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

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5 Things to do when you start homeschooling after a break

The start of a new homeschool year is just weeks away for many of my readers.  Here’s What Worked for us when we started homeschooling after a long break ~

1.Prepare

Start with a basic overall year plan for each child.    I like to plan my year with a page for each month, listing each subject and I break down the themes or topics for each month.  This plan also serves as my record of work.  

Print out your notebook pages, copywork pages, and/or lapbooks.  Store your topics and pages  for your work in files ready for each child.  Copy or create an index page for each subject or topic or lapbook activity to go with your overall year plan.

2. Practice sleep and wake up routine

A good morning starts the night before.  Re-establish simple bedtime routines a few days before schooling starts.

3. Pace

Gently ease into your schedule.  Start with the most exciting aspect of the course to ignite everyone’s enthusiasm.  Usually this is the Core reader or spine of your curriculum.  But don’t overdo it.  It is far better to start with short, sweet lessons and stop, leaving your children begging for more!  Short, sweet lessons serve as a wonderful motivation.   Kids love to feel that they can master their work and eagerly look forward to the next day.  Include quick, fun games in your school day.  The Amazing Arrow game is fantastic!

4. Perfect one area before moving on

Focus on one skill/ habit/ subject until it is mastered.   Break down each subject into manageable skills and encourage your child through each step.  If your child feels anxious or overwhelmed with the full schedule, work on just one new subject for about a week before adding another subject.  Sometimes, we focused on just one subject for a whole week to get to grips with the subject matter, the new skill or the lapbook or hands-on project.  Don’t worry about “falling behind”.  Simply focus on the lagging subject for a few days, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can catch up and flow into a new routine.

5.Read Aloud

Read alouds are the superglue of homeschooling and build a sense of unity and a focus.  Read alouds are relaxing, yet, with a child listening attentively, provides enormous learning experiences.  When in doubt, when if your kid has a melt-down or when mom feels burnt-out, stop, snuggle together and read aloud.  All will be fine.  They will learn.  Trust the learning journey through living books.

I hope these tips help you work through your transition days when you start your new school year.

Blessings, Nadene
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Mix Structure with Freedom

What Works! 

Homeschooling, like all things in family life, requires balance.

Some folks love the carefree and loosey-goosey approach to homeschooling, while others perfect a strict routine and discipline with a school-at-home approach. Some folk wake and start school early, while others flow lazily into a relaxed, informal day.  Some families work in a classroom environment, while others love to learn everywhere, anytime.

Whatever your homeschooling approach is right now, it should fit your family lifestyle. I encourage you to find the way that works for you and your children in this season of your life.

If you’re a mom with lots of young children, then I encourage you to create a simple  predictable routine for their day.  Mix in free time for unstructured play and exploration.

Here are some of the main family events that should follow some form of predictable routine ~

  • Morning wake up, washing & dressing
  • Making beds
  • Breakfast
  • Start homeschool time – circle time or Bible story, songs & prayer
  • Short, sweet seat work lessons
  • Tea time and short outdoors play time
  • Core and read alouds and other schooling or learning
  • Lunch time
  • After lunch nap or quiet play
  • Free afternoons
  • Clean up & pack away toys from the day’s play
  • Bath time
  • Supper
  • Bedtime

Habit-training is a vital part of creating an easy, stress-free day.  Work on your routine, focusing on one aspect at a time for several weeks until this is established. (Start with the routine that causes you the most stress and frustration in your family.)  Once your children can cope with that routine, move on to focus on the next area that causes you the most stress.

Many new homeschool moms have very high ideals and expectations.  Most new homeschool moms struggle to maintain a formal, strict regimen every day, and they can easily burnout.  May I suggest that your homeschooling plays a minor role in your day when you are teaching young toddlers, pre-schoolers.  If you are working with multiple ages, focus on the most needy first and then focus on the rest.

Truth be told, you can’t do everything with every child every day!

Especially when children seem bored, frustrated or aimless, look to switching the rhythm and approach of your homeschooling.

  • Change the routine and start with subjects that you normally do later in the day.
  • Change your homeschool room or learn somewhere new/ outside/ at a library
  • Change your approach and make things fun
  • Switch to a new activity such as a lapbook or project instead of reading a read aloud that just doesn’t “fit” you or your kids.
  • Do drills or physical movements instead of seat work.  This works really well if a child is struggling with a subject like maths or spelling!  Rather do jumping or skipping or ball tossing or jump on a rebounder while doing skip-counting or times tables, spelling,  etc.
  • Leave the workbooks and find hands-on activities instead.

Charlotte Mason perfected this switch of rhythm with her principles ~

Structure and discipline (Seat work lessons)

  • Short, sweet lessons
  • Perfect / excellent quality work
  • Attentiveness and discipline
  • Memory work and copywork

Informal and unstructured approach (while still requiring focus and attention)

  • Narrations
  • Fine Arts
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study

I found that having one FREE DAY worked for our family.  Although I say “Free” it was rather an INFORMAL day where we focused on Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays.  These days made the rest of the week feel better and help prevent burnout and stress.

What works for your family?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings as you find what works for your family, Nadene

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3 things NOT to do when planning

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

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

Don’t over do it.

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

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

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

Don’t make a rigid schedule.

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

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

Blessings as you plan, Nadene

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How do I fit lapbooks into our day?

A reader recently asked me ~

I love the idea of doing lapbooks, but I just don’t know who to fit them into our day.  Can you please share some practical ways we can include lapbooks in our homeschooling?

Let me first quickly explain what a lapbook is ~  A lapbook is usually a folder containing a collection a number of little folded booklets called minibooks all focused around a theme/ topic/ book/ or project.

What I love about lapbooks is that all the little minibooks are little mini-lessons!   Each minibook covers its own topic, which essentially is a stand-alone narration or lesson.    So simply, your children write (or dictate) their narration for the specific topic in the specific minibook and you’ve done your lapbook lesson for that day.

Another reason my kids love lapbooks is that the minibooks are small!  Children don’t feel intimidated facing a large, blank notebook page which they felt they had to fill with lines and lines of information.  Instead, the small booklet seems as if they just need to note a few details and they start writing without too much stress.  Surprisingly, these little booklets can hold a lot of information!  I usually ask for 5 full sentences with at least 8 facts.  Even young children following a Charlotte Mason approach can easily recall these facts and easily fill a minibook.

Many minibooks have an illustration or image on the front of the booklet.  This helps children remember the facts of the topic, so they feel more confident.

Lapbooks mean that your project/ theme or topic is already prepared.  All the minibooks are all the little lessons, and the lapbook planner helps you keep track of the lessons.  I’m very practical and developed a wonderful time-saving tip in organizing all these little booklets before starting the lapbook ~ We print, cut, fold and paste all the minibooks in the file folder and everything is ready, on hand when we do our lapbook.  This is a huge help because kids don’t have to first cut and fold, or sort through a bag of booklets searching for the correct minibook before settling down to write.  They simply open their folder and browse for the relevant minibook, open it and start writing.

Some moms mentioned that their children were afraid of making mistakes in a minibook already pasted in the folder.  I recommend children first write out their narrations in rough draft, or copy a dictated narration, or trace over a penciled narration.  At worse, you can always paste a new page over a spoilt minibook.

We normally only do one lapbook at a time for one subject, but sometimes we have 2 running, one for History and maybe one for a Science theme or Bible project.  Start with your first lapbook on its own and gradually add other activities once you and your children get used to the schedule.

My older children loved to combine minibooks with notebook pages instead of using the file folders.  This works just as well and is simple to prepare – I created notebook pages with the lapbook theme as a header and left space for the minibook.  the rest of the page was lined or blank, as needed.

So what does each day look like and how do we fit in our lapbook lesson?  

Our school days are fairly short – just a few hours per day.  Here’s an example of our schedule for our 3 children – a junior primary, middle schooler and junior high child, covering the same core.

  • Bible time together = about 10 mins
  • Seat work or 3R’s = each does Maths, Spelling, Handwriting and Reading = about 15 minutes per activity and I move between each child to help with work or listen to reading etc.
  • Tea Break and a few minutes to run outside or jump on the mini trampoline.
  • Story time = Core or main reader with all the kids together on the couch or under the tree.
  • Narrations or Lapbook or hands-on activity = about half an hour. Each lapbook minibook is a lesson and so we usually do one minibook per chapter =about half an hour. Some narrations take longer and the kids work over several sessions while I keep reading. Other times I stop reading and we use that time to work on narrations or writing.
  • Lunch break
  • One more subject after lunch = look at my Themes for the Week. This is where we fit in all the extra subjects like Nature Study, Science, Fine Arts.   Many days my children work to complete this before lunch so that they have a full “free” afternoon.

That’s it in a nutshell.  Hope this helps you and I trust that you and your children learn what works for your family and enjoy lapbooks as much a we did.

