Don’t Teach Nature Lessons!

Nature walks should be somewhat spontaneous opportunities for discovery. Learn from my early homeschooling mistakes and DO NOT treat nature study like an outdoor class time — it kills the child’s natural curiosity and delight!  My older children eventually refused to participate in nature study.  Instead, look for ways to include regular weekly or daily outings in nature and provide some simple tools and methods to encourage your children to notice, explore, engage and enjoy nature.

Charlotte Mason bemoaned,

“We are awaking to the use of nature-knowledge, but how we spoil things by teaching them!” (Formation of Character, p. 396).

Of course mom, you can set a topic of focus and guide your students to look for something specific, but be sure to give them lots of opportunities to observe closely and carefully for themselves with a minimum of input from you.  May I suggest that the reference books are kept in your nature study bag to be used only when a child asks for additional information? Allow your child’s natural curiosity and let them study elements and objects “off-topic” and follow their lead!

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

Here are some of my Nature Study posts, practical tips and free downloads from my archives:

Our Theme for the Day and refreshed Daily Themes provides a simple visual reminder to include all the “extras” in our weeks such as Nature Study, Poetry, Fine Arts, Creative Writing, Geography and Science. 

Daily themes 2015

My three Smash This Nature Journals provide loads of fun, simple, unusual and unique nature journal prompts which inspire joyful nature experiences.  Order and print your Smash Nature Journals to encourage fabulous, fun nature activities!

Smash Nature Journals 123

Making time for nature study with free nature photo of the week chart and Ambleside Online Nature Study Schedule.

Free John Muir Nature Quotes & free Copywork pages include about 10 pages of John Muir quotes in either print or cursive using Charlotte Mason’s copywork & dictation principles.(Of course this is only for handwriting practice and not as part of the nature study lesson!)

How to create a Perpetual Nature Journal with explanations and links on how to create your own perpetual nature journal.

How to make a nature study bag and a sewing tutorial with simple ideas of what to include in a nature study bag.

How to create a Nature Study notice board or shelf and a post on how a simple Nature Tray provides a wonderful way to display the week’s nature finds for collection, further study and drawing in nature journals.

nature tray

John Muir Law encourages how to cultivate curiosity in nature study 3 ways.  He believes that the key to developing a closer connection with nature is by deliberately enhancing your powers of observation and wonder.  He says,Attention is what the fabric of love is made from.”  This post explains his method.

I trust that these ideas and suggestions inspire you to relax or upgrade your Nature Studies in your homeschooling!

All in grace, for grace, Nadene

Easter Pictures & Hands-on Activities

Here are some Easter hands-on activities inspiration ideas “resurrected” from deep in my 2014 archives!  I wanted to involve my daughter fully in our Easter Bible readings.  She LOVES reading her comic-style Illustrated Bible Story New Testament book.  It is very visual and makes the stories “come alive”.  I wanted to add loads of hands-on activities.

Young children learn best when they use all their five senses – hearing, seeing, smell, taste and touch

Easter14

I created an Easter Flags 16-page download, suitable for junior primary children, which includes Scriptures and parallel verses, activity ideas and story summaries for each Easter theme. As you read the Easter Scriptures, encourage your children to use all their senses as they learn about Easter and Jesus’ crucifixion. Children may enjoy touching and feeling real objects hidden in a “feely” bag. Cut out each flag. Children can colour in the images. Fold the top edge of the flag over and staple or glue to a ribbon to hang as Easter bunting. These simple images may also be used for material applique on fabric flags. Be sensitive and adapt your lessons to suit your child’s age and temperament.

Here is your free download ~ Easter Flags

For older children I also created some Easter Picture Collages.  

These are similar hands-on activities using all 5 senses, but this is more suited for older children as the images are more graphic, and some of the activities may not be suitable for young children.

