Summer Art ~ Klimt Inspiration

Barb has created Summer Art plans for Sketch Tuesday covering several famous artists.

She explains on Harmony Fine Arts,

“Each week I will be posting a sketch idea based on a great piece of artwork from a famous artist. I will give you a link to look at the painting online, a link to a biography or video, and a simple idea for your family to complete and then send in for the art show.”

We joined this week’s artist ~


We used Barb’s website image, but I just purchased a 2nd book The Great Artists Their Lives, works and inspiration on Klimt which we used to look at several of his works.  (Parents, please note that his works include several nudes which you may encounter if you browse his art online.)  Klimt 003

For Klimt’s “Kiss” Barb suggested,

“Fill your page with doodles, patterns, and shapes like you see in this painting. You can make a sketch of a person or landscape and then use the doodles to fill in the background, the clothing, or anything else you can think of for this assignment.”

We noted several features of his art ~

  • his use of patterns,especially circles, squares and repetition.
  • long, vertical lines which curve down his paintings
  • the use of gold
  • faces and heads very realistic, while the body is two-dimensional and flat
  • his use of pointillism, very small dots of colors
Klimt 001

Lara’s Klimt inspired art called “Fish”

Klimt 002

My Klimt inspired “Cuddle”

Join us all in these Summer Art Plans!


Maths Mini Office New Pages

My youngest daughter’s middle school Maths Mini Office needs an upgrade and so I created some new pages to laminate and use in our Maths Mini Office.  These pages include ~

  1. Decimal and number value placement chart.  Handy to calculate multiplying and dividing by 10’s, 100’s or 100’s.
  2. Compass with bearings.  Handy for Geography and Geometry.
  3. X-Y Axis Grid for drawing graphs
  4. Positive & Negative Number Line to teach integers.

Here is the download link to the new Free Pages for your Maths Mini Office ~ Decimal Value Chart Compass XY Axis Pos & Neg Number line


CM Remedial Course for older child

A reader recently asked ~

I will begin remedial tutoring with a 14-year-old Grade 7 learner whose reading and writing skills are really only at a Grade 4 level, in the hope that he will make steady progress, ideally gradually catching up to his peers in a few years.

I am not a qualified remedial teacher, but have taught and tutored for many years, so I am mature and experienced. We have agreed that in the beginning (at least) we need to focus primarily on his language literacy, with a secondary, optional focus on homework.

I wonder what materials you have that I could use to develop his reading and writing skills? Please indicate the cost of the materials you suggest.

Apparently he is a confident, articulate and socially able young man.

Here is my advice ~

Dear reader,

I am also not an experienced remedial teacher, but I have found that the Charlotte Mason approach works with pupils of all ages, abilities and needs, in a way that is interesting, inspiring and educational.  Remedial ed does not have to be “dumbed down” to Grade 4 content, but rather to establish reading, comprehension, narration and writing skills.

  • Select a really interesting book and read aloud a chapter (perhaps a shorter passage if he struggles at first) and have your student narrate back orally what you read.
  • Narrations are the student’s recall of the details, order of events and words used in the story. It should be as detailed, accurate and flowing as possible.  The teacher does not prompt, correct or interrupt, but should smile, nod and reflect interest in the narration.  This is a complex skill and takes practice!
  • Try partnered reading = where you sit side by side and read aloud together.  First you read aloud with him whispering next to you for a paragraph or page. Then his turn to read aloud while you whisper next to him.  This reinforces the child’s reading skills and affirms their ability to decode and read more fluently.
  • Add expression (inflection, voice dropping down or rising) at punctuation marks; small pauses, voice lowering at commas, longer pauses with voice lowering at full stops, to reinforce grammar rules.
  • From oral narrations of small passages, extend the skills to dictated narration notes from longer sections of reading.
    • The teacher captures the dictated flow of thought, making no alterations, additions or corrections.
    • The teacher reads the narration back to the student.
    • The student then may suggest any changes.
    • This narration demonstrates the student’s ability and provides excellent feedback for further remedial work that is needed.
    • No grammar or spelling corrections at this point.  Make note of spelling rules or grammar laws needed and include these in LA passages as described below.
  • Pre-reading skills are important. Establish phonic rules and explain any vocabulary that he may come across in the passage before reading aloud.
  • From dictated notes, try textmapping, building word banks, writing key phrases on a white board or note paper before asking him to write his own narrations.
  • Practice writing with copywork.
  • For LA (Language Arts) select a meaningful sentence/ paragraph from the passage and examine its grammar.  Simple exercises such as ~
    • highlight all the capital letters
    • underline all the proper nouns
    • tick all the commas … why are they used here?
    • circle the phrase in the first sentence.  Read the sentence again without the phrase.  What happens?
    • write adj above all the adjectives that describe nouns
    • draw arrows pointing down to all the verbs.  Can you think of 2 other verbs that could replace each one?
    • Find synonyms in the passage for …
    • Write your own antonyms for these words in the passage …
    • Add any spelling rules if applicable
    • Find all the words ending with -ing or -ed.  What does this ending tell us about the verb tense?
  • Include a creative writing exercise that flows from the theme or topic of that passage such as ~
    • Write your own dialogue between the 2 characters …
    • Write a postcard to your best friend telling him what happened …
    • Write a newspaper report/ police report of the situation.
    • Draw a comic strip of the passage.
    • Write a play/ TV drama with the characters and scene described …
    • Write your own beginning/ending to this situation.
  • Use the computer for writing activities.
    • The spell check is very helpful, as are the grammar hints.
    • Also, rough drafts can be easily edited and printed without completely re-writing the passage.
    • Teach him to use the thesaurus, insert clip art, work in tables and create columns.

