Rights to free play

Revisiting an earlier post ~Lara colecting flowers

Charlotte Mason published Rights of Children as Persons (Vol.3 Chapter 4) and said, “Children should be free in their play“.

She advised parents not to crowd out their free time. She urged parents to give children the freedom to play and explore outdoors everyday.  Most importantly, she warned that parents should not meddle or organize children in their free play.

She said, “Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.

I have watched my younger girls play with creativity and enthusiasm.

They often act out scenes from our read alouds.

They love to re-enact DVDs and videos and stories, so we have been careful what they watch.  Classics like “Emma” by Jane Austen and “Little Women” are favorites.

Make believe

They love dress up clothes. A simple scarf transforms a child into endless characters.  Each season I try to make an outfit for them.  They have wonderful olden-days games with bonnets and pinafores, or an American Indian squaw dress, or a corset (here’s my free tutorial for a child’s “boned corset)) and long skirt.

Boys love capes, a bow and quiver with arrows, a cowboy hat and chaps, or belts with swords.  A hand-made knight’s armor is every young boy’s delight!

Nothing quite beats giving children a large piece of cloth to create a tepee or tent.

Very young children love to simply play (in safe surroundings with mom watching near) with water or sand (or both!)

We are fortunate to live in beautiful surroundings.  The girls love to pick flowers, collect egg shells that have fallen out of Cape Weaver nests and look for quartz stones.  We all love to find heart-shaped stones when we go on walks on the farm.  Their collection of feathers, stones, sticks and fascinating objects grows weekly.

Looking back at my innocent young children in these pictures, I can see how fast time flies. My youngest is now a young pre-teen, my middle child, a mature 15-year-old, already quite different and grown up!

Moms, may I urge you to relax and nurture their freedom and allow them creative white space.  Don’t over-plan their days.  Don’t add too many outings, excursions, activities, sports and cultural events to your schedule. Leave at least 1 day open in your week and stay at home.  Let them just play!

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  He loves them for their innocence and simplicity.  We are granting them such a precious gift when we let the children play.

Blessings,

Google Calendar Planning

Earlier this year I shared how I use Google calendar for homeschool planning.

Image representing Google Calendar as depicted...

I want to emphatically declare that it was a huge success!

Not only was it quick and simple to plan all the school days, holidays and exam dates, but each child had their own calendar which helped me keep track of their work and their schedules.

My eldest wrote her matric and had a very strict schedule. After 11 years of fairly flexible homeschool scheduling, this was quite an adjustment for both of us. She has her own Gmail account and could get access to her own calendar on the desktop computer. I plotted out when her portfolio assignments had to be couriered to the marking department before the deadline dates. Also I added moderation dates, extra lessons and, most importantly, her exam dates. Because she wrote her exams at an exam centre in town, we had to book accommodation for some weeks. With Google calendar on my smart phone, I could easily confirm our accommodation bookings while in town.

For my youngest child, I did all my detailed planning in the beginning of the year and added details, websites, images, uploaded files and downloads to the description box for each event, sometimes fleshing these plans out a bit more as we went along.

I rescheduled some lessons if we fell behind with a quick click and change of dates. Some lessons I simply deleted (… sigh … we didn’t do it all …), but most the plan worked! Her calendar is now my record of work!  How nifty is that?

My middle child wrote Grade 8 this year. Her curriculum was fully planned and so I used Homeschool Tracker (HST) to record her exam and term marks. The HST program is quite complicated and I can only do the very basics. (I should have stayed with the free Homeschool Tracker Basic download … and buying the full offline HST program is one of my few homeschool purchase regrets …)  Despite my limitations, I typed in her subjects and exam dates for the year and entered her marks when done. It worked very well, and I printed her term reports and sent her mark sheets away with a click of a button.

For those clever moms that can plan and record using HST, my hats off to you! It is a brilliant program … I’m still just not brilliant enough to figure it all out!

Google calendar is a very versatile tool. You can add and change, delete and amend with no training. It is a wonderful platform on all the computers and smart phones.  It keeps the whole family, including dad, in sync. I am definitely going to continue to use it for our homeschooling!

As we enter 2014, I want to thank all my readers for their kindness and compassion and friendship.

May the Lord bless you and your families and fulfil all your hopes, prayers and plans for the New Year!

Blessings,

Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays

Another What Works! post …

Looking back over the 14-odd years of homeschooling from preschool to high school graduation I want to share what was successful in our home …

Fine Arts is rich, rewarding & relaxing!

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We set aside most our Fridays for Fine Arts - art, music, and poetry, and sometimes some Shakespeare.  The simplest way to do this was to plan the “extras” in our Theme of the Day. It is my kids favourite day of the week!

