Practical Tip ~ Reset

A reset is a wonderful way of restoring rest in our lives. Our days are a rhythm of routines that form resets; waking and sleeping, eating and working. When homeschooling and raising young children, it is vital to reset throughout the day and especially, I find, the most important, at the end of the day.

Make it a habit to clean up and pack away at the end of each day. Involve everyone, even toddlers, as they pack away the toys, books and papers, clear tables and surfaces, tidy up and move furniture back into place. My young kids loved to sing Barney’s clean up song, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere ….” as they packed away their toys before bath time. This prepares a clean slate for the next day.

May I offer some practical advice to moms with young children ~

  1. Make it fun! Sing songs, play upbeat music, talk with an accent or silly voice instead of barking out instructions, Think of fun ways to toss soft toys into baskets, scoot small objects with a dustpan, find and pack items by colour, hide a special toy secretly and ask them to see if they can find it while tidying.
  2. Work together – Teams, partners, helpers makes the job easier. Assign an older child with a younger child.
  3. Simple predictable schedule – young children feel secure with routines and schedules and love repetition. Use what works again and again! Keep it simple. When your days are too full, too many outside the home activities, children become stressed and start to resist and refuse routines. Pare back your activities, stay home to reset for at least 3 days to re-establish basic routines.
  4. Use a timer – Set a timer for 5 minutes to 15 minutes to do a chore or clear a room or pack away things. There is so much momentum created when children know that there is very little time left … and then the reward!
  5. Use rewards – “Yes, you can go play outside — as soon as you pack all these blocks into the basket/ as soon as we have cleared the carpet/ as soon as you have put … away.” Food, snacks and drinks make lovely rewards. I would prepare some popcorn and a DVD for afternoon rewards. Free time, play time, outdoors time, playing with friends are all marvelous options other than screen time. Screen time is a very powerful reward tool if not over-used or abused.
  6. Do it all through the day – young toddlers create constant chaos. Clean and pack away as they move on to the next thing. This way you aren’t left with every room filled with scattered toys and stuff.
  7. Get physical – let your young child get rid of some energy by skipping rope, mini-trampoline or swinging. While they play, you can reset the room for the next activity.
  8. Let them choose – ask your child where they would like to start, “Do you want to clean the carpet or the table?” Giving your child options makes them feel that they can take charge.

Early morning quiet times is a crucial reset for me. I love to wake and spend time alone before the family wake up and the demands of the day begin. Sitting at a clear desk, with calm and quiet, I focus on my spiritual walk, journal, read the Word and pray. I would also spend time planning and writing out my to-do lists. Here’s a wonderful verse that spiritually resets my heart!

"Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

When homeschooling, I found that my children loved to come to their schoolroom that was all tidy and ready, rather than flounder through chaos, mess and muddles. I loved to surprise my kids with new lessons, new books, posters or art materials laid out ready for them. As a professional school teacher, I learnt that preparation was essential to good classroom discipline, and it is the same when homeschooling. A mom who is lost in mess and confusion, hunting for the CD or book, gives her children that time to play, chatter and even disappear before the lesson starts! After the last lesson, I would rather spend 15 minutes filing and packing away my papers, books and school prep in the late afternoon than arrive at my cluttered desk the next day and feel overwhelmed before I even started.

Meals form natural resets and homeschooling allows for these times to be family times. In our family, we would all help prepare the food and then eat together before the children that were responsible for certain chores cleared the table, washed the dishes and cleaned off work surfaces. Meal planning when I use our AGA or slow cooker meant that I prepared the main meal early in the day that would simmer away while I worked and taught.

Late afternoons before bath time was a big reset when my children were young. The children helped take washing off the line. fold laundry and pack clothing away. We often sorted and folded laundry while watching a DVD. Then bedrooms were tidied and they all went to bath. Bath time was a wonderful time to calm everyone down, preparing for evening and bedtime. After supper, we had read-aloud time, bedtime routines and one-on-one with the kids before we ended the day.

