Nativity Play updated

Back in 2012, my daughter Lara and I created a Nativity puppet show. This year I have updated it to share with you as a wonderful family activity for the festive season.

We created rod & wire puppets, but simple hand puppets would work just as well. There are animals, props and backdrops patterns, templates, instructions and suggestions. The script is written in rhyming couplets so that it is easier for young children to memorize. A parent or older child who is good at reading aloud acts as narrator.

This free download includes:

  • Welcome to this Nativity Play
  • How to perform using your puppets
  • Some simple hand puppet tips and ideas
  • Animals
  • Props
  • Stage setup
  • How to make your puppets
  • Ideas for backdrops
  • Scene 1:  Outside a stable
  • Scene 2: Outside night time on a hill
  • Scene 3:   In King Herod’s Palace
  • Scene 4:   In the Stable

Our hand puppets have been enormously popular and have lasted for years!

We recycled them for other plays such as our Esther Play for Purim.

You can read about all our other puppets here – Narrations 103 -Puppets

Here is your free download ~

Enjoy and be blessed!

Nadene

Jesse Tree and Advent Activities

Over all our years of homeschooling, we have celebrated advent with a variety of Christmas Jesse Tree and Advent activities. As December approaches, why don’t you include this beautiful daily reflection of Christ revealed from Genesis to Revelation with your own Jesse Tree devotional? Here is a list of suggested activities and links ~

Homeschool moments
  • We constructed our own chicken wire Jesse Tree curved to form a tall narrow cone and decorated it with free downloads from around the Internet. Or you could make a simple cardboard cut-out Homemade Jesse Tree by This Simple Home, or simply decorate your own Christmas tree with these meaningful symbols.
  • We created small Jesse Tree discs made with baker’s clay & painted them. Another year we used cardstock and illustrated and painted our discs and covered them with clear packaging tape to protect them.  Then my daughter sewed all the discs together by running them through the sewing machine to join them into a lovely long bunting.  We draped this bunting around the tree. Some moms sewed their Jesse Tree discs using felt (see link below).
Homeschool moments1
  • We painted the Names of Jesus Ornaments downloaded free from Bible Story Printables.com with bright, bold colours.  (You can print out the coloured version, but I wanted to save on printing ink.)  These discs are larger than the small Jesse Tree discs and fill in much of the wire tree space.
  • We made Names of Jesus strips which my youngest stapled into paper rings and interlinked them to make a lovely paper chain to decorate our Advent table.
  • I downloaded our Jesse Tree ornaments from Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift download.  We coloured some elements of each picture in with silver and gold pens and protected the pictures with clear tape.  We used thin florist wire pieces to twist through a tiny hole pierced in our decorations and hooked them simply over the tree’s wires as we follow our Jesse Tree Advent story. 

Here are free Jesse Tree ideas and Advent resources ~

  1. Easy Fun School has a lovely free advent devotional and Jesse Tree unit study lesson plan, and here’s an expanded version
  2. Beautiful felt Jesse Tree Ornaments from Mandy Pelton’s blog Everything Beautiful
  3. Teachers Pay Teachers.com (log in required) – Advent Liturgy Jesse Tree 
  4. Simple Jesse Tree Ornaments Tutorial  at Keeping Life Creative.com
  5. Jesse Tree Advent Study by Confessions of a Homeschooler
  6. Jesse Tree ornaments free for Life Your Way readers from Printables Your Way.net
  7. Jesse Tree Ornaments from Grand Story Ornaments 

Hope this inspires you if you are looking for Jesse Tree and Advent activities.

Blessings, Nadene

Ending The Year Well

This year is fast rushing to a close … Christmas goodies are already filling the shops and December summer holidays seem just around the corner.

It is also the time of the year when we conclude and congratulate ourselves for the work we have covered during our school year.

As I revisit this post from my archives, may I offer some ideas to finish your year well?

We don’t always actually “finish” the curriculum each year because we stretch our curriculum over 2 years.  When we declare official school work closed for the year, it is good to find closure and create some fun activities to enjoy during their holidays.

