Hard Homeschool Moments

Gosh, my last post “Love Homeschool” generated a flurry of comments and emails!

I’m so grateful that I have enough blog posts here on Practical Pages to ensure readers that I have my fair share of hard and heart-sore homeschool moments  … like “Stresses and struggles” and the challenge of teaching High School Maths … And while my previous post sounded like it’s all sunshine and roses, I am currently floundering and feel out of my depth.  And this is hard.

My middle child started with Cambridge education this year.  Previously, she and my eldest daughter used a textbook-based correspondence that I could quite confidently teach and facilitate.  But with this new curriculum, I am in need of a serious upgrade to help tutor her and we live too far from town to regularly attend tutor sessions.  I admit that I ‘dropped the ball’ on her homeschooling … and she “unschooled”, or should I say “non-schooled”, the first 6 months of this year.

Recently, we attended adviser sessions and we are still on track.  My daughter is 14-years-old and has 4 years to complete the Cambridge courses. They have a two-year exam sitting rule to qualify for university acceptance, so we have plenty of time to work through the course materials and prepare.  We have started lessons with a tutor and I can already see my child’s approach and confidence improve.

It has been my lack of confidence that has made this year tough, but we have made good progress and I feel that we will actually manage …  and a month from now it may not seem as hard as it seems right now.

So, to all you moms who are trying to figure it out, join the veteran homeschool club of moms still trying to figure it out.

Hard homeschooling keeps me humble and urges me to prayer.

Blessings for you in the hard times … this, too, shall come to pass.

 

 

Love Homeschool!

These photos capture what I love most about homeschool …

Homeschool3

LOVE!

I love reading to my long-legged, lanky 12-year-old while she nestles in my lap.  (Yes!  She loves to still snuggle in my lap!)

I love our mornings filled with cuddles and giggles.

I love my little Miss. Lara and Laura & Little House books!

My youngest is growing up fast, yet she’s still a child who loves to kiss and cuddle and she loves to be loved.  We have had countless loving moments in our homeschooling days.

Recently I remarked how public schooled kids miss out on parental touch and affection while they learn, and how fortunate and blessed we are to love each other throughout our days.

May I, yet again, urge new homeschool moms to relax and enjoy their children and develop deep and intimate school days.  Avoid all those tears and tantrums with tailor-made homeschooling presented in the way that causes your child to blossom and bloom best.  You have a wonderful opportunity to delight yourself alongside your child as he or she learns and discovers, so focus on the subjects and topics they are interested in.

Forget about “doing school at home”. Keep the essential basic lessons (reading, maths, handwriting) short, simple (literally no more than 20 minutes!) and then happily move on to the discovery and discussion subjects.  Find out how to fit all the extras in and add variety by using a theme for each day.

Follow your child’s lead.  Don’t struggle and “make them learn” by forcing lessons that they are not ready for.  Shelve the lessons or books for a month or two and try again later if your child continually cries and complains.  When your child is ready, they learn so fast and enthusiastically that it makes no sense to battle and fight with them and create a negative vibe about school.  Tears and tantrums are a sign of fear.

Don’t compare yourself, your child, your children or others.  Fear of failure is a dreadful result.  While it is easier and makes good sense to work with several children in your family as a group for core subjects, rather approach each child as a complete individual.  Observe and find out how each child prefers to learn new and difficult concepts and approach their learning in the way that best suits them.

My tactile, affectionate, visual, kinesthetic child loves to move, touch and do stuff while she learns.  If she were to sit at the table to do all her homeschool, she would be utterly frustrated, so we do short seat-work lessons and then I allow her to choose what and where she wants to do her core and other lessons.

We took these photos (with a self-timer!) after Bible, maths and spelling.  We sat in the warm sun flooding her bedroom carpet and did our reading and read alouds.  We chatted about topics and themes, we discussed the characters and their fears and successes.

Informal, intimate and incredible!  We realized, once again, that we are blessed to learn and live in such loving liberty.

What do you enjoy most about your homeschooling?

Blessings,

Around the World Mobile

An amazing learning tool and hands-on activity ~ our Around the World mobile!

Mobile

My youngest daughter and I have traveled with Jules Verne “Around the World in 80 Days” and we took some ‘scenic tours’ in Geography and Social Studies along our route.

Most our Geography studies focused around our large laminated world map as we plotted Phineas Fogg’s route, and we learnt the many countries of the world with our Sonlight Geography Songs CD. (Memorization and learning through song is the most amazingly effective learning method we have ever used! My homeschool graduate sang along with us while she was busy with her work!  She remembered these songs from 11 years ago when we first used the CD.) We pasted flags from each country around our world map in the order of the songs to better assist our memorization.

While I searched for other hands-on ideas, I came across Kids Around the World with gorgeous pictures of children in traditional clothes.  As I always look for some hands-on activities for my children to do while I read aloud, I printed black-and-white pictures and Miss.L12 happily painted her pictures during the next few days reading.  She used the color pictures as her reference.  With all these ideas floating around, I decided to create an “Around The World” mobile.

