As you may know I have three kids, two boys and a girl. My first encounter with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder was not very enlightening. At that time there was very little literature available in hard copy form and we could not do any online research regarding ADHD as there was limited internet access. I was called in by the principal and asked to have an assessment done (for my son) at an educational psychologist. I was hesitant but I took the advice of the Principal and teachers and took my son to a paediatrician who was able to do the assessment at that time. The paediatrician to my knowledge did a full assessment and said that my son was not ADHD and was quite bright. I took that report back to the school he attended, and they reluctantly accepted it.
After a few years of back and forth with teachers a second assessment was done. This time it was performed by an educational psychologist, again at the request of a new Principal at a new school he was attending. I remember thinking this cannot be a coincidence that two different principals see the same thing. But, yet again, the results were not fully conclusive. The psychologist said that he could not say for sure that he had ADHD but, we were asked to put him on Ritalin for a month and see if it helped him. To our amazement he was a completely different child so much so that his marks began to improve, and his teacher praised him constantly.
This was a turning point for me. I didn’t fully understand ADHD so I started doing some research regarding this. A few years later my second son was in grade 3 and I was called in by the teacher who suggested he also start on Ritalin. This time I was quite surprised because he is quite a calm and quiet or mild natured child. Little did I understand then that ADHD often presented itself in many different forms. In his case he was not at all loud, active, or disturbing the class in anyway. Instead, he was quietly playing with pencils and rollups pretending they were little toys. He was barely listening in class while the teacher was teaching therefore did not fully grasp the concepts and could not complete the given task.
This time I did not go to an educational psychologist or paediatrician I simply went to my General Practitioner who agreed with the teacher and started him on Ritalin. So now I had both boys on Ritalin. Ritalin must be administered twice a day. We had to give them one tablet in the morning before school and leave one pack of medication with the teacher to administer at lunch break.
When we decided to home-school I prayed and trusted God and decided they would not need any medication because I would give them one on one attention and we would be just fine. Eventually after a few months I could see my kids were not performing at their best. We decided to use medication but this time we used Concerta which is a slow-release tablet and needed only once a day once again. For my second son I went a more holistic approach and bought an herbal concentration tablet but saw very little improvement. I knew I was just fooling myself thinking it was working. We eventually came to a point of frustration and with the GPs advice I decided to start him on a mild dose of Ritalin once again, just enough to get him through a morning of work. This did not last either.
Finally, when he started grade 8 this year, I spoke to the GP about increasing and changing his medication to the same Concerta brand that my eldest son was taking. I also spoke with my husband and decided he needed a formal educational assessment, since he had never been formally assessed. I eventually went to an educational psychologist who met with me first to hear the history of the child. This detailed history started at the time of my pregnancy, if he was a premature baby or normal date, if there was any stress during or after birth. I did not realise this all played a huge part in a child’s brain function and development.
Fortunately, there were no serious medical issues. The psychologist then met my son and did a three-hour full assessment with him. There were various tests done from Numerical to Verbal, Language to understanding concepts. To our surprise he was professionally diagnosed with a very high global IQ but struggled with some issues. He is naturally a very slow worker. That was not a surprise to me at all. I often must urge him on to complete his task. A week after the test were completed the psychologist met with me again to explain the results of the test she administered. I learnt more about ADHD in this session. ADHD is part of an extremely broad spectrum of the neurological system which sometimes overlaps with autism, dyslexia, and other serious learning disabilities. In my sons’ case the current medication he was taking was sufficient and he was performing at his correct levels for his age. I was advised to keep him on the same medication. ADHD is also more prevalent in boys than girls. It is also hereditary in most cases. I was also advised to get a classroom timer which will assist him with completing his task on time. He fortunately did not have any form of autism or learning disability.
I have learnt from this experience that no two children are the same. Yes, both my sons have ADHD but in such different forms. My advice would be to invest in getting your child thoroughly assessed instead of guessing with regards to diagnosis and medication. It will bring you peace of mind knowing a professional has done the assessment and you will be able to administer the correct medication as well as the correct dosage.
