No Tests

Poster of things tests can’t measure - white with colored pencilsA common question homeschool parents are asked is, “Do your children do tests or exams?”

And my answer is always, “No.”   Well, not until their graduation year, when exam results are a requirement for acceptance into most tertiary institutions.

Testing is NOT needed in homeschooling because parents are almost always one-on-one with their child and can quickly see what their child knows and understands.  Especially when using a Charlotte Mason approach, narrations are an excellent method of listening to or reading what a child remembers and understands on a specific chapter or topic.  And for most seat work subjects like Maths, Spelling and Reading, you are right there with your child and can go back to re-establish a concept or correct a mistake.

Standardized tests are for public school parents, or for teachers of large classes, to measure each child’s basic knowledge or skills, or worse still, for schools to brag about their institutions’ achievements!  With this kind of pressure, many teachers actually “teach the exam” rather than aim to educate the child.

Information and facts can always be learnt, at any time.   Google helps all of us find information in a jiffy, so why waste precious time forcing a child to memorize facts?  Narrations are personal, which is the aim of our homeschooling, isn’t it?

In an article 30+ Important Things That Tests Can’t Measure says,

“Tests can’t predict who will “succeed” in life, regardless of your definition of success. Tests can’t tell a child how or even what he needs to improve.’

She lists some of these things tests can’t measure ~

  • compassion or generosity
  • imagination or creativity 
  • a child’s logic skills
  • faith, trust, hope, reliability, or depth of character
  • friendship or self-worth
  • curiosity, effort, determination or resilience
  • a child’s potential and diligence

In an article , “Kids Don’t Fail, Schools Fail Kids: Sir Ken Robinson on the ‘Learning Revolution’ she quotes Ken Robinson, (famous for his TED talk on the topic of whether schools kill students’ creativity),

“The government has essentially pushed for more and more nationwide testing in order to 1) standardize everything, and 2) try and improve education “through an intense process of competition.”   He believes that the problem with standardized testing is that it “does not prepare kids to achieve.” 

Ken Robinson’s own definition of education’s purpose ~ “To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become.”

He encourages “personalized learning” without relying heavily on technology.

“But what’s most important,” he concluded, “is that every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.””

Parents know their children.  Homeschooling should be individual, tailor-made, delight-directed.  Its pace and focus should be based on the individual’s ability and interest, not focused on tests, scores and exam results.

So, please hear me …  especially parents of kindergarten, junior, middle and even junior high school, please do not buy curriculums that require regimented testing.  You will kill your child’s creativity and natural love to learn.  You will instil fear and anxiety into your homeschooling, both for you and your child.

Your child can learn how to learn for exams, how to write exams and how to succeed in exams in a relatively short time; within 6 months to a year.  At the most, you may need to move towards tests and exams for their final 3 years of senior high school.  And that is stress enough!  With my 17-year old writing her final high school exams, I see her fear and anxiety.  I feel dread’s icy grip in my stomach.

As Marie says, “Children everywhere deserve to know this:  YOU ARE NOT YOUR TEST SCORE.  You are so much more.”

Blessings, Nadene

Success in Short Lessons

A Charlotte Mason education is rich in Humanities, with living books and narrations.  She recommended that Disciplinary Studies such as Maths, Handwriting and Spelling  lessons were kept short.  Short lessons enabled children to “develop the habit of attention, preventing the contrary habit of dawdling over lessons.” (Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner, pg.43)

Short lessons are easy to describe.  We think of 5, 10, or a maximum 15 minute lessons.  You may wonder if a child can learn anything in such a brief lesson, but working one-on-one with a child, they can complete a spelling drill, write neat sentences in a handwriting, complete a copywork or dictation exercise, and work through a page or two of a maths lesson.

What do you need to create successful lessons? A child’s mastery and ease in learning?  A mom’s delight in instructing with clarity and understanding?  Happiness?  Smiles, confidence and some excitement?  A sense of joy and anticipation?   This is not always the case!

