End of Year Activities

This year is fast rushing to a close … Christmas goodies are already filling the shops and our December summer holidays seem just around the corner.

It is also the time of the year when we conclude and congratulate ourselves for the work we have covered during our school year.

I often tell moms that I stretch a 12 month curriculum over 18 months, so we don’t always actually “finish” the curriculum each year.  At some point though, we declare official school work closed for the year and focus on these other activities.   Sometimes we continue  these activities through the December holidays as they are fun and I love my children to have something meaningful to do during their holidays.

Here are some of our end-of-year activities:
(not in any particular order … just some of the many ideas that sprang to mind …)

  • Finish any year-long project.
  • Go on outings or field trips.
  • Join other homeschool families or co-ops for an end-of-year party or activity.
  • Catch up and finish any read alouds.
  • Do all outstanding Science experiments.
  • Focus on hands-on activities and have practical fun on subjects neglected during the year.
  • Prepare an exhibition of their work and invite family or close friends to see their work.  Children love to explain what they did or present their projects and art work!
  • Hold a ‘graduation’ party.  Young children, even teens, love to receive a certificate!  Sonlight builds this aspect into their curriculums.
  • Hold an end-of-year celebration or graduation party.
  • We love to make Christmas gifts.
  • Listen to the year’s music highlights on a special playlist.
  • Watch a historical movie covering the time of your studies.
  • Create and act out a play or puppet show for a real audience.

Some administrative activities:

  • Rearrange, refresh and decorate the schoolroom.4-20150123_065037-1
  • My youngest loves to hang mobiles!
  • Prepare their new notebook files and stationary. (Look at some of our cover pages.)
  • Refresh the Theme of the Day poster.
  • File away the year’s work and store art and craft projects.
  • Review and look through the whole year’s work.  I ask my children to comment, select, highlight and rejoice over work they have done and accomplished.  I ask these basic questions:
    1. What was your favourite activity/ theme/ or topic?  Why?
    2. Show me your top 5 favourite books – read alouds or readers.
    3. What did you least enjoy?  Why?
  • I spend these weeks planning, printing and preparing the children’s school work for the new year.  (It is an exciting time , yet slightly scary time for me.  Every. Year.  Even after  +18 years of homeschooling, I’m not always sure what will work, how long it will take and if we will enjoy it.)

Remember that homeschooling is a long journey.  and just as travellers love to show their photos and review their trips, an end-of-year program  is a wonderful way to ease into the new year with enthusiasm and motivation.

Blessings in your homeschooling journey!

Sketch Tuesday ~ Something At A Bank

This week’s Sketch Tuesday theme is ~  Something At A Bank

Over the years, we have regularly taken part in Sketch Tuesday.   Even though the topics may seem simple, and the approach rather informal, I have been amazed at the impact it has had on my children’s creativity and confidence.

The weekly slideshow is very effective!  My kids look forward to seeing their work.  And in viewing other sketches, they learn how others create, notice paintings or sketches with detail or color, and are stimulated to continue sketching.  As I have encouraged before, informal, regular contact with Fine Arts has an incredible impact on our children!

Inside a Bank 001

Inside a Bank 001 (2) If you would like to join Sketch Tuesday, pop over to Harmony Fine Arts and click the subscription box. and confirm the subscription email when it comes.  Each week Barb will email the slideshow and the next topic of theme.

See you at the next slideshow!

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Give Creative Space

20141022_113005Recently I met several new homeschool families, most with teen high schoolers and a graduate homeschooler.  Apart from the joy of sharing like-values and hearing their encouraging and inspiring stories, there was a repeated theme  = homeschooling gives children the freedom and time to develop their gifts and visions.

Several experienced moms exhorted a new homeschooling mom of  young primary school-aged children to relax.  We urged her to give her children the time, space and freedom to explore, discover, read and create.20150308_174550It was refreshing to be reminded/ urged to give children space. More importantly, encourage creativity!

Creativity needs space and opportunity to develop.  Creativity needs time.  Children encouraged to fill their time with hobbies and interests will find things that they love and are good at, and given enough encouragement and freedom, they may even follow this into careers or short-term jobs. 20151020_123634_001One parent told me how her unqualified, yet very talented son was offered a position in an internationally selected team.  His unique flair and ability stood out among those far more experienced.  His untrained style and ability gave him the opportunity to land the job, and his new work experience provided additional training  to add to his ever-growing portfolio.

Don’t worry about formal training.  20150328_114825Often formal schooling has a preset framework and children often lose their unique style and ability in order to fit in to the school’s requirements and expectations.

Allow your child to be unique!  Don’t be afraid.  They may be challenged later, but they will have a deep sense of their authentic self.

