Letter 10 – Come To Pass

Letter to myselfHere’s the next letter my series ~ “Letter To Mewhere I encourage myself (and, hopefully, other new homeschoolers)  with what I wish I had known when I started out on our homeschooling journey ~

Dear Nadene,

When you feel that things are too difficult, repeat this mantra, “This too shall come to pass” …

Those sleepless nights with a new baby …“This too shall come to pass.” 

Those busy toddler days of upheaval and mess ….“This too shall come to pass.” 

Dreadful delays while toddler battles to  “do it myself” … “This too shall come to pass.” 

Special foods for mealtimes … “This too shall come to pass.”

Early bathtimes and bedtimes … “This too shall come to pass.”

The crying child afraid of ( ___ ) … “This too shall come to pass.” 

Handwriting struggles, hating Maths and halting reading … “This too shall come to pass.”

Spelling stresses, writing distresses, recitation protests … “This too shall come to pass.”

Refusals, rejections, wretched moods swings… “This too shall come to pass.”

Teen scenes of distractions and avoidance … “This too shall come to pass.”

High school tensions, subject choices and final exams … “This too shall come to pass.” 

Fears for the future, career choices and graduations … “This too shall come to pass.” 

Nadene, all too soon, your baby is grown up and moving outwards and onwards.  Your homeschooling job seems short, and what seems impossible, improbable, even insurmountable will all shrink into the right perspective if you can remember, “This too shall come to pass.” 

Take it from someone who has come all the way through to the end, the Lord is faithful, He will never fail and He is good all the time.

With hindsight blessings,

Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments?

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series:

Motivation #3 Turn Those Frowns Upside Down

Frowny

Today I have refreshed a post from my archives as we revisit posts on motivation ~  see Motivation #1 and Motivation #2

We have all had those days, where children frown, have the sulks, shed tears, refuse, delay and procrastinate, whine and complain, throw temper-tantrums, or go so s.l.o.w.

Firstly, assess why a child is unhappy and unmotivated:

  1. Is their negativity regular or consistent?
  2. Is there a pattern of this behaviour?
  3. Does this occur with all subjects or just some?
  4. Is the child sick or tired?  
  5. Has my child some physical problem that makes the learning difficult? Eyesight? Hearing? Low muscle tone? Any allergies?
  6. Is my child too busy?
  7. Are we over-scheduled?  Too many activities outside home?
  8. What is my child’s preferred learning style?
  9. Is my teaching method/ curriculum suited to my child’s learning style?
  10. What motivates him/her?  
  11. Is the work level too difficult?
  12. Am I requiring too much too soon?
  13. Are there other underlying emotional problems that frustrate and anger my child?
  14. Has the home routine been disrupted? New baby? A move?
  15. Is there a loss of regular meal and sleep schedules?
  16. Has the child recently been taken out of public school?  Does he/she need un-schooling?
  17. What TV/ movies/ music/ peer friends / network group is my child involved in?
  18. What are sibling relationships and family relationships like?
  19. How much one-on-one time does my child have with parents?
  20. Are parents experiencing difficulties?  Financial?  Marital?  Children are very sensitive to even unspoken stresses in the home.

When I assess, I first pray.  Too often my own fears of inadequacy or uncertainty cloud my judgement.  When I pray and journal, the Lord encourages me.  He is my Hope.  His answers are often very simple.

When things are difficult at homeschool, I always talk to my husband.  He is not involved with much of the schooling/ curriculum/ methods/ principles, but he knows me.  He knows our children and he is the Head of our home.  We talk about the problems and possible solutions.  He and I assess together.  He is much more reluctant than I am to seek outside help, but if there are physical issues, we agree together to consult an expert.

Establish the underlying problem and then plan:

  1. Start the day with prayer.  Pray together.  Pray for each other.  Pray for strength to face any difficulty.
  2. Keep at least 4 days (preferably 1 week) to the BARE ESSENTIALS.  Do not go out!  Do not entertain. Stay at home.
  3. Re-introduce the basic routine.  Keep strict sleep times and healthy, happy meals times.
  4. Keep school lessons short and sweet.
  5. Start with the hardest subject first.
  6. Use a different approach – do the work with drama/ movement/ puppet show/ songs/ actions/ fun activities.
  7. Have a snack and tea break when desk work (3 R’s) is complete.
  8. Continue with one enjoyable discovery subject (geography/ science/ history) per day.  Do it with minimum stress. Use delight-directed studies.
  9. Finish school with a song as you pack away.  End the day happily.
  10. Have a fun afternoon picnic/ swim/ game/ craft or activity/ go on a nature walk.  No books or work.  Keep it simple and fun.  Let them have free play outdoors.
  11. Avoid all TV/ DVDs/ computer games for a week.  Play family games/ read aloud/ listen to classical music/audio books while doing a family collage/ project.
  12. Introduce any healthy dietary changes gently if there were bad eating habits.
  13. Introduce any therapy with a positive and gentle approach.
  14. Be available in the day.  No blogging! Put aside your own activities or plan that the children join you in yours.  (Garden/ cook/ fold laundry together.) 
  15. Make bedtime simple, affectionate and whisper encouraging words in your child’s ear.  End the day with gratitude together.  Journal together or privately.  Rejoice over every victory.  