For successful lessons you need to ~

  1. Plan ahead.  Print out the work for the week/ month/ school term or year.  Good preparation is vital to successful lessons! Most of this work is done for you if you use workbooks or purchased curriculums.
  2. Prepare suitable material.  Prepare age-appropriate, learning-style-suited content.  The lesson approach and presentation should be suited to your child’s ability.
  3. Adapt and modify, amend and add other lesson elements. One size does not “fit all”. If it is too easy, move up a level or add a creative element.  If it is boring or too difficult, change your approach or  method.
  4. Explain your expectations.  Lay out the lesson with clear instructions and define the result, e.g.: “Using your neatest handwriting, I want you to copy this passage neatly on the lined paper.”  Charlotte Mason urges parents to “Expect prompt, cheerful obedience.”  These short lessons is not only skills-based, but habit and character training.
  5. Be fully present and available.  Physically arrange your seating so that your can read and help each child.  I usually sit between my youngest children.  Avoid distractions, delays and procrastination.  Also guide your child through any difficulties and encourage them to do their very best.  Remember – NO nagging!
  6. Create structures that encourage independent uninterrupted learning.  My children enjoy working through their lessons in a ring binder and their workbooks.  Workboxes are a huge hit with many homeschoolers. Whatever method you use, keep all the books, lessons pages and materials in a box, or chair bag, a basket, or on bookshelf right near your child.  You do not want your child to leave his seat throughout this period.  Disruptions destroy focus and energy!  However, you may find the next point very helpful …
  7. Pop in a quick stimulation physical breaks.  Young children have Arrows 5x6loads of energy!  Let them quickly do some “Brain Gym” exercises, or use my amazing arrow chart for quick directionality exercises, or jump on a mini trampoline skip counting or calling out times tables!  30 seconds, and then quickly back in their seats for the next short lesson. Older children should devote themselves to all their brief lessons without any need for breaks.
  8. Water in a spill-proof bottle.  Many children need to sip water to help them think!  The brain needs water.  Have them fill up a sports bottle with fresh water before coming to the table.
  9. Chose to work in an appropriate time in the day.  Many young children are fresh and alert early morning after breakfast.  Teens seems to only get focused after 10am.  Some families find that their children work better after lunch.  Whatever time suits you and your children, make the most of their vital, alert hours for Disciplinary Studies.  This is the joy of homeschooling. It is not School-At-Home with rigid timetables, but a tailor-made environment that stimulates and inspires learning.
  10. Finally, give your child very specific descriptive feedback.  Find the success in every lesson.  Ask your child to circle their best handwritten letter or word.  Mark and correct all work immediately.  Children love to mark their own work too!  If there are mistakes, fix them there and then.  If there were too many mistakes, review the lesson and try it again the next day. Children love to see that their work was successful.  A positive comment can make a child’s day! This helps your child feel that they are on track, coping well and mastering the work, which helps them face with the next lesson with enthusiasm.

Hope that these tips help new homeschool moms who love and use a Charlotte Mason approach.


Tailor Made

Tailor-make your child’s education.


If I asked you if you ever had anything “tailor-made”,  you would probably say that you were not rich and famous enough, or that a mom or granny had made something just for you.  It would probably be really unique and make you feel really special!

Homeschooling allows for this kind of perfect fit and delight!


1. Outline your basic subjects – I use a simple “House Model” picture and fill in subjects, books, ideas and activities I have in mind.  This gives me an easy overview.

When planning, include all the basic subjects required by state regulations, adding extra subjects where necessary. Some first-time homeschooling moms may find mastery lists that outline what your child should know and master for their age and grade as a good guide.

OverviewYear Planner with my notes

Overview Year Planner with my notes

2. Discover your child’s learning style and your teaching style has clear definitions, explanations of the different learning styles with practical teaching suggestions.  Multiple Intelligences has an online quiz for kids and adults and generates a clear pie-chart of your test results.  You and your child can clearly see strengths and weaknesses. Multiple intelligences resultsNow, consider your own personal loves and hates in teaching styles and AVOID those curriculums and approaches!  These will burn you or your children out!  It’s no good preparing fiddly, artsy projects if your lack of space and patience or temperament will make you dread school!  Find those subjects, methods and activities that will ignite your child’s delight and interest and focus on those.

3. Discuss and look over options together.  This is more important as your child moves into middle school, and especially towards junior high.  High school choices require a lot of collaboration with your maturing child.   Once you have an idea of your child’s interests, discuss specific subjects, topics and options.  Check with your child each year as they mature.  They may have loved doing lapbooks previously, but may now find them frustrating and boring.

