Category: homeschool

The last two weeks of homeschool have been awesome. In fact, in Jonas’ words, “it was the bomb!” (I think he picked up that phrase from a movie, haha.) Our second week of school covered the events of the Tower of Babel and we became familiar with the geography of ancient Mesopotamia.
The kids each made a model ziggurat. After a first layer of brown paint, we mixed salt into a second batch of paint and coated the ziggurats with that mixture to add “realistic” texture.
I read a great tip about map work with kids this age – especially boys. Often, their handwriting is still on the large-and-laborious side at this age, so using preprinted sticky labels is a great way to allow them to demonstrate that they know the locations of the map features without becoming frustrated at trying to print all those words in those small spaces.

In our research of the ancient Sumerians, we learned about cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. We made our own “cylinder seals” out of cardboard tubes and yarn. Once they were dry, we dipped them in paint and rolled them down a long sheet of paper. Jonas was SO EXCITED to see that “it worked!” — the images we’d formed from yard really imprinted!

Susannah was home with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and she participated in making the ziggurats and cylinder seals. I also had some “new to her” activities, like printing letters in our cornmeal box. She was in tactile child heaven! I am consistently impressed by how much Susannah already knows about letters and numbers. She has absorbed so much information just through play and by being nearby her older brother’s work. 

  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she was off to “Parents’ Day Out” at Settle. Once again this year, she loves it! On Friday, she picked a couple of dandelions from our yard to take to her teacher. It was so cute; brought back memories of many a sweaty fistful of weeds flowers I received in my school-teaching days.

On Tuesday the 21st, we had our first get-together for a new “preschool & primary playgroup” for our homeschool group. It started out really well, with seven families coming to Chautauqua Park to play and fellowship. It ended early for us, when Susannah slipped away and crossed a very busy street by herself. I managed not to have a heart attack or a panic attack, and we made it home safely.

Week 3 covered the lives of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. We traced the travels of these men and their families from Ur in Mesopotamia, to the Promised Land, and then into Egypt.

Project-wise, we made another map and a family tree; inserts for our lapbook; added to our timeline; played a card game about ancient Middle Eastern hospitality customs; watched a VeggieTale take on the story of Abraham (“Abe and the Amazing Promise”) and the DreamWorks animated story of Joseph, and shopped for ingredients to make a meal fit for a Patriarch!

Thanks to an awesome Pampered Chef chopper that Mimi gave me for Christmas, the kids were able to safely chop the onions and garlic for our stew:

         

I cooked the onions and garlic in olive oil under careful supervision. Then we added 4 cups of beef stock, 3/4 c of washed lentils, and 3/4 c of rice. After it came to a boil, we put a lid on the stockpot and let it simmer until the lentils and rice were soft.

While our meal cooked, we donned our costumes. (There are suggestions in our curriculum for making tunics and whatnot, but my sewing machine is broken. This is a make-do costume: a Daddy t-shirt for a tunic, playsilk for a belt, scrap fabric for a head covering, and Mama’s elastic hairband to hold the head covering in place.) Susannah briefly wore the head covering Jonas picked out for her (pink fabric with a purple elastic) but wouldn’t hold still for a picture. And I had a “head covering” from the scarf my sister-in-law brought me from India with a blue elastic.

 
To go with our lentil stew (which, Jonas remarked, “even looks old!”) we had goat cheese and crackers, and dried figs. When I posted this on Facebook, Jonas’ grandmother asked if he really ate that. And actually, all three kids ate every bit of it. The excitement of having shopped for the ingredients and helped with the cooking probably helped – but it really was tasty. They cleaned their plates and went back for more.

Over dinner, we talked a bit about the lives of the Patriarchs and the example of faith they set for us. We also talked about some of the practical parts of life in the Old Testament – like the fact that they probably scooped up their stew with hunks of bread. At that point, Jonas abandoned his spoon and ate the rest of his dinner with his crackers.

