Lapbook planning tips

My children loved doing lapbooks and  we quickly figured out some practical tips to prevent overwhelm and to maximise our studies with other activities.  Here are some of my tried-&-tested practical lapbook planning tips ~

Often when printing out and cutting out the lapbook minibooks for your new lapbook , you will have heaps of booklets, papers, cutouts which may cause you and your children to feel overwhelmed. 

Print out the table of contents or index with every download and file this with the lapbook instructions.  If your lapbook printout doesn’t have an index, draw up a list of each minibook theme, or the topics or chapters covered in each minibook of the lapbook study along with a short description of each activity.  You can download my free lapbook planner below.

Whether you download a lapbook or make one for yourself, it helps to print out the lapbook planner or index page so that you have a birds’ eye view of your core topics, sub-topics, minibooks, relevant websites, videos, songs, recipes, hands-on activities and any other downloads as well as the time you plan for each minibook or topic.  Here  is  the  index  I used for my planning my Ancient Egypt Lapbook.  (You  can freely download  the Ancient Egypt Lapbook)

Here is my Pearl Harbour lapbook organiser  which outlined additional websites and sources used:

For more complex subject such as World Wars, it helps to draw up basic vertical timeline and mark the dates for all the most important events.  This helps to follow the course of events chronologically as well as plan the lapbook layout.

We always pasted all the minibooks into the lapbook before we started so that we did not waste time searching through a packet of minibooks to find the relevant one for the day.  You can read all about this in my post Time-saving tips for doing lapbooks. I must add here that my children often pasted their minibooks where they felt it best fitted and not strictly according to the suggested layout and it never was a problem.

We duct-taped along the spine of the lapbook and punched holes in the duct tape so that they were on hand in our files or ring binders.  (Read how we assemble and duct tape our Aesop lapbooks here.)

We stored each child’s completed lapbooks together in a file folder as seen in the photo below.  (Read all about how we stored our lapbooks and notebook pages here.)

Here is my lapbook planner page  free download (available in .docs or  .pdf versions) to use for your planning ~ Lapbook Planner or Organiser (MS Word.docs) or  Lapbook Planner or Organiser (pdf)

My children loved doing hands-on activities so I always extended our planned lapbook time to provide a wide margin for the spontaneous learning activities or additional enrichment.

Please do not ever rush to finish anything!  Take your time and aim to include the “extra” additional studies and hands-on activities!  These will bring your lapbook study to life!

Blessings, Nadene

Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

In my last post  Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips, I created a set of posters which I would love to share with you ~

You can use these posters as reminders for yourself when planning lessons and looking for different options, or display them in your schoolroom so that your children can select an activity they would prefer.  I have included the all my ideas and suggested tips and strategies from my post in this download.

Here is your free download ~ Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

 Blessings, Nadene
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Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips

Homeschooling is perfect place for wrigglers and movers to learn! Somehow we have learnt that in the so-called “perfect education world” young children should sit still, rapturously attentive, quietly absorbing, and only responding “normally” as expected,  but guess what, most young kids just can’t sit still, keep quiet for long or respond only in the way that they “should”.

As a first-time mom I remember feeling a sinking, cold self-consciousness when my young 2-year-old daughter, stood and danced around instead of sitting and beating her little wooden sticks on drums exactly as suggested during a toddlers workshop.  But a wonderful wise mother shared her wisdom and she gently reminded me to let my child express herself, be herself and enjoy the learning experience. I needed this encouragement, because, in my idealism and ignorance, I thought my child was not learning the way she should.

Moving on a many years later, when I started to homeschool my youngest daughter, I realised that I had a “wriggler” who just couldn’t sit quietly while she listened and learnt.  So instead of frustrating her, I allowed her to hang upside down when she listened to read alouds. I gave her space to move and act out the nursery rhymes in order to remember the words.  If she wiggled and squiggled on her seat when she faced some sort of challenge, I encouraged her to rather go jump on the mini trampoline for a minute to bounce the jittery  anxiety out of her system.  She needed to move and stand on her chair to recite her poems, and she had to act out her memory verses.  She whispered and talked to herself while she worked on her studies.  She was learning!  She just had to move in order to do so.

Educationalists call the wiggly-need-to-move-in-order-to-learn-kids kinesthetic learners. But essentially all young children need to move their bodies to learn. That is why action songs are so popular with toddlers and young children This is why young kids need concrete things to use and play with as they learn.

Make provision for your young child’s wiggles!

