Busy Bees Sewing

witsand-xmas-marketIt has been quiet over here at Practical Pages this past month because we have been busy sewing and I put our homeschooling on the back burner.  We were given a last-minute spot at the fabulous Witsand Christmas Market to sell our handmade items this December.  Not having much time to prepare, we plunged in full-time!

My product line is called Birdie Bags and I am trying to generate enough stock to last the full month of Dec into the New Year.  I am sewing bags, mostly quilted drawstring bags and pencil and other zip bags.  These bags fold open to become a basket-tray, making it an ideal travel bag.  birdie-bags1

 

 

birdie-bagsMy daughters created a pyjama range and my eldest sews the beautiful tops, while my middle daughter sews the shorts and pants.  They have a wonderful friendship and an amazing collaborative business.  They are setting up their Facebook page and Instagram pages and already have orders, but their Christmas market stock is a priority.  img-20161102-wa0007

So, as this school year draws to a close and South Africans plan for their long-awaited summer December break, I trust you are finding your end of year flow and rhythm.

Much grace, Nadene

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Prepare for High School exams

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/4955e-310882_285912091448900_996350184_n.jpg?w=283&h=208I often say to new homeschool parents, “It doesn’t take 12 years to prepare for Matric/ final exams.”

Many new homeschoolers worry about homeschooling through high school and how their children will cope with formal exams.  As a result, and very sadly, many new homeschool parents opt for strict curriculums that require regular tests and exams to ensure that they cover their bases.  It is really a shame to waste early homeschool years of a love to learn by following a strict, rigid, formal, school-at-home approach.

Tests and exams are used to evaluate what the child has learnt and remembered.  It is often the means to prove that the teacher is good at her job and so that parents can see specific results to show how their child is progressing.  With large classes, it is often the only way a school teacher has a good idea how each child is learning.  Homeschooling is a one-on-one approach and, especially with daily narrations, parents can immediately assess their child’s knowledge and skill set.

Over the past 20+ years of homeschooling I have used a Charlotte Mason approach for https://i1.wp.com/kibabiiuniversity.ac.ke/library/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/kibabii-exam-papers.jpgall my children until they decided how and what they wanted to do to graduate/ matriculate.  In 2013 my eldest daughter opted for a NSC Matric (National Senior Certificate = South African nation-wide public school matriculation) and she used a curriculum that required regular portfolio assignments and quarterly exams at done under strict exam conditions at home.  She only wrote her first external, formal external exam for her Prelims exams (the exact version of the final exams in the same exam venue) and these prelims helped her prepare for formal her formal exams more than anything else!

Here are some tips to prepare your children to write formal exams ~

  • Complete the work~  It seems obvious, but it is vital that you ensure that your child completes their course material and portfolio projects.  Marks given during the year are a very important part of the final mark, adding to the exam marks.
  • https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/38/0b/84/380b845b4f227133d16ca6795d3eabcf.jpgSummaries~ Teach your child to make good, clear summary notes for each subject.  Show them how to simplify summaries with mind maps/ drawings/ labels or numbers or first letters of each main point in the margins.  Use colored markers and highlighters.
  • Use past papers ~ We downloaded past papers for each subject and printed them at a printers.  It cost a bit, took up an entire box file, but it was an excellent investment.
  • Exam memorandums ~ Ensure that you include the answers to all these past exam papers. This is a vital component!  Allow your child to work through an exam under exam conditions (timer and no books or notes) and then they need to work through the results. Check the mark allocations and ensure they do not miss steps that would cost marks.
  • https://emergencypedia.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/90-0019-2.jpg?w=247&h=247Use a timer~  This is a vital skill = to first check through the whole exam and look at the mark allocation and then work out how many minutes per section.  (You can find an example here.) Do this will all past papers!  It is vital to prepare your child to keep on track in exam situations.  Many exam centres have a clock on the wall, but if your child sits far from the front, they may struggle to keep their eye on the time. Many exam centres allow the entrant to use a small clock on their desk.
  • Prelims~ Prelims taught my daughter how to write matric exams!  Read the post here. Everything was learnt in this experience = from a good night’s sleep the night before, eating a good breakfast, time needed to travel to the exam centre, comfy clothes, the necessary identity and other documents, her stationary, meeting other exam candidates, to the exam room protocol and the actual exams.
  • Manage stress ~ Exams are stressful. While studying, eat well, take breaks, exercise, stretch, meditate, write motivational notes and messages to yourself, take extra nutritional supplements and herbal nerve support.  Teach your child slow, abdominal breathing.  Pray together.  Write out faith-building scriptures and promises.
  • Join the group~ Learning with others in a study group is important, especially for isolated homeschoolers.  It may help to join some other exam candidates for an early coffee and chat to discuss issues, fears, and share important tips.  It somehow helps to know that others fear and feel the same as you!

