How to Join Cursive Font Letters

For years I have used ABC Cursive Plain Font for our Handwriting and Copywork pages, but I never knew how to adjust the font so that the letters join each other, until a reader kindly gave me this tip ~

“You can get the letters to join if you choose “Advanced” and then turn the “Kerning option” on!”

With a little Google search, I found very simple instructions and, once I followed the easy steps, each cursive letter smoothly joined the next letter!  Here’s a pdf. of the instructions ~ Joining letters ABC Cursive Plain Font

In MSWord ~

You can apply these kerning settings to any font which will narrow the space between letters, and with cursive fonts, the starting and finishing strokes will meet to form a seamless line.

Oh, my heart flutters with joy to see the  smooth, joined, flowing cursive lines!  I just LOVE the Internet and my kind readers who helps me learn more!

References:

Blessings, Nadene
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Narration shows what your child knows

A new homeschool parent recently asked on Facebook,

How do you know what your child knows?

Charlotte Mason has a very simple method  that reveals what a child knows = narrations.

So how do you start with narrations?

Toddlers naturally retell their stories and nursery rhymes with accurate details.  Think of how they easily tell dad about their latest story or what they saw on their nature walk.  This is a narration.  Oral narrations are natural and, when practiced, form the basis for written narrations.
How then do you develop oral telling-back to written narrations?

Most young children find writing challenging and difficult.  Transition to dictated narrations where Mom writes or types out word-for-word what the child tells.  You act as their scribe.  Young children can illustrate a narration instead of “telling back”.   By and by, your preschooler will have a wonderful collection of dictated narrations in their own notebook.

Develop dictated narrations by writing out their narration using a light pencil, and ask your child to carefully trace over their narration.  Copywork is slow and difficult for children new to writing. Often they will grow weary after tracing over a few lines.  But, gradually, they can neatly copy their narration.

Older children enjoy typing on the computer as the spell check can highlight errors and they can type quicker than handwriting with a neat printout.

Use notebook pages ~

Little House Booklet notebook pages

These are printed pages with lines to assist young children space their handwriting.  Some notebook pages are decorated with borders, clip-art, headings and place for illustrations.  These pages give an incentive to write as the page provides some inspiration.  Young children find that the few sentences they write will quickly ‘fill up’ the lined area and they are less daunted by this than a large blank page.  Studies show that color and illustrations help with memory recall and the clip-art and photos or other visual layout on notebook pages assist them in remembering the information.

Pop over to download my free notebook and copywork pages.

Narrations inspire and expand a child’s vocabulary and instill good grammar without formal lessons. Narrations are far easier activities than fill-in-blanks lessons in workbooks, or memorizing facts from textbooks, or writing out tedious, long notes.  No more boring lessons!

Narrations are unique to each child.  Narrations reveal what each child personally connected with and remembered, and then expressed in their own style and individual character, while still remaining true to the original.

So using Charlotte Mason’s approach, your children will soon deliver the most accurate, detailed oral narrations.  Young children will tell back their story with interesting detail and imitation.  Their vocabulary and writing skills will naturally develop, and as they mature, your children will eventually fill their notebook pages revealing their amazing knowledge, writing skill and creativity.  Just take it slowly, encouraging your child to grow their skills.

With narrations you will easily know what your child knows!

Blessings, Nadene

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Smash This Nature Journal #3

Brand new download ~ Smash This Nature Journal #3 with a free sample download!

Welcome to some brand new fun & adventure nature  journal ideas!

Be warned ~ you and your Nature Journal may get dirty or wet, but you should have some real creative fun!

There is something wonderfully liberating being instructed to tear, crumple, stain, wet and mess in a nature journal.  This fresh approach will liven any nature walk and appeals to young and old, boys and girls.

Use mud, squashed berries, colored stones, or puddles to paint and color pages.  Smear, scratch, knot and paste things on the page.  Look closely and examine minute details, and also view large landscapes, skies and trees.  Draw, illustrate, tape down or record your experiences.

Here are some examples of the nature prompts ~

Instructions ~

  • Pop over to my Packages Page to order your download/s.
  • Print out the Smash This Nature Journal into A5 folded notebooks.
  • Take this journal with you every time you go on a nature walk.
  • You can complete any activity, in any order.
  • Be original! Use your own ideas or adapt any here to suit your situation.
  • Photograph some of your destructive results and collect them in here to show off!
  • Have fun!

Last year I created 2 Smash This Nature Journals.  Pop back to the original post for photos, reviews and details of these exciting Nature Journals. 