I used the Montessori continent color scheme in their printable Geography files to co-ordinate the elements of our mobile.  I added a cultural element or famous landmark for each country.  So the mobile has ~

  1. Name of each continent
  2. Continent in the prescribed color
  3. Selected countries from each continent
  4. Flags for each country
  5. Children in traditional clothes
  6. Famous landmark or cultural element for each country

Here are my free downloads ~

Quick reference list ~

Some things to note ~ 20140721_153542

  • This activity took several weeks of fairly consistent work.  It is NOT quick or easy, so it is most suited to middle schoolers (and their enthusiastic and determined moms!)
  • Although my middle schooler loved painting the children pictures, she did not enjoy pasting the flags, continents and labels to backing card or felt.
  • I used colored felt for backing as it is lightweight and brightly colored, but you can use card stock.  Bold colors are best.
  • We used thin wire to hang the elements.  We pierced the wire through the felt and it was quicker than punching holes in the card, but I used a thick darning needle to make a hole in the felt first.  You could use fish gut or strong string instead.
  • I had my daughter pre-cut dozens of short pieces of wire (about 5cm/2″ long) to connect elements to each other.  I used our beading round-head pliers to make neat little loops on both ends.  We used 25cm/10″ length wires to form the upper branches for each country.
  • To make the mobile’s 3 main “arms” we pushed wire through micro-sprayer pipes which are light but rigid, and bent round loops to hang the continents from each end.  You could use dowel sticks.
  • We grouped the countries to balance the arms.  There are 2 continents (Europe & Asia) with 7 countries each which we balanced on each end of one arm,  The other 4 continents have 3 countries each which we hung on the ends of the remaining 2 arms.

After all the hours of wire work, stabbed and pierced fingers, glue and felt fluff, it was complete and looked stunning!  It hung over our work table for the remainder of our Around the World studies.

Would you give this a try?  Or maybe use the downloads in a different way?  What about a simple booklet or a lapbook instead?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Blessings,

PS. Ideas for traditional clothing were done without intending to stereotype or offend.  Please adapt any aspect of these downloads for your own use.

Child-led Science Experiments

When we tailor-made this year’s homeschooling for my youngest (she’s 12-years-old) she requested ~

Science Experiments

As I have learnt to “let go” and let her take the lead for her maximum learning enjoyment, I wanted her to be able to “do her own thing”.  We set up a Science Experiment center on our bookshelf.  I simply gathered whatever I had accumulated from our homeschooling curriculums.  Our Science kit and reference books are all from previously purchased Sonlight packages.

Science experiments3

We spent our first session looking through and discussing each item in the Science kit.  We browsed through our Science books and decided which topics she most wanted to study or which apparatus she most wanted to work with.

I have found that if I establish the correct procedures and a few basic safety rules, my children can work quite independently.  (This is true for all other activities such as art, cooking and baking, cleaning house, sewing, washing and ironing.)

Essentially ~ Be safe.  Work carefully.  Clean up after yourself.

Science experiments1

Although I wanted her to have fun, I explained the basic approach used in scientific methodology.  Worded informally, yet covering science concepts, I have found that these principles develop proper scientific thinking.  For example:

  1. What are you studying? = Title
  2. What are you trying to find out? = Question
  3. What is needed? = Materials
  4. What do you predict (or think) will happen? = Hypothesis
  5. Describe what you do step-by-step = Method
  6. Compare with something that does not change = Control
  7. What did you see? = Observation
  8. What did you learn from this? = Inference

Of course, many experiments require a very simplified version of these points above, and, depending on your child’s age and ability, these questions could be simply summed up ~

  1. Title
  2. What I did.
  3. What happened.
  4. What I learnt.

I created a variety of Science Experiment Notebook pages for her. I printed the notebook bundle and she selects a notebook page to suit her experiment and her approach.Science Experiments

She has spurts of Science lessons, some weeks doing almost 3 a day, and other weeks simply reading the books.  Recent unseasonably warm weather made water experiments fun outdoor activities!Science experiments2

My daughter is very visual and loves to draw very detailed diagrams of her experiments.  I have requested that she label items clearly in print and give every picture a caption or descriptive sentence.

I am often her lab assistant and scribe.  I jot down her dictated notes because I want her to focus on the actual activities and not get bogged down in the difficult job of writing her notebook pages, but I have gently encouraged her to note some of the simpler experiments.

In essence, she initiates and leads her Science lessons and activities.  I am there, but as support and encouragement, participating as one discovering alongside my child, and it is really exciting and awesome!

It works for us!  What works for you?

Here is your free download ~ Science Experiment Notebook bundle

Blessings,

Sketch Tuesday ~ Picasso Guitars

Summer Art

instead of Sketch Tuesday.

Barb of Harmony Fine Arts has focused a summer art study of Pablo Picasso.  This week her theme is “Picasso’s 3 Musicians“.

Pop over to her post to follow all her Picasso guitar links and instructions.