In the end, I believe that these exams are NOT about information my highschooler may have learnt. Exams are simply a life skill = learn how to complete the course work in the prescribed format.

Dear moms with young children, enjoy a simple, relaxed homeschooling journey.  Take your time.  Enjoy your child and their unique learning styles.  Focus on these delicious years of freedom.

Wishing you and your child writing the 2016 matric exams the very best!

Blessings, Nadene

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3 things to avoid in art lessons

20160607_143154Art is about creativity and inspiration, but many moms avoid teaching art in their homeschool because it is often seen as messy and unpredictable.  Here’s what to avoid in your art lessons — with helpful practical hints to do instead ~

Too focussed on the end product

Inexperienced moms and insecure children often look for a “cookie-cutter” approach to successful art lessons.  Typically these art lessons give step-by-step instructions which always result in similar outcomes.  This often kills creativity.

Always look for an opportunity to teach important art concepts, techniques, or history, and find ways to tie as much learning and personal choice as you can into every project you do with your students.  It is important for the art teacher to know what to do and how to do it, but it is more important to allow the child to discover and create and enjoy the artistic process without feeling afraid that it “won’t come out right”.

20150831_152347Too Formal

A gentle, informal approach to fine arts is really effective!  After years of teaching art, I found that most real creativity is often spontaneous and requires a sense of freedom.  Avoid tedious technical lessons, or using mediums that require great skill and ability or processes that frighten and exasperate children.  Rather let the child practice with a new medium or process on scrap paper and then apply this to another process.  This encourages exploration and discovery and will increase the child’s artistic skills.

Too Time-consuming

Plan art lessons in manageable  time frames.  Young children need shorter lessons, while older children can work for longer periods.  It is always difficult to pack away art and try restart the process another time.   Homeschoolers can devote a whole day to fine arts and complete rather complex art activities, if they want.

Plan and schedule art and do it with your children!  It is a wonderful way to build relationships and grow in creativity together.

What have you found works in your art lessons?

Blessings, Nadene

Stimulating Story Time

Good children’s literature and read alouds are an essential component of a Charlotte Mason education.  Literature is foundational to learning language, building vocabulary, discovering the world and ideas and stimulating creative imaginations!

Reading aloud is a vital skill and here are some tips to making story time stimulating and fun ~

book-farmPictures Your child’s first books should have interesting illustrations.  Many children’s books have amazing artistic pictures which inspire children’s imaginations.  Non-fiction books need bright, clear photos or illustrations.  Don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy each illustration and use them to connect your child with the story.  Very young kids love to find things in detailed pictures. “Can you find the little yellow duck?”  “Where is the red bucket?”  “How many blue balls can you see?”  Older children enjoy copying illustrations they find inspiring.  I often encourage my young kids to illustrate their narrations.

indexSounds – When reading aloud to your children, you and your kids should try make sound effect noises for animals, machines, weather and simple things that may happen in the story such as knocking on a door.  Young children love to participate in the stories with all the sounds and actions.  Boys, especially seem genetically created to make sound effects, so use it to make your stories come alive!

Accents and voices – Be ridiculous and make funny voices and accents for different characters.  red-sails-to-capriMy teenagers and young adult children still smile when they remember my ridiculous Italian accent when I read “Red Sails to Capri” and my over-the-top American accent (we are South Africans, so this was unusual for us) when I read “Strawberry Girl“.  Even animal characters need their own voices.  Go ahead and dramatize the story with your voice — your kids will love it!

Tone and emotion – Ue your voice to create moods and convey feelings.  Read aloud and vary your voice for effect — soft and slow for scary sections,  high, excitied voice for a happy piece, or slow and low voice to convey someone who is sad or depressed.

Pause – Use a pause to create tension and encourage your child’s participation.  A young child will jump in with a prompt when the story is paused for a brief moment — “The three bears walked into the bedroom and saw …” pause … “Goldilocks!” I loved using cliffhangers, and my children would beg me to continue.  Isn’t this the true joy of learning through literature?

