Find Your Fit

Recently I shared some ideas on how to Tailor-make your curriculum.  Just as when you buy your children’s clothes, you may sometime need to try a size smaller or larger to get the best fit, so, too, it is with finding the right fit for your child’s homeschool curriculum.

Your child’s age is often a starting point, however your child may need to begin at an earlier grade, or stay on a level longer than the professional calculated for the average child. Your child may need to skip over a grade where he finds work too easy in order that he finds the level that stimulates and challenges him.

This individualization should be the practice in every classroom, but the school system usually focuses on the average child and so the more gifted or special-needs child often fall through the cracks.  Because homeschooling is a one-on-one education, it is far easier for a parent to find the perfect fit for their child.

You are tailor-making your child’s learning experience – read more Tailor made and Offer a learning buffet  and Tailor-make your curriculum.

I urge you to customize your curriculum and subjects for each child.

Some of the most challenging subjects that require individualization are
Reading, Writing and Maths.  This post has quite a few links to my archives.  Please bookmark them to read later if you don’t have time today.)

Reading

  • Teach your child their phonics so that they know how to sound out every letter in the alphabet and then combination letters called blends.
  • Use flashcards, charts and picture games to practice and master phonics.
  • Find a series of early readers that are both entertaining and interesting and which contain almost all the words your child can sound out and read.
  • Use partnered reading where your child sits on your lap are next to you, and you whisper in their ear as they read and sound out their words.  You can see that we use a ruler or pointer to help with tracking along the sentence.
  • Read more about partnered reading technique I used with my youngest child — Partnered Reading Helps Improve Reading and Partnered Reading ~ moments I treasure and Slow learner Joys discovered.

Writing 

  • Don’t fret/ push/ demand/ panic if your child isn’t ready to write out his own narrations / or write neatly.
  • Keep on assisting him and encourage oral dictations, recorded narrations or dictated narrations, or traced over or printed dictated narrations. The vital skill of narration is being practiced and the writing will come later.  Read about being your child’s Narration Scribe
  • Gently encourage your child to write an opening sentence and then the concluding sentence. Work on developing 3 sentences that form a paragraph.  Before long he will be doing more and more of his own written narrations.
  • Use a word bank  or textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.
  • Find an alternative activity that your child enjoys instead of the prescribed narration – there are so many options and alternatives!  Purchase my Narration Ideas booklet with over 100 ideas and options instead of just writing!
  • Writing is such an important skill that you should find a way for your child to present his thoughts and understanding with narrations because Narrations show you what he knows.

Mathematics

  • Mathematics is a very important subject and it is vital to find the right level and pace and approach for each child.
  • Swap or add another Maths book if the course your child uses progresses too quickly.  Look for an exercise or book that offers more practice lessons, or one that provides more visual or practical work.
  • Use concrete apparatus for as long as is needed.  Work with beads, blocks, number lines, counting fingers or whatever helps your child.  It really doesn’t actually matter how long your child needs these “props”.  If it helps, then use them!  Don’t shame your child or let him believe that he is immature.  Make physical apparatus options available.
  • Gently encourage your child to do the same activity again without the physical apparatus and teach him how to picture the blocks or bead in his head.  It may just suddenly ‘click’ and he will be able to continue his work without the objects.
  • Maths butterfliesEncourage Maths drills with games and mental Maths worksheets.
  •  Use different approaches as and when needed, for example, use blocks, flashcards, use number lines, and or computer games to teach, practice and master a concept.
  • Work for mastery — you want your child to feel a sense of confidence.  Maths is a very emotionally charged subject for some children.  Don’t give up at a point of anxiety or stress.  Look for creative ways of doing the work so that your child feels good about themselves.

Time

  • Start by stretching out a one-year curriculum over 18 months to provide a wide margin of time to enjoy themes and topics that your children enjoy, time to take detours or take longer scenic stops.
  • Continue working longer on any concepts to practice and fully master a skill.
  • Read about my experiences extending time on a curriculum — Re-using Sonlight and doing it differently and Best Homeschooling Decision-More Time .

In every subject, in every grade, adjust your course to suit your child’s interests, ability and pace.  Try find the balance between challenging and mastery, gently increasing the work load and difficulty, but allowing for their sense of “I can do it!”

Blessings as you find your fit, Nadene

 

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Tailor-make your curriculum

It is not a failure if a curriculum doesn’t work for you!   Even if you purchase a professionally formatted, fully kitted, boxed, packaged curriculum, you will need to make adjustments for each child and yourself as you go along.  No professional or expert can possibly determine the perfect fit for your family and for each individual!

