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.