Letter 27 – Creativity

As I reflect on my more than 23 years of homeschooling, I believe that creativity is the most wonderful gift you can give your children!   Here is the next letter to my younger self — Letter 27 ~ Creativity

These new collages are from images of our many creative moments over the years.  Warning ~ This post is chock-a-block full of links to previous creativity related posts; proof of my emphasis on creativity!  I recommend you bookmark this letter to come back to read all the links.)

Dear younger Nadene,

Your children’s happiest moments in homeschooling revolved around your creative approach which included frequent hands-on activities.  Realizing this joy, I want to urge you to provide daily creative opportunities such as arts & crafts and doing regular hands-on activities such as lapbooks, making models and paper projects, and allocate time for lots of dramatization.  Figure out how to fit in hands-on activities into your schedule, and these activities will become your children’s favourite homeschool memories.  Your Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays will save you and your children from burnout and stress! Over these years you will produce many creative projects.

Your children will create cute finger puppets for narrations, cut and colour Lego-punched dioramas for poetry, make models of Laura Ingalls’ Little House, dress up to act out their History narrations, re-create famous paintings in 3D, create their own sets of paper dolls.  Amazing mobiles will adorn your schoolroom for different themes and study topics. Every year you and your children will make puppet shows such as the Nativity Play and Esther play for Purim and their art will cover the walls in your home.

Your young children love to be creative every moment of the day!  In their free time, they love to dress up and you will even sew them boned corsets! You will make them a rag doll family to replace their Barbie dolls, and your middle daughter will use her skilled fine motor skills to create her own Polly pocket in a soap dish!

Join Sketch Tuesday and do art every week. There are so many advantages to sketching weekly! This simple weekly Sketch Tuesday activity will produce an enormous skill set and build confidence! Not only will it be the most welcome time of enjoyment and respite in your week, but it will offer regular opportunities to try new mediums and styles and your children will excel in all their artistic activities.

Because you provide them with a creative space and creative materials, they will also make jewellery and beautiful gifts.  Your daughters love creating beautiful flower arrangements. They will create beautiful rustic decor for their brother’s weddings.  Your daughters will become experts at home decor.  You will teach them all to sew and knit and your teenage daughters will start their own beautiful pyjama clothing range called La Lune

Your eldest daughter Tess will become an incredibly talented seamstress at just 15-years old, sewing dresses for weddings and Matric farewell functions.  She and her best friend will put on and host several fashion shows. When your daughter graduates, she will work in the hospitality industry for a season.  She will marry and her home will be filled with beauty and loveliness.  When they move Sedgefield, she will renovate and restore the old family seaside home into a lovely Airbnb.  Her homemaking, cooking and creativity will spill into every area of her life.

When your middle daughter Kate graduates, she will continue to create her own unique styled art, create professional designs and logos, and develop her digital art.  She will hone her photographic skills and assist her boyfriend Mathew with photography at weddings.  She will assist him in developing his website, his marketing and social media. Kate loves food and she will enjoy cooking Masterchef-type food!  She will become a singer and musician, teaching herself to play musical instruments.

Your youngest daughter Lara will do art every day.  Her Instagram feed is full of art, art and more beautiful art!  Lara and her talented wood craftsman boyfriend will start their own collaborative online art business called Collection Shed.  Joshua will make beautiful custom frames for Lara’s paintings!

Your children’s creativity and handicrafts skills will become great assets.   They have so much creative talent that it spills over into entrepreneur and job opportunities. They will start businesses, sell products at markets and online, work for art and animation studios, sell art via social media. All of them will develop wonderful unique artistic styles and their regular creativity will generate wonderful rich art portfolios. Your family will be known for its creative flair!   

You, too, will find great joy in doing creative projects, regularly sketching, painting, sewing, knitting, gardening and doing decor and DIY projects.  As your homeschooling journey nears the end, your lifestyle and time will allow for much more art and creativity, so it is a good thing to take part in arts and crafts with your children while they are still young.  Maintain your creativity as a hobby lifestyle, or as Charlotte Mason describes it as “Mother Culture” and you will have a fulfilling and joyful transition post homeschooling.

And very importantly, don’t be afraid of your children’s occasional boredom.  This time is the essential ingredient that is necessary for them to discover and develop their creativity!  In this day and age of constant stimulation and distraction, quiet undistracted time is a gift for creativity.  

