Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Homeschool Day in the Life, 2015

Dianna’s Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 9-, 11-, 12-, & 14-year-old)

Written by Dianna Schnabel of Joyful in Hope.

5:37am: I wake up just before my 5:40 alarm blares. My husband is showering for work and I need a few minutes to wake my brain before getting out of bed.

6:00am: My husband wakes our oldest (14-year-old) and middle (11-year-old) daughters since they attend public school and have buses to catch. Meanwhile I take a few minutes to get dressed and finish rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

Here’s the thing: I am not a morning person. Light helps. My husband (per my request) leaves the bathroom light on and door open to replicate sunlight during these dark winter months. We also have two kitties that pounce on each other, and me, so that helps too.

6:15am: I putz around the kitchen—loading the dishwasher, prepping veggies for the crockpot, etc.—while my girls get ready for school. They’re gone most of the day so I like to get in some chat time before they leave.

6:55am: Two down, two to go. I eat breakfast and do my devotions before waking my homeschoolers.

7:30am: Andrew (12-year-old) and Alyssa (9-year-old) begin their morning checklists while I jump on my computer to get some work done. I work for a realtor part time from home, answering emails and organizing client contact info.

8:00-9:00am: Some days the kids and I will get started on schoolwork right away, but sometimes we mess around first, watching funny and/or educational videos on facebook and youtube. Friday morning we had an impromptu art history lesson after Alyssa asked why the people in some paintings have halos. Who knew that halos in art dated back to ancient Egypt? Not me.

9-ish: We officially start school. Our primary curriculum this year is an ancient history unit study from My Father’s World (MFW) titled Creation to the Greeks (CTG).

Bible We start with a Bible reading—we finished Joshua on Friday—and discussion. This takes longer than it probably should but it’s one of our favorite subjects and we usually get into some pretty fun conversations.

History More reading aloud and discussion as we study ancient history. Our readings are often supplemented with coloring pages, notebook summary pages, or map labeling exercises.

Vocabulary Another favorite of ours. We use English from the Roots Up, studying Greek and Latin root words as a means of interpreting language.

Science We stopped using the textbook that came with our MFW curriculum because the daily “experiments” were more annoying than educational, and the material was presented in a babyish way that patronized the kids. Instead we are reading Archimedes and the Door of Science, as well as poring over picture/factoid books about volcanoes, earthquakes, and weather.

Read-Aloud The kids very favorite part of the school day—read-aloud story time. MFW schedules fantastic realistic/historical fiction stories with varied cultural and historical backdrops. Each book follows the protagonist on an adventure that leads to their spiritual awakening. The only problem we have with these books is that MFW only schedules one chapter per day, so we are always ahead of schedule. During the resultant book gap I read the kids some of my childhood favorites, such as A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and My Side of the Mountain.

11:30am: Once we finish the MFW portion of our schoolwork we take a lunch break. Since it’s just the three of us we kind of forage around for leftovers or sandwich makings. After lunch the kids go outside to play. I may walk down to the park with them for a few minutes, but then I generally spend a half hour or so working on the computer.

1:00pm: We start back to work, this time with math and reading. Alyssa practices her times tables while I go over Andrew’s pre-Algebra lesson with him (we currently use Saxon Math). One of the kids then sets the oven timer for 30 minutes, during which they read, and I either read or work. Once or twice a week we add in a French lesson with First Start French from Memoria Press. We love French!

2:00pm: This usually marks the end of our school day, at which point the kids are free to do their own thing. Andrew likes to play Legos in his room, while Alyssa plays with her dolls. Occasionally I’ll let them set up Minecraft on the living room TV so they can build Egyptian pyramids or volcanoes.

3:30-4:00pm: My other two kids get home from school and I drive Alyssa to dance.

5:00pm: My husband gets home from work and we make dinner and help the girls with their homework.

7:00pm: I pick Alyssa up from dance while Matt works on his own schoolwork (he’s finishing up his bachelor’s degree). When we get home Alyssa eats dinner and we all watch TV for an hour or so.

8:30pm: It’s been a long day for everyone; time to get ready for bed. Bonne nuit.

We have a lot of “favorite” subjects. What’s yours?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Schizzing out with the Schnabels

Summer Vacation, Day 1:

Today did not go as planned. Big surprise there. Blood draws for the three youngest were painful for all involved, although Alyssa's Oscar-Winning dramatic performance WAS pretty funny: "Don't poke me, don't poke me, YOWWWWW!!!! SCREAM!!!!!" Can you say drama queen?

We grabbed a quick treat afterwards while waiting for my sister Stefanie to join us for our Humane Society excursion. Then we piled into the car and headed into Omaha...only to turn around and drive back to Gretna, where I had left my debit card sitting on the counter at the vet's office.

We tried for Omaha again, only to find ourselves stranded in the middle of a semi-abandoned neighborhood. Andrew and Abby were both incredibly carsick. We pulled off onto a quiet neighborhood street and Andrew jumped out of the car, took off his shirt (What? He was hot.) and proceeded to lay down in someone's yard. Meanwhile Abby rolled down her window and hung out of the car, tongue lolling like a slow-witted dog. Neither of them threw up, but we had to wait a good twenty minutes before their tummies calmed enough for us to get back on the road. Blessing: I assume no one was home at the house we parked in front of, otherwise the cops would have shown up to take our half-naked lawn urchin into custody.

Six more miles in the car, with Andrew turning fourteen shades of green, and we landed at Applebee's. Air conditioning, salty food, and lack of motion seemed to be in order to cure what ailed my two middles. Which is where we got today's photo:

Yes, there is something wrong with the lighting on my phone camera. No, Ashley is not toothless. Yes, I'm gonna need a new camera phone.

Applebee's turned out to be just what everyone needed, but unfortunately by that time my sister had to get back to Gretna for work. So no Humane Society today. I guess we will try again tomorrow. For now, we are all crashed out on couches, eyes glazed over, as Vin Diesel attempts to portray a super tough babysitter/Navy SEAL. Dang, summer vacation is hard work.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What I Meant to Say

It’s kind of funny how often we learn lessons through our kids. Just this morning for example, I was having a chat with Andrew about putting a positive spin on things. He has been struggling with a major attitude problem these last few weeks, and I am trying to get him to exchange positive thoughts for negative ones.

This is a trick I learned while living with my friend Marla. I am a pessimistic person by nature, so my thoughts and comments tend to flow in a negative direction. Marla, on the other hand, is one of those happy-go-lucky, overly-optimistic people that kind of makes you want to gag (when you aren’t wishing you were more like her). Whenever I would say anything negative within her hearing she would happily correct me, “What you meant to say was…,” and then she would voice the same thought in a positive light. Here are a couple of my common complaints paired with their positive counterparts:

My husband is never here; he works all the time.
My husband has a steady job that provides for our family financially.

My kids are making too much noise—it’s driving me crazy!
My kids may be loud, but they are having fun and staying out of trouble (mostly).

I am too tired to get anything done today.
I am lucky to have a flexible job that allows me to rest when I need to.

Of course as I went through this discussion with Andrew I realized that I was giving him instructions that I myself haven’t been able to follow. I guess it’s time for the entire Schnabel family to undergo some positivity training. I think the picture I swiped from a friend’s facebook page this morning best captures the essence of today’s lesson:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Responsibility, Work Ethic, and Money Management, Oh My!

This year the Schnabel kids are getting a lesson in hard work, responsibility, and money management. I read a magazine article by a woman whose 7-year-old son began a trash-to-curb business to earn some pocket money and I was inspired. Apparently I don’t get out much.

Of course the initial challenge in this endeavor was to find age appropriate “jobs” that the kids could charge money for. We don’t do the allowance thing anymore, mainly because I want them to learn that it is their responsibility as members of this family to contribute to the running of the household. It’s been about a year since we stopped paying allowance but the kids still perform their daily chores—unload dishwasher, take out trash, feed pets, etc.—and sometimes they even do it without whining. Gasp!

Now, however, I want them to find something outside of the home to do to earn money (except Alyssa, who is too young yet to gad about town on her own). For Ashley, it is simply a matter of preparation. She will be twelve this summer. A couple of inches taller and she will be big enough to detassle corn. Two short years and she can legally work at McDonald’s. Don’t say it…don’t you dare…I am not old! Yet.

Andrew is eager enough to get to work; he is very motivated like his dad. The problem with Andrew is that his primary motivation is money. Accordingly, one of my points of focus during this lesson is to teach the kids how to divide their money into three pots: spending, saving, and giving.

Abby—well I’m not really sure what to do with her yet. She is the hardest for me to read since we are the least alike personality-wise. I will probably ask my sis for advice on this one. She doesn’t care about money and doesn’t even seem to enjoy spending it all that much. My sister recently took her to the mall (an hour away) to spend her $50 from Christmas. She bought an adorable stuffed monkey for ten dollars and then called it a day. Weird. I think maybe she was switched at birth.

Alyssa is the youngest, and frankly kind of spoiled and selfish. As with Andrew, I think the money issue will be my main focus with her, although she definitely needs to learn a better work ethic as well. She wants to be a professional dancer, which is one of the most demanding careers I can think of, and one that cannot be attained without a good deal of blood and sweat—neither of which she is particularly willing to contribute at this point.

Alyssa was the first to get a job assignment. What she needed was a job that would make her get up and move as far away from the house as possible without removing her from my sight. Ah—the mail! Requires shoes (theoretically) and a short walk outside, which in Nebraska could mean braving a windstorm, a blizzard, or even smothering heat. She gets paid thirty cents a day for bringing the mail into the house, but there are two catches:
1. She has to remember to do this on her own, before Matt gets home and checks the mail, otherwise she doesn’t get paid.
2. She has to split her money up equally using the Girl Scout Cookie box bank we made together. In the manner of a school-made Valentine’s Day mailbox, we covered three boxes with paper—which she decorated—taped them together, and cut slots in each. After bringing in the mail she gets three dimes: one for spending, one for saving, and one for giving.

She is a lot like me and went shopping as soon as she had enough money to buy a pack of gum, but has not even tried to touch the money in the other two sections. Tonight she even asked me to help her empty the “give” box so she could take the money to AWANA’s to donate. Good Alyssa! I may have been distracted by the Crazy Hair Night theme for tonight and forgotten to give her the money, but at least she is thinking about it, and that, after all, is the point of this exercise.

Andrew was pretty easy too. He has a new friend in town with a really cool bike. A really expensive bike actually—and Andrew wants one. So he has started a trash-to-curb business where he rolls the neighbor’s trash cans down to the curb before trash day and returns them to their resting place the next day. He set out to shop for clients as soon as he got home from school this afternoon and already has four clients (including us—he has a great sales pitch!).

We still need to work on the concept of separating his earnings into the spending/saving/giving categories, but for now he is pooling his money in a glass jar to cover his contribution to the new bike fund. This way he will learn how to look at the bigger picture as he saves, rather than spends his earnings—and by the time summer arrives he will have a super cool BMX freestyler with twenty-inch tires and five-spoke rims.

Yep, that’s right. I know about bikes. I’m the cool mom. Or at least I am impersonating her by copying the product info. off of

Bikes have two wheels. They are faster than running. Those little seats really hurt my ***. That’s all I need to know.

When it comes to picking a job, that’s the easy part for Ash. She loves animals, so she is advertising herself as a pet sitter for vacationing Murdock-ians. Murdock-enes? Murdock citizens. There we go. The hard part for her will be finding clients within biking distance in such an unpopulated area, but I think even a couple of good jobs throughout the summer will help to improve her level of responsibility.

I am also training her as a babysitter, so that is something else that she should be able to start doing in the not-too-distant future. And as soon as she finishes this growth spurt—detassling! It’s hot, back-breaking labor, but I have a feeling the shopping spree at Justice with one third of her earnings will make it worth the pain.

As I said earlier, I haven’t decided what to do with Abby yet. However, I am currently taking suggestions. Please submit your ideas by e-mail or facebook by May 1st. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

God Will Provide

The Scriptures are filled with promises and evidence of God’s provision. In Genesis, God Himself provided the lamb for Abraham’s sacrifice. Isaiah speaks of how God provided water to His people in the desert. There are several instances of Him providing food to His people, and I Peter instructs us to do everything “with the strength God provides.” I find it disturbing that even with all of the evidence of God’s provision found in the Bible we tend to forget God’s promises when our own needs crop up. I also find it amazing that He continues to provide for all of our needs, even when our faith wavers or we forget to ask.

My friend, Jenni, is dealing with a difficult situation right now. Her husband was hospitalized yesterday with pancreatitis, and will likely remain in the hospital for a few days. She has three young children to care for, the youngest of whom is still a baby. This situation seems overwhelming, but it is actually an example of how God both anticipates and provides for us in every circumstance.

Some people may call it luck, but I call it providential. For a few weeks now Jenni’s best friend has been living with her and her husband. This friend is getting ready to leave and go back home, but in the meantime, her significant other has come out here to help her pack and move. Coincidentally, these two are planning to leave in about a week, which should be the same time that Jenni’s husband is released from the hospital.

Jenni was understandably upset at the idea of losing her other half and acting as a single parent for a week, but thanks to God’s foresight, she has two adults staying with her to help out during her husband’s illness. With the addition of these two helpers into the equation, Jenni not only has assistance with her kids and home, but she is also able to leave her kids at home every few hours and go visit her husband in the hospital.

Of course, there are still obstacles to overcome. Jenni’s husband needs healing, and they will have a difficult time with the loss of income and the added burden of hospital bills. However, if we truly believe in the stories of God’s provision portrayed in the Bible, we can be confident that none of these hurdles is too difficult for our omnipotent God to leap over.

Are you experiencing an impossible situation, one that you cannot figure out how to survive? If so, take this promise to heart, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7a NIV).