Remembering Our Footprints Journey Around South Africa

Wendy Young recently asked me on Facebook to share our year-and-a-half Footprints journey around South Africa.

Our journey began in 2007 when our lives had changed drastically.   We had just sold our farm in Bronkhorstspruit and we were free to travel.    I had bought the Footprints On Our Land curriculum to use for all three children and when it arrived I was initially slightly disappointed.  The package seemed so small compared to Sonlight’s!  It all fitted in a Xerox box!  But its size was a blessing, because we had to put all our furniture and belongings into long-term storage while we searched for our next farm, and all our homeschool supplies could fit neatly into a small, onboard-sized suitcase!  Yay for a compact curriculum!  Also, its size is deceptive!  It is a huge curriculum in its range and presentation.

We first moved to the Western Cape and stayed in Carlitzdorp, in the Karoo, in an authentic Cape house, faithfully restored with historical furniture & decor.  Although it had running water, it was off the grid, which lent an even more authentic experience.  Its thick walls, thatch roof and clay finish kept it cool in the hot, Klein Karoo summer.  When we visited Swellendam‘s Drostdy Museum we instantly recognised the smell of our house!  We then stayed with my parents-in-law in Witsand on the Breede River estuary and then travelled to Cape Town for a few weeks.  We visited the Castle and fed squirrels in the Company Gardens, where I had a miraculous encounter, suddenly meeting with my brother who I had last seen 8 years previously before he was transferred to Nigeria.

We relaxed in the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.  My youngest child swam with the penguins at Boulders and Simon’s Town.  My hubby had done service in the Navy and took us to some military towns and places in and around Cape Town.  We had planned to visit District Six Museum, take the cable car up Table Mountain and take a boat trip to visit Robben Island, but I had had surgery and I was forced to take things easy for a while.

We then travelled up the Garden Route and fell in love with Wilderness where we rented a house for 5 months, right on the beach, at the Touw River estuary.   We bodyboarded daily and we spent a lot of time outdoors.  We hiked and paddled canoes in Wilderness Nature Reserve.  We joined another homeschool family and built rafts with driftwood logs which washed up on the shore after the 2007 floods, and the kids sailed their rafts up the Touw River.

We visited the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay, which made a huge impression on my young children, who had enjoyed the book “Caravel to the Cape”.  They fed elephants in the Knysna Elephant Park and boarded a naval vessel docked at Knysna.  We walked in the Knysna forests, bringing our book “Circles in the Forest” to life!  We enjoyed walking along some of the Outeniqua Choo-Choo railway line right along the coast.  We spent a marvelous weekend at Storms River Reserve and enjoyed walks in the forest and walking across the suspension bridge.

Next we took a trip up to Kwa Zulu Natal.   We visited friends in the Natal Midlands and family in Durban.  We visited historic places mentioned in the Great Trek, went to British & Zulu war fields and visited the tiny, but lovely Weenen museum.  My kids all loved Phe Zulu on a day outing to see Zululand.  It was typically touristy, but nonetheless provided a rich experience of the Zulu culture, music and way of life.  Our family loved Durban’s U’Shaka and the Aquarium, and they especially enjoyed the dolphin and seal show.

Our next trip was to Gauteng.  On our way our car broke down and we were towed back to George, but we finally hit the road again.  We stopped at Kimberley‘s Big Hole museum along the way, which was an excellent experience.  Funnily enough, my kids loved searching through the gravel for garnets more than going down into the mine museum.

