F-Words to Avoid in Homeschooling

I was a professional school teacher who then homeschooled my daughters for over 23 years. Many of my school teacher attitudes and approaches did not work for us in our homeschooling. In those early years, I had many fears and flaws and I had to learn a new and better way. May this list of 10 F-word of these flaws encourage you to avoid these pitfalls.

  1. FEAR – Most moms are afraid. They fear not doing the “right” thing or not knowing what to do. New homeschool moms are terrified. I was. I remember that sick, cold feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach when I ordered my first, expensive, bells-and-whistles curriculum, and I desperately hoped that I had made the right choices. I was afraid that my children would fall behind if I didn’t keep to the schedule. (Hint – They do not fall behind!) Fear nagged at me and dragged my heart down. I was afraid of what my family thought of us, of how my children didn’t do things like they “were supposed” to … just so many fears. May I suggest that homeschooling requires faith?
  2. FORCE – You cannot force a child to learn. No nagging, badgering, or pleading will help. Either the child is not ready, the work is not at their level, or the approach does not fit. Adapt, adjust or amend your approach.
  3. FAST – Don’t rush. When homeschool feels like a continual FRENZY or you are FRAZZLED, slow down. It is not necessary to stick to the exact schedule. Remember that learning is like a travel itinerary. Learn to trust your family’s pace, take time to pause for scenic detours and or to rest. I shared my best homeschool schedule advice = take more time!
  4. FORMAL – Homeschooling is NOT the same as school-at-home. You can learn without textbooks or a teacher teaching, or children sitting at desks in a classroom. While discipline subjects such as handwriting, spelling and maths should be done with children sitting at a table, rather relax and sit together and use living books to learn most of the other subjects. Ease into a daily rhythm rather than a strict formal classroom schedule. Cuddle together and read-alouds on the couch, read poetry under a tree, or work on projects in the kitchen or while lying on the carpet.
  5. FACTS – Don’t focus entirely on only learning facts. Charlotte Mason encourages the child to develop a relationship with the subject matter and the author who share their experiences in living books. The focus of a wholehearted education is not on simply memorizing facts but accurately recalling the details described, the emotions connected to these experiences and the child’s relationship to them.
  6. FIXED mindset versus growth mindset. A fixed mindset is limiting, whereas a growth mindset is a freedom, especially in dealing with struggles and difficulties. A fixed mindset performs to achieve success and wants to prove intelligence or talent. A fixed mindset compares itself with others, is threatened by others’ successes and avoids challenges that may lead to failure. Fixed mindset moms often compare themselves and their children to others, feel threatened, feel anxious and are usually desperately striving. When one has a growth mindset, you are inspired by others’ successes, look for ways to improve and overcome challenges, and treat difficulties as opportunities to persist and improve. Encourage a growth mindset in yourself and your children.
  7. FLUCTUATE – Stability and consistency in education are important. Avoid constantly changing your approach, exchanging your curriculums, vacillating on your choices, or wavering on decisions. Of course, it is natural to doubt yourself when you are unsure or beginning something new. I recommend you ditch a book or curriculum that genuinely does not fit, but at some stage, settle down and make the best of the situation and persevere and figure things out. Disillusioned children and parents who keep changing things do not learn to persist and persevere, which leads to a weak character.
  8. FRET & FUSS – Mom, your job is to hold space for your child for deep, intentional learning and connection. Avoid nagging, interrupting, fretting and fussing. Give your children a calm, loving atmosphere where they can focus and learn. When your plans overwhelm you, spend some time and prepare yourself, your lessons and your homelife so that you are not scurrying around looking for lost books, stressing over what to cook or fussing over a child who is distracted.
  9. FLAT – Avoid dull, flat learning as this will quickly quench your child’s natural, in-built desire to learn and discover. Develop a rich, wide education for your children. Find fascinating books, watch interesting videos, listen to marvellous music, observe nature, look at amazing art. Take time and go on educational outings, go to museums, and meet interesting artisans and artists, farmers, builders and inventors. Provide your children with a full, flavourful education.
  10. FAIL – Fear of failure is crippling. Let me reassure you that you and your children will not fail. Avoid curriculums that require tests and exams, especially with young children. Your child does not require 12 years of exam-based curriculums as preparation to be able to write their school-leaving exams. They do not need quarterly tests and exams to ascertain whether they understand their work because homeschooling is often one-on-one and you will quickly see if your child can manage their work. My eldest daughter wrote her first formal, timed exam for her Prelims in her final school year. A few months of preparation at home using the previous years’ exam papers and a timer prepared her efficiently for her actual exams. When a child shows signs that they did not understand or master the work, gently re-do the lesson or find an alternative approach.

