Top Practical Pages Posts of 2016

2017 has arrived, but as I look back over the past year and ponder the changes ahead, it is encouraging to see some of my blog’s top posts and pages ~

Knights

  1. Lapbooks especially Pearl Harbor and my Parables Lapbook
  2. Cursive Handwriting Step-by-step for Beginners and pop over to my Packages page for all my other Handwriting books
  3. Paper Dolls, especially the Knights and Medieval and Ancient paper dolls and men which are very popular.
  4. Maths Pyramids for Mental Maths Practice as well as my other Maths pages
  5. Minibook Master Templates with versions in Word for you to edit and use
  6. Bible pages, lapbooks and free downloads
  7. All my Copywork pages which are fantastic for handwriting practice!
  8. Classify Land Animals with free charts and photos of all the animals to accompany Apologia Zoology 3 Land Animals of te 6th Day
  9. My first Pinterest-famous post Tracing Outlines of Famous Art Works
  10. Mini Offices with reference charts for junior through to high school mini offices

Enjoy all these free downloads and I wish you and your family every blessing in 2017!

Shifts and Changes

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year, my dear readers, and praying much grace to each of you as you enter into all that this year holds for you and your family.

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It has been some time since I last posted homeschool news here at Practical Pages, and I really appreciate the kind, loving concern expressed by some of you.  We all well and trusting the Lord as we start 2017.  But there is a reason why I didn’t post much …

But about 6 months ago, I sensed some shifts and changes in our homeschooling.  And, in all honesty, I could not quite put into words what I was experiencing.   I found myself sitting alone in our homeschool study while my teens were doing their own schooling.   Somehow it felt so right and I humbly agreed to hand over more choices and decisions to my teens.

And it didn’t all work out perfectly. 

My confidence floundered as my 17-year-old approached the end of the year without completing any of her end of year exams as planned. She is using an online course and I could not assist her, nor figure out why she was not progressing as she should.  It even led to a crisis with my hubby who felt that I had “dropped the ball” in her education.  I shed many tears in frustration and a sense of failure.  Sigh.  Then I breathed deeply … prayed and trusted … and I hope that she will complete her course by May this year.

I sadly let go of reading aloud with my 14-year-old as she withdrew into her own space and pace.  I felt her resistance to my more hands-on approach and I had to form a new relationship where she could be accountable and I could regularly check her work and progress.

There has not much to show of all these shifts and changes on this blog … no pretty new free pages, no new free downloads nor wonderful words of encouragement …  and I have even pondered the future of Practical Pages.  Bear with me as I adjust my focus and find my new purpose and vision.

So as I enter into 2017, and as I gain some clarity and insight, I would like to share a series of high school homeschool encouragement that I need myself …

Until next time, bless you all.

Busy Bees Sewing

witsand-xmas-marketIt has been quiet over here at Practical Pages this past month because we have been busy sewing and I put our homeschooling on the back burner.  We were given a last-minute spot at the fabulous Witsand Christmas Market to sell our handmade items this December.  Not having much time to prepare, we plunged in full-time!

My product line is called Birdie Bags and I am trying to generate enough stock to last the full month of Dec into the New Year.  I am sewing bags, mostly quilted drawstring bags and pencil and other zip bags.  These bags fold open to become a basket-tray, making it an ideal travel bag.  birdie-bags1

 

 

birdie-bagsMy daughters created a pyjama range and my eldest sews the beautiful tops, while my middle daughter sews the shorts and pants.  They have a wonderful friendship and an amazing collaborative business.  They are setting up their Facebook page and Instagram pages and already have orders, but their Christmas market stock is a priority.  img-20161102-wa0007

So, as this school year draws to a close and South Africans plan for their long-awaited summer December break, I trust you are finding your end of year flow and rhythm.

Much grace, Nadene

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Prepare for High School exams

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/4955e-310882_285912091448900_996350184_n.jpg?w=283&h=208I often say to new homeschool parents, “It doesn’t take 12 years to prepare for Matric/ final exams.”

Many new homeschoolers worry about homeschooling through high school and how their children will cope with formal exams.  As a result, and very sadly, many new homeschool parents opt for strict curriculums that require regular tests and exams to ensure that they cover their bases.  It is really a shame to waste early homeschool years of a love to learn by following a strict, rigid, formal, school-at-home approach.

