Practical Tip ~ Creative Opportunities

We are a very creative family!  Right from the start, I provided art and craft materials and allowed my children much free time to create daily in our homeschooling, which I believe laid the foundation to their  their talent and enjoyment of all things creative.  May I encourage you to do the same?

Homeschool 20154Set up a craft area with supplies to provide creative opportunities for your children.  This is especially good for hands-on activities while the children listen to a read alouds, or for handicraft time in the afternoons.

Art and craft supplies need not be expensive.  I started our collection with a cheap craft purchase here and there each month, and added new, interesting items to our stash to keep my kids excited and stimulated.  I stored these items in Ziploc bags in plastic suitcases, placed in an easily accessible area on the bookshelf.   Read how I organized our art supplies here.1-P1160658-001

Here are 25 art and craft ideas gathered from around the globe on Pinterest ~

  1. Watercolor set, brushes and paper
  2. Wax crayons and watercolor to create wax-resist painting
  3. Giant chalk to create outdoors drawings on concrete floors
  4. Shoestrings and wooden beads
  5. Cheap camera and nature prompt list
  6. Recipes and ingredients
  7. Magazine, scissors and glue to make a collage
  8. Soap block or soft pine wood pieces and carving tools
  9. Wool and pompom maker
  10. Shaving cream, food coloring in a tray to make marbled paper
  11. Lego, cardstock and felt-tipped markers to create a Lego diorama
  12. Flowers and vases or flower press to create a pressed flower collection
  13. Felt, scissors and a felt board
  14. Pipe cleaners and tiny pompoms to create fantasy animals
  15. Sunflower and bean seeds and some small garden  tools
  16. Long piece of cheap fabric, pegs and poles to create a tepee or tent
  17. Tinfoil, card board, glue and string to create foil art
  18. Stamps and stamp pads
  19. Feathers and beads to make necklaces
  20. 51 ideas with shoe boxes
  21. Dress up clothes
  22. Music instruments or let them make their own musical instruments
  23. Twisty balloons
  24. Leaf rubbings with wax crayons
  25. When all else fails – Bored jar with activity ideas
Tips on making art and crafts activities easier ~
  • It is worth spending a while clearly and simply demonstrating to your children how to work with the materials, how to take care with specific things, how to clean up and pack away.
  • Establishing foundation skills with each activity prevents the mess and chaos that most moms hate and therefore avoid doing art and crafts.
  • Purchase some plastic sheeting or cheap painter’s drop cloths to cover the floor if working with messy things.
  • Insist that your children wear an old over-sized T-shirt (my kids loved wearing their dad’s T-shirts) or art smocks or aprons over their clothes.  You can even make aprons out of plastic bags.
  • Set a limit where the activity can take place.  Children may only work in a specific room, on specific tables or floors.  Don’t encourage them to wander around with the supplies.
  • Remind your children to wash paint brushes, close glue tops, pack away when done.
  • Lastly, provide a lovely gallery to display their works of art.

Check out all my art ideas, lesson plans and free downloads on my Art Page.  Have you got any creativity ideas to share with us?  Please share in the comments below.

Here’s wishing you and your family hours and days of fun and creativity!

Blessings, Nadene
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Routine versus Schedule

Homeschooling  works better when you have a plan, and most new homeschool moms feel more secure when they have a detailed schedule.  But in my first year of homeschooling, I was almost a slave to a very detailed schedule, and this approach produced a lot of stress and anxiety.  May I offer you another option?
First, let’s look at the difference between schedule  versus routine ~
schedule (noun) ~ a list of planned activities or things to be done showing the times or dates when they are intended to happen or be done or timetable or  list of the times when events are planned to happen.

versus

routine (noun) ~ a sequence of actions regularly followed or  a usual or fixed way of doing things.

A schedule tells you what to do and when to do it.  It is usually filled with times, lists, blocks, and boxes to tick off.

A routine is a pattern by which you live. It gives structure and order to your day, but it doesn’t dictate exactly when things should be done. It allows you to find a flow that works for you on the day you happen to be living.

By now you have realized that it may be better to follow a routine rather than a schedule as Mary shared at Parnips & Paisley, but when one starts a new educational program or curriculum, a schedule is often necessary to ensure that the work is covered in the allotted time.