I recommend you tailor-make your child’s learning and make child-led choices in projects, activities and subject choices. Grace and gentleness provides mercy that produces natural growth.

Please share your experiences with us. Feel free to write to me with any questions. Fill in the contact form on my About & Contact page, and I will do my best to advise and encourage you.

Grace and mercy to you and your family this year.

Blessings, Nadene

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Christmas Greetings

Our family spent a precious pre-Christmas week together and I am so grateful for them and the love we all share. As this Christmas approaches and the year draws to a close, my hubby and I will travel to help care for his ailing father. I want to express my love and gratitude to you, my readers, for all your support and encouragement this past year.

May the blessing of joy abide within you;
May the blessing of peace rest upon you;
May the blessing of love flow out through you;
May all the blessings of the Lord be yours
at Christmas and in the new year.
~ Author Unknown

May you have the gift of Faith, the blessing of Hope, and the Peace of God’s love this Christmas, and may the Love of the Lord fill you with His Grace, Strength, and Peace as your treasures in the New Year.

Stay safe. Health and happiness to you.

Blessings,

Nadene

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Comic Strips Tips & Templates

Solar System Mercury

Comic strips are picture stories that convey loads of information and visual detail. They are a wonderful resource for language arts and creative writing activities and make an excellent option for narrations and storytelling.

Here are some comic tips:

  1. Plan out six to 8 facts or ideas for your story on rough paper first. Just think … eight blocks = eight facts?
  2. Look at some real comics with your children before your start to show how a reader reads the dialogue from left to right, from top to bottom if there is more than one “call out” or speech bubble in a block.
  3. When writing the dialogue, first print the dialogue small & neatly, then draw the speech bubble around the words.  This prevents you running out of space in your bubble.
  4. Use different shaped “call out” bubbles – bubbled for thoughts, pointed to a mouth as speech, zig-zag to show radio comments or computer voice.
  5. Add a top or bottom information phrase block if needed, like: Later on … or Back inside
  6. Use the space left after the speech to draw simple ideas. Colour adds to the effects.
  7. Use onomatopoeic (sound effect) words and draw them with style to show something popping, crashing, exploding, squeaking etc.
  8. Be creative!  Have FUN!

Here is your free comic strip template download ~

Most the comics include dialogue written in speech bubbles. In my post Use Comics To Teach Direct Speech I described our effective lesson on how to write direct speech from a comic strip. Here’s a brief summary:

Simple direct speech rules.

  1. Write down the spoken words or dialogue that appear in speech bubbles exactly  as they appear, but inside inverted commas.
  2. Use inverted commas or quotation marks “…”  immediately before and after the spoken words.
  3. Insert punctuation marks that suit the dialogue after the dialogue inside the inverted commas.
  4. Use capital letters to start any dialogue, or any new dialogue that follows a full stop.
  5. Question marks  & exclamation marks act as a full stop.
  6. Use an appropriate attribution for each speaker and try be creative and vary using the word “said”.
  7. Separate dialogue from the attribution with a comma.
  8. ALWAYS skip a line and start a new line for a new speaker. When typing the direct speech on the computer, press ‘enter’ + ‘enter’ again to leave a line open and begin on a new line.

Comics contain a lot of visual information. The scene and actions should be described in words. Adding this to the direct speech, and conveying a flow of action, thought and interest to the written dialogue is a more advanced skill, making a wonderful, interesting story.

In my post Use Comics to Teach Reported Speech, we chose my daughter’s most dramatic comic strip story and she pretended that she was a news reporter, changing her speech dialogue in speech bubbles into reported speech. Once again, we looked for examples of reported speech in our read aloud literature books.  Charlotte Mason’s principle to teach grammar and language arts through living books and good literature is amazingly effective!

Here are Usborne Book of English Grammar basic rules of writing reported speech summarized ~

  • Report what someone said using your own words.
  • No need for inverted commas.
  • Change the verb to the past tense.

This report can then be written as a newspaper report or given as a speech as a TV news reporter.

The comic strip template is included in my more than 100 Narration Ideas Booklet which you can order on my Order Packages page.

Blessings, Nadene

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Nativity Play updated

Back in 2012, my daughter Lara and I created a Nativity puppet show. This year I have updated it to share with you as a wonderful family activity for the festive season.

We created rod & wire puppets, but simple hand puppets would work just as well. There are animals, props and backdrops patterns, templates, instructions and suggestions. The script is written in rhyming couplets so that it is easier for young children to memorize. A parent or older child who is good at reading aloud acts as narrator.

This free download includes:

  • Welcome to this Nativity Play
  • How to perform using your puppets
  • Some simple hand puppet tips and ideas
  • Animals
  • Props
  • Stage setup
  • How to make your puppets
  • Ideas for backdrops
  • Scene 1:  Outside a stable
  • Scene 2: Outside night time on a hill
  • Scene 3:   In King Herod’s Palace
  • Scene 4:   In the Stable

Our hand puppets have been enormously popular and have lasted for years!

We recycled them for other plays such as our Esther Play for Purim.

You can read about all our other puppets here – Narrations 103 -Puppets

Here is your free download ~

Enjoy and be blessed!

Nadene

Jesse Tree and Advent Activities

Over all our years of homeschooling, we have celebrated advent with a variety of Christmas Jesse Tree and Advent activities. As December approaches, why don’t you include this beautiful daily reflection of Christ revealed from Genesis to Revelation with your own Jesse Tree devotional? Here is a list of suggested activities and links ~

Homeschool moments
  • We constructed our own chicken wire Jesse Tree curved to form a tall narrow cone and decorated it with free downloads from around the Internet. Or you could make a simple cardboard cut-out Homemade Jesse Tree by This Simple Home, or simply decorate your own Christmas tree with these meaningful symbols.
  • We created small Jesse Tree discs made with baker’s clay & painted them. Another year we used cardstock and illustrated and painted our discs and covered them with clear packaging tape to protect them.  Then my daughter sewed all the discs together by running them through the sewing machine to join them into a lovely long bunting.  We draped this bunting around the tree. Some moms sewed their Jesse Tree discs using felt (see link below).
Homeschool moments1
  • We painted the Names of Jesus Ornaments downloaded free from Bible Story Printables.com with bright, bold colours.  (You can print out the coloured version, but I wanted to save on printing ink.)  These discs are larger than the small Jesse Tree discs and fill in much of the wire tree space.
  • We made Names of Jesus strips which my youngest stapled into paper rings and interlinked them to make a lovely paper chain to decorate our Advent table.
  • I downloaded our Jesse Tree ornaments from Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift download.  We coloured some elements of each picture in with silver and gold pens and protected the pictures with clear tape.  We used thin florist wire pieces to twist through a tiny hole pierced in our decorations and hooked them simply over the tree’s wires as we follow our Jesse Tree Advent story. 

Here are free Jesse Tree ideas and Advent resources ~

  1. Easy Fun School has a lovely free advent devotional and Jesse Tree unit study lesson plan, and here’s an expanded version
  2. Beautiful felt Jesse Tree Ornaments from Mandy Pelton’s blog Everything Beautiful
  3. Teachers Pay Teachers.com (log in required) – Advent Liturgy Jesse Tree 
  4. Simple Jesse Tree Ornaments Tutorial  at Keeping Life Creative.com
  5. Jesse Tree Advent Study by Confessions of a Homeschooler
  6. Jesse Tree ornaments free for Life Your Way readers from Printables Your Way.net
  7. Jesse Tree Ornaments from Grand Story Ornaments 

Hope this inspires you if you are looking for Jesse Tree and Advent activities.

Blessings, Nadene

Ending The Year Well

This year is fast rushing to a close … Christmas goodies are already filling the shops and 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.

As I revisit this post from my archives, may I offer some ideas to finish your year well?