Keep a simple schedule and avoid rush, stress and over-committed extra-mural activities.  Plan for days at home, free afternoons and long, unrushed weekends. 

Creativity also requires grace to learn, to experiment and to make mistakes. Offer your children and yourself gentle encouragement and avoid any comparisons.  Compliment and display your children’s art and keep trying new materials and techniques. 

Here are some wonderful creativity quotes ~

  • “Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world.”  Brene Brown
  • “Creativity is experimenting, growing, taking risks, making mistakes & having fun!” Mary Lou Cook
  • “Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse
  • “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein
  • “You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Joseph Chilton Pearce

With fondest love from your older and creative self, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Would you share yours in the comments below?

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

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Letter 26 – True Skills

With two homeschool graduates now living independently, here’s another letter to my younger self reflecting on insights and thoughts of what important life lessons were required to complete our homeschooling journey ~

Letter 26 ~ True Skills

Dear younger Nadene,

In the beginning, when you began to homeschool your toddlers, it was all about exploration, discovery,  and learning about life.  You taught through play and read alouds, through experimentation and exploration.  But as soon as you bought a very expensive curriculum for each child, you became stressed, anxious, and hyper-focussed to “do it all right”.  You became “Mom-the-teacher” and you pushed, pressured, persuaded, pleaded and even punished your children to learn what “they were supposed to”.  You silly, fearful, stressed-out mom!

You pushed aside real-life for school-at-home.  Somehow, as your children entered junior and middle school, academics became the main focus and the measure of your and their success.  Remember homeschool is  “Learning Not SchoolIt is so easy to get bogged down with the curriculum, it’s schedule, your children’s academics and teaching school subjects.  And in its place, these things are important, but always look at the bigger picture.  What do your children really need to master by the time they graduate?

A real & whole education has very little to do with information — hello — everyone has Google at their fingertips!  Education is not merely schoolwork or subjects found in curriculums.  Of course, the importance of education is irrefutable.  But as your teenagers prepare to leave home (and heads-up — your middle daughter will launch out at 17!),  you will realize that there are many other essential life skills.

Can they look after themselves?  Can they relate well to others well?  Do they cope with difficulties, navigate huge challenges, or make big decisions?  Have they learnt how to manage their time and their money?  Do they know how to apply for jobs, sign for leases, open accounts, fill in tax forms?  Are they healthy and managing their eating and cooking?   (See more specific life skills in the lists below this letter.)

As you watch your young adult children, you will joyfully witness that they have learnt amazing life skills as they were growing up.  They are strong and mature.  They are wonderful, supportive friends, and are committed and loyal to their communities.  They have loving, stable relationships with their partners.  They can cook amazing, nutritional meals on a shoestring budget.  They make and keep a beautiful, clean house, and are wonderfully hospitable.   They work hard in their respective jobs, managing job performance with professional attitudes.  They handle conflicts and difficulties in relationships with maturity and grace.  They manage their money, making ends meet and living within their means.  They have a living faith in the Lord and entrust themselves to His word and ways.

And as for the rest, you will watch with a joyful expectation as they learn what they need to as they go along, growing in experience and competence as they figure things out. 

Don’t lose sight of the big picture!  It is so much more than mastering algebra or chemistry equations or acing the exams.  Real-life stuff cannot always be tested in the classroom.  Life will test what they really learnt! 

And, by God’s grace and mercy and lovingkindness alone, you will see that you have done well.   

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

If you Google, you will find many lists of life skills your children need to learn before they graduate.  Here’s a compilation of many life skills needed ~

Emotional intelligence =

  • Mental health
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Coping with stress and failure
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving

Communication & Relationships

  • Effective communication
  • Manners
  • Conflict resolution
  • Dating & Romantic Relationships
  • Marriage
  • Family & Raising kids
  • Professional Etiquette
  • Communication on the phone, SMS, texts & emails
  • How to Apply for a job

Financial literacy

  • Managing Money
  • Budgets
  • Savings & Investments
  • Credit Cards,  Hire purchase & Debt
  • Buying & Selling Car and Home
  • Taxes

Nutrition & Health

  • Understanding nutrition in food & its impact on health
  • Wholesome attitude to different eating plans & diets
  • Meal planning
  • Food budget
  • Cooking skills
  • Weight management
  • Self-care
  • Exercise
  • Supplements
  • First Aid & CPR
  • Family planning, Sex, STDs

Other

  • Time Management
  • Housekeeping
  • Management & Maintenance of home
  • Laundry
  • Survival Skills
  • DIY and Repair skills
  • Social Media
  • Addictions
  • Civics
  • Community
  • Politics

Some of these life skill lessons should start while your children are very young, while others are more important in high school. Some topics may not apply to your family or values, but most are vital skills your children need once they leave home.