Pop over to my Packages Page to order your downloads.  And when your children have completed their pages, please email them to me to share here on the blog!

Here’s your free sample download ~ Sample Smash This Nature Journal #3

Blessings, Nadene

Quick Practical Pages Survey

My dear Reader,

I would love to continue posting relevant and encouraging posts, practical advice, free pages and downloads. Please would you take a few minutes to complete this short survey to help me focus on what you need here on Practical Pages.

If you are reading this post via email then would you please go to the post online for the survey.

Thank you so much!

Blessings, Nadene

First days back 2 school

Many moms around the world worry about the first days of school.  Homeschool moms worry about starting homeschool too.  And new homeschool moms worry even more.

May I offer some gentle advice?

  • Just start slowly.
  • Don’t try do the complete schedule.
  • Ease into your schooling.
  • Go gently.

Just remember that the professional teachers spend much of their first weeks of school doing orientation; they hand out new books, explain note-taking, give an overview.  They don’t jump straight in with the full program.

Here’s some tips that I still use after all these years ~

Set up your school area the night before (I like to do this as a surprise for the kids!)

  • Put tables, stationary and books/workboxes/or files in order.
  • Write a welcome note on the whiteboard or prayerfully write to each child and place a personal note on each child’s place.
  • Arrange the CD and music player ready with your song or praise and worship for circle time.
  • Get into a simple “Early to bed & early to rise” routine.  Chat and pray with each child before bedtime.

On your first day ~

  • Wake half an hour earlier than the family, make yourself a cup of tea, have your quiet time and pray.  Commit your plans to the Lord and surrender all to Him.
  • Gently wake the kids and get them into their morning routine and chores.  (I like to have a “test-run” a day before school and start the school morning routine a day earlier than the actual day.)
  • Have a simple but nutritious breakfast, or go ahead and make it something special!
  • At the agreed starting time, start school.
  • I like to start each year in a circle or on the couches.  Start with a chat about the year, the themes, some planned highlights and goals.  Let the kids talk about what they expect, what they are afraid of, what they look forward to.
  • Then pray about all these things.
  • Sing and learn a memory verse for the week.  Make it fun!  Chose something really simple and easy.
  • Now chose what you will do the first week.  Either just do some basics3Rs (Maths, Reading and Handwriting) or just do your Core (History, Literature study)for the first week.  Tell them that next week you’ll add the rest of the subjects, but this week they must just do their very best with the easy schedule.  (They may beg you to do it all!  If they seem relaxed and the work done was excellent, then, by all means, do your full plan.)  If things are really awful and stressed, just cuddle and read a story together.
  • Include a lovely tea break with some healthy snacks.
  • Plan some fast fun & games for in between lessons if children get fidgety.

Create precious memories from these moments ~

  • Take some “First Day” photos of each child.
  • Prepare a special breakfast.
  • Ask Dad to give a “Welcome To School” speech. (My hubby is our homeschool “Principal”!)
  • Give each child a small gift – some stationary/ stickers/ new hair accessories for their first day.

I trust this encourages you.

Blessings as you prepare and plunge back in, Nadene

Freedom to play

Charlotte Mason’s approach is so liberating!  She listed some Rights of Children and said, “Children should be free in their play.”  So what does this freedom to play look like?

Most parents these days feel that store-bought toys and screen games are the answer, but the real freedom comes from open-ended, child-led activities.

Lara colecting flowers

Collecting flowers

I like to think of this recipe = Present some natural elements, add a sprinkle of inspiration, mix well for a few minutes and bake with fun = freedom!

She advised that parents don’t crowd out their free time.  She ensured that daily lessons were kept short so that the children would remain attentive.  She gave them full afternoon time with freedom to play and explore outdoors.

I have watched my younger girls play with creativity and vigor and enthusiasm whenever they have free time.  They often use the subject we are reading in their games.  They love to re-enact our core stories, or our family favorites DVDs such as Jane Austen’s “Emma”  or “Little Women”.

Kate picking wild flowers

picking wild flowers

Make believe

Make believe

They love dress up clothes and I make an outfit for them each season.  They have endless games wearing a bonnet and pinafore, or an American Indian squaw dress, or a corset and long skirt.  Boys love capes, a bow and quiver with arrows, a cowboy hat and chaps, or belts with swords.

Young children need to play outside.  They love to play with sand and water.  Offer plastic animals and encourage them to create their own farms or zoos or parks.  They will add stones, twigs and shells to their sand boxes, creating mini-worlds.  Encourage collections.  Let them collect insects, flowers, leaves, shells, pebbles etc. and store these in boxes or baskets on a shelf at their height.  They love to play with these elements!  A large sheet or blanket can provide wonderful opportunities for forts, tents or make-believe homes.  A big box can provide hours of fun as a space rocket, or car or ship!  Such simple things that provide wonderful opportunities.