We don’t always actually “finish” the curriculum each year because we stretch our curriculum over 2 years.  When we declare official school work closed for the year, it is good to find closure and create some fun activities to enjoy 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 hands-on projects.
  • Go on outings or field trips.
  • Catch up and finish any read alouds.
  • Do all outstanding Science experiments.
  • 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!
  • Join other homeschool families or co-ops for an end-of-year party or activity.
  • Hold a ‘graduation’ party.  Young children, even teens, love to receive a certificate!  Sonlight builds this aspect into their curriculums.
  • 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.
4-20150123_065037-1

Some administrative activities:

  • My youngest loves to hang mobiles!
  • Prepare their new notebook files and stationary.
  • 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 rejoice in all the accomplishments and ease into the new year with enthusiasm and motivation.

Blessings in your homeschooling journey!

May you find much grace and rest in this festive season, Nadene

Voortrekker Ox Wagon Paper Model

Here is my 3D paper model of Voortrekkers and ox wagon, the latest paper model in my series of historical African culture and heritage hands-on activities.

This download includes a Voortrekker family, an ox wagon, a team of yoked oxen and Africans with a mountain pass background triorama. Colouring in, cutting out and creating these 3D paper models are wonderful hands-on activities while mom reads aloud. This paper model is fairly fiddly and young children may need some assistance.  Encourage your children to interact and act out the Voortrekker stories with their paper models.  It is  a wonderful way for History to come alive!  This paper model is a perfect fit for the Footprints in Our Land, our South African, literature-based Social Studies curriculums.

Some historical background:

The Voortrekkers were Dutch-speaking colonists living in the Cape under the British-run colonial administration of southern Africa and who migrated away from the British colony in large groups from 1836 in a movement called The Great Trek.

The traditional Voortrekker wagon was called “kakebeenwoens” because they resembled the jawbone of an animal. These wagons carried essential household goods, clothes, bedding, furniture, agricultural implements, fruit trees and weapons. These wagons negotiated the veld, narrow ravines, and steep precipices of the Drakensberg mountains with their livestock and family walking alongside.  When the travellers reached the end of their day’s journey, they set up their laager ‘wagon fort’ camps in an area which had water & suitable grazing for the oxen and horses.

You can order my Voortrekker ox wagon paper model download on my Order Packages page. You can find all my African houses paper models in the series —

I would love to share a freebie with you. Each paper model comes with a triorama background. A triorama forms a wonderful 3D pyramid shape with a base. It requires just 2 folds and snip to make, so it’s very simple, but looks dramatic!

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your download. Thank you for your support.

Blessings, Nadene

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Struggles with Maths?

Maths may be a difficult subject for many children and a source of fear for many homeschooling parents.

As a child, I was terrified of Maths and I failed miserably all through high school and needed extra classes with a maths tutor to pass my Matric exams. When I was a student teacher on my 2nd teaching practice, I was given Grade 7 Maths classes to teach. I was appalled. In order to adequately prepare, and so that I wouldn’t be caught out by any student’s questions, I covered the topic using every textbook I could lay my hands on. And you know what? I discovered that I was an outstanding Maths teacher!!! I knew how to approach the concepts from many perspectives and I had a slew of different examples to practice and demonstrate with my learners. I made the lessons fun and relatable. My students enjoyed their lessons and mastered their maths.

So, with this experience, I homeschooled and tutored my daughters’ Maths lessons all the way to graduation. When fear is taken out of the picture, Maths is fairly simple. Maths concepts and applications are straightforward, simple and logical. If you can find the right “fit” for your child in the pace and application, you will be able to help them conquer their Maths battles. I describe 12 successful Maths principles I used in What Works – Maths.

Here are 5 R’s to help when you or your child are struggling with Maths lessons ~

  1. Review
  2. Repeat
  3. Replace
  4. Restart
  5. Refuse

Review Usually struggles in Maths lessons occur when your child has not fully understood a concept. Revise, re-visit, and review the concept. Make sure that your child understands the basic Maths concepts and principles. If there is any hesitation, doubt, or uncertainty, repeat the Maths principle with physical objects, Maths manipulatives, other examples, or relatable applications. Practice previous examples and lessons. Practice is vital before moving on.

Repeat Similar to review, repeat practice lessons using other examples until the Maths concept “clicks”. You may need to look for additional textbooks, worksheets or online lessons to repeat the concepts until your child fully understands and successfully applies the concepts. Take your time! Rushing on will only make the fear and uncertainty worse.