Some encouraging ideas about motivation:

  • Sit together with your children and ask them what they really like/
    dislike
    .  Agree to do even the disliked subjects, but discuss how you can make it enjoyable.
  • Plan your timetable together.  Let them choose with you.  Although I plan the subjects and topics, we set up our timetable together.   If we need to do maths, spelling and writing for example, I let them decide which they do first.  I ask my kids which subject on which day; Geography/ Science/ History on Monday?  We then put our timetable up on the notice board.
  • Plan one fun activity in each day.  We love brain gym and physical ed games. Art and crafts, nature walks are all added to the schedule.  If there is a fun activity, they will aim to complete the work quickly so they can enjoy that afterwards.  
  • Create short lessons.  Make sure that lessons are not longer than 20 minutes.  Rather 2 minutes of perfect handwriting, than half an hour of sloppy worksheets.  The schedule is a guideline, not a task master, so it is fine if a year schedule takes 18 months, especially for young children!
  • Use whatever method of motivation you find helps your children to complete work independently.  Many moms swear by the workbox method.  Others enjoy ticking off a task list when they have completed work.  Star charts work for some children.   Whatever method you chose, aim to bring your children to the place where they chose intrinsically to do the work excellently, quickly and independently.  
  • Do difficult work in a new way.  Put aside workbooks and use other methods.  Play educational games.  Reinforce basics with fun drills.  Use songs to memorize.  Play with apparatus instead of paper and pen.  Go online and find some fascinating resources/ online game/ video.
  • Stick to the  time limits.  Keep the lesson short and sweet.  Some kids are motivated if there is a timer and they stop when the bell rings.  Put aside incomplete work without a fuss.  Avoid nagging, shouting and insisting.  Tomorrow just start where you left off.  
  • Keep one day of the week for informal studies/ nature studies/ music/ art or poetry.   Don’t do formal studies and writing at first.  Just whet their appetite and enjoy the experience.  Maybe informally discuss their experience.  Later, introduce notebook pages or add some technical aspects.  (I have lost one child to Charlotte Mason subjects because I was too formal and technical.  Now I approach these subjects gently and informally.)
  • Review your week and plan for the next week.  Keep just one step ahead and your confidence and joy will keep you focused and motivated.
  • Be prepared.  Set up the schoolroom the night before.  Put out a new activity or create a surprise.  Kids love this!  A simple encouraging note at their place will do wonders! You’ll also start the day with a twinkle in your eye!
  • If things don’t work out, plan a catch-up” week.  In one week you can catch up a whole term of a subject.  Have a “Music Monday” and dive in deep!  Do nature studies or science for a whole week.  If a subject was neglected,  consolidate and catch up in a week.  In fact, focusing on one subject for a week is very motivating!
  • Plan an outing.  Go on a field trip.  Even a simple outing to a part or botanical garden can refresh and motivate everyone!
  • Do school in a new place.  Move your desks, rearrange the space,  Have school in a park/ library/ botanical garden/ or under a tree.
  • Join another homeschool family and do a hands-on project or an activity together. 
  • Co-ops are great motivators!  One talented mom can give art or music lessons for the group and there will be no tears or tantrums with outsiders!
  • Visit an expert or master craftsman.  Learn a skill from an expert.  Archery/ metalwork/ stained glass artwork or pottery classes can inject wonderful motivation to homeschool. (Only add this once the basics are well established and done with enthusiasm – see 2 and 3 in planning above.)

While most these thoughts have worked for me, I appreciate that every child and   Smiley Facefamily is unique.

The joy and blessing of homeschool is that you can tailor-make your schooling.  Children learn best when they use their natural learning style and study the topics that interest them.  A child who learns with joy and delight will tackle more challenging subjects with confidence.

Nothing in life and especially in homeschool is carved in stone!  My ideals have changed over the years.  Methods and approaches I once frowned upon, I now use and they serve their purpose – my children are learning and school is fun for all of us!

