Bookshelves Our Main Interior Design

We are a family that loves books and we have an enormous book collection.

My husband has an amazing collection of spiritual books; a library of carefully selected authors and titles.  Most my books are English literature and a classic literature collection.  Once we got married, we quickly ran out of shelving space in our first apartment.

As we progressed through parenting and homeschooling, our book collection grew dramatically.  In two of our following homes, we built bookshelves which covered entire walls from floor to ceiling in our studies!

Children’s literature, beautifully illustrated children’s storybooks, board books for toddlers, pop-up books, books with flaps or windows were always on lower shelves where young kids could easily sit and read.

We have always used the local library for most our extra reading material, but where possible, we have invested in our book collection!  During the year, I like to add titles to our online bookseller account wish lists.  I encourage you to buy books as gifts for each child’s birthday or Christmas and encourage your children to develop their own book collection.  Ask grandparents and family to contribute to your children’s library.

While Kindle and EBooks help reduce the need for shelf space and provide easy reading, there is nothing quite like a physical book.  The smell of the pages, the feel of the cover, the weight and page distribution add to the reading experience.

Image result for books under christmas treeRegardless of where your reading comes from, offer your children a variety of reading material; fiction and non-fiction books, biographies, well-written short stories, illustrated books, magazines, and even comics.  Living books are stories filled with detailed descriptions, well-crafted characters, covering amazing adventures, crisis, and courage.  Non-fiction books should not be boring!  These should be fact-filled books related to the author’s personal experiences that cover their travels, observations on geography, sciences, nature and discovery of all living creatures.

But more than shelves that house these precious books and decorate our home, our interior worlds have been dramatically influenced by reading. Good books have inspired, instructed, and, informed our minds and hearts. Books have led us deeper spiritually, and have wonderfully formed our a vision and cultivated a rich lifestyle.

I have said it many times, but if you JUST READ to your children, they will learn! discussions about the story, the settings, the character’s crisis or drama, lead to discoveries, to new ideas and knowledge, which all produce a rich education.

Books have given our children the space to imagine and invent, to dream and design lives that could be.

May you all discover new books wrapped up under your Christmas trees! Wishing you all a restful, grace-filled festive season!

Blessings, Nadene


John Muir Nature Quotes & free Copywork pages

Previously I introduced the famous naturalist John Muir.  Today I would love to share a wonderful collection of his beautiful and inspirational nature quotes.

Here are 15 of John Muir’s famous nature quotes  ~

I was struck by John Muir’s real passion and love for nature and the Creator which he expressed so beautifully in his quotes, all taken from AZ ~
I collected several short quotes, some slightly longer quotes, as well as several long quotes.  These would suit children from junior primary all the way to high school.

You can use these quotes ~

  • in your nature journalling
  • displayed in your nature study centre
  • copied or dictated for Copywork
  • for handwriting practice
  • for debate topics
  • as creative writing prompts
  • for nature causes and ideals

Here are your free downloads which include Charlotte Mason’s copywork & dictation principles, about 10 pages of quotes, as well as lined copywork pages ~

May these pages inspire you and your children in your nature journalling and handwriting practice.

Blessings, Nadene

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Introducing John Muir

Recently I introduced wildlife biologist, naturalist, artist and modern educator, John Muir Laws. But there is another more famous, much older John Muir.

Here’s an abbreviated Wikipedia biography ~

John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas.He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park.

The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings has inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. 

John Muir’s writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and his books became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness.”

Watch his biography Part 1 ~

And John Muir’s biography Part 2

His writings are inspirational, and I found them to be very similar to Charlotte Mason in his love for time spent outdoors, and its restorative qualities.  

Join me for my next post where I will share a wonderful collection of John Muir Nature Quotes for Copywork and nature journalling inspiration.

Until next time, be blessed, Nadene

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Making time for nature study

A homeschool mom wrote to me and said,

“My greatest struggle in doing Nature Study is not being able to find time to do a walk or do a nature journal entry.  I know that we should make the time.  What do you suggest?”

Charlotte Mason’s had a great love of the outdoors and she advocated that children spend healthy doses of time outdoors every day.  She encouraged her students to develop the habit of keen interest, observation, detailed comparisons, and an ever-growing knowledge of plants, seasons, living creatures, and geography.  Her approach was natural, gentle and fun!  She encouraged each child  to keep a nature journal ~

“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.  Every day’s walk gives him something to enter …” (Vol 1, p.54-55)

Outdoor time is restorative, calming, refreshing and inspiring.  It changes our moods, lifts our spirits and shifts our perspectives.  Young children need the outdoors almost as much as they need food and sleep!  It is vital to their growth and development.  They need to touch, feel, hear, smell, taste and experiment with nature. Let your kids get wet and dirty!  It is an essential way for them to discover the world around them.

