Homeschool Beginnings Part III

Continuing my personal story of my unlikely journey into homeschooling.

(If you’ve missed the first two posts, you can pop over to read about our baby’s serious illness just days after her birth – Part I and the sad prognosis –Part II.)

We were referred to a Baby Therapy Centre which housed all the therapists and treatments required to treat and help babies with brain injuries, and so began three years of therapy sessions, remedial splints, and ongoing consultations and reports.

Early on we recognized weakness and spasm on our baby’s right side. The doctors and specialists referred to her diagnosis as “Right Hemi” or right-side hemiplegia, but it was only after one year before I heard them use the term “CP” and was dismayed to hear she actually had Cerebral Palsy. I don’t know why, but the label seemed so harsh, so cruel. I think we all have fear and prejudice towards the “different”. I couldn’t imagine how my baby would grow up and become independent with her disability.

Let me say that the only label or report I really needed was the Lord’s.  Every medical report and doctor’s consultation filled me with dread and fear and pushed me into anxiety and hyper-vigilance.  Instead, the Lord spoke to me in His gentle love and care, and He filled my heart with hope and peace.  He helped me focus on “one thing” at a time.  He encouraged me to live in the “now” moments with my child and not worry about the future.  I wish I could say that this was my permanent state of heart, but it was the only way I could cope as we went through many valleys, peaks, and plateaus.

Using the new orthopedic thumb splint

By now I realized that I followed an “Attached Parenting” style.  I attributed this mainly due to my breastfeeding years and the amazing mentoring and excellent parenting books I read in the La Leche League library.  I wore my baby in a sling and chose to nurture and respond to her every need with care and love.  

After three years, the Baby Therapy Center referred us to private occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech therapists, as our child was no longer considered a baby.  We continued regular therapy over the following nine years.

Our daughter was a bright, chatty, young toddler. She was beautiful, vivacious, intelligent, creative, fun, strong-willed, sensitive, loyal and spiritual. I loved my days with her!

My child continued to meet her milestones and, praise the Lord, showed no signs of learning or speech delays.  We attended a toddler’s play group and we enjoyed monthly play dates with our antenatal moms’ group.  Homeschooling was a very vague option, but I felt that my child would cope in mainstream schooling, so I didn’t look into that aspect at all.  Little did I know how gently the Lord would lead me into that role.

To be continued in Part IV.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part II

Continuing my story of my unlikely journey into homeschooling from Part I …

Following our newborn baby’s diagnosis of meningitis and a brain bleed, we went into deep shock. It was the only time I saw my husband actually sob.

I spent eleven days in the hospital with my baby, now in the children’s ward, where there were five other meningitis cases, caring for my tiny, sick, newborn baby and trying desperately to learn to breastfeed.

Hospital life is interrupted, clinical, medical and full of fear.  Not the nurturing, calm and private bonding post birth experience I had dreamed for and that my hormones absolutely craved!  I almost gave up breastfeeding because my drugged and sick baby couldn’t latch properly.  I had cracked nipples and a bad case of milk fever, but a La Leche League consultant came and talked me through all my difficulties and supported my decision to keep trying to feed my baby despite all the obstacles. I am so grateful for her help as we went on to breastfeed for two years.

We were referred to pediatric specialists who told us of all the possible damage the brain bleed and meningitis could cause. The news was dreadful. The pediatric neuro-specialist referred to her diagnosis as right-side hemiplegia or right-side paralysis.   There were fears of possible learning and speech problems.  I was gutted.

My hubby and I immediately found ourselves in separate camps trying to cope with this news; he was quiet, withdrawn and in denial, and I began a frantic search for options, help, therapy, support, and interventions.  I think that I was determined to help my child and nothing was going to be too difficult.  I resigned from my teaching position and so I began my new role of stay-at-home-mom-on-a-mission!

To be continued in Part III.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part 1

Many of my readers have followed me for several years, but don’t know how I started homeschooling, and some of you are fairly new to Practical Pages, and so I thought I would share my personal testimony of how I stumbled into homeschooling and the amazing journey that it took us on.  It’s a long story, but I will break it up into bite-sized pieces, so please come back each week for the next post in the series.

Homeschooling was not even on my radar.  Before I had my own children, I hardly knew anyone who homeschooled, and I probably thought those who did were strange.  I was devoted school teacher and glibly thought I would continue teaching again after taking a year’s maternity and paid leave, But the Lord had other plans.

My first daughter’s birth was a precipitous, premature, hospital delivery. She was tiny, needed to go under lights and so we stayed in the hospital for five days.  After just four days at home, she developed a very high fever and screamed all night. Early the next morning we were at a pediatric hospital.  The traumatic diagnosis following a spinal tap and brain scans was that our precious baby had meningitis and had a brain bleed.

Of course, I immediately resigned from my teacher’s position, right in those first few weeks following her illness, when I realized that I had a very important job helping my child.  And so began a very different journey of motherhood and parenting, and one that would lead me, very naturally, as it seems to me now, into homeschooling.

