Not Qualified to Homeschool?

Encouraging new homeschoolers ~

A reader recently wrote and asked,
“I’m not qualified as a teacher.   I have 3 young children and want to start homeschooling. What do you recommend?”

Let me start with this statement20140811_125422 ~  YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL YOUR OWN CHILDREN! You are already educating your children as you intimately know your children and adapt to their needs, interests and abilities.  You don’t need certification, experience or qualifications to educate them if you are able to follow some basic principles, and approaches.  If you read good parenting and education books you will gain excellent perspective and understanding on how your child learns and how you can initiate or facilitate their interests and explorations.  Some homeschool curriculums are so well-designed and prepared that you will easily be able to facilitate your child’s learning.

I can fully understand how uncertain and insecure you must feel.  Even as a qualified, professional teacher, I experienced the same fears and failures in my first year teaching.  Here’s my story   ~

I qualified with a 4 year Diploma of Higher Education with subject majors and a specialization in remedial education as a senior primary (middle school) teacher.  When I received my first teaching post, the school appointed me to a junior primary class and I was completely ill-equipped!  I had absolutely no idea how to teach these young, little kids to write, read, do phonics or practice numeracy!  Even with the lesson preparation planned out for me, I had no idea how to actually implement the lessons.  I used to stand on tip-toe to  peep into my neighbouring teacher’s classroom to see how she taught her classes and try copy her in my class!  It was a real disaster!  Six months later, when a senior primary teacher was transferred to another school, I begged for her classes and was promptly “promoted” to senior primary where I flourished!

After teaching at public schools for 10 years and completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree,  I became a stay-at-home mom started homeschooling my young children.  All my years of teaching experience and study did not help me.  In fact it was a hindrance!

My first homeschooling year looked like “school-at-home” and I rigorously implemented Sonlight’s  packaged curriculum.  I religiously stuck to their schedule, and stressed and juggled to try implement the 3 separate cores I bought for each child and we all nearly burnt out!  Wonderfully, during this first year I also read amazing education and parenting books and slowly realized that I needed to loosen up, look for the learning spark or moment and fan that flame to encourage my children to explore and discover their own interests and creative passions.

My children learnt despite my best and worst efforts.  Two years later we spent 18 20140603_121902months on the road travelling around South Africa.  I wisely put all the children on just one core and followed Footprints On Our Land .  I learnt that even if we travelled and missed formal schooling days we didn’t fall behind.   I simply extended the schedule to cover 18 months instead of 1 year!  We loved the flow and natural learning that came with reading amazing books, visiting people and places and being creative.

So what do you need to have to qualify as a good homeschooler?

  • Relationship.  Be attached and connected, involved and encouraging of each child.  Know your children, their weakness, fears, anxieties, learning styles, interests, and passions.   This is true for any great parent, even if your child attends public school!
  • Facilitator.  Your purpose is to observe and listen to what they love to do, what they love to learn, and to encourage, initiate ideas, and help them explore and discover what interests them.  Give them time and space to explore, discover, create, make a mess, make mistakes, and make it their own.  Ask them what they want to learn and allow them to choose subjects, topics, books and approaches and then tailor-make their education.  Think of child-led learning.
  • Basic skills. Teach them with short, clear instructions and then let them apply it in their learning.  Give them examples of how to work with equipment, tools, materials and methods.  Show them how to be safe and keep things clean and in working order when finished.  Think of practical life skills such as washing, cleaning, using kitchen equipment, sewing, handwork, use a variety arts and crafts materials.  Teach more specific educational skills such as how to use a microscope or maths equipment .  If you don’t know how, find someone who can and learn together with your kids.  Often my kids find out for themselves in the Internet or from friends.
  • Read aloud with expression.  This may be your greatest teaching tool!  We have always learnt through living books and great literature.  I still read aloud every day to my high schooler and our family loves to read.  Even when everything else seems uncertain and failing, read alouds have kept us going strong.  It has been our homeschool glue!  Start while your kids are very young and just keep updating your library, looking for relevant, engaging books as they grow older.  There are dozens of book lists for children of every age.  Ambleside Online is a free Charlotte Mason education based primarily on book lists for each year.
  • Keep the young years fun!  Avoid making homeschool about desk work, days of dry, dull, long lessons.  Do hands-on activities, play, get dirty, have fun, sing, laugh and play.   Avoid curriculums that require strict marking, tests and exams.  This approach is not necessary until your children reach highschool.  Only in the final 3 years of highschool do you need to settle into a more focussed academic approach.