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Would you share yours in the comments below?

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Letter 25 – Change

Another letter to my younger self reflecting on insights and understanding gained in my 23+ years of homeschooling.  As I share my hindsight perspective, I trust this will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. ~ Letter 25 ~ Change

Dear younger Nadene,

Change is the only consistent character of life, so embrace it and anticipate it.  You will change — as a parent, as a  homeschool teacher, and definitely as a person. 

Your homeschooling methods will change as you learn how children naturally learn.  Your homeschooling ideals will change.  Do you remember your motto, “Nothing is cast in stone“?  This mindset is helpful as you prepare for each new season in your homeschooling and in your life in general.  Your experiences, both the good and the bad, will motivate you to try new approaches and abandon or accept others.  Your final years of high school homeschooling will be very different from the hopes and dreams you had back in the beginning. You will change as your children grow up and change. 

The most powerful words of encouragement to you in those early days of new motherhood and long, sleepless nights with your first baby was, “This too shall pass.”  Your children will change!  In many ways, you longed for change with thoughts of … “If only my baby slept through the night … if only she could sit on her own … if only she was potty-trained … if only she wasn’t so fearful and clingy … ”    Yet you loved each age and stage.  Despite this, you were often insecure when your children changed because everything felt uncertain and different.  Having the right attitude to change in your children is liberating.  The Lord heard and answered your prayers for each challenge and each new unknown.  He is faithful!

Look at your young adult daughters now!  Wow, how much they have changed!  Your intense and fearful young daughter will emerge as a posed and beautifully assured young woman. Your painfully shy daughter who refused to answer the door or speak on the phone will actually become your most confident, brave and self-assured child. You butterfly child will settle into herself and become steadfast, deep and mature. 

When your children are young, view at any limitation and simply add the word, “yet” … “My child cannot read/write/ ride a bike on her own … yet.”  See how that little word adds hope?  Hold onto hope!

Looking back now, you will see that when you did not put a label on a child’s behaviour or place a box on a child’s personality, you gave them the freedom to become, to change, to alter and to grow into the amazing, awesome people that they are now. 

Accepting change is a form of grace.  Be gracious to yourself and those you love.  With the Lord, your life is full of promise and blessing.  Trust Him for each child and for every change and you will experience the deep and abiding peace He brings.  

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

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10 Tips on Reading Aloud

We have always used living books in our Charlotte Mason-based homeschooling.  Literature-based education requires a lot of reading aloud.  It takes effort, practice and skill to read aloud in a way that is engaging and entertaining.

Here are 3 lists of 10 tips on how to read aloud well ~20151210_180943

I absolutely love alliteration and when I researched this topic, I found Emily Guille-Marrett’s from Reading Fairy top tips on “How to read aloud well“.  She used P to begin each word in her list.  (I have added my own suggestions and points* to her list.)