Replace Find alternatives that may be better suited to your child’s learning style. Replace your textbook or practice the Maths lessons with a different book or with online lessons such as Khan Academy. Every author and publication has a unique approach, style, pace and application. You can use a combination of different books and lessons. Don’t feel bad if the Maths curriculum you initially purchased doesn’t meet your child’s requirements. Tailor-make your children’s education and find something else instead.

Restart Start again with the basics. Leave the books and worksheets aside for a few days or weeks and focus on fun activities such as skip counting, multiplication and addition. I discovered that Mental Maths worksheets, drills, songs, card games, manipulatives and activities helped with my children’s speed and confidence. Once these basics are re-established, start again and your child may find the Maths work much easier. This will boost his confidence which will help him conquer his fears.

Refuse Do you need to refuse to teach your child Maths? May I encourage you to consider a Maths tutor when your relationship with your child is harmed by the tension and struggles over Maths lessons? Maybe Dad, a high school student, a kind neighbour or a co-op mom can help teach your child without all the interpersonal battles. Often a 3rd party person doesn’t receive the backlash and resistance and refusal that a child gives a parent. May I also add that a high school child can choose to do Maths Literacy instead of Pure Mathematics? Maths Literacy goes beyond academic focus and aims to give students basic Mathematics skills they can use and apply in their everyday lives. Just check with your high schooler’s career options and tertiary education requirements first.

Maths struggles have a way of getting right in and messing with our souls! Please, please, please … be compassionate to yourself and your child during this phase. Gently put the “offending” book on your bookshelf and offer yourselves time to consider what will work. It is tough to be gracious to yourself and others when you are afraid or offended. Grace for grace. Pray for guidance and grace.

You can find all my Maths freebies here. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or or write to me on the contact form on my About & Contact page.

Blessings, Nadene

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Create a “No-fail” Unit study

Recently Hannah Savage shared her “no-fail” Viking unity study on Instagram. She wisely shared,

“When I see my job through the lens of laying a feast without tying my success to an idealized outcome, I free up my heart to enjoy the unit with them for however long it lasts and whatever it ends up looking like. My “low stakes” approach feels like a friendly invitation to them rather than a tight-knuckled force feeding. It’s an awareness many (many) fumbles in this homeschool life have taught me.”

@hannahsavagewrites

Lovely, right? It sounds like my recommendation to offer a learning buffet and allow your children to choose what they want from a delightful array of books, projects and options.

Among all her wonderful resources she found for her unit study, she linked to my free Viking Paper Men and Dolls.

If you looking for a wide variety of ideas for your children to express their learning, I have created a Narrations Ideas Booklet filled with over 100 creative project optionsalternative suggestions, practical tips and templates for every age and learning style. You can order your booklet on my Packages page.

May Hannah’s “no-fail” unit study approach inspire you to be brave and creative and curate your own “no-fail” unit study on themes or topics your children are passionate about!

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

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Faith mingled with Failure

  • Are you a Christian parent homeschooling your children with an emphasis on developing their faith?
  • Are you teaching your young children about Jesus with a confident hope and expectation that they will come to faith?
  • Are you a Christian parent with a teen that has chosen to resist, refuse, rebel against your Christian values?
  • Are any of your children in a place of compromise, delaying to make their decision to follow Christ?
  • Have you parented as a Christian full of faith, but serve a prodigal child, teen or young adult?
  • Do you need encouragement to parent and homeschool the Gospel message in your home into a faith-reality?

Join Wendy and Shirley of Footprints On Our Land, and Linda and myself, four veteran homeschool moms, encouraging you to homeschool with confidence in our next livestream ~ www.quicket.co.za/events/147771-christian-homeschooling

If you missed this webinar, please email Wendy Young at gaviny@mweb.co.za to obtain the details to pay for the link to the recording.

We are all moms who have precious messages carved into the clay of our lives; our parenting has been sown in tears, watered with repentance, lifted to the Lord for mercy, offered in surrender and expressed with sorrow and joy mixed together.  And the comfort we received, we now would love to share to comfort others.

If you are a Christian parent and you see homeschooling as an extension of your parenting, then this livestream is for you. We are taking an atypical approach by sharing the real side of parenting children who struggle with their sin natures and how we can shepherd them to the Cross where they can make their choice.

Book your ticket at Quicket, and if you cannot make it on the night, you will still get access to the recording.

Blessings and grace, Nadene