I trust that I may have encouraged you.  What works for you to turn  your frowns upside down?  Please share in the comments

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Blessings,

Motivation Within #2 Revisited

Previously I revisited Motivation Within #1  where I looked at intrinsic motivation.  20150218_103715

In this post, dusted off and renewed from my archives, I want to include some very practical suggestions, ideas and strategies .

There are many approaches and methods.  Some may work with very young children, but do not necessarily work with middle school children, and parents need new approaches when motivating young adolescents and teens.

Right upfront, I want you to know that I am not writing from a position of strength or success.   I am no expert.  My children are not perfect examples.  We are growing, learning, repenting, forgiving, praying and starting again.

Today I wish to share some ideas I gathered from several sources:

Caolan Madden of scholastic.com shared “10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learnsays:

  1. Fill your child’s world with reading.
  2. Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices.  Ask for his comments on decisions, and show that you value it.
  3. Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and urge her to explore subjects that fascinate her.
  4. Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing. 
  5. Point out the new things you learn with enthusiasm. Discuss the different ways you find new information.
  6. Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. “Even if he doesn’t do well grade-wise compared to the other students, he might still be learning and improving.”
  7. Help your child organize her school papers and assignments so she feels in control of her work. If her task seems too daunting, she’ll spend more time worrying than learning.
  8. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Completing a book report calls for a special treat; finishing a book allows your child an hour of video games. You’ll offer positive reinforcement that will inspire him to keep learning and challenging himself.
  9. Focus on strengths, encouraging developing talents.
  10. Turn everyday events into learning opportunities.

At teachkidshow.com they write “How to teach your child about motivation“.  They suggest that children are motivated in different ways during each phase of a child’s development:

Preschoolers

  • Very young children learn about motivation by watching and listening to us.
  • Thinking out loud can help kids know the “whys” behind things.
  • Listening to your child and reflecting back to them what they’ve said will help them become aware of what motivates them.

Grade K – 3rd graders

  • The need to be seen and heard is strong at this age.
  • Motivation stemming from fear can explain some negative behaviors.
  • Recognizing and encouraging your child’s natural bent and gifts can motivate them to succeed.

4th – 6th graders

  • Success at something of personal interest and meaning is motivating.
  • Listen to your child’s hopes and dreams without criticizing.
  • Activities that touch the mind, heart and spirit motivate repeat experiences.
  • Teach your child the power of their thoughts and words.

In an article Motivating Learning in Children, adapted from “Early Childhood Motivation from National Association of School Psychologists at nasponline.org, they suggest several strategies parents can use to help children remain more fully intrinsically motivated.  (I have added how Charlotte Mason’s  principles apply after each point)

  •  Provide an environment that allows children to freely explore and to see the effect of their actions.

A Charlotte Mason education nourishes a child by great literature and great thoughts.  Her pupils spent their afternoons  in nature and enjoying free play.  

  • Allow children ample time when working to allow for persistence.  Make sure that they can finish without interruption. Resist the natural urge to “help”.

Charlotte Mason stressed habits and character.  She wrote in Vol. 1, pg. 118 that, “Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming that habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.  It is necessary that the mother be always on the alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up from others.”  On dawdling she was most insistent that it is a “habit to be supplanted by the contrary habit,” and “once the habit is formed, it is very easy to keep it up.” (pg. 119)

  • Respond to children’s needs in a consistent, predictable manner, but allow them to be as independent as possible. All children need clearly defined limits. Playtime, however, need not be structured and organized. Let your kid be a kid!

Ms. Mason is famous for her advice where she said, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children …” (Vol. 1, pg. 136)  From birth, a baby thrives in a secure schedule.  Young preschoolers are happiest with play, rest and good nutrition, simple days and a happy bedtime routine.

  • Provide many opportunities for children and adults to explore together and interact directly. This lets you observe, model, and encourage your child.

Charlotte Mason advises parents to “personally know objects, or nature.” (Vol. 3, pg. 66) She advised that the parents enjoy discovery of nature together with their children.  Parents should read great books and discuss these thoughts and ideas together with their children.  Homeschool is the perfect environment for parents and children to learn and grow together.

  • Provide situations that give children an acceptable challenge.  Activities that are slightly difficult for the child will be more motivating and provide for stronger feelings of success when accomplished. This may take some trial and error at first.

Ms. Mason frowned on textbooks, abridged books, “twaddle” and simplified titbits of information.  She advocated (in Vol. 6, pg. 140) that “We cannot give a better training in right reasoning than by letting children work out the arguments in favour of this or that conclusion.”

Narrations are a challenging skill required in a Charlotte Mason education.  In Vol. 3, pg. 191-192, she said, “From their earliest days they should get the habit of reading literature which they should take hold of for themselves, much or little, in their own way.”