We give our children such a precious gift when we let them play without too many rules, expectations, or parental pressure for performance.  This doesn’t mean that they are left unsupervised, but rather that they understand safety and safe-play boundaries and play within those rules (such as staying in the yard/ not going near the swimming pool/or into the street, or not throwing … at others).  Mom should stay nearby, keeping her eye on their play, smile and nod, but try not interfere with their games and interactions.

Most children withdraw when they know they are being watched while playing fantasy games.  Let them be free to create, imitate and act out their game without feeling self-conscious.  Don’t feel the need to instruct or praise your children while they play.  If they want your involvement, rather ask questions and make specific observational comments like, “I see you have all your animals … in groups,” or “Wow, look at all those different colored flowers …,” or “I wonder what will happen if you put …. in the water?”  “I see that you and your sister have made such a big ….(describing their fort/ block castle etc.)  “What can you do with this ….?” (and offer a new/ another item).

Enjoy your children’s natural love to play.  Their childhood and innocence is a precious gift. Thank you Charlotte Mason for instructing us in such a precious balanced approach!

Blessings, Nadene

Happy Read Alouds

Read alouds are our homeschool and family superglue!  Reading aloud is our main homeschool method and we have loved our learning journey through living books and classic literature.  And even though my older 2 children have graduated high school, we still enjoy reading aloud as a family.

Read aloud to your children — young or old.  Start even before your baby is born, and never underestimate the joy and power it brings to teens and young adults.

Read any type of book — Read beautifully or colorfully illustrated  stories for young children.  Read flap books to involve young toddler’s curiosity.  Read pop-up books to dazzle and amaze young kids.  Read comics and highly detailed picture books; those “Where’s Wally?” and “I Spy” books are fabulous for middle school children.  Read accurate descriptive books and biographies or historical fiction for older kids.

Read aloud — to start your day or finish it.  Start your day reading aloud in circle time with Bible stories.  This will lead young hearts to prayer and praise.  Read a Core story book to engage your children’s minds and hearts.  This leads to narrations, hands-on activities, lapbooks or notebooks, or projects based on the story.  In essence, we have used reading to create our literature-based learning.   And every child loves to have mom or dad read to them in bed, closing the day with lovely thoughts and images.

Read snuggled next to each other.  Our read aloud time is always a time of togetherness, closeness and intimacy.  Fidgety children can play with quiet toys or activities on the carpet at my feet while listening.  Whether physically close or not, the story weaves our minds and hearts together on a journey.  Often, my kids would not let me stop.  Most days my throat would ache because, as I would place the bookmark in the book, my kids would all beg, “Please read another chapter”, and I would continue.

Read poems  — and let your children revel in sounds of words, rhyming words, enjoy the rhythm of the syllables, and wonder at creative word images.

Read non-fiction — and learn so much!  After school, my kids would rush to tell their dad, “Did you know…?” giving him their detailed, natural narrations!  Learning through literature is so much more engaging and real than using textbooks.  Textbooks present someone else’s views of important details, often reduced to bland facts.  A living book describing someone’s experiences, travels, or field notes is full of accurate details, descriptive observations, and personal experiences, and you’ll be amazed how children soak up enormous and exact details and facts, seemingly without any effort!

Read fiction

Image result for image fantasy book

Fantasy World Book by Mark Vog

Fade into the fantasy of the author’s creation.  Delve into the invisible world of make-believe, fly into unknown worlds, explore and escape into new word-worlds.  I believe in the power of fantasy.  It is a gift of the imagination and makes one rich and full.

It is amazing how much you can share, talk, go and grow together through a story — so enjoy your read alouds.

Blessings, Nadene

Cultivate Curiosity

Have you ever watched a toddler play?  They are naturally curious, engaged, and motivated to explore.  But what happens when we push them, persuade them, or pressure them to learn things?  Quite often we quench this natural, inbuilt learning model.

Sadly, most young moms feel that they have to buy expensive programs, educational toys and books and DVDs to keep their children motivated and learning.  Moms, you can relax.  Your child will learn so much if you give them opportunities to explore, discover, and encourage them to learn in their own way.

Provide them with some simple elements and they will be happy for hours ~ let them play outside in nature, play with sand and water, offer them things to pour with or carry, play with playdough, keep a container filled with bottles, empty tubes, etc.  Give them a large sheet to make tents or forts.  And read to them every day.