Some of the side effects my kids experience is lack of appetite especially at lunch time. I make sure they have a healthy nutritious breakfast. The other is restlessness at night. I encourage them to pray and read their bible. I also make sure the house is quiet, calm and I use a diffuser with essential oils before bed.
I still wake up every morning praying over my kids. Trusting God that he would guide me regarding every decision. Do I want to medicate my kids? No. Do I think medication helps them to achieve their best? Definitely, Yes! Fact is God is in control.
I recently read a profound article and shared it with my husband. It confirmed to me that we are making the right choices for our family. The writer who was diagnosed with ADHD in his late thirties said, “I’ve had pangs of resentment since the diagnosis especially when I cast my mind back to wasted years and unfulfilled potential. Why didn’t my teachers notice something? Reading my school reports, it seems obvious I had ADHD. Different times, I guess?”
In January this year I eagerly purchased our new English curriculum along with other books from Oikos Family ministries. We decided to use Learning Language Arts Through Literature which commonly known among homeschooling families as LATL. After doing a few lessons, about two months, we quickly realised this was not a good fit for us, especially for my daughter. I began once again to research other English curriculums. I loved the Abeka English which we had been doing for the last 3 years with T.C.E but unfortunately to source these books proved very costly with shipping.
I had previously done some research on The Good and The Beautiful (TGATB) Maths and English. I loved their singing timetables and purchased it for my daughter in 2019. The cost of postage was quite costly and they had not yet released the grade 5 year of their the Maths curriculum, only the English was available. I was not convinced that I should purchase the English but in hindsight I regret that decision.
This March I decided to go ahead and purchase the English curriculum for my daughter. We went on TGATB website and did the online assessment and purchased the book for her level. We have been using the books for about two months now and she really enjoys the beautiful workbook with colourful art drawings. This English curriculum also includes art lessons which she really enjoying. It includes grammar cards which we do daily to reinforce for example, what is a noun? What is an adjective? Besides English it also includes Geography cards which teaches her exactly where every country is located. The grammar and geography cards are a once off purchase for levels five to seven and do not need to be ordered again.
There is a daily spelling review at the beginning of each lesson as well as dictation of a few sentences. If any words are misspelled in these sentences they are added to the list of incorrect words and tested each week. There is also a reader of which my daughter is required to read a chapter each day and a recommended reader which I purchased online from Takealot. The workbook also comes with an answer key book for the parent to mark daily.
If you have access to a good printer, you could print this entire English course FREE off their website! Make sure you print in full colour as the art sections are amazing!
I chose not to purchase TGATB English for my son as he is in high school and I felt the LATL book was suitable for his age and grade.
Navigating this eclectic style of homeschooling has certainly come as a challenge for me as I prefer a more structured approach, but as I am discovering what curriculums are suitable and what does not work for our family, I am finding a new freedom. The beauty lies in the fact that you can create or design a learning environment that best suits your family’s unique needs, as well as allowing your kids to work on their level of understanding rather than specific grade.
We previously used the maths curriculum provided by Theocentric Christian Education (T.C.E) who was our service provider. We decided this year to choose our own curriculum providers for the subjects we chose to do. This type of home-schooling is known as “eclectic” style. The word eclectic means to derive ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.
When you have a service provider such as T.C.E you receive a box of books for the grade you are registered to do. Therefore, you are limited as far as choice of curriculum. When I began home-schooling my knowledge was limited so I chose to use a service provider and cover all my bases. With T.C.E we did BJU maths up to grade 6. I found this maths amazing, but I found the preparation and from a home-school moms’ perspective a little overwhelming. I kept doubting if I could get the lessons across clearly, so my kids understood the particular section, and it was daunting. I enjoy maths and the topics were not difficult, but I knew that my daughter understood better when she was able to physically see and touch counting blocks or fraction shapes. I also went online and found BJU offered pre-recorded online maths lessons that were so much fun, and she would have loved it, but it was costly once converted to South African Rands.
My son in Grade 7 started with Mastermaths which is also an excellent programme, but I felt I wasn’t getting through to him the way I needed to. We went onto the Mastermaths website and found that they also offered pre-recorded online maths lessons. Because Mastermaths was more reasonable for the year, we bought the online package, and we would log in and watch a lesson each day before he tried the exercises. This was much better for us and I felt like he and I were learning together, instead of me trying to get the message across to him.