Here are some questions I asked my 12-year-old child this year:

“Do you want to continue with Bible Draw? Old Testament or New? Old Testament. 

Can we continue with Hymn singing?  Umm, er … (She objects to my CD recordings – so I need to look for more modern Hymn versions!)

Maths – Are you still okay with the workbooks?  Sure.  But I really love using my compass, protractor and set square set.  You enjoy Geometry?  Good, I’ll see what other fun stuff we can add once a week!

Spelling – Do you still want to work with our lists? What about this book? NO.  Okay.  And Spelling City games and tests?  Yes. Great!  I’ll upload this year’s lists.

Are Lapbooks still okay?  YES!  And do you still want to do hands-on activities? YES!  Good!  I’ll see what I can find …

What would you like to study for Science/ Geography/ Social Sciences?  I may suggest ideas I had initially jotted down and we delve a little deeper, browsing through books I have on hand so that she can better see the activities and ideas that could be fun.

4. Find, plan and prepare the actual subject material – Now I spend some time “shopping” from my own bookshelves and used curriculums.  Also, I spend time on  Pinterest browsing and I search the Internet for free downloads.  My homeschooling materials have seldom cost me anything more than my printer’s ink!  Some years, we may purchase one or two products, but I almost never ever buy full packages!

5. Follow the sparkle and delight!  Remain flexible and adaptable.  Add plenty of time to take scenic routes, detours and rabbit trails!  Follow your child’s interest and involvement.  You can always stretch a 12 month curriculum over 18 months!  Be humble about stuff that doesn’t work and gently lay aside the themes, topics, activities that don’t work. If you homeschool several children on the same core (which I highly recommend), allow for individual choices.  Give them options.  I may suggest 3 or 4 activities and they chose the one that they prefer.  I love to let my child take the lead!  It has empowered her and released me from my “teacher-knows-it-all” ways!

This last year, my daughter was utterly delighted with her tailor-made package!  After I laid out her books, projects and her school file and went through it with her, she jumped up and hugged me and said, “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you,mom!  I’m so glad you are my teacher!”  It made my whole teaching career!  It has been a joy to teach and facilitate her in her own learning.

If you have a child with unique, special interests, or a child with learning challenges and difficulties, homeschooling is the perfect solution, only IF you tailor-make their schooling experiences.  A “slow” learner will thrive at his own pace.  A child who hates and struggles with writing can record, video-record or demonstrate his learning without tedious notes and workbooks.  Find ways to make your child’s education fit their style, interests and strengths.


Rights to free play

Revisiting an earlier post ~Lara colecting flowers

Charlotte Mason published Rights of Children as Persons (Vol.3 Chapter 4) and said, “Children should be free in their play“.

She advised parents not to crowd out their free time. She urged parents to give children the freedom to play and explore outdoors everyday.  Most importantly, she warned that parents should not meddle or organize children in their free play.

She said, “Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.

I have watched my younger girls play with creativity and enthusiasm.

They often act out scenes from our read alouds.

They love to re-enact DVDs and videos and stories, so we have been careful what they watch.  Classics like “Emma” by Jane Austen and “Little Women” are favorites.

Make believe

They love dress up clothes. A simple scarf transforms a child into endless characters.  Each season I try to make an outfit for them.  They have wonderful olden-days games with bonnets and pinafores, or an American Indian squaw dress, or a corset (here’s my free tutorial for a child’s “boned corset)) and long skirt.

Boys love capes, a bow and quiver with arrows, a cowboy hat and chaps, or belts with swords.  A hand-made knight’s armor is every young boy’s delight!

Nothing quite beats giving children a large piece of cloth to create a tepee or tent.

Very young children love to simply play (in safe surroundings with mom watching near) with water or sand (or both!)

We are fortunate to live in beautiful surroundings.  The girls love to pick flowers, collect egg shells that have fallen out of Cape Weaver nests and look for quartz stones.  We all love to find heart-shaped stones when we go on walks on the farm.  Their collection of feathers, stones, sticks and fascinating objects grows weekly.

