Stop Interrupting!

Interrupting narrations.  Isn’t it annoying to lose your train of thought when someone interrupts you? It is for your child too.

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Narrations are a cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education. Rather than workbooks, tests, enrichment exercises, children need to listen and remember as many details, facts or information from the material just read.  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.  Young children begin with oral narrations first, then dictated and finally at about 10 years, children start to write their own narrations themselves. In essence, the narration is the information the child recalls and tells back what he just heard in the reading.  This is a simple, but very critical learning strategy!

But, as most parents know, children don’t always listen attentively, and our parenting habit of reminding, prompting and telling (and nagging) our children about everything can quickly and easily become a bad habit in our homeschooling.

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason says,

Be careful never to interrupt a child who is called upon to ‘tell’ ” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 172).

For some of us, that’s easy. For others, it’s much more difficult.

Some of us love to make narration time more like discussion time, with give and take in a conversation. But don’t get the two confused in your mind: narration is different from discussion.

So, how does an uninterrupted narration work? 

  • Before you begin the read aloud, first introduce the story or recap the previous reading.
  • Give your child a “heads up” to pay close attention to the reading to be able to retell the reading accurately, in detail, once you have completed the section.
  • For children who struggle, begin to read only a paragraph, then a page, then a section and finally a chapter before asking for your child’s narration.  Try it yourself — this is hard stuff!
  • Give your child a chance to collect his thoughts, form his sentences, and then present his ideas as a cohesive whole.
  • Here’s where it may require your super-human strength — sit listening attentively to your child’s narration without . saying . anything.  No questions, suggestions, prompts, reminders.
  • Wait quietly until the end.
  • Remember to keep your face engaged and positive, with no frowns, or sighs.  Smiles, nods and positive facial expressions reacting to your child’s narration are good though.
  • Some children may falter, others may require a starting point.  Others prefer to ramble on or leave out details.  Some children need to see a picture or have a specific theme to narrate.
  • Only when your child is done with his narration, can you encourage additions, elaborations, and discussion.

Here are some of my Narration blog posts ~

Remember that learning to write narrations is a slow and gradual process and may take years of work to hone and mature their skills.  Don’t feel that your child should master this in a year.  Some children take years to develop good narrations, so be positive and be patient … and keep quiet as you listen!

 Blessings and grace, Nadene
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Been There Done That – Ask The Experts – Free Livestream

If you could have 3 homeschool mom’s who have homeschooled their joint 13 children “all the way” around for tea, what would you ask them?

What would you want to talk about, because we have “Been There. Done That“?

I’m no expert, but experience has taught me a lot, and over the years, my approach and attitude to homeschooling has changed as I have adapted to each child and season in their lives. Do you have these or similar questions?

  • How do I teach my child to read?
  • What does a Charlotte Mason education mean?
  • What are the best read aloud books?
  • How do I help a despondent child?
  • My teen needs help and direction, help!?
  • We just can’t get maths to stick!
  • When do I get time for me?
  • My kids squabble all the time, please give me tips!
  • How do I build an eclectic education style?
  • What are our school leaving options?

Well, here’s your chance! Join Shirley ErweeWendy Young and myself, Nadene Esterhuizen, on the 28th April at 7:30pm for an hour of Ask the Experts.

Booking is free at Quicket – https://www.quicket.co.za/…/137828-been-there-done-that-ask-the-experts#/

Looking forward to meeting you all there!
Blessings, Nadene

Follow Rabbit Trails

Almost all new homeschool parents begin their teaching journey with dreams that their children will LOVE and enjoy their homeschooling.  Many new homeschoolers opt for boxed curriculums with the idea that they won’t have any gaps, but end up totally tied to their purchased curriculum and schedules.  These educational programs often leads to stressed parents pressing, pushing, rushing and forcing their kids to stay on track.  Many homeschooling parents find their days exhausting, their children frustrated and their motivation failing. 

I remember the stress that I felt when I started to “fall behind” in all 3 Sonlight curriculums in my first year.  Instead of using my Sonlight’s schedule as a guide, I worked harder, read faster and ended up utterly drained.  After some good advice, prayer and rethinking, I simply moved the “deadline” further back 6 months, took a deep breath, and started over with a different attitude. We have used and re-used all our curriculums and every time I planned an eighteen-month to  2-year period instead of 1-year as the schedule planned.  And it was a joy to have a wide margin of time to follow the rabbit trails.  