  • Give children opportunities to evaluate their own accomplishments. Rather than stating that you think they have done a good job, ask them what they think of their work. You’ll never go wrong by asking the question, “What do YOU think?”

Charlotte Mason said that, “No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required of him as a matter of course.” (Vol 1, pg. 159)

  • Do not use excessive rewards. They tend to undermine children’s ability to value themselves. Praise and rewards should be based upon children’s effort and persistence, rather than on the actual accomplishment.

Some closing thoughts on motivation:

  • Be prepared – pray and plan before you start the day.
  • Be firm and consistent – stick to the schedule and form good habits.
  • Focus on short, clear goals – everyone must know what is required and how to get there.
  • Use hands-on approach for young children – change tactics and methods for interest and variety of skills.
  • Have fun learning together – cuddle while you read, smile and laugh while you learn, talk, discuss, listen to each other.  Share with dad.
  • Be flexible – stop when before things get ugly.  Go on when things really sparkle!
  • Focus on successes – remind them (and yourself) of what you have accomplished.
  • Every day is a new beginning!  Start afresh.  Change approach or try again.

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Blessings,

Motivation Within #1 Revisited

Charlotte Mason

Image via Wikipedia

Revisiting my archives ~

Charlotte Mason introduced a now famous motto,

“I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

Notice – every phrase starts with “I”.

Intrinsic motivation is found and sustained within the person.

Internal motivation does not need incentives from others.

When education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life,” Charlotte Mason points us to a higher form of education;

not just a learning process,

not related to classrooms, studies or methods,

not stars charts, percentages, grades and results,

but an attitude of learning

assisted by a character devoted to education as a part of the individual’s life.

Charlotte Mason called upon parents and teachers to inspire their children.

Star charts, sweets, stickers, grades, gifts and rewards are all lovely, but these are external motivation. Children enjoy these rewards because adults recognize and approve of them, and this kills their own love of learning and discovery.

These activities are “extrinsically motivated“.  The reward comes from outside the child and it has to be provided by someone, and has to be continually given for the child to stay motivated.

While it works, and for some children, has exceptional results and is enjoyable, it does not bring about the character traits I am trying to instill in my children; namely to bring them to desire to do their best and meet the highest for themselves.

I read an excellent article Motivating Learning in Childrenadapted from “Early Childhood Motivation from National Association of School Psychologists at nasponline.org

“Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives.”

“Since intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. Intrinsically motivated children are more involved in their own learning and development. In other words, a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated – when he believes he is pleasing himself.”

They go on to describe behavioural characteristics that show a high level of motivation in a child.  (And beneath each point I have added how Charlotte Mason’s principles encourage a high level of motivation.)

  • Persistence –  A highly motivated child has the ability to stay with a task for a reasonably long time.

Ms. Mason advocated fairly short lessons.  She encouraged children to complete their work perfectly, with excellence.  She believed in discipline and developing good habits.

  • Choice of challenge – Children who experience success in meeting one challenge will become motivated, welcoming another.

Ms. Mason’s education was built upon “Living Books”, exposing children to great ideas communicated by great minds, allowing the child to make relationships of these ideas.  She wanted minds to nourished upon great ideas. She did not want the educators writing ‘twaddle’ and simplify books for children.

  • Dependency on adults – Children with strong intrinsic motivation do not need an adult constantly watching and helping with activities.

Ms. Mason insisted that the educator moved out of the way.  “Teaching must not be obtrusive.  Avoid lectures. Don’t get between the child and great minds.”  (Vol. 3, p. 66)  She did not want teachers to explain too much, nor give grades, or rewards.

  • Emotion – Children who are clearly motivated will have a positive display of emotion. They are satisfied with their work and show more enjoyment in the activity.

A Charlotte Mason education provided children with short, happy lessons, and afternoons free for leisure.  Her education included great music and art, a love and appreciation for poetry and nature.  She encouraged the development of good habits.  Through narrations the child expressed his thoughts and ideas.  She said schoolwork should, “convey to the child such initial ideas of interest in his various studies as to make the pursuit of knowledge on those lines and object in life and a delight to him.” (Vol. 2, p. 247)

We need to differentiate between motivation through incentives or by inspiration.

We need to prayerfully ask the Lord to show us how we can inspire our children to say, “I am, I can, I ought, I will”

There is so much more!  Next post, I would like to discuss strategies to intrinsically motivate our children.

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Blessings,

Getting Real ~ Cheating!

Thanks to all my readers for your wonderful comments on my “Getting Real” posts.  (If you missed my previous posts, you can read about Giving Up, Chaos, Flops and Attitudes in the series.)

