Sketch Tuesday ~ Postage Stamp

We have participated in Sketch Tuesday for most of our homeschooling years and it remains a fresh, exciting and creative part of our weekly routine!  This week’s Sketch Tuesday theme is ~  Postage Stamp

Here’s my sketch ~

Postage Stamp 001

If you would like to join Sketch Tuesday, pop over to Harmony Fine Arts and click the subscription box. and confirm the subscription email when it comes.  Each week Barb will email the slideshow and the next topic of theme.

See you at the next slideshow!




Encouraging new homeschoolers ~

Ideas and thoughts, life and relationships, systems and society are all connected.

Why then do we love to separate and compartmentalize everything?

Yours and mine.  His and hers.  School and life.  Knowing & facts.

Inter ~a prefix from Latin, means “between,” “among,” “together

Interconnect [in-ter-kuhnekt]
verb (used with object)
1. to connect with one another.
verb (used without object)
2. to be or become connected or interrelated.

I love connections in homeschooling.  I teach with literature-based themes that merge and link subjects, topics and ideas together with other activities.  In fact, I used to teach my 5th, 6th and 7th Graders combining  English lessons with History, Art and Geography lessons and the Media Centre.

For example:  I read my 7th Graders the classic story Coral Island  for English = and taught Literature, vocabulary enrichment & spelling, Language Arts, Dictation, creative writing, oral and poetry related to themes which flowed from the story.  Simultaneously we studied Geography = Oceans, currents, storms, islands, coral islands, coastal landscapes.  Added History lessons = famous shipwrecks, famous explorers who discovered islands,   Then included Natural Sciences and study fish, corals, famous endemic island animals, island plant life, etc.  And for Art  we painted all the windows with water-based transparent wash in blues and greens and the children then painted fish, corals and underwater themes.  It transformed our room!  Other art lessons were wax-relief painting, 3D fish projects and storm themes … you get the picture?  It was an ever-changing, inter-connected journey with our literature leading the way.  My students never forgot that book or some of those lessons.  Sadly, the school system no longer allows this.

Charlotte Mason describes this as the Science of Relationships.  She writes,

We may believe that a person is put into this most delightful world for the express purpose of forming ties of intimacy, joy, association, and knowledge with the living and moving things that are therein.  Fulness of living, joy in life, depend, far more than we know, upon the establishment of these relations.  (vol 3 pg 76)  His parents know that the first step in intimacy is recognition; and they will measure his education, not solely by his progress in the ‘three R’s,’ but by the number of living and growing things he knows by look, name, and habitat.  (vol 3 pg 77)   Geology, mineralogy, physical geography, botany, natural history, biology, astronomyy––the whole circle of the sciences is, as it were, set with gates ajar in order that a child may go forth furnished, not with scientific knowledge, but with, what Huxley calls, common information, so that he may feel for objects on the earth and in the heavens the sort of proprietary interest which the son of an old house has in its heirlooms.  (vol 3 pg 80)

Please don’t think of your homeschooling as subjects and timetables where you “tick all the boxes”.  There is no humanly possible way for you to “cover everything” – there will always be gaps.

For toddlers, kindergarten, primary school, and middle schoolers, education should be hands-on, intimate, personal and experiential.  Consider how to engage all five senses, include physical movement, being outdoors in nature, singing, poetry, art, and meet real people.  Avoid all textbooks and separate subjects.  Think “Unit Study” rather.  Study topics your kids are interested in, and pull as many activities, experiences, books, outdoor activities, creative projects, field trips, songs, prepare, cook and eat foods, and meet people in a wide, rich learning experience.

You don’t need to even “teach” facts.  Ask your child questions.  Explore and discover with them.  It will be delightful!

As your children mature they will do this more independently by choosing and reading books on topics that fascinate and inspire them.  It involve much more private reading and more vocational activities.  It may flow into hobbies, volunteer work and career-related part-time jobs.

Simply, take a great book, a living book, and read aloud to all your children.  Follow the themes, topics, and go down the rabbit trails.  Come back to the next chapter when you’re done.  Collaborate with your child and ask them what they want to study.  Follow their lead.

Embrace engagement.  Look for the spark of interest and develop learning, exploration and discovery around it.  Allow the child to create their own relationships to ideas.  They need to attach it to thoughts and understandings they already have. Think how a young toddler learns; touching, tasting, feeling, listening, looking and playing with something until she knows it.

Learning should include experience.  You are facilitating an enlargement and interconnection.

Blessings as you connect to true learning.

In Him,  Nadene

Family Focus and Balance

Encouraging new homeschool parents ~

What do you, in your homeschooling family, feel is really important?  How do you know where to focus?  How do you schedule enough time to cover all the topics, skills and activities that need to be done?

