Anticipate the Empty Nest

The sand in my youngest’s daughter’s homeschool hourglass is swiftly running through the hole as she is busy preparing for her final year of homeschooling and I know that my years as a homeschool mom are fast coming to an end.  I pray that we will end it properly, for her, but more importantly, well for me.

Because she has studied independently for several years now, she freed me up to start to follow my own interests, hobbies and work while I am still available in the study with her while she works.

Steven Lambert wrote in Life After Homeschool on Five In A Row Facebook page,

These days are long, but the years are short. The homeschool years go by so quickly. Empty nesting is a challenge for EVERY mother. 

As each child leaves, they take with them their special and unique personalities and life in the home shifts and changes.   I hope that I will transition into my new season of child-free-home motherhood without the distress that I experienced when my older two daughters graduated and moved out and started their own lives.

When they both left home straight after their respective graduations, I recognized that much of my identity and purpose was wrapped up in my role as their homeschool mom and I floundered emotionally for a while.

But if I had paid attention, the shift into not being “needed” or “wanted” had started much earlier.  In episodes where my first teenager pushed away from me and my “help”, my idealistic motherhood ideals and expectations were shattered.  I  lost perspective and I cried before the Lord and eventually surrendered my ideals and began to trust Him for an upgrade in my relationship with my daughters.  I learnt to remain open and available in grace toward them.  I began to focus on their teenage loves, passions, interests and hobbies, and to champion and support them in their early entrepreneur endeavours. This subtle shift made it possible for my graduate daughters to move out into their independence without a huge wrench in my heart.  It felt right and natural, and I have always believed that to be a successful mother, I must work myself out of my job as a mom.

High school moms, may I encourage you to prepare your exit strategy as time and opportunities begin to present themselves in these final homeschool years.  Are there dreams you never took time to pursue? Did you love to paint? Sew? Write? Do you have a skill or passion? Take a class.  Share what you have learnt with others. Teach a class.  Mentor younger moms stuck deep in their trenches.  Be a Titus 2 woman.  Keep on learning, discovering, growing.

More importantly, work on your marriage and your relationship with your husband.  When I poured myself into my early years of homeschooling, I gave most of my energy to my young kids rather than into my marriage. My life pretty much revolved around my kids.  Now that the children are older and more independent, I started to rediscover and revitalize my relationship with my hubby and find renewed purpose and intimacy, especially as we both transition into the next phase and season of our lives.

It helps to shift one’s perspective, to anticipate the new open, free and quiet days as a wonderful blank canvas for new opportunities!  I may have an empty and quiet nest someday soon, but my days can be full of interests and activities that fulfil me and allow me to live out my gifting and passions in a new way.

My hope is the joy of ending well — to launch our last child into independent adulthood, freely— instead of mourning the stage of parenthood that is ending.  That is my prayer as I prepare my exit from my many years of homeschooling.

You can read another good article on having an exit strategy here.

Blessings to each of you in whatever transition you may find yourself, Nadene.

Letter 21 – Time

Back in 2016, I wrote a series of Letters to “my younger self” reflecting on  thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches in my 20+ years of homeschooling, which I hope will be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey.  So, picking up from where I left off, here’s Letter 21 ~ Time

Dear younger Nadene,Image result for grandfather clock

Homeschooling allows you to be free to follow the time-frame needed for your family.  Take more time when you feel stressed and frazzled.  Take some time alone to pray and journal.  Write those things down that frustrate and bewilder you.  The Lord is near to all those who call on Him and He has a gentle and very intimate listening ear.

Give yourself time to figure things out. You are not “supposed” to know how-to, what-to, and when-to do everything all the time.  Take a moment and just breathe in belly deep and slowly exhale and begin to ask the Lord and yourself some good questions. 

  • Ask the Lord to show you what is important right now, in this season.  He is faithful and will always gently remind you that it is always “People before Things“, it is always about relationships and not stuff!  Focus there first. 
  • Ask who needs the most love right now ~ that is your ministry! What does that person need right now to feel most loved and understood? When we relate to that precious person in grace and love, seeing their fears and failures through the Lord’s eyes of compassion, we become His hands, His heart, and His hope.  
  • Ask the Lord what that individual needs to learn and how to teach it … and this is not necessarily education, but rather character and faith, and pray specifically for those areas of the person’s life.  Often the Lord gives me one or two words to focus on such as “Trustworthiness” or “Truth” or “Transparency”.

Each child’s age and stage constantly changes, and with this growing and shifting, you need to adapt your approach and expectations.  When a child no longer fits the expectations you have, take a moment to reconsider who they are and what they need now, at this stage of their lives.  Relax and back off if you feel you are pressing them too hard, or remind and be consistent in those areas that need to be established. 

