Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Count your days

I know I already posted this on my Facebook group, but this comment by an old school friend  touched me so deeply that I really wanted to share it.  

 He was rushed to hospital after a pool accident on 24 August..longest 3min of our lives.But was already walking the streets of Gold with Jesus... Missed his 1st birthday the following week 1 September----he would have been 16yrs old this week. Every day is purposed to have its own blessings in it...count your days that He has given you to share...tomorrow might not come for some...so when prompted......call that person, invite for dinner, go visit...don't waste this gift.....of Today.~~~~~~~~`trust me, I know.
 We forget, we always forget.  
The fragility of life.  
We have no guarantees - life is short.   

I was reminded again to take the time to listen
to spend a moment appreciating those around me
to breath deeply and enjoy where I am and who I am with.

Love you all deeply and pray that God will inspire you today to make your day count!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Maintaining meaningful friendships in busy times

With life being so busy and yet the friendships and relationships we build being so important to our emotional, mental and spiritual well being - finding a way to make it all work together can be a challenge.  I love my friends and I want to ensure that they know that.  I want to demonstrate my love for them and really be proactive in maintaining those relationships, even when I feel the pressure to just keep busy with family and life.

I have often written about friendshipsFriendships that I didn't build into enough and these friends now live on another continent, the importance of having strong relationships and all of these take planning and time.  Friendships can start out rather spontaneously but to maintain them, takes more!

I have a few ways that I maintain, build and grow my friendships:

1.  Schedule it
I schedule the days I will phone my friends.  I schedule an email to a specific friend.
If I phone a friend on Monday, I will schedule a date 2 weeks away to phone again.  (this is especially for my long distance friends) If I don't do it like this, weeks will pass like days and before I know it I haven't spoken to them in 2 months. 

2.Rather do a little than nothing
I sometimes just go to someone's Facebook profile and let them know that I am thinking about them.  I don't send long messages, just a quick note - but a reminder that I am thinking of them and care about them.  A BBM message, an SMS, an email- whatever you prefer.

3. Make appointments to see friends
Every week I plan ahead to ensure that I meet up with my friends.  I try to make it a minimum of one friend a week.  I also don't want to run around like a crazy social butterfly and schedule visits with friends every day of the week.  I would be exhausted and it would become more of a duty than a visit.  I normally plan a week in advance and choose a day that works best for our household (keeping in mind my husbands needs, homeschooling schedule and housekeeping responsibilities)

4.  Keep it short
I find that shorter visits are a lot easier to manage than lengthy ones.  A coffee rather than a meal.  A chat while our children participate in a sporting activity together is far easier to manage.  Taking a flask of coffee with some biscuits is just as good for times of friendship, as going to a local coffee shop.

5.  Visit after hours
I especially do this with friends who do not have small children or children who are not age appropriate for my children.  It also gives me the freedom to leave the kids at home with Sean, so I can have some time out.

6.  Focus on a few
I can't be a friend to everyone.  I have had to reflect and consider who I would call my friend.  I choose carefully because these are people I bare my soul to,  the ones I know who watch my back;distance, time, none of these change our relationship because they run deep.  These are the ones I want to build. 

7.  Let them join in with your program
I love having friends in my home but sometimes I have to make dinner, bake for an event or get things done in the kitchen.  I specifically have one friend who sits and chats to me in the dining room while I carry on in the kitchen.  She has become so used to me being busy while visiting that she now brings her own things to do like crochet or sewing while we visit together.  In between we drink copious amounts of copy and natter away while our children play.  It's perfect!  We get to be together even though life continues to happen around us.

8.  Listen to those promptings or feelings
Often the most important times for friends have been times when they have been on my mind and I have followed up with a call or email.  It's when they have needed me most, a word of encouragement or just a listening ear.  The times I haven't phoned I have regretted it, because I always seem to find out afterwards that things have been difficult.  God gave us friends not just for us but so that we can be His gift to them too and I love being part of his bigger picture.

What do you do to nurture your friendships? How do you priortise friends and fit them into your life?

How do we manage everything?

Often people ask me the question - how I manage.....