If the schedule has you constantly looking at the clock and rushing from one task to the next, and feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you could easily fall into striving and performance instead of enjoying the learning journey, especially if you suffer from perfectionist tendencies,

I tried to schedule everything. I often became discouraged and felt like a failure.  When I decided to ignore the times listed on the schedule and follow the schedule as a suggestion or proposed outline, I immediately felt relieved and revived.  I gained confidence as we gradually found our own basic routine, and I freed myself from the self-inflicted torture that each failed schedule brought.

So, how does one set up a routine?

  1. Decide what is really important such as – building faith, making and eating meals together, working together as a family in caring for home and animals, reading good books, and learning about ___.
  2. Find the time-flow for your family – who is an early riser or who needs more time to wake? When does your family get their best work done? When are their creative times? Homeschooling allows the freedom to set suggested starting times for the different elements of the day.  With young children, it is often best to start early and work until tea-time, lunch and nap times.  Teenagers often move into a very different time flow and this is when it is best to give them the liberty to sleep longer and work later in the day.  Moms, remember to consider your own energy levels!
  3. Identify your important daily events which form pillars in your home such as mealtimes – where activities fit before and after breakfasts, lunches and dinners at more or less the same time each day. We are farmers, and so daily milking forms an important daily event. Create your routine around these times.
  4. Create habits – start with your important daily events and add the most important activities  around those; such as morning chores before breakfast, school seat-work before lunch, creative hobbies after lunch, pack away before dinner, etc.  Keep it simple and don’t throw everything in it at once. Once your family find their flow in those elements, you have space to add more things in. Stick to it to create habit.
  5. Be flexible. This may seem to be contradictory, but if your routine isn’t clicking and something feels off, adapt or change it. You are the ruler of the routine, it shouldn’t rule you. If one day you feel like straying completely from the norm, by all means, do it. Those days make life memorable. You are in charge. You don’t need to worry that you’ve blown it, the set routine will be back tomorrow.
  6. Daily themes 2015Offer options and extras such as different themes for each day.  This was a wonderful way to fit in all the extra subjects in our homeschooling without feeling overwhelmed.
  7. Add freedom and create space for your children to explore their gifts, passions, interests and talents.  Let them be bored.  Offer them the materials and some inspiration and see what they create!

Here’s to you finding your rhythm and flow in your homeschool days!  May you homeschool in grace.  Feel free to share your family’s routines and schedules in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

Beatitudes Copywork Pages

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contain His “Blessed are …” blessings called The Beatitudes, one of the most loved portions of the Gospel.

Jesus describes a character trait or action that is often not associated with blessedness. He then describes the reward or blessing of such people who follow God’s ways.

I have created these Beatitude Copywork pages which include a detailed discussion of Charlotte Mason’s Copywork approach, the full Beatitude Scripture followed by a copywork page for each verse with a personal response or interpretive writing prompts.

Charlotte Mason’s  Copywork lessons are power-packed and very naturally offer short lessons where the child can practice beautiful handwriting, develop correct grammar and improve spelling, increase vocabulary, and seamlessly teach good writing style.

More importantly, these Scripture Copywork lessons provide an opportunity for your child to learn, understand, memorize and make the Scriptures a meaningful personal part of their lives. (Read this post describing Copywork stages in detail.)

Back in 2010 I created a Beatitudes slide strip page to help memorize the scriptures.

The child inserts the 2 strips and slides them to match.

 

For greater mastery,  when the child knows the verses well, she can leave one strip out and memorize the missing part of each verse.

A great way to help memorize the scriptures.

 

For fun, I made a Matching Beatitudes Card Game.  Here 2 or more people can play “memory” with the Beatitudes cards.

 

Here are your  Free Beatitude pages ~

Pop over to my Copywork Pages for all my other free downloads.

Blessings, Nadene

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Tip ~ Bedtime Moments

I found bedtimes to be a good time to build relationships, deepen our understanding of each other and to even cover some of the reading we had on our homeschool schedule.  Here’s some of our bedtime activities ~

