Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Our journey into homeschooling

When one writes down the "road travelled" on a non-physical journey one sees clearer and discovers ways sometimes not realised.  That is how I felt when I finished writing down our journey into homeschool.  In doing so, I realised the full extent of God's guidance, promptings and provisions in these past 7 - 8 and even more years.

The first time I ever heard of homeschooling was while I was still attending high school.  It was portrayed in a very negative light as homeschooling in the 1980's was illegal in South Africa.  And how could a mother ever think that she could teach her children without any teacher training!!!  Why, our teachers had to study for 4 years to do this.  That's what I thought too.  These parents were sent to jail (according to what we heard then).

In 1996 homeschooling was legalised and more articles about it appeared in newspapers and magazines.   We discussed it at the office and the secretary was very much against it.  Her sister was a teacher (who studied four long years on how to teach and all the stages a child goes through, etc. etc. etc.)  To me it started to feel so right, just the thing I would love to do with/for my children should I ever have them.

So many things changed in South Africa and the old ways were no longer good enough, or were despised as institutions of the apartheid regime.  The national curriculum for schools was changed.  Outcome based became the buzz word.  It failed to produce the planned outcome.  A new one was planned.  Curriculum 2005 would be the ultimate….  And the children were the victims.

We were called into missions and attended missions training, where we were also exposed to homeschooling families, and families sending their children of the school on the same mission's base.  I wondered at the different decisions that Christian families make in the same situations.  I'm still wondering but do realise that every family is different.

At the age of 37 years I found myself looking down at the most perfect baby ever born.  ;-)  Beautiful, so small, so vulnerable and so impressionable.  I wasn't a young mother, maybe just as inexperienced but with a lot of life experience.  I knew that I wanted to spend my days with my son, not running around from work, to school, to extra murals and back home to a frozen meal.  Work and running an office, even taking over a business offered to me, all lost its flavour.  Been there, done that.  Now there was something far more important and precious in my life.

A lot of ideas and parenting ways where thrown out of the window - I wanted to protect and cuddle, hold and nurture this baby.  Later, at La Leche League meetings, I found out that what I was already doing was called attachment parenting.  I read more and found a book in the library called "The Homeschooling Handbook" by Mary Griffith.  I entered homeschooling though the unschooling door and liked the idea.  I made a friend, Sally, also a new mom her, and far more "weird" than I could ever be.  We felt the same way about a lot of things and spoke about homeschooling our children.

Wondering where the schools would be in 7 years time when my child had to start his schooling, I started making plans to homeschool our child.  I borrowed two homeschooling books from a friend, Merinda, who already homeschooled their children.  They were (and still are) an example to me, even while living far away and visits are minimal.  "Educating the WholeHearted Child - A handbook for Christian Home Education" by Clay and Sally Clarkson and "Before Five in a Row".  These really helped us on the homeschool journey.
While attending a La Leche League meeting a leader gave me the book "Homeschool Burnout" from Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  It's now known as "The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook".  This book helped me a lot with understanding the "Better late than early" concept (a book that I haven't yet read).


We moved to Petra College in White River.  Here we met a family that  had homeschooled their children, and gave me a lot of encouragement to keep on planning for homeschooling.  Other families drove the 15 km to town to drop their children of at government or private schools.

Our situation changed and I had to go back to work.  I realised why I didn't like my profession anymore but stayed on for 18 months.  Simeon had to attend a pre-school and hated it.  But he loved his teacher, juffrou Karen.  The only days he liked was "weekend!" and looked forward to the "pink" day, Saturday.  He did not like Sundays and at one time told me that was because the next day was Monday - at four years of age!  Even after 18 months he was not settling in and they talked about ADD / ADHD and retilin.  I couldn't believe the change it my calm and contented child, who always slept well even as a baby.  Remember those charts where they tell you your baby should be awake for so many hours and then sleep for so long? That was Simeon to the tee.

One mistake that I made here was to ask teacher friends advise regarding preschools. Looking back I should have taken Simeon to a play group or done more reseach and asked other parents for advise. 

Then an added reason to homeschool came our way.  A beautiful, wanted, surprise present from God, we named Joshua.  Homeschooling two children was far better that doing it only for one, I felt.  But with my two sons born 4 years apart I started wondering if they will be friends when the first starts school with it's focus on age separation.  Or will they just pass each other in the passage every now and then.

And an even better reason came along, which I wish didn't exist.  No, not another child but speech problems, that could be fixed but could better be handled by the competent team of the Department of Communication Pathology at the University of Pretoria.  We had to move again, and this time for the benefit of the children.  And I decided to stay at home for their benefit too.

Simeon was diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech (AOS).  I blogged about it here in Afrikaans.  It means that he has difficulty in planning and programming speech movements  and each child has his/her own set of easy to extremely difficult sounds - those he just can't form. The professor advised me to keep him at home and to not send him of to Grade 1.  Oh, THANK YOU!!!! While I had pages and paged of reasons to homeschool this was at this stage the best one to present to all our critics and family.  It was found that children, who were forced to correctly pronounce those difficult sounds in incorrect ways, would not be able to use that in other words.  Saying "cat" correctly does not mean he will be able to say "car" or "flat".  The child will then NEVER be able to correct his speech.  A chance I was not willing to take with my child's future.

We started with "deschooling".  For more than a year I would still hear, first frequently then later less, these words:"  Maar in Juffrou Karen se skool…" (But in miss Karen's school), or "Juffrou Karen het dit (so) gedoen", (miss Karen did it this way) or "Juffrou Karen sê" (miss Karen said).  Simeon just wanted to draw line drawings with black pens.  I later convinced him that colours are so beautiful and he started using them.  He played and played and played, mostly free play.  We did some crafts, but he liked the drawing because that was free, with no interferences.

When Simeon was about 3 years old, a missionary friend told us that God showed her Simeon is a "visual learner".  Nearly every day I can see that in our lives.  Simeon likes to draw or play out things he has seen on experienced.  He draws a lot of volcanoes after we borrowed videos from the library.  And sky scrapers after seeing a photo in an e-mail.  He likes to play Cars.  Or copying scenes from Pasela.

Flo's garage

tractor tipping

making whole lemon preserves while watching Pasela on television - now adding the juice 

Joshua is now 3 years old and shows the same speech problems but has as yet not been diagnosed.  It might be of a lesser extent and because we are aware of it, can be treated at a much earlier age.  I just think that by the time both boys can speak fluently, we will not be able to go back to government schools.

Now, looking back, I can see that God has prepared the way for us into homeschooling from even before our children were born.  And even before that.  He made it attractive to me, He laid it is my heart.  Well, I believe God planned us as the parents for Simeon and Joshua to prepare them for their task that they were created for.

He constantly brought homeschooling on our road and constantly brought people on my road that were positive about and even did homeschooling themselves.  Books came my way; I even got books from America

And when our main reason to homeschool now, does no longer exist I know a new one will come along.


  1. thanks for sharing this journey. Wonderful to see how you have been inspired and encouraged along the way :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.
    And while I'm sorry to hear about your son's diagnosis, I'm glad that you met a professor who gave you such good advice!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. It's always amazing to see how God takes charge of a situation. Of course coming out of private school last year my youngest also always had the "My teacher this..." & "My teacher that comments..." Fortunately they outgrow that and then all that remains is the positive growth from day to day...

  4. welcome to the carnival and thanks for sharing your story. It's always encouraging to me how God prepares us before we need to do the task he is calling us to...