* homeschooling
* housekeeping
* friendships
* personal care
* marriage
* gardening
* washing
* blogging
 with a large family

You know the list, it never ends.  There is so much to do every day, every week.  

How do I manage?

I have a "That One Thing" approach to everything I do. 
 Housekeeping involves cleaning the dishes, sweeping, washing etc - but I don't have time to do a top to bottom clean every day and without any help, the dirt can pile up. So I just do one thing outside of the normal chores a day.  Clean a cupboard (not two or three), clean a drawer, wash the kitchen windows, tidy a shelf.  I just do one thing.  I could do more but I know that the times I do, I over do it and then I lack the motivation the next day to carry on again - or it interferes with other activities like homeschooling.  

The same goes for personal care - I can't sit in a beauty salon all day to do all the plucking, buffing, waxing while I sit and relax - I don't have the money and I don't have the time. I just do one thing. Today I sorted out my eyebrows, tomorrow I will most likely do my heels.  Of course I brush my teeth, brush my hair or wash my face every day but it's the extra things that take up more time that I schedule for that one thing.

I know it sounds oversimplified but who needs complicated, life is complicated enough!  And it works.  Of course everything never looks fantastic all of the time but at least I get to it and it doesn't slip through the cracks.

Try it!

If you want to sign up for my daily list of "That One Thing" in your inbox to help you to get going, subscribe to our newsletter.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

No, they are not perfect!

I love love love my kids, they are the best! And you know what - they are not perfect - never ever.  And even if they look like they are resembling perfection - it won't last - maybe a couple of minutes, if I am lucky a bit longer - but it will come to an end.

As you look at your own children and compare them to children who appear to be altogether perfect, well mannered, diligent and immaculately dressed - remember that they ain't perfect either and neither is their mommy!  They will also have their moments.  Maybe not quite the same moment or at the same inconvenient time - but they will.

My children have temper tantrums, cry for effect, lie, manipulate, give me attitude, bicker, drag their feet when it comes to chores, moan and groan and complain.

And it's only when I stop looking at other children and comparing, that I am really able to enjoy them and see...

that they also make me laugh, they help and serve, are considerate with their siblings, look after me when I am feel down, make dinners, ask a multitude of questions and have a zest for life, are adventurers and love quickly, forget my mistakes and forgive easily, are adventurers and bring colour to every day. 

Stop for a moment today and just make a list of 5 things that make each of your children special to you today and then go and tell them.  Make it a time of building with them.  Do it and you will be amazed at how good it is to speak such life over them and for them to hear what they are doing right!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homeschooling takes commitment

Today on Facebook, I found this note that Heidi St John of The Busy Homeschool Mom wrote as many homeschoolers start their school year now.  This is different to us(South Africa) as we start school in January but I found this note so relevant to anyone who homeschools.  It's a real reminder of what we are doing and why we are doing it, the encouragement all of us need to hear every day!
Okay, I just have to say: this is a hard time of year for the "regular school" and "homeschool" moms to understand each other. Sometimes it can be downright depressing to watch other moms send their kids off to school and return to their houses to do ... well I can only imagine. :) My best friend sends her kids to "regular" school and so this is NOT a "dig" , it's just a reality check.

This morning I saw a status from a mom who was "elated" to finally have her children back in school... she was going to the mall by herself to celebrate... oh the plans she had, 7 hours to herself every day! No messy house. Peace and quiet. I admit, I felt the familiar sting of jealousy mixed with a bit of angst about all that was ahead for me this fall, minus my oldest two graduates ... And then, it hit me: homeschooling is a MONUMENTAL COMMITMENT. And it's not for everyone.

Homeschooling families choose

—more messy house days
—more math lessons
—less "me" time
—less "quiet" time
—less income, most of the time
—less trips to the mall...or anyplace else... alone :)

But IN RETURN, if we do not lose heart, if we stay the course, the reward far exceeds the commitment we're making.

Homeschooling families also choose

—more involvement, which means more influence with their children
—more TIME with their children, which means more memories to cherish and to use the influence we have
—more childhood, thanks to just being home more
—more opportunities to shape hearts and minds
—more insight into their children's hearts
—more educational options to meet individual needs
—more interaction, more hugs, more TIME. Did I mention more time? Oh yes, I did.
—more flexibility. Go to the park, bake cookies. Play.