Reset your house at night. Before I go to bed, I spend a few moments in the lounge and fluff up pillows, fold blankets and take any coffee mugs to the kitchen before switching out the lights. I loved to have my kitchen work surfaces cleared and cleaned off. Any dishes or mugs that didn’t make the evening dishwasher round, I would quickly rinse or, on a “bad” night, simply soak them in the sink. I would check the bathrooms and tidy up, hang up or straighten bath towels. Then I would go to bed feeling as if my home was in order. (I used to follow the Fly Lady routine for many years.)

An intimate evening reset is a wonderful habit. My children and I wrote special notes to each other. I love to spend time chatting with my hubby, giving thanks for the day, planning for the next day and the week, problem-solving, finding perspective, talking about finances, business, dreams, wishes, praying together, being intimate, is the most rewarding way to reset and end each day. There were seasons of keeping a gratitude diary.

Trust that your family has blessed times of resetting. In what ways do you reset your lives?  Please share with us in the comments below.

P.S. Here’s a very relevant related blog post that I wrote several years ago – Unrealistic Expectations

All In Grace, Nadene

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No laminator? Do this instead!

New homeschoolers often find themselves questioning whether they need to buy some of the more expensive educational equipment such as printers, spiral binders and laminators. While having a top-loading printer (so that you can print pages from books) is “almost essential”, a laminator is not.

Laminators help to stiffen, protecting and creating a wipeable surface for charts, flashcards, maps, games, manipulatives and mini office folders.  Whiteboard markers are a fabulous way to reuse pages as children can wipe out practice sheets.

Some practical tips — 

  • Use cardstock behind the page to back and strengthen paper pages.
  • Make sure that the edges all around the page are sealed. 
  • Leave a tiny plastic edge all around the laminated paper when cutting the page out.
  • Tape or cover the front and the back of your pages.
  • Wipe off whiteboard markers as soon as the activity is finished.

Here are some alternatives to use instead of laminating your pages — 

  1. Use plastic page protective sleeves.  These are easy to find, cheap and very practical because they already have punched holes to file your pages.  Tape the opening closed or fold over and tape any excess if you want to prevent pages from shifting.  Check for the quality of these protective sleeves and rather buy the thicker, sturdier ones.
  2. Use display files that have the plastic page pockets.  Again, tape the pocket or the page to prevent any shifting.
  3. Cover smaller items with clear packaging tape.  This is excellent for flash cards or for charts that you want to protect, but that your child will not necessarily write on.  Be aware that the tape joins or edges may create a slight ridge.  To avoid bubbles, start to tape on the surface beyond the page, extend the tape over the page and lower carefully.  
  4. Clear contact paper is a wonderful laminator.  You can buy it in rolls at most stationary suppliers.  Align the edge, peel the backing paper and wipe the sticky plastic sheet smoothly over the page, avoiding and easing out any air bubbles.      
  5. Spray a waterproof coating on your pages.  Read about how to do this at ehow.com.  I have not used this, but they suggest clear polyurethane coating, clear acrylic spray paint and lacquer spray sealers available at home improvement centers, department stores and craft shops.
  6. Use an iron instead of a laminator to seal laminator thermal pouches. Watch this quick little video.
  7. Ziploc bags are an excellent alternative.  Cut the bag to fit the page and seal the edges with clear packaging tape.
  8. Travel tags, bookmark sleeves, write & wipe sleeves and other store-bought items are more expensive, but very durable and professional.
  9. You can read about other alternatives that you may need to source online or at speciality stationary shops at adapting for autism.com’s Stop laminating everything in your classroom.
laminated chart

But I would still recommend purchasing a laminator if you can afford it. It really does provide an exceptional, durable sealed surface and tough exterior for those pages or charts. We have used our laminated handwriting charts and mini offices for all our homeschooling years and they are still in excellent condition.  

Here’s to using what you have, starting right now and making the most of your homeschool pages!

Blessings, Nadene

Keeping Record and Attendance

 

Many parents are new at homeschooling and are currently “doing school at home,” and a mom in a homeschooling Facebook group asked, 

“How do you keep attendance? Any ideas or helpful tips?”

Homeschooling is a life-education and children are learning every day, but for the sake of being accountable and keeping track, it is helpful to keep records. Some curriculum providers instruct parents to keep attendance records.  Other parents have had to comply with their child’s school’s regulations during the lockdown.  Many homeschool parents keep attendance record to meet the Department of Education’s requirements.