Looking back at my innocent young children in these pictures, I can see how fast time flies. My youngest is now a young pre-teen, my middle child, a mature 15-year-old, already quite different and grown up!

Moms, may I urge you to relax and nurture their freedom and allow them creative white space.  Don’t over-plan their days.  Don’t add too many outings, excursions, activities, sports and cultural events to your schedule. Leave at least 1 day open in your week and stay at home.  Let them just play!

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  He loves them for their innocence and simplicity.  We are granting them such a precious gift when we let the children play.


Google Calendar Planning

Earlier this year I shared how I use Google calendar for homeschool planning.

I want to emphatically declare that it was a huge success!

Not only was it quick and simple to plan all the school days, holidays and exam dates, but each child had their own calendar which helped me keep track of their work and their schedules.

My eldest wrote her matric and had a very strict schedule. After 11 years of fairly flexible homeschool scheduling, this was quite an adjustment for both of us. She has her own Gmail account and could get access to her own calendar on the desktop computer. I plotted out when her portfolio assignments had to be couriered to the marking department before the deadline dates. Also I added moderation dates, extra lessons and, most importantly, her exam dates. Because she wrote her exams at an exam centre in town, we had to book accommodation for some weeks. With Google calendar on my smart phone, I could easily confirm our accommodation bookings while in town.

For my youngest child, I did all my detailed planning in the beginning of the year and added details, websites, images, uploaded files and downloads to the description box for each event, sometimes fleshing these plans out a bit more as we went along.

I rescheduled some lessons if we fell behind with a quick click and change of dates. Some lessons I simply deleted (… sigh … we didn’t do it all …), but most the plan worked! Her calendar is now my record of work!  How nifty is that?

My middle child wrote Grade 8 this year. Her curriculum was fully planned and so I used Homeschool Tracker (HST) to record her exam and term marks. The HST program is quite complicated and I can only do the very basics. (I should have stayed with the free Homeschool Tracker Basic download … and buying the full offline HST program is one of my few homeschool purchase regrets …)  Despite my limitations, I typed in her subjects and exam dates for the year and entered her marks when done. It worked very well, and I printed her term reports and sent her mark sheets away with a click of a button.

For those clever moms that can plan and record using HST, my hats off to you! It is a brilliant program … I’m still just not brilliant enough to figure it all out!

Google calendar is a very versatile tool. You can add and change, delete and amend with no training. It is a wonderful platform on all the computers and smart phones.  It keeps the whole family, including dad, in sync. I am definitely going to continue to use it for our homeschooling!

As we enter 2014, I want to thank all my readers for their kindness and compassion and friendship.

May the Lord bless you and your families and fulfil all your hopes, prayers and plans for the New Year!


Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays

Another What Works! post …

Looking back over the 14-odd years of homeschooling from preschool to high school graduation I want to share what was successful in our home …

Fine Arts are rich, rewarding & relaxing!


We set aside most of our Fridays for Fine Arts – art, music, and poetry, and sometimes some Shakespeare.  The simplest way to do this was to plan the “extras” in our Theme of the Day and Refreshed Theme of the Day. It is my kids favourite day of the week!

My older children still ask for art lessons once a week. Despite the textbook-based high school curriculum I used for my eldest daughter, these fine art Fridays were the saving grace of our homeschooling journey. In many ways, they are the “soul” days of homeschooling.

My kids considered Fridays as free days because we set aside normal seat work and written assignments.  Despite its seeming “frivolous” nature, where fine arts is often considered an “optional extra”, this aspect of education is the most inspiring and rewarding.  At times our Fridays were the only happy days of our week.  Homeschooling can be tough!  Making time to relax and enjoy fine arts is a relief!

Art started with art appreciation lessons, Charlotte Mason-style.  I sometimes added simple art activities to some of these lessons. We discovered famous artists and their masterpieces, observed different art styles over the centuries.  Here is my download ~Art and Music Timeline.  We often experimented with a variety of art mediums.  My young children loved building the 3D Seurat model which is one of my younger girls’ favourite and unusual art activities!  Now and then someone experienced a “flop” lesson, but mostly we admired and encouraged each other as we gazed at our ‘gallery’ … we were enriched!  Importantly, we each have amazing internal, mental art galleries of famous artists that we will carry all our lives!

Sketch Tuesday remains a regular constant art activity, which we continue even when we have stopped our formal schooling for school breaks.  It is such a simple, quick session, often with no discussions, research or planning, but Sketch Tuesday has had an enormous impact on our art!  The simple act of regularly looking and sketching develops ones confidence and approach to other more formal art activities.

We listened to classical music each week.  I first used CDs from our collection and later we streamed or listened to classical music online as we did our art. My younger children loved the Classics For Kids series.  We bought a CD collection, but you can listen online.  My older children have an incredibly eclectic collection of their own music which they play as we work and do chores.  I eventually ended planned formal music appreciation lessons as my children grew older, but my children often recognize classical music especially when they hear these pieces in movie soundtracks.

Poetry has been a hit-and-miss affair, where I sometimes do formal poetry lessons with my younger children on our “Tea, Poetry and Shakespeare” afternoons.  We studied some poets through the year and we all found our poetry readings relaxing and inspiring.  My kids never really learnt any poems by heart, but some poems were an inspiration for art or illustrations.  Our most exciting poem-inspired activity my girls did when they were younger was The Lady of Shallot with a Lego diorama.

I recently discovered that my junior high daughter is writing her own poems to express her photo collage creations she makes on Polyvore. Her poems are amazing!  When I read them I am utterly stunned with the images and feelings that her words evoke. So, deep down, despite doing poetry informally, poetry struck a special chord in her life.

Our Fine Arts sessions have enriched our relationships.  Somehow, when we paint or sketch together, or when we lie under the tree talking about a poem, or when we listen to and describe images and feelings that classical music evokes, we share time and experiences that are deep and personal. These are intimate times that make homeschooling special.

My advice to moms who want to “do it right” is to keep it simple and fairly informal.  In my early years of zeal and idealism, I came on too hard and my kids almost dreaded the lessons.  I almost lost them to my teacherly-don’t-miss-the-moment approach.  They did my Famous Artist and Famous Composer biography notebook pages, filled in timelines and narrated their observations.  We used my wall charts, but the best lessons were those where we each connected individually and personally to the art.

Now, I am convinced that regular yet informal exposure is better than formal, structured lessons.

Schedule time in your week and just do it!

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to “show” for your Fine Arts lessons.  It doesn’t have to be recorded or written or filed.  Just talk with your children and listen to their interpretations, encourage their creativity and personal connections.  Look for ways to for them to “make it their own”.

Charlotte Mason’s approach to Fine Arts has been an amazing, rich and rewarding = fabulous Fine Art Fridays!

May you find the approach that works for your family!

Blessings, Nadene

Taking Time for Tangents

What Works! What Works logo

Another “What Works!” post ~ where I share and encourage moms with some of my tried and tested homeschool approaches that worked from pre-school and all the way through high school!  (If you missed the previous posts, please follow the links at the end of the post.) I found that using a literature-based curriculum is the most rich, rewarding and inspiring way to teach.

More importantly, living books open delightful “rabbit-trails” or tangents!  And following these delight-directed paths made all the most important connections and enriched the book in wonderful ways!

Here’s some tips of enriching your literature study ~

  • Follow the spark of interest!
  • Chat, discuss, talk at the dinner table about the new ideas, characters’ choices, moral issues, those “why” and “what if” questions.
  • Read-up or “Google” it!  (I love my smart phone’s wonderful reference apps loaded at my finger tips … but that is a post on its own!)
  • Explore it in other books.  Find supplementary books at the library.
  • Do it! Go and build a real raft, make a Khoi grass mat hut, make a mould of an animal track … bake the cake, make the butter, tie sailor knots, make the corn doll, make Lego models, make paper models.Some of these activities became the cornerstone memories of many of our read alouds!  My kids will never forget them!
  • Make interesting and diverse notebook pages
  • Create puppets and dramatize the story.
  • Add lapbooks, especially for younger and middle school children.
  • Travel to places in the story with your family.  Go on the journey with your story as a family.  We loved our real-life “Footprints on Our Land” journey when we travelled for 18 months looking for our farm.
  • Visit museums, art galleries, historical sites.Girls find garnets in the gravel at Kimberley Big Hole
  • Visit real artisans, craftsmen, professionals, hobby enthusiasts, the elderly or veterans and learn from them.  Let them show your family and make it real!
  • Don’t rush. Keep the pace your family needs.
  • Extend your schedule. You can safely extend any 12 month (1 year) schedule to 18 months without adding any more books.  Just look for those hands-on activities that will enrich your studies.  See your schedule as a guideline!  This is my most important homeschool tip!