Here are 30+ practical tips and activities ~

Classroom strategies ~

  1. Keep your lessons short and sweet — Thank you Charlotte Mason!   Young children have about a 10-minute attention span.  Lessons that are any longer may cause their wiggles and frustration to build up.
  2. Give them permission and redirect their energy towards specific physical activities such as  jumping or skipping with a rope, but use a timer or just one song before they quickly return to their seat to work.
  3. Alternate seat-work lessons with physical lessons. e.g.: Stand and clap and actions for Bible song — sit for Bible story.  Jump and skip-count on the mini trampoline — then sit to do Maths lesson.  Arrow bean bag game on the mat — then Handwriting lesson.  Quick hopscotch — then Spelling or Phonics lesson.  Tea time and gross motor activities outside — then cuddle on the couch for read aloud.  Do a hands-on activity while listening to a long chapter read aloud.   This variety will also prevent boredom and meltdowns.
  4. Place a mini trampoline in the school room and encourage quick bouncing just before fine motor work such as handwriting, or difficult mental work such as maths or spelling. Let them jump and call out their skip counting as a fun maths drill, or spell out loud as they jump. Just 30 seconds on a timer and them back to the seat to start the next activity.
  5. Use a gym ball instead of a chair for seat work. Make sure that it is the correct height – that they can sit with their feet flat and knees bent at 90 degrees and that their elbow can be placed flat on the table at 90 degrees. The ball stimulates core and balance muscles and allows constant movement and regulation. Obviously don’t allow wild rocking. You can place the ball inside a small hoop to prevent the ball rolling away when they stand up.
  6. Provide a balance pillow for your child’s seat.  You can also use this for balance games on the floor.  A balance pillow also stimulates the core muscles and tiny movements for balance.
  7. Use a rubber flexaband (exercise band) as a foot rest on their seat (scroll down to see the example photo on my Handwriting page). This is great if the chair is slightly too high for them to place both feet on the floor. They can stabilise their core and still enjoy the sway, bounce or resistance of the band under their feet.
  8. Place a foam rubber mat on the play area floor for other physical games such as sit ups.
  9. Use bean bags for tossing, throwing, balancing, placing in directions with the arrow chart.
  10. Sing action songs that encourage clapping and actions.
  11. Use a timer on a phone or desktop computer to regulate seat work or the quick, fun activities.
  12. Provide a bottle of water to sip during learning.  Many kids need to sip water to calm and help them focus when learning new or difficult work.

Use manipulatives for Maths, Phonics, Handwriting & Spelling~

  1. Use Maths wheels and Maths counting, shape and block apparatus to learn Maths concepts, practice drill work and solve Maths problems,
  2. Make flashcards, sliding strips or folding flap books for phonics and spelling.
  3. Use sandpaper for young children to trace over letters when learning to write.
  4. Use hula hoops, ropes and balls to create huge letter shapes on the floor.
  5. Use puzzle pieces, cutouts, felt board shapes & letters, white boards, magnetic letters or Scrabble tiles for spelling and phonics.

Plan Hands-on Activities ~

  1. Do hands-on activities while listening to read alouds or learning their lessons.
  2. Let them build models, make 3D models or maps.
  3. Create dioramas.
  4. Draw and colour in and then turn these illustrations into finger puppets.
  5. Use Legos or bakers clay to create objects related to the theme.
  6. Go on field trips and educational outings wherever possible.
  7. Let young children play with playdough or Lego  while listening to stories or lessons.
  8. Print and paste a coloured picture related to the story or theme onto some cardstock and cut this into puzzle shapes.  Let your child build puzzles while listening to read alouds.
  9. Do Science experiments and provide equipment and strategies for your child to lead their own investigations.
  10. Provide a nature study kit & journal and encourage daily time for exploration outdoors in nature.
  11. Use a globe and atlas when studying Social Studies and Geography.  Let your children pin and mark a large map on display.
  12. Use dress-up clothes and encourage your child to act out stories, plays and poems in Social Studies or Literature.  A basket with some long skirts and bonnets, aprons, hats, cloaks and waistcoats provides endless options and  most young children love to act!
  13. Video record your child and play the movie back so that they can enjoy their re-enactments and plays.
  14. Read and download or order my 100+ Narration ideas booklet.  This Ebook contains stacks of different activities that would suit kinesthetic learners!