  1. Purpose – Select a book that is written well and is suitable for being read aloud. Choose a book that features a character or a story your child can relate to. You must enjoy the book that you are reading  – your enthusiasm will be infectious!
  2. Preview – Read the story yourself first to know the story, characters, the vocabulary and style.  To read aloud well, it helps to read it yourself in advance.
  3. Prepare – When starting a new book, show your children the cover and illustration and describe the title and storyline. Tell them a little about the author and spend a few moments briefly telling them something about the story and characters.  When starting the next session, spend a moment with a quick recap of the previous reading.  Ask your children some leading questions such as, “What happened to …? How did our story end?” or begin with a short reminder of the last points of the earlier reading such as, “Remember last time …”
  4. Place – Choose a comfy couch to enjoy the read-aloud.  Allow children to snuggle close, or keep busy hands with quiet colouring-in or playdough or other hands-on activities while they listen.  Plan your reading aloud times and be consistent.
  5. Perform – Show enthusiasm! This is vital!  The key to successful read-aloud performance is to skim your eyes ahead to anticipate the story dialogue or action.  Then when you read aloud, read slowly.  This gives you time to change your voice for different characters, use accents,  use funny voices or pull different facial expressions,  even use appropriate movements,
  6. Projection, pitch, pace, pause and pose – Vary your voice with loud and soft, high and low, fast and slow.  Use pauses and silence for drama and impact.  My kids loved the suspense of cliff-hanger endings!
  7. Props and puppets – Kids love to participate.  They love interaction in read alouds!  Encourage them to make sounds effects such as animal noises, rumbling of thunder, clapping hands, adding hand movements or pretend to be the character.  This dynamic involvement makes a story unforgettable.  Encourage them to narrate the story after the reading using finger puppets, masks or hats which are quick and easy to make and use.   See the next point –
  8. *Presentations– Encourage active listening before you begin and tell your children that you require a detailed, accurate narration (telling-back) from your children when you have completed a paragraph, page or chapter.  Their narration should include the same style, vocabulary and detail used by the author.  This skill is a powerful teaching method.  Living books with narrations really teach!
  9. *Persevere –  Keep reading aloud to your children even when they can read for themselves.  Listening to read alouds required less concentration and skill to enjoy the story than reading to themselves and the intimacy and the dynamic of the performance of a read-aloud makes a book come alive.  Teens and even grown young adult graduate children still love read-alouds.  It is a family experience and not a school lesson.
  10. *Practice – Practice will make perfect, so keep practising.  You will be amazed by how your read-aloud skills develop as you keep going.

Here’s a summary of Anna of The Measured Mom’s  10 tips for reading aloud to kids of all ages.

  1. Start as soon as possible – even as babies, in the high chair or in the bath.
  2. Start with rhyming books – words and sounds that children love to hear over and over.
  3. Start simple and build to more complex books – begin with hardboard books, then go on to short picture books, more complicated picture storybooks, short chapter books,  funny stories, classic books, complex chapter books.
  4. Choose books that are appropriate developmentally – suitable for your child’s emotional and intellectual maturity.  Be aware of triggers or concepts that may alarm or frighten your children.
  5. Read them yourself first before reading aloud to your children.
  6. Do not be afraid to abandon a book that doesn’t suit or connect to your children or has content you are not comfortable sharing.  Don’t be afraid to skip parts of a book.  Replace bad language or skip any long boring passages,. Shorten sections when children are not interested.
  7. Follow through and be consistent.  Read regularly, read daily.
  8. Chose books that you enjoy reading aloud yourself.  You may not want to read books based on children’s movies or TV stories.  Chose quality books that you know is not fluff.
  9. Be interactive as you read.  Make your children part of the story.  Pause to ask their thoughts, opinions, consider what may happen, what a word means.
  10. Do not stop reading aloud when your children can read on their own.  It is important to keep reading because they can listen at a higher level than they can read.  It builds vocabulary,  teaches writing style, covers topics that teach and inform them.   High schoolers love good stories, fiction and non-fiction
  1. Preview the Book.
  2. Prepare a Comfy and Roomy Read-Aloud Area.
  3. Introduce the Book.
  4. Notice How You Hold the Book.
  5. Give It All You’ve Got!
  6. Involve Your Listeners.
  7. Help Children “See” the Story.
  8. Invite Children to Use Their Senses.
  9. Develop Ways to Respond to Questions
  10. Take Time for Discussion

There are so many videos and articles on how to read aloud well, but nothing replaces good old practice.  Just do it!   Read aloud often.  Read aloud dynamically and your children will love it and learn from it!

Do you have any read-aloud tips to share or problems you would like to discuss?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene
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Letter 24 – Failure

Another letter to my younger self reflecting on insights and understanding gained in my 23+ years of homeschooling.  I trust this letter will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. ~ Letter 24 ~ Failure

Dear younger Nadene,

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Failure feels dreadful and you will cry many tears over your failure to produce perfection in your homeschooling.  You need a huge hug right now, and let me assure you that you did not fail.  

May I suggest that your own idealism set you up for failure.  Especially in those early days, when it was rare and unusual to homeschool, you felt that you represented all  Christian homeschooling ideals,  You wanted to prove to your family and friends that you and your children were going to accomplish great things in and through homeschooling.  During those unsolicited conversations with strangers, you wanted to display that homeschooling was a superior choice.  And when your ability to “do it all” failed, or when your daughters fussed and fretted, and when there were tears and tantrums, you felt as if you were letting homeschooling in general down! 