Sometimes, "less" really is "more". And it doesn't mean that homeschooling is not hard or that putting your child in school doesn't have it's moments either. But as homeschooling moms, you're making a commitment to put your heart and soul into the lives of your children in a way that many people would not ever choose to do.

Will it be hard? You know it will. But it's worth it.

It's just so worth it! So don't be jealous of moms who have just sent their kids back to school. Instead, embrace the opportunity you have been given and make the most of the homeschool years. They really do go by fast. ♥
Thank you Heidi for this reminder, we need reminding all the time of the calling, the reasons, the rewards and the value of what we are doing!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Online programs and software we use

As you know from last week's post, we use online programs and software for all sorts of reasons, but how about a look inside this homeschooling room in South Africa - to find out what we use in the WILD!  (Excuse my rather tongue-in-cheek comment but for some reason - a lot of people still believe we have giraffes and lions roaming in our backyard.)  Online programs are part of our daily homeschool routine and it's lots of fun with lots of variety.

I always have a few of these running.  I love trying out new products and with such a range of young children aged 4 to 11, I have the perfect group of sample testers. They enjoy the variety and they are brutally honest.  I definitely do not write a positive review for anything that I don't think is great. If it's mediocre or less I don't.

The children use this for our Mandarin character writing.  There are currently more than 3000 characters to be learnt and the boys are on about 100 or so characters.  This is done online and there are more than 200 languages and courses available here.  I make this part of their learning routine on a daily basis, except when things don't go according to plan:)

 This is a software program which we bought and imported.  We use this as the basis for our Mandarin learning.  I have heard that there are very similiar programs out there which cost a lot less with the same type of format.
Learn Chinese Online
Though the children use Memrise for Chinese character recognition, there is no opportunity to practice writing the characters themselves and so I looked all over the place to find a site -which for the moment, is the one they use.  It shows them what order to write their strokes which is systematic and can include more than 16 different strokes for a really complex character.

They use this for social sciences and which helps them to know continents, countries and cities - it's a free map quiz game that can be download onto a computer. It's a race against time.  You should try it with your children.  Nothing is more motivating than competing against mom and dad.  My boys are also naturally competitive, especially the older two, and they compete for 1st and 2nd place all the time.  Chad struggles with the names of some of the places as they are difficult to pronounce and some are fairly foreign sounding.  I would recommend this for Grade 3 or older (including high school).

A recent discovery and very appealing in its presentation.  It's all about learning about using money, saving and working.  Of course there are adventures and rewards.  Even time travel which by the way, needs to be paid for by work.  Which is great because, as they get to know that nothing is for free.  All my children enjoy this, even I do - it's not very complicated.  Definitely for age 6 to 8.  Though Declan (11) enjoyed this, I don't think any sustained activity for him would hold much interest.  More for screen time days than learning days but one I know they enjoy.

There is a wizard, - but he is a rather harmless fellow and I just instructed the children not to pay too much attention to him.

Reading Eggs
I have written about this product a number of times and all I can say is - we love it!

This is a great place to get those typing skills that every child needs.  Yes even boys.  If there's a computer in the house then at least teach them how to type quickly.  These days, touch typing is a life skill.  Then they truly will have all the information they need at their fingertips:)

What my children love about this site is that they have the chance to compete against children from all over the world.  Whoever is online at the same time is the next competitor.  And if your children are new to Chess, there is even a brief video explaining how to play or if they already play but want to improve there are videos about that too.  And of course safety measures have been put into place, so that you as mom can ensure that your children don't meet any dodgy people online.  All games are matched according to age and ability too which means that a new learner is not thrashed online the first time they try.

There have been a number of programs and software learning systems which we have used in the past that were excellent resources too but I wanted to write about the ones we are using at the moment.  We are constantly changing the software we use and are always on the lookout for something that will work for our family. 