My older children still ask for art lessons once a week. Despite the textbook-based high school curriculum I used for my eldest daughter, these fine art Fridays were the saving grace of our homeschooling journey. In many ways they are the “soul” days of homeschooling.

My kids considered Fridays as free days because we set aside normal seat work and written assignments.  Despite its seeming “frivolous” nature, where fine arts is often considered an “optional extra”, this aspect of education is the most inspiring and rewarding.  At times our Fridays were the only happy days of our week.  Homeschooling can be tough!  Making time to relax and enjoy fine arts is a relief!

Art started with art appreciation lessons, Charlotte Mason-style.  I sometimes added simple art activities to some of these lessons. We discovered famous artists and their masterpieces, observed different art styles over the centuries recording these on my Art Era Timeline, and we tried a variety of art mediums.  The 3D Seurat model is one of my younger girls’ favourite and unusual art activities!  Sometimes someone wept and left the room due to a “flop” lesson, but mostly we admired and encouraged each other as we gazed at our ‘gallery’ … we were enriched!  Importantly, we each have amazing internal, mental art galleries of famous art that we will carry all our lives!

Sketch Tuesday remains a regular constant art activity, which we continue even when we have stopped our formal schooling for school breaks.  It is such a simple, quick session, often with no discussions, research or planning, but Sketch Tuesday has had an enormous impact on our art!  The simple act of regularly looking and sketching develops ones confidence and approach to other more formal art activities.

Classical Music was not always requested. In fact, my older children have an incredible eclectic collection of their own music which plays as we work and do chores, but we streamed or listened to classical music as we did our art. I abandoned planned formal music appreciation lessons as my children grew older, but it somehow has developed naturally into an appreciation and my kids often recognize classical music played in movie soundtracks..

Poetry has been a hit-and-miss affair, where I sometimes do formal poetry lessons with my younger children on our “Tea, Poetry and Shakespeare” afternoons.  We studied some poets through the year and we all found our poetry readings relaxing and inspiring.  My kids never really learnt any poems by heart, but some poems were inspiration for art or illustrations.  Our most exciting poem-inspired activity my girls did when they were younger was The Lady of Shallot with a Lego diorama.

I recently discovered that my junior high daughter is writing her own poems to express her photo collage creations she makes on Polyvore. Her poems are amazing!  When I read them I am utterly stunned with the images and feelings that her words evoke. So, deep down, despite doing poetry informally, poetry struck a special chord in her life.

Our Fine Arts sessions have enriched our relationships.  Somehow, when  we paint or sketch together, or when we lie under the tree talking about a poem, or when we listen to and describe images and feelings that classical music evokes, we share time and experiences that are deep and personal. These are intimate times that make homeschooling special.

My advice to moms who want to “do it right” is to keep it simple and fairly informal.  In my early years of zeal and idealism I came on too hard and my kids almost dreaded the lessons.  I almost lost them to my teacherly-don’t-miss-the-moment approach.  They did my Famous Artist and Famous Composer biography notebook pages, filled in timelines and narrated their observations.  We used my wall charts, but the best lessons were those where we each connected individually and personally to the art.

Now, I am convinced that regular yet informal exposure is better than formal, structured lessons.

Schedule time in your week and just do it!

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to “show” for your Fine Arts lessons.  It doesn’t have to be recorded or written or filed.  Just talk with your children and listen to their interpretations, encourage their creativity and personal connections.  Look for ways to for them to “make it their own”.

Charlotte Mason’s approach to Fine Arts has been an amazing, rich and rewarding = fabulous Fine Art Fridays!

May you find the approach that works for your family!

Blessings,

Taking Time for Tangents

What Works!

Another “What Works!” post ~ where I share and encourage moms with some of my tried and tested homeschool approaches that worked from pre-school and all the way through high school!  (If you missed the previous posts, please follow the links at the end of the post.) I found that using a literature-based curriculum is the most rich, rewarding and inspiring way to teach.

More importantly, living books open delightful “rabbit-trails” or tangents!  And following these delight-directed paths made all the most important connections and enriched the book in wonderful ways!