When your young child learns, they love to repeat, and repeat and repeat the activity.  Once they have mastered that skill or activity, they will move on.  If they are not interested, they will move on.  Follow their lead.

Ask them questions and let them discover … what happens when you put this in the water?  Which objects will float?  How can we pour this into that?  Which object will fit on top?  Hint ~ don’t be a teacher!  Simply behave as a curious and eager participant.

Facilitate their curiosity with new experiences and this will lead to their learning, and be there with them to watch them explore and learn.  E.g.: Spray a blob of shaving cream low enough for them to reach on a large window and let them play!  Put a blob of shaving cream on a plastic table and let them discover how they can make marks, patterns or simply enjoy a sensory experience.  (Although it seems messy, shaving cream wipes off with a damp cloth and smells lovely!)  Let them play with rice in a little paddle pool (so that the mess is relatively contained) and let them fill bowls, bottles, pour into funnels, through cardboard rolls, spoon into cups etc.

What kills a child’s natural curiosity?  A young child’s curiosity withers away with competition, comparison to others, constantly needing or receiving praise and approval, punishment or shame, testing or a sense of a fixed/ right result.  Avoid groups or schools where this is disguised as “motivation”.

Socialization  for young children is important, but does not mean that your preschooler must join a group.  Meet once a week with one like-valued family with children the same ages and this more than enough for your child.  Once a month arrange to go out on a picnic,  or outings to the zoo or petting parks,  or take a ride on a bus, or meet at the local library, or watch puppet shows, etc.  Remember the golden socialization ratio  for young children = their age plus one = your three-year-old can only really cope with 4 friends at a party or group, so don’t overwhelm your young child with too many friends, play dates or groups.

Moms these days are under so much pressure for their child to perform.  Please, don’t do too many other classes (such as music, play ball,  horse riding, gymnastics, ballet, etc.  Please, these are all fine, but not all at once, and not all for a young child ).   I don’t know about you, but my stress levels shoot through the roof when I need to get everyone into the car and arrive somewhere on time everyday!  I would recommend your preschooler takes swimming lessons, but don’t fill your week with endless trips to classes and activities.   When you have several children, watch out for conflicting schedules, or where the whole family are endlessly bundled in and out of cars for one child’s activities.  You should not feel like a taxi driver everyday!

A good rule to guide your junior primary child in joining extra-curricula activities is to choose one sport and one cultural activity for that season.  Some activities are year-long, such as ballet, so then allow one more activity that is compatible with your existing schedule.  Ensure you have at least 1 free day where you can stay home, take your time, be leisurely and relaxed in your schedule.  This freedom encourages curiosity.

When starting your preschool homeschooling, please don’t feel that you need to be formal, strict, and precise in your approach.  Apart from reading aloud together every day, simply create variety in your weekly schedule which may include some of these activities:

  • Learn and sing nursery rhymes and Bible songs
  • make music
  • play and climb
  • time in nature
  • make-believe games and dressing up
  • learning meaningful life skills such as washing up, sorting washing, setting the table, feeding the cat/dog, dusting and polishing furniture, emptying dustbins,
  • reading aloud from well-illustrated Children’s Bible and classical children’s stories
  • Provide short little lessons where they can sort, group, thread, stack, cut & paste, count, learn their alphabet through phonics, etc.

I hope that these ideas encourage you to relax, trust and enjoy your young child’s natural curiosity.

(Photos of my granddaughter Emma on her first birthday, and with her dad on her second birthday)

Blessings, Nadene

Twice Exceptional

I came across the term “Twice Exceptional” while reading Gifted Voices.   I had to look up its meaning:

“Twice exceptional (or 2E students) are sometimes also referred to as double labelled, or having dual exceptionality. These are gifted students whose performance is impaired, or high potential is masked, by a specific learning disability, physical impairment, disorder, or condition. They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent.”

When I studied Remedial Education, I quickly realized that many children with learning difficulties were often gifted.  Once I started teaching, I also recognized that many gifted children presented behavioural problems, often similar to those of children with learning difficulties, due to their boredom and frustration with the school system. They often struggled to fit in and seldom discovered their unique gifting and wonderful abilities.

Describing 2E children, TKI explains,

“Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk as their educational and social/emotional needs often go undetected. Educators often incorrectly believe twice-exceptional students are not putting in adequate effort within the classroom. They are often described as ‘lazy’ and ‘unmotivated’.  Hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving high academic results. 2E students perform inconsistently across the curriculum. The frustrations related to unidentified strengths and disabilities can result in behavioural and social/emotional issues.”

