Figuring It Out

I need to whisper this …

I’m feeling insecure about highschool homeschooling …Exam stress

I’m trying to figure things out and I do not know quite how, or what or where or when …

I’m feeling unsure, uncertain and ill-equipped.

These moments are written in my homeschooling script, and it often feels awful.  You too, right?

Please ignore all my homeschool posts where you think that I have it all together.  I like to feel organized and in control.  I prefer to be one step ahead and prepared, but instead, I have found homeschooling my high schoolers to be a lot more complex and complicated.

They are complex and complicated at times, especially when they are transitioning through puberty.  Physical and emotional changes cause moods swings and their changed perspective (especially when they realise mom and dad are not perfect and definitely don’t know everything!) causes the simple and normal to shift off-kilter.  They are insecure and withdraw.  They think more and need time and space to mull and ponder.  They need peers and close friends. They need grace.

Homeschool is no longer about fun little unit studies, delight-directed learning or creative days, or reading poetry while lying under trees and or meandering on nature walks and journalling.  Now, academics has become an issue.   Correspondence courses, curriculums, subject choices, aptitude tests and narrowing choices. exams and qualifications all rear their ugly side –pass or fail!  And what about the question of what is the best option for their future?

Right now, our struggle is an online high school course that doesn’t “teach” the way my teen learns and she’s struggling every day and especially during her tests … and I can’t actually help her.  Yikes!  She’s frustrated, angry and afraid.  I’m frustrated, angry and afraid.  Not a good mix for serene homeschooling!  She hates failing some of her tests and she often feels unmotivated and depressed.  And while this is front-and-centre of our homeschooling, there are larger uncertainties that lurk behind the exams and passing or failing.  What next in her life?

I’m trying to figure it out!

And no one really and truly prepared me for this complexity of this phase.

There must be a formula, right?

Well, here’s a truth — I will have to figure out what each child needs at each age and stage.  Each child is different and we will have to navigate their academic and career choices and options.

There is no “right way” except to pray and ask the Lord for His wisdom and His purpose for each child.  I need to pray that I find grace to let my children become who they are meant to be and help guide them to fulfill their giftings and calling.  How can I best encourage their character growth before I stress about their qualifications and careers?  Matric (high school graduation) is just a stepping stone to their next stage.  What is my teen’s best options for further study or growth?

Each person is unique.  Everyone deserves to develop, to change, to start over.  I’m just figuring it out … and praying and trusting for God’s grace …

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Practical Tip ~ Rolodex

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~  (Revisiting my organization archives)

Rolodex

Years ago I bought an amazing organization book called Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield  (ISBN 1-55870-361-6) where she recommends filing recipes on a Rolodex.  I started mine too, way back in 2000.

Advantages of the Rolodex Recipe System ~

  • Easy to file and organize
  • Rolodex file is compact and doesn’t take up valuable counter top space
  • Recipe is visible; just press open at the card you need
  • When several people bake or cook at the same time, we each take our recipe card out and place it at our work station
  • Add new recipe cards  – quick and simple
  • New recipes are put up on the fridge.  If you haven’t cooked or baked it in 10 days – toss it out!  A great motivator!  If it works – simply file it.
  • The Rolodex holds stacks and stacks of recipes
  • Keep blank cards in your handbag to jot new recipes when waiting or visiting friends
  • In recent years I have added my Trim Healthy Mama and Low Carb recipes on yellow cards so that they stand out from my older, conventional recipes.

Some negatives ~

  • It seems a schlep to rewrite recipes, but I sat for a few hours each evening many years ago and wrote out my favorite recipes.  Now I sit with my blank cards when I read a new cookbook, and quickly jot down the new recipe and give it a try!
  • Because the cards are small, I abbreviate the recipe, especially the method.  This was fine until my younger kids started to cook and bake.  I simply rewrote some cards, and with experience and one-on-one training they master the abbreviated recipes.
  • Some cards have become smudged – use a waterproof pen!

