The Wheel on the School is About So Much More Than Storks

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Pictures by Maurice Sendak

This story is about storks… and so much more.

It takes place in a Dutch village called Shora.

Shora has no storks. The six schoolchildren of Shora decide to find out why the storks always fly over Shora but never stay there and nest. They discover that storks need trees and wheels on the roofs of buildings to build nests on. Shora has no trees because of storms that come in and spray salt water everywhere and kill almost all of the vegetation. Most of the buildings have sharp roofs, so storks would not choose to build a nest on them. There are no wheels on top of the buildings (for obvious reasons!)

The teacher at their school gives them an assignment to find out how to attract storks to Shora. Through this simple assignment, many wonderful, exciting, amazing things happen to many people in Shora and the surrounding region.

Relationships are strengthened and new relationships are formed. Children learn the history of their town, their families and the people of their town. Families are helped. A community comes together to accomplish something great.

And the children learn that older people really do matter, really do have something to add to their lives. They know things about Shora that nobody else knows! They remember how things used to be, and they are not “miles of years away”, as the schoolchildren thought they were. Before the stork adventure.

The schoolchildren learn so much – outside of the school building! They learn things they could never have learned from books.

I read this story to my older kids when they were younger. It is recommended for children 8 and up.

Now I’m reading it to Garrett and Fiona. They are 9. It is one of our favorite stories. It is very well-written, which is no surprise because Meindert DeJong’s stories are all well-written, in my opinion.

There are so many different ways you could extend this story for a unit study.

Geography – You could use maps to find the flight path of the storks from Africa to Europe, specifically The Netherlands. You could study The Netherlands and the dikes and the land that is below sea level, and the ways people have developed to live in such a naturally inhospitable place. You could learn all about The Netherlands, also known as Holland.

Science – You could study all about storks. You could also study about storms. There’s a big one in the story.

History – Study the history of The Netherlands and the culture, especially of the fishing villages on the coast.

Research Project – You could have your kids do the same kind of thing the kids in the story did. Tell them to think of a question they want to know the answer to, and then have them research to find the answer. If it is something that they want to do, then help them find the materials they need to make it happen.

Creative Writing – Students could write a story about storks or some other bird that children helped to make nests in places where their habitat had been disturbed. Or this could be extended to any other kind of animal that needs help finding a suitable place to live.

There are many ways to extend the story if your children are interested in a particular element from the story.

These ideas could also help you to develop a lapbook based on the story.

If you are looking for a good read-aloud for your family, I would highly recommend The Wheel on the School.

Let’s Study Metamorphosis – Day 4

It is so cool that we are getting to see this happen first-hand!

development of frog larvae

I wonder if our frogs will be this little when they develop legs or if they will be bigger…

Here is what I was able to capture in photos today:


I noticed a bunch of the tadpoles all lined up along the side of a lettuce leaf. Shawn said they looked like musical notes.


I got a few good pictures of the spiral on their bellies today.


Here you can see the beginning of a lumpy, frog-shaped body.


These two look like twins doing synchronized swimming!


The moss starting reaching upward. I told Emma that it was rising up to tickle the tadpoles’ tummies. She thought that was funny.


Feels like home.


We got a good start on our Amphibian lapbook today. The twins are working on this.


Fiona did the top booklet and Garrett did the bottom one.


Our lapbook is from A Journey Through Learning.




We did quite a bit of research on the Internet today about Frogs and Toads and Salamanders. And even Caecilians. Big worm-like amphibians that look like earthworms but are as big as snakes. It was giving me the willies, but I looked them up, anyway. I can stand looking at photos of them, but I hope I never see them in person. The chances are slim, because they are only found in South America, Central America and Southeast Asia. And they stay underground most of the time.

We have already learned quite a bit about amphibians, but we will be learning lots more about frogs as our little tadpoles continue to develop and change during these next several weeks.

Let’s Study Metamorphosis – Translation: Let’s Watch Our Tadpoles Change Into Frogs!

You know how I love Nature Study. Well, I told the kids to be on the lookout for tadpoles. We live in a subdivision, and the only ponds here have alligators in them (!), but I was hopeful that somehow they would find tadpoles for me. I had read a blog post last year at In Lieu of Preschool about how they raised tadpoles.

One day, Shawn and Anna returned from a walk and said that they had seen a bunch of tadpoles in some muddy water-filled ruts. I got excited and asked them to bring me some. Yesterday, they were headed out for a walk, so I gave them an old container and asked them to bring me some tadpoles. They did!


I raised tadpoles when I taught first grade in public school when I still lived at home. I was able to get fresh pond water and moss for them regularly. I just kept them in a big bucket of my dad’s. We watched them develop all the way into frogs that hopped around all over the place. My class loved it!