Tests and exams are used to evaluate what the child has learnt and remembered.  It is often the means to prove that the teacher is good at her job and so that parents can see specific results to show how their child is progressing.  With large classes, it is often the only way a school teacher has a good idea how each child is learning.  Homeschooling is a one-on-one approach and, especially with daily narrations, parents can immediately assess their child’s knowledge and skill set.

Over the past 20+ years of homeschooling I have used a Charlotte Mason approach for https://i1.wp.com/kibabiiuniversity.ac.ke/library/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/kibabii-exam-papers.jpgall my children until they decided how and what they wanted to do to graduate/ matriculate.  In 2013 my eldest daughter opted for a NSC Matric (National Senior Certificate = South African nation-wide public school matriculation) and she used a curriculum that required regular portfolio assignments and quarterly exams at done under strict exam conditions at home.  She only wrote her first external, formal external exam for her Prelims exams (the exact version of the final exams in the same exam venue) and these prelims helped her prepare for formal her formal exams more than anything else!

Here are some tips to prepare your children to write formal exams ~

  • Complete the work~  It seems obvious, but it is vital that you ensure that your child completes their course material and portfolio projects.  Marks given during the year are a very important part of the final mark, adding to the exam marks.
  • https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/38/0b/84/380b845b4f227133d16ca6795d3eabcf.jpgSummaries~ Teach your child to make good, clear summary notes for each subject.  Show them how to simplify summaries with mind maps/ drawings/ labels or numbers or first letters of each main point in the margins.  Use colored markers and highlighters.
  • Use past papers ~ We downloaded past papers for each subject and printed them at a printers.  It cost a bit, took up an entire box file, but it was an excellent investment.
  • Exam memorandums ~ Ensure that you include the answers to all these past exam papers. This is a vital component!  Allow your child to work through an exam under exam conditions (timer and no books or notes) and then they need to work through the results. Check the mark allocations and ensure they do not miss steps that would cost marks.
  • https://emergencypedia.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/90-0019-2.jpg?w=247&h=247Use a timer~  This is a vital skill = to first check through the whole exam and look at the mark allocation and then work out how many minutes per section.  (You can find an example here.) Do this will all past papers!  It is vital to prepare your child to keep on track in exam situations.  Many exam centres have a clock on the wall, but if your child sits far from the front, they may struggle to keep their eye on the time. Many exam centres allow the entrant to use a small clock on their desk.
  • Prelims~ Prelims taught my daughter how to write matric exams!  Read the post here. Everything was learnt in this experience = from a good night’s sleep the night before, eating a good breakfast, time needed to travel to the exam centre, comfy clothes, the necessary identity and other documents, her stationary, meeting other exam candidates, to the exam room protocol and the actual exams.
  • Manage stress ~ Exams are stressful. While studying, eat well, take breaks, exercise, stretch, meditate, write motivational notes and messages to yourself, take extra nutritional supplements and herbal nerve support.  Teach your child slow, abdominal breathing.  Pray together.  Write out faith-building scriptures and promises.
  • Join the group~ Learning with others in a study group is important, especially for isolated homeschoolers.  It may help to join some other exam candidates for an early coffee and chat to discuss issues, fears, and share important tips.  It somehow helps to know that others fear and feel the same as you!

In the end, I believe that these exams are NOT about information my highschooler may have learnt. Exams are simply a life skill = learn how to complete the course work in the prescribed format.

Dear moms with young children, enjoy a simple, relaxed homeschooling journey.  Take your time.  Enjoy your child and their unique learning styles.  Focus on these delicious years of freedom.

Wishing you and your child writing the 2016 matric exams the very best!

Blessings, Nadene

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3 things to avoid in art lessons

20160607_143154Art is about creativity and inspiration, but many moms avoid teaching art in their homeschool because it is often seen as messy and unpredictable.  Here’s what to avoid in your art lessons — with helpful practical hints to do instead ~

Too focussed on the end product

Inexperienced moms and insecure children often look for a “cookie-cutter” approach to successful art lessons.  Typically these art lessons give step-by-step instructions which always result in similar outcomes.  This often kills creativity.

Always look for an opportunity to teach important art concepts, techniques, or history, and find ways to tie as much learning and personal choice as you can into every project you do with your students.  It is important for the art teacher to know what to do and how to do it, but it is more important to allow the child to discover and create and enjoy the artistic process without feeling afraid that it “won’t come out right”.