I would love to hear what software programs you are currently using in your homeschool?  Do you use a computer based program or an Internet based program?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Photo Journal of Cape Explorers

You may remember that I mentioned that one of the extra mural activities that my children participate is something called Cape Explorers, run by a fellow homeschooler.  And so the adventure has begun!  Besides painting T-shirts at our first meet - we have now ventured forth into the world of explorers and adventurers and our first visit was to Cape Union Mart where we were given the opportunity to brave the elements and try out some of the equipment used by those who would brave the elements.

Chad attempting the climbing wall

Listening as they are given the rules of engagement with all the adventure equipment

Not for the fearful i.e. mothers!

Ethan on the climbing wall again, and again and again, and again... and finally dragged off home

In the ice chamber of minus 14 degrees - freezing

Building tents - or trying to

Ruthie in the rain chamber - she loved the fact that it was pouring and she wasn't getting wet. 
All the little ones went into the rain chamber together - too precious for words.

Teacher Karen giving Chad the run down on wall climbing

And some mom's just had the chance to hang out with their kids - aren't they beautiful?

So good that all the little ones could do something together and not be left out!
The next time we meet we are headed to the Green Point Lighthouse which promises to be a thrilling and height defying adventure!  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mel's Must Have #4 Yuppiechef

If you haven't heard of Yuppiechef, the you have missed out on the most beautiful kitchenware which you can buy online.  I love their online store and if I could, I would redo my entire kitchen with all their amazing kitchenware.  And if you are lucky enough to buy some of their products and you live in South Africa, well then that delivery is free!

What especially makes this a great online store is that it's owned by local South Africans. They only find the best products.  Products that make you want to spend more time in the kitchen - whether its to grind some coffee beans or make some toast - everything is fashion, colour and designer perfect.

Here are just some of the things I would definitely want in my kitchen!  Kitchen art deluxe.

Morphy Richards Accents Colour Boutique Metallic Pyramid Kettle, 1.5 litres

Morphy Richards Accents Colour Boutique Metallic 4-Slice Toaster

KitchenAid Artisan Espresso Machine


 KitchenAid Artisan Burr Coffee Bean Grinder

KitchenAid Artisan Food Processor

KitchenAid Waffle Maker

Bialetti Glamour Dama Moka Pot, 3 Cup

Red, red and more red - I love these!  You get to choose whatever colour you want! And red is what I want.  My kitchen is very white with blacks and greys and I have added reds, oranges and pink.  I know, I know - a little unusual but I simply must have bright colours in my life! 

Just so you get an idea of what I am aiming for, here you go!

Please Note:  I have not been asked to write about Yuppiechef. They don't know me, they don't know my children - they don't even know my name.- I get nothing from doing this - these are some of those things that I would simply love to own.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

When to use online programs or software

I have a natural adversity to web based programs for my children which is pretty ironic considering how much time I spend online myself.  I just know that even as an adult, maintaining healthy boundaries in this area can be soooo difficult - and even more so for our children.  And yet I have found some really awesome programs - like Reading Eggs and Memrise - which all my children loved and argued over every day.
Homeschooling is all about discovery and learning
We have rich full days and most of the time I wonder how I can fit in all the opportunities for discovery and learning, never mind the more demanding book work.  Part of my daily challenge is to decide what to include and what to leave out.  Online programs and software is something we use almost every day.

* To supplement something we are already learning
It's great to use software that will add to what you are already learning, we use all sorts of software - some online and some that have been downloaded onto our computers.  

*  For busy or sick days
A doctor's appointment with one of the children, fielding business calls for my husband when he is out training the masses, an unexpected visitor, the days when I am still in my fluffy pink gown at 11am and desperately need to go and shower and get dressed - these are the days where online activities are a God sent strategy!  We are very blessed to have 2 fairly old laptops and a desktop and so these keep the older 3 boys busy and Ruthie gets the chance to watch one of her favourite video's like Strawberry Shortcake.

I know that I could leave them with other book work but I find that I have to have a multitude of conversations through the shower door, interruptions on the phone and with visitors or an endless stream of questions for work that they don't understand.  With this they are so busy - you could hear a pin drop.

