5 Things to do when you start homeschooling after a break

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

1.Prepare

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

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

2. Practice sleep and wake up routine

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

3. Pace

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

4. Perfect one area before moving on

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

5.Read Aloud

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

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

Blessings, Nadene
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Mix Structure with Freedom

What Works! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Mason perfected this switch of rhythm with her principles ~

Structure and discipline (Seat work lessons)

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

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

  • Narrations
  • Fine Arts
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study

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

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

Blessings as you find what works for your family, Nadene

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Prepare for High School exams

What Works! 

I often say to new homeschool parents,

It doesn’t take 12 years to prepare for Matric/ final exams.”

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/4955e-310882_285912091448900_996350184_n.jpgMany new homeschoolers worry about homeschooling through high school and how their children will cope with formal exams.  As a result, and very sadly, many new homeschool parents opt for strict curriculums that require regular tests and exams to ensure that they cover their bases.  It is really a shame to waste early homeschool years of a love to learn by following a strict, rigid, formal, school-at-home approach.

Tests and exams are used to evaluate what the child has learnt and remembered.  It is often the means to prove that the teacher is good at her job and so that parents can see specific results to show how their child is progressing.  With large classes, it is often the only way a school teacher has a good idea how each child is learning.  Homeschooling is a one-on-one approach and, especially with daily narrations, parents can immediately assess their child’s knowledge and skill set.

Over the past 20+ years of homeschooling I have used a Charlotte Mason approach for https://i1.wp.com/kibabiiuniversity.ac.ke/library/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/kibabii-exam-papers.jpgall my children until they decided how and what they wanted to do to graduate/ matriculate.  In 2013 my eldest daughter opted for a NSC Matric (National Senior Certificate = South African nation-wide public school matriculation) and she used a curriculum that required regular portfolio assignments and quarterly exams at done under strict exam conditions at home.  She only wrote her first external, formal external exam for her Prelims exams (the exact version of the final exams in the same exam venue) and these prelims helped her prepare for formal her formal exams more than anything else!

Here are some tips to prepare your children to write formal exams ~

  • Complete the work~  It seems obvious, but it is vital that you ensure that your child completes their course material and portfolio projects.  Marks given during the year are a very important part of the final mark, adding to the exam marks.
  • https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/38/0b/84/380b845b4f227133d16ca6795d3eabcf.jpgSummaries~ Teach your child to make good, clear summary notes for each subject.  Show them how to simplify summaries with mind maps/ drawings/ labels or numbers or first letters of each main point in the margins.  Use colored markers and highlighters.
  • Use past papers ~ We downloaded past papers for each subject and printed them at a printers.  It cost a bit, took up an entire box file, but it was an excellent investment.
  • Exam memorandums ~ Ensure that you include the answers to all these past exam papers. This is a vital component!  Allow your child to work through an exam under exam conditions (timer and no books or notes) and then they need to work through the results. Check the mark allocations and ensure they do not miss steps that would cost marks.
  • https://emergencypedia.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/90-0019-2.jpgUse a timer~  This is a vital skill = to first check through the whole exam and look at the mark allocation and then work out how many minutes per section.  (You can find an example here.) Do this will all past papers!  It is vital to prepare your child to keep on track in exam situations.  Many exam centres have a clock on the wall, but if your child sits far from the front, they may struggle to keep their eye on the time. Many exam centres allow the entrant to use a small clock on their desk.
  • Prelims~ Prelims taught my daughter how to write matric exams!  Read the post here. Everything was learnt in this experience = from a good night’s sleep the night before, eating a good breakfast, time needed to travel to the exam centre, comfy clothes, the necessary identity and other documents, her stationary, meeting other exam candidates, to the exam room protocol and the actual exams.
  • Manage stress ~ Exams are stressful. While studying, eat well, take breaks, exercise, stretch, meditate, write motivational notes and messages to yourself, take extra nutritional supplements and herbal nerve support.  Teach your child slow, abdominal breathing.  Pray together.  Write out faith-building scriptures and promises.
  • Join the group~ Learning with others in a study group is important, especially for isolated homeschoolers.  It may help to join some other exam candidates for an early coffee and chat to discuss issues, fears, and share important tips.  It somehow helps to know that others fear and feel the same as you!

In the end, I believe that these exams are NOT about information my highschooler may have learnt. Exams are simply a life skill = learn how to complete the course work in the prescribed format.