Here’s some tips of enriching your literature study ~

  • Follow the spark of interest!
  • Chat, discuss, talk at the dinner table about the new ideas, characters’ choices, moral issues, those “why” and “what if” questions.
  • Read-up or “Google” it!  (I love my smart phone’s wonderful reference apps loaded at my finger tips … but that is a post on its own!)
  • Explore it in other books.  Find supplementary books at the library.
  • Do it! Go and build a real raft, make a Khoi grass mat hut, make a mould of an animal track … bake the cake, make the butter, tie sailor knots, make the corn doll, make Lego models, make paper models.Some of these activities became the cornerstone memories of many of our read alouds!  My kids will never forget them!
  • Make interesting and diverse notebook pages
  • Create puppets and dramatize the story.
  • Add lapbooks, especially for younger and middle school children.
  • Travel to places in the story with your family.  Go on the journey with your story as a family.  We loved our real-life “Footprints on Our Land” journey when we travelled for 18 months looking for our farm.
  • Visit museums, art galleries, historical sites.Girls find garnets in the gravel at Kimberley Big Hole
  • Visit real artisans, craftsmen, professionals, hobby enthusiasts, the elderly or veterans and learn from them.  Let them show your family and make it real!
  • Don’t rush. Keep the pace your family needs.
  • Extend your schedule. You can safely extend any 12 month (1 year) schedule to 18 months without adding any more books.  Just look for those hands-on activities that will enrich your studies.  See your schedule as a guideline!  This is my most important homeschool tip!

In other words ~ make time for those tangents!

Links to previous “What Works!” posts:

Blessings,

 

A Sacred Task

Charlotte Mason’s principles challenges me. When I read her chapter on Sacredness of Personality, these words jumped out ~http://www.classroom-teacher-resources.com/image-files/classroom-discipline-holding-hands.jpg

“Parents look on with a smile and think that all is well; but Bob or Mary is losing that growing time which should make a self-dependent, self-ordered person, and is day by day becoming a parasite who can go only as he is carried, the easy prey of fanatic or demagogue. 

This sort of encroachment upon the love of children offers as a motive, ‘do this for my sake'; wrong is to be avoided lest it grieve the teacher, good is to be done to pleasure him; for this end a boy learns his lessons, behaves properly, shows good will, produces a whole catalogue of schoolboy virtues and yet his character is being undermined.

http://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/handholdingparentchild.jpg?w=166&h=124A due respect for the personality of children and a dread of making them incompetent to conduct their own lives will make us chary of employing a means so dangerous, no matter how good the immediate end.”

No parent sets out to create incompetent, parasitic and weak children who live their lives in shameful helplessness, inadequacy and co-dependency.

Intentional parenting motivates the child to grow into meaningful independence and responsibility.

As our eldest daughter completes her schooling this year, and our second eldest son plans for his marriage towards the end of the September, they want to be equipped and ready.  It is a joy to see them becoming self-determined and responsible.

Our parenting should provide the essential structures and routines, some basic rules and disciplines, and mixed in it all, grace, love and assistance.

Let me go back to when they were young and innocent. I remember giving my toddler choices.  My options, but she could chose in them, and the outcome was the one I wanted e.g.: ~ “We are going to bath, brush teeth (…insert your activities…) and then read a story.  Which story do you want to hear tonight?  This one or this one?  Great!  Quickly now, let’s …”

This approach works well with young homeschoolers too.  Our read aloud time is our “together” time and we usually do all the disciplined studies before morning tea so that we can enjoy our reading and hands-on activities.  When the child is given some choices in these activities, they do not resist and mope when lessons are short and sweet. (Thank you Charlotte Mason, for this lovely principle.)

Homeschooling a high schooler is slightly different.  They want to work independently.  The best tools for them is the year plan/ overview, a calendar and a weekly schedule or timetable.  We work out how many lessons per week, how many hours that requires, and they can tick the plan off as they go.  Both my highschoolers work to try finish and write off a subject by completing the work and the tests/ exams.  They ask me to tutor them. We book our time together and I enjoy the moments working side-by-side.

All too soon, it will pass and my role with them will change.

My parenting will be worthy if my children grow up to ~

  • love the Lord, His Word and His Ways
  • make good choices; in serving others, in excellence,
  • have an ethic that values hard work and diligence
  • form and maintain sincere and sound relationships with others
  • respect themselves and those in authority,  and be worthy of respect
  • persevere and endure even when it gets tough
  • be themselves, unique, creative, sincere
  • be faithful to the Lord’s gifting and purpose for their lives

So this is a “sacred” task.

How do you find your homeschooling and parenting sacred?

Blessings,

Ending and Beginning

My older two daughters have been away enjoying their summer holiday with friends, working hard on a self-sufficiency farm, and having times of fun, intimacy and fellowship!

While my youngest daughter enjoyed her time alone with us on our farm, visiting Grandparents for Christmas and swimming with us at the beach during our brief time away.P1120329

I have spent some quieter days at home closing off the school year and planning for next year.

Ending …

I packed my eldest daughter’s Grade 11 notebooks and study guides into a box and cleared my planning file for her new year.