How did I file my recipes?  I added colored stickers and labels to cards to separate the different groups.

  • A = conversions & substitutes
  • B = Biscuits, Breads, Baking ~ Crumpets, Dumplings, Muffins, Rusks, Scones
  • C = Cakes
  • D = Desserts, Dairy
  • E = Egg dishes
  • F = Fish
  • H = Herbs
  • J = Juicing, Jams, Jewish cooking
  • L = Lunches
  • M = Meat ~ Chicken, Lamb, Mince, Meat casseroles,
  • O = Other ~ play dough, salt dough, bath salts, bubbles, homemade soaps, dog food etc.
  • P = Pasta, Pastry, Pancakes, Pies
  • Q = Quiche & tarts
  • R = Rice
  • S = Salads, Sauces, Soups, Sweets
  • T = Tuna
  • V = Vegetables
  • W = Washing soap, laundry soaps

Nowadays everything is online, electronic, super-technical, Internet-based.  Many moms swear by their Kindles and iPad for their recipes. There are also amazing websites for menu planning and online recipe storage, but my Rolodex Recipe system serves me well and I don’t need to recharge it!

This system could work for other subjects too.  What about using a Rolodex instead of an index box for Scripture Memorization?

Happy organizing!  Blessings, Nadene

 

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Practical Tip – Google Calendar

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~Google CalendarWhen I started planning my own eclectic homeschool curriculums to tailor-make each child’s education, I found Google Calendar such a practical help.

I must add though, that I use Google calendar only for planning and not as a daily/ weekly/ monthly tool, and I still prefer a paper printout for record-keeping, rather than enter it on the Google calendar.

Here are some benefits of Google calendar:

 

  • Create a calendar for each child. (Create each calendar in a different color.)
  • Enter all school holidays to create school terms.
  • Copy your school calendar to any other calendar you create.
  • Type in monthly themes/ topics/ subjects across the year. This quickly produces your year plan.
  • Assign a color for each subject. (On the calendar it shows as a colored bar, on the printout it is a small rounded square of color.)
  • Enter subjects as an event.
  • Click for repeated themes or lessons – Google calendar offers daily, specific days each week, all work-days, weekly, monthly etc.
  • In the “Descriptions” box, add lessons, chapters & pages to the basic lesson entry. It may be easy to type in the book title for all and then go back to each repeat lesson to add the specific chapter and page numbers.
  • Also add website links, documents, files and notes for each lesson in the description box.
  • Attach files. I love this feature as I can organize my downloads to each lesson and print out lapbooks, maps, pictures later when I prepare for the month ahead.
  • Easily drag and move “events” to new dates when children “fall behind” or need more time on something.
  • Teens with their own Gmail accounts access their own calendars and work independently.
  • Calendars available for everyone when doing chores help collect library books, plan while at appointments or synchronize outings and family events.
  • Under Tasks add further details for the day – complete and hand in a lapbook/ do a review or a test.  Tasks appear in a clear list next to a calendar.
  • Reminders can easily be added in the edit form – either as an email or a pop-up.  (I chose a pop-up because I don’t want my inbox cluttered with reminders.)
  • Print out the calendar.  You can select daily, weekly, the agenda, or monthly view, or even a specific range of dates.
  • Completed calendars are the record of work!  Easy-peasy!

Read my full Google calendar posts ~

Blessings to my Northern Hemisphere readers, as you plan and start your new school year!

 

 

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Natural Language Arts

Most people think of Language Arts as a formal, tedious grammar program. but essentially, language flows naturally from listening and mimicking (copying) and speaking to reading and writing.  (Think how a baby learns to speak.)

Reading good literature is the best way to learn grammar.  Using living books and reading aloud regularly, your child  will not require formal instruction to naturally learn new vocabulary and the essential grammar concepts for quite a few years.