I kept hearing my friends who were home-schooling speak about Math U See but never fully understood what it entailed. This year when we decided to move to a more eclectic style of home-schooling, I immediately started researching more about Math U See. My friend leant me one of her kids books and DVD for my daughter and we used it a few times. My daughter did not love it at first, in fact she was quite apprehensive watching a maths lesson on a DVD or listening to a ‘granpa’ teach her. She resisted this method at first. My son loved it because as I said he was used to watching the lesson online from last year. But they both eventually adjusted well and now we are well on our way, and they are enjoying Math U See.
Math U see comes with different levels for whatever stage your child is at. They do not work with the grade your child is in, but rather the level of understanding of your child. The books are named according to the Greek alphabet rather than grades. The first step is to do the assessments to find which level your child will be on. In our case my daughter started on Epsilon which is the book on fractions. This book focuses on basics of fractions getting more challenging as we go on. We also bought the fraction overlay kit which is recommended as when Steve (the author) teachers he prompts the child to use the fraction cards. The learning is also cemented very well when used in conjunction with the math manipulatives. My son who is now in grade 8 started with the Pre-Algebra books and we also bought the maths manipulatives that are recommended for that book. We bought our teacher books and DVDs second hand on the home-school Facebook group as well as the Oikos website. You could do the assessment on the math U See website or the Oikos website (Oikos is a local South African family run business). Oikos also has done all the hard work of converting the currency from the dollar to the rand, and of course postage will be much cheaper. The Math U See package for each level has a teacher guidebook which has an explanation of the lesson found on the DVD, as well as the answers at the back of the book. There is the student book which your child will use daily. It also has the DVD which you will watch for every new lesson for example, Lesson 1 has a lesson to watch on the DVD, thereafter Lessons 1A-F, this will take you 6 days to complete. You then move onto Lesson 2 watch the lesson and the child completes lesson 2A-F etc. At the end of about 8 sections there is a test which you can use as an assessment. The Pre-Algebra book is slightly different as it has an honours lesson at the end of each section. It also has a test at the end of about 8 lessons. Hopefully, this has been helpful for you to understand Math U see a little better.
We had a long break after a challenging year, it was just what we needed. We had a family holiday in the berg, my daughter turned 10 on Christmas Eve, an intimate lockdown Christmas lunch with our family and my middle son turned 13 on the 2nd of January (yes, my two younger kids are a week apart during the festive season😊). We had a good kind of busy end to the year. We are so grateful for God’s Mercy and Grace over our families during this pandemic.
We received my eldest son’s final Cambridge results on the 11th January. We were overjoyed that he has passed his final school year. It was a sweet celebration for our family. We felt proud and humbled by our achievements as a homeschool family. With God on our side we had faced the challenges head on and were overcome with joy. My son achieved a bachelor pass and will go on to pursue the next phase of his life. When we started out this dream seemed farfetched and unachievable, but God was faithful everyday and we are so thankful. Alison Shortridge and the team at T.C.E were a vital part of our successful end to the final year. Their support was amazing throughout the three years. We had started out not knowing anything and they assisted us every step of the way. We are forever grateful.
We started school on the 11th January. Our vision boards were set out and we began by writing down our plans for the year. Slowly unwrapping our new books with some excitement and nervousness from the kids. We decided as a family that we needed a change this year, so we will not be continuing with T.C.E. For the most part of our holiday I did a lot of research and decided on a different path for this year.
With both my kids now grades eight and five we will be doing Math U See for maths, LATL for English, Piekwyn for Afrikaans, Dr. J. Wylie’s Science series, Story of the World for History, Footprints on our Land for South African History and for my grade eight son I’ve included Economic Management Science because he is very interested in accounting. We have also registered him for an online coding course again this year because he loves coding.
For extra murals my kids do a musical instrument each as well as one or more sports. My middle son now has his purple belt in Karate after his grading in December last year. He persevered through the year with karate lessons via zoom and then the final weeks he did outdoor classes with strict covid rules. His now aiming for his junior brown belt this year. My daughter will be trying out gymnastics for the first time this year, as well as a three month modelling course for fun. I try to guide them by observing their strengths and then suggesting a trial lesson in a certain sport. I find most times something is not what they think it is until they try it out and see if they enjoy it.
