Use Comics To Teach Direct Speech

We had such fun creating dynamic comic strip stories for our Solar System studies.

Solar System Jupiter 002Because comics convey loads of information and visual detail, they are a wonderful resource for language arts and creative writing activities.

Most the comics include dialogue written in speech bubbles.

This led to a fabulous LA lesson on writing direct speech ~

We used our literature read aloud books to find examples of direct speech and together formulated our simple direct speech rules.

  • Write down the spoken words or dialogue that appear in speech bubbles exactly  as they appear, but inside inverted commas.
  • Use inverted commas or quotation marks “…”  immediately before and after the spoken words.
  • Insert punctuation marks that suit the dialogue after the dialogue inside the inverted commas.
  • Use capital letters to start any dialogue, or any new dialogue that follows a full stop.
  • Question marks  & exclamation marks act as a full stop.
  • Use an appropriate attribution for each speaker and try be creative and vary using the word “said”.
  • Separate dialogue from the attribution with a comma.
  • ALWAYS skip a line and start a new line for a new speaker.

Then we took a block from the comic with speech bubbles and discussed and wrote out the direct speech on our white board.  My daughter loves to be dramatic, and so she instantly used a variety of words other than “said”, but you may want to discuss other more creative words.  We looked through this list ~

RIP said is dead

Comic blocks with a lot of visual information needs to be described in words. Adding this to the direct speech, and conveying a flow of action, thought and interest to the written dialogue is a more advanced skill. The more advanced student will automatically interpret and describe the comic strip blocks to make a wonderful, interesting story.

Here is an extract of Lara’s direct speech based on the comic strip above ~

Direct Speech example

My daughter was so enthusiastic and was really proud of her first effort!

When typing the direct speech on the computer, she reinforced her typing skills as well as the technical aspects of the written direct speech.  When she had completed her first draft, I noticed that she hadn’t left a line open between different speakers.  When typing, she needed to press ‘enter’ + ‘enter’ again to leave a line open and begin on a new line.

Normally we use our literature books and copywork or dictations for all our language arts, but this approach was fresh, personal and exciting!  Using a previous lesson that was very successful and fun,  really motivated the content of this lesson and it worked brilliantly!


Alisa Burke Art Inspiration

Each month I try to introduce my children to a new contemporary artist for new ideas, new techniques or approaches to art.  (Pop over to my Art Page for all my art posts.)

Although I have recently shared about Jane Davenport and her “Beautiful Faces”, this post is about an artist I discovered last year and who profoundly influenced me …

Alisa Burke is an awesome contemporary artist!  Alisa Burke

She is a prolific artist, creating art and posting her sketchbook pages, her art processes and designs, studio updates, tips, fabulous tutorials and art ideas on her blog almost daily.

Anyone who knows me personally will have noticed the impact of her art, style and fashion in my life. In fact, I literally remodeled my wardrobe according to an “Alisa Burke Look”!  Here’s a page I put together from her Fashion Friday posts ~

Alisa Burke Fashion style

Clothes4I even figured out her style “formula” = Crisp white or black + geometric patterns / polka dots / stripes +  a pop of bold, clear color = I am a serious fan!

Of course, we have done quite a lot of Alisa Burke-inspired art here at home ~


She and her hubby and little 3-year-old often do collaborative art, which is really amazing.


Kate recently created these painting based on Alisa’s and her hubby’s latest collaboration ~

Kate's art4


And here’s Kate’s art inspired by Alisa’s beautiful portrait above ~

Kate's art3



Another stunning Alisa-inspired portrait done by Kate ~


And here’s my doodle page of art inspired by Alisa Burke ~


Expand your artistic wings and use some contemporary artist inspiration and fly!  It is wonderful to learn and experience art through someone else’s discoveries and creativity!


Sketch Tuesday ~ Door

This week’s Sketch Tuesday theme is ~

Sketch something with a door

Here are our sketches~

Sketch Tuesday Door 001

Cosy little Hobbit doors

Sketch Tuesday Door 002

Lara painted our schoolroom door which is actually our art gallery! She faithfully reproduced 10 paintings!

I encourage you and your kids to join Sketch Tuesday for Barb’s new weekly theme and slideshow.

It has motivated and inspired us to be more creative and to sketch often!


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.

Beautiful Face Tutorial Inspiration

For our general weekly art lessons, I love to discover a new contemporary artist each month.

Studying their art, techniques, mediums and their personal artistic approaches inspires us to create too!

