Third Grade: Week Fifteen Wrap-up

This week, (today, actually), we celebrated our 100th day of school! The children are very excited, because I made them each a bag with 100 m&ms, which they are allowed to eat at their discretion. Plus, we completed our countdown “doodlebug,” which everyone looks forward to every year, although at this point, it’s more for Ladybug’s benefit than anything else.

It was a fun, busy week. It felt like we had more schoolwork to do than normal, but I don’t think that was actually the case. We’ve just had so many good conversations in regards to what we’ve been learning that school has been taking a bit longer, which is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination!

One of our favorite things about returning to our regular Adventures in My Father’s World studies has been our daily read-aloud. Actually, all of the read-aloud books have been excellent so far, but I have to admit to having a certain bias toward our current book–Farmer Boy. I really loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child…except for Farmer Boy. I’m not really sure I ever actually read it, or if I just skipped over it every time I read through the series, (which was often!). I guess I assumed that because the main character was a boy, it would be boring to me, and therefore not worth my time.

Then, I finally picked up the book as an adult. And I loved it! It’s fascinating to see the differences between Almanzo’s childhood and Laura’s. Almanzo’s family was obviously better off, financially, and it shows. They ate massive amounts of food, their house was huge, they had tons of livestock. When you contrast that with Laura’s very modest upbringing, it really makes their relationship all the more complex. The children have loved listening to this book, as well…like me, they really like the descriptions of the food. They’ve also been astounded at how often Almanzo eats donuts, (and apple pie!), for breakfast.

Reading aloud is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. Yes, I’m sure I’d still be reading to them even if they were in public school, but I’ve been introduced to many new, wonderful books I otherwise never would have known about. There’s something very fun about sharing a book that even I’ve never read before, (like The Hundred Dresses),  with the children. And it’s even more fun to share my old favorites with them, and see their reactions to the story!


We’re still working on getting back into our school routine following Christmas. It can be kind of a rough transition!

Last week, as Moose had off Monday and Tuesday, we all decided not to start back to school until Wednesday. And since we were only having three days of school, I decided that we wouldn’t do our full schedule, but ease back in, doing religion, math, and Latin only. Oh, and reading. There’s always reading going on here.

This week, however, means a return to our full school routine. Five full days, and full subjects. So, we’re doing the above, plus handwriting, grammar, spelling, copywork/dictation, history, science, and electives. Did I forget anything? It seems like a lot after having Thanksgiving and Christmas school, and then vacation. I can’t believe we were getting all of this done on a regular basis earlier in the school year!

I think that this is almost harder on me as a teacher than it is on my students. I’d gotten accustomed to having time for laundry and dishes and cleaning and whatever else during the day. Now I’m having to remember how to fit it all in around our schoolwork, and I’ve increased Ladybug’s school time on top of it! I’m remembering why I was having a hard time keeping up with the folding prior to Christmas…maybe even prior to Thanksgiving! And I’m also wondering when I’m ever going to get around to taking down the Christmas decorations!

Routines are good, for teachers and students. And once we’re used to our routine again, (hopefully sometime before Chickadee is born, at which point, all routines will be shot all to heck anyway!), it will be a great benefit to us in getting everything done. Until then, however, there’s a struggle of trying to figure out how to get everything done, and in an efficient manner, if possible.

Christmas Crafts–Ornaments

Our favorite kind of Christmas craft every year is making Christmas ornaments. These are particularly good, because they’re so keepable, unlike pictures and other paper crafts, which often get wrinkled or torn and have to be thrown away. Over the last few years, we’ve made many different ornaments, some variations on the same theme, but all of them different in some way. They also make great Christmas gifts for special people like grandparents, pastors, and Sunday School teachers!

We’ve done very basic candy cane and wreath ornaments with beads on pipe cleaners…I think every child in America has made one of these at some point!

Glitter ornaments are another standard, and they look so pretty in the lights on the tree:


Pipe cleaners are useful in so many ways…these came from a pattern I found in a book about Christmas during World War II. Super easy, but the metallic stems make them so sparkly and pretty on the tree!

We’ve made a lot of stars/snowflakes…it can be difficult to tell the difference! Some have come from craft kits, and some are simply done following a pattern, and strung on wire or pipe cleaners.