When Chris got home Friday night, he asked Jonas how school had gone. “OH,” he raved, “school was just awesome.” I can’t help but smile when I hear that! Now that the children of Israel are in Egypt, over the next three weeks our studies will turn to the Nile, pyramids, Pharoahs, mummies, and eventually to the coming of Moses and the Hebrews’ exodus from slavery. As Jonas puts it: “WOOHOO!”

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Okay, not really. The presses weren’t actually running while we were visiting the newspaper building.

Six families from our homeschool group attended the tour. We saw cubicles where the advertising department and reporters work; we met one the photographers and a few of the people who are responsible for the paper’s layout. We learned about how the editors meet each day to decide what stories and photos need to go into the next morning’s edition.

The paper uses an offset press. The paper is (burned? set? I forget the exact term they used) onto aluminum lithograph plates. Then the plates go onto huge rollers, transferring the words and images; the rollers transfer the image onto the newsprint.
From the lithograph area, we headed across to the distribution area where the papers are cut, folded, stacked, and readied for delivery.

Then it was down a narrow flight of stairs into the basement of the Messenger-Inquirer building where they store these enormous rolls of newsprint which weigh 500 pounds each!

When we were done, Mr. Rocco from the Newspapers In Education department handed out a “Messenger-Inquirer” coloring book to each student. It was a really fun field trip!

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Monday, August 6th was our first day of school! This year, Susannah got first-day-of-school gifts too. In years past, I’ve given schulteute – but I took the easy route this year with purchased bags. They each got a little toy (a Cars 2 vehicle for Jonas and a pair of “Zoobilies” for Susannah), new pencils, new sidewalk chalks, and a coloring book. 

We are working through Tapestry of Grace – Year One, so our first week of school covered Creation through the Flood. One of my favorite things about this curriculum is that it’s designed to include all the children in a family. Littles can talk about the topics in the very simplest way, older kids learn more in-depth. But we’re all talking about the same things over the dinner table. 
“Extra” books from the library to supplement what we read with TOG were out on Susannah’s table for her to look through. I had paper and coloring books out for her, as well as some little activities which I could pull out to occupy her while Jonas was working on something that needed my attention or some quiet.
This was a baggie of foam letters I’d preselected so she could spell her name. She recognizes all her letters and knows the letter sounds; she knows how to spell her name orally. This activity gives her a chance to “match up” the letters she hears herself say aloud with the visual of the letter forms in the proper order for her name.
Little People Noah’s Ark! Susannah and I did this together while Jonas did a math sheet independently. I’d pull an animal out of our basket, and she’d find its mate. Then she picked an animal and I’d look for the mate. When we were done, we counted all the people and animals boarding our ark.
 A friend of mine posed a question on Facebook this week after I shared something about our week – how do you take care of the younger kids when you’re doing school? Well, for one thing, most weeks Susannah will be going to Parents’ Day Out at our church on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9-12:30. That will give me several hours for work that needs focused attention. When she is home with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’ll do hands-on projects in which she can participate, and I’ll have activities like the ones I’ve shown her for her to do. I just sort of bounced back and forth this week between getting S started on a task  – then getting J started – checking on S – answering J’s question.  
Abigail is still in that stage when she’s generally happy to just crawl around the room we’re in. When she’s ready for her morning nap, we all just went upstairs and the big kids had “room time” while I nursed her down. Once she was asleep, I’d turn on the baby monitor and we’d all head downstairs for a snack and then get back to work. Naptime is a perfect time to do anything messy or more involved!

 Putting words from the whiteboard in alphabetical order. 
 
When we were wrapping up last year, I asked Jonas for input on what he liked most and least during school. And I asked what he most hoped to learn & do in second grade. His favorite thing “is doing projects” and his least favorite was spelling and “long writing.” He was really looking forward to learning “harder math” and “doing lots of projects.” So another really appealing part of TOG is the amount of hands-on project ideas included. I’m going to make every effort to hit as many of these as we can, because I believe they will really solidify his understanding of what we’re covering — and because I know he loves it.
By the way, Jonas’ definition of “doing projects” is anything that requires “supplies.” Cutting, gluing, taping, illustrating. If we get to recycle cardboard and plastic in the creation of a project, even better! 
Below, Jonas made a Creation Booklet – one page illustrated each day of the Creation Week – for his Unit Lapbook. (Tapestry is divided into four, nine-week units. He’ll make a lapbook to summarize his learning for each unit. This is going to knock his socks off!)

