Sketching Often

My girls and I love creative activities,

and Sketch Tuesday is one weekly opportunity to sketch and create

… just for fun!

While on holiday I marveled at my 15-year-old daughter’s creativity

… on the beach ~

Dec 2014 holiday

She created some amazing mandala inspired designs on the beach almost every day.  Folk walking past were really impressed!

To quote my favorite contemporary artist Alisa Burke,

“A mandala is actually really easy to create because it is simply a series of repeating designs in a circle.”

Pop over to view her Office Statement Wall mandala.

But, back to Sketch Tuesday … and here are our recent sketches ~

Sketch something that floats

1-Sketch Tuesday Floats 001

2-Sketch Tuesday Floats 002

Sketch something that sparkles

 3-Sketch Tuesday Sparkle 001

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!


Success in Short Lessons

A Charlotte Mason education is rich in Humanities, with living books and narrations.  She recommended that Disciplinary Studies such as Maths, Handwriting and Spelling  lessons were kept short.  Short lessons enabled children to “develop the habit of attention, preventing the contrary habit of dawdling over lessons.” (Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner, pg.43)

Short seat work lessons

Booster cushions and feet on a ledge

Short lessons are easy to describe.  We think of 5, 10, or a maximum 15 minute lessons.  You may wonder if a child can learn anything in such a brief lesson, but working one-on-one with a child, they can complete a spelling drill, write neat sentences in a handwriting, complete a copywork or dictation exercise, and work through a page or two of a maths lesson.

What do you need to create successful lessons? A child’s mastery and ease in learning?  A mom’s delight in instructing with clarity and understanding?  Happiness?  Smiles, confidence and some excitement?  A sense of joy and anticipation?   This is not always the case!

For successful lessons you need to ~

  1. Plan ahead.  Print out the work for the week/ month/ school term or year.  Good preparation is vital to successful lessons! Most of this work is done for you if you use workbooks or purchased curriculums.
  2. Prepare suitable material.  Prepare age-appropriate, learning-style-suited content.  The lesson approach and presentation should be suited to your child’s ability.
  3. Adapt and modify, amend and add other lesson elements. One size does not “fit all”. If it is too easy, move up a level or add a creative element.  If it is boring or too difficult, change your approach or  method.
  4. Explain your expectations.  Lay out the lesson with clear instructions and define the result, e.g.: “Using your neatest handwriting, I want you to copy this passage neatly on the lined paper.”  Charlotte Mason urges parents to “Expect prompt, cheerful obedience.”  These short lessons is not only skills-based, but habit and character training.
  5. Be fully present and available.  Physically arrange your seating so that your can read and help each child.  I usually sit between my youngest children.  Avoid distractions, delays and procrastination.  Also guide your child through any difficulties and encourage them to do their very best.  Remember – NO nagging!
  6. Create structures that encourage independent uninterrupted learning.  My children enjoy working through their lessons in a ring binder and their workbooks.  Workboxes are a huge hit with many homeschoolers. Whatever method you use, keep all the books, lessons pages and materials in a box, or chair bag, a basket, or on bookshelf right near your child.  You do not want your child to leave his seat throughout this period.  Disruptions destroy focus and energy!  However, you may find the next point very helpful …
  7. Pop in a quick stimulation physical breaks.  Arrow ChartYoung children have loads of energy!  Let them quickly do some “Brain Gym” exercises, or use my amazing arrow chart for quick directionality exercises, or jump on a mini trampoline skip counting or calling out times tables!  30 seconds, and then quickly back in their seats for the next short lesson. Older children should devote themselves to all their brief lessons without any need for breaks.
  8. Water in a spill-proof bottle.  Many children need to sip water to help them think!  The brain needs water.  Have them fill up a sports bottle with fresh water before coming to the table.
  9. Chose to work in an appropriate time in the day.  Many young children are fresh and alert early morning after breakfast.  Teens seems to only get focused after 10am.  Some families find that their children work better after lunch.  Whatever time suits you and your children, make the most of their vital, alert hours for Disciplinary Studies.  This is the joy of homeschooling. It is not School-At-Home with rigid timetables, but a tailor-made environment that stimulates and inspires learning.
  10. Finally, give your child very specific descriptive feedback.  Find the success in every lesson.  Ask your child to circle their best handwritten letter or word.  Mark and correct all work immediately.  Children love to mark their own work too!  If there are mistakes, fix them there and then.  If there were too many mistakes, review the lesson and try it again the next day. Children love to see that their work was successful.  A positive comment can make a child’s day! This helps your child feel that they are on track, coping well and mastering the work, which helps them face with the next lesson with enthusiasm.