Actually, you did an amazing job pioneering homeschooling in that small rural town!  Well done!  Through your family’s example, 9 other families found the courage to take their children out of public schools and begin homeschooling.  Your passion and vision was such an encouragement to these beginner families!  You hosted these families on your farm and mentored moms and encouraged them in their curriculum choices and homeschooling methods.  Your children, with all their natural traits and behaviours, were a wonderful demonstration of your family values and Christian living.  They were intelligent, dynamic and they each had amazing abilities and originality that inspired other parents to believe that their children would turn out okay. 

In the very beginning, you read Charlotte Mason books and followed several homeschool blogs and you felt that you had to measure up to their approaches, principles and methods.  This caused you to press and squeeze your poor young children to perform accordingly.  This caused dreadful stress and frustration.  You felt overwhelmed and exhausted.  You and your children became disillusioned and distressed and you came very close to burnout.  Instead, you finally learnt to let the schedule simply be your guide and allowed your homeschooling to develop according to each child’s personality and learning style.  

During the 18 months travelling around South Africa, following the wonderful  Footprints package, you discovered that your children learn so much from literature and from life.  But, sadly you still tried to make everything a lesson and your children hated you teaching all the time.  They eventually whined and refused to visit another museum and they’tuned out’ when your mommy-the-teacher-voice said, “Oh, look at this …. notice that … can you see? …”  It will take you another few years of their resistance and refusal for you to finally learn to step out the way and stop being the teacher.  This seeming “failure” was actually a wonderful lesson for you to learn to become your children’s facilitator instead.

Things will not go according to plan, especially when your daughters enter their teens.   This failure becomes more and more oppressive as they resist and reject your Charlotte Mason teaching and some important subjects, especially Bible Study. They will refuse to study further or go to college or do online courses. They will withdraw from you and you will take it all personally and cry many sad, defeated tears in private.  You will feel that you have no testimony, that you are somehow disqualified. 

You will feel judged, especially by your family.  Your parents will confront you and tell you how you have failed.  Your dad will email you rebukes with pages of teachings on “Finding your life’s purpose” with the hope that you will somehow persuade your teenage daughters to make better choices that will allow them to reach their full potential.  Your mom-in-law will repeatedly reprove you and your hubby for your failure to ensure that your daughters go onto to further studies or successful careers.  You will shed many tears in this phase of your homeschooling. 

These dark days will threaten to overwhelm you and you will withdraw and isolate yourself.  You will finally realize that you struggle with depression.  You and your hubby will talk late into the nights, worrying and praying about your children’s future.  You will feel helpless and lost and anxious about your children and you both parent on your knees, praying, interceding, surrendering and handing them over to the Lord.  You will find encouragement in the scripture promises and your faith will be tested and proven through these periods.

If I could encourage you about these teen years — cultivate heart-to-heart relationships with your daughters.  Remain gracious and open to their ideas, their fashion choices and decor style, to their music and movies and especially to their friends.  Support them and be there for them as they try new businesses, projects or jobs.  Don’t take their withdrawal personally.  It is not always about you.  If you can avoid being defensive, you will be the most wonderful stability and strength to them in their turbulent teen years.

Trust me,  dear younger Nadene, it will all work out as it should in the end.  Your daughters will go on to do amazing entrepreneurial endeavours.  They will navigate their post-homeschool graduate decisions with bravery and maturity and they will live meaningful and creative lives.  Your eldest will marry and become a precious, devoted wife and home-body and you will all rejoice in their pregnancy and watch as she prepares for their baby.   

You have done well and above all, the Lord is faithful!

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

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When your child doesn’t want to read the suggested book?

In our Charlotte Mason homeschooling, we followed literary-based learning curriculums, learning through recommended lists of living books.

It is inevitable that not every recommended book in the curriculum will appeal to every child, and we have had our share of books that just didn’t “fit” some of us.

Young children and middle schoolers often have a preference for certain gender characters, and my young girls often groaned when I started another story featuring a young boy as the main character.

Some aspects of History don’t appeal. My younger teenagers did not enjoy political history section of their Footprints curriculum.  And although I insisted on their reading every book on the schedule, I realized that they did not connect with the narrative or the information shared through the story.  Because I related so emotionally to some of these stories, I expected that they would as well, and I was disappointed in their unfazed attitudes.  It took me a while to realize that it was a waste of time to insist on the reading when they were uninterested.