I will go into more detail for each subject throughout the year as we are on our new path. I will also go into more details into our reason for changing our homeschool plan. One thing I know is that this is a continual learning experience, life is about change and we should be always willing to adjust.
This final blog for 2020 is bittersweet for me as my eldest is now complete his matric year and we await his Cambridge results which will be released on the 11th January 2021. I’ve asked him to write with me so other families who are homeschooling can view his experience over the last three years. His name is Jesse and his 18 years old. I hope you find his perspective interesting.
When I was first told that I would be home schooling, I didn’t think much of it. I understood why we needed to do it. The first few months were weird as I needed to adjust to being home schooled. I never fully adjusted to it in the first year. I thought it would just be for one year and that I would go back to school the next year. However, I didn’t know how much harder the work would be. I failed on first try of the exams but was allowed to rewrite and just about passed. I decided to stay home schooled after I couldn’t get back into school, and that’s when I began to dislike home schooling. However, I decided just to get over it as I only had two years left. My second year went better than expected as I actually did quite well. However, at the beginning of my final year (2020), I realised that I would not be graduating with my friends and would not be able to enjoy being in matric at a school or have a matric ball. I really wanted to go back to school. I knew this wouldn’t work out, so I just had to deal with it (when the coronavirus hit, I knew nobody would have a matric ball anyways so that was kind of funny). I have finished my high school career and cannot wait to go to university. Overall, home-schooling has had its ups and downs. Not being able to see my friends on a daily basis and graduate with them is a big disappointment. However, I know that the skills I have gained from being home schooled, such as being able to work independently and having a Cambridge education is a big advantage because it is an international qualification.
Overall I also had` a much more flexible schedule. I was also still able to enjoy playing soccer for a club and made new friends. I also had more time to do my grade 4 in piano, which was a great experience. I was able to enjoy learning about the Bible in depth which I would not have been able to do in state school. Home schooling also allowed me to be myself without caring what anybody says or thinks about me. I cannot wait for what the future holds for me as I enter this new chapter of my life.
As his mom I am so grateful for the time we spent together over the last three years. It wasn’t all roses but we worked hard together. He has an easy going fun personality and has been a joy in our homeschooling day.
So much has kept me busy these past few weeks. My eldest son turned 18 (still can’t believe it) and I also celebrated my birthday month. Our birthdays are a week apart. After almost 7 months of our country being on lockdown, we went down to Level one which meant we could move around freely. We took advantage of this and went away for the weekend to relax and rejuvenate. We are currently in our exam period. My eldest son started his final Cambridge AS level exams which he is currently still writing.
He has written Maths paper 1, Business Studies Paper 1 and 2, Physics Practical as well as Physics structured questions exam. The exams are spread out over 6 weeks but some days he has two exam papers on one day. On those days he stays at the school’s exam centre and will have a monitored lunch break between the two papers. Each exam is from one hour forty-five minutes up to two and a half hours. His exam preparation involves doing a lot of past exam papers. The site we use to download these past papers is Papa Cambridge. He also uses his march and August exam papers to prepare. His application to university is still on track we have applied to University of Cape Town and Wits and have received provisional acceptance based on his IGCSE exam results. I also had to fill out a form to state his predicted results as this is a new requirement. He will complete his exams on the 18th November, the exams are then posted to the UK for marking. We will use his student number to access his results in January 2021.
My younger two kids also write exams soon. We will begin in November and end around the same date as my older son. Their exam papers are ready for downloading from the 1st November and they will write at home under my supervision. I sign a parental declaration to say I will not assist them. I also do not have the answer papers for their exams. The exams are then posted to T.C.E for marking.
This last term I’ve tried harder to incorporate fun activities into our learning experience. With my youngest daughter we’ve learnt Astronomy. We created our own Solar system using clay and acrylic paints. My younger son joins in with the activity as well. Even if it doesn’t come out as a perfect work of art, she has a lot of fun learning and painting.
We also learnt about the phases of the moon this week and I used Oreos to teach her this concept. To my delight she said oh now I understand how the moon changes now! And was then eager to eat the Oreos… Even though my younger son has already done this activity he joined in again and had such joy in eating them afterwards.
Our social time has also increased lately as our home-school playgroups have resumed. We’ve been going on nature walks more often. We’ve had a boardgames morning as well, where all the kids bring their boardgames and teach the others how to play them. We recently went to a local Marine world where the kids learnt so much about the Ocean. We did a fish dissection and learnt about pollution in our oceans. We belong to a home-school Eco club where the kids are taught Biodiversity and had to prepare a diorama about a Dessert and a rain forest. All these activities tie up with what they learnt at different times of the year.
We are coming to the end of our year and have two weeks left for exams. My kids always get excited to see the last few pages of their books and to know that next year holds a new grade!
My son in grade 12 has just completed his preliminary exams. I cannot believe how three years have gone by so fast. It has not been an easy task to home-school my high school son. We have faced many challenges, but we have worked through those challenges together as a family and it definitely has brought us closer. We have now come to a new stage of life as he turns 18 next month and begins exploring his university options which most likely will mean moving away from home.(crying)
We have chosen to use a service provider to do his Cambridge curriculum. As mentioned, before we use the Theocentric Christian Education (T.C.E) as our support and guide for this curriculum. T.C.E provides all the necessary books needed for the year. We did not need to purchase anything else. We chose T.C.E because of the Christian ethos they provide. He does a subject called Character of God in place of Life Orientation. This subject is a detailed study of the Bible including scripture memorisation. T.C.E also offers an email tutor where we can query anything regarding the subjects for Cambridge curriculum. For example, if my son is doing maths and doesn’t understand a particular equation we can scan and email his working out and they reply with a detailed explanation of where he went wrong. He can therefore have a better understanding on how to solve the following questions in the section. This process is the same for his other subjects.
He is currently doing AS levels which includes subjects such as English, Maths, Physics and Business Studies. He does two exams at home and one final exam at a Cambridge registered centre. He completed his first exam at home in March. We scan and email the answers on completion to the T.C.E head office for marking. We receive a report and the marked exams are returned to him to see where he went wrong. His also able to use these exams for final revision. We also opted to have a maths and science tutor for this year as I was not able to assist him on the level he required. Up until the lockdown in South Africa happened, he was attending classes every day. Once lockdown started these lessons moved to online zoom lessons. He completed his entire syllabus at the end of June and started to prepare for his preliminary exam.
He did his August preliminary exam last week which will also assist him to judge his readiness for his final exam as well as provide revision papers for him to work through. Part of the exam was a physics practical exam in which we had to provide him with a mechanism on which to test the theories asked in the question paper. My husband had to buy a few things that he did not have and physically build this apparatus. We are currently waiting for these results. We just received his final exam timetable. He will write this exam at Glenwood boys Cambridge Centre. It begins in the first week of October and will finish at the end of November. He has two exams per subject which is a total of eight exams. These eight exams are spread over almost six weeks which gives him enough time between papers to do a final revision. The exam fee is separate to the fees paid to T.C.E for the year. The exam fee is paid directly to the exam centre. The papers will then be posted off to Cambridge in the U.K. for marking and we will receive his results via an online portal in January 2021. Once we receive the final results, we have to apply to the South African Qualifications Board to have these results converted to a matric equivalent exemption certificate in order for him to be accepted to a South African university. If he studies overseas this process is obviously unnecessary as Cambridge results are accepted internationally.
In the mean time we have applied to different universities for 2021. He is currently researching university options in the U.S. The S.A. university application requires you to choose at least two different options, he chose Civil engineering and Law. One of the universities requested three options, so his third choice was music as he plays piano. We have received feedback that he has been provisionally accepted to two so far. He is interested in pursuing a career in Civil Engineering particularly structural engineering. In attempting to guide him to this decision I assisted him providing him with a career guidance book and we watch various career options on you tube as well. I would have also liked him to do job shadowing but unfortunately with the current issues of Covid we were unable to do this. With a lot of prayer, I believe that God’s plan will be fulfilled in his life.
This week I was asked by a fellow parent …how do I start homeschooling my child who is in Grade R. At the age of five or six a child should be stimulated by play. My mom has been a preschool teacher for many years. In the last few years she discovered the Montessori method of learning. To be honest I was quite sceptical about this method when she first started applying it in her school. I have since had a change of heart and mind. Montessori is a method of educating young children so as to develop natural interests rather than use formal methods of teaching. It was developed by Maria Montessori an Italian doctor in the early 20th century. My opinion is this is a great method to start kids as young as possible. There are so many you tube videos and websites that you can view. I always encourage parents to do your own research to see if Montessori will suit your family. I will link some sites below.
My daughter didn’t do the Montessori method as I chose to place her in a formal preschool. If this is your choice as well then you can also use a more classical approach while incorporating play at home. During grade R she did Letterland where she learned how to form the letters of the alphabet. Letterland is a phonics-based approach to teaching, reading, writing and spelling.
Learning number formation is also important for Grade R. Number Sense is one of the programs that many homeschool families use. Together with youtube videos and incorporating practical fun ways of learning you can successfully teach maths.
There are also online curriculum options such as Brainline and Impaq which will guide you if you are unsure about doing grade R without support.
When my kids were in grade R I read a lot to them. We would set aside a time to read every evening. My younger son learnt to read just by me reading aloud to him. He came to me one evening and said, Mom see I can read. I was so amazed as he was only five years old at the time. I know many parents are so tired by the evening and you feel like handing over your phone or tablet in order to have a peaceful evening. But if you read to your kids after a long day at work, believe me those 10 minutes will be the best investment you can make for your kids. When they hear you read and pronounce words they will speak better and eventually become readers as well.
So, put away the technology and grab a book. Have fun while learning. Build relationships and form bonds that will never break.
We completed our June exam successfully! I cannot be prouder of our achievements. We chose to work through the unknown when our country started a 21-day lockdown, and everything literally shut down. I had a determination in my heart that we should continue with school as usual even though everyone seemed to be on a sudden holiday. I knew we had set goals for the year and if we had stopped schooling then, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve our goals. After all, one of the reasons we started home-schooling is so that we wouldn’t be affected by external influence. So, we decided to power through!
We started exams on the 1st June and completed on the 12th June. We received our reports this week and we were so anxious to see my daughters results as this was her first exam. Well, she exceeded my expectations! I could see her beaming with pride as she read through her report. Her response was also so encouraging for me as her mom and teacher. She said, “Mom now that I know if I work hard, I can do well, I promise to always do my best.” Those words from her heart to mine had just confirmed everything I already know. God is in the centre of our family’s choice to home-school our kids, and more than results on a piece of paper I could see that home-schooling is building and shaping her character. Our scripture verse for exams is “Study to show yourself approved!” which simply means do your best and trust God to help you with the rest.
Going into this exam I was hesitant because I felt my daughter is only nine years old and I questioned myself as to whether or not I was doing the right thing by putting her under pressure to write exams at such a young age. She proved to me that she could function exceptionally well under a little pressure. Never underestimate your kid’s ability. Always push them to do their best and learn praise them no matter the outcome. This is what I had to do with my son.
My son is in Grade 7 and is still quite playful, as any boy is. He also completed his June exam this year and I wasn’t completely convinced that he did his best. He wasn’t as impressed with his report either, but I also encouraged him to work harder on a daily basis and already I can see he is. I found with my son I can harp on the negative side a bit so I’m consciously trying harder this term to keep encouraging him to do his best. I sat him down and asked him how does he feel and if he feels this is his best work, and he replied no. I asked him what he can do to do better his results and held I him responsible for his results and ways he can change them.
He starts high school next year and his workload will be increasing. I’m thinking of slowing down his year by going at a slower pace on a daily basis. I don’t know if that’s the right decision to make but I will pray about it. I also don’t want him to feel like he can get away with playing more and doing less work.
In these daily lessons of our home-school journey I’m constantly aware that each child is so different, and we cannot compare them but rather look for what sparks their curiosity in learning and work harder in getting them interested in that on a daily basis.
We had a wonderful two week break and have now entered the second half of our curriculum we learned about Oceanography this week in grade 4 science and ended the week with a beautiful painting of my daughter’s favourite sea creature the dolphin. We also learned about the Fruits of the Spirit in Studying God’s Word. Being Patient and living with the peace of God in our hearts and minds.
In Grade 7 history we are learning about Rome before and after Christ’s birth. In maths we started learning about statistics and how to use data to plot a graph. Our poem for this theme taught us how self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and we need to practice it in our daily lives. Learning to control our thoughts and discipline ourselves to complete our daily tasks as well.
My eldest son is preparing for his preliminary exams which he will write from the 1st August. We are mostly completed with his syllabus for the year and it’s now time for revision and studying. This will be the most challenging exam of his entire schooling life. He has also applied to university and has been provisionally accepted. Pray for us as we trust God to help him study and complete his preliminary exam with success!
I recently did a radio interview on homeschooling. One of the questions I was asked was what curriculum I advise families who are looking at homeschooling their kids. This a question I get asked often. The beauty of homeschooling is that there is no one size fits all solution. Each family unit is unique, and you will need to research various curriculums or subjects which will be the right fit for your family. In this blog I will go into detail of our curriculum we chose for our kids and I have also invited my friend to share her homeschool journey and what she has done with her kids. My aim is to show the families out there that there are so many options.
As mentioned in previous blogs, we follow the Theocentric Christian Education Curriculum in short T.C.E. It is a Christian-based curriculum. Our books are mostly from U.S.A and we do Afrikaans and South African history and Geography. My daughter in Grade 4 does the BJU maths syllabus and we focus on maths flashcards daily. For Science called Understanding God’s World which is from the Abeka syllabus, South African notes which include history and geography. We use Abeka syllabus for English. English also has a reader, this term is The Wright brothers and their sister, written by Lois Mills, which we read a chapter or two per week. T.C.E creates their own Afrikaans Syllubus which also comes with vocabulary cards to learn per Unit. There is also a bible course called Studying God’s Word. Our curriculum guide book has divided the syllabus for us so that we do a certain number of units per week in each subject. The curriculum guide also acts as a manual which guides us on how to approach each subject. It also contains our Themes for example God is creator, God is love etc where the kids learn of the characteristics of God. For each theme we have a scripture memorisation and two poems. As we complete each week, we have test in various subjects per week.
My older son is in Grade 7 and he follows a very similar program. He is currently doing Principles of Mathematics by Katherine Loops. His English book has changed this year in preparation for high school. He started with Writing and Grammar with BJU Press. He also has a reader called Misee Lee by Arthur Ransome from which a book report needs to be done once complete. Afrikaans syllabus by TCE as well an Afrikaans reader called … which also requires a book report to be done. For World History his book is called History of the World in Christian perspective from the Abeka curriculum. This has been such an interesting journey and we for each section we watch a YouTube video on that particular section. South African notes include South African History as well as Geography. Our Science book is called Science, Order and Design by Abeka as well. We do a lot of science experiments after each unit. He also does a biblical study unit called Studying Gods Word. He learns a new scripture verse every month as well as two poems per month. We also do a two or more test per week.
Grades 4-12 write exams twice a year. Grade 4 and 7 exams are written at home under my supervision. I download and print the exam papers and once completed send them via email to the T.C.E head office in Cape town for marking. We then receive a report after approximately a week or two.
In grades 11 and 12 the syllabus changes to Cambridge which is U.K based. My son who is now in Grade 12 started with Cambridge IGCSE levels last year which is simply means International General Certificate of Secondary Education, which is equivalent to grade 11. This year he is doing his AS levels which means Advanced Subsidiary level. This is equivalent to grade 12. After As level some students choose to do A levels which is year 13 but this is not required for South African universities. In Grade 11 he did IGCSE English, Maths, Physics, Business Studies, and AS level Afrikaans which means he does not need to do Afrikaans again this year. In grade 12 he is currently registered to do English, Maths, Physics and Business Studies. He writes two exams in March and August with T.C.E, which is in preparation for the final exam in November. The two exams are written at home under my supervision while the final exam is written at a Cambridge registered exam centre. These are sent to Cambridge head office U.K. The minimum percentage to pass any subject is 50%. If you fail, you will need to rewrite at the next exam sitting. We receive a username and password to access results when they are available. This is an internationally recognised curriculum which means my son can apply with the AS Level results to study at any university worldwide and is not limited to South African Universities alone.