And if all else fails, invest in audiobooks.  Librivox provides free audiobooks, but check the version before downloading as some books are recorded with monotone voices and dreary pacing.

Encourage your children to read aloud to you with expression.

Wishing you many happy years of amazing reading aloud in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

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3 Things to avoid in handwriting lessons

Are you new to homeschooling or facing a crisis with your child’s handwriting?  Here’s some practical advice ~

Here are 3 things to avoid in handwriting lessons:

  • Boring  laminated chartYoung children want to write real words as soon as they can and find endless pattern pages and those pages featuring one. letter. at. a. time. very boring.  These expensive handwriting books take almost a year to complete and many young children become frustrated and negative about handwriting.   We use laminated handwriting charts to learn to print and write cursive.  It is quick, free and painless, and within weeks your child will be able to start using copywork pages and practice their handwriting in real sentences.
  • Bad form – Everyone struggles and makes mistakeHandwriting arrowss when learning something new.  Some children become extremely stressed when they cannot control their fine motor muscles or struggle to remember how to correctly form each letter, and this adds to a negative attitude towards handwriting.    With my method, children use a whiteboard marker on the laminated handwriting charts which rubs out in a jiffy.  Any mistake is quickly and easily erased and the child feels much more satisfied at the end of their lesson.  To teach correct form, mom demonstrates writing each letter on the chart while talking through each movement and shape and then the child copies on the chart.  Watch carefully for correct starting points, directions of the stroke and when and where to lift the pen.
  • Basicshttps://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/p1070277.jpg?w=300&h=225Practice the basic letter formation.  Learn the upper case letters as soon as they master the lower case letters.  Go on to real handwriting as soon as possible using copywork pages.  Practice daily in short, sweet handwriting lessonsCopywork is an excellent handwriting exercise because your child will use almost all the letters, join cursive letters, combine upper and lower case letters in meaningful sentences.  This also is a great help in learning spelling and memorizing Bible verses. 

Here are some helpful downloads on my Packages Page

Handwriting Tips Booklet ($R5.00 / ZAR50.00)   This comprehensive 20-page E-book is packed with practical tips and activities covers pre, early and basic writing skills .  It includes helpful activities and fun pre-writing games to build up your child’s gross motor strength, develop fine motor control and develop their spatial awareness.  Important guidelines to promote correct posture and pencil grip for maximum control and minimum stress while learning to write.  I recommend you also purchase the step-by-step guides below for specific guidelines to teach print and cursive.

Teaching Print step-by-step ($1.00 / ZAR10.00)    An 8-page booklet with practical advice, clear examples and step-by-step instructions on how and where to place letters and how to form each print letter.  I share remedial and junior primary teachers tips, which have proven very effective in our in our homeschooling.

Teaching Cursive step-by-step ($1.00 / ZAR10.00)   A comprehensive 8-page booklet with practical advice, simple instructions, clear examples, step-by-step descriptions on how and where to place letters and how to form cursive letters.

Pop over to order you handwriting booklets on my Packages Page.

Wishing you every blessings, Nadene

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Slow learner Joys discovered

It is possible to experience joy when teaching a slow learner.  Let me encourage you and share my experience of how I discovered joy instead of anxiety.

If my youngest child had been in regular school, she would certainly have discovered that she took a lot longer than her peers to learn.  In those fragile years, I’m sure she would have been labeled a “slow learner”.   But instead, in the privacy and comfort of our home, she flourished at her own pace.

It came as a shock to discover that my very young child couldn’t remember nursery rhymes. Despite daily repetition, the words floated past her memory and she could only tell me the theme of the rhyme, but not the words themselves.  “Auditory memory issues?” my remedial-teacher brain whispered.  Then, I discovered quite by chance, that if she acted out the nursery rhyme she remembered it well. “Okay … she’s a kinesthetic learner.”

Learning the alphabet took much longer than with my other kids at her age.  Maths skip counting missed beats, and learning to read seemed to take forever.  She desperately wanted to read.  It was this inner drive that kept her working and working on her skills.   I must add that this is what is quickly lost in school systems!  Kids feel shame and fear and lose their love to learn.   They dread being exposed and hide or avoid reading in any form.

