Getting Real ~ Doubts

Although I love to share what works here on Practical Pages, I acknowledge that I am definitely not a supermom and our homeschooling is often less than perfect! I have shared many of these posts in my “Getting Real” series.

Here’s another “Getting Real” moments in our homeschooling ~ Terrible doubts

Girl and Mother

We all suffer from self-doubts, but as homeschooling moms, an unhappy child, a child struggling with learning or with fears within themselves, where we feel powerless to help — these thoughts and feelings fill a parent with thoughts of doubt and anxiety.  You’ve heard the sister concepts — doubts & fears.  They often go hand-in-hand.

This is a terrible ‘sickness’ which can drain all the joy from our role as teacher and mom, and can negatively impact all our relationships.

My first year of homeschooling was filled with uncertainties, anxieties and a desperate desire to make the right choices, to provide everything I felt my children needed and to “do it the right way”.  I was uncertain about my curriculum choices, fearful about how to present the lessons so that my children both loved them and learnt through them, and I was doubtful that I could teach my youngest child to read.  I won’t even describe the doubts I had about homeschooling my children through high school!

Due to these doubts and fears, our first year’s homeschool days were filled with my sense of urgency and desperation.  My striving and desire for perfection caused so much tension.  This often led to conflict with my strong-willed child.  These conflicts caused further self-doubt and damaged my self-esteem and confidence as a parent.  Oh boy, that first year was a disaster, emotionally.

Fear is often manifest in anger.  Whenever you are angry at a situation, stop to ask, “What am I most fearful of right now?” Turn that fear into a prayer and wait for the grace, strength and wisdom of the Lord to guide you through that situation.

Looking back over 22 years of homeschooling I can honestly see that GRACE is powerful!  Grace towards yourself — for not knowing, for being unsure, for being afraid.  Grace towards your child — for their struggles  and fears.  Grace for fresh beginnings.  Grace for new starts.  Grace to try new ways.  Grace to trust the Lord.  Grace to discover, explore and grow without definite expectations.

Homeschooling is a journey of discovery.  Homeschooling in grace may even look like you are “failing”.  But, I encourage you to extend grace to yourself and to others so that you can grow and develop.  It will work out.  You’ll be fine!  The Lord will not fail you!

Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,


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Getting Real ~ Tears

I love to share what works here on Practical Pages, and I admit that I often only seem to showcase the best sharable moments, but of course, I am not supermom and things often are less than perfect!

Here’s another in the series of “Getting Real” posts ~ TearsCrying Child

Some children cry more than others.

Some school subjects produce more tears than others.

But as a school teacher I seldom had children cry in my classroom.  As a homeschool mom, especially in those early years, my children often burst into tears or sat silently weeping during school, and I cried buckets too!


I think it is because at home, we are emotionally connected and we feel safe enough to express our fears and be more vulnerable.  There are also relationships where children operate and manipulate with tears.  But that is another story.

Tears is often an overflow frustration and fears.  Difficult work, challenges, struggles, anger, resentment, and not knowing another way often trigger tears.  As homeschool moms, we need to create an environment where children are encouraged to express these feelings in words and we need to be able to reflect these emotions back to our children and help them figure out another approach.

My youngest child would burst into tears when she was overwhelmed by too much work.  She hated to see the year plan or the “bird’s-eye-view” of the curriculum.  She could only cope with the day’s timetable and perhaps the next few days.  I learnt to shield her from seeing the full picture, and help her break down her work into manageable bite-sized pieces.  Also, I learnt not to put pressure on the pace of the work, but to provide extra time in her schedule to allow her complete her work without stress.

My sensitive child cried simply because she felt her work wasn’t perfect enough.  This was in her own head, not due to pressures from my hubby or myself.  She hated making mistakes and would weep when her answers were incorrect.  We decided to let her use a whiteboard marker or pencil instead of pen so that she could easily erase mistakes.  We also gave her more time to do her work slowly and carefully and learnt not to rush her.  We told her that we were proud of her efforts and that we did not expect her work to be perfect.

My children cried in some of their art lessons!  As an art teacher, this was very upsetting for me, but I understood that they experienced frustration in their expectations and their lack of skills to achieve the results they hope for.  It helps to break the art project into more manageable bits and assist them working through the creative block or the skills needed.  Some lessons we modified completely, changed the medium, focused on the process rather than the outcome.