Hope that these tips help new homeschool moms who love and use a Charlotte Mason approach.




Tailor Made

Tailor-make your child’s education.


If I asked you if you ever had anything “tailor-made”,  you would probably say that you were not rich and famous enough, or that a mom or granny had made something just for you.  It would probably be really unique and make you feel really special!

Homeschooling allows for this kind of perfect fit and delight!


1. Outline your basic subjects – I use a simple “House Model” picture and fill in subjects, books, ideas and activities I have in mind.  This gives me an easy overview.

When planning, include all the basic subjects required by state regulations, adding extra subjects where necessary. Some first-time homeschooling moms may find mastery lists that outline what your child should know and master for their age and grade as a good guide.

OverviewYear Planner with my notes

Overview Year Planner with my notes

2. Discover your child’s learning style and your teaching style - has clear definitions, explanations of the different learning styles with practical teaching suggestions.  Multiple Intelligences has an online quiz for kids and adults and generates a clear pie-chart of your test results.  You and your child can clearly see strengths and weaknesses. Multiple intelligences resultsNow, consider your own personal loves and hates in teaching styles and AVOID those curriculums and approaches that will burn you or your children out!  (It’s no good preparing fiddly, artsy projects if your lack of space and patience or temperament will make you dread school!)  Find those subjects, methods and activities that will ignite your child’s delight and interest and focus on those.

3. Discuss and look over options together.  This is more important as your child moves into middle school, and especially towards junior high.  High school options needs a lot of collaboration.   Once you have an idea of the broad subjects your child needs to cover, go ahead and discuss specific subjects, topics and options.  Check with your child each year as they mature.  They may have loved doing lapbooks, but may now find them frustrating and boring.  Here are some questions I asked my 12-year-old child this year:

Do you want to continue with Bible Draw? Old Testament or New? Old Testament.  Can we continue with Hymn singing?  Umm, er … (She objects to my CD recordings – so I need to look for more modern Hymn versions!)

Maths – Are you still okay with the workbooks?  Sure.  But I really love using my compass, protractor and set square set.  You enjoy Geometry?  Good, I’ll see what other fun stuff we can add once a week!

Spelling – Do you still want to work with our lists? What about this book? NO.  Okay.  And Spelling City games and tests?  Yes. Great!  I’ll upload this year’s lists.

Are Lapbooks still okay?  YES!  And do you still want to do hands-on activities? YES!  Good!  I’ll see what I can find …

What would you like to study for Science/ Geography/ Social Sciences?  I may suggest ideas I had initially jotted down and we delve a little deeper, browsing through books I have on hand so that she can better see the activities and ideas that could be fun.

4. Find, plan and prepare the actual subject material – Now I spend some time “shopping” from my own bookshelves and used curriculums.  Also, I spend time on ‘legit’ Pinterest browsing and I search the Internet for free downloads.  My homeschooling materials have seldom cost me anything more than my printer’s ink!  Some years, we may purchase one or two products, but I almost never ever buy full packages, with all the bells and whistles!

5. Follow the sparkle and delight!  Remain flexible and adaptable.  Add plenty of time to take scenic routes, detours and rabbit trails!  Follow your child’s interest and involvement.  You can always stretch a 12 month curriculum over 18 months!  Be humble about stuff that doesn’t work and gently lay aside the themes, topics, activities that don’t work. If you homeschool several children on the same core (which I highly recommend), allow for individual choices.  Give them options.  I may suggest 3 or 4 activities and they chose the one that they prefer.  I love to let my child take the lead!  It has empowered her and released me from my “teacher-knows-it-all” ways!

This last year, my daughter was utterly delighted with her tailor-made package!  After I laid out her books, projects and her school file and went through it with her, she jumped up and hugged me and said, “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you,mom!  I’m so glad you are my teacher!”  It made my whole teaching career!  It has been a joy to teach and facilitate her in her own learning.

If you have a child with unique, special interests, or a child with learning challenges and difficulties, homeschooling is the only solution, only IF you tailor-make their schooling experiences.  A “slow” learner will thrive at his own pace.  A child who hates and struggles with writing can record, video-record or demonstrate his learning without tedious notes and workbooks.  Find ways to make your child’s education fit their style, interests and strengths.


Refreshed Daily Themes

If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you will have read how we fit in all the rich and rewarding extra Charlotte Mason subjects using a Theme of the Day.

