My two boys in grades 10 and 5, write exams in June and again in November. I chose a curriculum that has exams because an exam is a review of everything they have learnt for the year. It helps me understand which subjects need more attention in the new term or new year.
We zone into those problem areas with extra lessons through a tutor or with mom focusing more time on certain areas in the evenings. We can focus on doing more examples if its Maths or English and if it’s a study subject like History or Science, it helps me to monitor studying more carefully, by making sure they study a little harder. Sometimes I do random testing on study subjects, much to their dislike! After writing the June exam we received a report back from TCE principal, I then realised we needed to work harder in certain subjects especially Afrikaans. I sent a message on the home-school WhatsApp group (again an amazing support system) and managed find and enlist the help of an Afrikaans teacher who did tutoring in the afternoons from her home. I noticed an improvement every week. It’s harder to judge this on a day to day basis where they are understanding the concept been taught then and there. Whereas in an exam there are more concepts added and they must learn A plus B together, it can be confusing if the concepts are not fully understood.
They write the exams in the comfort of their own home, so it does lessen the pressure experienced when compared to school exams. They both have their own study space with a desk and chair and we try our best to keep the home quiet and free from anything distracting while they focus. (not that easy when you have the little sister in grade 2, who doesn’t do exams yet!)
I am requested by Theocentric Christian Education to sign a parental declaration form which states that I will not or have not assisted them in any way during the exam. This is very difficult as a parent, because especially as a mom, we have a natural instinct to want to help our kids. I must remind myself that it will only hurt them in the long run. The exam period is their time to figure it out, to work independently and to do their best without mom helping.
I do not have the answers to the exams. The exam question papers are downloaded from the Theocentric Christian Educations website and printed out. They write one to two papers per day depending on the subject, for example maths is written alone, but English paper one and two are written together.
Once the entire exam is completed I scan and email all the papers to T.C.E head office where the exams are marked. I also email my completed marksheet form which contains the marks for test done throughout the year. This continuous assessment marks together with the final exam marks are calculated together and an average mark for the term is then given on their final report.
They set goals to achieve higher than they did last term. They get excited to see what their reports will hold. We also give them different incentives to encourage them to do their best. I believe in rewarding good results, I’ve seen the benefits of a reward system as an incentive for hard work.
Some home schooling parents prefer a structured approach to home schooling even though they have decided to remove their kids from traditional school. Along with this structured approach is also the preference to register with some kind of authority or body. In this article we discuss the various options available to parents in South Africa.
For me this was extremely important, so once we were in the first month of our curriculum I began the process of registration.
There are many families who choose not to register their children, as this is not a legal requirement. My main reason was so that they can be on the Department of Education’s registrar of students and if I need to go back to work at some stage they will be on record as been home-schooled. The other important reason is if anyone enquires as to why my kids aren’t at school (sometimes this happens when you have nosy neighbours) I can prove that they have a certificate of registration approved by the department.
There are two important bodies to register with.
The Pestalozzi Trust was established to protect the rights and freedom of education for all families wishing to educate their children at home or through cottage schools. It’s important to be registered with them because should you find yourself in a conflict situation with regards to educational authorities the Pestalozzi Trust is able to assist you to resolve the matter before the matter goes to court. If it does go to court the Pestalozzi Trust is able to carry the cost and provide a competent legal team for your protection. You can read details regarding this Trust on their website.
Department of Education
Registration with the Department of Education involves a home visit from the Head of the home-schooling department. I contacted the person in charge of the province in which we live and he emailed me forms to fill for each child. If the child is in grade 10 and above they are regarded as adult education and need not be registered with the department.
The forms are very simple to fill and requires a birth certificate and parents Identification forms.
Once filled you email them back and expect a home visit within four to six weeks. Our home visit was very pleasant. The head of department came with an assistant who looked through our curriculum and admitted that it was actually a very high standard. He was also very surprised with the volume of work we do per week. To hear that honestly made me sigh with relief, as this was what I wanted. Knowing my kids were doing work not only of a higher standard but more than required was what I wanted from this home-schooling experience. I didn’t want them to lack in anyway.
My certificates, once finalised, were emailed to me and I was excited to continue my journey.
Again, not all families register their kids and that is a personal decision. The law may change soon where registration is a legal requirement but until then it is your choice.