Before long, he will confidently narrate and complete LA assignments, and his writing skills should improve dramatically.

You can find very useful information in Ruth Beechick’s books, especially “You can Teach Your Child Successfully“. She lays out really simple, practical advice, lessons and skills that a teacher, mentor or parent can follow. You will find Ruth Beechick’s ISBN book numbers and all my Charlotte Mason posts on my blog.

Apart from the Ruth Beeschick books, you could loan the story books from your local library and there should be no real costs to facilitate a really solid remedial course.  Better still, you can use his own magazines and borrow or use books on topics he is passionate about.

Wishing you all the very best,

Getting Real ~ Cheating!

Thanks to all my readers for your wonderful comments on my “Getting Real” posts.  (If you missed my previous posts, you can read about Giving Up, Chaos, Flops and Attitudes in the series.)

Today I would like to talk about a sinister reality that crept in our high school phase ~ Cheating

Imagine my shock to find my high schooler cheating!  Not just copying the maths answers from the back of the book, but serious exam-type cheating!

I suppose it was to be expected for several reasons:

  1. My high schooler worked much more independently, and I didn’t watch her carefully.
  2. The work was difficult and my child was anxious and stressed.
  3. The exam results were sent to an external curriculum provider who would compile an official report. There was no chance of any mother-leniency.
  4. Most cheaters cheat because they are ~
    • afraid
    • unprepared
    • lazy
    • fear of failure
    • hate test situations
    • or because they have had bad results before

At the very start of the exam session I caught sight of some papers and realized she had made plans … and my blood ran cold.  I knew that this was serious.  Not because cheating is bad, which it is, but because I was faced with dealing with a child’s character, choices, ethics and morals, and I wanted to handle this situation with firmness and yet with dignity.

By God’s grace I didn’t blowup and make a mountain out of a molehill.  We went for a walk.  We talked.  I listened and tried not to formulate a huge lecture in my mind.  I deliberately told my ego that this situation was not a reflection of me, but of my child.  Importantly, I did not label my child a “cheater”.  I gave her the grace to confess and really apologize, to face her fears, and sit the exam afresh and try her best.

My kids are accountable and they need to ask for help. If they are unsure and afraid of tests and exams, they are simply not ready. Homeschooling allows for extra time, and there is often time to do more reviews.  Using past papers is an excellent tool for exam preparation.

High schoolers must work authentically and take more responsibility for their learning and studying.  School is their ‘work’ and they must do their best.  They should understand that cheating denies them the real learning experiences.

My high school graduate and myself believe that her matric exams were not about the information she learnt, but the exam preparation, learning skills and actual exam writing skills.  It does not take 12 years to prepare your child for their graduate/ matric exams!  Your child can master exams in 1 year, even if they have never sat for formal, external exams.  Please, please, please don’t chose an exam-type education for your child’s high school years just so that they can write their final exams!