Here are some of our end-of-year activities:
(not in any particular order … just some of the many ideas that sprang to mind …)

  • Finish any year-long hands-on projects.
  • Go on outings or field trips.
  • Catch up and finish any read alouds.
  • Do all outstanding Science experiments.
  • Prepare an exhibition of their work and invite family or close friends to see their work.  Children love to explain what they did or present their projects and art work!
  • Join other homeschool families or co-ops for an end-of-year party or activity.
  • Hold a ‘graduation’ party.  Young children, even teens, love to receive a certificate!  Sonlight builds this aspect into their curriculums.
  • We love to make Christmas gifts.
  • Listen to the year’s music highlights on a special playlist.
  • Watch a historical movie covering the time of your studies.
  • Create and act out a play or puppet show for a real audience.
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Some administrative activities:

  • My youngest loves to hang mobiles!
  • Prepare their new notebook files and stationary.
  • Refresh the Theme of the Day poster.
  • File away the year’s work and store art and craft projects.
  • Review and look through the whole year’s work.  I ask my children to comment, select, highlight and rejoice over work they have done and accomplished.  I ask these basic questions:
    1. What was your favourite activity/ theme/ or topic?  Why?
    2. Show me your top 5 favourite books – read alouds or readers.
    3. What did you least enjoy?  Why?
  • I spend these weeks planning, printing and preparing the children’s school work for the new year.  (It is an exciting time , yet slightly scary time for me.  Every. Year.  Even after  +18 years of homeschooling, I’m not always sure what will work, how long it will take and if we will enjoy it.)

Remember that homeschooling is a long journey, and just as travellers love to show their photos and review their trips, an end-of-year program is a wonderful way to rejoice in all the accomplishments and ease into the new year with enthusiasm and motivation.

Blessings in your homeschooling journey!

May you find much grace and rest in this festive season, Nadene

Voortrekker Ox Wagon Paper Model

Here is my 3D paper model of Voortrekkers and ox wagon, the latest paper model in my series of historical African culture and heritage hands-on activities.

This download includes a Voortrekker family, an ox wagon, a team of yoked oxen and Africans with a mountain pass background triorama. Colouring in, cutting out and creating these 3D paper models are wonderful hands-on activities while mom reads aloud. This paper model is fairly fiddly and young children may need some assistance.  Encourage your children to interact and act out the Voortrekker stories with their paper models.  It is  a wonderful way for History to come alive!  This paper model is a perfect fit for the Footprints in Our Land, our South African, literature-based Social Studies curriculums.

Some historical background:

The Voortrekkers were Dutch-speaking colonists living in the Cape under the British-run colonial administration of southern Africa and who migrated away from the British colony in large groups from 1836 in a movement called The Great Trek.

The traditional Voortrekker wagon was called “kakebeenwoens” because they resembled the jawbone of an animal. These wagons carried essential household goods, clothes, bedding, furniture, agricultural implements, fruit trees and weapons. These wagons negotiated the veld, narrow ravines, and steep precipices of the Drakensberg mountains with their livestock and family walking alongside.  When the travellers reached the end of their day’s journey, they set up their laager ‘wagon fort’ camps in an area which had water & suitable grazing for the oxen and horses.

You can order my Voortrekker ox wagon paper model download on my Order Packages page. You can find all my African houses paper models in the series —

I would love to share a freebie with you. Each paper model comes with a triorama background. A triorama forms a wonderful 3D pyramid shape with a base. It requires just 2 folds and snip to make, so it’s very simple, but looks dramatic!

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your download. Thank you for your support.

Blessings, Nadene

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Struggles with Maths?

Maths may be a difficult subject for many children and a source of fear for many homeschooling parents.

As a child, I was terrified of Maths and I failed miserably all through high school and needed extra classes with a maths tutor to pass my Matric exams. When I was a student teacher on my 2nd teaching practice, I was given Grade 7 Maths classes to teach. I was appalled. In order to adequately prepare, and so that I wouldn’t be caught out by any student’s questions, I covered the topic using every textbook I could lay my hands on. And you know what? I discovered that I was an outstanding Maths teacher!!! I knew how to approach the concepts from many perspectives and I had a slew of different examples to practice and demonstrate with my learners. I made the lessons fun and relatable. My students enjoyed their lessons and mastered their maths.

So, with this experience, I homeschooled and tutored my daughters’ Maths lessons all the way to graduation. When fear is taken out of the picture, Maths is fairly simple. Maths concepts and applications are straightforward, simple and logical. If you can find the right “fit” for your child in the pace and application, you will be able to help them conquer their Maths battles. I describe 12 successful Maths principles I used in What Works – Maths.

Here are 5 R’s to help when you or your child are struggling with Maths lessons ~

  1. Review
  2. Repeat
  3. Replace
  4. Restart
  5. Refuse

Review Usually struggles in Maths lessons occur when your child has not fully understood a concept. Revise, re-visit, and review the concept. Make sure that your child understands the basic Maths concepts and principles. If there is any hesitation, doubt, or uncertainty, repeat the Maths principle with physical objects, Maths manipulatives, other examples, or relatable applications. Practice previous examples and lessons. Practice is vital before moving on.

Repeat Similar to review, repeat practice lessons using other examples until the Maths concept “clicks”. You may need to look for additional textbooks, worksheets or online lessons to repeat the concepts until your child fully understands and successfully applies the concepts. Take your time! Rushing on will only make the fear and uncertainty worse.

Replace Find alternatives that may be better suited to your child’s learning style. Replace your textbook or practice the Maths lessons with a different book or with online lessons such as Khan Academy. Every author and publication has a unique approach, style, pace and application. You can use a combination of different books and lessons. Don’t feel bad if the Maths curriculum you initially purchased doesn’t meet your child’s requirements. Tailor-make your children’s education and find something else instead.

Restart Start again with the basics. Leave the books and worksheets aside for a few days or weeks and focus on fun activities such as skip counting, multiplication and addition. I discovered that Mental Maths worksheets, drills, songs, card games, manipulatives and activities helped with my children’s speed and confidence. Once these basics are re-established, start again and your child may find the Maths work much easier. This will boost his confidence which will help him conquer his fears.

Refuse Do you need to refuse to teach your child Maths? May I encourage you to consider a Maths tutor when your relationship with your child is harmed by the tension and struggles over Maths lessons? Maybe Dad, a high school student, a kind neighbour or a co-op mom can help teach your child without all the interpersonal battles. Often a 3rd party person doesn’t receive the backlash and resistance and refusal that a child gives a parent. May I also add that a high school child can choose to do Maths Literacy instead of Pure Mathematics? Maths Literacy goes beyond academic focus and aims to give students basic Mathematics skills they can use and apply in their everyday lives. Just check with your high schooler’s career options and tertiary education requirements first.

Maths struggles have a way of getting right in and messing with our souls! Please, please, please … be compassionate to yourself and your child during this phase. Gently put the “offending” book on your bookshelf and offer yourselves time to consider what will work. It is tough to be gracious to yourself and others when you are afraid or offended. Grace for grace. Pray for guidance and grace.

You can find all my Maths freebies here. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or or write to me on the contact form on my About & Contact page.

Blessings, Nadene

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Create a “No-fail” Unit study

Recently Hannah Savage shared her “no-fail” Viking unity study on Instagram. She wisely shared,

“When I see my job through the lens of laying a feast without tying my success to an idealized outcome, I free up my heart to enjoy the unit with them for however long it lasts and whatever it ends up looking like. My “low stakes” approach feels like a friendly invitation to them rather than a tight-knuckled force feeding. It’s an awareness many (many) fumbles in this homeschool life have taught me.”

@hannahsavagewrites

Lovely, right? It sounds like my recommendation to offer a learning buffet and allow your children to choose what they want from a delightful array of books, projects and options.

Among all her wonderful resources she found for her unit study, she linked to my free Viking Paper Men and Dolls.

If you looking for a wide variety of ideas for your children to express their learning, I have created a Narrations Ideas Booklet filled with over 100 creative project optionsalternative suggestions, practical tips and templates for every age and learning style. You can order your booklet on my Packages page.

May Hannah’s “no-fail” unit study approach inspire you to be brave and creative and curate your own “no-fail” unit study on themes or topics your children are passionate about!

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

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Faith mingled with Failure

  • Are you a Christian parent homeschooling your children with an emphasis on developing their faith?
  • Are you teaching your young children about Jesus with a confident hope and expectation that they will come to faith?
  • Are you a Christian parent with a teen that has chosen to resist, refuse, rebel against your Christian values?
  • Are any of your children in a place of compromise, delaying to make their decision to follow Christ?
  • Have you parented as a Christian full of faith, but serve a prodigal child, teen or young adult?
  • Do you need encouragement to parent and homeschool the Gospel message in your home into a faith-reality?