In my 22-years+ of homeschooling, I kept record purely as part of my own discipline as a former teacher, but I also kept records to be accountable to my husband and family.  I always wanted to have evidence of our schooling should there ever be any query or inspection.  This, thankfully,  has never been required.

Here are some record-keeping tips ~

  • Use a simple print-out of a monthly, block calendar to keep a record of attendance and subject topics ~ I jotted notes in daily blocks on issues, successes, and special or unusual activities.  I used coloured highlighters to block out holidays, days for weekly shopping trips etc.
  • Google Calendars are the most versatile and effective planning and attendance record-keeping tools I used in our homeschooling.

    Google Homeschool Calendar Jan2013

    Google Calendar with school holidays and themes and topics plotted

    • At the end of each school year, I plotted in all the official school holidays for the new year to keep in sync with friends that are not homeschooling or to take advantage of off-season rates for trips.
    • The average yearly schedule comes to about 50 weeks of homeschooling for the year.  This is a very flexible outline. We may take off schooling earlier than government school holidays or continue learning longer in some terms to keep up with our schedule.  My most important tip to any new homeschooler is to give yourselves more time and extend a one-year schedule to 18-months!  This year plan is not a schedule, but a guideline.
    • Created a Google calendar for each child if they are old enough to have their own Gmail account, but it is easy to keep the attendance records of each child all together on a family calendar.
  • Use Google calendar daily to record the days where we were out on appointments, travelling, when a child was sick, etc. and I recorded when we take off one day every week to travel to town for our shopping.
  • Sometimes, when a child “falls behind” for some reason, they continue schooling into a school holiday week.
  • Train your children to date all their work every time they start their daily work.
  • Parents should initial/sign and write the date when checking their children’s books or notes. This also forms a good record of work.
  • Another way of keeping a record is to print out your curriculum year planner and the index page of each child’s textbooks or the contents page of a book or the planner page of a lapbook and sign and date next to each chapter or item when your child completes the work.

You can find all my planning and organization pages here.  I hope that these tips help!  If you have other suggestions or questions, please comment below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Line Placement Hints for Handwriting

When your child first starts to write on lined notebook paper, it can be very confusing! Where to start?  Where to skip lines so that letters don’t crowd into each other?

We use laminated handwriting charts to teach print and then cursive letters, first working on lower-case and then going on to upper-case letters.  I have several Ebooks on my Packages page that will teach letter placement, as well as the starting and ending points for each letter.

Once your child can confidently trace over their laminated handwriting chart without making mistakes, he is ready to start Copywork.  Copywork is a wonderful way of practising handwriting in a very meaningful way.  Read all about Charlotte Mason.

Copywork is best done on lined notebook pages.

Here’s a good rule when teaching ~

ALWAYS START BIG AND WORK SMALLER!

When you start writing on lined notebook paper, first use broad lines.  You can find 17mm lined books at your stationery shop.  Then go on to normal feint & margin pages before using the narrow Irish lined paper.

Before starting, first, draw simple little hints in the margin to help know where the body line begins.

We used these 3 hints:

  1. Draw a simple “Cat” in the margin to allow 3 lines of regular notebook pages for the head, body and tail.
  2. It may be quicker to draw a “lollipop man” in the margin. The round shape is the “head” and the stick is the “body”.  The “legs” are where the cat’s tail would be.
  3. The fastest method is to make a clear dot in the body line. My kids would count “Skip-dot-skip-skip-dot-skip-skip-dot…” to quickly place a dot marker on every 2nd alternate line all the way down their margin before beginning their copywork.

With these hints, your child will soon easily know where to start their writing and be able to do beautiful copywork.

Please support me by ordering my Handwriting Tips and Teaching Print  & Cursive Handwriting Ebooks on my Packages page.

If you wish to write me a private email, please fill in the contact form on my About & Contact page.  I would love to help you!

 Blessings, Nadene
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Lapbook planning tips

My children loved doing lapbooks and  we quickly figured out some practical tips to prevent overwhelm and to maximise our studies with other activities.  Here are some of my tried-&-tested practical lapbook planning tips ~

Often when printing out and cutting out the lapbook minibooks for your new lapbook , you will have heaps of booklets, papers, cutouts which may cause you and your children to feel overwhelmed. 

