Thursday, May 30, 2013

Settling in to a New Normal

We are definitely finding our groove. It is becoming increasingly difficult to send my other kids (particularly my elder daughter) to school each day. We are learning so much at home without even trying; it does seem only natural to have all of us involved in this process together.

Highlights this week:

Lulu's insta-maths (bonds/tables) is greatly improved. While they were good when she came home I didn't like the fact that it took her a few seconds to find the answers. I am weird like that, mental maths must be INSTANT - almost like a reflex. With the help of  and the awesome tables games on we have perfected mental maths; but we drill every day - and it is a highlight!

Language continues to go well and am fortunate she thrives on the creative process of the English language.  Sentence construction including prepositions, verbs, adjectives, nouns aswell as homophones, synonyms - we covered it all this week. We will be doing consolidation next week in the form of book reviews, blogposts and other creative compositions.

We have covered our Anne Frank material (books, BBC mini series and YouTube) and will be putting together our project over the next few days - my plan is to simply have Lulu write the story as she remembers it unfolding; not to focus on tiny details but more on creative writing.

Next week we will be adding typing skills to our daily routine - this is such a fun and quirky introduction to typing for kids!

I watch this video this evening - Seth Godin is someone I find highly inspirational. I would highly recommend watching this if you have ever wondered exactly WHY we do school they way we do?

Be prepared to be challenged in your thinking!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Extra Maths Anyone?

I have uncovered some unbelievable resources for anyone who wishes to enhance the child's math prowess.  This site has proven the most user friendly, clean and simply one so far.

I have registered all 3 of my children on


it is a simple process where you sign up with your email address and add each of your children's names and grades. They are then assigned a pin number each. (takes 2 minutes to register)

The kids then login with your email account and their pin.

Their progress is monitored and reports are sent weekly and more detailed reports can be found online if you are concerned about any particular areas.

Lulu used it today. Each lesson (there is an online teacher ) is only a few minutes long with very engaging exercises. You are then forced to logout (some kids will be happy about that!) but have the option to use a '1-click log back in if you are a bit of a workaholic!

The site focuses on BASIC maths skills - bonds etc.

You can also find Xtramath on Facebook

** all reviewed sites will be found under RESOURCES for easy access on return to this site.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reactions of My Other Kids

Pamie poses an interesting question. How do my other children respond to me homeschooling their sister?

Background: Lulu is in Gr 3 - currently homeschooled for the grand total of 1 week. ;-) Hooligan is in Gr 1 and Honey is in Gr 6 - both currently in regular school.

My IDEAL world looks like this:

All my kids at home with me. Learning together as a unit.

REALITY looks like this:

Hooligan loves school. He is an active, social and busy little boy. Staying at home with his mom and sisters is not something he is keen on doing At All. I also harbour my own fears of teaching a child so young - I feel insecure about instilling the basics of reading, writing and maths. I am willing to re-look this when he reaches intermediate phase if it is something he would like to do.

Honey loves school although she is feeling sidelined right now. She would like to join Lulu and I. I would LOVE this but I do feel that she will ultimately be unhappy. She will miss her friends. She will miss the buzz, excitement and the whole school experience. I tread a fine line with her as it could appear that I favour her younger sister and exclude her. I do have a plan in place to remedy this.

At 1pm today I plan to go and see her ***teacher. I plan to take her out of school for approximately a month next term. We will see how she  {and I} copes and if she feels she is ready to 'give it all up' we will consider bringing her home for Gr 7.

The thought of having all three kids at home with me every day is overwhelming to say the least.

Taking baby-steps is how I am going to get to my destination. The goal is clear, the path undetermined as yet.

*** edited to add: spoke to teacher, fully supports my plan to the extent that she will supply me with all content required to school from home as I see fit. I am extremely fortunate that our school is completely supportive and encourages informal education, in fact, partners with many of us.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Finding our Groove

Our days have naturally begun to evolve.

Despite popular opinion we felt no need to take an 'unschooling' season. We have easily adapted into a pattern of work that suits us.

Our basic schedule looks like this at the moment:

1. Eye exercises (10mins)

2. Mathematics (up to 30mins sometimes longer)

3. English can take many forms : read aloud, self reading, comprehension, copy work, poetry  or grammar / language worksheets.

We have touched on other sciences this week which have included:

History - Reading Modern Day Hero series (Anne Frank) and discussing the Holocaust.

Geography - using our world map to locate all the countries involved in WW2

Science - introduction to electricity, building a circuit, conductors and understanding how traffic lights work. 

We have looked at basic capacity measures while baking as well as estimations.

What have I learnt this week?

Watching her reading about Anne Frank has show me how much she loves to learn about people - their experiences, achievements, challenges and circumstances. With this knowledge I will begin to look at history/geography and science through the eyes of people who lived in the eras we plan to study.

I have also seen the capacity for retaining information is directly proportional to their interest in the subject.

Friday, May 10, 2013

EPIC 2020

To some of you this has seemed like a huge surprise - the fact that I have decided to attempt informal education.

The truth of the matter is that for many months, probably close to a year I have been watching and following many educational blogs, TED TV and other highly controversial education gurus.