Dear moms with young children, enjoy a simple, relaxed homeschooling journey.  Take your time.  Enjoy your child and their unique learning styles.  Focus on these delicious years of freedom.

Wishing you and your child writing the 2016 matric exams the very best!

Blessings, Nadene

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3 things to avoid in art lessons

What Works! 

Art is about creativity and inspiration, but many moms avoid teaching art in their homeschool because it is often seen as messy and unpredictable.

Here’s what to avoid in your art lessons — with helpful practical hints to do instead ~20160607_143154

Too focussed on the end product

Inexperienced moms and insecure children often look for a “cookie-cutter” approach to successful art lessons.  Typically these art lessons give step-by-step instructions which always result in similar outcomes.  This often kills creativity.

Always look for an opportunity to teach important art concepts, techniques, or history, and find ways to tie as much learning and personal choice as you can into every project you do with your students.  It is important for the art teacher to know what to do and how to do it, but it is more important to allow the child to discover and create and enjoy the artistic process without feeling afraid that it “won’t come out right”.

20150831_152347Too Formal

A gentle, informal approach to fine arts is really effective!  After years of teaching art, I found that most real creativity is often spontaneous and requires a sense of freedom.  Avoid tedious technical lessons, or using mediums that require great skill and ability or processes that frighten and exasperate children.  Rather let the child practice with a new medium or process on scrap paper and then apply this to another process.  This encourages exploration and discovery and will increase the child’s artistic skills.

Too Time-consuming

Plan art lessons in manageable  time frames.  Young children need shorter lessons, while older children can work for longer periods.  It is always difficult to pack away art and try restart the process another time.   Homeschoolers can devote a whole day to fine arts and complete rather complex art activities, if they want.

Plan and schedule art and do it with your children!  It is a wonderful way to build relationships and grow in creativity together.

What have you found works in your art lessons?

Blessings, Nadene

3 Things to avoid in handwriting lessons

What Works! 

Are you new to homeschooling or facing a crisis with your child’s handwriting?  Here’s some practical advice ~

Here are 3 things to avoid in handwriting lessons:

  • Boring  laminated chartYoung children want to write real words as soon as they can and find endless pattern pages and those pages featuring one. letter. at. a. time. very boring.  These expensive handwriting books take almost a year to complete and many young children become frustrated and negative about handwriting.   We use laminated handwriting charts to learn to print and write cursive.  It is quick, free and painless, and within weeks your child will be able to start using copywork pages and practice their handwriting in real sentences.
  • Bad form – Everyone struggles and makes mistakeHandwriting arrowss when learning something new.  Some children become extremely stressed when they cannot control their fine motor muscles or struggle to remember how to correctly form each letter, and this adds to a negative attitude towards handwriting.    With my method, children use a whiteboard marker on the laminated handwriting charts which rubs out in a jiffy.  Any mistake is quickly and easily erased and the child feels much more satisfied at the end of their lesson.  To teach correct form, mom demonstrates writing each letter on the chart while talking through each movement and shape and then the child copies on the chart.  Watch carefully for correct starting points, directions of the stroke and when and where to lift the pen.
  • Basicshttps://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/p1070277.jpg?w=300&h=225Practice the basic letter formation.  Learn the upper case letters as soon as they master the lower case letters.  Go on to real handwriting as soon as possible using copywork pages.  Practice daily in short, sweet handwriting lessonsCopywork is an excellent handwriting exercise because your child will use almost all the letters, join cursive letters, combine upper and lower case letters in meaningful sentences.  This also is a great help in learning spelling and memorizing Bible verses. 

Here are some helpful downloads on my Packages Page

Handwriting Tips Booklet (US$R7.00 / ZAR70.00)   This comprehensive 20-page E-book is packed with practical tips and activities covers pre, early and basic writing skills .  It includes helpful activities and fun pre-writing games to build up your child’s gross motor strength, develop fine motor control and develop their spatial awareness.  Important guidelines to promote correct posture and pencil grip for maximum control and minimum stress while learning to write.  I recommend you also purchase the step-by-step guides below for specific guidelines to teach print and cursive.

Teaching Print step-by-step (US$2.00 / ZAR20.00)    An 8-page booklet with practical advice, clear examples and step-by-step instructions on how and where to place letters and how to form each print letter.  I share remedial and junior primary teachers tips, which have proven very effective in our in our homeschooling.

Teaching Cursive step-by-step (US$2.00 / ZAR20.00)   A comprehensive 8-page booklet with practical advice, simple instructions, clear examples, step-by-step descriptions on how and where to place letters and how to form cursive letters.