In Pretoria, my hubby’s father, a retired Airforce man, came with us to the Airforce Museum and Airforce Memorial at the Waterkloof Airbase, as well as the actual military base and accommodation.  We found Uncle Myles Moodie’s name on the memorial plaque.  Having Oupa with us who actually lived and worked for the Airforce, and knowing someone who died in service, made the museum tour very personal.  The Voortrekker Monument was a good outing, and my young and energetic kids raced up all the stairs to the very top!  What a view from there!We had planned to  travel to the Lowveld (Mpumalanga) on our next trip.  We had hoped to visit the Kruger National Park to look at the wildlife, pan for gold at Pilgrim’s Rest, visit waterfalls in Sabie, follow the story of “Jock  of the Bushveld” in and around Baberton and view the stunning Blyde River Canyon views from God’s Window, but our real life decision to buy a farm in the Klein Karoo became our reality, and we moved to our current farm near Uniondale instead.

Here are some questions people have asked me ~

What if we don’t have time for long trips?  Not every Footprints family has the liberty of extended time to travel as we did, but I would recommend taking time off for some seasonal trips or to plan your family vacation and try visit different regions of South Africa during your studies.  Simply start in the areas near you.  Travelling is always a wonderful experience when shared.  Try to plan your trip with another homeschooling family or good friends.  Learning and experiencing the journey with others forms bonds and memories that children never forget.

How do I approach the journey and outings?  May I humbly suggest you approach your travels with a relaxed, informal approach?  I was too “teachy” during our trips because I wanted my kids to get the most out of their experiences, and I dampened their natural love to learn by forcing constantly encouraging them to “learn this”, “look at this” and”listen to that”.   They have since literally hated any talk of going to a museum! Sigh. …. Relax moms …  Let your children learn naturally, make their own connections, form their own experiences.

What was your homeschool routine like during the 18 months?  There were times when we were not on the road and we settled down to days or weeks of “normal” homeschooling.  Surprisingly, I found that despite serious disruptions like road trips and car break downs, we didn’t actually “fall behind”.  We simply pressed a pause button on our schedule and experienced real life on the road instead.  I highly recommend you give yourselves more time by extending the 1-year course over 18 months to give yourselves a wide margin of time to enjoy all the scenic tours and unplanned, but wonderful stops along the way.

How do I plan my trips?  Parents may wonder if they should plan their trips around their Footprints schedule.  It sometimes helps to have read the book before visiting a museum or place so that the outing is connected to the story and becomes real.   Likewise, if your children experience an outing before the book is read aloud, they have a wonderful base to attach new knowledge discovered through the reading.  It doesn’t actually matter, so don’t worry if your journey is not chronological to your curriculum.

What do I need for these outings?  When you travel all you need is a journal, a basic supply of colouring pens and pencils, glue and scissors.   Because space was limited, we shared one set of pencils and felt-tipped pens between us.  Give each child their own zip envelope for collections of ticket stubs, pamphlets and odd finds.  When they have a moment to sit and think later, encourage each child to journal their wonderful memories of their outings in their journals.  Encourage younger children to dictate their thoughts to mom or dad.  My teens are tickled when they read their childhood journals years later!

How did you use the Footprints Map?  Our Footprints map became our lasting visual memory of our travels and experiences.  I pasted all the story book discs, as well as photos of friends and places we visited, in their geographical positions as we travelled.  We charted our travels in different coloured pens around South Africa and the map gradually become full.  I wrote each child’s review and evaluations of their Footprints experience at the top of the map.   I then had the whole map laminated at a printer shop to preserve our memories. Footprints On Our Land was a perfect fit for our family because we could homeschool all three children on the same curriculum at that particular stage of our homeschooling.

Footprints’ living books are marvelous, and the literature-based lessons are so beautifully interwoven in a rich, wide, yet flexible program.  Footprints is full of South African history, culture, nature and geography, and offers a hundred platforms for outings, excursions, museum trips, exploration and real hands-on experiences.

I wish any Footprints family every blessing as they make their own footprints on our land!

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Not Qualified to Homeschool?

Encouraging new homeschoolers ~

A reader recently wrote and asked,
“I’m not qualified as a teacher.   I have 3 young children and want to start homeschooling. What do you recommend?”