WHY Pray and define your homeschool vision

Here’s a tip ~ it is not information! Vision normally focusses on growing in character, developing relationships, learning life skills and finding the Lord’s purpose and individual calling for each person.

WHAT What to teach and when?3Rs Ruth Beechick

New homeschool parents get really caught up here!  Curriculums are written with a general standard and range of skills in mind.  Customise yours for your children, their learning styles and your unique family lifestyle.

Initially, your focus with toddlers and young children is exploration and discovery,.  Your homeschooling will also focus on learning basics such as reading, writing and numeracy.  I highly recommend Ruth Beeschick’s books!  They are an excellent “how to” guide with really basic examples.  But, essentially, you will aim towards middle schooler becoming more independent learners.  Ultimately, with your high schooler, you are more of a tutor and facilitator.

Follow Charlotte Mason’s approach with short sweet lessons, not more than 20 minutes for each Maths, reading, handwriting, LA and spelling lesson.  Combine and teach as many of your children together as possible for almost all the other subjects like Bible study, read alouds, Fine Arts such as art appreciation, classic music, poetry, and nature study.  Check my Refreshed Theme of the Day.

Christy Hissong, guest writer at Brandy’s blog Afterthoughts, wrote an excellent post “Secrets From Charlotte Mason on Scheduling for Peace” and included an extract from a Parents’ Review article entitled The Work and Aims of the Parents’ Union School” by Miss O’Ferrall {PR Vol. 3, No. 11, 1922}:

“Practically all the book work is done in the morning when the children are fresh and ready to tackle the more arduous part of their work … This is exclusive of practising, dancing, sewing and a certain amount of reading. The lessons are carefully arranged for the various days, no lesson is longer than twenty minutes …”

Important ~ Focus on your family

Homeschooling is a family affair.  These days, far too many families sacrifice their marriages, time, money, and energy for the sake of their children.  New moms often place their children’s needs and demands ahead of their husbands.  And many new homeschool moms, in those anxious, frightening, early homeschooling days, strive and stress, and poor dad is often deprived of his wife’s calm and available attendance.  Pray for wisdom and balance in this area.

Again, I will quote a quote from Christys post,

Nancy Kelly [a speaker at an annual Charlotte Mason Education Conference who blogs at Sage Parnassus said] the words that would rock my world, change our lives, and become my mantra for the following year: “Keep cutting back until there is peace in your home.”  My mouth dropped open and I caught my breath. What? Did she just say what I think she said? But what about all the lovely living books we might miss? What if we had gaps in our history and science learning? What if we {gasp!} didn’t finish a book?  Throughout the conference I heard various speakers say, “Are we reading too many good books?” “Are you teaching your students to build margin in their lives?” “A full life does not equal a busy life.” “Choose the best books and less of them.” “Don’t rush! We have a lifetime of learning ahead of us.” Are you seeing a pattern here?”

Please pop over and read Nancy’s blog post “Time, Peace and Creativity” and read Christy’s follow-up post “School is War: Scheduling for Peace revisited

Here are some of my practical tips:

  • Avoid too many out of home activities.  Check your family’s church involvements, sport and cultural activities.  Even that ‘helpful’ homeschool co-op is a stressful commitment!  “Good” stress is still stress!
  • Create at least one stay-at-home day = my kids’ favorite day!
  • Adjust seasonally = one sport per season + one cultural activity per year.  Pare down other activities during concert, competitions and exam sessions.
  • Unity and peace is your guiding rule.  I have learnt to ask myself/ my kids, “If you feel relief being told you DON’T have to “do” something, it is a good indicator that you should not do it.”  If everyone groans because of one person’s commitment, the family could suffer or loose out.  Check if it is really worth it!
  • Restful pleasurable afternoons – we love to do our extra subjects after lunch.   If school is done, then encourage a Charlotte Mason-type of activity such as handicrafts, nature walks, reading.
  • Scale back with new baby/ illness/ moves …  and just read aloud.  You will be amazed at how much your children learn and grow with read alouds.  Even for a long period.  It is a homeschool superglue!
  • God’s “YES” gives me peace to say “no” to the rest – When the Lord shows me what my calling and purpose is for this season in my life,  it is easier to say no to others who may call me to other seemingly very important things.  When pushed for an answer, it is still better to promise the person that “I will pray about this and get back to you,” than to impulsively commit to something that takes me from my true calling.  You have God’s permission (and mine) to say no.

