Sad Tears

Getting Real ~

My sorrow suddenly crept up on me and it caught me off guard. Warm tears filled my eyes as I gently laid my hands on top of the piles of books in the still open boxes.  I pack the half-used highschool curriculum away, and I quietly realize that I feel sad.

These books are a wonderful curriculum and had I tried every which way to make it work, but my youngest daughter just did not connect with the package. The unread books simply became a boulder I felt I was pushing up a mountain.

“Have you read this week’s literature yet?” I would ask each week, knowing she had not.

We fell behind the already stretched out schedule and I finally admitted that it just would not work. We simply would not do the rest of the books.  It didn’t help if I read aloud to her.  The spark just wasn’t there.

It is not the unfinished course that bothered me. This happens, and I have learnt that when you force learning, it doesn’t stick. A child may have some short-term information, but, with no internal connections, it quickly fades.

I felt sad because there were treasures lying unopened in the box. Beautiful books, deep spiritual books, precious testimonies, amazing autobiographies, wonderful character-forming non-fiction books. I was sad for all these lost opportunities.

Perhaps, as I did in my early years of homeschooling, I could have pushed and insisted and maintained a stricter control over my daughter, but I did not. Maturity and two decades of homeschool experience have presented me with a different approach. One that recognises that I am simply a facilitator and encourager. My role as an educator is not to shove, push, pull, cajole, demand, insist, force, fret, or manipulate my child in her learning journey.

So, I acknowledge my feelings as I sit and cry for a little while. Then I wipe my eyes, neatly stack the books, pull the lid on and label the box. And it’s done. The era is over, that season is finished. I sigh and exhale the disappointment. I breathe deeply and accept what is and move on.

Sad tears as a part of letting go.

Blessings, Nadene
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Work & Homeschool 7 – Independent Work

Concluding my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ independent Work 

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & 3. Take Messages  & 4. Office Hours5. Simple Systems & 6. Canned Responses.

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Independent work 

p1150787In the ideal world, children should eventually cease to need us to everything with them.  In fact, we should prepare our children to work more and more independently.

By junior high, your children will automatically begin to pull back and want to work in their own space and on their own.  But, for homeschool sanity, when working with more than one child, and especially when running a business or working from home, this is an essential component of successful homeschooling days.

Depending on your children’s ages and stages, it helps if you have some independent work for them to continue with if you have to attend to anything urgent. Here is a list of suggested activities for children to do more independently ~

  • Busy bags for toddlersImage result for bananagrams
  • An older sibling read aloud to the younger children
  • worksheets
  • workbooks
  • puzzles
  • online educational games
  • computer educational games
  • Scrabble
  • Bananagrams games
  • appropriate YouTube videos
  • Handicrafts
  • Cooking or baking
  • Sketch Tuesday or other art

Independent activities are very helpful for those unavoidable moments where you have to attend to work instead of teaching.  Just watch out that this is not the norm and that the children learn to quickly disappear to keep themselves busy whenever you are distracted.  It is far easier to keep them going than to stop and start again.

Some subjects should be fairly simple to ease towards independent work such as handwriting, copywork, spelling practice, mental math worksheets, or narrations.

It is important to work diligently and to still be able to celebrate life with family.  We all need to find the balance between work, school and family time.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 6 – Canned Responses

In my post, Work & Homeschool 5 Simple Systems, I wrote that I regularly use canned responses to quickly answer many of our business emails.

Here is a Gmail tutorial to help you set up some simple, basic components of your regular emails to help you save time ~

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & 3. Take Messages  & 4. Office Hours5. Simple Systems.

Image result for gmailFirst, create a signature 

  1. Open Gmail.  Click the cog-wheel at the top right corner of your Gmail page.
  2. Scroll down to Settings.
  3. Scroll down to Signature.
  4. In the signature box, type in your closing greeting, your name and I recommend you include your website address.  Highlight that web address and click the hyperlink symbol above the box to create a clickable link to your website.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes 

Here’s my personal signature:

Now to create canned responses You need to enable this feature in your Gmail settings first:

  1. Click the cog at the top right and select Settings.
  2. Select labs.
  3. Find the Canned Responses option and enable it.
  4. Click compose, and type in the message you’d like to save as a canned response.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings

Now you can start creating your canned responses.

How to create new canned responses:

  1. Click Compose to open a new email message.
  2. Delete your signature if it appears in the new message.  Your message box must be absolutely empty so that you only have the words of your new canned response in the message box.
  3. Write out the generic styled greeting or salutation, or write out the content, or copy and paste the paragraph or information for a specific response from an existing email or word document.  You can include tables, numbered lists and styled word.
  4. Click the arrow at the bottom right of the page. Select Canned Responses and select New canned response … 
  5. A pop-up box will ask for a name for your new canned response.  Give your new canned response a name – just a few keywords.  This name will appear as the subject of a new email if you have not typed in your own subject.
  6.  Check how it works by going back to your new message:  Delete everything in the message box.  Click the bottom arrow, select Canned response, scroll down and click the title you just created, and the canned message wording should pop up in your message.
  7. Go ahead and create other messages you often need, each time starting with an empty message box and saving each topic with its own title.  I have about 12 canned responses, some very detailed, some numbered, or some with several paragraphs, each covering topics that clients ask me at least once a week.
  8. Your signature will automatically appear under any canned response in your emails when you open a new email.

For example here’s a canned response for a general enquiry, all this with just one click:

Here’s another example of the regular emails I send once I have posted seeds.  I simply insert the client’s name, the full tracking number and the rest of the date:

And another example of a question I often have to answer:

You can insert as many canned responses to any email that you need.  If I have a client that needs several questions answered, I simply insert each answer from my list of canned responses.

You can overwrite a canned response.  If you need to change any canned response, simply follow the same steps and then scroll down the canned responses listed and find the title under Saved and it will pop up a prompt saying, This will overwrite a response.  Are you sure you want to proceed? Click Yes and the new response in your message will replace the one you previously saved.

You can also delete any canned response by repeating the steps above, and scroll to the title below the word Delete.  Follow the prompt and click Yes.

I know this may seem like cheating, but I always personalize my greetings and add specific sentences to special emails.  Generally, I have well-worded, correct, detailed email content waiting for me to simply add to an email and, with these canned responses, I save hours doing repetative admin every day.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 5 – Simple Systems

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Create Simple Systems

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & 3. Take Messages  & 4. Office Hours.

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Create Simple Systems 

You all know that I love practical plans and simple systems!  Here are a practical, simple business systems that have helped me work more efficiently ~

  • To quickly answer detailed emails, I created canned responses that cover almost every topic and question, so that I can take just a few minutes to reply to emails and personalize that reply. (I will give a tutorial on this in my next blog post.)
  • Image result for empty inboxI love an empty inbox and so I created several email folders and I immediately move new emails to these folders once I have read and answered them so that I can keep my inbox as empty as possible.  For me personally, there is nothing more draining than opening up Gmail and seeing long lists of emails in my inbox.  An empty inbox at the end of a day is very satisfying.  Obviously, there are some emails that remain in the inbox until an issue is addressed or processed, but generally, all the emails live in folders and not in my inbox.
  • I have very simple physical filing systems – a file with an index and plastic sleeves where I can store all slips and papers.
  • I keep a running client order list in the front of my diary/ order book. This helps me have a “bird’s-eye view” of orders, invoice numbers, clients that have paid or require follow-up emails, etc.  By the end of the year, I have the entire business summarised on just a few pages.  The date is the reference back to the diary page where all the details are noted, and the invoice number takes me back to the document on the computer.  It is so simple, yet so effective!
  •  I use coloured highlighters on my running list to keep track of payments, tracking number, special delivery notes etc..  At a glance, I can see everything!
  • I number our invoices by numbers first and names second: Year + sequential numbers + names; or Month+day +name+abbreviated titles, so that the saved documents are kept in numerical order.  I have set my computer files to read from the most recent to the last.  That way, new orders are always on top and easy to find.
  • I have pre-written invoice templates in MSWord where I can simply add the invoice number, client information and date at the top and the specific order information in the body.  I open the template,  Select all (Control +A), Copy all (Control +C), Open a new document (Control +N) and Paste the copy (Control +V) and in 4 clicks, I am ready to fill in the invoice.
  • Image result for dropbox logoI save everything to Dropbox.   This has saved all our business information when my laptop crashed a few years ago.  It is also a fabulous way for my hubby and me to work on the same documents from different computers or tablets or smartphones.
  • I created a very comprehensive business website and refer clients to the website rather than spend 2 hours talking through specific, detailed information.  Most new clients’ phone calls and email questions cover the same information, so I also include hyperlinks to the website in emails because the client can view the photos and detailed information there instead of having to write everything out.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 4 – Office Hours

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Keep Office Hours

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions & Take Messages.

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Keep Office HoursImage result for office hours

When I gave up my teaching job to stay home to look after our new baby, I ended up working for my hubby in his engineering firm.  Working for him became an area that caused a lot of conflict in our relationship, especially during our early married life.

While we were working hard to establish his new business, he expected me to do business all day and any time he needed at night.Image result for overtime  There always seemed to be work to catch up after hours when my hubby came home from work.  I became increasingly frustrated trying to be professional while breastfeeding at the office.  I hated the noise and engineering mess of my hubby’s workshop and eventually decided to work for him from home.  This was back in the 90’s where we only had a fax and a landline.   We had many miscommunications, many last-minute orders to process, and many late nights when I knew I had a baby who would still wake me a dozen times all night for feeds as well.  I was super-stressed!   On one particularly bad day, late at night, I think I resigned 5 times!

I decided that for the health of our relationship, the professionalism of our work and for the most important job in the world – to be a mommy to my baby, my hubby needed an admin or personal assistant, and so he hired a secretary.  She never worked after hours, and certainly never at 11pm at night!  I realized that there was a simple boundary in her work conditions = office hours!

Fast forward to our current business, and with some years of maturity and experience behind us, I decided that establish office hours to do our admin and especially to answer and make phone calls.   We have early morning meetings to confirm plans, make arrangements, delegate duties, confirm payments and orders, and to book appointments on our calendars.  As a married couple and business partners, this helps us remain in unity and to keep our business running smoothly.

Unless there is an emergency or something really special and vital, I do not work after 5pm or on weekends.  This “rule” protects our private and family time and gives me the much-needed break from constant work demands.

Image result for yesI believe that we have to know what our big YES is for this season in our lives.  Is it motherhood, homeschooling, keeping a home?  Is it a professional job?  When you know what your YES is for your life in this season of your life (the focus may shift and change), then you are better able to say NO to the rest.  You can say NO to taking phone calls during school time or during family meals.  You can take time off to be with your children, family, friends and church ministry separate from work.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 3 -Take Messages

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Take Messages

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool posts, pop over to read 1. Start Early &  2. Manage Interruptions.

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

The phone is a terrible interrupter!  I literally groan when the phone rings while I am busy tutoring a teen or working with a younger child.  I know how hard it is to get back into the focus of an activity or lesson.

Use voicemail or answering machines

Activate a simple voicemail or answering service on your phones and allow the machine or service provider to do the work of taking messages for you.  Answering machines are not that expensive.  In our early years, our answering machine was invaluable when we could not take calls.  We have sometimes lost potential clients who forget to leave their contact details or drop the call, but generally, if they are serious, they usually call again.

Teach kids to take messagesRelated image

Teach your children how to properly answer the phone and take good, clear messages.  My youngest daughter has always loved this job and is excellent at taking calls when I am busy.  This is a very valuable life skill!

If I take business calls in the morning, I often explain that I will process their queries or requests in the afternoon, unless it is an emergency.  I usually follow-up calls after lunch.

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 2 – Manage Interruptions

Continuing my series of short posts on Work & Homeschool,  here is another practical tip ~ Manage Interruptions

If you missed the previous Work & Homeschool post, pop over to read 1. Start Early

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Manage Interruptions

Interruptions cause the most stress and lack of productivity in almost every work environment.  Many homeschool moms write to tell me that this is one of their worst issues in their homeschooling.Image result for interruptions

In our early years of homeschool and work, I set up some simple boundaries for our family and friends.  Make sure that friends, neighbours, and close family recognise that you have a serious job during the mornings, i.e. homeschooling.  Explain that you will not be able to read social media, answer texts or take unscheduled social calls or visits during the mornings.  It also helps to mute notifications or put your cell phone on silent during school hours.

Image result for interruptionsIf your children know that you are very easily distracted, guess what?  They will be easily distracted.  Moms, we set the tone!

