Laminated handwriting charts too slippery?

A reader recently asked ~

“I’m interested in your handwriting charts. But I’m wondering, does the child need more initial feedback from the paper than a laminated copy might provide? I’m wondering if this is too slippery and potentially frustrating for a newbie. Is it better to start with a chalkboard or actual paper that provides some friction in the learning process?”

Here is my response ~

What a good question regarding the need for friction or feedback when starting to learn handwriting on a laminated handwriting chart!
I suppose it would depend on your child, but all my children found the smooth, gliding feel of the whiteboard maker on the laminated chart eased their hand and finger-grip stress.
My youngest child didn’t have much finger and fine-motor strength and her pencil work was very faint and wobbly when she first tried writing with a pencil.  Using a laminated chart and marker was a huge help because the whiteboard marker made a lovely, clear, wide, bold line without her needing to apply any pressure which built up her confidence to write.
As she played finger strength games and practiced her handwriting daily using the chart, her finger pressure improved and she then made the transition to using mechanical pencil. (Read my Practical Tips on mechanical pencil here.)  She used softer B pencil lead instead of HB lead because the soft lead made a clearer, darker mark.
The only problem I have seen is with left-handed writers may smudge their writing when using whiteboard makers on laminated charts.  They need to adjust their hand position so that they don’t smudge over the wet marker as they work.  Also, in an attempt to avoid smudging, a left-hander sometimes develop an excessively rounded “claw” wrist position, where the child writes “above” their writing.   This extreme wrist angle puts too much strain on the wrist and down into the fingers.  Remember that a left-hander should try sit on the left-hand side of a desk, especially when sharing with another child.

Handwriting Tips Booklet

Pop over to my Packages Page to order your copy of my Handwriting Tips booklet where I share activities, games and exercises to build up gross and fine motor strength, teach the correct pencil grip, and sit with good posture to help create a stress-free handwriting experience. 
Hope that this information helps your child master their handwriting lessons with ease!
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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Illustrated Narrations

A reader wrote and asked me, 

“I understand that my 10-year-old should be writing some of his narrations, but he still balks when faced with his blank notebook page.  How do I encourage his early written narrations.  He’s very visual and artistic.  Does an illustration count as narrations?”

Narrations (or “telling back”) are the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education and this complex learning activity takes years to master before your child can confidently write his written narrations.  Illustrations are an excellent starting point for early narrations.

Here are some creative narration ideas ~

  • Draw or illustrate the most important scene/ the ending/ the main character/ the surroundings/ machines or inventions mentioned.  Draw articles mentioned instead of making lists.  My kindergartener start drawing pictures of their narrations in a large jotter.   Sometimes this was part of their “busy hands with listening ears” activity while I read aloud.  Afterwards,  as they told me what they remembered of the story, I jotted their narrations next to or under their illustration, capturing a detailed, personal retelling.
  • Earth Solar System Comics 004Mom prints the child’s dictated narration next to or under their illustrations in pencil.  Encourage young writers to then trace over the penciled narration with a colored pen or felt-tipped pen.  This forms excellent handwriting practice and develops the child’s handwriting stamina.  It also looks like “their own” narration — which it is!
  • Draw a comic strip of the narration.  A comic strip can include a massive amount of information!    Comics with just 6 blocks can easily sum up entire chapters and are great for imaginative, visual children.  Comic strips help a child order or sequence their narrations. We did a whole series of comic strips for our Astronomy studies.  Here is my free blank comic notebooking page.
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/p1080498.jpg?w=300&h=225Make a model or 3D image.  Children love creating paper or cardstock models, like the 3D Little House in the Big Woods.  My children loved to illustrate, color in and cut out the windows, doors, and other folds which, when pasted correctly, formed three-dimensional illustrations.  Young children love to lift flaps and look inside doors and windows!
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/p1080139.jpg?w=401&h=301Use those Lego blocks for narrations!  Children draw the backdrops and characters for the scenes in the reading.  Punch suitably sized and spaced holes into the cardstock to fit the Lego blocks and clip in between Lego blocks to stand upright.   Children can “act out” their narrations.  They placed their cardstock scenes and characters into an envelope pasted on their notebook page to store them safely.
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/p1070351.jpg?w=300&h=225Use minibooks instead of a large notebook page.  This helps the child feel more confident that he just has a small space to fill  and he need not fill a whole blank notebook page.   I often combined minibooks with my notebook pages.  The image and heading on the front of the minibook provided an excellent narration prompt.  My young kids loved these minibooks and enjoyed planning their own page layout and often filled a large notebook page with several narration-filled booklets.  A real Win-Win!
  • Lapbooks follow the same principle mentioned above and we used lapbooks for almost all  middle school subjects.   I believe that lapbooks are an excellent transition to formal notebook narrations.