* To change the pace of the day
Some days just don't work.  Nothing seems to be running smoothly.  The children are lethargic or distracted, my patience is running thin and I have explained something three times with 4 blank faces looking back at me.  Sometimes I need to change the pace.  Change the focus, so I can take a moment, and they can gather themselves.  A bit of fun and a learning experience for 30 minutes and then everyone is back on the same page.

*  Sneaky learning
I often feel frustrated because there is just so much to learn about and so many fun things to find out about but there are just not enough hours in the day.  We do screen time over the weekend but on rainy days when sport is cancelled or when the children have free time and they ask to play on the computer, I occasionally let them on condition that they only use the learning software I have.  Though it's not just games, the activities are so much fun that they don't even notice.

* Academic Feedback
A number of the programs that we use have assessments included, which is a great way for me to see how they have grasped a specific section of work and some of them even email me the results of what they have done, how much time they spent doing it and how well they have done it.

* Ensure that non busy students don't disrupt the rest of them
When one of my children are working very quickly in a section of work I allow to them to use the relevant software, while we wait for the rest to finish what they need to do.  It stops them from causing distractions and disrupting the rest of the children.

* Motivation and Rewards
Working slowly and getting distracted is one of my biggest challenges with the children.  They like to chat and discuss what they are doing, retell a story about what happened yesterday or just deviate to every other subject under the sun.  Computer time on these programs is offered as motivation for hard work and work done quickly.
Online activities keep little ones busy while you are teaching their older siblings

* Keeping little ones busy
Ruth who is 4 cannot sit around while her brothers are busy with one on one times with mom.  She entertains herself with toys and the like for short periods of time but sometimes I need to have some dedicated time with one of the boys.  I have a few excellent programs I use for her which are fun, read stories to her, and even sing songs and teach her riddles.  It makes the day a lot easier to manage when I can use these resources, this mom is under far less pressure.

I am always on the lookout for new web based learning activities and programs (which is probably why I love reviewing them) because when I find a good one, we just dive right in and use it until the children can't bear the site of it anymore or something better and newer comes along.

When do you use online programs and software in your homeschooling day?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Homeschooling Products I am reviewing for August

and probably September.  Those of you that read this blog, know that I am always about 5 steps behind my planned activities.  They're all in my head - but it's to get to get my head and my fingers talking to each other which is the problem, and this lazy body out of bed in the morning. Anyway enough about my sleeping patterns!

So here's what I will be reviewing this month:

This is aimed at children aged 2 to 6. Online interactive site which has about 450 lessons and 6 levels.  The site is progressive and so there are various levels which need to be completed to move onto the next level. Includes art, songs, puzzles, books, games and printables, maths and the world around us.  If you go to the homepage you will see a variety of sample lessons and if you like me, have a little one and want to give it a try - the first month is free.  Free is good!
Preschool to Grade 7.  This is a web based program activities, video lessons,reward rooms and certificates which moms and dads can print.  There are more than 10 subjects available to work through.  Most of it can be done online, though you can also print some of the pages.  This is a subscription based program. Also if you are a teacher, apparently access to this site is free.  (though not sure if this is only for Australian schools).  As a homeschooler there is a free option but it is limited to 3 activities
KONOS is about... one home schooler talking to another home schooler... sharing curriculum designed by two homeschooling moms for their own children. It’s about sharing 24 years of homeschooling experience. It’s about passing on a vision to build families that honor God. It’s about instilling Godly character in the next generation. It’s about building relationships between family members. It’s about achieving excellence in education. It’s about reading wide and deep. It’s about recognizing "God put the wiggle in children, and we should not try to take it out." It’s about hands-on activities capturing children's attention and increasing their retention. It’s about teaching a child, not a curriculum. It’s about fun and laughter and shaping memories. It’s about creating a love of learning that lasts a lifetime. (source Konos)
I have received my first file and 3 DVD's (Introducing Konos/Oikos, Konos Living and Understanding Oikos) to watch and look forward to seeing how my children respond to this Character based curriculum.  We are going to start with Obedience - ha ha yes I know if you know my children - my wonderful children - they are having to learn a little about obedience.  Our local South African Konos representatives not only sell Konos but a number of other resources which I am familiar with like Maths-U-See, LLATL (Learning Language Arts Through Literature) and lots of other parent resources.  

