Tip ~ Bedtime Moments

I found bedtimes to be a good time to build relationships, deepen our understanding of each other and to even cover some of the reading we had on our homeschool schedule.  Here’s some of our bedtime activities ~

  1. Read alouds at bedtime – Often this was with just one child, but in the seasons where my daughters shared a room, they would both listen to the story before sleeping.  I usually read their fiction books in our curriculum at bedtime.  Night-time story time helped me keep our school time shorter in the mornings.   Bedtime stories also sometimes helped me catch up if there were interruptions during the day.  Read alouds are our homeschool glue and often saved our days! We read books when all else failed. We love reading any story.  It didn’t have to be a book from the school schedule.  Regularly reading good stories built a love for reading and a love for books in our family.
  2. Reviews and oral narrations – Narrations or telling-back is a very natural way for a child to relate what they understood and remembered from the read alouds.  At bedtime, lying cuddled together in bed, my daughters seemed so relaxed and thoughtful, and they could easily tell me what they learnt from the read aloud.  Charlotte Mason’s narrations are power-packed with skills and narrations are a fabulous way to assess your child’s learning.
  3. Best and Worst moments – Nighttime reflection is a wonderful way to connect with your child’s experiences through the day.  It is a good time to listen to their happy moments, their joys, their delights, as well as their fears, hurts and disappointments.  I reflected back what they just told me by saying what they said in my own words, without commenting, e.g. “You really loved playing at the pond today…”  Or I acknowledged their feelings without judgement, saying, “You must have felt really mad when …”  which helped them feel that I hear and understood them.  It is a very important way to validate and empathize with your children., building strong, trusting relationships.
  4. Pray together – Night time prayers flow so easily from #3 “Best and Worst Moments“, praising and thanking the Lord for all the best and praying over the worst.  Teach your child to be thankful.  Thankfulness and gratitude are powerful resources to motivation and health.  Teach your child how to forgive others, to ask for forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.  Dealing with challenging circumstances, difficulties, challenges, or repeated failures is very hard for a child.  Praying together over any of these issues helps your child roll the burden onto the Lord, to learn to trust Him and to know that your child is not working through these things alone.
  5. Affirm and encourage – Bedtime is one of the best times to affirm and encourage your child.  Focus on building up your child with positive affirmations and genuine, focused acknowledgements of your child’s character, personality and her importance to you and others.  Again, relationships are key, but this is also a good time to acknowledge where your child did something well, accomplished something challenging or coped with some difficulty.  Long after the lights are out, as your child lingers in the dark, falling asleep, these words penetrate deeply and are the final thoughts for the day.
  6. Ideas for the next day –  Talk about the upcoming events, or meetings with others,  or dentist appointments, etc. at night gave my child the time to prepare emotionally.  I found this very helpful, especially for my more anxious child. Sometimes we would talk about how a meeting with so-and-so would go, imagining and talking about how to handle the situation. Sometimes using humor made these discussions funny and gave a different perspective to something my child felt anxious about.  It was a good time to gently discuss my expectations about my child’s behaviour, being very positive and encouraging.
  7. Bedtime notebooks – Once your child can write, we enjoyed private and very special notebooks which we would slip under each other’s pillows at night.  I treasure their deeply personal letters.  They often shared things we could not speak about.  This is really valuable when children reach their tweens and teen years.

My children really valued these special night-time moments together with me and generally we would be done by 8:30pm, but  I must confess that I did not cope well as a mom after 9:00pm.  By then I was exhausted and I needed time to be alone with my hubby and to have some time by myself.

There were times where dad took over their  bedtime routine  and his bedtimes with the kids was very different from mine.  He often was louder, funnier and their bedtimes activities were often far more physical.  They often spent their time with dad doing tickles, wrestles, pillow fights and jokes. They loved him reading funny stories, usually with sound effects, and they would eventually go to sleep, happy and exhausted, which was a win for me!

What special moments do you have with your children?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Trusting your family has very blessed bedtimes.