This year, as my 12-year-old daughter and I sat and discussed what and how she would like to learn (tailor-making homeschool is an absolute winner), we reviewed our daily themes and come up with a fresh version ~

Daily themes 2015 Here’s your free download with both our 2014 and new 2015 versions ~ Daily Themes 2015

Fun alliteration makes it easy for us to remember!

How do we fit in our daily themes?

I planned all these activities to follow our normal daily disciplinary studies (Bible, Maths, Spelling, English Language Arts & 2nd language studies.)   If we work well and don’t have too many interruptions, then we may complete our daily theme before lunch.  But I have scheduled this for the “1 more thing after lunch“.  Also, realistically, because we take one day off to travel to town for our weekly shopping, we will combine 2 days’ themes on one afternoon or fit it the next morning schedule.  Flexibility is essential in our homeschool schedule.

  • Masterly Monday = “Meet the Masters” in Fine Art!  Study famous artists’ masterpieces and listen to classical music from famous musicians.  We will also do our own arts and crafts and handiwork.  This year we will continue to follow Patti’s blog “All Things Bright and Beautiful” Charlotte Mason approach to art, music and poetry.  She has truly done all the hard work for us!
  • Tea & Poetry Thursday = Read our Poet of the month or follow Patti’s blog for her poet studies.  Having tea should include some fresh cookies or cake!  This is the afternoon for baking together.  We will also add Shakespeare to our afternoons.  This year we may add monthly prepared reading aloud, presentation of speeches or recitations.
  • Finally, Fabulous Fridays = For fun creative writing and journaling.  This may be a good opportunity to complete any other written narrations or projects for the week.

So there ~ a rich and rewarding education made possible by scheduling short extras and finding a way to fit it in our schedule.  Please feel free to share your schedule ideas in the comments below!


Creative Crafts ~ Morse Code Bracelets

Nadene creates2I found this really cute idea on HonestlyWTF.  Erika uses embroidery floss and sliding beads to expand and fit her bracelets.  She explains in an excellent tutorial ~

“You’ll pick 4 colors for each bracelet. A base color, a color for the dots, a color for the dashes and a color separating the dots and dashes.”

Morse code braclets

image from HonestlyWTF

But after experimenting, I found the embroidery floss difficult to thread through my smallest seed beads.  I also struggled to find the right bead for both ends to slide through snug enough to “fit” the bracelet, and so I decided to simply use basic beading elastic.

Using this online Morse Code Translator and a Morse Code Translator app on my smart phone, I wrote out the codes for some messages I wanted to create in some gift bracelets.

Morse code words

Most my gift bracelets had 3 short words or one simple word.  I used the person’s favorite color for base color.   I attached the gift bracelets to some cardstock and wrote out the message with its Morse Code.  Most folk simply loved the bracelets, but they were really touched by the message when I explained how it worked.

It is a lovely way for your kids to learn and practice Morse Code.  Have fun creating!



Christmas Jesse Tree

This advent, my youngest child and I created a new, quick and simple Jesse Tree using chicken wire curved to form a tall narrow cone and decorated it with free downloads from around the Internet.

Homeschool moments

  • First I drew and painted some small Jesse Tree discs to follow our Jesse Tree Bible study and added these to the Jesse Tree Ornaments I had previously downloaded free from Paper Dali  (I don’t think that it is available free anymore ….)  To protect them I covered the discs with clear packaging tape.  Then my daughter ran the discs through the sewing machine to join them together into a lovely long bunting.  We draped this bunting around the tree.

Homeschool moments1

  • Next I painted the black & white version of the Names of Jesus Ornaments downloaded free from Bible Story with bright,bold colors.  You can print out the colored version, but I wanted to save on printing ink and I loved painting them myself!  These discs are larger than the small Jesse Tree discs and fill in much of the wire tree space.
  • Last year we made Names of Jesus strips which my youngest stapled into paper rings and interlinked them to make a lovely paper chain to decorate our Advent table.
  • Lastly I downloaded our Jesse Tree ornaments from Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift download.  We colored some elements of each picture in with silver and gold pens and protected the pictures with clear tape.
  • We used thin florist wire pieces to twist through a tiny hole pierced in our decorations and hooked them simply over the tree’s wires as we follow our Jesse Tree Advent story.