May I suggest that young children do not need to write tests at all.  Working one-on-one, your daily work is proof enough of your child’s understanding and recall.  When there are real difficulties, then, by all means, have your child evaluated, but on the whole, allow your child to learn and progress at their own pace.  When they are ready, they will master the work!

I really encourage moms to carefully consider the stresses and tensions and fears children face when they write tests and exams.  We, as moms and teachers, are also measured by their failures and successes, and we also suffer through this process.  If your child does not cope well under test situations, please consider other options, and where possible, choose curriculums which do not require exams throughout the year.  I understand that your country or state may have regulations that insist on test results, but I would encourage you to find a 3rd party tester who can assist your frightened child in a personal way.

It is so important to build relationships of trust, honor and dignity with your children.  If they feel that we understand their fears and anxiety, they will not feel the need to cheat.  Give them more time to master the work.  I seem to repeat this often ~ TAKE YOUR TIME and enjoy the journey!



Getting Real ~ Attitudes

Let’s get realattitiude

So while my blog often shows smiling faces and lovely work, we have had our fair share of working through bad attitudes.  Cheeky answers, biting comments, rolled eyes, sulky mouths, even swearing (teens really know how to try to shock!) … sigh … we’ve had them all.

It is the hardest part of homeschooling, and the most draining. Rather than deal with incorrect answers in school work, I stop and address a bad attitude.  Attitude is a choice, and I want my kids to make good choices.  But there are those days when this is tough, thankless and seems to make things worse.  Brick walls.  Stand offs.  Chilly relationships.  Dark moments of feelings of defeat and failure.

It is hard to discern whether to be understanding of a problem and sympathetically help a child negotiate how they approach the problem, or, often in frustration, discipline their bad attitude. Charlotte Mason has loads to share and inspire in her volume on Habits and Character ~

  • “Deal with the child on his first offense, … but let him go in until a habit of wrong-doing is formed, and the cure is a slow one.”
  • “The mother (must) be always on the alert to nip in the bud habit her children may be in the act of picking up from others.”
  • “Never lower your standards or slack off.”
  • “Expect prompt, cheerful obedience.”
  • “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”

Extracts taken from “Charlotte Mason Study Guide A Simplified Approach to a “Living” Education” by Penny Gardner ISBN 1-57636-039-3

So, essentially, start young and establish good ground rules.  Be quick to nip things in the bud.

I love that a Charlotte Mason education offers tangible, practical practices that heal attitudes and restore relationships ~ Why not, when trouble bubbles to the surface, and nerves start to fray, go out and take a nature walk?  Sit together and sketch or listen to classical music.  These Fine Arts subjects are often a healing balm.  Tension, now released, we can come back to face the difficulty.  What about her recommendations to keep short lessons?  Put the maths aside for the day, and come back when fresh and positive.

Often I reassure myself that my child is going through an “age or stage” phase, where they express their fears  and frustrations in their attitudes.  “This, too, shall come to pass.” Sometimes kids act out with their moms and yet they would never dare to do so with others.  If you are in constant war with your teen, trust the Lord to help you step back and to lead your child to someone for help. My advice to high school parents is to find a 3rd party person or tutor, who they can see fairly regularly with their homeschool subjects that frustrate them. Somehow, kids keep themselves in check with a person they respect.  Most times, their attitude issues have very little to do with actual school work.  Don’t let things spiral out of control.

I found myself repeating,

“Don’t take things personally.  This is not about you.  This about them.”

Parenting is done on our knees … praying. Praying for you and yours with blessings,

Getting Real ~ Flops

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean that it is useless.”

Continuing my “Getting Real” series, today I want to share our ~


Despite most my posts describing our successes, many lessons and projects have ended as flops! Sometimes with angry outbursts, or with tears, or with serious declarations that my kids hate “….” or whatever!

It happens! Just look at some amusing Pinterest Flops!

The trick is to learn from the mistakes, or learn to just let it go.

Redoing a project, or unpicking a seam, pulling out several rows of knitting, or erasing several arithmetic errors and re-calculating the answers requires real perseverance and strength of character.

Some things are worth getting right.  Maths. Spelling. Charlotte Mason encourages parents to encourage their children to do their work with excellence.

Some things should be recycled or ditched.

When some of our art lessons have disappointed us or the end product is disastrous, we have cut the art work into cards or bookmarks.  Some, we simply tossed into the wastepaper basket.