Because a child struggles with their uniqueness or outside-of-the-box, or have different social-emotional needs, they struggle  in the conventional school system.  Many parents face the dilemma  of whether to stick to the school system or to homeschool their gifted or twice-exceptional child.  My advice is that you look for a place where your child can thrive, grow, learn and “become” in the most supportive, loving environment, which is usually at home!

Homeschool parents can tailor-make their educational approach to work with their child’s strengths, while gently encouraging them to strengthen areas of weakness.  Because you work one-on-one with your child, you can immediately determine where and when your child is bored or struggles, and adjust your pace or approach.

You can seamlessly include motivation, opportunities, therapy and remedial activities as part of your homeschooling for children with illnesses, disabilities or disorders.  Most remedial therapy is presented as games, and often children enjoy these fun activities.  Therapy varies.  Most children initially require therapy regularly, but as they master skills, these activities can be moderated or stopped.  Some children perform better with a therapist, because they may resist or refuse at home, while most therapy requires regular “homework” or practice.  Whatever your approach, try avoid instilling in your child a sense of failure or disappointment, or that the child has, or worse still, is a problem.

Homeschooling your twice exceptional child helps you establish a steady routine which is important when dealing with complex problems or disabilities.  Parents can establish a  healthy or specific diet as well as good sleeping patterns, and these routines and practices are often very helpful in assisting a 2E child.

Most importantly, your homeschooled child is allowed to progress at his/ her own pace without feeling that he/she isn’t the same as the rest of the class.  Avoid comparisons at all costs, not even one child with another in your home.  Avoid labels.  No one wants to know that his/ her person is a medical/ behavioural disorder.  Speak of their condition in positives, “My daughter loves to move … to learn well.”

Try find a homeschool family or support group that you and your child can cope with and where you find grace and encouragement.  Having a “different” child can often make one feel isolated and insecure.  Support groups are very helpful to assist parents who often feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

My youngest daughter would probably have required remedial therapy when she was young, but my husband, in such wisdom, encouraged me to let her be and to encourage her to learn in her own time.  We patiently persevered and it has wonderfully paid off.  From a struggling emerging reader, she is now our bibliophile and most avid reader in our home!

It may not seem like it now, but you will see your child grow and develop into the most marvelous person that they were created to become.   Do not give up!

With all grace and blessings, Nadene

Highschooler Needs

I’m sure many homeschool moms feel insecure about homeschooling their child through the high school years like I do?  Coping with important subject and career choices, teenagers’ growing need  for independence, as well as their raging and extreme emotions can quickly bring a mom to her knees!  But let me encourage you to keep homeschooling to the end ~

  •  Accept the confusion and guilt as part of this phase.  You will feel like you didn’t do enough, that you failed in so many ways, but try not to dwell on that, because you have time for relationships which is the cornerstone of your reason to homeschool.
  • Feast your eyes on the amazing person that is your high school son/ daughter. Consider the many good things about that person, and recognize that you influenced some of that wonderfulness. Enjoy the person, cherish the moments, treasure the memories you are making.
  • You still have an impact on this wants-to-be-autonomous-but-still-needs-mommy child. It’s not too late to help them in preparing for independence by encouraging more and more responsibility and self-reliance.
  • Give them the space they need to test their wings while they still have the safety of home. Show trust where you can, and try not to hold the reins too tight. Easier said than done, I know…
  • Be physically affectionate.  Hug them early and often; when they wake up  and hug them before they go into their room for the night. Hug them in the middle of an argument. Hug them “just because” throughout the day.  It is impossible to hug too often!
  • Talk with them as often as possible, and better yet, let them talk to you about anything and everything. Avoid criticism or correction about what they say — just let them vent, or exclaim, or explain — and then you may nod and say “mm-hmmm.”  Give an opinion only when asked. Be available, and willing, to listen.
  • Expect their frustrations because they all sigh, fuss or yell, “why should I have to do this stupid school work”.  Try not to nag; it may be time to let them experience some natural consequences of not getting things done on time. When in doubt of how to respond, see #3 and #4.
  • You need to help and support your senior highschooler through critical transitions like writing final exams,  completing applications for college or university, or writing up their CV or resume and preparing for and attending job interviews.
  • Plan on celebrating graduation. Make it a big deal and celebrate, even if it is only a special family meal, eating out at a nice restaurant, or holding a small gathering for cake and photographs.

Enjoy your high school senior while you have them with you, and then watch them take on the world. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of.  I wish I could say that things get easier now, but I know that you are already aware that parenting is a lifetime endeavor.

Blessings, Nadene