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!


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

Blessings, Nadene




South African Artists

New Package Release!

South African Artists Introducing a brand new package ~ South African Artists  Art History & Appreciation study which covers 18 notable South African artists from the 19th century to modern contemporary artists.  Helen Martins This artist study is designed for middle and high school students for Art History & Art Appreciation.   South African Famous Artists will work perfectly for the Little Footprints, Footprints on our Land and Footprints into the 21st Century curriculums.

JH Pierneef We follow a Charlotte Mason approach where we study and appreciate one artist for a month.  Each week we view one new art work and I encourage detailed observations, discussions, further research, narrations, and supporting art activities for that art work.

The download includes detailed biographies, Internet links and at least 4 examples of each artist’s works, as well as a blank biography page for narrations and notes.Esther Mahlangu's galleryHere is a free sample for you to download ~ South African Artists Sample

I highly recommend Willemien Kruger’s Homeschooling Curriculum  where she features her mom’s Elna Venter’s booklets South African Art Series For Children featuring several South African artists.

Pop over to my Packages Page to purchase this download.

Blessings,  Nadene

What 3 Ingredients?

A Food Channel on DSTV recently interviewed several famous chefs and asked,

What 3 ingredients would you have in your kitchen?

Most of them stated the obvious – basics such as eggs, milk, pork (as either ham, bacon or meat) and one insisted on the versatility of rice, but several focussed on (what seemed like to me) extravagant non-essentials – condiments, chillies, some obscure nut, spice or sauce.

It got me thinking, “What essential 3 ingredients I would have for homeschooling?”
Would it be the standard basics – open to a hundred different options – or some exotic extravagant items that would make learning unique and unforgettable?

So, at the moment, I would probably chose these basics  ~

  • my nifty little travel art set
  • Notebook with blank pages – nice large A4 hard-covered
  • A classic novel to read aloud … or an atlas ( our good old large Reader’s Digest illustrated atlas)

Back in 2007, when we were on the road for 18 months, before buying our farm, and in the ‘dark ages’ before I owned a smart phone, all our children’s homeschool basics fitted in a small onboard-sized suitcase!

This list has more than 3 items , but these basics covered every subject for all 3 children for our entire year-and-a-half travels ~

  • Footprints On Our Land (South African literature-based History curriculum – visit their website here.  I have used and re-used it and it is an amazing family friendly curriculum!)
  • An atlas, our large, blank laminated map to record our Footprints journey,  and a mini dictionary
Footprints map

Our “Footprints On Our Land” map filled with our trips in different colours, photos of family and friends and places we visited, and the circular discs for each book we read on our Footprints journey

  • Maths books, a calculator, Maths Mini Office and a maths set (protractor, set square and compass)
  • An art set (waterpaints, coloured pencils and some felt-tipped pens) to share, and a wad of blank paper
  • A “365 Simple Science Experiments” book and a magnifying glass (for nature study)
  • A Children’s Bible
  • Book of Centuries or a Timeline
  • Laminated handwriting chart

Asking my children what they would grab now as their homeschool essentials, Lara (13yrs) said ~

  • Pen, pencil and rubber, and a watercolour paint set with waterbrush
  • Maths books & Mini Office
  • Apologia Astronomy book

and Kate (16yrs) listed ~

  • Maths Mini Office
  • Black ink pen – for writing and drawing
  • Notebook with lined, blank and quad lined pages

Now, as a more techno-savy mom, many of my basics are conveniently available as apps on my smart phone ~

  • Kindle – with current ebooks, novels, and pdfs loaded
  • Bible – I use You Version, and enjoy the different Bible versions and reading plans and Bible studies.  Some good plans for teens and family devotions.
  • Dictionary and Thesaurus (download the offline versions)
  • Google Translate for 2nd language studies
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube
  • World Atlas
  • Google Sky Map
  • Google calendar
  • Music – with our Hymns, Geography Songs, classic music to play in the background
  • Timer for Maths drills

What exotic and unusual items would I choose to make our homeschool experience amazing?

  • An amazing novel, or beautifully illustrated story book (for younger children)
  • A detailed reference book on our current theme/ topic
  • A poetry anthology book

When I asked Kate and Lara what special items they would choose ~

  • A brilliant book for read aloud (Lara)
  • A really good, classic leather-bound, genuine waterpaper sketch book (Kate’s suggestion)
  • Good playlist on the shuffle – they love to listen to music while working

What essentials would I choose for young children and kindergarten?

  • Unifix cubes (for sorting, counting, grouping, building and Maths)
  • Playdough and some cutters, rolling stick and stamps
  • Activity bags to rotate each week
  • Beautifully illustrated children’s story book and Children’s Bible
  • Large jotter for their illustrations and dictated narrations with some chubby crayons and water-based markers.

What essentials would you choose?  Please share in the comments.

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:


Fun History!

What a shock my kids had when I walked into the room like this!

(Excuse the slightly blurred photo.  My 10-year-old was giggling too much to focus the camera properly!)

It was a great way to introduce the British Occupation at the Cape and the 1820 British Settlers for our Footprints On Our Land history curriculum.