Some literary styles don’t appeal. Some children prefer action, others love descriptive passages, and others love dynamic dialogue.  By the time they reach junior high, my children had a very keen sense of good books and they quickly refused poorer literature that they called “schlock”.

There have been books that I absolutely dreaded reading.  The chapters were long and the narrative terribly tedious.  I even fell asleep while reading aloud!  I couldn’t manage to drag myself through the required reading every day.  Eventually, I admitted defeat and put aside the book and looked for alternative ways of covering the subject matter.

From several bad experiences, I learnt that it doesn’t help to plod and slog on through a book when a child or mom has disengaged. It is a complete waste of time. Rather look for different options.

Here are some ways to approach a roadblock book-block ~

  1. Put away the book and look for something similar at your local library.
  2. Find audiobooks but ensure that they are well narrated.
  3. Look for suitable children’s movies or DVDs, especially if you are covering a specific historical era.
  4. Make a curated YouTube video playlist of suitable, relevant videos on the subject or era.  (Always preview and block adverts if you can.)
  5. Find relevant newspaper and magazine articles.
  6. Look up Wikipedia for specific people, dates, events and situations etc.
  7. Find someone who lived through that experience and encourage your children to interview them.
  8. Visit a museum or workshop.
  9. Do a road trip and go on an outing to the actual place.
  10. Look for photos and letters and memoirs of the time, place or period.
  11. If all else fails, simply move on.

Don’t worry about the gaps. We all have them! Even folks studying for their master’s degrees in a subject don’t know everything about their field of study!

Ditch the guilt and look for what your child is really fascinated by and interested in and follow their spark with food that flames their passion. This is what works!

Blessings as you find what works, Nadene

Letter 23 – Fears

As I reflect on my 23+ years of homeschooling, I wrote my younger self several letters which I share here, hoping that my insights and advice will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. Here’s the next letter in my “Letter To My Younger Self” seriesLetter 23 ~ Fear

Dear younger Nadene,

How often you were afraid in those first years! I can remember feeling that fluttering of butterflies in your stomach as you ordered your first full curriculums, and how anxiously you looked at the jam-packed schedule and wondered how on earth you would do 3 children on 3 different cores.  And you were right.  This strategy was incredibly stressful and you finally learnt to group your children on one core and work with more cohesive planning and greater compassion.

3D model of Seurat’s Bathers At Asnieres

You were afraid that if there wasn’t work in notebooks as evidence, that maybe your children weren’t really learning.  You did not trust the natural learning process that children have when they are curious will work as academic study.  But you soon realized that narrations really work, that living books teach, that simple natural exposure to art and classical music will deeply impact their minds and hearts.

You were afraid that your children were missing out on having peers and school friends.  But you soon discovered that having just one like-valued family with children the same ages as yours was more than enough.  These relationships grew and their bond was so strong that it remains today, even years after graduation.  And your children amazing friends!  They are kind, compassionate and extremely loyal. And they are definitely not “weird or unsocialized”!  On the contrary, they are adaptable, able to chat with people of all ages, they relate well to authority and they are able to navigate relational conflict and difficulties with a maturity and poise that makes your heart swell with joy.

How fearful and anxious you were in times of trouble or transition.  You felt afraid when your Christian values and the perfection you saw on other homeschool blogs did not match what was real in your own home.  You felt out of your depth when your teenage children challenged you and, in your fear, you tried even harder, often making things worse.  But, the Lord is faithful and He has kept you and provided for and protected your children.  You will rejoice when you see that they each have the most wonderful, deep, personal spiritual walk with the Lord as they grow up.  All your prayers and intercession were never in vain!

You were quite terrified when your children became teenagers that resisted, refused and changed direction.   But you finally relented and released them, and allowed them to follow their choices with all the consequences that would follow, and it worked out fine.

When your high school children refused most of the Charlotte Mason subjects, you felt disqualified and disappointed.  Instead of easily conceding, you cried, prayed and agonized over your failures.  But they wanted another approach and they were willing to find it even if they knew you did not approve.  How true they were to themselves!  And they made their choices work.  Well done kids, for showing mom another way.  It took more than 15 years to realize that you are their facilitator and not their teacher, forcing a method or a system on them.  