In other words ~ make time for those tangents!

Links to previous “What Works!” posts:



A Sacred Task

Charlotte Mason’s principles challenges me. When I read her chapter on Sacredness of Personality, these words jumped out ~

“Parents look on with a smile and think that all is well; but Bob or Mary is losing that growing time which should make a self-dependent, self-ordered person, and is day by day becoming a parasite who can go only as he is carried, the easy prey of fanatic or demagogue. 

This sort of encroachment upon the love of children offers as a motive, ‘do this for my sake’; wrong is to be avoided lest it grieve the teacher, good is to be done to pleasure him; for this end a boy learns his lessons, behaves properly, shows good will, produces a whole catalogue of schoolboy virtues and yet his character is being undermined. due respect for the personality of children and a dread of making them incompetent to conduct their own lives will make us chary of employing a means so dangerous, no matter how good the immediate end.”

No parent sets out to create incompetent, parasitic and weak children who live their lives in shameful helplessness, inadequacy and co-dependency.

Intentional parenting motivates the child to grow into meaningful independence and responsibility.

As our eldest daughter completes her schooling this year, and our second eldest son plans for his marriage towards the end of the September, they want to be equipped and ready.  It is a joy to see them becoming self-determined and responsible.

Our parenting should provide the essential structures and routines, some basic rules and disciplines, and mixed in it all, grace, love and assistance.

Let me go back to when they were young and innocent. I remember giving my toddler choices.  My options, but she could chose in them, and the outcome was the one I wanted e.g.: ~ “We are going to bath, brush teeth (…insert your activities…) and then read a story.  Which story do you want to hear tonight?  This one or this one?  Great!  Quickly now, let’s …”

This approach works well with young homeschoolers too.  Our read aloud time is our “together” time and we usually do all the disciplined studies before morning tea so that we can enjoy our reading and hands-on activities.  When the child is given some choices in these activities, they do not resist and mope when lessons are short and sweet. (Thank you Charlotte Mason, for this lovely principle.)

Homeschooling a high schooler is slightly different.  They want to work independently.  The best tools for them is the year plan/ overview, a calendar and a weekly schedule or timetable.  We work out how many lessons per week, how many hours that requires, and they can tick the plan off as they go.  Both my highschoolers work to try finish and write off a subject by completing the work and the tests/ exams.  They ask me to tutor them. We book our time together and I enjoy the moments working side-by-side.

All too soon, it will pass and my role with them will change.

My parenting will be worthy if my children grow up to ~

  • love the Lord, His Word and His Ways
  • make good choices; in serving others, in excellence,
  • have an ethic that values hard work and diligence
  • form and maintain sincere and sound relationships with others
  • respect themselves and those in authority,  and be worthy of respect
  • persevere and endure even when it gets tough
  • be themselves, unique, creative, sincere
  • be faithful to the Lord’s gifting and purpose for their lives

So this is a “sacred” task.

How do you find your homeschooling and parenting sacred?


Ending and Beginning

My older two daughters have been away enjoying their summer holiday with friends, working hard on a self-sufficiency farm, and having times of fun, intimacy and fellowship!

While my youngest daughter enjoyed her time alone with us on our farm, visiting Grandparents for Christmas and swimming with us at the beach during our brief time away.P1120329

I have spent some quieter days at home closing off the school year and planning for next year.

Ending …

I packed my eldest daughter’s Grade 11 notebooks and study guides into a box and cleared my planning file for her new year.

Beginning …

Miss. T18 will do her Matric (our final high school graduation) this year!  I’m stunned!  My last official year with her! Already she looks ahead beyond the final year towards her future and I prayerfully plan and search out options with her.P1120072Beginning … and ending …

Our 13-year-old will officially start her high school course and join her older sister on Impak Education .  She will cover 9 separate subjects which will be a stretch for her!  But she wants to work independently and we’ll try to ease our way to that goal. My role will change from fellow-traveller to tutor.  Somehow I feel sad.  Those delicious days of delight and discovery will fade away to the demands of stricter and fuller schedules, external standards, tests, portfolio assignments and exams.

