Work & Homeschool 4 – Office Hours

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Keep Office Hours

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & Take Messages.

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Keep Office HoursImage result for office hours

When I gave up my teaching job to stay home to look after our new baby, I ended up working for my hubby in his engineering firm.  Working for him became an area that caused a lot of conflict in our relationship, especially during our early married life.

While we were working hard to establish his new business, he expected me to do business all day and any time he needed at night.Image result for overtime  There always seemed to be work to catch up after hours when my hubby came home from work.  I became increasingly frustrated trying to be professional while breastfeeding at the office.  I hated the noise and engineering mess of my hubby’s workshop and eventually decided to work for him from home.  This was back in the 90’s where we only had a fax and a landline.   We had many miscommunications, many last-minute orders to process, and many late nights when I knew I had a baby who would still wake me a dozen times all night for feeds as well.  I was super-stressed!   On one particularly bad day, late at night, I think I resigned 5 times!

I decided that for the health of our relationship, the professionalism of our work and for the most important job in the world – to be a mommy to my baby, my hubby needed an admin or personal assistant, and so he hired a secretary.  She never worked after hours, and certainly never at 11pm at night!  I realized that there was a simple boundary in her work conditions = office hours!

Fast forward to our current business, and with some years of maturity and experience behind us, I decided that establish office hours to do our admin and especially to answer and make phone calls.   We have early morning meetings to confirm plans, make arrangements, delegate duties, confirm payments and orders, and to book appointments on our calendars.  As a married couple and business partners, this helps us remain in unity and to keep our business running smoothly.

Unless there is an emergency or something really special and vital, I do not work after 5pm or on weekends.  This “rule” protects our private and family time and gives me the much-needed break from constant work demands.

Image result for yesI believe that we have to know what our big YES is for this season in our lives.  Is it motherhood, homeschooling, keeping a home?  Is it a professional job?  When you know what your YES is for your life in this season of your life (the focus may shift and change), then you are better able to say NO to the rest.  You can say NO to taking phone calls during school time or during family meals.  You can take time off to be with your children, family, friends and church ministry separate from work.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 3 -Take Messages

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Take Messages

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions.

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

The phone is a terrible interrupter!  I literally groan when the phone rings while I am busy tutoring a teen or working with a younger child.  I know how hard it is to get back into the focus of an activity or lesson.

Use voicemail or answering machines

Activate a simple voicemail or answering service on your phones and allow the machine or service provider to do the work of taking messages for you.  Answering machines are not that expensive.  In our early years, our answering machine was invaluable when we could not take calls.  We have sometimes lost potential clients who forget to leave their contact details or drop the call, but generally, if they are serious, they usually call again.

Teach kids to take messagesRelated image

Teach your children how to properly answer the phone and take good, clear messages.  My youngest daughter has always loved this job and is excellent at taking calls when I am busy.  This is a very valuable life skill!

If I take business calls in the morning, I often explain that I will process their queries or requests in the afternoon, unless it is an emergency.  I usually follow-up calls after lunch.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 2 – Manage Interruptions

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Manage Interruptions

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool post, pop over to read 1. Start Early

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Manage Interruptions

Interruptions cause the most stress and lack of productivity in almost every work environment.  Many homeschool moms write to tell me that this is one of their worst issues in their homeschooling.Image result for interruptions

In our early years of homeschool and work, I set up some simple boundaries for our family and friends.  Make sure that friends, neighbours, and close family recognise that you have a serious job during the mornings, i.e. homeschooling.  Explain that you will not be able to read social media, answer texts or take unscheduled social calls or visits during the mornings.  It also helps to mute notifications or put your cell phone on silent during school hours.

Image result for interruptionsIf your children know that you are very easily distracted, guess what?  They will be easily distracted.  Moms, we set the tone!

Commit yourself to an hour of homeschooling with no interruptions to get the basics covered.  Have a tea-break and quickly follow-up any urgent work issues, and then back to school.  Maintain the focus as a professional with your children and they will also learn to take their work commitments seriously.

In our business, we do occasionally have clients that come to our farm, but my husband deals with them during school hours.  Of course, I may quickly pop out to meet and greet them, but I generally do not host them while it is school time.  This was an important boundary for me, as I answer almost all the phone calls which are a terrible intrusion and interruption for me.  (I’ll share more about managing this issue in Part 3.)