Just as a travel agent provides a suggested itinerary for a tour to a foreign country, once you arrive, you may decide to visit different scenic stops, spend longer to more fully enjoy an experience, or decide to completely skip a section of the tour.

Here’s a golden rule ~ Work WITH your package and not FOR your package = Tailor-make your curriculum!

So how do you work with your package?

Find the pace that suits your children:

  1. Spend more time on any topic that your children enjoy.  Don’t simply rush onto the next day on the schedule.  If your kids sparkle with enthusiasm, feed it by encouraging them to watch additional videos, read other books, do some fun hands-on activities, etc.
  2. Read more/ or less each day.  During our first year I felt completely swamped by the amount of reading I was expected to do every day.  The sessions felt exhausting and I almost dreaded the schedule.  Rather, I kept reading while the kids colored-in or did hands-on activities, or I read during meals, or I completed the daily reading at bedtime read alouds.  As I gained experience, I realized that if I combined more children on the same curriculum, I maximized our learning experience and had far less individual reading.
  3. Spend more / or less time on certain subjects.  Especially when starting a new curriculum, focus on just one or two subjects at a time and gradually add another subject each week, as your children master the new skills required for each subject.  Don’t dive in and try to do everything right away.  You may wonder how to keep the different subjects flowing together?  On some days, focus on the subject you see is “falling behind” and you will easily catch up.  Sometimes we spent a week just doing one subject and found it really enjoyable, kind of like an immersion approach.
  4. Add 6 months margin to the package year.  This helped me more than anything — Just knowing that I had extra time to use as and when we wanted gave us a generous freedom and removed the stress and feeling that we would fall behind.

Personalize the curriculum:

  1. Focus on your children’s delights and interests.
  2. Add extras to any spark of interest your children show –go on outings, look for projects, job shadow professionals, borrow library books, watch suitable educational movies and videos.
  3. Do a unit study on topics related to the subject of interest, where you cover all the subjects focusing on a single topic such “Horses” or “Explorers” etc.
  4. Add a lapbook on the subject of interest.  
  5. Ignore and pack away any books that just don’t suit your child or family.  Don’t feel guilty!  It is like eating off a fixed menu — not every dish will be to your taste.
  6. Adjust the activity to suit each child.  Some children hate writing!  Rather let them present oral narrations, or draw or build or calculate or design, etc.  I created an excellent book “Narration Ideas” with over 100 ideas, options or templates for every types of learning style and temperate style.  Find what your child enjoys and tailor-make your options.
  7. Don’t forget that you are an essential component of your homeschooling.    Look for a package and approach that best suits your teaching style. Don’t buy a curriculum that stresses and overwhelms you.  I love reading and literacy, so read alouds and literacy-based education worked perfectly for me. Another mom may prefer unit studies or project-based learning.  Some moms want to teach, others want their children to lead.  Whatever your preferred style, look for a package or curriculum or approach that works for you as well as your children.

I hope that this post encourages you to make whatever curriculum you have work best for you and your children.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Homeschool Hopelessness

No one warned me that I would experience periods of real hopelessness in our homeschooling journey.

These feelings were not so much because of a child’s slowness in grasping phonics, or mastering multiplication tables or coping with writing and spelling (although those struggles are real and difficult to cope with at the time), but I suffered from a deeper, insidious anxiety of not measuring up to the ideals and images of what I imagined of my parenting and homeschooling.

My struggle was that my children did not reflect what I thought they would be if I “did it right”.

I had visions of my children happily homesteading, singing songs, crafting and learning like the girls in the “Little House on the Prairies“.  I thought we would all be praying, singing, being kind to others … that kind of Christian-thing. The gratitude, the persevering, the teachable, the compliant child-thing. And I thought it would all develop into young adult expressions of that image.  But our children did not embrace or demonstrate that vision.

Actually my children started out a lot like that, back in the beginning of our homeschooling journey, so it was not that we couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t carry on into my children’s teen years. That is when things changed.  They changed.  They took charge, and it was really scary for me!

My children are amazing, unique individuals, and they were way stronger than me. No matter how hard I persevered, persuaded, cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, lectured, they did things their way. They made choices and insisted and persisted.  I watched my dreams fade away.  And, looking back now, it was a good thing.  My children were not supposed to turn out the way I intended, but the way the Lord purposed.