When lessons flop, the teacher inside me quickly starts to analyse …

  • Should I have tried a different approach/ book/ method?
  • Is the work too hard/ difficult for my child?
  • Are the instructions clear?
  • Did I explain well?
  • Was I really prepared or did I fly by the seat of my pants?
  • Is my child alert, awake and stimulated or is he/ she tired or sick or distracted?
  • Is this lesson worth re-doing?
  • What can I change?

I believe that disappointments and some mistakes are a very important training tools.  We should not  try shield our child from flops and poor results.  They need to learn from them.  Children must develop their characters and grow as people in order to stay positive and try again.  A sense of humor is an incredible tool, too!

To quote Thomas Edison after battling to develop the light bulb,

“I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

So, if you’ve had flops, rack them up as part of your learning curve, laugh it off, and try, try, try again!

Blessings and wishing you much success,

First Aid Course

First aid is an essential skill, a vitally important life skill, even for children!

My youngest daughter, nearly 13, is our in-house nurse.  She’s the first to run to our bathroom and apply whatever first aid is needed to anyone who is injured on the farm.  She loves to clean wounds and apply dressings and plasters.

Two years ago, when I was seriously burnt, she attended to me during and after the accident, and had the stomach and guts to hold my hand when my dressings were changed.  She can cope with the sight of blood.  Some people just can’t.

When in teacher’s training college, every first-year student had to take the official St. John’s Ambulance First Aid Course.  There were several scary opportunities during my 10-year teaching career when this knowledge helped me assist pupils. Once a pupil fell from the grandstands and broke her spine. Thankfully, because of my first aid training, I was able to stabilize her and prevent any movement to her spine, and she went on to fully recover!

Today, Lara and I sat to do a 30 minute, free online first aid course with Click to Save St. John.20150504_155654

The course layout is extremely clear, simple and basic.  They present each lesson with brief explanations, some slide shows and several lessons include short video clips.  One or two lessons include multiple-choice questions.

During a few of the lessons, I added  practical demonstrations, and at the end of the course, I even lay on the floor as an ‘unconscious’ patient for Lara to practice all her newly learnt skills in “DRSABCD”.  Then, after giggling and dusting ourselves off, we sat down to click through the quick 8-multiple-choice online exam.

First AId

When you correctly answer all 8 questions, you receive a certificate!  Lara clicked too soon on one answer and had to re-do the exam, but after sitting through her exams, I believe she has learnt some very good basic skills.



  • This course is an introduction to first aid, and first aiders still need to do practical lessons to correctly access, prioritize strategies, do CPR, apply pressure and splint or bandage injuries.  With this in mind, I am sure that Lara and I will enroll in a full course in town in the future.
  • This course is based in Australia.  Apply their emergency numbers when answering the exam, but teach your children your local emergency numbers.
  • There are photos of a staged accident. Some images where blood or injuries are shown may seem gruesome to some folk.  Please preview before your children take the course.
  • Parents should sit and read the course aloud for slightly younger children and allow them to click the answers.

Knowledge is powerful!  First Aid empowers one to be an effective help in times of crisis.


Sketch Tuesday ~ Q

This week’s Sketch Tuesday theme was ~

Sketch Something Beginning with Q

Here is my 12-year-old’s sketch representing ~

“Q for Quest”

Sketch Tuesday Q 001

She used a photo for reference and sketched with amazing detail and shading!  I was very impressed … and she was happily delighted with her sketch.

We join Barb of  Harmony Art Fine who posts a new Sketch Tuesday sketch topic each week.  Will you join us this week?


Getting Real ~ Chaos

My “Getting Real” series began after a reader recently told me that everything on my blog looked too neat and organized!

Let me assure you that the organization photos are staged.  I especially clear the tables and pack away the clutter before I take the photos!  But, of course, my school room does NOT look like that all the time!

Once, I asked my kids what they think makes me most stressed and they told me that I am often always stressed about clutter and chaos. So, yes, I am a bit of a tidy freak!

Usually I tidy as  I work, and I spend about 5 minutes packing away at night. I like to have a clear desk and clean kitchen when I go to bed.  It helps me feel positive and  motivated to walk in to clear rooms in the morning.