Now and then, clients may visit where I am expected to assist with tea or coffee or keep a wife company while my hubby attends to the client, but even then, I politely explain that my children need me at the schoolroom.  If there are sales, I may have to stop to create invoices and complete some of the transaction, but I have independent work for my children during these times, which is really helpful.  (More on that in Part 6)

Image result for cellphone chargingWe live in the age of distractions!  Interruptions, social media notifications and media distractions are quite possibly the greatest threat to a focussed mind and a calm soul.  Our children are part of this generation who battle with short attention spans and significant restlessness.

My hubby is very strict about cell phones.  We have a NO PHONE during school time policy!  Our children have to dock their phones in our bedroom at 9pm at night and can only have their phones again after 2pm when schoolwork is done.  During the weekend they have fuller liberty with computers, cell phones and DVDs.  Somehow, we should, in our homeschooling and in our homes, be mindful about how to create a calm, focused and productive environment.

Here’s wishing you interruption-free homeschool days!  Be strong!

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 1-Start Early

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Here are a few practical tips in a series of short posts for homeschool moms who also work~

Start Early

There is nothing worse than starting the day late, feeling that you are behind, and chasing your tail all day!  I have found that the day actually starts the night before!  It helps to clear desks, pack away things, pack out things, and plan ahead the night before.  From the shiny, clean kitchen sink to my uncluttered desk, I love to meet the new day with a clean slate.

Image result for quiet time early in morning

Although our family start our day late by most farming standards, I always like to start the day early.  I make tea for the family and go somewhere peaceful for my quiet time. If I start my day with the Lord, I find that I am not running on empty and that I have the grace to face most of the challenges and demands of the day.

Me hand-milking Milly our Jersey cow.

I have farm chores to attend to.  I hand-milk our dairy cow, process the milk, feed my chickens, collect their eggs, and water the vegetable and herb gardens, etc.  My husband moves the livestock, prepares feed, moves electric fences for grazing management or starts his watering and irrigation for the day.  We are quite busy running around for the first hours after waking up!

I then come in and start my work on the business emails, orders and any administration that requires my attention before breakfast and before our school day starts.  My hubby and I often discuss business at the breakfast table.  It is good to have clarity and unity before the day really starts.

We only start homeschooling after breakfast and chores, well after 9am or 10am, and my teens sometimes start even later.  Over the years, I tried to force an earlier schedule, but this is our most natural family rhythm and it is far less stressful if we flow according to this later start.

Once schooling starts, it is hard for me to catch up with business work until after lunch, so I always feel more in control if I have tackled business first.

My afternoons are mostly quite free so I can do almost all the rest of my business, or work out in the vegetable and herb gardens, do my sketching or hobbies and other activities in this time.  By 5pm I usually stop all my computer work and hobbies to prepare dinner and then spend time with my hubby and family.  We always eat together and our family meals are a celebration and a social occasion.  We don’t have TV or cable, so we often head to bed early to read and talk.  I do my evening workouts and stretches and we generally go to sleep early.  It is a wonderful simple routine and a lovely lifestyle.

It is important to work diligently and to still be able to celebrate life with family.  We all need to find the balance between work, school and family time.   I encourage you to start early and have the upper hand in your day!

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Offer a Learning Buffet

We all have unique learning styles.  Recognizing that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, it is important, especially when homeschooling your children, that you tailor-make your child’s learning experience.  

Homeschool mom, please ditch the bland, boring, uniform “school lunch plate” teaching style and look for ways to lay out a tempting, tantalizing learning buffet — offer your children a delightful range of choices so that they can express their learning with delight and motivation!

 

As you plan, think ~

“What different ways can  my child approach this? ”  OR

“How can I present different options for my child to best express their learning?”

There are 3 basic learning styles ~

  • Visual (Looking) ~ prefers images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information,  uses illustrations, maps, graphs, diagrams, graphics, uses colored highlighters to mark notes, enjoys reading posters and charts, infographics, flow charts, mind maps, watches educational videos
  • Auditory (Hearing) ~ learns through listening, needs to hear or speak, listen or create recordings, listens to audio books, listens to explanations, needs quiet surroundings, use headphones or earphones to block out noise, may prefer music in background, talks about the work as he is learning
  • Kinesthetic (Doing) learns best when physically active, uses his body and sense of touch to learn, like sports and exercise, likes to move while thinking, uses hand gestures and body language to communicate, fidgets, should sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair,  acts out explanations, enjoys physical construction, handcrafts, origami, Lego,and handcrafts

But there are several other unique learning preferences such as Intrapersonal (Solitary), Interpersonal (Social), Linguistic (Language), Musical (Song & Music), Mathematical (Logical), Naturalistic (Nature), which I will share in detail in another post.