Today I would like to talk about a sinister reality that crept in our high school phase ~ Cheating

Imagine my shock to find my high schooler cheating!  Not just copying the maths answers from the back of the book, but serious exam-type cheating!

I suppose it was to be expected for several reasons:

  1. My high schooler worked much more independently, and I didn’t watch her carefully.
  2. The work was difficult and my child was anxious and stressed.
  3. The exam results were sent to an external curriculum provider who would compile an official report. There was no chance of any mother-leniency.
  4. Most cheaters cheat because they are ~
    • afraid
    • unprepared
    • lazy
    • fear of failure
    • hate test situations
    • or because they have had bad results before

At the very start of the exam session I caught sight of some papers and realized she had made plans … and my blood ran cold.  I knew that this was serious.  Not because cheating is bad, which it is, but because I was faced with dealing with a child’s character, choices, ethics and morals, and I wanted to handle this situation with firmness and yet with dignity.

By God’s grace I didn’t blowup and make a mountain out of a molehill.  We went for a walk.  We talked.  I listened and tried not to formulate a huge lecture in my mind.  I deliberately told my ego that this situation was not a reflection of me, but of my child.  Importantly, I did not label my child a “cheater”.  I gave her the grace to confess and really apologize, to face her fears, and sit the exam afresh and try her best.

My kids are accountable and they need to ask for help. If they are unsure and afraid of tests and exams, they are simply not ready. Homeschooling allows for extra time, and there is often time to do more reviews.  Using past papers is an excellent tool for exam preparation.

High schoolers must work authentically and take more responsibility for their learning and studying.  School is their ‘work’ and they must do their best.  They should understand that cheating denies them the real learning experiences.

My high school graduate and myself believe that her matric exams were not about the information she learnt, but the exam preparation, learning skills and actual exam writing skills.  It does not take 12 years to prepare your child for their graduate/ matric exams!  Your child can master exams in 1 year, even if they have never sat for formal, external exams.  Please, please, please don’t chose an exam-type education for your child’s high school years just so that they can write their final exams!

May I suggest that young children do not need to write tests at all.  Working one-on-one, your daily work is proof enough of your child’s understanding and recall.  When there are real difficulties, then, by all means, have your child evaluated, but on the whole, allow your child to learn and progress at their own pace.  When they are ready, they will master the work!

I really encourage moms to carefully consider the stresses and tensions and fears children face when they write tests and exams.  We, as moms and teachers, are also measured by their failures and successes, and we also suffer through this process.  If your child does not cope well under test situations, please consider other options, and where possible, choose curriculums which do not require exams throughout the year.  I understand that your country or state may have regulations that insist on test results, but I would encourage you to find a 3rd party tester who can assist your frightened child in a personal way.

It is so important to build relationships of trust, honor and dignity with your children.  If they feel that we understand their fears and anxiety, they will not feel the need to cheat.  Give them more time to master the work.  I seem to repeat this often ~ TAKE YOUR TIME and enjoy the journey!

Blessings,

 

Getting Real ~ Attitudes

Let’s get real

So while my blog often shows smiling faces and lovely work, we have had our fair share of working through bad attitudes.  Cheeky answers, biting comments, rolled eyes, sulky mouths, even swearing (teens really know how to try to shock!) … sigh … we’ve had them all.

attitiudeIt is the hardest part of homeschooling, and the most draining. Rather than deal with incorrect answers in school work, I stop and address a bad attitude.  Attitude is a choice, and I want my kids to make good choices.  But there are those days when this is tough, thankless and seems to make things worse.  Brick walls.  Stand offs.  Chilly relationships.  Dark moments of feelings of defeat and failure.

It is hard to discern whether to be understanding of a problem and sympathetically help a child negotiate how they approach the problem, or, often in frustration, discipline their bad attitude. Charlotte Mason has loads to share and inspire in her volume on Habits and Character ~

  • “Deal with the child on his first offense, … but let him go in until a habit of wrong-doing is formed, and the cure is a slow one.”
  • “The mother (must) be always on the alert to nip in the bud habit her children may be in the act of picking up from others.”
  • “Never lower your standards or slack off.”
  • “Expect prompt, cheerful obedience.”
  • “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”

Extracts taken from “Charlotte Mason Study Guide A Simplified Approach to a “Living” Education” by Penny Gardner ISBN 1-57636-039-3

So, essentially, start young and establish good ground rules.  Be quick to nip things in the bud.

I love that a Charlotte Mason education offers tangible, practical practices that heal attitudes and restore relationships ~ Why not, when trouble bubbles to the surface, and nerves start to fray, go out and take a nature walk?  Sit together and sketch or listen to classical music.  These Fine Arts subjects are often a healing balm.  Tension, now released, we can come back to face the difficulty.  What about her recommendations to keep short lessons?  Put the maths aside for the day, and come back when fresh and positive.

