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!

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

Dear Nadene,

Don’t kill homeschool by trying too hard!Fullscreen capture 20160419 042356 PM.bmp

Don’t jump in and try to 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:

Practical Tip – Mechanical Pencils

mechanical pencilHere’s a homeschool practical tip ~ Use a mechanical pencil

 Here are some benefits ~

  • The constant, fine point prevents smudgy, messy writing.
  • Mechanical pencils points never become dull and blunt,
    and doesn’t require constant sharpening with all the mess and wasted time.
  • Select a pencil with a soft, rubber grip for comfort.
  • Some pencil grips are 3-sided, ergonomic shape which is helpful in establishing the correct pencil grip.
  • A child who struggles with  very light hand pressure should use a soft 2B pencil lead.  This lead will allow a darker line even with light hand pressure.pentel eraser
  • A child who presses too hard should use a harder than normal HB pencil leads such as a H lead.   This lead forms a lighter grey line even when pressed quite hard.
  • Use a good eraser to avoid smudges when rubbing out mistakes.  We all enjoy the Pentel pen-shaped eraser.
  • Mechanical pencil leads last a long time.  Encourage your child not to drop any pencil as this breaks the lead.
  • Some artists use mechanical pencils for their sketches.  It is not just for school work.

I teach handwriting with laminated charts and whiteboard marker.  Once my child knows her letter formation, she goes on to do daily copywork.  Children should write in pencil until they are very confident in cursive before moving on to pens.   Gel pens are wonderfully smooth and flows easily, and older children love to use glitter pens.

Read more details in my post Handwriting Tips #2.

When you tailor-make your homeschooling, you make choices to suit your child’s age, stage and ability.  Chosing a mechanical pencil is practical and helpful.

In Grace, Nadene

 

Practical Pages Packages

Handwriting Tips Booklet  $5.00  /  ZAR5.00Since starting Practical Pages in 2009, I felt led by the Lord to make my download pages free for other homeschoolers.  My vision for this blog is to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to homeschoolers, sharing my practical tips, plans, projects, and all my pages for free.

However, for several years  I have prayed and asked the Lord about how to generate a stream of income from my blog.  This week I created a Packages page where I will host my larger booklets, unit studies, and large bundles to purchase.

To order,  you need to simply fill in the contact form, listing the title/s you want to purchase and I will email you the banking / PayPal details.  On receipt of your payment confirmation, I will email you the PDF file.

All my popular freebies are still there!  I do not want to lose the heart of my blog by turning it into a shop, but I believe that over a million downloads speak of the quality and professionalism of my pages, which deserve their place in the market.

Some amazing new bundles are ready and waiting in the pipeline ~

  • Around the World in 80 Days – literature-based unit study
  • Famous South African Artists – an Art History and Appreciation study
  • Nature Journals with a twist!
  • and much more …

Would you please support me? Pop over and take a look.  I will regularly add new material, so keep posted!

Blessings,

 

Getting Real ~ Cheating!

Thanks to all my readers for your wonderful comments on my “Getting Real” posts.  (If you missed my previous posts, you can read about Giving Up, Chaos, Flops and Attitudes in the series.)

Today I would like to talk about a sinister reality that crept in our high school phase ~ Cheating

Imagine my shock to find my high schooler cheating!  Not just copying the maths answers from the back of the book, but serious exam-type cheating!

I suppose it was to be expected for several reasons:

  1. My high schooler worked much more independently, and I didn’t watch her carefully.
  2. The work was difficult and my child was anxious and stressed.
  3. The exam results were sent to an external curriculum provider who would compile an official report. There was no chance of any mother-leniency.
  4. Most cheaters cheat because they are ~
    • afraid
    • unprepared
    • lazy
    • fear of failure
    • hate test situations
    • or because they have had bad results before

At the very start of the exam session I caught sight of some papers and realized she had made plans … and my blood ran cold.  I knew that this was serious.  Not because cheating is bad, which it is, but because I was faced with dealing with a child’s character, choices, ethics and morals, and I wanted to handle this situation with firmness and yet with dignity.

By God’s grace I didn’t blowup and make a mountain out of a molehill.  We went for a walk.  We talked.  I listened and tried not to formulate a huge lecture in my mind.  I deliberately told my ego that this situation was not a reflection of me, but of my child.  Importantly, I did not label my child a “cheater”.  I gave her the grace to confess and really apologize, to face her fears, and sit the exam afresh and try her best.

My kids are accountable and they need to ask for help. If they are unsure and afraid of tests and exams, they are simply not ready. Homeschooling allows for extra time, and there is often time to do more reviews.  Using past papers is an excellent tool for exam preparation.

High schoolers must work authentically and take more responsibility for their learning and studying.  School is their ‘work’ and they must do their best.  They should understand that cheating denies them the real learning experiences.

My high school graduate and myself believe that her matric exams were not about the information she learnt, but the exam preparation, learning skills and actual exam writing skills.  It does not take 12 years to prepare your child for their graduate/ matric exams!  Your child can master exams in 1 year, even if they have never sat for formal, external exams.  Please, please, please don’t chose an exam-type education for your child’s high school years just so that they can write their final exams!

May I suggest that young children do not need to write tests at all.  Working one-on-one, your daily work is proof enough of your child’s understanding and recall.  When there are real difficulties, then, by all means, have your child evaluated, but on the whole, allow your child to learn and progress at their own pace.  When they are ready, they will master the work!

I really encourage moms to carefully consider the stresses and tensions and fears children face when they write tests and exams.  We, as moms and teachers, are also measured by their failures and successes, and we also suffer through this process.  If your child does not cope well under test situations, please consider other options, and where possible, choose curriculums which do not require exams throughout the year.  I understand that your country or state may have regulations that insist on test results, but I would encourage you to find a 3rd party tester who can assist your frightened child in a personal way.

It is so important to build relationships of trust, honor and dignity with your children.  If they feel that we understand their fears and anxiety, they will not feel the need to cheat.  Give them more time to master the work.  I seem to repeat this often ~ TAKE YOUR TIME and enjoy the journey!

Blessings,

 

Alternatives

Not every homeschool day works well.  Some days are just blah, other days are bad.  There are stresses and struggles. And even when you have good days, they can become predictable and boring.

It helps to have some alternatives.20140318_115016

Switch subjects

We usually start with the basics; Bible, Maths, Spelling & Dictation, Language Arts, but sometimes we start with Core instead, or sit together for Read Aloud time, or start our Theme of the Day activity we normally do after lunch before the rest.  Beginning with a “fun” subject or activity can defuse any difficulty.  I often ask my youngest what subject she would like to start.  I give her a choice in leading her own homeschool day and so she doesn’t feel that I am dragging her through the motions.  She leads and feels motivated.

Sit somewhere new

Move outside, inside, under a tree, on the carpet, in the sunshine, in the shade, on the couch, in bed, outdoors, rearrange the study. By simply changing the learning environment, the whole atmosphere and one’s attitude changes.  And moms need this change as much as the kids!

When I was a senior primary school teacher I use to rearrange my classroom and seating for each new theme.  I created a coral island, a police academy, a courtroom, a puppet theater.  The buzz outside my classroom before the kids came in was electric!  I didn’t need to do much more to motive my kids!

Start a new read aloud

I have stated that reading aloud is the glue that holds homeschool together.  Sometimes, it may be the only homeschool we do when someone is sick, or when visitors stay, when the schedule is disrupted or when someone simply wants to give up.  If the current book doesn’t sparkle, gently lay it aside and go find a wonderful book that grips hearts and minds and takes you and your kids on a journey!

Get physical

Do something active!  A nature walk revives a weary spirit.  A good run, skipping with a rope, or jumping on a trampoline helps rev up the metabolism and energizes one.  Science experiments or hands on activities are stimulating and exciting. I often plan several alternative activities for each theme so that I can inspire fresh enthusiasm with a fun activity.  It’s amazing what a child can learn when creating a mobile or making a model.

Sing or do Fine Arts

Learning with catchy songs and music is fun and it sticks!  Our Geography Songs CD are a lifelong legacy!  Singing connects the group and music lifts the spirit.  Fine Arts (art, music, poetry etc.) inspire us, ease the soul and minister to our hearts.  Sometimes our Friday Fine Arts day is the only day that we love.

Don’t get stuck in a rut.  Switch things about a little and discover a new zeal and enthusiasm!

What alternatives worked for you?  Please share ideas in the comments.

Blessings,

Hard Homeschool Moments

Gosh, my last post “Love Homeschool” generated a flurry of comments and emails!

I’m so grateful that I have enough blog posts here on Practical Pages to ensure readers that I have my fair share of hard and heart-sore homeschool moments  … like “Stresses and struggles” and the challenge of teaching High School Maths … And while my previous post sounded like it’s all sunshine and roses, I am currently floundering and feel out of my depth.  And this is hard.

My middle child started with Cambridge education this year.  Previously, she and my eldest daughter used a textbook-based correspondence that I could quite confidently teach and facilitate.  But with this new curriculum, I am in need of a serious upgrade to help tutor her and we live too far from town to regularly attend tutor sessions.  I admit that I ‘dropped the ball’ on her homeschooling … and she “unschooled”, or should I say “non-schooled”, the first 6 months of this year.

Recently, we attended adviser sessions and we are still on track.  My daughter is 14-years-old and has 4 years to complete the Cambridge courses. They have a two-year exam sitting rule to qualify for university acceptance, so we have plenty of time to work through the course materials and prepare.  We have started lessons with a tutor and I can already see my child’s approach and confidence improve.

It has been my lack of confidence that has made this year tough, but we have made good progress and I feel that we will actually manage …  and a month from now it may not seem as hard as it seems right now.

So, to all you moms who are trying to figure it out, join the veteran homeschool club of moms still trying to figure it out.

Hard homeschooling keeps me humble and urges me to prayer.

Blessings for you in the hard times … this, too, shall come to pass.

 

 

New Fun Art!

For a while my 12-year-old has avoided been reluctant about her art.  So sad. Somehow, her perfectionism got in the way of her creativity.  And, perhaps I focused too seriously on Charlotte Mason art appreciation lessons rather than presenting her simple art fun.

I was delighted when I came across this book at our local library ~

A Usborne Activities 365 Things to Draw and Paint  by Fiona Watt

(ISBN 978-1-86806-319-2)

20140608_113417

According to the title, this book offers amazing art activities for every day for a whole year!  Actually, each double page layout presents several interconnected ideas, and so you have about 126 lessons here instead of 365.

Much to my delight, Miss.L12 immediately tagged about 30 pages and we decided to try to do one a day!

Here is how fabulous Miss.L12 felt about her first art lesson!

Art fun

And I’m smiling too!

What I like about these art activities is the simplicity of the lesson combined with an exploration of different creative techniques such as printing, rubbings, splatters, cutting out, doodles … superb creative fun!

Here is our “Laboratory Experiments” activity with blowing, splatter and print art elements ~

Art fun1

And here is our “Printed Fruit & Vegetables” with finger painting, print techniques and rubbings for the fruit crates.  Again, huge success!

Art fun2

I’m doing these art activities along with my daughter and we are having such a lovely creative time!

I guess that I am going to renew this library book several times! [smiles]

Blessings,

 

Google Calendar Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,