Commit yourself to an hour of homeschooling with no interruptions to get the basics covered.  Have a tea-break and quickly follow-up any urgent work issues, and then back to school.  Maintain the focus as a professional with your children and they will also learn to take their work commitments seriously.

In our business, we do occasionally have clients that come to our farm, but my husband deals with them during school hours.  Of course, I may quickly pop out to meet and greet them, but I generally do not host them while it is school time.  This was an important boundary for me, as I answer almost all the phone calls which are a terrible intrusion and interruption for me.  (I’ll share more about managing this issue in Part 3.)

Now and then, clients may visit where I am expected to assist with tea or coffee or keep a wife company while my hubby attends to the client, but even then, I politely explain that my children need me at the schoolroom.  If there are sales, I may have to stop to create invoices and complete some of the transaction, but I have independent work for my children during these times, which is really helpful.  (More on that in Part 6)

Image result for cellphone chargingWe live in the age of distractions!  Interruptions, social media notifications and media distractions are quite possibly the greatest threat to a focussed mind and a calm soul.  Our children are part of this generation who battle with short attention spans and significant restlessness.

My hubby is very strict about cell phones.  We have a NO PHONE during school time policy!  Our children have to dock their phones in our bedroom at 9pm at night and can only have their phones again after 2pm when schoolwork is done.  During the weekend they have fuller liberty with computers, cell phones and DVDs.  Somehow, we should, in our homeschooling and in our homes, be mindful about how to create a calm, focused and productive environment.

Here’s wishing you interruption-free homeschool days!  Be strong!

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Work & Homeschool 1-Start Early

I run our family business, the Lucerne Tree Farm,  while I homeschool, and it has been a stress and a juggle to do both at times.  Over the years I have found some simple methods that keep the day running smoothly and keep me fairly sane.

Here are a few practical tips in a series of short posts for homeschool moms who also work~

Start Early

There is nothing worse than starting the day late, feeling that you are behind, and chasing your tail all day!  I have found that the day actually starts the night before!  It helps to clear desks, pack away things, pack out things, and plan ahead the night before.  From the shiny, clean kitchen sink to my uncluttered desk, I love to meet the new day with a clean slate.

Image result for quiet time early in morning

Although our family start our day late by most farming standards, I always like to start the day early.  I make tea for the family and go somewhere peaceful for my quiet time. If I start my day with the Lord, I find that I am not running on empty and that I have the grace to face most of the challenges and demands of the day.

Me hand-milking Milly our Jersey cow.

I have farm chores to attend to.  I hand-milk our dairy cow, process the milk, feed my chickens, collect their eggs, and water the vegetable and herb gardens, etc.  My husband moves the livestock, prepares feed, moves electric fences for grazing management or starts his watering and irrigation for the day.  We are quite busy running around for the first hours after waking up!

I then come in and start my work on the business emails, orders and any administration that requires my attention before breakfast and before our school day starts.  My hubby and I often discuss business at the breakfast table.  It is good to have clarity and unity before the day really starts.

We only start homeschooling after breakfast and chores, well after 9am or 10am, and my teens sometimes start even later.  Over the years, I tried to force an earlier schedule, but this is our most natural family rhythm and it is far less stressful if we flow according to this later start.

Once schooling starts, it is hard for me to catch up with business work until after lunch, so I always feel more in control if I have tackled business first.

My afternoons are mostly quite free so I can do almost all the rest of my business, or work out in the vegetable and herb gardens, do my sketching or hobbies and other activities in this time.  By 5pm I usually stop all my computer work and hobbies to prepare dinner and then spend time with my hubby and family.  We always eat together and our family meals are a celebration and a social occasion.  We don’t have TV or cable, so we often head to bed early to read and talk.  I do my evening workouts and stretches and we generally go to sleep early.  It is a wonderful simple routine and a lovely lifestyle.

It is important to work diligently and to still be able to celebrate life with family.  We all need to find the balance between work, school and family time.   I encourage you to start early and have the upper hand in your day!

I hope that these practical tips help you.  If you need any more information or have helpful suggestions, please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool interesting for mom too?

Moms, you are a very important part of your homeschooling vision and you should love your homeschooling days just as much as your children.  We are all equal parts of the learning, and often plan our children’s education without considering your own part in the process. You have so much to contribute to an interest-led approach.

Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things writes a refreshingly different perspective on her homeschool planning in her post How my homeschool planning has changed this year and she writes how she includes herself in the plan.

Think about your curriculum, the schedule, the priorities, and the interests.  Instead of only considering what your child needs, why don’t you consider the following?  She asks, ~

  • What curriculums look interesting to me?
  • What would I like to learn this year?
  • What would bring me joy in our regular schedule and routines?
  • I know my son/ daughters’ special interests. What are mine? How can I incorporate them into our learning?

“What better way for my children to engage in our days’ homeschooling, than seeing their mom just as engaged, excited and involved in the learning?”

Most moms avoid a teaching style that drains them and often opt for safe, secure, predictable curriculums.  Many struggle against their natural energy rhythms, battling with boring approaches, tedious schedules or stressful expectations.  I hear from many moms who feel drained, guilty and stressed about their homeschooling.

Several years ago my youngest daughter and I experimented with silk painting! Here we are painting my scarf together

Take the time to consider your interests, the focus and style of lessons that you enjoy, and the grouping or individual time with your children. When are your energy levels low?  When do you need a little moment of peace and quiet?  Plan in a session of quiet reading or play so that you can regroup after more energized.

I very soon learnt that I loved literature-based education, loved reading aloud, enjoyed working with all my children together, loved hands-on activities, art and crafts … and guess what?  …that is exactly the kind of homeschooling we had.  I was energized after these activities.  My own creativity and joy bubbled over into my planning and lessons, and homeschool was a joy for many years.  Only when my daughters became teens did this change in favour of the curriculums, lessons presentation style and schedules they chose and needed to complete their final 3 years.  Still, all the 8 or 9 years before were a joy and a blessing!

Many years ago when we were all together in our schoolroom ~ one sewing, the others doing art and crafts. Some of our happiest homeschool days!

So, go ahead and plan in the subjects such as nature study, classical music, YouTube videos, outings, the extra subjects you want to include … just for you!  Plan your homeschool to intentionally include yourself as an active participant, and enjoy your homeschooling right alongside your children!

Blessings as you grow and learn on your homeschool journey!

Blessings, Nadene

Living Books Teach!

Many new homeschool parents think a Charlotte Mason’s approach to education seems too simple!  

Read a good book aloud.

Talk about what you have read.

Lesson learned.

This is a Charlotte Mason principle in a nutshell – Read from a living book, give a narration, and you have a wonderful, wholesome education.  Read my posts – Loving Living Books  and Learning through Living Books

So why do new homeschool parents still believe that they have to buy expensive, bell-and-whistles curriculums for their young kids?

They are afraid they won’t teach everything, or that their child won’t learn everything the should, or that they aren’t qualified.   But in truth, no professional curriculum guarantees complete success.  There will always be information gaps, but if you have taught your child to listen attentively while you read aloud to them, they will learn!

How does a baby learn?  From listening and speaking.  And so it is with a literature-based education. You really, really don’t need expensive teaching materials.  If you use literature as a powerful natural method, your children will learn.

While you read to your child from a good book, they listen to the words and learn and develop a wide, rich and mature vocabulary.  They listen to the story unfolding and learn how to structure sentences and develop a flow of connecting ideas, essential for writing skills.  They learn different styles of writing.  They learn how to create interest, describe observations in detail and will learn an amazing amount of information.

Telling back is very simple, yet complex, but it genuinely replaces the need for tests, quizzes or exams.  As you listen to your child narrate or read his narration, you will know immediately what your child knows and understands.

If your child is old enough, his written narrations will form his notes and provide ample evidence of his understanding, all the way to high school and beyond!  They will also develop the most amazing creative writing skills.

My older two daughters graduated from homeschool without ever taking a creative writing course, but they are both incredibly good writers because of the marvellous books that they read. Read the full post “Teach Creative Writing without Lessons“.

Sure, you may need a few workbooks for some subjects like Maths, but for almost every other subject, good books will serve for information, inspiration and motivation.

When your children all chorus, “Please read another chapter,” after you have finished the reading, you will experience the joy of the most wonderful, natural way of learning!

Trust Charlotte Mason’s method.  It truly works!  Please feel free to share your living books learning experiences in the comments.

Blessings, Nadene

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