For this week’s geography studies, we discussed the layers of our earth. On Friday, we got out some brand-new jars of Play-Doh and made models of the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust.

Then we cut our models open to see how the layers build upon each other. This matched what we’d read in our Usborne Encyclopedia of Science – but it’s so much more memorable when you make it and hold it in your hand!
After making our models, Jonas wrote a response page for his notebook…
 …and Susannah smooshed and squished until she had an enormous blob of brown goo.
In addition to learning about Earth’s layers, we also discussed the movement of Earth’s plates (earthquakes! subduction zones!) and the theory of plate tectonics. We watched a National Geographic documentary about the movement of the plates when Pangea broke apart and formed the continents and oceans we have today. 
 Not fully a “school” activity, but our first issue of National Geographic Kids magazine arrived this week, too. Susannah liked flipping through it, and Jonas was able to read it independently. I’m sure we’ll have lots of those “bunny trail” learning conversations thanks to this subscription!
This was the most tiring first-week-of-school we’ve had so far. Part of that is probably just par for the course of homeschooling one child who still needs a great deal of teacher-directed time and having a preschooler and an infant-on-the-cusp-of-toddlerhood. Part of that is because I feel a need to do more prep work with Tapestry than I did with our everything-Abeka year last year. 
But even though I’m tired, I’m really pleased with how it went. I had all three, all day (Parents Day Out won’t start until next Wednesday) and we managed to get ALL of my planned lessons done. The house got a little ragged by the end of the week, but Friday after lunch I made the kids pitch in and help clean up. So other than a mountain of laundry on Sunday, we had a really pleasant weekend in a fairly tidy space. 
I doubt that I’ll be able to post weekly wrap-ups every single week, but I’m going to try to keep taking plenty of pics. Like I said, we have a lot of fun projects to look forward to this year! (Next week: ancient Babylonia/Sumeria… Abram’s life in Ur… the tower of Babel… making a model ziggurat. Seriously, how fun is that?)

And finally – also not technically a school picture, but hey: look what Miss Abigail is up to lately! She’s pulling up everywhere. Still my smiley, happy girl – and so far still a mix of her big siblings’ personalities. She is not quite as laid-back as Jonas, but not quite as energetic as Susannah. She’s signing “milk” and “all done” and says “mama” and “dada”. In a week, she’ll be eleven months old. I guess I need to start planning a birthday party soon!
(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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I don’t care what the pessimists at USC say: I don’t think newspapers will ever die. At least, I hope and pray they don’t.

In my other life – my life before three tiny people started needing me every hour of the day – I watched television news. Even once our children came along, Chris has continued to consume a lot of news programs. I tease that he’s a news junkie; and during election cycles? Holy cow, the man can’t get a fix big enough! But there’s a funny dynamic at our house – on his days off, if he walks into the family room and flips on the TV and selects MSNBC, no one peeps a squeak. If I try to catch the local news on a weekday, it’s meltdown city.

My solution has been to keep the television off in the mornings as often as humanly possible. (Which means that sometimes when we need to get out the door early, I turn on a “kid channel” and let them veg for 20 minutes while I pack up lunches and diaper bags and all the other stuff it takes to get us out the door. Ahem. So sue me.) One side effect of my solution is that I don’t get to see the news. Turns out? I don’t miss it.

Especially since we take the local newspaper Friday through Sunday. I get to read everything from when the paving on Scherm Road is going to be complete, to things happening in Syria (which, honestly, I still don’t understand, but I keep reading because at some point it might make sense!). And after a week like last, when the shootings in Aurora, Colorado were all over the headlines, I’m even more thankful for our paper.

I wanted to know about the story, but I didn’t want radio or television reports to be heard or seen by my children. Yes, Jonas is a reader, and he loves newspapers, but it’s far easier for me to read a story and put that section of the paper out of his sight – than for me to tune in to NPR or watch CNN while shielding my kids from that. NEWSPAPERS WIN.