My golden rule for homeschooling is ~

TAKE YOUR TIME

PLAN EXTRA TIME FOR WHEN THERE IS A SPARK OF INTEREST!  

Stretch out your curriculum and add a wide margin for any other activities! Follow the scenic routes, take picnic stops, rest under a tree and savour the fine stuff like poetry and some lovely classical music and don’t make it feel like school. Provide plenty of free time for your children to be creative. Encourage them to dress up, act out and explore. Expose your children to a variety of art and craft supplies, play musical instruments & sing together.

Enjoy your children’s spark of excitement and enthusiasm. Let your children lead you in these interests and view your role as the one who offers options and facilitates their interests.   Allow your children the opportunities to discover and unleash their creative streaks and personalities.

Tips for your planning

  • Use your year plan as the outline and plan for topics in each subject. You don’t need to find extras for everything or every subject.  I often only focussed on our History and Social Studies and Science.  
  • Now look for and add additional lapbooks, any relevant, fun hands-on activities, recipes, arts and crafts and YouTube videos to go with the topic of interest. 
  • Use a smaller file and file only the week’s schedule, pages, outlines and plans. Place all the extras for the topics for that week in this small file.  This will help you not to feel overwhelmed. 
  • Add one extra week to your schedule after every suggested topic for any additional activity or finishing off or focusing on any subject that they didn’t cover in the time allocated.
  • View the extras as just that — extras.  If you don’t need or use them, that’s fine.  You do not actually plan to do everything!  You plan to have options that you can offer at a moment’s notice.  Nothing quenches a child’s enthusiasm faster than a parent wasting time searching online or scrambling through papers. 
  • Remember your children’s learning styles and passions and find activities that they would thoroughly enjoy. Some kids hate messy or noisy projects, others love to get stuck in. Some children feel stimulated, but others feel overwhelmed with extra activities. You may need to look for different varieties of activities for each topic to suit your children. My eldest loved to paint or draw quietly, my middle child loved to make things with her hands and my youngest loved anything active or outdoors. Having several different options really helped!
  • Young kids love to move, make things, get noisy, get messy, do things differently.  Adjust your expectations and let your kids have fun and make a mess — and train them to clean up afterwards. 
  • Plan for projects.  Projects often need more space, take several days and will need to be moved for other activities or school subjects.  Use trays or plastic sheets to slide things easily off the table. 
  • Pinterest is an incredible resource! Teachers and parents have already pinned and linked references to millions of ideas!

Here’s a lovely story about a “silly” little rabbit trail — My youngest daughter, at 17 years, fondly recalled one of her favourite homeschool memories when she was 5 was learning to count in Japanese! We had found on a little counting video while following a rabbit trail while we were studying Japan. Sonlight allocated one week, but we spent more than a month of extra time learning all about Japan, dressing up in kimonos, eating Japanese food, doing origami and learning some Japanese words and the kids loved it. My daughters’ love for origami was born at this time.  They still create beautiful tiny, folded paper creations for gifts and décor.

Don’t be afraid of taking your time and following your children down rabbit holes. These experiences enrich, enlarge and wonderfully widen your children’s learning experience and bring rich rewards for you all!

Blessings, Nadene

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Strange Endings

Global pandemic aside, this year ended strangely. My homeschooling career officially ended last month when my youngest passed her final exams and completed her GED. We celebrated her finishing her final exams with pink champagne and a family meal, but the atmosphere was different and the whole experience was less joyful than I had envisioned.

My youngest endured an excruciatingly lonely final homeschool year with Covid lockdowns and a lack of company and visits with her friends. Being the last child in our home, she was already missing her siblings. With lockdown, her monthly trips to stay with her friends had all stopped. She desperately wanted her freedom and to be with the community of friends, and so the day after her final exam, she packed up her entire life, and the very next day she left to go and live in a small town in the Langkloof.

My shock was that it was all so sudden. I had experienced the sadness and loss of each child as they graduated and moved away from our isolated farm, and I knew of my youngest daughter’s plans, but I didn’t expect her to leave immediately. I had hoped for a few free days together with her to enjoy life without the stress of exams and homeschooling; an afternoon eating popcorn and watching our favorite movies, for swims and relaxing at the pool and general packing, sewing and preparing for her next phase. But, no. A day later she was gone, her room left completely bare. And just like that, it was over.