All Miss.L10’s narrations were done with the mask and a most ‘proper’ British accent!

(And lots of giggles from Miss.K13 studying in the background!)

Some novelty and fun makes History fresh and exciting!

Hope you and your kids have fun now and then!


3D Models into Art

“Busy hands while I read aloud”

This is a wonderful recipe to success in a literature-based curriculum like Sonlight.

My kids have modeled in clay, made prints, colored-in, painted, woven wool, built a Lego ziggurat, tied knots and built paper models.

In Footprints on our Land, we recently studied the French Huguenots and their influence on the culture, architecture, agriculture, language and religion in the Cape.

I had some postcard paper models of Cape houses from my old teaching-days.  I made color photo-copies (to save my originals) and gave them to Miss.L10 to cut and glue while I read aloud.

She enjoyed the intricate cutting and scoring,

glueing and forming …

The water-mill was quite tricky!

Once she had finished “playing” with the little paper people around her houses, we put the models up on the window sill on display.

This week we finished off the read aloud.  While I read the last few chapters, we solved the “where do we store the 3D models?” problem with an artistic application ~

  • cut the models apart
  • use the front, the sides and the back to create 3 houses from 1 model
  • paste them on a blank page
  • draw, color and paint the background and the details
  • and we have wonderful, detailed, colorful pages for in our notebook file!

This way we achieved ~

  1. creative and busy hands while I read aloud
  2. storage for a 3-dimensional object in our notebook file
  3. creative problem-solving = make the models fit into a 2-dimensional design (she had to cut the roof in different angles to look “true”, she made a door where there was only a window, she wanted both sides of the water mill and created a full water flow through several buildings!)

How do you store your children’s 3D models?  What busy-hands activities have been the most successful/ creative?  Please share in the comments.


Fun with Oreo Moons

Double Stuf Oreos, by Nabisco.

It is always good to have some kind of fun activity to help teach or reinforce new concepts.

Our current South African History story relates how the Khoikhoi natives measured time with the moon.  Typically, as in our all literature studies, we branched off the story and we studied the moon phases.

I found a fun Oreo moon phase worksheet and we …





our Oreos

and made

our own moon phases chart.


Now, in testimony of my health-eating choices, my 9-year-old had NEVER eaten Oreos before!  But for the sake of fun I decided that this would definitely add something special to the lesson.

It was a really delicious, new learning experience!

Here are some web links to similar Oreo Moon studies:

In my years of homeschooling I realize that hand-on activities, creative and fun projects, art & crafts, outdoor lessons and co-op/ group outings are essential to a young child’s love for learning.

With 2 of my children in high school it seems that we don’t enjoy as many fun moments homeschooling.  Somehow the seriousness of studies and schedules make greater demands on our time and liberty.

Do the creative-hand-on-fun activities with your young kids.

Deviate from the schedule.

Deny the time constraints.

Delve out of the program.

Do delight-directed unit studies.

Do have fun!

What fun activities did you and your children love best?  Please share some and link to your posts in the comments below.


School Outings ~ What I Miss Most

 Girls find garnets in the gravel at Kimberley Big Hole

For several years now we lived too far away (not to mention our horrendous mountain roads) from cities, towns and friends to join homeschool outings –

and I miss it much more than my kids do!

  • I miss the planning and preparation of an outing that fits all our schedules and topics of  interest.
  • I miss meeting friends at a car park, chatting to moms while we wait for the rest to arrive.
  • I miss watching the kids playing before we can even introduce the new family that has joined the group.
  • I miss the hugs, encouragement and support of other moms who have rushed household chores, packed picnic baskets and scurried to put the baby things in the bag for the day, to get the to venue on time.
  • I miss the buzz of excitement of the little ones as we enter the museum or place of interest.
  • I miss the tour guide telling the kids stuff that we read about and watching the children’s faces light up with, “I know that!
  • I miss the joy of my child’s feeling of success when she answers a guide’s questions with confidence.
  • I miss the group activities, the teams, the joint efforts in some or other exercise.
  • I miss seeing, with wonder and joy, older teenagers (especially the guys) playing and helping the toddlers and young kids, when I know that it would not be “cool” among their government school peers.
  • I miss sharing healthy and delicious snacks and tea and coffee afterwards.
  • I miss hearing the successes and failures of other homeschool families and being part of such a wonderful support system.
  • I miss my children’s excited news and joy of friends who have the same life values.
  • I miss the confirmation of our homeschooling choices seen at work in other families.
  • And of course I miss the art museums, the professional tour guides, seeing real artifacts and proof of reality seen up close and personal.

For moms with young children I urge you to join other groups, or form your own, and make time each month for an outing!  If possible, choose a schedule that gives you 1 day each week for outings and get-together.  (Sonlight offers a choice between a 4-day or a 5-day week schedules.  We often used our 5th ‘free’ day for library, visits, shopping and outings.)

These outings are wonderful experiences and make memories that may last for ever!

I  think we stocked up on our family’s outings because we spent over a year on the road and traveled around South Africa while we did Footprints on the Land curriculum.

May you enjoy your homeschool groups and outings!


This post is part of the upcoming South African Carnival of Homeschooling.

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!


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?

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!