But safe at home, daily she would come to me with her little readers to read to/ with me.    I learnt to slow things down to the place where she flourished … partnered readingme whispering the words in her ear as she pointed and sounded out the words. This went on for ages. I just kept sitting with her on my lap reading with her for months and months and months.

And then, one day, she simply took off! And my emerging reader became an independent reader! We were both overjoyed!

20161006_162405My youngest daughter is now 14 years old and is an avid reader of adult classical books.  She has her own collection of classic books, preferably hard covers, that she scouts for at secondhand book stores, and she reads and re-reads these every moment she can.

If my hubby hadn’t kept me in check, I probably would have taken my child to a therapist to evaluate her and start some remedial program, but, instead, in faith, we simply followed her pace and allowed her to learn as she was ready.

Shawna writes in a recent post on Simple Homeschool “In celebration of the slow learner“,

“I think it is infinitely more important that our children feel confident in their ability to learn something, than in how long it may or may not take to actually learn it.  Speed has never been the goal. Mastery, progress, confidence – these are all things that take time, and that are worth the wait.”

May I urgently suggest that you homeschool your struggling slow learner.  Bring them home and save them the misery and shame of failure and labelling.  Do it now!  Don’t wait for the end of year or a term.  Homeschooling allows you to tailor-make their education experience.  Aim to relax.  Follow a gentle pace.  Don’t fret about “trying to catch up”.  I want to state this with absolute confidence — your child will learn when they are ready.

Secondly, if you feel the need to have your child evaluated, pray for and look for a remedial therapist with compassion, humour and patience.   Ask other parents how they and their children feel about the therapist before taking your child to their first session.  And in my experience, this is not a permanent situation.  Remedial therapy is a temporary help to overcome weaknesses.  As your child improves, she will not require therapy.   Don’t fall into the trap of doing hours of boring, dull, repetitive remedial exercises.  Don’t allow your child to feel like she has “a problem”.  Worse still, don’t allow them to feel that they are a burden.

Most importantly — pray.  The Lord showed me how precious and special my child was just as she is and not as I felt she should be.  I learnt to trust Him and follow His lead.  His joy and boundless love for her enabled me to love and nurture my child.

Mom, do not fret about your slow learner.  Do not weep.  This is your special gift … to learn to love uniquely.  To love without fixing.  To love without wanting to change someone. To love patiently, with hope.  Such love never fails.

Praying for you … for much grace, courage and strength!  Blesssings, Nadene

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Illustrated Narrations

A reader wrote and asked me,

“I understand that my 10-year-old should be writing some of his narrations, but he still balks when faced with his blank notebook page.  How do I encourage his early written narrations.  He’s very visual and artistic.  Does an illustration count as narrations?”

Narrations (or “telling back”) are the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education and this complex learning activity takes years to master before your child can confidently write his written narrations.  Illustrations are an excellent starting point for early narrations.

Here are some creative narration ideas ~

  • Draw or illustrate the most important scene/ the ending/ the main character/ the surroundings/ machines or inventions mentioned.  Draw articles mentioned instead of making lists.  My kindergartener start drawing pictures of their narrations in a large jotter.   Sometimes this was part of their “busy hands with listening ears” activity while I read aloud.  Afterwards,  as they told me what they remembered of the story, I jotted their narrations next to or under their illustration, capturing a detailed, personal retelling.
  • Earth Solar System Comics 004Mom prints the child’s dictated narration next to or under their illustrations in pencil.  Encourage young writers to then trace over the penciled narration with a colored pen or felt-tipped pen.  This forms excellent handwriting practice and develops the child’s handwriting stamina.  It also looks like “their own” narration — which it is!
  • Draw a comic strip of the narration.  A comic strip can include a massive amount of information!    Comics with just 6 blocks can easily sum up entire chapters and are great for imaginative, visual children.  Comic strips help a child order or sequence their narrations. We did a whole series of comic strips for our Astronomy studies.  Here is my free blank comic notebooking page.
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/p1080498.jpg?w=300&h=225Make a model or 3D image.  Children love creating paper or cardstock models, like the 3D Little House in the Big Woods.  My children loved to illustrate, color in and cut out the windows, doors, and other folds which, when pasted correctly, formed three-dimensional illustrations.  Young children love to lift flaps and look inside doors and windows!
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/p1080139.jpg?w=401&h=301Use those Lego blocks for narrations!  Children draw the backdrops and characters for the scenes in the reading.  Punch suitably sized and spaced holes into the cardstock to fit the Lego blocks and clip in between Lego blocks to stand upright.   Children can “act out” their narrations.  They placed their cardstock scenes and characters into an envelope pasted on their notebook page to store them safely.
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/p1070351.jpg?w=300&h=225Use minibooks instead of a large notebook page.  This helps the child feel more confident that he just has a small space to fill  and he need not fill a whole blank notebook page.   I often combined minibooks with my notebook pages.  The image and heading on the front of the minibook provided an excellent narration prompt.  My young kids loved these minibooks and enjoyed planning their own page layout and often filled a large notebook page with several narration-filled booklets.  A real Win-Win!
  • Lapbooks follow the same principle mentioned above and we used lapbooks for almost all  middle school subjects.   I believe that lapbooks are an excellent transition to formal notebook narrations.