These should keep me fairly busy this month and I know my children are going to love the variety in our homeschooling day.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Raging fire or dying coals

When a fire burns and you take a coal out of the fire, it doesn't last long.  It grows dimmer and dimmer until eventually its just a pile of ash.  Dead and cold.

Isn't the family of God like that?  When we are in fellowship and in community - the fire burns brightly but when we try to do it ourselves, the flame starts to die. 
Is your fire burning bright or have you walking away out of offense or hurts to do it alone?  

It's not too late.

Don't let that fire burn out.  Go back.  

It might mean .... forgiveness
It might mean ....... repentance
It might mean ..... submission
It might mean ....... not looking for perfection but practicing grace

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trash or treasure?

What are you feeding your mind today?  What did you watch last night?  What books are you reading? I know that I love my telly!  I love watching a good series, and there's always just another one to watch. Just another movie.  And the worst is that I tell myself it's because I need head space.  I need to chill. 

This is what Angela Perritt of GoodMorningGirls.org has to say:

I’m going to be real honest with you today………I’m not a fan of negative reality TV, especially the “Real Housewives of…” shows. I have watched a few episodes over the years, just to see what they are about and to form my own opinion, but they sadden me for so many reasons. Today I’d like to encourage you to put off our “old self” and put on your “new self”, to make “new the attitude of your minds,” and to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…”
But how can we do this?
How can we make such a change from our past?

Read the rest on "What we are you feeding your mind?"

Monday, August 6, 2012

When there is no rest

It's tiring isn't it?  
Being everything for everyone.  

Sometimes it feels like the whole world demands your attention
The children are sick
Your husband needs your love and support
Your mother needs someone to talk to
Your dad is not well and is struggling with his health
Your best friend's marriage is falling apart
Finances are a challenge and the budget is looking a bit thin
Your church has asked you to bake for the next ladies' meeting
And you just found out that you might need to move again.
 Take a deep breath precious mother, allow yourself to rest. Take a moment today, and just be.  
Put aside your lists, ask your man to make dinner with the children - close the door and don't be tempted out of guilt to go and take over.  Let your family serve you.  Let the Lord give you rest and allow yourself the freedom to enjoy a moment without needing to do anything for anyone.

Linking up with Titus 2sday 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ways to teach your kids gardening

Growing your own garden is a great way to feed your family healthy, all natural foods. Unlike vegetables found in the grocery store, growing your own garden ensures that you are eating the freshest vegetables. If you have kids and you want to make gardening a family affair, here are some ways you can teach your children how to garden.

1. Start Easy
When teaching your children how to garden, you will want to begin by planting vegetables that are easy to grow. Some of the easier grown vegetables include tomatoes, lettuce, squash, peas, and beans. If you want to grow something easy that isn't a vegetable, why not grow sunflowers? Sunflowers are very easy to grow and the seeds can make a great, all natural snack for your kids.

2. Focus On Fun
If you really want your children to be enthusiastic about gardening, you need to make it fun. Generally, children will not want to do something if it feels like a chore, so it is important that you make gardening a fun and exciting experience.

3. Use Fun Tools
Most stores that sell gardening supplies also sell gardening supplies that specifically cater to children. From smaller sized watering cans in fun colors to tools that are safe for use by little hands, fun and colorful gardening supplies made for children will encourage your children to want to learn more about gardening.

4. Arts And CraftsIf you want to make your garden truly unique while encouraging your children to learn about gardening, have them make garden friendly crafts that can be displayed in your garden. Encourage your children to use their imaginations to think up fun and eye catching garden enhancing crafts.

5. Give Them Space
If you really want to encourage your child to enjoy learning about gardening, give your child his or her own special gardening space. Not only will this teach your child how to accomplish a task independently, but it will also allow your child to have full control over his or her gardening space.

6. Explain

When teaching your child to garden, explain why garden grown vegetables are better than store bought ones. Compare the tastes of vegetables bought in the store and vegetables grown in your garden. Once your child tastes how good garden grown vegetables can be, he or she will want to do more gardening, and eat more vegetables.