I am glad for her. I am so happy for her being with her loved ones, living in community, building into her next phase of her life. I am delighted that she is finished with school. I am so relieved that my homeschooling days are over and I can ease into the new season of my life.

I am not lonely, but I really miss my daughters. Their lives filled our hearts and our home. Their music was a beautiful, eclectic montage to our daily rhythms. I loved our conversations, their lively debates, their wacky sense of humors, their chatter and laughter. I loved their ideas and opinions on clothing, make-up, hairstyles, décor and style. I loved sitting looking at their Instagram feeds, laughing at funny Facebook memes, and watching YouTube videos with them. I loved times together with my daughter; drinking a mug of steaming tea on her bed as the afternoon sun faded into sunset, and then making meals and cooking up a storm together and enjoying delicious family meals at night. My life felt rich and full.

I knew this moment was coming and I had prepared for my “empty nest”, but what I didn’t prepare for was my daughter’s desperate need to get away. I didn’t reckon on her being angry with us, with having to endure a year of intense loneliness. I didn’t consider that she resented her homeschooling and my insistence that she finish. And we did insist. We gave her no options. And her resentment and withdrawal tainted our farewell.

I really understand her feelings, but I am not sorry that we insisted she finish and pass her course. I knew absolutely that her high school graduate certificate was essential in my job as her homeschool teacher and her mom. This was a non-negotiable decision we all agreed on because my stepsons did not complete their Matric years ago, and now, years later, they both regret it as they face roadblocks in their jobs and careers.

So, with all these strange feelings and thoughts whirling through my head, I scrubbed my daughter’s echoing bedroom walls and deep cleaned her empty cupboards. I smiled when I discovered little pencil messages scribbled on the walls, sighed sadly when I found a tiny ballerina charm lost in a dusty cupboard corner and I wept as I sat on her naked bed smelling her perfume from the very last spurt of an abandoned empty perfume bottle, and I miss her deeply.

And I wonder if Covid hadn’t totally derailed this year, if we could have ended this better …

Right now I am scraping and painting out her bedroom and converting it into an adult guestroom. I feel like Kevin Costner in the iconic movie Field of Dreams hearing, “Built it and he will come …” that as I transform my daughter’s bedroom into a glorious guestroom, she will come visit again … when Covid no longer turns our lives into this strange, disconnected world.

And you may be wondering, “What about Practical Pages?” As a now-newly-retired homeschool teacher, I feel very strongly to continue to write and post in my blog and be involved with you as you homeschool your families. My heart is full of encouragement and inspirations and motivation for you, along with practical tips and pages to download. In my role as granny supporting my daughter and daughter-in-law, I hope to add homeschool activities and ideas for toddlers and add new or translated Afrikaans homeschooling material, so there will hopefully be some new educational downloads coming in the new year.

Please feel free to comment on this strange year and your hopes for 2021.

Thank you for all your love and support over the years. I wish you and your family health and happiness, grace and peace for the festive season and fresh hope for 2021.

Blessings, Nadene

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New to Homeschooling?

With the Covid-19 pandemic, many families have been doing school-at-home.  And with lifestyle changes, many families are now deciding to homeschool their children rather than send them back to school.  So there are many parents just starting out and most feel very insecure.  May I encourage you not to rush, but to spend a little more time looking at your options with a little wider perspective?

I wrote a post Starting but overwhelmed by choice and I would love to remind parents ~

“Take a deep breath …. let it out slowly … and relax.  This process is like planning a wonderful overseas journey with your entire family, and your planning may take weeks or months to refine and finalize before you leap on to the plane and take off!

Here are a few extracts ~

  • Pray and wait on the Lord to show you what His vision is for you, your family and your child.
  • Visit other homeschooling families to see what they are using.
  • Read good homeschooling books.
  • Research the Internet to look at different approaches, learning and teaching styles, costs, times and schedules
  • Follow your heart and be led by peace. 
  • Consider your own teaching and parenting styles.
  • Please don’t buy expensive “bells-and-whistles” boxed curriculum for each child.  Find something simple that all your kids can enjoy together and ease into your formal schooling gently.
  • This is a journey and will change and evolve.  Nothing is cast in stone.

