Category: homeschool

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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It’s only four weeks until Christmas break! So far this school year, I’ve been planning one or two weeks of lessons at a time. (That was usually how I did things when I taught public school, too. Planning bigger blocks of time inevitably led to frustration when we’d miss an activity here or there… I’d have to cross it out or rewrite it… and I’d feel angsty about my now-messy planbook.) This weekend, however, I’m sitting down to plan out the next four weeks.

I’m going to plan out our math, science, handwriting, phonics, and writing lessons, as well as holiday activities, in detail. We are ahead of the curve in math, so by looking ahead over the month, I’ve spaced out some of the curriculum lessons and will interject a few review days so that we’ll complete the unit “on time.”

Our Tapesty of Grace materials are the most time-intensive, so “lesson planning” in that area actually involves a lot of reading on my part, then picking and choosing from the smorgasbord of suggested activities and books, and arranging them in an order that flows with our weekly schedule. So I’ll plan this upcoming week TOG in detail, and *if* I have time I’ll plan ahead. If not, I’ll continue to plan TOG lessons each weekend. The next four weeks will take us back to the Promised Land, in the time of Joshua, the judges, and King Saul and David. I’m personally excited about seeing new connections I’ve probably missed, even after growing up hearing some of these Bible stories my whole life!

Mainly, though, I want to make sure I have holiday crafts and activities for Tuesdays and Thursdays this month (when we are all together). I’ll be moving my collection of Christmas books into the family room when I put away the Thanksgiving books – but I set aside a few titles so that we can read them together with special focus. The Littlest Christmas Tree: A tale of growing and becoming by Janie Jasin, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, and How Many Miles to Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley Holland will each coordinate with a craft for the kids. In some cases, I’m planning two separate crafts for Jonas & Susannah’s differing abilities.In addition to the “school” things I’m planning, we’ll bake plenty of Christmas goodies and watch all the favorite shows and movies. I’ve got my iTunes Christmas playlist fired up, and we have a CD in the car to help us learn all the music for the church play (Susannah is going to be a lamb; Jonas refuses to get on stage and plans to watch from the pew). We’re going to have a Thanksmas celebration on December 8th with my Dad and Barbara, our Sunday School party on December 9th, and another Thanksmas on December 15th with Chris’ mom and sisters, so we get to spread out the cheer the whole month long.

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I don’t know about you, but we’re heading into one of my favorite times of the year. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks, long sleeves and boots are back in my closet, and apples are ready to pick! 
We missed the UCHS field trip to Reid’s Orchard last year (what with having a few-days-old baby in the house!) so I was especially excited to go this time around. We arrived at their store area to pay for our admission and meet up with our group; of course mom couldn’t resist a cute photo opportunity by the bins of pumpkins.

When everyone was present and accounted for, we took off into the orchard in search of the big sign marking the “Rome” apples. One homeschool dad remarked as we trudged, “Are you sure we’re not walking all the way to Rome?”

We finally found the rows of apple trees where we were supposed to pick. Each student picked two apples, which our group coordinator gathered in a big sack.
Abigail didn’t pick apples today, but she enjoyed the view.
After all the kids had climbed trees or clambered underneath for their pair of apples, we took another little hike through the orchards, past some old barns, to the wishing well. 

Can you spot the concrete where the farm’s founders carved the date? Reid’s Orchard is one year older than the Kentucky Derby!

 Group picture!
We hiked back through the orchard to take a tour of the Apple House. We saw the cold storage area that keeps the apples crisp and fresh until Christmas, and then we saw one of the small machines which cleans the apples.
Then we went around the corner to see a machine which sorts and grades the apples by size – plus we watched what happens to the ones with spots from hail or freezing weather. (They taste great, even though they don’t look pretty, so those are used to make cider!)

That concluded our official tour, so we headed over to Reid’s Playland to burn off some energy and eat our sack lunches. Before we left, we tasted a sample of apple cider and brought home the freshly-cleaned apples we had picked.

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This week, our studies of ancient Egypt continued. That salt dough map we started last week was finally dry and ready to paint. Did you know the ancient word Egyptians used to describe their land was Kemet? It meant “black land” – a reference to the thick, black, fertile soil that was deposited each year when the Nile flooded.
While Jonas painted his map, Susannah painted at the easel. 
And Abigail played with Tupperware. 
We also made a “mummy” (by wrapping linen strips around my old Cabbage Patch doll) and a pyramid (by cutting, carving, and baking Sculpy).

One of our last hands-on projects for this week was a replica of Pharaoh’s double crown. The inner, white crown (with white feathers and a “gold” disk) represented southern Upper Egypt; the outer, red crown (with royal cobra) represented northern Lower Egypt. Pharaoh wore a unified crown to symbolize his role as ruler of both regions.

Next week: a deeper look at the polytheistic culture of ancient Egypt, and how the plagues that preceded the Exodus demonstrated that the Hebrew God is the only God!

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We had a short week, since we spent Friday traveling to South Carolina for my dad’s wedding. But even with just four days, we were able to read several resources about ancient Egypt.

Funniest line of the week: I was reading aloud about daily life, including what people would have had available to eat and drink. They grew a lot of wheat & barley, so there was plenty of bread and beer. Even the children drank beer. Jonas got bug-eyed. “The kids could drink the beer?! Man… I wish I was an Egyptian!”

Projects: We had a lot of geography to work on this week – a world map with labels for the continents and oceans… a fold-out flip book of geography terms, definitions, and pictoral examples…  and a salt map of Egypt!

It turns out that salt maps take a l-o-o-o-n-g time to dry, so we’ll finish the salt map with paint and labels next week.

We also made an Egyptian paddle doll. Children in Egypt would have fashioned these out of wood… ahh, how cuddly. Ours is cardboard, and our beads are plastic while children long ago would have used clay or wood beads.

We didn’t plan to take Labor Day off (especially since we took Friday the 31st off) but when Mama wakes up with laryngitis, school plans go a bit off the rails. We muddled through math and called it a day. The rest of this week will be chock-full… Stay tuned. 😉

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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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