Which brings me to the other reason I really hope newspapers never die. My son, like a lot of kids, started paying attention to the paper when he discovered the comics. Then, about a year ago, there was an article about the reboot of the X-Men comic series – the art caught his eye, and he wanted to know why Wolverine was in the newspaper. Lately, Jonas reads one or two articles each weekend, and his taste is pretty varied. I love watching it! Reading the newspaper is an excellent way to stretch the vocabulary, to be exposed to writing for different purposes, to gain a glimpse of the world beyond your windows.

Now, he wants to work on writing his own newspaper. Technically, this will be the second issue; the first came out a few weeks before Abigail was born. (Maybe it’s going to be an annual edition? Ha!) Since he’s shown this interest, I decided to find out whether we could take a tour of our local newspaper office. A few phone calls and emails later, our homeschool group has an appoinment for August 23rd! I’m excited for so many reasons. This is the first activity I’ll be heading up for UCHS, and it’s neat to be in that “teacher” role again, facilitating a field trip.  I picked a Thursday morning so that Chris can join us, and he’s never seen the printing setup for a real newspaper. Plus, I think both Jonas and Susannah will really enjoy this tour and will be able to remember it.

So, I’ll post pictures of the field trip as soon as I can after we go. And when the next edition goes to print, I’ll make sure everyone who’d like a “subscription” gets a chance to read the Nebel News. J

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As Jonas has been raving, our new school space is finally done. And it is SUPER AWESOME! And woohoo! And TOTALLY WICKED! Come take a look around.

(I thought the captions I wrote on the photos would suffice, but they look at little small on my browser. Oops. I think if you click each pic, it will enlarge – if you’re curious.)

“The view from our front door. Welcome to the madhouse…err, I mean, SCHOOLhouse. Yeah.”

This is the second shelf on the left-most bookcase. I cleared it of the nonfiction books it used to hold to make space for my Teacher’s Editions and the books we’ll be using for Tapestry of Grace. The TOG materials are in binders (I have spines to label them, I just haven’t gotten around to it for Units2-4). Behind each unit binder, I’ve put the books and resources we’ll use during that unit. There are some great tips on the TOG forums about using a system of label dots on the spines of the books for help with sorting them, but I think I’ll wait to see if we stick with TOG for more than one year cycle before I go that route.
This picture is from the doorway into our kitchen.

Sorry this one is dark; the hazards of shooting toward a window in the daytime. We get great morning sun from the front window, and lots of afternoon sun through this large window. The chandelier in here is nice, but it gives a yellow glow. Most of you know I’m kinda light-sensitive, especially in the winter months, so we’ll see how that works for me. I may have to take down this jerryrigged sheer November through February, haha!
My kinesthetic learner can’t sit in a chair for long. This is our old coffee table, and the only one in the house I allow her to sit on.

For particulars about the workbooks we’re using, see this post.

I used TWPD planner last year as well (probably not to its full potential). In preparation for this year, I’ve done a lot of blog-hopping to get tips and ideas. If it works out as well as I hope, I’ll post more.
Oh, and one last thing we see a lot of in the schoolroom:

  

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It *must* be summer – I’ve been too busy to blog! (Ha.) The curtain is closing on the summer of 2012 (well, not in terms of the weather, but at least in terms of my planning for a new school year). We have a few exciting things coming up – Chris’ 33rd birthday is today; next week the kids and I are taking a trip to the ATL to see my brother, sister-in-law, and their boys; and the first Saturday of August is The Big Latch-On (for me and Abigail and hundreds of other nurslings around the country). And then… the first full week of August… we’re planning to start our school year.

Our county schools go back on Wednesday of that week, and while I have no obligation to start on their timeline, I know that I have a proclivity to take lots of extra days off when the kids get squirrelly in November. And February. And whenever else lack-of-inspiration strikes. I also have two kids who are currently meandering through the new schoolroom space on a daily basis, asking/whining, “Can we do school YET?” So we’re going to carpe the heck out of that diem, and start while the starting is good.