Often I reassure myself that my child is going through an “age or stage” phase, where they express their fears  and frustrations in their attitudes.  “This, too, shall come to pass.” Sometimes kids act out with their moms and yet they would never dare to do so with others.  If you are in constant war with your teen, trust the Lord to help you step back and to lead your child to someone for help. My advice to high school parents is to find a 3rd party person or tutor, who they can see fairly regularly with their homeschool subjects that frustrate them. Somehow, kids keep themselves in check with a person they respect.  Most times, their attitude issues have very little to do with actual school work.  Don’t let things spiral out of control.

I found myself repeating,

“Don’t take things personally.  This is not about you.  This about them.”

Parenting is done on our knees … praying. Praying for you and yours with blessings,

Getting Real ~ Flops

Continuing my “Getting Real” series, today I want to share our ~ 

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean that it is useless.”

Flops!

Despite most my posts describing our successes, many lessons and projects have ended as flops! Sometimes with angry outbursts, or with tears, or with serious declarations that my kids hate “….” or whatever!

It happens! Just look at some amusing Pinterest Flops!

The trick is to learn from the mistakes, or learn to just let it go.

Redoing a project, or unpicking a seam, pulling out several rows of knitting, or erasing several arithmetic errors and re-calculating the answers requires real perseverance and strength of character.

Some things are worth getting right.  Maths. Spelling. Charlotte Mason encourages parents to encourage their children to do their work with excellence.

Some things should be recycled or ditched.

When some of our art lessons have disappointed us or the end product is disastrous, we have cut the art work into cards or bookmarks.  Some, we simply tossed into the wastepaper basket.

When lessons flop, the teacher inside me quickly starts to analyse …

  • Should I have tried a different approach/ book/ method?
  • Is the work too hard/ difficult for my child?
  • Are the instructions clear?
  • Did I explain well?
  • Was I really prepared or did I fly by the seat of my pants?
  • Is my child alert, awake and stimulated or is he/ she tired or sick or distracted?
  • Is this lesson worth re-doing?
  • What can I change?

I believe that disappointments and some mistakes are a very important training tools.  We should not  try shield our child from flops and poor results.  They need to learn from them.  Children must develop their characters and grow as people in order to stay positive and try again.  A sense of humor is an incredible tool, too!

To quote Thomas Edison after battling to develop the light bulb,

“I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

So, if you’ve had flops, rack them up as part of your learning curve, laugh it off, and try, try, try again!

Blessings and wishing you much success,

Getting Real ~ Chaos

My “Getting Real” series began after a reader recently told me that everything on my blog looked too neat and organized!

Let me assure you that the organization photos are staged.  I especially clear the tables and pack away the clutter before I take the photos!  But, of course, my school room does NOT look like that all the time!

Once, I asked my kids what they think makes me most stressed and they told me that I am often always stressed about clutter and chaos. So, yes, I am a bit of a tidy freak!

Usually I tidy as  I work, and I spend about 5 minutes packing away at night. I like to have a clear desk and clean kitchen when I go to bed.  It helps me feel positive and  motivated to walk in to clear rooms in the morning.

But I have 3 daughters who work all over the place … doing all sorts off stuff ~ They love creative projects and they are allowed to make a mess!  It is part of the creative process.  There may be ~ branches full of lichens across a table wired into a ‘chandelier’ … beads and wire scattered on a tray … flower arrangements with petals, leaves and off-cuts mess over the floor … a massive sewing project with patchwork pieces and fabric scraps lie all over every surface … paintings and paint trays and paint bottles lie around … a mass of confetti papers surrounding some craft project litters every meter …

Even normal things clutter and create chaos, such as unfolded laundry piles waiting to be folded and packed away  … someone’s chores still undone … It is a real mess at times. I’m your typical mom calling the kids, “Come clean up!

Chore charts prevent the need for moaning and nagging.  Simple routines enforce before & after mealtimes so that they do their kitchen chores.  They fold and pack laundry on wash days. Once a week we all clean house. (It stays cleaner longer if they know they have to clean up the mess again, and the person responsible for a zone will moan at her siblings to clean up after themselves so that they don’t have to clean again that week.)

After school, every day, we pack away schoolbooks and make the area available for other projects and play.  Just before the end of the day, everyone packs up or packs away their project so that the school room is available the next morning. A basket, a tray or a box keeps unfinished things handy so that they can continue their project the next day. When we fall into chaos, we delay our schoolwork and first tidy up.  This means that they have less free time in the afternoon.