For my high school teen, Maths was an evil that caused her to shut down mentally and leak emotionally.  The only way I could help was to find the very simplest Maths course and hold her hand and literally do the entire course for and eventually with her before she finally managed to do the work on her own. It took a whole year to arrive at the final stage.

I also had some seasons of tears, simply because of the stress and frustration of trying to teach all three children and try to meet everyone’s needs and expectations.  I did not always cry in front on my children, but often with my hubby at night, when I described my or a child’s struggles and frustrations.  I  often felt like a failure and I just didn’t know how to approach our schooling differently, or help a child through their issues and crisis.  It really helped to talk with him or another sympathetic parent to find some clarity and hope.  I always found prayer to be a huge help.  I would search the Word and trust the Lord for wisdom and grace.

So, here’s huge hugs to those moms struggling with weeping children or who may be sitting in tears themselves.  You are not alone and I hope that you find the grace, wisdom and strength to dry off your tears and keep going.

Please note that I do not judge myself or them or others for the pains that come with struggles and growth.  I wish to share these “real” moments so that you do not feel alone or a failure if you experience similar struggles.  Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in those real moments,


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Calendar of Firsts & free downloads

Charlotte Mason’s encourages the wonderful practice of nature study and keeping records of nature observations in a child’s own nature journal.  In addition to this wonderful outdoor activity, Charlotte Mason encouraged her students to keep what she called a ‘Calendar of Firsts’.

This was a calendar where a child would record the day that they saw any ‘first’ observations seen on their walks to monthly pages, adding to the same page each year.  This way of journaling encourages a child to naturally learn what happens in nature that time of the year. This calendar of firsts would build up year after year, with the child adding their new firsts as they found them.  This is similar to keeping a perpetual nature journal or adding a sketch to a Phenology Wheel.

Lynn of Raising Little Shoots has kept amazing Calendar of Firsts diaries and she  shares her beautiful pages, and she gives tips and examples to set up a diary for this purpose.  Watch her flip-through video to see how creative, colourful, simple and  do-able this practice can be!

What I really love about Lynn’s blog is that you can see how her children have followed her example and how they all create messy, colourful, “non-perfect” diary entries.  If you feel that it is impossible to draw or paint in your nature journal like Lara Gastiger’s, then Lynn and her family’s Calendar of First diaries are a breath of fresh air!

How to use a Calendar of Firsts ~

  • Add a small sketch or writes a few notes on the date they found it.
  • Note the first day of the four seasons and colour or sketch a picture that symbolizes that season.

How to create your own Calendar of Firsts ~

Have you started nature journaling or used a Calendar of Firsts?  Please share your experiences with us.  Mom’s,  I encourage you to start this practice as part of your Mother Culture and wonderful way to continue a lifetime of learning.
Blessings, Nadene
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Phenology Wheel

I am using a Phenology Wheel in my nature journaling for the first time!

A phenology wheel is basically a visual, artistic summary of an entire year on a circular chart.  I first saw a beautiful phenology wheel in progress by Lynn of Raising Little Shoots  who creates the most wonderful phenology wheels and encourages her children to capture their nature ‘moment’ for each month on theirs .  She sells a starting guide eBook.

Each month I will sketch and paint something significant that I experienced in nature  on my wheel.  You can see that my phenology wheel is part of my perpetual nature journal. open here at January Week 2.  The center circle of the wheel is for a spiritual symbol or something personal.

Because I live in the Southern Hemisphere here in South Africa, I changed the corresponding months and seasons on the downloaded wheels.  You can download the Phenology wheel for Southern Hemisphere here ~ with the moon cycle or without. Visit Partners in Place to download their wheels of Time and Place and view their gallery of  phenology wheel examples.  

Here is another beautiful example of a phenology wheel used as a perpetual day-month-season-calendar display ~

Some more inspiration ~

Blessings, Nadene

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Make your own perpetual nature journal

Previously, I shared Lara Gastiger’s perpetual nature journal.  Today I want to share how to make your own frugal perpetual nature journal.

This journal I made is very cheap!  I used 2x A5-sized blank paper exercise books; one with 72 pages and the second with 48 pages.   But you may prefer a spiral-bound journal or sketchbook instead.  Just check that it has least a 120-pages.