They abandoned, subjects,  ignored Charlotte Mason’s methods, made decisions for the all “wrong” reasons (in my mind).  Instead of continuing with Charlotte Mason principles, my high school children opted for textbooks. Instead of narrations, they chose tedious workbook lessons and stressful exams. Instead of a rich cultural Fine Arts, they chose dry bones “compulsory” subjects. Instead of delight-directed – they opted for minimum requirements.  One child became the master-procrastinator!  She managed to complete everything by the skin of her teeth and it was a nightmare trying to work with her.

I sat watching each of them move further and further away from my ideals, and morph into “let’s get it done the easiest and fastest way possible” and I became sadder, more and more hopeless.  As each teenager entered into this phase, I lost perspective and became really sad and depressed.

Both my graduate daughters chose not to study further.  They did not want specific careers.  They opted for part-time work and entrepreneurial experience.  From the outside, it looked like my husband and I had “lost the plot” and we came under prolonged, severe criticism from both our parents close family.  I felt judged and a failure.   I wondered If I had instead sent them to public high schools and forced them to follow the norm of ‘Matric followed by university studies’, then we would have done it the “right way” and we would have “succeeded”.

As I sat praying, I realized that I had laid an excellent foundation in their primary school years.  We established outstanding basic skills.  I had instilled a love for reading, for good literature, for Fine Arts and we had a lifestyle of both productivity and creativity.  We have a deeply spiritual home where we share the reality of the Lord’s word and work in our lives.

All was not lost.

I turned my eyes to the Lord and trusted Him to work out those promises He gave us for each of our children.

After my eldest daughter got married earlier this year, she flourished as an amazing young woman who loves her husband.  She happily creates and keeps her home beautiful, and she cooks healthy, wonderful meals on a tiny budget.  She is a deeply committed member of a small, but tightly connected community and she and her hubby practice hospitality in ways that really bless others.

My 18-year-old graduate daughter currently works as a freelance graphic artist. She is developing her skills as a photographer and amazed us all by becoming a singer and musician, performing among the emerging musicians in the Garden Route.  There was no clue that she would choose to sing publicly.  She was so shy as a child that she wept and just couldn’t give me speeches or prepared reading, not even for me, all alone in our homeschool study.  And she never took a single formal music or singing lesson!

Last week, as I sat among a crowd of over 370 people at the Live Event in the George Botanical Gardens, and I just marveled at her courage and her talent, her vulnerability.  She shares her own songs with the world.  I didn’t see that coming!

May I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to keep hoping and praying and trusting in the Lord for your children, especially when they take charge as they grow up.  He is faithful and He has a vision and purpose for each person.  He is able to “make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”.

Don’t allow periods of hopelessness and despair cause you to give up.  Have grace towards yourself for being out of your depth and have grace towards your children for working out who they are becoming.  It is Grace for grace.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Mini Office recently updated

Most homeschoolers work in everyday places around the home and so do not have posters and reference charts displayed on walls like conventional public school classrooms.  That is where a Mini Office comes in as a very handy tool!

A Mini Office is essentially a reference file or folder with all a child’s personal  important information right at hand.  This could be reference charts, handwriting charts, number lines, multiplication tables, vocabulary lists, handy facts and any other useful information. It is a handy way of encouraging children to work independently and to provide the necessary assistance without having to put up visual displays.

Recently I updated both the Junior and Senior Mini Offices. I refreshed the layouts, added new pages and corrected a tiny typo. You can find all my Mini Office downloads here.

Here’s what you can find in the 17-page Junior Mini Office  download ~Mini Office

Mini Office2

  1. Number Line & Number Chart
  2. Ordinal numbers & Fractions
  3. Tally or scores, finger counting signs, Shapes, Colours, Directions
  4. Number words & Roman Clock and Roman numbers
  5. Multiplication Tables
  6. Seasons & Months & Days of the Week
  7. Days of the week & time of the day
  8. Address & Where am I?
  9. Weather symbols and Rainbow New!
  10. Sight Word Walls
  11. Phonic Alphabet New!
  12. Phonic Blends New!
  13. Family Words
  14. Print Handwriting Chart
  15. Cursive Handwriting Chart

The Senior Mini Office is a 20-page download which covers a lot of Mathematics.  All the pages have been refreshed, updated or new pages created ~ Mini Office1

  1. Number Chart
  2. Number words New!
  3. Multiplication Table
  4. Keeping score / Tally, Finger counting, Shapes & Colours
  5. Maths Symbols & their meanings & Compass
  6. Ordinal numbers & Roman Clock & Roman numerals
  7. Telling Time , Clock face, Analogue & Digital Clocks New!
  8. Angles & Fractions Updated!
  9. Different types of fractions & Converting fractions Updated!
  10. Converting Units & Number Systems
  11. Percentages – Decimals – Fractions
  12. Circles – Definition & Formula
  13. 2D Shapes – Description Circumference & Area formula
  14. 3D Shapes – Description Volume & Outer Area formula
  15. Triangles – Definition & Formula
  16. Weather symbols & Wind direction & speed symbol & Celsius/Fahrenheit New!
  17. Cursive Handwriting Chart New!