20150831_152347Too Formal

A gentle, informal approach to fine arts is really effective!  After years of teaching art, I found that most real creativity is often spontaneous and requires a sense of freedom.  Avoid tedious technical lessons, or using mediums that require great skill and ability or processes that frighten and exasperate children.  Rather let the child practice with a new medium or process on scrap paper and then apply this to another process.  This encourages exploration and discovery and will increase the child’s artistic skills.

Too Time-consuming

Plan art lessons in manageable  time frames.  Young children need shorter lessons, while older children can work for longer periods.  It is always difficult to pack away art and try restart the process another time.   Homeschoolers can devote a whole day to fine arts and complete rather complex art activities, if they want.

Plan and schedule art and do it with your children!  It is a wonderful way to build relationships and grow in creativity together.

What have you found works in your art lessons?

Blessings, Nadene

Stimulating Story Time

Good children’s literature and read alouds are an essential component of a Charlotte Mason education.  Literature is foundational to learning language, building vocabulary, discovering the world and ideas and stimulating creative imaginations!

Reading aloud is a vital skill and here are some tips to making story time stimulating and fun ~

book-farmPictures Your child’s first books should have interesting illustrations.  Many children’s books have amazing artistic pictures which inspire children’s imaginations.  Non-fiction books need bright, clear photos or illustrations.  Don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy each illustration and use them to connect your child with the story.  Very young kids love to find things in detailed pictures. “Can you find the little yellow duck?”  “Where is the red bucket?”  “How many blue balls can you see?”  Older children enjoy copying illustrations they find inspiring.  I often encourage my young kids to illustrate their narrations.

indexSounds – When reading aloud to your children, you and your kids should try make sound effect noises for animals, machines, weather and simple things that may happen in the story such as knocking on a door.  Young children love to participate in the stories with all the sounds and actions.  Boys, especially seem genetically created to make sound effects, so use it to make your stories come alive!

Accents and voices – Be ridiculous and make funny voices and accents for different characters.  red-sails-to-capriMy teenagers and young adult children still smile when they remember my ridiculous Italian accent when I read “Red Sails to Capri” and my over-the-top American accent (we are South Africans, so this was unusual for us) when I read “Strawberry Girl“.  Even animal characters need their own voices.  Go ahead and dramatize the story with your voice — your kids will love it!

Tone and emotion – Ue your voice to create moods and convey feelings.  Read aloud and vary your voice for effect — soft and slow for scary sections,  high, excitied voice for a happy piece, or slow and low voice to convey someone who is sad or depressed.

Pause – Use a pause to create tension and encourage your child’s participation.  A young child will jump in with a prompt when the story is paused for a brief moment — “The three bears walked into the bedroom and saw …” pause … “Goldilocks!” I loved using cliffhangers, and my children would beg me to continue.  Isn’t this the true joy of learning through literature?

And if all else fails, invest in audiobooks.  Librivox provides free audiobooks, but check the version before downloading as some books are recorded with monotone voices and dreary pacing.

Encourage your children to read aloud to you with expression.

Wishing you many happy years of amazing reading aloud in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

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3 Things to avoid in handwriting lessons

Are you new to homeschooling or facing a crisis with your child’s handwriting?  Here’s some practical advice ~

Here are 3 things to avoid in handwriting lessons:

  • Boring  laminated chartYoung children want to write real words as soon as they can and find endless pattern pages and those pages featuring one. letter. at. a. time. very boring.  These expensive handwriting books take almost a year to complete and many young children become frustrated and negative about handwriting.   We use laminated handwriting charts to learn to print and write cursive.  It is quick, free and painless, and within weeks your child will be able to start using copywork pages and practice their handwriting in real sentences.
  • Bad form – Everyone struggles and makes mistakeHandwriting arrowss when learning something new.  Some children become extremely stressed when they cannot control their fine motor muscles or struggle to remember how to correctly form each letter, and this adds to a negative attitude towards handwriting.    With my method, children use a whiteboard marker on the laminated handwriting charts which rubs out in a jiffy.  Any mistake is quickly and easily erased and the child feels much more satisfied at the end of their lesson.  To teach correct form, mom demonstrates writing each letter on the chart while talking through each movement and shape and then the child copies on the chart.  Watch carefully for correct starting points, directions of the stroke and when and where to lift the pen.
  • Basicshttps://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/p1070277.jpg?w=300&h=225Practice the basic letter formation.  Learn the upper case letters as soon as they master the lower case letters.  Go on to real handwriting as soon as possible using copywork pages.  Practice daily in short, sweet handwriting lessonsCopywork is an excellent handwriting exercise because your child will use almost all the letters, join cursive letters, combine upper and lower case letters in meaningful sentences.  This also is a great help in learning spelling and memorizing Bible verses. 