I think it is this very uniqueness that makes homeschoolers seem “odd”, but the cookie-cutter career is no longer an option.  In fact, many large corporations are looking for homeschool graduates for this very reason!20141114_170311My hubby and I decided a few years ago to buy our children tools and supplies rather than other the more ordinary gifts for birthdays.  In the past we have bought leather-making tools, art easel and canvases, soldering iron and craft tools, packets of beads, chains and jewellery-making items, or several reams of fabrics and ribbons.  Often these gifts have provided the inspiration and means for our children to create for months on end.20150224_105140

But more important than buying materials, we need to give our children the freedom to “be“.

Let them use the stuff!  Encourage them to create, make mistakes, invent, explore, gain experience, become frustrated, try again, learn.

If they need help, watch YouTube videos or tutorials, or visit an artist or artisan, or take classes, or find a tutor.

I loved   Jess from A Thoughtful Life‘s  post on “Hearing your Child’s Voice” and wish to end with her words of encouragement:

“All people are destined to be both observer and mentor. Your child is destined to be both your observer and mentor. But if you rush to fill all the spaces, be the one to only ever lead, then your child can only ever follow.

My children take me in directions that I never could have planned. Space left free, is space full of endless potential.”

Please feel free to share how you create space for your children in the comments below.


What 3 Ingredients?

A Food Channel on DSTV recently interviewed several famous chefs and asked,

What 3 ingredients would you have in your kitchen?

Most of them stated the obvious – basics such as eggs, milk, pork (as either ham, bacon or meat) and one insisted on the versatility of rice, but several focussed on (what seemed like to me) extravagant non-essentials – condiments, chillies, some obscure nut, spice or sauce.

It got me thinking, “What essential 3 ingredients I would have for homeschooling?”
Would it be the standard basics – open to a hundred different options – or some exotic extravagant items that would make learning unique and unforgettable?

So, at the moment, I would probably chose these basics  ~

  • my nifty little travel art set
  • Notebook with blank pages – nice large A4 hard-covered
  • A classic novel to read aloud … or an atlas ( our good old large Reader’s Digest illustrated atlas)

Back in 2007, when we were on the road for 18 months, before buying our farm, and in the ‘dark ages’ before I owned a smart phone, all our children’s homeschool basics fitted in a small onboard-sized suitcase!

This list has more than 3 items , but these basics covered every subject for all 3 children for our entire year-and-a-half travels ~

  • Footprints On Our Land (South African literature-based History curriculum – visit their website here.  I have used and re-used it and it is an amazing family friendly curriculum!)
  • An atlas, our large, blank laminated map to record our Footprints journey,  and a mini dictionary
Footprints map

Our “Footprints On Our Land” map filled with our trips in different colours, photos of family and friends and places we visited, and the circular discs for each book we read on our Footprints journey

  • Maths books, a calculator, Maths Mini Office and a maths set (protractor, set square and compass)
  • An art set (waterpaints, coloured pencils and some felt-tipped pens) to share, and a wad of blank paper
  • A “365 Simple Science Experiments” book and a magnifying glass (for nature study)
  • A Children’s Bible
  • Book of Centuries or a Timeline
  • Laminated handwriting chart

Asking my children what they would grab now as their homeschool essentials, Lara (13yrs) said ~

  • Pen, pencil and rubber, and a watercolour paint set with waterbrush
  • Maths books & Mini Office
  • Apologia Astronomy book

and Kate (16yrs) listed ~

  • Maths Mini Office
  • Black ink pen – for writing and drawing
  • Notebook with lined, blank and quad lined pages

Now, as a more techno-savy mom, many of my basics are conveniently available as apps on my smart phone ~

  • Kindle – with current ebooks, novels, and pdfs loaded
  • Bible – I use You Version, and enjoy the different Bible versions and reading plans and Bible studies.  Some good plans for teens and family devotions.
  • Dictionary and Thesaurus (download the offline versions)
  • Google Translate for 2nd language studies
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube
  • World Atlas
  • Google Sky Map
  • Google calendar
  • Music – with our Hymns, Geography Songs, classic music to play in the background
  • Timer for Maths drills

What exotic and unusual items would I choose to make our homeschool experience amazing?

  • An amazing novel, or beautifully illustrated story book (for younger children)
  • A detailed reference book on our current theme/ topic
  • A poetry anthology book

When I asked Kate and Lara what special items they would choose ~

  • A brilliant book for read aloud (Lara)
  • A really good, classic leather-bound, genuine waterpaper sketch book (Kate’s suggestion)
  • Good playlist on the shuffle – they love to listen to music while working

What essentials would I choose for young children and kindergarten?

  • Unifix cubes (for sorting, counting, grouping, building and Maths)
  • Playdough and some cutters, rolling stick and stamps
  • Activity bags to rotate each week
  • Beautifully illustrated children’s story book and Children’s Bible
  • Large jotter for their illustrations and dictated narrations with some chubby crayons and water-based markers.