Pop over to order you handwriting booklets on my Packages Page.

Wishing you every blessings, Nadene

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Oral narrations when a child hates writing

A reader wrote and asked me ~

“How can I help my son?  He absolutely hates writing narrations!  He sulks, delays, refuses and sometimes has a complete meltdown.  I know that he knows the work, but he just hates putting pen to paper.  What can I do?”

Here are some more “What Works” suggestions ~ 

Firstly, ask yourself why he is reacting so strongly.  Stress, immaturity and lack of readiness and writing skills can result in negative emotional reactions.  Take the pressure off and back up and away from any writing.  Go back to oral narrations.   Remember that oral skills develop long before written skills.

Some young children even battle at this stage. They freeze when they have to formulate their own version of the story or theme they have listened to.  My youngest couldn’t figure out how to start.  Or there were chapters which she found difficult to order (sequence) correctly.  My one child didn’t know how to keep to the point and rambled with long, draw-out sentences.  p1150685

Narrations require powerful mental strength! While the child actively listens, he  connects to the story, visualizing, comprehending, synthesizing and then remembering and articulating his thoughts.  He must take all the new information and sort, arrange, select, reject, classify and relate all the intricate details of the selection he heard.

Here are some tips on how to break down oral narrations ~

  • Prepare your child before you read.  Tell them, “I want you to listen carefully to the read aloud and after I have finished reading, I want you to tell me back what I have read to you.”
  • Paragraphs ~ Only narrate short stories or selections about one paragraph long.  Read a simple story such as a nursery rhyme or an Aesop’s fable.  By eight or nine years of age, a child should be able to narrate several paragraphs, and only at about 10 years should a child be able to narrate a chapter.  This would apply to all subjects.  Until your child manages to convey detailed, accurate oral narrations at this stage, he is not going to manage any written narration.
  • Prompts ~ Instead of telling back the story, use questions to focus on a specific aspect of the story such as:
    • What is the main event?
    • What did the main character do/ say/ or discover?
    • Why do you think the main character did ….?
    • Can you think of your own ending to this chapter?
    • Can you list at least 5 main points in this reading?
    • Can you sequence (put into order) the events that happened?
    • Give a very detailed description of the place/ season/ weather/ surroundings in this reading.
    • What action or character’s reaction impressed you?
  • Pictures ~ many young children find looking back at the illustrations in the story very helpful.  As they mature, they will learn to form and remember  their own metal image of the reading.  Looking at a timeline,  a natural science life cycle or illustration is absolutely fine.  Gently encourage your child to develop this mental process and ask them to look and then tell without looking.

Don’t worry if your older child spends longer developing these oral narration skills.  Keep working on his mental processes and articulating his thoughts clearly before moving towards capturing written narrations.

Some children may have the necessary verbal skills, but have writing issues.  It may be the stress of physical mastery in actually writing print or cursive, or fear of spelling errors or fatigue when trying to capture everything on paper.  Again, break down the problem and use alternatives.

Here are some creative variations ~ 

  • Record the oral narrations – on a smart phone/ on the computer/on a tape recorder/ use a dictaphone/ use a video recorder.  Play it back and let him edit or re-do it if he is not satisfied.
  • Be his scribe and write out/ type his narrations for him word-for-word as he speaks.
  • Dramatize the narration if it is possible.  Some children lacking verbal skills may more effectively mime and dramatize their thoughts.  Act out a scene from the story/ create the introduction or ending of the chapter.

I wrote “What Works ~ Teach Creative Writing Without Lessons” post after my eldest graduated from homeschool and I can absolutely guarantee that narrations, first oral, then dictated, and written, have given my children all the writing skills they have ever needed for high school.  Not only that, but they are exceptional writers!  (Pop over to this post to read examples of their essays and narrations!)  They are eloquent, creative and highly skilled writers … without ever teaching them creative writing!

Narrations are the foundation for all learning!

Hope that these suggestions help you bring the relief and joy back to your narration sessions.

Blessings, Nadene

 

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Perseverance

Another “What Works!” Post ~ 

After more than 14 years of homeschooling I have found that despite all the ups and downs, fears and failures, tempers and tantrums, (yes … we had had all of these!)  it is only a success if you persevere.

Simply stick to the goal … work around and through the glitches … and keep on going … all the way.