Here are some helpful downloads on my Packages Page

Handwriting Tips Booklet ($R5.00 / ZAR50.00)   This comprehensive 20-page E-book is packed with practical tips and activities covers pre, early and basic writing skills .  It includes helpful activities and fun pre-writing games to build up your child’s gross motor strength, develop fine motor control and develop their spatial awareness.  Important guidelines to promote correct posture and pencil grip for maximum control and minimum stress while learning to write.  I recommend you also purchase the step-by-step guides below for specific guidelines to teach print and cursive.

Teaching Print step-by-step ($1.00 / ZAR10.00)    An 8-page booklet with practical advice, clear examples and step-by-step instructions on how and where to place letters and how to form each print letter.  I share remedial and junior primary teachers tips, which have proven very effective in our in our homeschooling.

Teaching Cursive step-by-step ($1.00 / ZAR10.00)   A comprehensive 8-page booklet with practical advice, simple instructions, clear examples, step-by-step descriptions on how and where to place letters and how to form cursive letters.

Pop over to order you handwriting booklets on my Packages Page.

Wishing you every blessings, Nadene

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Slow learner Joys discovered

It is possible to experience joy when teaching a slow learner.  Let me encourage you and share my experience of how I discovered joy instead of anxiety.

If my youngest child had been in regular school, she would certainly have discovered that she took a lot longer than her peers to learn.  In those fragile years, I’m sure she would have been labeled a “slow learner”.   But instead, in the privacy and comfort of our home, she flourished at her own pace.

It came as a shock to discover that my very young child couldn’t remember nursery rhymes. Despite daily repetition, the words floated past her memory and she could only tell me the theme of the rhyme, but not the words themselves.  “Auditory memory issues?” my remedial-teacher brain whispered.  Then, I discovered quite by chance, that if she acted out the nursery rhyme she remembered it well. “Okay … she’s a kinesthetic learner.”

Learning the alphabet took much longer than with my other kids at her age.  Maths skip counting missed beats, and learning to read seemed to take forever.  She desperately wanted to read.  It was this inner drive that kept her working and working on her skills.   I must add that this is what is quickly lost in school systems!  Kids feel shame and fear and lose their love to learn.   They dread being exposed and hide or avoid reading in any form.

But safe at home, daily she would come to me with her little readers to read to/ with me.    I learnt to slow things down to the place where she flourished … partnered readingme whispering the words in her ear as she pointed and sounded out the words. This went on for ages. I just kept sitting with her on my lap reading with her for months and months and months.

And then, one day, she simply took off! And my emerging reader became an independent reader! We were both overjoyed!

20161006_162405My youngest daughter is now 14 years old and is an avid reader of adult classical books.  She has her own collection of classic books, preferably hard covers, that she scouts for at secondhand book stores, and she reads and re-reads these every moment she can.

If my hubby hadn’t kept me in check, I probably would have taken my child to a therapist to evaluate her and start some remedial program, but, instead, in faith, we simply followed her pace and allowed her to learn as she was ready.

Shawna writes in a recent post on Simple Homeschool “In celebration of the slow learner“,

“I think it is infinitely more important that our children feel confident in their ability to learn something, than in how long it may or may not take to actually learn it.  Speed has never been the goal. Mastery, progress, confidence – these are all things that take time, and that are worth the wait.”

May I urgently suggest that you homeschool your struggling slow learner.  Bring them home and save them the misery and shame of failure and labelling.  Do it now!  Don’t wait for the end of year or a term.  Homeschooling allows you to tailor-make their education experience.  Aim to relax.  Follow a gentle pace.  Don’t fret about “trying to catch up”.  I want to state this with absolute confidence — your child will learn when they are ready.

Secondly, if you feel the need to have your child evaluated, pray for and look for a remedial therapist with compassion, humour and patience.   Ask other parents how they and their children feel about the therapist before taking your child to their first session.  And in my experience, this is not a permanent situation.  Remedial therapy is a temporary help to overcome weaknesses.  As your child improves, she will not require therapy.   Don’t fall into the trap of doing hours of boring, dull, repetitive remedial exercises.  Don’t allow your child to feel like she has “a problem”.  Worse still, don’t allow them to feel that they are a burden.

