Rifke ~ Best & Worst Homeschool Moments

Guest Post 4

Here is homeschool graduate and dear friend, Rifke’s forth post. Please pop over to read her previous guest posts ~ post 1post 2 and post 3 if you have just joined us.  This week she shares her best and worst homeschool moments.  

“When you are homeschooled, your education takes on the flavor of your family life. No two homeschooled adventures are quite the same, in either the best or the worst moments.

photo by Natan Grobler

photo by Natan Grobler

Definitely one of the hardest experiences for me, being homeschooled, was that little pit of terror that I sometimes fell into when I switched courses, or started a new grade, and found what appeared to be a great big gap in my schooling. What a wobbly an incident like that would give me! All kinds of horrible, rather melodramatic questions and suspicions would be raised – was I studying properly? Did I have memory problems? Was I simply not smart enough to understand my schoolwork?

My most stressful knowledge-gap episode happened when I was in early high school, and was supposed to switch from TCE to KONOS maths. The last TCE maths book that I had done was a Saxon book, and the way that it had taught agreed with my learning style, right down to how the problem questions were worded. Maths had never seemed so straightforward. From there, jumping into the ocean of Konos’ unique learning style… well, let’s just say I that adored the history, but the maths left me drowning. Luckily for my peace of mind, someone who knew the course informed us that KONOS maths can be difficult for anyone to understand if they haven’t been studying through the course from the beginning.

kitchen

photo by Natan Grobler

After this discovery, I had a stressful, shaky year of maths. I would try a book, only to discover that we didn’t have the answer book, or that the back of the book had the answers but not the steps for working them out. I also tried a book or two that was a grade ahead, in desperation. It was never long before I came across something vital that just didn’t make sense.

I prayed a lot about the situation. So did my mother, and in His time, God answered us. A friend provided us with a computer course in algebra. I could pick my grade, and my lessons; everything was clearly laid out and cheerful, with colorful cartoon pictures, verbal explanations, multiple choice answers and flash animations. It was exactly what I needed for a bridging course, and a previously undiscovered cog in my brain clicked into place. Afterwards I moved onto a Cambridge IGCSE maths book, and flourished in maths from that grade up.

Other dark moments in my homeschooling years were those when I felt eaten by worries over whether my schooling, and the books that I was choosing to learn from, would be sufficient in building up a knowledge base that could eventually carry me through my matric exams. I have to admit (and I am sorry, Lord!) that I stress very easily. And while I am sure that in most households these concerns lie at the parents’ door, my single-minded decision that I would school myself meant that I carried at least as much insecurity over these issues as my mother did. After all, I didn’t know very much, and hadn’t written even one exam. How could I be sure that what I was doing, and the decisions I was making, would equip me to pass matric?

I stressed way more than necessary over these questions. Not just because I did actually end up passing matric without working that hard for it, but also because, at the end of the day, passing matric isn’t even terribly important.

But the trying homeschooled episodes are so easy to overlook, weighed up against the gladness of the good moments.

I know it isn’t a very deep insight, but certainly some of the most delightful events, when one is homeschooled, are those days that one can just randomly take off from school. If something exciting is happening – if the bull is being slaughtered – if friends are coming for the day – if you are sick – even if it’s just raining and it’s such movie and pancakes weather – everything can be joyfully laid down, and picked up again tomorrow. Really, in situations like those, one can’t help gloating just a little over “normally” schooled friends. It is also very practical when one lives like we do, self-sufficiently, with physical work competing against schooling for our time.