To be continued in Part II.

Blessings, Nadene

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Lost Inspiration

I love sketching and creating a weekly entry in my nature journal, but I haven’t touched my art supplies for over 2 months.  I wondered if I had lost my creative inspiration. How had that happened?

As I pondered the reason for my lack of art, these changes came to mind ….

Feeding our bull and weaned calves

We live on a remote mountain farm in a semi-arid area called the Klein Karoo, and have been in the grip of the worst drought in living memory. We have had to supplement feed our cattle completely since March this year and it is a labour-intensive affair. Our whole family have all pulled on our boots and climbed in the Landy to help my hubby every day and especially on the weekends when our worker takes his weekend off. It would seem natural that I would not sit happily sketching and painting in my free time, especially when there is hard, physical work to be done.

My herb and vegetable garden earlier this winter …

The drought affected my gardening and I could barely manage keep my veggie garden going through the winter. My pretty rose garden withered and died back. Full-grown trees died, and about 4 other trees blew over in a terrible wind storm. I was definitely not inspired on my nature walks when I went outside.

I recently decided to re-landscape the rose bed and I transplanted several rose bushes in a smaller cluster while they were in their winter dormancy.  I also transplanted several plants dying in other neglected garden areas to this focused garden bed. I hope to carefully water this smaller area and keep them alive.  I suppose I could have journalled these changes in my nature journal, but I was simply too tired.

Off to prune pomegranate trees

With our livestock farming under stress, we decided to make full use of a neighbouring farmer’s offer to prune his pomegranate orchards and use the cuttings to create our own pomegranate plants. We spent the last week pruning, cutting slips and planting over 5000 plants. Back-breaking and hand-cramping days.

At the end of April, my 17-year-old daughter graduated homeschool and she is transitioning through her options for the rest of this year.  This is a difficult phase to navigate.  On one hand, we recognize that she has been very isolated and protected, while on the other, she has worked very independently as a homeschooler.  Even so, we as parents have struggled to let her go even though we know that this is exactly what she needs and wants to do.  I suppose this phase has been tough for me emotionally.

We all go through seasons. This has been a physically hard and barren season, which has literally dried up my time and energy, which in turn, dried up my art and creativity.

Snow on our mountains!

Thankfully, just in this past week, miraculous rain and snow has fallen, and the drought seems to have almost broken. While it will take months for the fields and grass to recover, and we will still have to supplement feed our livestock, there is hope in the air and in our hearts.

It seems that my art and creativity are linked to regular watering of my spirit and soul. Perhaps my sketching and painting will bud and fruit sometime soon again ….

The Lord is faithful to keep us, even in dry and weary times.

What inspires your art and creativity?

Wishing you every blessing in whatever season you are in, Nadene

Have you liked my new Practical Pages Facebook Page yet?

Facebook Practical Pages coverSeveral months ago I started a new Practical Pages FB page because the original FB page could not be merged to my personal account.  Over the months since, only a couple hundred have joined me on my new page.

Would you please click and like the new page so that all my fresh posts automatically come up on your feed?

Blessings, Nadene




Original PP Facebook Page Closing

At the end of this coming week, my original Practical Pages business page with be deactivated. (They cannot merge the two similar pages due to changes in Facebook policy.)

Facebook Practical PagesPlease, pretty please 1,300+ followers, would you please pop over and click to follow the new page … I’d love you to easily receive all my posts, notifications and follow interesting threads and conversations  on my new Practical Pages Facebook. 

Click and like now so that you do not miss out.

Blessings, Nadene

Timing myself!

Revisiting a post written several years ago …

Before we started our Lucerne Tree business, before I joined Facebook … before our having to discipline our teenage daughters’ computer and cell phone times …

I  wonder just how quickly the boundaries shift or “vanish”  …  and realize, again, that my habits set the tone for the family, and set an example for my children.

Just after we started our homeschooling, I re-evaluated my schedule. I realized that things were not in balance. I went to pray.  The Lord really convicted me about my time spent on my computer.20151210_180918

I realized that I spent hours at my laptop every day. I love to read, and research, create and write. I love to read new posts on my favourite blogs. I love to receive emails and write and encourage others.

Isn’t this my “ministry” while I live on a farm so remote and far from everyone?

But I spend too much time here everyday.

So, I committed my time to the Lord anew. I took my handy kitchen timer and placed it on my desk. I now limit my computer time to 1 hour for the day. For everything. Emails, posts, writing, reading, creating my own pages, whatever. When that bell rings, I must stop.

Shut down.

Walk away.


My hubby is glad. My children are very glad.

This is right. And I am so grateful that the Lord stirs my conscience and urges me to hear His soft voice. May my use of my time honor Him.


Do it!

Golly, it has been ages since I last wrote a post …

I do have a few reasons for my absence here …

My parents’ lives “imploded” in June and I have tried to support and assist them.  A few months ago my dad became ill with spinal TB and is now paralyzed.  We trust and pray that he will regain his strength, control and mobility, but, right now, he is weak and mostly bedridden or sitting in his wheelchair.