Most importantly — pray.  The Lord showed me how precious and special my child was just as she is and not as I felt she should be.  I learnt to trust Him and follow His lead.  His joy and boundless love for her enabled me to love and nurture my child.

Mom, do not fret about your slow learner.  Do not weep.  This is your special gift … to learn to love uniquely.  To love without fixing.  To love without wanting to change someone. To love patiently, with hope.  Such love never fails.

Praying for you … for much grace, courage and strength!  Blesssings, 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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Oral narrations when a child hates writing

A reader wrote and asked me ~

“How can I help my son?  He absolutely hates writing narrations!  He sulks, delays, refuses and sometimes has a complete meltdown.  I know that he knows the work, but he just hates putting pen to paper.  What can I do?”

Here are some suggestions ~

Firstly, ask yourself why he is reacting so strongly.  Stress, immaturity and lack of readiness and writing skills can result in negative emotional reactions.  Take the pressure off and back up and away from any writing.  Go back to oral narrations.   Remember that oral skills develop long before written skills.

Some young children even battle at this stage. They freeze when they have to formulate their own version of the story or theme they have listened to.  My youngest couldn’t figure out how to start.  Or there were chapters which she found difficult to order (sequence) correctly.  My one child didn’t know how to keep to the point and rambled with long, draw-out sentences.  p1150685

Narrations require powerful mental strength! While the child actively listens, he  connects to the story, visualizing, comprehending, synthesizing and then remembering and articulating his thoughts.  He must take all the new information and sort, arrange, select, reject, classify and relate all the intricate details of the selection he heard.

Here are some tips on how to break down oral narrations ~

  • Prepare your child before you read.  Tell them, “I want you to listen carefully to the read aloud and after I have finished reading, I want you to tell me back what I have read to you.”
  • Paragraphs ~ Only narrate short stories or selections about one paragraph long.  Read a simple story such as a nursery rhyme or an Aesop’s fable.  By eight or nine years of age, a child should be able to narrate several paragraphs, and only at about 10 years should a child be able to narrate a chapter.  This would apply to all subjects.  Until your child manages to convey detailed, accurate oral narrations at this stage, he is not going to manage any written narration.
  • Prompts ~ Instead of telling back the story, use questions to focus on a specific aspect of the story such as:
    • What is the main event?
    • What did the main character do/ say/ or discover?
    • Why do you think the main character did ….?
    • Can you think of your own ending to this chapter?
    • Can you list at least 5 main points in this reading?
    • Can you sequence (put into order) the events that happened?
    • Give a very detailed description of the place/ season/ weather/ surroundings in this reading.
    • What action or character’s reaction impressed you?
  • Pictures ~ many young children find looking back at the illustrations in the story very helpful.  As they mature, they will learn to form and remember  their own metal image of the reading.  Looking at a timeline,  a natural science lifecycle or illustration is absolutely fine.  Gently encourage your child to develop this mental process and ask them to look and then tell without looking.

Don’t worry if your older child spends longer developing these oral narration skills.  Keep working on his mental processes and articulating his thoughts clearly before moving towards capturing written narrations.

Some children may have the necessary verbal skills, but have writing issues.  It may be the stress of physical mastery in actually writing print or cursive, or fear of spelling errors or fatigue when trying to capture everything on paper.  Again, break down the problem and use alternatives.

Here are some creative variations ~ 

  • Record the oral narrations – on a smart phone/ on the computer/on a tape recorder/ use a dictaphone/ use a video recorder.  Play it back and let him edit or re-do it if he is not satisfied.
  • Be his scribe and write out/ type his narrations for him word-for-word as he speaks.
  • Dramatize the narration if it is possible.  Some children lacking verbal skills may more effectively mime and dramatize their thoughts.  Act out a scene from the story/ create the introduction or ending of the chapter.

I wrote “What Works ~ Teach Creative Writing Without Lessons” post after my eldest graduated from homeschool and I can absolutely guarantee that narrations, first oral, then dictated, and written, have given my children all the writing skills they have ever needed for high school.  Not only that, but they are exceptional writers!  (Pop over to this post to read examples of their essays and narrations!)  They are eloquent, creative and highly skilles writers … without ever teaching them creative writing!

Narrations are the foundation for all learning!

Hope that these suggestions help you bring the relief and joy back to your narration sessions.

Blessings, Nadene

 

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