3 things NOT to do when planning

“Help me!  I always over-plan, over-buy and become overwhelmed when planning my new year!  What should I do?”Reader's Question logo

In answering this  reader’s question, I remembered my early years and the terrible stress, anxiety and fear that consumed me when planning a new year.  After years of homeschooling and finding what works for us , here is my simple encouragement ~

Don’t over do it.

  • You don’t need to cover every . single . subject . for . each . child.  
  • Combine your kids for all the Bible, Core studies, Read Alouds and Fine Arts wherever possible.
  • Start with a good Maths, Spelling & Dictation, and a Reading/ Phonics program for each child.  Then add a family centered Core.
  • Gently add all the extra subjects such as Fine Arts and Nature Walks once your kids manage the basics.

Don’t spend money on curriculum or supplies you are not sure you will use.

  • Don’t buy under pressure that you “should” or “must” do programs, or  purchase programs all the other moms are using.
  • Put those orders on a wish list and let them wait there a while until you have peace and rest in your heart.
  • Find FREE downloads instead.  You can download stacks of my Free Pages to cover Handwriting, Copywork, Nature Study, Biographies and a full Famous Artist & Musician studies.
  • There are so many free Lapbooks and Unit Studies out there, but, again, don’t download and print out too much!  See #1.

Don’t make a rigid schedule.

  • When I tried to follow an over-full schedule, I felt overwhelmed, especially when we “fell behind”.  
  • Create a wide margin of time to explore, discover, follow other tangents and pause and reflect on the subject matter.
  • Give your children options.  They don’t have to everything!
  • View the schedule as your guide and not your strict task master.
  • Follow the 4-Day Week schedule and give yourselves one “free” day for fun and Fine Arts.
  • STRETCH out  the curriculum over 18 months instead of 12 months.  It really doesn’t matter what “grade” your child is following each year so long as they are working on their level and working consistently.

I hope that this encouragement helps settle those nerves and make your planning seem simpler and easier.

Blessings as you plan, Nadene

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Narration shows what your child knows

A new homeschool parent recently asked on Facebook,

How do you know what your child knows?

Charlotte Mason has a very simple method  that reveals what a child knows = narrations.

So how do you start with narrations?

Toddlers naturally retell their stories and nursery rhymes with accurate details.  Think of how they easily tell dad about their latest story or what they saw on their nature walk.  This is a narration.  Oral narrations are natural and, when practiced, form the basis for written narrations.
How then do you develop oral telling-back to written narrations?

Most young children find writing challenging and difficult.  Transition to dictated narrations where Mom writes or types out word-for-word what the child tells.  You act as their scribe.  Young children can illustrate a narration instead of “telling back”.   By and by, your preschooler will have a wonderful collection of dictated narrations in their own notebook.

Develop dictated narrations by writing out their narration using a light pencil, and ask your child to carefully trace over their narration.  Copywork is slow and difficult for children new to writing. Often they will grow weary after tracing over a few lines.  But, gradually, they can neatly copy their narration.

Older children enjoy typing on the computer as the spell check can highlight errors and they can type quicker than handwriting with a neat printout.

Use notebook pages ~

Little House Booklet notebook pages

These are printed pages with lines to assist young children space their handwriting.  Some notebook pages are decorated with borders, clip-art, headings and place for illustrations.  These pages give an incentive to write as the page provides some inspiration.  Young children find that the few sentences they write will quickly ‘fill up’ the lined area and they are less daunted by this than a large blank page.  Studies show that color and illustrations help with memory recall and the clip-art and photos or other visual layout on notebook pages assist them in remembering the information.

Pop over to download my free notebook and copywork pages.

Narrations inspire and expand a child’s vocabulary and instill good grammar without formal lessons. Narrations are far easier activities than fill-in-blanks lessons in workbooks, or memorizing facts from textbooks, or writing out tedious, long notes.  No more boring lessons!

Narrations are unique to each child.  Narrations reveal what each child personally connected with and remembered, and then expressed in their own style and individual character, while still remaining true to the original.

So using Charlotte Mason’s approach, your children will soon deliver the most accurate, detailed oral narrations.  Young children will tell back their story with interesting detail and imitation.  Their vocabulary and writing skills will naturally develop, and as they mature, your children will eventually fill their notebook pages revealing their amazing knowledge, writing skill and creativity.  Just take it slowly, encouraging your child to grow their skills.