I hope that these ideas help and encourage you and your child develop creative narrations!

Blessings, Nadene

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Reader’s Question ~ Art Appreciation with Boys?

This week I would like to share another interesting reader’s question.  
She asks ~
What would you suggest I use as a start to art appreciation for my 6-year-old and 4-year-old sons?   I am not a natural artist and I was never really exposed to art, but I would love to share art with my boys. Are boys even interested in fine arts?
She also asked about purchasing art products, curriculums and art lesson books.
Here are some of my suggestions ~p1130060.jpg (1280×960)
  • It is really not necessary to buy any art formal curriculum at this stage. While packages, books and programs are often a great blessing to moms with little confidence or art experience, it is really not necessary to spend much/any money on your art appreciation lessons.
  • Pop over to my Art Appreciation pages for inspiration for art lessons, activities, links and outlines of famous artworks.
  • For free lessons, I highly recommend Patti’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful” because she prepares a weekly picture, classical music selection and poems with all the Internet links.  Subscribe to her blog and you will receive her emails each week.
  • Read Simply Charlotte Mason post Teaching Art Subject By Subject on how to do your picture study and teaching art expression.
  • Barb at Harmony Fine Art has Fine Art Plans to purchase, but she shares loads of free artist study ideas and lessons!
  • Jimmie of Jimmie’s Collage shares her free Charlotte Mason Artist Study lessons, ideas and links.
  • Use what you have or borrow books from the library and select an interesting artist and look at his work for a brief lesson once a week.
  • Don’t worry about being able to paint or do art either.  Simply enjoy the art activity with your kids. We LOVE doing Sketch Tuesday each week!
  • Find stuff that is fun and non-threatening for your kids and do it along with them!
  • There are tons of YouTube videos and blog with ideas and tutorials, but, again, keep things loose and informal and encourage participation without stressing about “doing it right”.
  • ALL children can enjoy art appreciation.  Some artists, topics or techniques lend themselves more to boys, while others, girls may find more interesting.  Select interesting art – especially the subject matter.  Vary the type of media or art studied.  It may be typical to assume that boys may enjoy the physical, messy art lessons, while girls may prefer “pretty” art.  I have found that everyone forms a personal reaction and response to art.  It is a subjective experience.  That is what makes it so special.
  • Art appreciation doesn’t mean that you or your kids have to “like” every art piece!  My youngest daughter hated  most of Picasso’s art!  But, she can recognize his works!  Ironically, her Guitar Collage art appreciation activity was chosen from an international search for a child’s art work for a poster!
Lastly, please may I encourage you not to KILL art and music appreciation!   I ruined my eldest daughters simple joy for art & music appreciation and nature study by trying to make every encounter a formal lesson with a notebook page, narration or activity to show how much she had learnt.  I came on too strong and too ‘teachy’.   have learnt my lesson!  Keep it really informal and relaxed.  If your child shows any real interest, then by all means, take your time to research, read references and look for other examples.  Even a very informal quick lesson has rich and lasting impacts on our children.
What other suggestions would you give this reader?  Please share in the comments below.
Blessings,