Pop over to download your new and updated  Mini Office pages!

Blessings, Nadene

Getting Real ~ Tantrums

I started Practical Pages with the aim of  encouraging moms,  and although I love to share what works here on Practical Pages, I admit that I often showcase the best sharable moments. Of course, I am not supermom and things are often less than perfect!

In another Getting Real post I will widen my exposure lens and share some of the real  nitty-gritty realities of our homeschooling lives ~ Tantrums

Hurt Boy

First, let’s look at a definition ~

tantrum  ~ˈtantrəm/ noun

  • an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.
  • synonyms: fit of temper, fit of rage, fit of pique, fit, outburst, flare-up, blow-up, pet, paroxysm, frenzy, bad mood, mood, huff, scene

Looking at the synonyms, I have seen my children and I found myself doing quite a few of those actions in times of frustration in our homeschooling, especially in our first year!  Children in school learn quickly how to hide their feelings, whereas at home, children feel free to express their emotions and vent their feelings.

Part of the problem was me and my idealistic expectations and perfectionist approach that I used when I first started homeschooling.  Add a high-need, or sensitive or strong-willed children to the mix and there was a guarantee of outbursts of anger, tears, sulks, flare-ups and meltdowns.

I caused tension with my demanding approach.  I could have spared us many meltdowns if I had been more sensitive, calmer, more spontaneous, more fun.  I was a pain in the neck, uber-serious, stressed-out mom trying to get everything done and to do it “right”.

Looking back, I am glad that I learnt to add more time to our schedule by stretching out a one-year curriculum over 18 months to 2 years .  This margin of time created a sense of safety and certainty that I didn’t have when I was chasing to keep up to a demanding prescribed schedule which I had allowed to be my task master instead of my guide.  Also, I had to learn what worked for us in our home and not constantly strive for perfection I saw reflected in the homeschooling books I read and the homeschool blogs I followed back then.

Some days simply started with a person in a bad mood, or with feelings anxiety or fear. Avoiding tantrums can feel like walking on egg shells.  No one person in the family should have so much power over the rest of the members, but it is not easy to figure how to manage that person’s inability to control their emotions.  That is where homeschooling is more about character formation and habit-training than about learning one’s  multiplication tables or spelling.  It was days like this that I quickly changed our routine and started with a read aloud, or a song or a fun “Simon Says” game to diffuse the tension and release the anxiety.

Sometimes a difficult subject, a challenging task or school activity was the cause of feelings of fear and anger.  It helped to switch the timetable around and do something fun and easy first before tackling a tough subject.  Sometimes, it felt better to start with the challenge and get it done and out-of-the-way.  Sometimes we simply left it out until we felt ready to face it with a more positive attitude.

A child feeling ill, family members experiencing poor sleep, bad diet choices, or overwhelming schedules or too many expectations are so draining that children just don’t have the capacity to control their feelings.  In times like this, I recommend moms stay home a few days, keep things simple, create a calm and predictable mealtime and bedtime routine and nurture relationships with their children, spend some cuddle-time together reading a good book aloud, go on nature walks, or listen to classical music, or bake, or whatever nurtures your family. Our Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays was the result of most these choices.

One of our best methods of clearing the air after a tantrum or meltdown, was an apology.  We used a “whiteboard” image and asked if we could quickly erase the horrible experience and start again.  Fresh starts are such an expression of grace.  Rather than live in the shame and guilt of a tantrum, offer yourself or your child the opportunity to try again, to start with a clean slate, to be their best in the new moment.

In sharing my imperfections, I extend grace to you in yours.  Grace to every mom.  Grace to every child.  Grace to you in the real and imperfect life you are living right now.

Please feel free to share your experiences, questions or offer any advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Too little done

Here’s another “Getting Real” post  ~ Too Little Done

These “Getting Real” posts series provide a more balanced perspective against the many successes and  “what works” posts that I showcase, but I acknowledge that I am definitely not a supermom and our homeschooling was often less than perfect!

Girl Singing & Holding Chorus BookToo little or nothing done

All new homeschool parents worry about gaps and falling behind.  Please don’t panic!  Even school teachers fall behind.  Even professional tutors don’t cover everything.  More importantly — homeschool is NOT about learning information!  Facts can be learnt anywhere, any time — Google is at our fingertips!