When things were not working out as you hoped, fear gripped your stomach and made you quite anxious and nervous.  Fear was always the deeper root to much of your behaviour and response to issues.  So much of your parenting was done out of fear even though you said that parenting is done on your knees in prayer.   

  • If you could start homeschool over again without fear, what would that look like?
  • If fear did not rule your choices, how could you navigate those teen years better?
  • Knowing what you know now, would you be as afraid?

Nadene, you do not have to fear!  Your attentive, consistent parenting style, your conscientious homeschooling and diligence pay off.  Your children will grow up and graduate as well-rounded, intelligent and amazing young adults.  Relax and trust the Lord in and through it all.

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

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Letter 22 Striving

With my youngest child approaching her final year of homeschooling, I find myself once again reflecting on my thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches of the past 20+ years of homeschooling, writing letters to my younger self.   I hope that these letters will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. So, picking up from where I last left off, here’s the next letter in my “Letter To My Younger Self” series

Letter 22 ~ Striving

Dear younger Nadene,

Striving is defined as “an attempt, to compete, to contend, an endeavour, to exert, to fight, to struggle and toil and try.” 

Who would want any of this in your homeschooling?  Striving is exhausting and a very debilitating approach to homeschooling, parenting and life in general.

When you started your homeschooling, you had an idealistic school-at-home approach and you worked strictly according to the schedule and tried to meet other people’s standards.  This approach put unnecessary pressure on you and you inevitably ended up desperate and stressed.

Your own personal attempts to do-it-all and “get it right” caused you sleepless nights and butterflies in your stomach when things were new, or different, or when things were not meeting your expectations.  Your massive focus and grand efforts may have given you some success, but your striving negatively affected your children.  They picked up your stress like they picked up chickenpox!  This invisible tension oppressed your home and their learning.

You will know when you are striving — it will look like busyness and stress, sound like shouting & yelling.  It will be cajoling, urging, insisting, forcing, punishing, withdrawing, manipulating, dominating … or simply doing it in a life-draining way.  

Let me encourage you to let go of your ideals, lower your expectations and work according to your family’s own rhythm and lifestyle.  Most importantly, let go of the timetable on the schedule and use it as your guideline or even as just a suggestion.  Add more time to your schedule — 6 months more time at least! 

You will never fall behind!  Not ever!  Not even when your kids miss a couple of days every week, or are sick, or when you go travelling around the country for 18 months.  Not even when your highschooler drops subjects or gives up a curriculum halfway through her Grade 10 course.  You will not even fall behind when you start a new family business and your days are interrupted dozens of times.  Relax, darling.  It will all work out in the end.

If you feel helpless, afraid or stressed about a child, or a curriculum, or a disciplinary or character issue, step back and press pause and be curious.  Be compassionate.  Ask yourself and the Lord. “What is the most loving way we can do this?”  and then be still and listen to the still, small voice in your heart.  Follow your heart. Please follow your heart.

Be kind to yourself and extend grace to yourself.  You will figure this out and you will eventually have lovely days of happy homeschooling.  It will turn out fine, trust me.

With gracious, compassionate love from your older self, Love Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

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Anticipate the Empty Nest

The sand in my youngest’s daughter’s homeschool hourglass is swiftly running through the hole as she is busy preparing for her final year of homeschooling and I know that my years as a homeschool mom are fast coming to an end.  I pray that we will end it properly, for her, but more importantly, well for me.

Because she has studied independently for several years now, she freed me up to start to follow my own interests, hobbies and work while I am still available in the study with her while she works.

Steven Lambert wrote in Life After Homeschool on Five In A Row Facebook page,

These days are long, but the years are short. The homeschool years go by so quickly. Empty nesting is a challenge for EVERY mother. 

As each child leaves, they take with them their special and unique personalities and life in the home shifts and changes.   I hope that I will transition into my new season of child-free-home motherhood without the distress that I experienced when my older two daughters graduated and moved out and started their own lives.

When they both left home straight after their respective graduations, I recognized that much of my identity and purpose was wrapped up in my role as their homeschool mom and I floundered emotionally for a while.

