Busy Bags

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Busy Bags

A question new homeschool moms often ask veteran homeschoolers is,

How do I keep my toddler busy while I teach the older kids?

Most moms of toddlers, trying to homeschool older children, find themselves constantly diverted to direct or keep toddlers quietly busy while older children work and find themselves frustrated and exhausted.

Busy Bags are the answer!  These toddler activity bags are wonderful for other times too, like travelling, church, doctor’s waiting rooms and restaurants.  May I add that grannies or babysitters can enjoy pulling out a busy bag when toddlers come to visit!

Having a stash of busy bags in rotation can bring some calm and sanity for at least some of the morning.

Here’s some tips ~

  • First find some suitable ideas.  Pinterest and Google searches will provide endless ideas for every age group.
  • Vary the type of activity.  Sorting, colors, arranging, grouping are very similar.  Try include activities for all senses, new skills like threading, counting, creative play and pre-writing skills.
  • Pack away bags!  These are for formal learning time and not for general play.  They are your focussed homeschool time.  If toddlers play with them when ever they chose, they will be bored with them at school time.
  • Rotate bags every week.
  • Share your resources with another mom or your group.   This will provide a wonderful variety and collection in a very short time.  If there are 3 moms in the group, each mom makes 3 copies of each activity.  Then at the next get-together, give a quick demo and swap and share with the others.  Sometimes these meetings provide  new, additional concepts or applications for the activity that we could use or adapt.
  • Store busy bags in a basket high up on a shelf, or in a box, or drawer and take out the bags for the day.  See examples at Small Potatoes and  All Our Days
  • Train your toddler.  Show them where to sit and how to do the activity.  Importantly, teach them to pack away everything afterwards before taking out the next bag.
  • Toddlers love repetition.   Don’t worry about their request to do the activity over and over.  They love the feeling of mastery.  When they are done, they usually have learnt the skill and are ready to move on.
  • If the activity doesn’t “work” or “fit” your toddler’s ability or interest, gently and quietly pack it away for a few months and try again later.
  •  Similarly to the workbox method of preparing activities for each child for the week, busy bags  can be adapted for older children when they are finished their work and are waiting for mom’s attention.
  • Older children’s activity bags could include recipe card and ingredients, science experiment equipment with instructions, sewing, beading or craft kits, memorization cards, project or hands-on activity instructions, maths drills or something simple and fun!

Hope these tips help you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene



Practical Tip ~ Hands-on Activities

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Hands-on ActivitiesHere’s my secret to successful, fun, memorable homeschool ~ Plan a hands-on project or activity for each theme that is well-suited to your children’s age and interest and to the lesson taught.

Here are some benefits ~   20140807_123837

  • As children use their hands to build, sort or otherwise manipulate materials, different areas of the brain are activated, enriching the learning experience.
  • Diversity of skills, methods, materials and activities develop children’s personal connections which creates the best memories of the books, themes, characters or topics studied.  Remember – concrete before abstract!
  • Abstract concepts are made concrete by physically manipulating materials to represent abstract concepts in different subjects.  This is very important for young children!
  • Hands-on activities are engaging and motivating when children are using manipulatives or are involved in hands-on activities.
  • When children practice and show what they know by relying on movement, activities or manipulatives, children involve a variety of learning skills  in addition to reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  • Hands-on activities involve creativity with materials they are using, such as when they are building a model or creating an artistic representation of a concept.
  • Diversity of hands-on activities allow children to present their understanding in their strengths, while creatively encouraging them to develop in their weaknesses, for example, kinesthetic/ verbal/ non-verbal/ visual/ auditory / spatial-dimensional / dramatic/ musical/ presentation.
  • Hands-on activities are  very important for remedial education, reinforcing learning where children struggle with reading, writing or speaking skills.
  • Hands-on activities are wonderful for gifted children, giving them challenges and creative opportunities to express themselves.
  • Children may need to work with siblings,  partners, teams or small groups which develops their ability to collaborate and communicate.  
  • Young children develop a sense of independence when they are encouraged to do things for themselves.  This is huge confidence booster!
  • Hands-on activities make incredible introductions to lessons where children are instantly drawn in and motivated in the lesson.
  • Used as conclusions to themes, hands-on activities provide an excellent summary presentation for the work studied. where children can demonstrate their application of techniques, knowledge and understanding.  These projects often form wonderful displays for family and friends to view and enjoy!
  • Provide choice and freedom.  I have only discovered in these last few years that my child can create their own  learning with some prompts, suggestions or concept outlines. I provide the necessary materials and she decides how and what activity she prefers.
  • All my kids rate the hands-on activities as those they loved and enjoyed the most!
  • Simply = it is fun!