Remember that it is better to stop “school” to work on good habits, the right attitude and godly character, than to relent or ignore real issues to focus on school work.  Life is the lesson!  Don’t back off from quietly insisting on a positive response, or kind behaviour towards siblings, or obedience to important instructions.  Time spent here is worth every minute!  It may seem really hard when your days are constantly “interrupted” by behavioural issues. but it is not easier to send them to school for someone professional to ‘sort out’.  This is your child and you are their perfect parent, and this is your responsibility and your privilege. 

Take time to figure out how.  Ask for help if you need it.  Work as a team with your hubby.  He has a very different approach and if your work together in unity, you will accomplish much!  You are created for dependence and don’t need to do this alone.  Trust the Lord.  He has purposed you for this ministry and He will provide for everything that is needed to accomplish it.

You can do this!

With gracious love, Nadene

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

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

 Blessings, Nadene
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Difficult is now easy

This time of year is often a time of reflection …

… looking back and evaluating,

… looking forward and planning.

In a recent Art of Simple post, Katie wrote  When Everything Seems Difficult   and made this incredible statement ~

“Don’t judge yourself by what’s still difficult. Judge by what’s now easy.”

Wow …

I don’t know about you, but in my homeschooling (and in life) I found myself often judging myself when I didn’t know how to tackle a certain problem,  when I seemed unable to help my kids, and I even judged my ability as a teacher when my children struggled. I judged my parenting abilities when my children battled with issues.

But, if I had just marvelled at what now seemed easy,  observed that we had mastered certain skills, or looked at how we learnt how to pace ourselves instead of struggling to keep up with someone else’s schedule, or found what learning methods and approaches worked, those successes would most certainly been encouraging.

When you are deep in the trenches, perhaps with newborn baby, or potty-training a busy toddler while struggling to continue teaching kindergartener or junior primary children, you may well feel overwhelmed.  Everything seems like a struggle.

But look back at how far you and your kids have come.

Look to see how many skills they have mastered.

Look to see that those habits you worked with so much effort to establish with such intensity, now seems completely natural, and be encouraged.

So as you evaluate your year, may I encourage you to look through the lens of this question ~ “What seems easy now that was difficult a while ago?”

If you want to do a character evaluation for each child, here is a free download for you ~ Character Report.pdf .  I shared how we enjoyed this evaluation process in my post Report and Evaluation Pages because if the child is old enough, he/she can evaluate themselves with a 1-4 scoring system.  This post also includes a Homeschool Assessment form I used to summarize the schoolwork, books, materials and skills covered and describe my children’s strengths, weaknesses and joys and highlights of the year.

We are all learning and growing, moving forward, gaining momentum, finding our way.  In whatever area of your life or your family’s life, give credit to this positive growth and be encouraged!

Peace and Blessings, Nadene

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“Behind”- But Not

Almost every homeschool family experiences delays or disturbances that put homeschooling on hold or cause plans to seemingly fall apart somewhere along the journey.  I want to encourage you that in the great scheme of things, you are never truly behind, but exactly where you are meant to be in your life.

Life — and homeschool — is a journey and not lesson plans, schedules, timetables  and deadlines.  Sure, there are homeschool goals and graduations, and for those you need a strategy and specific plans, but especially for young children, they will always be learning, growing, developing and maturing, and they will seldom truly fall behind even when homeschooling does not happen.

7 years ago Jimmie Quick at wrote a post Homeschool—Help! I’m Behind!  Jimmie’s counsel is that homeschool is not school at home.   She says,

You are the teacher, mom. You can make the decisions about what, when, and how to teach your children. So you can’t truly be behind.  Yes, you made a plan. You were diligent to organize your lessons and make goals for the term or the year. But life interrupted. Don’t accept the guilt or panic. Instead, get productive.  RE-plan for where you are NOW.  Don’t even try to “catch-up.” Just keep working forward.

And in her post she linked to Lani Carey of The HomeSchool Flame‘s post “Getting Behind?”  where Lani wisely says,

You are not behind!! Who told you that? You might not have gotten as far in the curriculum book as you would have liked, but so what! Is your child learning? If so, then you are not behind. Behind is when the kids are going backwards, which some of our moms with LD children are struggling with. But even then, you are not on a time-table, so you can keep going over the same material again and again if that’s what the child needs and not worry about “getting finished”. 

We need to just enjoy the ride! 