We’ve made other things from kits, too, including one attempt at foam. I really don’t care for foam projects in general, but the penguins we made did turn out really cute!



This year, for something new, we made wreath ornaments using buttons. For some reason, the buttons, as opposed to the beads used in years past, were particularly entertaining to the children!

We’ve also made ornaments using bells:


We even made jointed Nutcracker ornaments. These look really cool, but due to some, uh…teacher error…they didn’t turn out quite as planned. They’re still fun, though, and they’re even posable! Turkey designed his to look like the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Prince.

Of course, sometimes it’s fun to let children design and create their own ornaments, too!

Next year, I want to make jingle bell ornaments, glitter ball ornaments, and maybe a paper ball ornament, (even though I was terrible at making those as a child!), but after that, I’m out of ideas! That’s OK, though, because other than this year’s wreath, Ladybug hasn’t made any of the other ornaments, so I can just start the whole cycle over again with her!

An Advent Routine

I’ve finally settled into a nice routine with our daily Advent activities. For a while, I felt like I was floundering, trying to fit everything in, yet trying not to cram it all into the same 30 minutes every day!

The first thing Turkey and Bunny do each morning, right after they get up, is open the door on their Lego Advent Calendar. Now, I realize that this is a secular calendar, and isn’t technically an “Advent” calendar, but rather a “Count-the-days-in-December-leading-up-to-Christmas” calendar, but I still think it’s useful. They’re working on being patient and waiting, (a main theme of Advent), which, around here, and especially with Legos, is no small thing. They’re only allowed to open one door each day, there’s no peeking ahead…they have to wait. So, even though Lego’s dates may not match the church’s, it is still a useful tool during the season of Advent. (We’re also doing something similar with paper chains we made, which also don’t count down all of the days in Advent, because I didn’t get my act together soon enough!)

First thing after breakfast, we do our Jesse Tree. This involves a Scripture reading, (or, on some days, readings), a reading from the Jesse Tree book, and the hanging of the ornament on the tree. This needs to be done right away after breakfast to make sure we have time for it before I have to take Moose to school. I actually like this so much, I may try to do our daily religion lessons at this time, even after Advent. I always feel bad that he has to miss out on religion time, (even though he does have plenty of other Bible exposure here at home), and if we can be dedicated, I think that this is at least one part of our school that he can be a part of.

After Moose is taken to his school, we have our school time, which always has some kind of Christmas component, in addition to regular schoolwork. This may included additional Bible readings, (and copywork/dictation/handwriting practice of those readings), the reading of Bible storybooks, reading other Christmas books, and a craft of some sort. These activities can be more secular in nature–we read classic Christmas stories such as the Grinch, in addition to Bible stories, and while some of our crafts may have a Bible-theme, like handprint angels, some are just for fun, like beaded ornaments and wreaths. But, in addition to learning, we’re still preparing for Christmas in some way, even when doing our schoolwork.

Right after Moose gets home from school, we do our day’s reading from Tabitha’s Travels, (or Jotham’s Journey or Bartholomew’s Passage, depending on the year). This was the thing I always struggled with the most. Ideally, according to the book, it should be done at Advent wreath time, and I really tried to make it work. There were two problems with this, however. First, the children’s attention span for the reading, (which lasts about 20 minutes or so each day), plus evenings prayers was being stretched way too thin. In addition, if we did the full prayers and reading while the Advent candles were lit, there’s no way the candles would last through the season! I’ve also tried doing the reading after prayers, before bed, but by then, especially on late nights after midweek worship or whatever other Christmas activity we have, we’re all too tired to care. So, after school works out the best. To be frank, Moose probably wouldn’t mind missing out on this reading, but it’s important to me that he be here for it, so I don’t do it earlier in the afternoon, even though I could.

Our last Advent activity of every day, (except Wednesdays, when we have the midweek service at church), is the lighting of the Advent Wreath, and the saying of prayers. This is the one time of year where we make sure we make time for “long prayers;” the rest of the year, we often allow ourselves to be too rushed, and often just do a short family prayer. In addition to the prayers, we also sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” every night as the candles are being lit, and often sing the Doxology at the end of the prayers, just before the candles are snuffed out.