Miss.L12 and I fondly remembered our study of Picasso’s three “Musicians with Masks“, and we recalled Miss.L12 Picasso-inspired cubist guitar collage that became a famous poster and program cover!

This week we really enjoyed the “Partition, Bottle of Port, Guitar, Playing Cards” and I tweaked our art lesson using this painting as our main inspiration.

partition-bottle-of-port-guitar-playing-cards-1917

  1. Draw a guitar outline on an A4 page so that it almost touches all the sides.
  2. Place the guitar outline page inside a large A3 page and fold the pages in half and then continue to fold the pages randomly, creating creases through both pages.
  3. Unfold and flatten the pages.  These creases will form lines which we will use to change colors.
  4. Cut out the guitar shape and glue it onto the large page.
  5. Draw the objects and background shapes.
  6. Paint the background and objects, the guitar and details in Picasso-style.

Art Picasso guitars1

Art Picasso guitarsThere’s still time to do art this weekend and send it in for the slide show … or just for fun!  Thanks, Barb, for your amazing art inspiration!

See you at the slide show!

Blessings,

Charlotte Mason for a struggling child?

Recently a reader asked me ~  

“I am just learning about CM.  I am wondering if her methods would work well for a child that is 12 yrs old but academically functioning around 7 yrs of age?”

I felt an immediate “YES!” in my heart and here are some of the reasons I wrote to her:

As a veteran homeschooler with a homeschool graduate,  I want to assure you that Charlotte Mason’s methods work with any person at any age.  More importantly, it is a wonderful approach which will encourage any student who may not cope in the traditional schooling systems and academic approaches, or who is “behind”.Paper Sloyd1

Firstly, homeschooling allows you to tailor everything to suit your child. Your approach, timing, physical space and especially the actual learning content can be perfectly chosen to match your child’s learning style and ability. Many children who “failed” grades or simply “fell through the cracks” in public schools need to rediscover their love to learn.

  • Charlotte Mason’s principles of short lessons, reading living books, going on daily nature walks and providing a rich immersion in fine arts provides a despondent student (and parent) daily opportunities to rediscover the joy of learning.
  • Select a really fabulous read aloud and just begin with a story that captivates your child’s interest.  In Charlotte Mason’s words, use living books.  Instead of relying on tedious textbooks, read a good book. Listening to a read aloud is a marvelous relief to a child who struggles academically.  Living books stimulate previously bored and uninspired children.  Start this miracle transformation by reading aloud chapters of a carefully selected living book, and watch as your child, gripped by the story, asks you to “please keep on reading!”
  • Then gently ask them to narrate / tell back what they heard and develop careful and attentive listening.  Narrations are brilliant!  They are more effective than any worksheet, test or exam.  A child can only tell back what they understand.  The child should aim to restate the reading in accurate detail.  Gently encourage the child who battles.  Some struggle to start their narration, others battle to recall enough facts.  If so, call for narrations after reading a paragraph rather than a chapter.  Be firm about narrations after a single reading.  Also, mom, try not to interrupt, correct, prompt or question.
  • More importantly, narrations help develop a child’s vocabulary and improve the child’s writing skills.  They ‘borrow’ the author’s style! Encourage your child to present their own ideas in clear and descriptive ways.  Start with quick, simple oral narrations.  Gradually aim towards dictated, then typed or written narrations.  Very young children can simply illustrate their narrations.
  • As Ms Mason encouraged, keep all your maths, spelling, language art lessons and handwriting lessons short and sweet, but encourage your child to work at his/ her very best.
  • Gradually add other subjects, lessons, ideas to eventually create a rich and wonderful education.
  • Because Charlotte Mason focused on building good habits and developing character in the child, her principles work with children of every age and stage.  Some of her principles I only implemented years later in our homeschool journey; things that I should have done from the start, but which I only found the courage to do as I continued to read her advice. Even when we started “late” Charlotte Mason’s habit training approach produced excellent qualities in my children’s character.

I suggest you continue to read books and blogs and my CM page to discover where to start and how to gently phase in the skills, habits and principles.

Personally, my youngest child would most probably have struggled at public school. Here are home, using Charlotte Mason’s principles, she has thrived and blossomed at her own pace and in her own unique way.  I am so grateful to Charlotte Mason’s “gentle education“.

All the very best as you also learn and grow with Charlotte Mason!

With blessings,

 

Sketch Tuesday ~ Picasso Profiles

Summer Art

instead of Sketch Tuesday.

Barb of Harmony Fine Arts has launched a July study of Pablo Picasso with “Summer Art – Picasso Profile”. Pop over to her website to follow all her links and instructions.

We watched the video lesson and viewed some of Picasso’s portraits, looking especially for his profiles placed in full face portraits.

For our art assignment, we drew a life-sized oval and drew around each other’s profiles on the paper, which did tickle!  We took out our paints and went all-out colorful!  Such fun!

Here are our Picasso Profile Portraits ~

Picasso Portraits 001 Picasso Portraits 002

There’s still time to do art this weekend and send it in for the slide show … or just for fun!

See you at the slide show!

Blessings,