Over the years we have used several fun outdoor nature study activities that provided wonderful nature experiences, some which lead to nature journaling and further study or research.  Tea time or just before or after lunchtime every day is a good time to go outside into the garden and to find something on topic.

Here are some really quick, fun nature ideas with free downloads:

  • Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges Nature Photo of the Week topics.  Choose one word for the week and let your children grab a camera or smartphone and find and snap photos of their nature word for the week.  Children absolutely love this activity!  If they want, you can print out photos, and let them make a journal entry and possibly research anything that captured their curiosity.  Download the chart here ~ Nature Photo of the Week Chart
  • Here’s another quick idea!  Let your children pick out a colour from the pack of colour cards and encourage them to spend a time outdoors finding that specific colour in nature ~ Download ~Color Hunt Cards printable from Handbook of Nature Study
  • Ambleside Online’s follows a simple theme for each season and term. Display some reference books, library books, pictures and examples of the theme on a nature display shelf and encourage your children to look for those topics outdoors on their nature walks each week.  DownloadAmbleside Online Nature Study Schedule
  • For quick, fun nature activities, use my Smash This Nature JournalsThese nature walk prompts are simple, unusual, sometimes messy or out-of-the-box ideas.  Boys and young children especially enjoy these fun nature journal activities. Print the Smash Nature Journals out and encourage your kids to complete a page or two each day. 
  • Allocate one day in your week for nature study.  We followed our Theme of the Week and Wednesdays were for “Wonderful World” where we did longer nature walks, added Geography lessons and completed an entry in our nature journals.Daily themes 2015

It doesn’t matter if your kids seem to “play” instead of formally learning.  If you teach them to be curious, observant and inspire them to observe and notice details in nature around them, they will surprise you with their knowledge and passion.

Please don’t kill this natural delight by teaching or making a big deal about knowing everything or looking up everything about things found in nature. During my early homeschooling years almost killed my kids’ enjoyment of our nature walks simply by being overly enthusiastic and teachy. May I suggest that you ditch the idea of formal nature study lessons and do very informal, but regular, fun nature walks instead.

I hope that some of these outdoor prompts inspire you and  I encourage to make time for nature study into your school days!

Blessings, Nadene
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Cultivating curiosity in nature study 3 ways

Recently I watched an excellent John Muir Laws (read my introduction to him) YouTube video ~

Nature Connection through Deliberate Attention and Curiosity

John Muir Law encourages folk to keep a nature journal so that they develop sustained, compassionate attention, and as they sketch and make notes, which helps one to really be there, they form deep connections with nature.

He believes that the key to developing a closer connection with nature is by deliberately enhancing your powers of observation and wonder.  He says,

“Attention is what the fabric of love is made from” 

In the YouTube video above, he explains how the methods of a field naturalist help you notice more, remember what you discovered, and be actively curious.

In essence, his 3 keys to cultivating curiosity in nature journaling is ~

  1. NOTICE = Verbalize, talk to yourself as you look carefully as a way of being attentive; “I see the flowers stem …”  “That bird has a ….”  It may feel strange at first, but it is a great tool for forming detailed observations.  Young kids do this all the time!
  2. WONDER  = Ask yourself questions, enquire and wonder about the hows, whys and whats of what you see.  Don’t young children ask questions all the time?
  3. This REMINDS ME of  = Connect what you notice with other similarities, link this new information or experiences to what you already know.  This is a powerful learning method!

The fourth element in cultivating curiosity nature study is to share with others.   We learn from other’s thoughts, questions, similarities and knowledge, making our experience even richer.  Discussions with others and sharing nature journals brings greater understanding and one’s concrete observations stand out even more.

Encourage these 3 simple methods in your homeschool nature study lessons and enjoy the benefits of curiosity and creativity to form connections in nature.

Go ahead and be child-like in your nature study!

Blessings, Nadene
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Introducing naturalist John Muir Laws

For expert nature study instruction, let me introduce John  Muir Laws ~

John Muir Laws (and Laws is his surname and not as in “rules”) is both a scientist and an artist who is a trained wildlife biologist, naturalist, and educator who passionately shares his love of the natural world through nature journaling.    He teaches people in workshops and lectures, giving them the tools to improve their observation, memory and curiosity, scientific illustration, and field sketching, all while encouraging them to have fun and fall more deeply in love with the natural world.

His website John Muir Laws offers excellent nature study resources, with very practical tutorials, sketching examples, regular blog posts and helpful journaling tips.  He offers free nature studies curriculums; BEETLES (Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning & Expertise Sharing) and CNPS Nature Journaling Curriculum Youth Training program.