With narrations you will easily know what your child knows!

Blessings, Nadene

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First days back 2 school

Many moms around the world worry about the first days of school.  Homeschool moms worry about starting homeschool too.  And new homeschool moms worry even more.

May I offer some gentle advice?

  • Just start slowly.
  • Don’t try do the complete schedule.
  • Ease into your schooling.
  • Go gently.

Just remember that the professional teachers spend much of their first weeks of school doing orientation; they hand out new books, explain note-taking, give an overview.  They don’t jump straight in with the full program.

Here’s some tips that I still use after all these years ~

Set up your school area the night before (I like to do this as a surprise for the kids!)

  • Put tables, stationary and books/workboxes/or files in order.
  • Write a welcome note on the whiteboard or prayerfully write to each child and place a personal note on each child’s place.
  • Arrange the CD and music player ready with your song or praise and worship for circle time.
  • Get into a simple “Early to bed & early to rise” routine.  Chat and pray with each child before bedtime.

On your first day ~

  • Wake half an hour earlier than the family, make yourself a cup of tea, have your quiet time and pray.  Commit your plans to the Lord and surrender all to Him.
  • Gently wake the kids and get them into their morning routine and chores.  (I like to have a “test-run” a day before school and start the school morning routine a day earlier than the actual day.)
  • Have a simple but nutritious breakfast, or go ahead and make it something special!
  • At the agreed starting time, start school.
  • I like to start each year in a circle or on the couches.  Start with a chat about the year, the themes, some planned highlights and goals.  Let the kids talk about what they expect, what they are afraid of, what they look forward to.
  • Then pray about all these things.
  • Sing and learn a memory verse for the week.  Make it fun!  Chose something really simple and easy.
  • Now chose what you will do the first week.  Either just do some basics3Rs (Maths, Reading and Handwriting) or just do your Core (History, Literature study)for the first week.  Tell them that next week you’ll add the rest of the subjects, but this week they must just do their very best with the easy schedule.  (They may beg you to do it all!  If they seem relaxed and the work done was excellent, then, by all means, do your full plan.)  If things are really awful and stressed, just cuddle and read a story together.
  • Include a lovely tea break with some healthy snacks.
  • Plan some fast fun & games for in between lessons if children get fidgety.

Create precious memories from these moments ~

  • Take some “First Day” photos of each child.
  • Prepare a special breakfast.
  • Ask Dad to give a “Welcome To School” speech. (My hubby is our homeschool “Principal”!)
  • Give each child a small gift – some stationary/ stickers/ new hair accessories for their first day.

I trust this encourages you.

Blessings as you prepare and plunge back in, Nadene

Freedom to play

Charlotte Mason’s approach is so liberating!  She listed some Rights of Children and said, “Children should be free in their play.”  So what does this freedom to play look like?

Most parents these days feel that store-bought toys and screen games are the answer, but the real freedom comes from open-ended, child-led activities.

Lara colecting flowers

Collecting flowers

I like to think of this recipe = Present some natural elements, add a sprinkle of inspiration, mix well for a few minutes and bake with fun = freedom!

She advised that parents don’t crowd out their free time.  She ensured that daily lessons were kept short so that the children would remain attentive.  She gave them full afternoon time with freedom to play and explore outdoors.

I have watched my younger girls play with creativity and vigor and enthusiasm whenever they have free time.  They often use the subject we are reading in their games.  They love to re-enact our core stories, or our family favorites DVDs such as Jane Austen’s “Emma”  or “Little Women”.

Kate picking wild flowers

picking wild flowers

Make believe

Make believe

They love dress up clothes and I make an outfit for them each season.  They have endless games wearing a bonnet and pinafore, or an American Indian squaw dress, or a corset and long skirt.  Boys love capes, a bow and quiver with arrows, a cowboy hat and chaps, or belts with swords.

Young children need to play outside.  They love to play with sand and water.  Offer plastic animals and encourage them to create their own farms or zoos or parks.  They will add stones, twigs and shells to their sand boxes, creating mini-worlds.  Encourage collections.  Let them collect insects, flowers, leaves, shells, pebbles etc. and store these in boxes or baskets on a shelf at their height.  They love to play with these elements!  A large sheet or blanket can provide wonderful opportunities for forts, tents or make-believe homes.  A big box can provide hours of fun as a space rocket, or car or ship!  Such simple things that provide wonderful opportunities.