My mom has battled through the shock of dad’s illness, and has had to make radical decisions.  She has sold her car, sold their house and is packing, selling and donating their stuff to prepare for her move into a tiny cottage in a retirement village.  Her calls and messages are often filled with fear, anxiety, shock and sorrow.

The Lord is good.  He has answered so many prayers and I have witnessed His kindness and intimate provision to my parents in this time.  I remain hopefully expectant.  I pray and intercede for them and the Lord has encouraged me during this difficult time.

Living 15 hours away, I am not near enough to help as much I would like to …

And I am unable to fly to be with them right now as I am committed to my daughter’s final exams.  Which is my 2nd reason for my absence these past weeks.  She and I drove through to an exam center at our nearest town during August and September for her prelim exams.  She gained much confidence and learnt important exam skills.  We eagerly await her results …

And I recently took on a job which I later realized would require a graphics program.  Unable to afford Photoshop, I downloaded a similar free program called Gimp.   It is rather complex and difficult to use efficiently without tutorials and loads of practice.

Which brings me to my post topic ~ Do it!

No learning is more efficient than doing it oneself.

I once heard that at a medical school the senior lecturer said, “First I teach you and do it (a medical procedure) and you watch.  Then you do it and I’ll watch.  Then you teach someone else to do it.”  It is an accepted practice.

My first lessons on Gimp were passive and too brief.  I was aware of just a few steps or aspects, but could not complete a single thing on my own the next day.  Once I downloaded a few tutorials and went through the processes and steps, I was on my way … Until I got stuck!  Then I had to visit a friend and ask for help.  She and I tried about 3 different methods and finally found a solution, but when I got home I couldn’t remember which method was the right one!  I had to do them all over again until I found the right method.  I re-used the process several times, and now I can do it fairly quickly and confidently.

Here’s the point~

  • Do it again – quickly!  Don’t wait took long before repeating the learning or lesson.
  • Do it again and again!  Repetition is vital!  Do it over and over until it becomes natural or easy.
  • Do it again and teach someone else!  Telling others “fixes” it in your mind and memory.

Today my daughter went for an extra CAT (Computer Applied Technology) lesson on Access.  She needed a “refresher” in preparation for her final practical exam on the 8th October.  We have been “stuck” on a few aspects, and her confidence was lacking.  The teacher showed her the working principles of the program.  Then they went through the past exam.  Within a few minutes she was on a roll and completed the exam question without too many problems.  By the end of that question, I saw the teacher merely prompting her here or there.  And after an hour he simply watched her do it on her own.  We all are confident that she can “do it” well in her exam!

And younger children?  Many moms have noticed that when a baby learns a new skill, they do it over and over!  …Throw the block from the high chair and watch it fall to the ground.  Mom picks it up and baby does it again.  And again.  And again…

It is the same with other skills … All my kiddies loved to cut.  They cut slashes, they cut confetti, they cut along lines.  For days and days, they enjoyed cutting paper, wool, card, play dough.  After enough practice, they were “over” their cutting frenzy and wanted to practice other skills.

Repetition is vital for young children.

They love to “do it myself”.

Let them!

Let them stand on a chair and “help” you in every task and activity.

Release perfectionism and let them do it as well as they can.

Resist the temptation to fix their efforts.

Encourage them and continue to train them.

Demonstrate the activity or task again clearly and then let them do it themselves.

Blessings as you do it!

Away and Return

Some of my readers asked where I have been as I have not posted any new posts in the last weeks …

I have been away.

My dad became ill in May, and again early July and following several days of hospitalization 2 weeks ago, he became paralyzed. The eventual diagnosis was spinal TB or extra-pulmonary tuberculosis.

At the moment he is still in ICU following a really long and complex spinal fusion.  Doctors hope that now that his spine is stabilized, the nerves will eventually recover.  It may require up to 18 months in rehab.

My mom is traumatized by the sudden dramatic events and she faces many huge decisions.  She will have to pack and sell, give away and donate their things and sell her house.  We visited the retirement complex she has reserved and trust for God’s perfect timing to move there.

My dad’s treatments and final recovery is uncertain. Medical aid will not cover the many months of rehab. He has lost his job as the company has had to replace him, and at his age, he probably will not be able to return when he recovers.

I took an 19-hour bus trip to be with my parents and support my mom.  We spent many days sorting out dad’s legal affairs and accounts.

We visited him in hospital.

We cried many times.

We prayed constantly.

My mom’s church, the ladies in her quilting group, her dog therapy group and many of her patients (she’s a physiotherapist) and family have rallied around mom and dad.

Although we live far away, I am in constant contact with her.

In the meantime, I have returned home to my family and our farm.  My eldest daughter approaches her  prelim exams in August and matric final exams in November.  I have committed to driving her to the exam center and supporting her in these last few important months of her schooling.

I will so appreciate your prayers.


Here are some sites you may wish to view if you have any questions regarding extra-pulmonary TB:

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.