Letter 27 – Creativity

As I reflect on my more than 23 years of homeschooling, I believe that creativity is the most wonderful gift you can give your children!   Here is the next letter to my younger self — Letter 27 ~ Creativity

These new collages are from images of our many creative moments over the years.  Warning ~ This post is chock-a-block full of links to previous creativity related posts; proof of my emphasis on creativity!  I recommend you bookmark this letter to come back to read all the links.)

Dear younger Nadene,

Your children’s happiest moments in homeschooling revolved around your creative approach which included frequent hands-on activities.  Realizing this joy, I want to urge you to provide daily creative opportunities such as arts & crafts and doing regular hands-on activities such as lapbooks, making models and paper projects, and allocate time for lots of dramatization.  Figure out how to fit in hands-on activities into your schedule, and these activities will become your children’s favourite homeschool memories.  Your Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays will save you and your children from burnout and stress! Over these years you will produce many creative projects.

Your children will create cute finger puppets for narrations, cut and colour Lego-punched dioramas for poetry, make models of Laura Ingalls’ Little House, dress up to act out their History narrations, re-create famous paintings in 3D, create their own sets of paper dolls.  Amazing mobiles will adorn your schoolroom for different themes and study topics. Every year you and your children will make puppet shows such as the Nativity Play and Esther play for Purim and their art will cover the walls in your home.

Your young children love to be creative every moment of the day!  In their free time, they love to dress up and you will even sew them boned corsets! You will make them a rag doll family to replace their Barbie dolls, and your middle daughter will use her skilled fine motor skills to create her own Polly pocket in a soap dish!

Join Sketch Tuesday and do art every week. There are so many advantages to sketching weekly! This simple weekly Sketch Tuesday activity will produce an enormous skill set and build confidence! Not only will it be the most welcome time of enjoyment and respite in your week, but it will offer regular opportunities to try new mediums and styles and your children will excel in all their artistic activities.

Because you provide them with a creative space and creative materials, they will also make jewellery and beautiful gifts.  Your daughters love creating beautiful flower arrangements. They will create beautiful rustic decor for their brother’s weddings.  Your daughters will become experts at home decor.  You will teach them all to sew and knit and your teenage daughters will start their own beautiful pyjama clothing range called La Lune

Your eldest daughter Tess will become an incredibly talented seamstress at just 15-years old, sewing dresses for weddings and Matric farewell functions.  She and her best friend will put on and host several fashion shows. When your daughter graduates, she will work in the hospitality industry for a season.  She will marry and her home will be filled with beauty and loveliness.  When they move Sedgefield, she will renovate and restore the old family seaside home into a lovely Airbnb.  Her homemaking, cooking and creativity will spill into every area of her life.

When your middle daughter Kate graduates, she will continue to create her own unique styled art, create professional designs and logos, and develop her digital art.  She will hone her photographic skills and assist her boyfriend Mathew with photography at weddings.  She will assist him in developing his website, his marketing and social media. Kate loves food and she will enjoy cooking Masterchef-type food!  She will become a singer and musician, teaching herself to play musical instruments.

Your youngest daughter Lara will do art every day.  Her Instagram feed is full of art, art and more beautiful art!  Lara and her talented wood craftsman boyfriend will start their own collaborative online art business called Collection Shed.  Joshua will make beautiful custom frames for Lara’s paintings!

Your children’s creativity and handicrafts skills will become great assets.   They have so much creative talent that it spills over into entrepreneur and job opportunities. They will start businesses, sell products at markets and online, work for art and animation studios, sell art via social media. All of them will develop wonderful unique artistic styles and their regular creativity will generate wonderful rich art portfolios. Your family will be known for its creative flair!   

You, too, will find great joy in doing creative projects, regularly sketching, painting, sewing, knitting, gardening and doing decor and DIY projects.  As your homeschooling journey nears the end, your lifestyle and time will allow for much more art and creativity, so it is a good thing to take part in arts and crafts with your children while they are still young.  Maintain your creativity as a hobby lifestyle, or as Charlotte Mason describes it as “Mother Culture” and you will have a fulfilling and joyful transition post homeschooling.

And very importantly, don’t be afraid of your children’s occasional boredom.  This time is the essential ingredient that is necessary for them to discover and develop their creativity!  In this day and age of constant stimulation and distraction, quiet undistracted time is a gift for creativity.  

Keep a simple schedule and avoid rush, stress and over-committed extra-mural activities.  Plan for days at home, free afternoons and long, unrushed weekends. 

Creativity also requires grace to learn, to experiment and to make mistakes. Offer your children and yourself gentle encouragement and avoid any comparisons.  Compliment and display your children’s art and keep trying new materials and techniques. 

Here are some wonderful creativity quotes ~

  • “Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world.”  Brene Brown
  • “Creativity is experimenting, growing, taking risks, making mistakes & having fun!” Mary Lou Cook
  • “Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse
  • “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein
  • “You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Joseph Chilton Pearce

With fondest love from your older and creative self, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Would you share yours in the comments below?

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Letter 26 – True Skills

With two homeschool graduates now living independently, here’s another letter to my younger self reflecting on insights and thoughts of what important life lessons were required to complete our homeschooling journey ~

Letter 26 ~ True Skills

Dear younger Nadene,

In the beginning, when you began to homeschool your toddlers, it was all about exploration, discovery,  and learning about life.  You taught through play and read alouds, through experimentation and exploration.  But as soon as you bought a very expensive curriculum for each child, you became stressed, anxious, and hyper-focussed to “do it all right”.  You became “Mom-the-teacher” and you pushed, pressured, persuaded, pleaded and even punished your children to learn what “they were supposed to”.  You silly, fearful, stressed-out mom!

You pushed aside real-life for school-at-home.  Somehow, as your children entered junior and middle school, academics became the main focus and the measure of your and their success.  Remember homeschool is  “Learning Not SchoolIt is so easy to get bogged down with the curriculum, it’s schedule, your children’s academics and teaching school subjects.  And in its place, these things are important, but always look at the bigger picture.  What do your children really need to master by the time they graduate?

A real & whole education has very little to do with information — hello — everyone has Google at their fingertips!  Education is not merely schoolwork or subjects found in curriculums.  Of course, the importance of education is irrefutable.  But as your teenagers prepare to leave home (and heads-up — your middle daughter will launch out at 17!),  you will realize that there are many other essential life skills.

Can they look after themselves?  Can they relate well to others well?  Do they cope with difficulties, navigate huge challenges, or make big decisions?  Have they learnt how to manage their time and their money?  Do they know how to apply for jobs, sign for leases, open accounts, fill in tax forms?  Are they healthy and managing their eating and cooking?   (See more specific life skills in the lists below this letter.)

As you watch your young adult children, you will joyfully witness that they have learnt amazing life skills as they were growing up.  They are strong and mature.  They are wonderful, supportive friends, and are committed and loyal to their communities.  They have loving, stable relationships with their partners.  They can cook amazing, nutritional meals on a shoestring budget.  They make and keep a beautiful, clean house, and are wonderfully hospitable.   They work hard in their respective jobs, managing job performance with professional attitudes.  They handle conflicts and difficulties in relationships with maturity and grace.  They manage their money, making ends meet and living within their means.  They have a living faith in the Lord and entrust themselves to His word and ways.

And as for the rest, you will watch with a joyful expectation as they learn what they need to as they go along, growing in experience and competence as they figure things out. 

Don’t lose sight of the big picture!  It is so much more than mastering algebra or chemistry equations or acing the exams.  Real-life stuff cannot always be tested in the classroom.  Life will test what they really learnt! 

And, by God’s grace and mercy and lovingkindness alone, you will see that you have done well.   

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

If you Google, you will find many lists of life skills your children need to learn before they graduate.  Here’s a compilation of many life skills needed ~

Emotional intelligence =

  • Mental health
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Coping with stress and failure
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving

Communication & Relationships

  • Effective communication
  • Manners
  • Conflict resolution
  • Dating & Romantic Relationships
  • Marriage
  • Family & Raising kids
  • Professional Etiquette
  • Communication on the phone, SMS, texts & emails
  • How to Apply for a job

Financial literacy

  • Managing Money
  • Budgets
  • Savings & Investments
  • Credit Cards,  Hire purchase & Debt
  • Buying & Selling Car and Home
  • Taxes

Nutrition & Health

  • Understanding nutrition in food & its impact on health
  • Wholesome attitude to different eating plans & diets
  • Meal planning
  • Food budget
  • Cooking skills
  • Weight management
  • Self-care
  • Exercise
  • Supplements
  • First Aid & CPR
  • Family planning, Sex, STDs

Other

  • Time Management
  • Housekeeping
  • Management & Maintenance of home
  • Laundry
  • Survival Skills
  • DIY and Repair skills
  • Social Media
  • Addictions
  • Civics
  • Community
  • Politics

Some of these life skill lessons should start while your children are very young, while others are more important in high school. Some topics may not apply to your family or values, but most are vital skills your children need once they leave home.

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Would you share yours in the comments below?

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Letter 25 – Change

Another letter to my younger self reflecting on insights and understanding gained in my 23+ years of homeschooling.  As I share my hindsight perspective, I trust this will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. ~ Letter 25 ~ Change

Dear younger Nadene,

Change is the only consistent character of life, so embrace it and anticipate it.  You will change — as a parent, as a  homeschool teacher, and definitely as a person. 

Your homeschooling methods will change as you learn how children naturally learn.  Your homeschooling ideals will change.  Do you remember your motto, “Nothing is cast in stone“?  This mindset is helpful as you prepare for each new season in your homeschooling and in your life in general.  Your experiences, both the good and the bad, will motivate you to try new approaches and abandon or accept others.  Your final years of high school homeschooling will be very different from the hopes and dreams you had back in the beginning. You will change as your children grow up and change. 

The most powerful words of encouragement to you in those early days of new motherhood and long, sleepless nights with your first baby was, “This too shall pass.”  Your children will change!  In many ways, you longed for change with thoughts of … “If only my baby slept through the night … if only she could sit on her own … if only she was potty-trained … if only she wasn’t so fearful and clingy … ”    Yet you loved each age and stage.  Despite this, you were often insecure when your children changed because everything felt uncertain and different.  Having the right attitude to change in your children is liberating.  The Lord heard and answered your prayers for each challenge and each new unknown.  He is faithful!

Look at your young adult daughters now!  Wow, how much they have changed!  Your intense and fearful young daughter will emerge as a posed and beautifully assured young woman. Your painfully shy daughter who refused to answer the door or speak on the phone will actually become your most confident, brave and self-assured child. You butterfly child will settle into herself and become steadfast, deep and mature. 

When your children are young, view at any limitation and simply add the word, “yet” … “My child cannot read/write/ ride a bike on her own … yet.”  See how that little word adds hope?  Hold onto hope!

Looking back now, you will see that when you did not put a label on a child’s behaviour or place a box on a child’s personality, you gave them the freedom to become, to change, to alter and to grow into the amazing, awesome people that they are now. 

Accepting change is a form of grace.  Be gracious to yourself and those you love.  With the Lord, your life is full of promise and blessing.  Trust Him for each child and for every change and you will experience the deep and abiding peace He brings.  

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

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Letter 24 – Failure

Another letter to my younger self reflecting on insights and understanding gained in my 23+ years of homeschooling.  I trust this letter will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. ~ Letter 24 ~ Failure

Dear younger Nadene,

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Failure feels dreadful and you will cry many tears over your failure to produce perfection in your homeschooling.  You need a huge hug right now, and let me assure you that you did not fail.  

May I suggest that your own idealism set you up for failure.  Especially in those early days, when it was rare and unusual to homeschool, you felt that you represented all  Christian homeschooling ideals,  You wanted to prove to your family and friends that you and your children were going to accomplish great things in and through homeschooling.  During those unsolicited conversations with strangers, you wanted to display that homeschooling was a superior choice.  And when your ability to “do it all” failed, or when your daughters fussed and fretted, and when there were tears and tantrums, you felt as if you were letting homeschooling in general down! 

Actually, you did an amazing job pioneering homeschooling in that small rural town!  Well done!  Through your family’s example, 9 other families found the courage to take their children out of public schools and begin homeschooling.  Your passion and vision was such an encouragement to these beginner families!  You hosted these families on your farm and mentored moms and encouraged them in their curriculum choices and homeschooling methods.  Your children, with all their natural traits and behaviours, were a wonderful demonstration of your family values and Christian living.  They were intelligent, dynamic and they each had amazing abilities and originality that inspired other parents to believe that their children would turn out okay. 

In the very beginning, you read Charlotte Mason books and followed several homeschool blogs and you felt that you had to measure up to their approaches, principles and methods.  This caused you to press and squeeze your poor young children to perform accordingly.  This caused dreadful stress and frustration.  You felt overwhelmed and exhausted.  You and your children became disillusioned and distressed and you came very close to burnout.  Instead, you finally learnt to let the schedule simply be your guide and allowed your homeschooling to develop according to each child’s personality and learning style.  

During the 18 months travelling around South Africa, following the wonderful  Footprints package, you discovered that your children learn so much from literature and from life.  But, sadly you still tried to make everything a lesson and your children hated you teaching all the time.  They eventually whined and refused to visit another museum and they’tuned out’ when your mommy-the-teacher-voice said, “Oh, look at this …. notice that … can you see? …”  It will take you another few years of their resistance and refusal for you to finally learn to step out the way and stop being the teacher.  This seeming “failure” was actually a wonderful lesson for you to learn to become your children’s facilitator instead.

Things will not go according to plan, especially when your daughters enter their teens.   This failure becomes more and more oppressive as they resist and reject your Charlotte Mason teaching and some important subjects, especially Bible Study. They will refuse to study further or go to college or do online courses. They will withdraw from you and you will take it all personally and cry many sad, defeated tears in private.  You will feel that you have no testimony, that you are somehow disqualified. 

You will feel judged, especially by your family.  Your parents will confront you and tell you how you have failed.  Your dad will email you rebukes with pages of teachings on “Finding your life’s purpose” with the hope that you will somehow persuade your teenage daughters to make better choices that will allow them to reach their full potential.  Your mom-in-law will repeatedly reprove you and your hubby for your failure to ensure that your daughters go onto to further studies or successful careers.  You will shed many tears in this phase of your homeschooling. 

These dark days will threaten to overwhelm you and you will withdraw and isolate yourself.  You will finally realize that you struggle with depression.  You and your hubby will talk late into the nights, worrying and praying about your children’s future.  You will feel helpless and lost and anxious about your children and you both parent on your knees, praying, interceding, surrendering and handing them over to the Lord.  You will find encouragement in the scripture promises and your faith will be tested and proven through these periods.

If I could encourage you about these teen years — cultivate heart-to-heart relationships with your daughters.  Remain gracious and open to their ideas, their fashion choices and decor style, to their music and movies and especially to their friends.  Support them and be there for them as they try new businesses, projects or jobs.  Don’t take their withdrawal personally.  It is not always about you.  If you can avoid being defensive, you will be the most wonderful stability and strength to them in their turbulent teen years.

Trust me,  dear younger Nadene, it will all work out as it should in the end.  Your daughters will go on to do amazing entrepreneurial endeavours.  They will navigate their post-homeschool graduate decisions with bravery and maturity and they will live meaningful and creative lives.  Your eldest will marry and become a precious, devoted wife and home-body and you will all rejoice in their pregnancy and watch as she prepares for their baby.   

You have done well and above all, the Lord is faithful!

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

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Letter 23 – Fears

As I reflect on my 23+ years of homeschooling, I wrote my younger self several letters which I share here, hoping that my insights and advice will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. Here’s the next letter in my “Letter To My Younger Self” seriesLetter 23 ~ Fear

Dear younger Nadene,

How often you were afraid in those first years! I can remember feeling that fluttering of butterflies in your stomach as you ordered your first full curriculums, and how anxiously you looked at the jam-packed schedule and wondered how on earth you would do 3 children on 3 different cores.  And you were right.  This strategy was incredibly stressful and you finally learnt to group your children on one core and work with more cohesive planning and greater compassion.

3D model of Seurat’s Bathers At Asnieres

You were afraid that if there wasn’t work in notebooks as evidence, that maybe your children weren’t really learning.  You did not trust the natural learning process that children have when they are curious will work as academic study.  But you soon realized that narrations really work, that living books teach, that simple natural exposure to art and classical music will deeply impact their minds and hearts.

You were afraid that your children were missing out on having peers and school friends.  But you soon discovered that having just one like-valued family with children the same ages as yours was more than enough.  These relationships grew and their bond was so strong that it remains today, even years after graduation.  And your children amazing friends!  They are kind, compassionate and extremely loyal. And they are definitely not “weird or unsocialized”!  On the contrary, they are adaptable, able to chat with people of all ages, they relate well to authority and they are able to navigate relational conflict and difficulties with a maturity and poise that makes your heart swell with joy.

How fearful and anxious you were in times of trouble or transition.  You felt afraid when your Christian values and the perfection you saw on other homeschool blogs did not match what was real in your own home.  You felt out of your depth when your teenage children challenged you and, in your fear, you tried even harder, often making things worse.  But, the Lord is faithful and He has kept you and provided for and protected your children.  You will rejoice when you see that they each have the most wonderful, deep, personal spiritual walk with the Lord as they grow up.  All your prayers and intercession were never in vain!

You were quite terrified when your children became teenagers that resisted, refused and changed direction.   But you finally relented and released them, and allowed them to follow their choices with all the consequences that would follow, and it worked out fine.

When your high school children refused most of the Charlotte Mason subjects, you felt disqualified and disappointed.  Instead of easily conceding, you cried, prayed and agonized over your failures.  But they wanted another approach and they were willing to find it even if they knew you did not approve.  How true they were to themselves!  And they made their choices work.  Well done kids, for showing mom another way.  It took more than 15 years to realize that you are their facilitator and not their teacher, forcing a method or a system on them.  

When things were not working out as you hoped, fear gripped your stomach and made you quite anxious and nervous.  Fear was always the deeper root to much of your behaviour and response to issues.  So much of your parenting was done out of fear even though you said that parenting is done on your knees in prayer.   

  • If you could start homeschool over again without fear, what would that look like?
  • If fear did not rule your choices, how could you navigate those teen years better?
  • Knowing what you know now, would you be as afraid?

Nadene, you do not have to fear!  Your attentive, consistent parenting style, your conscientious homeschooling and diligence pay off.  Your children will grow up and graduate as well-rounded, intelligent and amazing young adults.  Relax and trust the Lord in and through it all.

With compassionate love and grace from your older self,

Love, Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

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Letter 22 Striving

With my youngest child approaching her final year of homeschooling, I find myself once again reflecting on my thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches of the past 20+ years of homeschooling, writing letters to my younger self.   I hope that these letters will also be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey. So, picking up from where I last left off, here’s the next letter in my “Letter To My Younger Self” series

Letter 22 ~ Striving

Dear younger Nadene,

Striving is defined as “an attempt, to compete, to contend, an endeavour, to exert, to fight, to struggle and toil and try.” 

Who would want any of this in your homeschooling?  Striving is exhausting and a very debilitating approach to homeschooling, parenting and life in general.

When you started your homeschooling, you had an idealistic school-at-home approach and you worked strictly according to the schedule and tried to meet other people’s standards.  This approach put unnecessary pressure on you and you inevitably ended up desperate and stressed.

Your own personal attempts to do-it-all and “get it right” caused you sleepless nights and butterflies in your stomach when things were new, or different, or when things were not meeting your expectations.  Your massive focus and grand efforts may have given you some success, but your striving negatively affected your children.  They picked up your stress like they picked up chickenpox!  This invisible tension oppressed your home and their learning.

You will know when you are striving — it will look like busyness and stress, sound like shouting & yelling.  It will be cajoling, urging, insisting, forcing, punishing, withdrawing, manipulating, dominating … or simply doing it in a life-draining way.  

Let me encourage you to let go of your ideals, lower your expectations and work according to your family’s own rhythm and lifestyle.  Most importantly, let go of the timetable on the schedule and use it as your guideline or even as just a suggestion.  Add more time to your schedule — 6 months more time at least! 

You will never fall behind!  Not ever!  Not even when your kids miss a couple of days every week, or are sick, or when you go travelling around the country for 18 months.  Not even when your highschooler drops subjects or gives up a curriculum halfway through her Grade 10 course.  You will not even fall behind when you start a new family business and your days are interrupted dozens of times.  Relax, darling.  It will all work out in the end.

If you feel helpless, afraid or stressed about a child, or a curriculum, or a disciplinary or character issue, step back and press pause and be curious.  Be compassionate.  Ask yourself and the Lord. “What is the most loving way we can do this?”  and then be still and listen to the still, small voice in your heart.  Follow your heart. Please follow your heart.

Be kind to yourself and extend grace to yourself.  You will figure this out and you will eventually have lovely days of happy homeschooling.  It will turn out fine, trust me.

With gracious, compassionate love from your older self, Love Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

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Navigating postgraduate years

Here’s another “Getting Real” post ~  My eldest daughter graduated high school at the end of 2013.  Motherhood and homeschooling shifted gears and I entered into a completely different phase with a postgraduate young adult.  Somehow, navigating these years are far more difficult than I imagined.

If you follow the system, this is how educating your children usually looks ~

Schooling +12 years = graduate = college/ university = a diploma or degree = good job = successful life. 

Right?  In fact, I hear more moms who are considering homeschooling their preschooler or really young primary-aged children ask about homeschool graduation qualification requirements than how to enjoy the first few years of homeschooling.  The system rules their thinking.

I seemed to really have my act together when I was homeschooling my three young daughters.  As a qualified school teacher, no one doubted my ability or our vision for our family, but things changed drastically once my eldest graduated and we did not insist on her going to university to study further.

In fact, we have repeatedly been criticized by family and close friends for not providing her with the opportunities to achieve her God-given purpose.  I have endured days of long ‘conversations’ where granny and oupa and aunties have laid into us.  I received a heavily disappointed email with 7 attachments on “Finding your God-given purpose” from my dad.

But here’s the thing, our eldest daughter didn’t want to study further.  And I have learnt that forcing any education on a child doesn’t stick!  It vanishes like mist before the sun.  Our daughter didn’t want a chosen “safe” career or long-term commitment to a job or internship.  She didn’t want to do short courses. We thought, “Why invest heaps of money on courses or take out study loans or go into debt when someone is not keen?  It doesn’t make any sense.”

So, we allowed our eldest daughter to have a gap year … or two …  She has acquired major life skills ~

She and her best friend began entrepreneurship ventures when they were just 15 years old. They have been creative, hard-working and their skills have been tried and tested over the past several years.  They have stocked and run two shops.  She and her sister created a unique clothing range which they collaborated, created and ran online and at markets.  She has been committed to several short-term jobs, one where she gained valuable experience doing administration for a company. She has served others faithfully.  She has grown enormously spiritually.

During these years she assisted two of her friends with their home births.  She has learnt to cook large family meals on a very tight budget, from scratch, without electricity.  She’s learnt to run a home.  She’s attended a month of life-coaching.  She has been serious in her involvement with people and she is committed to deep and meaningful relationships in the small town where she has made her home.

Most importantly, I realized that she is community-driven.  She hated the idea of moving to a large town and living and working on her own.  I have to think that because we live so far from town, on such a remote farm, that we don’t have the same circumstances that most folks have of gently easing a new school graduate into jobs and towards independent living.

When we consider our eldest daughter, we realize that she is living out her life with her own, well-thought-out choices.  Our role is to help her in her startup ventures, assist her to begin businesses or start new jobs, and to encourage her when she faces disappointments and frustrations.  Our role is to champion her.  It is not what the system reflects, but what her heart longs for and how it leads her.  We seem to be navigating her post-school years without a map.

We are so proud of our daughter, and the amazing young woman that she has become!

The best way to parent a graduate is to be available, relational, supportive and encouraging so that we have a place of influence.    And to pray much …

In contrast, it is so easy to follow a homeschool schedule or curriculum.  You know exactly what is expected, what to use and how to get there.  The day is set out neatly.  You can tick the boxes and feel the accomplishments at the end of the day like a warm glow.  But this graduate phase … these open-ended days, filled with uncertain choices, unpredictable outcomes, and sometimes frightening opportunities scares us and it terrifies our newly graduate children.

Life after school is scary, folks.

So, enjoy your young children, your neat homeschool timetables and plans, your simple choices, your children’s innocent hopes and dreams.  And start praying now for those post-graduate years.

What advice do you have for other parents facing their children’s graduate years?  Please share your views in the comments below.

With much grace, Nadene

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Highschooler Needs

I’m sure many homeschool moms feel insecure about homeschooling their child through the high school years like I do?  Coping with important subject and career choices, teenagers’ growing need  for independence, as well as their raging and extreme emotions can quickly bring a mom to her knees!  But let me encourage you to keep homeschooling to the end ~

  •  Accept the confusion and guilt as part of this phase.  You will feel like you didn’t do enough, that you failed in so many ways, but try not to dwell on that, because you have time for relationships which is the cornerstone of your reason to homeschool.
  • Feast your eyes on the amazing person that is your high school son/ daughter. Consider the many good things about that person, and recognize that you influenced some of that wonderfulness. Enjoy the person, cherish the moments, treasure the memories you are making.
  • You still have an impact on this wants-to-be-autonomous-but-still-needs-mommy child. It’s not too late to help them in preparing for independence by encouraging more and more responsibility and self-reliance.
  • Give them the space they need to test their wings while they still have the safety of home. Show trust where you can, and try not to hold the reins too tight. Easier said than done, I know…
  • Be physically affectionate.  Hug them early and often; when they wake up  and hug them before they go into their room for the night. Hug them in the middle of an argument. Hug them “just because” throughout the day.  It is impossible to hug too often!
  • Talk with them as often as possible, and better yet, let them talk to you about anything and everything. Avoid criticism or correction about what they say — just let them vent, or exclaim, or explain — and then you may nod and say “mm-hmmm.”  Give an opinion only when asked. Be available, and willing, to listen.
  • Expect their frustrations because they all sigh, fuss or yell, “why should I have to do this stupid school work”.  Try not to nag; it may be time to let them experience some natural consequences of not getting things done on time. When in doubt of how to respond, see #3 and #4.
  • You need to help and support your senior highschooler through critical transitions like writing final exams,  completing applications for college or university, or writing up their CV or resume and preparing for and attending job interviews.
  • Plan on celebrating graduation. Make it a big deal and celebrate, even if it is only a special family meal, eating out at a nice restaurant, or holding a small gathering for cake and photographs.

Enjoy your high school senior while you have them with you, and then watch them take on the world. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of.  I wish I could say that things get easier now, but I know that you are already aware that parenting is a lifetime endeavor.

Blessings, Nadene

Prepare for High School exams

What Works! 

I often say to new homeschool parents,

It doesn’t take 12 years to prepare for Matric/ final exams.”

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/4955e-310882_285912091448900_996350184_n.jpgMany new homeschoolers worry about homeschooling through high school and how their children will cope with formal exams.  As a result, and very sadly, many new homeschool parents opt for strict curriculums that require regular tests and exams to ensure that they cover their bases.  It is really a shame to waste early homeschool years of a love to learn by following a strict, rigid, formal, school-at-home approach.

Tests and exams are used to evaluate what the child has learnt and remembered.  It is often the means to prove that the teacher is good at her job and so that parents can see specific results to show how their child is progressing.  With large classes, it is often the only way a school teacher has a good idea how each child is learning.  Homeschooling is a one-on-one approach and, especially with daily narrations, parents can immediately assess their child’s knowledge and skill set.

Over the past 20+ years of homeschooling I have used a Charlotte Mason approach for https://i1.wp.com/kibabiiuniversity.ac.ke/library/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/kibabii-exam-papers.jpgall my children until they decided how and what they wanted to do to graduate/ matriculate.  In 2013 my eldest daughter opted for a NSC Matric (National Senior Certificate = South African nation-wide public school matriculation) and she used a curriculum that required regular portfolio assignments and quarterly exams at done under strict exam conditions at home.  She only wrote her first external, formal external exam for her Prelims exams (the exact version of the final exams in the same exam venue) and these prelims helped her prepare for formal her formal exams more than anything else!

Here are some tips to prepare your children to write formal exams ~

  • Complete the work~  It seems obvious, but it is vital that you ensure that your child completes their course material and portfolio projects.  Marks given during the year are a very important part of the final mark, adding to the exam marks.
  • https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/38/0b/84/380b845b4f227133d16ca6795d3eabcf.jpgSummaries~ Teach your child to make good, clear summary notes for each subject.  Show them how to simplify summaries with mind maps/ drawings/ labels or numbers or first letters of each main point in the margins.  Use colored markers and highlighters.
  • Use past papers ~ We downloaded past papers for each subject and printed them at a printers.  It cost a bit, took up an entire box file, but it was an excellent investment.
  • Exam memorandums ~ Ensure that you include the answers to all these past exam papers. This is a vital component!  Allow your child to work through an exam under exam conditions (timer and no books or notes) and then they need to work through the results. Check the mark allocations and ensure they do not miss steps that would cost marks.
  • https://emergencypedia.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/90-0019-2.jpgUse a timer~  This is a vital skill = to first check through the whole exam and look at the mark allocation and then work out how many minutes per section.  (You can find an example here.) Do this will all past papers!  It is vital to prepare your child to keep on track in exam situations.  Many exam centres have a clock on the wall, but if your child sits far from the front, they may struggle to keep their eye on the time. Many exam centres allow the entrant to use a small clock on their desk.
  • Prelims~ Prelims taught my daughter how to write matric exams!  Read the post here. Everything was learnt in this experience = from a good night’s sleep the night before, eating a good breakfast, time needed to travel to the exam centre, comfy clothes, the necessary identity and other documents, her stationary, meeting other exam candidates, to the exam room protocol and the actual exams.
  • Manage stress ~ Exams are stressful. While studying, eat well, take breaks, exercise, stretch, meditate, write motivational notes and messages to yourself, take extra nutritional supplements and herbal nerve support.  Teach your child slow, abdominal breathing.  Pray together.  Write out faith-building scriptures and promises.
  • Join the group~ Learning with others in a study group is important, especially for isolated homeschoolers.  It may help to join some other exam candidates for an early coffee and chat to discuss issues, fears, and share important tips.  It somehow helps to know that others fear and feel the same as you!

In the end, I believe that these exams are NOT about information my highschooler may have learnt. Exams are simply a life skill = learn how to complete the course work in the prescribed format.

Dear moms with young children, enjoy a simple, relaxed homeschooling journey.  Take your time.  Enjoy your child and their unique learning styles.  Focus on these delicious years of freedom.

Wishing you and your child writing the 2016 matric exams the very best!

Blessings, Nadene

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Perseverance

Another “What Works!” Post ~ 

After more than 14 years of homeschooling I have found that despite all the ups and downs, fears and failures, tempers and tantrums, (yes … we had had all of these!)  it is only a success if you persevere.

Simply stick to the goal … work around and through the glitches … and keep on going … all the way.

“Do a Dory” (from Nemo) andjust keep swimming … just keep swimming…”

Homeschooling is our choice that has never been “cast in stone“, but it did require a flint head at times.

There have been years when it was a slog and we just “did school”.  Sometimes it was simply easier to keep going and maintain a forward momentum, rather than stop and start.  Just by doing read alouds, we did our school work when everything threatened to fall apart.  Reading aloud was the glue that held us together!  Other times we just did our disciplined studies; short, sweet little 3R lessons, then abandoned the books for time outdoors and nature study or a leisurely art appreciation lesson … thank you, Charlotte Mason!

There were seasons when my young teens were unmotivated and unwilling.  Some of my Charlotte Mason subjects became “boring” and my teen kids refused to do them, I felt like a failure.  Their choice to move to textbook approach made school dry and dead.  But we kept on.

Worse, we used a curriculum provider for high school that did not provide, but with no other real options, we had to make it work. Impak Education became my “means to an end”.  Boy, did I learn about perseverance!  They did not post my eldest daughter’s books, then “lost” her study materials and portfolios in the post.  When they finally emailed me the files, which I then still had to print, we were far behind schedule. I had to pray hard for a strategy to fit 25 portfolio assignments into 2 weeks … and not lose my head!

No feedback was given … for anything.  We couriered away huge portfolio assignments and never heard a word.  Nothing. The curriculum provider did not mark a very important final assignment and after about 15 emails and desperate calls, I think, hope, pray that the portfolio was re-marked.  I felt like we were flying in the dark. Blind.  My daughter wanted to give up, but I held the goal in mind and we persevered.                                                      

When I prayed to the Lord in desperation one day, I clearly imagined what the end of my eldest daughter’s homeschool would look like.  I saw her standing with me, with the blue-green sea gently rolling behind, and her long viscose dress and loose hair waving in the summer breeze.  We were clinking our champagne glasses together in a toast.  She was thanking me and I was congratulating her.  Although it was winter when I had this vision, it warmed my heart and I shared it with her.  Somehow, this goal kept us going.

Just a few weeks ago, after her final exam, our family surprised her with a celebratory lunch at our favourite beach-side restaurant and toasted her success with pink champagne!

This week we will receive my eldest daughter’s matric results!

Many homeschool moms swap, abandon and doubt their packages. Many moms watch as teenagers leave homeschooling in favour of public schools, and they secretly, deep down, doubt their decisions.

Your homeschool journey may take its twists and turns, it may have a few delays, punctured wheels and unplanned detours, but if you keep going, you will reach your destination

While it is complex, sticking to your homeschool goals may require desperate perseverance.

All I can say for my experience is that it is truly worthwhile, because these decisions are important.

In the end I gratefully praise God and say,

“Thank you Lord.  It has been a privilege to be on this journey!”

Blessings as you persevere into 2014.

Much grace,