  1. Read alouds at bedtime – Often this was with just one child, but in the seasons where my daughters shared a room, they would both listen to the story before sleeping.  I usually read their fiction books in our curriculum at bedtime.  Night-time story time helped me keep our school time shorter in the mornings.   Bedtime stories also sometimes helped me catch up if there were interruptions during the day.  Read alouds are our homeschool glue and often saved our days! We read books when all else failed. We love reading any story.  It didn’t have to be a book from the school schedule.  Regularly reading good stories built a love for reading and a love for books in our family.
  2. Reviews and oral narrations – Narrations or telling-back is a very natural way for a child to relate what they understood and remembered from the read alouds.  At bedtime, lying cuddled together in bed, my daughters seemed so relaxed and thoughtful, and they could easily tell me what they learnt from the read aloud.  Charlotte Mason’s narrations are power-packed with skills and narrations are a fabulous way to assess your child’s learning.
  3. Best and Worst moments – Nighttime reflection is a wonderful way to connect with your child’s experiences through the day.  It is a good time to listen to their happy moments, their joys, their delights, as well as their fears, hurts and disappointments.  I reflected back what they just told me by saying what they said in my own words, without commenting, e.g. “You really loved playing at the pond today…”  Or I acknowledged their feelings without judgement, saying, “You must have felt really mad when …”  which helped them feel that I hear and understood them.  It is a very important way to validate and empathize with your children., building strong, trusting relationships.
  4. Pray together – Night time prayers flow so easily from #3 “Best and Worst Moments“, praising and thanking the Lord for all the best and praying over the worst.  Teach your child to be thankful.  Thankfulness and gratitude are powerful resources to motivation and health.  Teach your child how to forgive others, to ask for forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.  Dealing with challenging circumstances, difficulties, challenges, or repeated failures is very hard for a child.  Praying together over any of these issues helps your child roll the burden onto the Lord, to learn to trust Him and to know that your child is not working through these things alone.
  5. Affirm and encourage – Bedtime is one of the best times to affirm and encourage your child.  Focus on building up your child with positive affirmations and genuine, focused acknowledgements of your child’s character, personality and her importance to you and others.  Again, relationships are key, but this is also a good time to acknowledge where your child did something well, accomplished something challenging or coped with some difficulty.  Long after the lights are out, as your child lingers in the dark, falling asleep, these words penetrate deeply and are the final thoughts for the day.
  6. Ideas for the next day –  Talk about the upcoming events, or meetings with others,  or dentist appointments, etc. at night gave my child the time to prepare emotionally.  I found this very helpful, especially for my more anxious child. Sometimes we would talk about how a meeting with so-and-so would go, imagining and talking about how to handle the situation. Sometimes using humor made these discussions funny and gave a different perspective to something my child felt anxious about.  It was a good time to gently discuss my expectations about my child’s behaviour, being very positive and encouraging.
  7. Bedtime notebooks – Once your child can write, we enjoyed private and very special notebooks which we would slip under each other’s pillows at night.  I treasure their deeply personal letters.  They often shared things we could not speak about.  This is really valuable when children reach their tweens and teen years.

My children really valued these special night-time moments together with me and generally we would be done by 8:30pm, but  I must confess that I did not cope well as a mom after 9:00pm.  By then I was exhausted and I needed time to be alone with my hubby and to have some time by myself.

There were times where dad took over their  bedtime routine  and his bedtimes with the kids was very different from mine.  He often was louder, funnier and their bedtimes activities were often far more physical.  They often spent their time with dad doing tickles, wrestles, pillow fights and jokes. They loved him reading funny stories, usually with sound effects, and they would eventually go to sleep, happy and exhausted, which was a win for me!

What special moments do you have with your children?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Trusting your family has very blessed bedtimes.

In Grace, Nadene

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Making Adjustments

Encouraging new homeschool moms, and moms starting a new curriculum ~ You may need to adjust or adapt your homeschool approach, content, schedule and expectations.

Sometimes, a little tweak will provide the necessary space and grace to accomplish the work without undue stress and frustration.  When you or your child  experience some of these negative emotions on a daily basis,  you may need to make some more serious adjustments.

Here are a few Charlotte Mason-inspired suggestions ~

Size
P1070277One of the simplest ways to tweak the content is to select its size.  For example:

  • Narrations = decide how much you will read before asking for a narration.  Start with a paragraph before moving on to a full chapter.
  • Adjust the length of copywork = give shorter selections, especially for a young child who is still learning to master his handwriting.
  • Adjust dictation passages = adjust the size of the passage to fit your child’s reading fluency or adjust the size of the phrases you dictate for her to write.  Adjust the length as the child’s confidence strengthens.
  • Any other lesson or activity = select the amount work that the child does to suit their ability; tick off the maths problems or draw a line under the work needed for that day.

Highlight

Assist your young or struggling child by writing out the key words or important ideas from the passage.  As your child matures and manages to remember the content and details of the chapter, he will make these notes himself and eventually rely on mental memory rather than notes to recall his narrations.  An effective spotlight will allow the student to think for himself and make his own personal relations, and not be ‘spoon-fed’.