We give our children such a precious gift when we let them play without too many rules, expectations, or parental pressure for performance.  This doesn’t mean that they are left unsupervised, but rather that they understand safety and safe-play boundaries and play within those rules (such as staying in the yard/ not going near the swimming pool/or into the street, or not throwing … at others).  Mom should stay nearby, keeping her eye on their play, smile and nod, but try not interfere with their games and interactions.

Most children withdraw when they know they are being watched while playing fantasy games.  Let them be free to create, imitate and act out their game without feeling self-conscious.  Don’t feel the need to instruct or praise your children while they play.  If they want your involvement, rather ask questions and make specific observational comments like, “I see you have all your animals … in groups,” or “Wow, look at all those different colored flowers …,” or “I wonder what will happen if you put …. in the water?”  “I see that you and your sister have made such a big ….(describing their fort/ block castle etc.)  “What can you do with this ….?” (and offer a new/ another item).

Enjoy your children’s natural love to play.  Their childhood and innocence is a precious gift. Thank you Charlotte Mason for instructing us in such a precious balanced approach!

Blessings, Nadene

Twice Exceptional

I came across the term “Twice Exceptional” while reading Gifted Voices.   I had to look up its meaning:

“Twice exceptional (or 2E students) are sometimes also referred to as double labelled, or having dual exceptionality. These are gifted students whose performance is impaired, or high potential is masked, by a specific learning disability, physical impairment, disorder, or condition. They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent.”

When I studied Remedial Education, I quickly realized that many children with learning difficulties were often gifted.  Once I started teaching, I also recognized that many gifted children presented behavioural problems, often similar to those of children with learning difficulties, due to their boredom and frustration with the school system. They often struggled to fit in and seldom discovered their unique gifting and wonderful abilities.

Describing 2E children, TKI explains,

“Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk as their educational and social/emotional needs often go undetected. Educators often incorrectly believe twice-exceptional students are not putting in adequate effort within the classroom. They are often described as ‘lazy’ and ‘unmotivated’.  Hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving high academic results. 2E students perform inconsistently across the curriculum. The frustrations related to unidentified strengths and disabilities can result in behavioural and social/emotional issues.”

Because a child struggles with their uniqueness or outside-of-the-box, or have different social-emotional needs, they struggle  in the conventional school system.  Many parents face the dilemma  of whether to stick to the school system or to homeschool their gifted or twice-exceptional child.  My advice is that you look for a place where your child can thrive, grow, learn and “become” in the most supportive, loving environment, which is usually at home!

Homeschool parents can tailor-make their educational approach to work with their child’s strengths, while gently encouraging them to strengthen areas of weakness.  Because you work one-on-one with your child, you can immediately determine where and when your child is bored or struggles, and adjust your pace or approach.

You can seamlessly include motivation, opportunities, therapy and remedial activities as part of your homeschooling for children with illnesses, disabilities or disorders.  Most remedial therapy is presented as games, and often children enjoy these fun activities.  Therapy varies.  Most children initially require therapy regularly, but as they master skills, these activities can be moderated or stopped.  Some children perform better with a therapist, because they may resist or refuse at home, while most therapy requires regular “homework” or practice.  Whatever your approach, try avoid instilling in your child a sense of failure or disappointment, or that the child has, or worse still, is a problem.

Homeschooling your twice exceptional child helps you establish a steady routine which is important when dealing with complex problems or disabilities.  Parents can establish a  healthy or specific diet as well as good sleeping patterns, and these routines and practices are often very helpful in assisting a 2E child.

Most importantly, your homeschooled child is allowed to progress at his/ her own pace without feeling that he/she isn’t the same as the rest of the class.  Avoid comparisons at all costs, not even one child with another in your home.  Avoid labels.  No one wants to know that his/ her person is a medical/ behavioural disorder.  Speak of their condition in positives, “My daughter loves to move … to learn well.”

Try find a homeschool family or support group that you and your child can cope with and where you find grace and encouragement.  Having a “different” child can often make one feel isolated and insecure.  Support groups are very helpful to assist parents who often feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

My youngest daughter would probably have required remedial therapy when she was young, but my husband, in such wisdom, encouraged me to let her be and to encourage her to learn in her own time.  We patiently persevered and it has wonderfully paid off.  From a struggling emerging reader, she is now our bibliophile and most avid reader in our home!

It may not seem like it now, but you will see your child grow and develop into the most marvelous person that they were created to become.   Do not give up!

With all grace and blessings, Nadene

Adapt Adjust or Amend your Approach

Image result for adapt and overcomeMost moms have a pretty good idea of how things should be, especially when it comes to homeschooling.  I recall, over 18 years ago, when we considered homeschooling, visiting 2 homeschool homes and thinking how we could make homeschooling work for us.  Then I bought the bell-and-whistles-full-curriculum package for each child and I, in my idealistic hopes, thought that this was a guarantee for success.

It wasn’t.

When we started homeschooling, my eldest child, starting grade 4, resisted, refused, fussed and struggled about the work, and instead of taking it really slow, and cutting back the work to  a more manageable load, I pressured, punished and persisted in my attempt to “make it work”. It was a disaster and I felt like such a failure, not only as a teacher, but as a mom.  You see, homeschooling is a relationship, and when it doesn’t work, for whatever reason,  relationships suffer.

Here’s my advice —

Find what works for your child in your home.  Adapt, adjust, adopt, add, and amend your approach to fit your child’s  learning style and needs.

Please remember that the curriculum was created by an individual, no matter how clever or qualified, who prepared a package for the average child and the general aims of the educational institution.  It will not suit every one, all the time.  When it does not suit your child, or your family lifestyle, or your parenting style, work with what works and adapt or adjust, abandon or ignore the rest.

Yes, you may put the book back on the shelf that no one enjoys, or stop halfway through a project that causes meltdowns, even abandon the package if it doesn’t meet your family’s needs.  Pushing on will not achieve much if your children resist.  It will seem like you are pushing a huge boulder, in pouring rain, up a muddy mountain path!  Well, that’s how I felt many days … I sat in tears and wondered what was wrong with me or my child.

Improvise Adapt and Overcome Quote #4574931

When I finally found the courage to follow my own leading and use the schedule and package as a guideline,  I felt such a relief.  The peace and joy returned, and my kids began to flourish.  The less I pressured, the more they blossomed.  The more informal I became in my approach, the more they absorbed and contributed.  The more I simply offered options, the more my kids created and expressed themselves.

A homeschool education is never about learning information.  It is about relationships, life skills, character and values.

I know a few homeschool moms that have several unused curriculums and packages sitting gathering dust on their bookshelves.  It is an expensive waste, and often they speak of the guilt of their impulsive buying.  I would recommend you create your own version of homeschooling with what you already have.  Adapt it or add to it.  At the very worst, sell the stuff you really can’t use and use that money to make more meaningful purchases.  There are wonderful opportunities on Facebook groups to advertise and sell your unwanted stuff, and to buy books and programs, second-hand, for good prices.

It is easier than you think to create your own eclectic package for your children, and there is a lot available for free on the Internet.  You simply need to find what they need to learn and offer them the options.  Give your children options, choices, a wide and generous education.  Find what delights them and let them lead the way.

Don’t despair when things are imperfect.  It is simply a signal to adjust, or amend your approach.

Blessings, Nadene

 

Praise and mindsets

What if I told you that the way you praise your child can encourage and stimulate achievement and success in your children?  Stop praising kids for their innate or God-given abilities, and instead focus on their effort.

There are two types of mindsets we can cultivate ~

  • One that embraces problems as opportunities and who see problems as interesting challenges to learn = a growth mindset
  • one that avoids problems and difficulties, often out of fear to fail and avoid conflicts = a fixed mindset

Watch this excellent video presenting Carol Dweck’s studies on “How to help every child fulfill their potential” ~

Dweck says, “If you’re a parent, you likely want to explore not just why a growth mindset is advantageous, but also how to encourage your kids to develop that kind of attitude.”  In her research, she discovered that the way we praise children effects their mindset.

Here are 3 ways parents praised their children:

  1. They praised one group for their innate intelligence = value intelligence & results = This praise put kids into a fixed mindset.
  2. They praised one group for the processes they came up with to solve the test = value effort = This praise pushed these children into a growth mindset.
  3. They praised a third group, as a control, for a passing score, without mentioning either their intelligence or the process they had used.

But Dweck discovered that, “The most astonishing thing to us was that praising intelligence turned kids off to learning.”