Outdoor Gross Motor Activities~

  1. Stimulate vestibular activities (the brain’s ability to track spatial  movement) and encourage your child lie and swing in a hammock or sit on a swing.  Encourage both the  forward and back and sideways movements as well as hanging upside down or on their tummies.
  2. Play some physical games in between lessons which require lots of physical effort such as wheelbarrows — where mom hold their feet and the child walks on their hands across the room.
  3. Throw and catch and roll and kick balls.  Add a variety of different types of balls for these games such as large beach balls, soft squishy balls or bouncy balls.
  4. Teach them to skip and let them skip and call out maths counting or rhyming skipping songs.
  5. Draw chalk hopscotch or chalk ladders on your patio floor for obstacle courses or hopping and balance games.
  6. Do some brain gym exercises especially actions that cross the mid-line.
  7. Ensure regular play time using a jungle gym and include monkey rings, ropes, slides and ladders.  Encourage lots of gross motor activities every day.

Homeschool is the perfect place to allow your child the freedom your child needs to move in order to learn and to work off their natural energy and excitement.

Don’t worry that  it may seem that your child may never learn to sit still. As they mature, your child will gradually learn to self-regulate and control themselves more and more.  In fact, these days, many modern offices have standing desks, walking treadmills and open plan spaces for movement so that employees are encouraged to move more while working!

However, if you believe that your child has real concentration and/or behavioural issues, I highly recommend that you consider taking your child to an occupational therapist for an evaluation.  They often suggest fun exercises and play strategies to use at home and school.  If your child requires sessions with the OT,  just remember that the therapy sessions are not forever.  In almost all cases, as your child improves they will no longer need ongoing therapy.

Mom, you are your child’s best advocate and facilitator.  Your job is to find what works for your child and to encourage them to learn in the way that suits them best.   Be encouraged when your child is different!  This “different child” is exactly what the Lord planned as His best instrument to shape and change you.  He wants you to learn to love what is, to love unconditionally and to love without needing to change the other.  This is a work of grace.

So, breathe in and out slowly and deeply, and then trust the Lord to show you what your child needs right now and ask Him to show you how to support and encourage your wriggly child!

And don’t forget to have fun!  Your child certainly is having fun!

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

Here are some more ideas on the web ~

Practical Tip ~ Creative Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Nadene
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Work & Homeschool 7 – Independent Work

Concluding my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ independent Work 

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & 3. Take Messages  & 4. Office Hours5. Simple Systems & 6. Canned Responses.

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.

Independent work 

p1150787In the ideal world, children should eventually cease to need us to everything with them.  In fact, we should prepare our children to work more and more independently.

By junior high, your children will automatically begin to pull back and want to work in their own space and on their own.  But, for homeschool sanity, when working with more than one child, and especially when running a business or working from home, this is an essential component of successful homeschooling days.

Depending on your children’s ages and stages, it helps if you have some independent work for them to continue with if you have to attend to anything urgent. Here is a list of suggested activities for children to do more independently ~

  • Busy bags for toddlersImage result for bananagrams
  • An older sibling read aloud to the younger children
  • worksheets
  • workbooks
  • puzzles
  • online educational games
  • computer educational games
  • Scrabble
  • Bananagrams games
  • appropriate YouTube videos
  • Handicrafts
  • Cooking or baking
  • Sketch Tuesday or other art

Independent activities are very helpful for those unavoidable moments where you have to attend to work instead of teaching.  Just watch out that this is not the norm and that the children learn to quickly disappear to keep themselves busy whenever you are distracted.  It is far easier to keep them going than to stop and start again.

Some subjects should be fairly simple to ease towards independent work such as handwriting, copywork, spelling practice, mental math worksheets, or narrations.

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 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 6 – Canned Responses

In my post, Work & Homeschool 5 Simple Systems, I wrote that I regularly use canned responses to quickly answer many of our business emails.

Here is a Gmail tutorial to help you set up some simple, basic components of your regular emails to help you save time ~

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & 3. Take Messages  & 4. Office Hours5. Simple Systems.

Image result for gmailFirst, create a signature 

  1. Open Gmail.  Click the cog-wheel at the top right corner of your Gmail page.
  2. Scroll down to Settings.
  3. Scroll down to Signature.
  4. In the signature box, type in your closing greeting, your name and I recommend you include your website address.  Highlight that web address and click the hyperlink symbol above the box to create a clickable link to your website.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes 

Here’s my personal signature:

Now to create canned responses You need to enable this feature in your Gmail settings first:

  1. Click the cog at the top right and select Settings.
  2. Select labs.
  3. Find the Canned Responses option and enable it.
  4. Click compose, and type in the message you’d like to save as a canned response.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings

Now you can start creating your canned responses.