Here are some extra Jesse Tree ideas and resources ~

  1.  Jesse Tree ornaments from Printables.Your
  2. Beautiful felt Jesse Tree Ornaments from Mandy
  3. Jesse Tree
  4. Alanna – Advent Activity – The Jesse Tree For Kids
  5. – Jesse
  6. – Advent-Liturgy-Jesse-Tree-485053
  7. Simple Jesse Tree Ornaments {Tutorial}
  8. Jesse Tree Ornament Set with Old and New by InspiredTraditions
  9. This Simple Home: Homemade Jesse Tree
  10. 12 Days Blog Hop: Jesse Tree Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible | Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs –
  11. Biblical Christmas Countdown Advent Calendar Jesse by NavyMango
  12. The Jesse Tree Advent Study and Free Advent Printable Set | Free Homeschool Deals © –
  13. Jesse Tree Ornament Set with Old and New Testament Scripture for each…

Hope this inspires you if you are looking for Jesse Tree and Advent activities.


Creative Crafts ~ Bleach Painting

 Cheap, instant, magical … bleach painting adds a stunning creative touch to clothes!Kate's art2 Nadene Oct

Some bleach painting tips:

  • Always test on a scrap of similar fabric or on a part of the garment where the bleach effect can be tested but not seen (like inside a seam or on a hem).  Most dyes leave a trace color after the bleach has worked.  Some fabrics are extremely color-fast and do not bleach out.
  • Work on a plastic sheet and newsprint.  I bleached my skirt over a covered ironing board.  Place a plastic sheet or plastic packet inside a shirt so that the bleach doesn’t bleed through to the other side.
  • You can use basic domestic liquid bleach and a waterpaint paint brush.  You can also use water brushes and even simple ear buds/ Q-tips!
  • You can paint bleach on to stamps and press the stamp onto the fabric.
  • Plan your design on your garment with a chalk pencil or fading fabric markers.
  • I found great simple designs on Pinterest.
  • Stencil designs work well too!
  • Note – the bleach is invisible at first, but within a moment or two begins to fade the fabric.  If you paint over a bleached area after it has dried it may go even lighter!  I loved the magical appearance of the design a few seconds later!
  • Caution – some fabrics become fragile under bleach.  Hand wash carefully.
  • Caution 2 – wear protective clothing when working with bleach.
  • This is an excellent activity for middle-school children and teens.  Ask them to bring an old colored T-shirt to class and provide small cups of bleach and Q-tips for them to paint and design patterns and images on their shirts.
  • You can spray bleach with a fine misting bottle over a stencil or design pasted onto the material.  Some folks use freezer paper.  Lettering or a simple cut out design works well.

Bleach painting is addictive!  You may find good reasons or no reasons at all to bleach paint a huge number of your clothes!  Stop before your wardrobe looks like it fell into a bleach fountain!

Have some creative fun this festive season!


Creative Crafts ~ French Patio Ideas

I recently created some wonderful crafty decor for our patio in French Provence style.

Bunting always creates a festive atmosphere!

Using unbleached calico I made some French Style Bunting with fabric painted details ~ use the free stencil download below for ideas).  Baste the triangle pieces edge-to-edge on wide ribbon and then fold the ribbon over and serpentine stitch the ribbon to cover the top of the bunting.  (Remember to add at least 1m of ribbon to either end of your bunting to use to knot over poles or around trees.)

French patio1

My daughter and I created a Printed Table Runner.  Pop over to my Project Page for the tutorial.

French patio

I painted some patio cushion covers for my bench and wicker chairs.

French patio2

Lastly I hung a few lanterns on blue ribbon over the table for some ambient light and intimacy.


A week of creative fun transformed my patio into a festive French-styled outdoor area.

For some French Provence stencil ideas here is a free download ~ Provence patio stencil ideas



Solar System Comics ~ Uranus & Neptune

We’ve enjoyed creating comics for the planets we have studied in our Apologia Astronomy studies.

It takes a fair bit of thinking and planning, and quite a lot of quiet time to draw and write the dialogue for the comic strip.  We both found that it helps if you have an amusing character or story line to get into the creative flow.  I tend to try fit in too many facts and find that I get bogged down, while Miss.L12 has a blast adding sound effects and drawing humorous situations!  In fact, one can get away with totally absurd ideas!

This past week we studied Uranus and Neptune. Both planets’ comic strips are on one page.  (Miss.L12 will hopefully complete her comic soon and I will add it here.)

Solar System Uranus & Neptune 001

And if you missed our earlier Solar System Comics, here they are ~

Here is a free blank comic strip page download ~ Solar System Comic notebooking pages.