Begin this natural language learning with this simple Charlotte Mason approach = Read aloud + active listening followed by oral narrations (retelling the story in their own words).  For older children, continue with dictated narrations (child tells the story while mom jots or types it word for word.   (Read my post Mom the Narrations Scribe) and finally the child’s own written narrations.  No formal written Language Art lessons yet.

I discovered how true this was when my preschooler narrated the story I had just read aloud to her.   When she retold the story, she used an unusual, new word, “skittered”.  She enjoyed this lovely, descriptive word in the story and made it her own in her narration.   A 4-year-old can narrate with detail and passion!  Read how I capture preschoolers and junior schooler’s narrations in a jotter.

You can start some Copywork once your child starts mastering their handwriting.  Select a simple sentence or two, such as a memory verse or from a reader and encourage your child to first read it aloud and then copy it out neatly.  This daily practice reinforces meaningful handwriting practice, but, more importantly, it provides daily examples of good language and sentence structure.  You’ll be amazed how such a simple activity can build your child’s own language and writing skills!  (You can find loads of my free copywork pages here.)

Wait until your child is about 9  or 10 years old before including formal grammar rules and language art lessons.  Use extracts from their current read aloud (or other suitable examples) and examine the building blocks; the formal aspects of how the sentences are built and arranged.

Now, don’t get too stressed about what extract to use.  Your extract can be anything simple.  Bible verses, memory verses, famous quotes, poems or simply a sentence or two from the real aloud will be good.  I must emphasize that this is the great part of this natural language learning = it is meaningfully in context.  In other words, your child is not doing numbered sentences or lists applying a rule to random sentences, but can see its significance and importance in the relevant extract.

Ruth Beechick’s “A Strong Start in Language” (ISBN number in my Book List page) is perhaps the best simple book on how to teach language!  Ruth Beeschick gives loads of basic examples, lays out all the suggested grade levels and makes simple and easy-to-apply suggestions.  With this book in hand, you can create all your children’s language arts lessons! 

Note:  Do language arts as a short separate lesson and not while reading aloud.  If you constantly pepper reading aloud with grammar and vocabulary extension tips and lessons, you will kill your child’s enjoyment and frustrate their listening.  I did this in my early years of “mom-the-teacher” enthusiasm and in my desire not to “miss a learning moment”.  Silly me.   When I learnt to trust a child’s natural learning process through listening, reinforced with short, sweet separate LA activities, I relaxed and let the reading flow.

What are the basic Language Arts?  Grammar is the building blocks of language. Essentially it is not necessary to get too technical and do sentence analysis and sentence diagraming.  Simply let your child find the proper nouns or nouns/ or verbs/ adjectives/ etc. in the given extract.  My kids loved underlining, circling, boxing, ticking or highlighting the correct words.  They enjoyed drawing ticks and arrows above punctuation marks.

LA 001

an example of what my kids called “circles and squiggles” LA

Include some word searches, dictionary work, finding or writing their own antonyms and synonyms and you have a great vocabulary extension exercise.

LA 001-001

Look up definitions in a dictionary, or find/ match words to their meanings or find antonyms and synonyms expands a child’s vocabulary!

Then, importantly, encourage your child to apply this in their written work.  I often include a “make it your own” prompt and encourage creative writing.

Another important note:  Don’t kill your child’s own written narrations with grammar corrections! No one enjoys seeing red pen marks all over their work!  Make a side note when you notice repeated, glaring and important grammar mistakes in your child’s written narrations and then find examples in extracts from readers to point out the grammar rule.  in a short copywork exercise, let your child practice this rule and then encourage them to apply it to their written work.  Keep reinforcing the grammar activity until you see that they have understood and can apply it naturally in their writing.

Be creative with language arts.  Use relevant magazine and newspaper articles or comic strips, especially for older children.  (Read my suggestions for a Charlotte Mason approach for Remedial Course For Older Children.)