This week we looked at Jane Davenport and her “Beautiful Faces”

We watched her video tutorial and came away utterly inspired!

Jane Davenport video

Jane uses a face stencil to create an outline and then created a double-spread art journal page using a picture collage that she incorporated into her lady’s hair.  She uses her own range of art markers and paint pens.    She demonstrates and explains several techniques which include pencils, paints, overlaying pencil, face proportions, making an eye “sparkle” and her journaling experiences.  She made it seem to easy and creative!

Here are our “Beautiful Faces”

Beautiful faces

Kate created her collage background with stuff from her stash of pressed flowers, pictures and a handwritten poem that she tore into bits. She was completely focused and motivated!

kate's Beautiful Face

Kate’s “Beautiful Face”

Lara started with a burnt paper and created a lady with flaming hair

Lara started her collage with a burnt paper and created a lady with flaming hair.  She really enjoyed creating all the flowing bright colors and layers in the hair.  Then she wrote out 2 poems that she felt expressed something of her painting.  A few splatters of paint and she was happy!

Lara's Beautiful Face

Lara’s “Beautiful Face”

I found a soap advert that inspired me.  I loved the purple color and the rose in her hair.  I layered old sewing pattern paper on my background.  I realized that the pattern paper spoke of my constant "measuring up" and trying too hard ... and it seemed perfectly natural to surrender to the Lord and find peace ...

I found a magazine picture that inspired me. I loved the purple color and the rose in the sleeping lady’s hair. I layered old sewing pattern paper on my background. I realized that the pattern paper spoke of my constant “measuring up” and trying too hard … and it seemed perfectly natural to surrender to the Lord and find peace …  wonderful how art speaks to our souls … I wrote in a scripture that come to mind and finished my painting with some lace.

Nad's "Beautiful Face"

Nad’s “Beautiful Face”

Despite living on an extremely remote farm, high up in the mountains, we are so grateful for our WiFi and our Internet connection to the world’s great artists and creative inspiration!

Why don’t you give this tutorial a try?


Reader’s Question ~ Hold back on Phonics?

I really enjoy receiving your emails and comments!
Your thanks have blessed me.
I am so grateful to be able to blog posts of encouragement and inspiration here.
Some homeschool moms write to me looking for some advice or to confirm their choices.
Knowing that others face similar fears, challenges and questions, I want to humbly submit my reply.
Recently a reader emailed me with this question ~
“I have held back with teaching phonics and handwriting because my son who turns 6 in May has not enjoyed any workbooks and shuts down when I start talking about sounds.  I love your idea of laminated handwriting charts and I think this will be a better fit for him than workbooks. What do you think?” 
 And I replied ~
I think that your heart confirms what you are doing!
  • Follow your heart and trust your instincts.  
  • When your child is not ready, it is very good to hold back from formal workbooks and lessons.
  • Young children often need more physical, gross-motor development before doing fine-motor skills required in handwriting.  Pop over to my post “Fine Handwriting Needs Fine Muscles” for games and activity ideas.
  • Don’t force any subject or skill, but simply wait for your child to show signs of readiness. Kids that pretend to write generally are ready to learn to write.
  • Even a slow child  catches up and excels when they are ready, eager and enthusiastic.
  • Continue with the stuff they enjoy.
  • Don’t sigh with disappointed or make any sign of your frustration.  Simply pack the workbook away and find something else that is interesting and fun!
  • Every 3 months or so, try again.  Some kids never take to some approaches and you may have to be creative and do some Internet browsing for ideas.
  • Please don’t spend money on fancy workbooks or full curriculum packages, especially those that promote those with all those “bells and whistles“.  They are often expensive and will not necessarily make your child enjoy his lessons any more.
  • Read Ruth Beechick’s little books on Reading, Language and Maths!  Her advice is sound and excellent and her lessons are simple and highly practical.
  • Teaching handwriting with my laminated handwriting charts is really effective!
  • It is my genuine experience after 15 years+ of homeschooling, that short, sweet lessons work!
 Hope that this advice helps you!  What would you suggest to this reader?  Please share in the comments below

Maths Mini Office Updated

My kids have all used their mini offices for years,

mostly for maths, and, I am sad to admit, mostly for multiplication tables!

(I wish their mental maths was much better, but we have all been lazy in this area.  Sigh.)Homeschool 2015

Anyway, a mini office is a very handy reference that one can personalize for each child’s needs and ages and stages.

I have recently updated both my Junior and the Senior Mini Offices.