I hope that these ideas help and encourage you and your child develop creative narrations!

Blessings, Nadene

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Oral narrations when a child hates writing

A reader wrote and asked me ~

“How can I help my son?  He absolutely hates writing narrations!  He sulks, delays, refuses and sometimes has a complete meltdown.  I know that he knows the work, but he just hates putting pen to paper.  What can I do?”

Here are some suggestions ~

Firstly, ask yourself why he is reacting so strongly.  Stress, immaturity and lack of readiness and writing skills can result in negative emotional reactions.  Take the pressure off and back up and away from any writing.  Go back to oral narrations.   Remember that oral skills develop long before written skills.

Some young children even battle at this stage. They freeze when they have to formulate their own version of the story or theme they have listened to.  My youngest couldn’t figure out how to start.  Or there were chapters which she found difficult to order (sequence) correctly.  My one child didn’t know how to keep to the point and rambled with long, draw-out sentences.  p1150685

Narrations require powerful mental strength! While the child actively listens, he  connects to the story, visualizing, comprehending, synthesizing and then remembering and articulating his thoughts.  He must take all the new information and sort, arrange, select, reject, classify and relate all the intricate details of the selection he heard.

Here are some tips on how to break down oral narrations ~

  • Prepare your child before you read.  Tell them, “I want you to listen carefully to the read aloud and after I have finished reading, I want you to tell me back what I have read to you.”
  • Paragraphs ~ Only narrate short stories or selections about one paragraph long.  Read a simple story such as a nursery rhyme or an Aesop’s fable.  By eight or nine years of age, a child should be able to narrate several paragraphs, and only at about 10 years should a child be able to narrate a chapter.  This would apply to all subjects.  Until your child manages to convey detailed, accurate oral narrations at this stage, he is not going to manage any written narration.
  • Prompts ~ Instead of telling back the story, use questions to focus on a specific aspect of the story such as:
    • What is the main event?
    • What did the main character do/ say/ or discover?
    • Why do you think the main character did ….?
    • Can you think of your own ending to this chapter?
    • Can you list at least 5 main points in this reading?
    • Can you sequence (put into order) the events that happened?
    • Give a very detailed description of the place/ season/ weather/ surroundings in this reading.
    • What action or character’s reaction impressed you?
  • Pictures ~ many young children find looking back at the illustrations in the story very helpful.  As they mature, they will learn to form and remember  their own metal image of the reading.  Looking at a timeline,  a natural science lifecycle or illustration is absolutely fine.  Gently encourage your child to develop this mental process and ask them to look and then tell without looking.

Don’t worry if your older child spends longer developing these oral narration skills.  Keep working on his mental processes and articulating his thoughts clearly before moving towards capturing written narrations.

Some children may have the necessary verbal skills, but have writing issues.  It may be the stress of physical mastery in actually writing print or cursive, or fear of spelling errors or fatigue when trying to capture everything on paper.  Again, break down the problem and use alternatives.

Here are some creative variations ~ 

  • Record the oral narrations – on a smart phone/ on the computer/on a tape recorder/ use a dictaphone/ use a video recorder.  Play it back and let him edit or re-do it if he is not satisfied.
  • Be his scribe and write out/ type his narrations for him word-for-word as he speaks.
  • Dramatize the narration if it is possible.  Some children lacking verbal skills may more effectively mime and dramatize their thoughts.  Act out a scene from the story/ create the introduction or ending of the chapter.