Print out the table of contents or index with every download and file this with the lapbook instructions.  If your lapbook printout doesn’t have an index, draw up a list of each minibook theme, or the topics or chapters covered in each minibook of the lapbook study along with a short description of each activity.  You can download my free lapbook planner below.

Whether you download a lapbook or make one for yourself, it helps to print out the lapbook planner or index page so that you have a birds’ eye view of your core topics, sub-topics, minibooks, relevant websites, videos, songs, recipes, hands-on activities and any other downloads as well as the time you plan for each minibook or topic.  Here  is  the  index  I used for my planning my Ancient Egypt Lapbook.  (You  can freely download  the Ancient Egypt Lapbook)

Here is my Pearl Harbour lapbook organiser  which outlined additional websites and sources used:

For more complex subject such as World Wars, it helps to draw up basic vertical timeline and mark the dates for all the most important events.  This helps to follow the course of events chronologically as well as plan the lapbook layout.

We always pasted all the minibooks into the lapbook before we started so that we did not waste time searching through a packet of minibooks to find the relevant one for the day.  You can read all about this in my post Time-saving tips for doing lapbooks. I must add here that my children often pasted their minibooks where they felt it best fitted and not strictly according to the suggested layout and it never was a problem.

We duct-taped along the spine of the lapbook and punched holes in the duct tape so that they were on hand in our files or ring binders.  (Read how we assemble and duct tape our Aesop lapbooks here.)

We stored each child’s completed lapbooks together in a file folder as seen in the photo below.  (Read all about how we stored our lapbooks and notebook pages here.)

Here is my lapbook planner page  free download (available in .docs or  .pdf versions) to use for your planning ~ Lapbook Planner or Organiser (MS Word.docs) or  Lapbook Planner or Organiser (pdf)

My children loved doing hands-on activities so I always extended our planned lapbook time to provide a wide margin for the spontaneous learning activities or additional enrichment.

Please do not ever rush to finish anything!  Take your time and aim to include the “extra” additional studies and hands-on activities!  These will bring your lapbook study to life!

Blessings, Nadene

Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

In my last post  Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips, I created a set of posters which I would love to share with you ~

You can use these posters as reminders for yourself when planning lessons and looking for different options, or display them in your schoolroom so that your children can select an activity they would prefer.  I have included the all my ideas and suggested tips and strategies from my post in this download.

Here is your free download ~ Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

 Blessings, Nadene
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Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips

Homeschooling is perfect place for wrigglers and movers to learn! Somehow we have learnt that in the so-called “perfect education world” young children should sit still, rapturously attentive, quietly absorbing, and only responding “normally” as expected,  but guess what, most young kids just can’t sit still, keep quiet for long or respond only in the way that they “should”.

As a first-time mom I remember feeling a sinking, cold self-consciousness when my young 2-year-old daughter, stood and danced around instead of sitting and beating her little wooden sticks on drums exactly as suggested during a toddlers workshop.  But a wonderful wise mother shared her wisdom and she gently reminded me to let my child express herself, be herself and enjoy the learning experience. I needed this encouragement, because, in my idealism and ignorance, I thought my child was not learning the way she should.

Moving on a many years later, when I started to homeschool my youngest daughter, I realised that I had a “wriggler” who just couldn’t sit quietly while she listened and learnt.  So instead of frustrating her, I allowed her to hang upside down when she listened to read alouds. I gave her space to move and act out the nursery rhymes in order to remember the words.  If she wiggled and squiggled on her seat when she faced some sort of challenge, I encouraged her to rather go jump on the mini trampoline for a minute to bounce the jittery  anxiety out of her system.  She needed to move and stand on her chair to recite her poems, and she had to act out her memory verses.  She whispered and talked to herself while she worked on her studies.  She was learning!  She just had to move in order to do so.

Educationalists call the wiggly-need-to-move-in-order-to-learn-kids kinesthetic learners. But essentially all young children need to move their bodies to learn. That is why action songs are so popular with toddlers and young children This is why young kids need concrete things to use and play with as they learn.

Make provision for your young child’s wiggles!

