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.