Start on the first right-hand page of your journal and label your first month.  Now turn over and allocate 4 pages for each week.  These facing-pages provide a double-page spread for each week.    Now label the main month page and label the top left corners of each double-page with the month and the week number, e.g.: January Week 1, flip the facing page and label January Week 2 on the next left-hand page, etc until you have labeled all 4 weeks. Continue this pattern for all the months of the year.

The first 1-month page can be used as a “Calendar of Firsts” for each month with either numbered a list from 1-31 or calendar blocks or decorate it with poems or season-inspired quotes or Scriptures.  (I’ll share more on Calendar of Firsts in another blog post.)

Perhaps you may create a blank lined or column page to keep lists such as your Bird lists for the year at the front or the back of your nature journal.

I removed the original soft thin cardboard exercise book covers and joined my 2 exercise books with journal stitching.(You can see a very clear tutorial here.)  I made a new cover that wraps around the journal using an old cereal box which I covered with fabric using Modge Podge.  I attached a tie to wrap around the journal to keep it neatly closed.

And there you are!  A frugal perpetual nature journal.

You can start right away by making your first entry in the week you are currently in, drawing a sketch, writing some notes or adding some details of nature finds or firsts.

You can read how I made a frugal Frugal Timeline Book also using cheap exercise books.

Blessings, Nadene

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Celebrating our daughter’s wedding

The past few weeks we have all been busy preparing and then celebrating our eldest daughter Tess and her beloved Ryk’s wedding.

Tess had always dreamed of having a forest wedding with both the ceremony and the reception in a forest clearing and under trees along the river, but it rained … and rained … and rained.  Rain fell all Friday evening and all Saturday.   In Africa, and in our ongoing extreme drought, rain is a mercy and a blessing, but for Tess, it meant that all her long-cherished wedding dreams had to be surrendered.

Her best friend Hannah planned, prepared and worked on all the decor and wedding arrangements.  Her team (her hubby, brothers and sister) agreed to set up the reception in the barn but to wait until the last-minute on Saturday morning to see if the weather would clear for the ceremony to still take place in the forest.  But, no, the rain continued to gently fall and so the men brought all the soaked benches into the reception hall and we had to quickly transform the dance floor area into a forest!  

In the months and weeks before her wedding, Tess made all her bridesmaids’ dresses in muslin which she and her sister Lara then hand-dyed in varying forest greens.

I made her wedding dress.  What a privilege to create a dress that she designed and loved!  Kate created the beautiful flower wreaths for the bridesmaids. Hannah made all the bunting, banners, did all the flower arrangements and penned the table seating cards.  Her husband and brother hand-carved apricot wood into candlesticks which were given as party favours to all their guests.  The team created flower wreaths for signage to the hall, made the intricate arrangements that fitted under the glass domes.  Everywhere we looked were the beautiful hand-made gifts as a demonstration of their love to Tess and Ryk’s on their wedding day.

It was a beautiful wedding!

Here’s the poem I wrote a few days afterwards ~

Forest Wedding Poem (for Ryk & Tess)

The wedding day dawns as gentle rains fall from the sky,
And the disappointed young bride, in her room, begins to cry,
Wet benches outside are now taken into the hall,
A created forest transformation requires frantic work from us all.

Ferns and ivy tied up to hang daintily on strings
And pillars are covered with green foresty things.
Food placed on platters, tables decorated with fairy lights,
The hall, now complete, looks like a forest delight.

While the groomsmen sweep away fallen leaves lying everywhere.
Kate gently applies Tess’ makeup and does up her hair,
Bridesmaids put on their long dresses dyed in forest greens,
Arrange their hair with flower wreaths, looking like fairy queens.

The beautiful wedding gown is pulled on and buttoned closed,
As bridesmaids follow the photographer into the wet forest to pose.
The Mother of the bride sees that all is done and everyone is ready,
She hugs the father and he holds her steady.

Guests, now all seated inside, whisper as they wait,
Bridesmaids & young ring bearers gather as the bride is slightly late.
Then the guitar, the drum and tambourine start the song,
As the beautiful bridesmaids enter, singing as they walk along.

Carrying lanterns and banners with blessings that they bring,
They walk down the aisle gracefully and sing.
Holding on to her father’s arm and her exquisite flower bouquet,
Tess, the radiant bride slowly comes in and makes her way.

Ryk, watching Tess approach, wipes away some tears from his eyes.
Grandparents and some others, in awe and joy also cry.
Embracing the groom and then kissing the bride,
The father gives away his daughter and steps aside.