In another post Starting School Those First Days I shared these tips ~

  • Just start slowly.
  • Don’t try to do the complete schedule or every subject.
  • Go gently and ease into your schooling.

And lastly, in a post Routine versus Schedule, I shared the difference between schedule  versus routine ~

schedule tells you what to do and when to do it.  It is usually filled with times, lists, blocks, and boxes to tick off.

routine is a pattern by which you live. It gives structure and order to your day, but it doesn’t dictate exactly when things should be done. It allows you to find a flow that works for you on the day you happen to be living.

  1. Decide what is really important for you and your family.
  2. Find the time-flow for your family.  Are you early risers or slow-mornings kind of people? Build your rhythm around what you will more naturally manage.
  3. Identify your important daily events which form pillars such as chores, meals, exercise, sport, family time.
  4. Create habits and build them around important daily events mentioned above.
  5. Be flexible. If your routine isn’t clicking and something feels off, adapt or change it.
  6. Offer options and extras such as different Themes for each day.
  7. Add freedom and create space for your children to explore their gifts, passions, interests and talents.

This journey is going to be amazing!  Even if you have a “flat tire” or “delayed flight” along the way, relax, it is going to be the most wonderful adventure!

Sending you warm and reassuring hugs and my prayers for the Lord’s peace and grace to you in this new season of your lives!

 Blessings, Nadene
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What’s new in my “Teaching Print Step-by-Step” Ebook?

So many parents need help to teach their child to write. Over the years of homeschooling, I have had wonderful success using my laminated handwriting charts.

I have just completely updated my Teaching Print Handwriting Step-by-Step Ebook which is now a 16-page booklet. It includes new detailed instructions & examples on line placement for writing on lined notebook pages, starting & ending points for each letter, as well as new charts that include coloured numbered dots and arrow guidelines.

Here’s what you’ll find in this Teach Print Handwriting Ebook ~

  • Introduction to Teaching Print Handwriting Step-by-Step
  • Why laminated charts work
  • Step-by-Step Handwriting Lessons
  • Getting to know the lines and letter placement
  • How to start teaching print handwriting step-by-step
  • Examples of how to talk through each lower-case letter
  • Print lower case with start & end and arrows (a-o)
  • Print lower case with start & end and arrows (p-z)
  • Print lower case with arrows
  • Upper Case print chart with start & arrows A-N
  • Upper-case print chart with start & arrows O-Z & Numbers 1-9
  • Combined print upper-case and lower-case chart

Would you please support me and pop over to my Packages page to purchase the updated Teaching Print Handwriting Step-by-Step booklet.

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

 Blessings, Nadene
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Keeping Record and Attendance

 

Many parents are new at homeschooling and are currently “doing school at home,” and a mom in a homeschooling Facebook group asked, 

“How do you keep attendance? Any ideas or helpful tips?”

Homeschooling is a life-education and children are learning every day, but for the sake of being accountable and keeping track, it is helpful to keep records. Some curriculum providers instruct parents to keep attendance records.  Other parents have had to comply with their child’s school’s regulations during the lockdown.  Many homeschool parents keep attendance record to meet the Department of Education’s requirements.

In my 22-years+ of homeschooling, I kept record purely as part of my own discipline as a former teacher, but I also kept records to be accountable to my husband and family.  I always wanted to have evidence of our schooling should there ever be any query or inspection.  This, thankfully,  has never been required.

Here are some record-keeping tips ~

  • Use a simple print-out of a monthly, block calendar to keep a record of attendance and subject topics ~ I jotted notes in daily blocks on issues, successes, and special or unusual activities.  I used coloured highlighters to block out holidays, days for weekly shopping trips etc.
  • Google Calendars are the most versatile and effective planning and attendance record-keeping tools I used in our homeschooling.

    Google Homeschool Calendar Jan2013

    Google Calendar with school holidays and themes and topics plotted

    • At the end of each school year, I plotted in all the official school holidays for the new year to keep in sync with friends that are not homeschooling or to take advantage of off-season rates for trips.
    • The average yearly schedule comes to about 50 weeks of homeschooling for the year.  This is a very flexible outline. We may take off schooling earlier than government school holidays or continue learning longer in some terms to keep up with our schedule.  My most important tip to any new homeschooler is to give yourselves more time and extend a one-year schedule to 18-months!  This year plan is not a schedule, but a guideline.
    • Created a Google calendar for each child if they are old enough to have their own Gmail account, but it is easy to keep the attendance records of each child all together on a family calendar.
  • Use Google calendar daily to record the days where we were out on appointments, travelling, when a child was sick, etc. and I recorded when we take off one day every week to travel to town for our shopping.
  • Sometimes, when a child “falls behind” for some reason, they continue schooling into a school holiday week.
  • Train your children to date all their work every time they start their daily work.
  • Parents should initial/sign and write the date when checking their children’s books or notes. This also forms a good record of work.
  • Another way of keeping a record is to print out your curriculum year planner and the index page of each child’s textbooks or the contents page of a book or the planner page of a lapbook and sign and date next to each chapter or item when your child completes the work.

You can find all my planning and organization pages here.  I hope that these tips help!  If you have other suggestions or questions, please comment below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Line Placement Hints for Handwriting

When your child first starts to write on lined notebook paper, it can be very confusing! Where to start?  Where to skip lines so that letters don’t crowd into each other?

We use laminated handwriting charts to teach print and then cursive letters, first working on lower-case and then going on to upper-case letters.  I have several Ebooks on my Packages page that will teach letter placement, as well as the starting and ending points for each letter.

Once your child can confidently trace over their laminated handwriting chart without making mistakes, he is ready to start Copywork.  Copywork is a wonderful way of practising handwriting in a very meaningful way.  Read all about Charlotte Mason.

Copywork is best done on lined notebook pages.

Here’s a good rule when teaching ~

ALWAYS START BIG AND WORK SMALLER!

When you start writing on lined notebook paper, first use broad lines.  You can find 17mm lined books at your stationery shop.  Then go on to normal feint & margin pages before using the narrow Irish lined paper.

Before starting, first, draw simple little hints in the margin to help know where the body line begins.

We used these 3 hints:

  1. Draw a simple “Cat” in the margin to allow 3 lines of regular notebook pages for the head, body and tail.
  2. It may be quicker to draw a “lollipop man” in the margin. The round shape is the “head” and the stick is the “body”.  The “legs” are where the cat’s tail would be.
  3. The fastest method is to make a clear dot in the body line. My kids would count “Skip-dot-skip-skip-dot-skip-skip-dot…” to quickly place a dot marker on every 2nd alternate line all the way down their margin before beginning their copywork.

With these hints, your child will soon easily know where to start their writing and be able to do beautiful copywork.

Please support me by ordering my Handwriting Tips and Teaching Print  & Cursive Handwriting Ebooks on my Packages page.

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

 Blessings, Nadene
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What’s new in my “Teaching Cursive Handwriting Step-by-Step” Ebook?

I have just completely updated my Teaching Cursive Handwriting Step-by-Step Ebook which is now a 17-page booklet. It includes new information such as Joining cursive upper-case to lower-case letters as well as detailed instructions & examples on line placement for writing on lined notebook pages, starting & ending points for each letter, as well as new charts that include guide-lines and letter placement hints.

Here’s the Table of Contents and some examples:

  • Introduction to Teaching Cursive Handwriting using a laminated chart
  • Why laminated charts work
  • Step-by-Step Handwriting Lessons
  • Getting to know the lines and letter placement
  • Teaching Lower-Case Cursive Letters
  • Line Placement Hints
  • Cursive Lower Case Chart with “cats”, coloured lines and start- & end-points
  • Some fun lower-case cursive handwriting exercises
  • Cursive Lower Case Chart
  • Teaching Cursive Upper-Case Letters
  • Some fun cursive upper-case handwriting exercises
  • Cursive Upper-Case Chart with “lollipop men” coloured lines and start- & end-points
  • Cursive Upper Case Chart
  • Cursive Combined Upper and Lower Case
  • Joining Cursive Upper-Case to Lower-Case Practice Pages A – I
  • Joining Cursive Upper-Case to Lower-Case Practice Pages J – R
  • Joining Cursive Upper-Case to Lower-Case Practice Pages S – Z

Would you please support me and pop over to my Packages page to purchase the updated Teaching Cursive Handwriting Step-by-Step booklet.

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

 Blessings, Nadene
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How to Join Upper-Case to Lower-Case Cursive Letters

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

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

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

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

Practice Joining Cursive Letters Sheets

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Blessings, Nadene
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