Wednesday, October 22, 2014

'My Kids Would Drive Me Crazy'

I am not the most patient, gentle or particularly kid-friendly person in the world. In fact, if you asked my friends they may well confess to putting me pretty damn close to the bottom of the list entitled :

'Most Likely to Homeschool'

I am easily annoyed, impatient, prone to irrational ranting and most importantly NOISE PHOBIC. You have to agree this does not sound like the ideal qualification for a homeschool parent.

I do, however, possess the ability to research, motivate, inspire and ultimately manage my shortcomings in order to educate my kids in a way that I believe is most beneficial to them.

I am more intentional in the way I structure my time. My kids need to be educated but I need a life outside of that role. I make the time to see my friends, to indulge some of my interests and to exercise.

Three things make this balance possible :

  • My kids are older and can stay on their own while I disappear for a run/coffee with a friend.
  • I have an incredible support network of friends and family who are always more than willing to help me.
  • A husband that is completely supportive 

Homeschooling would be far less breezy if these three critical props were not in place.

The biggest surprise to me has been the RADICAL change in my kids since they have been home. They are nicer people. They are less sarcastic, mean and competitive. They appreciate the little things. They are more respectful and tolerant of everyone around them. Most importantly they are far less annoying, smug and condescending to one another.

Yes, they fight, they argue and they drive me nuts. They are still normal kids but somehow the edge is gone and having them around me almost 24/7 does not feel uncomfortable or restrictive. It feels like this is how it should be for us right now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Common Questions

The most common question I am asked is :

'How do you know that they are learning what they need to learn?'

Let me ask you guys the same question…how do you know that your kids are learning what they need to know at school? Do you trust 'the powers that be' to to make those decisions for you? Are you completely sure that the teachers are committed and proactive in teaching in a way that is engaging and relevant? Are you fully aware and supportive of all the content that is classed as necessary and examinable?

This excerpt sums it up quite succinctly:

The problem with this question is that the answer is completely subjective…It’s open to interpretation. If you take a public school teacher, and a private Montessori school teacher and a private parochial (i.e., Catholic school) school teacher and a private Waldorf school teacher and a homeschooler following the unschool approach, or a homeschooler following the Enki approach, or a homeschooler following the Charlotte Mason approach….you will get completely different answers as to what children “should” be learning, how and when. There simply is no cut and dry answer when it comes to education. (The Homeschool Realm)

There are many, MANY brilliant curriculums for home education. Many are boxed curriculums - this is an all-in-one kit with all subjects, following a very structured daily schedule. This is often referred to as 'school at home' as it essentially is structured like a typical school day with typical school subjects, projects, all textbooks and exam dates. 

In my (limited) experience I find most home educators prefer what is called an eclectic approach to curriculum. This is where you shop around and choose your subjects, from different suppliers, based on the learning style that best suits you and the child(ren) being schooled. 

We have a set math curriculum that we use - there is a specific order in which math is taught and for this reason I don't mess around! We use Math-U-See and each of my kids thrive using this system. 

For all other subjects I have bought beautiful, living books (you will never find a dull, black and white text book in this house!)  and created my own, tailor-made curriculum for each of my three children. Yes, it takes time and considerable commitment but the rewards are ridiculously worth it. 

Right now, homeschooling in South Africa is under real threat as the government realizes that this is a growing community of people (and an untapped source of income!) who will not be silenced. Day 3 of negotiations between the Department of Education and Homeschool Association is in session as I type. There is a very real concern that government will attempt to regulate the homeschool sector although talks to date have been extremely amenable. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A year has passed

It has been almost exactly a year since my last post on this blog. This was mainly due to me finding my feet in terms of time management. I still am convinced that capturing our homeschool life in blog form will be of real  interest to my offspring one day.

I also happen to know some of you are both intrigued and amazed by this unusual path we have taken and perhaps watching it unfold will demystify some of the homeschool myths you may have held as truths.