In Grace, Nadene

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Living Books Teach!

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

Read a good book aloud.

Talk about what you have read.

Lesson learned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Nadene

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Combine Art & Read Alouds

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

art-read-alouds

Busy hands with listening ears” has helped my kids focus during read alouds in our homeschooling.  I always planned hands-on activities for each theme so that my kids were quietly and constructively busy while I read aloud to them.  But, while some projects were distracting, drawing, painting and coloring-in activities were very helpful.  20150701_113932

Combining several children on the same core and covering the same Fine Arts is a wonderful way of streamlining and easing your homeschooling!   We used my traced outlines of art masterpieces and painted them for art appreciation lessons and this was a wonderful opportunity for combining art with listening to classical music or our current read aloud.

Many first-time homeschool moms are often overwhelmed by the huge amount of reading they have with their children and fine arts is often neglected.  So, why not plan a simple art activity for each week and let your children quietly create while you read aloud.

Each week try put out new art materials such as oil pastels, or glue and string, or some magazines and scissors, or puffy paints or glitter, so that your kids can experiment and enjoy a variety of art supplies   (Look on my Art Page for many more art appreciation lessons and ideas.)

Often I encouraged my kids to illustrate the characters or current scene in the read aloud.  These gorgeous illustrations often formed part of their narrations.  After the chapter reading, my kids would dictate or write their narrations next to their pictures.  My youngest is a visual learner and could often express her ideas far better in an illustration than with words!

Alternatively, small kiddies can play with playdough, felt boards, stacking, sorting, beading, or threading, while older kids who do not want to draw or paint can do handwork such as knitting, embroidery, hand sewing, or building puzzles, or making models.

Legos were a favorite, but it was sometimes difficult to prevent the noise of sorting through all the blocks and pieces.  I would encourage them to pour out the pieces on a towel and spread them out first before I started to read aloud.  We even used Legos for narrations!

Read Jean Van’t Hul of Artful Parent.com “Why Read Aloud Time is Drawing time“.

Hope this encourages you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

 

Alternatives

Not every homeschool day works well.  Some days are just blah, other days are bad.  There are stresses and struggles. And even when you have good days, they can become predictable and boring.

It helps to have some alternatives.20140318_115016

Switch subjects

We usually start with the basics; Bible, Maths, Spelling & Dictation, Language Arts, but sometimes we start with Core instead, or sit together for Read Aloud time, or start our Theme of the Day activity we normally do after lunch before the rest.  Beginning with a “fun” subject or activity can defuse any difficulty.  I often ask my youngest what subject she would like to start.  I give her a choice in leading her own homeschool day and so she doesn’t feel that I am dragging her through the motions.  She leads and feels motivated.

Sit somewhere new

Move outside, inside, under a tree, on the carpet, in the sunshine, in the shade, on the couch, in bed, outdoors, rearrange the study. By simply changing the learning environment, the whole atmosphere and one’s attitude changes.  And moms need this change as much as the kids!

When I was a senior primary school teacher I use to rearrange my classroom and seating for each new theme.  I created a coral island, a police academy, a courtroom, a puppet theater.  The buzz outside my classroom before the kids came in was electric!  I didn’t need to do much more to motive my kids!

Start a new read aloud

I have stated that reading aloud is the glue that holds homeschool together.  Sometimes, it may be the only homeschool we do when someone is sick, or when visitors stay, when the schedule is disrupted or when someone simply wants to give up.  If the current book doesn’t sparkle, gently lay it aside and go find a wonderful book that grips hearts and minds and takes you and your kids on a journey!

Get physical

Do something active!  A nature walk revives a weary spirit.  A good run, skipping with a rope, or jumping on a trampoline helps rev up the metabolism and energizes one.  Science experiments or hands on activities are stimulating and exciting. I often plan several alternative activities for each theme so that I can inspire fresh enthusiasm with a fun activity.  It’s amazing what a child can learn when creating a mobile or making a model.