What essentials would you choose?  Please share in the comments.

New Year Preparations

3-20150123_065101Encouragement for new homeschool moms ~

About 3 months before our new South African school year starts,  I feel the urge to prepare.

I have shared how we have used, re-used and re-used our curriculums = very little preparation.

Other years I have created eclectic curriculums = lots of preparation.

Most years I stretched out a 12-month curriculum to 18 months or longer.  (This is my most often repeated advice to any new homeschooler – don’t be a slave to the schedule,  merely follow it as a guideline.)

Here’s how I prepare ~

1.  Schedule and sequence the work

  • A year plan or overview is essential – I love to pencil in the subjects, spine books and topics on my Home Centred Learning Model outline. https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/overviewyear-planner.jpg?w=334&h=451
  • Next I plot in the work for each month on a planning page.   Often this is a tailor-made curriculum.
  • Google calendar is an excellent planning tool, where I save links, websites, downloads and URLs to go with each lesson.
  • For high schoolers, enrol with the relevant exam board or authority ,or ensure your curriculum meets qualifying exam requirements.  This includes obtaining identity documents and meeting deadlines for fees and exam dates.

2. Source the materials

  • Collect, browse, purchase or borrow books to form the spine of the curriculum.
  • Often my entire year’s school work costs me nothing more than ink and paper for printouts of free downloads.  Check out my links for free homeschool websites and blogs.
  • Add a fun hands-on activity for some your themes and plan in time for tangents.
  • Often I ask my child to lead the learning and look for materials, approaches and ideas to facilitate her learning.
  • Book tutor sessions for high schoolers if required.

3. Sort and store

  • I sort out our bookshelves and store any books we want to keep, but can’t display.
  • Coloured labels keep books from different curriculums together.  I share, donate or sell my books I no longer need.

4. Shelf space for each child

  • Each child has their own space on our bookshelves for their school books,  maths sets, arts and crafts.
  • Our fabric storage boxes have been a huge success.  All the odd bits and bobs are hidden from view, but easily at hand.

5. Sneaky preview

Over the years, I have found that my kids can’t wait to start their new curriculum if I give them a preview. They are intrigued and curious about their new books. In our early years our best days were when the kids opened a brand new Sonlight homeschool curriculum delivery.

5.  Start slowly

  • Gently ease into the full schedule. This may take a few days or weeks.
  • Start with simple basics like the 3R’s – reading, handwriting and maths
  • Or start with the Core book or Read Aloud that leads the subjects and theme.
  • Use a Theme of the Day to bring in all the extras such as Nature Study, Fine Arts and Creative Writing.
    Theme of the Day 2014
  • Remember a gentle, living education for young children, toddlers and kindergarten children – you do NOT need a formal curriculum!

Be encouraged to “start again” at any time … when illnesses or crisis knocks homeschooling for a loop, when you hit a wall, when there are emergencies, when change and uncertainty fills your home  …  pause … breathe …

I pray , “Lord, what do we need to focus on right now?”

He will lead you in peace.  Pop over to my planning and organization page for your free pages.

Blessings as you prepare.

Spring Bouquet Alisa Burke-Style

20151020_115303I subscribe to Alisa Burke‘s blog and receive her inspiration almost daily in my inbox!     She is a prolific artist and we often create motivated by ideas, such as here  and our first bouquets.

This week we were inspired by her post “A peek into my process” ~

Kate, who loves to pick and arrange flowers from my garden, collected an amazing array of brightly colored and textured spring flowers.

She used Alisa’s process, and took apart the petals and painted color testers.  Art Alisa Burke spring bouquetsShe then painted a beautiful bouquet.

Alisa Burke Spring Bouquets 002Lara painted her bouquet and created detailed outlines. Art Alisa Burke spring bouquets1Alisa Burke Spring Bouquets 003

Somehow, she and Kate “swapped ” their styles from their previous bouquet paintings.  Art Alisa Burke spring bouquets2I used my waterproof black ink in my fountain pen and sketched all the flowers. Using waterpaints, I painted the flowers and leaf-shaped background. Alisa Burke Spring Bouquets 001We really enjoyed painting our flowers!

Pop over to my Art Page for all my art inspiration lessons and downloads.


More Julia Anastasopoulos Art

We love Julia Anastasopoulos’ inspirational art!  In fact,  we  moved our first murals to fit on one wall in our passage to make space for more!

20151007_182133We spent several days during the past weeks, in our typical Charlotte Mason approach, studying Julia’s Anastasopoulos’ art on her website knolc, and we were all inspired to do a flurry of art activities ~

More massive murals ~
Kate’s created another expressive cityscape filled with fun and whimsy!

