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!

[NelsonMandela5.jpg]

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 curriculum featuring an exceptional collection of books for 12-16-year-old students.  It covers South African History from the South African War, World War 1 up to the first democratic elections of 1994 and the emergence of a new South African era.  Its national leaders (like Nelson Mandela), sports heroes, arts and culture are also studied.  The curriculum has 8 sections and each historical period/ section outlines faith-building, life skills and natural sciences studies and activities.

This curriculum provides detailed guidelines and schedules and my 14-year-old daughter completed almost all the reading and many assignments independently.

When I read the books and outlines, I remembered living in the 1980’s as a scholar and I was  emotionally moved by the content. However, my daughter viewed much of this as ‘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 devote a whole year to study the rich heritage, history, culture, natural sciences, politics and geography of South Africa.

I highly recommend Footprints Into The 21st Century.

Footprints – a South African Education

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

Footprints map

Footprints map

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

Our Footprints map shows all the places we visited, people we met and picture discs of all the books we read in their geographical location.

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

One of the blessings of this period in our homeschooling with Footprints On Our Land was that I could use 1 package for all 3 girls.  My eldest, then 12-years-old, and my middle daughter, then 7-years-old, could manage and master the content and activities at their respective ages.  My youngest daughter was only 5-years-old, and could enjoy 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

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

I will post more information on the Footprints into the 21st Century for 12-16-year-olds soon.

I highly recommend Footprints On Our Land!