The Junior Mini Office containsMini Office

Mini Office2

  1. Number Line & Number Chart
  2. Ordinal numbers & Fractions
  3. Tally or scores, finger counting signs, shapes, directions
  4. Number words & Roman numerals with blank clock face
  5. Multiplication Tables
  6. Seasons & Months
  7. Days of the week & time of the day
  8. Address & Where am I?
  9. Weather
  10. Sight Word Walls
  11. Family Words
  12. Print Handwriting Chart
  13. Cursive Handwriting Chart

The Senior Mini Office has only Maths information or cheat sheets ~Mini Office1

  1. Multiplication table
  2. Number chart
  3. Roman Numerals & Angles
  4. Circles
  5. 2D Shapes with their circumference and area formula
  6. 3D Shapes with their circumference and area and volume formula
  7. Triangles
  8. Maths symbols & Compass directions and bearings
  9. Conversions of time, distance, volumes, mass
  10. Order of operations
  11. Fractions to decimals & percentages, Recurring decimals to fractions
  12. Different types of fractions
  13. Base numbers squares & cubes
  14. Number systems

Pop over to my Mini Office page & check out my super-duper all-on-one-page Calendar for junior primary!

This is a 1 page-does-it-all-in-one chart, which when all assembled with rotating circles and slide bars instead of fiddly flash cards, pictures, Velcro and all those other bits & bobs, the child simply rotates the circles under the windows and slides the viewer to reveal the relevant pictures and information. Easy as pie!

 Handy Tips ~

  • Print out only the pages your child needs.  (It is in A4 landscape format.  You can try print 2 pages on 1 page to create a smaller A5 version.)
  • Paste onto card stock or a file folder or lapbook.
  • My senior children used a plastic display file folder.
  • LAMINATE!  It will last for years.
  • Use whiteboard markers on your laminated surfaces.
  • Keep handy in the child’s maths books, notebook or ring binder.

It is really worth laminating this chart when you make it!

We have used our chart for over 7 years and it is still as good as new!



We recently made our own sundial.

Sky and have a super easy tutorial and free downloads on How to make a sundial.

Homeschool 20151Although it wasn’t absolutely accurate, my daughter was impressed that we could tell our time with a sundial.

We used the printout, a pencil, a compass and an atlas, and it was really quick and easy to set up!

Hands-on activities are such a wonderful method of making learning real and exciting!

Give it a try with your kids!


Sketch Tuesday ~ Farm

This week’s Sketch Tuesday theme is

Sketch Something on a Farm

Living on a farm, we both wanted to include several of our favorite farm animals and activities!

Bio Boost veg garden

Here are our sketches~

Sketch Tuesday Farm 001

Our milk cow Mandy in her stanchion happily eating, and scratching nearby, our rooster, hen and her little chick

Sketch Tuesday Farm 002

My sketch came out a bit like a cartoon, but I still enjoy it!

I encourage you and your kids to join Sketch Tuesday for Barb’s new weekly theme and slideshow.

It has motivated and inspired us to be more creative and to sketch often!


Solar System ~ Stars Nebulas & Supernovas

During our Apologia Astronomy studies this past year and these first months we have been amazed at the incredible synchronicity of astronomy news and discoveries!

This week, while we studied stars, nebula and supernovas, BBC News reported the discovery of

Doomed twin stars found at nebula’s heart

Planetary nebula Henize 2-428

The odd shape of the nebula can be explained by the “double-degenerate” pair of stars at its core (Image:

I also used this opportunity to teach my 12-year-old to create her own minibooks for her Solar System Lapbook.  Using MSWord, Miss.L12 opened my Minibook Master Template, copied a template, inserted and pasted images & text boxes, grouped shapes, cropped, saved and printed these minibooks ~


Stars nebulas supernova minibooks

As it is summer here in South Africa, we went out to star gaze one night.

Homeschool 20152Using our large telescope, we all took turns to view Jupiter and the rising moon.  We managed to identify several constellations, especially Orion and its major stars Rigel and Betelgeuse.  We also used our famous Southern Cross and The Pointers stars to draw imaginary lines to find due south. Our Southern Star Wheel was also very handy, as were the reference books I borrowed from our local library.

(Tip: New homeschool moms, ask your local library to register you as a teacher.  They then usually allow you to take out more books on block loans for longer periods than those permitted by conventional members.  Registered with the library, homeschooled children may also take out extra books for the normal loan period.)

Here are your free downloads ~

References ~

Enjoy your stars and astronomy studies!