As the girls get older, I find that the tidying, habit-training really pays off, and they calmly clear and pack up with out constant reminders and nagging.

I recommend moms create a simple routine for your family and focus on one habit each week or month until it is established.  Train young children with songs (like Barney’s “Clean Up, Clean Up”) and reminders with simple rhyming words.  Make it fun!  Put on great music and sing as you work!

How do you tame the chaos in your home?  Please feel free to share your advice in the comments.

Blessings as you create order in your days.

Getting Real ~ Giving up

A reader recently told me she always deleted my posts because I’m “too organized”! I felt compelled to be real and explain that most of my posts are simply a “peep into our homeschooling” and, although not always window dressed, I tend to showcase what works.

So, here is the start a series of “Getting Real” posts. 

My main goal in Practical Pages is to encourage moms and so I will widen my exposure lens and share some of the real issues, problems and some of the nitty-gritty realities of our homeschooling lives, and hopefully, be real about how we are trying to work through them.

Giving up.

I have felt like giving up, several times over the past years. Mostly during the years teaching my high schoolers, as shut-down teens. They are tough, and, together with their strong wills and designs of their own, as well as a really pathetic correspondence high school curriculum, I had no idea how to “succeed”.  I dreaded every day’s battles, frustrations and dead-ends.  In the end, we pushed through,  and my eldest graduated with a university entrance. Relief!  One down – 2 to go …

Last year my middle daughter only started her high school year in April and we did not do any exams that year … at all. It was the year my hubby said that “I dropped the ball”.

I must defend myself explain that our son got married that February, we were all helping build his house in time … and the postal strike delayed the arrival of her books … and so on … but basically I floundered with a new high school curriculum we had started, and I didn’t know how to approach the lessons and guide my daughter through her work.

Praise the Lord, she settled into a better routine when life returned to ‘normal’.  She attended lessons with a tutor in town every 2 weeks to bring her (and myself) up to standard.

Essentially, it did not really matter. All that fuss and those crippling fears!  She is young for the course she signed up for, and has 3 years to complete the 2 year exam requirements. I am confident that she did not actually fall behind, and that we are still on track.

My kids have often told me that they give up.

Young kids cried over maths, and even more sadly, they have cried in our art lessons.  My eldest refused to do some CM subjects and I cried bitter tears of failure.

More sadly, I had tried so hard. Too hard. I blame myself for coming on too strong, being to ‘teachy’ and trying to educate.all.the.time.

Lesson learnt. I have learnt to relax much more. I have learnt to let the kids take control and take the lead.

Often, it helps to talk to another understanding person; my hubby or a fellow homeschooler. It is a relief to know that others struggle just as we do.

Don’t give up.  Take a break.  Change your approach.  Find help.  It is worth the effort of perseverance!  In the end, homeschooling provided the nurture and relationship bonding that has made our lives rich and rewarding.

You can do it!

Have you ever felt like giving up? How did you find the courage to continue?  Please share in the comments.

Blessings as you persevere.

Maths Matters – What Works!

Another “What Works!” post ~ 

After tutoring my eldest daughter through her high school maths course all the way to graduation, and now working with my junior high daughter in her maths course and doing middle school maths with my youngest, I know that maths matters … but it also can bring tears and the mutters!