“Do a Dory” (from Nemo) andjust keep swimming … just keep swimming…”

Homeschooling is our choice that has never been “cast in stone“, but it did require a flint head at times.

There have been years when it was a slog and we just “did school”.  Sometimes it was simply easier to keep going and maintain a forward momentum, rather than stop and start.  Just by doing read alouds, we did our school work when everything threatened to fall apart.  Reading aloud was the glue that held us together!  Other times we just did our disciplined studies; short, sweet little 3R lessons, then abandoned the books for time outdoors and nature study or a leisurely art appreciation lesson … thank you, Charlotte Mason!

There were seasons when my young teens were unmotivated and unwilling.  Some of my Charlotte Mason subjects became “boring” and my teen kids refused to do them, I felt like a failure.  Their choice to move to textbook approach made school dry and dead.  But we kept on.

Worse, we used a curriculum provider for high school that did not provide, but with no other real options, we had to make it work. Impak Education became my “means to an end”.  Boy, did I learn about perseverance!  They did not post my eldest daughter’s books, then “lost” her study materials and portfolios in the post.  When they finally emailed me the files, which I then still had to print, we were far behind schedule. I had to pray hard for a strategy to fit 25 portfolio assignments into 2 weeks … and not lose my head!

No feedback was given … for anything.  We couriered away huge portfolio assignments and never heard a word.  Nothing. The curriculum provider did not mark a very important final assignment and after about 15 emails and desperate calls, I think, hope, pray that the portfolio was re-marked.  I felt like we were flying in the dark. Blind.  My daughter wanted to give up, but I held the goal in mind and we persevered.                                                      

When I prayed to the Lord in desperation one day, I clearly imagined what the end of my eldest daughter’s homeschool would look like.  I saw her standing with me, with the blue-green sea gently rolling behind, and her long viscose dress and loose hair waving in the summer breeze.  We were clinking our champagne glasses together in a toast.  She was thanking me and I was congratulating her.  Although it was winter when I had this vision, it warmed my heart and I shared it with her.  Somehow, this goal kept us going.

Just a few weeks ago, after her final exam, our family surprised her with a celebratory lunch at our favourite beach-side restaurant and toasted her success with pink champagne!

This week we will receive my eldest daughter’s matric results!

Many homeschool moms swap, abandon and doubt their packages. Many moms watch as teenagers leave homeschooling in favour of public schools, and they secretly, deep down, doubt their decisions.

Your homeschool journey may take its twists and turns, it may have a few delays, punctured wheels and unplanned detours, but if you keep going, you will reach your destination

While it is complex, sticking to your homeschool goals may require desperate perseverance.

All I can say for my experience is that it is truly worthwhile, because these decisions are important.

In the end I gratefully praise God and say,

“Thank you Lord.  It has been a privilege to be on this journey!”

Blessings as you persevere into 2014.

Much grace,

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,

Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays

Another What Works! post …

Looking back over the 14-odd years of homeschooling from preschool to high school graduation I want to share what was successful in our home …

Fine Arts is rich, rewarding & relaxing!

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We set aside most our Fridays for Fine Arts – art, music, and poetry, and sometimes some Shakespeare.  The simplest way to do this was to plan the “extras” in our Theme of the Day. It is my kids favourite day of the week!

My older children still ask for art lessons once a week. Despite the textbook-based high school curriculum I used for my eldest daughter, these fine art Fridays were the saving grace of our homeschooling journey. In many ways they are the “soul” days of homeschooling.

My kids considered Fridays as free days because we set aside normal seat work and written assignments.  Despite its seeming “frivolous” nature, where fine arts is often considered an “optional extra”, this aspect of education is the most inspiring and rewarding.  At times our Fridays were the only happy days of our week.  Homeschooling can be tough!  Making time to relax and enjoy fine arts is a relief!

Art started with art appreciation lessons, Charlotte Mason-style.  I sometimes added simple art activities to some of these lessons. We discovered famous artists and their masterpieces, observed different art styles over the centuries recording these on my Art Era Timeline, and we tried a variety of art mediums.  The 3D Seurat model is one of my younger girls’ favourite and unusual art activities!  Sometimes someone wept and left the room due to a “flop” lesson, but mostly we admired and encouraged each other as we gazed at our ‘gallery’ … we were enriched!  Importantly, we each have amazing internal, mental art galleries of famous art that we will carry all our lives!