Jakkie shares the message of Jesus, our Saviour who changes everything,
Then Ryk and Tess whisper their vows and exchange their rings.
Now, here they come, the joyful bride and groom step out of the hall,
As the delighted guests cheer and clap and confetti is thrown by all.

While the bride and groom and family pose and smile,
Guests enjoy sangria and savoury eats and mingle a while.
Inside the hall, the little fairy lights shimmer and all the candles glow,
While delicious lamb on the spit cooks till tender, turning slow.

Ryk and Tess then enter & dance to “Piece by Piece” in romantic embrace,
Smiles of delight shine on every watching face.
Champagne corks explode and speeches and toasts declared,
Grace is sung and the wonderful food is served and shared.

The evening is filled with songs, dances, chatter and laughter,
A perfect beginning to Ryk and Tess’ “Happily Ever After”.

(by Nadene)

Here’s the link to the video of the bridesmaids singing as they enter before the bride.

In the wink of an eye, my darling little girl is married and all grown up.  It all goes by so fast!

Blessings, Nadene

Perpetual Nature Journal Joys

Last year I introduced you to Lara Gastiger and her inspiring nature journals and beautiful botanical artwork.

Lara Gastinger, sketchbooks, nature sketchbook, nature journal, sketchbook journal, nature sketchbook journal, Sketchbook Conversations

Recently I read Anne’s interview with Lara Gastiger on My Giant Strawberry  – A Sketchbook Conversation.  Here’s how Lara describes her perpetual nature journal ~

“I encourage everyone to obtain a blank journal that is a portable size and proceed to date the pages so that each spread represents a week. All you need is to write or draw an observation each week. This could be as elaborate as a full drawing or just a note. Be sure to include all relevant information (date, weather, who you are with, what do you hear/see) and then next year on that week, you will return to the same page and add something else. It becomes so rich as the years build up upon each other and you will become so knowledgable about the plants around you!

What an inspiration, but what is a perpetual nature journal?” you may ask.

A perpetual journal is nature journal that you keep coming back to, year after year, adding new sketches and notes to the same week and month’s pages until you have the most wonderful collection of nature entries spanning all the seasons over several years!

As I pondered this, I realized that there are several joys to working in a perpetual journal ~Lara Gastinger, sketchbooks, nature sketchbook, nature journal, sketchbook journal, nature sketchbook journal, Sketchbook Conversations

  • A perpetual journal makes such a lot of sense!  This gradual approach reveals your personal, accumulative journey of nature study over the years, displaying all the details you noticed in each season.  (Just remember that the photo above is Lara’s perpetual nature journal pages after adding to them for 16 years!)
  • What is even better is that you don’t have to fill a full nature journal page!  Each week, just add a small sketch or some field notes or observations noted for that week, and your entry is done.  Simple and doable, don’t you agree?
  • Instead of spending a long time trying to fill a whole page, by devoting the same time to a journal entry, you can create very intricate sketches and detailed, accurate observations, like Lara!
  • When you return to the same week’s page spread the next year, your pages will already have some evidence of things you journaled in the previous year at the same time.  These permanent records, along with your new entries, further highlight and emphasize what happens in that season, at that time of the year.  (I suppose though, that if you moved to a completely different zone or region, you would have to consider starting a new perpetual journal to keep track of nature in this new area.)
  • This approach is very similar to Charlotte Mason‘s practice of keeping a “Calendar of Firsts“. ( I hope to share more on this in an upcoming post.)
  • This practice fits perfectly in with Barb of Handbook of Nature Study’s  Outdoor Mom Journal nature journal prompts each month.  Again, small weekly sketches and notes to the same journal pages give you the freedom to create a wonderful, detailed nature journal through the years.
  • Moms, I really encourage you to keep your own perpetual nature journal and purpose to spend time each week making your own nature journal entries as a part of developing “Mother Culture®“.  It may not seem like it now, when you are deep in the homeschool trenches with littlies underfoot, but in a flash, your children will be in high school and your time will open up for more personal growth, and this practice may well become a fulfilling lifestyle even when your children have graduated and moved on.
  • Your nature journal eventually becomes a marvellous, rich collection that will amaze and please you every time you come back to that page spread.

Please join me next time as I plan to share on how to make your own perpetual nature journal.

Blessings, Nadene

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When your plans overwhelm

I am a planner.  I love “To Do ” lists, checklists, little boxes, and ticking things off a list.  I often place information in tables in documents.