 

Essentially, you need to know your child’s learning style in order to present options that they will enjoy.  

I recently looked at some of the online quizzes to help you find your and your child’s learning identity ~

Instead of insisting on exactly how you think a child should present their work, rather offer a variety of options, and allow the child to makes their own choices, so that their attitude and approach to their work is creative, motivated and unique.  

Think of preparing a buffet meal instead of a set menu!

Recently I created a Narration Ideas Booklet with over 100 narration ideas and templates.  Most of these options are birthed out of the understanding of different learning styles.  This booklet is available on my Packages Page and will help you offer a vast range of learning opportunities.

I hope that this post inspires you to explore your child’s learning identity so that you can facilitate and present them with options that best suit their learning style.

Blessings, Nadene

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3 things NOT to do when planning

“Help me!  I always over-plan, over-buy and become overwhelmed when planning my new year!  What should I do?”Reader's Question logo

In answering this  reader’s question, I remembered my early years and the terrible stress, anxiety and fear that consumed me when planning a new year.  After years of homeschooling and finding what works for us , here is my simple encouragement ~

Don’t over do it.

  • You don’t need to cover every . single . subject . for . each . child.  
  • Combine your kids for all the Bible, Core studies, Read Alouds and Fine Arts wherever possible.
  • Start with a good Maths, Spelling & Dictation, and a Reading/ Phonics program for each child.  Then add a family centered Core.
  • Gently add all the extra subjects such as Fine Arts and Nature Walks once your kids manage the basics.

Don’t spend money on curriculum or supplies you are not sure you will use.

  • Don’t buy under pressure that you “should” or “must” do programs, or  purchase programs all the other moms are using.
  • Put those orders on a wish list and let them wait there a while until you have peace and rest in your heart.
  • Find FREE downloads instead.  You can download stacks of my Free Pages to cover Handwriting, Copywork, Nature Study, Biographies and a full Famous Artist & Musician studies.
  • There are so many free Lapbooks and Unit Studies out there, but, again, don’t download and print out too much!  See #1.

Don’t make a rigid schedule.

  • When I tried to follow an over-full schedule, I felt overwhelmed, especially when we “fell behind”.  
  • Create a wide margin of time to explore, discover, follow other tangents and pause and reflect on the subject matter.
  • Give your children options.  They don’t have to everything!
  • View the schedule as your guide and not your strict task master.
  • Follow the 4-Day Week schedule and give yourselves one “free” day for fun and Fine Arts.
  • STRETCH out  the curriculum over 18 months instead of 12 months.  It really doesn’t matter what “grade” your child is following each year so long as they are working on their level and working consistently.

I hope that this encouragement helps settle those nerves and make your planning seem simpler and easier.

Blessings as you plan, Nadene

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My dear Reader,

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Blessings, Nadene

First days back 2 school

Many moms around the world worry about the first days of school.  Homeschool moms worry about starting homeschool too.  And new homeschool moms worry even more.

May I offer some gentle advice?

  • Just start slowly.
  • Don’t try do the complete schedule.
  • Ease into your schooling.
  • Go gently.

Just remember that the professional teachers spend much of their first weeks of school doing orientation; they hand out new books, explain note-taking, give an overview.  They don’t jump straight in with the full program.

Here’s some tips that I still use after all these years ~

Set up your school area the night before (I like to do this as a surprise for the kids!)

  • Put tables, stationary and books/workboxes/or files in order.
  • Write a welcome note on the whiteboard or prayerfully write to each child and place a personal note on each child’s place.
  • Arrange the CD and music player ready with your song or praise and worship for circle time.
  • Get into a simple “Early to bed & early to rise” routine.  Chat and pray with each child before bedtime.