I wrote “What Works ~ Teach Creative Writing Without Lessons” post after my eldest graduated from homeschool and I can absolutely guarantee that narrations, first oral, then dictated, and written, have given my children all the writing skills they have ever needed for high school.  Not only that, but they are exceptional writers!  (Pop over to this post to read examples of their essays and narrations!)  They are eloquent, creative and highly skilles writers … without ever teaching them creative writing!

Narrations are the foundation for all learning!

Hope that these suggestions help you bring the relief and joy back to your narration sessions.

Blessings, Nadene

 

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Practical Tip Word Banks

Here’s this week’s practical tip for emerging writers ~

word-banks

In my past post Word Banks I shared how, by jotting down a list of thematic words from the topic we had just read, my young middle schooler confidently wrote her narrations. These word banks assisted her memory, helped with spelling and enabled her to write detailed, accurate sentences.

How and when do you make a word bank?

  1. Sometimes it helps to read and discuss important new words before reading a chapter/ topic/ theme.  Look up or talk about the meanings of these words.  Find a synonym (words with similar meanings) for each word and then use the new word in a sentence.  After this activity and before you read aloud, ask your child to listen carefully for the word bank words when your read.  Some kids become really excited when they hear “their” words!  In this way you are preparing the child to learn new information.
  2. My youngest child wrote out her own list of important thematic words or concepts she wanted to remember during the read aloud.  She felt more secure when she had main facts on her little white board.  Although Charlotte Mason encourages simple focussed listening, I found my child was less stressed about her narrations if she had her own word bank ready.
  3. With emerging writers, oral narrations precede written narrations.  While my child orally narrated her summary to me, I wrote out the main points/ phrases/ important words on her white board and created a word bank during her oral narration.  She then used these words to write out her narration.  This helped her remember the sequence of ideas and helped her with her spelling.

How does a child use the word bank words?

  • Start simply saying each word.   Read each word aloud and pronounce them correctly.
  • Add to their meanings. All new information needs to be attached to previous knowledge.  Try find root meanings in a word.
  • Use each new word in a sentence.  Vocabulary should always be learnt in context.
  • A Charlotte Mason narration aims to be as precise and as close to the original text as possible.  By copying an author’s style and language use, your child will develop their own creative writing skills!
  • Place word bank words in sequence.  Ordering thoughts is a very important skill.
  • Keep sentences short and simple.
  • Once an emerging writer manages to write the word bank words in simple sentences, encourage them to add descriptive words and details. This is how each child’s work is unique and original, even if they all use the same word bank words.
  • Finally, indicate new thoughts with paragraphs (skipping a line and starting on a new line).

Hope these tips help you assist your young emerging writer!

Blessings, Nadene

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Not Qualified to Homeschool?

Encouraging new homeschoolers ~

A reader recently wrote and asked,
“I’m not qualified as a teacher.   I have 3 young children and want to start homeschooling. What do you recommend?”

Let me start with this statement20140811_125422 ~  YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL YOUR OWN CHILDREN! You are already educating your children as you intimately know your children and adapt to their needs, interests and abilities.  You don’t need certification, experience or qualifications to educate them if you are able to follow some basic principles, and approaches.  If you read good parenting and education books you will gain excellent perspective and understanding on how your child learns and how you can initiate or facilitate their interests and explorations.  Some homeschool curriculums are so well-designed and prepared that you will easily be able to facilitate your child’s learning.

I can fully understand how uncertain and insecure you must feel.  Even as a qualified, professional teacher, I experienced the same fears and failures in my first year teaching.  Here’s my story   ~

I qualified with a 4 year Diploma of Higher Education with subject majors and a specialization in remedial education as a senior primary (middle school) teacher.  When I received my first teaching post, the school appointed me to a junior primary class and I was completely ill-equipped!  I had absolutely no idea how to teach these young, little kids to write, read, do phonics or practice numeracy!  Even with the lesson preparation planned out for me, I had no idea how to actually implement the lessons.  I used to stand on tip-toe to  peep into my neighbouring teacher’s classroom to see how she taught her classes and try copy her in my class!  It was a real disaster!  Six months later, when a senior primary teacher was transferred to another school, I begged for her classes and was promptly “promoted” to senior primary where I flourished!

After teaching at public schools for 10 years and completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree,  I became a stay-at-home mom started homeschooling my young children.  All my years of teaching experience and study did not help me.  In fact it was a hindrance!