Please pop over to my Lapbook Page for all my free lapbooks, templates and tips.

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

 

Best Homeschooling Decision #3 Free Day

Right from the start of our homeschooling journey we kept to a 4-day week.  Sonlight presented this as a planning option and it was the one thing that saved me from complete burn out in my first year of homeschooling.

I’m glad I realized that we could homeschool “only” four days instead of every day.

We often used our “free day ” for doing our weekly shopping,   There was nothing really educational about many of our free days, but it was the day available for outings, going to the library, meeting with friends, or playing in the park.   I scheduled at least one free day per month for some educational activity.

Let me be completely honest here … we took a day off for shopping every week because we lived so far from town, but, now and then we took another day off for homeschool outings and meetings.  That meant that sometimes we took 2 days off our week!  And do you know … we still didn’t fall terribly behind!  Somehow we  fitted in the week’s work in 3 days.

Our “free day” P1170201also became known as fabulous Fine Arts Fridays which was a delicious day of art, appreciation, art activities, listening to classical music, reading or listening to poetry,  and most importantly, relaxing together in the world of fine arts.

Free days were excellent for catching up on work we skipped or books we needed to catch up.  We also watched  related YouTube videos or historical movies on free days.

A free day is vital to ~

  • soothe stressed moms
  • unwind tense kids
  • fill your lives with a rich culture
  • give you time to catch up when life interrupts the schedule
  • offer a variety
  • present new opportunities and experiences
  • fit in all the extras that make homeschooling wonderful!

Plan free days in your schedule and enjoy your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

Best Homeschooling Decision #2 Group Together

My worst year of homeschooling was my first year when I started teaching all three kids, each on their own cores. https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/080b7af9-e3af-4297-915b-a233e2dc525b/e2529190-88ba-4505-8235-cc022e25a0bf.png

Why was it so hard?   I bought a separate curriculum for each child with all the bells and whistles!  I lacked confidence and homeschooling experience, and I thought this would be the best educational option for each child .  Even though I had taught in government schools for 10 years, I was afraid to teach my younger children.  I didn’t want to leave any gaps, miss anything each child may need, and I thought that the curriculum supplier would know what was best for my family.

Why was that a BAD decision?  The workload stressed out me completely.   I could barely keep up with each childs’ schedule.  I read aloud for hours every day.  My throat actually ached!  I was exhausted. It took me ages to find the rhythm and flow for our family.  As we progressed, I realized that the kids listen to each other’s read alouds.  When you use a literature-based curriculum as your core, it becomes a family journey.  Why not just read one read aloud for the whole family?

What would you suggest instead?  Group the kids together

Plan to teach similar-aged children on the one core using the same read alouds

How will each child learn from the same core?  Even though the read aloud or content may be the same, differentiate their activities for each topic.

How does differentiation work?  In other words you offer different options or activities ~ for example: the youngest child illustrates their narration, the middle schooler works on a dictated narration in minibooks or a lapbook, while the older child types their narrations on the computer and prints out their own notebook page.  OR  A young preschooler and middle schooler build Lego models, while an older child draws and labels a picture.  OR one child dramatizes the story and another writes a newspaper report.  OR they all can do the same activity, but just at their own level or ability.  You get the idea, right?  Because they are on their own level for Maths, Spelling, Writing and Reading learning, they will progress through their basics individually, but enjoy the same homeschool story journey.

What about the pace? Sometimes you may focus the core’s pace on the older child, covering more work daily,  or sometimes you may need to focus on the younger kids, slowly progressing at their rate and ability.  You will soon find your family’s flow and rhythm and pace for each season and your children’s ages and stages.

Of course, some years, grouping everyone together may not be possible.  Your children’s ages differences may be too big to combine them all on one Core, or each child may be on a completely different grade level.  Even so, if you use different cores, try cover the same themes; say World History or Middle Ages or Vikings, during the same time.  Despite my best efforts, one year, each child had to work on their own cores – a middle schooler, a junior high and a graduate level.  I focused most my attention on my highschool graduate that year and my youngest child “floated” more than I had wished.

When you teach several children on one core, you all enjoy the same story and participate in similar projects, do the same lapbooks or hands-on activities.   Your family enjoys outings and trips built around the same core.  It becomes a unified homeschooling journey.  This approach is less stressful for mom and really wonderful for the family.  Read about our family’s Footprints On Our Land journey.

Blessings, Nadene

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