Once you embrace the nature language learning method, you can apply short, formal English lessons to the same extract for 5 days, focusing on new skills each day as follows:

  • Monday = Copywork  (copy the passage, taking note of new, unknown words, sentence structure and punctuation)
  • Tuesday = Language Arts  (analyzing the grammar elements)
  • Wednesday = Vocabulary Extension and Spelling (learn thematic words, work on spelling rules or spelling lists)
  • Thursday = Creative Writing (apply the concept from the extract or reader in a creative written exercise)
  • Friday = Dictation (The child reads and learns the extract each day and now writes it as a formal dictation without looking at the passage)

These are all about a 10-minute lesson.  Keep your formal English lessons short and sweet!

I trust that this post encourages homeschool parents who feel concerned about their child’s formal language arts.  Relax.  Trust me.  It will work!

In Grace, Nadene

 

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Practical Tip Book of Centuries for mom and kids

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Book of Centuries

A Charlotte Mason education includes a Book of Centuries.  Following Ms Mason’s approach, children enter records, illustrate and write brief notes and mark dates of famous people, events, wars, eras, inventions and significant breakthroughs in their Book of Centuries as they study.  https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/p1070785.jpg?w=373&h=280

For a young child, a visual timeline  chart or line along a wall or around a room is best.  It gives a child a bird’s-eye view of events in time; with Biblical and ancient history starting way back, with modern and current dates stretching out.  My young kids loved pasting the pictures on our timeline that went all around our room!  Finding the right date and placing for the picture on the timeline was an excellent introduction activity to a lesson or theme.

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/p1100650.jpg?w=348&h=261Middlesdchoolers enjoy their own book or notebook version.    Older children enjoy adding their own notes and illustrations or clip art.  Allow your children freedom to express their thoughts and details in their own, personal way.  Some kids prefer pasting clip art and drawing pictures, while others like to write lists.  I often provided a detailed timeline for specific themes, like World War ll, for example, which can be folded and pasted onto the relevant BOC page.  Over the years, their books fill up and become a wonderful reflection of the history they have studied.  This activity is an excellent conclusion to a theme or topic.

I wrote a post on how you can make you own very cheap, frugal Book Of Centuries using a store-bought notebook, or convert a spiral bound book into a BOC. This post includes the spacing and page layout suggestions.

I wrote about my joy of using a Book of Century as a mother’s record of work and I still love browsing through my BOC and delight in the scope and richness of the education we have journeyed through these 19+ years.  (In response to @Leanne’s comment about not having kept her own records in her BOC, I wrote, “@Leanne, If this is an idea you enjoy, just go ahead and do it! I “caught up” my BOC in one afternoon a few years ago! I simply took each History Core book we had studied and wrote in all the events, wars and famous people studied. The next day I took my Art Era Timelime and cut it up and pasted all the thumbnail-sized pictures in the main art eras, included all the famous art works and artists, and my BOC was instantly filled with color and info! In fact, if this is something your kids have let slide, it makes a good recap and overview activity which they might also enjoy!)

Here are some links and free Book Of Centuries downloads:

Wishing you every blessing, Nadene

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Practical Tip – Storage Box

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Storage BoxWhen my kids were young,  I found that a chair bag hanging on each child’s chair was such a practical help, but as my kids have become teens and work more independently,  fabric storage boxes has helped improve our school organization tremendously.

  • Each child has their own box to coral their notebooks, current books, Maths sets and stationary bags and personal art sets.  The box is on their bookshelf next to current curriculum books, reference books and notebook files.
  • My personal storage box holds my sketch books, art sets, nature journal and current book or project I am working on.
  • Store nature study equipment and nature finds 20151210_180918
  • Pack out current theme’s books or reference materials
  • Keep each person’s ongoing projects corralled and on hand
  • Fabric color matches my study decor and looks attractive on the bookshelves
  • When not needed, they fold up flat for easy packing.
  • Once a quarter, each child goes through their own box to purge, file or reorganize.  Mom’s might have to help younger children clear their boxes if they become a dump zone.