Sketch Tuesday remains a regular constant art activity, which we continue even when we have stopped our formal schooling for school breaks.  It is such a simple, quick session, often with no discussions, research or planning, but Sketch Tuesday has had an enormous impact on our art!  The simple act of regularly looking and sketching develops ones confidence and approach to other more formal art activities.

Classical Music was not always requested. In fact, my older children have an incredible eclectic collection of their own music which plays as we work and do chores, but we streamed or listened to classical music as we did our art. I abandoned planned formal music appreciation lessons as my children grew older, but it somehow has developed naturally into an appreciation and my kids often recognize classical music played in movie soundtracks..

Poetry has been a hit-and-miss affair, where I sometimes do formal poetry lessons with my younger children on our “Tea, Poetry and Shakespeare” afternoons.  We studied some poets through the year and we all found our poetry readings relaxing and inspiring.  My kids never really learnt any poems by heart, but some poems were inspiration for art or illustrations.  Our most exciting poem-inspired activity my girls did when they were younger was The Lady of Shallot with a Lego diorama.

I recently discovered that my junior high daughter is writing her own poems to express her photo collage creations she makes on Polyvore. Her poems are amazing!  When I read them I am utterly stunned with the images and feelings that her words evoke. So, deep down, despite doing poetry informally, poetry struck a special chord in her life.

Our Fine Arts sessions have enriched our relationships.  Somehow, when  we paint or sketch together, or when we lie under the tree talking about a poem, or when we listen to and describe images and feelings that classical music evokes, we share time and experiences that are deep and personal. These are intimate times that make homeschooling special.

My advice to moms who want to “do it right” is to keep it simple and fairly informal.  In my early years of zeal and idealism I came on too hard and my kids almost dreaded the lessons.  I almost lost them to my teacherly-don’t-miss-the-moment approach.  They did my Famous Artist and Famous Composer biography notebook pages, filled in timelines and narrated their observations.  We used my wall charts, but the best lessons were those where we each connected individually and personally to the art.

Now, I am convinced that regular yet informal exposure is better than formal, structured lessons.

Schedule time in your week and just do it!

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to “show” for your Fine Arts lessons.  It doesn’t have to be recorded or written or filed.  Just talk with your children and listen to their interpretations, encourage their creativity and personal connections.  Look for ways to for them to “make it their own”.

Charlotte Mason’s approach to Fine Arts has been an amazing, rich and rewarding = fabulous Fine Art Fridays!

May you find the approach that works for your family!

Blessings,

Taking Time for Tangents

What Works! What Works logo

Another “What Works!” post ~ where I share and encourage moms with some of my tried and tested homeschool approaches that worked from pre-school and all the way through high school!  (If you missed the previous posts, please follow the links at the end of the post.) I found that using a literature-based curriculum is the most rich, rewarding and inspiring way to teach.

More importantly, living books open delightful “rabbit-trails” or tangents!  And following these delight-directed paths made all the most important connections and enriched the book in wonderful ways!

Here’s some tips of enriching your literature study ~

  • Follow the spark of interest!
  • Chat, discuss, talk at the dinner table about the new ideas, characters’ choices, moral issues, those “why” and “what if” questions.
  • Read-up or “Google” it!  (I love my smart phone’s wonderful reference apps loaded at my finger tips … but that is a post on its own!)
  • Explore it in other books.  Find supplementary books at the library.
  • Do it! Go and build a real raft, make a Khoi grass mat hut, make a mould of an animal track … bake the cake, make the butter, tie sailor knots, make the corn doll, make Lego models, make paper models.Some of these activities became the cornerstone memories of many of our read alouds!  My kids will never forget them!
  • Make interesting and diverse notebook pages
  • Create puppets and dramatize the story.
  • Add lapbooks, especially for younger and middle school children.
  • Travel to places in the story with your family.  Go on the journey with your story as a family.  We loved our real-life “Footprints on Our Land” journey when we travelled for 18 months looking for our farm.
  • Visit museums, art galleries, historical sites.Girls find garnets in the gravel at Kimberley Big Hole
  • Visit real artisans, craftsmen, professionals, hobby enthusiasts, the elderly or veterans and learn from them.  Let them show your family and make it real!
  • Don’t rush. Keep the pace your family needs.
  • Extend your schedule. You can safely extend any 12 month (1 year) schedule to 18 months without adding any more books.  Just look for those hands-on activities that will enrich your studies.  See your schedule as a guideline!  This is my most important homeschool tip!

In other words ~ make time for those tangents!

Links to previous “What Works!” posts:

Blessings,