Let me start with this statement20140811_125422 ~  YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL YOUR OWN CHILDREN! You are already educating your children as you intimately know your children and adapt to their needs, interests and abilities.  You don’t need certification, experience or qualifications to educate them if you are able to follow some basic principles, and approaches.  If you read good parenting and education books you will gain excellent perspective and understanding on how your child learns and how you can initiate or facilitate their interests and explorations.  Some homeschool curriculums are so well-designed and prepared that you will easily be able to facilitate your child’s learning.

I can fully understand how uncertain and insecure you must feel.  Even as a qualified, professional teacher, I experienced the same fears and failures in my first year teaching.  Here’s my story   ~

I qualified with a 4 year Diploma of Higher Education with subject majors and a specialization in remedial education as a senior primary (middle school) teacher.  When I received my first teaching post, the school appointed me to a junior primary class and I was completely ill-equipped!  I had absolutely no idea how to teach these young, little kids to write, read, do phonics or practice numeracy!  Even with the lesson preparation planned out for me, I had no idea how to actually implement the lessons.  I used to stand on tip-toe to  peep into my neighbouring teacher’s classroom to see how she taught her classes and try copy her in my class!  It was a real disaster!  Six months later, when a senior primary teacher was transferred to another school, I begged for her classes and was promptly “promoted” to senior primary where I flourished!

After teaching at public schools for 10 years and completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree,  I became a stay-at-home mom started homeschooling my young children.  All my years of teaching experience and study did not help me.  In fact it was a hindrance!

My first homeschooling year looked like “school-at-home” and I rigorously implemented Sonlight’s  packaged curriculum.  I religiously stuck to their schedule, and stressed and juggled to try implement the 3 separate cores I bought for each child and we all nearly burnt out!  Wonderfully, during this first year I also read amazing education and parenting books and slowly realized that I needed to loosen up, look for the learning spark or moment and fan that flame to encourage my children to explore and discover their own interests and creative passions.

My children learnt despite my best and worst efforts.  Two years later we spent 18 20140603_121902months on the road travelling around South Africa.  I wisely put all the children on just one core and followed Footprints On Our Land .  I learnt that even if we travelled and missed formal schooling days we didn’t fall behind.   I simply extended the schedule to cover 18 months instead of 1 year!  We loved the flow and natural learning that came with reading amazing books, visiting people and places and being creative.

So what do you need to have to qualify as a good homeschooler?

  • Relationship.  Be attached and connected, involved and encouraging of each child.  Know your children, their weakness, fears, anxieties, learning styles, interests, and passions.   This is true for any great parent, even if your child attends public school!
  • Facilitator.  Your purpose is to observe and listen to what they love to do, what they love to learn, and to encourage, initiate ideas, and help them explore and discover what interests them.  Give them time and space to explore, discover, create, make a mess, make mistakes, and make it their own.  Ask them what they want to learn and allow them to choose subjects, topics, books and approaches and then tailor-make their education.  Think of child-led learning.
  • Basic skills. Teach them with short, clear instructions and then let them apply it in their learning.  Give them examples of how to work with equipment, tools, materials and methods.  Show them how to be safe and keep things clean and in working order when finished.  Think of practical life skills such as washing, cleaning, using kitchen equipment, sewing, handwork, use a variety arts and crafts materials.  Teach more specific educational skills such as how to use a microscope or maths equipment .  If you don’t know how, find someone who can and learn together with your kids.  Often my kids find out for themselves in the Internet or from friends.
  • Read aloud with expression.  This may be your greatest teaching tool!  We have always learnt through living books and great literature.  I still read aloud every day to my high schooler and our family loves to read.  Even when everything else seems uncertain and failing, read alouds have kept us going strong.  It has been our homeschool glue!  Start while your kids are very young and just keep updating your library, looking for relevant, engaging books as they grow older.  There are dozens of book lists for children of every age.  Ambleside Online is a free Charlotte Mason education based primarily on book lists for each year.
  • Keep the young years fun!  Avoid making homeschool about desk work, days of dry, dull, long lessons.  Do hands-on activities, play, get dirty, have fun, sing, laugh and play.   Avoid curriculums that require strict marking, tests and exams.  This approach is not necessary until your children reach highschool.  Only in the final 3 years of highschool do you need to settle into a more focussed academic approach.

When buying a curriculum, most new homeschool parents buy the full bells-and-whistles packages.  This is a great help, but I urge you to adapt it and make it fit your family.

Here’s my best advice to new curriculum package users ~

  • One core – try put as many children of similar ages together on the same core.  Some years a young or older child may require the focus of the core, but generally go on a family adventure on the same read alouds.
  • Individual Reading, Maths and Spelling – each child on their own learning levels and pace for handwriting, phonics, reading, spelling and maths.
  • Short sweet lessons – For the 3R’s read how to keep lessons short – only 10 to 15 minutes long.
  • 4-Day-Schedule – plan for one free day to do extras, outings, co-ops, nature walks, fine arts and personal free time.  This will keep you and your children fresh and sane!
  • Start slowly – don’t pile into the full package.  Ease into the program over weeks even months.  Start with the best, juicy parts like the reading aloud and the main core books.  Each day work through this and then add a new subject each week.  Give yourself and your kids time to find your family’s natural rhythm and flow.  It doesn’t matter if some subjects are “behind” for a while.  You can focus on lagging subjects and catch up easily in a few days or a week!
  • Tweak the package for each child and use the schedule uniquely and individually instead of trying to make your kids and yourself fit into someone else’s learning plan.  Think of the schedule as an outline, prompt or suggestion.  It is the general road-map. Make the journey yours!

You CAN DO THIS!

Wishing you all grace and courage as you follow your heart and begin this most amazing journey!

Blessings, Nadene

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Traditional African Houses

In our Footprints On Our Land (South African History studies), we have joined the 1820 British Settlers who settled along the Eastern Frontier, to the land where the Xhosa people lived.

The frontier with allotted farms, c. 1835

The frontier with allotted farms, c. 1835 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This section of History covers aspects of the Frontier Wars between the Xhosa and the settlers and the British government.

Tensions were so great that a neutral territory was created between the Great Fish River and the Kei River to prevent the Xhosa crossing over to steal cattle and burn settler farms, and the retaliatory raids to recapture stolen cattle.

These issues come to life as I read wonderful living books, and our current story “Strangers in the Land“.

While I read, my young daughter cut and created these African homes from postcards that I had collected long ago in my teaching days.

She displayed all the different houses on the bookshelf, each house in its own ‘village’, separated by a book pulled out slightly.

We will focus on the Zulu in the next theme. This is what their traditional house looks like.Many of my readers may have seen the brightly colored, geometric designs the Ndebele use to decorate their homes on African-themed designs.  Theirs is truly the most colorful homes!

Below is a Venda home, also painted and decorated, but they use more earthy, natural colored paints.

And this Sotho house completes this collection:

Blessings,

Hands-on Knots

Young children love hands-on activities!

I am re-using our Footprints on our Land curriculum with my 9-year old.

This is a fabulous,

literature-rich,

discover-history-through living-books,

read-aloud-cuddled-together-on-a-couch curriculum.

Every here and there in our stories, we delve off to investigate interesting topics.

Today we learnt,

along with the hero of our story,

a young stowaway,

how to do sailor knots.

With the help of my hubby who was once in the navy, oupa, a seasoned and experienced fisherman, and some printouts from the internet, we sat learning and tying knots.

We used a nylon rope to practice first because the knots were big and clear.  Then we practiced the knots with stiff sisal rope. And finally, made samples for our notebook page using wool.

We discussed how the knots could be best used in our everyday lives.

It was fun and practical!

Have you taught your children any fun/ practical hands-on skills?  Feel free to share with us in the comments.