We have some huge gaps in our homeschooling! Some subjects were never actually taught or done.  My children never did any physical education lessons or joined sports clubs.  (I think that they would probably not done any sport if they were at public schools either.)  I did put my foot down regarding the basics, though. We completed all the important school subjects, and I am sure that my children received a good education.

During primary school, we covered full curriculums, completed almost every topic and activity and then some.  I created a weekly schedule that covered daily themes so that we included everything including Shakespeare, poetry, Science experiments and so on.

My eldest child pushed through on everything. She insisted She completed all her courses, did every assignment and learnt and passed all her exams.  But as my children hit high school, they vetoed most my ‘extra’ Charlotte Mason subjects such as Hymn study, Nature Study and nature walks.  Bible study lessons failed to move their hearts and my teens told me I was ‘cheesy’ when I did any devotions or Bible lessons, so I stopped those.

Despite my most diligent attempts and enthusiastic efforts, my high school children glossed over some subjects and one of my kids simply never finished or even read many of her high school set-work books.  We even abandoned some courses.  I felt as if my homeschool vision was falling apart.  But it was just different.

It was important for my husband and I to set firm boundaries and clear expectations.  We insisted on them completing a full high school course with a university exemption.  I always encouraged that my children do their very best, but when it comes to high school, children need to figure out what they want to study, what career interests they wanted to follow.  For each child, that is a unique journey,

Homeschool is about relationships, discovery, and a lifestyle of learning.   Character, life skills and good habits are  more important than learning dry facts or mastering algebra.  Essentially, once our children have learnt their 3 R’s, they can continue learning for themselves all their lives.

So when you see that you are losing ground, slow down and catch up.  It is not a race.  Focus on subjects that have fallen behind for a  few days or a week or two, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your children can catch up.

Sending you huge hugs when you feel things are falling apart.  Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Disappointments

Much of what I share here on Practical Pages showcases “what works”, but I acknowledge that I am definitely not a supermom and our homeschooling was often less than perfect!

Here’s another “Getting Real” topic ~ Disappointments

Young Girl Sitting & ReadingUnmet expectations often lead to disappointments.  Repeated disappointments can in turn lead to depression, despair and hopelessness.

So let’s talk about unmet homeschool expectations.

Most new homeschool parents trust that the curriculum they purchased will be a “good fit”.  Many homeschool parents have an ideal of their children sitting and learning happily every day.  Many parents hope that they will have well-grounded, well-rounded and well-mannered children who will reflect the all benefits of homeschooling, but this is often not the case.

There are many failures, flops, and fears.   Expensive curriculums don’t suit a child’s learning style.  Some subjects are unpleasant. Some lessons are too difficult.

You can read my post on “Unmet Expectations”  where I shared how I found myself “floundering under the weight of my lofty ideals and unrealistic homeschooling expectations” in my first years of homeschooling.

I remember my deep disappointment when my young teenage daughters refused to do most of the Charlotte Mason subjects such as Hymn study, Composer study and Nature Study when they started high school.  Here’s an excerpt describing my  disappointment ~

“You see, I wanted that cozy picture of my girls all singing hymns, sketching birds and butterflies and sweetly reciting poems.  I hoped they would all know at least 31 scriptures and could recite quotes from living books.  Charlotte Mason is so much deeper and wider than subjects and principles, so why is it such a struggle in my home?”

I had encouraged my children regarding their choices and attitudes.  I had tried to inspire them and pushed and persuaded them, but many times I watched as they refused, or failed.  Despite my best efforts, when I tried to force a child to do something they do not want to do, it did not lead to success.  In my worst moments, I judged myself and felt judged by others for these disappointment.  I have experienced seasons of depression and even despair at these times.

Children may delay, procrastinate or refuse to do their work.  Children who struggle a lot become disillusioned  because they feel that they have not achieved what their parents expect from them.  This disillusionment creates a block to learning.  Before they even try, they feel “I can’t”.

This homeschool journey often includes failures and disappointments.  We are given moment-by-moment choices, and many times we make choices out of fear and not because we have faith.

May I encourage you to turn to the Lord in times of disappointment.  Ask Him to show you the situation through His eyes.  Trust Him to help you find another way.  Pray for grace to accept situations you cannot change.  Pray for the grace to surrender and the wisdom to learn.

Sending you huge hugs as you face your disappointments.  Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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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,

Nadene

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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!

Why?

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,

Nadene

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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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