Laminated Charts

Here’s this weeks’ practical tip ~

laminated chartBuy yourself a laminater! 

It is an investment in your homeschooling, especially if your children are young.  It is one of my most valued homeschool items even though I use it only periodically.

  • Laminate any page (with or without cardstock) for long-lasting handling.
  • Laminate handwriting charts, flash cards, phonics cards, chore charts, mental maths drills that are used daily.
  • You and your child can use a whiteboard marker for quick, easy lessons, drills and reminders.
  • Very large posters  can be professionally laminated at a print/ office shop.  I did this with our Footprints Map.
  • These charts are essential ~

Of course, if you are frugal, you can use packaging tape and cover charts and pages carefully, but this doesn’t give the page the added sturdiness laminating provides.  I also often simply insert pages that we will use for a short time into a plastic page protector.

Hope this practical tip helps you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene


Letter 19 – Have Fun!

Encouragement for new homeschoolers ~ reflecting on thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches I have considered as I have journeyed in my 19+ years of homeschooling …

Dear Nadene,

Have fun!  Relax!  Don’t take your homeschooling so seriously! 

Really, it is only the final 3 years that require an earnest, academic commitment to prepare for those final exams.  It doesn’t take 12 years of serious book work, workbooks and study to graduate! 

So breathe.  Let go.  Relax.  Slow down.

You will prove over and over that it is best to stretch out a year plan to 18 months and MAKE time and CREATE margins of time for fun!

Plan fun for your kids!  Do messy stuff, bake and make stuff.  Dress up and act things out.  P1150685Plan outings, meet others at a park and do fun activities with others.  Go on nature walks and sniff flowers, catch butterflies and climb trees.  Follow your child’s spark of interest and enthusiasm and flame that flame. 

Don’t squash your child’s natural, built-in love to learn with extensive seat work, long lessons, and dull, difficult tasks.  Start your day with something sweet ~ a circle time of songs, Bible story and prayer.  Then go on to short, sweet 3R’s.  Add a few physical activities like skipping, bouncing, clap songs, or give a few minutes outside break before sitting together, all cosy and relaxed, to read aloud.  Then — FREE TIME!

Kids need time to be free, to create, to explore and to discover.  Encourage outside play wherever possible.  Provide new stimulus such as a ball, bubbles, sand box toys, water games, dress-up clothes or some rope. 

Plan fun for yourself!   You need the grace of  “Mother Culture” activities.  You need to enjoy the homeschooling journey with your family.   Remember, homeschooling is first about relationships and not information.  So go ahead and join your children!  Relax with them.  Draw and sketch and paint together.  Sing, walk and talk together without it being a lesson or a learning experience.  (Your kids HATE your “mom-the-teacher voice”!)  Leave your desk, your un-filled tick-the-box schedules and have fun.

With hindsight blessings,


I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments.

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

Good Work = Green Pen

Positive, specific praise is such a motivator.

When teaching handwriting I used to ask my kiddies to do their very best and, at the end of the handwriting session, to circle their best letter or word.  They always found the best, on their own , and I merely confirmed it.

green penHere’s an excellent article on Bright Side where they describe the effect of using a green pen to highlight the child’s best work, rather than use a red pen to mark their mistakes, and how this leads to a child’s happiness.

Focus on your child’s best.  Be specific.  Integrate this approach in all areas of schooling and parenting.  Positive comments such as, “You made your bed so neatly,” or “I love the way you packed away all your toys in their boxes,” or “Gosh, you washed these glasses so well!” will make your children (and this applies to others too) feel that their efforts are  noticed and appreciated.  They love it and it motivates them to keep doing their best.

This is especially important when a child struggles and is despondent.  Find just something positive and focus on that.

Blessings, Nadene

Chair Bags

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

chair bagsChair bags are common in junior primary school rooms, but make perfect, practical sense in the homeschool environment.

  • They hold a variety of things right at hand.
  • Children do not have to get up and look for something, preventing delays, distractions and dawdling and wasting time.
  • It easy for kids to pack away their things and clear the table at the end of their school time.    This helps where schooling is done at a kitchen or dining table where the space is needed for more than one activity.
  • Sew broad elastic tabs to tie chair bags that don’t fit over our curved dining chairs.  I found that the elastic tabs lasted longer than fabric tabs and fitted a variety of chair styles.
  • When we travelled for 18 months while homeschooling, we packed each child’s basic essentials in their chair bags, and simply took them out our school suitcase and hung them on whichever chairs we used in our new “home”, making transitions quick and effortless.
  • Each child had their own colored chair bag, making it easy to keep track of their own things.
  • Keeping things  in chair bags keeps things off the table and floor, creating more work space.

Some cons ~

  • Small items can get “lost” in the big pocket.  Make sure your chair bag has a smaller pocket.
  • Heavy chair bags can cause the chair to fall over backwards.  Keep the most essential items in the bag and hold larger, heavier items in a basket nearby.