7. TeachAll vegetables start out as a seed and that is why it's important to teach your child how to plant seeds properly. Once your child sees how easy it is to plant the seeds, he or she will enjoy learning about gardening.

A garden enables you to enjoy fresh, all natural vegetables from your own backyard. If you want to make gardening fun so that your kids will truly love learning how to grow their own vegetables, the above listed methods will help develop a life long love of gardening for your children.

Guest post by:  Robert McElroy 
Robert McElroy writes about parenting, green living and more at www.healthinsurancequotes.org.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mandarin Chinese Curriculum as a guideline for homeschooling

With learning Mandarin Chinese as a second language - its difficult exactly to know where to start, what a child should or should not be able to do at a specific grade, what the learning outcomes must be.  I spent hours researching on the Internet and have found a few resources which act as a guide for me to work with.

I have found these are useful curriculum guides.  It gives me something to work with, as to what is expected of the children for different grades.  Obviously we also did not start Mandarin from Grade 1 so we are having to work extra hard on all aspects of Mandarin but that's OK.  I know that they will become more proficient!

I also don't let this become an all consuming list of things to do but it's good to keep this in front of me to keep the end in sight.  Our intention is to eventually do our final exams in Mandarin though we do hope that by that time, we will already be in China - as I do believe that full immersion in a language you are learning is the best way to learn a language.

I think that if I lived in an environment where other children were studying Mandarin in schools, I could use them as a bench mark to find out what they were doing in school and what type of resources they were using - but I have yet to find someone in my area, who is also studying Mandarin.  Though there does seem to be a universal trend towards the study of Mandarin - I don't think there are many South African families who are picking this language up as a second or third language because of the lack of support or even information on this language.

What curriculum guidelines do you use?  Or do just let your children learn freely?

Calendars to manage my day

4 children, homeschooler, homemaker, church goer, friend, daughter, mother, sports co-ordinator, creative director, religious leader - the list is endless if you think of the roles you play.  (some of these may be slightly exaggerated but you get the idea don't you).  Mother's have lots to do - more than lots - and all of this takes lots of time and energy and planning. I have few tools that I use to make it work.  Though just to clarify that my calendars are not magic - I have to use them to make them work.

Why do I say this?  I used to buy myself the most beautiful diary to manage my week, fill in all details very faithfully - close it and never look at it again until the next week - which meant I missed lots and lots of appointments and was always late because I would forget.  I am still late (most days) but not as a result of not knowing but of poor planning - still working on that one.

The whiteboard (I use this weekly) - keeps the children informed
A weekly board which allows me to put in all the planned activities and planned dinners for the week in the kitchen for all to see.  This enables the children to also have a sense of purpose, and know what is happening every day. The added bonus of course is that I now have 4 little people keeping an eye on my activities and making sure that we don't forget anything.

The whiteboard is an old office board but in the past, a laminated piece of cardboard with whiteboard markers also worked just as well. 

Online Calendar on my computer and phone(planning for the week and beyond) - keeps my man informed and sends me sms and email reminders
I use Google Calendar, because its free, because I use Gmail and because I can share my calendars with Sean which means that he can also plan around my activities. With only one car it means that we can do our planning and have it as a reference.  This is then linked to our calendars on our smart phones which means that even if we are not sitting in front of our computers we still know what's going on.  This is because he also works from home so that I know when to expect him to be home and when he is away.  It also means that he knows where I am.  I often just head out the door with a wave because he is on the phone and so he doesn't know where I am going. He might know that I am going to music but this way I can leave an address in the details on the calendar or if I am visiting a friend he doesn't know.  This is  alsofor safety measures, so that he knows where to look when I don't come home. Which has happened in the past because I love to chat as some of you know!

My diary - keeps me informed
I carry this wherever I go. In my bag.  Quick notes, things I need when I don't have the internet.  I have found that relying only on digital is a big no no! Guaranteed the day you need it, it doesn't work!  Paper may be outdated but I still think there needs to be some kind of paper trail.

What do you do to manage your day?  What systems do you have in place or do you just wing it?