When buying a curriculum, most new homeschool parents buy the full bells-and-whistles packages.  This is a great help, but I urge you to adapt it and make it fit your family.

Here’s my best advice to new curriculum package users ~

  • One core – try put as many children of similar ages together on the same core.  Some years a young or older child may require the focus of the core, but generally go on a family adventure on the same read alouds.
  • Individual Reading, Maths and Spelling – each child on their own learning levels and pace for handwriting, phonics, reading, spelling and maths.
  • Short sweet lessons – For the 3R’s read how to keep lessons short – only 10 to 15 minutes long.
  • 4-Day-Schedule – plan for one free day to do extras, outings, co-ops, nature walks, fine arts and personal free time.  This will keep you and your children fresh and sane!
  • Start slowly – don’t pile into the full package.  Ease into the program over weeks even months.  Start with the best, juicy parts like the reading aloud and the main core books.  Each day work through this and then add a new subject each week.  Give yourself and your kids time to find your family’s natural rhythm and flow.  It doesn’t matter if some subjects are “behind” for a while.  You can focus on lagging subjects and catch up easily in a few days or a week!
  • Tweak the package for each child and use the schedule uniquely and individually instead of trying to make your kids and yourself fit into someone else’s learning plan.  Think of the schedule as an outline, prompt or suggestion.  It is the general road-map. Make the journey yours!

You CAN DO THIS!

Wishing you all grace and courage as you follow your heart and begin this most amazing journey!

Blessings, Nadene

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Make Memories with Hands-on Activities

Revisiting earlier posts ~

Way back in 2009, when I re-used our Sonlight Core 1&2 World History with my youngest 2 kids, I ignored the time-frame suggested in the Sonlight schedule and followed it as a mere guideline.  Adding hands-on activities to our themes made homeschool come alive and filled our school day with fun!  

But, more importantly, it really helped my kids learn.  In fact, when I asked them what they remember of their studies, they mostly only remember the hands-on activities!

I am re-using Core 1&2 with my younger 2 girls and decided to relax, stretch the schedule and do hand-on activities when we could this year.

Buiilding castles

building castles

The girls have made models and built castles.  They have created interesting project pages.  They have dressed up and acted out scenes from read alouds.  They have cooked and baked and then ate foods from the country or era.  We have visited places and museums.

Dressing the part

Dressing the part

During school they have played online educational games and they have created interesting notebook pages.  We have made lapbooks for as many themes as we could find or create.

Mapping World War II

Mapping World War II

These activities have been the highlights!  I highly recommend that you allow more time to ‘flesh out’ the schedule!  How can one spend only 1 day covering Japan?  Or take just 2 days to enjoy the Knights and Castles?

Sonlight has offered me a great framework and I have enjoyed this approach SO much more than my first year of homeschooling tick-the-box-stick-to-the-schedule approach!

Life is the learning journey!

Especially while you are teaching your young children, even up to junior high, add and include hands-on activities!  Make time for it!  It is an investment in your children’s learning experience that will last!

Blessings,

Closure and Review of our Year

We have officially closed our 2011 academic year.

No more ‘formal’ school until January 2012.

Notebook pages are filed.

Books are sorted.

Wall charts are packed away.

Our crowded timeline pictures have been taken off.

We smile as we review the year’s work.

I love to have closure at the end of the year.

We are encouraged to see how much we covered.

I am amazed at the thick files full of my children’s unique notebook pages!  Every page is one-of-its-kind.  Each child wrote their own narrations and illustrated what they understood from the information studied.  The narration process is quite remarkable. I am truly pleased to see how each child matured during the year.

I smile at my children’s enjoyment as they review their own notes and lapbooks.  They are proud of their achievements.  This is such a good way to end the year.

I make my own (mental) notes.  What worked well?  What did we spend too little/ too much time on?  What methods (notebooks/ timelines/ minibooks/ hands-on projects/ lapbooks) were the most effective?

What did we miss?  Does it matter?  Do I go on?  Do I skip it?

But homeschooling is not about learning information.

Subject matter missed now does not matter.

My kids can catch up any time.

I purpose to train character.

Real education is ongoing …

This year I re-used my Sonlight curriculums.  It has been a good “fit” and this time round I stretched it out to fully enjoy everything.

Next year I plan to re-use my South African literature-based History curriculums.

My 9-year-old starts middle school with Footprints on our Land.  My 12-year-old starts Junior High using Footprints Into 21st Century and my eldest continues on to Grade 11 with Delta Education.

For the first time since my early years of homeschooling, each child will be on their own core/ curriculum.  And each child enters a new phase in schooling.

This will be stressful – especially for me.

Each child will need my help to settle in to a new approach.

We will all need grace.

Right now I am grateful for time to

pray

plan

&

prepare

How do you wind up your 2011?

Blessings,

World War II Notebook Pages, Maps, Timelines & Online Resources

An Observer Corps Spotter on a rooftop in London.

World War II

As with our WWI studies, I wanted to present a brief overview to World War II events, rather than to do a detailed study.  I felt that if any topic raised someone’s particular interest, we would delve into it a little deeper.

Most my children’s existing knowledge of World War II has come through movies.  As a family, we had watched a few WWII classic movies, such as the BBC’s  The Battle of Britain and The Great Escape and the modern release of Pearl Harbor.

I find that holocaust movies can be deeply disturbing.  We selectively guide our children’s viewing of these films.  We watched The Diary of Anne Frank  and The Boy with Striped Pyjamas.

For our History studies, I wanted to create a type of “skeleton” or framework on which they can attach all their existing and new knowledge.

Timeline activities and map work seemed the best method to use.

I spent several hours researching for online resources and there is a stack out there!

I use OneNote for all my web research and notebook preparation.  I simply copy and paste anything I find on the internet on One New Side Note.

What is wonderful about this Microsoft tool (part of the Office package) is that ~

1. it saves everything for you automatically

2.it automatically places the url hyperlink under the clip when you copy and paste a picture, quote, table or whatever.  I use these hyperlinks to go back to the original website or use these references to complete my lapbook organizer or bibliography with one click!

3. you can easily organize your notebooks, filing and creating sections, tabs and new notebooks as you go, or afterwards

Recommended Websites on World War Two:

For the best overviews:

History Animated

A brilliant website with animated maps, timelines and original audio recording, radio broadcasts and famous speeches.  Highly recommended!  Go here to view WWII in Europe and Africa with an outstanding animation of the Battle of Britian.  They also cover the entire WWII Pacific wars and include animated maps with audio of the Japanese Onslaught, America Fights Back and battles on various islands in the Pacific.

History on the Net

They have an excellent site with photos, timelines and free printable notes.  They also include some online word searches and quizzes.

CyberLearning-World.com

Work online on the excellent interactive map of WWII with more notes on the side.  (Excellent visual presentation)

History Of War Online

Here are stacks of links to maps, photos, documents, stories and even recordings of the war.

(I love audio recordings – great for auditory learners and learning with busy hands!)

BBC – History: World War II

With expandable index and excellent notes.

Timelines:

Maps:

World Leaders & Famous Speeches:

Audio recordings of soldiers, civilians and survivors:

Main battles and events:

Pearl Harbor: An excellent animated map of the attack at Pearl Harbor with audio and full click details on the images on the map. Pop back to my New Pearl Harbor Lapbook post

Free WWII Notebook Pages:

(Click the title for your free download)

These come in 3 different layouts.  We combine our minibooks and notebook pages.

I created a concertina-folded timeline to paste into our Book of Centuries.  This way the war “unfolds” 🙂 for the child  and gives them a bird’s-eye view.  This 9 page download comes with detailed timeline notes that the child can use to write their own time line events.

Children colour in the different countries according to whether they are Axis, Allies, Neutral and Occupied Territories on a world map.  Coloured map of Europe during the war is also included.

Enjoy!

Blessings,

World War I Minibooks and Notebook Pages

One-page minibooks are my favourite minibooks because you can tell a whole story on one page. With just 3 folds and a snip, and refolded, it becomes an 8 page booklet filled with info.

(Have you downloaded my one-page minibook templates yet?)

I created several minibooks and notebook pages for our study of

World War I


The first minibook covers the most important events of the war which I adapted from this excellent online animated book of WWI.

The second minibook is about WWI warfare, including trenches, guns, tanks, airships and airplanes.