May I encourage you with this last quote from  Imagination as a Powerful Factor in a Well-Balanced Mind by E. A. Parish, Parents’ Review Vol. 25, No. 5, 1914:

“…two things are necessary — solitude and independence. Children must have these…Miss Mason devises time-tables which cover such reasonable hours as to leave time over for this solitude, but parents are often very culpable in thinking that some other new thing must be learned as well, and the much-needed time for solitude is used for plans which necessitate hurried journeys … and the thinking time, the growing time, the time in which the mind is to find food is diminished, and the child becomes restless, tiresome, irritable, disobedient – everything that a child who is reputed to be difficult can be.”

May you find you peace, rest and focus for your new year!

Blessings In Him,


Restful Festive Season Greetings

As Christmas week approaches,

my thoughts and prayers for you is …

for times of rest, reflection, refreshing and re-focussing.

May your festive season be blessed!

Blessings In Him,

Painted School Room

Earlier this year I shared our fresh-look schoolroom.  I had pinned study decor ideas and hoped to paint my desk and all the bookshelves before the end of the year, and I did!

Here’s the before:Study1 Lara helped me move all the books and craft suitcases to the guest room.

During:StudyMy friend Mindy, an amazing artist and expert chalk-painter, helped me paint my desk.   She’s even making me customized glass drawer knobs to match my color-scheme!

I ran out of store-bought chalk paint and so I followed the DIY chalk paint recipes I found on the Internet and made my own using white grout.  It was rougher than the bought chalk paint, but worked just as well.  I painted the bookshelf backs in a lovely dusty blue.  Waxed and buffed, it was all done in 2 days.

And here’s the after:Study2While my kids were away, I sorted and repacked the books.  Despite my hubby’s initial comments that everything looked too white while I was still painting, the completed schoolroom looks delightfully fresh and light!

Painting with chalk paint is as easy as all the online tutorials say it is.  Quick and delightfully textured, the results were lovely!  I love it!



Feelings of Success


Kate and Lara admire their art

How does a successful homeschool day feel?
Exciting?   Inspiring?

For us, it often includes creative and artistic activities.   Arts and crafts are a source of great joy and satisfaction for our family.  It is an activity that we love to do together regularly.  We include baking, gift-making, sewing, and DIY projects in our homeschooling.

Other days it may be an inspiring chapter in our read aloud that inspired a chat, even some tears …  I recently wept while reading Corrie ten Boom’s “Hiding Place“.   The other week my teen daughters and I had an amazing discussion about morals and values after reading aloud a chapter from “A Room with a View“.  Read aloud to your teens!  Read alouds are often the glue that holds us together even when other school work is difficult or not accomplished that day.  As Homeschooling Lifestyle describes,  “Snuggle up together to read – even if you’re all reading different books. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading books for school or books for fun, if you’re reading aloud or everyone has their own book – snuggle up to read together!”


Lara with her Online First Aid Course certificate

Other days, success is a completed project.  I love the sense of closure when we wrap up a year-long topic, or file away the work or display a project.  Young kids love to put their work up on the walls, show dad or grandparents.  Many moms enjoy posting their kids work on blogs or Facebook.  Make an art gallery wall or a display table in your schoolroom.  My 16-year-old loves to complete her Cambridge modules.  She gives herself a “pat on the back” and that is such great intrinsic motivation!

Mastery comes with persistence.  Success comes after struggling and finally understanding a difficult maths problem.   Or spelling all the words correctly in a dictation test, or writing dictation with neat handwriting, or remembering a poem or scripture verse perfectly.    Encourage your child to keep trying.  If your child really struggles, they simply are not ready.  Put the work aside and try again in a few months.  Find the balance between extending the child and challenging them beyond their abilities.

P1160186Some days we feel relieved to just be at home, flexible and calm when life feels chaotic and stressful.  Lovely homeschool days are not all academic.  Sometimes we cuddle on a couch and read together.  Some days my youngest daughter and I take a nature walk and enjoy our farm and our time together.  These are often our best homeschool moments.

Please hear me, new homeschool moms,  DON”T make everything formal and academic.  Regular, informal exposure infuses enormous deposits in your children’s hearts, souls and minds. Trust me … I have learnt this lesson after over 18 years of homeschooling!

Trust the Lord for wisdom to build in success in your homeschooling.


Revamped Art Page

Famous Artist Pages coverSince recently adding my Packages page,  I also did some spring cleaning!  I streamlined, and merged all my art pages onto one page.

I now host all my Famous Artists, Famous Impressionist Artists, Art Era Timelines downloads, as well as all our art appreciation lessons on my Art page.

Yes, it is full, and you may have some “scroll fatigue” to reach the bottom, but it is cleaner, simpler and fresher, and there are less links to click.   Not only that, but I have refreshed and updated many of my larger bundles.