Don’t forget to include high schoolers in your hands-on activities planning! 20140722_175101

  • Especially in Science and Biology, where correct techniques, scientific approach and accurate methodology are vital.
  • More importantly, as the study becomes more abstract in high school, hands-on activities may provide the necessary experience to make connections and cement the highschooler’s understanding.
  • Career and vocational hands-on activities provide meaningful and realistic experience for teens and young adults to more effectively chose their future study and career.

Are there any disadvantages?20140220_122903

  • Some projects take a long time, with several phases, such as our solar system mobile above.  My suggestion = MAKE the time available and stretch out your schedule and plan it in.
  • Space to be messy and creative.  Prepare the area, use plastic table cloths, aprons or newspaper to make cleaning up simpler.  Work outside weather permitting.
  • Some projects are difficult to store but photos capture the project for portfolios.
  • Not every lesson has a practical activity.
  • Some children become very stressed and frustrated by mess or creative processes.  They may prefer written projects or quiet presentations.
  • Some parents see hands-on activities as “busy work” and prefer to focus on formal lessons.  This is especially true for “school-at-home-type” homeschooling where parents insist on keeping to a strict schedule.  Again, may I plead with you to relax and enjoy the journey!  Especially with young children – take your time and make the time for hands-on activities!
  • Parents homeschooling multiple ages find these activities distracting to the other children.  My suggestion is to find something suitable for everyone to join in or to provide unique options for each child.

My blog is filled with hands-on activity posts!  Here are some posts to read ~

Other articles on the Internet ~

I trust that these practical tips inspire and encourage you in your homeschooling!  Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences or questions in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene







Self-Portraits In Pen

This week we decided to create pen and ink self portraits.    Lara and I both used  current photos on our phones and we sketched happily for several hours.

Here’s Lara’s photo and self-portrait ~

IMG-20160712-WA0000Ii is unusual to see my daughter with such wild hair and I love her photo editing skills!

20160711_150611I love her shading and accurate sketching!  Her picture is an A4 size.

Here’s my photo and self-portrait ~


IMG_20160712_170043537I must confess that this is my second attempt.  My first sketch seemed very out of proportion which worried me every time I looked at it.  Somehow, one is more critical of a self-portrait and one notices everything that is slightly distorted or out of proportion.  Makes one wonder if that is how we see ourselves?  My sketch is much bigger, a lovely A3 size page.

What art are you busy with?

Blessings, Nadene

Practical Tip ~ Arrow Chart

This week’s practical tip ~


I discovered this concept during my studies in remedial education when I was a student and used it regularly with all my classes during my teaching career.  Teaching and reinforcing directionality and spatial awareness, the arrow chart is a very effective exercise for children, helping in all subjects and activities.

  • Quick and fun, arrow chart drills last only a few minutes
  • Can be adapted for groups and one-on-one lessons
  • Used as a preparation before a formal lesson, arrow charts promote focus and attention
  • Excellent tool to help refocus a child after breaks
  • Wonderful for remedial skills which help improve a child’s handwriting, spelling and maths
  • Use bean bags and jumping for gross motor responses
  • Use just arm movements for seated drills
  • Apply verbal commands or replies “up/ down/ left/ right”  or compass directions “north/ south/ east/ west”

Read more in my posts ~

Here’s your free 4- page download: Arrow Chart with detailed explanations, examples and remedial activities and suggestions.

Hope this practical tip helps.

Blessings, Nadene


Round Table

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

round tableWe have always had a round table for our homeschooling and it remains a wonderful, practical method of sharing space and being near the child who needs my assistance.

Some simple practical tips ~

  • Round tables are fairly informal = not school-at-home-desks (although this is perfect for those families who chose to do so🙂 )
  • Place children on opposite sides and sit in the seat between them.
  • Sit to the left of a right-handed child to watch them doing handwriting or work through maths problems, or write dictations.  This way you can see what they are writing.  Vice versa for a left-handed child.
  • Use a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table for shared stationary or art sets.
  • It is easier to share books or view the same picture when sitting at a round table.

Combining different ages at a adult-sized table ~

  • Smaller children sit at a low table and chair near my chair.
  • Younger middle school aged children should sit on sturdy cushions to bolster their height to the correct height = elbows at 90 degrees to the table.
  • Use an elastic exercise band/ strap for smaller children to rest their feet on a base.  Read how seating affects handwriting.

Now that my  children are  teenagers, they prefer to sit on their own and spread their things out.

Homeschooling is an organic, changing approach, and we sit where the season and lesson best suit our needs.

In grace, Nadene

Collaborate With Your Teen

Kate's art1When you give a child a choice you give them power.  From chosing their own clothes while still toddlers, to chosing subjects when they are teens, your child somehow feels more in control.  This sense of power is very motivating and positive.

Some advice I wish to give to homeschooling parents of older children is ~


  • Visit other homeschoolers and view high school curriculums together.  Try to discover the type of work load, assignments and testing/ exam approach the curriculum requires, and match that your teens’ strengths and preferences.
  • If your teen prefers studying with others, this may guide you towards a high school course that includes tutors and study partners or groups.  Also, if there is tension and stress in your homeschool relationship with your teen, a third-party tutor or group can provide the necessary motivation and encouragement for your teen.
  • Do online aptitude tests to discover potentials, strengths and definite “no”s.  We thoroughly enjoyed our experience together and had in-depth discussions on the results.  (My 16-year-old scored zeros for a career field in 3 different tests!  A definite option we could eliminate!)
  • Discuss career options and what subjects and graduation requirements are needed to study further.  Investigate which university or college your teens has considered when they graduate high school.  Gap year maybe … why? where? and what?  What are their dreams/ hopes/vision for life after homeschool?
  • Collaborate with your teen regarding their study hours, work space and scheduling.  My eldest loved to work early in the day and complete her studies before lunch, but when I had to tutor her, she had to wait until I had completed homeschooling my younger children.  This led to much frustration for her.  My middle teen is a very slow starter.  She only seems to find her spark towards lunch time.  I become frustrated with her if I don’t allow her the freedom to work at her best times in the day.  Let them chose and try facilitate the best options.
  • Tess' SewingAllow your high schooler to choose and develop their own interests and hobbies.  Teach them these skills.  Most our birthday gifts are materials and equipment for their hobbies. Teens need creative space and time to themselves.
  • Encourage your teen to earn money off their hobbies and activities.  This may develop into entrepreneur or job opportunities.  My eldest has already had diverse jobs  and this has provided her with wonderful life lessons, character training and valuable experience.

Allow your children to make good choices and allow the consequences to teach them those life lessons.  Let them try new things, and to change their minds.

Give them the credit when they succeed and give them courage to try again when they fail.

As your children mature, your role is to become less directive and more supportive.  This  journey is different for each teen, and you will grow and learn from each child’s experience.

Wishing you every blessing and much grace, Nadene


Notebook Pages On Hand

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

notebook pageMy blog was birthed because I wanted to share my notebook pages!

Notebooking is a fundamental basic for a Charlotte Mason– based approach.

Some tips ~

  • Start with free downloads.  Several blogs and websites were a welcome resource when I started homeschooling.   Notebooking Pages, Notebook Fairie and Homeschool Helper Online  were excellent sites!
  • Keep them on hand.  File your notebook pages in a large notebooking ring binder.  Make several copies of your kid’s favourite pages.  Also, I filed notebook pages in my children’s ring binders ready for each lesson so there was no delay between the lesson, looking for a suitable notebook page and their work.
  • Start with basic pages and create specific pages.   When I created pages,  first pages were a variety of blank format/ boxes/ lined and header pages.  Then I created specific pages for Sonlight History notebook pages, Copywork pages for handwriting practice, Biography pages, Bible pages, notebook pages with famous artists, famous musicians and world leaders’ quotes for each theme, topic or chapter we studied.
  • Start small.  For reluctant writers, start with minibooks.  A combination of a notebook page with minibooks is a welcome invitation over a large blank page.  Kids much more easily write a few sentences in a minibook rather than feel like they have to fill a large page.

