s an organizational approach to homeschooling that gets rave reviews for multiple-kid households. Each morning, Jonas’ green tags are loaded with little icons and numbers on disks. Each number points him to a folder in his workbox containing the textbook or papers he needs to complete a subject. For things that don’t fit inside the workbox (like math, which is on the computer this year; or art projects or physical movement time) he has icons on the disk telling him what to do.
I hung up the morning message and made sure the calendar was ready to go.
I put out the traditional First Day of School gifts (mostly school supplies and a few little treats). This year Susannah recieved her schultuete, which is given on the first day of first grade in Germany, but we did Jonas’ schultuete during preschool so we’re continuing that with the girls. She got new markers and crayons, a purple journal notebook, a purple pencil grip, stamps and a pencil case, and a purple felted purse.
Abigail got a Minnie Mouse doll, a glow ball, and a set of new giant triangular crayons in her pencil case.
Jonas got new markers and crayons, a Mario notebook, “3rd Graders Rock” pencils and a gripper, green scissors, and stamps and a pencil case.
This is Susannah’s workbox setup. More of her activities are larger, so this is a set of 12×12 drawers. The disks on her yellow tags always start with circle time, which Abigail can participate in too; and then she has workbooks and paper/pencil activities (most of which have the second disk on the drawer noting that she needs to do it with Mom) interspersed with more active, hands-on, or fun/game activities. As she finishes the activity, she moves the disk from the yellow tag to that Work Strip (it says “Look what Susannah did today!”). It gives her a great visual reinforcement to see what she has accomplished and how many activities remain until she’s all done for the day.
Here’s a look at the left side of the room – Jonas uses that station in the left foreground to sit with headphones and complete his math on the laptop. The easel is set up with our daily calendar work, but we can flip it for both chalkboard or whiteboard art, or painting.
Other side of the room. The white shelf in the back holds our flag, Jonas’ workbox,  my magazine file with papers and books for the week. It’s also got our office supplies and stereo (and there’s another hook and set of headphones there – it will be a listening station for Susannah to do audio books from time to time). The doors hide supplemental books and manipulatives that I don’t need daily, but do need access to throughout the year.
The colored strips on the wall are our new History Through the Ages timeline. The yellow strips are from Creation through the year 0, and the red strips begin with the year 0 and will proceed through the 1700s. We covered Creation through the Fall of Rome (AD 476) last school year, and this year we will backtrack just a bit, reviewing the 400s and proceeding through the presidency of John Adams.
Most important preparation: coffee pot set to auto brew at 6:00 a.m. 🙂
After breakfast –which, due to a crazy-wakeful baby who started her day at 4:00 am, ended up being homemade muffins after all!– I gave the green light to check out the school room. I love the expressions on their faces:
Happy K4 girl:
Happy toddler:
Jonas thinks doing his math lessons on the computer is “so awesome,” and apparently it’s much cooler to do addition review with a little digital “buddy” cheering you on than just reviewing with mom or dad.
Trying out those new crayons:
I don’t know WHY the dog was so exhausted. I’m the one who stayed up late, got up early, and had all those lessons to teach…
~Official First Day of K4 portrait~
Susannah Elizabeth, age 4
8/3/2013
~Official First Day of Third Grade Portrait~
Jonas Patrick, age 7
8/3/2013
Previous “first day of school” posts:

(I didn’t post about the first day of school 2011-2012! Between the move, the new baby, and Jonas’ swallowed toy, it was a busy fall.)
First day of school 2010-2011
First day of school 2009-2010

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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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