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 .

Best Homeschooling Decision #1 More Time

Take. More. Time.  This is the best advice I would give any new homeschool mom.   Don’t rush through your homeschool curriculum!  You don’t have to stick to the schedule.  Use the schedule as your guideline, and add a wide margin of extra time to your schedule.

Extend any curriculum by 3 to 6 months.  Or simply add an extra week to each interesting topic or theme.  Give yourselves this time to include extra activities, outings, games, books, projects, lapbooks or experiences to your suggested program.  You are looking for your children’s spark of interest or delight and that is where you invest in extra time.  https://i1.wp.com/www.phtravelexpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cebu-City-3-Day-Itinerary2.png

Imagine going on an overseas tour and rushing through because someone else planned the itinerary? It is awful to rush past a city or scenic stop or not have time to shop for bargains because the tour bus is leaving! You are your children’s tour director. Give them more time to explore and enjoy their experiences.

Imagine joining a banquet dinner and the Master of Ceremonies rushes everyone through their courses?  No time to chat and enjoy the food. No time to sip and savour the delicious tastes?  No time to marvel at new foods and combinations? No second helpings? You’d end up with indigestion, right?  So why do we do this to our young homeschooled children?

Just because an educational professional decided how long each chapter or lesson should take, does not mean that is your only option.

18 months. That’s my magic formula instead of 1 year.  We have always kept to a 4-day school week and yet we have never “fallen behind”.  I have never regretted extending a curriculum … ever.    I have used and re-used each curriculum enjoying a slow, enjoyable experience rather than rush and race to keep up with the schedule.

Don’t worry if some subjects slide slightly out of sync.  Simply take a week to catch up with any subject or reading that has fallen behind.

You are the tour director for your homeschool journey.  Tailor make their experience and enjoy every minute!

Blessings, Nadene

Do a little at a time

Don’t try do it all!  It is impossible and it shouldn’t be your goal.  Throughout our homeschooling journey, we have usually taken a few hours each day and only do a 4-day week, and yet we have managed to have a rich, deep and wide education all the way through to graduation.  

Keep your basic lessons short and sweet.  (I’m talking about the 3 R’s ~ Phonics, Handwriting and Maths.)  No lesson should take longer than 20 minutes for primary school children.

Once you master the basics of your curriculum, just aim to do a little bit extra.  I even added “after lunch” so that it was perceived as an extra.  (My children often fitted in this lesson before lunch so that they could enjoy a “free afternoon”.)

My theme of the day saved me from feeling that the complete schedule was too much.

Daily themes 2015

Instead , by allocating one “extra” subject per day, it felt like just a little add-on for that day. With this approach, we enjoyed a wide, varied and rich curriculum.

Don’t underestimate the power of short, informal lessons.  It is amazing just how much children learn and absorb in frequent, enjoyable exposure to all the extra subjects such as Poetry, Nature Walks, Science, Geography and Fine Arts.

It can all be done, most the time. Just do a little at a time.

Blessings, Nadene

Changes I wish I could make

Thinking back over more than 20 years of homeschooling with my daughters, these are some changes I wish I could have made sooner ~

  1. Take off the teacher’s hat.

Def.: have your teacher’s hat on

to be acting as you do when you are working as a teacher, lawyer etc., which may be different from the way you act in other situations.

ea55a13213221ebd3de36dfd7a9c4003Your professional skill as a teacher does not actually help you in those early years of homeschooling,  In fact that “school-at-home” approach kills your young children’s natural built-in joy and delight to learn.  Learn to learn alongside your kiddies and aim to be their facilitator instead.  Let them lead the way and make many more choices!

2.  Not everything needs to educational! 

Every outing doesn’t have to be a homeschool lesson. It’s okay to let life happen without a lesson plan, a notebooking page, or oral narration.  Stop focusing on end results and enjoy life’s journey together.  You will kill nature study, hymn, art and music appreciation if you make it a formal lesson.  Your teens will refuse to go into any museum!  Just trust that a regular yet informal approach will yield enormous results.

4-mother-and-child-in-a-boat-mothers-children-mary-cassatt-360x3603.  Avoid the tears!

When lessons produce tears, meltdowns, even tantrums, leave it alone.  Stop and put it aside or try something different. Tears often have a root of fear.  Find ways to reassure your child and encourage them to try a different way.  Make allowances for tired or sick or stressed children (or mom) and take the pressure off.   Just read aloud, go on a nature walk (but do not make it a formal lesson, see #2) or create art together.  Determine if your child is just not ready and try again in a few months time.  Unschool or deschool if your child has just come out of the school system and fears or hates school.  Offer a variety of opportunities to find their spark and gently encourage them to explore what interests them.

4. Be affectionate.

If your children are super sensitive, insecure or uncertain, give them more cuddles.  Even when you feel like you are wasting time and getting nothing done, just keep hugging.  Cuddle together when you read to them.  Sing together, skip together, get down in the dirt together, lie under the tree together.  (My youngest daughter often told people her favourite part of homeschooling was that she got lots of cuddles.)   Schools and systems don’t allow this physical affection at all.  Even your distant, independent teen needs hugs, or back rubs and time alone with you.  Aim to create a loving environment for your children to grow up and blossom in.

5. Relax and trust.

Just relax.  Your children will turn out great.  Enjoy each moment. Lean into their homeschooling experience without holding your breath, waiting for something to go wrong or trying hard to “do everything right”.  Let me repeat ~ your kids are all going to turn out great. Not just okay, but great.  Breathe … release those fears.  Trust.  Despite your best and worst efforts, they will be great!

mary_cassatt_mrs_cassatt_reading_to_grandchildren_postcard-r2e5db6cb5603484b8186d407360f7508_vgbaq_8byvr_324When we know better, we do better. 

I always tell my children and myself that we can always try again and start over.  When one of us has hit a wall or struggled or things don’t work out, I tell them that we can wipe out the day, like a whiteboard, and try afresh the next day.

The Lord makes all things new.  With this hope, forgive yourself, let it go and choose to do it differently.

What do you wish you had done differently?  What do you wish you could change?   Please share with us in the comments.

In Grace, Nadene

Images of one of my favourite impressionist artists — Mary Cassat

Head Hands Heart for teens

head-heart-hands-conceptLooking for balance while homeschooling your teen through high school?
A balanced view would be to find subjects, skills and activities that inspire, feed and grow your child in Head, Hands and Heart

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”  

-Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

We should look for ways that encourage our teens to grow in every area instead of simply focusing on academics.  But since academics are what most parents consider most important, let’s start here ~ Head.

Here are some questions you and your teen should consider:

  • What does your state/ country require for highschool graduation?
  • What further study/ career does your teen intend to follow after school?
  • What are their aptitudes?  (Do online tests to find out.)
  • What curriculums/ courses/ credits are available for your teen?
  • What are their learning styles?
  • Do they prefer online studies/ tutors/ peer study groups/ working alone?

Once you have answered most of these questions, you will then need to fine-tune your teen’s high school course, and select the subjects, course material and accreditation methods that best meet your child’s preferences, as well as your state’s/ country’s requirements.

May I suggest that school academics should not overshadow your homeschooling approach.  Please leave large margins around your teen’s schedule and give them space, options and encouragement to also follow their own interests and passions, such as investigating other career options, to read a wide variety of books, or delve into interest-led subjects besides those the state or country may emphasise.  Aim to provide living books that feed their mind and soul, in Charlotte Mason style, instead of sticking to “safe”, but dry, fact-based textbooks.