There are many different groups on Facebook which are specifically for any questions you may have regarding your home school journey. The main group is called “Home-schooling in South Africa”, and they have over 11,000 members and counting. The other group which I belong to is called “Home-schooling Christians in South Africa”. I have seen questions asked from what curriculums are available, which Youtube channels to use to assist in learning, tutors who can assist your kids where you cannot, basically anything you need regarding home-schooling can be found using this social media outlet. There are also Facebook groups in your local area, depending on where you are based you can easily connect with other home-schooling families. These Facebook sites are great to get connected to especially if you want your kids to get involved in the different activities.
The Facebook groups also keep you informed as to the legal requirements and laws that change constantly.
I have found these Facebook groups to be extremely helpful.
When I started my home-school journey I had no idea that WhatsApp would be my lifeline to other families in my area. I have met so many families through WhatsApp all within 10-20 min to where I live. It was an eye opener for me to see so many people support and able to answer any question I needed assistance with. Some of these families are home-schooling for many years and have a wealth of knowledge. I have seen the most insignificant questions asked and answered by people so willing to help.
From curriculum queries to extra mural activities anything you need is answered on these groups.
The sub groups created from the main WhatsApp groups are also amazingly helpful. There are playgroups, reading groups, gaming groups, chat groups, Christian moms support groups. As I say it’s a very supportive community of amazing people all striving to do what’s best for their kids.
These groups have been my lifeline during my 1st year of home-schooling. It’s made it less daunting!
One of the many questions I’m often asked is “Do my kids socialize with other kids?”
The answer is a resounding yes.
Socializing the Home-schooling Way
My kids socialize with other kids of all different ages at various social platforms through the home-schooling events constantly organized throughout the year. They also still participate in the same extra murals they did in school.
My 7-year-old daughter recently was awarded Silver in her RAD ballet exam. Her ballet class consist of girls her age and is done at the Curro school. She is also learning to play the violin and recently started art lessons. All these activities are done with groups of kids her age.
My 10-year-old started karate at the age of 6 and has continued with it, recently achieving his advanced orange belt. His karate group has over 20 kids. He plays indoor cricket once a week. He's learning the piano and recently performed a solo at the Regional Eisteddfod and received Gold.
My eldest son is 16 and has always played soccer. He continues to play for Sporting club which is a Portugal based soccer team. He is currently preparing for his grade 4 piano exam and recently performed with a band at the Regional Eisteddfod. The band achieved a Gold certificate. He also plays piano in the youth band and attends youth every Friday evening.
My kids have never enjoyed afternoon playtime as much as this year of home-schooling. They are not bogged down with tons of homework or incomplete schoolwork brought home. There are no deadlines for projects due. This has freed up their afternoons and allowed them to do what kids were meant to do…play freely. Sometimes, as parents, we equate learning with busy-ness. We deceive ourselves into believing that if our kids are working until midnight with schoolwork then the schools are doing something right. But what we fail to realize is that, most times, teachers cannot cope with the demands of teaching large groups of kids in oversized classrooms and hence the reason for sending work home.
In the small area we currently live, we have over 30 home-schooling families. Some have up to 5 kids per family unit.
Home-schooling events are organized constantly, and this allows my children to interact with other kids of all ages not just their specific grades as in government schools.
The sports day for home-schoolers was held in January, it was amazing to see so many kids competing on a competitive and fun level. Many went on to compete in the government school’s sports day and were awarded Gold, Silver and bronze medals.
We have Ice-rink Fridays once a month, home-school groups can ice skate from 10am to 5pm, this is where my kids learnt to ice-skate something they were never really had an opportunity to try before.
Once a term we have show-and-tell days where our kids are encouraged speak on any topic, say a poem or scripture verse, sing or play an instrument, my kids confidence levels have soared. My 10-year-old recently spoke on the planets and addressed kids who ranged in age from 10 years old up 16 years of age.
Earlier this year there was a chess tournament from grades 1-12 and included moms who wanted to enjoy a game. This worked on an elimination bases and not on age or grades, so it allowed for interaction on all levels. The overall winner was in grade 7.
Our most recent excursion was with a group of 6 families on an outing to a silk worm farm and a tour of the amazing Graskop Gorge. Again, this included all ages, so the tour and the talk given was interactive on all intelligence levels as well.
The reality of Socializing at Public/Private Schools
Much has changed over the course of the last decade. Schools usually cannot cope with managing large groups of kids and usually employ disciplinary procedures to do so. We’ve found that going to school does not necessarily meet the socializing needs of kids. In fact, most kids (especially teenagers) would agree that the social aspect of schooling is the most stressful. The need for kids to conform and fit in is now more stressful than ever. Bullying is now also one of the major factors of suicide in school going children (not to forget cyber bullying which a topic on its own). My second eldest was bullied at school both in grade 1 and grade 3, and both times went a few weeks without saying anything except showing signs of been bullied. He would cry every morning not wanting to go to school and when he came home with a knee injury I realized he’d been bullied.