Here’s my game plan for the 2012-2013 school year:

Abigail: 10 months- 20 months old
The schoolroom currently holds her baby swing and a wire bead maze, the base of which doubles as storage for toys she likes. I’ll rotate these out as needed throughout the year. Her “curriculum” revolves around nursing, napping, crawling around the room, and simple songs and board books – typical baby stuff.

I’m hoping to begin a playgroup for infants through Primary-aged kids (*ahem*just like my family!*ahem*) through our homeschool group in the fall. I still miss our playgroup in NKy; it was always especially nice to let our babies be around other babies! If I can get it off the ground, hopefully it will become another activity we can plan on weekly. I don’t believe it’s necessary for a baby to have anything (class/playgroup/etc) to attend, but it is certainly nice for mamas!

Susannah: 3½- 4½ years old, Prekindergarten(3)
We have loved everything about the Parents’ Day Out program at Settle Memorial UMC since Susannah started in January. We’re going to continue letting her attend; in August she’ll begin going Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00-12:30. While she’s there, she does lots of painting, clay, dramatic play, blocks, crafts, outside play, and other usual offerings in a preschool-type setting. She absolutely adores the teachers and other kids (although her dearest friend L. is going to move “up” to the church’s official Preschool in the fall, and I’m hoping Susannah won’t be too upset over not seeing her buddy every day). She’s quite an extrovert, so we’ve found that having lots of opportunities to be with a big group of kids really “charges her batteries”.

In the afternoons MWF, she’ll be free to jump into Jonas’ lessons in Art, Music, and Science (more about these in a minute).

I’m trying to structure our Tuesdays and Thursdays as a “best of both worlds” scenario – Jonas needs to retain some of the routine he will follow MWF, but we can’t be as intensive with Susannah along for the ride. (She would get bored, and if you know my little firecracker you know that boredom is deadly where S is concerned!) I’ve got a couple of PreK3 workbooks for her, because I have a hunch she’s going to want to “do school” just like Jonas does; I’ve also got a bin of manipulatives and games tucked away that will only be for school time so she can stay close with us – and hopefully stay out of trouble – while doing her own thing.

Jonas: 6½ – 7½ years old, 2nd grade
The plan for Jonas this year is to try to accomplish much of our bookwork and lessons together on MWF mornings, while Susannah is busy at PDO. We’ll do independent work, and activities that lend themselves well to working-on-multiple-levels-with-little-sisters, when she’s home with us in the afternoons and on Tuesdays/Thursdays.


Math: A Beka Arithmetic 2


Science: A Beka “Enjoying God’s World” 2


Music: “Meet the Orchestra” (Veritas Press), introductions to Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, & Debussy, and hopefully attending a youth performance at the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra


Art: making our own art appreciation curriculum by viewing art books and Internet resources and then trying our hand at artwork in a similar style as the Masters


Physical Education: Karate lessons 1 hr 3x weekly, Homeschool Gym 2hrs 1x weekly


Language Arts – Handwriting: Zaner-Bloser Cursive
Language Arts – English: Shurley English 2  (may drop this if I feel the writing exercises in TOG are enough)
Language Arts – Phonics: A Beka Handbook for Reading

Language Arts – Literature (and spelling/vocab); History; Geography; Bible:  Tapestry of Grace, Year 1




I’m probably the MOST excited about beginning Tapestry this year. It presents history chronologically, so this year we’ll cover Creation through the Fall of Rome. It’s an integrative curriculum, so while we are studying historical events we’ll be doing our literature readings about the same time & place. We’ll do writing exercises in the same vein, and –this is the part Jonas is super excited about!– we’ve got projects and arts activities galore to complete. In fact, in future Year cycles of Tapestry, I could even sync up our Art and Music studies so that we look at artists from the time periods we are working on. 

I do have a routine/schedule mapped out, but it will likely need to be tweaked as we go the first few weeks. Once we settle into something that feels like it’s working, I’ll be happy to share it here.

I’m off to finish dinner for the birthday guy, and enjoy the last few days of our summer.

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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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