Here I wasn’t sure how much moss or pond water I would be able to get, so I did what Genny at In Lieu of Preschool did. I went to the pet store and got supplies and asked a few questions.



We went to Petco and got an aquarium called a Pet Keeper and some rocks and water conditioner to make tap water safe. We added some of our pretty blue glass beads and some seashells. Then I put them all together, put the water conditioner in and put the tadpoles in their new home.




We have 8 tadpoles!


From Genny’s post I found out that they can eat boiled lettuce, so that is what we’ve been feeding them.


They seem to like to eat upside down!


When I first saw this guy belly-up I was afraid that he was dead. But then I found out that he likes to eat that way.




One unusual thing that we noticed about our tadpoles is that they have a spiral on their bellies.





You can see this one’s spiral tummy and his mouth.


On some of them you can see the beginning of back legs. They just look like little nubs right now.



They like to swim together.



The whole family is enjoying watching the tadpoles swim around. It will get even more exciting as we see them develop legs and change into frogs. We have a lid for our Pet Keeper so that when they do get their hopping legs, we will be able to keep them contained for a little while before we release them.

I also have a lapbook about Amphibians from A Journey Through Learning that we are going to be working through in the next few weeks.

I can feel a great unit study coming on!

Favorite Preschool Resources

I don’t do a formal curriculum for preschool. But there are many resources online that I take advantage of to work with my little ones on basic skills at their level and to encourage an interest of theirs. I don’t do a so-called preschool activity every day. We go in spurts depending on their interest level and my motivation. They usually just love to play, and I let them do a lot of that. And I talk with them a lot throughout the day, answer their questions and provide educational computer programs and DVD’s for them. They do a lot of PBS Kids online, Nick Jr. online, Webkinz Jr, and Jumpstart online.

That said, I do like to sit down with my little ones at least once a week and do some letter work or number work. I have bought the cheap books at Walmart, and we go through them together during the year. I don’t make a big deal about it, but if one of them wants to do school because they see the others doing school, we pull out the workbooks for them, too.

A lot of activities we do together as a family are based on the holiday that’s coming up, and the little ones get very excited about all of these!

Here is a wonderful website, chock-full of ideas for Homepreschooling, by a lady who has the same philosophy I have toward early learning. Her name is Susan Lemons. She gives us lots of ways to teach in a natural, fun way by using daily activities that you probably have to do anyway, just sharing them with your child. For example, you can teach children how to count by counting plates when setting the table for dinner and counting silverware, cups, etc. You can teach lots of number concepts by letting them cook with you, measuring, following steps in a recipe, etc. They learn to tell time and read the calendar when they’re anticipating something fun, and you tell them how much time or how many days are left. They start to pay lots of attention to time in these situations! Susan has written a book, too, that shares her philosophy and teaches some how-to’s and gives lots of ideas for natural learning at younger ages and stages and also moving on into older years called Homepreschool and Beyond. I found it on Amazon. I highly recommend visiting her site, too.

It’s also available for Kindle.

Favorite Preschool Sites:

1+1+1=1 Lots of printables, Montessori activities, tot school for youngers and preschool and kindergarten are all covered very well. Lots of fun ideas for sensory boxes, iPad apps, etc. She has everything covered!

Homeschool Creations Preschool Corner Click on Pre-K and K tab or visit other sites she has linked there. Lots of printables.

Confessions of a Homeschooler Lots of wonderful ideas here including workboxes, Letter of the Week, etc.


The sites I listed above have lots of free printables. You can also find lots of them at

The Crafty Classroom

Christian Preschool Printables

DLTK-Kids Lots of coloring pages, crafts, activities of all kinds and a Bible section that is very helpful.

There are lots of fun ideas and neat paper dolls that your kids can make at Making Friends.

I like to keep all of our coloring pages and printables in a notebook for each child. You can find out all about Notebooking from Cindy Rushton at

I also have some posts about notebooking here on my blog under “Homeschooling”.

Here’s one that you pay to join:

Enchanted Learning It costs $20 for a year. I like it well enough that I have subscribed to it for years.


I LOVE lapbooks. Some of my kids like them pretty well. I show some examples of lapbooks we have done under the category of Homeschooling and the subcategory of lapbooks. Here are some sites where you can find free lapbook ideas and templates:

Lapbook Lessons

Homeschool Share

And to buy some that are already pre-packaged and researched:

In the Hands of a Child

Live and Learn

Knowledge Box Central

A Journey Through Learning


If you would feel more comfortable using a curriculum, here are some I would recommend.