Remember the fabulous word “YET” because it allows a child to set up a process, e.g.: “I’m not good at Maths, yet.”  Encourage your child to keep trying and praise them for their process, struggle and effort.

Remember Praise PROCESS!

Blessings, Nadene

Working Independently Yet Responsibly

A reader recently asked ~

“Do you have any ideas when dealing with boys?  My son (11) to be a different learner, wanting to be more independent and do things on his own, which I am fine with and would like to encourage, however he keeps putting everything off and doesn’t want to be told when to learn….”

Your son’s desire to work independently often occurs when children, both boys and girls, move into their tweens and teen years.  The trick is to find the balance between independence  and accountability.  

I believe that independence is given through trust that is earned by repeated responsible behaviour, and so my teen children gained more independence when they regularly worked up to standard.  

I have written several posts on High School and independence here and here, and the tips and advice that I share below applies to high school ages, but you can apply most these points to your independent learner, whatever his age.  Here’s what I found works for us ~

  • Collaborate and decide together what subjects/ topics/ themes/ courses/ or programs your child wishes to cover.  When you provide delight-directed subjects, he will definitely be more motivated.  He may still have to cover other compulsory subjects to meet your country/ state’s education requirements, but if the majority of his homeschooling focuses on his interests and passions, he should co-operate with you.
  • Plan and schedule his subjects and determine his goals and deadlines. Create a basic timetable and a year plan.  Once you schedule his chapters/ lessons/ and topics over each month, this will form your basic year plan.   You can plan your child’s work on  Google Calendar or Homeschool Tracker or in a Spiral Notebook.
    Google Calendar
  • Keep track and record his work. Provide your child his own checklist so he can keep track of his own work.  I use my year plan for my record of work and created space to write comments, marks and dates.
  • Allow your child freedom to choose what and where he wants to work, providing he achieves a certain standard of work.  (Lying on the floor or bed to work is fine for some subjects, but is not effective for written work.) Teens often want to work in their own rooms.  Privacy is important, but, again, they need to demonstrate their responsibility in order to earn your trust.
  • Be flexible yet consistent.  Independent learners should work at their most efficient times (maybe later in the mornings or in the afternoons), but they should work regularly.
  • Set the standards and encourage your teen to raise their standard to meet the requirements for high school.
  • Be firm about how their work is presented or how detailed their notes should be.  Phase this in as they start their new work.  Encourage them to improve as they master the basics.
  • Very Important — Schedule regular accountability sessions with your independent learner.  Start with daily meetings before schooling starts, to discuss the schedule and his assignments.  Sign-off his check lists and discuss and evaluate his assignments at the end of the day.  Once he has accomplished his assigned tasks correctly and independently, you can meet to sign off his work once a week. These accountability sessions should be friendly, but focused meetings.   They are essential to building trust in relationship so that he can work more and more independently.  For example, if a child skips work or produces inferior work, re-schedule the assignment for him to do/ redo.  It is good to sit side-by-side and talk about the work, rather than simply tick pages with a red pen.  Quite often these discussions are an excellent opportunity to evaluate your child’s understanding, their focus or ability.  I make notes in my record of work when we meet.   Please read Heather Woodie of Blog, She Wrote post Fostering Collaboration With Morning Meeting Time.
  • Mom, you need to be consistent.  Keep an eye on your child’s progress.  Don’t skip meetings or forget to have daily or weekly meetings, because, before you notice, your child may fall behind or skip work altogether!  I “dropped the ball”  when I lost track of our middle daughters’ progress in her first year when she worked independently.  If I skip weekly meetings, some tasks fall below the standard.  Children need regular checkups with the necessary encouragement or suggestions to upgrade and improve in their work.
  • Never stick to something that simply doesn’t work!  You can adjust the course as you go along.  Find alternatives such as a study group/  a tutor or an online course where there is conflict between you and your child.
  • Tailor-make your homeschooling to include a variety of subjects such as life skills and entrepreneur options.
  • Ensure that your independent learner avoids obvious distractions such as cell phones, social media notifications, computer games etc.  My hubby insisted that our children put their cellphones in our bedroom at night until after 2pm the next afternoon, so that they had undisturbed sleep and homeschool without temptations of constant online distractions.
  • Above all, maintain a heart-to-heart relationship with your child.  Remain interested and involved in your child’s interests, passions and friends.  Even though they seem to “push us away” in their desire to become independent, they still want and need us in their lives.  Listen to their music, watch their games and videos.  Read aloud to them, laugh with them, pray with them.  Despite your changing role, this is still the most wonderful, intimate way to educate your child!