  • Kids make your own.  As my kids got older, they learnt how to  create their own notebook pages on MS Word. They used a basic blank template  and added their own boxes for illustrations and selected their favourite font.  Later, they typed out their own notes.  Now, my high schoolers often simply write out their notes on lined pages.

Pop over to my Free Pages for your free notebooking downloads.

Blessings, Nadene

Nature Tray

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

nature trayA simple little plastic tray is a wonderful collection holder for the week’s nature finds.  Inspired by Celeste (a mommy to 6 little kiddies under 8!) of Joyous Lessons, her tip has been a very practical help in our homeschooling.

Here’s how it works ~

  • Place the tray at a suitable height for young kids to see and feel and add odds and ends daily.
  • Great for little kiddies who love to collect and want to show and share with others.
  • Good to hold items for further magnified glass or detailed observations.
  • Name, group and classify some of the nature finds and read up about them in reference books.  Normally I look up biological names, but don’t expect my kiddies to do so too.
  • Sketch, paint or draw and label something each week from the nature tray.  This is great for older teens (or mom) who does not find their own nature items each week, but still want to journal in their nature journal.
  • Clear the tray each week.  Pack things in Ziplock bags, boxes or envelopes in a nature storage box.
  • An empty tray is a great reminder to get outside and go on a nature walk!

Hope this practical tip helps you and your kids in the nature study!

Blessings, Nadene



Candid Conversations

Never underestimate the values you instill in your children while homeschooling!  You’ll see things emerge as they mature.20140606_095626

At the dinner table, we were chatting about types of conversations,  our discussion went on to compare public school teens versus homeschooled teens and my 16-year-old related these conversations ~

Public schooled teenagers more often than not talk about their peers,
“Did you see her new  …?” “Did hear about his ….?” “Have your heard about them…?”
Whereas one homeschooled teen chatting to another,
“Have you seen this artist …?” “Did you read about ….?”  “Have you heard this musician?”

Now, I know that this is a generalization.  My teens defend their opinions by telling me that they find many teen social occasions frustrating.  They dislike the mean school gossip, they question accepted values of the “in” crowd, they get bored with continual superficial chatter.  Somehow, after the introductions, they are drawn to meaningful discussions and sincere conversations.

They are not weird, unsocialized homeschoolers.  They are completely normal.  They listen to contemporary music, watch the same kinds of movies, dress fashionably ,,, yet they are unique, independent individuals.  Somehow, homeschooling allows for this freedom.

Isn’t this one blessing of homeschooling?  How do your children relate to others? Please share in the comments.

In grace, Nadene

Shared Art Sets

Here’s this weeks’ practical tip ~

art setsWe are a creative family and do a lot of art!  Our art supplies are available on our bookshelf for anyone to use at any time.

I believe in quality over quantity, yet I often bought the large art sets so that we could enjoy the full range of colors.  There’s nothing more thrilling than having several shades of each color to chose from!  So, rather than supply each child with their own basics, I spend the same value of money for 3 children and splurged it on the biggest set we could afford.

If you train your children how to correctly use, clean and store art supplies from the start, they will enjoy years of creative pleasure!  In over 19+ years of homeschool, I have had to periodically replace paint brushes, felt-tipped markers and acrylic paints, but our colored pencils, chalk and oil pastels and our watercolors are still going strong!   A very worthwhile investment!

Once a year, for birthdays, we purchase specific creative supplies for each daughter.  These they use and enjoy for their own pleasure.  We have watched them develop their creativity to produce beautiful gifts, or make and sell their products or develop their hobbies.

Read my posts about buying big art sets and organizing art supplies.

Hope this practical tip helps you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene