Sticking to it

getting-real.pngSome homeschool days are tough and you or your child/ren might want to give up.  I have had to stick at our homeschooling over and over when we have stressed and struggled and wanted to give up. 

May I share a couple of tips to help encourage and motivate you to keep heart and head when things seem difficult and hard ~

  • img-20160513-wa0004Pray.   Tell the Lord all about your fears, difficulties and thoughts.  Ask Him for His grace to live in His life.  Ask Him to show you the situation from His perspective. Ask for His wisdom and strength to do the right thing.  I often ask Him what I should do today, and not worry about the years ahead.
  • When about to give up, make a plan. Plan something for the day that everyone enjoys and which creates a bond … such as reading aloud, art, crafts, a nature walk, listening to an audio book, going an outing … whatever it takes to get a fresh perspective.  This flexibility is the true blessing of homeschooling.  When things get really bad, take the day off … have picnic or go swim, or curl up together on the couch with popcorn and a great movie.  Give yourself a day to de-stress and try again the next day.
  • Learning new information is usually stressful.  In the end, it is never about learning information but growing in character and in relationships.  A child can always learn facts, but struggles and difficulties are always personal.  Gently encourage your child in their attitude and choices.  Instill the habits that will build character.
  • Sometimes a child just isn’t ready.  Put the work aside and try again in a few months time.
  • Look for alternatives. Try a physical, practical, hands-on activity, or try learning with jumping or singing.  Let your child record their narrations on a voice note or video instead of writing.  Ask them to act it out or make a model or paint the illustration.  Give your child options and choices.
  • If a textbook or book doesn’t work or isn’t a good fit for you or your child, adapt it.  Abandon it!  Yes.  You have permission to put it away.  Rather find an illustrated magazine or borrow a library book about the subject.  Go online and search out a suitable YouTube playlist and let your child watch educational videos.  They will learn more information with these alternatives, and, more importantly,  they will gain a personal connection with what they have watched or read.
  • Deal with fears in perspective — will this really matter 2 years from now?  If not, don’t sweat the small stuff.  Let it go.  You usually will have time to try again.  Even in high school, we “lost” 2 years on a curriculum that was not working for my middle child.  But she was young, and even now, I am not in a rush to catch up those “missing” years.  We will simply push on with what we have in front of us right now.  Even now, facing her final year, we may have to go on into 2017 instead of trying to finish this year.
  • Look for help.  I joined a few relevant  homeschool Facebook groups that offer great advice and give valuable support and encouragement.  Ask the curriculum provider for help.  Join their forums.  In my first year of homeschooling before Facebook existed, this was marvellous help.  And I needed the wisdom, experience and perspective of older moms who were a few stages ahead of me.
  • Don’t compare your children with others.  This is their life, their story and their song.  No one else determines this.
  • Ban “Should have …” and instead say, “Right now ….”  Don’t waste energy looking back and living with regret. You didn’t plan to fail or destroy your child’s education.  What you didn’t know, you couldn’t do, so let it go and do your best with what you know now.
  • Perseverance is highly valued.  Stick to your decision and keep on course.  You may alter deadlines, reset some destinations, avoid some storms or rapids, but keep going on!  Don’t give up.
  • Try, try and try again.  Try this way or that, but keep going.  You will come through this and it will all be fine.

If we had lived close to a town with good schools, I may have given up many times in these high school years, but God, in His great mercy and grace, has kept me right where He wants me and we have had to stick to it.  I am so grateful!  As I look at my gorgeous, beautiful daughters growing into such amazing young women, I am so thankful that we have had this incredible journey together!  It is all worth it!

Wrapped up in grace, Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Cheating!

Thanks to all my readers for your wonderful comments on my “Getting Real” posts.  (If you missed my previous posts, you can read about Giving Up, Chaos, Flops and Attitudes in the series.)

Today I would like to talk about a sinister reality that crept in our high school phase ~ Cheating

Imagine my shock to find my high schooler cheating!  Not just copying the maths answers from the back of the book, but serious exam-type cheating!

I suppose it was to be expected for several reasons:

  1. My high schooler worked much more independently, and I didn’t watch her carefully.
  2. The work was difficult and my child was anxious and stressed.
  3. The exam results were sent to an external curriculum provider who would compile an official report. There was no chance of any mother-leniency.
  4. Most cheaters cheat because they are ~
    • afraid
    • unprepared
    • lazy
    • fear of failure
    • hate test situations
    • or because they have had bad results before

At the very start of the exam session I caught sight of some papers and realized she had made plans … and my blood ran cold.  I knew that this was serious.  Not because cheating is bad, which it is, but because I was faced with dealing with a child’s character, choices, ethics and morals, and I wanted to handle this situation with firmness and yet with dignity.

By God’s grace I didn’t blowup and make a mountain out of a molehill.  We went for a walk.  We talked.  I listened and tried not to formulate a huge lecture in my mind.  I deliberately told my ego that this situation was not a reflection of me, but of my child.  Importantly, I did not label my child a “cheater”.  I gave her the grace to confess and really apologize, to face her fears, and sit the exam afresh and try her best.

My kids are accountable and they need to ask for help. If they are unsure and afraid of tests and exams, they are simply not ready. Homeschooling allows for extra time, and there is often time to do more reviews.  Using past papers is an excellent tool for exam preparation.

High schoolers must work authentically and take more responsibility for their learning and studying.  School is their ‘work’ and they must do their best.  They should understand that cheating denies them the real learning experiences.

My high school graduate and myself believe that her matric exams were not about the information she learnt, but the exam preparation, learning skills and actual exam writing skills.  It does not take 12 years to prepare your child for their graduate/ matric exams!  Your child can master exams in 1 year, even if they have never sat for formal, external exams.  Please, please, please don’t chose an exam-type education for your child’s high school years just so that they can write their final exams!

May I suggest that young children do not need to write tests at all.  Working one-on-one, your daily work is proof enough of your child’s understanding and recall.  When there are real difficulties, then, by all means, have your child evaluated, but on the whole, allow your child to learn and progress at their own pace.  When they are ready, they will master the work!

I really encourage moms to carefully consider the stresses and tensions and fears children face when they write tests and exams.  We, as moms and teachers, are also measured by their failures and successes, and we also suffer through this process.  If your child does not cope well under test situations, please consider other options, and where possible, choose curriculums which do not require exams throughout the year.  I understand that your country or state may have regulations that insist on test results, but I would encourage you to find a 3rd party tester who can assist your frightened child in a personal way.

It is so important to build relationships of trust, honor and dignity with your children.  If they feel that we understand their fears and anxiety, they will not feel the need to cheat.  Give them more time to master the work.  I seem to repeat this often ~ TAKE YOUR TIME and enjoy the journey!

Blessings,

 

Getting Real ~ Attitudes

Let’s get real

So while my blog often shows smiling faces and lovely work, we have had our fair share of working through bad attitudes.  Cheeky answers, biting comments, rolled eyes, sulky mouths, even swearing (teens really know how to try to shock!) … sigh … we’ve had them all.

attitiudeIt is the hardest part of homeschooling, and the most draining. Rather than deal with incorrect answers in school work, I stop and address a bad attitude.  Attitude is a choice, and I want my kids to make good choices.  But there are those days when this is tough, thankless and seems to make things worse.  Brick walls.  Stand offs.  Chilly relationships.  Dark moments of feelings of defeat and failure.

It is hard to discern whether to be understanding of a problem and sympathetically help a child negotiate how they approach the problem, or, often in frustration, discipline their bad attitude. Charlotte Mason has loads to share and inspire in her volume on Habits and Character ~

  • “Deal with the child on his first offense, … but let him go in until a habit of wrong-doing is formed, and the cure is a slow one.”
  • “The mother (must) be always on the alert to nip in the bud habit her children may be in the act of picking up from others.”
  • “Never lower your standards or slack off.”
  • “Expect prompt, cheerful obedience.”
  • “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”

Extracts taken from “Charlotte Mason Study Guide A Simplified Approach to a “Living” Education” by Penny Gardner ISBN 1-57636-039-3

So, essentially, start young and establish good ground rules.  Be quick to nip things in the bud.

I love that a Charlotte Mason education offers tangible, practical practices that heal attitudes and restore relationships ~ Why not, when trouble bubbles to the surface, and nerves start to fray, go out and take a nature walk?  Sit together and sketch or listen to classical music.  These Fine Arts subjects are often a healing balm.  Tension, now released, we can come back to face the difficulty.  What about her recommendations to keep short lessons?  Put the maths aside for the day, and come back when fresh and positive.

Often I reassure myself that my child is going through an “age or stage” phase, where they express their fears  and frustrations in their attitudes.  “This, too, shall come to pass.” Sometimes kids act out with their moms and yet they would never dare to do so with others.  If you are in constant war with your teen, trust the Lord to help you step back and to lead your child to someone for help. My advice to high school parents is to find a 3rd party person or tutor, who they can see fairly regularly with their homeschool subjects that frustrate them. Somehow, kids keep themselves in check with a person they respect.  Most times, their attitude issues have very little to do with actual school work.  Don’t let things spiral out of control.

I found myself repeating,

“Don’t take things personally.  This is not about you.  This about them.”