Pop over to have a peep.


Practical Pages Packages

Handwriting Tips Booklet  $5.00  /  ZAR5.00Since starting Practical Pages in 2009, I felt led by the Lord to make my download pages free for other homeschoolers.  My vision for this blog is to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to homeschoolers, sharing my practical tips, plans, projects, and all my pages for free.

However, for several years  I have prayed and asked the Lord about how to generate a stream of income from my blog.  This week I created a Packages page where I will host my larger booklets, unit studies, and large bundles to purchase.

To order,  you need to simply fill in the contact form, listing the title/s you want to purchase and I will email you the banking / PayPal details.  On receipt of your payment confirmation, I will email you the PDF file.

All my popular freebies are still there!  I do not want to lose the heart of my blog by turning it into a shop, but I believe that over a million downloads speak of the quality and professionalism of my pages, which deserve their place in the market.

Some amazing new bundles are ready and waiting in the pipeline ~

  • Around the World in 80 Days – literature-based unit study
  • Famous South African Artists – an Art History and Appreciation study
  • Nature Journals with a twist!
  • and much more …

Would you please support me? Pop over and take a look.  I will regularly add new material, so keep posted!



End of Year Activities

This year is fast rushing to a close … Christmas goodies are already filling the shops and our December summer holidays seem just around the corner.

It is also the time of the year when we conclude and congratulate ourselves for the work we have covered during our school year.

I often tell moms that I stretch a 12 month curriculum over 18 months, so we don’t always actually “finish” the curriculum each year.  At some point though, we declare official school work closed for the year and focus on these other activities.   Sometimes we continue  these activities through the December holidays as they are fun and I love my children to have something meaningful to do during their holidays.

Here are some of our end-of-year activities:
(not in any particular order … just some of the many ideas that sprang to mind …)

  • Finish any year-long project.
  • Go on outings or field trips.
  • Join other homeschool families or co-ops for an end-of-year party or activity.
  • Catch up and finish any read alouds.
  • Do all outstanding Science experiments.
  • Focus on hands-on activities and have practical fun on subjects neglected during the year.
  • Prepare an exhibition of their work and invite family or close friends to see their work.  Children love to explain what they did or present their projects and art work!
  • Hold a ‘graduation’ party.  Young children, even teens, love to receive a certificate!  Sonlight builds this aspect into their curriculums.
  • Hold an end-of-year celebration or graduation party.
  • We love to make Christmas gifts.
  • Listen to the year’s music highlights on a special playlist.
  • Watch a historical movie covering the time of your studies.
  • Create and act out a play or puppet show for a real audience.

Some administrative activities:

  • Rearrange, refresh and decorate the schoolroom.4-20150123_065037-1
  • My youngest loves to hang mobiles!
  • Prepare their new notebook files and stationary. (Look at some of our cover pages.)
  • Refresh the Theme of the Day poster.
  • File away the year’s work and store art and craft projects.
  • Review and look through the whole year’s work.  I ask my children to comment, select, highlight and rejoice over work they have done and accomplished.  I ask these basic questions:
    1. What was your favourite activity/ theme/ or topic?  Why?
    2. Show me your top 5 favourite books – read alouds or readers.
    3. What did you least enjoy?  Why?
  • I spend these weeks planning, printing and preparing the children’s school work for the new year.  (It is an exciting time , yet slightly scary time for me.  Every. Year.  Even after  +18 years of homeschooling, I’m not always sure what will work, how long it will take and if we will enjoy it.)

Remember that homeschooling is a long journey.  and just as travellers love to show their photos and review their trips, an end-of-year program  is a wonderful way to ease into the new year with enthusiasm and motivation.

Blessings in your homeschooling journey!

Sketch Tuesday ~ Something At A Bank

This week’s Sketch Tuesday theme is ~  Something At A Bank

Over the years, we have regularly taken part in Sketch Tuesday.   Even though the topics may seem simple, and the approach rather informal, I have been amazed at the impact it has had on my children’s creativity and confidence.

The weekly slideshow is very effective!  My kids look forward to seeing their work.  And in viewing other sketches, they learn how others create, notice paintings or sketches with detail or color, and are stimulated to continue sketching.  As I have encouraged before, informal, regular contact with Fine Arts has an incredible impact on our children!

Inside a Bank 001

Inside a Bank 001 (2) If you would like to join Sketch Tuesday, pop over to Harmony Fine Arts and click the subscription box. and confirm the subscription email when it comes.  Each week Barb will email the slideshow and the next topic of theme.

See you at the next slideshow!

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