The section below is by Marilet Strydom
My friend Marilet chose a different path to mine, here is her story:
This year is the 6th year I am home-schooling my kids. At the beginning of my journey, I was going to start with ACE (Accelerated Christian Education).
My husband and I went to a homeschool expo and I met Sonya Wood from Oikos Family Ministries. They have also home-schooled their 2 kids years before (her children were adults already). They started to source resources from America specifically for Home-school families in South Africa.
We left the expo that day, still adamant to do the ACE curriculum with our children. But the Holy Spirit convicted us, and we felt a strong urge to investigate this Oikos family setup. As we discussed our goals for home schooling, we also realized more and more that Oikos was the right fit for us as we wanted to equip our kids for life, and we knew then and still know now that a strong foundation in Jesus Christ is required for a fruitful and truly prosperous life.
The “scary” aspect for me, of following this route was that it wasn’t a route that would end up with a South African Matric certificate. I was very worried about my kids not being allowed one day to study at a university etc. I had to change my mind-set about this as both my husband and I followed the normal prescribed route of completing Matric and then pursue a degree or higher qualification for a tertiary institute. But through faith in trusting God to provide for my children, I just took the leap and started with Oikos. I have never been sorry about this decision for a second.
Basically Oikos offers English, Maths, Science and a few other subjects. The science books are based on biblical worldview of creation and not evolution theory. I have been doing the English, Science and Math-U-See with my daughter since she was 8 years old, in English, which is her second language (she is turning 13 this year). But with my youngest child, I followed a different approach with his education. He is 10 now and so far it is going well. I taught him from grade 1-3 to read and write in our Home language – Afrikaans. This year, he is in gr. 4 and I am gradually introducing him to English grammar, basically by letting him copy words from an English Bible and story books. But he is reading English on his own, without me ever teaching him any formal English. For us this was incredible. He also has a few English friends, which also would contribute a lot.
I used the Math-U-see (maths), Llatl (English – Learning Language arts through literature) and some of the Science subjects up to last year. As I’ve mentioned, my eldest daughter is turning 13 this year and we decided to slowly but surely change her over to the Cambridge curriculum, which is an international acclaimed curriculum from England. The only reason for this is because we want our children to have a recognised “matric” type of qualification if they should want to study at a university later on.
We will however continue with the Math-U-See curriculum for as long as possible - It is especially wonderful because it comes with a DVD where Steve Demme gives each lesson himself. If you are not mathematically inclined and dread teaching Math to your kids, this is the perfect solution.
Regarding the other subjects like History, geography, etc. …I came across a beautiful History program, called “The story of the world” which consists of 4 volumes. Volume 1: Ancient Times, Volume 2: The middle Ages, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, Volume 4: The Modern Age.
For South African History we use “Footprints on our land”, written by Shirley Erwee and Wendy Young, both home school moms. It is a comprehensive program that teaches our SA history but also include English Language arts, Geography etc.
For Geography we us a book, also written by a South African home-school mom, Ursula Wilbraham. The book is called “Meandering Mzanzi” and it is all about the Geography of South Africa.
We also make frequent use of the Internet and YouTube videos. I find that my kids retain knowledge much better once they’ve seen a video of it on YouTube. The internet is also full of very helpful resources.
This journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has been the greatest blessing and most fulfilling experience a parent could dream of. Spending so much time with my kids…. Learning and growing together. What an immense privilege. This has also been our family dream: to grow closer together and closer to God. We believe that this path made it possible for us, and we continue to grow and enjoy the journey together.
These are two completely different homeschool journey’s which is proof that there is no “right or wrong way” or “best curriculum” to use. Find what’s right for your family even if it means changing a few times along your way. Pray and trust God to lead you.
Deborah Pretorius is a mother of 3 kids and a BCom graduate on the amazing adventure of home schooling her family.