Sing or do Fine Arts

Learning with catchy songs and music is fun and it sticks!  Our Geography Songs CD are a lifelong legacy!  Singing connects the group and music lifts the spirit.  Fine Arts (art, music, poetry etc.) inspire us, ease the soul and minister to our hearts.  Sometimes our Friday Fine Arts day is the only day that we love.

Don’t get stuck in a rut.  Switch things about a little and discover a new zeal and enthusiasm!

What alternatives worked for you?  Please share ideas in the comments.

Blessings,

3D Models into Art

“Busy hands while I read aloud”

This is a wonderful recipe to success in a literature-based curriculum like Sonlight.

My kids have modeled in clay, made prints, colored-in, painted, woven wool, built a Lego ziggurat, tied knots and built paper models.

In Footprints on our Land, we recently studied the French Huguenots and their influence on the culture, architecture, agriculture, language and religion in the Cape.

I had some postcard paper models of Cape houses from my old teaching-days.  I made color photo-copies (to save my originals) and gave them to Miss.L10 to cut and glue while I read aloud.

She enjoyed the intricate cutting and scoring,

glueing and forming …

The water-mill was quite tricky!

Once she had finished “playing” with the little paper people around her houses, we put the models up on the window sill on display.

This week we finished off the read aloud.  While I read the last few chapters, we solved the “where do we store the 3D models?” problem with an artistic application ~

  • cut the models apart
  • use the front, the sides and the back to create 3 houses from 1 model
  • paste them on a blank page
  • draw, color and paint the background and the details
  • and we have wonderful, detailed, colorful pages for in our notebook file!

This way we achieved ~

  1. creative and busy hands while I read aloud
  2. storage for a 3-dimensional object in our notebook file
  3. creative problem-solving = make the models fit into a 2-dimensional design (she had to cut the roof in different angles to look “true”, she made a door where there was only a window, she wanted both sides of the water mill and created a full water flow through several buildings!)

How do you store your children’s 3D models?  What busy-hands activities have been the most successful/ creative?  Please share in the comments.

Blessings,

Shakespeare and Audio Books

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

Busy planning for the new year …

This time I’m working on starting a journey with

Shakespeare

This past quarter I read Julius Caesar aloud to my Grade 10 daughter. 

We spent several afternoons reading aloud together and we enjoyed the play. 

I was amazed. 

She enjoyed it

Really engrossed. 

No problems with language, weird words,

very little confusion about antagonists and protagonists, plot and themes.

So,

I thought,

now I’m ready to start Shakespeare with my younger kids.

I have ~

  • several Shakespeare plays (some with detailed student notes)
  • the book Shakespeare For Children: Tales From Shakespeare (1879) by Charles Lamb
  • the pdf download  Tales Of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
  • audio recordings  Shakespeare For The Ears I purchased 2 years ago (remember I confessed that I don’t do it all) from HomeschoolRadioShows.com
  • looked at Jimmie’s Shakespeare for Children Squidoo lens

I thought … this is how we’ll do Shakespeare ~

  1. Listen to the audio recording of a chosen play.  Maybe twice or so.  Get a good over-view.
  2. I’ll read the same play from Tales Of Shakespeare by Lamb.  Chat about the story, characters etc.
  3. Finally, I’ll read the play over several afternoons or evenings aloud to the family.  The real thing.  In full.

I listened to some of the MP3 recordings.  They are great.  Well narrated. 

But … I had some reservations …

I felt they were like a meal-replacement milkshake.

They taste ok, give nutrients, but not genuine food.

Books are real food.

Reading your own book or listening to a read aloud

you can taste the words,

chew the meanings,

digest the story

and learn

and grow.

And to confirm my thoughts on this, I came across an excellent and thought-provoking post on Audiobooks by Jeanne at Oh Peaceful Day.  She made such good points – both educational and personal :

Why she prefers to read aloud instead of audiobooks ~

… When I read these stories aloud, I do some judicious editing to remove the profanities and blasphemies, thereby making the classic stories acceptable for their 9 yo audience…

And what do you make of this?