Here are 30+ practical tips and activities ~

Classroom strategies ~

  1. Keep your lessons short and sweet — Thank you Charlotte Mason!   Young children have about a 10-minute attention span.  Lessons that are any longer may cause their wiggles and frustration to build up.
  2. Give them permission and redirect their energy towards specific physical activities such as  jumping or skipping with a rope, but use a timer or just one song before they quickly return to their seat to work.
  3. Alternate seat-work lessons with physical lessons. e.g.: Stand and clap and actions for Bible song — sit for Bible story.  Jump and skip-count on the mini trampoline — then sit to do Maths lesson.  Arrow bean bag game on the mat — then Handwriting lesson.  Quick hopscotch — then Spelling or Phonics lesson.  Tea time and gross motor activities outside — then cuddle on the couch for read aloud.  Do a hands-on activity while listening to a long chapter read aloud.   This variety will also prevent boredom and meltdowns.
  4. Place a mini trampoline in the school room and encourage quick bouncing just before fine motor work such as handwriting, or difficult mental work such as maths or spelling. Let them jump and call out their skip counting as a fun maths drill, or spell out loud as they jump. Just 30 seconds on a timer and them back to the seat to start the next activity.
  5. Use a gym ball instead of a chair for seat work. Make sure that it is the correct height – that they can sit with their feet flat and knees bent at 90 degrees and that their elbow can be placed flat on the table at 90 degrees. The ball stimulates core and balance muscles and allows constant movement and regulation. Obviously don’t allow wild rocking. You can place the ball inside a small hoop to prevent the ball rolling away when they stand up.
  6. Provide a balance pillow for your child’s seat.  You can also use this for balance games on the floor.  A balance pillow also stimulates the core muscles and tiny movements for balance.
  7. Use a rubber flexaband (exercise band) as a foot rest on their seat (scroll down to see the example photo on my Handwriting page). This is great if the chair is slightly too high for them to place both feet on the floor. They can stabilise their core and still enjoy the sway, bounce or resistance of the band under their feet.
  8. Place a foam rubber mat on the play area floor for other physical games such as sit ups.
  9. Use bean bags for tossing, throwing, balancing, placing in directions with the arrow chart.
  10. Sing action songs that encourage clapping and actions.
  11. Use a timer on a phone or desktop computer to regulate seat work or the quick, fun activities.
  12. Provide a bottle of water to sip during learning.  Many kids need to sip water to calm and help them focus when learning new or difficult work.

Use manipulatives for Maths, Phonics, Handwriting & Spelling~

  1. Use Maths wheels and Maths counting, shape and block apparatus to learn Maths concepts, practice drill work and solve Maths problems,
  2. Make flashcards, sliding strips or folding flap books for phonics and spelling.
  3. Use sandpaper for young children to trace over letters when learning to write.
  4. Use hula hoops, ropes and balls to create huge letter shapes on the floor.
  5. Use puzzle pieces, cutouts, felt board shapes & letters, white boards, magnetic letters or Scrabble tiles for spelling and phonics.

Plan Hands-on Activities ~

  1. Do hands-on activities while listening to read alouds or learning their lessons.
  2. Let them build models, make 3D models or maps.
  3. Create dioramas.
  4. Draw and colour in and then turn these illustrations into finger puppets.
  5. Use Legos or bakers clay to create objects related to the theme.
  6. Go on field trips and educational outings wherever possible.
  7. Let young children play with playdough or Lego  while listening to stories or lessons.
  8. Print and paste a coloured picture related to the story or theme onto some cardstock and cut this into puzzle shapes.  Let your child build puzzles while listening to read alouds.
  9. Do Science experiments and provide equipment and strategies for your child to lead their own investigations.
  10. Provide a nature study kit & journal and encourage daily time for exploration outdoors in nature.
  11. Use a globe and atlas when studying Social Studies and Geography.  Let your children pin and mark a large map on display.
  12. Use dress-up clothes and encourage your child to act out stories, plays and poems in Social Studies or Literature.  A basket with some long skirts and bonnets, aprons, hats, cloaks and waistcoats provides endless options and  most young children love to act!
  13. Video record your child and play the movie back so that they can enjoy their re-enactments and plays.
  14. Read and download or order my 100+ Narration ideas booklet.  This Ebook contains stacks of different activities that would suit kinesthetic learners!