I made a vocabulary and definitions minibook and created a crossword, word search and match words worksheets to reinforce the new vocabulary. I love the simple worksheet maker at PuzzleFast Instant Puzzle Maker.   You just types the words and their meanings, and you can select whichever game you want and it creates it for you in a jiffy!  Using the same imput you can select several puzzles at a click.

I made World War I notebook pages in 3 variations.  We combine our minibooks and notebook pages.

We concluded our study by writing in all the main events and dates on our Book of Centuries.

You can download your WWI pages here:

Enjoy!

Blessings,

New – Pearl Harbor Lapbook!

We have started our final section of Sonlight American History.

I created a new free lapbook  download~

Pearl Harbor Lapbook

Update:  I’ve broken the above lapbook file into 3 smaller files for easier downloads:

Pearl Harbor Lapbook

The Pearl Harbor Lapbook includes:

  • 19 page download with …
  • lapbook organizer with hyperlinks for each section to original websites
  • Vocabulary and definitions with several activities such as a crossword puzzle, word search and match words with meanings
  • Detailed (even minute-by-minute!) timeline
  • Battleships, Cruisers & Destroyers minibooks
  • Map of harbor to identify ships
  • What happened? with 3 photos to examine, discuss and describe
  • Oral history and survivor reports from a nurse, a sailor and a lieutenant commander to read, discuss and summarize
  • Aftermath of Pearl Harbour with photo and info
  • History Notebook Pages in 3 variations

This lapbook is for upper middle schoolers (for 10 – 12 year olds) but can be adapted for younger middle schoolers or extended for junior high students.

I suggested several alternative activities and introduced some advanced skills like ~

  • summarizing reports
  • making inferences
  • coming to conclusions
  • consequences to events
  • characteristics of heroes
  • write newspaper report
  • create an interview
  • give a radio report

With this in mind, I’m sure my 12-year-old will combine minibooks on the notebook pages, rather than do a lapbook.

If you download and use this lapbook, please feel free to comment here and share your photos and stories!

Blessings,

Read Alouds – The Homeschooling Glue

Jan van Eyck 059

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Angelo Bronzino 044

Image via Wikipedia

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

Image via Wikipedia

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,

Re-using Sonlight and Doing it Differently

This is my homeschooling motto ~

https://www.charlestongardens.com/images/products/detail/2600.jpg

I started out over 12 years ago …

idealistic

a purist

Sonlight-out-of-the-box

strictly schedule-driven

& determined to make it work with 3 different children on 3 separate cores …

And I was stressed and none of us really managed.

As I shared before, I am re-using my Sonlight curriculums.  In fact, I am and will re-use most of my bought full packages. I have used and re-used Kindergarten Introduction to World History,  Core 1 & 2 World History, Core 3 & 4 American History packages.

Sonlight packages are FANTASTIC!  Their readers, read aloud books and core books are wonderfully selected and perfectly scheduled to overlap and cover history through literature.  If you can afford it, I would highly recommend the full packages!  They are a real investment.

As I re-used my Sonlight cores, I have taken a different approach.  May I share how my approach and methods have changed?

I try to place as many children on the same core as possible.

Homeschooling through literature is a journey best shared with the entire family.  Especially when you read aloud, all the children end up listening anyway.  There are some years where combining all the children on one core is not possible, but try avoid buying different cores for each child – there is simply too much to read and cover with each child.

I am led by my children’s ages and stages.

My children follow their own Maths grade, spelling, handwriting and phonics programs.

I try to ease the younger child along the program, realizing that she may not get the full picture, but she is learning along with the rest and enjoys the hands-on activities and lapbooks we cover.  Who knows, I may re-use parts of the package with her again later?

This year I am pushing my middle schooler.  I want her to maximize her learning and develop her skills everyday.  In the past, she may have cruised a little, but now I focus on her pace and keep her motivated and focused.

Follow the schedule at a pace that suits my family.

My first years of homeschooling, I ticked all the boxes.  You see, Sonlight is so organized that all you do is open the schedule and start the work.  I was devoted to the schedule.  I dreaded “falling behind” and I would strive to do everything every day.  It was simply exhausting.

Now, I follow the theme.  If a sub-theme or topic catches our attention, we deviate.  We take side paths.

I don’t mind how long the program will take.  In fact, I usually spread a 12 month schedule over 18 months so that I can stretch it to the max!  And why not?  It is all paid for, it is all there.  I want us all to enjoy it.