Beginning …

Miss. T18 will do her Matric (our final high school graduation) this year!  I’m stunned!  My last official year with her! Already she looks ahead beyond the final year towards her future and I prayerfully plan and search out options with her.P1120072Beginning … and ending …

Our 13-year-old will officially start her high school course and join her older sister on Impak Education .  She will cover 9 separate subjects which will be a stretch for her!  But she wants to work independently and we’ll try to ease our way to that goal. My role will change from fellow-traveller to tutor.  Somehow I feel sad.  Those delicious days of delight and discovery will fade away to the demands of stricter and fuller schedules, external standards, tests, portfolio assignments and exams.

… and beginning again …

As for my 10-year-old, we simply pick up where we left off and continue the joyous journey of our Footprints on our Land.  In many ways I live out all my Charlotte Mason and homeschooling ideals with her and find my experience homeschooling Miss. L10 utterly fulfilling and inspiring.

I used my nifty binding machine and created 2 huge ring-binders of her year’s work.  She helped me and marvelled with sweet pride at all her notebook pages, lapbooks and art works.

Note to moms with young children – treasure your child’s junior and primary school years and enjoy every age and stage!  It all passes by so fast.

A wise older mom gave this priceless advice to a young mom ~

“Go for the heart in your homeschooling.”

Engage your child’s heart.

Make moments matter.

Create intimate memories.

Focus on relationships and keep hearts open.

So with my bare shelves waiting for the highschool books to arrive, files cleared and prepared, new charts and notebook pages prepared and 2013 calendar laid out, I rest and reflect and thank the Lord.

I wish you every blessing of God’s love, joy and grace for the New Year.

Blessings,

Read Books ~ When All Else Fails

Social Studies (Carla Bley album)

Living Books are the

golden threads” in our learning.

This past week I had an epiphany ~

good books have provided my children the most valuable education!

But, let me go back a little and explain …

Earlier this year my 12-year-old-now-nearly-13-teen floundered in my ‘wonderful’ Charlotte Mason education.  I wrote about our stresses and struggles and how I felt like such a failure.

Your kind comments overwhelmed me.

I simply relieved my daughter from some CM subjects and she focussed purely on her academics. (She no longer actively takes part in many of the Fine Arts lessons, but I’m sure that she absorbs her younger sister’s music and art appreciation lessons, the poetry and the Shakespeare plays.)

Most of her Footprints Into the 21st Century curriculum is literature-based. She spends many hours simply reading good books.

But, still, I worried.  I was still unhappy to see her listlessly “going through the motions” instead of connecting with her subject, let alone savoring it! (And I’m not alone. Jimmie also shared of her daughter’s changed approach.)

Would she be ready for the standards and approaches used in our Delta correspondence high school curriculum next year?

Mathematics

Last week, when she completed her Maths textbook I went to a local academic book store to find a new Grade 8 textbook.

To my dismay, they only supplied textbooks for the current OBE education in the South African government schools.  (This system – Outcomes Based Education – has been an absolute failure … but let me not digress.)
After 20 minutes I chose the one which seemed the best.

When I got home and took my time looking through the book, I was appalled.

It was complete drivel. Total twaddle. Not one single mathematical concept explained. Not a single theory, principle, or equation in the book. Not a single example followed by an exercise.  How does anyone learn maths from this?

I would not keep the book and the store would not refund me.  I had to exchange it for any other book from the same publishers.  Despite their thick catalogue, and much more careful examination of the sample books on the bookstore’s shelves, I could not find anything worth exchanging.

Their Social Studies book dismayed me.

Not a single photograph or accurate map …  instead they had fuzzy pencil sketch copies of photos.

Not a single quote …  just ridiculous, over-simplified explanations of the period in history summed up in 3 paragraphs, followed by 3 questions &/or activities to be done with a friend or in a group OBE-style.

This is when it stuck me!

My children know much more about the historical events, the culture, lifestyle, and important people from their living books!

Even if my junior-high daughter just ticks off her schedule and completes her tasks, simply because she reads excellent books, she will have absorbed 1000 times more than a child who has read a textbook.

And I should have given more credit to the power of reading!

I’ve written that read alouds are the Homeschool Glue.

I have seen the power of reading an excellent book to ignite thoughts, inspire the imagination, develop vocabulary, motivate action, and define character.

At its most basic, if our children read living books, they will grow and learn!

This is why I love a Charlotte Mason-inspired-literature-based education.

How have living books taught your children? Any thoughts about textbooks? Share with us in the comments.

Blessings,

This post is part of the upcoming Charlotte Mason Carnival ~  “What we love most about a Charlotte Mason education“.  To join the carnival, visit Amy at Fisher Academy International this Tuesday, September 4.