Outdoor Gross Motor Activities~

  1. Stimulate vestibular activities (the brain’s ability to track spatial  movement) and encourage your child lie and swing in a hammock or sit on a swing.  Encourage both the  forward and back and sideways movements as well as hanging upside down or on their tummies.
  2. Play some physical games in between lessons which require lots of physical effort such as wheelbarrows — where mom hold their feet and the child walks on their hands across the room.
  3. Throw and catch and roll and kick balls.  Add a variety of different types of balls for these games such as large beach balls, soft squishy balls or bouncy balls.
  4. Teach them to skip and let them skip and call out maths counting or rhyming skipping songs.
  5. Draw chalk hopscotch or chalk ladders on your patio floor for obstacle courses or hopping and balance games.
  6. Do some brain gym exercises especially actions that cross the mid-line.
  7. Ensure regular play time using a jungle gym and include monkey rings, ropes, slides and ladders.  Encourage lots of gross motor activities every day.

Homeschool is the perfect place to allow your child the freedom your child needs to move in order to learn and to work off their natural energy and excitement.

Don’t worry that  it may seem that your child may never learn to sit still. As they mature, your child will gradually learn to self-regulate and control themselves more and more.  In fact, these days, many modern offices have standing desks, walking treadmills and open plan spaces for movement so that employees are encouraged to move more while working!

However, if you believe that your child has real concentration and/or behavioural issues, I highly recommend that you consider taking your child to an occupational therapist for an evaluation.  They often suggest fun exercises and play strategies to use at home and school.  If your child requires sessions with the OT,  just remember that the therapy sessions are not forever.  In almost all cases, as your child improves they will no longer need ongoing therapy.

Mom, you are your child’s best advocate and facilitator.  Your job is to find what works for your child and to encourage them to learn in the way that suits them best.   Be encouraged when your child is different!  This “different child” is exactly what the Lord planned as His best instrument to shape and change you.  He wants you to learn to love what is, to love unconditionally and to love without needing to change the other.  This is a work of grace.

So, breathe in and out slowly and deeply, and then trust the Lord to show you what your child needs right now and ask Him to show you how to support and encourage your wriggly child!

And don’t forget to have fun!  Your child certainly is having fun!

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

Here are some more ideas on the web ~

25 Smartphone Homeschool Apps

In my early homeschooling days before smart phones existed, I carried a basket full of books, CD’s with CD player, an Atlas and reference books next to me when we studied.  But once I bought my smartphone I reduced the pile of books to mostly just our read alouds.

In 2015 I included a smartphone as one of my 3 Ingredients I would select for homeschooling.  As techno-savy mom, I have added many more homeschool apps for planning, specific subjects and especially for references.  Here are some I used with our middle school and high school children.

  1. Kindle – with current Ebooks, downloaded novels, and any pdf files
  2. Bible – I use You Version, and enjoy the different Bible versions and reading plans and Bible studies.  Sometimes we follow good Bible plans for teens and family devotions.
  3. Dictionary and Thesaurus (download the offline versions)
  4. Google Translate for 2nd language studies
  5. Duolingo or Babbel for 2nd language practice
  6. Wikipedia our go-to favorite!
  7. YouTube subscriptions, playlists or general looking up
  8. World Atlas especially with flags for Current Affairs and Geography
  9. Google Sky Map for Astrology studies
  10. Google calendar for all my planning
  11. Just plain old Google to look up anything
  12. Music playlists containing our Hymns, Geography Songs, as well as current classic musician’s music
  13. Radio streaming app such as Spotify with our favorite genres and artists while we do handicrafts and art
  14. Timer for Maths drills, arrows games, and revision
  15. Audio Recorder to record oral narrations
  16. Audible for audio books.  (I download the book for my daughter so that she can listen to her story offline)
  17. Camera to capture nature finds
  18. Bird, Tree and Plant reference apps for Nature Study
  19. Photo editor for art and drawing reference, as well as for sharing art with other family members
  20. Podcast app with my favourite homeschool posts such as TEDtalks  for Kids and Family
  21. News for our Current Affairs (note – I preview before I share)
  22. Khan Academy especially for high school Maths and Physical Science
  23. Online games for Phonics and Spelling such as Spell City, Starfall, The Spelling Bee,
  24. Shopping list app for mom’s weekly shopping. Add a menu planner and a recipe app and you’ll be completely sorted for all your meals
  25. Dropbox which enables everyone to safely store and access documents across different computers.