On your first day ~

  • Wake half an hour earlier than the family, make yourself a cup of tea, have your quiet time and pray.  Commit your plans to the Lord and surrender all to Him.
  • Gently wake the kids and get them into their morning routine and chores.  (I like to have a “test-run” a day before school and start the school morning routine a day earlier than the actual day.)
  • Have a simple but nutritious breakfast, or go ahead and make it something special!
  • At the agreed starting time, start school.
  • I like to start each year in a circle or on the couches.  Start with a chat about the year, the themes, some planned highlights and goals.  Let the kids talk about what they expect, what they are afraid of, what they look forward to.
  • Then pray about all these things.
  • Sing and learn a memory verse for the week.  Make it fun!  Chose something really simple and easy.
  • Now chose what you will do the first week.  Either just do some basics3Rs (Maths, Reading and Handwriting) or just do your Core (History, Literature study)for the first week.  Tell them that next week you’ll add the rest of the subjects, but this week they must just do their very best with the easy schedule.  (They may beg you to do it all!  If they seem relaxed and the work done was excellent, then, by all means, do your full plan.)  If things are really awful and stressed, just cuddle and read a story together.
  • Include a lovely tea break with some healthy snacks.
  • Plan some fast fun & games for in between lessons if children get fidgety.

Create precious memories from these moments ~

  • Take some “First Day” photos of each child.
  • Prepare a special breakfast.
  • Ask Dad to give a “Welcome To School” speech. (My hubby is our homeschool “Principal”!)
  • Give each child a small gift – some stationary/ stickers/ new hair accessories for their first day.

I trust this encourages you.

Blessings as you prepare and plunge back in, 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

No Tests

Poster of things tests can’t measure - white with colored pencilsA common question homeschool parents are asked is, “Do your children do tests or exams?”

And my answer is always, “No.”   Well, not until their graduation year, when exam results are a requirement for acceptance into most tertiary institutions.

Testing is NOT needed in homeschooling because parents are almost always one-on-one with their child and can quickly see what their child knows and understands.  Especially when using a Charlotte Mason approach, narrations are an excellent method of listening to or reading what a child remembers and understands on a specific chapter or topic.  And for most seat work subjects like Maths, Spelling and Reading, you are right there with your child and can go back to re-establish a concept or correct a mistake.

Standardized tests are for public school parents, or for teachers of large classes, to measure each child’s basic knowledge or skills, or worse still, for schools to brag about their institutions’ achievements!  With this kind of pressure, many teachers actually “teach the exam” rather than aim to educate the child.

Information and facts can always be learnt, at any time.   Google helps all of us find information in a jiffy, so why waste precious time forcing a child to memorize facts?  Narrations are personal, which is the aim of our homeschooling, isn’t it?

In an article 30+ Important Things That Tests Can’t Measure says,

“Tests can’t predict who will “succeed” in life, regardless of your definition of success. Tests can’t tell a child how or even what he needs to improve.’

She lists some of these things tests can’t measure ~

  • compassion or generosity
  • imagination or creativity 
  • a child’s logic skills
  • faith, trust, hope, reliability, or depth of character
  • friendship or self-worth
  • curiosity, effort, determination or resilience
  • a child’s potential and diligence

In an article , “Kids Don’t Fail, Schools Fail Kids: Sir Ken Robinson on the ‘Learning Revolution’ she quotes Ken Robinson, (famous for his TED talk on the topic of whether schools kill students’ creativity),

“The government has essentially pushed for more and more nationwide testing in order to 1) standardize everything, and 2) try and improve education “through an intense process of competition.”   He believes that the problem with standardized testing is that it “does not prepare kids to achieve.” 

Ken Robinson’s own definition of education’s purpose ~ “To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become.”

He encourages “personalized learning” without relying heavily on technology.

“But what’s most important,” he concluded, “is that every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.””

Parents know their children.  Homeschooling should be individual, tailor-made, delight-directed.  Its pace and focus should be based on the individual’s ability and interest, not focused on tests, scores and exam results.

So, please hear me …  especially parents of kindergarten, junior, middle and even junior high school, please do not buy curriculums that require regimented testing.  You will kill your child’s creativity and natural love to learn.  You will instil fear and anxiety into your homeschooling, both for you and your child.

Your child can learn how to learn for exams, how to write exams and how to succeed in exams in a relatively short time; within 6 months to a year.  At the most, you may need to move towards tests and exams for their final 3 years of senior high school.  And that is stress enough!  With my 17-year old writing her final high school exams, I see her fear and anxiety.  I feel dread’s icy grip in my stomach.

As Marie says, “Children everywhere deserve to know this:  YOU ARE NOT YOUR TEST SCORE.  You are so much more.”

Blessings, Nadene