When it comes to homeschool planning, I love creating the bird’s-eye view and then breaking it down into monthly plans.  (You can find all my free planner and organizer pages here.)

But here’s the snag … my kids don’t like my plans and they absolutely hate my checklists!

A few years ago my youngest child had a total meltdown when I showed her an overview of the work for her new school year. My high school kid freaked out when I showed her the year plan and the book lists at the beginning of her final year.

Okay – so they are not global or detailed thinkers. They are more free, creative, and spontaneous folk, and my detailed plans frustrate, frighten and freeze them.   I just need to show them the week, or even just the day ahead.

I have learnt to compromise. I need to plan for me first and then adjust the plans that I share with them. I often have to customize the day’s schedule so that they have a good idea of my expectations, and allow for their own choices and approach.  Even young children love to feel that they have some control by choosing what they prefer to do first, next or last.  Teenagers should be given this freedom of choice and learn to accept the consequences of their choices.

My children think and work at a different pace to me. When things are not essential, I have learnt to let them work at their own pace. Chores that I need to be done, should be done on time, but the rest they can do so long as it is done before I go to bed.
I am still learning not to drive my children crazy.

Right now, our daughter is getting married at the end of this month, and guess what? I started a 6-page checklist!  It even overwhelmed me and I became so stressed that I stopped. But, foolish mom that I was, I pressed on, continued, finished it and, what’s even worse, I presented it to my precious daughter-bride-to-be.  Her reaction was instant STRESS and anger.  My detailed plans did not help.  Frustration closed all communication channels and so I went into the shower to have a good cry.  You would think that I had learnt how to approach things with my children by now. I was filled with such sorrow and shame.

I came back and apologised.  I immediately resigned as the wedding planner.  We laughed at some of my ridiculous details on my checklist, and I put the file away.  Her best friend is an amazing wedding planner and is already helping her and us.  Her friend knows how to translate all the practical details into an approach that my creative, romantic, visionary daughter can visualize and process.  Weddings are stressful events to plan, people!  That’s why you have professionals who do this type of thing!

My daughter’s recent Kitchen Tea

We have celebrated her upcoming wedding hosting two kitchen teas.  The first kitchen tea (pictured above) was in the small town where she lives.  All her bridesmaids and close friends attended.  They prepared a beautiful venue and laid out a delicious spread, and we had fun with some kitchen tea activities as she unwrapped her gifts.  The other more recent kitchen tea was with family and friends in our nearest town.

Because I need to see things on paper, I will continue to work with the wedding plans to keep tab of things and I will act as my hubby’s PA and his admin help, keeping track of the budget and emails.  But I confess that I feel completely overwhelmed at times … especially sometimes when I lie awake at night …

We are in a slight lull right now, with most things booked, arranged and made, but in just 2 weeks, things will be revved up like crazy!  So, please excuse me from this little space while we are all busy, preparing, travelling and celebrating this incredible occasion!

Dear precious mom, learn from me and don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids with too many detailed plans.  Give yourself and your children the time and space to work in a way that allows them to use their best energy and focus.  Balance this grace with suitable, sensible training.   Teach them to prioritize,  set alarm clocks, be on time, and meet daily goals.  Allow for choices, alternatives, and options you may not have planned.  It will all work out fine in the end!

With every blessing, Nadene


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Introducing HelloArtsy

Recently I discovered an artist John and his website, HelloArtsy.

John is a drawing and painting instructor and his website is full of wonderful tutorials, videos, art “how-to’s” and lessons.

I checked out his step-by-step 2-Point Perspective tutorial and his simple guidelines and clear images seemed so “do-able” that he convinced me to try my hand at some 2-point perspective sketches!

The image below looks complicated, right?  But if you sit with pencil and ruler and a scrap of paper and work along with him step-by-step, you will arrive at quite amazing results!

Two Point perspective Drawing: How To Guide - Step 16

I encourage you to bookmark this website and work through some of John’s art tips and tutorials during your Fine Arts sessions with your children in this new year.

Blessings, Nadene

Christmas Greetings

My dear readers,

Here’s wishing you and your family

a wonder-filled

and Christ-centred Christmas

and a peaceful and restful festive season.

Sharing some of my Doodlewashed December Christmas sketches.

Until 2018, be blessed! Love, Nadene