Thursdays are always eagerly anticipated - we have close friends who come and share our school day with us. Together they all sit around our table and compete their discipline subjects independently. There is much bantering, snickering and general tomfoolery.

Once this is done we look at collaboration work that can happens across the age range (8,10,11,12,13) and this is the highlight of their time. (Apart from the games of soccer and wii etc)

Right now they are working on a minecraft project - they are going to present their answers in a variety of forms from written to media .

The girls are also busy with their blogs and social media exploits. It's incredible to see their growth in this area; their 'social savvy' is excellent and they will be putting together their own projects in the coming months. 

Kindle are offering this set of Minecraft story books for free right now.  My biggest concern with minecraft was that it  dramatically decreased my sons' desire to read. These books have remedied this problem - they are well written with excellent vocabulary and plenty of intrigue.

I will be updating the Resource tabs in this blog over the coming weeks - after twelve months in the field I have definitely found things that work well and others that really don't deliver in the long term. If you are looking for anything specific to help your child (be they homeschooled or not) please let me know and I will do my best to help.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Read and Read Some More

In an effort to seek out good reading material for my kids I went to Sonlight and took inventory of their readers. I have heard ongoing good reports on the quality of the readers they recommend and supply.

Fortunately I could get many of them locally at

I will just share with you the two 'official' readers we are looking at for this term:

1. Sarah, Plain and Tall

with a very thorough and detailed reading/study guide (free in pdf) Both my girls will be able to work through this guide at their specific level.

2. The Courage of Sarah Noble

PDF comprehension printables in chapter by chapter form  exercises are found here.

While both girls are avid readers I am trying to ensure they read books across a wide spectrum of genres. Historical fiction CAN be fun.....however they have learnt to dread that term and I am going to show them that it is, in fact, true!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Goodnight Mr Tom

Honey is currently reading Goodnight Mr Tom.

I decided to do some research on it and found some wonderful educational packs online. They vary from Grade 7 level up to Grade 12 so can be used for a wide variety of ages.

You can download the Word file here for the Senior Primary worksheet, guided reading documents as well as a free copy of the book via Amazon.

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Opportunity

Honey is home. Today is her first official day.

I have given much thought to how to play out this last term and due to her nature I have decided to spend most of it 'unschooling' her.

Her idea of homeschool is School At Home. She wants us to emulate school traditions and processes at home. We have had a few discussions about how it is going to be NOTHING like that and I do think she has some anxiety about how this new life will play out.

She is extremely academic and has thrived at school. Leaving for her was not a quick, knee-jerk response. It was a journey which I will ask her to share with you at some stage. Needless to say she has to learn to trust the process and trust me. Trust that I will get her where she needs to go (and further) and this may take some time.

Today we make collages and beginning a 'visioning' exercise. In these boards
they place anything that resonates with them around homeschool. A little window
for me into their dreams, fears and expectations.

We have agreed there will be no threats from either of us for this term (I wanna go back to school / I will send you back to school!) and that we will spend time re-looking at what learning and education really means to us. We will turn things upside down and back to front - like going to the beach or mountains all morning and come back and do school at 3pm.

Paradigms need to be shifted. Not just for her but for all of us. We also need to settle into the routine of being 3. It is a large adjustment for me to move from schooling one child to two and it does not escape me that next year it will probably be three!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

And then there were TWO!

Yesterday was my eldest daughters last day of formal schooling. Yes, it has finally come to pass.

I had no intention of ever schooling my other kids when I took Lulu out in May. I had specific reasons for taking her out that did not apply to my other two kids however as time has gone by my thoughts have changed drastically about home education.

I am now in a place (and have been for about 2 months) where I really would like ALL my kids at home. The thought of taking them through their entire school career no longer daunts me. While I have fears and insecurities, like any parent, I am confident that I can provide a home  education of a very high standard.