But I have 3 daughters who work all over the place … doing all sorts off stuff ~ They love creative projects and they are allowed to make a mess!  It is part of the creative process.  There may be ~ branches full of lichens across a table wired into a ‘chandelier’ … beads and wire scattered on a tray … flower arrangements with petals, leaves and off-cuts mess over the floor … a massive sewing project with patchwork pieces and fabric scraps lie all over every surface … paintings and paint trays and paint bottles lie around … a mass of confetti papers surrounding some craft project litters every meter …

Even normal things clutter and create chaos, such as unfolded laundry piles waiting to be folded and packed away  … someone’s chores still undone … It is a real mess at times. I’m your typical mom calling the kids, “Come clean up!

Chore charts prevent the need for moaning and nagging.  Simple routines enforce before & after mealtimes so that they do their kitchen chores.  They fold and pack laundry on wash days. Once a week we all clean house. (It stays cleaner longer if they know they have to clean up the mess again, and the person responsible for a zone will moan at her siblings to clean up after themselves so that they don’t have to clean again that week.)

After school, every day, we pack away schoolbooks and make the area available for other projects and play.  Just before the end of the day, everyone packs up or packs away their project so that the school room is available the next morning. A basket, a tray or a box keeps unfinished things handy so that they can continue their project the next day. When we fall into chaos, we delay our schoolwork and first tidy up.  This means that they have less free time in the afternoon.

As the girls get older, I find that the tidying, habit-training really pays off, and they calmly clear and pack up with out constant reminders and nagging.

I recommend moms create a simple routine for your family and focus on one habit each week or month until it is established.  Train young children with songs (like Barney’s “Clean Up, Clean Up”) and reminders with simple rhyming words.  Make it fun!  Put on great music and sing as you work!

How do you tame the chaos in your home?  Please feel free to share your advice in the comments.

Blessings as you create order in your days.

Getting Real ~ Giving up

A reader recently told me she always deleted my posts because I’m “too organized”! I felt compelled to be real and explain that most of my posts are simply a “peep into our homeschooling” and, although not always window dressed, I tend to showcase what works.

So, here is the start a series of “Getting Real” posts.

My main goal in Practical Pages is to encourage moms and so I will widen my exposure lens and share some of the real issues, problems and some of the nitty-gritty realities of our homeschooling lives, and hopefully, be real about how we are trying to work through them.

Giving up.

I have felt like giving up, several times over the past years. Mostly during the years teaching my high schoolers, as shut-down teens. They are tough, and, together with their strong wills and designs of their own, as well as a really pathetic correspondence high school curriculum, I had no idea how to “succeed”.  I dreaded every day’s battles, frustrations and dead-ends.  In the end, we pushed through,  and my eldest graduated with an university entrance. Relief!  One down – 2 to go …

Last year my middle daughter only started her high school year in April and we did not do any exams that year … at all. It was the year my hubby said that “I dropped the ball”.

I must defend myself explain that our son got married that February, we were all helping build his house in time … and the postal strike delayed the arrival of her books … and so on … but basically I floundered with a new high school curriculum we had started, and I didn’t know how to approach the lessons and guide my daughter through her work.

Praise the Lord, she settled into a better routine when life returned to ‘normal’.  She attended lessons with a tutor in town every 2 weeks to bring her (and myself) up to standard.

Essentially, it did not really matter. All that fuss and those crippling fears!  She is young for the course she signed up for, and has 3 years to complete the 2 year exam requirements. I am confident that she did not actually fall behind, and that we are still on track.

My kids have often told me that they give up.

Young kids cried over maths, and even more sadly, they have cried in our art lessons.  My eldest refused to do some CM subjects and I cried bitter tears of failure.

More sadly, I had tried so hard. Too hard. I blame myself for coming on too strong, being to ‘teachy’ and trying to educate.all.the.time.

Lesson learnt. I have learnt to relax much more. I have learnt to let the kids take control and take the lead.

Often, it helps to talk to another understanding person; my hubby or a fellow homeschooler. It is a relief to know that others struggle just as we do.

Don’t give up.  Take a break.  Change your approach.  Find help.  It is worth the effort of perseverance!  In the end, homeschooling provided the nurture and relationship bonding that has made our lives rich and rewarding.

You can do it!

Have you ever felt like giving up? How did you find the courage to continue?  Please share in the comments.

Blessings as you persevere.