There are dozens of phone apps for toddlers and kindergarten, but I prefer to encourage real-life interaction and limit screens for young kids.  It is really addictive!  Also, be aware of “fluff” or “candy floss” apps which are simply fun and not really educational.  Nothing replaces time for real play and exploration and time to be creative.

As technology sometimes fails, always save and make physical pencil-on-paper plans, records and notes. I always start here and then look online for educational support.

For families with limited WiFi, opt for offline versions and select and download specific information for subjects. We made the decision to only use free online educational games and not pay for subscriptions even though many were excellent.

What others are sharing:

What other smartphone apps do you use for homeschool?  Please share in the comments below.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Practical Tip ~ Creative Opportunities

We are a very creative family!  Right from the start, I provided art and craft materials and allowed my children much free time to create daily in our homeschooling, which I believe laid the foundation to their  their talent and enjoyment of all things creative.  May I encourage you to do the same?

Homeschool 20154Set up a craft area with supplies to provide creative opportunities for your children.  This is especially good for hands-on activities while the children listen to a read alouds, or for handicraft time in the afternoons.

Art and craft supplies need not be expensive.  I started our collection with a cheap craft purchase here and there each month, and added new, interesting items to our stash to keep my kids excited and stimulated.  I stored these items in Ziploc bags in plastic suitcases, placed in an easily accessible area on the bookshelf.   Read how I organized our art supplies here.1-P1160658-001

Here are 25 art and craft ideas gathered from around the globe on Pinterest ~

  1. Watercolor set, brushes and paper
  2. Wax crayons and watercolor to create wax-resist painting
  3. Giant chalk to create outdoors drawings on concrete floors
  4. Shoestrings and wooden beads
  5. Cheap camera and nature prompt list
  6. Recipes and ingredients
  7. Magazine, scissors and glue to make a collage
  8. Soap block or soft pine wood pieces and carving tools
  9. Wool and pompom maker
  10. Shaving cream, food coloring in a tray to make marbled paper
  11. Lego, cardstock and felt-tipped markers to create a Lego diorama
  12. Flowers and vases or flower press to create a pressed flower collection
  13. Felt, scissors and a felt board
  14. Pipe cleaners and tiny pompoms to create fantasy animals
  15. Sunflower and bean seeds and some small garden  tools
  16. Long piece of cheap fabric, pegs and poles to create a tepee or tent
  17. Tinfoil, card board, glue and string to create foil art
  18. Stamps and stamp pads
  19. Feathers and beads to make necklaces
  20. 51 ideas with shoe boxes
  21. Dress up clothes
  22. Music instruments or let them make their own musical instruments
  23. Twisty balloons
  24. Leaf rubbings with wax crayons
  25. When all else fails – Bored jar with activity ideas
Tips on making art and crafts activities easier ~
  • It is worth spending a while clearly and simply demonstrating to your children how to work with the materials, how to take care with specific things, how to clean up and pack away.
  • Establishing foundation skills with each activity prevents the mess and chaos that most moms hate and therefore avoid doing art and crafts.
  • Purchase some plastic sheeting or cheap painter’s drop cloths to cover the floor if working with messy things.
  • Insist that your children wear an old over-sized T-shirt (my kids loved wearing their dad’s T-shirts) or art smocks or aprons over their clothes.  You can even make aprons out of plastic bags.
  • Set a limit where the activity can take place.  Children may only work in a specific room, on specific tables or floors.  Don’t encourage them to wander around with the supplies.
  • Remind your children to wash paint brushes, close glue tops, pack away when done.
  • Lastly, provide a lovely gallery to display their works of art.

Check out all my art ideas, lesson plans and free downloads on my Art Page.  Have you got any creativity ideas to share with us?  Please share in the comments below.

Here’s wishing you and your family hours and days of fun and creativity!

Blessings, Nadene
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Work & Homeschool 7 – Independent Work

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

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

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

Independent work 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Nadene

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