His YouTube videos channels are phenomenal!  He shares many of his workshops on almost every aspect of nature journaling and how to draw series.  If ever your children ask, “How do I draw a bird/ leaf/ flower…?” go to John Muir Law’s YouTube tutorials!

He also has a Nature Journal Club where members go on monthly field trips in and around the Bay area, but, for those not living in the area, he encourages others to start or link their own nature journal clubs, He posts tips, techniques, and lessons learned  – “Tips to help you start your own group today”

For nature journaling inspiration and practical tutorials and how to draw lessons, bookmark and enjoy these John Muir Laws links.

Blessings, Nadene
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Sad Tears

Getting Real ~

My sorrow suddenly crept up on me and it caught me off guard. Warm tears filled my eyes as I gently laid my hands on top of the piles of books in the still open boxes.  I pack the half-used highschool curriculum away, and I quietly realize that I feel sad.

These books are a wonderful curriculum and had I tried every which way to make it work, but my youngest daughter just did not connect with the package. The unread books simply became a boulder I felt I was pushing up a mountain.

“Have you read this week’s literature yet?” I would ask each week, knowing she had not.

We fell behind the already stretched out schedule and I finally admitted that it just would not work. We simply would not do the rest of the books.  It didn’t help if I read aloud to her.  The spark just wasn’t there.

It is not the unfinished course that bothered me. This happens, and I have learnt that when you force learning, it doesn’t stick. A child may have some short-term information, but, with no internal connections, it quickly fades.

I felt sad because there were treasures lying unopened in the box. Beautiful books, deep spiritual books, precious testimonies, amazing autobiographies, wonderful character-forming non-fiction books. I was sad for all these lost opportunities.

Perhaps, as I did in my early years of homeschooling, I could have pushed and insisted and maintained a stricter control over my daughter, but I did not. Maturity and two decades of homeschool experience have presented me with a different approach. One that recognises that I am simply a facilitator and encourager. My role as an educator is not to shove, push, pull, cajole, demand, insist, force, fret, or manipulate my child in her learning journey.

So, I acknowledge my feelings as I sit and cry for a little while. Then I wipe my eyes, neatly stack the books, pull the lid on and label the box. And it’s done. The era is over, that season is finished. I sigh and exhale the disappointment. I breathe deeply and accept what is and move on.

Sad tears as a part of letting go.

Blessings, Nadene
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Mom’s Nature Journal Beach Walk

Recently we walked along the pristine Witsand beach at the Breede River estuary at low tide. There was so much to notice and, although I didn’t bring my phone along to take photos, I made detailed mental notes as we walked.

I noticed the shells, the seagrass, seagull feathers, patterns in the sand, patterns of floating sand particles in the little water ripples, algae growing on exposed rocks, holes in the sand, whelk shell patterns, twigs and driftwood.  At times, as I looked carefully, the patterns looked like abstract art. It was beautiful.

When we got home, I sat quietly and created a double-page spread of our beach walk in my nature journal ~I enjoyed creating the sand ripple patterns as well as the detailed sketches of shells and seagrass.On the other page, I added a boxed area to show the floating sand patterns which I saw in the shallow pools, as well as adding detailed pen sketches of the seagull feathers.

Nature journaling brought back wonderful memories of our lovely long walk on the low tide seashore.

Recently I shared my discovery of Lara Gastiger’s botanical art.  She has created a perpetual nature journal and adds to the monthly pages each year.  What a wonderful way of creating layers and details to double-page spreads.  This way, there is no pressure to fill up a whole page, but to simply sketch a detailed entry in a space and that’s it!

If you need some journaling ideas, I encourage you, moms, to join Barb’s of Handbook of Nature Study’s  Outdoor Mom Journal nature journal prompts each month:

  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…

I love the simple joy of doing a monthly Mom’s Nature Journal entry.  Charlotte Mason calls it “Mother Culture“ and it is a wonderful way of learning and growing along with our children.  It is also an activity that can extend long past these busy homeschooling years to become part of your own personal creative and observational life!

Happy nature journaling!

Blessings, Nadene
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Online Homeschool Curriculum Fair

I’m excited to be part of The Parent Heart’s Online Homeschool Curriculum Fair!

For just R25, you can connect with loads of curriculum providers, ask questions and get the info you need to make informed decisions.   Listen to pre-recorded talks from experts, and then to interact with them in an online question and answer session.  And you can do this from the comfort of your home, all day Saturday 18th November.

I have spent some time figuring out Live Chat on Facebook and I look forward to meeting you there!

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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