Now, let’s discuss Hands ~ 

We should aim  to educate our teens in lifestyle and life skills.  All teens should manage to work with their hands, make things, create art, fix and repair things, work safely and effectively with tools and equipment.  Give them opportunities to learn and master life skills from simple chores, to running a household.  Teach them how to do their own washing, ironing, plan and cook meals, as well as baking, sewing, mending, also cover basic car mechanics, etc.  Teach them how to use power tools such as drills, saws, etc.  Include your teens in DIY projects.  Include charities and missions or service to others in some of these hands-on skills, such as mowing lawns, washing windows or servicing cars for neighbours, single moms or the elderly.   Many teens can earn extra pocket-money with these skills.  And who knows, they may even build an entrepreneur business out of this skill-set!

Allow them creatively experiment with arts and crafts, use new mediums, use different materials, copy masters.  Encourage your children to build things, from Lego robotics, to building a treehouse for a sibling.  Again, offer your teen a variety of opportunities to grow and develop themselves outside of “head-stuff” in books, tests and exam results.

Lastly, let’s talk about Hearts ~

Homeschooling your teen is a ministry to their whole person; body, soul and spirit.  Many schools and parents focus heavily on “thinking” and “doing”, but don’t concentrate on who the teenager is “becoming.”  Engage in your teen’s heart.  Build their faith, encourage their prayer life, secure their knowledge of their basic doctrines and allow them to discover and develop their unique calling, gifting and ministry in life.  Again, provide a margin of time in their schedule to attend youth groups,go on church camps, outings, join ministries, support missionaries, go on outreaches, be involved in worship teams, lead children’s groups, and so on, if possible.  Encourage your teen to watch faith-building movies and read inspiring books.  Inspire a relationship with them that allows you to hear their spiritual views, thoughts and hopes.

Homeschooling allows you to tailor-make your child’s education, and I suggest that you and your teen collaborate when planning their high school journey.  And after early years of delight-directed, happy homeschooling, don’t choose a path that is dull, dry or dead just to “graduate”.  Aim for balance.

What aspects do you recommend?  How do you manage to include a balanced, wholesome approach to your highschool homeschooling?  Please share with us in the comments.

In Grace, Nadene

Rich Wide Education

Charlotte Mason advocated giving children a rich, wide curriculum.

Sewing and handicrafts in the afternoons

This generous curriculum can only realistically be covered by keeping lessons short.   I call it “short and sweet“, where these 10 to 20 minute lessons encourage a child to give her utmost attention, especially with subjects, such as maths, phonics, handwriting, spelling and grammar.

To keep the daily schedule enjoyable, alternate disciplinary lessons with Bible, poetry, history, fiction, art, folksong, outdoor nature study, chores and life skills like cooking.  This variety keeps a child’s minds bright and encourages enthusiastic and motivated participation.  Some children prefer to “get all the seat work done first” and then move onto the freedom of the rest of the subjects.  You may need to try each approach to find what works for your family.

It isn’t the number of subjects, but their duration that tires the mind.  What child wants to sit still and concentrate for long lessons?   Quick math drills every morning, practice spelling while jumping on a mini trampoline, or quick laminated chart handwriting practice, or play a quick round of the amazing arrow games, provides younger children the necessary stimulus and physical exercise, and a short review of the same facts before supper results in a better memory of facts and skills.

Memorizing Scripture (which is the living Word) or poetry (which opens the eyes of imagination) verse by verse takes just a few minutes every day. Scripture and poetry also provide deep and meaningful insights and enlarges the child’s heart and mind. They lessons are not dull, dry facts or tiresome workbooks, textbooks or worksheet lessons.

Daily themes 2015It is very easy to just “do the basics” and call it a day, but I found that the only way we could regularly cover all the diverse subjects was to use our “Theme of the Day“.  Allocate all these extra subjects across the weekly schedule, enabled us to maintain a full, rich, wide curriculum.

You don’t have to fear trying to “do it all”.  Just start with the basics, keep it short and sweet and do a little every day.  Ease into the rest of the schedule by adding one extra subject and you’ll be amazed how much your children will learn in a relatively easy, quick, daily schedule.  This way you will offer your children a banquet, but don’t rush them, while also avoiding “force feeding”.  A generous education is a homeschooler’s privilege and pleasure!