Other wonderful moments that I can distinctly remember are those when the joy of learning suddenly struck me with awe. These were definitely encouraged by the fact that I had free rein to pick my own books, subjects and pace. Although a mom’s last words are needed to balance decisions out, there is nothing as freeing in a learning career as being able to cater for one’s own individual learning style. To me, it a way of showing deference to how unique God has created each individual to be.

photo by Natan Grobler

photo by Natan Grobler

I had so many interests and passions in high school, and I was free to explore them. KONOS history, for an example, was deeply satisfying. I couldn’t get enough of the creative studying methods and unusual activities. I also appreciated the fact that in high school I was allowed to exchange a book for another if the first one didn’t appeal to me, in the same way that I could pick up a book if it looked interesting, and work through it on school time. Information – all those fascinating nuggets about cells and the atomic makeup of physical substances, or all those brain-blowing marvels of the expanse of the universe – delighted me, and set my curiosity hungrily ablaze at the same time.

Good moments or bad moments, the wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it is, in essence, just a part of one’s life. The artificial standard of vulnerable young people spending  many hours away from home has been broken. Schooling and unique family life have been joined into one crazy, joyful experience of discovery.

What wonderful memories,Rifke. You can read more of Rifke’s life, thoughts and self-sufficiency knowledge on her blog ~Through the Window.

Blessings,

Rifke ~ Homeschooled Kids

Guest Post 3

Homeschool graduate and young wife Rifke shares her third post with us. Please pop over to read her introduction and 2nd post if you have just joined us.  This week she shares her thoughts and observations of differences between homeschooled children and public schooled children.  Some fascinating points which will encourage every homeschool parent!

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Photo by Natan Grobler

Homeschooled kids stand out. But having had the opportunity to spend time around both homeschooled and non-homeschooled kids and young adults, I do not feel that this is a bad thing at all.

A lot of homeschooled people who I have had the chance to observe, have unusual depth of character. In “normal” school, those who have the greatest influence over you are your peers. You will spend more time with them, the good apples and the bad apples, than you will with anyone else – even your parents. To me, it looks like a case of “the blind leading the blind”.

If you are homeschooled, you learn from your elders. No matter how insufficient a mom may feel, she has more to give her kids than the children or teenagers sitting in the desks next to them, or an overworked teacher who sees them as a career (there are many incredible teachers who do care out there – but they are not your child’s parents). Homeschooled children are usually mature for their age, equipped to make important decisions, capable and thoughtful.

photo by Natan Grobler

photo by Natan Grobler

Another distinct characteristic of homeschooled students, that I have seen, is that they easily relate across age gaps. They befriend adults, and are often more respectful than their “normally” schooled counterparts. They are able to relate to younger children with compassion and equity as well, since they spend all day with their siblings rather than people from the same age groups. This leads to extremely close sibling relationships. In fact, it seems to me that even when parents that I have met have ended up raising their children to be almost exactly like “normally” schooled people, there are two traits common to these young adults that are outstanding from the majority: their intimacy with their siblings, and their ability to be hardworking, creative and resourceful.

I feel that the latter is one of the most special aspects of being homeschooled. By the time your children are young adults, they need to know how to work hard, how to use the abilities that they have, and how to adapt and grow, so that they can fit in with how the world and professions operate in this century. Diligence seems to spring from depth of character, but resourcefulness, problem solving and creative thinking are traits that appear, to me, to be native to all homeschooled pupils – in such an above-average way that it makes me feel sorry for other kids, as it starkly reveals just how much they are missing out on.

Homeschooled kids have observed, and partaken of a mother’s willingness to work in order to reach the desired end. They have sometimes struggled without the answers, and had to come up with ways to find them. Homeschooled children have enjoyed individual attention from someone who cares passionately, and who will help them to find out what they should be doing in life, come hell or high water. They have had a head start second to none.

Photo by Natan Grobler

Photo by Natan Grobler

As an example, I know a man who is a successful entrepreneur and business person, who claims that if he can, he will always hire an individual who was homeschooled. He feels that their resourcefulness, cheerfulness and ability to work hard, and provide what is asked for, is first class.