Blessings,

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

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Our former South African president Nelson Mandela turns 92 today, just one week after the successful hosting of the FIFA Soccer World Cup.

But this year the world will celebrate with him on

Nelson Mandela International Day”,

which the United Nations decided would be observed every year on his birthday to recognise his struggle for peace and freedom.

In honour of his 67 years of service  to his country and his people, the Mandela Foundation is asking people around the world to give 67 minutes of their time to volunteer work – one minute for every year that he spent in the struggle for equality.

What can we do?

  • Donate blood (only if you’re over 18).  Monday is World Blood Donar Day.
  • Volunteer at rural schools; give books, stationary, posters, paint out the classrooms, donate tea and coffee for the staff, garden or decorate at the entrance.
  • Fix and build playground equipment in poor community schools and parks.
  • Make meals for the needy.
  • Donate groceries to the needy.
  • Visit the needy at caravan parks and give clothes and food.
  • Visit hospital wards; especially the children’s wards, oncology wards and bless the nurses too.
  • Visit the aged in old age homes.  Encourage the staff who serve the elderly.
  • Visit and encourage staff and children in orphanages.
  • Join with other communities and play soccer/games in a community park.
  • Offer your services to your local municipal library or clinics.
  • Plant a vegetable bed in a needy community; donate seeds, seedlings, garden tools and fertilizer.
  • Visit the lonely in your own neighbourhood.
  • Bake cakes and biscuits to give to the needy.
  • Serve those who serve – the cleaners, refuse removal staff.
  • Thank your local police and emergency workers.  Bring them cake!

Watch this short video of Nelson Mandela International Day.

Read his autobiography The Long Road To Freedom.

A Long Walk to Freedom

For an excellent, rich,  literature-based South African History eduction curriculum I highly recommend Footprints On Our Land.  (We used this curriculum for all 3 of our children. See my review here.)

As Nelson Mandela encourages,

we must use our lives to make the world a better place.

What will you do?

Art Appreciation – Pierneef painting

Art Appreciation Lesson

Charlotte Mason recommends that children study an artist and several of  his works over a periodof weeks so that they can recognize his paintings and appreciate his style or subject.  After detailed observation they should  narrate all they remember seeing in the  painting they studied and this encourages detailed study!

We studied a famous South African artist Jacob Hendrick Pierneef and googled images of his works.  Each child selected their favourite painting I printed for them.  We measured and drew a grid on the printed work and sketched the painting.  We used acrylic paints to paint our pictures.  Here are our versions of Pierneef:

At work painting

painting by dd 14-years old

painting by dd 10-years old

painting by dd 7-years old

My eldest dd (14-years-old) is completing her Footprints Into The 21st Century (South African Literature-Based History Curriculum) and her last section requires the study of famous South African sports and arts personalities.  She selected Pierneef and wrote this essay:

South African Artist: Jacob Hendrik Pierneef

J.H. Pierneef is considered one of South Africa’s most talented and original artists. He enjoyed painting South Africa’s highveld landscapes and had a technique that was very stylized and graphic. His style was different from all other South African artists in his day, and his works greatly attracted attention.

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef was born in Pretoria in 1886 and he came from a Dutch background. He started studying art in high-school in South Africa, but due to the 2nd Boer War, his family moved back to the Netherlands.

When he returned to South Africa, he met and learned much about graphic techniques from other great South African artists. In 1913, Pierneef held his first solo exhibition and his artwork was very well received. The viewers were all exceedingly impressed by his dramatic talent. From then on he became very well known and his works proved to be successes.

In 1918 Jacob Pierneef started a new a career and became an art lecturer and started to teach drawing in the Heidelberg Collage of Education. When he began to teach art, Pierneef discovered that most of the South Africa’s landscape artwork was drawn in the British style, an unrealistic and romanticized vision of South Africa. He then decided to draw attention to the uniqueness of South Africa’s highveld. He created a style that was dramatic, structural and graphic and was distinctively recognized as a South African style. He believed strongly in the cause of Afrikaner art and culture.

