Bookshelves Our Main Interior Design

We are a family that loves books and we have an enormous book collection.

My husband has an amazing collection of spiritual books; a library of carefully selected authors and titles.  Most my books are English literature and a classic literature collection.  Once we got married, we quickly ran out of shelving space in our first apartment.

As we progressed through parenting and homeschooling, our book collection grew dramatically.  In two of our following homes, we built bookshelves which covered entire walls from floor to ceiling in our studies!

Children’s literature, beautifully illustrated children’s storybooks, board books for toddlers, pop-up books, books with flaps or windows were always on lower shelves where young kids could easily sit and read.

We have always used the local library for most our extra reading material, but where possible, we have invested in our book collection!  During the year, I like to add titles to our online bookseller account wish lists.  I encourage you to buy books as gifts for each child’s birthday or Christmas and encourage your children to develop their own book collection.  Ask grandparents and family to contribute to your children’s library.

While Kindle and EBooks help reduce the need for shelf space and provide easy reading, there is nothing quite like a physical book.  The smell of the pages, the feel of the cover, the weight and page distribution add to the reading experience.

Image result for books under christmas treeRegardless of where your reading comes from, offer your children a variety of reading material; fiction and non-fiction books, biographies, well-written short stories, illustrated books, magazines, and even comics.  Living books are stories filled with detailed descriptions, well-crafted characters, covering amazing adventures, crisis, and courage.  Non-fiction books should not be boring!  These should be fact-filled books related to the author’s personal experiences that cover their travels, observations on geography, sciences, nature and discovery of all living creatures.

But more than shelves that house these precious books and decorate our home, our interior worlds have been dramatically influenced by reading. Good books have inspired, instructed, and, informed our minds and hearts. Books have led us deeper spiritually, and have wonderfully formed our a vision and cultivated a rich lifestyle.

I have said it many times, but if you JUST READ to your children, they will learn! discussions about the story, the settings, the character’s crisis or drama, lead to discoveries, to new ideas and knowledge, which all produce a rich education.

Books have given our children the space to imagine and invent, to dream and design lives that could be.

May you all discover new books wrapped up under your Christmas trees! Wishing you all a restful, grace-filled festive season!

Blessings, Nadene

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 .

Stimulating Story Time

Good children’s literature and read alouds are an essential component of a Charlotte Mason education.  Literature is foundational to learning language, building vocabulary, discovering the world and ideas and stimulating creative imaginations!

Reading aloud is a vital skill and here are some tips to making story time stimulating and fun ~

book-farmPictures Your child’s first books should have interesting illustrations.  Many children’s books have amazing artistic pictures which inspire children’s imaginations.  Non-fiction books need bright, clear photos or illustrations.  Don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy each illustration and use them to connect your child with the story.  Very young kids love to find things in detailed pictures. “Can you find the little yellow duck?”  “Where is the red bucket?”  “How many blue balls can you see?”  Older children enjoy copying illustrations they find inspiring.  I often encourage my young kids to illustrate their narrations.

indexSounds – When reading aloud to your children, you and your kids should try make sound effect noises for animals, machines, weather and simple things that may happen in the story such as knocking on a door.  Young children love to participate in the stories with all the sounds and actions.  Boys, especially seem genetically created to make sound effects, so use it to make your stories come alive!

Accents and voices – Be ridiculous and make funny voices and accents for different characters.  red-sails-to-capriMy teenagers and young adult children still smile when they remember my ridiculous Italian accent when I read “Red Sails to Capri” and my over-the-top American accent (we are South Africans, so this was unusual for us) when I read “Strawberry Girl“.  Even animal characters need their own voices.  Go ahead and dramatize the story with your voice — your kids will love it!

Tone and emotion – Ue your voice to create moods and convey feelings.  Read aloud and vary your voice for effect — soft and slow for scary sections,  high, excitied voice for a happy piece, or slow and low voice to convey someone who is sad or depressed.

Pause – Use a pause to create tension and encourage your child’s participation.  A young child will jump in with a prompt when the story is paused for a brief moment — “The three bears walked into the bedroom and saw …” pause … “Goldilocks!” I loved using cliffhangers, and my children would beg me to continue.  Isn’t this the true joy of learning through literature?

And if all else fails, invest in audiobooks.  Librivox provides free audiobooks, but check the version before downloading as some books are recorded with monotone voices and dreary pacing.

Encourage your children to read aloud to you with expression.

Wishing you many happy years of amazing reading aloud in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

Save

Save

Save

Hands-on Knots

Young children love hands-on activities!

I am re-using our Footprints on our Land curriculum with my 9-year old.

This is a fabulous,

literature-rich,

discover-history-through living-books,

read-aloud-cuddled-together-on-a-couch curriculum.

Every here and there in our stories, we delve off to investigate interesting topics.

Today we learnt,

along with the hero of our story,

a young stowaway,

how to do sailor knots.

With the help of my hubby who was once in the navy, oupa, a seasoned and experienced fisherman, and some printouts from the internet, we sat learning and tying knots.

We used a nylon rope to practice first because the knots were big and clear.  Then we practiced the knots with stiff sisal rope. And finally, made samples for our notebook page using wool.

We discussed how the knots could be best used in our everyday lives.

It was fun and practical!

Have you taught your children any fun/ practical hands-on skills?  Feel free to share with us in the comments.

Blessings,

Learning Through Living Books

Books on mathematics and natural science in Se...

Take a good story,

fill it with fascinating characters,

surround these in historical and geographic details,

place it in detailed natural surroundings

add the hero’s moral crisis and growth,

submerge this in rich vocabulary,

and you have

an unforgettable

living book!

Over the 14 years or so of homeschooling I have discovered the easiest, richest education is through living books.

With living books as our core, we read and enjoy the content and characters, and branch off on any and many interesting studies as we go along.

Jimmie summed up this in a nugget,

“Just give me the books. We can read them, narrate them, notebook them, and choose our own topics for in-depth tangents.”

I am happily re-using my South African History curriculum “Footprints On Our Land” with my youngest.  Although she floated along on our first Footprints journey, she was only a young 5-year-old then, and missed much of the detail and content. 

We snuggle together and read, atlas at hand, and talk and narrate about the culture, lifestyle, history, geography and natural science that we discover through the story.

Now and then we branch off to study something in-depth (like we did recently with the moon cycle) or sit at the table to write narrations on notebook pages or in lapbooks.

My daughter loves the read alouds.  It is her favorite part of her school day. And, remarkably, she learns so much this way.  It may seem informal, but it is foundational.

You do not need a fancy curriculum, detailed schedules, flashcards, posters and all the bells and whistles!  You can select several age-appropriate literature books for your children and base your studies around these.

For moms with very young children, you could simply use a richly illustrated children’s treasury of classic stories and read … read … read aloud every day.

Living books will ignite the flame of interest and a love to learn in your children’s hearts and minds.

Please feel free to share your living books learning experiences in the comments.

Blessings,

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Remember my Shakespeare plans and my uncertainty about the audio version?

https://i0.wp.com/teegardennash.com/media/*MS/Romeo&Juliet2.jpg
Well, it was delightful!

We listened to our audio story that I had purchased some years ago from Shakespeare For The Ears, the “Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare” audiobook.

The story was short, simple and easy to understand.

A great overview.

Then I read the story from Shakespeare For Children: Tales From Shakespeare by Charles Lamb.

It was excellent.

It is very similar to the original style and includes famous quotations.

Even my youngest (9) understood and enjoyed the story.

Then I started to read the original play aloud …

This was just too much for them.

I saw blank looks,

frowns,

and a couple of sighs.

I plodded on a bit more,

explaining here and there …

and stopped.

A flop?

No.

Just too advanced for my middle-schoolers.

A Shakespeare play is best viewed on stage, DVD or video.

We watched the 1968 DVD version (censored the love scenes) last year and the children loved it.  (I think this is why I chose Romeo and Juliet for our first play – we were already familiar with the story)

I’ll give the original play a re-try when my kids start high school or are a little more mature.

My overall rating ~

  • we really enjoyed the audio cd(5 stars)
  • we really  enjoyed the Charles Lamb Tales From Shakespeare version (5 stars)
  • not ready for the original play (-1 star – quenched our enthusiasm)
  • loved the video (4 stars – caution love scene)
  • enjoy Shakespeare (priceless! 10 stars)

How have you enjoyed your Shakespeare with middle schoolers?

When are children ready for the original plays?

Blessings,

Inspired Imagination

I have been convinced of the benefits and blessings https://i1.wp.com/bertbruner.com/Images/Books.gifof living books, great literature, great fiction in our homeschooling.   We use literature-based curriculums.  They have transported us into ancient times, allowed us to step into the lives and ways of famous people and have filled our imaginations with beautiful details of places we could only visit in our minds.

Some Christian homeschoolers object to all fantasy.  Some oppose fiction altogether.  They believe that Christians should only be interested in truth, and they only read biographies, histories and non-fiction.

Other Christians homeschoolers embrace all fantasy; stories containing ancient myths, paganism and the popular Harry Potter books.

I was conflicted about this some years ago.  I mixed with homeschooling parents who strongly stood for both of these views and I found it to be a contentious issue.

I could not abandon imagination, fiction and fantasy.

I needed to find a place of discernment.  In the process we watched some Christian DVD’s on this, and we “cleaned house“; we burnt books, toys, jewelery, music, DVD’s, videos, clothing ….  It was a tremendously liberating, yet difficult process.

But in the 3 or so years that followed, we re-examined some choices.  My kids regretted the destruction of some items and I was still caught in a “grey area” on the issue of our schooling choices of our fiction and fantasy books.

Personally, in those 3 years, my quiet times and journalling became dutiful, colourless.  I sought the Lord and asked for His truth and freedom.

During a fellowship gathering in October last year, I experienced the Lord in a profoundly new way.

I had a vision.

Not only did the vision unfold as I sat quietly, but it continued with ministry, until it was a full story.

I was wonderfully set free.

In the days following this vision, I needed God’s confirmation.

Was it all just in my imagination?

In His word, I read in Jeremiah 1: 9-12 where the Lord asks Jeremiah,

” What do you see?” (asks him about a vision)

Jeremiah tells the Lord what he sees (a vision of an almond branch) and the Lord says,

“You have seen well (God agrees with Jeremiah’s vision), for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.”

I was fully liberated.

God Himself speaks through visions and dreams.

My quiet times are now fresh and creative.

I have a new spiritual journal – a spiral notebook with blank pages and my entries are filled with pictures, poems, prayers, colours, patterns.

Sanctified imagination is not evil.

It is God’s gift to us.

I recently started reading a book The Soul of the Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by Gene Veith, written in two parts.  The first part is an exposition of the story, its symbolism and themes, and the second part he delves into larger issues regarding Christian (and also non-Christian and even anti-Christian) fantasy.

He mentions that The Chronicles of Narnia persuade young readers towards Christianity, just as Harry Potter books were written to persuade readers towards atheism.

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/dsc_8091.jpg?w=198

C.S. Lewis wrote the marvellous truths of Christianity in Narnia, his fairy tale and Lewis said,

“Supposing that by casting all these things (Christianity) into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stain-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for their time appear in their potency?  Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?”

Gene Veith says that imagination needs training just as the intellect does.  He says,

“When we read, we exercise our imagination, picturing what is happening as we process the author’s words.  With television and movies, someone else has imagined the story for us.”

He describes the spiritual realm as great abstract concepts, and that the Bible contains historical narratives and poetic literature and spiritual descriptions and images of God’s invisible kingdom and the return of Christ.

It is important for a child to know that when a human author creates a world, it exists only in the writer’s imagination and in his readers’ minds, but when God creates a world, it actually exists.

Veith says,

“The challenge is to discern the difference between good fantasy and bad fantasy, recognizing not only the content, but also its effects on the reader.”

and,

“Children who have a strong sense of functionality and who know that there is a difference between the story and the actual world are inoculated against most of the bad effects of fantasy.”

As our homeschooling unfolds, I am inspired.

Imagination is a wonderful God-breathed tool to be used for Good.

How has the Lord led you in these areas?

Blessings,

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2050/10/87ccdd264d2970fbfc6e4d3574295774.png

This post was submitted and inspired by the upcoming CM Carnival’s theme ~ “Imagination”.  Join us!