Before Five in a Row – literature-based, using books you can get from the library. You would have to look through the table of contents to see if these are at your child’s level or if perhaps you need to go up to the next set which is called

Five in a Row These manuals are under $40 apiece and give you tons of ideas to supplement your reading of the best children’s books with educational activities. Very fun for student and teacher. They have Fold & Learn packets available, too, which are similar to lapbooks.


This curriculum is strongly Christian, it’s History- and Literature-based. I highly recommend it for its list of books to read at each level and to cover each time period in History.

Other good reading lists are to be found in:

Teaching Children

Books Children Love

Honey for a Child’s Heart

For teaching early reading:

Leapfrog DVD’s

Letter Factory
Talking Words Factory
Code Word Caper also known as Word Caper (silent e is taught)
Math Circus

I recommend also getting:

The Talking Storybook Factory

You can find a lot of their DVD’s at

Bob Books

These are simple, funny, easy readers for beginners with very few words and line drawings that add to the comic element of the stories without being distracting or giving away the meaning so that the child doesn’t have to pay attention to the words to sound them out. They actually have to read the words instead of the pictures.

Which reminds me – In Lieu of Preschool has tons of great ideas for preschoolers and she has a special section just for Bob Books.

Which also reminds me – my kids really liked Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam, Spy Fox, and Putt Putt computer CD-roms. You can find these at Amazon, too. They also liked lots of Jumpstart games. There are lots of educational CD-roms at Amazon.

Incorporating any of these ideas into your days should get your preschooler off to a very good start in their educational experience. Remember, it’s all about instilling a love for learning in your child. Don’t push or stress about it. Relax and have fun!

And treasure this time with your precious little ones. It goes way too fast.

And remember to READ and READ and READ to them!

Studying History at Christmas Time in a Charlotte Mason Way

Someone recently asked about what we do for history around Christmas time. Well, anything we do related to the Bible I consider a History lesson, so the Advent activities and things related to the Birth of Jesus I count as History.

The Advent books by Arnold Ytreeide contain a lot of historical content. Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels are all Advent stories. They are cumulative, so it’s good to read them in order.

Then for Easter time, he has another book called Amon’s Adventure. This one is about the son of one of the characters in one of the previous books.

I haven’t actually read Tabitha’s Travels yet, but I plan to some day. Maybe not this year. I’m getting off to a slow start this Christmas, because we’re still adjusting to the big move to Texas from Pennsylvania.

We usually do a lot of Advent activities that cover different aspects of preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And I consider those History, too. We have used the free Jesse Tree Devotional by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. She has beautiful devotions and nice paper ornaments you can print out and put on a Jesse Tree. Scroll down to the bottom of her home page and click where it says Free Family Advent Christmas Devotional with Jesse Tree Ornaments to find out how to get it.

We did a nice Advent activity with the book Jesus, The Promised One by Christian Perspective. It comes with little books. You can get one for each child. Then each day of Advent you read a short devotional to them and they put a sticker or color something in their little book that goes with the story. They each get a gold pen, too, that they really like to write and color with.

Our Advent activities usually become our History lessons before Christmas. I just ordered the book, One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham (Billy Graham’s wife). It just arrived today. I checked it out of the library last Christmas and started reading it but didn’t get it finished before Christmas. I took it back unfinished! I hardly ever do that. But I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to finish it after the season was over. This year, I might go ahead and start it over again. And read the whole thing before Christmas this time. She takes us through the whole story of Christmas, starting with Creation and ending with the Resurrection!

The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman at Celebrations and Traditions. is really good, too. You can use it like an Advent calendar. The pictures in the book are all different doors. The child opens a beautifully illustrated, elaborate door, and a part of the Christmas story is found written there.

I just got the book On That Night by Elizabeth Yates, too. It might be a little bit over the heads of younger children. I think it will be inspirational for my older kids at their ages. It describes several different people who were affected by reflecting on the Nativity scene at a Christmas Eve service and how each found something that night that they had lost.

I just read lots of Christmas stories, trying to find good Classics and living books during the Christmas season. That’s my way of doing Christmas in a Charlotte Mason way. I kind of sneak narration in lots of times by asking one of the kids to sum up what we read the last time before we read the day’s reading. Sometimes I will have them write notes, make cards, write something that has to do with Christmas or some kind of notebook page about Christmas, and we have made a couple of lapbooks over the years about Christmas symbols.

I like this lapbook by Carisa at 1+1+1=1.

And here’s a nice Tot Pack for Toddlers and Preschoolers for Christmas, also by Carisa.

Our main History right now is learning some Texas history. I want to get back into Diana Waring’s Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries when we get settled in here.

Those are some of the main things we do to incorporate history into our Christmas season. I try to keep the Bible first in all of our homeschooling, especially our study of History.

I hope you are able to glean some helpful ideas from this list.