Hope this practical tip helps you keep your work space organized!

In Grace, Nadene

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Room for schoolroom?

A reader asked,
“My rental home is tiny and we don’t know if we can homeschool as we are supposed to. What suggestions do you have?”

2-20150123_065051Many new homeschool parents have a “school-at-home” mindset.  I was your typical first-time homeschool mom who took great pride in setting up a whiteboard and neat, organized schoolroom, only to find that we spent most our time together on the couch in the livingroom!  When your children are very young, there is no need to set up any formal schooling room or space.   Life is the lesson,  and your approach should be to provide  your children ample opportunity to explore and discover.  Add some good children’s story books to read aloud, and you have a wonderful, diverse, informal education.

Learning takes place everywhere, all the time.  I would recommend a low table and chairs for toddlers to play, paint, build on and do pre-writing activities.  You can place this in any suitable spot in your home.  Keep all your children’s supplies, books and equipment in a basket or on a shelf, low enough for the littlest child to reach.

We once travelled around South Africa for a year and a half with our kids who were then Pre-school, Grade 2 and Grade 7 ( Pre-school, Junior and Middle schoolers).  We packed our homeschool basics in a small suitcase and followed a very relaxed schedule.  Some weeks were filled with long car journeys and visits, while other weeks we were more settled at the places that we stopped at for a while.  Despite my fears that we would “fall behind”,  we didn’t!  We had no school room or special space to “do school”.  My kids journalled or did school work at the diningroom table or on the patio table.  I learnt how little one really needs to have a rich, rewarding education.

High school children need their own independent learning space to do their work.  They may need a laptop and desk in their rooms, and then they can join the family for read alouds, fine arts and crafts and hobbies.  We have one desktop computer in the study for all online schooling, research and printing needs.  This makes the study our schoolroom, but we still remain flexible and fluid in our working space and habits. Essentially, our study is a storage depot with space to be creative!

In my experience, any table with chairs become the schooling area.  You may need to come up with creative storage plans so that everyone can quickly pack away their stuff if the table is needed for meals.  Baskets, storage boxes, a bookshelf, a suitcase, chair bags, a trolley or cupboard can help keep things organized and on hand.

All good homeschooling families need maximum space for books!  Build and buy good, big bookshelves because your home library will grow over the next few years!

But, if you ever move to a larger home, I’m sure you will be relieved to have a study/ school/ hobby area dedicated to your homeschool needs.  And there are plenty of inspirational pictures and ideas of wonderful homeschool rooms on Pinterest and Google.  It will all depend on the seasons in your homeschool journey.

Hope this post encourages you to start anywhere, anytime, with no devoted school room.   What suggestions do you have for this new homeschool mom?  Please share your ideas in the comments.

Wishing you every blessing in your homeschool journey! Nadene

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Practical Tip – Robounder

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Mini trampoline

Use a mini trampoline in your homeschool!

Children love to jump around and little kids need to move physically  and let off some steam!  Children are naturally energetic and suffer when kept still too long!

Here’s some rebounding tips ~ 

  • A mini trampoline is an excellent tool for quick breaks between lessons, e.g.: “Jump and sing the ____ song and then come back to the table.”
  • Jump and do drillsMaths skip counting/ time tables drills/ spelling/ memorizing is enhanced by jumping and clapping, e.g.: “Jump and count to hundred in tens. Now count back in tens from a hundred .”
  • Use the mini trampoline to teach time or directions or compass points, e.g.: “Jump to the north/ south/ east/west “… or “Jump to 3 o’clock/ to 6 o’clock.”  (I stick the labels with numbers or compass names on the frame.)
  • Excellent for fun arrows exercises to teach directionality and spatial awareness, e.g.: point on the arrow chart to indicate – “Jump left! Jump right!  Jump back!  Jump forward!”
  • Jumping is energizing for tired, listless or ‘bored’ children. (Does that ever happen in your homeschool?)
  • Rebounding helps with improved memory skills.
  • Rebounding calms hyperactive children.
  • Bouncing is FUN!
  • It is quiet, fairly small and easy to move.
  • It is great for rainy days and when children can’t go play outside.
  • It is great for moms!  Exercise right near your kids!

Rebounding has several vital health-giving properties.

  • It increases the capacity for breathing.
  • It circulates more oxygen to the tissues.
  • It helps combat depression.
  • It helps normalize your blood pressure.
  • It helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • It increases the activity of the red bone marrow in the production of red blood cells.
  • It aids lymphatic circulation, as well as blood flow in the veins of the circulatory system.
  • It lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • It stimulates the metabolism, thereby reducing the likelihood of obesity.
  • It tones up the glandular system, especially the thyroid to increase its output.
  • It improves coordination throughout the body.
  • It promotes increased muscle fiber tone.
  • It offers relief from neck and back pains, headaches, and other pain caused by lack of exercise.
  • It enhances digestion and elimination processes.
  • It allows for easier relaxation and sleep.
  • It results in a better mental performance, with sharper learning processes.
  • It relieves fatigue and menstrual discomfort for women.
  • It minimizes the number of colds, allergies, digestive disturbances, and abdominal prroblems.
  • It tends to slow down aging.

Read why rebounding is so beneficial.  Explore Rebounding on Pinterest.

Wishing you much bouncy joy in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

Starting but overwhelmed by choice?

Recently a reader wrote and asked me ~

“I want to start homeschooling my 7 year-old but I am over whelmed by all the curriculum choices. What would you recommend?”

May I first say that this is not a simple choice, nor a quick one.  Many new homeschoolers feel the pressure to …

  1. Start straight away
  2. Spend money on the “right” curriculum
  3. Make choices that avoid “failing” their children and the family
  4. Don’t trust the child’s natural built-in desire to learn
  5. Feel overwhelmed because so many approaches seem good.

But don’t!  Take a deep breath …. let it out slowly … and relax.  This process is like planning a wonderful overseas journey with your entire family, and your planning may take weeks or months to refine and finalize before you leap on to the plane and take off!

Here’s a few guidelines ~

  • Start with prayer and ask the Lord to show you what His vision is for you, your family and your child.
  • Visit other homeschooling families. You can quickly discern approached that make your heart leap with joy, or squirm with a clear “no”.   The family I first visited was so strict and rigid and demanding, that I thought, “No way … I can’t do that!”  The second family were so relaxed and unscheduled that I felt confused and insecure.  I realized that I was looking for some regular structure but with creative freedom.   This defining thought helped refine my focus.
  • Read good homeschooling books. My favourites = “For The Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and the “The Whole Hearted Child” by Clay Clarkson.
  • Research the Internet –  look at different approaches, learning and teaching styles, costs, times and schedules …  (see the list below and the references at the end)
  • Gradually you will find a sense of fear and dread or a feeling  of peace and excitement  with each approach.  Ignore any approaches that make you fearful or stressed and follow-up on those approaches that stimulate and excite you.  Follow your heart and be led by peace.  In my experience, this is often how the Lord leads me.
  • I really urge parents to consider their teaching and parenting styles in this decision too.  Many homeschool moms start with stressful, demanding homeschool curriculums and are “burnt out” in the first months!
  • f your children are very young, please don’t buy the expensive “bells-and-whistled” boxed curriculum for each child.  Find something simple that all your kids can enjoy together and ease into your formal schooling gently.
  • This is a journey and will change and evolve.  Nothing is cast in stone.

There are different approaches ~

  • Traditional school-at-Home – usually has separate textbooks and workbooks for the various school subjects. You read the assigned chapter in the textbook and answer the questions about the content. Usually the workbooks contain fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions –  Abeka, ACE, Alpha Omega, Bob Jones.  Many parents select this as a “safe-tried-and-tested” method.  I
  • Unit Studiestakes take a theme or topic and incorporate all the school subjects (language arts, history, science, music, art, etc.) into that topic, such as  Konos, Delight DIrected Studies
  • Eclectic Homeschooling – is basically a hodge-podge of several different styles of learning. Sometimes referred to as “Relaxed Homeschooling”, the Eclectic Homeschool parent forms his/her own homeschool approach from a variety of sources in the way of ideas, curriculum, and methodology.
  • Unschooling – also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Unschooling basically goes with the interests of the child. There is no set curriculum.
  • Classical Homeschooling – also called “The Socratic Method” is based on the Trivium, a method of teaching children according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development (concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking).- Dorothy Sayers
  • The Charlotte Mason Method – uses rich literature and “living books” rather than textbooks or dumbed-down twaddle, giving him a broad education. Her approach works with the way children naturally learn and presents a generous curriculum, including nature study, art and music appreciation, and handicrafts, as well as the usual academic subjects.
  • You can also find other curriculums with these approaches – The Waldorf Method, Montessori, Multiple Intelligences, DVD/Video Schooling, Internet Homeschooling, Delayed Academics: (Dr. Raymond Moore)

Give yourself time to work through this process. Sometimes it can take weeks or even months.   In the mean time don’t worry about your child falling behind.  Choose a great literature book and read aloud to your child and let him follow his interests before you leap in a buy a curriculum.  He will not fall behind!

Here are some more references:

Encouraging you in grace, Nadene

Busy Bags

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Busy Bags

A question new homeschool moms often ask veteran homeschoolers is,

How do I keep my toddler busy while I teach the older kids?

Most moms of toddlers, trying to homeschool older children, find themselves constantly diverted to direct or keep toddlers quietly busy while older children work and find themselves frustrated and exhausted.

Busy Bags are the answer!  These toddler activity bags are wonderful for other times too, like travelling, church, doctor’s waiting rooms and restaurants.  May I add that grannies or babysitters can enjoy pulling out a busy bag when toddlers come to visit!

Having a stash of busy bags in rotation can bring some calm and sanity for at least some of the morning.

Here’s some tips ~

  • First find some suitable ideas.  Pinterest and Google searches will provide endless ideas for every age group.
  • Vary the type of activity.  Sorting, colors, arranging, grouping are very similar.  Try include activities for all senses, new skills like threading, counting, creative play and pre-writing skills.
  • Pack away bags!  These are for formal learning time and not for general play.  They are your focussed homeschool time.  If toddlers play with them when ever they chose, they will be bored with them at school time.
  • Rotate bags every week.
  • Share your resources with another mom or your group.   This will provide a wonderful variety and collection in a very short time.  If there are 3 moms in the group, each mom makes 3 copies of each activity.  Then at the next get-together, give a quick demo and swap and share with the others.  Sometimes these meetings provide  new, additional concepts or applications for the activity that we could use or adapt.
  • Store busy bags in a basket high up on a shelf, or in a box, or drawer and take out the bags for the day.  See examples at Small Potatoes and  All Our Days
  • Train your toddler.  Show them where to sit and how to do the activity.  Importantly, teach them to pack away everything afterwards before taking out the next bag.
  • Toddlers love repetition.   Don’t worry about their request to do the activity over and over.  They love the feeling of mastery.  When they are done, they usually have learnt the skill and are ready to move on.
  • If the activity doesn’t “work” or “fit” your toddler’s ability or interest, gently and quietly pack it away for a few months and try again later.
  •  Similarly to the workbox method of preparing activities for each child for the week, busy bags  can be adapted for older children when they are finished their work and are waiting for mom’s attention.
  • Older children’s activity bags could include recipe card and ingredients, science experiment equipment with instructions, sewing, beading or craft kits, memorization cards, project or hands-on activity instructions, maths drills or something simple and fun!

Hope these tips help you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

 

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