Hope that this practical tip helps in your homeschooling.

Blessings, Nadene

Book Labels

book labelsHere’s a practical tip ~ Use colored book labels

When I was an English, History and Geography middle school teacher, I taught 4 classes of the same grade for each subject.   I placed colored electric tape to the base of the spine of each child’s book – a color for each grade and a 2nd color  for each subject.  This helped me keep track of each class and subject when I took their books in for marking.

When I started homeschooling, Sonlight sent me neon-bright book label stickers with my first purchases.   It was so handy to have the 3 cores’ books labeled in different colors.  I also added numbers to the readers’ labels according to the different levels so that we could work through them in sequence.

Colored labels make storing, finding and replacing books on the shelves a breeze!  Even my youngest easily searched the pink readers to find a book that she could manage to read.

Color coding works very well for young children.  We assigned a color for each child and they could easily find “their” things in the basket.

I love practical ideas — whatever works to keep homeschooling organized and flowing smoothly!  Trust that this practical tip helps you!

In Grace, Nadene


Letter 18 – Memories

Encouragement for new homeschoolers ~ reflecting on thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches I have considered as I have journeyed in my 19+ years of homeschooling …

Dear Nadene,

Make memories!  Homeschooling is a rich, rewarding journey which your family will remember forever.  P1080139

Make memories with hands-on activities.  When I asked my homeschool graduate what she remembered the most fondly of her homeschool days, she recalled the dressing up, acting out, cooking and baking, creating projects and building models.  

Famous art works and classic music selections bring back wonderful memories.  Just remember to approach these lessons informally and casually.  

Build in margins of extra time in your schedule to take time for tangents.  These are often the most rewarding moments in the school schedule … the unscheduled scenic stop along the way .  Go on field trips and outings.  Stretch out your schedule and extend your scheduled 1 year over 18 months.  This gentle pace will be so nurturing and enriching.

Take photos, encourage your children to illustrate and write journals and record the “best of …” at the end of each year. Your kids will love to re-read their report of their favourite books, themes and activities when they are older and it will seem all the more sweeter then.

With hindsight blessings,


I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments.

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:


Practical Tip – Bean Bags

bean bagsHere’s a practical tip – Use bean bags for quick, fun activities

  • Bean bags are light, yet weighted with little plastic beads or natural beans.
  • Cheap and easy to make, they are simple tools for a huge variety of games for several years of play and skills development.
  • They are soft and easy to throw and catch,  making them ideal to develop eye-hand co-ordination.
  • A bean bag is usually smaller and softer than a ball and child less afraid of being hit or hurt.
  • Soft and yielding, they are safe for indoor games such as target throwing.
  • When thrown, they land and stay without rolling away which helps children’s throwing skills and throwing accuracy.
  • Catching and throwing a bean bag helps develop a child’s skill of grasp and release.
  • A bean bag will help a child develop the hand strength required for handling a ball.
  • Bean bags balance fairly easily on most parts of the body which is excellent for young children to learn physical awareness.
  • Balancing bean bags on specific body parts is excellent for body integration.
  • Use bean bags to develop spatial awareness and laterality with left/ right/ up/ down/ in front/ behind games and activities.
  • Brightly colored, bean bags are excellent for color matching games.
  • Use different textured fabric for sensory awareness.
  • Different shaped bean bags for theme activities and shape recognition.
  • Filled with different beans, rice, plastic beads, children can match bags according to the sensory identification.20140227_104616
  • Use bean bags for listening skills where children follow verbal instructions.
  • Middle schoolers can use bean bags to develop spatial skills for map work, compass directions, clock face and telling time.
  • Use bean bags with my arrow chart before maths and spelling tests.  Used in classroom lessons at public school, this quick activity had proven results!

Here are some more references ~

We have a set of 4 pairs of matching bean bags which has lasted for years and years in our homeschooling.  Make yours today and start having fun!

Hope this practical hint helps in your homeschooling.

In Grace, Nadene

Letter 17 – Perfectionism

Encouragement for new homeschoolers ~ reflecting on thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches I have considered as I have journeyed in my 19+ years of homeschooling …

Fullscreen capture 20160419 035539 PM.bmp

Dear Nadene,

Homeschooling is a journey of self-discovery and growth. It is about growing in character.    It is NOT about a systematic dispensation of information, formal lessons, tests and results with a perfect predictable outcome.   No system is perfect.  No curriculum is perfect.  No one is perfect.   So you are going to trip up over faults and failures …. and you will have to deal with your fears. 

Let go of perfection.  Perfectionism is a symptom of fear.  It is an attempt to control and be in control.  Perfectionism is said to be self-abuse!


Perfectionism kills! 

Instead, focus on being faithful with what you have and to do your very best.   Encourage your children to be faithful and consistent.  Encourage them to be proud of their work and to take pride in their efforts.   As a parent, allow them to fail, to change their minds, to figure things out.  Nothing stifles uniqueness and creativity more than fear.  