  • Create a word bank with key words on a board, or create a short list to spotlight the key ideas of the passage.  This list provides reminders for the child’s narration.
  • Use textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.  Here the child highlights the most important ideas, in different colours, to help note key concepts.
  • Number the correct sequence to help keep events in the correct order = or use these sequential clues = “First, this happened. Then …  After that, such-and-such happened … Finally…”  This helps a child remember the story sequence.
  • 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.
  • Spotlight specific topics  in subject = a specific focus in nature study.
  • Spotlight specific techniques used in handicrafts or art instruction.

Substitute

2013-06-17 21.37.09Adjust the content of your curriculum with through substitutions.  Here, the library may provide your best options:

  • Substitute a different book for your student. It should be a well-written living book, one that contains worthy thoughts well put and inspiring tales well told.  Find a story that “clicks” with your child.
  • Grade up or down as needed.
  • Personalize mental math by substituting names of people or objects in your child’s life according to  their personal interests.
  • Substitute the pictures you use for picture study.  Feel free to substitute a different work by the same artist.  You want your child to connect with the artist and his works.  I often provide 6 examples and allow my child to choose the 4 we will study each week for that month.
  • 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!

Speed
My golden rule = Add more time!  Adjust the speed at which you move through the lessons especially with skill-based subjects  such as math or language arts skills like reading, writing, and grammar.

  • Don’t move on to the next concept until your child has a comfortable grasp of the current one.
  • So much of math and language arts builds step by step: the next concept that will be introduced depends on mastery of the current concept. So don’t get in a hurry.
  • Charlotte believed strongly that math and language arts lessons must proceed at each child’s speed, regardless of what grade level he might be:

“In grammar (English and foreign) and in mathematics there must be no gaps. Children must go on from where they left off, but they will be handicapped in the future unless they can do the work set for this Form” (PNEU Programmes 90–94, May—July 1921 through December 1922).

  • Adjust the curriculum to go at your child’s pace. It is more important that your child understands the concept than that you check off the lesson as done.  
  • Add other exercises from alternative books or games to practice more on certain skills or activities.

Here are several posts I have written on this topic over the years ~

Hopefully the examples shared above will give you some ideas of how you can adjust the size, spotlight key concepts, make personalized substitutions, or adjust the speed of the content as you use Charlotte’s wonderful methods with your student.

Blessings, Nadene
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CM Too Simple?

Any homeschool parent who is new to Charlotte Mason’s methods could say,

“Surely it couldn’t be this easy and enjoyable?” 

Well, after applying her methods and principles in our homeschooling for over 20 years, I can honestly say, it can be simple, easy and enjoyable!

A Charlotte Mason approach mostly depends on great authors and living books to do much of the teaching, taking the pressure off the parent to be the “fountain-head of all knowledge”.  In fact, Ms Mason instructed the parent to not “get in the way” of a child’s learning.  Her methods gently leads the student to become a self-learner and to love learning.

Based on short lessons with expectation of full attention and best effort on the part of the student,  a CM education focuses on quality over quantity and eliminates all  the busy work and boring worksheets and textbooks,

Charlotte explained, “We are able to get through a greater variety of subjects, and through more work in each subject, in a shorter time than is usually allowed, because children taught in this way get the habit of close attention and are carried on by steady interest” (School Education, p. 240).

Narrations eliminate any need for tests and exams. After listening attentively to the chapter, the child tells back what they remember and understood.  This method is deceptively simple and profoundly effective. Read more here and find a collection of over 100 narration ideas here.

A Charlotte Mason education is rich and wide, offering learning in foreign languages, Nature Study and an emphasis on the Fine Arts. Ms Mason recommended daily time spent outdoors in nature.  Her students kept nature journals and learnt about biology and botany from detailed their observations and reference books.  In a short weekly Fine Arts lesson, her children were regularly exposed to famous musicians, classical music, famous artists and their masterpieces, as well as poetry and Shakespeare in a very simple and enjoyable way.

I discovered that  reading living books was the key to keeping our homeschooling simple and enjoyable.  Good literature, well-written stories, diverse subject matter, noble ideals, following a character’s struggles or discoveries, and exposure to complex vocabulary offered daily opportunity to learn and grow.  It is really that simple and it works.

So don’t make it harder than it is by teaching your children the way you were taught in school. Try and trust and enjoy this delightful way of learning and living alongside your child—the Charlotte Mason way!

Blessings, Nadene

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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