I try savour the moments.  I try not to rush and cut things short.  I am not trying to fill my kids with information.  I want to ignite their hearts, fuel their love to learn and develop their characters.

I add new activities to the core where and when I can.

I realize that my kids may be familiar with the books, stories and some facts as I reuse the curriculum, but they were so much younger when they first heard it. Yes, they may know some things, but when we cover the themes this time, they learn new information and understand concepts better.

I look for some new hands-on activities, create new history notebook pages, find plays, lapbooks and internet resources to give the core a completely updated version.

My children really love to notebook their narrations.  They also enjoy some lapbooks.  I didn’t even know about these activities when I started homeschooling my children.

Surely, if I re-use any core a 3rd time, I’m sure I would do it differently … I’m growing and learning [smile] and I still discover new techniques and approaches.  I prayerfully apply more of Charlotte Mason’s principles as I go along.

(I want to just add quietly that I have also used other out-the box curriculums which I will re-use too.  And I’m sure we’ll do these differently when we get there. 🙂 )

Nothing is cast in stone.

I hope that my sharing encourages you as you plan your new year.

Be blessed,

Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers & Early American History Notebook Pages

Richard Warren, among 10 passengers in the lan...

Image via Wikipedia

This title is a mouthful,

but here is a lovely BIG 13-page notebooking and minibook combination download

for Early American History with these pages:

  • Puritans ~ half page blank & lined
  • Puritan Church ~half page blank & lined
  • Quakers – blank page
  • Quakers ~ half page blank & lined
  • Mayflower ~ half page blank & lined
  • New England ~ blank
  • Indians Help the Settlers ~ blank
  • Minibook pages for Puritans and Indians Help Settlers pages
  • Tabbed minibook for New England or Puritan pages
  • British Laws made smugglers & pirates ~ half page blank & lined
  • Minibook page for Smugglers & Pirates page & Virginia page
  • Virginia ~ half page blank & lined

My kids love to draw while I read.  Our Sonlight “The Landmark History of the American People from Plymouth to the Moon” by Daniel J. Boorstin’s chapters are quite detailed and lengthy.  They draw in the half page space or on the blank pages and then write their narrations below their pictures.

They also prefer to write their narrations in our little cut-and-folded minibooks. Somehow, these dinky, small booklets fools them to believe that they don’t have to write much!  But they write just as many facts here as they would on the lined notebook pages! (Shh … don’t tell them!)

Here is a peek at these pages:

And here’s your free download:

Pilgrims and Early American History

Blessings,

Our Latest Copywork And Dictation Pages

We use Sonlight’s Language Arts and they offer weekly dictation and copywork selections from their readers.

Sonlight's Copywork page

Copywork is the basic starting point to teach both handwriting and enrich  language studies.  Just by copying good written examples, they learn spelling, grammar and style.

Dictation is the next phase in encouraging children to memorize the spelling and the sentences as they copy them during the week.  Ultimately, our children need to improve these skills until they can write the entire passage without any help or peeping!

Because the Sonlight worksheets are in print and I want my children to practice cursive handwriting, I have printed out my beginner cursive writer’s selections in our favourite style cursive on primary lined paper.

Chosing a handwriting style is very personal.  It is always best to start with basic general style and allow the child to develop his/her own flair as they mature.

We have 2 font styles we like:

I  prefer the ABC Cursive font because it is the exact style our South African schools use and I used this style for our laminated handwriting charts.

ABC Cursive copywork

My daughter prefers the loopy, more upright style of the Cursif font.  We correct basic upper case letter differences and our ‘r’s.  I don’t mind the slight differences as long as she writes neatly and carefully when she copies her work.

Cursif Copywork

You may download the copywork pages for Reading with Easy Readers:

Copywork Dictation with Easy Readers ~ with ABC Cursive Font

Copywork Dictation Easy Readers Cursif ~ using the upright, loopy Cursif Font

More Practical Pages on Copywork and Handwriting:

Print your own primary lined pages for spelling and other writing.

Read about our laminated handwriting charts

Read about how to add your own fonts on to you computer.

Teaching print handwriting step-by-step

Free Booklet  on Handwriting Tips

Go to my Copywork pages for more free copywork pages.

I will upload my middle school child’s Nature Quotes Copywork pages very soon!