Dear mom, your child’s desire to work independently is actually your goal!  Our role as homeschool moms is to facilitate our children to become independent.  We need to prayerfully and graciously learn how to move out of center stage and stand in the wings of our emerging young adults’ lives.

Wishing you much wisdom and grace as you work through your son’s transition.

Blessings, Nadene

 

Remembering Our Footprints Journey Around South Africa

Wendy Young recently asked me on Facebook to share our year-and-a-half Footprints journey around South Africa.

Our journey began in 2007 when our lives had changed drastically.   We had just sold our farm in Bronkhorstspruit and we were free to travel.    I had bought the Footprints On Our Land curriculum to use for all three children and when it arrived I was initially slightly disappointed.  The package seemed so small compared to Sonlight’s!  It all fitted in a Xerox box!  But its size was a blessing, because we had to put all our furniture and belongings into long-term storage while we searched for our next farm, and all our homeschool supplies could fit neatly into a small, onboard-sized suitcase!  Yay for a compact curriculum!  Also, its size is deceptive!  It is a huge curriculum in its range and presentation.

We first moved to the Western Cape and stayed in Carlitzdorp, in the Karoo, in an authentic Cape house, faithfully restored with historical furniture & decor.  Although it had running water, it was off the grid, which lent an even more authentic experience.  Its thick walls, thatch roof and clay finish kept it cool in the hot, Klein Karoo summer.  When we visited Swellendam‘s Drostdy Museum we instantly recognised the smell of our house!  We then stayed with my parents-in-law in Witsand on the Breede River estuary and then travelled to Cape Town for a few weeks.  We visited the Castle and fed squirrels in the Company Gardens, where I had a miraculous encounter, suddenly meeting with my brother who I had last seen 8 years previously before he was transferred to Nigeria.

We relaxed in the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.  My youngest child swam with the penguins at Boulders and Simon’s Town.  My hubby had done service in the Navy and took us to some military towns and places in and around Cape Town.  We had planned to visit District Six Museum, take the cable car up Table Mountain and take a boat trip to visit Robben Island, but I had had surgery and I was forced to take things easy for a while.

We then travelled up the Garden Route and fell in love with Wilderness where we rented a house for 5 months, right on the beach, at the Touw River estuary.   We bodyboarded daily and we spent a lot of time outdoors.  We hiked and paddled canoes in Wilderness Nature Reserve.  We joined another homeschool family and built rafts with driftwood logs which washed up on the shore after the 2007 floods, and the kids sailed their rafts up the Touw River.

We visited the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay, which made a huge impression on my young children, who had enjoyed the book “Caravel to the Cape”.  They fed elephants in the Knysna Elephant Park and boarded a naval vessel docked at Knysna.  We walked in the Knysna forests, bringing our book “Circles in the Forest” to life!  We enjoyed walking along some of the Outeniqua Choo-Choo railway line right along the coast.  We spent a marvelous weekend at Storms River Reserve and enjoyed walks in the forest and walking across the suspension bridge.

Next we took a trip up to Kwa Zulu Natal.   We visited friends in the Natal Midlands and family in Durban.  We visited historic places mentioned in the Great Trek, went to British & Zulu war fields and visited the tiny, but lovely Weenen museum.  My kids all loved Phe Zulu on a day outing to see Zululand.  It was typically touristy, but nonetheless provided a rich experience of the Zulu culture, music and way of life.  Our family loved Durban’s U’Shaka and the Aquarium, and they especially enjoyed the dolphin and seal show.

Our next trip was to Gauteng.  On our way our car broke down and we were towed back to George, but we finally hit the road again.  We stopped at Kimberley‘s Big Hole museum along the way, which was an excellent experience.  Funnily enough, my kids loved searching through the gravel for garnets more than going down into the mine museum.