This is why, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if your child doesn’t get matric. Later on, if they really want to get it, it won’t be that hard for them to do so, since this time around they will be personally motivated. Or, they’ll thrive without it, becoming entrepreneurs or skilled craftsmen and women with unique creative outlooks. They will adapt instead of becoming extinct… because, at present, our world is changing faster than it ever has before, and its rate of change doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Mostly, the understanding that their happiness in choice of work, rather than running endlessly in the corporate hamster-mill, is vitally important, and will give your children personal satisfaction, and set examples in a world that has too few.

In my next guest post I will share on my family’s best and worst homeschooling moments, how I would school my children, and what really mattered in the end.

Thank you for writing from your heart ~ I’m sure other moms, like myself are inspired and encouraged.

Recently a homeschool mom sent me this link to The Creativity Crisis on The Daily Beast.com which endorses Rifke’s observations!

You can read more of Rifke’s life, thoughts and self-sufficiency knowledge on her blog ~Through the Window.

Blessings,

Rifke ~ Homeschool Experiences

Guest Post 2

Last week I introduced Rifke, a young married woman, a homeschool graduate and friend, who has asked me if she could write about her homeschooling experiences and perspectives.  This week she shares a fairly long, but utterly fascinating post on her homeschooling journey.  Will you join me with a good cup of tea or coffee and read her story … I promise that you will be encouraged!

“My parents have learned themselves, over the years, how to be educators. Their present stance on it has evolved from what it was when I was in grade one.

Photo by Natan Grobler

Photo by Natan Grobler

Un-schooling wasn’t really happening yet, back in the mid-nineties when they began with homeschooling – at least not in South Africa. Everyone that my mom knew who were homeschoolers seemed to want to make their children’s schooling as close to “normal” schooling as possible – in many cases, to help allay the fears of concerned family members, as well as some of their own.

My mom mostly adopted this mindset as well. She was pretty amazing, as she struggled, like almost everyone else does, with a shortage of confidence and a haunting sense of failure whenever a glitch cropped up, and she sometimes wished that she had had a formal teacher’s training. But she went ahead, turning a blind eye to sidelong, disapproving glances.

My parents started us on the Theocentric Christian Education course, which is a curriculum based in South Africa, but which gets almost all of its coursework from the United States. Although the content was thorough and excellent, the learning style was quite similar (as I remember it) to that found in “normal” schools. We did not write exams, but we followed the curriculum closely.

Although I know that there are many ways to reach the desired end in education, this start was beneficial to my older brother, younger sister and me. We lived in the city, and there wasn’t much that we could occupy our own time with. Dedicated academic schooling was the medium for developing us, keeping us busy, and teaching us to apply ourselves and use our minds.

My father also often took us with him to work – he was a plumber, carpenter, handyman and restorer of antique furniture. I can remember going with him and my older brother, when I was about six and my brother was about seven years old, to tile someone’s floor. We received payment for it, according to the amount of work that we had each been able to do.

Both of my parents encouraged us in creative activities outside of our curriculum. We wrote and drew prolifically, and went once a week to another homeschooling mom’s house with other children, where we had informal art lessons. My father taught my brother and me to play musical instruments and read music, and instigated a family choir. My mother encouraged our reading, largely through her own passion for literature. I remember both her and my dad reading out loud to us in engaging, animated tones of voice, setting our interest on fire. We loved books and stories.

Looking back, I can see that my parents monopolised our time, though we did not really know it. Whether it was housework, learning, reading or making things, we were almost always doing something. I did get bored, like any child, but my mind – a sponge, at that age – had plentiful opportunities for soaking useful information in.

Things changed when we moved to the Langkloof in the Eastern Cape, in the year 2000, when I was eight. My parents rented a non-operational farm, and my dad got hold of some animals and plants right away. We learned about caring for livestock, growing trees and planting vegetables. I started baking without the overseeing eye of my mother, who had just given birth to Joshua, making bread, cakes and biscuits. My father taught my sister, brother and I to use a sewing machine. We still continued our curriculum as we had always done, and practiced our music and sang, but our knowledge base outside of these things was expanding rapidly.

When my family moved onto its own small holding in 2002, there was an overwhelming load of work to be done. The house was decrepit, and there was no septic tank or running water. Orchards and vegetable gardens had to be started from scratch. We jumped in, starting work on multiple projects at one time. My early to mid teen years were and still are a blur to me, as we juggled trying to keep up with schooling and working on the farm. But the schooling regime for us older children – I now had five siblings – was changing.

Photo by Natan Grobler

Photo by Natan Grobler

When I was ten, around the time of our move to the small holding, I became aware of the difference between my learning style and my mother’s teaching style. Schooling sessions grew tense, and I eventually decided that I would take on the responsibility of teaching myself. It is kind of strange to remember how I would feel insulted, during my teenage years, if anyone inquired into how I was spending my weekday mornings. It was offensive to me that anyone could suspect that I wasn’t schooling myself as faithfully as a teacher.

As we progressed into the second year of high school, coursework was becoming hard to find. Previously, when my mom had been part of homeschooling circles in Cape Town, second-hand books had been easy to get hold of. But in the Langkloof, not so! And, as homeschooling parents will know, new books can be expensive. So we learned from bits and pieces here and there, anything that we could get hold of – computer courses, books belonging to my parents, a history encyclopedia. Once or twice someone gave us a whole grade’s worth of their children’s schoolbooks, but now doing school in this standard way somehow seemed less applicable…in fact, somewhat out of place. It was hard for my mom – she was choking in fears and feelings of failure. But together with my dad, she was reaching a crucial realization: book learning is a tiny portion of what education is about.

When I was around fifteen, my dad told us that we would all stop school for half a year, and do the work that needed to be done on the farm. From morning till night, six days a week, we built pillars, planted vegetables, tiled, stacked stone walls, laid foundations, painted, planted trees, cleared lands, put up fences, tiled some more. We worked pretty hard. I can’t say I relished it; some jobs were more fun than others, and, being female, I wasn’t as strong as my dad or brothers and would get quite physically tired. But I am glad, today, to have those skills. I am also more grateful than I can say to know what it means to work hard.

When we started school again after that half-year, my parents had changed their minds about how to school us. They had begun to feel that not every subject was necessary, and also that we needed to discover our preferred skills, our personal talents, our desires for the future.

Through all the rest of high school, up until I started matric, I never worked off a proper curriculum. English, Maths and Afrikaans my mother saw as essential, but if I was doing those I could do roughly whatever other subjects I was interested in. I mostly did around five or six subjects at a time.  I worked out of books that were roughly equivalent to the grade that I was supposed to be at, according to my age, though sometimes I would skip to a book a grade higher if I understood the content.

When my older brother, Jonan, had to start grade ten, friends of my parents offered to sponsor him to study that grade through Intec. I was studying the same grade at roughly the same time, but using different books. As Jonan was ending the grade, we heard that in a few years’ time, Intec would not provide matric anymore. The people who sponsored him in grade ten offered to sponsor both of us through an Intec matric, which was actually grades eleven and twelve combined into a year and a half. I had been doing his maths, so I was up to standard with that, and as for the rest, I chose subjects which I felt most comfortable with – the necessary English and Afrikaans, then agricultural science, physics and biology. Because I had been learning through every book of learning I could lay my hands on, I managed fine with picking up in grade twelve, even though I hadn’t been working off an organised curriculum since I was thirteen. Jonan and I continued to teach ourselves through this last grade. In order to have achieved higher marks in mathematics I would have needed help – I was doing it higher grade, and had no tutor, or anyone else, who could assist me with it – but I just scraped through, anyway. We wrote in a government school in Humansdorp.

My younger sister, Hannah, had quite a different high school experience from mine and Jonan’s. Once again, friends offered to sponsored her, but they wanted her to learn through the TCE (Theocentric Christian Education) course. TCE is very academic, compared to many other homeschooling courses, and to fulfill the course and get good marks requires a lot of time and input. Hannah is an arty, right-brained person…she does not enjoy studying! She got good marks, but she was also making wedding and matric farewell dresses on the sidelines, and she had already decided that she wanted to be a florist, dressmaker and wedding planner. She could learn this trade through my father’s sister, who is a professional in the same fields but floristry. She (my sister) had also spent a few weeks on a protea farm when she was fourteen, and knew how to cut and arrange flowers. She wrote exams for several years of high school, unlike my Jonan and me who only wrote for one, but she decided to finish with grade ten. My parents allowed this, because she is not what one might usually call the “academic” type, yet she is very industrious, brilliant at working with her hands, and was at that stage much further on the way to a successful future career than I was.

My parents strongly encouraged Jonan and me to write our matrics. Jonan is gifted musically, and my parents wanted him to have the opportunity to study further. They also felt that because he would one day be providing for a family, he needed to have all options open to him. He hasn’t shown a desire to go to university yet, though. With me, my parents also always felt that I should have a matric in order to have the choice to go to university available to me, as I love maths and the sciences, and showed an interest in microbiology and medicine. More than that, I just had no idea whatsoever what I wanted to do with my life. I have never used my matric for anything yet, though. Instead of pursuing the sciences, I picked up skills in the arts, and now am beginning a freelancing career with my husband.

It is hard indeed to determine which academics or skills that I picked up during my schooling years have counted the most so far. Reading and writing have been essential; reading is the way I gain knowledge, and good writing skills are necessary for conducting oneself with success in the business world. Writing and creative thinking are also becoming an income supply. On the other hand, I have had very little formal training in the field of the visual arts… yet that looks like it will be my strongest income source in the future.

I suspect that the influence which the sciences had over me are harder to define. They stretched my mind, my logical capabilities, and my understanding of what I was able to do. I loved physics, biology and chemistry; if I had to do it again, and choose all my subjects with my present knowledge, I would definitely do the those, because I enjoyed them, and they both satisfied and sparked my curiosity over the world in general. A bit of knowledge in biology also helps if you’re living on a farm.

But I suspect that everything that I learned will really start coming into play when I am a mother, and I have to start schooling my own children. I want to be able to help them through both the simple and the difficult subjects..

It is presently the turn of my seventeen-year-old brother, Natan, and fifteen-year-old sister, Abigail, to forge their way through high school. They are studying through Alpha and Clonard, respectively. I don’t know whether they will end up writing their matrics, but my parents are making an effort to groom them in all areas, and encourage them in the things that they enjoy doing.

I guess if I have to sum it up, then high school in my family is a combination of prayer, and exploring one’s natural inclinations.

Prayer, because my family can’t always afford our schooling, so we ask God to provide, and He does.

Exploring, because my parents feel that although we have to know how to work hard and fend for ourselves, there is also something that each of us was made to do, and we will be happiest and most blessed doing that.

I guess they do not really see the point in preparing us for something we will never do. It is still true that one doesn’t always know what the future holds, and children may make all kinds of rash decisions about their future, if given the opportunity, in order to avoid their school load.

My parents observed us, and gave us opportunities to experiment. They tried to get to know us as individuals, so they could see how to tailor our schooling to our characters.

In my next guest post I will share on some of the differences that I have experienced between homeschooled kids and those who have gone to “normal” schools.”

Thank you for your insights and the beautiful way you share, Rifke.  I’m sure other moms, like myself will be inspired and encouraged by your experiences and your parent’s hard-won wisdom.  

You can read more of Rifke’s life, thoughts and self-sufficiency knowledge on her blog ~Through the Window.

Join us next week for another guest post.

Blessings,

Introducing Rifke

First Guest Post

I met Rifke many years ago, when she was very young and  her family arrived to stay with us for a week.  Six children and a crate of chickens emerged from their parent’s combi and so our family friendship began.

We renewed and deepened our friendship when we moved to the Western Cape to farm in the Klein Karoo just over 5 years ago.  This wonderful family lives an hour and a half from us and we are blessed to visit them.

We are like-valued in so many ways; Christians with strong family values, farmers (they are fully self-sufficient whereas we tend to be more commercial), and homeschoolers.  In many ways they confirmed and inspired our choices.  A true gift from the Lord.

Our children are best, best friends with their children.  We have watched them play, enjoy extended holidays together, smile as they mature and start businesses together, and as time has flown past, attended their weddings.

So, may I introduce Rifke, the eldest daughter of 7 children. A beautiful and talented young married lady, who has always had a passion for writing, who cooks and bakes the most exquisite cakes, is musical and sings like a lark, and has a deep and sincere desire to please the Lord.

She approached me to write guest post about homeschooling from a homeschool-graduate perspective, and we soon both realized that she has lots to share, so we will run a series.  I know you’ll be blessed to meet her and hear her heart. You can read more from her on her blog ~Through the Window.

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“I guess that anyone meeting me for the first time would pick up something a little odd about me. Not a bad kind of odd, I hope. They would probably just notice that I dress differently – “creatively”, as I like to call it – and use some old-fashioned words.

A little way through our conversation they may discover that I was homeschooled, and that would reveal a lot to them. After that, they may or may not be surprised to learn that where I come from, we have solar electricity and no hot water. No reliably hot water, at least. We also grow vegetables and meat to supply ourselves, grind wheat from great big sacks bought at co-op stores to make our bread, and grow “mielies”, or corn, to grind and make into porridge for our breakfast.

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My parents were among the first couples to start homeschooling in South Africa. I never went to school, except for two days a week in kindergarten. My older brother started with homeschooling after completing a year of pre-school, and none of my five younger siblings have ever set foot in a school (except for maybe once or twice in their lives, when they accompanied an adult on an errand).

When I was eight years old, my family left the city of Cape Town, where I was born, and re-settled in the remote valley of the Langkloof. There God provided my parents with a small holding, which they live on today.

I began studying for my schooling finals, my matric, when I was sixteen, and wrote it (alongside my older brother) when I was seventeen. These were the first exams we had ever written. We studied for them through a long-distance college, whose service wasn’t great, and wrote in an echoing, paint-chipped hall in a government school. To our delight, we both passed with exemption.

A year and a half later I joined a small media studio which had been set up recently by a friend, and there I started a friendship with a handsome young man named Scott. We became engaged, and then married, in record time.

Whenever I come across mothers who are homeschooling, but were educated themselves in “normal” schools, I stand in their shoes without actually having ever been there, and, I guess, my heart goes out to them. It’s a generalisation, but homeschooling mothers do not appear to understand how brave they are. Their failures seem to hover – lucid and self-accusatory –  before them daily. They seem to try so hard, without necessarily recognizing, and therefore enjoying, the full reward of their effort.

Three of my mother’s children are now finished with school. We are all under twenty-four, so we haven’t made what some would call a “success of our lives” yet. But what, really, is “a life”? What is your child’s life to you? Is it something that is still going to happen, or is it already happening? Is it a series of actions they will make, a series of successes or failures… or is it how they experience their years, moment by moment?

By choosing to homeschool, you have already shown that you not only put your child’s happiness and well-being above your own comfort, but also that you have the wisdom to perceive that not all is right with the mindsets, and ways of running things, that world presently finds itself in. You should be proud of yourself. It’s hard to swim upstream.

As someone who was homeschooled, I want to thank mothers like you. You have provided me with all my best friends, and my almost-too-good-to-be-true husband. You are giving the world first-class employees and colleagues. You are creating a generation that will set examples through their ability to learn, and change with the times; to be creative, and make things of beauty; to go against the flow. Mostly, you are creating people who will inspire others to be happy, through their own understanding of where the important things in life lie.

In my next guest post I will write a bit about how my parents schooled us, how I experienced the difference between homeschooled kids and those that go to “normal” schools, and what skills and academics have really mattered so far.”

Thank you, Rifke, for your rich and encouraging post! We all look forward to your next post!

Blessings,