Here’s 12 maths principles that I’ve seen work ~

  1. Maths needs daily exercise – much like having to walk the dog!  My kids do 2 pages of maths exercises every day except for Fridays. We mix it with maths drills, times tables practice or word problems.
  2. Use manipulatives. Maths comprises of abstract concepts. Young children especially need to work with real objects.  When teaching any new concept, start with real objects and teach with examples. Use blocks, Unifix cubes, real measuring jugs and scales, work with tape measures and rulers. Use number lines, pie pieces, apples and oranges.  Whatever works, use it.  Keep trying until you find the “one thing” that clicks with your child.  Let your child practice with these objects. (Pop over to my free Maths pages for these manipulatives.)
  3. Take your time here at the physical level.  Don’t rush.  Make sure the child understands the concept well and is confident before going back to the books.  If your child forgets, revise with manipulatives.  If they get stuck, go back to manipulatives.  This is vital.  Confidence is a huge factor in maths success.
  4. Encourage mental maths muscles.  Train your children to think maths problems. Exercises with number order (what comes before/ after a number), bonds (adding numbers to each other) and times tables are essential.  This follows the manipulative stage. Train them to get the answer quickly.  Speed and confidence here will make the rest of problem solving and other exercises a breeze! (Check through my mental maths pages here.)
  5. Do drills.  Even just 2 minutes of drills (oral, physical fun or mental maths pages) daily will help ‘cement’ the maths skills.  Do this before the maths book work.
  6. Make it physical and fun.  Do fun physical workouts when ordinary drills and manipulatives are not working to combat tears and tantrums. Recite the tables while jumping on a mini trampoline, while skipping with rope, when bouncing a ball, clapping hands, doing hopscotch … it is fun and it stimulates the brain!  Use playing cards and dominoes for fun maths drills and mental maths.
  7. Maintain the course ~ if it works.  Stay on the same curriculum if it works. Don’t switch around too much.  Each curriculum has been designed to follow concepts. Some conceptually spiral, each year developing the concepts to the next level.  Jumping from curriculum to curriculum may cause your child to stumble across ‘new’ concepts without having the introductory work.  Many moms I know have shelves of maths books and courses and still haven’t found a good ‘fit’.  May I suggest that you choose the best of the lot and supplement here and there with other exercises or examples.
  8. Tutor high school maths.  If you or dad can tutor, great. It worked for me and my daughter.  If not, find a friend, student, retired teacher or professional tutor to help your child.  This is especially important with high school maths.  Don’t let maths tantrums and upsets cause you to ditch homeschooling!  Often a 3rd party person makes a huge difference in a teenager’s attitude. The student must report regularly to the tutor and be accountable for the work they understand and the concepts that they struggle with.  Often tutors are great for pre-exam revision.  The tutor can prepare the student for the type of work to focus on and the questions to practice.
  9. Practise the skills.  Many maths books give an example, lay out brief explanations and then go on to the exercises.  Generally most students need to practice with the introductory examples several times to completely understand the new concepts.  When the child starts a maths problem, they have some doubts and questions.  When they manage the examples and the initial, easy problems, they gain confidence.  But they need to establish this process with a few more similar problems before moving on to more difficult sums.  Where maths books progress too quickly, or provide too few similar problems, children lose confidence.  If they haven’t “got it” with the easy work and then struggle with more complex problems, they become afraid.  Fear forms into frustration which then manifests into anger.  Supplement your child’s books with examples or go online to find similar work.
  10. Do maths early, when your child is most awake and fresh.  Maths requires mental fitness and this is most often early in the day. My teens often put off their maths lessons because they didn’t enjoy it much, but when they finally had to do their lessons, they were tired and they struggled more. I advised them to do it first and get it over with for the day.  For young children, maths and handwriting should be done at the table, early in the morning.  We do our seat work (or disciplinary subjects = those 3R’s) first and then go on to read alouds and narrations.
  11. Estimations are essential skills!  Along with mental maths and confidence, the most important maths life skill is to estimate within range.  I only discovered this as an adult, but I find that it is perhaps the most underrated skill at schools.  Teach your children to “guess” quickly and then “prove” their guess.  It is fun, quick and it builds enormous confidence in their maths ability.  This can be done as “living maths”; in the kitchen while cooking and baking, in the garden when laying out vegetable beds and planting seedlings in rows, while cutting material, making dresses or designing woodwork patterns, while packing away toys, doing hobbies and crafts, or travelling on road trips.
  12. Many children will always “hate” maths.  Their brains are just not wired to excel in maths.  However, maths literacy is vital and will greatly improve their independence and confidence in daily life.  Stick to the most reasonable maths program and assist your child to at least master the basics. My artistic, creative daughters have been unhappy about maths for years, but I have not negotiated with them that they drop maths until at least grade 10.  For matric, maths or maths literacy is a compulsory subject and your teen will still need the above skills. Our South African maths literacy course is excellent.  It is real, relevant and within the ability of a ‘non-maths’ student.

I share this all with this background ~ My early childhood years of insecurity with maths made me literally throw up with fear, especially in high school!  Then, when I was a student teacher, I was once assigned to a school’s maths teacher for all the grades 3, 4 and 5 maths classes.  I spent hours and hours on my lesson preparation because I was terrified that I couldn’t teach maths.  It quickly made me realize that the best method to preparation and understanding was lots of “scratching of pencil on paper” and using several different textbooks to see the different approaches to teach the concepts.

A brilliant mathematician does NOT necessarily make a great maths teacher!  In fact, the teacher who may have struggled with maths may make a more compassionate teacher and will know exactly how they learnt the maths skills through practice.

When I tutored my high schoolers, I did the maths work for them (with them sitting watching and listening), then with them, and finally I sat next to them as they worked.  If they were stuck, I would try another approach or break it down differently.  Even though I taught these lessons, I didn’t always have time to prepare before hand, and so the two of us figured it out together.  We battled, struggled, sympathized and encouraged each other as we went along.  It was the one place in their independent studies that we were vitally connected!

Mom, you can teach your child maths!  You just do not need to be a maths whizz!

Blessings,