What we don’t realize is that the schooling system is not designed for socializing. Kids are not allowed to speak unless spoken to by the teacher and kids are often put outside the classroom or given detention for talking in class. My eldest son was often labelled as disturbing the class when he was communicating with the person seated next to him. He would also get demerits for talking and if you had 10 demerits your reward was detention.
During break time there were many rules, they would sit at first break with friends and eat their lunch within the fifteen-minute time slot. Often lunch came back uneaten because of lack of time. Some of the schools my kids attended had very strict rules for break time so even at second break, there was no running allowed, no balls of any kind were allowed during break, and no games involving jumping or skipping. My son came home constantly complaining about these rules. In grade 7 boys and girls were not allowed to sit together, they had separate eating areas.
Practically speaking, in a typical school day with moving between classes and two 15 or 20-minute breaks, students do not interact as much as we think they do. And neither do they get enough teacher-student time either.
Mostly, the only time my children were excited about socializing was if there were extra murals after school or music lessons as part the school day.
There was so much homework, school activities, projects or revision that they couldn’t socialize after school or weekends.
So, in my opinion my kids were not at school to socialize. In our interaction with children who are home-schooled, one does not get the impression that there is a lack of social cohesion on any level.
Here is a link to an article about the positives and negatives of socializing in public schools:
The thought of home-schooling caused many sleepless nights for me. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to teach my kids, because I am not a qualified teacher. My parents co-founded a Christian School when I was 10 years old so I understood the demand on a teacher.
I believe just like a teacher or a nurse it’s a calling, so it kept tugging at my heart. I believe God began to speak to me, so I began endless research to demystify what terrified me.
My search started by talking to other home-schooling moms, and friends. I had so many questions and began to slowly understand the different styles of home-schooling (and boy is there are a lot).
I always told my kids there is no silly questions, and this definitely applied to me during my research. Another branch of my search was through social media platforms, there I found many home-schooling groups both in South Africa and abroad.
There were some specific criteria that I wanted for my kids for example, I knew I wanted to pursue a higher standard of education. I also knew I wanted a Christian perspective in my search for a curriculum. Growing up I did Accelerated Christian Education(ACE), which allowed me to have a strong biblical base, so I was searching for something similar.
In my initial search I came across de-schooling. De-schooling in my understanding involves something similar to detoxing your child from the “schooling system” This is especially recommended if your child has been bullied or has had other traumatic experiences while at school. It involves a period of time where the child self learns. Some of the more detailed explanations is that de-schooling is an adjustment period after leaving the school system when a child (and parent) disengage from the school mindset and mentality and learn a completely new way of life that is not based on culture, structure or expectations of school. To be honest I didn’t go through the process de-schooling, but there are many parents who do.
I came across many parents who were unschooling which simply put means not doing regular school workbooks or keeping strict school times. Unschoolers mostly believe kids learn best by what they show interest in. For example photography courses, agricultural learning etc. This is an unstructured approach to learning. Test and exams are also not done by Unschoolers.
I knew straight away with my personality and make-up that wouldn’t work for me. I am by nature a very structured and methodical person. I like to have a plan and stick to it as much as I can.
This led me to a more streamlined point in my research, which was to seek out a more structured way of learning. I came across two ways of a structured approach.
The first one the unboxed curriculum where you create your own curriculum using subjects from various curriculums, for example, some parents take a science program from one curriculum but a maths program from a completely different curriculum. This is offered or allowed by the creators of these curriculums for example, Singapore Maths can be done with Abeka English and Science from the Good and the Beautiful. Again, here testing or exams is not a requirement. In my opinion this is a flexible yet structured way of learning. I found this a bit complicated since this was my first time home-schooling 3 kids. I didn’t want to have to work out how to create my own curriculum.
The second approach which I chose to go with is what is referred to by home schoolers is a boxed curriculum. Once I decided this is what I wanted I was able to further reduce my search to a structured, boxed curriculum which allows you to follow an already set daily, weekly or monthly program. The boxed Curriculums which I came across were Impaq, Clonard, Horizon, Alpha and Omega, British International College (www.bidc.co.za), Accelerated Christian Education (I mentioned earlier that I had done this curriculum) and Theocentric Christian Education.
Some of these curriculums offered online learning and using CDs, and others offered Textbooks.
Going into home-schooling I knew I didn’t want my kids working online as I preferred books. Again my personal preference is for my kids to work with pen and paper and not on a computer using CD’s or DVD’s but rather open and read a book.
I also have a preference to the Cambridge curriculum which led me to look at The British Institute, which offered home schoolers an option of distant learning using the Cambridge curriculum. Due to subject choices for my grade 10 son, I chose not to go that route. Clonard was also a great option for Cambridge but again subject choices for my Grade 10 son did not appeal to me or him.
My grade 1 daughters teacher at the time suggested Impaq, and while many home schoolers love it, my personal preference was not to go the South African CAPS way of learning.
My final decision led me to choose Theocentric Christian Education for so many reasons. It ticked all my boxes, it was a Christian based program which was my main goal. It offered test and exams with reports twice a year. It was also an American syllabus for my Grade 2 daughter and Grade 5 son. The subject choices they offered my Grade 10 son appealed to me, as well as the fact that he could go on to do his IGCSE levels(Cambridge) for Grades 11 and 12. Every question and concern I had was answered by the founders directly, Allison and Graham Shortridge. I found communication with regards to my concerns about the program were dealt with promptly, sometimes within the hour. It is also a curriculum that can be done anywhere not just in South Africa which also met my needs as my husband travels often. The fact that I could use one curriculum for all 3 kids appealed to me.
We started our curriculum in January and it’s been a challenge to say the least. I am still learning daily, but we are now definitely more familiar with it. Although my research was a daunting and long process, I am more relaxed knowing that I made the right choice and my kids will have a good quality education and lack nothing.
This is my journey, my preferences and choices. Each family has their own needs. There are many factors to think about when deciding on a curriculum but nothing is permanent. Many home schoolers change programs that are not suitable for their needs. For me I think my search is done for now. I am content.
I’ve had a strong desire to home-school my eldest son since he started Grade 1. His first year at school wasn’t an easy one, and eventually I was told he needs an assessment and needs to be on Ritalin.
I took him to a Pediatrician who completed an evaluation and disagreed with the school’s opinion. I was also told by his teacher that my son would not complete his work in class and I had to help him at home. We spent hours after school doing classroom work besides homework. It left my son feeling despondent and I felt hopeless.
This led me to believe there must be another way and so began my desire to home-school. I was working full day at the time and couldn’t afford to leave. So, I continued working with my son after school much to our frustration.
My second son’s school experience was a little different, he taught himself to read at the age of 5 so I thought I would have no major issues with him, but I was wrong. When he started grade 1 already reading his teachers were amazed, but he started to develop anxiety with regards to mathematics.
Every Monday (Maths Monday) he would not want to go to school, he would complain of severe tummy cramps until eventually He opened up and told me. So again, I knew the drill, I started tutoring him every day besides his homework. This left little time for play. It made my heart sad, because kids need play to learn and grow.
By this time, I had my eldest in Grade 5, My 2nd son in grade 1 and my daughter starting preschool.
My eldest had also started in a new school and I was told yet again that he needs Ritalin and wasn’t coping with the day to day work. Again, the school suggested an educational psychologist who performed a full evaluation and could not conclusively say that my son needed Ritalin, in fact he said in certain subjects, especially English, he was above average. The educational Psychologist advised he start on a month’s course of Ritalin to see if he will perform better at school. My son’s marks improved, and his teachers stopped complaining, but Ritalin completely changed his personality and when it wore off at a certain time every day, I actually looked forward to seeing him happy and smiling again. I missed my bubbly happy boy but I felt I had no choice.
My second eldest son was also put on Ritalin eventually in grade 3. And again, I saw his personality change completely. I knew I had to do something. And continued to research my interest in home-schooling.
My daughter eventually started Grade 1 and had to go for Occupational Therapy. I held my breathe thinking not another one of my babies to go on Ritalin. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. A few months of occupational therapy and she was good.
My second reason for home-schooling was my that my middle son and my daughter were also bullied at school on more than one occasion, and I had very little support from the teachers with regards to the manner in which the situation was handled.
My third reason for home-schooling was the fact that my husband often travelled for work purposes and I was exhausted trying to do it all alone, so when he was offered another out of town position, I knew this was my chance to take the dive and start home-schooling. We had long discussions on whether it was the right decision for us as a family and concluded that it was. With hours of research and with my husband’s help we narrowed our search to which curriculum would suit our family. My eldest now in Grade 10 needed structure for his senior phase (Yes, that’s how long I took).
I specifically wanted a higher standard of education preferably Cambridge and a Christian based curriculum. Eventually we decided on Theocentric Christian Education.
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