My first homeschooling year looked like “school-at-home” and I rigorously implemented Sonlight’s  packaged curriculum.  I religiously stuck to their schedule, and stressed and juggled to try implement the 3 separate cores I bought for each child and we all nearly burnt out!  Wonderfully, during this first year I also read amazing education and parenting books and slowly realized that I needed to loosen up, look for the learning spark or moment and fan that flame to encourage my children to explore and discover their own interests and creative passions.

My children learnt despite my best and worst efforts.  Two years later we spent 18 20140603_121902months on the road travelling around South Africa.  I wisely put all the children on just one core and followed Footprints On Our Land .  I learnt that even if we travelled and missed formal schooling days we didn’t fall behind.   I simply extended the schedule to cover 18 months instead of 1 year!  We loved the flow and natural learning that came with reading amazing books, visiting people and places and being creative.

So what do you need to have to qualify as a good homeschooler?

  • Relationship.  Be attached and connected, involved and encouraging of each child.  Know your children, their weakness, fears, anxieties, learning styles, interests, and passions.   This is true for any great parent, even if your child attends public school!
  • Facilitator.  Your purpose is to observe and listen to what they love to do, what they love to learn, and to encourage, initiate ideas, and help them explore and discover what interests them.  Give them time and space to explore, discover, create, make a mess, make mistakes, and make it their own.  Ask them what they want to learn and allow them to choose subjects, topics, books and approaches and then tailor-make their education.  Think of child-led learning.
  • Basic skills. Teach them with short, clear instructions and then let them apply it in their learning.  Give them examples of how to work with equipment, tools, materials and methods.  Show them how to be safe and keep things clean and in working order when finished.  Think of practical life skills such as washing, cleaning, using kitchen equipment, sewing, handwork, use a variety arts and crafts materials.  Teach more specific educational skills such as how to use a microscope or maths equipment .  If you don’t know how, find someone who can and learn together with your kids.  Often my kids find out for themselves in the Internet or from friends.
  • Read aloud with expression.  This may be your greatest teaching tool!  We have always learnt through living books and great literature.  I still read aloud every day to my high schooler and our family loves to read.  Even when everything else seems uncertain and failing, read alouds have kept us going strong.  It has been our homeschool glue!  Start while your kids are very young and just keep updating your library, looking for relevant, engaging books as they grow older.  There are dozens of book lists for children of every age.  Ambleside Online is a free Charlotte Mason education based primarily on book lists for each year.
  • Keep the young years fun!  Avoid making homeschool about desk work, days of dry, dull, long lessons.  Do hands-on activities, play, get dirty, have fun, sing, laugh and play.   Avoid curriculums that require strict marking, tests and exams.  This approach is not necessary until your children reach highschool.  Only in the final 3 years of highschool do you need to settle into a more focussed academic approach.

When buying a curriculum, most new homeschool parents buy the full bells-and-whistles packages.  This is a great help, but I urge you to adapt it and make it fit your family.

Here’s my best advice to new curriculum package users ~

  • One core – try put as many children of similar ages together on the same core.  Some years a young or older child may require the focus of the core, but generally go on a family adventure on the same read alouds.
  • Individual Reading, Maths and Spelling – each child on their own learning levels and pace for handwriting, phonics, reading, spelling and maths.
  • Short sweet lessons – For the 3R’s read how to keep lessons short – only 10 to 15 minutes long.
  • 4-Day-Schedule – plan for one free day to do extras, outings, co-ops, nature walks, fine arts and personal free time.  This will keep you and your children fresh and sane!
  • Start slowly – don’t pile into the full package.  Ease into the program over weeks even months.  Start with the best, juicy parts like the reading aloud and the main core books.  Each day work through this and then add a new subject each week.  Give yourself and your kids time to find your family’s natural rhythm and flow.  It doesn’t matter if some subjects are “behind” for a while.  You can focus on lagging subjects and catch up easily in a few days or a week!
  • Tweak the package for each child and use the schedule uniquely and individually instead of trying to make your kids and yourself fit into someone else’s learning plan.  Think of the schedule as an outline, prompt or suggestion.  It is the general road-map. Make the journey yours!

You CAN DO THIS!

Wishing you all grace and courage as you follow your heart and begin this most amazing journey!

Blessings, Nadene

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