Jimmie also linked to my post “How to recover from Disturbed Schooling
where I recommend to Spot, Skip or Speed when school is disturbed by life’s problems.

  • SpotStick to one important subject for the whole day and catch up everything; read, discuss, watch videos, do the lapbook and notebook pages, complete a fun hands-on activity.
  • SkipSkip the core subjects (History, Geography, Science) and only do the seat work/ basic discipline subjects or skip all the seat work and only do only core subjects till you have caught up on your schedule.
  • Speed = To make all the basic lessons short and sweet put a timer on and stop when the bell goes.  Let them orally narrate or do a quick finger puppet narration instead of lengthy written narrations.

So this post was written 7 years ago!  And now, as a homeschool veteran mom with 2 homeschool graduates, I absolutely believe now what I shared then.

I have learnt to allow my children much more freedom.  I can see the bigger picture and realize that I am no longer the one in control, but the one who comes alongside each child to facilitate their learning experiences.  Homeschooling is much more “in the moment” and much more intimate.  For each child, there are goals, specific plans and a general outcome, but I no longer fret about finishing things according to someone’s schedule.  If there are disruptions, I have learnt to take a moment and figure our way forward again.

If you are distressed and discouraged by “falling behind” may I encourage you to spend some quiet moments with the Lord and pray for His peace and for His strategy.  Ask Him to show you what really matters, what is important in His plans for your family and each child’s life right now.  With these thoughts, focus on what you can start with and begin fresh from there.

Paul says in Phil. 3:13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”  The Message translation – “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So, simply do the very next thing — push onward, forward, upward toward the goal.  

Blessings, 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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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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Homeschool interesting for mom too?

Moms, you are a very important part of your homeschooling vision and you should love your homeschooling days just as much as your children.  We are all equal parts of the learning, and often plan our children’s education without considering your own part in the process. You have so much to contribute to an interest-led approach.

Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things writes a refreshingly different perspective on her homeschool planning in her post How my homeschool planning has changed this year and she writes how she includes herself in the plan.

Think about your curriculum, the schedule, the priorities, and the interests.  Instead of only considering what your child needs, why don’t you consider the following?  She asks, ~

  • What curriculums look interesting to me?
  • What would I like to learn this year?
  • What would bring me joy in our regular schedule and routines?
  • I know my son/ daughters’ special interests. What are mine? How can I incorporate them into our learning?

“What better way for my children to engage in our days’ homeschooling, than seeing their mom just as engaged, excited and involved in the learning?”

Most moms avoid a teaching style that drains them and often opt for safe, secure, predictable curriculums.  Many struggle against their natural energy rhythms, battling with boring approaches, tedious schedules or stressful expectations.  I hear from many moms who feel drained, guilty and stressed about their homeschooling.

Several years ago my youngest daughter and I experimented with silk painting! Here we are painting my scarf together

Take the time to consider your interests, the focus and style of lessons that you enjoy, and the grouping or individual time with your children. When are your energy levels low?  When do you need a little moment of peace and quiet?  Plan in a session of quiet reading or play so that you can regroup after more energized.

I very soon learnt that I loved literature-based education, loved reading aloud, enjoyed working with all my children together, loved hands-on activities, art and crafts … and guess what?  …that is exactly the kind of homeschooling we had.  I was energized after these activities.  My own creativity and joy bubbled over into my planning and lessons, and homeschool was a joy for many years.  Only when my daughters became teens did this change in favour of the curriculums, lessons presentation style and schedules they chose and needed to complete their final 3 years.  Still, all the 8 or 9 years before were a joy and a blessing!

Many years ago when we were all together in our schoolroom ~ one sewing, the others doing art and crafts. Some of our happiest homeschool days!

So, go ahead and plan in the subjects such as nature study, classical music, YouTube videos, outings, the extra subjects you want to include … just for you!  Plan your homeschool to intentionally include yourself as an active participant, and enjoy your homeschooling right alongside your children!

Blessings as you grow and learn on your homeschool journey!

Blessings, Nadene

Mix Structure with Freedom

What Works! 

Homeschooling, like all things in family life, requires balance.

Some folks love the carefree and loosey-goosey approach to homeschooling, while others perfect a strict routine and discipline with a school-at-home approach. Some folk wake and start school early, while others flow lazily into a relaxed, informal day.  Some families work in a classroom environment, while others love to learn everywhere, anytime.

Whatever your homeschooling approach is right now, it should fit your family lifestyle. I encourage you to find the way that works for you and your children in this season of your life.

If you’re a mom with lots of young children, then I encourage you to create a simple  predictable routine for their day.  Mix in free time for unstructured play and exploration.