Join Wendy and Shirley of Footprints On Our Land, and Linda and myself, four veteran homeschool moms, encouraging you to homeschool with confidence in our next livestream ~ www.quicket.co.za/events/147771-christian-homeschooling

If you missed this webinar, please email Wendy Young at gaviny@mweb.co.za to obtain the details to pay for the link to the recording.

We are all moms who have precious messages carved into the clay of our lives; our parenting has been sown in tears, watered with repentance, lifted to the Lord for mercy, offered in surrender and expressed with sorrow and joy mixed together.  And the comfort we received, we now would love to share to comfort others.

If you are a Christian parent and you see homeschooling as an extension of your parenting, then this livestream is for you. We are taking an atypical approach by sharing the real side of parenting children who struggle with their sin natures and how we can shepherd them to the Cross where they can make their choice.

Book your ticket at Quicket, and if you cannot make it on the night, you will still get access to the recording.

Blessings and grace, Nadene

The Power of a Reset

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

How to reset?

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

Here some ways to reset the moment:

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

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

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

Lauren ~ The Simple Homeschooler

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

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

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

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

Please comment and share how you reset your days.

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

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3 Things To Keep In Mind

Recently Wendy and Shirley shared on their Footprints Instagram page 3 things to keep in mind if you are concerned about your child’s learning progress ~

These are the questions from concerned parents that often come up ~

• How do I know that my child is not behind?
• What if my curriculum has gaps?
• My (mom/aunt/husband) says my children should be (reading/doing division etc.) by now?

Here are Wendy & Shirley’s 3 things to keep in mind:

1. Comparing your homeschooling with the school system is counter-productive. You are not in that system.
2. You are giving your children a customized education.
3. You are neither behind nor ahead because you are not on the same path!

@footprintsonourland

I would like to share my encouragement to parents who may also be asking these questions —

  1. The school system versus homeschool:

Homeschooling offers parents the freedom to follow each child’s pace and interest which no school system can effectively do. For the average child in school, this may not seem to matter, but any gifted or struggling child will probably “fall through the cracks” of the system.

In most schools, classes are large and the student-to-teacher ratios are about 1:37 for primary schools. Very few classes offer any differentiation or remedial help, and so all learners are expected to meet the same results with the “cookie-cutter” approach. Children who struggle or who are bored often are labelled and this can be damaging to their self image.

As a professional senior primary school teacher with 10 years of teaching experience, there were many years where we could not complete everything on our year plans. There are always gaps because you cannot teach “everything”. There is no perfect or complete curriculum that can provide exactly what every child in the class requires. Remember that children in a classroom are not all ready to learn all at the same time.

Teachers are constantly under pressure to perform and they stress to try catch up, push struggling children through, try to force learning, teach their students for tests and exams rather than to ignite a love to learn and stimulate a child’s natural curiosity. Teachers are compelled to do tests and exams to establish each child’s measured ability. They are expected to evaluate a child’s understanding based on these academic standards.

2. A customized tailor-made education:

The simplest homeschooling, where the parent is mindful of each child’s age, stage and ability, will offer a far more effective education, no matter what exact curriculum they follow, than any professional school teacher can give your child. You are able to tailor-make each child’s curriculum, perfectly suited to their learning style and interest. Parents do not need to tests or do exams because you are one-on-one with your child and can almost instantly assess your child’s progress and mastery.

For new homeschool parents I would recommend you follow a good, practical Maths program and use a suitable phonics program for each child. For the rest, Living books and child-lead interest research will provide rest of the subjects such as Bible study, History, Geography, Social Studies, Biology and Science.

3. You are on your own path:

Every family has its own unique flavour and ethos. Please don’t underestimate the power of reading aloud to your children. Spend quality time talking together about life, issues and experiences! Your children will enjoy a wide, rich and meaningful education.

I pray that you homeschool your children with peace of mind. May you rest in the knowledge that you are providing the best for your family, however unique it may appear.

Blessings, Nadene

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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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