I’m really happy with our Advent rituals, as they’ve developed over the years. It’s something we look forward to all year-long, it’s familiar and comforting when we begin doing these things at the beginning of every Advent season, and it really helps us keep our focus on Christ as we get closer to Christmas, even with all of the busyness of the season. And spreading things out through the day helps make it a constant reminder of why we celebrate Advent, and keeps us from getting burnt out from trying to do it all at once every day!

Third Grade: Christmas School

I won’t be doing my usual weekly updates until after the first of the year, because we’re not using our regular curriculum this month. Instead, we’re doing “Christmas School,” compiled by yours truly.

This year’s approach to Christmas School is a bit different. Ever since we started homeschooling, we’ve done “Christmas Around the World,” and learned about traditions and legends in other countries, sampled some foods from around the world, made some very unique crafts, and attempted to learn to say “Merry Christmas” in other languages. We’ve learned about some new countries every year, and learned about some countries every year, (like Germany, both because of our cultural heritage, and because so many Christmas traditions are German in origin).

This year, because we’re studying American history, we’re learning about Christmas throughout America’s history, starting with the Puritans in the 1600s, (which was not very exciting to learn about!), and going to the present day. We’ll have a special emphasis on Christmas in colonial times, pioneer days, the turn of the century, the Great Depression, and World War II.

I did manage to find plenty of books, both for reading aloud, and for putting in our book basket, (which has actually turned into a bookshelf for this unit, because all of the books wouldn’t fit in the basket!), but coming up with craft projects and recipes has been more difficult. Some of the crafts I decided upon are paper chains, button ornaments, and tissue paper wreaths. We’ll also be learning about some American Christmas carols/hymns, (although there aren’t many), and maybe trying a few new recipes. Movies will be an important part of this year’s Christmas unit, as well, from the American Girl movies,(which depict Christmas at different times through history), to some American Christmas standards, that everyone should see at least once, (the jury is still out on It’s a Wonderful Life, as I’m one of the few Americans who hates that movie!). And, while we always visit St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival every year, this year it will be especially helpful to us in looking back at what Christmases past looked like!

This is always a special time of year for our family and for our school. It’s fun to do things differently for a few weeks…as much as I love homeschooling, it can become monotonous, just like anything else can. And the children don’t even realize they’re learning half the time when we’re having Christmas school–they just think it’s fun!

Third Grade: Week Thirteen Wrap-Up

This week, we got to enjoy one of my favorite features of Adventures in My Father’s World–a week-long Thanksgiving unit.

This is something that I’ve done every year, anyway. But it was nice to have everything planned out for me for a change. Some of the books were new to us, (somehow we had never read The Thanksgiving Story, even though we have enjoyed the sister book, The Fourth of July Story), and we also used some old favorites (all of the Kate Waters books about colonial children). Some of the crafts were new, (somehow, we had managed to never make woven construction paper placemats before!), some we had done before, (hand and footprint turkeys are a yearly must around here), and some we had done before and skipped doing this time, (we didn’t feel like making paper grocery bag Indian vests again).

There were even dedicated science lessons for this week. There were estimating and measuring assignments, and I added the book From Seed to Pumpkin, particularly for Ladybug’s benefit, so we could see the life cycle of the pumpkin. There was even a fun experiment for discovering the density of a pumpkin, as well as growing your own plant using the pumpkin seeds from the previous estimating and measuring experiments.

I love that this was incorporated right into our school year. The unit is designed to be done whenever necessary in your school year, (although it is labeled as week 13, and is arranged in that spot in the teacher guide), whether you start earlier in the year, and so need to delay the Thanksgiving study, or if you start later, and need to do it even closer to the beginning. The flexibility of this program is another big must!

I wish that My Father’s World could find a way to add a similar Christmas unit to one of their programs. I’m thinking that their global curriculum, Exploring Countries and Cultures, would be the perfect opportunity to learn about Christmas around the world, (and would offer a nice counter-option to Winter Promise’s Children Around the World program, which does have such a unit). While I also create a Christmas unit every year, it would be fun to look at it with fresh eyes, and get some new ideas that I might otherwise overlook, or never think of at all!

What We’re Reading–Thanksgiving

I know I mentioned most of these books in my third grade reading list earlier this year, but there have been some additions, and I thought it would be helpful to have our Thanksgiving selections listed together in one place!