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.
Deborah Pretorius is a mother of 3 kids and a BCom graduate on the amazing adventure of home schooling her family.