In Pretoria, my hubby’s father, a retired Airforce man, came with us to the Airforce Museum and Airforce Memorial at the Waterkloof Airbase, as well as the actual military base and accommodation.  We found Uncle Myles Moodie’s name on the memorial plaque.  Having Oupa with us who actually lived and worked for the Airforce, and knowing someone who died in service, made the museum tour very personal.  The Voortrekker Monument was a good outing, and my young and energetic kids raced up all the stairs to the very top!  What a view from there!We had planned to  travel to the Lowveld (Mpumalanga) on our next trip.  We had hoped to visit the Kruger National Park to look at the wildlife, pan for gold at Pilgrim’s Rest, visit waterfalls in Sabie, follow the story of “Jock  of the Bushveld” in and around Baberton and view the stunning Blyde River Canyon views from God’s Window, but our real life decision to buy a farm in the Klein Karoo became our reality, and we moved to our current farm near Uniondale instead.

Here are some questions people have asked me ~

What if we don’t have time for long trips?  Not every Footprints family has the liberty of extended time to travel as we did, but I would recommend taking time off for some seasonal trips or to plan your family vacation and try visit different regions of South Africa during your studies.  Simply start in the areas near you.  Travelling is always a wonderful experience when shared.  Try to plan your trip with another homeschooling family or good friends.  Learning and experiencing the journey with others forms bonds and memories that children never forget.

How do I approach the journey and outings?  May I humbly suggest you approach your travels with a relaxed, informal approach?  I was too “teachy” during our trips because I wanted my kids to get the most out of their experiences, and I dampened their natural love to learn by forcing constantly encouraging them to “learn this”, “look at this” and”listen to that”.   They have since literally hated any talk of going to a museum! Sigh. …. Relax moms …  Let your children learn naturally, make their own connections, form their own experiences.

What was your homeschool routine like during the 18 months?  There were times when we were not on the road and we settled down to days or weeks of “normal” homeschooling.  Surprisingly, I found that despite serious disruptions like road trips and car break downs, we didn’t actually “fall behind”.  We simply pressed a pause button on our schedule and experienced real life on the road instead.  I highly recommend you give yourselves more time by extending the 1-year course over 18 months to give yourselves a wide margin of time to enjoy all the scenic tours and unplanned, but wonderful stops along the way.

How do I plan my trips?  Parents may wonder if they should plan their trips around their Footprints schedule.  It sometimes helps to have read the book before visiting a museum or place so that the outing is connected to the story and becomes real.   Likewise, if your children experience an outing before the book is read aloud, they have a wonderful base to attach new knowledge discovered through the reading.  It doesn’t actually matter, so don’t worry if your journey is not chronological to your curriculum.

What do I need for these outings?  When you travel all you need is a journal, a basic supply of colouring pens and pencils, glue and scissors.   Because space was limited, we shared one set of pencils and felt-tipped pens between us.  Give each child their own zip envelope for collections of ticket stubs, pamphlets and odd finds.  When they have a moment to sit and think later, encourage each child to journal their wonderful memories of their outings in their journals.  Encourage younger children to dictate their thoughts to mom or dad.  My teens are tickled when they read their childhood journals years later!

How did you use the Footprints Map?  Our Footprints map became our lasting visual memory of our travels and experiences.  I pasted all the story book discs, as well as photos of friends and places we visited, in their geographical positions as we travelled.  We charted our travels in different coloured pens around South Africa and the map gradually become full.  I wrote each child’s review and evaluations of their Footprints experience at the top of the map.   I then had the whole map laminated at a printer shop to preserve our memories. Footprints On Our Land was a perfect fit for our family because we could homeschool all three children on the same curriculum at that particular stage of our homeschooling.

Footprints’ living books are marvelous, and the literature-based lessons are so beautifully interwoven in a rich, wide, yet flexible program.  Footprints is full of South African history, culture, nature and geography, and offers a hundred platforms for outings, excursions, museum trips, exploration and real hands-on experiences.

I wish any Footprints family every blessing as they make their own footprints on our land!

Read Alouds Solve A Lot!

We all have seasons of tough times in our homeschooling.  Read alouds solve almost everything!

If your homeschool days are in the doldrums, start a new read aloud.

If your kids are sick, just read aloud to them.  Find something special they will simply enjoy.

If your days are filled with interruptions, find a moment and read aloud together.

If you are stressed, don’t sweat the small stuff.  Just cuddle together and read aloud.

If you have lost hope in your homeschooling, start afresh and read aloud to your kiddies.

If your child is finding school work too difficult and wants to give up, let him find refreshment and hope in a good read aloud.