Parenting is done on our knees … praying. Praying for you and yours with blessings,

Getting Real ~ Flops

Continuing my “Getting Real” series, today I want to share our ~ 

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean that it is useless.”

Flops!

Despite most my posts describing our successes, many lessons and projects have ended as flops! Sometimes with angry outbursts, or with tears, or with serious declarations that my kids hate “….” or whatever!

It happens! Just look at some amusing Pinterest Flops!

The trick is to learn from the mistakes, or learn to just let it go.

Redoing a project, or unpicking a seam, pulling out several rows of knitting, or erasing several arithmetic errors and re-calculating the answers requires real perseverance and strength of character.

Some things are worth getting right.  Maths. Spelling. Charlotte Mason encourages parents to encourage their children to do their work with excellence.

Some things should be recycled or ditched.

When some of our art lessons have disappointed us or the end product is disastrous, we have cut the art work into cards or bookmarks.  Some, we simply tossed into the wastepaper basket.

When lessons flop, the teacher inside me quickly starts to analyse …

  • Should I have tried a different approach/ book/ method?
  • Is the work too hard/ difficult for my child?
  • Are the instructions clear?
  • Did I explain well?
  • Was I really prepared or did I fly by the seat of my pants?
  • Is my child alert, awake and stimulated or is he/ she tired or sick or distracted?
  • Is this lesson worth re-doing?
  • What can I change?

I believe that disappointments and some mistakes are a very important training tools.  We should not  try shield our child from flops and poor results.  They need to learn from them.  Children must develop their characters and grow as people in order to stay positive and try again.  A sense of humor is an incredible tool, too!

To quote Thomas Edison after battling to develop the light bulb,

“I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

So, if you’ve had flops, rack them up as part of your learning curve, laugh it off, and try, try, try again!

Blessings and wishing you much success,

Getting Real ~ Chaos

My “Getting Real” series began after a reader recently told me that everything on my blog looked too neat and organized!

Let me assure you that the organization photos are staged.  I especially clear the tables and pack away the clutter before I take the photos!  But, of course, my school room does NOT look like that all the time!

Once, I asked my kids what they think makes me most stressed and they told me that I am often always stressed about clutter and chaos. So, yes, I am a bit of a tidy freak!

Usually I tidy as  I work, and I spend about 5 minutes packing away at night. I like to have a clear desk and clean kitchen when I go to bed.  It helps me feel positive and  motivated to walk in to clear rooms in the morning.

But I have 3 daughters who work all over the place … doing all sorts off stuff ~ They love creative projects and they are allowed to make a mess!  It is part of the creative process.  There may be ~ branches full of lichens across a table wired into a ‘chandelier’ … beads and wire scattered on a tray … flower arrangements with petals, leaves and off-cuts mess over the floor … a massive sewing project with patchwork pieces and fabric scraps lie all over every surface … paintings and paint trays and paint bottles lie around … a mass of confetti papers surrounding some craft project litters every meter …

Even normal things clutter and create chaos, such as unfolded laundry piles waiting to be folded and packed away  … someone’s chores still undone … It is a real mess at times. I’m your typical mom calling the kids, “Come clean up!

Chore charts prevent the need for moaning and nagging.  Simple routines enforce before & after mealtimes so that they do their kitchen chores.  They fold and pack laundry on wash days. Once a week we all clean house. (It stays cleaner longer if they know they have to clean up the mess again, and the person responsible for a zone will moan at her siblings to clean up after themselves so that they don’t have to clean again that week.)

After school, every day, we pack away schoolbooks and make the area available for other projects and play.  Just before the end of the day, everyone packs up or packs away their project so that the school room is available the next morning. A basket, a tray or a box keeps unfinished things handy so that they can continue their project the next day. When we fall into chaos, we delay our schoolwork and first tidy up.  This means that they have less free time in the afternoon.

As the girls get older, I find that the tidying, habit-training really pays off, and they calmly clear and pack up with out constant reminders and nagging.

I recommend moms create a simple routine for your family and focus on one habit each week or month until it is established.  Train young children with songs (like Barney’s “Clean Up, Clean Up”) and reminders with simple rhyming words.  Make it fun!  Put on great music and sing as you work!

How do you tame the chaos in your home?  Please feel free to share your advice in the comments.

Blessings as you create order in your days.

Getting Real ~ Giving up

A reader recently told me she always deleted my posts because I’m “too organized”! I felt compelled to be real and explain that most of my posts are simply a “peep into our homeschooling” and, although not always window dressed, I tend to showcase what works.

So, here is the start a series of “Getting Real” posts. 

My main goal in Practical Pages is to encourage moms and so I will widen my exposure lens and share some of the real issues, problems and some of the nitty-gritty realities of our homeschooling lives, and hopefully, be real about how we are trying to work through them.

Giving up.

I have felt like giving up, several times over the past years. Mostly during the years teaching my high schoolers, as shut-down teens. They are tough, and, together with their strong wills and designs of their own, as well as a really pathetic correspondence high school curriculum, I had no idea how to “succeed”.  I dreaded every day’s battles, frustrations and dead-ends.  In the end, we pushed through,  and my eldest graduated with a university entrance. Relief!  One down – 2 to go …

Last year my middle daughter only started her high school year in April and we did not do any exams that year … at all. It was the year my hubby said that “I dropped the ball”.

I must defend myself explain that our son got married that February, we were all helping build his house in time … and the postal strike delayed the arrival of her books … and so on … but basically I floundered with a new high school curriculum we had started, and I didn’t know how to approach the lessons and guide my daughter through her work.

Praise the Lord, she settled into a better routine when life returned to ‘normal’.  She attended lessons with a tutor in town every 2 weeks to bring her (and myself) up to standard.

Essentially, it did not really matter. All that fuss and those crippling fears!  She is young for the course she signed up for, and has 3 years to complete the 2 year exam requirements. I am confident that she did not actually fall behind, and that we are still on track.

My kids have often told me that they give up.

Young kids cried over maths, and even more sadly, they have cried in our art lessons.  My eldest refused to do some CM subjects and I cried bitter tears of failure.

More sadly, I had tried so hard. Too hard. I blame myself for coming on too strong, being to ‘teachy’ and trying to educate.all.the.time.

Lesson learnt. I have learnt to relax much more. I have learnt to let the kids take control and take the lead.

Often, it helps to talk to another understanding person; my hubby or a fellow homeschooler. It is a relief to know that others struggle just as we do.

Don’t give up.  Take a break.  Change your approach.  Find help.  It is worth the effort of perseverance!  In the end, homeschooling provided the nurture and relationship bonding that has made our lives rich and rewarding.

You can do it!

Have you ever felt like giving up? How did you find the courage to continue?  Please share in the comments.

Blessings as you persevere.

Not Getting It All Done

Getting Real ~ 

No matter what curriculum I use,

or how well I plan,

or how carefully we keep to our schedule,

when I look back over my planners, I notice that some of our extra subjects fell to the wayside or were not thoroughly or regularly covered.

Not the IMPORTANT stuff.  (Remember, I wrote about how to recover from disruptions?)

It’s those little extras.  The full program.

It is not a secret confession.  I’ve admitted once before that we never did formal physical education … for a whole year!

But, when you intentionally schedule the minor subjects and electives …

much more can be done.

What do we do this year that we sometimes did not cover in previous years?

What do I still want to do more regularly?

  • Public Speaking and Debating
  • Typing and Keyboard Skills
  • Physical Ed (… no.  This is still not happening…)
  • or Charlotte Mason’s recommended Swedish Drill (which I downloaded and tried …a good idea, but not great …yet?)
  • Brain Gym and Thinking/ Logic Skills
  • Field Trips (if only …)
  • Shakespeare (I keep meaning to add this.)

Here’s what I’m telling myself:

  1. Pray and ask the Lord to show me what He wants me to teach and do.
  2. You’re NOT supposed to do it all.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE.  period.
  3. Seasons, Nadene, homeschooling is all about seasons.  Ages and stages decide everything.
  4. Focus and add just 1 extra subject this week/month/or term.
  5. Don’t compare yourself with other moms/blogs/friends/ curriculum packages (yes, even Ambleside online.)
  6. Focus on realistic goals.
  7. Your children are young.  There is plenty of time.  Years ahead to still try to cover other stuff.
  8. Enjoy what works for you and the kids. Let them grow up loving art/or classic music/or poetry/ or whatever.  Build on what makes your family buzz.
  9. In the end, does it really matter?  Isn’t homeschooling cultivating a lifetime of learning?  A young child will not miss Shakespeare, but a high schooler can read and really enjoy his works.  And any adult can read his plays with great enthusiasm.
  10. Find others who can help teach this for you.  Another homeschool family may flow in areas you cannot.  Drink from their fountain of ability and gifting.

I wrote this post without anxiety or fear.  I wrote it because I reviewed my previous term’s plans and updated my records and plans for the new term.  I noticed that some subjects needed to be properly scheduled or we would not do them.

And I share this post to encourage some of you who may feel uncertain or discouraged.  You may also be asking yourself, “Are you doing enough?“.

Homeschooling is a rich and wonderful journey.  Just like an overseas trip, you will never ‘see’ it all.  As long as you all build memories that will last forever, it does not matter if you didn’t get the full package.

Blessings,