… I can’t see how a child’s reading comprehension improves by listening to a book . Most importantly, I do not see that audiobooks nurture a love of reading. In fact, I am inclined to think they do the opposite, cultivating a lazy child who is not willing to master the mechanics of reading for himself. Miss Mason speaks of this in Home Education:

We must remember the natural inertness of a child’s mind; give him the habit of being read to, and he will steadily shirk the labour of reading for himself; indeed, we all like to be spoon-fed with our intellectual meat, or we should read and think more for ourselves and be less eager to run after lectures.

Home Education p228

Later she says ~

… The real reason that I don’t use audiobooks is because one day when I’m dead and gone, I want J to remember my voice …

… I’m going to stick with read alouds. I’m going to make the most of every minute I have left. I’m going to snuggle together on the sofa with my daughter and read, read, read …

So, I’ll give my plans and the audio recordings a shot.  If it is like candy floss, quickly diluted into a sticky mess, I’ll just pick up the orignal play and read aloud.  I’ll let you know!

It has worked for everything else. 

It should work for Shakespeare.

How have you done Shakespeare with your middle schoolers?  And what are your thoughts on audiobooks?

Blessings,


Carnival of Homeschooling
This post is part of the 314th Carnival of Homeschooling.

Read Alouds – The Homeschooling Glue

Jan van Eyck 059

It is the last week of our winter break and we have enjoyed time off the school schedule, but we have kept reading our read aloud each evening.

Our story is just too exciting to put down and my kids groan if I stop for bedtime.

Read Aloud books are like glue that holds our learning and journey together.  Even older siblings join the younger children to hear the story again – it is a treasured family time.

We pack read alouds for  travels.  When we travelled for over a year, I fitted all my homeschool essentials in one on-board travel case.  Most the space was taken up with books and a few other odds and ends.  Our stories were constant thread amidst the changing and uncertain scenery of our lives.  And despite  the lack of regular schedules, the read alouds kept us growing and learning together.

We read together when the power goes out.  We read aloud when the Internet connection fails, or the laptop crashes – the book held firmly in our grip while technology fails.

I read aloud when children are sick and can’t do school.  In fact, there is no better glue to keep a mother sane and the children restful than to lie together in bed and read aloud.  We might have to catch up on disciplined subjects and seat work, but generally we stay on track.

When important visitors stay over, we withdraw to a room to read, but I have recently read aloud while friends stayed for a few days, and I watched their friend’s faces light up with delight when we took out the book.  Despite having just a brief overview of the story and characters, the amazing story captured their hearts and minds and we all loved the time listening together.

And now and then, disasters and crises arise.  Unexpected difficulties, sudden changes, breakdowns, delays, or disruptions unsettle everyone.  There is nothing better than drawing the young ones together on the couch, or under a shady tree with a good read aloud and forget the problems and find comfort and inspiration of a great story.

Still life with Bible, by Vincent Van Gogh

Moody and stressed mothers may safely turn to read alouds to ease tensions in the school room.  A child, unable to cope with his temper and conquer the spelling and maths, can relax and unwind listening to a read aloud.  It is a real relief!

We enjoy all the characters; protagonists and antagonists, topics and themes, countries and places, adventures and troubles, periods and times in these books.  And some lively discussions follow some chapters!  I love to read with expression and use accents – much to my children’s amusement (and irritation!)

I choose literature-based education for my young children. I use (and re-use) Sonlight and Footprints On Our Land curricula and have an amazing choice of read alouds that older children can read themselves one day as they mature.

They may forget many facts, but they seldom forget living books.  A living book brings history to life!  Their minds are filled, their imaginations ignited!  They learn new words, build up an incredible vocabulary and generate a fabulous general knowledge.  They learn without even knowing it! 🙂

I love read alouds!

When all else fails –

READ ALOUD TO YOUR CHILDREN

Blessings,