It is the glue that holds homeschool together.

You’ll be amazed what reading aloud accomplishes –

  • Amazing learning!  Kids learn and pick up so much through living books.  Themes, topics, facts, ideas and character qualities become life-long lessons. They will learn about great minds, great thoughts and good morals and values.  They will often live it out, act it out, and try it out.  No textbook can ever hope to inspire what great books can inspire!
  • Increased vocabulary – Children love learning new words, and listening to read alouds enlarges their vocabulary, especially with toddlers!  Because new words are heard  in context (in sentences with clues to their meaning), children can express and pronounce new words correctly, fully understanding its meaning.
  • Unity – Nothing brings a family together quite like listening to a great book.  The story brings everyone together and takes them on a journey of exploration, discovery and delight. If your family have ever listened to a radio drama or audio book in the car on a long journey, it is the same experience!
  • Humour – When your homeschooling seems to have hit a wall, start a Roald Dahl or some other funny book .  Nothing revives dulled and dreary souls more that some good laughs!  It will bring the spark back to your family time!  Humour learnt from our read aloud books became an underlying comedy line in our family’s humor.  My kids still quote funny lines from books I read to them when they were young.  And my children, now young adults, still giggle and tease me for my ridiculous Italian and deep Southern American and Spanish accents I used when reading aloud!
  • Continuity – Pick up the story where you left off last, maybe review the last moments,  read on, and the journey continues.  Despite disruptions, delays and interruptions, read alouds hold homeschooling on track.  Even if your children don’t do any seat work (3R’s such as Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) for days, even weeks, they will not fall behind.  If you continue to just read aloud to them they will learn.  I promise that this is true.  I have proved it over and over during my 20+ years of homeschooling.
  • 3rd voice – A read aloud acts as a 3rd party and helps parents “speak” with their children about difficult topics and themes.  This is especially helpful with teens.  A book presents ideas which both the child and parent can talk about without feeling trapped or shy.  Books about purity, modesty, money matters, personal hygiene, logic and reasoning, divorce, death, faith, dangers of social media, etc. deal with tricky issues in an open and non-threatening way.
  • Writing excellence – I have never ever taught my children creative writing lessons, but, through living books and great literature, they have all become incredibly gifted writers.  They imitate what they are regularly exposed to and develop a keen idea of how to write well.  They have a discernment for what is “schlocky” or “trashy” books, and what is good.  I have spoilt my children for cheap, rubbish paperback books for ever!
  • Oral narrations work – If you read aloud to your children and ask them to listen carefully and narrate (tell you back in their own words) what they have just heard, they will make it their own in ways that defy memorizing facts, or learning dry, dull information.  A child who thinks about what she has heard and understood, should express those ideas clearly and simply.  Older children should aim to remember at least 8 things from the reading and try express them in as similar a style as the author penned them.  This is advanced learning that requires focussed attention, massive mental connections and personal interpretation.  It is not easy!  It doesn’t matter if you have “nothing to show” for lessons narrated orally.  Your children will learn well!
  • Keep going – read alouds are for young adults too!  Don’t stop when your kids become teens!  We still read aloud, often at the dinner table, or when we are sewing and doing arts and crafts.  Expand the types of books to read aloud and cover a diverse range of books and topics.
  • Ongoing – Children who enjoy read alouds learn to love books and often develop into bookworms!  Homeschool children who have continuous exposure to books learn to love to read,  and they will keep reading for pleasure and information long into their adult lives.
  • Make it special – Read aloud time is a special time!  We looked forward to joining each other on a cuddly couch after all the seat work was done.  We would gather in a sunny spot with hot chocolate or mug of tea and cookies in winter, or lie in the shade under a tree on hot days with some bubbly water for our read aloud time.  We all had a sense of relief for this time together.  There was no sense of pressure or strain.  Young toddlers are welcome to play quietly nearby, absorbing the story and being part of the learning moments.  Even Dad coming into the house for a tea break, or my young adult daughter, long since graduated, sometimes joined us because our read aloud time was so intimate, and so wonderful.

Start with the easy stuff = read alouds.  Cait at My Little Poppies  shares why you should start your day with the easiest thing.   Begin your day reading aloud and you will accomplish much and solve everything … well, almost everything!

Blessings, Nadene

Artworks inspired by great literature which we sketched and painted .