… and beginning again …

As for my 10-year-old, we simply pick up where we left off and continue the joyous journey of our Footprints on our Land.  In many ways I live out all my Charlotte Mason and homeschooling ideals with her and find my experience homeschooling Miss. L10 utterly fulfilling and inspiring.

I used my nifty binding machine and created 2 huge ring-binders of her year’s work.  She helped me and marvelled with sweet pride at all her notebook pages, lapbooks and art works.

Note to moms with young children – treasure your child’s junior and primary school years and enjoy every age and stage!  It all passes by so fast.

A wise older mom gave this priceless advice to a young mom ~

“Go for the heart in your homeschooling.”

Engage your child’s heart.

Make moments matter.

Create intimate memories.

Focus on relationships and keep hearts open.

So with my bare shelves waiting for the highschool books to arrive, files cleared and prepared, new charts and notebook pages prepared and 2013 calendar laid out, I rest and reflect and thank the Lord.

I wish you every blessing of God’s love, joy and grace for the New Year.


Read Books ~ When All Else Fails

Social Studies (Carla Bley album)

Living Books are the

golden threads” in our learning.

This past week I had an epiphany ~

good books have provided my children the most valuable education!

But, let me go back a little and explain …

Earlier this year my 12-year-old-now-nearly-13-teen floundered in my ‘wonderful’ Charlotte Mason education.  I wrote about our stresses and struggles and how I felt like such a failure.

Your kind comments overwhelmed me.

I simply relieved my daughter from some CM subjects and she focussed purely on her academics. (She no longer actively takes part in many of the Fine Arts lessons, but I’m sure that she absorbs her younger sister’s music and art appreciation lessons, the poetry and the Shakespeare plays.)

Most of her Footprints Into the 21st Century curriculum is literature-based. She spends many hours simply reading good books.

But, still, I worried.  I was still unhappy to see her listlessly “going through the motions” instead of connecting with her subject, let alone savoring it! (And I’m not alone. Jimmie also shared of her daughter’s changed approach.)

Would she be ready for the standards and approaches used in our Delta correspondence high school curriculum next year?


Last week, when she completed her Maths textbook I went to a local academic book store to find a new Grade 8 textbook.

To my dismay, they only supplied textbooks for the current OBE education in the South African government schools.  (This system – Outcomes Based Education – has been an absolute failure … but let me not digress.)
After 20 minutes I chose the one which seemed the best.

When I got home and took my time looking through the book, I was appalled.

It was complete drivel. Total twaddle. Not one single mathematical concept explained. Not a single theory, principle, or equation in the book. Not a single example followed by an exercise.  How does anyone learn maths from this?

I would not keep the book and the store would not refund me.  I had to exchange it for any other book from the same publishers.  Despite their thick catalogue, and much more careful examination of the sample books on the bookstore’s shelves, I could not find anything worth exchanging.

Their Social Studies book dismayed me.

Not a single photograph or accurate map …  instead they had fuzzy pencil sketch copies of photos.

Not a single quote …  just ridiculous, over-simplified explanations of the period in history summed up in 3 paragraphs, followed by 3 questions &/or activities to be done with a friend or in a group OBE-style.

This is when it stuck me!

My children know much more about the historical events, the culture, lifestyle, and important people from their living books!

Even if my junior-high daughter just ticks off her schedule and completes her tasks, simply because she reads excellent books, she will have absorbed 1000 times more than a child who has read a textbook.

And I should have given more credit to the power of reading!

I’ve written that read alouds are the Homeschool Glue.

I have seen the power of reading an excellent book to ignite thoughts, inspire the imagination, develop vocabulary, motivate action, and define character.

At its most basic, if our children read living books, they will grow and learn!

This is why I love a Charlotte Mason-inspired-literature-based education.

How have living books taught your children? Any thoughts about textbooks? Share with us in the comments.


This post is part of the upcoming Charlotte Mason Carnival ~  “What we love most about a Charlotte Mason education“.  To join the carnival, visit Amy at Fisher Academy International this Tuesday, September 4.