Some of it was crazy. Some of it was scary. Some of it was downright stupid but on the whole, most of it was jaw-dropping stuff. In a good way.  

From time to time I will share some of the videos that have helped shape my thinking and led me to believe that I can take a risk; that stepping out of the norm is NOT unwise but possibly the path on which a new norm will follow.

This particular video references Kahn Academy - which we will be using. 

I share these, not to critise current systems of education but to awaken new ideas and possibilities as our kids face a future far different from the one we currently embrace.

I have to tell you that watching this video left me feeling pretty unsettled but as

Martin Van Der Werf, The College of Education Blog says: 

Will higher education collapse in this manner? No, this is far too simplistic. But are there grains of truth and seeds of nightmares in this? I would argue Yes. This video should inspire a mixture of guffaws, inspiration, and feelings of dread in just about anyone who watches it. So, if nothing else, Sams has succeeded in starting a dialogue that any college thinking seriously about its future needs to have.”

Go on, make yourself cofffee and take 10minutes to watch and leave your thoughts!

Thursday, May 9, 2013


This was  by far my biggest concern when I began thinking about informal education.

How do I know what to teach my child?

Do I have to buy a full package from one supplier to ensure I get all the stuff?

Can I use bits from different places?

How do I make sure I dont leave out big gaps of importance?

Is one curriculum geared for specific learner types?

Can I use an international curriculum or should I look at a South African based one?


Bear in mind I only START schooling on Monday so I am by NO MEANS an expert on choosing a curriculum! In fact I still cant answer some of those questions conclusively. All I am doing is simply sharing my experience and decision- making to date. 

The first thing I did was GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE and then GOOGLE some more. Of course you knew that, right?! And I joined the facebook page for Western Cape Homeschoolers.  ;-)

I then met with not one, not two, not three but FOUR seasoned homeschoolers. Not strangers but close friends with whom I have a deep, meaningful honest relationships. People who know me, know Lulu and understand our strengths and weaknesses.

They showed me how they are schooling their kids (ranging in age from 8-18) and how they use resources from everywhere - bits of formal curriculums, books from Readers Warehouse, books off Kindle and of course, endless resources online!

For Lulu, in Grade 3 right now, it boils down to this. Keep on top of Maths and Language. And read. Read. Read. And then read some more. 

For Maths I have a stock of workbooks I bought from Readers Warehouse that are set in line with the National Curriculum - complete with test schedules. I am also using KONOS Math-U-See Curriculum available from Oikus.

For English I have a range of workbooks, again from Readers Warehouse aswell as a comprehensive grammar workbook with set lessons and worksheets up to Grade 4. (borrowed from a friend) In addition to this I have ordered the Grade 4 LLATL resources, also from KONOS.

For Afrikaans I have yet to find suitable resources but I know where to look - for now I am well able to school her myself by creating lesson plans around topical issues as they have been doing in class.

The online offerings I will be using most often right now are :

I have narrowed it down to these for now but the offerings online are endless. I also have a large stock of iPad apps that will definitely be employed to bring about some variety and mobile learning - I will share these in another post.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Bringing *Lulu home, to school her, is by far the most monumental decision I think I have ever made in the short space of her young life.

She is an unusual child but quite capable of mainstream schooling. She is highly focussed, extremely academic and loves to learn. She is ambitious and structured and there is no reason to take her out of formal education except for the fact that I do believe I can do it better at home and with far less stress on us both.

Right now, the class environment she is in is simply not the most condusive to happy learning. There are various factors that lead me to believe she is bored, unstimulated and frustrated. To bring her home is an obvious OBVIOUS choice.

Of course, even though this has been quick, you must know it has been seriously ruminating in my mind for about 8 months, however its been hidden in my heart for close to 10 years.

I do believe that there are better ways to educate our kids than by doing what we have been doing for hundreds of years. I have seen real changes in education and the way kids learn but not enough to make me stand behind the Institution of Formal Schooling without question.

The most popular question to date (apart from the WHY?) is how do I know that what I am teaching them is the 'right thing' to teach them.

Hello? Who do you think sets the curriculum for your kids education? Why do you think 'that person' is more competent than you are to decide what your kids should learn? 

Just chew on that for a little while.

I did NOT take her out of school :

because she is not coping academically. Fact, she is a good 6 months ahead of her peers.

because she has troubled social relationships. Fact, she is a very popular member of her class.

because I want to school her with my beliefs. Fact, she is in a wonderful Christ-centred school.

because I want to only teach her what she wants to learn. Fact, she will be learning far more than she is currently, across a wider range of subjects.

because I don't want to get up in winter. Fact, I still have the other two in regular school.

What I do NOT know right now:

How long I will homeschool her.

If I will bring her siblings home eventually too.

How the next 6 months will look.

What I DO know right now:

Amazing people have fallen into my life

Incredible resources have fallen into my lap

My family is supportive and excited for us

Friends are supportive of us

I am not one of the 'norm' homeschool types and am prepared to draw outside the lines and possibly rattle some cages in the future.

Feel free to share your thoughts and questions. Or links to resources you think would help me!
I am by no means an expert but sometimes dialogues is good in terms of debunking popular homeschool myths and sharing knowledge.

(*names changed cos it makes me feel better even though there is not such thing as privacy online!)