Easter12

I wanted my daughter to use all her senses and physically act out as many of the scriptures of Easter as we could. Instead of me preparing the lesson activities, I printed out the collage images, gathered all the objects we needed and asked my child to create the activities with me for each lesson. This is child-led education — which is a joy to behold!

These are the items we collected for each theme:

  • palm leaf – we were both surprised how huge the branch was!
  • perfume – perfume essence & spraying alcohol mixed in a bottle with cork and candles to seal the bottle
  • coins – in a little bag
  • wine & bread – for Last Supper and communion.  Matzos is unleavened, pierced bread.
  • bowl, water & towel – to wash feet
  • cock’s feather and sound recording of cock crowing
  • thorns twisted into a crown – rather painful job!
  • whip – a cat-of-nine tails with leather strips
  • purple cloak – purple cloth and sticks to make lots
  • hammer & nails – hammer into thick plank of wood
  • vinegar & sponge – taste the bitter vinegar
  • stone & cave – sealed with some clay

Here is your free download ~ Easter Picture Collages

Here is a summary of some of the activities, thoughts and experiences of our Easter:

Easter1

Some of our first activities were lovely.  Waving a long (taller than her very tall brother) beautiful palm branch and singing praise songs was wonderful.  

Easter

Making perfume and sealing the bottle with melted candle wax was soothing and it smelt delightful.  We acted out Mary’s act of worship; anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair.  Very intimate. 

Easter3

We tasted the bread and wine.  The matzos bread is pierced and striped, just like Jesus’ whipped and pierced body.  The red wine reminded us of His blood.  Reverence and deep gratitude filled our hearts. 

Easter10

We washed one another’s feet. Just like Jesus did to His disciples. Humbling and so lovely. 

Easter2

Then things became tough.  Count out 30 pieces of silver, which was the price of a slave. Judas was mean.  While Mary broke the seal and poured out anointing oils worth a man’s whole years wages, Judas snatched up 30 silver coins. Worship breaks open and pours out, selfishness takes for itself. 

Easter4

We went to our chicken coop and found a lovely long rooster feather.  The rooster strutted about with his hens.  Did we hear him crow?  Could we also betray our Lord?  Would we cry bitter tears?  Somber reflection. 

Easter8

And then the scenes with Jesus’ scourging.  Painful.  See the thorns in the leather?  A cat-of-nine has bone or stones tied to the leather strips to inflict greatest pain and injury.  Our minds reel.  Hear the whip as it snaps in the air … 39 times!  Exhausting.  How could Jesus survive?  

Easter5

Thorns pricked us as we made the crown and really hurt!  

Easter9

Hammering in nails into wood it a tough job.  Bang! Bang!  Imagine nailing through hands and feet?  How awful!  Our hearts ached. 

Collages1

We cast lots for the robe with our sticks.  If you win, you take the piece of cloth and feel its rich texture.  When I win, it is all mine. It is so easy to be callous and greedy, and all the while our Lord hangs suffering, dying. 

Easter6

Now Jesus cries out and someone gives Him vinegar.  Yech!  It tastes bitter.  No one can drink that stuff! 

Easter7

Finally we made a small tomb using a rock that had a cave-like shape.  We found a flat stone to fit in front.  Pressing some clay around the flat stone, we sealed the tomb. It is dark inside. Closed.  It is finished. 

May the Lord blessing you and your family in this Easter season,

In grace, Nadene

Khoikhoi House & Village 3D Model

I am happy to share my latest 3D paper model in a series of traditional African houses and villages ~ Khoikhoi House and Village.

The Khoikhoi were nomadic pastoralist indigenous people who lived in the southern parts of Africa and farmed with sheep, goats, and cattle. They traded with seafarers who landed at the Cape from all over the globe for centuries.

The Khoikhoi village was relatively large, and the Khoikhoi lived in round huts covered with reed mats that could be dismantled and re-erected in a new location when grazing in the area became depleted.  Each village had a headman who made decisions with the clans about when and where to move. There was a group that was more sedentary known as “Strandlopers” who live by hunting and gathering food along the beaches of south-western Africa, originally from the Cape Colony.

The 3D model of a Khoikhoi grass hut and village background triorama page (1-page triorama which forms a triangle/ pyramid-shaped folded page) is a 6-page purchase package download that includes both black & white outline illustrations as well as coloured-in pages. These illustrations include clear assembly instructions and some extra cultural details. I included some additional basic historical background information as well as Internet reference links. 

This grass hut template may look complex, but I have designed it so that most middle-school-aged children should manage to assemble the hut on their own.

Colouring-in, cutting out and creating these 3D houses and village models are a wonderful activity while mom reads-aloud. You can view details of the other African houses in the series — Zulu House & Village, the Xhosa House & Village and the San Bushmen House & Kalahari Desert background which are excellent hands-on activities that fit perfectly with Footprints in our Land, our South African, literature-based Social Studies curriculum.

These South African house and village downloads are purchase packages and I really appreciate your support, but I would love to share a freebie with you. Each house comes with a triorama background. A triorama forms a wonderful 3D pyramid shape with a base. It requires just 2 folds and a snip to make, so it’s very simple, but looks dramatic!

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your download. Thank you for your support.

Blessings, Nadene

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San Bushmen House & Village 3D Model

I am happy to share my 3rd, and currently my favourite, 3D paper model of traditional African houses and villages ~ A San Bushman House and Village.

The San, also known as Bushmen, are the oldest native tribe that live in the vast Kalahari Desert regions of South West Africa. They lived in southern Africa long before European settlers and other Bantu tribes arrived. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers, and they set up temporary camps as a family-based society.

The 3D model of a San Bushman grass hut and the Kalahari Desert camp background triorama page (1-page triorama which forms a triangle/ pyramid-shaped folded page) is a 6-page purchase package download that includes both black & white outline illustrations as well as coloured-in pages. These illustrations include clear assembly instructions and some extra cultural details. I included some additional basic historical background information as well as Internet reference links. 

This grass hut template may look complex, but I have designed it so that most middle-school-aged children should manage to assemble the hut on their own.

Colouring-in, cutting out and creating these 3D houses and village models are a wonderful activity while mom reads-aloud. You can view details of the other African houses in the series — Zulu House & Village and the Xhosa House & Village which are excellent hands-on activities that fit perfectly with Footprints in our Land, our South African, literature-based Social Studies curriculum.

These South African house and village downloads are purchase packages and I really appreciate your support, but I would love to share a freebie with you. Each house comes with a triorama background. A triorama forms a wonderful 3D pyramid shape with a base. It requires just 2 folds and a snip to make, so it’s very simple, but looks dramatic!

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your download. Thank you for your support.

Blessings, Nadene

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How to Join Upper-Case to Lower-Case Cursive Letters

With parents finding themselves suddenly homeschooling during this pandemic, a mom emailed to ask me to help her as she was struggling to teach her son how to join cursive upper-case to lower-case letters.   To help her, I created a little  5-page download which is also available for free right here ~ Joining Upper Case & lower case Cursive letters

How to join an upper-case letter to a lower-case letter

Most upper-case letters will have their own ending line that simply overlaps as the starting line for the next letter.

Only a few upper-case letters will require “an extra” line to start the new lower case letter at their base such as with B C D F H I O P S T V W  I  have drawn this line which will be the overlapping starting line as a dotted line.

Practice Joining Cursive Letters Sheets

  • Laminate the following Joining Cursive Upper-Case to lower-case practice pages or place each page in a plastic page protector.
  • Demonstrate and talk about where to start, how to form and end each letter.
  • Then ask your child to trace over the letters with a whiteboard marker.
  • Once your child knows where to start, how to form and end all the letters in lower- & upper-case, your child can start doing simple copywork as handwriting practice using the chart as a reference.