Looking through her project gallery on her website knolc, I was inspired by  artwork which was transferred onto windows.  She used the “historical, architectural influence of Louis Michel Thibault on the City of Cape Town to create a public artwork that would work effectively on glass” which was installed in Thibault Square MiCity Bus station.44bf89551a14b53a890dfbcefa02b559My new cityscape featured our South African Cape Dutch architecture.  I added people depicting early Cape Town life. I painted my mural using acrylic ink, but I realized then how difficult it is to convert this design into something truly artistic.  In the end, I felt comfortable with my mural as a historical picture, but realized that it was not true art …

20151015_123244I think that it is only when one does these types of art appreciation activities that one truly realizes the true brilliance of talented artists.

Lara’s whimsical created this amazing picture, typical of some of Julia’s illustrations. In fact, I am convinced that Lara could become a talented illustrator!  20151001_104142-1Kate also created a lovely Julia-inspired illustration!  I absolutely love all the tiny details and all those  teeny tiny lines she used to create the grass.  Kate has definitely captured the style and feel of Julia’s art.20150928_133338-1 (1)Julia’s Shadow Boxes were the inspiration for my own shadow box picture featuring my children enjoying their childhood freedom on our farm … a collage of their happy life outdoors.  How quickly these years flash past!20151001_103709-1The next time you need some art ideas, look at your favourite artist’s gallery and try your hand at some of their projects!  It is amazingly inspiring and can open up whole new ways of doing art!

Pop over to my Art page for more art appreciation ideas, art activities and  art projects.

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Rectangles Rhomboids Parallelograms

My daughter uses her Maths Mini Office regularly for reference while she does her rectangles rhomboids parallelogramswork.  As she learns new Maths themes, I  create new pages for her work.  Her latest geometry studies covers quadrilaterals, rectangles, rhomboids, squares & parallelograms.

You are welcome to download your free page ~ Rectangles rhomboids & parallelograms

A Mini Office is a handy reference – a file folder, laminated for durability , or a simple file with plastic page protectors.  I find that once a student practices enough with a formula or geometric principles, they no longer need the reference page.  It is also an excellent tool for review and revision.  Students who struggle and require remedial work, find reference pages very reassuring.

Have you found ways to help your maths student?  Any topics you wish to see included in a Mini Office reference page?  Please share in the comments below.

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Sketch Tuesday ~ Salt and Pepper

Salt & Pepper 002Salt & Pepper 001Sketch Tuesday is often a special, intimate time, each privately creating and yet sharing a moment together.  It restores our souls and bonds us in a unique way.  It is so much more than simply drawing or painting a picture.

Sketch Tuesday theme this week is ~  Salt & Pepper Shakers

Lara and I set up a still life of salt & pepper shakers, pepper grinders and my coarse salt-box.  We enjoyed a quiet moment together sketching and listening to music.

Join us for the next assignment.

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See you at the next Sketch Tuesday!

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Julia Anastasopoulos Contemporary Artist – Murals

Julia Anastasopoulos Knolc

Julia Anastasopoulos art website ~ Knolc

We enjoy discovering contemporary artists.  They inspire and motivate us!

We recently discovered Julia Anastasopoulos, a South African illustrator, designer and artist.  You can find her art on her website knolc.  Julia’s famous works include  her illustrated murals from the Cape Town Myciti Bus stations, and her playful line-drawings on the walls of the Book Lounge in Cape Town.   Julia’s art consists of whimsical concepts, light lines and tiny detail.   She has illustrated children’s books and my kids loved her art!

She is also famous for creating a South African persona “Suzelle”, featuring her unique humour and DIY “tips and tricks” in her popular SuzelleDIY YouTube videos which have gone viral!

We used her cityscapes as our inspiration and created large murals on sheets of paper.   Kate and I decided to work collaboratively, taking turns to work the cityscape in layers on each other’s pages.  After the third layer, we added all the tiny people and fun details.  We especially loved creating the whimsical ideas!

Kate's cityscape

Art Julia Anastasopoulos murals2Some tips for collaborative art ~

  • Work according to an agreed scale and size.  Kate’s pictures were much larger than mine and so I drew my details bigger to fit hers.
  • Adapt to the style of the drawing there and yet be creative and add your own ideas!  It was amusing to come to “your” picture and find completely unusual ideas on the page!
  • Leave some spaces open in your layer for overlapping or unusual aspects to be added later.

Lara created her cityscape on her own.

Art Julia Anastasopoulos muralsAnd here are our final pictures ~

Lara's cityscape

Lara’s cityscape

Kate's cityscape

Kate’s cityscape

Nadene's cityscape

Nadene’s cityscape

We displayed our murals on our passage walls!  We love to look at them every time we come out our rooms!

20151007_163922-1 wall 2 20151007_163932-1 wall 3Art appreciation is easy and fun!

Pop over to my art page for more art plans, projects and art appreciation lessons.

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