Here are some of the main family events that should follow some form of predictable routine ~

  • Morning wake up, washing & dressing
  • Making beds
  • Breakfast
  • Start homeschool time – circle time or Bible story, songs & prayer
  • Short, sweet seat work lessons
  • Tea time and short outdoors play time
  • Core and read alouds and other schooling or learning
  • Lunch time
  • After lunch nap or quiet play
  • Free afternoons
  • Clean up & pack away toys from the day’s play
  • Bath time
  • Supper
  • Bedtime

Habit-training is a vital part of creating an easy, stress-free day.  Work on your routine, focusing on one aspect at a time for several weeks until this is established. (Start with the routine that causes you the most stress and frustration in your family.)  Once your children can cope with that routine, move on to focus on the next area that causes you the most stress.

Many new homeschool moms have very high ideals and expectations.  Most new homeschool moms struggle to maintain a formal, strict regimen every day, and they can easily burnout.  May I suggest that your homeschooling plays a minor role in your day when you are teaching young toddlers, pre-schoolers.  If you are working with multiple ages, focus on the most needy first and then focus on the rest.

Truth be told, you can’t do everything with every child every day!

Especially when children seem bored, frustrated or aimless, look to switching the rhythm and approach of your homeschooling.

  • Change the routine and start with subjects that you normally do later in the day.
  • Change your homeschool room or learn somewhere new/ outside/ at a library
  • Change your approach and make things fun
  • Switch to a new activity such as a lapbook or project instead of reading a read aloud that just doesn’t “fit” you or your kids.
  • Do drills or physical movements instead of seat work.  This works really well if a child is struggling with a subject like maths or spelling!  Rather do jumping or skipping or ball tossing or jump on a rebounder while doing skip-counting or times tables, spelling,  etc.
  • Leave the workbooks and find hands-on activities instead.

Charlotte Mason perfected this switch of rhythm with her principles ~

Structure and discipline (Seat work lessons)

  • Short, sweet lessons
  • Perfect / excellent quality work
  • Attentiveness and discipline
  • Memory work and copywork

Informal and unstructured approach (while still requiring focus and attention)

  • Narrations
  • Fine Arts
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study

I found that having one FREE DAY worked for our family.  Although I say “Free” it was rather an INFORMAL day where we focused on Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays.  These days made the rest of the week feel better and help prevent burnout and stress.

What works for your family?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings as you find what works for your family, Nadene

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Happy Read Alouds

Read alouds are our homeschool and family superglue!  Reading aloud is our main homeschool method and we have loved our learning journey through living books and classic literature.  And even though my older 2 children have graduated high school, we still enjoy reading aloud as a family.

Read aloud to your children — young or old.  Start even before your baby is born, and never underestimate the joy and power it brings to teens and young adults.

Read any type of book — Read beautifully or colorfully illustrated  stories for young children.  Read flap books to involve young toddler’s curiosity.  Read pop-up books to dazzle and amaze young kids.  Read comics and highly detailed picture books; those “Where’s Wally?” and “I Spy” books are fabulous for middle school children.  Read accurate descriptive books and biographies or historical fiction for older kids.

Read aloud — to start your day or finish it.  Start your day reading aloud in circle time with Bible stories.  This will lead young hearts to prayer and praise.  Read a Core story book to engage your children’s minds and hearts.  This leads to narrations, hands-on activities, lapbooks or notebooks, or projects based on the story.  In essence, we have used reading to create our literature-based learning.   And every child loves to have mom or dad read to them in bed, closing the day with lovely thoughts and images.

Read snuggled next to each other.  Our read aloud time is always a time of togetherness, closeness and intimacy.  Fidgety children can play with quiet toys or activities on the carpet at my feet while listening.  Whether physically close or not, the story weaves our minds and hearts together on a journey.  Often, my kids would not let me stop.  Most days my throat would ache because, as I would place the bookmark in the book, my kids would all beg, “Please read another chapter”, and I would continue.

Read poems  — and let your children revel in sounds of words, rhyming words, enjoy the rhythm of the syllables, and wonder at creative word images.

Read non-fiction — and learn so much!  After school, my kids would rush to tell their dad, “Did you know…?” giving him their detailed, natural narrations!  Learning through literature is so much more engaging and real than using textbooks.  Textbooks present someone else’s views of important details, often reduced to bland facts.  A living book describing someone’s experiences, travels, or field notes is full of accurate details, descriptive observations, and personal experiences, and you’ll be amazed how children soak up enormous and exact details and facts, seemingly without any effort!