(She then chose and printed 4 of paintings she most enjoyed.)

When children use Charlotte Mason’s approach, they almost “own” the painting they reproduce!  I have even heard them say, “There’s my picture of the … (Milkmaid by Vermeer)!” when they see the painting in a book or movie or magazine.

Has this form of Art Appreciation been a success for your children?

Footprints Into The 21st Century

A rich collection of South African Literature

A rich collection of South African Literature

Footprints Into The 21st Century is a wonderful literature-based South African high school curriculum featuring an exceptional collection of living books for 12-16-year-old students.  It spans South African History from the South African War, World War 1 to the first democratic elections of 1994 and the emergence of a new democratic South Africa.

Image result for nelson mandela quotesThe curriculum covers eight historical periods and includes detailed outlines for the literature studies, faith-building reading, natural sciences studies and life skills activities. Footprints into the 21st Century features iconic leaders like Nelson Mandela, as well as other political  religious leaders, sports heroes, and famous South African artists and musicians.

This curriculum provides detailed guidelines, outlines and schedules and my 14 and 15-year-old daughters each completed almost all the reading and most assignments independently.  Most the assignments suggested followed a Charlotte Mason approach, with a variety of narration, research or presentation options.

We stretched this one year curriculum over 18 months, which gave us time to delve deeply and make the most of the experience.  You would need to buy a suitable Maths and 2nd language program to provide a complete highschool curriculum.

When I read the books and outlines, I remembered living in South Africa during the 1980’s apartheid era as a teenager and I was  emotionally moved by the content. However, my daughters viewed much of this as ‘mere’ history and I found that the content was suitable for a younger reader, yet challenging and thought-provoking.  Books like Faith Like Potatoes and The Seed Sower inspired our faith!

I am delighted that  we could study the rich heritage, history, culture, natural sciences, politics and geography of South Africa.  I highly recommend Footprints Into The 21st Century.

Blessings, Nadene

Footprints On Our Land – a South African Education

A few years ago we used Footprints On Our Land, a literature-based, Charlotte Mason approached education suited for ages 7-12-years.  Footprints On Our Land explores the rich heritage, culture, history, fauna and flora and geography of South Africa.

Our family was fortunate enough to have a year and a half to travel around South Africa. As we travelled and explored, we discovered and created our own Footprints in South Africa.

Footprints map

Our Footprints map (which comes with the package) shows all the places we visited, photos of people we met, and also features the picture discs (also supplied) of all the Footprints books we read, placed in their geographical locations.  Summaries of each child’s “Best of Footprints” experience on the top of the map are wonderful reminders of our amazing experience.

This curriculum was a perfect way to fully appreciate the diverse and interesting aspects of the culture and history of South Africa.  But even without travelling at all, the Footprints curriculum package is a wonderful, rich learning experience for those who read the amazing ‘living-books’, do some research online and go on relevant outings!

One of the blessings of this period in our homeschooling with Footprints On Our Land was that I could use one package for all 3 girls.  My eldest, then 12-years-old, and my middle daughter, then 7-years-old, managed and mastered the content and activities at their respective ages.  My youngest daughter was only 5-years-old, and enjoyed all the stories and hands-on activities!  (Little Footprints is an ideal curriculum for her age group!)

Girls find garnets in the gravel at Kimberley Big Hole

Girls find garnets in the gravel at Kimberley Big Hole museum.

This curriculum provides Bible, Social Studies, Geography, Biology, Science, Language, Life Skills, Art and Crafts lesson ideas = a complete middle school package! You would need to find a grade-appropriate maths and phonics program to complete your full schooling requirements.

Read my review on the high school South African curriculum Footprints into the 21st Century for 12-16-year-olds.

I highly recommend Footprints On Our Land!

Blessings, Nadene