This download provides practice pages using every letter of the alphabet.  Extended lines provide space to not only trace over the letters but also to copy and write out the joined letters on the coloured lines provided.

I have also included a detailed explanation of letters’ line placement as well as coloured dots for starting and ending points for each letter in this download.

I will post a detailed blog post on letter line placement in my upcoming post.

Please pop over to my Packages page to purchase the updated Teaching Cursive Handwriting Step-by-Step booklet.

If you wish to write a private email to me, please fill in the contact form on my About & Contact page.  I would love to help you!

 Blessings, Nadene
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Lapbook planning tips

My children loved doing lapbooks and  we quickly figured out some practical tips to prevent overwhelm and to maximise our studies with other activities.  Here are some of my tried-&-tested practical lapbook planning tips ~

Often when printing out and cutting out the lapbook minibooks for your new lapbook , you will have heaps of booklets, papers, cutouts which may cause you and your children to feel overwhelmed. 

Print out the table of contents or index with every download and file this with the lapbook instructions.  If your lapbook printout doesn’t have an index, draw up a list of each minibook theme, or the topics or chapters covered in each minibook of the lapbook study along with a short description of each activity.  You can download my free lapbook planner below.

Whether you download a lapbook or make one for yourself, it helps to print out the lapbook planner or index page so that you have a birds’ eye view of your core topics, sub-topics, minibooks, relevant websites, videos, songs, recipes, hands-on activities and any other downloads as well as the time you plan for each minibook or topic.  Here  is  the  index  I used for my planning my Ancient Egypt Lapbook.  (You  can freely download  the Ancient Egypt Lapbook)

Here is my Pearl Harbour lapbook organiser  which outlined additional websites and sources used:

For more complex subject such as World Wars, it helps to draw up basic vertical timeline and mark the dates for all the most important events.  This helps to follow the course of events chronologically as well as plan the lapbook layout.

We always pasted all the minibooks into the lapbook before we started so that we did not waste time searching through a packet of minibooks to find the relevant one for the day.  You can read all about this in my post Time-saving tips for doing lapbooks. I must add here that my children often pasted their minibooks where they felt it best fitted and not strictly according to the suggested layout and it never was a problem.

We duct-taped along the spine of the lapbook and punched holes in the duct tape so that they were on hand in our files or ring binders.  (Read how we assemble and duct tape our Aesop lapbooks here.)

We stored each child’s completed lapbooks together in a file folder as seen in the photo below.  (Read all about how we stored our lapbooks and notebook pages here.)

Here is my lapbook planner page  free download (available in .docs or  .pdf versions) to use for your planning ~ Lapbook Planner or Organiser (MS Word.docs) or  Lapbook Planner or Organiser (pdf)

My children loved doing hands-on activities so I always extended our planned lapbook time to provide a wide margin for the spontaneous learning activities or additional enrichment.

Please do not ever rush to finish anything!  Take your time and aim to include the “extra” additional studies and hands-on activities!  These will bring your lapbook study to life!

Blessings, Nadene

Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

In my last post  Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips, I created a set of posters which I would love to share with you ~

You can use these posters as reminders for yourself when planning lessons and looking for different options, or display them in your schoolroom so that your children can select an activity they would prefer.  I have included the all my ideas and suggested tips and strategies from my post in this download.

Here is your free download ~ Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

 Blessings, Nadene
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Sight Words booklets packed with ideas

Updating archives ~ Get your FREE Sight Words sampler Ebook and purchase a complete 30-page Sight Words Ebook

Teaching sight words is a very important and helpful tool to make reading easier for young students from pre-K to Grade 3.

Sight words = often also called high frequency sight words, are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorize as a whole by sight, so that they can automatically recognize these words in print without having to use any strategies to decode. (Definition – Wikipedia)

Sight words often cover almost half the reading material on a page.  By memorizing sight words, a child can quickly recognise and recall these words and does not need to decode or break up or sound out every letter of each word, thus simplifying his reading process.
What sight word lists to teach?

There are 3 main sight word lists ~

  1. Dolch Sight Words
  2. Fry’s 1000 Sight Words list using more modern words.
  3. Most frequently used words First 100-200 most commonly used words charts  or First 100 high frequency word lists

Whatever lists you choose to teach your child, you should introduce one or two words  each day, gradually adding new words while repeating and practicing the taught words until your child has learnt the entire list. Very quickly your child will build a wonderful, rich store of instantly recognized words which he can quickly read, thus building his reading ability.

How to teach sight words?

A general rule = Always say the whole word, then spell it out and then say it again, underlining the whole word with the first 2 fingers from left to right. 

There are several additional valuable techniques to teach sight words. You can view these lessons on http://www.sightwords.com/sight-words/lessons/

  1. See and Say
  2. Spell and read
  3. Arm Tap
  4. Air Writing 
  5. Table Writing
  6. Quick correction 

Download your FREE sampler  ~ Sight Words Sampler including the Dolche lists with words in sentences and the Dice & Spinner templates

Sight word games to play

The best way to practice is to have fun! Once the words have been taught, the child must practice those words daily.  Many of these games involve physical exercise which, in turn, strengthens core and fine motor muscles and reinforces directions and spatial awareness.  My complete 30-page Sight Words EBook has all the games, ideas, activities, templates and posters for you to have fun teaching and learning sight words with your children.

As in all teaching, you should customize your child’s lists to suit their levels of maturity and ability.  When they are ready, they will quickly learn new words and enjoy the learning process.

Click over to my Packages page to order the full 30-page Sight Words Ebook which includes ~

  • How to teach sight words lessons with detailed examples.
  • 18 Creative Spelling games (one or two players & physical activities
  • 24 Spelling ideas with unique activities &fun ideas
  • Dolch sight word lists with flashcards & words in sentences
  • Fry’s 100 Sight Words
  • 100 Frequently used sight word lists
  • Spinner and dice templates for games and activities
  • Board game and Bingo template
  • Links to websites and YouTube videos

Please support me by ordering this wonderful booklet on my Packages Page.

References ~ You will find lots of other lists, flashcards, games and downloads on the web ~

 Blessings, Nadene
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Updated Book of Centuries to 2029

Book of CenturiesRecently a mom wrote to me requesting that I add a few more pages to my free Book of Centuries download. I was shocked to realize that we end this decade this year!  My, how time flies!

Charlotte Mason encouraged her students to enter records, illustrate and write brief notes and mark dates of famous people, events, wars, eras, inventions and significant breakthroughs in their Book of Centuries once a week as they study.

Book of CenturiesI wrote about my joy of using a Book of Century as a mother’s record of work and I still love browsing through my BOC and delight in the scope and richness of the education we have journeyed through these 19+ years.

Pop over to my blog posts – Practical Tip Book of Centuries for mom and kids and Mom’s Book of Centuries Record of Work

Here are some links and free Book Of Centuries downloads:

 Blessings, Nadene
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Flags for Current Affairs

Recently I refreshed and updated my Current Affairs download with several maps, perpetual calendar pages, symbols and little flags for every country of the world.   You can purchase this 10-page download on my Packages page.

While searching for good quality, labeled, thumbnail-sized flags I found TeacherVision.com – Flags Around World

Also, while browsing I found some FREE pages of flags to download and colour-in –

  • Crayola.com – Nations Coloring Pages  Really lovely colour-by-number instructions, map and interesting facts about each country on page.
  • Super Coloring.com – Flags Of The World  Nice crisp outline image with a coloured thumbnail flag at the bottom of the page.  Includes some important facts about each country or international flag.
  • CRW Flags.com – Flags  Full-page outline with name only.

Hope these pages bring fun and interest to your Geography, Social Studies, World History or Unity Study topics!

In Grace, Nadene