How to create new canned responses:

  1. Click Compose to open a new email message.
  2. Delete your signature if it appears in the new message.  Your message box must be absolutely empty so that you only have the words of your new canned response in the message box.
  3. Write out the generic styled greeting or salutation, or write out the content, or copy and paste the paragraph or information for a specific response from an existing email or word document.  You can include tables, numbered lists and styled word.
  4. Click the arrow at the bottom right of the page. Select Canned Responses and select New canned response … 
  5. A pop-up box will ask for a name for your new canned response.  Give your new canned response a name – just a few keywords.  This name will appear as the subject of a new email if you have not typed in your own subject.
  6.  Check how it works by going back to your new message:  Delete everything in the message box.  Click the bottom arrow, select Canned response, scroll down and click the title you just created, and the canned message wording should pop up in your message.
  7. Go ahead and create other messages you often need, each time starting with an empty message box and saving each topic with its own title.  I have about 12 canned responses, some very detailed, some numbered, or some with several paragraphs, each covering topics that clients ask me at least once a week.
  8. Your signature will automatically appear under any canned response in your emails when you open a new email.

For example here’s a canned response for a general enquiry, all this with just one click:

Here’s another example of the regular emails I send once I have posted seeds.  I simply insert the client’s name, the full tracking number and the rest of the date:

And another example of a question I often have to answer:

You can insert as many canned responses to any email that you need.  If I have a client that needs several questions answered, I simply insert each answer from my list of canned responses.

You can overwrite a canned response.  If you need to change any canned response, simply follow the same steps and then scroll down the canned responses listed and find the title under Saved and it will pop up a prompt saying, This will overwrite a response.  Are you sure you want to proceed? Click Yes and the new response in your message will replace the one you previously saved.

You can also delete any canned response by repeating the steps above, and scroll to the title below the word Delete.  Follow the prompt and click Yes.

I know this may seem like cheating, but I always personalize my greetings and add specific sentences to special emails.  Generally, I have well-worded, correct, detailed email content waiting for me to simply add to an email and, with these canned responses, I save hours doing repetative admin every 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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Work & Homeschool 5 – Simple Systems

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Create Simple Systems

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & 3. Take Messages  & 4. Office Hours.

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.

Create Simple Systems 

You all know that I love practical plans and simple systems!  Here are a practical, simple business systems that have helped me work more efficiently ~

  • To quickly answer detailed emails, I created canned responses that cover almost every topic and question, so that I can take just a few minutes to reply to emails and personalize that reply. (I will give a tutorial on this in my next blog post.)
  • Image result for empty inboxI love an empty inbox and so I created several email folders and I immediately move new emails to these folders once I have read and answered them so that I can keep my inbox as empty as possible.  For me personally, there is nothing more draining than opening up Gmail and seeing long lists of emails in my inbox.  An empty inbox at the end of a day is very satisfying.  Obviously, there are some emails that remain in the inbox until an issue is addressed or processed, but generally, all the emails live in folders and not in my inbox.
  • I have very simple physical filing systems – a file with an index and plastic sleeves where I can store all slips and papers.
  • I keep a running client order list in the front of my diary/ order book. This helps me have a “bird’s-eye view” of orders, invoice numbers, clients that have paid or require follow-up emails, etc.  By the end of the year, I have the entire business summarised on just a few pages.  The date is the reference back to the diary page where all the details are noted, and the invoice number takes me back to the document on the computer.  It is so simple, yet so effective!
  •  I use coloured highlighters on my running list to keep track of payments, tracking number, special delivery notes etc..  At a glance, I can see everything!
  • I number our invoices by numbers first and names second: Year + sequential numbers + names; or Month+day +name+abbreviated titles, so that the saved documents are kept in numerical order.  I have set my computer files to read from the most recent to the last.  That way, new orders are always on top and easy to find.
  • I have pre-written invoice templates in MSWord where I can simply add the invoice number, client information and date at the top and the specific order information in the body.  I open the template,  Select all (Control +A), Copy all (Control +C), Open a new document (Control +N) and Paste the copy (Control +V) and in 4 clicks, I am ready to fill in the invoice.
  • Image result for dropbox logoI save everything to Dropbox.   This has saved all our business information when my laptop crashed a few years ago.  It is also a fabulous way for my hubby and me to work on the same documents from different computers or tablets or smartphones.
  • I created a very comprehensive business website and refer clients to the website rather than spend 2 hours talking through specific, detailed information.  Most new clients’ phone calls and email questions cover the same information, so I also include hyperlinks to the website in emails because the client can view the photos and detailed information there instead of having to write everything out.

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 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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