Read fiction

Image result for image fantasy book

Fantasy World Book by Mark Vog

Fade into the fantasy of the author’s creation.  Delve into the invisible world of make-believe, fly into unknown worlds, explore and escape into new word-worlds.  I believe in the power of fantasy.  It is a gift of the imagination and makes one rich and full.

It is amazing how much you can share, talk, go and grow together through a story — so enjoy your read alouds.

Blessings, Nadene

Cultivate Curiosity

Have you ever watched a toddler play?  They are naturally curious, engaged, and motivated to explore.  But what happens when we push them, persuade them, or pressure them to learn things?  Quite often we quench this natural, inbuilt learning model.

Sadly, most young moms feel that they have to buy expensive programs, educational toys and books and DVDs to keep their children motivated and learning.  Moms, you can relax.  Your child will learn so much if you give them opportunities to explore, discover, and encourage them to learn in their own way.

Provide them with some simple elements and they will be happy for hours ~ let them play outside in nature, play with sand and water, offer them things to pour with or carry, play with playdough, keep a container filled with bottles, empty tubes, etc.  Give them a large sheet to make tents or forts.  And read to them every day.

When your young child learns, they love to repeat, and repeat and repeat the activity.  Once they have mastered that skill or activity, they will move on.  If they are not interested, they will move on.  Follow their lead.

Ask them questions and let them discover … what happens when you put this in the water?  Which objects will float?  How can we pour this into that?  Which object will fit on top?  Hint ~ don’t be a teacher!  Simply behave as a curious and eager participant.

Facilitate their curiosity with new experiences and this will lead to their learning, and be there with them to watch them explore and learn.  E.g.: Spray a blob of shaving cream low enough for them to reach on a large window and let them play!  Put a blob of shaving cream on a plastic table and let them discover how they can make marks, patterns or simply enjoy a sensory experience.  (Although it seems messy, shaving cream wipes off with a damp cloth and smells lovely!)  Let them play with rice in a little paddle pool (so that the mess is relatively contained) and let them fill bowls, bottles, pour into funnels, through cardboard rolls, spoon into cups etc.

What kills a child’s natural curiosity?  A young child’s curiosity withers away with competition, comparison to others, constantly needing or receiving praise and approval, punishment or shame, testing or a sense of a fixed/ right result.  Avoid groups or schools where this is disguised as “motivation”.

Socialization  for young children is important, but does not mean that your preschooler must join a group.  Meet once a week with one like-valued family with children the same ages and this more than enough for your child.  Once a month arrange to go out on a picnic,  or outings to the zoo or petting parks,  or take a ride on a bus, or meet at the local library, or watch puppet shows, etc.  Remember the golden socialization ratio  for young children = their age plus one = your three-year-old can only really cope with 4 friends at a party or group, so don’t overwhelm your young child with too many friends, play dates or groups.

Moms these days are under so much pressure for their child to perform.  Please, don’t do too many other classes (such as music, play ball,  horse riding, gymnastics, ballet, etc.  Please, these are all fine, but not all at once, and not all for a young child ).   I don’t know about you, but my stress levels shoot through the roof when I need to get everyone into the car and arrive somewhere on time everyday!  I would recommend your preschooler takes swimming lessons, but don’t fill your week with endless trips to classes and activities.   When you have several children, watch out for conflicting schedules, or where the whole family are endlessly bundled in and out of cars for one child’s activities.  You should not feel like a taxi driver everyday!

A good rule to guide your junior primary child in joining extra-curricula activities is to choose one sport and one cultural activity for that season.  Some activities are year-long, such as ballet, so then allow one more activity that is compatible with your existing schedule.  Ensure you have at least 1 free day where you can stay home, take your time, be leisurely and relaxed in your schedule.  This freedom encourages curiosity.

When starting your preschool homeschooling, please don’t feel that you need to be formal, strict, and precise in your approach.  Apart from reading aloud together every day, simply create variety in your weekly schedule which may include some of these activities:

  • Learn and sing nursery rhymes and Bible songs
  • make music
  • play and climb
  • time in nature
  • make-believe games and dressing up
  • learning meaningful life skills such as washing up, sorting washing, setting the table, feeding the cat/dog, dusting and polishing furniture, emptying dustbins,
  • reading aloud from well-illustrated Children’s Bible and classical children’s stories
  • Provide short little lessons where they can sort, group, thread, stack, cut & paste, count, learn their alphabet through phonics, etc.

I hope that these ideas encourage you to relax, trust and enjoy your young child’s natural curiosity.

(Photos of my granddaughter Emma on her first birthday, and with her dad on her second birthday)

Blessings, Nadene