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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Offer a Learning Buffet

We all have unique learning styles.  Recognizing that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, it is important, especially when homeschooling your children, that you tailor-make your child’s learning experience.  

Homeschool mom, please ditch the bland, boring, uniform “school lunch plate” teaching style and look for ways to lay out a tempting, tantalizing learning buffet — offer your children a delightful range of choices so that they can express their learning with delight and motivation!

 

As you plan, think ~

“What different ways can  my child approach this? ”  OR

“How can I present different options for my child to best express their learning?”

There are 3 basic learning styles ~

  • Visual (Looking) ~ prefers images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information,  uses illustrations, maps, graphs, diagrams, graphics, uses colored highlighters to mark notes, enjoys reading posters and charts, infographics, flow charts, mind maps, watches educational videos
  • Auditory (Hearing) ~ learns through listening, needs to hear or speak, listen or create recordings, listens to audio books, listens to explanations, needs quiet surroundings, use headphones or earphones to block out noise, may prefer music in background, talks about the work as he is learning
  • Kinesthetic (Doing) learns best when physically active, uses his body and sense of touch to learn, like sports and exercise, likes to move while thinking, uses hand gestures and body language to communicate, fidgets, should sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair,  acts out explanations, enjoys physical construction, handcrafts, origami, Lego,and handcrafts

But there are several other unique learning preferences such as Intrapersonal (Solitary), Interpersonal (Social), Linguistic (Language), Musical (Song & Music), Mathematical (Logical), Naturalistic (Nature), which I will share in detail in another post.

 

Essentially, you need to know your child’s learning style in order to present options that they will enjoy.  

I recently looked at some of the online quizzes to help you find your and your child’s learning identity ~

Instead of insisting on exactly how you think a child should present their work, rather offer a variety of options, and allow the child to makes their own choices, so that their attitude and approach to their work is creative, motivated and unique.  

Think of preparing a buffet meal instead of a set menu!

Recently I created a Narration Ideas Booklet with over 100 narration ideas and templates.  Most of these options are birthed out of the understanding of different learning styles.  This booklet is available on my Packages Page and will help you offer a vast range of learning opportunities.

I hope that this post inspires you to explore your child’s learning identity so that you can facilitate and present them with options that best suit their learning style.

Blessings, Nadene

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Blessings, Nadene

Cultivate Curiosity

Have you ever watched a toddler play?  They are naturally curious, engaged, and motivated to explore.  But what happens when we push them, persuade them, or pressure them to learn things?  Quite often we quench this natural, inbuilt learning model.

Sadly, most young moms feel that they have to buy expensive programs, educational toys and books and DVDs to keep their children motivated and learning.  Moms, you can relax.  Your child will learn so much if you give them opportunities to explore, discover, and encourage them to learn in their own way.

Provide them with some simple elements and they will be happy for hours ~ let them play outside in nature, play with sand and water, offer them things to pour with or carry, play with playdough, keep a container filled with bottles, empty tubes, etc.  Give them a large sheet to make tents or forts.  And read to them every day.

When your young child learns, they love to repeat, and repeat and repeat the activity.  Once they have mastered that skill or activity, they will move on.  If they are not interested, they will move on.  Follow their lead.

Ask them questions and let them discover … what happens when you put this in the water?  Which objects will float?  How can we pour this into that?  Which object will fit on top?  Hint ~ don’t be a teacher!  Simply behave as a curious and eager participant.

Facilitate their curiosity with new experiences and this will lead to their learning, and be there with them to watch them explore and learn.  E.g.: Spray a blob of shaving cream low enough for them to reach on a large window and let them play!  Put a blob of shaving cream on a plastic table and let them discover how they can make marks, patterns or simply enjoy a sensory experience.  (Although it seems messy, shaving cream wipes off with a damp cloth and smells lovely!)  Let them play with rice in a little paddle pool (so that the mess is relatively contained) and let them fill bowls, bottles, pour into funnels, through cardboard rolls, spoon into cups etc.