Blessings, Nadene

High School – Independence

My confidence as a homeschool mom has been challenged by each high schooler as we navigate their choices, attitudes, approaches and decisions for their final three years of their education.  May I share some of my experiences as I transition through this phase again with my youngest child?

Most teenagers automatically want to work more independently. The shift may be gradual, or sudden. Prepare for this change by gradually handing over subjects, work space and time schedules to your junior highschooler.

20161006_162441 You may find your teenager —

  • prefers working alone in their room.
  • works sitting cross-legged on a bed or lying down(!)  rather than sitting at a desk.
  • prefers to work late mornings or afternoons rather than starting early.
  • seeks out peer support rather than turning to mom or dad when facing struggles.
  • choses to work through the curriculum subject-by-subject rather than lessons across all the subjects.
  • needs to have music playing while doing schoolwork or chores.
  • is reluctant to pretend to be interested in some subjects and may refuse to do certain subjects.
  • wants their schoolwork to be relevant and real, rather than purely academic.  They still enjoy hands-on work, be it practical activities or Science experiments.
  • stays up later at night.
  • wants to work without help, advice or mom’s presence, even if they are uncertain or confused.
  • needs tutoring rather than teaching; coming for specific help with a topic or method rather than having the whole lesson explained.  I confess that I frustrate my daughters in covering and teaching too much!  They just need a little help and then want go back to working independently.  Obviously, if they are really stuck, then I insist on going through the work thoroughly.

20170209_111803Your homeschool role will shift to mainly facilitation, administration, accountability, advice and encouragement.

  • As your child approaches high school, you and your teen need to collaborate on what they want to study and how they prefer to study.
  • While some children know what their future hopes or career may be, others may need to do online aptitude tests to help determine their best options for career and purpose.  This is a stressful and uncertain period in a young teenager’s life.  These test results can help your child chose the best subjects and courses to graduate highschool with the credits needed to study further.
  • Depending on your child, you may need daily or weekly checks where you check their work, and assign new work, or sign off work.
  • Use a Google calendar where your teenager can sign in to their account to view their schedule, or use Homeschool Tracker or some other program where they can upload their assignments and log their work.  A good old-fashioned timetable or printed out schedule works just fine too!
  • Give your teenager time to work through different options, trying each out to find what works best for them.  My daughters all prefered to work with ring binders, but some subjects work best in hardcover books instead.  Some prefer to type and print their work on the computer, others prefer to work online.  Give them time to try and maybe change their minds in the first few weeks.  Then stick to the best option and make it work.
  • 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.
  • Prepare a school work and storage space in their chosen study spot.  You may need to find a storage box or basket, bookshelf and stylish table or desk that suits their style and their room.
  • Encourage your teen to make the work their own.  They should put their best into their work.
  • Add relevant extra subjects and skills to prepare them for life.  Cooking, learning to drive, washing & ironing, mending and sewing, fixing and repairing, accounting and budgets, volunteering, and working part-time jobs are all vital experiences at this stage.
  • Stay out of the way!  It is a time to learn to stand in the wings.  This has been hard for me and I have struggled feeling that I am not effective in my homeschooling and I not in control at times.

Our study/schoolroom is now a craft and creative space.  Our notice boards and educational posters are packed away and I hung up a pretty, decorative mobile instead of our educational ones.  Our current art is up and the relevant books are still on our bookshelves, but the room has “grown up”!

Moms, at this stage, you will have more time on your hands.  This is a perfect time to develop and grow yourself too!  You can include some creative hobbies, private work and new interests and goals to your days.  All too soon your teen will be independent and may leave the nest.  This is the season for you to prepare to be complete without your “homeschool mom” role.  As my last child enters this final stage of her homeschooling, I am aware of my days expanding to include things other than homeschool.  It is a new shift and change and it is good.

All in grace, Nadene