But if I had paid attention, the shift into not being “needed” or “wanted” had started much earlier.  In episodes where my first teenager pushed away from me and my “help”, my idealistic motherhood ideals and expectations were shattered.  I  lost perspective and I cried before the Lord and eventually surrendered my ideals and began to trust Him for an upgrade in my relationship with my daughters.  I learnt to remain open and available in grace toward them.  I began to focus on their teenage loves, passions, interests and hobbies, and to champion and support them in their early entrepreneur endeavours. This subtle shift made it possible for my graduate daughters to move out into their independence without a huge wrench in my heart.  It felt right and natural, and I have always believed that to be a successful mother, I must work myself out of my job as a mom.

High school moms, may I encourage you to prepare your exit strategy as time and opportunities begin to present themselves in these final homeschool years.  Are there dreams you never took time to pursue? Did you love to paint? Sew? Write? Do you have a skill or passion? Take a class.  Share what you have learnt with others. Teach a class.  Mentor younger moms stuck deep in their trenches.  Be a Titus 2 woman.  Keep on learning, discovering, growing.

More importantly, work on your marriage and your relationship with your husband.  When I poured myself into my early years of homeschooling, I gave most of my energy to my young kids rather than into my marriage. My life pretty much revolved around my kids.  Now that the children are older and more independent, I started to rediscover and revitalize my relationship with my hubby and find renewed purpose and intimacy, especially as we both transition into the next phase and season of our lives.

It helps to shift one’s perspective, to anticipate the new open, free and quiet days as a wonderful blank canvas for new opportunities!  I may have an empty and quiet nest someday soon, but my days can be full of interests and activities that fulfil me and allow me to live out my gifting and passions in a new way.

My hope is the joy of ending well — to launch our last child into independent adulthood, freely— instead of mourning the stage of parenthood that is ending.  That is my prayer as I prepare my exit from my many years of homeschooling.

You can read another good article on having an exit strategy here.

Blessings to each of you in whatever transition you may find yourself, Nadene.

Rewards of Following Rabbit Trails

Recently I asked my 17-year-old daughter, now in her final year of homeschooling, what fun things she loved and remembered most in her homeschooling and this is what she said ~

“I loved learning to count in Japanese!” and she proceeded to count out loud in Japanese!

I was stunned!  This memorable little lesson was learnt while watching a  3-minute YouTube song we found “by chance” in an online search over 12 years ago.  My children loved this hip-hip counting song and it stuck with my daughter all this time.

But more importantly, her reply emphasized again how important it is to plan a wide margin of time to allow the freedom to follow “rabbit trails” or to allow your family to “take the scenic tours” in your themes and topics.

Back then, I was re-using our Sonlight World History core and I had discovered the joy of allowing the schedule to suggest and guide us, and not necessarily feel that I had to stick to their time-frame.  If I can remember correctly, their schedule allocated a mere 2 weeks to the Japan study, but we spent over a month covering all the aspects we found on our delight-directed studies.

Not only did my daughters learn to count in Japanese, but they enjoyed their free time and dressed up in kimonos, complete with make-up and hair accessories, and acted out stories.  They cooked and ate Japanese foods using chopsticks and our Chinese dinner service,  and they practised a tea ceremony.  We all learnt origami and my daughters still make origami in their creative projects to this day.  We tried our hand at ikebana (flower arranging), made fans, wrote haiku poetry and so on.

May I encourage any mom who is battling with a child or children don’t want to learn or participate, to get creative and look for other ways to find your fit.  Not only will your reluctant child rarely learn anything when she is nagged, urged, bribed, cajoled, or even punished, (and, yes, I did all this in my first few years of homeschooling when I was ignorant and idealistic), but this negative energy and relational conflict will rub off onto everything else.  If your children show signs of boredom or flat-out refusal, don’t force the issue.  If the lesson doesn’t work, then mom, please, for the sake of your sanity and your child’s happiness and their learning joys, look for something similar that might work.

Try a different approach.  Look for a video or song or hands-on activity instead of plodding on through a book and tailor-make their learning experience.  Remind yourself that homeschooling is actually like offering a learning buffet and you should allow your children to decide what and when they want to eat something.

I have learnt never to underestimate the value of those wonderful, almost magical rabbit-hole learning moments.  Sometimes, these happy discoveries may forge a lifelong fascination and enthusiasm for learning.  They are the whole reason we homeschool and it may be the one thing that they will remember for a lifetime!  I know that this is what works!

Blessings as you give yourselves extra time to follow those rabbit trails, Nadene

All the photos featured are the origami gifts that my daughters have made.