I have had to WAIT for the right timing. I did not want to take Honey (Grade 6) out of school until she was ready. Initially the thought of homeschool was abhorrent to her; she could think of nothing worse. Slowly but surely little things have changed - I do believe it has been a journey for her - and she is so ready to try this adventure.

It seems just crazy to people as there are only 7 weeks of school left - why not wait until next year to take her out? I asked myself that question and all I came up with was WHY WAIT? There seemed no good reason to wait at all. So I didn't. :-)

Again, I have to say the school have been amazing. They support us fully; have provided me with the full terms worksheets/curriculum for use. This may be useful if she decides to return to Grade 7 in the new year - at least I have all the material and can catch her up. (worst case scenario!)

I have high hopes that my lad will join us next year, but that will be a post all on its' own!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Taking the Good with the Bad

It has been a mixed blessing kind of homeschool day.

This morning was rather horrendous as we tackled two Conquesta papers (English and Maths). The English was a breeze but while we have tackled multiplication, area and perimeter the Conquesta paper focused on division and fractions.

No matter how I tried to explain to Lulu that ultimately we would cover EVERYTHING in maths and that the sequence differs from school/country/curriculum she was just distraught and felt dumb. Anyway, disaster was averted after tea and toast; we persevered and she completed the test to the best of her ability. I glanced at it before handing it in and she did brilliantly - not sure why our kids underestimate themselves?

The one thing I am trying desparately to teach her is that getting stuff wrong DOES NOT equal failure. She is still so afraid to try answer things unless she is sure it will be the correct answer. School does this; of this I am convinced.

Slowly she is beginning to understand that through trial and error we grow and learn.

On the flipside we had some giggles today while studying Subject and Predictate - Mr Morton had us entertained! Even my Grade 6 daughter (who studied this early this year) thoroughly enjoy it and now says she understands the concept better than ever. Such a catchy tune I find myself humming ol' Mr Morton while folding the laundry!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Playing Around with English

 English is one of my favourite subjects to teach Lulu - there are so many options.  Spending time on grammar, parts of speech and the like is essential but thankfully so many other activities can keep it fresh and current; actually this can be said of all subjects if you take the time to brainstorm new ideas.

Some of the things we like to do include:

  • writing blog posts
  • book reviews 
  • word searches
  • writing letters
  • summarising articles of interest 
  • writing stories
  • crossword puzzles
  • reading a variety of books
  • listening to stories or documentaries
  • narration
  • comprehension
  • discussion

Comprehension exercise
I get such a kick out of some of her writing. This book review made me chuckle - see her response to  "What do you like least about the book?"  (I can see I was rather ambitious giving my poor kid unlined paper to write her answers!)

Every day continues to be an adventure - today she only did rote math, piano and art - the rest takes a backseat as she prepares mentally for her first tap Eisteddford this evening. The nerves are frayed and emotions sitting close to the surface.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Teaching Afrikaans

I have found it a bit of a challenge - this whole Afrikaans thing. In fact I have not addressed it all since Lulu came home 2 months ago.

I grew up in a dual-medium home; I went to an Afrikaans primary school for 4 years and I have always just understood the language. I do not speak it very often anymore but am completely competent in the language in terms of teaching it to a primary school level.

It is almost laughable to me that I have managed to raise three complete and utter 'rooinekkies' - they are clueless! My Grade 6 (formally educated) child can change a sentence from present tense to future or past tense but cannot tell you what the sentence actually means. Crazy.

Anyyyyyway, the point of my little rant is that I am scouring the net for afrikaans television programs from the 70's, 80's and 90's. It is generally well accepted that children learn best by engaging in a language regularly and what better way than to get them hooked on some fun programming.

They may well baulk at watching Liewe Heksie, Orkney Snork Nie, Nommer Asseblief and Trompie as it will be completely foreign but I am hoping that it will begin to instill in them a love for this quirky, descriptive language.