Have realistic expectations.  Life is messy and chaotic.  Aim to maintain a simple routine and a consistent approach.  Build in “margins” around your schedule for the unexpected and spontaneous.  Perfectionism is highly overrated and completely unrealistic.

Be kind to yourself.   Have grace towards yourself and others.  Forgive yourself for failing, for making mistakes, for being human.   Learn to laugh at yourself.  Train yourself to breathe and let unmet expectations go … Don’t major on the minors.  Don’t make mountains out of molehills. 

Most of your concerns and stresses are about ideals and expectations.  Remember the motto: “People before things.”  Focus on relationships. 

Pray and ask the Lord what is important.  Ask Him to show you what is needful, helpful and useful.   Adopt an attitude of grace.  Live out hope in your thinking, speaking and loving of yourself and others.  See yourself and others through His eyes. 

Be compassionate.  Be patient … you are a work in progress …

With hindsight blessings,


I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments.

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

Practical Tip – Hooks

chart hooksHere’s a practical tip – Use hooks for charts & maps

For years now, I have used hooks on the 2 knobs on the top of my whiteboard to hang all my charts, timelines, maps and large illustrations.

If you look closely, I unscrewed the two knobs and slid curtain rings over the screw thread and replaced the knobs.  Then I hung 2 metal S-hooks on the rings.  Even if you don’t have a whiteboard, you could install 2 hooks on your display wall and hang your charts on these hooks.

Each chart, map and my timeline has 2 curtain rings so that I can display them quickly on the S-hooks.

To store my charts, I hang all the charts on  2 cup-hooks screwed  on the back of my sewing cabinet, but it could be on a door, shelf, wall etc.

I have used hooks on my bookshelf near the door to hang our nature study bags.  Filled with water bottles. paints and nature study materials, our bags are right there, ready for use.

Hope this handy, practical tip helps you in your homeschooling.

In Grace, Nadene

Letter 16 – Don’t Kill It!

Encouragement for new homeschoolers ~ reflecting on thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches I have considered as I have journeyed in my 19+ years of homeschooling …

Fullscreen capture 20160419 042356 PM.bmpDear Nadene,

Don’t kill homeschool by trying too hard!

Don’t jump in and try do the whole schedule!  Your kids will freak out and you will quickly burn out.  It is fine to start slow, progress gradually, focus on one new skill or subject each week. When starting homeschooling, take at least 3 months to build up your daily schedule.  It is fine to leave some subjects out completely and then gradually integrate them into the schedule later.   Looking back, nothing was really learnt in the stress of discovering how, what and when to “do absolutely everything” on the schedule!

It is essential that you slow down!  Spread out a 12 month schedule over 18 months to 2 years!  It will be the best approach for all the middle school years, allowing you and your kids time to enjoy all the scenic routes and ‘rabbit trails’  along the way.  Most importantly, your kids will love the relaxed schedule and do lots of hands-on activities that make homeschool such fun!

Don’t “do school” at home!  The lovely little timetable, the neat school books, the whiteboard and desk for each child is absolutely fine, but you can accomplish so much informally, organically and uniquely. Use these  physical aspects as a guideline or base, but allow for flexibility and individuality.

Find your family’s rhythm and flow.  Adjust your approach to suit each child’s learning style, each subject’s requirements, and your personal teaching/ facilitating style.  Once again, remember you are tailor-making your child’s learning experience.  You are not reproducing “the system for the masses” at home!

Don’t make everything a lesson. Oh boy, Nadene, hear me here … your kids shut down when you start explaining e.v.e.r.y. t.h.i.n.g!  They hear that “mom-the-teacher-voice” and groan. You can ask a few questions, answer their questions, but don’t teach all the time. 

Remember this when reading aloud, don’t stop to explain this or that, ask pesky questions and interrupt the natural learning experience.   Listen to Charlotte Mason’s advice and “keep out of the way” and allow the child to “engage with the author” and the concepts on their own.

Let nature study just be a nature ‘experience‘.  Your teens will refuse to “do nature study” because your earlier nature study lessons were too formal and regimented. 

Likewise, with Fine Arts, fill the room with classical music and just shut up and encourage everyone to simply enjoy the music.  Forget about reading the composer biographies, discussing musical technical terms and just let the music flow.   Simply enjoy the time and musical experience together. 

Relax.  Breathe.  Your children WILL LEARN!   You need to trust this natural ability.  Foster and encourage their delight to learn.  facilitate their needs, fertilize their minds and hearts with excellent literature and great books.  Expose them to great ideas and discoveries, fine arts and nature.  Encourage them to connect new ideas to what they already know.

They will not fall through the gaps.  They will catch up.  They will become great self-learners.  They will grow up balanced and sound.  They will be amazing!

Above all, trust the Lord and teach from a place of faith and rest.  Keep your heart trusting and surrendered.  This will be the Lord’s greatest blessing to you in your homeschooling journey.

With hindsight blessings,


I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments.

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series: