Questions about South African Artists download

 A reader ordering my South African Artists download asked ~

I just wanted to check with you if the artist study would be suitable for children aged 9, 7 and 5 or is it mostly aimed at older children?

Another reader asked,

“I am new to Charlotte Mason and wondered how to use your South African Artist download?”

Here are my responses~

This  South African Artists download is designed for middle and high school students for Art History & Art Appreciation. This download includes simple biographies, Internet links and at least 4 examples of each artist’s works, as well as a blank biography page. I used it with my children when my youngest was 6 or 7 years old, and her siblings were around 9 and 13 years old. 

Esther Mahlangu's gallery

The wide variety of art and artists that I included in this download covers notable South African artists from the 19th century to modern contemporary artists. The art ranges from classical oil paintings to modern sculptures, classical to contemporary art, both male and female artists, and includes both European as well as indigenous artists. Many of the artists produced landscapes or portraits, some were sculptors. One South African artist’s traditional Ndebele style was famously used to paint a car and even an aeroplane! 

I believe in exposing children informally, regularly to fine arts each week in our Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays.  Following a Charlotte Mason approach, we studied and appreciated one South African artist for a month, focussing on a new art work each week. The aim is to appreciate the artist’s style, content, method, materials and message in their art.  In the first week, I introduced the artist, read their biography and we viewed one new art work.

Helen Martins

I used larger images of the art work on my laptop, zoomed in to fill the screen, to appreciate the art. I encouraged detailed observations, informal discussions regarding the subject of the painting, the style and colours, and any message they personally experienced. Sometimes we looked at other works online, and maybe added further research. Then each child responded with their narrations. Some weeks we included supporting art activities to imitate the art work. Sometimes we copied the art work, or coloured in an outline drawing of the art or made clay or paper mache sculptures.  Most times, we simply looked and then discussed the art work. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to “show” for your Fine Arts lessons.  It doesn’t have to be recorded or written or filed.  Just talk with your children and listen to their interpretations, encourage their creativity and personal connections.  Look for ways to for them to “make it their own”.

All this to say that perhaps your 5-year old may simply enjoy the exposure, whereas your older two children could gain a deeper art appreciation experience.  May I suggest, because art appreciation is so personal, choose the art that you enjoy and relate to from my South African Artist collection.  You definitely do not need to do them all!  

Scroll to the bottom of this post for your FREE SAMPLER of this download.

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your downloads.

Blessings, Nadene

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Footprints Nature Quest Livestream

Wendy and Shirley, two veteran homeschool moms and authors of the amazing South African Footprints curriculums, are unveiling their latest curriculum bundle called Footprints Nature Quest.

They will be hosting a FREE livestream on Monday 28th February at 7:30pm and will record the session if you cannot make this time. Here are 3 reasons for you to attend the livestream:
1. It’s FREE!
2. You can ask real time questions
3. Because it’s fun!

Booking link for your free ticket at Quicket.

Here’s a peek at Footprints Nature Quest

This new Footprints Nature Quest is a literature-based unit study aimed at children between the ages of 8-14 years that covers South Africa’s various natural biomes, Geography and Natural Sciences, focusing on the unique flora, fauna and other natural features of each distinct area. As with all the other Footprints curriculums, Wendy and Shirley provide a collection of great stories, prompts for rich conversations, purposeful work and an atmosphere of joy and delight that leads to a love of learning. 

They have collected a wonderful selection of “living books” that brings subjects to life through stories, biographies or autobiographies. These authors share their knowledge and passionate insights from their experiences, as well as descriptions of this beautiful country and her natural inhabitants.

The Footprints Nature Quest curriculum guide is written in a gentle conversational style and provides useful background information and researched facts about the complexity of each biome, as well as other enriching resources, lists of movies and documentaries suited to the topics. The curriculum guide provides a wide variety of meaningful assignments such as mapwork, writing assignments, practical activities and hands-on activities that will enrich your children’s learning and experiences. They suggest relevant outings, trips and holidays for family explorations for each regions. 

Wendy and Shirley credit the team effort who assisted in their development of this new Nature Quest – Shirley’s son has given valuable feedback from a child’s perspective about which of the many living books gripped him most. Wendy’s daughter Sarah created the beautiful graphic designs and layout, while @se7en_hoods, mom to eight children, gave valuable input to make it super homeschool mom friendly and @nadeneesterhuizen (that’s me) added suggested thoughts and ideas for content and fun assignments.

You can read more about Footprints Nature Quest here: https://www.south-african-homeschool-curriculum.com/footprints-nature-quest 

Book your ticket for this livestream soon as there are limited seats available. See you there!

Blessings, Nadene

Comic Strips Tips & Templates

Solar System Mercury

Comic strips are picture stories that convey loads of information and visual detail. They are a wonderful resource for language arts and creative writing activities and make an excellent option for narrations and storytelling.

Here are some comic tips:

  1. Plan out six to 8 facts or ideas for your story on rough paper first. Just think … eight blocks = eight facts?
  2. Look at some real comics with your children before your start to show how a reader reads the dialogue from left to right, from top to bottom if there is more than one “call out” or speech bubble in a block.
  3. When writing the dialogue, first print the dialogue small & neatly, then draw the speech bubble around the words.  This prevents you running out of space in your bubble.
  4. Use different shaped “call out” bubbles – bubbled for thoughts, pointed to a mouth as speech, zig-zag to show radio comments or computer voice.
  5. Add a top or bottom information phrase block if needed, like: Later on … or Back inside
  6. Use the space left after the speech to draw simple ideas. Colour adds to the effects.
  7. Use onomatopoeic (sound effect) words and draw them with style to show something popping, crashing, exploding, squeaking etc.
  8. Be creative!  Have FUN!

Here is your free comic strip template download ~

Most the comics include dialogue written in speech bubbles. In my post Use Comics To Teach Direct Speech I described our effective lesson on how to write direct speech from a comic strip. Here’s a brief summary:

Simple direct speech rules.

  1. Write down the spoken words or dialogue that appear in speech bubbles exactly  as they appear, but inside inverted commas.
  2. Use inverted commas or quotation marks “…”  immediately before and after the spoken words.
  3. Insert punctuation marks that suit the dialogue after the dialogue inside the inverted commas.
  4. Use capital letters to start any dialogue, or any new dialogue that follows a full stop.
  5. Question marks  & exclamation marks act as a full stop.
  6. Use an appropriate attribution for each speaker and try be creative and vary using the word “said”.
  7. Separate dialogue from the attribution with a comma.
  8. ALWAYS skip a line and start a new line for a new speaker. When typing the direct speech on the computer, press ‘enter’ + ‘enter’ again to leave a line open and begin on a new line.

Comics contain a lot of visual information. The scene and actions should be described in words. Adding this to the direct speech, and conveying a flow of action, thought and interest to the written dialogue is a more advanced skill, making a wonderful, interesting story.

In my post Use Comics to Teach Reported Speech, we chose my daughter’s most dramatic comic strip story and she pretended that she was a news reporter, changing her speech dialogue in speech bubbles into reported speech. Once again, we looked for examples of reported speech in our read aloud literature books.  Charlotte Mason’s principle to teach grammar and language arts through living books and good literature is amazingly effective!

Here are Usborne Book of English Grammar basic rules of writing reported speech summarized ~

  • Report what someone said using your own words.
  • No need for inverted commas.
  • Change the verb to the past tense.

This report can then be written as a newspaper report or given as a speech as a TV news reporter.

The comic strip template is included in my more than 100 Narration Ideas Booklet which you can order on my Order Packages page.

Blessings, Nadene

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The Power of a Reset

Everyone has their bad days and everyone feels overwhelmed at times. It could be frustration with too much mess, too much noise, demands, difficulties, moods, sibling issues, struggles with skills, uncertainty, interruptions, urgent problems, breakdowns, bad weather, power outages, falling behind schedule, distractions … but there is a wonderful way to save the day — Press your RESET! I wrote about it before – Practical Tip – Reset

How to reset?

  1. Pause – call a break. Take a deep breath.
  2. Switch – to another subject or start a new activity.
  3. Move – do something fun! Move, dance, jump on the mini-trampoline, run around the garden, skip.
  4. Regroup ~ food, touch, talk, laugh, music

Here some ways to reset the moment:

In our home, when someone was in tears, or my voice was rising in frustration, I may have said, “Kids, we need a moment to reset and try again. Can we all take a moment and …”

  • Fresh Air
    • It is amazing how quickly we can regain our perspective when we go outdoors.
    • Get outside.
    • Go for a walk.
    • Let the children play, skip, run.
    • A nature walk is a wonderful outdoor activity.
    • Even a cup of tea sitting on the porch or on the back steps to the garden is more refreshing.
  • Fun activity
    • Play Scrabble, or Bananagrams
    • add variety to school subjects
    • YouTube videos on the topic are a wonderful moment of relief and reset.
  • Sing – Geography songs, Bible songs, Action songs, rap and pop songs (that are suitable)
  • Music – An upbeat song or soundtrack changes everyone’s mood. We have “clean house” soundtracks. Nowadays it is so easy with Spotify, but back in the day when my kids were teens, they made compilation CDs to play while we cleaned house.
  • Clean up & pack away – Physically clear the space to reset the next activity and let it be fun, positive saying, “Yes! Of course, we can do art/ …. Let’s quickly pack away all the books and papers while I mix the paint.” Often, while my young kids played outside or ate a snack, I scooped the toys into the drawers or baskets and cleared the floor for the next activity. Most moms feel better when the clutter is under control, so stop for a reset when you start to feel overwhelmed.
  • Change rooms or places
    • Do a lesson outdoors, read aloud under the tree or do narrations in a sunny spot.
    • Some kids feel better lying down, cuddled up, in soft lighting, in cool air.
    • A different venue often resets attitudes and moods.
  • Routines – Meal times, bath time, bedtime are all regular rhythms in our day. Focus on the next routine and build better habits and prompts. Keep things simple and avoid too many extra-mural activities.
  • Timer – It is amazing how much we can do in 10 minutes! Set a timer and encourage everyone to do their best for that time. Often, when the problem is too big, it is best to break it into smaller, more manageable tasks. Charlotte Mason encouraged short, sweet lessons. Use an app on your phones and computers to visually and audibly time activities.
  • Regroup – Build loving relationships with the 5 love languages =
    • Spend some quality time together listening & talking
    • Do an act of service for a family member
    • Make some simple but thoughtful gift for each other.
    • Make a favourite meal, bake a treat, celebrate the moment with a special table setting, candles, flowers and music.
    • Reaffirm with words of affection and encouragement and specific praise.
    • Physical affection, tickle or wrestle your children, cuddle them, even those cool and aloof teens!
    • Tell jokes and remember silly moments and laugh together.

“I think it is extremely important in building a foundation for your homeschool and relationship with your child. We are all sinners and there are just going to be bad days full of short tempers, bad attitudes, and frustration. Instead of throwing up our hands and quitting – choose to teach your kids how to resolve conflict, how to listen, and how to communicate with love!”

Lauren ~ The Simple Homeschooler

As a wife, mother and woman of confidence, reset your days and nights with healthy activities that start and end your days. To begin, focus on ending well and set up the next day before you go to bed. Reset your home with a tidy lounge, a clean kitchen, a prepared school plan and study area, a menu plan will make the new day flow with simplicity and ease. Nothing is worse than starting the new day already overwhelmed with mess and clutter from the day before!

Reset your attitude with prayer, gratitude and journaling, stretching. Ask the Lord for grace and wisdom, strength and courage, faith and forgiveness. Pray blessings over the people, the problem and the purpose. Ask for a simple strategy and a way of understanding, a shifted perspective, a simple word of truth. Journal and find your help in the ways that the Lord gives you.

Check if you have unrealistic expectations. Make allowances for age & stage issues, immaturity, illness, fatigue, changes, crisis, etc. Remember that most of this is small and temporary and all this will eventually fade and pass. Avoid having a fatalistic mindset and please don’t make big decisions in this mode.

Begin again in hope.  Just start small, work slowly and keep moving towards your expectations.  Don’t give up! Life is full of fresh beginnings and new, clean slates. The Lord is so gracious and meets us with fresh mercy and grace each morning! 

Please comment and share how you reset your days.

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

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No laminator? Do this instead!

New homeschoolers often find themselves questioning whether they need to buy some of the more expensive educational equipment such as printers, spiral binders and laminators. While having a top-loading printer (so that you can print pages from books) is “almost essential”, a laminator is not.

Laminators help to stiffen, protecting and creating a wipeable surface for charts, flashcards, maps, games, manipulatives and mini office folders.  Whiteboard markers are a fabulous way to reuse pages as children can wipe out practice sheets.

Some practical tips — 

  • Use cardstock behind the page to back and strengthen paper pages.
  • Make sure that the edges all around the page are sealed. 
  • Leave a tiny plastic edge all around the laminated paper when cutting the page out.
  • Tape or cover the front and the back of your pages.
  • Wipe off whiteboard markers as soon as the activity is finished.

Here are some alternatives to use instead of laminating your pages — 

  1. Use plastic page protective sleeves.  These are easy to find, cheap and very practical because they already have punched holes to file your pages.  Tape the opening closed or fold over and tape any excess if you want to prevent pages from shifting.  Check for the quality of these protective sleeves and rather buy the thicker, sturdier ones.
  2. Use display files that have the plastic page pockets.  Again, tape the pocket or the page to prevent any shifting.
  3. Cover smaller items with clear packaging tape.  This is excellent for flash cards or for charts that you want to protect, but that your child will not necessarily write on.  Be aware that the tape joins or edges may create a slight ridge.  To avoid bubbles, start to tape on the surface beyond the page, extend the tape over the page and lower carefully.  
  4. Clear contact paper is a wonderful laminator.  You can buy it in rolls at most stationary suppliers.  Align the edge, peel the backing paper and wipe the sticky plastic sheet smoothly over the page, avoiding and easing out any air bubbles.      
  5. Spray a waterproof coating on your pages.  Read about how to do this at ehow.com.  I have not used this, but they suggest clear polyurethane coating, clear acrylic spray paint and lacquer spray sealers available at home improvement centers, department stores and craft shops.
  6. Use an iron instead of a laminator to seal laminator thermal pouches. Watch this quick little video.
  7. Ziploc bags are an excellent alternative.  Cut the bag to fit the page and seal the edges with clear packaging tape.
  8. Travel tags, bookmark sleeves, write & wipe sleeves and other store-bought items are more expensive, but very durable and professional.
  9. You can read about other alternatives that you may need to source online or at speciality stationary shops at adapting for autism.com’s Stop laminating everything in your classroom.
laminated chart

But I would still recommend purchasing a laminator if you can afford it. It really does provide an exceptional, durable sealed surface and tough exterior for those pages or charts. We have used our laminated handwriting charts and mini offices for all our homeschooling years and they are still in excellent condition.  

Here’s to using what you have, starting right now and making the most of your homeschool pages!

Blessings, Nadene

Fun Activities For Kids At Home

Here are some creative and fun learning activities links from my blog for your children to enjoy at home as we move into unprecedented changes in our lives with self-isolation and lockdowns due to the global covid-19 outbreak.

May I offer a few practical suggestions with these at-home activities?

  • Look for items that your children would enjoy.
  • Plan for 1 activity per day.
  • Keep things informal.  Don’t try to do school at home!
  • Take your time.
  • Don’t rush through a list.
  • If something sparks joy and delight — stay there and look for other similar activities rather than moving on to the next thing on your list.
  • Repeat.  Especially young children love to repeat an enjoyable activity.  Don’t be afraid to print things out and do it again if your child loved it.
  • Photograph and video them doing their activities.
  • Display their finished work each week on a door or shelf “gallery”.
  • Share their activities with grandparents and social groups to stay connected.

So here we go ~

  1. Paper dolls and paper men from different historical eras to colour in and cut out.  Use these as puppets for narrations.
  2. Narrations are the child “telling back” what he heard in a read-aloud. Narrations are the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education.  Children must pay close attention while they listen to the story so that they can make it their own and express what they remember and understood as they narrate.   I have collected over 100 narration ideas for every learning style.  In this Ebook, you will find lists of suggested activities for audio, visual, kinesthetic and creative learners along with templates and printouts.  You can see examples of the templates and ideas in the original post.
  3. Letterboxing – a great “treasure hunting” geography game to practice in your house and garden. Letterboxing is an intriguing mix of treasure hunting, art, navigation, and exploring skills.
  4. Current Affairs is the study of social, political and important happenings in the world at the present time.  Use this Current Affairs download with calendar pages, maps, flags and symbols to chart the events around the world during the coronavirus crisis.
  5. Nature Study and enjoy the great outdoors with fun nature activities in three Smash Nature Journals.  Go to my  Packages page to order your Smash books.  If you order all 3 you get the third book free!
  6. 3D models such as the Little House in the Woods.
  7. Art appreciation activities of famous artworks and famous artists~
  8. Creative projects ~
  9. Bible activities ~
  10. Sight Words are frequently used words that your child should easily recognize in his reading.  In my Sight Words Ebook, you will have all the word lists, words in sentences, games and activity templates.spelling-templates-ideas.png (390×401)
  11. Handwriting practice with laminated charts and games. I have created a 20-page E-book is packed with practical tips and it includes helpful activities and fun pre-writing games to build up your child’s gross motor strength, develop fine motor control and develop their spatial awareness, correct posture and pencil grip for maximum control and minimum stress while learning to write.   Handwriting Tips Booklet $5.00 / ZAR5.00
  12. Hands-on activities ~ Here is a list of some of the many hands-on activities and posts on my blog ~

I hope that these posts and links and downloads inspire you in your homeschooling!

Wishing you all health, happiness and precious family times.

Blessings, Nadene

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Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips

Homeschooling is perfect place for wrigglers and movers to learn! Somehow we have learnt that in the so-called “perfect education world” young children should sit still, rapturously attentive, quietly absorbing, and only responding “normally” as expected,  but guess what, most young kids just can’t sit still, keep quiet for long or respond only in the way that they “should”.

As a first-time mom I remember feeling a sinking, cold self-consciousness when my young 2-year-old daughter, stood and danced around instead of sitting and beating her little wooden sticks on drums exactly as suggested during a toddlers workshop.  But a wonderful wise mother shared her wisdom and she gently reminded me to let my child express herself, be herself and enjoy the learning experience. I needed this encouragement, because, in my idealism and ignorance, I thought my child was not learning the way she should.

Moving on a many years later, when I started to homeschool my youngest daughter, I realised that I had a “wriggler” who just couldn’t sit quietly while she listened and learnt.  So instead of frustrating her, I allowed her to hang upside down when she listened to read alouds. I gave her space to move and act out the nursery rhymes in order to remember the words.  If she wiggled and squiggled on her seat when she faced some sort of challenge, I encouraged her to rather go jump on the mini trampoline for a minute to bounce the jittery  anxiety out of her system.  She needed to move and stand on her chair to recite her poems, and she had to act out her memory verses.  She whispered and talked to herself while she worked on her studies.  She was learning!  She just had to move in order to do so.

Educationalists call the wiggly-need-to-move-in-order-to-learn-kids kinesthetic learners. But essentially all young children need to move their bodies to learn. That is why action songs are so popular with toddlers and young children This is why young kids need concrete things to use and play with as they learn.

Make provision for your young child’s wiggles!

Here are 30+ practical tips and activities ~

Classroom strategies ~

  1. Keep your lessons short and sweet — Thank you Charlotte Mason!   Young children have about a 10-minute attention span.  Lessons that are any longer may cause their wiggles and frustration to build up.
  2. Give them permission and redirect their energy towards specific physical activities such as  jumping or skipping with a rope, but use a timer or just one song before they quickly return to their seat to work.
  3. Alternate seat-work lessons with physical lessons. e.g.: Stand and clap and actions for Bible song — sit for Bible story.  Jump and skip-count on the mini trampoline — then sit to do Maths lesson.  Arrow bean bag game on the mat — then Handwriting lesson.  Quick hopscotch — then Spelling or Phonics lesson.  Tea time and gross motor activities outside — then cuddle on the couch for read aloud.  Do a hands-on activity while listening to a long chapter read aloud.   This variety will also prevent boredom and meltdowns.
  4. Place a mini trampoline in the school room and encourage quick bouncing just before fine motor work such as handwriting, or difficult mental work such as maths or spelling. Let them jump and call out their skip counting as a fun maths drill, or spell out loud as they jump. Just 30 seconds on a timer and them back to the seat to start the next activity.
  5. Use a gym ball instead of a chair for seat work. Make sure that it is the correct height – that they can sit with their feet flat and knees bent at 90 degrees and that their elbow can be placed flat on the table at 90 degrees. The ball stimulates core and balance muscles and allows constant movement and regulation. Obviously don’t allow wild rocking. You can place the ball inside a small hoop to prevent the ball rolling away when they stand up.
  6. Provide a balance pillow for your child’s seat.  You can also use this for balance games on the floor.  A balance pillow also stimulates the core muscles and tiny movements for balance.
  7. Use a rubber flexaband (exercise band) as a foot rest on their seat (scroll down to see the example photo on my Handwriting page). This is great if the chair is slightly too high for them to place both feet on the floor. They can stabilise their core and still enjoy the sway, bounce or resistance of the band under their feet.
  8. Place a foam rubber mat on the play area floor for other physical games such as sit ups.
  9. Use bean bags for tossing, throwing, balancing, placing in directions with the arrow chart.
  10. Sing action songs that encourage clapping and actions.
  11. Use a timer on a phone or desktop computer to regulate seat work or the quick, fun activities.
  12. Provide a bottle of water to sip during learning.  Many kids need to sip water to calm and help them focus when learning new or difficult work.

Use manipulatives for Maths, Phonics, Handwriting & Spelling~

  1. Use Maths wheels and Maths counting, shape and block apparatus to learn Maths concepts, practice drill work and solve Maths problems,
  2. Make flashcards, sliding strips or folding flap books for phonics and spelling.
  3. Use sandpaper for young children to trace over letters when learning to write.
  4. Use hula hoops, ropes and balls to create huge letter shapes on the floor.
  5. Use puzzle pieces, cutouts, felt board shapes & letters, white boards, magnetic letters or Scrabble tiles for spelling and phonics.

Plan Hands-on Activities ~

  1. Do hands-on activities while listening to read alouds or learning their lessons.
  2. Let them build models, make 3D models or maps.
  3. Create dioramas.
  4. Draw and colour in and then turn these illustrations into finger puppets.
  5. Use Legos or bakers clay to create objects related to the theme.
  6. Go on field trips and educational outings wherever possible.
  7. Let young children play with playdough or Lego  while listening to stories or lessons.
  8. Print and paste a coloured picture related to the story or theme onto some cardstock and cut this into puzzle shapes.  Let your child build puzzles while listening to read alouds.
  9. Do Science experiments and provide equipment and strategies for your child to lead their own investigations.
  10. Provide a nature study kit & journal and encourage daily time for exploration outdoors in nature.
  11. Use a globe and atlas when studying Social Studies and Geography.  Let your children pin and mark a large map on display.
  12. Use dress-up clothes and encourage your child to act out stories, plays and poems in Social Studies or Literature.  A basket with some long skirts and bonnets, aprons, hats, cloaks and waistcoats provides endless options and  most young children love to act!
  13. Video record your child and play the movie back so that they can enjoy their re-enactments and plays.
  14. Read and download or order my 100+ Narration ideas booklet.  This Ebook contains stacks of different activities that would suit kinesthetic learners!

Outdoor Gross Motor Activities~

  1. Stimulate vestibular activities (the brain’s ability to track spatial  movement) and encourage your child lie and swing in a hammock or sit on a swing.  Encourage both the  forward and back and sideways movements as well as hanging upside down or on their tummies.
  2. Play some physical games in between lessons which require lots of physical effort such as wheelbarrows — where mom hold their feet and the child walks on their hands across the room.
  3. Throw and catch and roll and kick balls.  Add a variety of different types of balls for these games such as large beach balls, soft squishy balls or bouncy balls.
  4. Teach them to skip and let them skip and call out maths counting or rhyming skipping songs.
  5. Draw chalk hopscotch or chalk ladders on your patio floor for obstacle courses or hopping and balance games.
  6. Do some brain gym exercises especially actions that cross the mid-line.
  7. Ensure regular play time using a jungle gym and include monkey rings, ropes, slides and ladders.  Encourage lots of gross motor activities every day.

Homeschool is the perfect place to allow your child the freedom your child needs to move in order to learn and to work off their natural energy and excitement.

Don’t worry that  it may seem that your child may never learn to sit still. As they mature, your child will gradually learn to self-regulate and control themselves more and more.  In fact, these days, many modern offices have standing desks, walking treadmills and open plan spaces for movement so that employees are encouraged to move more while working!

However, if you believe that your child has real concentration and/or behavioural issues, I highly recommend that you consider taking your child to an occupational therapist for an evaluation.  They often suggest fun exercises and play strategies to use at home and school.  If your child requires sessions with the OT,  just remember that the therapy sessions are not forever.  In almost all cases, as your child improves they will no longer need ongoing therapy.

Mom, you are your child’s best advocate and facilitator.  Your job is to find what works for your child and to encourage them to learn in the way that suits them best.   Be encouraged when your child is different!  This “different child” is exactly what the Lord planned as His best instrument to shape and change you.  He wants you to learn to love what is, to love unconditionally and to love without needing to change the other.  This is a work of grace.

So, breathe in and out slowly and deeply, and then trust the Lord to show you what your child needs right now and ask Him to show you how to support and encourage your wriggly child!

And don’t forget to have fun!  Your child certainly is having fun!

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

Here are some more ideas on the web ~

Tip ~ Bedtime Moments

I found bedtimes to be a good time to build relationships, deepen our understanding of each other and to even cover some of the reading we had on our homeschool schedule.  Here’s some of our bedtime activities ~

  1. Read alouds at bedtime – Often this was with just one child, but in the seasons where my daughters shared a room, they would both listen to the story before sleeping.  I usually read their fiction books in our curriculum at bedtime.  Night-time story time helped me keep our school time shorter in the mornings.   Bedtime stories also sometimes helped me catch up if there were interruptions during the day.  Read alouds are our homeschool glue and often saved our days! We read books when all else failed. We love reading any story.  It didn’t have to be a book from the school schedule.  Regularly reading good stories built a love for reading and a love for books in our family.
  2. Reviews and oral narrations – Narrations or telling-back is a very natural way for a child to relate what they understood and remembered from the read alouds.  At bedtime, lying cuddled together in bed, my daughters seemed so relaxed and thoughtful, and they could easily tell me what they learnt from the read aloud.  Charlotte Mason’s narrations are power-packed with skills and narrations are a fabulous way to assess your child’s learning.
  3. Best and Worst moments – Nighttime reflection is a wonderful way to connect with your child’s experiences through the day.  It is a good time to listen to their happy moments, their joys, their delights, as well as their fears, hurts and disappointments.  I reflected back what they just told me by saying what they said in my own words, without commenting, e.g. “You really loved playing at the pond today…”  Or I acknowledged their feelings without judgement, saying, “You must have felt really mad when …”  which helped them feel that I hear and understood them.  It is a very important way to validate and empathize with your children., building strong, trusting relationships.
  4. Pray together – Night time prayers flow so easily from #3 “Best and Worst Moments“, praising and thanking the Lord for all the best and praying over the worst.  Teach your child to be thankful.  Thankfulness and gratitude are powerful resources to motivation and health.  Teach your child how to forgive others, to ask for forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.  Dealing with challenging circumstances, difficulties, challenges, or repeated failures is very hard for a child.  Praying together over any of these issues helps your child roll the burden onto the Lord, to learn to trust Him and to know that your child is not working through these things alone.
  5. Affirm and encourage – Bedtime is one of the best times to affirm and encourage your child.  Focus on building up your child with positive affirmations and genuine, focused acknowledgements of your child’s character, personality and her importance to you and others.  Again, relationships are key, but this is also a good time to acknowledge where your child did something well, accomplished something challenging or coped with some difficulty.  Long after the lights are out, as your child lingers in the dark, falling asleep, these words penetrate deeply and are the final thoughts for the day.
  6. Ideas for the next day –  Talk about the upcoming events, or meetings with others,  or dentist appointments, etc. at night gave my child the time to prepare emotionally.  I found this very helpful, especially for my more anxious child. Sometimes we would talk about how a meeting with so-and-so would go, imagining and talking about how to handle the situation. Sometimes using humor made these discussions funny and gave a different perspective to something my child felt anxious about.  It was a good time to gently discuss my expectations about my child’s behaviour, being very positive and encouraging.
  7. Bedtime notebooks – Once your child can write, we enjoyed private and very special notebooks which we would slip under each other’s pillows at night.  I treasure their deeply personal letters.  They often shared things we could not speak about.  This is really valuable when children reach their tweens and teen years.

My children really valued these special night-time moments together with me and generally we would be done by 8:30pm, but  I must confess that I did not cope well as a mom after 9:00pm.  By then I was exhausted and I needed time to be alone with my hubby and to have some time by myself.

There were times where dad took over their  bedtime routine  and his bedtimes with the kids was very different from mine.  He often was louder, funnier and their bedtimes activities were often far more physical.  They often spent their time with dad doing tickles, wrestles, pillow fights and jokes. They loved him reading funny stories, usually with sound effects, and they would eventually go to sleep, happy and exhausted, which was a win for me!

What special moments do you have with your children?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Trusting your family has very blessed bedtimes.

In Grace, Nadene

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Making Adjustments

Encouraging new homeschool moms, and moms starting a new curriculum ~ You may need to adjust or adapt your homeschool approach, content, schedule and expectations.

Sometimes, a little tweak will provide the necessary space and grace to accomplish the work without undue stress and frustration.  When you or your child  experience some of these negative emotions on a daily basis,  you may need to make some more serious adjustments.

Here are a few Charlotte Mason-inspired suggestions ~

Size
P1070277One of the simplest ways to tweak the content is to select its size.  For example:

  • Narrations = decide how much you will read before asking for a narration.  Start with a paragraph before moving on to a full chapter.
  • Adjust the length of copywork = give shorter selections, especially for a young child who is still learning to master his handwriting.
  • Adjust dictation passages = adjust the size of the passage to fit your child’s reading fluency or adjust the size of the phrases you dictate for her to write.  Adjust the length as the child’s confidence strengthens.
  • Any other lesson or activity = select the amount work that the child does to suit their ability; tick off the maths problems or draw a line under the work needed for that day.

Highlight

Assist your young or struggling child by writing out the key words or important ideas from the passage.  As your child matures and manages to remember the content and details of the chapter, he will make these notes himself and eventually rely on mental memory rather than notes to recall his narrations.  An effective spotlight will allow the student to think for himself and make his own personal relations, and not be ‘spoon-fed’.

  • Create a word bank with key words on a board, or create a short list to spotlight the key ideas of the passage.  This list provides reminders for the child’s narration.
  • Use textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.  Here the child highlights the most important ideas, in different colours, to help note key concepts.
  • Number the correct sequence to help keep events in the correct order = or use these sequential clues = “First, this happened. Then …  After that, such-and-such happened … Finally…”  This helps a child remember the story sequence.
  • Gently encourage your child to write an opening sentence and then the concluding sentence. Work on developing 3 sentences that form a paragraph.  Before long he will be doing more and more of his own written narrations.
  • Spotlight specific topics  in subject = a specific focus in nature study.
  • Spotlight specific techniques used in handicrafts or art instruction.

Substitute

2013-06-17 21.37.09Adjust the content of your curriculum with through substitutions.  Here, the library may provide your best options:

  • Substitute a different book for your student. It should be a well-written living book, one that contains worthy thoughts well put and inspiring tales well told.  Find a story that “clicks” with your child.
  • Grade up or down as needed.
  • Personalize mental math by substituting names of people or objects in your child’s life according to  their personal interests.
  • Substitute the pictures you use for picture study.  Feel free to substitute a different work by the same artist.  You want your child to connect with the artist and his works.  I often provide 6 examples and allow my child to choose the 4 we will study each week for that month.
  • Find an alternative activity that your child enjoys instead of the prescribed narration – there are so many options and alternatives!  Purchase my Narration Ideas booklet with over 100 ideas and options instead of just writing!

Speed
My golden rule = Add more time!  Adjust the speed at which you move through the lessons especially with skill-based subjects  such as math or language arts skills like reading, writing, and grammar.

  • Don’t move on to the next concept until your child has a comfortable grasp of the current one.
  • So much of math and language arts builds step by step: the next concept that will be introduced depends on mastery of the current concept. So don’t get in a hurry.
  • Charlotte believed strongly that math and language arts lessons must proceed at each child’s speed, regardless of what grade level he might be:

“In grammar (English and foreign) and in mathematics there must be no gaps. Children must go on from where they left off, but they will be handicapped in the future unless they can do the work set for this Form” (PNEU Programmes 90–94, May—July 1921 through December 1922).

  • Adjust the curriculum to go at your child’s pace. It is more important that your child understands the concept than that you check off the lesson as done.  
  • Add other exercises from alternative books or games to practice more on certain skills or activities.

Here are several posts I have written on this topic over the years ~

Hopefully the examples shared above will give you some ideas of how you can adjust the size, spotlight key concepts, make personalized substitutions, or adjust the speed of the content as you use Charlotte’s wonderful methods with your student.

Blessings, Nadene
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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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