What kills a child’s natural curiosity?  A young child’s curiosity withers away with competition, comparison to others, constantly needing or receiving praise and approval, punishment or shame, testing or a sense of a fixed/ right result.  Avoid groups or schools where this is disguised as “motivation”.

Socialization  for young children is important, but does not mean that your preschooler must join a group.  Meet once a week with one like-valued family with children the same ages and this more than enough for your child.  Once a month arrange to go out on a picnic,  or outings to the zoo or petting parks,  or take a ride on a bus, or meet at the local library, or watch puppet shows, etc.  Remember the golden socialization ratio  for young children = their age plus one = your three-year-old can only really cope with 4 friends at a party or group, so don’t overwhelm your young child with too many friends, play dates or groups.

Moms these days are under so much pressure for their child to perform.  Please, don’t do too many other classes (such as music, play ball,  horse riding, gymnastics, ballet, etc.  Please, these are all fine, but not all at once, and not all for a young child ).   I don’t know about you, but my stress levels shoot through the roof when I need to get everyone into the car and arrive somewhere on time everyday!  I would recommend your preschooler takes swimming lessons, but don’t fill your week with endless trips to classes and activities.   When you have several children, watch out for conflicting schedules, or where the whole family are endlessly bundled in and out of cars for one child’s activities.  You should not feel like a taxi driver everyday!

A good rule to guide your junior primary child in joining extra-curricula activities is to choose one sport and one cultural activity for that season.  Some activities are year-long, such as ballet, so then allow one more activity that is compatible with your existing schedule.  Ensure you have at least 1 free day where you can stay home, take your time, be leisurely and relaxed in your schedule.  This freedom encourages curiosity.

When starting your preschool homeschooling, please don’t feel that you need to be formal, strict, and precise in your approach.  Apart from reading aloud together every day, simply create variety in your weekly schedule which may include some of these activities:

  • Learn and sing nursery rhymes and Bible songs
  • make music
  • play and climb
  • time in nature
  • make-believe games and dressing up
  • learning meaningful life skills such as washing up, sorting washing, setting the table, feeding the cat/dog, dusting and polishing furniture, emptying dustbins,
  • reading aloud from well-illustrated Children’s Bible and classical children’s stories
  • Provide short little lessons where they can sort, group, thread, stack, cut & paste, count, learn their alphabet through phonics, etc.

I hope that these ideas encourage you to relax, trust and enjoy your young child’s natural curiosity.

(Photos of my granddaughter Emma on her first birthday, and with her dad on her second birthday)

Blessings, Nadene

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

Stimulating Story Time

Good children’s literature and read alouds are an essential component of a Charlotte Mason education.  Literature is foundational to learning language, building vocabulary, discovering the world and ideas and stimulating creative imaginations!

Reading aloud is a vital skill and here are some tips to making story time stimulating and fun ~

book-farmPictures Your child’s first books should have interesting illustrations.  Many children’s books have amazing artistic pictures which inspire children’s imaginations.  Non-fiction books need bright, clear photos or illustrations.  Don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy each illustration and use them to connect your child with the story.  Very young kids love to find things in detailed pictures. “Can you find the little yellow duck?”  “Where is the red bucket?”  “How many blue balls can you see?”  Older children enjoy copying illustrations they find inspiring.  I often encourage my young kids to illustrate their narrations.

indexSounds – When reading aloud to your children, you and your kids should try make sound effect noises for animals, machines, weather and simple things that may happen in the story such as knocking on a door.  Young children love to participate in the stories with all the sounds and actions.  Boys, especially seem genetically created to make sound effects, so use it to make your stories come alive!

Accents and voices – Be ridiculous and make funny voices and accents for different characters.  red-sails-to-capriMy teenagers and young adult children still smile when they remember my ridiculous Italian accent when I read “Red Sails to Capri” and my over-the-top American accent (we are South Africans, so this was unusual for us) when I read “Strawberry Girl“.  Even animal characters need their own voices.  Go ahead and dramatize the story with your voice — your kids will love it!

Tone and emotion – Ue your voice to create moods and convey feelings.  Read aloud and vary your voice for effect — soft and slow for scary sections,  high, excitied voice for a happy piece, or slow and low voice to convey someone who is sad or depressed.

Pause – Use a pause to create tension and encourage your child’s participation.  A young child will jump in with a prompt when the story is paused for a brief moment — “The three bears walked into the bedroom and saw …” pause … “Goldilocks!” I loved using cliffhangers, and my children would beg me to continue.  Isn’t this the true joy of learning through literature?

And if all else fails, invest in audiobooks.  Librivox provides free audiobooks, but check the version before downloading as some books are recorded with monotone voices and dreary pacing.

Encourage your children to read aloud to you with expression.

Wishing you many happy years of amazing reading aloud in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

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Practical Tip Book of Centuries for mom and kids

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Book of Centuries

A Charlotte Mason education includes a Book of Centuries.  Following Ms Mason’s approach, children 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 as they study.  https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/p1070785.jpg?w=373&h=280

For a young child, a visual timeline  chart or line along a wall or around a room is best.  It gives a child a bird’s-eye view of events in time; with Biblical and ancient history starting way back, with modern and current dates stretching out.  My young kids loved pasting the pictures on our timeline that went all around our room!  Finding the right date and placing for the picture on the timeline was an excellent introduction activity to a lesson or theme.

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/p1100650.jpg?w=348&h=261Middlesdchoolers enjoy their own book or notebook version.    Older children enjoy adding their own notes and illustrations or clip art.  Allow your children freedom to express their thoughts and details in their own, personal way.  Some kids prefer pasting clip art and drawing pictures, while others like to write lists.  I often provided a detailed timeline for specific themes, like World War ll, for example, which can be folded and pasted onto the relevant BOC page.  Over the years, their books fill up and become a wonderful reflection of the history they have studied.  This activity is an excellent conclusion to a theme or topic.

I wrote a post on how you can make you own very cheap, frugal Book Of Centuries using a store-bought notebook, or convert a spiral bound book into a BOC. This post includes the spacing and page layout suggestions.

I 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.  (In response to @Leanne’s comment about not having kept her own records in her BOC, I wrote, “@Leanne, If this is an idea you enjoy, just go ahead and do it! I “caught up” my BOC in one afternoon a few years ago! I simply took each History Core book we had studied and wrote in all the events, wars and famous people studied. The next day I took my Art Era Timelime and cut it up and pasted all the thumbnail-sized pictures in the main art eras, included all the famous art works and artists, and my BOC was instantly filled with color and info! In fact, if this is something your kids have let slide, it makes a good recap and overview activity which they might also enjoy!)

Here are some links and free Book Of Centuries downloads:

Wishing you every blessing, Nadene

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Notebook Pages On Hand

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

notebook pageMy blog was birthed because I wanted to share my notebook pages!

Notebooking is a fundamental basic for a Charlotte Mason– based approach.

Some tips ~

  • Start with free downloads.  Several blogs and websites were a welcome resource when I started homeschooling.   Notebooking Pages, Notebook Fairie and Homeschool Helper Online  were excellent sites!
  • Keep them on hand.  File your notebook pages in a large notebooking ring binder.  Make several copies of your kid’s favourite pages.  Also, I filed notebook pages in my children’s ring binders ready for each lesson so there was no delay between the lesson, looking for a suitable notebook page and their work.
  • Start with basic pages and create specific pages.   When I created pages,  first pages were a variety of blank format/ boxes/ lined and header pages.  Then I created specific pages for Sonlight History notebook pages, Copywork pages for handwriting practice, Biography pages, Bible pages, notebook pages with famous artists, famous musicians and world leaders’ quotes for each theme, topic or chapter we studied.
  • Start small.  For reluctant writers, start with minibooks.  A combination of a notebook page with minibooks is a welcome invitation over a large blank page.  Kids much more easily write a few sentences in a minibook rather than feel like they have to fill a large page.

  • Kids make your own.  As my kids got older, they learnt how to  create their own notebook pages on MS Word. They used a basic blank template  and added their own boxes for illustrations and selected their favourite font.  Later, they typed out their own notes.  Now, my high schoolers often simply write out their notes on lined pages.

Pop over to my Free Pages for your free notebooking downloads.

Blessings, Nadene

Book Labels

book labelsHere’s a practical tip ~ Use colored book labels

When I was an English, History and Geography middle school teacher, I taught 4 classes of the same grade for each subject.   I placed colored electric tape to the base of the spine of each child’s book – a color for each grade and a 2nd color  for each subject.  This helped me keep track of each class and subject when I took their books in for marking.

When I started homeschooling, Sonlight sent me neon-bright book label stickers with my first purchases.   It was so handy to have the 3 cores’ books labeled in different colors.  I also added numbers to the readers’ labels according to the different levels so that we could work through them in sequence.

Colored labels make storing, finding and replacing books on the shelves a breeze!  Even my youngest easily searched the pink readers to find a book that she could manage to read.

Color coding works very well for young children.  We assigned a color for each child and they could easily find “their” things in the basket.

I love practical ideas — whatever works to keep homeschooling organized and flowing smoothly!  Trust that this practical tip helps you!

In Grace, Nadene

 

Letter 16 – Don’t Kill It!

Encouragement for new homeschoolers ~ reflecting on thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches I have considered as I have journeyed in my 19+ years of homeschooling …

Fullscreen capture 20160419 042356 PM.bmpDear Nadene,

Don’t kill homeschool by trying too hard!

Don’t jump in and try do the whole schedule!  Your kids will freak out and you will quickly burn out.  It is fine to start slow, progress gradually, focus on one new skill or subject each week. When starting homeschooling, take at least 3 months to build up your daily schedule.  It is fine to leave some subjects out completely and then gradually integrate them into the schedule later.   Looking back, nothing was really learnt in the stress of discovering how, what and when to “do absolutely everything” on the schedule!

It is essential that you slow down!  Spread out a 12 month schedule over 18 months to 2 years!  It will be the best approach for all the middle school years, allowing you and your kids time to enjoy all the scenic routes and ‘rabbit trails’  along the way.  Most importantly, your kids will love the relaxed schedule and do lots of hands-on activities that make homeschool such fun!

Don’t “do school” at home!  The lovely little timetable, the neat school books, the whiteboard and desk for each child is absolutely fine, but you can accomplish so much informally, organically and uniquely. Use these  physical aspects as a guideline or base, but allow for flexibility and individuality.

Find your family’s rhythm and flow.  Adjust your approach to suit each child’s learning style, each subject’s requirements, and your personal teaching/ facilitating style.  Once again, remember you are tailor-making your child’s learning experience.  You are not reproducing “the system for the masses” at home!

Don’t make everything a lesson. Oh boy, Nadene, hear me here … your kids shut down when you start explaining e.v.e.r.y. t.h.i.n.g!  They hear that “mom-the-teacher-voice” and groan. You can ask a few questions, answer their questions, but don’t teach all the time. 

Remember this when reading aloud, don’t stop to explain this or that, ask pesky questions and interrupt the natural learning experience.   Listen to Charlotte Mason’s advice and “keep out of the way” and allow the child to “engage with the author” and the concepts on their own.

Let nature study just be a nature ‘experience‘.  Your teens will refuse to “do nature study” because your earlier nature study lessons were too formal and regimented. 

Likewise, with Fine Arts, fill the room with classical music and just shut up and encourage everyone to simply enjoy the music.  Forget about reading the composer biographies, discussing musical technical terms and just let the music flow.   Simply enjoy the time and musical experience together. 

Relax.  Breathe.  Your children WILL LEARN!   You need to trust this natural ability.  Foster and encourage their delight to learn.  facilitate their needs, fertilize their minds and hearts with excellent literature and great books.  Expose them to great ideas and discoveries, fine arts and nature.  Encourage them to connect new ideas to what they already know.

They will not fall through the gaps.  They will catch up.  They will become great self-learners.  They will grow up balanced and sound.  They will be amazing!

Above all, trust the Lord and teach from a place of faith and rest.  Keep your heart trusting and surrendered.  This will be the Lord’s greatest blessing to you in your homeschooling journey.

With hindsight blessings,

Nadene

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

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series: